|The Resurrection of the Bank:|
"ATM! ATM!" ..."I'll give you your ATM, my pretty!"
I was lucky enough to overhear a conversation that the infamous Russian scoundrel, Tulip Van d'Mir, was having the other day, and thought I'd try to record some of the juicier tidbits, which proved harder than I'd supposed. But listening in on important conversations is not even a choice anymore. People discuss, in front of total strangers, as though secure in the privacy of their own living rooms, topics, the sensitivity of which, is such that they would go into the other room if they were, in fact, in the privacy of their own living rooms. But in public, where no one especially wants to, but everyone is essentially forced to, listen to your drivel, people discuss the most private of secrets ... never more so than when they're somebody else's (such as their employer's). So when I heard the word "Cyprus", spoken in a Russian accent, naturally my ears perked up.
San Francisco has a popular Farmer's Market held every weekend outside its renovated Ferry Building, one of the most remarkable revitalization stories in US urban history, all precipitated by a rather upsetting Earthquake in 1989, which resulted in the decision to demolish what was a still precariously standing Embarcadero Freeway. It was while I was pretending to shop there while checking out the customers' merchandise that I first heard this remark, "Why, of course, we're in the era of the high commodity fetish". This is the time you wish you could hear the other person. Instead, after a pause, I heard him growl,
"Communism, Capitalism, Corporatism, they're merely different manifestations of the same thing - concentrated power in the hands of a few elites that treat humans as resources. It's like Vandana Shiva said, The World Bank takes power away from communities, gives it to the central government, then gives it to the corporations through privatizations. The only reason Russians are more hip to what's going on is that they've already been shoved under the train, so the Western Hypocrisy of calling 'structural adjustment' when it applies to third world economies, and 'austerity' when it's applied to their own, is just more of the same. But the SAPS just fall for it. (Big guffaw, a pause, and then: )
Hah! They still don't get it: the Faustian bargain that was made was 'Free Trade' in exchange for the power to govern themselves. Citizens around the globe have elected social democracies and workers' parties, but a fat lot of good it's going to do 'em, as the only thing they're good for is to watch helplessly and plead impotence in the face of 'Market Forces' and IMF dictates."
He paused for breath again, but his level of indignation was causing him to puff like a runner, while the volume of his voice was increasing and his arms pumping like a parody of Will Robins' Danger ... Danger ... robot from "Lost in Space". Meanwhile, I'd lost all interest in vegetables, as I noticed him deliberately lower his voice as he mentioned the word 'Cyprus'.
I couldn't hear him for awhile. I was remembering GW's "Trade helps Freedom". Hahahha .... that was the funny thing about GW, he didn't even have to lie: it's true. He never mentioned whose. The Slave Trade helped freedom too, just not that of the slaves. But no free people are long tolerated by free markets. No trickle down Democracy is sculpted by the invisible hand of the market. It's just a fantasy of the well-off who prefer it to social engagement, so they can retire into their advertisements, like hermits going into a cave to contemplate, only to discover, as the passengers on Cruise lines have, that the real world has a way of impinging on them even through multiple layers of denial reinforced by a media house of mirrors.
But I'd gotten too introspective ... Tulip was gesticulating wildly now, and his reddened face suggested he was becoming apoplectic. I had to get closer, but it seemed unseemly to cup my ear in his direction. Luckily, instead he turned in mine ...
"Botched central planning and misuse of State Capital, isn't that what we brought the Berlin Wall down to avoid? Instead power shifts further and further from local control, We don't need more 'enlightened' central bureaucracy. Yet we have Liberals insisting that the key to prosperity is foreign investment. No one seems willing to confront the power elite with the consequences of their broken promises of deregulation, or trickle-down capitalism. While liberals boast of cultural diversity and argue for gay marriage, neo-liberal economics is biased toward greater centralization, consolidation, and homogeneity: it is a War on economic Diversity. Like capitalism itself, Americans have no understanding of how the computerization of the economy and life in general is biased toward the elite. Convinced that their system is superior to any other, they fail to see that the same forces that ripped apart the Soviet Union are now at work to do the same thing first in Europe, and then in America. Things of real value like a pension and a roof over one's head are bartered away, and not even for life's necessities, but for trinkets and toys in the guise of Killer apps and Tivos. Freedom's on the march, all right, right out the door, as the Federal government, run by either party, follows the Nazis and fosters autocracy, brutality and hatred. They've already forgotten that there was any such thing as tolerance, having decided en masse that you must be brutal and ruthless, as evidenced by Obama's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize; and so the spirit of ruthless brutality has entered into the very fiber of the national life, infecting Congress, the Courts, the Police, .... No no no, such infections are never cured, they must be stomped out. But it was the Americans, with our help, though they're loath to admit it, that stomped it out in Europe; but who can stop the Americans?"
"Whoa, Tulip", I thought, "No one wants to". Or are you unaware that all those Euros being pulled from Cypriot banks are finding a safe haven in New Yourk (sic)? American hegemoney (sic), of which most Americans are blithely unaware, is not a winner for Americans, but for other countries' citizens. That 's the true magic of the market place, the Crypto-colonizers become the colonized. The Native Americans are shoved aside in favor of the lower-cost immigrants, and, just like the true Native Americans are shoved onto economic reservations and become completely dependent on Federal largess and drugs. Anti-Socialism in action.
Like Dmitri Orlov, Tulip doesn't see that the US is very different than the USSR, in that its Dream Machine is very powerful, attractive, and seductive. Militarism, aggression, the promise of dominance and the lure of unearned, easy riches will always trump fairness, virtue and sobriety. Of course, it doesn't hurt that if it doesn't, it just stomps you into the dirt.
On that note, sadly, Van d'Mir's wife or girlfriend reclaimed him and they piled into the limo (how cliche). Was his glance in my direction purely accidental? I'd felt a chill down my spine as I watched a third man I'd not noticed before pull the door open for them and say something to him in Russian. I was hoping to return for more next week, because few of my fellow citizens even think about half the topics he was bandying about and I was thirsty to hear more, but that cold look gives me pause. Why didn't I think of that? Still ... I think my curiosity will win out by then. Besides, it's called a public market because it's, well, public. Watch what you say if you don't want anyone to hear it. People would do well to remember that.