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Thread: Neo-liberalism: Shit, or Freedom™

  1. #1
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    Neo-liberalism: Shit, or Freedom™

    The West has turned into a shit society where money is the only metric, and metrics are the only critical thoughts. It is one that is devouring everything that makes life worth living. Nature. Art. Education. Kindness. Friendship. Social contact. Ethics.

    We are collectively more and more frightened. But the enemy are not the arabs (who are justifiably angry over the rape of their continent) but the monster that is taking root in ourself and in our neighbours.

    So what can we do as individuals, and collectively?

    Here is an article about this. For more you can visit this guy's site. He's been writing extensively about this: www.monbiot.com

    Falling Apart

    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th October 2014
    What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void now filled by marketing and conspiracy theories(1). Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous twenty. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.

    When Thomas Hobbes claimed that in the state of nature, before authority arose to keep us in check, we were engaged in a war “of every man against every man”(2), he could not have been more wrong. We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominims of East Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.

    Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults(3). Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50(4), and is rising with astonishing speed.

    Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day(5); loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity(6). Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut(7,8). We cannot cope alone.

    Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is now no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.

    British children no longer aspire to be train drivers or nurses, more than a fifth now say they “just want to be rich”: wealth and fame are the sole ambitions of 40% of those surveyed(9). A government study in June revealed that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe(10). We are less likely than other Europeans to have close friends or to know our neighbours. Who can be surprised, when everywhere we are urged to fight like stray dogs over a dustbin?

    We have changed our language to reflect this shift. Our most cutting insult is loser. We no longer talk about people. Now we call them individuals. So pervasive has this alienating, atomising term become that even the charities fighting loneliness use it to describe the bipedal entities formerly known as human beings(11). We can scarcely complete a sentence without getting personal. Personally speaking (to distinguish myself from a ventriloquist’s dummy), I prefer personal friends to the impersonal variety and personal belongings to the kind that don’t belong to me. Though that’s just my personal preference, otherwise known as my preference.

    One of the tragic outcomes of loneliness is that people turn to their televisions for consolation: two-fifths of older people now report that the one-eyed god is their principal company(12). This self-medication enhances the disease. Research by economists at the University of Milan suggests that television helps to drive competitive aspiration(13). It strongly reinforces the income-happiness paradox: the fact that, as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them.

    Aspiration, which increases with income, ensures that the point of arrival, of sustained satisfaction, retreats before us. The researchers found that those who watch a lot of television derive less satisfaction from a given level of income than those who watch only a little. Television speeds up the hedonic treadmill, forcing us to strive even harder to sustain the same level of satisfaction. You have only to think of the wall-to-wall auctions on daytime TV, Dragon’s Den, the Apprentice and the myriad forms of career-making competition the medium celebrates, the generalised obsession with fame and wealth, the pervasive sense, in watching it, that life is somewhere other than where you are, to see why this might be.

    So what’s the point? What do we gain from this war of all against all? Competition drives growth, but growth no longer makes us wealthier. Figures published this week show that while the income of company directors has risen by more than a fifth, wages for the workforce as a whole have fallen in real terms over the past year (14). The bosses now earn – sorry, I mean take – 120 times more than the average full-time worker. (In 2000, it was 47 times). And even if competition did make us richer, it would make us no happier, as the satisfaction derived from a rise in income would be undermined by the aspirational impacts of competition.

    The top 1% now own 48% of global wealth(15), but even they aren’t happy. A survey by Boston College of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too are assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness(16). Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They’d doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn’t get there until he had $1 billion in the bank.

    For this we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness.

    Yes, there are palliatives, clever and delightful schemes like Men in Sheds and Walking Football developed by charities for isolated older people(17). But if we are to break this cycle and come together once more, we must confront the world-eating, flesh-eating system into which we have been forced.
    Hobbes’s pre-social condition was a myth. But we are now entering a post-social condition our ancestors would have believed impossible. Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long.

    www.monbiot.com
    References:
    1. http://www.autodidactproject.org/other/hj1.html
    2. http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl3...-contents.html
    3. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandst...ng-people-most
    4. http://www.independentage.org/isolat...ong-older-men/
    5. http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.o...eat-to-health/
    6. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2...y-older-people
    7. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandst...ng-people-most
    8. http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.o...eat-to-health/
    9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...y-grow-up.html
    10. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/poli...of-Europe.html
    11. http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.o...e-02.05.14.pdf
    12. http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.o...ness-research/
    13. http://boa.unimib.it/bitstream/10281..._Happiness.pdf
    14. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/u...cle4234843.ece
    15. http://www.theguardian.com/business/...-suisse-report
    16. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...r-rich/308419/
    17. http://www.independentage.org/isolat...ong-older-men/
    Last edited by Buddha; 10-15-2014 at 08:49 PM.

  2. #2
    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but with crippling anxiety and loneliness.

    IDK, I can't help but think there may be several additional factors involved in London being "the loneliest capital of Europe" but perhaps that's based in under-informed stereotypes.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwitch View Post
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but with crippling anxiety and loneliness.

    IDK, I can't help but think there may be several additional factors involved in London being "the loneliest capital of Europe" but perhaps that's based in under-informed stereotypes.
    It does not have to end. There is hope but we have to start thinking critically again, come together and knock the dysfunctional people out of power. The first step towards that is talking about this. Almost everybody I know dislikes the corporate bullshit world they're trying to replace the real one with (the one that is fun to live in).

    I remember music back when it was about love. Now it's about whores and money.

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    This is by no means about the UK or the USA. This is a real psychological illness that permuates our culture. And we are all standing by - like they did in 1935 while all good, mournful citizens were watching the nazi's rape and pillage and did nothing. (Did you know that Adolf Hitler was once, in 1939, considered for winning the Nobel peace prize? Probably for reasons much the same as Obama's win)

    Here is another one from that site.

    The Toll-Booth Economy

    The more power you possess, the more insecure you feel. The paranoia of power drives people towards absolutism. But far from curing them of the conviction that they are threatened and beleaguered, it becomes only stronger.

    On Friday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, claimed that business is under political attack on a scale it has not faced since the fall of the Berlin wall(1). He was speaking at the Institute of Directors, where he was introduced with the claim that “we are in a generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market against people who want to undermine it or strip it away.”(2) A few days before, while introducing Osborne at the Conservative party conference, Digby Jones, formerly the head of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that companies are at risk of being killed by “regulation from Big Government” and of drowning “in the mire of anti-business mood music encouraged by vote-seekers.”(3) Where is that government and who are these vote-seekers? They are a figment of his imagination.

    Where, with the exception of the Greens and Plaid Cymru, who have four MPs between them, are the political parties calling for greater restraints on corporate power? When David Cameron boasts that he is “rolling out the red carpet” for multinational corporations, “cutting their red tape, cutting their taxes”, promising always to set “the most competitive corporate taxes in the G20: lower than Germany, lower than Japan, lower than the United States”(4), all Labour can say is “us too”.

    Its shadow business secretary, Chuka Umanna, once a fierce campaigner against tax avoidance, is now sponsored by a company which delivers “tailored tax solutions to individuals and organisations internationally”(5,6). The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, cannot open his lips without clamping them around the big business boot. There’s no better illustration of the cross-party corporate consensus than the platform the Conservatives gave to Digby Jones to voice his paranoia. Jones was ennobled by Tony Blair and appointed as a minister in the Labour government. Now he rolls up at the Conservative conference to applaud George Osborne as the man who “did what was right for our Country. A personal pat on the back for that.”(7) A pat on the head would have been more appropriate – you can see which way power flows.

    The corporate consensus is enforced not only by the lack of political choice, but by an assault on democracy itself. Steered by business lobbyists, the European Union and the United States are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(8). If it goes ahead it will suppress the ability of governments to put the public interest ahead of profit. It could expose Britain to cases like El Salvador’s, where an Australian company is now suing the government before a closed tribunal of corporate lawyers for $300m (nearly half the country’s annual budget) in potential profits foregone(9). Why? Because El Salvador has refused permission for a gold mine that would poison people’s drinking water.

    Last month the Commons public accounts committee found that the British government has inserted a remarkable clause into contracts with the companies to whom it is handing the probation service (one of the maddest privatisations of all). If a future government seeks to cancel these contracts (Labour has said it will) it would have to pay the companies the money they would otherwise have made over the next ten years(10). Yes, ten years. The penalty would amount to between £300m and £400m.

    Windfalls like this are everywhere: think of the billion pounds the government threw into the air when it sold Royal Mail(11), or the massive state subsidies quietly being channelled to the private train companies(12). When Cameron told the Conservative party conference “there’s no reward without effort; no wealth without work; no success without sacrifice”(13), he was talking cobblers. Thanks to his policies, shareholders and corporate executives become stupendously rich by sitting in the current with their mouths open.

    Ours is a toll-booth economy, unchallenged by any major party, in which companies which have captured essential public services – water, energy, trains – charge extraordinary fees we have no choice but to pay(14). If there is a “generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market”, it’s a struggle against the corporations, which have replaced the market with a state-endorsed oligarchy(15).

    It’s because of the power of corporations that the minimum wage remains so low, while executives cream off millions. It’s because of this power that most people in poverty are in work(16), and the state must pay billions to supplement their appalling wages. It’s because of this power that, in the midst of a crisis so severe that the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife in just 40 years(17), the government is organising a bonfire of environmental protection. It’s because of this power that instead of innovative taxation (such as a financial transactions tax and land value taxation(18)) we have permanent austerity for the poor. It’s because of this power that billions are still pumped into tax havens. It’s because of this power that Britain is becoming a tax haven in its own right(19).

    And still they want more. Through a lobbying industry and a political funding system successive governments have failed to reform, corporations select and buy and bully the political class to prevent effective challenge to their hegemony. Any politician brave enough to stand up to them is relentlessly hounded by the corporate media. Corporations are the enemy within.

    So it’s depressing to see charities falling over themselves to assure George Osborne that they are not, as he alleged last week, putting the “counter view” to the “business argument”. “We don’t recognise the divide he draws between the concerns of businesses and charities,” says Oxfam(20). People “should be celebrating not denigrating the relationship between business and charities”, says the National Council for Voluntary Organisations(21). These are good groups, doing good work. But if, in the face of a full-spectrum assault by corporate power on everything they exist to defend, they cannot stand up and name the problem, you have to wonder what they are for.

    There’s a generational struggle taking place all right: a struggle over what remains of our democracy. It’s time we joined it.

    www.monbiot.com
    References:
    1. Transcript sent by email. The Institute of Directors tells me it will be on their website shortly.

    2. Transcript sent by email.
    3. http://www.digbylordjones.com/lord-j...ence-2014.html
    4. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeeh...nce-full-text/
    5. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/p...cle4193839.ece
    6. http://www.signaturetax.co.uk/
    7. http://www.digbylordjones.com/lord-j...ence-2014.html
    8. http://www.monbiot.com/2013/11/04/a-...wing-politics/
    9. http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...d-it-broke-too
    10. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...-moj-serco-g4s
    11. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...stimates-value
    12. http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...e-off-rolls-on
    13. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeeh...nce-full-text/
    14. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...atisation-scam
    15. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkin...olitical-power
    16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25287068
    17. http://www.theguardian.com/environme...world-wildlife
    18. http://www.monbiot.com/2013/01/21/a-telling-silence/
    19. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2...cts-inequality
    20. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...ess-chancellor
    21. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...ess-chancellor

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    I'll just ramble at myself then, I guess.

    The European Union is advocating austerity in order to oppose the financial crisis. This is madness. Engineered failure of the welfare state. Got to take advantage of a crisis when it happens. People who are worried about their jobs are people you can push around. Especially if they've already lost all feeling and understanding of how the world works.

    Education has to be changed so it becomes more in tune with of needs of corporations. Not the people. People thrive under an environment where they aren't forced into a straightjacket. But the needs of corporations are that they by no means start to think for themselves and start to develop "dangerous" ideas.

    I watched a cartoon on television today. Something about a prince being turned into a lama. It featured someone who spent 89 minutes being a shithead, only working together with another guy because it benefitted him and unscrupulously saying: "I'm gonna take your land and fuck you up because I can". It ended on the positive note of the shithead being saved, not learning any lessons, and then the comical note of a racoon being hit over the head for not playing his flute. Children suffer from ADHD. They're nervous and can't concentrate.

    There has to be an international countermovement to this. A group of people who aren't afraid to go stand in front of a plant in China, if that is where the corporate shitheads have moved their labour to, and help these people regain the rights they deserve as human beings. A group that helps organisations in countries all over the world to fight for their rights. It's about time we started working for world peace because the leaders aren't interested in that.

    My main nightmare is japan. A culture that has infantile television, where entertainment equates making fun of losers with funny cartoon noises playing over them. Where people say "yes" when they mean "yes", and "yes" when they mean "no". But subtler. Where people have two jobs and are incapable of meaningful human relationships. A group of people that are absolutely lost in a system they can't escape. They are VERY efficient workers.
    Last edited by Buddha; 10-16-2014 at 05:25 PM.

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    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    I've attempted responses to all of these recent political threads. Personally I want to have an opinion on this beyond it's f'd up but the thinking isn't coherent yet. So keep posting if you have a thought pls.

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    It's very difficult to discover what's going on. I had to take my time and let it sink in. It was only when I read those articles I posted in this thread that it hit me like a hammer, but I had been listening to Chomsky talking for weeks.

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    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    It's not difficult to discover what's going on, but coordinating a response is difficult, especially in the face of the breathless ideologies that are wafted in front of us constantly. I was just reading an article on how Mitch McConnell wants to franchise the miracle of Kansas to the Federal government, likely bankrupting it.

    There's no center anymore- but then again, there never was. The true success stories of our culture are of vast swaths of traditional life being brushed aside for promises of the future. We are forever trying to forge utopias.

    I've postulated before that we're in a global 1890s, in the sense that the corporate giants are exploiting global labor in the same way American firms did to our own people in the industrial revolution. Labor will inevitably congeal into a response, but who knows how long it will take. Maybe the world will be irreversibly changed from climate change before then.

    I am friends with a guy who owns a hedge fund, and I have these conversations with him all the time. "Hey are you betting on Ukraine?" Money seems to think that humanity will adapt- they don't know how it's going to happen, but that's been the case to date.

    I don't have answers for this stuff, just inspecting the foot on my neck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stuck View Post
    It's not difficult to discover what's going on, but coordinating a response is difficult, especially in the face of the breathless ideologies that are wafted in front of us constantly. I was just reading an article on how Mitch McConnell wants to franchise the miracle of Kansas to the Federal government, likely bankrupting it.

    There's no center anymore- but then again, there never was. The true success stories of our culture are of vast swaths of traditional life being brushed aside for promises of the future. We are forever trying to forge utopias.

    I've postulated before that we're in a global 1890s, in the sense that the corporate giants are exploiting global labor in the same way American firms did to our own people in the industrial revolution. Labor will inevitably congeal into a response, but who knows how long it will take. Maybe the world will be irreversibly changed from climate change before then.

    I am friends with a guy who owns a hedge fund, and I have these conversations with him all the time. "Hey are you betting on Ukraine?" Money seems to think that humanity will adapt- they don't know how it's going to happen, but that's been the case to date.

    I don't have answers for this stuff, just inspecting the foot on my neck.
    I think pamphlets with an URL on it being handed out to people. Something unsubtle like "Your life is turning into shit because that's all you're worth to your leaders". But maybe a little bit more catchy. And a website with information on it. I looked if "world 2.0" was something that existed last week, but I found out it was a Justin Bieber CD.

    When people are informed then it's about honest strikes and public disobedience and genuine political ideas to counter the ones coming out of business. Be visible and have a real plan. That kind of stuff actually works itself out, I think. It's fun (until you get killed). But it's important to have real, actionable ideas and being willing to break shit - instead of just a plea to government like the occupy wallstreet guys.

    We did it in europe in the past and they also did stuff like that in Latin America. It works but it takes time.

    I'm currently just being annoying on facebook, reddit and here to spread what I uncompromisingly call the truth. I'm looking for socialist organisations around here so I can get some more people involved. A countermovement is like a snowball but it has to start somewhere and I just want to do something.

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    If people can work themselves up over something as phony like that Kony 2012 stuff... they can get worked up over stuff that affects their life. But we have to tell them the truth, and not make it into some marketing campaign.

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