The Cost of Resistance

 

(Museum of the Revolution, León, Nicaragua)

By Chris Hedges

Source: TruthDig

Resistance entails suffering. It requires self-sacrifice. It accepts that we may be destroyed. It is not rational. It is not about the pursuit of happiness. It is about the pursuit of freedom. Resistance accepts that even if we fail, there is an inner freedom that comes with defiance, and perhaps this is the only freedom, and true happiness, we will ever know. To resist evil is the highest achievement of human life. It is the supreme act of love. It is to carry the cross, as the theologian James Cone reminds us, and to be acutely aware that what we are carrying is also what we will die upon.

Most of those who resist—Sitting Bull, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.—are defeated, at least in the cold calculation of the powerful. The final, and perhaps most important quality of resistance, as Cone writes, is that it “inverts the world’s value system.” Hope rises up out of defeat. Those who resist stand, regardless of the cost, with the crucified. This is their magnificence and their power.

The seductive inducements to conformity—money, fame, prizes, generous grants, huge book contracts, hefty lecture fees, important academic and political positions and a public platform—are scorned by those who resist. The rebel does not define success the way the elites define success. Those who resist refuse to kneel before the idols of mass culture and the power elites. They are not trying to get rich. They do not want to be part of the inner circle of the powerful. They accept that when you stand with the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed.

The inversion of the world’s value system makes freedom possible. Those who resist are free not because they have attained many things or high positions, but because they have so few needs. They sever the shackles used to keep most people enslaved. And this is why the elites fear them. The elites can crush them physically, but they cannot buy them off.

The power elites attempt to discredit those who resist. They force them to struggle to make an income. They push them to the margins of society. They write them out of the official narrative. They deny them the symbols of status. They use the compliant liberal class to paint them as unreasonable and utopian.

Resistance is not, fundamentally, political. It is cultural. It is about finding meaning and expression in the transcendent and the incongruities of life. Music, poetry, theater and art sustain resistance by giving expression to the nobility of rebellion against the overwhelming forces, what the ancient Greeks called fortuna, which can never ultimately be overcome. Art celebrates the freedom and dignity of those who defy malignant evil. Victory is not inevitable, or at least not victory as defined by the powerful. Yet in every act of rebellion we are free. It was the raw honesty of the blues, spirituals and work chants that made it possible for African-Americans to endure.

Power is a poison. It does not matter who wields it. The rebel, for this reason, is an eternal heretic. He or she will never fit into any system. The rebel stands with the powerless. There will always be powerless people. There will always be injustice. The rebel will always be an outsider.

Resistance requires eternal vigilance. The moment the powerful are no longer frightened, the moment the glare of the people is diverted and movements let down their guard, the moment the ruling elites are able to use propaganda and censorship to hide their aims, the gains made by resisters roll backward. We have been steadily stripped of everything that organized working men and women—who rose up in defiance and were purged, demonized and killed by the capitalist elites—achieved with the New Deal. The victories of African-Americans, who paid with their bodies and blood in making possible the Great Society and ending legal segregation, also have been reversed.

The corporate state makes no pretense of addressing social inequality or white supremacy. It practices only the politics of vengeance. It uses coercion, fear, violence, police terror and mass incarceration as social control. Our cells of resistance have to be rebuilt from scratch.

The corporate state, however, is in trouble. It has no credibility. All the promises of the “free market,” globalization and trickle-down economics have been exposed as a lie, an empty ideology used to satiate greed. The elites have no counterargument to their anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critics. The attempt to blame the electoral insurgencies in the United States’ two ruling political parties on Russian interference, rather than massive social inequality—the worst in the industrialized world—is a desperate ploy. The courtiers in the corporate press are working feverishly, day and night, to distract us from reality. The moment the elites are forced to acknowledge social inequality as the root of our discontent is the moment they are forced to acknowledge their role in orchestrating this inequality. This terrifies them.

The U.S. government, subservient to corporate power, has become a burlesque. The last vestiges of the rule of law are evaporating. The kleptocrats are pillaging and looting like barbarian hordes. Programs instituted to protect the common good—public education, welfare and environmental regulations—are being dismantled. The bloated military, sucking the marrow out of the nation, is unassailable. Poverty is a nightmare for half the population. Poor people of color are gunned down with impunity in the streets. Our prison system, the world’s largest, is filled with the destitute. And presiding over the chaos and the dysfunction is a political P.T. Barnum, a president who, while we are being fleeced, offers up one bizarre distraction after another, much like Barnum’s Feejee mermaid—the head and torso of a monkey sewed to the back half of a fish.

There is no shortage of artists, intellectuals and writers, from Martin Buber and George Orwell to James Baldwin, who warned us that this dystopian era was fast approaching. But in our Disneyfied world of intoxicating and endless images, cult of the self and willful illiteracy, we did not listen. We will pay for our negligence.

Søren Kierkegaard argued that it was the separation of intellect from emotion, from empathy, that doomed Western civilization. The “soul” has no role in a technocratic society. The communal has been shattered. The concept of the common good has been obliterated. Greed is celebrated. The individual is a god. The celluloid image is reality. The artistic and intellectual forces that make transcendence and the communal possible are belittled or ignored. The basest lusts are celebrated as forms of identity and self-expression. Progress is defined exclusively by technological and material advancement. This creates a collective despair and anxiety that feeds and is fed by glitter, noise and false promises of consumer-culture idols. The despair grows ever-worse, but we never acknowledge our existential dread. As Kierkegaard understood, “the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair.”

Those who resist are relentlessly self-critical. They ask the hard questions that mass culture, which promises an unachievable eternal youth, fame and financial success, deflects us from asking. What does it mean to be born? What does it mean to live? What does it mean to die? How do we live a life of meaning? What is justice? What is truth? What is beauty? What does our past say about our present? How do we defy radical evil?

We are in the grip of what Kierkegaard called “sickness unto death”—the numbing of the soul by despair that leads to moral and physical debasement. Those who are ruled by rational abstractions and an aloof intellectualism, Kierkegaard argued, are as depraved as those who succumb to hedonism, cravings for power, violence and predatory sexuality. We achieve salvation when we accept the impediments of the body and the soul, the limitations of being human, yet despite these limitations seek to do good. This burning honesty, which means we always exist on the cusp of despair, leaves us, in Kierkegaard’s words, in “fear and trembling.” We struggle not to be brutes while acknowledging we can never be angels. We must act and then ask for forgiveness. We must be able to see our own face in the face of the oppressor.

The theologian Paul Tillich did not use the word “sin” to mean an act of immorality. He, like Kierkegaard, defined sin as estrangement. For Tillich, it was our deepest existential dilemma. Sin was our separation from the forces that give us ultimate meaning and purpose in life. This separation fosters the alienation, anxiety, meaninglessness and despair that are preyed upon by mass culture. As long as we fold ourselves inward, embrace a perverted hyper-individualism that is defined by selfishness and narcissism, we will never overcome this estrangement. We will be separated from ourselves, from others and from the sacred.

Resistance is not only about battling the forces of darkness. It is about becoming a whole and complete human being. It is about overcoming estrangement. It is about the capacity to love. It is about honoring the sacred. It is about dignity. It is about sacrifice. It is about courage. It is about being free. Resistance is the pinnacle of human existence.

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Posted in Activism, Art, Authoritarianism, consciousness, Corporate Crime, culture, Empire, Philosophy, police state, Revolution, society, Spirituality, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Saturday Matinee: The Brotherhood of the Bell

The Brotherhood of the Bell is a 1970 made-for-television movie produced by Cinema Center 100 Productions and starring Glenn Ford. The director Paul Wendkos was nominated in 1971 by the Directors Guild of America for outstanding directorial achievement in television.

The film relates how a successful Economics professor, Dr. Andrew Patterson, discovers that an elite fraternity he had joined 22 years before in college is really a callous banking and business cabal that obtains wealth and power for its members through nefarious practices.

Posted in Art, culture, Film, Saturday Matinee, Video | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

To Liberate Cambodia

By Robert J. Burrowes

A long-standing French protectorate briefly occupied by Japan during World War II, Cambodia became independent in 1953 as the French finally withdrew from Indochina. Under the leadership of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia remained officially neutral, including during the subsequent US war on Indochina. However, by the mid-1960s, parts of the eastern provinces of Cambodia were bases for North Vietnamese Army and National Liberation Front (NVA/NLF) forces operating against South Vietnam and this resulted in nearly a decade of bombing by the United States from 4 October 1965. See ‘Bombs Over Cambodia: New Light on US Air War’.

In 1970 Sihanouk was ousted in a US-supported coup led by General Lon Nol. See ‘A Special Supplement: Cambodia’. The following few years were characterized by an internal power struggle between Cambodian elites and war involving several foreign countries, but particularly including continuation of the recently commenced ‘carpet bombing’ of Cambodia by the US Air Force.

On 17 April 1975 the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), otherwise known as the Khmer Rouge, took control of Cambodia. Following four years of ruthless rule by the Chinese-supported Khmer Rouge, initially under Pol Pot, they were defeated by the Vietnamese army in 1979 and the Vietnamese occupation authorities established the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), installing Heng Samrin and other pro-Vietnamese Communist politicians as leaders of the new government. Heng was succeeded by Chan Sy as Prime Minister in 1981.

Following the death of Chan Sy, Hun Sen became Prime Minister of Cambodia in 1985 and, despite a facade of democracy, he and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have been in power ever since. This period has notably included using the army to purge a feared rival in a bloody coup conducted in 1997. Hun Sen’s co-Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was ousted and fled to Paris while his supporters were arrested, tortured and some were summarily executed.

The current main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was founded in 2012 by merging the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party. Emblematic of Cambodia’s ‘democratic’ status, more than two dozen opposition members and critics have been locked up in the past year alone and the CNRP leader, Kem Sokha, known for his nonviolent, politically tolerant views, is currently imprisoned at a detention centre in Tboung Khmum Province following his arrest on 3 September 2017 under allegations of treason, espionage and for orchestrating anti-government demonstrations in 2013-2014. These demonstrations were triggered by widespread allegations of electoral fraud during the Cambodian general election of 2013. See ‘Sokha arrested for “treason”, is accused of colluding with US to topple the government’.

On 16 November 2017 the CNRP was dissolved by Cambodia’s highest court and 118 of its members, including Sokha and exiled former leader Sam Rainsy, were banned from politics for five years.

 

Cambodian Society

Socially, Cambodia is primarily Khmer with ethnic populations of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, Thai and Lao. It has a population of 16 million people. The pre-eminent religion is Buddhism. The adult literacy rate is 75%; few Cambodians speak a European language limiting access to western literature. Most students complete 12 years of (low quality public) school but tertiary enrollment is limited. As in all countries, education (reinforced by state propaganda through the media) serves to intimidate and indoctrinate students into obedience of elites. Discussion of national politics in a school class is taboo and such discussions are rare at tertiary level. This manifests in the narrow range of concerns that mobilize student action: personal outcomes such as employment opportunities. Issues such as those in relation to peace, the environment and refugees do not have a significant profile. In short, the student population generally is neither well informed nor politically engaged.

However, many other issues engage at least some Cambodians, with demonstrations, strikes and street blockades being popular tactics, although the lack of strategy means that outcomes are usually limited and, despite commendable nonviolent discipline in many cases, violent repression is not effectively resisted. Issues of concern to workers, particularly low wages in a country with no minimum wage law, galvanize some response. See, for example, ‘Protests, Strikes Continue in Cambodia: Though their occupations differ, Cambodian workers are united in their push for a living wage’. Garment workers are a significant force because their sector is important to the national economy. Land grabbing and lack of housing mobilize many people but usually fail to attract support beyond those effected. See, for example, ‘Housing Activists Clash With Police in Street Protest’. Environmental issues, such as deforestation and natural resource depletion, fail to mobilize the support they need to be effective.

Having noted that, however, Cambodian activists require enormous courage to take nonviolent action as the possibility of violent state repression in response to popular mobilization is a real one, as illustrated above and documented in the Amnesty International report ‘Taking to the streets: Freedom of peaceful assembly in Cambodia’ from 2015.

Perhaps understandably, given their circumstances, international issues, such as events in the Middle East, North Korea and the plight of the Rohingya in neighbouring Myanmar are beyond the concern of most Cambodians.

Economically, Cambodians produce traditional goods for small local households with industrial production remaining low in a country that is still industrializing. Building on agriculture (especially rice), tourism and particularly the garment industry, which provided the basis for the Cambodian export sector in recent decades, the dictatorship has been encouraging light manufacturing, such as of electronics and auto-parts, by establishing ‘special economic zones’ that allow cheap Cambodian labour to be exploited. Most of the manufacturers are Japanese and despite poor infrastructure (such as lack of roads and port facilities), poor production management, poor literacy and numeracy among the workers, corruption and unreliable energy supplies, Cambodian factory production is slowly rising to play a part in Japan’s regional supply chain. In addition, Chinese investment in the construction sector has grown enormously in recent years and Cambodia is experiencing the common problem of development being geared to serve elite commercial interests and tourists rather than the needs (such as affordable housing) of ordinary people or the environment. See ‘China’s construction bubble may leave Cambodia’s next generation without a home’.

Environmentally, Cambodia does little to conserve its natural resources. For example, between 1990 and 2010, Cambodia lost 22% of its forest cover, or nearly 3,000,000 hectares, largely to logging. There is no commitment to gauging environmental impact before construction projects begin and the $US800m Lower Sesan 2 Dam, in the northeast of the country, has been widely accused of being constructed with little thought given to local residents (who will be evicted or lose their livelihood when the dam reservoir fills) or the project’s environmental impact.

Beyond deforestation (through both legal and illegal logging) then, environmental destruction in Cambodia occurs as a result of large scale construction and agricultural projects which destroy important wildlife habitats, but also through massive (legal and illegal) sand mining – see ‘Shifting Sand: How Singapore’s demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance’ – poaching of endangered and endemic species, with Cambodian businesses and political authorities, as well as foreign criminal syndicates and many transnational corporations from all over the world implicated in the various aspects of this corruptly-approved and executed destruction.

In the words of Cambodian researcher Tay Sovannarun: ‘The government just keeps doing business as usual while the rich cliques keep extracting natural resources and externalizing the cost to the rest of society.’ Moreover, three members of the NGO Mother Nature – Sun Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Somnang – recently served nearly a year in prison for their efforts to defend the environment and the group was dissolved by the government in September 2017. See ‘Environmental NGO Mother Nature dissolved’.

 

Cambodian Politics

Politically, Cambodians are largely naïve with most believing that they live in a ‘democracy’ despite the absence of its most obvious hallmarks such as civil and political rights, the separation of powers including an independent judiciary, free and fair elections, the right of assembly and freedom of the press (with the English-language newspaper The Cambodia Daily recently closed down along with some radio stations). And this is an accurate assessment of most members of the political leadership of the CNRP as well.

Despite a 30-year record of political manipulation by Hun Sen and the CPP – during which ‘Hun Sen has made it clear that he does not respect the concept of free and fair elections’: see ‘30 Years of Hun Sen: Violence, Repression, and Corruption in Cambodia’ – which has included obvious corruption of elections through vote-rigging but also an outright coup in 1997 and the imprisonment or exile of opposition leaders since then, most Cambodians and their opposition leaders still participate in the charade that they live in a ‘democracy’ which could result in the defeat of Hun Sen and the CPP at a ‘free and fair’ election. Of course, there are exceptions to this naïveté, as a 2014 article written by Mu Sochua, veteran Cambodian politician and former minister of women’s affairs in a Hun Sen government, demonstrates. See ‘Crackdown in Cambodia’.

Moreover, as Sovannarun has noted: most Cambodians ‘still think international pressure is effective in keeping the CPP from disrespecting democratic principles which they have violated up until this day. Right now they wait for US and EU sanctions in the hope that the CPP will step back.’ See, for example, ‘The Birth of a Dictator’. He asks: ‘Even assuming it works, when will Cambodians learn to rely on themselves when the ruling party causes the same troubles again? Are they going to ask for external help like this every time and expect their country to be successfully democratized?’

The problem, Sovannarun argues, is that ‘Cambodians in general do not really understand what democracy is. Their views are very narrow. For them, democracy is just an election. Many news reports refer to people as “voters” but in Khmer, this literally translates as “vote owners” as if people cannot express their rights or power beside voting.’

Fortunately, recent actions by the CPP have led to opposition leaders and some NGOs finally declaring the Hun Sen dictatorship for what it is. See, for example, ‘The Birth of a Dictator’. But for Sovannarun, ‘democratization ended in 1997. The country should be regarded as a dictatorship since then. The party that lost the election in 1993 still controlled the national military, the police and security force, and the public administration, eventually using military force to establish absolute control in 1997. How is Cambodia still a democracy?’

However, recent comprehensive research undertaken by Global Witness goes even further. Their report Hostile Takeover ‘sheds light on a huge network of secret deal-making and corruption that has underpinned Hun Sen’s 30-year dictatorial reign of murder, torture and the imprisonment of his political opponents’. See ‘Hostile Takeover: The corporate empire of Cambodia’s ruling family’ and ‘Probe: Companies Worth $200M Linked to Cambodian PM’s Family’.

So what are the prospects of liberating Cambodia from its dictatorship?

To begin, there is little evidence to suggest that leadership for any movement to do so will come from within formal political ranks. Following the court-ordered dissolution of the CNRP on 16 November 2017 – see ‘Cambodia top court dissolves main opposition CNRP party’ – at the behest of Hun Sen, ‘half of their 55 members of parliament fled the country’. And this dissolution was preceded by actions that had effectively neutralized the opposition, with two dozen opposition members (including CNRP leader Kem Sokha) and critics imprisoned in the past year alone, as reported above, and the rapid flight of Opposition Deputy President Mu Sochua on 3 October after allegedly being notified by a senior official that her arrest was imminent. See ‘Breaking: CNRP’s Mu Sochua flees country following “warning” of arrest’. But while Mu Sochua called for a protest gathering after she had fled, understandably, nobody dared to protest: ‘Who dares to protest if their leader runs for their life?’ Sovannarun asks.

Of course, civil society leadership is fraught with danger too. Prominent political commentator and activist Kem Ley, known for his trenchant criticism of the Hun Sen dictatorship, was assassinated on 10 July 2016 in Phnom Penh. See ‘Shooting Death of Popular Activist Roils Cambodia’ and ‘Q&A With Kem Ley: Transparency on Hun Sen Family’s Business Interests is Vital’. Ley was the third notable activist to be killed following the union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 – see ‘Who Killed Chea Vichea?’ – and environmental activist Wutty Chut in 2012. See ‘Cambodian Environmental Activist Is Slain’. But they are not the only activists to suffer this fate.

In addition, plenty of politicians, journalists and activists have been viciously assaulted by the security forces and members of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit – see, for example, ‘Dragged and Beaten: The Cambodian Government’s Role in the October 2015 Attack on Opposition Politicians’ – and/or imprisoned by the dictatorship. See ‘Cambodia: Quash Case Against 11 Opposition Activists: No Legal Basis for Trumped-Up Charges, Convictions, and Long Sentences’. In fact, Radio Free Asia keeps a record of ‘Cambodian Opposition Politicians and Activists Behind Bars’ for activities that the dictatorship does not like, including defending human rights, land rights and the natural environment.

Moreover, in another recent measure of the blatant brutality of the dictatorship, Hun Sen publicly suggested that opposition politicians Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha ‘would already be dead’ had he known they were promising to ‘organise a new government’ in the aftermath of the highly disputed 2013 national election result. See ‘Rainsy and Sokha “would already be dead”: PM’. He also used a government-produced video to link the CNRP with US groups in fomenting a ‘colour revolution’ in Cambodia. See ‘Government ups plot accusations with new video linking CNRP and US groups to “colour revolutions”’.

In one response to Hun Sen’s ‘would already be dead’ statement, British human rights lawyer Richard Rogers, who had filed a complaint asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Cambodian ruling elite for widespread human rights violations in 2014, commented that it was simply more evidence of the government’s willingness to persecute political dissidents. ‘It shows that he is willing to order the murder of his own people if they challenge his rule’. Moreover: ‘These are not the words of a modern leader who claims to lead a democracy.’ See ‘Rainsy and Sokha “would already be dead”: PM’. Whether Hun Sen is even sane is a question that no-one asks.

So what can Cambodians do? Fortunately, there is a long history of repressive regimes being overthrown by nonviolent grassroots movements. And nonviolent action has proven powerfully effective in Cambodia as the Buddhist monk Maha Gosananda, and his supporters demonstrated on their 19-day peace walk from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh through war ravaged Khmer Rouge territory in Cambodia in May 1993, defying the expectations of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) coordinators at the time that they would be killed by the Khmer Rouge. See ‘Maha Gosananda, a true peace maker’. However, for the Hun Sen dictatorship to be removed, Cambodians will be well served by a thoughtful and comprehensive strategy that takes particular account of their unique circumstances.

A framework to plan and implement a strategy to remove the dictatorship is explained in Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy with Sovannarun’s Khmer translation of this strategy here.

This strategic framework explains what is necessary to remove the dictatorship and, among consideration of many vital issues, elaborates what is necessary to maintain strategic coordination when leaders are at high risk of assassination, minimize the risk of violent repression while also ensuring that the movement is not hijacked by government or foreign provocateurs whose purpose is to subvert the movement by destroying its nonviolent character – see, for example, ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression’ – as well as deal with foreign governments (such as those of China, the European Union, Japan and the USA) who (categorically or by inaction) support the dictatorship, sometimes by supplying military weapons suitable for use against the domestic population.

Sovannarun is not optimistic about the short-term prospects for his country: Too many mistakes have been repeated too often. But he is committed to the nonviolent struggle to liberate Cambodia from its dictatorship and recognizes that the corrupt electoral process cannot restore democracy or enable Cambodians to meaningfully address the vast range of social, political, economic and environmental challenges they face.

 

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

Websites:
Nonviolence Charter
Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth
‘Why Violence?’
Feelings First
Nonviolent Campaign Strategy
Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy
Anita: Songs of Nonviolence
Robert Burrowes
Global Nonviolence Network

Posted in Activism, anti-war, Authoritarianism, civil liberties, culture, Economics, History, imperialism, Labor, police state, Social Control, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gaius Publius: Defining Neoliberalism

By Yves Smith

Source: Naked Capitalism

For years I’ve been using the term “neoliberalism” (or sometimes neo-liberalism*) and I’m always uncomfortable, since it sounds so academic. So I usually add one-phrase definitions and move on. For example, this from a recent piece on Puerto Rico:

If neoliberalism is the belief that the proper role of government is to enrich the rich — in Democratic circles they call it “wealth creation” to hide the recipients; Republicans are much more blatant — then the “shock doctrine” is its action plan.

That’s sounds pretty blunt, but it’s a true statement, even among academics. See this great interview (start at about 6:15) with Professor Philip Miroski of the University of Notre Dame on how modern neoliberals have come to see the role of government in society. It’s weedy but excellent.

I want to offer our readers a better description of neoliberalism though, yet not get into too many weeds. So consider these excerpts from a longer Guardian essay by the British writer George Monbiot. (My thanks to Naked Capitalism commenter nonclassical for the link and the idea for this piece.)

Neoliberalism — The Invisible Water the West Is Swimming In

We’ll start with Monbiot’s brief intro, just to set the scope of the problem:

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Ask people to define “neoliberalism,” even if they’ve heard of it, and almost no one can. Yet the comparison of our governing ideology to that of the Soviet Union’s is a good one — like “communism,” or the Soviet Union’s version of it, neoliberalism defines and controls almost everything our government does, no matter which party is in office.

The Birth of Neoliberalism

What is neoliberalism and where did it come from? Monbiot writes:

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

Neoliberalism is an explicit reaction to Franklin Roosevelt and the welfare state, which by a quirk of history was called “liberalism” at the time, even though, in the nineteenth century, “liberalism” had roughly the same meaning that “neoliberalism” has today. In other words, “FDR liberalism” is in many ways the opposite of classical “liberalism,” which meant “liberty (freedom) from government,” and a quirk of history has confused these terms.

Back to Monbiot and Hayek:

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international” [a term modeled on “the Communist International]: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Note the mention of Milton Friedman above. Neoliberalism is a bipartisan ideology, not just a Clintonist-Obamist one.

Democrats, Republicans and Neoliberalism

As Monbiot explains, for a while neoliberalism “lost its name” and was more or less a fringe ideology in a world still dominated by the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Keynesian economics. When neoliberalism later came back strong in the Republican Party, it wasn’t called “neoliberalism” but “Milton Friedman free market conservativism,” or something similar.

Only when Bill Clinton and his Democratic Party allies adopted it in the 1980s did the term “neoliberal” re-emerge in public discourse.

[I]n the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”. With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. [emphasis added]

Note the role of Jimmy Carter and start of deregulation in the late 1970s. For that reason, many consider Jimmy Carter to be the “proto-neoliberal,” both for the nation and the Democratic Party.

Neoliberalism — “Just Deserts” for Predators and Prey

What makes “neoliberalism” or “free market conservatism” such a radical — and destructive — ideology? It reduces all human activity to economic competition. It creates and glorifies, in other words, a world of predators and prey, a world like the one we live in as today:

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

In a world where competition is right and good, a world in which the “market” is the defining metaphor for human activity, all social ties are broken, the individual is an atom left to survive as an individual only, the strongest relentlessly consume the weakest — and that’s as it should be. (It’s easy to imagine how the apex predators of our social order would be attracted to this, and insist on it with force.

Thus the bipartisan world we live in today. Under a neoliberal regime, everyone gets what they deserve. Big fish deserve their meal. Little fish deserve their death. And government sets the table for the feast.

The Role of Government in a Neoliberal World

Since for neoliberals, the “market” is the source of all that is good in human interaction, non-interference in “the market” is rule one for government.

Over time that has changed, however, as winners have grown more successful and their control of government more absolute. The proper role of government in today’s neoliberal regime is not merely to allow the market to operate for the benefit of wealth-holders; it’s to make sure the market operates for the benefit of wealth-holders.

In other words, the role of government is to intervene in the market on behalf of wealth-holders, or, as I put it more colloquially, to proactively enrich the rich. The interview with Professor Mirowski, as I noted above, makes that same point, but from an academic standpoint.

From this it should be also clear that until we free ourselves of rule by neoliberals and the pain and misery they create, we’ll always be victims to the predatory giants — the very very wealthy and the corporations they use as power-extenders — those, in other words, who want merely to own everything else in the world.

This means we need to free ourselves from neoliberals in both parties, not just the ones in current seats of power. But that idea seems to have been excised from most discussions these days. Fair warning though. If the Age of Trump ends with the Restoration of Mainstream Democrats, we’ll have won almost nothing at all.

____________

* I sometimes spell “neo-liberalism” with the hyphen to suggest the following connection: Neo-liberalism is “new liberalism,” and has the same relationship to FDR liberalism as New Labour has to Labour — the two are exactly opposite.

Posted in Corporate Crime, culture, Economics, Empire, Financial Crisis, History, Inequality, Labor, Law, media, Neoliberalism, news, Philosophy, police state, propaganda, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Public Are All Alone: Understanding How the Enemy of Your Enemy Is Not Your Friend

By Eric Zuesse

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

In political matters, the public are taught to believe that some political Party is ‘good’, and that the others are “bad”; but the reality in recent times, at least in the United States, has instead been that both Parties are rotten to the core (as will be clear from the linked documentation provided here).

Belief in this myth (that the opposition between Parties is between ‘good’ ‘friend’ versus ‘bad’ ‘enemy’) is based upon the common adage that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” One side is believed, and ones that contradict it are disbelieved — considered to be lying, distorting: bad. But, maybe, both (or all) Parties are deceiving; maybe all of them are enemies of the public, but just in different ways; maybe each of them is trying to control the country in the interests of (and so to obtain the most financial support from) the aristocracy, while all of them are actually against the public.

Can it really be false that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Not only can be, but often is. And no one is able to vote intelligently without recognizing this fundamental political fact.

It’s true between entire nations, too — not only within nations.

For example: Hitler and Stalin were enemies of each other, but neither of them was a friend of America (except that Stalin did more than anyone else to defeat Hitler, and thereby saved the world, though the U.S. — far less a factor than the U.S.S.R. was in defeating Hitler — still refuses to acknowledge the fact that Stalin did more than anyone else did to prevent the entire world’s becoming dictatorships; so, whatever democracy exists today, is a result of that dictator, Stalin, even more than it’s a result of either FDR or Churchill).

What about internally, then?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump became enemies of each other, but neither of them had ever really been a friend of the American public: both of them were instead liars who would, and did, do everything they could to grab control (on the aristocracy’s behalf, who financed their respective campaigns) over what is supposed to be our Government, in a democracy. That’s just a sad fact about reality, which both of America’s political Parties deny (because they both need those voters, not merely those mega-donations; they need the public to believe that the Party cares about them).

Most of the American public have been successfully deceived by the ‘news’media, and by the ‘history’-books (likewise published by agents for the aristocracy), to believe that the U.S. Government serves the public-interest, and not the interest of the centi-millionaires and especially billionaires, who finance political campaigns. But it’s no truer than it’s true that the enemy of your enemy is necessarily your friend: both enemies of each other can be your enemies, too. The difference here is that the enmity between the aristocracy and the public is basically intrinsic, whereas the enmities between (Republican versus Democratic, or any other divisions between) aristocrats, are basically personal — these are matters of business, instead of matters of state. They are, in a sense, different business-plans — competing business-plans. But they are all assisting the aristocracy, to control the public, so as to advance the interests of the aristocracy. They’re all competing for the aristocracy’s support, and deceiving for the public’s support. Two blatant recent examples displaying this were America’s invasion in 2003 that destroyed Iraq, and America’s invasion in 2011 that destroyed Libya. Did either of those invasions advance the interests of the American public? But the owners of Lockheed Martin and other ‘defense’ contractors blossomed after 9/11. In fact: U.S. arms-exports are at record highs.

The now-proven reality in America is that the U.S. Government really does represent those billionaires and centi-millionaires, and not the public. It’s a now-proven reality, that the U.S. isn’t a democracy but a dictatorship — albeit, a two-Party one, with a real competition between billionaire and centi-millionaire Republicans on the one hand, versus billionaire and centi-millionaire Democrats on the other. But all billionaires and centi-millionaires are takers (that’s how they came to be super-rich, even the ones who didn’t inherit it from their parents), who (notwithstanding any ‘charity’ they may establish to avoid taxes while extending their control) receive from the public far more than they give to the public; and, so, there is actually an intrinsic class-war — not at all like Karl Marx famously said, between the bourgeoisie (including small-business owners) versus the proletariat (including some centi-millionaires and billionaires who became super-wealthy from being movie-stars or athletic stars and who don’t necessarily actually control any business at all, and so they’re “proletariats”), but instead between the aristocracy versus the public: the ancient and permanent class-conflict. It’s the entire aristocracy-of-wealth (which is maybe half of the nation’s wealth) that’s arrayed against the public (the poorer 99+% of the people). (In fact, Marx — the promoter of the view that the bourgeoisie are the public’s enemies — had aristocratic sponsors, and he would have remained obscure and died poor, if he had instead blamed the aristocracy, not “the bourgeoisie” — which is mainly the middle class — as being the exploiting-class. Marx, too, was an agent of aristocracy. He succeeded and became famous because he had aristocratic sponsors. Otherwise, his name would have simply been forgotten.)

Anyway, the American public are now alone. No Government represents our interests. It’s now been proven that America’s Government doesn’t represent us; and it’s not even the business of any other Government in the world to represent us; so, no foreign government does, either. No Government represents us.

In order to understand any aristocracy, one must understand what gives rise to almost all wars, because almost all wars throughout history have been between contending aristocracies — between the aristocracies of different nations. Each aristocracy needs to be able to fool its national public, to believe that they’re fighting against the foreign public, when, in fact, they’re fighting against the foreign aristocracy, and they’re fighting for the home-nation’s aristocracy — they are, almost always, fighting for one aristocracy, against another aristocracy. Any public who would know that this is the reality, would just as soon commit a democratic revolution, against the local aristocracy, as go to war for the local one, against the foreign ones. This is the reason why, in every dictatorship, the local centi-millionaires and billionaires buy up all of the ‘news’media that inform, or (on essential matters) misinform, their audiences about international relations, and about who did what to whom and why. They hire only ‘reporters’ who comply with whatever deceptions the owners feel to be necessary, in order to be able to attract sponsorships from other aristocrats’ corporations and ‘charities’. But, the aristocrats themselves are actually all in this together, because their mutually shared enemy is the public. Without deceiving the public about essential matters, no national news-medium would be able to attract the sponsorships it needs in order to grow, or even to survive.

The public thinks it’s fighting an international war, when, in fact, they’re fighting for the local aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies), against foreign aristocracies (and their allied aristocracies). This has been true since the dawn of human civilization. Only the weapons are bigger now, and the alliances (in the World Wars) are now global. (But, of course, if there is another World War, then all of human civilization will immediately end, and not long thereafter, all human and most other forms of life will also end.)

An excellent example of the real class-war, and of its international nature, is James Bamford’s 3 April 2012 masterful and pioneering article in Wired, “Shady Companies With Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA”. He documented that even very high-up people in America’s NSA were kept out of the loop when joint U.S.-and-Israeli intelligence-agencies and private corporations were creating the present 1984-ish, “Big Brother” reality, in (at least) those countries (but, actually, the Sauds, and probably a few others, were also on the inside — the aristocracies not merely of those two countries, U.S. and Israel, are in the alliance).

The “Deep State” isn’t merely one nation’s aristocracy and its agents; it is basically a form of actually international gang-warfare. That’s what got us into invading and destroying Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2012-, Ukraine (by coup 2014), and so many other nations. It wasn’t done in order to serve the American public’s interests. That’s just the standard lie — and it keeps going on, and on. Maybe until we invade Russia.

Posted in culture, Deep State, Dirty Politics, divide and conquer, Dystopia, elites, Empire, Geopolitics, History, Inequality, Militarization, Neocons, NSA, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, surveillance state, war, war on terror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two for Tuesday

David Bowie

Queen

Posted in Art, culture, Music Video, Two for Tuesday, Video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What You May Not Know About Today’s Economic War

By Phil Butler

Source: New Eastern Outlook

Many people believe the world is spiraling in a downward freefall toward Armageddon. At the same time billions on Earth feel the sting of crippling poverty, sanctions, and austerity imposed by the elites – the numbers of billionaires have risen geometrically. And so have those billionaire’s profits. It’s time we took a closer look at where we stand as of 2018, if we are to be left anything at all to cling to. From the steppes of Russia to the ancient lands of the Minoans, economic terror now reigns.

When I left Germany for Greece several months ago, the common belief there was that the “lazy Greeks” were part of the cause of Deutsche banker discomfort. My neighbors in Germany’s oldest city of Trier honestly believe the bailout of Greece is because Greeks unwilling to work hard. The bitter irony of this believe lies in the fact the average German would melt under the workload of the average citizen here in Heraklion on Crete. As an American what I witnessed in Germany can only be considered a “part-time” employment state. But here in Greece the average person works seven days a week, and usually at more than one job. This microeconomic perception is one that has been implanted by state and corporate controlled media in Germany. There’s a very good reason for this, which I will now explain.

A New Secret Economic Weapon – Organized Failures

The International Monetary Fund, the German and American bankers, the globalist elites who control financial systems in the so-called “west” – they’ve been on a mission since 2008. The “meltdown” of markets when Barack Obama first took office as American president was not some random and chaotic economic mistake. Wall Street and the global markets were turned upside down on purpose. In his book “Secret Weapon”, the CEO of Freeman Global Holdings and a New York Times bestselling author Kevin Freeman presents a persuasive chain of evidence pointing to the fact the crash of September 2008 was the result of a deliberate and well-prepared act of sabotage. Even though the author blames competing governments like China and Iran for what he terms “economic terrorism”, his proofs and theories are correct in so far as the “meltdown” being on purpose. The fact Freeman is founder and chairman of the NSIC Institute, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for Security Policy suggests his work may be a double dealing by the financial community to obscure the real perpetrators. But for my report it’s more important to follow the trail of financial chaos to our financial reality.

Freeman is not alone in his suggestion the economic crisis was a conspiracy. The financial disaster of 2008 costs Americans nearly $20 trillion dollars, as framed in this Forbes piece by investment banker and former Forbes editor, Robert Lenzner. In the report the financial guru inadvertently points the finger at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, claiming the Greenspan Treasury allowed them to “master their own appetite for profits,” which in turn led to the various collapses that forced the American people to bail out the banks. Lenzner, to his great credit, goes on to describe the lurking dangers for total collapse we still face. But what about Greece, the rest of Eastern Europe, the Germans and the rest of the indebted world? Who can we blame for destroying the futures of a billion people? When I’m done your come to realize the Nazis never lost World War II. Read on.

Win-Win or Lose-Lose for Ukraine

Ukraine was turned into a “scorched Earth” when Hitler’s operation Barbarossa threatened Russia. When the armies commanded by Joseph Stalin during the German Army’s invasion of the Soviet Union in the Second World War destroyed crops and goods in their path, the invaders found nothing to fuel their advance. Today Ukraine is laid waste by an economic Barbarossa where the Russians had no opportunity to defend the steppes. Some will remember Vice President Joe Biden’s son taking a position to reap Ukrainian energy benefits. Other readers may recall when a Franklin Templton investment fund, one controlled by the Rothschild bankers, bought up 20% of Ukraine’s debts at junk bond prices. You see, the US orchestrated situation in Ukraine is not simply about events on the Maidan and the ongoing war in the Donbass as a byproduct of the geopolitics of the United States seeking to cut off Ukraine from Russia. Agri-giant Monsanto and other GMO companies had targeted Ukraine long before the events on Maidan Square, and the fact Ukraine is a Central hub in the supply of Russian gas to Europe cannot be under-stressed. Where foreign profiteering in Ukraine is concerned, this story on my blog tells of an Oakland Institute report where more than 1.6 million hectares of land in Ukraine went under the control of foreign-based corporations. This quote from the report makes my case for economic terrorism by the west for me:

“International financial institutions swooped in on the heels of the political upheaval in Ukraine to deregulate and throw open the nation’s vast agricultural sector to foreign corporations….Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont, and how corporations are taking over all aspects of Ukraine’s agricultural system.”

These stories were more than two years ago. Today we see the catastrophic effects of the Euromaidan far from the battle front and the Donbass region’s pro-Russian separatists.

When I first learned that the forests in the Ukrainian Carpathians were being chopped to the ground back in 2016, the impending ecological disaster perpetrated by these globalist blood suckers hit home hard. This Counterpunch story tells the tale of a brand of liberty and democracy no Ukrainian can afford. Despite the aerial photos and other proofs Ukraine’s forests were being stolen from under the people, the Lviv Regional Forestry and Hunting Agency denied all such reports in customary Eastern European mafia form. The fact is, the Petro Poroshenko assisted in selling out Carpathian forests. Ecologists now predict an ecological Armageddon for western Ukraine. These photos from Censor.net prove the disaster in progress. This RT story on the firesale by the Poroshenko regime of 22 out of 34 state assets being put up for sale at a 60 percent discount leads us into the Greece situation, where the legacy of a people is up for grabs.

Those lazy Greeks! Funny, I just walked around the corner to the bakery here in Heraklion to get a coffee from the same lady I get coffee from every day. She was there Christmas, and I am sure she’ll be there behind the counter New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The shopkeeper across the street, he sees Alexis Tsipras on TV and shoves an open hand toward Greece’s Prime Minister shouting; “Malaka!”, which can only be translated coldly as “jerk-off”. Also in the hotel lobby, at the donut house in the city center, and at each-and-every shop along Heraklion’s many retail districts, Greece officials are all Malakas (in ancient Greek – mentally ill) or worse. I’ll bet most Germans don’t know or care to know that the VAT in Greece is now 24%, and that the average shopkeeper pays 37% – 45% in income tax on top of the VAT for the goods they purchase. As crazy as it sounds though, Cretans are still especially friendly toward foreigners like me. If they only know what the German and American bankers did to them.

The Greece Fire Sale – A Tsipras Sellout

I just made a report about the great Greek sellout of privatization on my travel news site Argophilia Travel News this morning. Researching it prompted me to do this piece for NEO. The long and short of the Greek economic crash that was assisted by none other than Goldman Sachs, is that the same privatization the globalists had in store for Russia during the Yeltsin years is being exacted on Greeks. The latest sellout by Tsipras, who swore he’d end privatization, the Germans and Americans snapping up the Thessaloniki Port and the future of LNG shipments to Europe through Greece. I found it interesting that one of the principals in this sale, South Europe Gateway Thessaloniki (SEFT) Limited Director, Alexander von Mellenthin Has a distinguished German name. I’m not certain, but I believe he is a close relative of both General of the artillery, Horst Alexander, Alfred Paul von Mellenthin, and his brother, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Mellenthin, who served as Hitler’s chief of staff of the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps in the occupied Soviet Union, including the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Kiev, and the spring 1944 retreat through the western Ukraine. The term “irony” will simply not do if Mellenthin is the son or grandson of a key Nazi general. Financial Blitzkrieg, Financial Armageddon, and the Fourth Reich finalizing the rape of Greece! Wow.

Regardless of whether or not the kin of old Nazis are expanding the Fourth Reich or not, the fact the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have insisted on Greek and other privatization schemes as a condition for much-needed loans for bailouts is a smoking gun held by the same elites who always fuel wars. The fallacy of the “lazy Greek” lives on because of those who would reap the vast financial rewards of yet another deconstructed economy. It’s no coincidence that the Greek privatization plan’s administrator — the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) — so closely resembles Germany’s Treuhandanstalt, or the agency charged with the privatization of East Germany’s state-owned enterprises following unification. Few readers will recall Treuhandanstalt being accused of turning over to West German big business hundreds of billions of Deutsche Marks in national property for little or nothing. And, though a number of Treuhandanstalt managers were ultimately indicted for corruption and embezzlement, this brand of pillaging has escalated in the Greece situation. There was even a plan back in 2014 to convert much of Greece’s protected coastal areas into “composite tourist villages,” a move which would essentially privatize every inch of valuable Greek seaside. Former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis called the Treuhandanstalt-like plan for Greece “an abomination” in this Huff Post piece. Varoufakis, who resigned on principle from the Tsipras administration, goes on to frame the Greek debt debauchery, describing the real IMF scheme:

“The plan is politically toxic, because the fund, though domiciled in Greece, will effectively be managed by the troika. It is also financially noxious, because the proceeds will go toward servicing what even the IMF now admits is an unpayable debt. And it fails economically, because it wastes a wonderful opportunity to create homegrown investments to help counter the recessionary impact…”

Yanis Varoufakis proposed to the Germans and the Rothschild bankers of Luxembourg and Frankfurt a Greek plan for repayment of the staggering debt the Goldman Sachs bankers helped usher into Greece. But the IMF and the new Reich refused, of course. His plan was for Greece to cooperate via its own newly formed central holding company for some Greek assets. The IMF and the banksters would have nothing of it, they needed complete control of what, and for how much Greece was to be auctioned off. Tsipras betrayed his country, and the only decent politician the Greeks have had in decades stepped down.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Corruption, culture, Economics, elites, Financial Crisis, History, Neoliberalism, Social Control, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Tale of Two Americas: Where the Rich Get Richer and the Poor Go to Jail

By John W. Whitehead

Source: The Rutherford Institute

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” ― Nelson Mandela

This is the tale of two Americas, where the rich get richer and the poor go to jail.

Aided and abetted by the likes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a man who wouldn’t recognize the Constitution if it smacked him in the face—the American dream has become the American scheme: the rich are getting richer and more powerful, while anyone who doesn’t belong to the power elite gets poorer and more powerless to do anything about the nation’s steady slide towards fascism, authoritarianism and a profit-driven police state.

Not content to merely pander to law enforcement and add to its military largesse with weaponry and equipment designed for war, Sessions has made a concerted effort to expand the police state’s power to search, strip, seize, raid, steal from, arrest and jail Americans for any infraction, no matter how insignificant.

Now Sessions has given state courts the green light to resume their practice of jailing individuals who are unable to pay the hefty fines imposed by the American police state. In doing so, Sessions has once again shown himself to be not only a shill for the Deep State but an enemy of the people.

First, some background on debtors’ prisons, which jail people who cannot afford to pay the exorbitant fines imposed on them by courts and other government agencies.

Congress banned debtors’ prisons in 1833.

In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice to be unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

“Despite prior attempts on the federal level and across the country to prevent the profound injustice of locking people in cages because they are too poor to pay a debt,” concludes The Atlantic, “the practice persists every day.”

Where things began to change, according to The Marshall Project, was with the rise of “mass incarceration.” As attorney Alec Karakatsanis stated, “In the 1970s and 1980s, we started to imprison more people for lesser crimes. In the process, we were lowering our standards for what constituted an offense deserving of imprisonment, and, more broadly, we were losing our sense of how serious, how truly serious, it is to incarcerate. If we can imprison for possession of marijuana, why can’t we imprison for not paying back a loan?”

By the late 1980s and early 90s, “there was a dramatic increase in the number of statutes listing a prison term as a possible sentence for failure to repay criminal-justice debt.” During the 2000s, the courts started cashing in big-time “by using the threat of jail time – established in those statutes – to squeeze cash out of small-time debtors.”

Fast-forward to the present day which finds us saddled with not only profit-driven private prisons and a prison-industrial complex but also, as investigative reporter Eli Hager notes, “the birth of a new brand of ‘offender-funded’ justice [which] has created a market for private probation companies. Purporting to save taxpayer dollars, these outfits force the offenders themselves to foot the bill for parole, reentry, drug rehab, electronic monitoring, and other services (some of which are not even assigned by a judge). When the offenders can’t pay for all of this, they may be jailed – even if they have already served their time for the offense.”

Follow the money trail. It always points the way.

Whether you’re talking about the government’s war on terrorism, the war on drugs, or some other phantom danger dreamed up by enterprising bureaucrats, there is always a profit-incentive involved.

The same goes for the war on crime.

At one time, the American penal system operated under the idea that dangerous criminals needed to be put under lock and key in order to protect society. Today, the flawed yet retributive American “system of justice” is being replaced by an even more flawed and insidious form of mass punishment based upon profit and expediency.

Sessions’ latest gambit plays right into the hands of those who make a profit by jailing Americans.

Sharnalle Mitchell was one such victim of a system for whom the plight of the average American is measured in dollars and cents. As the Harvard Law Review recounts:

On January 26, 2014, Sharnalle Mitchell was with her children in Montgomery, Alabama when police showed up at her home to arrest her. Mitchell was not accused of a crime. Instead, the police came to her home because she had not fully paid a traffic ticket from 2010. The single mother was handcuffed in front of her children (aged one and four) and taken to jail. She was ordered to either pay $2,800 or sit her debt out in jail at a rate of fifty dollars a day for fifty-nine days. Unable to pay, Mitchell wrote out the numbers one to fifty-eight on the back of her court documents and began counting days.

This is not justice.

This is yet another example of how greed and profit-incentives have not only perverted policing in America but have corrupted the entire criminal justice system.

As the Harvard Law Review concludes:

[A]s policing becomes a way to generate revenue, police start to “see the people they’re supposed to be serving not as citizens with rights, but as potential sources of revenue, as lawbreakers to be caught.” This approach creates a fugitive underclass on the run from police not to hide illicit activity but to avoid arrest for debt or seizure of their purportedly suspicious assets… In turn, communities … begin to see police not as trusted partners but as an occupying army constantly harassing them to raise money to pay their salaries and buy new weapons. This needs to end.

Unfortunately, the criminal justice system has been operating as a for-profit enterprise for years now, covertly padding its pockets through penalty-riddled programs aimed at maximizing revenue rather than ensuring public safety.

All of those seemingly hard-working police officers and code-enforcement officers and truancy officers and traffic cops handing out ticket after ticket after ticket: they’re not working to make your communities safer—they’ve got quotas to fill.

Same goes for the courts, which have come to rely on fines, fees and exorbitant late penalties as a means of increased revenue. The power of these courts, magnified in recent years through the introduction of specialty courts beyond your run-of-the-mill traffic court (drug court, homeless court, veterans court, mental health court, criminal court, teen court, gambling court, prostitution court, community court, domestic violence court, truancy court), is “reshaping the American legal system—with little oversight,” concludes the Boston Globe.

And for those who can’t afford to pay the court fines heaped on top of the penalties ($302 for jaywalking, $531 for an overgrown yard, or $120 for arriving a few minutes late to court), there’s probation (managed by profit-run companies that tack on their own fees, which are often more than double the original fine) or jail time (run by profit-run companies that charge inmates for everything from food and housing to phone calls at outrageous markups), which only adds to the financial burdens of those already unable to navigate a costly carceral state.

“When bail is set unreasonably high, people are behind bars only because they are poor,” stated former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Not because they’re a danger or a flight risk — only because they are poor. They don’t have money to get out of jail, and they certainly don’t have money to flee anywhere. Other people who do have the means can avoid the system, setting inequality in place from the beginning.”

In “Policing and Profit,” the Harvard Law Review documents in chilling detail the criminal justice system’s efforts to turn a profit at the expense of those who can least afford to pay, thereby entrapping them in a cycle of debt that starts with one minor infraction:

In the late 1980s, Missouri became one of the first states to let private companies purchase the probation systems of local governments. In these arrangements, municipalities impose debt on individuals through criminal proceedings and then sell this debt to private businesses, which pad the debt with fees and interest. This debt can stem from fines for offenses as minor as rolling through a stop sign or failing to enroll in the right trash collection service. In Ferguson, residents who fall behind on fines and don’t appear in court after a warrant is issued for their arrest (or arrive in court after the courtroom doors close, which often happens just five minutes after the session is set to start for the day) are charged an additional $120 to $130 fine, along with a $50 fee for a new arrest warrant and 56 cents for each mile that police drive to serve it. Once arrested, everyone who can’t pay their fines or post bail (which is usually set to equal the amount of their total debt) is imprisoned until the next court session (which happens three days a month). Anyone who is imprisoned is charged $30 to $60 a night by the jail. If an arrestee owes fines in more than one of St. Louis County’s eighty-one municipal courts, they are passed from one jail to another to await hearings in each town.

Ask yourself this: at a time when crime rates across the country remain at historic lows (despite Sessions’ inaccurate claims to the contrary), why does the prison population continue to grow?

The prison population continues to grow because of a glut of laws that criminalize activities that should certainly not be outlawed, let alone result in jail time. Overcriminalization continues to plague the country because of legislators who work hand-in-hand with corporations to adopt laws that favor the corporate balance sheet. And when it comes to incarceration, the corporate balance sheet weighs heavily in favor of locking up more individuals in government-run and private prisons.

As Time reports, “The companies that build and run private prisons have a financial interest in the continued growth of mass incarceration. That is why the two major players in this game—the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—invest heavily in lobbying for punitive criminal justice policies and make hefty contributions to political campaigns that will increase reliance on prisons.”

It’s a vicious cycle that grows more vicious by the day.

According to The Atlantic, “America spends $80 billion a year incarcerating 2.4 million people.” But the costs don’t end there. “When someone goes to prison, nearly 65 percent of families are suddenly unable to pay for basic needs such as food and housing… About 70 percent of those families are caring for children under the age of 18.”

Then there are the marked-up costs levied against the inmate by private companies that provide services and products to government prisons. Cereal and soup for five times the market price. $15 for a short phone call.

The Center for Public Integrity found that “prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives… Inmates earn as little as 12 cents per hour in many places, wages that have not increased for decades. The prices they pay for goods to meet their basic needs continue to increase.”

Worse, as human rights attorney Jessica Jackson points out, “the fines and fees system has turned local governments into the equivalent of predatory lenders.” For instance, Jackson cites:

Washington state charges a 12% interest rate on all its criminal debt. Florida adds a 40% fee that goes into the pockets of a private collections agency. In California, penalties can raise a $100 fine to $490, or $815 if the initial deadline is missed. A $500 traffic ticket can actually cost $1,953, even if it is paid on time. And so we are left with countless tales of lives ruined—people living paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford a minor fine, and so face ballooning penalties, increasing amounts owed, a suspended license, jail time, and being fired from their jobs or unable to find work.

This isn’t the American Dream I grew up believing in.

This certainly isn’t the American Dream my parents and grandparents and those before them worked and fought and sacrificed to achieve.

This is a cold, calculated system of profit and losses.

Now you can shrug all of this away as a consequence of committing a crime, but that just doesn’t cut it. Especially not when average Americans are being jailed for such so-called crimes as eating SpaghettiOs (police mistook them for methamphetamine), not wearing a seatbelt, littering, jaywalking, having homemade soap (police mistook the soap for cocaine), profanity, spitting on the ground, farting, loitering and twerking.

There is no room in the American police state for self-righteousness. Not when we are all guilty until proven innocent.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

It is fast becoming a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations,” and its rise to power is predicated on shackling the American taxpayer to a debtors’ prison guarded by a phalanx of politicians, bureaucrats and militarized police with no hope of parole and no chance for escape.

Posted in Authoritarianism, civil liberties, Corporate Crime, culture, Drug War, Dystopia, elites, Empire, Financial Crisis, Inequality, Mass Incarceration, Militarization, police state, Privatization, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime, wasted taxpayer dollars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment