Monday, August 15, 2011

Running out of ideas

The notion that the financial elites and the politicians they have corrupted are out of ideas is debatable.  For example, it could be argued that neoliberalism was merely a new name for evil notions that have been around since feudalism so they cannot be running out of ideas because they never had any new ones to start with.

But Andreou (below) HAS a point.  If the best idea an outfit like IMF can come up with for Greek debt restructuring and national renewal is to sell the Acropolis to a hotel chain, then the Predators truly have run out of meaningful ideas.

Putting people back to work building a sustainable society, of course, is not even on the public policy radar because it would mean utterly rejecting neoliberalism, taking serious power out of the hands of the banksters by forcing them to write off their bad loans, giving respect to actual work, and treating money as a tool for social development rather than a magical substance that enhances sexual prowess.  Naturally the Predators HATE the very thought that such a world could even be possible so it is highly unlikely THEY would ever advance such ideas.

So yes, the Predators (at least) are out of ideas.

How youth-led revolts shook elites around the world 
From Athens to Cairo and Spain to Santiago, old certainties are being challenged after the Arab spring and financial crises 
Jack Shenker, Friday 12 August 2011

Of all the millions of words expended in the global media on this year's rash of youth-led revolts across the globe, none are more relevant than those penned by Alex Andreou, a Greek-born blogger who now lives in Britain. "You have run out of ideas," he wrote in June, echoing the message of Greek protesters to their country's political and economic elites. "Wherever in the world you are, that statement applies." 
Andreou was writing as the occupation of Syntagma Square – Athens's central plaza – was entering its fourth week, and he went on to summarise what had moved Greek demonstrators to take to the streets: a refusal to suffer any further in order to make the rich even richer, a withdrawal of consent and trust from the politicians governing in their name, and finally that simplest and most devastating of censures from one generation to the next. Those in power, he said, were devoid of fresh thinking, and this is why "the protests in Greece affect all of you directly". 
When the dust has settled on 2011 perhaps the aspect of it that will prove most striking to historians is that in a period where so many old certainties dissolved, from the stability of dictatorships in the Middle East to the sturdiness of the neoliberal economic framework in Europe, America and beyond, those with their hands on the levers of formal power had so few ideas to offer. From Arab autocrats to eurozone finance ministers, paucity of original thought has prevailed at the top and the prescription has always been more of the same: reheated rhetoric and stencil-cut solutions, all worn lifeless with weary familiarity. 
Little wonder then that from Santiago to Sana'a, something else has arisen to fill the void – and that those still rooted in the old models of thinking find themselves lacking the linguistic tools necessary to even describe the phenomenon, never mind understand it. 
A "global temper tantrum" is the most historian and empire cheerleader-in-chief Niall Ferguson could muster in his effort to characterise this year's developments, which have seen hundreds of thousands in north Africa, led by the young, braving bullets to topple entrenched regimes. Meanwhile in southern Europe, South America, Wisconsin and London, city centres have been occupied and youths have mobilised, challenging existing power structures and fighting – with messy, uneven consequences – to articulate an alternative. 
We are witnessing, says Priyamvada Gopal, an English professor at Cambridge, the "momentary transformation of anger from a dirty word into the very currency of political exchange". 
Each of these struggles has been specific to local contexts but they share more than just the imagery of occupied squares, tents and teargas. They are bound together by a common sense of disenfranchisement and the belief that the participants have it in them to create a new reality – and that at the moment, largely inspired by the Arab spring and the global economic meltdown, a window of opportunity to do so is open. 
"The repression is brutal … and the teargas stronger than ever," says Camila Vallejo, president of the Chilean University student union which has brought 100,000 students on to the streets and taken control of 300 schools in an attempt to rebuild the country's education system from scratch – holding mass kissathons and Michael Jackson dance routines in the process. "We have been protesting not about reform, but about wholesale restructuring … if we don't have real change now, it's not going to happen." 
The scope of her ambition echoes that found in Syntagma Square, where opposition to an EU/IMF bailout and its accompanying austerity measures has morphed into a broader critique of social injustice. "We are ordinary people, we are like you," reads the mission statement of the Real Democracy website – the online hub of the Syntagma protests – before going on to explore the alienation many Greeks feel from the organs of the state. "Without us none of this would exist, because we move the world … I am outraged. I think I can change it." more
Europe's Angry Youth
Flash Points Across the Continent
By SPIEGEL ONLINE Staff 08/12/2011

Violent riots like those that raged through London and Britain this week have rung the alarm bell for politicians. Frustration is also high among young people in other nations across Europe. As the gap between rich and poor widens, the next outbreak could happen in a number of countries.

For four days earlier this week, young people in Britain rioted, marauding through the streets of England's big cities. Prime Minister David Cameron called off his summer holiday in Tuscany to deal with the situation, and members of parliament were recalled from their recess.

Cameron's government has described the rioters as criminals looking to plunge the country into chaos, but that's only part of the truth. A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals another piece of the puzzle: Of all the European Union countries, only Portugal is home to greater wealth disparity than Great Britain.

These riots are a specifically English problem -- at least for now. But the divide between rich and poor is growing all across Europe, helped along by austerity measures, especially those implemented by the countries worst stricken in the debt crisis, including Greece, Spain and Italy. Not only are social services being slashed, but school budgets and health care services as well. And nearly every European city has its disadvantaged neighborhoods, places where opportunities for young people in particular are limited. 
Prosperous Germany is also feeling the pinch of cost-cutting measures. The German National Poverty Conference (NAK) warns that prospects for young people are only growing worse. As youth welfare services are cut, they say, other services, such as the charity missions run from train stations throughout the country, are seeing more young people in need. And to find proof that Germany is also home to a latent tendency toward violence, look no further than the yearly riots on May 1 -- International Workers' Day -- in Berlin's Kreuzberg district and Hamburg's Schanzenviertel. 
The "Losers' Uprising," as German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung termed it, could spread beyond Britain in the future. Many EU countries already fear the development of what the German media are describing as "English-style conditions." The Continent could be in for an explosive autumn, a situation some have already called a crisis of European democracy. more
A fish rots from the head.
The Meaning of the British Riots

Corruption At The Top Leads To Lawlessness By The People 
I've repeatedly noted that corruption and lawlessness by our "leaders" encourages lawlessness by everyone else. See this, for example.

[see next quote] 
Speaking to Reuters late on Tuesday, looters and other local people in east London pointed to the wealth gap as the underlying cause, also blaming what they saw as police prejudice and a host of recent scandals. 
Spending cuts were now hitting the poorest hardest, they said, and after tales of politicians claiming excessive expenses, alleged police corruption and bankers getting rich it was their turn to take what they wanted.
"They set the example," said one youth after riots in the London district of Hackney. "It's time to loot." 
(Indeed, looting by the bankers has been shown by a Nobel prize winning economist as being the root cause of the S&L crisis and today's economic crisis).

Austerity Leads To Rioting And Unrest 
I've previously argued that the British riots are due to bad economic policy which has created rampant inequality. (As I've noted for years, raging inequality and policies which help the big boys at the expense of the "little people" are causing unrest - not just in Egypt - but worldwide.)
Corruption And Austerity = Global Unrest 
Time Magazine's Global Spin blog sums up these two threads nicely:

Simply working hard and playing by the rules is no longer a path to prosperity or even a dignified future in much of the industrialized West, where neoliberal economic policies have funneled most of the wealth created in recent decades to a small, already wealthy elite, while shrinking the middle class finds its living standard steadily declining, and more than one in five young people is unemployed with no prospect of finding work in the foreseeable future. 
The looters respond to their circumstances by simply breaking the rules and grabbing whatever they can, while the moment -- and their capacity to hurt anyone who gets in their way -- allows it. The protestors, who are far more numerous, despond by demanding that the rules be changed, and they're on the streets because they believe that even the democratic political system has failed them, producing governments in thrall to the interests of financial elites regardless of which party dominates. And the British anti-austerity programs are echoed on the streets of Madrid and Barcelona, Rome and Lisbon, Athens and Tel Aviv -- an Austerity Intifada is sweeping Europe. more
Actually, the moral decay is MUCH worse at the top.
The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

By Peter Oborne Last updated: August 11th, 2011

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the entire British political class came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. They were of course right to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support. 
But there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up. 
It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington. A few years ago, my wife and I went to a dinner party in a large house in west London. A security guard prowled along the street outside, and there was much talk of the “north-south divide”, which I took literally for a while until I realised that my hosts were facetiously referring to the difference between those who lived north and south of Kensington High Street. 
Most of the people in this very expensive street were every bit as deracinated and cut off from the rest of Britain as the young, unemployed men and women who have caused such terrible damage over the last few days. For them, the repellent Financial Times magazine How to Spend It is a bible. I’d guess that few of them bother to pay British tax if they can avoid it, and that fewer still feel the sense of obligation to society that only a few decades ago came naturally to the wealthy and better off. more
Just a reminder, David Cameron is England's current prime minister and is George W. Bush stupid.  Now HE is out ideas.  In fact, if a real idea cruised through his head he would probably keel over from the shock.
An Open Letter to David Cameron’s Parents
Published on Thursday, August 11, 2011 by Nathaniel Tapley 
Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron, 
Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality? 
As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values. 
Even worse, your neglect led him to fall in with a bad crowd.
There’s Michael Gove, whose wet-lipped rage was palpable on Newsnight last night. This is the Michael Gove who confused one of his houses with another of his houses in order to avail himself of £7,000 of the taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled (or £13,000, depending on which house you think was which). 
Or Hazel Blears, who was interviewed in full bristling peahen mode for almost all of last night. She once forgot which house she lived in, and benefited to the tune of £18,000. At the time she said it would take her reputation years to recover. Unfortunately not. 
But, of course, this is different. This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies.
Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer. 
Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud. 
Or Jeremy Hunt, who broke the rules to the tune of almost £20,000 on one property and £2,000 on another. But it’s all right, because he agreed to pay half of the money back. Not the full amount, it would be absurd to expect him to pay back the entire sum that he took and to which he was not entitled. No, we’ll settle for half. And, as in any other field, what might have been considered embezzlement of £22,000 is overlooked. We know, after all, that David Cameron likes to give people second chances. 
Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force. more 
And a reminder that neoliberalism is perhaps the most destructive vandalism in all of recorded history.
A Demand for Some Kind of Justice
Fighting Back in London
By JEFF SPARROW  August 14, 2011 
"Capitalism is," Mark Fisher explained, a few years ago, 'what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.' 
You could not think of a more perfect description of recent events in Britain. 
The riots of London were not evidence of a 'broken society'. Rather, to the extent that the poor and the disenfranchised turned on their own communities, their behaviour illustrated not a failure but a success: a striking illustration of the internalisation of neoliberalism. 
In the twenty-first century, there is nothing anomalous about grabbing whatever you can, about scrambling over your neighbour so as to fill your arms with consumer tack. On the contrary, that's how the system works. 
It's what's meant to happen – it's a feature, not a bug. 
Back in the 1970s, the pioneers of neoliberalism understood perfectly they were unleashing an aggressive, insurgent doctrine that destroy collective identities, both those associated with the Left (trade unionism being the most obvious example) and those from older, precapitalist traditions. 
'Economics are the method,' Thatcher declared, way back when, 'but the object is to change the soul.' 
Tory invocations of 'The Spirit of the Blitz', the maudlin yelpings about the Britain of Sunday cricket and country pubs and village fetes, are therefore as hypocritical as they are reactionary. That past has been systematically demolished by a bipartisan commitment to market forces as the exclusive form of human interaction. It's gone, and it's not coming back. 
In 2011, the neoliberal citizen is not defined by class or ethnicity or locality or religious belief. He or she is someone who exchanges commodities: no more and no less. 
So when the various tuppenny moralists urge us to join the two-minute hate directed against some hapless kid caught on camera nicking some trainers, we might borrow a quip of which Marx was fond: 'Change the names and the tale is told of you.' The most heinous acts by rioters were, quite literally, those that most closely paralleled the behaviour of their betters. more

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