PART 2 of 2
July 26, 2015
What we can be reasonably sure of is that if the TPP becomes law, more jobs will leave the U.S. through labor arbitrage. Corporations, moreover, will have legal latitude to sue national governments over anything they see as interfering with their profits. This has the potential to gut national labor laws, environmental protections, and efforts to ensure food safety. Want to know if your food contains GMOs? Do you want food labeling that tells you? Tough! Monsanto doesn’t. Incidentally, small businesses without transnational reach will have no standing to sue under TPP provisions.
The TPP applies to Pacific Rim nations. An Atlantic equivalent, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is in works. It would merge and corporatize the economies of the U.S. and the EU. Other “free trade” deals are coming down the pike: the Trade-in-Services Agreement (TISA) also applying to the U.S., the EU, and several other nations negotiating in secret, and — are you sitting down? — the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) applying to the EU and Canada. All of these are designed to incorporate additional nations against the will of their peoples; e.g., China is not presently a TPP partner but could become one in the future. Those sorts of decisions will be made by the globalist Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission the agreement creates. These deals, and the corporate negotiating boards behind them (“trade representatives”), are slowly building the legal and corporate global architecture of the planned global technofeudalism.
One of the signs you are living under a feudal system, techno- or otherwise, is that there is one set of rules for those in power or with state-sponsored authority and another set for plebes like you and me, with little actual legal recourse or due process, and no meaningful representation in the political system. Too-big-to-fail banks, for example, can engage in criminally reckless behavior and cause financial havoc. Not a single bankster was investigated following the 2008-09 meltdown. Instead, the federal government bailed out the too-big-to-fail banks at taxpayer expense. Their CEOs and top “performers” received huge bonuses! Today the Wall Street leviathans are bigger than ever!
At the street level, robbery at gunpoint is of course criminal, but police can steal your money and belongings — even your vehicle! — and call it civil asset forfeiture. The attempt to recover your property can cost as much in legal fees as the property was worth, making the effort of dubious value! Efforts to end civil asset forfeiture at the state level are being stymied. As I noted above, since 9/11 police have killed hundreds of presumed-innocent people with the number going up every year. Over five hundred people have now been killed by police this year alone. Hundreds of online videos show cops brutalizing people, some already handcuffed and obviously not a threat, some elderly and helpless, some of them children. There are dozens of lawsuits against police departments working their way through the courts. One investigation, however, found that just 54 officers had been prosecuted for murder over the past decade. Few of these result in convictions. The same investigation noted the uphill battle facing any diligent prosecutor trying a cop for murder. Moreover: cross the police by, e.g., filming them killing someone? They can make your life a living hell. Ask Ramsey Orta, who filmed the killing of Eric Garner in New York City. Or ask Kevin Moore, who filmed the Freddie Gray arrest in Baltimore and has worked with activists there and elsewhere on filming the police.
Another sign you are living in a feudal system: economists' platitudes notwithstanding, you cannot simply "quit your job if you don't like it." Whatever else these platitudes say (“no one is forcing you to work here”), leaving a job is unrealistic unless you have another source of income lined up, a longstanding savings plan (difficult in today’s environment), or support from family members (e.g., parents with savings). Otherwise you are cash-strapped and time-strapped — which has been the intent. Working people in big cities with bills to pay are, for all practical purposes, owned by the employment system which takes their time and gives them money — as little as possible, as jobs are scarce and workers are a dime a dozen. Under the feudalism of the past, serfs were literally tied to their land. De facto serfdom is characteristic of a low-wage economy. An irony is that history’s feudal serfs knew how to grow crops. Today’s serfs know only grocery stores. Unless you can grow food, you are totally dependent on a paycheck, on a debt-based money system.
The bad news: none of this will be fixed by "electing the right people." I know folks who bleat, “If we just get more Republicans in office….” Right. We’ve tried that! There is a saying: if voting changed anything it would be outlawed. Voting presumes that democracy exists outside the Real Matrix. What the political class and its superelite handlers can assume is that most voters will stay plugged in and continue being led by their noses. Someone who unplugs and sees the Desert of the Real figures out that there is no fix for any of this within the system’s rules. One crucial reason is that one cannot name the real issues facing the country today, those having to do with oligarchic rule, the bought-and-paid for political class, global trade deals, the Federal Reserve, the 40-year financialization of the economic system, the real unemployment rate (much higher than the BLS U-3 figure), the mindless belligerence of present U.S. foreign policy, the education meltdown, and others besides. For one thing, the average public-schooled voter today is unable to follow a serious, extended discussion of most of these issues. For another, a candidate who pursued them anyway would be branded a conspiracy theorist (possibly even “anti-Semitic”) in mainstream media. His candidacy would be dead in the water from that moment forward.
At one time, Dr. Ron Paul could have done more to turn the U.S. around than any other single person. He was the one candidate for president who had the Federal Reserve on his radar screen, the one candidate who understood that creating money out of nothing indefinitely will have consequences, and the one candidate who seemed to understand that the U.S.’s post-9/11 foreign policy was not exactly winning us friends overseas. Pseudo-pundits dismissed him as a “nut” who was not “electable”; his supporters were bullied at Republican events; and in the end, his effort to challenge the establishment failed. He has, to his credit, remained active, having put together a curriculum for homeschoolers.
There are those whose anger might prompt them to suggest open rebellion, or even violent revolution. These should not be seen as live options! History clearly shows that revolutions tend to make things worse. Secession, too, is an idea sometimes floated. Groups promoting secession from the corrupt Washington regime exist in Vermont, the Southeast, Texas, Arizona, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere. The idea is still ahead of its time, at least on our side of the Atlantic. No one, at present, could assemble a group with firepower sufficient to stand up to the U.S. federal government — period. Any substantive action taken by an organized group (as opposed to a mob, as in Ferguson or Baltimore) would not just get them killed but could result in a general crackdown to prevent future uprisings, not to mention the likelihood that its leaders could be thrown into prison indefinitely under the NDAA. This assumes, of course, that the country doesn’t experience a massive false flag “terrorist” attack. Those with real power could use any pretext they wanted to put an end to the façade of democracy when they believe the time is right. After all, events following the Boston Marathon Bombing proved that the federal government could place a large metropolitan area under de facto martial law, invade private homes forcing their occupants into the streets while conducting warrantless searches, and that not a single person of influence in politics or media would object! After all, that bit of drama was about catching a terrorist!
Should a dictatorship actually emerge in the U.S., its raison d’être will be to protect you from terrorists (foreign or domestic)!
After all, you want your government to keep you safe, don’t you? What in the world could be more important to you than your safety?![*]
So what is one to do? I am often asked this in good faith. My most thoughtful answer is one that requires self-discipline and patience. It assumes that expatriation to Chile or Panama is not for everyone (it isn’t, and hardly solves every problem).
The first thing to do is gain perspective. Technofeudalism may be consolidating power in the West, with all kinds of new technological wizardry at its disposal (Smart Grid, Internet-of-Things, etc.), but it is also showing signs of decay if one knows where to look. It may have almost reached the limits of bigness and complexity it is able to handle. Will these systems run themselves? While technocrats envision “smart machines,” no one has any idea how to build one that will maintain itself indefinitely without human hands. Meanwhile, much of the workaday physical infrastructure of the U.S. — bridges, highways, etc. — is falling into disrepair. The combination of technology and ruined education has created a population of narcissists glued to television and gadgets, unable to do productive work, and blissfully unaware of the fundamental realities of our time.
The biggest of these is that basing a financial system on debt will exact consequences. Credit-fueled bubbles invariably pop. There is good reason for believing the dollar is doomed, however well it may seem to be doing at the moment. We do not have a timetable, although signs exist of an impending downturn that will make the 2008 meltdown look like a picnic by comparison. When this will happen (later this year, or next year, or not until the 2020s) is impossible to say with accuracy; there are too many variables. What we can say is that it will happen. The mathematics alone make it inevitable. The too-big-to-fail banks are bigger, as we said; overall debt is higher, both the official national debt and other federal debts are higher; the financial system is more highly leveraged; precarity is greater; the resources available to stave off the effects of a financial near-collapse are less today than they were seven years ago. So the longer this takes, the worse it will be. Wise capital is already fleeing to other jurisdictions and currencies, or to precious metals while their paper value is being held at artificial lows.
In my humble opinion, the wise thing to do is wait, be patient, keep your head down, diversify your assets, and quietly build solid personal skills whatever they may be: growing things, cooking them, storing essentials, making things, etc. Regardless of what happens, people will need to eat; they will want to keep clean; they will need clothing, especially clothing designed to protect from bitterly cold winters. In the event of a massive economic unraveling that literally causes extended brownouts, people who have such skills or badly needed goods to trade will have major advantages over those who wasted their time watching sports or the Kardashians or Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner! Get rid of your television! Get your children out of government schools and homeschool them! Teach them how to work with their hands as well as financial and other sorts of literacy. Such skills will continue to be of value, even in a barter system.
The good news is that technofeudalism is not sustainable (a word I relish using with irony). Technofeudalism is based on, and further reinforces, a mindset of cynical opportunism and predation. This makes it vulnerable to the same corruption that created it. Its architects may finish building their global system. They may rule for a while in top-down fashion: an extremely wealthy caste of oligarchs and their bought-and-paid-for political mouthpieces who won’t look or sound much different from what we have now. Beneath them will be a somewhat larger “middle class” of well-paid functionaries (technocrats and bureaucrats) to administer the oligarchs’ policies, with an equivalent class of skilled specialists to oversee all the technological wizardry. Then there are the plebes: the rest of us, expected to work for our livings. There may be a few remnants of what was once a substantial middle class. Near the bottom will be the cash-strapped precariat, just above those deemed permanently unemployable and probably expendable.
Things will again begin to go wrong, one by one, as this system slowly unravels. As I argue elsewhere, excessively large political-economic systems tend to do that.
The oligarchs are sociopaths who form allegiances of convenience, not true friendships based on loyalty or comradery. As individuals they will work together, but simultaneously maneuver for advantages among their own, aware that others of their caste are doing the same thing. If they achieve the global power they seek, divisions will likely develop over possibly minor differences of opinion over, e.g., how to handle a possibly more organized precariat that refuses to accept its lot in life quietly. All the latter needs is the appearance of a charismatic leader. Do those in power deal with such a person quietly, or visibly, to make an example? Either option carries risk.
What will they do when presently corporate-approved activities, such as fracking, begin to cause evident ecological and geophysical damage? How would they move to pacify angry mobs demanding their money in the wake of a massive financial meltdown, while maneuvering to restore stability? Such issues have the potential to fracture the oligarchy. Its present “senior” leaders, moreover, (Rockefeller Sr., Brzezinski, Kissinger) are either closing in on 90 or, in the case of the first, 100 (this summer!). They may have discovered a means of longevity not available to us plebes. This doesn’t matter. They will meet their Maker soon! Are those behind them, presumably groomed for oligarchic rule, able to carry the torches their elders carried? Or will they prove less intelligent, less clever, less capable?
Moreover, the oligarchs cannot be everywhere. Surveillance technology may become omnipresent, but can be circumvented by those with the know-how. Many tech savvy folks are very freedom oriented as well as mobile, and this might remain the case in that skilled specialist class. They will thus be clever enough to stay ahead of the technocrats. I can envision “hackers” along the lines of Anonymous, monkeywrenching the immense data storage and retrieval systems technofeudalism will need.
Finally, should one or more of the more charismatic mouthpieces for the oligarchy in some region decide they have better ideas for doing things in their region than their masters, and should they be able furtively to pay off a few police chiefs or regional military leaders, whichever oligarch had primary jurisdiction will have a problem on his hands, especially if other mouthpieces and functionaries get wind of what is going on. The oligarchs will have tried to choose underlings they could control, possibly through blackmail. But it is a given that if they lose control over police and armed forces, their days are numbered. They will have taken up residence in gated communities protected by armed security. They may find themselves trapped in such places.
In other words, many things can and will go wrong with a technofeudalist regime, just as with the envisioned neoliberal utopia.
Technofeudalism’s rise has been furtive and steady, but its fall could be ugly and chaotic — much worse than was the collapse of the Soviet economy for the Russian people. The latter were far more resilient and self-reliant than the average American Idol watcher, as Dmitry Orlov has shown in great detail. This is a separate article.
There may be light at the end of this tunnel. As technofeudalism falls, freedom will once again be possible — for those who have prepped for it. And kept in mind a fundamental fact about freedom. No one is going to give it to you, neither governments nor corporations nor anyone else. Real freedom is something you take.
[*] Studying liberal arts subjects such as logic and critical thinking might inspire a student to do independent research, comparing the numbers of those killed by terrorists or alleged terrorists in the U.S., or claims of thwarted terrorist attacks (assuming these are reliable) with those killed as a result of, e.g., domestic or other kinds of accidents. The diligent student will soon discover that you are many times more likely to die from a fall in your bathtub than you are to be killed by a terrorist and hundreds of times more likely to be killed in an automobile accident than in a terrorist attack.
� 2015 Steven Yates - All Rights Reserved
Steven Yates has a doctorate in philosophy and currently lives in Santiago, Chile. He is the author of Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (Brush Fire Press International, 2011). He also owns an editing business, Final Draft Editing Service.
Steven Yates's new ebook is entitled: Philosophy Is Not Dead: A Vision of the Discipline's Future.