We are become a culture than can neither stimulate nor inspire
Friday afternoon and evening is traditionally a dead time for website hits, especially in summer. It’s hot here in southern France today, and I hear it is in the UK too. Many people in Blighty have developed a habit over the years of sloping home soon after Friday lunchtime. The ones that don’t tend to be found packing out the pubs and bars of city centres after 5.30pm. So one way or another, there’s not a lot of thinking takes place after hours on a Friday.
However, thinking when others are busy altering their minds is one of the many ways anyone can stay in touch with reality.
After a false news report confirming his demise, the American author Mark Twain wrote that “rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. It’s an odd experience, being reported dead; it happened to me in 1971 after fire swept through a house where I’d rented a room in Streatham. ‘Three killed in Streatham flats blaze’ the Standard reported, naming me as one of the victims. But I’d jumped out of a back window and been bundled into an ambulance before the press got there.
It often feels the same when I think about the financially dominated, globalist free-market version of capitalism. As each month passes, one feels as if it is about to be laid to rest. But the rumours are, allegedly, greatly exaggerated.
There is, of course, more to the reports than mere misheard rumour. The truer analogy is of a rich patient with cancer, whose access to mountains of cutting-edge drugs keeps her afloat long after you feel she should be dead. There is a sequence of recovery and relapse and then further recovery. But each time, the back is a little more stooped, and the face a slightly greyer mask.
The model of capitalism under which most of us struggle at the moment has been given every which way kind of therapy over the last seven years, once the storm clouds had been ignored by the Fed’s Alan Greenspan in 2004. Since the middle of 2010, however, the terminal nature of the patient has been obvious: the only reason Friedmanism remains akin to the healthcare lavished upon Nelson Mandela: it’s far too awful a task to imagine what life would be like once his influence has gone. Globalist monopolism fed by misappropriated money has prolonged its death agony….just long enough for those at the trough to hoover up the last of the swill.
It finally dawned on me last night (while reading the Express, of all things) that one can sum up the political inadequacy of those trying to heal the dying gargoyle very simply: some know how to cut, some know how to spend, but none of them know how to stimulate any more. The State Socialist mentality thinks it knows how to ‘stimulate’ the public sector, but this is merely dependence spending. The Tory economists think they know how to ‘stimulate’ entrepreneurs, but this is merely tax-cutting to garner votes.
Both viewpoints start from the assumption that money is the only way to do it. They are hopelessly wrong: purpose, fulfilment and family nurture are what stimulates healthy cultures. They create wealth, and glue communities together in a shared goal. Our western populations aren’t stimulated – they are stick-and-carrot victims. The very lack of stimulation helps explain why, of a Friday evening, most people can’t wait to get a vat of something down their necks.
Put simply, commerce isn’t fun any more. In easily the greatest economic heist in history, the craft skill and organisation required to buy, upgrade, create, make and market stuff has given way in the West to the insane notion that shuffling derivates around in between shopping at Tiffany’s and buying ever-bigger houses can somehow put butter on the national parsnips.
Money required to keep the living organism known as the economy mutating and growing successfully in response to environmental and technological change has instead been siphoned off, and used to make Nasty Big grotesquely bigger through merger – rather than genuine organic growth. Half-informed clowns in merchant and investment banks have driven this – ironically, none more than Lehman in its time – as a means to reward shareholders, fire employees in their hundreds of thousands, and then rehire Asians at relative slave wages.
Again, there is no attempt to improve the product or invest in innovation: the bottom line is upped not by justifiably higher margins, but by accountants screwing everyone – the Revenue, the workforce, and the client if necessary. HR feeds the employees pc gobbledygook, production feeds the consumer abysmal quality, and distribution promises more than the product can deliver. The idea of stimulating anyone comes a very poor last. When was the last time you were stimulated by a genuinely innovative new product outside of Apple’s Ipad or crack cocaine? When was the last occasion you Googled a listings guide, and thus decided you’d rather watch telly than go to the pub?
Jeremy Bentham imagined that ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ (easily the best philosophical idea of all time) could be created with material wellbeing. Having witnessed the abject poverty of the 18th and 19th century working class, we can hardly blame him for thinking that. But man cannot live by bread alone – and this absolute truth makes contemporary capitalism, by definition, a doomed cul-de-sac
The current system is indeed a dead-end: dead-end in the sense that it is the very antithesis of Bentham’s aim of maximising contentment throughout our species. The belief in a Material Church has been packaged and sold to all of us with consummate skill, alongside a sociopathic level of dissembling, obfuscation and evil-genius book-keeping. It has enabled a tiny proportion of people (probably no more than eight million in the US) to earn vast sums, pay minimal tax, create their own mess – and then ask the already crippled ordinary taxpayer to clean up after them.
The Big Lie in all of it (and even the elite themselves believe the lie) is that money is the sole requirement for happiness. And the lie is so big, it must spawn other lies in order to remain hidden in swirling mists of economic bollocks like ‘trickle-down wealth’, and ‘post-manufacturing capitalism’.
The bare-faced lie is now almost ubiquitous in public life. ‘Free!’ says the software website, but the product isn’t free in any way, shape or form. ‘You have a new message!’ Facebook promises, but the person concerned didn’t actually send it. ‘Lone rogue!’ says Newscorp, but the truth is very different. ‘No more powers to Brussels!’ say the Tories, but they lack any power to stop it. ‘All rape is the same!’ yell pc harpies. ‘All Jews are Communists!’ screamed Dr Goebbels. ‘I did not have sexual intercourse with that woman!’ insisted Bill Clinton. It’s not hard to discern the source of mendacity – and it’s even easier to see where it’s going.
When Theodore Levitt expounded upon ‘a global village’ in the early 1980s, he was talking about a minute fraction of Earth’s population (corporate business class suits) who might in any way fit his invidious description. What is becoming clear towards the end of its miserable existence is that the system which emerged from the madcap theories of Levitt – and the anti-anthropology of Milt Friedman – produces only oxymoronic results – jobless recoveries, healthcare rationing and flatlining consumption levels. You could teach a reasonably bright eight year-old why in not much more than an afternoon. But you can’t teach politicians that, because self-absorption and the process of acquiring power are all-consuming distractions. And there’s no point in teaching Bob Diamond or Lloyd Blankfein about it, because they’ve known the truth for decades; they just don’t care.
Having stoked up this slow suicide of economic conflagration for the nation States that house them, these pot-bellied pigs have no intention of sharing their fellow citizens’ fate. In the aftermath of 2008’s near miss, they have switched from stoking up to stocking up. And the desperation is more obvious with every week that passes: from the Goldman Sachs bonus pool that beggared belief earlier this year right through to the Athenian elite’s flagrant scheme to embezzle an astonishing $27 billion from the Greek State, the big swinging dicks are heading for the hills, their covered wagons piled high with stolen property.
Even a Newscorp empire built upon the purchase of legislators, corruption of policemen, and the rape of others’ privacy is sprinting hard for the shelter before the monsoon arrives. Murdoch lost a fortune on Myspace, and is overdependent upon a Premiership soccer construct whose business plan can be summarised as ‘a steady supply of Russian gangsters’. He badly needs the BSkyB deal to happen: but luckily for him, an Etonian chump and Basil Brush are the only things standing in his way. As he owns the former, and the former runs the latter, it’s going to take a lot to stop it going through on the nod.
The bankers themselves make wilder and wilder derivative bets in a fantasy sphere ten times bigger than the productive global economy. Multinationals hand profit to their shareholders based not on sales, but rather the cheap yet lucrative purchase of Government debt. In the US, the Federal Reserve Board borrows more and more to try and get liquidity into the economy, but globalist omnivores and investment bankers simply buy the debt to fire more people and thus increase the need for stimulation. It is a mad hare’s tea party too surreal for even the imagination of a Lewis Carroll, but it is going on day in day out, with due solemnity, pious press conferences, and serious discussion throughout the media.
Like the Third Reich, one day the madness will be gone. And in the two decades or more after that day (before the Devil rides out again) our grandchildren will ask us, “How could you not see how wrong this was?” For us in supposedly liberal democratic societies, the feeble excuse “I was only obeying orders” won’t even represent any kind of get-out. We will instead be left with the same truth the Germans had to face after the defeat of Nazism: that it produced, briefly some good times – and until it all went wrong, we were too busy enjoying ourselves to give a monkeys about anything important.
I’ll tell you what I think in conclusion, this balmy Friday evening. Our culture has been so starved of things to get genuinely excited about over the last three decades, it has begun to mistake stimulants for stimulation. When I say stimulation, what I mean is inspiration. Inspiration comes from a passion to learn more, having one’s faculties intact, and heeding the example set by accountable leadership. Small wonder, then, that the parts of our culture in deepest crisis today are education, healthcare, media quality, and politics.
We don’t have either accountability or leadership in the contemporary West; because of this, the bad guys are winning hands down. But when the bad guys mess up again, we sure as hell better find some….otherwise, the false stimulation of Nuremberg Rallies will be the only thing on offer.