Today’s phrase is SUPPLY CHAIN. That’s the chain of all the companies involved in turning a raw material into a finished product you buy in the store. For instance, with a T-shirt, the chain starts with the cotton grower, then the next company in the chain is the factory that turns cotton into yarn, then another outfit that weaves the yarn into fabric, then a business that sews the fabric into shirts, and maybe still another joint where it’s silkscreened or colored, then finally to the store. Plus, you know, all the boats and trucks and forklifts and warehouses needed to make it all happen.
SUPPLY CHAIN. And for any given supply chain, there’s always one company that is making all the profits, and all the other companies are just barely getting by. But here’s the problem: the fat-cat, the exploiter, is at a different point in the chain in every industry. You can’t guess who it is.
We need a branch of Economics that looks at everyday products, and every point in the supply chain for those products. We need economic DETECTIVES to tell us WHICH business in any given supply chain is putting the squeeze on, and HOW they do it.
Because, absent such a corps of economic detectives, every business in the chain is going to claim, “WE know prices are too high, and our wages are too low, and the factory is about to burst into flames, but we have SUCH A SMALL MARGIN it is SO HARD, really the culprits are FURTHER UP THE SUPPLY CHAIN not us!!”
So if the science of economics was really about helping people and making society more efficient. . . .you’d think a top priority for economists would be to fucking weed through the bullshit and expose where in the supply chain the fucking squeeze and fat profits REALLY ARE. And expose HOW they do it – by monopoly? By government interference and over-regulation? By with-holding supply? By over-producing supply? By criminal conspiracy? There’s probably as many ways of bottlenecking a supply chain as there are supply chains.
And I mean do this for EVERYTHING. Cars, shoelaces, Frisbees, corn syrup, dildos, thumb drives, Viewmasters, Enya CDs, fucking EVERYTHING. For every product. That would keep economists busy for like 100 years, dude. Not only will it help consumers and laborers, but it would also keep the economists out of trouble. They’d have no time to gin up new fig leafs for the fucking oligarchy. No time to make modern-day social-darwinist theories of how rich people are awesome and got there fair and square. No time to research how to make Wall Street derivatives “safer” and “faster” and “more innovative”. No time to lobby congress or the Fed to deregulate more.
But I digress.
Plus I would be genuinely interested to see if, once you started getting comprehensive results from 1000 or so supply chains , from t-shirts to blenders to computer chips to asprin to stuffed animals to software. . . . I would be interested to see if there were any common points to where the squeeze is. Like any generalizations that could be made?
But that would require economics to actually be a science in pursuit of truth. Hey! I’ve just wasted my time AND yours!1 comment
OLD PEOPLE UNDER A BUS
If you’re an American, ever since you were a little kid you’ve heard the phrases “political suicide” and “the old people” side by side. Anytime you’d ask why the politicians don’t do some obviously sensible helpful thing, people would tell you, “it’s political suicide! Because of the old people!” Legalizing pot? Old people say no. skateboarding in public? Old people say no! Immigration rights and affirmative action and gay rights? Political suicide! Old people say no! More tax for schools? Old people say no! Their kids are already grown, and the new kids are the wrong color! The only things they say “yes” to are: old-ass politicians like Reagan and Bush Sr. and insane anti-tax laws like Proposition 13 (AKA The Law So Retarded It Broke California For Thirty Damn Years).
In other words, The Olds are Republicans. And now the Republicans have thrown the Olds under the bus! Social security and medicare? We need to get rid of those, so we can pay back China for all the money we used to bail out bankers! Don’t worry though – we’re PRIVATIZING social security! You can use that money to gamble on the stock market with the Wall Street Bank of your choice . . . after all, SOMEONE’S got to get fucked in the next boom/bust cycle.
Now I’ll really be sorry when I need social security/medicare and it’s not longer there. . . which isn’t that long from now. . . but yo. Until I turn 64, I’ll laugh my ass off at these spittle-flecked hateful elders that voted in all the most heartless bastards, year after year after year, and finally they wake up one day and find that the heartless bastards are throwing them under the bus:
Here is every politician who ever took a dime from a TBTF bank: “Thanks for all the votes, you wrinkle-body hate-sacs! Hey by the way, as long as you hate leeches and takers, let’s cut you off your pensions. Didn’t you know? Those are “entitlements” now. Hey, Greatest Generation, multi-pruple-heart Iwo Jima guy! You’re the new welfare queens! Did you know that? Can you even hear me with your giant, antiquated UNIVAC-era hearing aids? Yeah, yeah, it’s political suicide for me to cut you off your entitlements. Maybe it is. . . IF YOU LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO VOTE AGAIN! Which, since we’re also going to cut your health-care, you won’t! and even if you somehow show up, our strict new voter ID laws will disqualify half of you!”
“But I thought you were just going to mess with the minorities, the gays, the immigrants, the returning veterans, the kids, the dopers, the poors, and the United Nations! BUT ME? YOU’RE MESSING WITH ME? HOW COULD I HAVE FORSEEN THAT?!”
It’s like all those gangsta rappers who complain that their drug-lord-run record label cheated them out of money: “Murder Violence Entertainment! How COULD you?!?” “Oh, Death Sentence For Serial Decapitation Records, who would have thought that your accounting practices were less than rigorous! THE GAME IS FUCKED UP MAN!! *sniffles into ketchief*”
This is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise fascist and depressing race-to-the-bottom era. All these years we were told “it’s political suicide to cross the olds!” Well, now because of politics, the olds are gonna commit suicide! Here’s why: they are already feeble, afraid of change, their brains full of mildew and talk-radio. . . and now their whole world has just been turned inside-out!
“Hey, buddy: the party you’ve been loyal to for decades, the party that pumped you full of fear and hate and anger the same way your IV pumps you full of saline, they’re the ones screwing you, and the evil muslim-commie Demoncrats are the only ones who still want to keep your entitlements.”
(Although to be fair, Obama has publicly stated that he is willing to help the Republicans destroy them!).
I think there should be a whole Youtube channel just devoted solely to close-ups of the faces of old people who are trying to process the information.
Instant strokes. Hip joints spontaneously popping out of sockets. Dentures flying across the room and embedding themselves inside O’reilly’s face on TV.
Fuck that, there should be a pill!
A special pill designed to help their mind and body withstand the complete reversal of their reality. Something that will keep their heart rate normal, and possibly a little LSD to help the reality-shift go down easier. I swear, if you want to be a billionaire (pretty much the only way for YOU to survive old age without any “entitlements”), the fastest way is to invent that pill, or invest all your $$$ in the first company that DOES. Because that pill will literally be a life-and-death necessity for an entire generation. Invest now in R&D before the next election! And hope to god they develop it before the politicians also cut medicare.
Been thinking about authenticity. Say it’s 2014 and you want to really get down with your favorite subculture – say, do some authentic Dada art or start a ‘80s hardcore band. Why is that so hard? People who imitate literally – even if they are sincere and get all the right equipment and have really sweet riffs . . . it isn’t quite right, is it? What’s missing is RELEVANCE and THREAT TO SOCIETY. Dada or HxC isn’t relevant or threatening in 2014 – which of course is different than saying it isn’t still good or it was “just a trend” or etc.
Just saying that literal imitation is always going to miss the vitality of the original. Why? The reason you love your favorite band is NOT THE BAND ITSELF – it’s the band IN THE CONTEXT OF A MOVEMENT OF OTHER BANDS. Or artists, or whatever. The originals – whether it’s art, film, skateboarding, music or whatever – took place in a new scene that was rapidly EVOLVING, with each new band/artist/skater/whatever constantly going beyond, in a spirit of friendly but fierce competition. If you’re trying to be ‘authentic’ 10 or even 2 years later, it doesn’t matter how good your band is, if the band isn’t still in the context of that ‘scene’ . .
It’s the whole scene that creates the vitality, the momentum, that unique feeling when a bunch of kids discover a new world where anything seems possible. Doing it later . .. It’s like watching a movie where you already know the end. The revolution didn’t happen. Pop music was not destroyed. The main guys turned into junkies and ripped off their best friends. You know the limits of it, and knowing the limits is enough to make it not relevant. There’s no suspense, no sense of rapid expansion of teenage freedom, no sense of building a new world, which gave that music its radness.
. .. there’s a contradiction: at the time to be ‘authentic’ was to be evolving, but if you’re evolving then you don’t sound like the bands that you like. To be ‘authentic’ you have to be competing directly against the heavyweights of the original time, but if those heavyweights have either broken up, changed styles, or become huge stars, you don’t have the same scene, so the music can’t be authentic. I guess Is why the whole “re-thrash” boom, even though the bands were sincere and enthusiastic, sounded so much like a homework assignment from history class.
But ok! Let’s back up! So far we’ve only been talking about LITERAL imitation. There’s a whole nother WORLD of imitation just waiting to be explored . . . even if I’m the only one who is repping it. Imitation by ANALOGY.
This idea (imitation by analogy) could apply to ANY retro thing – movies, fine art, yodeling, etc – but just for an easy example I’m going to talk about ‘70s punk.
If you ignore the music, clothes, and lyrics, of ‘70s punk, and focus instead on the EFFECTS IT HAD ON THE WORLD AROUND IT, focus instead on what made it RELEVANT and THREATENING, then we should be able to, by ANALOGY, figure out what authentic punk would/should sound like today in 2014.
Start with the PERFORMANCE. Even if you’re a veteran band with all – original members, no legal disputes, total OG credibility, fresh out of rehab and playing with all the stamina you ever had, only playing songs from the first album . . even then! . . .if your audience is old farts who don’t dance, and young kids who spend the whole show holding iphones aloft, it’s not relevant, it’s meaningless, because you’re not having the same EFFECT.
Punk shows would result in the theater being destroyed, 29 cop cars pulling up and beating up kids, cop car windows getting smashed, vast amounts of graffiti being sprayed by kids all the way home, and people starting their own bands, vowing to out-do their idols.
Therefore, punk PERFORMANCE in 2014 would have to get people –and cops – that worked up.
I have no fucking idea what it would sound like – I can’t even begin to guess, nor should I! because I’m fucking old. I just know how to tell if something is authentic or not- it’ll result in riots, graffiti, destroyed venues and tons of new bands vowing to take the same sound/performance even further out.
Another thing: REACTIONS. If you were a punk in the ‘70s, you could count on random strangers – jocks, rednecks, cholos, security guards, can’t forget skinheads – just trying to kick your ass for no reason, on a daily basis. That was what weeded out the weaklings. You had to be willing to take risk in order to be down, with no real reward. No money, no internet fame, no compliments from the critics or trendy people. But they did it because they were so totally isolated and fucked up and just stubborn that they had no place else to go.
So, as you can guess by now, the question is, “what would authentic punk look like in 2014?”
Again, I have no idea! They’d look some way that would get them jumped by random people! What that might be I can’t imagine. Earlier punks sometimes tempered their shock value with political statements – torn up flags or god-save-the-queen underpants worn outside the regular pants, and a sort of gross androgyny. But who knows if that would cause a reaction anymore?
My point is, you can SOUND and LOOK authentic but it won’t be relevant. Or you can BEHAVE authentically – which is to say, relevant and threatening – but in that case, you won’t look or sound like punk, or like anything else, for that matter.
But you can’t ever do both at the same time! It’s like the rug that’s too small for the room. Whenever you drag it to one corner, you expose the opposite corner.
Related point: scenes (again, art, dance, film, literature, etc) generally start by taking a variety of obscure influences and combing them in a different way – usually you’d have, say, 3 or 4 main artists which each of them had vastly different influences but they all had one or two commonly shared new things (called a zeitgeist) that bound it together. So scenes start out being outward looking. And the constant social threat/ conflict with the outside world just adds to that: you have to pay attention to the world because you never know when it’s going to sucker-punch you, and you take that anger and energy and use it to power the music.
So that makes the scene relevant. And being relevant, it blows up. And , by blowing up, it generates a bunch of zines and radio shows and assorted middlemen who make it their business to nail down the rules. People just listen to the same 4 big bands, and forget about all the diverse old bands that all influenced their favorite bands. They just concentrate on copying their favorite bands exactly, to please the new class of gate-keepers.
Meanwhile as time goes on, and the evolution slows down, and the popularity increases, it becomes more normal and less threatening, and so people can afford to pay less attention to the outside world. They get less anger and energy from the outside, and spend more and more time in their little artificial world where they are pandered to and told they’re rad.
In other words, all scenes go from OUTWARD LOOKING to INWARD LOOKING. They become victims of their own success. And after you’re inward looking, the last stage is to fragment into a million micro-genres in a futile effort to convince yourself that things are not stagnant and irrelevant.
The end!No comments
Naomi Klein-type people are fond of saying that “austerity” (i.e. cutting social security, medicare, welfare, food stamps, etc.) is just an example of what U.S./Europe did to 3d world countries in the ‘80s and ‘90s, come back to bite us in the ass. According to this theory, Western-controlled organizations like the WTO, World Bank, and the IMF “practiced” screwing the common people in debt-ridden poor countries around the world, and once they’d “perfected” their methods, those same methods are now being brought home to the rich countries, and used on US. And that’s why Chicago had to sell their parking meters to Arabs, why New Jersey tried to sell the Turnpike, and why Congress cut food stamps for unemployed people at Christmas.
I’m all for this theory! But it seems to me that “austerity” is just one of A DOZEN damn awful things that are all moving from the periphery of our global empire to the heartland. At the same time. A DOZEN things that were invented or perfected at certain borderlines, and now are being brought to bear on the same regular American jerkoffs who kept voting for those policies to be applied to marginal folks.
I suppose you could say that this traditional German poem already called it:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
But actually not really. All the victims in that poem were all people in the middle of German society. The people that the USA government is “coming for” are mostly at the physical borders of our country, and the rollback of human rights is sort of physically, literally creeping in and converging on Kansas.
If anything, USA’s current situation is more like Japan in the ‘30s, as described in Mark Driscoll’s excellent book, ABSOLUTE EROTIC, ABSOLUTE GROTESQUE: Japan’s international sex and drug trade, and gangster-driven administration . . . that all started in their Asian colonies in the ‘20s and ‘30s. And then all the corruption became entrenched in Tokyo politics as WWII started, giving birth to both a mafia-style corrupt and violent political sphere, as well as a very decadent, erotic grotesque, burlesque pop culture.
So let’s look systematically at all the corruption pouring into mainland America from our various borders:
1) AUSTERITY. Already discussed.
2) WAR. Techniques that started in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are now being used at home: The militarization of our police forces (military-grade vehicles and tactical weapons given to small-town Ohio police forces just in case Al Quaeda decides to blow up a strategic Hardee’s), drones over America, and the designation of American citizens as “enemy combatants” who can get sent to Gitmo or even assassinated without even being accused of a specific crime. . .
3) COUNTER-TERRORISM. In the past, the government would only search you for contraband at the border or airport. But in 2013, Homeland Security declared they had the right to stop traffic at random checkpoints and search all vehicles with no probable cause. . .WITHIN 100 MILES OF THE BORDER. This is literally the creeping-from-the-periphery-to-the-center that I’m talking about.
Also, the CIA (who, remember, is supposed to spy on foreigners) is helping the NYC police spy on basically the entire Muslim population of NYC. Speaking of creeping over borders, the NYCIA decided to extend their spying into Jersey as well . . .without telling any Jersey law enforcement.
Also I guess we can throw in the whole NSA bulk data collection here. The original NSA phone-tap program was just spying on calls FROM foreigners TO foreigners. I.e. outside the border of America. But then things got complicated when, say, a call from France to Saudi Arabia was routed through a telecom hub in, say, New York. (apparently this is a thing that happens?) So the NSA started tapping foreign calls on American soil. Then they started tapping ALL the calls, because, hey, they already had the back-door in the NYC telecom router.
All this is justified by, “Hey, OK, that’s technically against the constitution, but it’s just for terrorism! We would never use that authority to help police in any other types of crimes, right?”
4) DRUG WAR. The drug war seems to be creeping in from a lot of different peripheries at once: at the physical borders, of course, where smuggling occurs, but also at the WAR periphery (see #2 above) for example, the militarization of our local police forces, and the physical drug wars we are fighting in Colombia, Mexico, etc. Like the anti-terror war, law enforcement seems able to bend the rules because the crime is seen as so dangerous. Then those precedents are used to justify new police powers to go after ALL crimes. For example, Civil asset forfeiture. No-knock raids. Joint Task Force 6, the only army unit allowed to go to war on Americans. Which I did not know until I googled “drug war civil rights” just now. All of these were originally just for drug lords. Then they were for any drug offender, or anybody in a ghetto or vario. Then they were basically for anyone, anywhere. A great example of periphery-creep is what is called PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION.
Let’s back up a second here: as anyone who watches cop tv shows knows, evidence is only admissible in court if the cops get it legitimately, i.e. with a warrant. And they’re required to show ALL their evidence to the defense, so the defense can maybe find something in the evidence that makes their client look less guilty. But apparently the NSA is showing their phone-taps to the drug police. The drug police can’t tell the judge or the prosecutor where they got the evidence – since the NSA is only supposed to spy on terrorists, not drug guys. So the cops do PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION: they fabricate a paper trail to supposedly show they got their evidence legally. For instance, the NSA illegally intercepts a phone call saying, “We will put drugs in a blue Mustang on freeway 101 at Tuesday night.” They tell the cops “pull over the blue mustang and tell the judge it was a totally random traffic stop or the mustang had a blinking tail light or it was just good luck.” So, first the NSA was ONLY supposed to use their spy powers for terror. They would never never ever spy on anything else. Now they’re openly using them for terror AND anti-drug stuff. But of course they would never never use that for anything besides terror or drugs. Or porn.
Actually this terror-to-drugs-to-everyday enforcement dealie is pretty common, you can use it on anything:
Airports. The “border exception” to civil rights. We’d only go into your pants and etc. with no probable cause to look for bombs. Well, as long as we’re doing it, we’ll look for drugs. Because drugs are used to finance terrorist groups. Well, as long as we’re looking for bombs and drugs. . . .
Ditto Homeland Security giving army surplus gear to small town cops. Just in case the Talibans invade Possum Ass, Arkansas! But as long as we got ‘em it would be a shame not to use ‘em. Let’s use ‘em on drug raids! Well, as long as they work so good on the drug raids, it would be ashame not to use ‘em on everything!
Also check out how this dealie is physically, literally a periphery-to-center thing: terror-to-drugs-to-anywhere = overseas-to-borderland-zone-to-middle-america.
5) PRISONS. As detailed in the book LOCKDOWN HIGH, technology developed for prisons (and even cattle farms!) is now being used in schools: tracking RFID cards attached to students, and metal detectors.
6) IMMIGRATION. Without any real notice in the mainstream papers, ol’ liberal Obama has been deporting record numbers of immigrants, more than Bush one or two, or any other president ever. Not only that, but the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has developed its own parallel justice system – they have their own cops, their own laws, their own courts, their own standards of evidence and who gets what rights while on trial, that is totally different than normal trials. They especially have their own jails, a gulag system spread throughout the USA the same way the CIA’s “black sites” are scattered throughout the world for the detention of possible terrorists. Also there is a thing where the Border Patrol will now shoot over the border, killing Mexicans for “throwing rocks”. Across the Rio Grande.
7) THE HOODS. OK, so ghettos and varios are not on physical borders, so that fucks up my metaphor here. But what happens in the hood is often like a midway point, where outside-of-America tactics (drug war, the war-war, the immigration police) are tried out in certain *ahem* parts of America, before being rolled out nationwide. They use the hoods to work the kinks out of the system. SWAT teams, no-knock raids, dog-shootings, surveillance cams, “just-in-case” helicopter flyovers, stop-and-frisk, etc. all first premiered in the hoods. Then spread to anywhere there was a suspicion of drugs (i.e. all the on-purpose disruptive search-light-happy copter flyovers in the Pacific Northwest, where entire towns were buzzed for days on end, because the cops thought that the locals weren’t being ‘cooperative’ enough in snitching on their pot-growing neighbors). And finally, the tactics are just used anywhere, anytime!
And this ‘hood’ stuff, inevitably, leads me to an important point: All the white kids that want to be ‘down’, that want to be ‘hood’ . . . well, you’re going to get your wish! Only it turns out that being ‘down’ doesn’t involve you owning giant spinnas or hella big-booty bitches or chilling in VIP with A$AP $murf. It turns out that being ‘down’ involves you getting thrown in jail because a license-plate scan showed a passing patrol car you owed a $50 library overdue fine! It turns out being ‘down’ involves being threatened with 20 years for a tiny bag of weed, then turned into an informant where you have to go hit up dangerous felons who you’ve never met, with no backup, no training, while wearing a wire. It turns out being ‘down’ means spending most of your life under surveillance cameras while your neighborhood is stripped of jobs and education opportunities! It means that you, too, can lose your house, fall victim to predatory landlords, while the government declares you a “taker” and a “bum” and strips you of unemployment benefits right when you need them the most. Rad! Have fun getting your student debt taken out of your paycheck for 30 years because regular banks REDLINED you and wouldn’t consider loaning you money to improve yourself!
Hey, white kids, isn’t it fun to be ‘down’? Don’t you worry about if you’re “official on the streetz” or if your “name rings out”, you’ll be getting plenty more hood in the years to come. Whether you like it or not! Because there’s no backing out now, kids! You’re just getting like a little 10% taste of what the government has been doing to the hood all along. And the other 90% is heading to a
trailer park suburb near you! Pretty soon you’ll be as ‘hood’ as it gets! You seemed to really enjoy all this when it was Black people talking about it in movies or mp3s . . .instead of protesting it, you’d do those funny hand-gestures in the shower! But now you get to participate! You’re welcome.
And the white kids’ white parents? Even more rad! The white parents that, for decades, have been voting again and again for the politicians that were getting tougher on third-world countries (those lazy natives needed debt restructuring! We’re doing them a favor!), that were getting tough on immigrants, arabs, “enemy combatants”, “threats to homeland security,” protestors, prisoners, minorities, and dopers? Hey! Guess what? Those politicians want a word with you, Mom and Dad!
“Thanks for the votes! Glad you liked us taking away habeas corpus, the fourth amendment, innocent-until-proven-guilty, and the right to privacy! Glad you approved of us fucking with everyone else in the dang Earth! And guess what? we saved some of that just for YOU! You seem to really like that stuff, so it would be a shame to waste it all on those douchebags – they’re not even grateful! Yeah, what’s that? You didn’t think we’d spy on YOU? Or stop YOUR car for no probable cause? HAHAHAAHAHA – you’re such a kidder! You LOVE that stuff! That’s why you always keep voting for us! Well since we’re so happy, we decided to let YOU have all the rest of it. Matter of fact, we have a LOT left over, even after the muslims, protestors, immigrants, potheads, and ‘inner city youth’. Oh man, you wouldn’t believe how much is left over. You could say we’ve been saving the best for last! And it’s all coming right for YOU! Just our way of saying, thanks for your support!”
So NOW Mom and Dad are joining a Tea Party and NOW the kids are turning down Tupac so they can go out and Occupy some shit, and everyone in the family - regardless of their politics - is SHOCKED that the government would treat people like this.
I mean, treat WHITE people like this.
Back in the ‘60s, you had to be a really big-time black Panther to even get the FBI to listen to your phone. Nowadays even some dental hygienist in Maryland named Abigail got a digital file 100 times thicker than Eldrige Fucking Cleaver. It used to be just cameras in “high crime” , uh, “urban” areas, but now everybody is getting watched via their cellphone’s GPS! NOW it’s a fucking outrage! Back in the day, you’d only get assassinated by the government if you were Malcom X or Fred Hampton, but now the freaking President is on TV saying ANY American can fucking well get DRONED. Now entire WHITE families are getting evicted, having their unemployment cut, having to choose between education and food, entire WHITE families are being forced to ‘assume the position’ over a fucking traffic ticket, Sure, NOW it’s a huge scandal! NOW it’s tyranny!
Some rapper needs to do a song with a chorus involving a really small fiddle and the phrase HOW’S THAT FEEL?
THE REVERSE POWELL MEMO
In the 30s, lefty politicians like Huey Long got popular, because Lefties of all walks of life had big ideas they could rally around (socialism! Populism!!) , and that solidarity allowed them to put pressure on mainstream politicians and demand substantial changes : FDR had the New Deal, and LBJ had the Great Society, and even Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency , started Earth Day, and strengthened welfare.
And then to fight back, the big-business types circulated the Powell Memo. They didn’t have the numbers, but they had their own, big, unifying idea they could all rally round. (neoliberalism! Deregulation!).
But ever since Reagan got elected in 1980, liberals have been playing defense, trying to preserve the shreds and tatters of government programs while conservatives – on the other hand – keep moving the goal posts more to the right. The conservatives keep dreaming bigger and bigger, they’re demanding things that would have been political suicide even in Reagan’s time.
Sure, the Right is better funded and organized, but maybe the main problem with the Left is BEING ON THE DEFENSIVE IS NO FUCKING FUN. It’s hard to get motivated to march for SLIGHTLY LESS SHITTY! Or to demonstrate for COULD YOU CUT THE FUNDING A LITTLE LESS THAN YOU WERE PLANNING TO CUT THE FUNDING? It’s hard to organize a huge door-to-door campaign to raise awareness of MAYBE YOUR POVERTY IS NOT 100% YOUR FAULT FOR SHITTY DECISIONS YOU MADE. It’s hard to get people to volunteer their time and money for TRY TO RAPE SLIGHTLY LESS THAN 28,000 OF OUR OWN DAMN SOLDIERS THIS YEAR.
Frustrated 99-percenter types of today lack the unifying big ideas AND the money of the Old Left and Big Business. But what if there was a way to turn tour disorganization into an advantage?
What we lack in big, unifying ideas, we can make up for that in sheer numbers of daffy, unique, individual UTOPIAS. I’m talking about how a “homebrew utopia movement” should become A Real Thing. As much as I gripe about it, The internet is actually a huge help in this : just look at how many insane or stupid ideas not only get famous but spontaneously create communities, where people who (pre ‘net) would have persued their hobby in shameful solitude, actually compete with one another to see who can get the most far-out with it!
A “homebrew utopia” movement – where everyday people dream up alternative societies the same way they now write fan-fiction, youtube diaries, fantasy-football – could be like a giant game where people compete to see how many of our society’s unspoken assumptions they can discover, expose to the light of day . .. and then think of alternative societies based on DIFFERENT assumptions. Put another way, how many sacred cows they can fillet!
HOMEBREW UTOPIA MOVEMENT
The point is: overwhelm fuckers with diversity. I’m not seriously saying one single utopia will become a huge movement (which itself is a way-too-utopian plan!) . My plan calls for SUCCESS THROUGH FAILURE. Let me show you how:
The more different utopias people come up with, the smaller and blander it makes the dem-repub consensus look: “Oh you think Obama is crazy? Well get a load of THIS guy!”
Even if people don’t agree with any given utopia (by their very extreme all-encompassing nature, utopias are pretty hard sell to begin with!) . . .it’ll get people off the defensive and onto the offensive.
It’ll also get regular people to realize “Hey, did you see that jackass on the internet with his crazy commie/nazi/feminazi/asexaual/extraterrestrial fantasy? That utopia is ridiculous because it goes against this basic assumption of society . . .hey! I never realized we were all making that assumption. Which means even though THAT utopia was bullshit, means there must be OTHER assumptions, other ways to do a society. Hmm, maybe I should do my OWN utopia just for fun!”
Like I said, the Overwhelm With Diversity works to the advantage of a populace without money, political power, or a coherent ideology:
It costs nothing to threaten the Man’s assumptions of how society should be run, and cops can’t stop it, since it runs totally outside the definition of “protest”. If you can’t overthrow the System, overthrow the assumptions that legitimate the system!
GO ON THE OFFENSIVE IN THE WAR OF IDEAS.
Get your utopia on! Don’t worry about if it’s politically feasible or if it would even work if you could implement it. Just get thousands of ideas out there, listen to other peoples’ ideas.
The irrationality is actually a PLUS. It’s one of the few good ideas the hippies had: if you’re fighting a system of rigid bureaucracy, efficiency, robotic rationality and soul-killing tradition, fight back with surrealism and irrationality.
The point is not that any one crazy idea will save us – the point is to destroy the decades-long and well-coordinated-at-all-levels-of-media-government-and-business PR campaign to convince us that wall-street casino capitalism, and race-to-the-bottom globalism is the only possible way to run an economy.
The point is to teach us how to go hog-wild, rather than to beg for a slight increase in funding for some social program which has been cut by 90%.
The point is to go on the offense again.
The point is to re-start our collective imaginations, which have been beat to shit, not by mind-numbing TV, not even by the internet, but our imaginations got beat to shit by decades of sullen grumbling about right-wingers’ steady progress. By decades of allowing the other side to dictate the terms of the battle.
(also remember: at the height of the liberal, big-government, help-the-poor and regulate-the-polluters ‘70s, all the Powell Memo ideas must have seemed totally un-doable, impractical, or downright silly. But now those ideas are basically the norm.)
Put the burden of proof on The Man to explain why the economy SHOULD grow, why banks SHOULD be allowed to make money, why people SHOULD work longer hours even though machines allow one worker to do the productivity of ten workers, (and even though since the 60s the worker has not been paid in proportion to her rising productivity!)
THE MOST POWERFUL IMPEDIMENTS TO CHANGE ARE BELIEFS THAT WE DON’T EVEN REALIZE THAT WE HAVE
We have big disagreements in politics – but only about stuff that one faction dislikes. But what about the 90% of stuff that both factions like? What about all the assumptions that are so ingrained, people don’t even see them, like how fish don’t know what water is?
For instance, the assumption that “economies must always grow bigger and bigger, every year, forever,” seems obviously wrong now – the planet has finite resources, duh! But back in the 50s, even bitter enemies like the US and the USSR were in agreement about the inevitability of infinite growth (think of all those Great Leaps Forward!). To be precise, they were BEYOND agreeing – It was so obvious it didn’t need to even be articulated, (you have to articulate something for anyone to agree with it)
Anyway, it goes to show how quickly such bedrock assumptions can turn into obvious falsehoods. All it takes is saying it out loud. “everyone can make more of everything every year without ever running out of raw materials or energy!” derrrrrppppp. The hard part is actually realizing that there IS an assumption!
So to retun to my theme: If making completely unreasonable, illogical utopias became a popular hobby, if nothing else, it would be like crowd-sourcing the exposure of unspoken assumptions that we have. And exposing those assumptions is ESSENTIAL to starting to have reasonable, logical conversations of how to fix society.
In fact, some contemporary wackos, like anarchist David Graeber or Archdruid John Michael Greer, are doing just that! Instead of doing regular utopias (where you start out by imagining a fully formed future society), people like Graeber and Greer start by REMOVING one central unspoken assumption of our society, and then try to imagine how society would change if people all stopped assuming that thing.
For instance: what would an economic system look like where the “value” of things, services, and people was based on how much they helped other people, rather than on how much money they made?
What would a society look like where there was no oil left, no coal left, and . . . (dun dun dun) without oil or coal, you couldn’t have the energy to construct a world-wide replacement network of solar/wind/ocean-power plants? In other words, what would a society look like if every small village had to make its own power and replace everything it took out of the ecosystem?
What would a society look like if there was no concept of “debt”?
What would a democracy look like, if the concept of “majority vote” was applied in the workplace, every day, instead of in a polling booth, once every 2 years?
And so on. Most utopias have been based on an end point. This new breed of sort-of-utopias is based on a starting point: taking today’s real world, then tweaking one central thing, and imagining how things would unfold. However, despite exposing some unspoken assumptions of our civiliazation, none of these modern sort-of-utopias that I’VE ever read come close to actually fleshing out the answer in any detail. I don’t know if that’s because a) it’s really hard, or b) it’s really hard for someone (even an anarchist) who has been born and raised in 20th century monopoly capitalism to even contemplate?
In the past, when there was a revolution, gold would get seized. It didn’t matter if the revolution was Communist Russians, or Jacobin French, or Batshit Ayatollah-Lovin’ Iranian. . . regardless of the ideology, one thing held true: you “liberated” the gold and jewels from the oppressive rulers.
But that’s all about to change.
The next revolution – which, honestly I hope will NOT happen, for reasons which will become clear – but the next revolution is going to overthrow Wall Street plutocrats, whose money is NOT gold or jewels or even magical glowing scepters. Their money is all electronic, and what’s worse, the money is 90% in the form of electronic GAMBLES. That is to say, it’s in the form of “derivatives” or “swaps” or “foreign currency arbitrage index funds”.
All these aforementioned items are basically some variation of: “I made a bet with some other billionaire in another country that the price of something would go up or down in six month’s time. And I am simply trusting that that other billionaire will pay up if he or she loses.”
So even if your pitchfork-weilding mob has the tyrant up against the wall and a charismatic Che Guevara-like leader puts a Glock to the tyrant’s temple and says “Give us the password to all your swiss banks and Caymand Island trust funds! This money belongs to The People now!” . . .even if that DID happen, the money would simply VANISH.
Not because the Tyrant had some sort of pre-arranged scheme in place for just this contingency. But Because the billionaires on the other side of those gambles (which constitute 90% of the tyrant’s wealth, remember) would simply refuse to pay up:
“OOH GOODY! I lost my billion-dollar bet with the American Tyrant but he’s in the Bastille now so I’ll just pay my billion to Che Guevara here, even though I’m in a different country, and thanks to the deregulation of derivatives, nobody in the world even knows I’m on the other side of this particular bet! Sure. Hey, Che! Come and get a billion free dollars! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!”
And I’m not a financial wizard, but It seems to me that if many billionaires around the world stopped honoring their bets, this would cause the entire international casino to shut down, and all the “money” therein would just vanish into thin air.
You’d still have a certain amount of gold, and physical assets like factories and mansions and hovercraft, and maybe bonds? (or maybe not, depending on if the Revolution overthrew just the rich or the whole government). But derivatives, man, kiss those goodbye.
It would be like raiding Scrooge McDuck’s giant Olympic-sized pool of gold coins, and then watching 90% of them evaporate in your hands.
So whoever is in charge of the revolution, buddy, you got to think of a plan for how to deal with that.
Some of the more goofy Occupy people are fond of pointing out that back in the Bible times there was something called a Debt Jubilee – every x number of years all debts would be forgiven, slaves would be freed, repossessed land would be given back to the serfs, etc. What if we modernized that? What if, instead of a Debt Jubilee we had a SECURITIES JAMBOREE? Like every June 12th, all the gambles would stop for a moment, and all the money floating around the financial-economy would have to be liquidated and invested in the real economy – whether that’s land, paintings, hookers, buying companies or gold or sweet-ass geodes or limited edition lego minifigs or whatever – just real tangible things. On the minus side, that would make the price of real things go way the fuck up to the point where regular non-millionaires could no longer afford rice crispies or sweet geodes. But on the plus side, if all the oligarchs had to sell off their intangibles at the same time, the value of their intangibles would fall through the floor. Which would be fun to watch.
Or how about another version of a SECURITIES JAMBOREE, where every August 4th, the PHYSICAL ASSETS WHICH UNDERLY ALL YOUR DERIVATIVES which you’re gambling on . . .they ALL get PHYSICALLY DELIVERED TO YOUR DOORSTEP. Are you gambling on the future of pork prices or oil? Well here is a million hogs and 2 billion gallons of crude. Maybe you can put it on the tennis courts? Are you gambling on the price of the Yuan? Well here is a shipping container full of actual coins for you to get your Scrooge McDuck on in. Make sure and bring a snorkel! Are you doing high-speed trades of companies where you don’t even know what it is? Well apparently the microsecond when the jamboree clock ran out, you had just bought a sewage treatment plant. So here it is! Right to your house! Enjoy!
So even though those are crazy ideas, you have to know the problems in order to start thinking of solutions. And the Tyrant’s Evaporating Money trick is just one of the problems that a revolution will face in this day and age.
And this leads to a broader topic, as it usually does when I’ve been drinking.
OLIGARCH SELF DEFENSE.
This “all my wealth will evaporate if you try to grab it” scenario is just ONE of MANY counter-attacks the oligarchs can pull if the rabble rises up. And by “rises up”, I don’t mean armed revolution. Oligarchs have been known to go into self-defense, blow-up-the-economy mode if people pressure their governments for simple things like closing tax loopholes or raising living standards for workers.
The main other O.S.D. attacks are:
1) capital strike – refusing to invest any money in new businesses, or refusing to loan any more money. This might seem at first like it would only work in small developing countries who are like “Please sir may we build a power plant so we can have electricity?” but the shocking fact is, even in rich countries like Japan, USA or Germany, successful big companies depend on banks for loans just to handle daily business.
2) Fire everyone and move the factory to a different country where people are more grateful to us! AKA the Friedman (Thomas or Milton, take your pick)
3) Capital FLIGHT. This is different than a capital strike. It means, “take all the profits I made/embezzled in country A, and stash them in a secret bank account in countries B through F.” This is like a capital strike but with more money laundering, and different motivations. Capital Strikes typically are done by legitimate banks, working together, in order to influence the governments to be more business-friendly. Capital flight is more of a solitary, shameful persuit, and with no goals to influence the government. Capital flight is more associated with banana republics, collapsing African nations, or Russia, where the rich are just like “OK, this country is over.”
4) Currency attack! AKA the Soros AKA the Asian Crisis of ’97. Here is how this goes: if enough billionaires get together and start making bets that the Yen (or the Deutschmark, or the Peso) will go down in value, then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, and lo and behold! The price DOES start to go down. And down. And down. The first people to sell can make a shitload of money somehow, because they placed bets in advance that the price would go down. But for all the little suckers who are faced with the choice of, “Holy shit, my Dinars are worth 50% of what they were worth yesterday, either I sell them at a loss (thereby further driving the price down) or I hold on to them until they become altogether worthless!”
5) Bond attack! Like currency attack, but on government bonds. AKA China and Saudi Arabia Basically Own Most of America Now. This is more of a crazy suicide attack, because bonds are like money America owes China. So they could destroy us by wiping their ass with our bonds, saying “These American bonds are bullshit funny-money from a not-legitimate government!”, setting them on fire, then selling the fecal ashes on Ebay for $2 bucks per pound. But they’d be destroying themselves in the process. But it might be worth it! Actually I’m not really sure of all the ramifications of a bond attack.
6) The CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE. AKA the “BUNCH OF FUCKING BOND TRADERS?!??” Unlike the currency attack, and the bond attack, the C.O.C. (shoutout to Mike Dean!) is deployed early and often, since the ‘70s. It goes like this: “You, the government, need to borrow from us, the bond traders, in order to finance your pet liberal/conservative/whatever programs. But we bond traders won’t buy any more government bonds unless you convince us that inflation will go down, enabling us to make more profits on our bonds. And the only way to keep inflation down is austerity, and cutting social programs. Oh and incidentally this will cripple other non-wall-street industries like housing, exports, and cars, but none of those industries can destroy your political career like we can, so they can go fuck themselves.”
7) RUN ON THE BANK aka TOO BIG TO FAIL. This one became super popular since 2008: “Mr President/ Fed Chairman/ Secretary of the Treasury! You have to bail out me and my friends because if we go out of business, we’ll take the whole economy with us! All the companies who deposited money with us will go bankrupt. And everyone who THEY owed money to will likewise go bankrupt. And no one will ever buy American stocks or bonds again!”
Anyway, those (plus the SCROOGE MCDUCK EVAPORATING MONEY revolution-foiler I described above) are just the Oligarch Self Defense strategies THAT I KNOW OF. And I’m not even a member of the Bohemian Grove! Who knows how many other shady tactics oligarchs are paying accountants and economists to invent? My point is, there are like 100 books about the 2008 crash, and 200 perfectly redundant books about AMERICA IS UNFAIR AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT, and Noam Chomsky alone has written over 500 books. All these books are full of ideas for reform or calls for mass protest.
But there is, as far as I know, NOT EVEN ONE book that even begins to address how reforms or protests or revolutions are going to cope with all the Oligarch Self Defense strategies. And unless someone writes that book, we’re all doomed.
DOOMED I TELL YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.