Are You Loving Your Servitude Yet?


From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
of two minds . com

Global Crisis: the Convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka

The global crisis is not merely economic; it is the result of profound financial, sociological and political trends best captured by Marx, Orwell and Kafka.

The global crisis is best understood as the convergence of the modern trends identified by Marx, Orwell and Kafka. Let’s start with Franz Kafka, the writer (1883-1924) who most eloquently captured the systemic injustices of all powerful bureaucracies–the alienation experienced by the hapless citizen enmeshed in the bureaucratic web, petty officialdom’s mindless persecutions of the innocent, and the intrinsic absurdity of the centralized State best expressed in this phrase: “We expect errors, not justice.”

If this isn’t the most insightful summary of the Eurozone debacle, then what is? A lawyer by training and practice, Kafka understood that the more powerful and entrenched the bureaucracy, the greater the collateral damage rained on the innocent, and the more extreme the perversion of justice.

The entire global financial system is Kafkaesque: the bureaucracies of the Central State have two intertwined goals: protect the financial Elites from the consequences of their parasitic predation, and protect their own power and perquisites.

While Marx understood the predatory, parasitic nature of Monopoly Capitalism, he did not anticipate the State’s partnering with Cartel/Crony Capitalism; in effect, the State has appropriated the appropriators, stripmining the citizenry to protect the financial sector from the consequences of their “business model” (leverage, fraud, embezzlement and the misrepresentation of risk). But the State doesn’t merely enable (“regulate”) the predation of financiers; it also stripmines the citizenry to fund its own expansion into every nook and cranny of civil society.

This is where Orwell enters the convergence, for the State masks its stripmining and power grab with deliciously Orwellian misdirections such as “the People’s Party,” “democratic socialism,” and so on.

Orwell understood the State’s ontological imperative is expansion, to the point where it controls every level of community, markets and society. Once the State escapes the control of the citizenry, it is free to exploit them in a parasitic predation that is the mirror-image of Monopoly capital. For what is the State but a monopoly of force, coercion, data manipulation and the regulation of private monopolies?

What is the EU bureaucracy in Brussels but the perfection of a stateless State?

As Kafka divined, centralized bureaucracy has the capacity for both Orwellian obfuscation (anyone read those 1,300-page Congressional bills other than those gaming the system for their private benefit?) and systemic avarice and injustice.

The convergence boils down to this: it would be impossible to loot this much wealth if the State didn’t exist to enforce the “rules” of parasitic predation. In China, the Elite’s looting proceeds along somewhat different rules from the looting of Europe and the U.S., but the end result is the same in all financialized, centrally managed economies: an expansive kleptocracy best understood as the convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka.

Are You Loving Your Servitude Yet?

Aldous Huxley imagined a world in which the Status Quo satisfies its lust for power by “suggesting people into loving their servitude.”

It’s not just financial fraud on a vast scale, or debt or leverage or derivatives or a hundred other arcane mechanisms of parasitic predation; it’s the partnership of a mindlessly expansive Central State with Monopoly Capital and the media machine that serves them.
I considered including Aldous Huxley in the convergence above, as he too anticipated the essential nature of modern life. But perhaps his insights are more complementary than convergent, for he understood the media and State’s capacity to not only present a deranged and destructive Status Quo as “normal” but to persuade the serfs to embrace it. Aldous Huxley foresaw a Central State that persuaded its people to “love their servitude” via propaganda, drugs, entertainment and information-overload. In his view, the energy required to force compliance exceeded the “cost” of persuasion, and thus the Powers That Be would opt for the power of suggestion.
He outlined this in a letter to George Orwell:

“My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

As prescient as he was, Huxley could not have foreseen the power of electronic media hypnosis/addiction as a conditioning mechanism for passivity and self-absorption. We are only beginning to understand the immense addictive/conditioning powers of 24/7 social and “news” media. What would we say about a drug that caused people to forego sex to check their Facebook page? What would we say about a drug that caused young men to stay glued to a computer for 40+ hours straight, an obsession so acute that some actually die? We would declare that drug to be far too powerful and dangerous to be widely available, yet the Web is now ubiquitous.
Servitude comes in many gradations and forms. Relying on the Federal Reserve to constantly prop up our pension and mutual funds lest reality cause them to collapse is a form of servitude; we end up worshipping the Fed’s every word and act as mendicants worship their financial saviors.
That the Fed is unelected and impervious to democracy or the will of the people is forgotten; all that matters is that we love our servitude to it.
I have discussed the atomizing nature of social media and the way it conditions self-absorption in 800 Million Channels of Me (February 21, 2011), and the way that the consumerist ethos generates insecurity, alienation and social defeat. The only “cure” for social defeat is to love the servitude of consumption, convenience and the resulting debt-serfdom: The Last Refuge of Wall Street: Marketing To Increasingly Insolvent Consumers(December 12, 2011). I have covered these topics in depth in my books Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change and Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation.
The Central State has the power via welfare (individual and corporate) and bailouts to buy complicity. Since the human mind rebels against hypocrisy and insincerity–we can all spot a phony–we subconsciously persuade ourselves of the rightness and inevitability of servitude and self-absorption.

And that is how we come to love our servitude; we persuade ourselves to believe it’s acceptable and normal rather than deranged and destructive.
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2 Comments

In “Bubbles and the Titanic Betrayal of Public Trust” on Automatic Earth, Nicole Foss captures another facet of our situation, “In our era of catabolic casino capitalism, the financial system has been hollowed out. Huge risks have been taken with other people’s money for short term private profit. Reserve requirements have been whittled away to almost nothing in an attempt to maintain monetary expansion, and now there is virtually no cushion against financial crisis.” She later summarizes, “The formal ‘control’ mechanisms have done nothing of substance to reign in the development of a global Ponzi structure, in fact they have more often acted to facilitate it. In reality they do little beyond lulling us into a false sense of security. The existence of an institutional framework is no guarantee of effective function. The substance is long gone, and what we are left with is a shell. The appearance of a large, robust structure is an illusion, and the risk we are facing is one of implosion. This is how all bubbles come to an end. By way of analogy, not only has the Titanic already hit the iceberg, but most of the regulatory response constitutes rearranging the deckchairs. Most of society is still obliviously listening to the band, while the few are busy locking the third class passengers below decks. There are not enough lifeboats …..”

The battle is lost in the first five years of life. That is when the poisons of radical individualism and ruthless competition are inserted into the population at large. In a society where the most sacred obligation is to out-compete everyone else, where the only honors are those reserved for the greatest accumulators of wealth, then the die is cast. After a number of generations, when all the easy victims have been fleeced, the available resources sold or destroyed, we end up in the situation that we are in today, a situation human societies have gravitated to for thousands of years, a small violent upper class and general despair amongst the rest. Don’t believe me. Study the history of expansionist societies organized with a hierarchical class system. You will come away dismayed. In every instance those societies died horrible deaths.

y

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