Henry Kissinger stares balefully into the bathroom mirror, balling his necrotic hand into a fist, pumping lightly as the weight of a million murdered souls, if only for a moment, take wing from the bags under his eyes.
A former rook on his Central American chess board, Efrain Rios Montt, has just had his conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity annulled by Guatemala’s highest court. As comfortable in his impunity as his custom made shoes, Henry turns and walks slowly back to his desk.
Meanwhile, deep in the dick of Florida, traffic is lifting in the daily commute as the 1% blithely migrate to 2nd and 3rd homes in Hilton Head, the Adirondacks or West Egg before the weather turns the Gold Coast into a volcanic wok. The reversion to an indigenous red neck culture of late model F-150’s with “Stop Socialism” bumper stickers is almost complete. Stores, empty of all but the locals who know the promotional cycles better than the associates who toil as wage slaves for healthcare at the cosmetics counter.
The ruling class at Saks Fifth Avenue who make more in a day than their lowest paid associates do in a year have thrown in the towel and hired Goldman Sachs to seek “strategic alternatives”. It seems the stream of store closures that send off all those hard working managers and associates, like Boxer in Orwell’s Animal Farm, to the knacker – together with upgraded point of sale software and the much touted omni-channeling initiatives have not had the desired effect.
Yes, “Omni Channeling”: The mantra spilling from the lips of every CEO in fashion down to the lowest departmental manager. It’s a phrase that, of course, is meaningless. But in the fearsome context of completely shattered corporate marketing models, lies pregnant with all manner of technological nostrums and social media that will – they insist – win the day. The late great linguist Richard Mitchell would have had great fun with this one.
The executives and three large block investors, including Carlos Slim, understand what’s coming. The Fed is not going to keep buying $85 billion dollars of debt every month to keep interest rates low and stock market returns buoyant indefinitely. The investors and executives are restive and want to cash out at the top. But finding a private equity firm or a sovereign wealth fund to take this marquis name off their hands before the stock collapses again is problematic.
The talk is of a large private equity firm, KKR, either making a large investment or taking the whole company private, only to weld it with Neiman Marcus – itself the subject of a buyout some years back and waiting in Dallas like Laura in leg braces for an eligible suitor. In a contorted scheme the already rich have contrived to become richer still, the fund managers, the Board and the corporate ruling class are more than willing to take an American icon and turn it into the retail version of a Duck Billed Platypus. Sophie Gimbel is rolling in her grave. She is reaching up through the dirt with both chancrous claws to strangle the CEO of Sachs with his own fucking intestines.
Maybe the only thing that happens is interest rates hold at zero, the buyout premium holding as well, allowing the executives to harvest a far more lucrative than usual Christmas present when their options vest at year end. How very nice for them.
Welcome to end stage capitalism where greed gets really, really naked. Investment banking deals don’t even have to make sense anymore. It’s down to the blunt force trauma of straight up asset stripping with all the attendant grace of a road building company in Belize destroying the country’s largest Mayan temple at Nohmul – a Pre-Columbian archeological treasure built around 250 BC – to use for cheap and easy gravel in a roadbed. Or the multi-national race to exploit oil reserves exposed by the massive melt of arctic sea ice – a psychotic act of terrestrial necrophilia more insane than the destruction of the Bamiyan Valley Buddhas. But then this is laissez-faire corporate capitalism we’re talking about. Bat shit craziness.
Author, activist Chris Hedges has it exactly right when he says that built into capitalism is the quality of self-annihilation. There are no self-imposed limits. Thus, we’re all stuck on the Pequod with Ahab in charge. No democratic party, no labor unions, no civil rights, no liberal church, no press, no culture, no privacy, no affordable education or healthcare, no job market, no habeas, no functioning democracy whatsoever.
People forget – if they ever knew at all – that less than a year ago on October 16, 2012, Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein and her Vice Presidential running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested and handcuffed to chairs for eight hours for having the temerity to attempt participation in the Presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island.
We don’t live in a democracy. We never did. This country was built by the ruling class to serve its own narrow self- interest by any means necessary. It is a class of people who have always used violence and capitalism to extract whatever they want. And all they want, and all they ever wanted, is more.
But now it’s serious. Planet Earth is literally in its death throes, its condition a function of human greed and ignorance. The evidence is everywhere obvious and mounting. We’re six years into the mother of all global economic depressions with no end in sight. No more boom to pair up with the last heroic bust. Nothing left to plunder but the public sector – the $600 billion the Federal Government spends on education every year, Medicare, Social Security. Wall Street wants it; they’re coming after it and my bet is they’ll get it without much of a fight.
Because America is watching TV. Because long ago Americans gave up reading for watching, information for entertainment, education for vocation and insight for voyeurism. Because we’ve already given up our civil liberties to a pack of carnival barkers selling fear and offering protection. Because Americans are an extraordinarily fearful, insular and violent culture of xenophobes. Because if we’re telling the truth about ourselves, we’d rather visit Epcot than Europe. It’s our national DNA to so fear “the other” we praise Jesus and arm ourselves to the teeth to defend ourselves against whoever an endless succession of anchors on FOX News say we should.
And in the final analysis, as Hedges has said many times, it’s because Americans have been systematically deprived of the means to think critically and lack the vocabulary with which we might even be able to describe our circumstances. Thus, it’s no accident we don’t recognize global capitalism and terrorism as the handmaidens they are. We just don’t see the shuttering of public schools, foreclosures, long term unemployment, for profit healthcare, education and prisons, mountaintop removal and extractive finance like asset stripping, outsourcing, off shoring and tax codes that favor the wealthy as the acts of terror they most certainly are. We don’t see the connection between the collapse of the middle class in this country and the collapse of an eight story building on the heads of 1,127 impoverished garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We don’t see that there’s no difference at all. We just don’t. Not yet.
And “yet” is the thing, because it’s only a matter of time. Something is coming and the right clearly gets this even if the left and the middle in its simmering torpor don’t. This is what the NDAA is all about. The Espionage Act, The FISA Amendment and the Patriot Act too. No reinstatement of Habeas Corpus. These acts aren’t designed to fight terrorism. They’re for domestic control. The monster is us.
And on an unarticulated level deep in the brain stem making its way up to the limbic system, the vast majority of Americans understand this.
And this is the answer to the oft posited question of the well situated left from Cornel West on down. Where is the outrage? Where are the tens of thousands in the street beating on pots and pans for change? How bad does it have to get?
At the moment, the people are scared to death, to coin a cliché. And they should be. They’re punching clocks at 5:30 a.m. in the first of a patchwork of 2 and 3 shitty part time jobs that pay nothing and offer no affordable healthcare. It’s the indignation of the bottom and the middle that’s fallen to join it that is exhausted from the daily preoccupation of keeping a roof over itself with nothing left over for protest. And the right knows this better than the left.
And the subjects of State terror are rightfully frightened of what the State will do to them in response if they get out of line. When you don’t have enough money to buy food, gas and pay your half of a mortgage in a two income family circling the drain of impending divorce and bank repossession or eviction, getting zip tied, hauled off to jail with no money for bail, an uncertain day in court with inadequate representation and having to check the yes box on future job applications instead of no is enough to keep most people’s mouths shut, their eyes down and their feet shuffling forward.
It has to get as bad for poor white folk as it gets for Immokalee farm workers before the immiseration of the status quo supersedes the consequences of righteous indignation and organized protest.
The poor never start revolutions anyway. That’s not the history of the thing. The poor are revolution’s cannon fodder. So the question flying through the wood chipper of progressive echo chambers is, after all, the wrong one.
The question is: Where is the intelligentsia? The fearless tenured professors in academia? The gazillionaire stars of cinema, hip-hop, rock n’ roll and sports who could well afford to lay down their celebrity credit cards and get arrested a dozen times over if that’s what was required? Where are all the other Martin Sheens, Daryl Hannahs, Cornel Wests and Mark Ruffalos at this critical time in history. Where are the charismatic organizing principals of every decent revolution since the dawn of exploitation? Where they at?
Livin’ large is where they’re at. Not upsetting their apple cart is where they’re at. So let’s be honest and recognize the cowardice and moral bankruptcy of the left that matches the craven impulse to plunder of the right. And everyone else has just simply run out of words after years and years of rational critique only to find themselves speechless in the toxic backwash of Obama’s relentless militancy.
Even Arundhati Roy, one of the most powerful voices in the global social justice movement of the past 20 years or so, and the writer of one of the most heart wrenching call to arms entitled “Come September” is three doors down from spluttering apoplexy. All she can say over and over is that the ruling class is psychotic and that there is no reasonable conversation to be had with them. The most rational, compassionate voice in social activism is saying she’s tired of being reasonable.
The last paragraph of “Come September” spoken at the Lensic Center in Santa Fe from a fearless heart that believed words could make a difference back in 2003, read as follows:
Perhaps there is a small god up in heaven readying herself for us.
Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way.
Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her. But on a quiet day,
If I listen very carefully,
I can hear her breathing.