Marxists: Carpe Diem!

January 6, 2009

This is a great era for Marxists; for all the long decades of apoligist and explanatory rhetoric which sought to understand why the USSR failed and capitalism survived, the hour has come to dust off the old readings on the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory and rejoice. Capitalism has reached its apex and is now devouring itself. A radical shift in the paradigm of human consciousness is taking place as a natural function of the system itself.

Today’s collapse of society is an example of organic Marxism at its best. A detailled analysis of Marx’s writings would be interesting here but bore the reader to jumping out the window. Instead, the central concept which best explains why a revolution in the USA is inevitable, can be found in one concept, the Fetishism of Commodities, found in the first chapter of Capital. Very simply put, the Fetishism of Commodities means, ‘You are what you own’.

One’s central idea of self (identity) is based on that which can be bought and consumed, rather than on how one acts toward others, toward the society and the environment, and a sense of one’s value as a worthy being by being creative and productive. It has take a hundred years for this concept to become the culture of USA capitalism and this was intentionally planned, over generations by Masters of the Universe. For a chilling and unforgetable explanation of how this happened, Century of the Self will give the reader a thorough documention.

The chief vehicle of the subversion of ‘culture’ into ‘consumerism’ has been enabled by the strategies of marketing and technological advances in mass media. I cannot recommend this BBC video highly enough for those who wish to see the ‘big picture’. For capitalism to succeed it needed profits, from people buying stuff. The more reasons people had to take the money from their pockets and purchase something, the better the capitalist system succeeded.

To facilitate the ‘more’ part necessary for profits, marketing became highly sophisticated in convincing people that they ‘needed’ more stuff to be happy. These newer needs to become a happy successful person have all centered on external symbols of success, fancier cars, bigger houses, name brand shoes, essentially conspicuous consumption. People could judge how successful they were (and others were) by what they were able to buy and then show off. This became the central cultural identity of the USA: You are what you own. How this came about entirely is well explained by the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory.

However, here, the effects of all these processes boil down to a simple question that the American middle class will now have to ask itself: ‘Who am I without my stuff?’ And unfortunately for them and generations to come, ‘Who am I when when I am hungry and homeless?’

Most of the three billion people on earth who live in horrific conditions, without even basic essentials for survival, have already faced these questions. Their answers roar through corridors of Media: mainstream media calls them terrorists, the rest of us call them revolutionaries fighting the injustices they have had to endure to provide the middle class consumer with more ‘stuff’ and corporations with more profit.

Marxists rejoice…the middle class is about to go bye bye. The question now is not ‘if’ a revolution; but ‘when’. Revolutionary consciousness (though the government will call this ‘domestic terrorism’ is about to be born. The middle class which has been hypnotised by their own ability to consumer ‘more and more’, is about to experience ‘real fear and real need’, that of survival. This will be like an awakening after a delicious slumber in the dentist’s chair under nitrous oxide – when that novacaine wears off, pain pills will be necessary.

The two articles below are so well written that I could not do better than to reprint them here for the pleasure and benefit of the reader. Their subjects are revolution and poverty of the American middle class. One can only believe so much crap from the media before one comes to the conclusion that one’s belly is empty.

What will happen when 25 million people reach this state in the USA? No answers will be found here; only more questions. But they are questions with which we can at least hope for a better world for all. Now is the time for the Marxists to put away their explanations of past failures and their ideological bickering, and to focus on a vision which is worthy of all: Carpe Diem!

We shall not steer through the coming changes by focusing out the back window: we must also look at the road ahead. Embrace the disgruntled and guilty: they are now listening. Whether or not a phoenix arises from the ashes is up to all of us now. Read and weep; or read and plan for a better future.

Time is the Fire in Which We Burn
( Or… From the Stygian River into the Fires of hell)

December 22, 2008

Recently Karl Deninnger has been screaming for direct action in the streets of Washington D.C. He is understandably livid about the fraud and lying and theft that exist at the very heart and soul of our current financial crisis. He is apoplectic about the fact that scoundrels like Paulson and Bernanke and Kashkari are spending the taxpayers’ money and giving it away to who-knows-who, and that the banks and financial institutions who are receiving these ill-gotten gains are keeping everything a secret and hiding trillions of dollars in toxic assets from us, and that the FED is simply laughing at us as we hem and haw about how angry we are. And I could not agree with Denninger more. I too am beside myself.

There are times when I become so enraged at how rotten these folks are that I have to take a break from my readings and studies and take a deep breath, throw back a big cup of Joe, and gobble down a few pieces of chocolate.

But as angry as I am, I need to point out that Karl Denninger’s calls for thousands of angry people to hit the streets in protest is not, at this juncture, a reasonable expectation. And I’m not talking about apathy here. There is no reason for people—other than a cadre of intellectuals and a few 401K losers—to take to the streets because there is little to no real suffering yet.

Now would I be surprised if I read tomorrow that 2000 people had protested in front of the Capitol building in an effort to stop Barney Frank and his legion of idiots from giving Heinrich Paulson the “other” 350 Billion dollars of the TARP? No, I wouldn’t. Would I be surprised if 50 of them were arrested for blocking the doors, or sitting in the streets and chanting silly slogans like “hell no, we won’t go” until the cops came and carted them off to jail for a couple of hours. Nope, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

I’ve been there. I’ve been to jail for anti-Apartheid protests and anti-war protests. A few hours in jail, maybe overnight, that’s all. And these actions may have felt like a big deal at the time, but it is important to note that I wasn’t suffering. I wasn’t a Black man living in South Africa. I wasn’t a soldier fighting in the war. I was an angry kid fighting for ideas in which I believed, but I wasn’t hungry or homeless or cold or unemployed or unable to feed my children.

Here’s my point: It is real suffering that precipitates civil unrest of a violent, widespread and chaotic nature. When the unemployment rate hits 20% in cities like New York and Houston and LA by the winter of 2010, and when the United States of America experiences its first cholera outbreak in over a century because the water supply in a major urban area becomes contaminated with raw sewage, and when there simply isn’t enough food to go around, and when homeless children begin dying in their parents’ arms—then and only then will Denninger see the streets of Washington D.C. running red with blood.

Take a close look at American history, at the past 150 years, give or take a decade or two, when have we witnessed the most virulent and radical moments of civil unrest. The Vietnam War? Not really. I mean the National Student Strike was pretty dramatic, as was Kent State, but the anti-war movement was not a movement of hungry, poor, homeless, cold, unemployed people. It was predominantly a movement of smart, angry students who were dovetailing on the civil rights movement and the free speech movement and who had become relatively radicalized though emulating the actions of such groups as The Black Panther Party.

And what about the aforementioned Civil Rights Movement? Certainly the racist reaction against the civil rights protesters was violent, and yes there was rioting and civil unrest, but again this was a movement based to a great extent upon an idea—in this case the idea of freedom and equality—and not as much upon mass suffering. Yes, I am willing to admit that toiling under a racist regime is a form of suffering, and it is powerful, but it is still different from the physical, visceral suffering caused by hunger.

And so I would posit that movements based upon ideas, while at times quite volatile, are simply not the same as actions taken by people who have nothing left to lose. The actions of those who are losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing their farms, losing their food—these are the actions of men and women whose reaction is based upon a direct threat to their actual survival! And the objects of their wrath are the people who both symbolize and represent their suffering.

A couple of examples: The anti-Renter movement of the 1830s and 1840s in upstate New York was a response to both the mass unemployment that followed the economic Panic of 1837 and the manorial system that existed in this part of US during this era. A few families owned virtually all of the land upon which the tenant farmers lived and worked. When money was tight the landlords could raise rents with impunity: that is until the renters began organizing and eventually battling against the landlord’s agents in a guerilla style “war” that lasted near a decade.

The Baltimore Riots of 1835—which ignited in response to a bank collapse and a loss by depositors of all of their savings—saw the attacks upon and burnings of the homes of bank officials as well as of the mayor of the city. Battles in the streets with the police lasted for days. Now some might argue that this situation is absolutely synonymous with today’s financial collapse: but remember, in 1835 money had yet to become a digitized commodity.

Additionally, this was a pre-insurance, pre-market diversified monetary environment. When the bank collapsed, that was that. And the folks who lost their money knew from bitter experience that soon enough they would be hungry and homeless. Not so today. While homelessness and poverty are sure to explode during the next few years, at this point there is still food to be had, social services to be tapped, shelters to be filled. You and I are not hungry….yet. And there were more: The Flour Riots of 1837, The Unemployment Riots of 1857, The Labor Riots of 1863, The Railroad Strikes and Riots of 1877, etc. I hope my point is clear: Civil unrest in the United States will occur again when people who are not accustomed to being homeless, hungry, unemployed and cold find themselves so.

And this time it’s going to be far worse than it was 175 years ago, because we’re talking a helluva lot more people than we were in the mid-19th century, and we’re talking a society that has come to rely upon grocery stores and fast food restaurants and electric blankets rather than upon farming and milling and hunting and curing and chopping and building.

And lest we forget: this is the Internet age, the YouTube society. One outburst of anger, one battle in the streets, one case of police brutality, and the whole thing blows. And when the shit hits the fan this time, it’s going to bring our federal government to the brink of collapse and failure. Because the government simply is not going to have neither the money nor the resources to house and feed 25 million hungry, homeless, unemployed people. And so of course George Bush sent the “Big 3” 20 Billion Dollars! It’s not that he gives a shit about the workers.

It’s also arguable that he is not spending the money to preserve at least a small portion of his legacy from riding the Stygian ferry into the fires of hell. No, he’s spending the money because he doesn’t want to have to respond to mass civil unrest as his presidency comes to an unceremonious close. He doesn’t want to be the last President of the United States Republic!! And that’s why Paulson and his band of merry scumbags are throwing money at anything they can throw money at. It’s not simply because Paulson wants to send his cronies off in style: that argument, while partially true, is over-determined.

The reason for the trillions and trillions being tossed hither and thither like beads at a Mardi Gras parade is because these guys really are scared that the rioters and looters could actually come to a city—and neighborhood—near theirs. And the thing is folks, it IS going to happen. It’s not an “if”, it’s a “when”.

There is of course no way to avoid the poverty and hunger and homelessness and mass unemployment that are going to hit the United States like a tsunami. The derivatives Ponzi scammers and the Madoff’s and the fraudulent lenders and the fraudulent mortgage companies and the fraudulent ratings agencies and the fraudulent accountants—all of these folks and more have created a situation in which the quadrillion dollar debt dam must eventually burst.

And Paulson and his cronies are desperately trying to kick the can down the road, and Obama and his cronies will kick the can further with their trillion dollar stimulus packages and tra la la la, but at some point the can is going fall into the sea. No more kicking. The gig will be up. And that’s when Karl Denninger can sit back and watch Washington and New York burn to the ground. Posted by Dan W at 11:09 PM
Comments for this article are very enlightening…please go to the



Carolyn Baker
DECEMBER 21, 2008

On December 17, a Reuters story Downturn Spurs Survival Panic reported that, “A paralegal, recently laid off, wanted to get back at the ‘establishment’ that he felt was to blame for his lost job. So when he craved an expensive new tie, he went out and stole one.
The story, relayed by psychiatrist Timothy Fong at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, is an example of the rash behaviors exhibited by more Americans as a recession undermines a lifestyle built on spending.” In the coming months, the story continues, “mental health experts expect a rise in theft, depression, drug use, anxiety and even violence as consumers confront a harsh new reality and must live within diminished means.”

In yet another story, The Great Accumulation Hits The Wall, the Wall Street Journal reported that: On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the first official day of the holiday shopping season, 31-year-old confessed shopaholic Nikki Ebben was holed up in her bedroom in Appleton, Wis., while her husband went to Wal-Mart to snag a $500 flat-screen TV. Ms. Ebben, who has maxed out 15 credit cards and racked up more than $80,000 in debt, says she vowed to stay away from stores. Still, she couldn’t resist the temptation of e-commerce, particularly the appeal of 30% off and free shipping. While her husband was gone, she spent $400 at Toysrus.com and Target.com, using money from the couple’s joint bank account.

I went crazy, admits Ms. Ebben, whose mother stopped speaking to her for a time because she owed her parents so much money. Both the Reuters and Wall Street Journal stories conclude that buying and consuming have become part of the national culture and offer people an identity-the identity of a consumer, which many will now be forced to abandon. Additionally, shopping has become a way for countless individuals to cope with their emotions.

Not only do the things we buy allow us to feel good momentarily, but the disease of consumerism has become so pathological that in many instances, people have come to believe that they are what they buy, and the more expensive and coveted brand or product makes a statement about who one is.

This is enormously significant because there’s obviously more than “survival panic” going on here. I believe that it’s not a stretch to conclude that for some, the inability to consume may be creating a fundamental existential crisis in terms of losing one’s identity. This would certainly explain the bizarre violence that occurred at the Long Island Walmart on Black Friday a few weeks ago where an employee was trampled to death.

If consumption “rewards” human beings with a positive identity as well as the sense of financial security, then it is nothing less than an extremely powerful addiction. Withdraw the addictive substance or activity-or put it on sale at 70% off, and many people will behave like the street junkie who will do whatever it takes to score his next fix. I hasten to add that short of living on air, none of us can totally cease consuming. The issue, of course, is not consumption itself, but consumption that isn’t about buying or bartering for what we truly need-consumption based on fear, insecurity, alienation, all of which are rooted in the human ego, as opposed to the human soul.

While we may want to shake our heads when hearing reports like the ones above, I consider them very positive aspects of economic collapse. Yes, these desperate individuals are suffering a plethora of emotions as they are forced into withdrawal from their drug of choice, shopping, but in my opinion, this is the upside of the unraveling.

There are no guarantees that any of them will experience a personal psychological or spiritual epiphany regarding the meaning of life, but as with any addiction, when the drug of choice is no longer available, an opening exists for the addict to make a different choice which may not have been possible without forced withdrawal. Welcome to cultural rehab in the throes of the collapse of Western civilization! In addition to their profound connection with the earth community, which dramatically informs their desires, indigenous cultures have in place a tradition, namely initiation, for planting and harvesting in their young, a foundational sense of identity.

This tradition is not simply a “rite of passage” but rather a series of ordeals, almost always occurring in a natural setting, through which the youth must pass that allow him/her to discover and utilize a deeper self. In fact, the ordeals are often constructed in such a manner that unless the youth can access that self, he/she may not physically survive. Any woman or man who has passed through such an experience will almost always attribute his/her survival to the support of the tribe, one’s own connection with nature, and the opportunity to discover a previously unknown reservoir of courage, enabled by trust in oneself and other members of the community.

In a culture where tribal community, intimate connection with nature, and concomitant initiatory rites are absent, then the human psyche, which appears to inherently requires these for optimum functioning, will consciously or unconsciously devise its own rituals for constructing an identity. If this is so, then we may conclude two things: that initiation makes mindless consumption unnecessary, and that mindless consumption in search of identity is a substitute for initiation. In indigenous/traditional cultures, even when entire nations or villages are steeped in poverty, there is almost always a curious sense of “enough.”

In fact, one usually finds there, more generosity, magnanimity, and compassion than anywhere in industrial civilization. One reason for this may be that beyond a sense of “I have enough because the tribe shares with me and I with them” is a more fundamental sense of “I am enough because I know who I am.” In the Native American tradition, the four directions are guideposts for living and relating as we journey through the seasons of the year. I am fascinated by the dramatic discrepancy between what Winter symbolizes in the that tradition and what the culture of empire demonstrates at this time of year.

On the Native American medicine wheel, we find four directions, each representing a season of the year as well as a totem animal. Winter is the season of the North which contains the energy of the buffalo who has the courage and stamina to face the cold winds of the North. It also holds the energy of the tribal elder who has journeyed many times around the wheel and now looks back on her journey with seasoned wisdom and gratitude. The word “elder”, of course, has little to do with age and everything to do with allowing oneself to be wizened as one traverses the wheel of experience and learning.

The North is also symbolic of warrior medicine-the definition of warrior being profoundly larger than someone engaged in combat. Much more than a mere fighter, the warrior is one who takes a stand for all that is harmonious with nature and all that supports the well being of the earth and tribal community.

Derrick Jensen frequently tells the story of the Cheyenne dog warriors who in battle would tie a rope around their waists to which was attached a picket pin. Driving the picket pin into the earth, they would remain in place until the battle was over, or another warrior relieved them, or until they died. In this way, the warrior committed to taking a stand and omitting any possibility of capitulation. The moral of the story, Derrick emphasizes, is the opportunity it presents for us to contemplate where in the culture of empire we will drive in our picket pin and not be moved.

Specifically, I would ask all of us, what are we willing to not consume? Where are we willing to take our stand, at the risk of losing life itself, on behalf of the earth community? An antidote to the frantic, voracious consumerism of modernity’s holiday season might be quiet contemplation of the place of the North and its “medicine” as described above.

I write this on the eve of Winter Solstice in this dark time of year-a time in which, complementing the sun’s journey, we are invited to focus within and commune with buffalo and the elders, a practice even more essential if we ourselves have entered elderhood. Although spring will come, and beyond it, summer, we are certain to face energetically the cold winds of economic collapse from now on, indefinitely.

Now, more than ever, we need buffalo medicine, strength, courage, wisdom, gratitude, and the perspective of the elder who holds a deep conviction that regardless of what we will be forced to endure, the medicine of the North, and the medicine of the other sacred directions, is at our disposal.

We are not consumers; we are the medicine of the North, South, East and West. Certainly, this is one of countless lessons that collapse has come to teach us. What would happen if we fully inhabited and savored the North and discovered that we are absolutely, unequivocally, enough? What would happen if each of us drives in our picket pin and refuses to be moved?


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