A Captive Nation

There are more young people of working age out of work than at any time in recorded British history according to the latest government figures.

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I started the current version of my online presence as it were in March of 2003 and have managed somehow to continue writing ever since, though I’ve had my share of blank spots along the way.

Writing on a regular basis used to be fairly easy for me but as the years have worn on and no doubt me wearing out, it gets more and more difficult for me to face up to a world that has gone from bad to worse to downright dire in the course of my lifetime.

Thus these days, I’m more often reading and thinking about events than writing about them, in an attempt to get a handle on why we inhabitants of Empire are standing by as we watch our leaders head straight for disaster yet again as they try vainly to keep the ‘good ship capitalism’ afloat. The myopia of the media is palpable in the face of the disaster that unfolds around us.

Sir Halford J Mackinder (1861–1947)…was a member of the ‘Coefficients Dining Club’ established by members of the [‘socialist’] Fabian Society in 1902. The continuity of the policies of the elite is indicated by the fact Brzezinski starts from Mackinder’s thesis first propounded in 1904: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: who commands the World-Island commands the world.”1

Eric Walberg’s otherwise excellent book Post modern imperialism geopolitics and the great games also utilizes Mackinder’s metaphor of the The Great Game to great effect, to map out what he describes as three distinct ‘games played’, the days of Mackinder’s British Empire being ‘Game 1′.

But I fear that the use of this metaphor, handy though it is in shorthanding the machinations of imperialism brings with it the danger of a kind of fatalism, reducing us to mere pawns on Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard. A view I might add, that reinforces our fatalism as it transforms sociopaths like Brzezinski into a character out of an Ayn Rand novel, possessed of super powers and the natural inheritor of Mackinder’s haughty and arrogant view of the world.

In turn, I think it reinforces the totally false belief that there is no alternative to capitalism no matter that it’s proved itself to be a complete disaster for the planet. A kind of collective acceptance of the status quo that is reinforced by the MSM that will not entertain any kind of rational debate about the alternatives.

Not surprisingly, this Superman belief concerning the ‘inevitability’ of capitalism is the bedrock of the neoliberal view of how things work, harking back as it does to the days of Mackinder when a handful of men effectively ruled an Empire without challenge, divvying up an occupied world according to an imperial pecking order of power.

Meanwhile we get fed a diet of little more than mysticism and wishful thinking from the media pundits and when that doesn’t work the subject is simply ignored. How the MSM manages the task of totally obscuring the reality of the way capitalism actually functions can only be accomplished by constructing an entirely false reality, one that omits certain fundamental facts about the nature of capitalism, especially its history.

Thus WWI was the result of a spat between aristocrats somewhere in the Balkans and WWII was started by a deranged megalomaniac and the destruction of Iraq the result of ‘faulty intelligence’. And each time we let them get away with it, they become more emboldened, more brazen in their predations knowing full well that it will get no real opposition from its captive public.

Meanwhile…

Our busted economy is simply the result of ‘us’ spending too much, thus justifying the need to have ‘our belts tightened’. Note that for the rich 1% ‘belt tightening’ is obviously not a problem nor have any of the previous crises of capitalism and the resultant ‘belt tightening’ experienced by the rest of us affected the 1%.

‘Boom and bust’ no matter what the pundits say, is built into the very nature of capitalism. At best ‘tinkering’ with it brings a temporary reprieve from the inevitable and even the ‘tinkering’ is the result of working class intervention into the affairs of capitalism eg, the ‘welfare state’. Ultimately, the outcome every time is war and the bigger the better to chow all that surplus capital in an orgy of destruction such as we are currently witnessing. Each ‘small’ war leading inevitably to bigger and bigger wars.

Meanwhile…

SCROOGE AND CHORUS:
Christmas comes but once a year,
So you better cash in, While the spirit lingers,
It’s slipping through your fingers, Boy!
Don’t you realize Christmas can be such a Monetary joy!

/../

CHORUS:
On the first day of Christmas,
The advertising’s there, with Newspaper ads,
Billboards too,
Business Christmas cards,
And commercials on a pear tree. . .
Jingles here, jingles there, Jingles all the way.
Dashing through the snow, In a fifty-foot coup-e
O’er the fields we go, Selling all the way. . .
Deck the halls with advertising, What’s the use of compromising, Fa la la la la la la la la. — Green Christmas by Stan Freeberg

Freeberg’s cutting song on the commercialization of Christmas hit the stores in 1958. So how does our corporate media handle the paradox of Christian ‘giving’ with the making of money? Even more important, how does the MSM handle boosting Christmas sales with the fact that it’s also boosting the myth that we ‘all’ have to tighten our belts in these ‘times of austerity’? It really is a case of squaring the circle but how does the MSM achieve this miraculous result?

Every Christmas/New Year the MSM carries a slew of stories about the economy, prefacing every comment on the hoped for orgy of consumption, that retailers make 80% of their profits over the holiday period. Is this meant to make us feel bad if we don’t consume the required amount of tat?

So all the while as thousands lose their jobs, homes and social rights, the MSM is punting the idea that basically everything is okay, a temporary blip in the upward curve of capitalist ‘growth’. Spend and everything will come right? Right?

The UK economy will remain weak for the foreseeable future, but recession is not inevitable, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.”2

Thus we are exhorted to spend, spend, spend- without producing anything of substance. Even the much-touted digital revolution which would have turned the populace into ‘new media’ entrepreneurs if you listened to how the pundits describe it, relies on surplus cash to exist. Three hundred quid on a piece of electronic junk that will be ‘obsolete’ this time next year when you can’t pay the mortgage?

What it does reveal is the MSM has to avoid revealing the paradox of austerity and conspicuous consumption coexisting and the reason’s pretty obvious: the UK doesn’t produce much of anything anymore, relying instead on consumption (and its supporting infrastructure) and of course the financial sector, the mainstay of what passes for a British economy.

The end-product is a parasitical economy, the result of maintaining the rate of profit by exporting production to low-wage countries and relying on debt-fueled consumption to turn over the local economy but an economy that has become less and less relevant to international finance capital. So kiss the ‘good times’ goodbye. Any ‘recovery’, should it happen will be at a lower level of employment, with fewer real jobs, more temporary, deskilled labour, to serve a shrunken ‘middle class’ and the elite.

Social support will be cut to the absolute minimum the state can get away with. Resistance will be met with the full force of the corporate/security state with the Summer ’11 riots serving as an example of what happens when you deliberately allow ‘them’ to get on with the lootin’ anna burnin’. And so far, organized labour’s response has been half-hearted and sporadic without any clear direction of what to offer as an alternative tied as it is to the Labour Party’s coattails.

What’s left of the local economy will be hi-tech, information-based research and production as part of a global corporate, military-financial-media complex over which we have absolutely no control.

The situation is unique in the history of capitalism. The formerly Great Britain, ‘workshop to the world’, the greatest Empire the world had ever seen, the home of the Industrial Revolution, deliberately de-industrializes its economy and relies instead on its control of the global circuit of capital to produce ‘growth’ in the form of ficticious money that in turn it lent to its captive consumers at enormous rates of compound interest.

The ‘wealth’ created from the interest charged on the loans was then used to create an even greater pile of ficticious wealth by manipulating the markets on a global scale through the creation of equally ficticious financial ‘instruments’. Great fun while it lasted. Piles of dosh, in fact far too much capital and all of it ficticious, sloshing about in a system that has literally eaten itself alive.

The genesis of the current crisis can in part be traced back to Thatcher’s original decision to turn the UK into a ‘property-owning democracy’ by selling off publicly-owned housing. A decision that transformed the populace into a nation of debtors’ and most importantly, it locked them in debt for life (and beyond); a house being the single biggest investment people ever make. At the same time, entire industries were closed down and their coherent, class-conscious communities destroyed. An entire epoch wiped out in a stroke. Enter the Age of Credit.

Trapped on a treadmill of debt is it any wonder that no one wants to ‘rock the boat’? This might sound somewhat melodramatic but it would appear that only a wholesale collapse of the economy will produce the right conditions for the potential for revolutionary change to begin. But is this what we want to happen?

Meanwhile, given the the dire state of things, just as it did in the 1930s, the Empire ratchets up the case for war but war of a different kind having learned a brutal lesson from media coverage of the Vietnam War that thousands of Imperial troops dying in front of you, live on your television screens was extremely bad for business.

Just as the Imperial blueprints have made plain, the Empire, using a combination of media manipulation, hi-tech weapons and its stranglehold on international finance, can wage war ‘at a distance’ from its domestic populations. Using a professional army plus of course its mercenary minions to crush all resistance with barely a murmur from the metropolis. Imperial deaths, such as they are, are given full state/media funerals, after all one imperial death must be worth at least 100 (fill in the country) deaths.

Economic/political crisis at home equals wars abroad, it’s that simple. Is the Empire insane enough to start a nuclear war? Well as they’ve done before, they must think they can–in their terms–get away with it again. It would certainly divert our attentions away from our domestic woes- for a time. The ‘collateral damage’ would be too immense to calculate let alone contemplate thus such things are not touched upon when the MSM talks of the West ‘losing patience with Iran’ echoing the Empire’s threats of ‘taking out’ Iran’s nuclear facilities if it doesn’t behave itself and do as its told.

It’s also difficult to contemplate what the international repercussions of a ‘surgical nuclear strike’ on Iran would be. I find it inconceivable that the Russians and possibly the Chinese would not know about it in advance. The Empire, in spite of its power, can’t just go lobbing nuclear weapons about willy-nilly (and by Empire I include Israel, it’s mini-assassin) although the use of ‘Depleted Uranium‘ has barely caused a ripple of discontent in the populace, no doubt it’s not dramatic enough. The name by the way, doesn’t mean it ain’t radioactive, just less radioactive than its lethal parent U-235.

And just as importantly, it’s a test of Russia’s resolve just as in 1990 when the Empire decided that Saddam Hussein’s regime had lived past its sell-by date. What would the Russians do if the US encroached on what been traditionally, Russia’s patch? Well we know the answer to that but what of the present? Once again is it to be left to a reluctant Russia to stare down the Empire whilst we stand by, passive observers of our own, and others, fate?

  1. The Elite, the ‘Great Game’ and World War III, by Prof. Mujahid Kamran []
  2. UK recession ‘not yet inevitable,” BBC News 10/01/2012. []

William Bowles has been a practitioner in the fields of the arts, media and communications (with revolutionary politics somehow tying it all together) for over forty years, on three continents. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.