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 LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, March 14, 2016

Terminal Condition: Neoliberal Globalization

Click here to access article by Maximilian Forte from Zero Anthropology.

In this second of a series of three this Canadian anthropology professor offers his views on the American elections. In this piece he makes some cogent remarks about capitalist myths which clash with contemporary economic conditions. He argues that the American electorate are becoming aware of these contradictions and expressing them in the primary elections held so far, and he provides factual evidence to suggest that many people are discouraged with both parties. The most significant is that the recent primary elections show a dramatic decline of people registered in the Democratic Party, and many of these are gravitating to Bernie Sanders, while mainline Republicans are choosing Trump, a non-neoliberal candidate, over all the neoliberal Republican candidates. All of this supports his thesis that neoliberalism is coming to an end, but not by leftists, but by a right-wing "populist" (as he describes Trump).

I totally disagree with his premise which supports his thesis when writes:
Voters in the US find themselves in a unique position, compared with many of the rest of us: they have a chance to effectively vote on neoliberalism, on globalization.
This is complete nonsense as I and others have argued many times. (See this, this, and this as examples.)

Although he does not state it explicitly here (he did in his previous article), his implication is quite obvious: Trump as he previously predicted will win the presidency and that will be the end of neoliberalism! 

Forte also curiously describes Trump as a "populist" with "authoritarian solutions". Although the word "populist" is sometimes used pejoratively, it is most frequently used to denote a leader who represents real interests of a significant number of ordinary people. "Populist" was never used to describe Hitler although he demonstrated popularity. 

I think Trump is attracting a lot of people who are completely discouraged by all the other well groomed, coiffed and scripted candidates of the Republican Party. He exudes a kind of strong man or hero image who appeals mostly to all the middle and upper income folks who mostly see him as protecting them from the losses of their homes and property and from all the colored people who want to take away all their possessions.

What needs to be understood is the importance of ideology (a web of fairy tales) to any ruling class. What adults find so difficult to believe is that most ruling classes find it much more efficient (cost-effective) to lie about what they are doing simply because what they really do is so illegitimate in terms of any kind of social justice. Capitalist ruling classes have developed an extremely elaborate complex of institutions (which they closely supervise) which they use to inculcate in their subjects mythical beliefs that justify why there are a relatively few rich people and so many poor, and why the poor should work so hard, why the latter should not only obey the rich but esteem them. These myths are spread far and wide, so much so, that the masses of workers find it very difficult to believe that they are only myths spread by the ruling class to support their interests.

You might think of it this way: there are fairy tales for children and there are fairly tales for adults. Children at a certain age are told that their tales such as the tooth fairy are not true, but many similar beliefs about social and political reality are continued on into adulthood simply because such beliefs support the rule of a certain class of people, a ruling class.

This is easily seen when we review the beliefs of previous ruling classes such as existed in feudalism. Here beliefs were widely spread to justify the rule of monarchs and the aristocracy, the chief one of which was that the king ruled by divine right. Everybody believed this myth during feudalism, but no one believes that now. Frequently in the past people held a belief about a future existence in terms of heaven or hell. A relatively few people today take this fairy tale very seriously.

Yet today when adults are confronted with evidence that some of their beliefs about governance are false (for example: political institutions are controlled by the rich who exclude anyone who threatens their power) they experience deep discomfort and may lash out at the person who presents such evidence. The same is true when people are presented with evidence that threaten any of the capitalist beliefs about democracy, freedom, hard work, equality, and yes, elections; and that corporate media is full of lies. This is dramatically true when people are confronted with evidence of a "deep state", or rule by hidden actors behind the official organs of government. Over time such adult fairy tales appear to become integrated into a people's sense of their very identity. Thus any contrary evidence is psychologically very threatening. It follows as a general rule that older adults tend to be much more threatened by challenges to their beliefs than younger people.

Now let us return to the Forte's article. I think that his political analysis is flawed and confusing because he also accepts some beliefs about the US election system as reality: that citizens will determine who rules as president of the US and that people who vote in elections make this decision based on mostly rational beliefs.

It is my sense that the myths about governance in the US have been compounding over time, much like compound interest, to what we experience today: corporate news broadcasts (reinforced in entertainment and education) report mostly lies. I think what we are witnessing in the primary elections results are indications of confusion. People are beginning to sense that many these beliefs do not correspond with their daily experience. People voting for Trump are looking for a strong leader to save them. People voting for Sanders believe all of his social program rhetoric and that he can implement these programs if voted into office. People voting for Hillary Clinton are the majority who are mostly afraid of Trump and don't believe Sanders can win because corporate media keeps telling them that. Meanwhile it is much more realistic to believe, based on evidence, that the ruling class is managing the campaigns and election coverage to insure that Hillary Clinton becomes president. It's all like an incredible circus or puppet show if viewed by someone who is not devoted to mainstream media and their fairy tales.

To the ruling elite, elections are a barometer of how credible their propaganda machinery is. They are a bit worried about Trump's popularity because Trump will likely not follow orders issued by the "deep state", particularly with regard to foreign wars and neoliberal adventures, very well. They might have to assassinate him if he is elected, and assassinations are always messy affairs. But as I see it, they don't need to worry, and I don't think that they are very worried. From now until election time their corporate media will undermine most of the support that Trump is receiving. People will end up voting for Hillary, the ruling directorate's chosen candidate. What really worries the directorate is the diminishing support among ordinary people for their neoliberal agenda. But this setback by no stretch of the imagination means the end of neoliberalism as Forte suggests. They might have to revamp their propaganda, but in the end they always have their police state infrastructure to deal with widespread dissidence and resistance. 

I am thoroughly convinced that the ruling class are addicted to power and wealth and nothing will stop them from pursuing their agendas except an organized revolution by the people. Realistically this seems like a most unlikely prospect. But what's the alternative?