March 5, 2011
An article by Michael T. Klare, over at Reality Zone, http://realityzone-realityzone.blogspot.com/2011/03/whatever-outcome-of-protests-uprisings.html about what is going on in North Africa and the Middle East, got me to thinking about several things going on in the Empire right now.
While the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, once again reminds us that, “The age of cheap oil is over …” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/market-turmoil-as-iea-warns-age-of-cheap-oil-is-over-2230581.html and countries in North Africa and the Middle East continue their struggles toward something better than tight-fisted rule by mad dictators and aging monarchs, the American Empire accelerates its insane march through the streets of Bonkersville.
The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department shoveled literally trillions of dollars into the ravenous maws of big banks and large corporations through both the Bush and Obama administrations, while failing to collect taxes worth billions from the biggest American corporations.and Congress added almost seventy billion per year to the deficit by extending Bush taxcuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now that the deficits of both the nation and the individual states are exploding under all this magnanimity for the rich, the newly elected Republicans in Congress pretend they are “cutting the deficit” by slashing the budgets of, defunding, or entirely doing away with any program that might help ordinary Americans – especially the poorest and most vulnerable – while the big corps maneuver for more. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_10/b4218027853982.htm
Across the Midwest, as governors and state legislatures behave more like tin-pot dictators than elected officials http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/03/10260/scott-walker-down-rat-hole-palace-guard, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/03/03/Ind-Dems-may-be-fined-censured/UPI-58381299178887/ in their attempts to gut the public sector unions, billionaires of both political stripes fund efforts to gut public schools and control education http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1746 , women’s rights and are even sending out feelers for gutting child-labor laws at both state and national levels.http://www.senate.mo.gov/11info/BTS_Web/Summary.aspx?SessionType=R&SummaryID=4013861&BillID=4124271, http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/14/lee-child-labor/. All of this is being done under the guise of such rubrics as “giving the people more choice” or “returning to Constitutional values” (not too far from the truth, since the Constitution, itself, was mostly written by and for the rich, white men of the day and pretty much excluded everyone else from actually holding any power – until they were forced to add the Bill of Rights in order to get it ratified. And, they’ve been whittling away at those as fast as they can.)
Why? Are these the Machiavellian plottings of an evil cabal of elites? The Illuminist plans for the much-feared New World Order? Perhaps, but since I’m the storyteller at this blog, to put it in less dramatic terms, I think it’s just the Empire’s long-term strategy for post-Peak Oil. After all, the concept of worldwide peak oil has been around since the late fifties, new oil discoveries worldwide peaked in the sixties and American oil production peaked in the seventies. You can bet those one percenters who have made their livelihoods by building, maintaining and expanding an Empire completely dependant on cheap oil took notice of peak oil long before the idea began filtering down to the rest of us.
Are these evil people? Perhaps. But in this story, most of them – having convinced themselves that the One Percent Empire is the nation – see themselves as the heroes, as patriots who are saving “the nation” from the catastrophic effects of peak oil – perhaps even seeing themselves as the only ones capable of saving the nation.
So, having set up their story with peak oil as the villain, the one-percenters as the heroes and their belief that the Empire and the nation are the same thing as their “fatal flaw,” how might the story progress?
A mighty Empire, built on crony capitalism and a greed-is-good philosophy, backed by military bases and intelligence operations in two thirds of the world’s countries and an abundant supply of cheap oil, now spans the globe. The elite one percent of the empire luxuriates in wealth undreamed of by ancient pharaohs and kings; its middle class lives in comfort much of the world can only envy. Even its poorest citizens live better than the one third of the world living on less than two dollars a day.
Yet, even as the Empire grows, a villain lurks in the distance, a villain capable of bringing the mighty empire to its knees – a villain known as Peak Oil.
At first, the one-percenters dismiss the idea, ridiculing those who dare suggest it, or assuring each other by saying, “With enough investment, supplies will always rise to meet demand,” or “Technology will take care of us.”
Yet, as supply disruptions become more frequent, recessions deepen and profits drop, some of the one-percenters begin to say, “Look, we’ve got to find a way to deal with this before the people start asking questions. This could potentially bring down the Empire, if we don’t.”
“How?” a manufacturing giant asks. “It’s costing us a bundle to keep placate these working class people with their constant clamoring for a better share of the pie.”
“Ship their jobs overseas,” another suggests. “Where low wages make things cheaper to manufacture. We can bring the goods back to sell here and still make a profit.”
“Nah, the unions will never go for that.”
“So, destroy the unions.”
“Yeah, we can convince people the unions are greedy bastards that only benefit a few while they drive down wages for the rest of them.”
“As the unions are defanged, we can substitute service jobs for the manufacturing jobs they lose.”
“They don’t pay as well.”
“I know,” a banker says. “We can offer them credit. Talk up ‘the Consumer Society’.”
“Look, we’ve got to sit down and figure this out. Once we do, we can convince the politicians that it’s best for the nation. Okay, pump out those ideas.”
“We can start think tanks to come up with rationales, write papers, manipulate data …”
“We can buy up the major media outlets. That way, we can control what people hear and think …”
“With the unions defanged, when peak oil finally makes it too expensive to export jobs and import good here, we should be able to ‘bring jobs back to America” at third world wages …”
“How about education? We’ll have to convince people that their kids aren’t getting a good education …”
“Then we can privatize the system and crush the public sector unions … Two birds with one stone.”
“If we get rid of those unconstitutional child labor laws, we’ll have all the workers we need to replace the oil driven work force …”
“With education unaffordable except for the kids we choose, we can put all those other kids to work for pennies a day …”
“Ah, those good old days. People really do want to go back to them, you know …”
“We’ll have to keep people divided, so they’re not sure who’s to blame.”
“It’s for their own good. The security of the nation. The Empire must survive at all cost.”
Over the next twenty years, the plan progresses. There are occasional surprises – an oil producing nation “goes rogue” here, a dictator gets uppity there. The Empire has to slap down a recalcitrant player occasionally. But dangers grow as peak oil creeps ever closer. The “people” become restless; the elite grow greedy; developing countries begin to challenge the Empire in ways unintended.
Technology, once the province of the elites, spreads to the masses through credit, availing them of information and subverting the Empire’s message. Some people actually begin to question whether the Empire and the nation are one, whether, in fact, the one-percent Empire might actually be detrimental to the founding ideals of the nation.
The one-percenters strike back, applying ever more pressure to the fault lines of dissent they’ve sown within the nation. “Much learning,” they think, “hath made them mad.” Dissent grows among the oil nations, too, as the Empire pressures dictators and kings to produce more oil for the benefits we’ve provided them, but the people of those countries receive few of the benefits from the increases and anger against the Empire grows.
A group from one of these countries strikes at the Empire, killing 3,000 in the heart of the Empire’s financial district. The savvy one-percenters turn what could have been a financial and p.r. disaster in to a propaganda coup. “They hate us because of our freedoms,” they tell the nation. “But we will prevail.” The Empire strikes back. In an orgy of greed, the military-war industry kicks into gear and invades Afghanistan, the country that harbored the group of terrorists. The financial industry is delirious with greed; Wall Street kicks into high gear. The Emperor, overcome with the delirium, cries, “Tax cuts for everyone! Especially, the elite.”
Alas, Hubris. The Empire’s military-war industry sucks up more oil than many of the world’s other countries combined. The one-percenters, led by the vice-emperor and the oil industry decide to invade Iraq, hoping for a swift victory, a quick privatization of their oil supply and a place from which to control most of the Middle East.
The two countries fight back; the wars drag on; oil production plateaus; oil prices begin to rise. Peak Oil now licks it’s chops in anticipation. Oil prices shoot up to unanticipated highs; the greed economy stumbles, reels and plunges toward unconsciousness with the punches. The Empire lurches toward the cliff.
Millions of ordinary people lose their jobs and homes across the nation. As the mortgage boom goes bust, credit dries up, millions more lose their homes. The financial sector stares into the abyss.
“Not to worry,” the one-percenters cry. Over the next three years, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department shovel literally trillions of dollars into the ravenous maws of big banks and large corporations through both the Bush and Obama administrations, while failing to collect taxes worth billions from the biggest American corporations.and Congress adds almost seventy billion per year to the deficit by extending Bush taxcuts for the wealthiest Americans. (Sound familiar?)
The Empire goes into full propaganda mode for the 2010 elections. The big push is on to elect Empire-friendly politicians by a small group of citizens angry with the sudden spurt in federal debt and carefully cultivated by the one-percenters to push the Empire’s final objective – control of the empire to “save” the nation.
But in that way of complex systems, things “gang aft agley”. Amidst the hate speech and division consuming the nation, a U.S. congresswoman is shot down and six people killed in Tucson. In the aftermath, some people, across the nation, actually begin to question the propaganda. Wickileaks releases thousands of documents about the two wars – including shocking video of a helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians – and hundreds of diplomatic cables showing both the pettiness of our dealings with other countries and the shallowness of the dictators we deal with toward their own people.
The Empire, as pointed out before, goes into full battle mode to stop the leaks and punish those who had dared to reveal the Empire’s flaws – including the young soldier accused of stealing the documents.
Across the world, a desperate young man sets himself on fire and entire countries in North Africa and the Middle East erupt in flames as the people begin to fight back. The Empire’s oil supply is threatened and, still economically fragile and still enmeshed in two wars, the Empire can do little but watch.
Here in the nation, as the newly elected state legislators begin the one-percenters’ final assault against the public sector unions, ordinary Americans – both union and non-union – march by the thousands in protest. Contrary to the propaganda, polls show that, two to one, Americans support the unions’ right to collective bargaining. The protests spread across several states. The one-percenters’ legislators and governors dig in, threatening those who refuse to go along with the plan.
And the military adds another 22 charges, one of which can carry the death penalty, to those already brought against the young soldier who – in spite of the Army’s guarantee of “a speedy trial” – has languished in solitary confinement for over eight months now. The Army says he will be tried in July “pending an assessment of his mental state.”
Even as this goes on, a group of hackers calling themselves Anonymous, fights back against the one-percenters and their Empire.
Such drama. Will the Empire prevail? Will the people of the nation, newly aroused, thwart their plans? Will the people’s struggles across North Africa and the Middle East push the Empire headlong into the arms of its mortal enemy, Peak Oil?
Tune in again, tomorrow, friends for the next thrilling episode of “The Empire Goes Even Bonkier.”
(In the meantime, get those gardens planted, folks. It may get hungry out there.)