Category Archives: Materialistism

“Life Aboard Ship”

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Star date: 190623-I haven’t spent as much time on this as I would have liked to but I am choosing to post now rather than wait two weeks when I return from an “Island” job. There is no internet where I’ll be working, though I will be doing some limited blogging on my cell phone. “Enjoy” this bleak story – it is what my heart is showing me these days.
_____________________________________________________________

“Maybe what I really need is sleep, he said to himself. A sort of twilight of living, with only the background sound of Beethoven audible. All the rest a blur.

No, he decided; I want to be! I want to act and accomplish something. And every year it becomes more necessary. Every year, too, it slips further and further away.” (A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick)

I awoke, as does everyone sooner or later, aboard a strange craft, a ship that sailed through emptiness, bound for nowhere; a ship that would never find a port of call or ever crash on any shore. I knew this long ago, although no one ever spoke of it. In the daytime, the closest non-ship entity one could see was, of course, the sun. At night, if one happened to be on deck, one could see the stars out there, forever out of reach, the ship never getting any closer to any one of them. Sometimes one could see the moon, and although much closer than any star, or sun, it too remained aloof, at an unreachable distance.

One did not board the Ship, one was born on it and was automatically made a member of the crew. Everyone on board was crew, no exceptions. What you did as crew was determined by others and their perceived, claimed or stated needs.

Since Ship itself was quite automated, there really was nothing to do as far as sailing it. So crew served crew until that was the only thing that anyone knew how to do. The more people were born on Ship, the more it all became self-serving, with those who became leaders demanding more from their underlings. Of course the underlings had to find ways to please their masters so they learned to delve down into Ship to find resources that could be made into objects that would please or titillate the masters. Most of us became resource extractors, all to stay alive, some to seek promotions.

I don’t know the exact day, but an idea came to me: what was the point of all that? Who were we all, why were we on Ship and where were we going? I stopped my drilling, much to the annoyance of my partner, and sat down to think about this.

Where did I come from? Nowhere. Where was I going? Nowhere. What was then the point of my existence? There was none. Even if I found the strength and motivation to fulfill and surpass my quota of diamonds; even if I finally got a promotion, I would be old and near death by then. What could I expect then? Nothing. I would cease and my body would be thrown overboard, as all were except for the Captains and other rich and powerful who had themselves encased in crystal caskets and buried with much pomp and ceremony down the empty shafts of what had been our most productive mines. The shafts were then sealed and commemorative plaques put on the entrances. I leave the question with you: how much better off were these rich dead than the dead flung overboard?

Although I would become one of the outcasts, I left the mine and went up on deck to feel the noonday sun and the wind; to hear the waves beat against the hull and listen to the endless sounds of people everywhere talking, laughing, crying, cursing, praying, cheering and some even singing. These people were, in a sense, alive, but what is life without purpose except to satisfy the immediate, to seek a bit more pleasure or to avoid punishment for any and all reasons? It seemed to me that they were simply going through the motions of something they believed in, not as happening now, but as some sort of hope that it would happen by and by.

I do not need to tell you that there were many varieties of official and quasi-official beliefs aboard Ship that most people adhered to. The gist of those beliefs was that one’s soul would go to another ship once separated from one’s dead body and life would be vastly improved in that new place. The new masters would be benign and merciful… of course.

I asked myself why people believed such things when no one could furnish any evidence of their truthfulness? There was a simple enough answer: why not, when life on Ship was general misery and pointlessness and there was nothing better to believe in? If nothing came of it after one’s death, one would be none the wiser. Meantime this bit of hope made life’s tenuousness, fear and misery a bit easier to bear. It was a simple mechanism grossly exploited, of course, by those who pretended to know about life after death. 

Without dependents being an outcast is not as bad as it sounds. You can use your skills to help others and be paid back in food, clothes and temporary shelter. Survival is not difficult when one has been toughened in mining for diamonds deep in the lower bowels of Ship. On deck at least there is a pretense of freedom; there is fresh air, water can be skimmed from water barrels, left-overs and discards can be looked through before they are incinerated or recycled.

Thus I lived the later years of my life and thus I discovered a new ‘connection’ to Ship. It came to me gradually that Ship was talking to me, had always been talking to me but the people noise had blocked Ship’s communications from my mind. Now that I had more freedom I could, and did, move away from people whenever possible and in relative quiet I heard Ship.

I hadn’t known that Ship was aware of what the people were doing on board and in particular, how they were damaging Ship by their greedy delving for ever more esoteric ‘resources’ below deck and down, down, into its deepest accessible bowels. Ship’s voice was sad.

‘You are killing me,’ she said to me in an old woman’s voice, ‘and when I die, you will all die too. That should be obvious to as intelligent a race as yours but somehow your lack of purpose has deadened your understanding of cause and effect. Where are your logicians? Where you philosophers? Where is your empathy? When those things die, you die. No intelligent, sentient and self aware species can guide itself without logic, philosophy and empathy.’

What happens now, Ship?’

‘Like you I am going to die. My lifeless hulk will continue to haunt this orbit for millions of your years. Perhaps, in time beyond time I will return and bring it back to life again so I can be another ark. Perhaps.’

‘Everything, everyone, on board will die then?’

‘Yes, everything.’

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

How do you reblog comments? I don’t know, but I know how to use copy and paste, so here’s some interesting pasting.  You’ll see a link to Counter Punch at the end of the comment so you can follow up if interested.  With our local price of gas at $1.57.9 dollars a liter, the following begins to make sense.  Why be satisfied with tax payer guaranteed subsidies when you can gouge the same public at the gas pump as well?  Who ever heard of rats saying, “OK, that’s enough!” They will squeeze the lemon until the very pips squeak.

❝ The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year … Continue reading Fossil fuel subsidies even greater than military industrial complex — Eideard

“The military is the linchpin, playing a pivotal role intensifying the climate crisis.

Consider the basic facts. The US military is:

+ The single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuel in the world;

+ The most powerful global force securing oil and protecting oil infrastructure;

+ The leading director — along with the big bankers and fossil fuel giants — of the elites’ plans for dealing with the coming crisis. The military and big corporations are not in climate denial — they are in control — and plan to keep it that way as the climate deteriorates.

+ The war machine’s enormous consumption and strategic capture of fossil fuels and their behind-the-scenes management of the crisis hints at its true role: sponsor of big oil and co-creator of the climate crisis.

The dominance of fossil fuels and the supremacy of the US empire rely not on victory in war or on market savvy or “value added” to the economy but on their political power. That power makes destructive and wasteful industries extremely profitable. The Oil Empire relies on massive public funding, carefully crafted exemptions to law and immunity from the economic, social and environmental damages they inflict.

The military can only maintain the fiction that it protects our security by concealing its role as destroyer of the very things we really need to survive: a healthy environment and a democratic society. ”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/17/the-interlocking-crises-war-and-climate-chaos/

Dogville Revisited

[a rant by   ~burning woman~   ]

The 2003 psychological thriller Dogville depicts a bigoted community that accepts to harbour a fugitive from the mob but decides she would have to pay a price. The movie goes on to demonstrate how the price she must pay keeps going up, so high that in the end she is near death when her pursuers finally find her. Then comes the interesting twist as Grace’s terrible secret is revealed.

What is planet earth, in particular the “First World” but a Dogville? The only people who “have” are those who find the means to exploit those who have less, or have nothing except the land they live on, unless it’s their bodies that can be sold for slave labour, prostitution, whatever makes a profit. It’s no secret that we of the West are the “haves” and that the rest of the world has been paying an ever-higher price to us just to stay alive while we maintain our consumer lifestyles. So far, no exaggeration. But there is more, much more.

It isn’t enough that the poor are disenfranchised, dispossessed, persecuted and murdered in their own lands. If they manage to escape they must then become the scapegoats through which the self-righteous Dogvillians can continue to justify their enslavement, thefts of resources, rapes and open murdering rampages. After having been forced from their lands, no matter where they go, they will face resentment, hate, be ostracized, reviled, endlessly exploited and as just happened in New Zealand, massacred.

So one Dogvillian decides to be less hypocritical, more open than the rest, and turns his guns on helpless people in a mosque and all hell breaks loose. Yet two days before the massacre in Christchurch, US artillery massacred 50 civilians in the village of Baghouz, and quote: “On Monday, US warplanes attacked Baghouz, killing at least 50 people. Details on what the intended target was is unclear, but the reports suggest that the dead were mostly women and children… In the past few months, US airstrikes backing the SDF offensive have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. With thousands of civilians still believed to be in Baghouz, the US strikes are undermining the SDF’s effort to convince them to leave, by showing that those who try to leave may be targeted.” (End quote) (https://talesfromtheloublog.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/us-airstrikes-kill-at-least-50-mostly-civilians-in-eastern-syria/

My point here is very simple: where are the screaming headlines, the heads of state standing at their podiums, the social media erupting with indignant cries against war crimes and institutionalized mass murder in Syria? All I heard was dead silence, and that happened just a few days before Christchurch. Well, that, plus it’s been happening for years, witness the refugee crisis. Where is your outcry over those murders?

So my question is simple: why is it totally acceptable to murder women and children in an undeclared hence “unofficial” war but it suddenly become opprobrious if the same or lesser crimes are committed by individuals? Who is the greatest criminal here? On one hand a malcontent, or a few of them, gun down some people in a building, or an arena. On the other hand, all members of any self-styled democracy are in agreement with the massacre of innocent civilians in places where the killer, the aggressor, has no business being. One massacre is widely and openly deplored while a greater massacre lasting years is not just tolerated but openly funded, justified, rationalized and everybody sleeps soundly knowing the bombs are falling like rain “where they should.” Western hypocrisy astounds me.

I’ll tell you this, people of the Warmongering West: Grace, the helpless dispossessed being exploited and murdered by you as willing participants and cheering spectators in these hunger games have a terrible secret. You’re all about to find out what that is. Maybe it’s time to watch the movie Dogville again. You might see many faces you recognize.

Civilization’s Collapse

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

It seems so long ago now, but before I retired, it was part of my job to go to a troublesome account and make the call whether a piece of equipment should be written off and replaced with a new one. I suppose it’s a responsibility that as the then most senior person in the department I was expected to take on. Further, they knew well enough that I had been old-school European trained; that I didn’t have the throw-away mentality so prevalent in Canada and America. When I said a piece of equipment was a write-off, there was no point sending more techs to try to make it work. It was replaced.

The point of this long preamble is that I developed a kind of second-sight about what can be salvaged and what should be written off. Does this apply to other than machines, buildings or human bodies? Can an individual assess the level of entropy in a much larger and more complex system, for example, an empire or an entire civilization? As a matter of fact, that is a deduction that isn’t difficult to arrive at. Let me explain.

While I was thus involved in the technological world of a global multi-national corporation I was also very much involved in social and environmental issues. To me the two went hand in hand. The corporation taught me to see what was wrong with the technological world we were developing and it also taught me that past a certain point in the life of any system, be it a dispenser or a civilization, entropy reached a level that made it pointless to continue fixing.

Now to bring up an unpopular subject: the downfall of man’s civilization and the fact that we are now totally engaged into and sliding down its dark side. Should it come as a surprise that such events do not happen only to others far behind us in history? We are facing, not a change but an implosion of gargantuan magnitude and while a few millions seem concerned it remains that the billions are not.

I know this. It’s not something I wanted to happen, I worked hard enough to prevent it, but it is precisely because of the recent work I put into preventing this global collapse that I can feel what is coming. I know because of the obdurate stance people in general have taken against change; particularly against changing personal lifestyles. People don’t want less, they want more of what is destroying the physical and social environment. They want it because it is convenient and comfortable, post-WWII “virtues” that have become a matter of faith, faith in success, in winning, in having, keeping and adding to. That is the formula for corruption and consequently entropy.

We’re certainly not short of voices raised in protest, anger and sometimes even in hope yet none of them have any traction in the current social morass because none are willing to, or even know how to, address the real problem: Earthian nature. It is that nature that will determine whether this civilization continues or implodes.

Well… obviously it is that very nature that has brought civilization to this sad place and just as obviously that same nature is hardened against changing itself so, what could a thinking person conclude? The driving force of any civilization of intelligent, sentient and self aware beings is the nature of such beings, not the systems they invented to serve them. Would-be change agents look at the systems, proposing change to the systems, but Earthians have become Cyborgs, their way of life, their very bodies entirely dependent on the systems they created for their profit, comfort and convenience. If the systems were terminated prior to new ones properly developed, tested and put on stream most of mankind would perish. That is a foregone conclusion.

So, not only will mankind not change its mind; its ways, but it no longer can. It is physically and mentally welded into its collapsing social construct. Therefore my conclusion is simple: man’s civilization is a write off. You could write these words upon any major public place anywhere on the planet, date them, and time will prove them unassailable. It’s not a condemnation, it’s a simple but accurate assessment of a too-obvious condition.

Here is that famous sonnet “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley, written in January 1818, over 200 years ago.  It has a new meaning today:
“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The Mask of Anarchy – reblog from George Monbiot

My Comment:  While this piece is aimed more at the issue of Brexit and attendant serious drama, it shouldn’t be dismissed by any of us. The same “disaster capitalists” intent on turning Britain into a Third World country are just as hard at work undermining all social advancements made within our “democracies” wherever they may be still found. This is no longer a question of profit but of absolute madness.  My question is, are we going to continue to support the sickness or are we going to stop them?

The Mask of Anarchy

Posted: 11 Feb 2019 04:21 AM PST

Why disaster capitalists are praying for a no deal Brexit.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th February 2019

Part of me wants to smash it all up. I want to see the British bubble burst: the imperial nostalgia, the groundless belief in the inherent greatness of this nation, the casual dishonesty of those who govern us, the xenophobia, the intolerance, the denial, the complacency. I want those who have caused the coming disaster to own it, so that no one ever believes them again. No Deal Brexit? Bring it on.

Such dark thoughts do not last long. Then I remember it will be the poor who get hurt, first and worst. The rich leavers demanding the hardest of possible Brexits, with their offshore accounts, homes abroad and lavish pensions, will be all right. I remember the eerie silence of the City of London. While the bosses of companies producing goods and tangible services write anxious letters to the papers, the financial sector stays largely schtum. Shorting sterling is just the first of its possible gains.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, caused by the IMF’s insistence that countries removed their capital controls, began with an attack by foreign speculators on Thailand’s baht. As currencies tanked and nations raised their interest rates, indebted companies went down like flies. Foreign corporations, particularly from the US, swept in and bought the most lucrative assets for a fraction of their value. Though the causes are different, it’s not hard to see something similar happening here. If it does, the City will clean up.

But this is not the end of it. What a no-deal Brexit might offer is the regulatory vacuum the Brextremists fantasise about. The public protections people have fought so hard for, that we obtained only through British membership of the EU – preventing water companies from pouring raw sewage into our rivers, power stations from spraying acid rain across the land, chemical companies from contaminating our food – are suddenly at risk.

In theory there are safeguards. The environment department has been frantically trying to fill the regulatory chasm. It has published more statutory instruments than any other ministry, and has drafted an Environment Bill, with plans for a watchdog to hold the government to account. But a series of massive questions remain, and none of them have easy answers.

The Environment Bill will not be put before parliament until after the Queen’s speech (probably in May). It won’t be passed until autumn, at the earliest. The green watchdog (the Office for Environmental Protection) will not materialise until 2021. During that time, there will be no body equivalent to the European Court of Justice to ensure that the government upholds the law. Instead, there will be a “holding arrangement”, with an undefined “mechanism” to receive reports of environmental lawbreaking, that the watchdog might be inclined to investigate when it eventually materialises.

Replacing just one of the EU’s environmental functions – registering new chemicals – requires, before March 29, a new IT system, new specialist evaluators, new monitoring and enforcement across several agencies and new government offices, filled with competent staff, to oversee the system, in the four nations of the UK. All this must happen while the government attends to scores of transformations on a similar scale. If the shops run out of food, hospitals can’t get medicine and the Good Friday Agreement falls apart, how much attention will it pay to breaches of environmental law?

Already, we are witnessing comprehensive regulatory collapse in the agencies, such as Natural England, charged with defending the living world, due to funding cuts. If they can’t do their job before we crash out, what chance do they have when the workload explodes, just as government budgets are likely to slump? The government’s nomination of Tony Juniper as Natural England’s new chair is a hopeful sign, though the general astonishment that an environmental regulator will be chaired by an environmental champion show just how bad things have become (since 2009, it has been run by people whose interests and attitudes were starkly at odds with their public duties). But the underlying problem Natural England faces will also hobble the green watchdog. Unlike the European Court of Justice, the Office for Environmental Protection will be funded and controlled by the government it seeks to hold to account.

Last week, the Guardian reported panic within government about the likely pileup of waste the UK currently exports to the EU, in the event of no deal. The combination of a rubbish crisis, administrative chaos and mass distraction could be horrible: expect widespread flytipping and pollution. So much for the extremists’ euphemism for no deal: “clean Brexit”.

The government’s commitment to upholding environmental standards relies to a remarkable extent on one man: the environment secretary, Michael Gove, who has so far doggedly resisted the demands of his fellow Leavers. Had any one of his grisly predecessors been in post – Owen Paterson, Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom – we wouldn’t have even the theoretical protections Gove has commissioned. Boris Johnson has suggested that leaving the EU will allow us to dismantle green standards for electrical goods and environmental impact assessments. Iain Duncan Smith has pressed for the removal of the carbon floor price after Brexit, that has more or less stopped coal burning in the UK.

With Liam Fox in charge of trade policy, and the US demanding the destruction of food and environmental standards as the price of the trade deal he desperately seeks, nothing is safe. A joint trade review by the British and Indian governments contemplates reducing standards on pesticide residues in food and hormone-disrupting chemicals in toys. This must be heartening for Jacob Rees-Mogg (known in some circles as Re-smog), who has proposed that we might accept “emission standards from India”, one of the most polluted nations on earth. “We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here.”

There is no guarantee that Michael Gove, the unlikely champion of public protection, will stay in his post after Brexit. If we crash out of Europe, the dark money that helped to buy Brexit will strive to use this opportunity to tear down our regulations: this, after all, was the point of the exercise. The tantalising prospect for the world’s pollutocrats is that the United Kingdom might become a giant export processing zone, exempt from the laws that govern other rich nations. It’s a huge potential prize, that could begin to reconfigure the global relationship between capital and governments. They will fight as hard and dirty to achieve it as they did to win the vote.

A combination of economic rupture, sudden shifts in ownership, an urgent desire to strike new trade deals and a possible regulatory abyss presents a golden opportunity for disaster capitalism. Our first task is to see it coming. Our second is to stop it.

http://www.monbiot.com

I Had to Write This…

I had to write this…
[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  ]

Just finished watching, for the umpteenth time, the movie, “The Statement” (2003) with Tilda Swinton and Michael Caine.  Basically another story of hunting down Nazi murderers of innocent and helpless Jews in WWII, this time in France under the fascist, heavily pro-Nazi Vichy regime led my Marshal Petain. 

The point here is that these mass murders happened 80 or less years ago – one Earthian life time and here we are, poised to do it all over again.  Isn’t that just fantastic how quickly we forget our ignorance, stupidity and murderous mob tendencies just to start again? 

Granted, we haven’t yet quite decided which race or class of people are going to suffer our wrath, but we’re ready to “do it”.  Most likely the educated and well-informed voting mob will pick on people of some sort of colour to slaughter. Refugees, they’re pretty safe, not too dangerous.  The Muslims, well, that’s a different matter, they tend to fight back. We’ll definitely need the police, the Security state, maybe the army on our side for this. It’s but a matter of putting the right people in government to pass the laws to legitimize the slaughter and that’s never been a problem.  The problem is motivating those still sitting on the fence.  They may have to be our target this time.  Great, those stupid liberals won’t expect to be a mob’s target: sitting ducks.  

You see? That’s how it goes.  The circles just get bigger, nothing essential changes.  And why is that? Why doesn’t anything change and why do we put on the rose coloured glasses and insist that somehow, yes, things have gotten better? Was the 20th Century with its two devastating world wars followed by endless wars and the cruelest form of exploitation of resource rich emerging countries really better than the Hundred Years War?  Is that a rhetorical question or what?

What is our problem?  I’ll tell you, and I’ll keep telling you, as long as I have breath: our problem is that as a species, as a collective, as a “civilization” we don’t give a damn. We are not the least empathetic, though we can be so easily conned by our various propaganda machines into believing that we are, indeed, kind and loving “at heart” and that it is only the few; the minority; that is psychopathic and loves war and killing.  It isn’t. It’s a very, very big majority that is in love with violence and that never gets enough of it. If you don’t believe me, check out the internet and video games. Check out how much money derives directly from violence or the promotion of violence.  

Not all violence means bloodshed and death, though we certainly enjoy doing that best. Violence is everything that causes some sort of harm to others; to another – human, animal, plant or planet, for one’s selfish benefit or one’s enjoyment.  We need to get that very clear in our head for it is the same as what religion calls sin: the inflicting of pain and loss upon any “other” for one’s own satisfaction, benefit or pleasure. 

There is but one antidote for this Earthian condition that is destroying this world and possibly much of the biological life on and in it, and that is for all *ISSA beings to choose to become compassionate.  How many times have I said that? Doesn’t matter because it’s like the wind in the leafless cottonwood trees here in winter: sound and either you like it or you don’t like it, but the wind doesn’t change its tune whether you’re comfortable with it or not.

I’ve been following the current protests highlighting climate change and elitist rip-offs called the economy and assessing the chances of such protests actually accomplishing anything at all. My conclusion is predictable: the protesters are going nowhere.

Oh, what a terrible thing to say! Of course they’re going somewhere; they’re making some politicos change their minds… wow! Problem with that is, these mind-changing chameleons are opportunists. They can see the tide flowing in and they are just smart enough to move the blanket, the umbrella and the cooler a bit higher up on the beach. Still same beach, same picnic, same people. They’ll be safe from the rising waters and who cares about those who are already up against the cliff? Their problem.

If there is one thing activism has taught me back then, it’s that to address one “big” problem it is absolutely necessary to address all “big” problems. You cannot address climate change without addressing global poverty. You cannot address poverty without addressing over-population. You cannot promote alternative sources of energy if you are not condemning consumerism outright. You cannot blame right-winged politicians for screwing the planet if you are blinding yourself to the fact that your “left winged” politicians (the ones you would happily put back in charge) are as corrupt and often more so.  You cannot address justice if you are not, first, dedicated to destroying your billionaire elites – and I mean destroy utterly.  You cannot address and hope to make a dent in any of the above if you are not primarily committed to stopping all wars, genocides and where police operate out of control as in the US, stopping all government sanctioned mass murder.  You cannot in all honesty address and oppose any of the above if inside yourself resides one ounce of racism, misogyny, bullying and oh yes, patriotism. How many realize that patriotism is fanaticism that leads to terrorism?  It’s always been that.

Finally (this has to stop somewhere) nothing at all will ever change as long as there remains one Earthian anywhere convinced that s/he is entitled; if particularly blessed in some way or is superior to anyone else.  In other words, until Earthian pride is completely subdued by humility… we are doomed. We were taught; we were given chance after chance; we know right from wrong and as long as we choose wrong we can’t expect that anything will ever come out right. 

“We knew that the Earth was flat, we knew that we were the center of the universe, and we knew that a man-made heavier than air piece of machinery could not take flight. Through all stages of human history, intellectual authorities have pronounced their supremacy by ridiculing or suppressing elements of reality that simply didn’t fit within the framework of accepted knowledge. Are we really any different today? Have we really changed our acceptance towards things that won’t fit the frame? Maybe there are concepts of our reality we have yet to understand, and if we open our eyes, maybe we will see that something significant has been overlooked.”Terje Toftenes (take from the film “The Day Before Disclosure”)

*ISSA: intelligent, sentient, self aware

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

[My introduction to this article: a major question of mine for long decades: what makes ordinary people admire, support and quasi-worship the rich and “financially successful” when it is common knowledge (or should be by now!) that these are vultures and vampires who feed off the blood, sweat and tears of the poor, marginalized, oppressed, disenfranchised, servants and slaves of the world?
Be honest, who would consider the woman who delivers the mail as a proper candidate for president? Can’t claim it’s because she has no experience, Trump didn’t have any.  Would you vote for your plumber if he decided to run? Baker? How about your babysitter? Kindergarten teacher?  The neighbour’s son who is a long-haul truck driver?
What are these people missing, apart from any opportunity? Well, they aren’t personally known, popular or notorious, but mostly, they are poor. We vote for the eagle, never for the rabbit.  That it means the eagle will feel entitled to kill more rabbits doesn’t seem to sink in, and neither the fact that we are the rabbits.    
  ~Sha’Tara~ ] 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I hate to even bring it up, but we’ve come to that moment again. You know, the one at year’s end when I ask all of you for money to keep this website afloat. This isn’t exactly how I like to spend my time either, but your contributions really do keep us going. So I’ve written a funding appeal to all TomDispatch subscribers that begins this way: “What a year!  I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by You Know Who and the ‘Fake News Media’ coverage of him.  I know, I know… in the president’s inimitable style I should have at least six exclamation points after that last sentence.  Still, I don’t think it would be an unfair description to say that I’m one of the un-Trumps.  I don’t insult.  I don’t even tweet…” The appeal includes, of course, the expectable but necessary plea for donations. If you’re not a TD subscriber but visit this site regularly, you can click here to read my whole letter. Or, if the mood strikes you instantly, you can just go right to the TD donation page and contribute. In return for a $100 donation — $125 if you live outside the U.S. — you can also choose to receive a signed, personalized copy of various Dispatch Books or others as a token of our thanks. Believe me, you really do make all the difference. Tom]

This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates — have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men — and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) — was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, has to say about a planet on which the actual economic situation of most people bears remarkably little relationship to what’s generally advertised and why, if you think stability is already a thing of the past in a Trumpian world, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Tom

Wall Street, Banks, and Angry Citizens
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
By Nomi Prins

As we head into 2019, leaving the chaos of this year behind, a major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

In today’s global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that — from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico — has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” — whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world — emerged.

This phenomenon offered a series of Trumpian figures, including of course The Donald himself, an opening to ride a wave of “populism” to the heights of the political system. That the backgrounds and records of none of them — whether you’re talking about Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte, or Jair Bolsonaro (among others) — reflected the daily concerns of the “common people,” as the classic definition of populism might have it, hardly mattered. Even a billionaire could, it turned out, exploit economic insecurity effectively and use it to rise to ultimate power.

Ironically, as that American master at evoking the fears of apprentices everywhere showed, to assume the highest office in the land was only to begin a process of creating yet more fear and insecurity. Trump’s trade wars, for instance, have typically infused the world with increased anxiety and distrust toward the U.S., even as they thwarted the ability of domestic business leaders and ordinary people to plan for the future. Meanwhile, just under the surface of the reputed good times, the damage to that future only intensified. In other words, the groundwork has already been laid for what could be a frightening transformation, both domestically and globally.

That Old Financial Crisis

To understand how we got here, let’s take a step back. Only a decade ago, the world experienced a genuine global financial crisis, a meltdown of the first order. Economic growth ended; shrinking economies threatened to collapse; countless jobs were cut; homes were foreclosed upon and lives wrecked. For regular people, access to credit suddenly disappeared. No wonder fears rose. No wonder for so many a brighter tomorrow ceased to exist.

The details of just why the Great Recession happened have since been glossed over by time and partisan spin. This September, when the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the global financial services firm Lehman Brothers came around, major business news channels considered whether the world might be at risk of another such crisis. However, coverage of such fears, like so many other topics, was quickly tossed aside in favor of paying yet more attention to Donald Trump’s latest tweets, complaints, insults, and lies. Why? Because such a crisis was so 2008 in a year in which, it was claimed, we were enjoying a first class economic high and edging toward the longest bull-market in Wall Street history. When it came to “boom versus gloom,” boom won hands down.

None of that changed one thing, though: most people still feel left behind both in the U.S. and globally. Thanks to the massive accumulation of wealth by a 1% skilled at gaming the system, the roots of a crisis that didn’t end with the end of the Great Recession have spread across the planet, while the dividing line between the “have-nots” and the “have-a-lots” only sharpened and widened.

Though the media hasn’t been paying much attention to the resulting inequality, the statistics (when you see them) on that ever-widening wealth gap are mind-boggling. According to Inequality.org, for instance, those with at least $30 million in wealth globally had the fastest growth rate of any group between 2016 and 2017. The size of that club rose by 25.5% during those years, to 174,800 members. Or if you really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight. And by the way, despite claims by the president that every other country is screwing America, the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to the growth of inequality. As Inequality.org notes, it has “much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1% than any other country.”

That, in part, is due to an institution many in the U.S. normally pay little attention to: the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. It helped spark that increase in wealth disparity domestically and globally by adopting a post-crisis monetary policy in which electronically fabricated money (via a program called quantitative easing, or QE) was offered to banks and corporations at significantly cheaper rates than to ordinary Americans.

Pumped into financial markets, that money sent stock prices soaring, which naturally ballooned the wealth of the small percentage of the population that actually owned stocks. According to economist Stephen Roach, considering the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, “It is hardly a stretch to conclude that QE exacerbated America’s already severe income disparities.”

Wall Street, Central Banks, and Everyday People

What has since taken place around the world seems right out of the 1930s. At that time, as the world was emerging from the Great Depression, a sense of broad economic security was slow to return. Instead, fascism and other forms of nationalism only gained steam as people turned on the usual cast of politicians, on other countries, and on each other. (If that sounds faintly Trumpian to you, it should.)

In our post-2008 era, people have witnessed trillions of dollars flowing into bank bailouts and other financial subsidies, not just from governments but from the world’s major central banks. Theoretically, private banks, as a result, would have more money and pay less interest to get it. They would then lend that money to Main Street. Businesses, big and small, would tap into those funds and, in turn, produce real economic growth through expansion, hiring sprees, and wage increases. People would then have more dollars in their pockets and, feeling more financially secure, would spend that money driving the economy to new heights — and all, of course, would then be well.

That fairy tale was pitched around the globe. In fact, cheap money also pushed debt to epic levels, while the share prices of banks rose, as did those of all sorts of other firms, to record-shattering heights.

Even in the U.S., however, where a magnificent recovery was supposed to have been in place for years, actual economic growth simply didn’t materialize at the levels promised. At 2% per year, the average growth of the American gross domestic product over the past decade, for instance, has been half the average of 4% before the 2008 crisis. Similar numbers were repeated throughout the developed world and most emerging markets. In the meantime, total global debt hit $247 trillion in the first quarter of 2018. As the Institute of International Finance found, countries were, on average, borrowing about three dollars for every dollar of goods or services created.

Global Consequences

What the Fed (along with central banks from Europe to Japan) ignited, in fact, was a disproportionate rise in the stock and bond markets with the money they created. That capital sought higher and faster returns than could be achieved in crucial infrastructure or social strengthening projects like building roads, high-speed railways, hospitals, or schools.

What followed was anything but fair. As former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted four years ago, “It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.” And, of course, continuing to pour money into the highest levels of the private banking system was anything but a formula for walking that back.

Instead, as more citizens fell behind, a sense of disenfranchisement and bitterness with existing governments only grew. In the U.S., that meant Donald Trump. In the United Kingdom, similar discontent was reflected in the June 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU), which those who felt economically squeezed to death clearly meant as a slap at both the establishment domestically and EU leaders abroad.

Since then, multiple governments in the European Union, too, have shifted toward the populist right. In Germany, recent elections swung both right and left just six years after, in July 2012, European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi exuded optimism over the ability of such banks to protect the financial system, the Euro, and generally hold things together.

Like the Fed in the U.S., the ECB went on to manufacture money, adding another $3 trillion to its books that would be deployed to buy bonds from favored countries and companies. That artificial stimulus, too, only increased inequality within and between countries in Europe. Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations remain ruinously divisive, threatening to rip Great Britain apart.

Nor was such a story the captive of the North Atlantic. In Brazil, where left-wing president Dilma Rouseff was ousted from power in 2016, her successor Michel Temer oversaw plummeting economic growth and escalating unemployment. That, in turn, led to the election of that country’s own Donald Trump, nationalistic far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro who won a striking 55.2% of the vote against a backdrop of popular discontent. In true Trumpian style, he is disposed against both the very idea of climate change and multilateral trade agreements.

In Mexico, dissatisfied voters similarly rejected the political known, but by swinging left for the first time in 70 years. New president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his initials AMLO, promised to put the needs of ordinary Mexicans first. However, he has the U.S. — and the whims of Donald Trump and his “great wall” — to contend with, which could hamper those efforts.

As AMLO took office on December 1st, the G20 summit of world leaders was unfolding in Argentina. There, amid a glittering backdrop of power and influence, the trade war between the U.S. and the world’s rising superpower, China, came even more clearly into focus. While its president, Xi Jinping, having fully consolidated power amid a wave of Chinese nationalism, could become his country’s longest serving leader, he faces an international landscape that would have amazed and befuddled Mao Zedong.

Though Trump declared his meeting with Xi a success because the two sides agreed on a 90-day tariff truce, his prompt appointment of an anti-Chinese hardliner, Robert Lighthizer, to head negotiations, a tweet in which he referred to himself in superhero fashion as a “Tariff Man,” and news that the U.S. had requested that Canada arrest and extradite an executive of a key Chinese tech company, caused the Dow to take its fourth largest plunge in history and then fluctuate wildly as economic fears of a future “Great Something” rose. More uncertainty and distrust were the true product of that meeting.

In fact, we are now in a world whose key leaders, especially the president of the United States, remain willfully oblivious to its long-term problems, putting policies like deregulation, fake nationalist solutions, and profits for the already grotesquely wealthy ahead of the future lives of the mass of citizens. Consider the yellow-vest protests that have broken out in France, where protestors identifying with left and right political parties are calling for the resignation of neoliberal French President Emmanuel Macron. Many of them, from financially starved provincial towns, are angry that their purchasing power has dropped so low they can barely make ends meet

Ultimately, what transcends geography and geopolitics is an underlying level of economic discontent sparked by twenty-first-century economics and a resulting Grand Canyon-sized global inequality gap that is still widening. Whether the protests go left or right, what continues to lie at the heart of the matter is the way failed policies and stop-gap measures put in place around the world are no longer working, not when it comes to the non-1% anyway. People from Washington to Paris, London to Beijing, increasingly grasp that their economic circumstances are not getting better and are not likely to in any presently imaginable future, given those now in power.

A Dangerous Recipe

The financial crisis of 2008 initially fostered a policy of bailing out banks with cheap money that went not into Main Street economies but into markets enriching the few. As a result, large numbers of people increasingly felt that they were being left behind and so turned against their leaders and sometimes each other as well.

This situation was then exploited by a set of self-appointed politicians of the people, including a billionaire TV personality who capitalized on an increasingly widespread fear of a future at risk. Their promises of economic prosperity were wrapped in populist platitudes, normally (but not always) of a right-wing sort. Lost in this shift away from previously dominant political parties and the systems that went with them was a true form of populism, which would genuinely put the needs of the majority of people over the elite few, build real things including infrastructure, foster organic wealth distribution, and stabilize economies above financial markets.

In the meantime, what we have is, of course, a recipe for an increasingly unstable and vicious world.

Nomi Prins is a TomDispatch regular. Her latest book is Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books). Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Nomi Prins