Monday, September 10, 2012

A Preview of America's Future as Desired by the Oligarchs

image: street scene, Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- the future is now

On Saturday, Dave Cohen of Decline of the Empire blog posted about a new book called The Betrayal of the American Dream, in which authors Donald Bartlett and James Steele discuss the ongoing destruction of the American middle class. As Cohen rightly points out, what most Americans, raised in a maddeningly insular society in the midst of the post-World War Two economic boom, do not understand is that their very existence as non-elites enjoying any genuine prosperity is an historical anomaly. The fact that the predatory sociopaths who really run the country are in the process of taking back what they feel was "stolen" from them by the New Deal and Great Society programs is not nearly as astonishing as is the ease and speed by which the dumbed down and media benumbed citizenry is allowing them to do it.

So where is it all heading? Well, assuming that enough energy supplies remain to be exploited to allow the elites to maintain control, which given the all out exploitation of the world's remaining energy reserves that is currently going on seems likely to continue for many years yet, I think I know the answer to that question. In my own post from Saturday, I briefly mentioned that I have been reading the book Cambodia's Curse by journalist Joel Brinkley, a recently published history of that unfortunate country. Brinkley spent a couple of years travelling around Cambodia interviewing everyone from top officials to dirt poor farmers and the portrait he draws is both arresting and frightening in its implications. Whereas Brinkley is attempting to tell Cambodia's sad story to the outside world, I chose to see what he has written as a warning of what our own future potentially holds for us.

Because you see, modern Cambodia is actually Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's wet dream. Imagine a nation where the government's only real role in the lives of the citizenry is to provide for the national defense and to build roads and bridges in order to enable commerce. Imagine a country where other than a few select elite government officials like Paul Ryan, every civil servant is paid at most a few dollars a day with no health or retirement benefits whatsoever. Imagine a nation where every natural resource, including vast tracts of lush hardwood forests, is stripped down and illegally sold abroad to line the pockets of its kleptocrat rulers. Imagine, too, a country where workers have zero rights vis-a-vis their employers, who pay them as little as they can possibly get away with. If Ayn Rand were still alive, she would probably be having spontaneous orgasms just thinking about it while conveniently ignoring the fact that Cambodian dictator Prime Minister Hun Sen used to be a dirty rotten communist, though one could argue that Pol Pot was the ultimate real world John Galt.

So how much fun is it to be an ordinary citizen in such a country? Oh loads, as long as you don't mind giving your children a wad of Riel every morning so that they can bribe their teacher so he will agree to actually teach them that day even though he might only have a third grade education himself. Oh, and if your precious snowflake is particularly dense, you can give the teacher another bribe to ensure that she passes her final exams. This method of "education" then continues right on up the line and even into the universities and medical schools, with those who do have the means paying bribes to ensure they eventually earn their diplomas.

Speaking of medical schools, when you get sick or injured and have to go to the hospital, you'll need to pay a bribe to that doctor who bribed his way through school in order to get him to treat you at all. If you don't pay him, you'll be given long expired medications if any at all, and left in a bug infested ward on a straw mat to recover or not more or less on your own.

You could try to complain to the police about the doctor's request for a bribe, but unless you bribe them they won't investigate, and unless you bribe the prosector he won't bring a case and unless you bribe the judge you won't get a ruling in your favor anyway. And then on your way home from court, you might be stopped at a random police roadblock and have to pay another bribe so they will overlook the fact that your left tail light is out or your driving license is expired. Oh, so you say you want to renew that driving license? If so, you'll have to bribe the local government official who is in charge of issuing licenses--doesn't matter if you actually know how to drive or not.

Let's then say you become sick and tired of all this corruption and want to launch a public campaign against it. Great. Just be mindful that when you try to have a public rally to support your cause, some disguised government thug may throw a grenade in the midst of it and then the police will blame you for trying to score political points against the regime by killing and maiming your own supporters.

Yep, Cambodia is true worker's paradise. It's the type of place where your boss, a military officer, can order you to go by motorbike and pick up a rare endangered animal so that it can be illegally transported to China to be eaten. Just don't let that animal accidentally escape, or you'll have to face the wrath of your boss, who might just be so enraged that he will douse you with gasoline and set you on fire, and when you die your wife and child will be left destitute. Surely, you think, that if an employer tried such a thing the press would find out and make a big stink about it, right? Well, they would, except that the newspaper reporter went to the army officer and requested a bribe so that the story would never be published.

This is just a little taste of what it is like to live in a country that has been stripped of most of its resources and where the unaccountable elites feel no obligation to provide any kind of safety net for its citizens. This is exactly the kind of society our own predatory oligarchs are slowly establishing here in America. If you don't believe it, ask yourself how if providing for the less fortunate is an unalterable established political consensus several American public officeholders have within this last year publicly compared the food stamp program to "feeding wild animals?" Even five years ago, such utterances would have been unthinkable in the public arena. That's just one small example of how the public rhetoric, to eventually be followed by public policy, is evolving--or rather devolving--in America these days. Not incidentally, impoverishing the working and middle classes has the added benefit of stretching out the availability of the planet's increasingly scarce resources. That, as any Harvard educated MBA would tell you, is a classic example of a win-win.

The Betrayal of The American Dream is very good way of portraying what is happening in this country, though it really only tells half of the story. The sad fact is that the betrayal would not be happening without the active complicity of so many average Americans. Starting in earnest around 1980, a vast majority of this country's citizenry chose to shut off their brains and turn the "thinking" about America's future over to frauds and charlatans, starting with Ronald Reagan, who promised easy answers while initiating the betrayal. Thirty years later we are now collectively reaping our very just rewards for our failure to recognize who the real enemies are.

Bonus: "I have only committed this mistake...of believing in you, the Americans"


  1. Give me a break.I'm not a fan of either party but this is just diatribe.
    The big bad boogey man is gonna get you if you vote for this party! boo!

    Use that organ they call a brain.

    1. I’m not sure that’s fair to say this piece is a diatribe. This blog has been consistent in calling both parties out as the corporate facilitators that they are.

      It seems undeniable that there’s a large contingent in the Republican camp that finds foisted misery to be a bit titillating. That seems undeniable at this point.

      Some of the Republicans seem to have a true hatred boiling in their veins for the other. And when you hear a comment so viscerally stupid that it is painful, it is usually from that camp.

      I think Bill Hicks is just speaking to that malignant hatred that seems to be flowing freely in the Republican camp these days without shame, and I don’t hear that as an endorsement of Obama by any means. I don’t think he’s saying that they aren’t able to deliver Arendt’s banality of evil. It's just a different type of evil, more a natural effect from giving corporations anything they want. The Republican evil seems more laser focused, and not inadvertent. I think they would love to see others in a degraded state of poverty with a divine stamp of "you deserve it, parasites".

      But we're pretty much screwed either way, of course!

    2. Yes, use that organ they call a brain and realize that this is exactly what those randroids controlling the republican party wet dream about every single night.

    3. Take a deep breath, anon#1, and check yesterday's post where I state that there is essentially no difference between the two parties. Paul Ryan, however, is the only one running for national office who is an OPEN Ayn Rand fanboy, which is why I called him out

    4. I didn't see him once saying Americans should vote for Democrats. The above is about self-destructive economic and political philosophies. The fact that one party has bought wholesale into these philosophies doesn't excuse the other party.

      Clinton continued and extended the economic agenda of the Reagan era. The 90s were a smorgasbord for Wall Street (with the exception of the end of the internet bubble), and all the while we were offshoring jobs by the millions. Obama, far from proving he is a raving socialist, kept the same economic team as under Bush, bailed out Wall Street, hasn't forwarded a single prosecution of any of them, and has left 99% of the policies that led to the 2008 crash in place.

      But one can agree with the philosophy that argues that trust-fund babies should get a zero capital gains tax and that we have to cut an unaffordable Medicare system. After all, it's the "rich that create jobs" - not the consumer demand that leads to jobs created by a financially secure middle class, right?

      The sad truth is that the history of America in the last 30+ years has been the steady decrease in democratic (not referring to one party) representation and the steady increase in plutocratic
      representation. Two trends coinciding with this have been the massive increase in campaign funding year-after-year, and the steady decrease in middle-class prosperity. Our two-party political system has largely been reduced to a front for those truly in power.

      As I was writing this, I got a robo-call from Mitt Romney. Not kidding.

  2. Having two legs does not give one the title of human. Humanity is an act, not a birth right. It is a daily effort not that of talking or writing.

    Most people are zombies. Yes they can walk,go to work,talk,drive and make other zombies. But act as human they can't.

    There is a few ways a two legged creature can become human.

    The two simplest are;

    Treat others how you want to be treated.
    Your word is your bond.

    Too simplistic?

    How may two legged creature do you know who act this way regardless of their circumstance?

    These are some of the tools used to keep you in your zombie state;


  3. BH, how dare you post a "diatribe" on the interwebs!

    Seriously, haven't read the book but it sounds worth checking out. But I think your point in the last para is HUGE, and too rarely remarked upon. We must remember the American middle and working classes willingly embraced their own destruction. The primary reason is they refused to see themselves as actual classes, but rather weigh stations on the road to riches and the privileges that go with them. Or as John Steinbeck phrased it much more eloquently, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

    The only way to reverse the process you describe is by revolution. So perhaps we will discover whether this is truly the "land of the free and home of the brave." But I won't be holding my breath. Too many of our fellow citizens are like Mr. Anon at 7:19 - all too willing to eat shit and like it.

    1. Here's another quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.”

    2. Full Vonnegut quote is even better: “America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register. Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleanic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a man of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

    3. Thanks, great quote. I read a lot of Vonnegut when I was younger, but hadn't remembered those lines. I guess this brilliant summary of the economic psychology of the USA didn't resonate as strongly in my teenage mind as fire raids and extraterrestrial porn stars.

      In the last few years, I've re-read Cat's Cradle and Mother Night. Unlike many authors I was fond of in may younger days, I found Vonnegut was even better as I got older! Looks like I need to give Slaughterhouse-Five another read. A great American author.

      He also had short career stints as a GE p.r. flack, and a failed auto dealer! He knew from whence he spoke.

  4. Great stuff, Bill Hicks!
    I have missed you at Silco - this would be greatly appreciated there, I am sure!

    1. Hi Changer. I haven't ben around much on SilCo or Hubbert's Arm (especially) lately because I don't think my change of mind about what the future holds would be appreciated by a lot of the membership. I no longer think it is going to be the doom of civilization that we are facing (at least not within the expected lifetime of most of us in the here and now), but something that may actually be worse as I have described above, and I honestly don't know how you can prepare yourself for that.

    2. Sounds like you should read some Paul Craig Roberts:

      Preps are still the same: eventually there will be civil war - but when the 99% will rise up, who can say?