Posts Tagged ‘Harper’

The Invisible Fist (Part III)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I’m afraid I have more to say — and critique — concerning the CBC’s radio show The Invisible Hand, a tour-de-force of neoliberal ideology masking as “economics.” In its second show, it looked at the question of the apocalypse, following its first show on economic decision-making in times of crisis (see posts, part 1 & part 2).

The second show easily demonstrates how saving chickens, and not gold, is the way to roll when the apocalypse hits. At least this has a hint of sanity to it — chickens lay eggs, make more chickens, provide food, etc. Of course, what isn’t mentioned is that they require a local economy for their sustenance. The growing and provision of grain requires collective efforts, which requires not only small-scale trade but coordinated agricultural efforts. In short, raising chickens means communal levels of negotiation and organisation around resources. This argument is well-made against the more radical factions of neoconservatives who want to return world currencies to the gold standard, and who advocate hoarding gold. You can’t eat gold if the world goes down in flames.

Yet the second shows harbours an even more insidious level of neoliberal ideology concerning the primacy of the individual, precisely because the above models — of localized community around the chicken economy — are absent from the discussion. Rather, the show assumes a single individual having a choice: gold or chickens? There is no discussion of what raising chickens means, or how it would work. The debate over chickens vs. gold masks a more troubling series of assumptions concerning the apocalypse as a whole: that we will all be going it alone.

The show performs this ideological operation by setting-up a false debate and masking its terms. Under this debate, everyone can see that hoarding gold isn’t that smart if world (and local) economies collapse. Yet this scenario follows from the premises of the first show: the first show established an ideological illusion concerning human nature, ie, that in crisis situations we’d all act like individuals and/or are supposed to, without any kind of collective organisation, communication, principles of sharing, or ad-hoc communal formations with decision-making power to prioritize resources.

Indeed, the apocalypse show follows from this, as it presents the logical outcome of the first show: now there is definitively no governance or community. The apocalypse is here, we’re all on our OWN! In the apocalypse the neoliberal question becomes: what should I hoard? Instead of: what collective/communal arrangements will be the most beneficial in the pooling of resources?

History demonstrates that in every disaster scenario, those that survive are those that band together, pool resources, and learn how to share. Just look at the recent tsunami in Japan, or a few years ago in Thailand — nobody sits around with arms-crossed going “so, what did you hoard?” No, everyone is out there helping each other out. Look at New York after 9/11. In short, all of the economic examples presented demand a very narrow, restricted idea of human nature in terms of crisis. And it is a dangerous one: if you’re sitting around with chickens (or gold) and want to go it alone, you will die. Period. Neoliberal ideology implies that if you don’t hoard, and have no property, you will be excluded from trade (ie society) and thus be left to die, when in fact, historical fact, the opposite is true. Which leads to a question: who is this ideology serving? Do neoliberal economists actually believe this ideology, or do they only propagate individualist versions such as these so as to easier divide-and-conquer, given that most wealthy elites are not that individualistic at all, but operate through all sorts of elite networks, ie through insider-trading, old boy’s clubs, capitalist club retreats such as Davos, etc., all of which make up the privileged economic systems of power and wealth known as oligarchy?

In any case, neoliberal ideology is still definitively at work here in the second show, by insidiously establishing the parameters of individualist economics in times of crisis. And we should be led to ask by now: why is it that neoliberalism specifically requires not only crisis, but apocalyptic levels of crisis, to supposedly demonstrate its principles? Does this mean that we can only observe neoliberalist economics in effect if we reduce the world to crisis, if we bring on the apocalypse?

This thesis — that neoliberal economics requires crisis, if not the apocalypse, to reduce humanity to the Hobbesian savagery of go-it-alone individuality so as to allow for the deity-like “Invisible Hand” to work its magic — does make sense in a twisted fashion, insofar as neoliberalism economics are irrecoverably tied into the apocalyptic agenda of the theoconservative right.

The Invisible Hand and the right-wing, Evangelical/American Catholic Christian god occupy the same position: as the dealer of benevolent reward to believers, and punishment to non-believers (including homosexuals, pro-choicers, feminists, godless socialists, etc). This is why the Invisible Hand rewards the wealthy and punishes the poor: the wealthy have demonstrated their value as Christians of capitalism; the poor are deserving of their lot, as obviously they don’t believe enough in the system to let the Invisible Hand/God help them.

Of course, this isn’t the theology of the charitable Christian whose poor & meek shall inherit the Earth — though perhaps so if interpreted as: the poor & meek shall inherit what is left of the planet after the wealthy have plundered it, stripping the planet bare and exhausting its resources, thereby bringing about the End Times — during which the wealthy Christian elite are zipped up to Heaven during the Rapture. For more on this documented, direct connection between Christian theoconservatives and right-wing neoliberal capitalism, and how this ties into the Bush regime, the invasion of Iraq, the privatization of the US military, and the rise of Christian mercenary armies, see Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

So how could this show be different? If I were doing this show it would be far more interested in questions of how people actually find ways to collectively problem-solve and troubleshoot economic questions (and crises, such as the one we are in right now — climate change!) rather than the underlying go-it-alone premise of individuals acting under the rationale of the “Invisible Hand” which is, basically, a fiction — a bed-time story for the disenfranchised. “One day, the Invisible Hand might touch you in a special place and make you rich too!” The Invisible Hand is yet another name for the depleted and destructive capitalist fiction that is the American Dream.

Right now, what we need is critical thought on economics, given that the prevailing neoliberal model has brought about the collapse of world economies, rewarding the criminal bankers with bailouts at the expense of the rest of us. All of us, the 99%, are paying for the criminal plundering of our planet by the wealthy 1%. Neoliberal economics has failed in even the most basic of its promises — the Reagan-era trickle-down theory — that a so-called “free market” results in eventual equality. The Invisible Hand does nothing to help: it is a fist that smashes all attempts at collectivity, which protects the wealthy elite with military force. Neoliberal economics has also failed at addressing truly pressing environmental issues that will, in the end, probably destroy us if intelligent action is not taken to address climate change, precisely because neoliberal economics is designed to bring about the apocalypse, if we are to believe the published theoconservative agenda. (This is not conspiracy theory — simply read what is on the record from right-wing US Republican representatives, and in Canada, members of the Conservative Party.)

Taking it home to Canada, it just appears to me that The Invisible Hand is a mouthpiece for the Harper government — it attemtps to sell Harper’s neoconservative policies by presenting as an uncontested, received truth the neoliberal doctrine…

never resign the public sphere

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Often I find myself engaging on Facebook, as do we all — the problem is that such conversations disappear. Time to start archiving them more properly, and to resurrect the role of this blog. The conversation below jumpstarted from an offhand suggestion to writer Leslie Anthony that we start pooling our energies to work that critiques the Harper regime in Canada. This brought about some surprise criticism.

Before I begin, I believe that one of the most urgent tasks of leftists who can craft a word or two is overcoming defeatism from within — as well as turning to the task of producing penetrating and readable critique of the right, at all levels from popular journalism to philosophical jousting. The ideological problem is that many leftists have been convinced that the realm of media critique and the public sphere has been all but deflated by the right. Oddly, this forces the call for action, but rather than mobilizing action and taking ahold of the opportunity, this forces many into resignation — and into the defeatism of resigning control of the public sphere and media to the right. This is strategically handing the board over to your opponent, pieces and all.

Click on the screenshots to make them bigger.

resignation 101

 

The problem is not “what is the alternative” — as if those opposed are grasping around at straws. Perhaps we can begin with restoring the rule of law, organising governance for the many and not the few, and taking as principles the equitable redistribution of wealth within an ethics that takes as paramount ecological sustainability and human rights? Even these old, classic, liberal values appear as revolutionary today.

Our not-to-be-named respondent (I respect the privacy of Facebook here, however slight) makes some very good points that are indicative of widespread malaise and disenchantment. This of course needs to be ousted openly, like airing our dirty laundry, exposing this little secret of resignation so we can get over it and move forward with the energy of an attack.

resignation (again)

To wit, and to reply, then: a letter to one so resigned.

dear [name removed], I agree that action is necessary, but what you’re asking for is a solution on a plate: you don’t want action unless someone hands you a “solution,” readymade and consumable, and until then, you take the defeatist attitude of “there is no alternative” or “what’s the point.” Your “solution” is silence and complicity. This is not only defeatist, its strategically plays into the hands of the neoCons — just like your vote for a Liberal, even though you didn’t support their elected leader or party. In short, your strategy failed, so continuing to pursue it seems to be a mistake, no?

As for the possible action of writers — the very reason the neoCons are attacking CBC as well as StatsCan and information services (health, science research) is because they are creating the conditions for a deficit of informed decision-maing in the public sphere, thus paving the way for ever more irrational policies (or lack of policy entirely). Amassing critical writers by wresting back control of the public sphere, and by defining and remaking that public sphere itself as exterior to the mentality of consumer capital, is a powerful weapon and should never be discounted; in fact it has been the leverage for most change in political currency for millenia, besides, of course, brute force.

So I don’t agree with you that investigative reporting and critical media is worthless unless we “provide a course of action immediately.” That is asking us as writers to be your Great Leader(s) and to hand you all the answers when such action is the responsibility of ALL, not just some cabal — it’s the same ideological ploy that the neoCons exploit (“why do anything? why bother? why isn’t anyone telling me what to do?” etc).

I also don’t buy the argument that otherwise “you lose their [and who is this "their"?]” attention.” Believing in mass ADD perpetuates it. Taking the other tack ignites attention. In any case, to reflect once gain upon your voting strategy, it has clearly demonstrated that the alternative is the NDP, front and centre. The numbers do not agree with you: the rest of the country is not split. It is quite unified around the left, and predominantly around the NDP. Your own observations above demonstrate that. This is a long process; it took 10+ years to unite the right; don’t think it will be a magic bullet for the left. Nor is the right completely unified; the budget has disenchanted right-wing voters too, and this disenchantment needs to be exploited — by targeting queasy right voters who voted conservative for economic reasons that are now being shown up as awash not in capitalism but religious ideology and irrational cuts. And this is the work of critical media; to sway opinion with research and fact, to expose the underlying and ugly truths. And this is speaking truth to power and the moment one gives up this belief, one is dead — a corpse of resignation.

Vote where your heart is, write where your heart is, and get strategically savvy. Otherwise you’re in the resignation camp — enjoy the bedfellows; they are but the true bitchers. The rest of us are moving forward. Can we count on you?

FOLLOW UP.

Here’s some words that followed in regards to (dialectical) strategy.

^^ Do you know what I read daily? The Economist, which is hardly left. But even The Economist openly ridicules both the GOP/Tea Party and — guess what — Harper’s Canada, which they see as more of the same, though in softer, court-jester form. In short, the lack of a Canadian environmental policy means that for oil-exploiting capitalists there is uncertainty in the markets as they cannot think ahead nor invest with confidence. Canada’s position in regards to the environment and fossil fuels is unclear and ambiguous. So on this front alone, there is dissension in the right. This gap needs to be widened so that the true issue of self-destructive environmental exploitation can be exposed and brought to light: not only that Canada needs an environmental policy, but this policy needs to be one that addresses capitalism as the root of ecological exploitation to begin with. This is a big step but one always possible through a leap over the abyss, and this is the moment of action, of explaining precisely this shift to the many: this lack of a policy, in this case, opens the door for us, as leftists, to create a policy much more radical and far-reaching. Present this policy openly, and suddenly, it fills a hole, creates a gap where the Conservatives have no reply and no ideas. This is precisely what the Liberal/NDP opposition are doing right now in regards to the F-35s; they are turning the logic of capitalist competition back upon the Conservatives themselves by asking why the jets were not sent out for tender…


dispatched

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

CBC

Yesterday — a day of mourning. Close family, a beautiful & pioneering female skier, and CBC. But right now it’s the Harper agenda against our public broadcaster that has me infuriated. Radio One’s Dispatches has been axed completely — one of the only venues for independent, international, investigative news reporting. Gone. Should we speculate why? Perhaps one Canadian mining or oil and gas expose too many? The erosion of democracy is so easy to accomplish against the backdrop of complacency. Ownership of the media — à la Berlusconi — is the first step to consolidating absolutist power. Dispatches is but one casualty in a coordinated, slow erosion of public institutions and media in Canada. Fight back, Dispatches crew. DO NOT GO QUIETLY.

Berlusconi’s reign over Italy is an interesting example. Did he go because of public uprising, because of political overthrow? No, it was only when Berlusconi’s use of the State as his personal fiefdom endangered the power of capital that the multinational bankers stepped in and installed a technocratic council to rule the State. The catalyst to this was not social unrest, mass protest, or democratic upheaval, but the 2008 financial crisis. Like Greece, Italy is now run by unelected technocrats. Berlusconi has managed to evade every single charge brought against him; he publicly flaunts his largesse and lack of ethics.

Harper is the shadow to Berlusconi’s fireworks. All the same strategies are in play — slow erosion of democratic institutions; the flaunting of power and wealth; the complete monopolization of state media. Unlike fascists of the 1930s, today’s neoconservatives know to move slowly by strategically defunding independent public services from the environment and sciences to public broadcasting and food safety. The result is an unstable state lacking the communications and critical media to report upon its wholesale privatization.

A week ago I heard an anti-CBC caller played back on As It Happens: “You should compete like everyone else,” she said, “If I had my way the CBC would receive no funding at all.” Here we have a perfect example of neoconservative, capitalist ideology: here, it is the market, and not public space, which is the norm. Compete like everyone else, join the market; the idea that the market is a private space, and that the space of collective realisation — the “everyone else” — is that of public space, publicly funded from the common wealth, has been completely reversed: now it is the market of competing monopolies that is the “everyone else,” the “we” in which we all feel included. Of course this makes sense given that the self-identity of the caller assumes that of the consumer; the CBC is an imposed purchase under this logic, and s/he doesn’t like what s/he’s hearing. The logic is simple: news is a product, as is all media, and I only want to buy what I like, what I want to hear or see. Of course, such consumerist self-identification undermines the basic principle of journalism, which is to expose all to the ugly truths we don’t like to hear or see.

The more the world approaches ecological catastrophe, increasing impoverishment, permanent militarization, rogue state conflict, the inequality of wealth and power, etc., the more this “everyone else” rebels, creating bunkers of ideology, erecting barriers and fences to the in-common, collective experience of facing ugly truths. The right-wing, Tea Party insanity of the GOP and militant Islam are reactions to the destabilizing and ultimately self-destructive effects of global capitalism. That both aim to fight each other in a duel to the death ignores the true apocalypse brought on by global capital itself—a simultaneous erosion of democracy and the pending ecological catastrophe.

The lesson is bitter and clear: the state political elites serve capital, they are unable and/or unwilling to control and regulate capital even when the very survival of the human race is ultimately at stake. (Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times 334)

This is the final logic, the end times. Zizek’s book is highly recommended.

Kai Nagata, hats off.

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Kai Nagata quits his job as a national TV broadcaster for CTV. He’s in his mid-20s. I can clearly hear the tone of his frustration and the intelligence behind his words. His angst is not just that of a personal existential crisis, but of something else —

All quotes from Kai Nagata, “Why I Quit My Job.” Read it.

On the existential breakdown of meaningless media:

I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life. The ends no longer justified the means.

On the “curious medium” of TV and the sexualization of the reporter’s body:

I admit felt a profound discomfort working in an industry that so casually sexualizes its workforce. Every hiring decision is scrutinized using a skewed, unspoken ratio of talent to attractiveness, where attractiveness often compensates for a glaring lack of other qualifications.

On the CBC, the public broadcaster “leading the charge” at the Will & Kate show:

More damnably, the resulting strategy is now to compete with for-profit networks for the lowest hanging fruit. In this race to the bottom, the less time and money the CBC devotes to enterprise journalism, the less motivation there is for the private networks to maintain credibility by funding their own investigative teams.

The war against science and the rise of Harper’s right-wing:

Right now, there’s a war going on against science in Canada. In order to satisfy a small but powerful political base, the PMO is engaged in a not-so-clandestine operation to dismantle and silence the many credible opponents to the Harper doctrine. Why kill the census? Literally in order to make decisions in the dark, without the relevant data. Hence the prisons. Why de-fund scientific research? Because whole branches of the natural sciences are premised on things like evolution, a theory the minister responsible made it clear he doesn’t understand – and likely doesn’t believe in. Why settle for weak platitudes on climate change? Because despite global scientific consensus, elements of the Conservative base don’t believe human activity could warm the planet. Centuries of rational thought and academic tradition, dating back to the Renaissance, is being thrown out the window in favour of an ideology that doesn’t reflect reality.

On the downward spiral into climate change:

The dogmatic refusal to accept that people have created this crisis and people must do what they can to avert it reminds me of the flat-earth crew.

Conservative politicians are abandoning my generation and any that hope to come after.

 

I read this and I hear something else — the clarion call. We are not alone. We… who, us? Yes, the greater majority of humans who want the goons & the apes with all the weapons and prisons out of power. For good.