|"Jeez, he practically bit off my head."|
(You might wanna look again).
I was reading an article about Europe's backing of the Nazi-like Ukrainian regime over the weekend, and was surprised when I read the phrase, "European middle class, numbering 400 million people, making it the most prosperous consumer market in the world ... ". I think I was kind of caught off-guard by the term middle class, because here in the good ole US of A, it's really hard to think of that demographic as anything but the muddle class, insofar as it has no future, and it knows it, even if only on the outer margins of its consciousness, so it was a little surprising that Europe, or at least the writer who thus described it, still thinks it really has one.
The standard of the middle class society wasn't simply an employment guarantee or a minimum wage, but, as Bismark created, and every nation quickly became compared to it as a standard of prosperity, the welfare state, which, before it became redefined by that toady of the Aristocracy, Ronald Reagan, into meaning lazy indolent cheats sucking the lifeblood out of the hardworking middle class, was intent on making into reality a concept of government in which the state played a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. He based it on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. He did this, not because he was a weak-kneed, pampered liberal, as he was a conservative Prussian, but with the goal of gaining working class support that might otherwise go to his Socialist enemies.
Yes, that's right, everything that is now equated by the rite (sic) wing with Socialism was instituted in order to prevent Socialism. Now, with the brainless worship of Fire-breathing Calvinistic Capitalistic dogma, just as though it were a religion with Money as its supreme being, all those bulwarks of the modern industrial state have vanished along with the, oh that's right, the industrial state itself; and yet we have yet to come to grips with it. There is no middle class, because the industrial infrastructure needed to sustain one has been ripped right out from underneath it.
Then, having come up with the subject for today's post, I just so happened to see, as though the internet read my mind, a topic discussing the fact the the US, by all objective analysis, despite the triumphalism that followed the demise of the USSR, from the state of the Union since then, despite President Obama's sanguine address to the contrary last month, not only lost the Cold War, it has been paying such onerous reparations for its End of History hegemony, that its citizens, far from Bismark's dream, have instituted, with their Empiric ambitions now unthwarted by another pole of power to the East, an Empire that is its polar opposite: it is based on the principle of complete inequality of opportunity with a seated Plutocracy at its head, with society now stratified into rigid economic fiefdoms, completely inequitable distribution of wealth, with the state actively involved in transferring the earnings made possible by labor's output to a tiny elite whom they are now incapable of taxing, even after their demise, as inheritance taxes get rebubbed, "Death Taxes", and a complete denial of any public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions of a good life, or in a growing number of cases, any life at all.
In other words, not because the US became the world's leading national-security state, consisting of an enormous, constantly growing military establishment, a vast military-industrial complex, supporting an onerous empire of foreign and domestic military bases, resulting in the ever-increasing militarization of American society, with its iconization of the Warrior as "Hero", even if that hero, as so remarkably demonstrated by the Texas Governor's canonization of a sniper, Cris Kyle, demonstrating how our military has morphed into a bureaucracy that is defined by its protection of its personnel above all other things: honor, Law, Justice, or fair play. None of this matters any more, only the murder of anyone who gets in your way via stealth bombing in the dead of night, destruction of civilian infrastructure, assassination by drones by "Warriors" snacking on Taco bells and Mountain Dew, (proving a la McGill University's and Stanley Milgram's electric shock experiments, that people protected by a mountain do precisely as they are told, and push buttons knowing that innocent people will be murdered as a result), kidnapping, torture, or any other method that goes against all the strictures listed in the Geneva Conventions to which the USA is a signatory. As suggested by one of the most famous Nazi's, Goebbels (or was it Goring?), at the Nuremberg trials, "The victors always make the rules, to pretend otherwise is just Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy", as we have now completely Nazified the military into a killing machine, its morality judged only by how well it obeys orders, its soldiers indoctrinated into unquestioning obedience.
But that is not something most US denizens are ready to admit. Most prefer to believe that we are simply defending ourselves. The military is a necessity in a dangerous, hostile world, and to argue against that stance is to argue for weakness and defeat. Nonsense, I say, but that's a different argument, the military takeover of the US government is such a fait accompli that it's a waste of breath to argue about, like Capitalism itself, it is just a matter of Faith. This time in Military Might and the Will to crush any opposition, even if that opposition was created by the secret branch of the military, the CIA, and not really that secretly, the best example of such being the mujaheddin, who everyone knew we created, (as ISIS was) to fight for the US against the Soviets, such that Afghanistan has suffered the same fate as the US, and mostly at US hands, leaving it a wreck after the ouster of the USSR, in much worse shape, like the US itself, that again, brags about the fact, than it would have been had it left the status quo in Kabul persist in the eighties:
Brzezinski: "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" Yet it is exactly just a bunch of stirred up Moslems that the All-Powerful USA used as an excuse to amass a military so vast and sweeping it has undermined the very economic engine that supports it, instituted a surveillance regime unparalleled in the history of the world, one that would make Hitler jealous, imprisoned without trial or charges citizens of other countries it deemed dangerous yet never felt the need to justify how it came about feeling that way, and gave itself the authority to torture them, deride their religion, even though it was that very religion that it had used to stir them up in the first place, and despite declaring a "War on Terror" treating the prisoners that it took in that War, as not Prisoners of War, and therefore not protected as POW's should be. All this, the jettisoning of everything that its citizens held most dear, All to defend us against "some stirred up Moslems". For whom we are responsible for the stirring up. Never once was that mentioned during the media frenzy following the Hebdo massacre, or 9/11, or the Iraq War, or the invasion of Afghanistan, etc, etc, never is this admitted, never do we ask ourselves, was this a mistake, instead compounding it by putting our soldiers in danger, and it is THAT reason that the above, regarding the Nazification of the US military, has taken place. Because it is only by minimizing the losses that the question about, "Well, what got us into this in the first place?" simply never gets asked.
Complete failure of health care, even for those working full time jobs, but completely lacking for anyone else. And when I say healthcare, I mean even healthcare insurance. The very instrument that is/was supposed to help make heatlthcare itself available to everyone is now mostly unaffordable (healthcare without insurance is simply not even a consideration: it's so expensive it just doesn't exist). The only people that have access to it are people over 65, to whom any expense, no matter how ridiculous, is countenanced. Some hospitals have entire floors of "patients" who are on life-support, but who have no function left. They never wake up, never even breathe on their own. Think Terri Schiavo, and multiply by tens of thousands. Hospitals, including staff, love these patients, as they never complain, and bring in a steady stream of Medicare dollars. Also insured are prisoners, to whom it is cruel and unusual punishment to deprive them, even though they may have deprived a working citizen of their life. Most people who in fact have healthcare on paper, were they to actually need it, would soon find that the only way they can pay for the "insured" treatment, whose onerous costs are always hidden from the patient until billing time, at which point it is too late, is to take their only option of a crushing loan they will never be able to repay.
Pension. Once, when a company hired you they could offer you a retirement based on what they put away for you during your tenure at the job, that is now gone. Millions to whom it was promised and who worked in good faith to earn it by accepting less pay for their work than they would otherwise have received, when they go to collect it, it's simply unavailable, unless the government has picked it up, in which case, the Pension Guaranty Fund pays at most, 2/3's of what the amount you earned should pay, ie, what you were contractually promised.
Transportation. This sector is the one that's killing everything else, including the planet's other forms of life, because it is for this, the heart of mechanized warfare and muddle-class mobility, that is writing Finis to any hope for a contented life. It leaves no option for contentment, but insists on mindless motion without effort. Everyone knows this, because everyone has seen "other" people act completely insane when someone gets in their way while they are driving. It is the source of many jokes and cartoons, but it isn't actually funny at all. It is unnerving and truly sad to listen to a driver rant at a pedestrian for "taking their own sweet time" as they sit in comfort in a carbon-spewing machine that will, after only a few seconds more of waiting, whisk them off to their destination before the person they've been cursing to hell makes it to the end of the block. But this machine is heavily subsidized by society. Its manufacturers cannot even pay its workers half of what it used to, and its drivers pay no interest on their loans anymore, nor do their insurance rates come close to covering the liability they take on when they get behind the wheel, nor does their cost of fuel cover the costs of bringing it to them: it is heavily subsidized in so many ways yet drivers complain about the smallest rise in gasoline at the pump. Okay, that's a bit harsh, so look at it this way, a country that believed, "What's good for GM is good for the country", at whose heart is the manufacture and sale at a very nice profit and whose main employer was the auto industry, and specifically GM, now has as its main employer Walmart. The employees of Walmart can't even afford to pay for the transit costs to and from work. GM made profits such that it could pay its employees its transit costs, because those commute costs, are a business cost. Walmart can't. Not won't. Can't. Let that sink in. CAN'T. Its business model can't pay for the cost of getting its employees to and from the workplace. Nevermind health insurance, pensions, sick leave, or vacations. It CAN'T afford it. And that is the nation's largest employer. And that other one? GM? After being bailed out by the US taxpayer, they used that money to build factories in China. That's where the growth is because that's where the manufacturing is.
Water, Electricity, Food, Medicines, even in the face of the strongest deflationary forces in our lifetimes are all, far from going down, going up, and at a rate that starts putting them out of the reach of all but the wealthy, as e.g., supermarkets, disappear from cities and are replaced with specialty shops like Traders Joe's or worse, Whole Foods, where you can pay for a cut of meat what it used to cost for a week's groceries.
Yet watching the demonstrations brought on by the killing of 12 people, a number by the way that is just another run-of-the-mill gun-toting madman-of-the-month episode for we murder-machine-loving Americans, it looks like outside of the PIIGS, although I prefer to call them the GIPSI, nations, Europe still actually has a middle class. Those people look well-heeled from here in muddle class 'murica. Maybe it's time to start questioning our role of playing their protector. Let them arm themselves again and blow each other off the face of the earth, as is their wont, demonstrated over and over, instead of shredding the never-perfect, but at least purported, safety net of social programs now being viciously ripped to pieces by Republican demagogues in order to support the nuclear umbrella that serves as Europe's force field, while they enjoy the benefits of middle class existence while we get to live in squalor in rundown cities with dilapidated roads, crumbling bridges and homeless populations getting more desperate and criminalized (there are many cities with laws against lying down, sitting, and some, standing. Standing! oops, sorry, illegal). But that's Okay. We'll send troops and arms to Ukraine, you go ahead and have another cocktail.
So whereas the US was supposed to be this shining example of the wonders of Capitalism, it has proven itself to be instead an example of just what untrammeled Capitalism can do to a nation of people that, despite their problems, looked at themselves as a culture, and a people, to emulate, but that has, since their triumphalist Cold War victory, and their dismantling of any remaining strictures against Capitalism's many known depredations, morphed into a squabbling rabble and increasingly impoverished and illiterate, militarized mob. One that seems much more easily manipulated and less able to think critically or constructively about their place in the world and their need to connect with one another.
Two stories appeared in the papers over the weekend. One showing Pakistani schools arming its teachers against terrorist attacks, the other explaining a Texas law encouraging its teachers to shoot recalcitrant students:
"The proposed law also gives school staff members something no sworn police officer in Texas possesses: Civil Immunity will be granted to those teachers who use deadly force and they will would not be legally responsible to answer for the injury or death of a student in a classroom." The same classroom from which the armed teacher can be barred should he/she use any form of corporal punishment (outside of deadly force, of course), on a student for engaging in disruptive activities.
So the Muslim country with the worst reputation for violence now sounds positively rational (at least their focus was on outside attackers, not their own student body ... which society sounds healthier?) compared to the State from which the President who declared the War on Terror came from. If you think there is not something desperately wrong, this stark reality bite may help you reconsider that.