Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Society, You Crazy Breed

I am beginning to see more clearly the industrial-military conspiracy and have begun to doubt all recommendations bore of this, our, age. To the uninitiated, I am a cynic, a pessimist, perhaps a paranoid. These are the self-labels warranted…warranted by the very entity I am excessively skeptical about. The labels identify an agent awry - namely, me - in a smoothly operating, efficient system unchecked, unscrutinized, kept powerful. We call this monstrous beast society. Essentialized, or absolutized, we view at as a necessary populace organizer - we are a collective, yet we are in dire opposition to it, not members that constitute it. It looms large, over and against us, molding the intricacies as well as the large movements of our lives, something we must be fit within, yet none of us feel apart of.

Is this not tyranny? The label of cynic or pessimist or paranoid I am bound to receive are the retorts of the oppressed, of a Nietzschean slavish morality. I too am oppressed, but I am refusing the ideology of a slave, and am instead advocating for Nietzsche’s overcoming: the will to self-flourishing. Any collective entity is going to be at odds with individual whims, I get this. There is no way around this one, it seems. But, here, where I reside, in a mountain state of the United States, to reiterate, I am beginning to feel uneasy with everything, feeling stuck in an eco-anxiety (due to Environmental Ethics’ lifting the veil of ignorance in the Fall of 2009) that has widened into a society-anxiety.

Let’s get down and dirty with what I am alluding to in vague, sweeping statements by investigating my concrete forms of realization. First, an easy instruction almost no one questions, something I never questioned until I questioned everything in the era of society-anxiety. Banking. Who doesn’t have a bank account? The only one I can find still alive is Daniel Suelo (see “Blogs I follow”). Seems every hint of conspiracy has some lone advocate, assuring me I am not paranoid, that there is truth to the unsettledness I feel in our deeply engrained, common, unquestioned practices. We are taught, early on with astonishing, exponentially-eye-popping graphs of equations, to save money. This, according to the diffuse panel of experts spread in and out popular culture, is a responsible thing to do. A practice for our interests, both generally and fiscally. But not under covert mattress corners. Not in piggy banks. No, we are told we must save money at a bank, whose service is to store money in safekeeping, really that alone.

A bank’s veneer as a benign and necessary social institution, existing as a basic service for the people, is simply a cover-up, or a pervasive misunderstanding, for what it is and why it does so. How could a megacorporate entity convince the populace to willingly and warmheartedly hand over the entirety of its money? Let’s back up for I am perpetuating more misperception- banks are not this ‘it’ I keep referring to. Banks are collections of people. Powerful people. In the terms of basic economics, money is capital, captured and frozen, a storeable product of labor. Within this system, more money can be accumulated with more labor, real-time production of money, or far less back-breakingly, through interest, money “working for you”. I know this firsthand via my budget strategy for this year-off income thing. I saved and now I withdraw from my stash. In yesteryear I commuted weekly 15 hours, waited up to a half hour in rain, snow, sleet for my vehicle of mass transit to escort me, endured mind-numbing data entry for hours at a time with others, well, frankly I despised. Now I extract the excess of this labor, with the help of its power to generate itself, in the interest percent I agreed upon when I locked it up at the bank. Sounds great, huh?

Capital earns more capital, through a process that continues to elude me (Blog readers, please help me out in edification through commentary, if you can). Here’s a shot: capital is reinvested in the economic system, used in productive avenues, loaned and won back at a higher price with ensuing interest rates (or, created out of thin air by banks at the request of a loan by an individual. Think not? Check out “Money as Debt“ on Youtube). The banks just have to sit back with a nation’s worth, generated through real labor, with their hands clasped, gluttonously smiling, as it uses this enormous power to enlarge itself. Banks are the most powerful institutions of the world. My father finds it difficult to conceive that all of his blue-collared allies, the people who actually produce real goods of real value are all indebted to bankers, who just abstractly “manage” and who couldn’t probably, say, milk a cow, or build a desk, or bake bread from scratch. How did this happen?

I am beginning to see that the recommendations of this, our, age exist to perpetuate the powerful behind the societal oughts. These recommendations benefit the few greatly. In this case of banking, individuals are seldom harmed , in fact we get rewarded - but this fact merely makes banking more insidious and less likely to be challenged. Just think of how hard credit card companies press in junk mail and advertisement. They’re nicely proposing to give me a 1% return as a “customer appreciation”, and yet they send vast onslaughts of applications. They want to drain me and as a token thank-you, they’ll give me a droplet of my own blood back. I merely point out that by participating in this practice, we fuel the very accelerating divide in power we first learned about in Introduction to Sociology. And by this point we face such a power divide that I feel helpless under the weight of such things such as our corrupt political system, that under my scrutiny IS the bank, is the megacorporate entity, they are fused, no distinction need be made. This is the problem of powerlessness, of society being imposed on selves. We live in a pseudo-democracy.
Newt Gingrich said “If you have government this big, it’s going to be really dumb, it’s going to have large sections of corruption, it’s going to waste a lot of money, and it’s going to be a threat to your freedom…as a citizen, you better be actively involved in running your own community, because that’s the only way to preserve freedom.” Of course, he has his own political agenda and I am unconcerned with party politics. But he paves an idea I have latched onto like a desperate anchor in a hopeless void, at least in principle: we’re going to have to stop feeding the monstrous beast if ever we are to be free. The power has always been in community, even if now it is leeched from us. Remember, we are the ones who milk, construct, and bake. Yes, we are tangled in a complexity that makes it difficult to see how much resides in us. We must pierce. Otherwise, accept the “free” plight of taking at least thirty years of your life and handing it over to employment (see “To Be Employed“ written in December 2009), the heft of one’s peak productive years, simply to own a place of dwelling. How can we claim we are free? Our hearth and bed in our caves have become shackles.

And, the looming part about all of this is that it isn’t just about banks, if that weren’t broad enough. I buy Kashi products regularly because they, too, seemed like some kind of benign social institution, providing wholesome foods for the public. Yah, I understood Kashi as corporation, but I always had envisioned some mom-and-pop, yes expanding, but retaining some original vision of supplying the supermarkets with an alternative to high fructose corn syrups and hydrogenated oils, not to mention TBHQ and ammonium phosphatides. What has been appealing is that I don’t have to laboriously read the Kashi nutritional content and ingredient labeling - I trust they’ve complied a granola bar or frozen pizza well. Then I learn that Kashi is Kelloggs, a moment when the grocery store gained a possibly sinister, definitely questionable, status. Not that Kelloggs is the heart of the matter. The veneer, again, the veneer. Kashi is not in the business of selling wholesome, nutritious food products. Kashi is in the business of appearing to the consumer in whatever way the consumer seems to desire in the trendy moment. All that matters is the veneer. It protects market share, its existence there solely for monetary gain, and will dupe, deceive, and mislead, all if these qualities generate the bottom line. As depicted in “The Corporation”, corporate entities, even Kashi - the last of the trustworthy, display the traits of a psychopath. And I don’t trust psychopaths.

&*^%, I’ve got to grow a garden and just do it all myself, I resign, take back the city tonight. But I can’t grow mp3 players and I infinitely enjoy my (beat up, old-school) one. Rush of society-anxiety. I will leave you with more to ponder, and as always, generously comment, this is my favorite part, the virtual gathering.

1. “Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution
” (Wiki on the Declaration of Independence).

An aside: It was a joyous opening and immediate recognition of “The Patriot” score (John Williams) - how fitting!


Anonymous said...

Tonin, who milks, bakes and constructs: I am on my way to the Sinister Grocery, on high alert for capitalist manipulations. I look forward to heightening my own paranoia via following your blog -- well done. H.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Hello Tonin. Interesting remarks, but there are somethings (with my limited knowledge of economics) that I want to question/clear-up. I say this stuff not out of love for capitalism, but because I think the tendency is to not give capitalism its due. It has been an enormous step for civilization and has provided things that earlier economic systems would not have been able to do. In saying that it has outlived its welcome, but history will show this.

Okay, so banks. It would be wrong to say that banks are merely repositories for money. The recent financial collapse did not start in the production end of the economic continuum, but in the financial end. This includes banks and other financial institutions under other guises (which are all more or less banks). This should be enough to tell us that banks don't merely hold onto to money. There is an oddity here, in the '29 collapse we see (simply stated) stock market---> production slump---> banking problems. Also around the turn of the century there was a rush by rich people on banks in fear of a collapse, but it is not quite the same thing as what we have now. First the banking industry fell, then everything went with it. So what do banks do, really?

Banks are not homogenous and many things that we think are not banks are merely banks in disguise. Take for instance the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac groups. These were mega-banks, backing up mortgages for other banks. Banks act as a conduit of capital. They take resources from one place and put them into others. In US banks cannot own non-financial industries (mines, car companies), only financial institutions. At one time this was a good protection, but now it is merely a virtual constraint as every single industry is dependent upon the financial industry. Banks are the place which control liquidity.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Liquidity is a complex topic, but boiled down we can say that liquidity is an asset that can be exchanged at any time without losing value (money is liquid). This requires, of course, that there are buyers and sellers. Banks are the place where liquidity travels, and in our market this determines everything. This all depends on the certitude that buyers and sellers have regarding their purchases. If buyers and sellers cannot clearly ascertain the price of some asset, the amount it will cost if sold, and have real property to back it up, it lacks liquidity and is therefore more difficult to buy and sell.
However, I get off topic. The point I am making is that banks are the powerhouse of our economy. Hence why the government gave them trillions of dollars with alacrity. The things that you say about banks, as a self-described paranoiac, are not paranoiac, it is how the business is openly run. Instead what your pointing out is ideology. Ideology (in my usage) is that which is right out there in the open but accepted and unquestioned.
Before 2008, you would have been marginal in your considerations, but the ideology is breaking up. It is breaking up because of this contradiction, this seemingly innocuous thing that was a "repository" for my money, is no tanking due to (or so they say) fiscal mismangement, and instead of letting them starve we have to pay them back. Now this has been turned into a political argument, not on the level that it should be, but as a "the democrats bailed out the banks and the conservatives helped them do it, they should have never have done this, I won't vote for them". What is implicitly realized though is this; the government did this because not to do this would have destroyed the entire system that we all rely on. That is to say, what was previously taken to be the site of productivity, that is the work that we engage in, the sectors that produce goods (construction etc) is not at all the site of productivity. Another way to say this is that Main Street is completely dependent upon Wall Street. This is the fundamental problem with the (common) pronouncement that bankers are just managers of money that don't actually produce goods. IF this were true, their collapse shouldn't have effected the production sphere.
No instead what has happened is that the neo-lib/ neo-con world view is undergoing a crisis because the story that they spun (good hardworking americans is what made this country great) has been exposed as what it is, wrong.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

However, we have been too hard on the banking industry. We must (it is imperative) realize the advancements that capitalism has made in the creative capacities of man. Without this system the proliferation of production would not have occurred, so much of the creative capacities of man would not have been realized. This does not mean that the system is the "end of history" or that it is the best of all possibly worlds or even that it ought to stick around. As a matter of fact, it shows us just the opposite. It shows us what needs to go, as a ladder that we use to climb up a large wall on a one way trip; we must throw the ladder away. However, we cannot merely go back down the ladder and attempt to revert to a pre-banking/financial world. Although this seems like a useful place to direct our anxiety (angst) it is not possible. A pre-banking world is already foreclosed to us. We must seek to nullify it by negatively using it.

What, simply, is the point of this comment? Here are some simple points:

1. Right now, the financial industry is the source of production.

2. Right now, there is a change in the ideology (as the capitalists are attempting to scavenge the wreckage to stabalize their system) but we do not know where it will go.

3. Any revolutionary program must recognize the attributes of the system it is trying to overflow.

4. We can only move forward. A reversion to earlier period is necessarily foreclosed to us.

5. We should use the tools of capitalism to re-inscribe them in a new system and should not cut ourselves off from these tools. It would be like trying to wage a modern war with horses and swords because we feel that modern weaponry is what caused the problem that led to the war. The point is to use the tools anew, and not attempt to abandon them.

Sorry, I wrote to much and had to put it in three comments.
Thoughtful blog, I enjoyed it! Thanks!

Alexander said...

Glad to see people voicing their opinions and taking a stand. I am a libertarian socialist and hope one day the capitalist societies can open themselves up toward progress. Then we can move toward true democracy, freedom, inquiry, and creativity. I urge you to push yourself further and be a visionary and help people organize and express their views and aims. We have seen the catastrophes of leadership in our struggle but we still need charismatic visionaries. I apologize for commenting on one of your older posts, but I enjoyed this one the most. Take care and email me anything you do that is progressive, exciting or if you just have questions.