We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Let them eat cake! IMF the equality champion?
Talk of inequality seems to be all the rage in Western media, and this has been spearheaded by such notable figures as Obama, and here in this article it is reported that no less than the IMF director Christine Lagarde has raised the issue. Being a rather cynical doubter of all things printed in mainstream media, I ask: are they serious?
I think the answer is partly "yes" and mostly "no". This article supports my opinion by revealing that IMF actions indicate that such concerns about inequality are for public relations purposes only. Let me explain.
In the past, like in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the ruling capitalist class was seriously concerned about the dramatic gaps between the rich and the poor. Also, there was a very militant labor movement that was concerned about social justice which was inspired by the mostly theoretical ideas coming from the Soviet Union and the actual fact that the workers of the latter country experienced no unemployment. I do not think that they have that concern today.
In today's Western societies they have in place very effective means of controlling dissent: the concentration of media provides for control of information, highly advanced technology and police state methods to surveil potential revolutionaries, and militarized police forces.
However, the ruling class also has a more serious concern about the phenomenon of a diminishing middle class. A happy middle class is a critical requirement to the stability of a capitalist ruling system simply because they actually run the system while capitalists, who reward them with the vaunted middle class lifestyles, skim off most of the benefits from a system that exploits both workers and the environment. Besides, it is widely recognized that revolutions in recent centuries have all been led by middle class people.
While the second concern exists, I think that most of the publicized concern is rhetorical and informed by a desire to divert political opposition into paths which will require an enormous expenditure of energies, but will end up in the scrapheap of failed efforts. I'm referring here to the growing phenomenon of publicity about dramatic raises in the minimum raise, such as $15 per hour in Seattle and the advocacy of a guaranteed annual wage.
Labor advocates such as Shamus Cooke have devoted many articles (see this and this) to promote dramatic increases in minimum wage laws, and now we see the appearance of David Graeber on PBS TV extolling the benefits of a guaranteed income. I have commented on the minimum wage campaign previously here, so let me address my observations about the latter.
Anarchists are usually smeared by ruling class mainstream media as hooligans, often compared to terrorists, and never given access to their media. So, it is remarkable that PBS gave coverage to anarchist Graeber's views promoting a guaranteed income. I understand why a ruling class TV network would want to promote such a dead-end proposal, but it makes me wonder a lot about Graeber. Such access to mainstream media is often a method used by media directors as bait to lure left-wing critics to advocate safe reforms to the system and eventually to thoroughly co-opt them. I hope this isn't the case with Graeber.