who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. How the 1 percent always
2. A Deepening Democratic
3. Why the 2015 UK election is an
irritating noise, nothing
Book in the Darkness
This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 5, 2015.
is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links:
Item 1 is about the question why the 1
percent always wins and is sensible; item 2 is
about a deepening divide in the American Democratic Party that does
seem real to me; item 3 is about the British
elections (and seems in part mistaken to me); and item 4
is about a brief book review, that made clear to me why I like
the writer (he quotes some of my favorite writers and philosophers).
1. How the 1 percent always wins: “We live
in a faux democracy, which is why everyone’s so cynical and nobody
item is an article by Scott Timberg on Salon:
This has the
following subtitle (bolding in the original):
The rich get
richer, the middle class gets hollowed out. We all stay
quiet. Steve Fraser explains why we allow it
Well, not "all" but
otherwise I agree this is a serious and important
problem, that is also very well illustrated by the following
graphic, that I also showed two days ago but then could not upload
properly to my Danish site
(it worked all quite unproblematically on the Dutch site, just
as it did today on the Danish site).
This is reproduced
because it shows the problem is really serious - and note the large
differences between the three ideas most Americans have about the
distribution of wealth in the U.S.:
In fact, the article
starts as fiollows:
Why aren’t we getting
angry about the steady shifting of treasure from the middle class to
the very richest? Why haven’t the few who are vocal and visibly
frustrated coalesced into a real movement? Has there ever been a time
when Americans made noise about this kind of thing? These questions are
at the heart of “The Age
of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized
Wealth and Power” (Little, Brown), a new book by labor
historian Steve Fraser.
Alternately hilarious, lucid
and disturbing in its documenting of contemporary complacency, the book
looks at the intense opposition to capital in the original Gilded Age
and contrasts it with the silence today.
This article also is
for the most part an interview with Steve Fraser. Before turning to
that I want to make one inference based on the above graphic (that was
1. The large difference between what most think
about the distribution of wealth in the U.S. (in the middle row in the
graphic) and the actual facts (in the top row) strongly
suggests that the American - main media - press neither discusses
nor names the real facts (except perhaps briefly in backpages, or
else to deny them).
That is my own
conclusion. Now I turn to the interview. I am mainly interested in
arguments that support the subtitle ("The rich get richer, the middle class gets hollowed out.
We all stay
quiet"), which means
that the numbers I start with are my own. First there is this:
2. The unions that
were formed in the nineteenth century, and of course culminating during
the New Deal during the 1930s, are a pale shadow of what they once
were. They used to provide a defense mechanism. Without them, it’s
harder, it’s dangerous, it’s very risky.
Yes, that must be correct.
Besides, there is another effect related to the shifts in work, for
these day poor people do mostly not become workers - welders,
painters, carpenters, etc. - but they become office-people who
I am convinced this made a major
3. The proletarian
class, who knew they were being exploited; who knew that only a small
percentage would and could escape from being proletarian; and who
opposed their exploitation through trade unions are now replaced
by an equally poor or poorer class of usually badly educated, solidly
misled and heavily propagandized believers in the fiction that they
themselves - at least - will emancipate to a
much better income if only they behave themselves.
A very similar thing
happened in Europe.
Next, there is the counter-culture, that in fact was mostly active in
its original form (in many distinct ways) from
1965-1975 or 1980 at the latest, and that was completely taken over by
the corporations, from 1975 onwards. Fraser formulates it as follows:
4. And the whole
counter-culture, which began to talk about personal liberation, some of
which defied the kind of repressiveness and inhibition that had
characterized life up until then, came into the hands of corporate
America as a way of mining that psyche through the avenues of consumer
Yes. I have seen this in
Europe as well, and while there are several reasons for this, the most
important one is that as soon as it got clear there was a quite
solid profit to be made from something sold as "the
counter-culture" (which it originally also was) the original leaders
were replaced by managerial types (with long hair and alternative
language, originally) who quickly destroyed whatever was deviant in it,
and made it all market-based and profit-oriented.
Next, we get something like
a partial mistake, though I will count it as a point (i.e. a reason for
5. All corporate
America cares about — they’re amoral, I don’t mean anti-moral, just
amoral — all that matters is the bottom line.
I think this really
is a mistake, because at least the main American bank managers, who
also are an example to many other managerial types, who "earn" ten or
twenty million dollars a year, are not "a-moral" (although I agree that
is how they often like to see themselves) but are simply anti-moral in
demanding far too much for themselves and their industries.
That is: I say they are stealing their millions, indeed mostly
and they know it. (But profit is the
only thing that motivates people, in their perspective, and those who
profit most are best, again in their perspective.)
Next, we get to the
influence of propaganda
relations" (which produce most of the things ordinary people -
non-academics - read: advertisements):
6. Under Reagan,
we begin to buy into the notion that freedom and the free market are
the same thing, and that the way to unleash that freedom is to
deregulate the whole economic arena, which gave license to… we began to
worship the big financiers, the titans of finance, the Michael Milkens,
the Carl Icahns, the Ivan Boeskys, the “greed is good” world, because
they became the paragons. They became the pioneers of a new kind of
I look a bit differently on
this: That "freedom" and "the
free market" are the same; that
"profit is a noble and good motive"; that "what one is, is a consumer"
(especially of brands) much rather than anything else (such as a human
being, with rights and duties beyond profiting); that "greed is good"
and "selfishness is moral"; and that "everyone may fairly expect to
become rich" - are all lies and deceptions that have
been carefully nurtured by advertisements,
and are both totally false and widely believed.
Finally, here is one
outcome (although this is formulated too sharply):
7. We live in a
kind of faux democracy right now, which is why everyone’s so cynical
and nobody votes. We’re only interested in politics as a form of
personal gossip, because the system seems to be immune to popular
sentiment about a variety of things.
I do not
think "everyone" is cynical nor that "nobody votes", but as I have said
several times before in Nederlog: If lies as listed under "6."
above are widely accepted by the half of the population whose IQs do
not exceed 100, the few who manufacture these lies on a large scale -
relations" firms that are paid by the big corporations -
have already "democratically won".
In any case, the present item may be thought of as an extension of my
article of over two years ago "Why are so many so apathetic?".
I'll end this by
giving the 7 points again, in a somewhat edited form:
Here are 7 reasons why ordinary people (in the U.S.) are
mostly apathic these days:
1. The American - main media - press
neither discusses nor names the real facts (except perhaps
briefly in backpages or to deny them).
2. The American
unions are mostly dead.
proletarian class is now replaced by an equally poor or poorer
class of usually badly educated, solidly misled and heavily
propagandized believers in the fiction that they
themselves - at least - will emancipate to a much better income if only
they behave themselves.
4. The counter-culture (once it had shown itself
profitable) has been completely taken over by corporate managers out
for profit by deception.
5. Corporate America is a-moral or anti-moral: They
only care for profits for themselves, and judge everything by
its profitability (to them).
6. From Reagan onwards, the public
relations firms propagandized
especially these lies: that "freedom" and "the free market"
are the same; that "profit is a noble and good motive"; that "what one
is, is a consumer" (especially of brands) much rather than anything
else (such as a human being, with rights and duties beyond profiting);
that "greed is good" and "selfishness is moral"; and that "everyone may
fairly expect to become rich" - which were and are all lies and deceptions that
have been carefully nurtured by advertisements,
and are now widely believed.
7. The non-democratic "democracy" that is the
present U.S. exists because the "public
relations" firms have propagandized the half of the American population whose
IQs are at most 100 to support the rich 1%, also if that is - as usual
- completely against their real interests.
a decent list.
2. A Deepening Democratic Party Divide
item is an article by David Sirota on Truth-dig:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. There is
considerably more in the article, but fundamentally the divide comes to
this (and it is quite real):
For those pining for a
Democratic Party that tries to represent more than the whims of the
rich and powerful, these are, to say the least, confusing times.
On the presidential
campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has been promoting standard pro-middle
class rhetoric, yet also has been raking in speaking fees from
financial firms. One of her potential primary challengers, former
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, has been sounding anti-Wall Street
themes, but only after finishing up two terms in office that saw his
state plow more public pension money into Wall Street firms, costing
taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in financial fees.
Similarly, in Washington,
the anti-Wall Street fervor of those such as Massachusetts Sen.
Elizabeth Warren sometimes seems as if it is on the ascent—that is,
until big money comes calling.
Either the Democrats listen to their electorate
(that seems in the majority to care most about income inequalities, in
which they are right) or else the Democrats listen to their
rich backers (who hardly care for income inequalities), who will
pay most of the advertisements that may get them re-elected.
And I think that is a real problem for the Democrats - and I
fear that in the end most will listen to their rich backers.
3. Why the 2015 UK election is an irritating noise, nothing
item is an article by John Ward on The Slog:
This starts as
All major political,
economic and scientific advances change society, and almost all are a
mixed blessing. But at the time, they usually have so much apparently
to offer – victory in war, an easier life, a health cure, personal
independence, greater efficiency, and of course vastly increased
profits for those engaged in marketing them – they are assumed to be
For what we still call
‘the working class’ – those doomed to be selling their labour to
all-powerful capital – most of the changes brought about by
business-lobbied political decisions in the last 30-35 years in the
West have meant not progress, but a disaster of shattered living
standards and self-esteem for 80+% of those “who work” as employees…ie,
most of us.
I agree with that, although
"80+%" seems to me too high: many are still mostly deceived by the propaganda
they read every day (but: I may be mistaken).
Then there is this:
The ‘reforms’ brought in
by Reagan and Thatcher (and then left alone by Clinton and Blair) had
seven main results for the vast majority of those with a job: shorter
hours, lower wages, less job satisfaction, vastly increased wealth
inequality, housing booms in which they were left behind, the
deregulation of wealth accrual further up the social scale, and last
but far from least, the destruction of communities such as those found
around the centres of the coal mining, iron trades, and food
Yes, that seems a
good survey. And now we get to the title:
So in fact, all the
election on May 7th really represents is a massive
distraction from The Big Issue: the enormous shift of political and
financial power away from labour towards capital, and the gigantic
global debt that has created.
Well... I haven't
voted since 1971 and I am Dutch. But the present argument seems a
mistake to me, for two reasons.
First, "The Big
Issue" seems either not relevant for whether or not you vote in
the English elections of May 7, or else seems a reason for
people who are progressive to vote progressive (and for those who are
rich Tories to vote Tory). And second, if I were English I probably would
vote, this time, and that for two reasons: 1. I very much
dislike Cameron, Osborne, May and their government; 2. while I don't
like Labour there is a real choice, and especially for poor
people: You will certainly not be helped by another Tory
government; you may be helped by a Labour government (which, in
case it arrives, will change rather a lot).
There are other arguments I could give (which would include that
Miliband is less of a hypocrite than Blair), and I certainly would not
expect much from any present English politician, but
yes: You know what the Conservatives brought, which was much more
misery and poverty for anyone who is not rich, and given that, you now can
support or oppose this, and I think anyone who is not rich should
oppose this (but without expecting any miracle).
There is considerably more in the article, which is interesting (and I
will return to The Slog to see what I think about it: This is a first
time for me).
A Book in the Darkness
item for today is an article by Charles Simic
(<- Wikipedia) on The New York Review of Books:
I like Charles Simic,
which follows from the fact that I have reviewed some article of his at
least 9 times in Nederlog. I didn't know, and I just found out, and
yes: He is not a crisis author, and he normally writes about
literature, as he does this time.
It starts as follows:
It is similar for me: I
do live in a "house full
of books", and I also find
it often quite difficult to fall asleep (what with pain, which I still
have most of the time in the evenings) and indeed I normally try to
read if I can't sleep.
One of the compensations
of being an insomniac in a snowbound house full of books is that I can
always find something to read and distract myself from whatever mood
I’m in. When it gets real bad, I roam the dark house with a flashlight
like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, pull books off the shelves, open them at
random or thumb the pages until I find something of interest, and after
reading it, either go back to bed happy or grope for another book.
I read only a passage or
two, and at the most a page, because if I read more than that, I’m in
danger of staying up half a night. All I require, to use a culinary
term, is an amuse-bouche that leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
Anyway, this is a short piece, but I found two reasons in it why
I like Simic. First, a reference + quotation of a favorite writer of
“That of all days
is the most completely wasted in which one did not once laugh.”
And second a reference +
quotation of a favorite philosopher of mine, David Hume (whose
"Treatise of Human Nature" I am currently annotating: Part I of three
parts is nearly done):
Should a traveler,
returning from a far country, bring us an account of men wholly
different from any with whom we were ever acquainted, men who were
entirely divested of avarice, ambition, or revenge, who knew no
pleasure but friendship, generosity, and public spirit, we should
immediately, from these circumstances, detect the falsehood and prove
him a liar with the same certainty as if he had stuffed his narration
with stories of centaurs and dragons, miracles and prodigies.
Quite so - and Simic
also has the right thoughts about this, which you can find yourselves
if interested. Here I will make another observation: You can apply the
same lessen to any of your politicians. Being a politician = being a
liar (with extremely few exceptions).
-- David Hume