Monday, August 11, 2014

in a consumer society, there are two kinds of slaves:the prisoners of addiction, and the prisoners of envy...,

monbiot |  To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed.

I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe(1). What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.

We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identity is shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.

Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power(2). It’s rapidly colonising the rest of the world.

Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.

At the heart of this story is the notion of merit. Untrammelled competition rewards people who have talent, who work hard and who innovate. It breaks down hierarchies and creates a world of opportunity and mobility. The reality is rather different. Even at the beginning of the process, when markets are first deregulated, we do not start with equal opportunities. Some people are a long way down the track before the starting gun is fired. This is how the Russian oligarchs managed to acquire such wealth when the Soviet Union broke up. They weren’t, on the whole, the most talented, hard-working or innovative people, but those with the fewest scruples, the most thugs and the best contacts, often in the KGB.

Even when outcomes are based on talent and hard work, they don’t stay that way for long. Once the first generation of liberated entrepreneurs has made its money, the initial meritocracy is replaced by a new elite, which insulates its children from competition by inheritance and the best education money can buy. Where market fundamentalism has been most fiercely applied – in countries like the US and UK – social mobility has greatly declined(3).

If neoliberalism were anything other than a self-serving con, whose gurus and think tanks were financed from the beginning by some of the richest people on earth (the American tycoons Coors, Olin, Scaife, Pew and others)(4), its apostles would have demanded, as a precondition for a society based on merit, that no one should start life with the unfair advantage of inherited wealth or economically-determined education. But they never believed in their own doctrine. Enterprise, as a result, quickly gave way to rent.

All this is ignored, and success or failure in the market economy are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The rich are the new righteous, the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classified as social parasites.


Dale Asberry said...

My own observations suggest one liminal path is the emergence of infantilization in the process of taming wild species. Within the human species, the taming seems to be self-selected - women have long been preferring males with infantilized phenotypes such as the absence of body hair.

CNu said...

One more off-topic drive-by Big Don, and your poster-child days are over. Final warning.

DD said...

It's going fine,and there's very little noticeable change in behavior or attitude. It comes up in polite conversation but remains very polite; there's no urgency.

Which is probably appropriate. There's no real danger of a shortage for us. It will hit people upstream ( who have less water rights) first.

The water issue is one of distribution. Humboldt County at the north end of the state has massive water rights they are going to lose unless they use it, so they've been searching for an industrial consumer and have toyed with water bagging and towing the fresh water to LA.

This is naturally wet country, so most of the concerns are around other power centers like LA restructuring the rights rules away from us. But the Bay Area is powerful politically, so I suspect we will be spared long after it makes sense. They'll abandon Arizona before wealthy Californians feel a meaningful pinch.

LA is pretty powerful though. It's weird to be east of the Sierras and see major facilities labeled "Los AngelesCounty Water District."

John Kurman said...

That's really not that much of a surprise . Were I to bet against any metro area, it would have to be the Phoenix sprawl. But I'm guessing Oregon and points north is looking mighty attractive to some west coast folks.

BigDonOne said...

The ON_TOPIC for this morning ---> "Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism,"

From the sacking of Rome, to Wall Street banksters, Jon Corzine, and FergusonMO,,,,, LOOTing is heavily embedded in the Western historical nostalgia of market fundamentalism --- It definitely takes on all forms. So deal with it.....

On Topic, baby.....

DD said...

Look, I'm a busy professional. This site discusses big boy topics at a high level. When people go out of their way to write clearly, I still occasionally struggle with the topic or positions being advocated.

When you speak in riddles, use crazy punctuation, and ask shrouded questions that require me to independently research your vagueness, all while not explicitly staking a position.... Ain't nobody got time for that.

Try using normal punctuation, clearly stating a position, providing sources, and THEN you can ask hypotheticals as they'll be framed by your position.

Seems easy enough, give it a shot. If you want to maintain the "in this world but not a part of it" shtick where you provide the riddles and only those seeking truth will find you, you should actually maintain some level of remove so as to be justifiably aloof and mysterious.

But when you wave your dick around in every thread it takes you from "knowledgeable apocalyptic mystic," and deposits you in "ranting homeless guy" territory.

Constructive_Feedback said...

So in other words - you are giving me ENGLISH LESSONS.

Can you tell me which of the points that I have enumerated about the FACTS of the so called "Consumption Of Water" were in error.

Take you time.

CNu said...

DD didn't post the article or accompanying graphic, I did. That said;

With this in mind - could you tell us how you justify the notion that "Excess Water Consumption" is contributing to the drought conditions?

I didn't, instead, I asserted that normotic illness is a barrier to environmental adaptation.

Do you know what "normotic illness" is, or, are you strictly carrying on a conversation with yourself?

4) Is this the first time in "Man's History" that a civilization was forced to move because of a change in the availability of water?

I'm going to guess that it may be the first time a "civilization" had certain knowledge of its specific environmental overshoot, and was still utterly incapacitated when it came to making the necessary behavioral and situational adaptations.

Does the QUANTITY of people (as seen today) that are impacted as compared to past civilizations that were smaller make today's events "MORE EVIL"?

The fact that these people will be impacted today, and will assert a domino-like effect on many other people within our contiguous North American geography makes it infinitely more relevant and real to me and mine. In those vanishingly rare moments when you admit to reality-based mentations, I'm guessing you'd be compelled to admit that these events are and will be infinitely more relevant to you and yours, as well.

uglyblackjohn said...

Overall - California does pretty well when it comes to water and energy efficiency. From the whole, "If it's brown - flush it down. If it's yellow - let it mellow." campaign to urinals which use a thin layer of scented oil as a floating barrier (instead of the flush method) to residents planting drought tolerant gardens and a whole list of plans and programs implemented in an effort to conserve the water they have - the problem is that there are too many people living in areas that cannot sustain large populations over large periods of time. It's odd though... Just last week one of the harder hit areas of the drought were victims of flash floods. Even if the urban runoff could not be used as a potable source, the water in the Santa Ana river could be dammed and used in some way in the dry counties that make up the I.E..

Rep. Jasmine Crockett Cosponsored Bill to Revoke Trump Secret Service Protection

TheTexan  | Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), a freshman from Dallas, signed onto a resolution back in April that would have str...