February 15, 2014
Over the last week or two, we’ve seen a rash of stupid, hubristic statements by some in the one percent about how they’re being unfairly persecuted, etc., etc., etc. Here’s a pretty good summary of these statements, if you haven’t heard them. http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2014/02/14/out-of-touch-ceos/ Nothing new, here. They’re reminiscent of similar statements made by the big bankers like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd “We’re doing
God’s work” Blankfein, shortly after they helped crash the economy back in 2007-08.
As these silly remarks just kept rolling in, my first thought was, they sounded a lot like the apocryphal, “If they have no bread, let them eat cake,” mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette. And of course, we all know what happened to poor Marie; off with their heads.
So, are these guys just a bunch of rich, out of touch, insensitive pricks? Well, yeah. But when they all start coming out of the woodwork at once, it makes me think something else is going on; something more along the lines of, “The lady doth protest too much …”
If you believe their protestations, that they are where they are because they’re smarter and work harder than the rest of us, you might want to take a gander at the video at the top of the page, or read through Matt Taibbi’s article, over at Rolling Stones, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-vampire-squid-strikes-again-the-mega-banks-most-devious-scam-yet-20140212?print=true&utm_content=buffer18932&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer before your read any further here.
My best guess is, they are not just hubristic and obnoxious, they’re afraid – maybe even terrified. Think about it for a minute. What is their wealth really based on? (And I don’t mean a rising stock market and a sound investment strategy.) It’s based on a small amount of business acumen, no doubt, but beyond that, it’s really based on control of cheap, easy-to-access resources, political clout and a whopping dollop of good luck.
With the cheap, easy-to-access resources declining and the cost of damages from weather events such as storms, hurricanes, floods and wild fires from climate changes increasing yearly, good luck isn’t what it used to be and business acumen and political clout can only carry you so far, especially when your customer base is also declining and, increasingly, angry. So, why the sudden verbal smacking around by these guys? I think it’s because they, like we, are losing control. And abuse, physical or verbal, is all about gaining, maintaining, or regaining control, of pushing the fear of losing control onto the abused.
You can hear that fear in what passes for political discussion among the voting and consumer class. You can taste it in our politicians as they tighten the screws with legislation to control voting minorities such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, women and gays. You can see it in the increasing mass surveillance by the Imperial government. Now, we can feel it in the one percent as they begin to lose control.
To some extent, we are all to blame. We bought into the American Dream, based on American Exceptionalism, based constant economic growth, based on American Imperialism. We always had a bottom class – the homeless, the poor elderly, the untreated mentally ill, the poorly schooled – who were never really on the ladder to success, but most everyone else could believe in the dream of moving up on the ladder. Then about forty years ago, as conventional oil production peaked and declined and we began the switch from a production to a consumer society, energy rot began to set in, unnoticed by most of us at the time.
The working poor were the first to fall off the rotting ladder. When Alaskan oil peaked and begin to decline in the eighties, the high school educated, lower middle class began their slide down the ladder. The speculative bubbles that replaced production in the eighties and nineties began to burst and by the turn of this century, the solid middle class had begun their slide. With the rising costs of unconventional energy sources in the first decade of this century, the rungs have begun to break under the upper middle class. The merchant class, so dependent on middle class consumption. and the political class, so dependent on their votes, began their slow, intertwined decline. Now, as that collapse gains speed under the twin burdens of rising energy costs and the costs of climate change, the upper class – those elite of commerce and finance who so depend on global resources and consumption up and down the ladder, the government’s subsidies and tax breaks and the Empire’s military might – feel the rungs beginning to give way beneath their feet.
This sudden burst of verbal abuse toward those 99% beneath them on the ladder, is probably just the opening salvo of a more overt and desperate war to stave off the rot as the covert, resource-dependent war they’ve fought for decades founders. Certainly expect that the entanglement between government and corporate surveillance will only tighten and increase. Certainly expect that corporate control of vital resources will increase, even as the Empire struggles to tighten its control over them. Certainly expect that as all this fails, they will dump the increasing costs of this war on the rest of us as they become even more abusive.
So, do we fight back – we few, we happy few, we little band of brothers? There was more than one post in the various comments sections along the order of, Comes the Revolution!
I say, no. With the next round of economic collapse, (and there will be a next round, soon, I’d guess,) their war will lose a good deal of its steam; more so, the round after that, and the one after that one. The one thing that could cause their war to pick up steam from the next collapse is if they can start a civil war among the rest of us. And they will be the only ones who profit from it, I assure you. They and their political allies have been carefully planting the seeds of division among us for years, now. This latest barrage is no different.
Resource depletion and climate change could wipe us out as easily as it could them. A divisive civil war would only hasten that and leave the country in ruin. From my perspective, we’d be better off using our energy to work with and support one another in building what resilience we can against what is coming. The only thing in this situation we can really control is our fear of losing control and the behaviors we derive from letting go of that fear.