President Obama's recent unprompted and clearly unscripted soliloquy before supporters in Virginia provided the veritable mother of all sound bites for the conservative front (and I use "front" tongue-in-cheek): "If you've got a business, you did not build that--somebody else made that happen. "
You can't write this stuff--well, you can, but you won't be employed as a speech writer in D.C. This was a pure Barry moment, a harkening to his earlier passions and philosophies as expressed in the 2008 campaign, before shadowy men took him into a quiet room and told him how things really work. In this exclamation, he attempted to draw and quarter one of the most fundamental tenants of American mythology--that our comparative success relative to the rest of the world has been and continues to be the output of honest ingenuity, dedication and the singular efforts of inspired initiative.
Where the President failed in this nominal leakage of his long-since suppressed--if not flatly hijacked--voice of reason was not in its content, but in its brevity. He should have continued with a fervent diatribe of epic proportions and thoroughly ripped away at the national delusion that continues to assure our inability to reclaim the best of and reconstruct the worst of this rapidly disintegrating social experiment. Had he done so, he may well have once again secured the fickle loyalty and love of the massively disenfranchised 18-30 year old demographic, who could not be more convinced at the moment, with soaring unemployment and insurmountable indebtedness plaguing their ranks, that "opportunity" is merely an inside historical joke whispered among the baby boomers, the punch line to which they will never be privy. Instead, the President let the moment linger with a slightly modified cliche': "The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
Actually, we historically succeed because we steal a lot of stuff from other people, both internal and external to our borders. That we do it together, I suppose, holds some nationalistic merit. Go team! This has been a fine and generally accepted modus operandi for many generations, until the thieves became too few and the victims too many. Now, we as a populace look to the politicians to restore our lifestyles, seemingly oblivious to the notion that our lifestyles could not have occurred in the first place without the unapologetic exploitation of faraway peoples and the gargantuan debt generation that we now protest so loudly. We complain that we have been dealt out of a game that was played with a stacked deck and call it a righteousness beef.
This began a long time ago. The persistence of chattel slavery, prior to and after our quest for independence, the method by which gross economic advantage could be maintained by the few and trickled down to the chosen rest, ensured us of the proverbial feet of clay that would condemn our nation to a future of unbalanced economic and societal evolution. In the years between the election of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, 50 of those 72 years had a slaveholding president in the office and in that period, no non-slaveholder was ever elected to a second term. We expanded and built our nation on the margins of an oppressed labor pool, where the worth of one man's hour was declared greater than another's, with little more justification than raw racism required of the perpetrators to sleep well at night.
The cessation of slavery did not correct this initial disparity--share cropping, low wage immigrant and "freed" slave labor, and, ultimately, the issuance of a great deal of debt was the hallmark of Reconstruction. As invention and fossil fuels increased the ratio of production to energy, we may well have had a chance to correct the pervasive inequalities in our economic landscape, but greed, that always dependable concubine of success, demanded more.
With the return of the privately controlled central bank in 1913, we diversified our tactics away from the less photogenic specter of outright labor exploitation towards the more opaque stratagem of "fractional slavery", wherein a whole bunch of people get fleeced for smaller proportions of their time instead of a smaller proportion of people getting fleeced for a whole bunch of their time. This was accomplished by issuing unheard of levels of debt-backed, interest bearing "money" into the financial system and introducing an income tax system that declared sovereign claim over a portion of the fruits of the labor of every individual. When this began to run thin, we created the cleverest of imperial paradigms, the petro-dollar, effectively establishing a tax upon the commercial affairs of the entire world.
Herein forms the crucible of our continued distress--debt is a cancer to human social progression. By allowing debt to thrive as the driving mechanism of development, the would-be builders of commerce and industry could bypass too many of the natural market factors that would otherwise have fashioned credible and stable economic policy and the resultant cultural manifestations. If the marketplace represents natural selection, debt represents genetic aberrations in the body politic, the cheating on the curve of evolution. Just as we observe the unintended consequence of our genetic tinkering of food and animals, in the form of super bugs, disease and cow-killing grass, our modified economy is succumbing to the natural forces of the aggregate demands of all people and the correction cannot be resisted. And, in case you lost count, there are over 7 billion people making demands. With the advent of the Internet, they make their demands in real time. And they demand that we stop exploiting them.
President Obama is, therefore, quite correct in his assertion that "you did not build that". Nothing exemplifies this like the grotesque exaggerations of achievement borne of the last three decades. The world at large, held hostage to the almighty petro-dollar, dutifully or under duress paid into our massive debt machine, creating the illusion of dollar demand when it was, in fact, the effect of simple extortion at work. Everything we have culled from this imperial (and admittedly brilliant) scheme has been a mirage of success. It is destructive not merely due to the universal moral condemnation of ill-gotten gains but because it has shaped our nation's collective intellect poorly, undermining the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that would likely have molded and adapted our economic landscape around the realities that debt so easily ignores. We have suspended our comprehension of social relevance and reciprocity in favor of arguing the nuances of faulty imperial economic religion, where the means are an anecdotal footnote to the unified ends--to gain and possess more than you produce.
Most businesses in America are successful because a bloated consumer market can render even the most senseless and irrelevant of ventures profitable. The hallmarks of success, the banking and finance industry, have gained because they utterly cheated, lied, and stole their way into hallowed halls of the "elite" (who named them that?). This phenomenon has allowed untested, untried, and unworthy people to climb an economic ladder hewn from the bones of distant laborers who lived in squalor and oppressive poverty so that the West could buy one dollar calculators and forty dollar flat screen TVs at Wal-Mart on credit and call it success. Now that the inevitable globalization of the markets is forcing unwelcome change, the populace is rendered infantile in their response, too riddled with cognitive dissonance and too disempowered by centralized authority to contemplate and implement localized solutions.
Displaced middle class suburbanites march in protest of the "1%", hand in hand with a particularly subversive lot that are intelligent enough to rationalize that being parasitic somehow equates to a spiritual journey, ignoring the fact that, in the eyes of a great deal of our fellow Earthlings, they are the one percent. These milling multitudes are ripe for the charismatic ideologue to rise up and take control of a populist movement that chronically identifies themselves as victims--a familiar pattern in recent history that usually ends up with a lot of people on one way train rides. When they eliminate or neutralize the identified 1%, and nothing changes because this is a systemic problem, they will move on to the next bracket, and then the next, until all opposition to the utopia-de-jour is eliminated.
Debt makes all participants clinically insane. It is make-believe, like playing a video game in sandbox mode, where all normal variables are suspended. You learn nothing; you build nothing on a solid foundation. You do not advance. You stagnate and wither.
Our nation needs a Great Correction. We need to shatter the binds of centralized authority, no matter what credo they spout or vision of perfect security they prostitute. This will happen regardless, but without a true sense of understanding of our own complicity in these affairs, the outcome of this correction will be commandeered by those who wield the most ambition. We need to stop arguing morals that have no quantifiable effect on anything in the public forum. We need to arrest a bunch of crooks, make it absolutely impossible for our representatives to be unduly influenced by anyone except their direct constituency, ignore the hyperbolic nut cases that seem to get the air time, and then put our heads together and figure out how to salvage this, how to atone for our collective greed and arrogance, and how to rebuild with a direct correlation to reality.
This fantasy is eroding, and we are stuck between those who want to reclaim and cement the past and those who want to dominate and dictate the future. We need to empower ourselves to do something about now. The past is irretrievable and not worthy of our adoration, only our intense study. The future is never what it was a moment ago. Now is what we got, but we can't do anything about it because it is enslaved by tomorrow. The fear of death, tomorrow. The bill due, tomorrow. The veiled threat of tomorrow.
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