January 22, 2007, Volume 14 Nr. 5, Issue 224
Ultimate Human Activity: The Exchange of Capital.
A foreign visitor to any nation would get a good indication of what values the society cherishes by looking at the dominant media. The press, radio and television, with their messages and incessant outreach to the people, is a good gauge of what the country's priorities are. The dominant media, whether corporate or state controlled, project the acceptable paradigms and the expected behavior patterns of the populace. Out of allegiance to the system in power, and its own self interest, the media control the messages that they project. Governments control the media directly, and through corporate proxies masquerading as agents of free media. When corporations become the government, or vice versa, the free media becomes the state-controlled media. It matters not whether it's Pravda, The New York Times, Granma, or FOX, the modus operandi is the same, i.e., to protect, defend, and advance the status quo and the dominant economic and political paradigm. The message and the media become one and the same, the message being the preservation of the minority ruling class' power over the majority masses. Being a good member of society means going along with these messages. The masses believe what the ruling elite of the society want them to believe.
It is not surprising that after the tragic events of 911, mayor Rudy Giuliani, in a speech to the Republican National Convention (2004), invoked “September 11” no less than twelves times. The Bush administration, the media, and its talking heads repeated “911” and “Saddam Hussein” together so often, that the public, as intended, conflated the two. So successful was this incessant repetition that a September, 2006, CNN poll showed that 43% of those polled still believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 911. This being the case, even after George W. Bush stated that there was no connection. Bush's turnabout was not repeated often. It did serve, however, as plausible deniability. The disconnect was, after all, not the intended message that the regime wanted the people to internalize.
Bill Schneider, a CNN analyst, concluded from their poll that the more educated people are, the less they believe in the connection between 911 and Saddam Hussein. The lower the education level of the polled person, the more likely they are to believe that there exists a connection. The least educated are the young, the high school students who are cannon fodder for the war in Iraq. It is no accident that the nation's political leaders invoked “911” and “Saddam Hussein” as often as possible. The media deliberately channeled the fallacious connection directly to the people and without question. Bush and Cheny's message was clear: “You are either with us or you are against us”. And we are going to fight the “war on terror” in Iraq. Never mind that Iraq had nothing to do with 911. Never mind that were no weapons of mass destruction. There were, however, plenty of Bush and Cheney weapons of mass distraction. What did matter was that the people internalize the connection between Iraq and 911. And, internalize the connection, they did. Critical thinking skills go a long way in recognizing and rejecting state-corporate propaganda. Unfortunately, critical thinking is not a strong skill outcome of the US education experience.
There is, however, a far more prevalent, but little recognized, propaganda mantra for our ever-less-free society. This mantra has grown in frequency to such a proportion that it has become an acceptable, yet unconscious, constant background drumming in our daily lives. The drumming is the never-ending message that trumps all others. It is what neoliberal ideology cherishes above everything. It is, for the greed capitalist system, the reason why humans exist. The message is that one, and only one, activity defines us as valued members of capitalist society, that the only thing that matters is the exchange of Capital. The neoliberal mantra is that the monetary transaction is the basic element of everything that is good. And that, if we do not participate in the exchange of capital, we are evil doers, enemies of the Capitalist State.
After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush told us to go shopping. In January 2007, he said,
As we work with Congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing... And I encourage you all to go shopping more.
I have conversations with friends and family about economics and politics. I often suggest wanting and buying less, recognizing that there are very few things that people really need. When I mention doing away with credit cards and the goal of being debt free, people respond by saying, “That's un-American”. Their response is prescient and indicative of the system's success in inculcating neoliberal values. Being in debt is being a good American. Great wads of debt equals being a great American. Buying more, even when the funds to do so do not exist, is the patriotic responsibility of the good American consumer. In the United States, being a good citizen means being a good consumer. Being a good consumer means buying something, anything, everything, and buying it often. Whether the commodity being purchased is needed, works well, or breaks soon after purchase is irrelevant. Just buy it so that capital circulates.
The dictates of neoliberalism and its circulation of capital free market religion have become the entry credentials for countries, into the “community” of “democratic and free” nations. Jacques Attali, in his essay, The Crash of Western Civilization: The Limits of the Market and Democracy (Foreign Policy, No. 107 (Summer, 1997), writes:
With the collapse of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet empire, the market economy and democracy appear to have triumphed. Universally praised, these two central values of Western society have become the prerequisite for any nation seeking acceptance by the international community or assistance from international financial institutions.
Neoliberalism's prerequisites for nations to garner acceptance and receive assistance are a form of international blackmail. Severe penalties exist for non-compliance. A nation may be branded a pariah for choosing something other than the neo-liberal model. Not being on the Unites States' “most favored nation status” is one form of retribution. Being under the imposition of a devastating worldwide economic embargo is another. And, human rights do not matter much. China, a communist nation with its many violations, has been granted most favored nation status. Cuba, also a communist country, with its internationally acknowledged gains in social, medical, and educational services for the people, has not. Cuba's refusal to acquiesce to the dictatorship of free market capital circulation is to – neoliberalism – a much bigger crime, than China's violation of people's human rights. China exports cheap consumer goods to the United States and the world. Cuba exports human capital, its doctors and teachers, and imports tourists. One contributes to the dictatorship of the free market. The other resists. The political system matters little when a nation embraces the neoliberal model. Neither do the conditions under which people live. Globalization, for example, has brought the world both colonialism and contributed heavily to slavery. Profit came at the expense of the indigenous and the slaves.
To the dictatorship of free market capital circulation, only the neoliberal economic system and its survival matters. Totalitarian, democratic, non-democratic, communist and non communist, are welcome into the community of neoliberal nations, as long as the prerequisites for membership are adhered to, that is, that they embrace and participate in free trade without restrictions nor impediments. Neoliberal-accepting nations must place everything up for sale, the material as well as the human (worker) natural resources.
While one dictator, the former CIA asset, Saddam Hussein, was executed after the illegal occupation of Iraq, another dictatorship and oppressive monarchy next door in Saudi Arabia is embraced. Saddam bucked neoliberalism by nationalizing Iraq's oil industry, while the House of Saud embraces and is a major player in it. It is interesting to note, that while Iraq accepted and played along with neoliberalism, Saddam Hussein, was allowed to run his country any way that he wanted. Saddam's torture and gassing mattered not as long Saddam played by neoliberalism's rules. History records the brutal march of globalization:
Globalization was brought to the many at the “point of a gun”, and many were “globalized” literally kicking and screaming, from Commodore's Perry ultimatum which opened Japan, to British and French gunboat diplomacy in Tunisia, Egypt and Zanzibar, to the Opium wars and gunboats that patrolled Chinese internal waterways. And, worst of all, for many millions who were sold in slavery, or who toiled sixteen hours a day on plantations from Malaya to Brazil that too was globalization. Globalization was not merely accompanied by the worst excesses of colonialism; colonialism was not an accident. On the contrary, globalization was colonialism because it is through being colonies that most of the non-European nations were brought to the global world. (The Two Faced of Globalization, Against Globalization As We know It, Banko Milanovic, Development Research Group, Wold Bank).
Milanovic further states that “to question the profit objective is not to denigrate its importance, much less to argue that it should not be an important, perhaps the most important, criteria. But it should not be the sole criterion.” Woe to those nations that do not embrace the profit motive as the most important mechanism within the panalopy of human interchange. Woe to those individuals who denigrate the importance of profit, and to those who reject profit over everything else.
Neoliberalism is now marketing disease. When sales of pharmaceuticals slow down, or profits do not reach expectations, the pharmaceutical corporations redefine the disease to reverse the trend. For example, if not enough high blood pressure medications are being sold, then the peddlers of the pills need only to redefine what high blood pressure is to sell more medications. Redefining obesity creates increased sales of a plethora of dietary products, ranging from weight reduction pills through home delivery of special foods guaranteeing weight loss. And why not buy a Bow Fux exercise machine, or two, on the installment plan to shed those pounds?
Marketing illness and disease is big business. Selling sickness sells everything including pharmaceuticals, herbs, yoga, hospital services, chiropractic visits, weight watcher programs, diets, gym subscriptions, etc. It would be a better society if neoliberalism truly gave a damn about people's health. It does not. All it cares about is that the people spend money in pursuit of it, a cure to some condition, ailment, or disease, and, that chasing the cure or solution through spending continue for a long time.
Amy Goodman, in her news program, Democracy Now!, January 19, 2007, entitled, “Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease & Pushing Drugs”, accuses the pharmaceutical industry and corporations of normalizing “even the most obscure health disorders and presents them as common.” She calls attention to the following advertisement:
It's frustrating. Just when you're ready to relax, that's when it happens: the urge to move, along with uncomfortable sensations in your legs. They're hard to describe, but they can even keep you from getting to sleep. You feel the urgent need to get up and move, just to get some relief. There's a name for it: restless leg syndrome. And if you have it, you're among the nearly one in ten US adults who do. Want to know more? Visit restlesslegs.com or talk to your doctor.
Neoliberalism's dictatorship of free market capital circulation brainwashes us to buy the foods it wants us to eat. If we overeat, it offers us programs and pills and programs that would have us stop. Neoliberalism puts everything up for sale, even the stars in the sky. Name A Star Live promotes itself on its website:
Name A Star Live lets you express your feelings in a romantic, meaningful way by naming a star* for a loved one. Our star gift sets give you more for your money in a presentable, handsome gift that everyone loves.
Neoliberalism, however, has it backwards. The ultimate crime is not rejecting the moment-to-moment urge to buy something. The ultimate crime is, instead, neo-liberalism placing profits before people. The higher human activity is not going shopping. It is, not shopping. Shopping is not a prerequisite for a good life. Free market capital circulation is not necessary for well being and living a good and content life. Quite the contrary, the simple life with fewer materials wants contributes to contentment. In neo-liberalism's eyes, the people who opt-out of the consumption treadmill are traitors, and unpatriotic. Rejecting consumerism is a mortal sin. However, it is neoliberalism that betrays humanity. New Orleans, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, shows us what that betrayal looks like. The theft of indigenous land is another.
The New World Order is based upon governance by the best to avoid the voices of the minimal. Isn't this the attitude that underlies the structure and institutions that manipulate global organizations? Assimilation requires conformity and compliance, for the vision is more important than its components. The power to apply the course for success means that the individual is an interference. The social good is equated with with the scale of harmony in the conformity, as diversity acts as a mirror for the new found conformity. (Global Gulag. Revisit the Planet of the Apes).
Neoliberalism defines liberty as the ability and the demand that we buy and sell anything and everything, often, and at any time. Cindy Sheehan said that,
A new world is necessary and it can only be possible if we rein in the depraved corporations that thrive off of the flesh and blood of our neighbors all over the world and here in America.
Those who want to break from neoliberalism's dictatorship of free market capital circulation are not the criminals. They are the freedom fighters. And, far from committing the ultimate crime of rejecting consumerism, these freedom fighters are the best hope in saving a planet ravaged by neoliberalism's arrogance, avarice and greed. We, the people, are the freedom fighters.
In South and Latin America, a 21st century movement exists, that believes a new world is both possible and necessary. This new movement for social justice has concluded that the world can no longer tolerate a “system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right...through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism”, i.e., fascism (The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company). Failed imperialist policies in South America have provided the raw materials for building new societes out of the neoliberal ashes of the old. As Evo Morales, the newly elected indigenous president of Bolivia puts it, “We want ties with the U.S., but not a relationship of submission”. More and more the workers of the world agree, and tens to hundreds of millions more are about to join them.
It is harder to release a nation from servitude than to enslave a free nation. Simon Bolivar
Jozef Hand-Boniakowski is co-editor and co-publisher of Metaphoria along with his life partner and wife, JeanneE. He is 30-year veteran retired teacher and a member of Veterans For Peace. His writings have appeared in Metaphoria, After Downing Street, Buzzflash, Counterpunch, Thomas Paine's Corner, Rense.com, Omni Center, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, and others.