|Robocorps of Robocops grow crops of corpses.|
While reading Tom Engelhardt's article from Tom Dispatch posted on Naked Capitalism's site, it was, perhaps because I worked in the IT field (before it was referred to as such) for so many years, including during the time when DarpaNet was being developed and the beginning foundation of the NSA's Constant Surveillance state were being laid), surprising to me that, pre-9/11, people with the intelligence of Mr. Engelhardt's caliber were so naive about what the Internet that sprang from the outsize budgets of the Pentagon and the Industrial complex that it showered enormous Capital funding on, was actually designed to do.
Tom represents to me the Liberals' dream of the past, those who advocate outsize paychecks for the swelling numbers of the population, not because that will bring them better health, education, and wellfare (sic), via cleaner water and fresh air and all the other amenities of life once taken for granted and then despoiled and undervalued by an industrial machine gone mad, but instead to feed a voracious and insatiable, and consequently, unquenchable, appetite for a purely materialistic, self-aggrandizing "lifestyle", so as to become more like that pariah of humanity: The Rich and Shameless.
Raising the paychecks of a populace that is mightily striving to put food on the table, feed and educate their young, and provide some kind of decent retirement for their elders is a a completely different situation than stoking a well-fed population's dreams of becoming just like the Rich and useless, by advocating their purchase of larger and larger automobiles and SUV's, and "Dream" homes that looks like a nightmare, financing their current home's redecoration with granite kitchen counters with stone shipped form a continent away and adding extra rooms even as their children move out of the ones they'd grown up in, and doing it all by taking out HELOC's that jeopardized their own retirement, all based on the paradigm of using cheap labor and energy extracted from foreign soil which, in one case, was a Communist Party-ruled Totalitarian Regime that had shot down, in a Public Square in view of the world, those of its citizens who dared to question their unassailable power, is not even close to what I had imagined what was meant by the term "The American Dream".
That's because, I imagine, being from New England, my American Dream ran more along the lines of those depicted in Van Wyck Brooks', "The Flowering of New England", in which he describes, "John Pickering, who had learned Arabic in his youth, and had mastered twenty other tongues, and was at work on a philological project for the spelling of the American Indian tongues that was to lead to a world-wide movement for the study of all the primitive languages", because, like Bancroft, of whom Humboldt wrote to a friend, I too, believed that ,"the true happiness of man consists in the culture of the intelligence." By which I most certainly do not mean cookie-cutter degree mills that leave the intelligence to lie fallow as they indoctrinate their students with cant while burdening them down with an intractable decades'-worth of debt.
But because we reject such 'boring' incentivizations, we end up with a population mesmerized by such mind-numbing blather as "New Jersey Housewives", totally ignoring "The New Jersey Governors":
Christina Todd Whitman, who, as head of the EPA, warned that, "The Kyoto Protocol would put millions out of work and have a negligible effect", and instead supported Bush regime policies that put millions out of work and had a disastrous effect;
Corzine, who used his influence and business ties made while governor to run a hedge fund into the ground, but not before rifling through all his clients' accounts to try and make up for his disastrous bad bets,
And of course, Chris Christie, following the same arrogant path, using infuence pedaling and backroom bluster to punish his opposition and using federal disaster relief funds to reward supporters.
All made possible because all we care about anymore are the physical rewards of materialism which can never be enough. A dynamic that was purposely stoked by the Reagan-era dismantling and jettisoning of Employer-based pension plans, because such plans can only be run by an employer, since, unlike a 401K or IRA, they aren't so much pension plans as they are annuity plans. The companies in question didn't have to save for a possibility of an employee's longevity, they simply had to insure against it, such that the longer a generation of employees lived, the higher the Company's premiums would go.
You, however, since you need the funds to spend, can never save what you may need, especially as you might die before ever needing it or live to be 98, when it would be quite gone. Now, who, may I ask, since no one else seems to have, can one, in a 40 year span, plan for a retirement, the difference of which, can be a 30-year span? Try to imagine the kind of returns you'd need to get in order to assure that you can have investments that pay as much as an entire life of work for another life of non-work. And all this while the investment community doesn't just hire people like Corzine, but actively courts them, as they end up, as a whole, far richer with folks like him, whereas the investors with their life's savings entrusted to these self-described sharks, must constantly navigate theses hazardous shoals, because, among other reasons, the so-called "Independent" Fed ruthlessly pushes you out further and further along the plank of Risk until you're pushed over and sink underwater where no amount of "mopping up" operations can save you from drowning.
And all of this because we believe that Capitalism is some God-given economic system and that Communism, which is by any definition, merely another form of Capitalism, is devil incarnate. Neither is true, and we should by now grow up and realize not only that, but that the entire profession, it is not a science, of economics, is, just as all psychology, on some level is all behavioral psychology (why else would we care about it), all political economics. We are not in a Skinnerian Walden II, where we can make up situations of positive reinforcement and rewards-based behavioral manipulation, but in the actual world of families and selfishness and GSE's and the Fed and other institutions that are subject to capture by small groups of elites who either believe that people don't know what's in their best interest, or if they do, that whatever that may be is most decidedly not in that elite group's best interest.
But since rampant Capitalism is, as self-described, rabid Creative Destruction, what is created leaves no plan B, because it destroys everything that gets in its way in order to forge the new. There is only oneway left to go, and that is forward, to whatever the mass myopia has concocted this time, and the devil take the hindmost. In standing testament to this fact lies Iraq, that civilization that was utterly "bombed into the stone age" as the Bush Regime so proudly announced, and their subsequent embrace, since all else was ground into dust, of an ancient Islam rife with barbaric practices from that same stone age, where murderers are martyrs and women are chattel.
So, since Tom insists that none of us can see the future, its fog being denser even than that of war, Capitalism and its lack of ability to self-correct, now that all competing versions have all been steamrolled over by "The Washington Nonsensus", has entered into its phase of intractable stagnation. This, since it is the current, and not the future state of affairs, is rife for comment, because the intrinsic problems of capitalism - instability, entrenched and rising inequality, a lumpen proletariat - are still there; only now we aren't even trying to solve them, and they are now joined by a new set of problems that flow from capitalism's growing dependence upon non-human capital and the machine-made brainpower industries that need more and more energy to run them even as less and less of it is readily available. Coupled with that is the fact that electron-dependent technology makes skills and knowledge the only source of sustainable strategic advantage, yet they change so rapidly that their accumulation becomes an impediment to their refurbishment. I know all you would never need or want to know about the 256 subchannels on an IBM Channel-attached OEM-FEP, including their timing sequences and handshake protocols, which is a fraction of what some of my more acute and industrious colleagues knew, and yet, it is of absolutely zero value to any prospective employer.
So even as the society that is being built around us requires of us the maximization of individual consumption abetted by an ever-changing electronic landscape requiring ever greater investment in never-ending upgrades and ever-increasing costs for security from pirating, theft and collusion among ISP's, software, firmware and hardware companies, while on-line 'stores' destroy off-line shops, it has shown no ability or willingness to make any long-term investments in the skills, education, knowledge or infrastructure of the landscape around it, and is determined, as Apple so recently demonstrated with their tax payment of 0, da nada, nil, to make sure that governments haven't the revenue base to do so either.
So, whereas Tom may be right, in that we can't tell the future, one thing we can tell, is that, as we can see from the robotification of war via drones, networked warfare, robotized manufacture, and mindless destruction of all the natural systems needed to sustain life, extending even as far as the acidification of such all-encompassing systems as the oceans and the poisoning of the atmosphere, that that future is being planned, (some future is always being planned somewhere by someone), but does not have you or yours, or even mankind, in mind.
This may be the first time in our history that what we are creating in our rampage of destruction has nothing whatsoever to do with the betterment of our chances or a better life for the future, but instead willfully destroys our chances of even survival in favor of the betterment of the machines' chances. We cannot foresee who will win this war, but the (I keep going to say "our" machines ... but they aren't, are they?) machines' capacity for destruction is rapidly eclipsing even ours, such that the one that ushered in the machine age, and is the basis of so much middle-class yearning and earning, the automobile, is actually, from a technical standpoint, a weapon of mass-destruction. So let the betting begin! As the short sellers, with Goldman Sachs leading the way, said anticipating the financial meltdown that "No one could have foreseen":
"There's a way you can make money from this."