58. Déjà Vu and Wicked Stories

SinsSo why do you read the news every day? Alright, maybe you don’t. I plead guilty. Not all of it of course, just the nar­ra­tives I’ve cho­sen to fol­low. Funny how we pick our com­pany. For me the deletes run through spec­ta­tor sport, most local news – espe­cially the TV favourites/ murders/ muggings/ petty scan­dals, gen­eral gos­sip shock-hor­ror stuff .. it’s an eter­nal cycle. Per­haps that’s the beauty of it for peo­ple who like cor­ner shop rou­ti­nes. Well, hooked on the grand sweep of inter­na­tional affairs, do I lead some blessed, wise and ele­vated life? Par­don the self-mock­ery. In the end it is an addic­tion like any other, per­haps more point­less than most since no happy band of fel­low trav­ellers gath­ers around the com­puter screen to sur­vey the wider world. You can’t walk into any pub, club or work­place and start a con­ver­sa­tion with com­plete strangers on the state of play of pol­i­tics in Zhong­nan­hai, or pop­u­la­tion trends in north­ern Africa (but you can do just that for foot­ball heroes of the hour). Yes, I’m a fool to my own best inter­ests if pop­u­lar­ity is the game, but it is mighty hard to wear the heels of your shoes down in a dif­fer­ent way after grow­ing your own spe­cial slouch. 

This story then is just a grum­ble about liv­ing in a world of pre­dictable vil­lainy and occa­sional charm. As pretty as snowflakes pil­ing up on a bleak field, I’ve accu­mu­lated a pass­able knowl­edge of world his­tory and inter­na­tional affairs (espe­cially Asian). Yet snow is snow, while the seven deadly sins don’t really change their cloaks regard­less of the weather. No mat­ter where I look and no mat­ter at what time in his­tory, the same under­ly­ing sto­ries play out. Good ideas/ideals get sub­verted by the bad guys (in fact, one-time good guys are apt to be bought out and enlisted in the Evil Empire of the age), wealth fun­nels to the few, classes are entrenched, sex is exploited, trust evap­o­rates … If you are young enough, you KNOW that this sorry tale was yes­ter­day: NOW the pos­si­bil­i­ties are dif­fer­ent, right? Why else would we tune into the story again each morn­ing? The grumpy elder speaks: in truth, NOW the pos­si­bil­i­ties are worse, but only because the num­ber of play­ers (world pop­u­la­tion) is destruc­tively larger and the tools of oppres­sion chill­ingly more effi­cient. The Muse soothes us: just to keep things tick­ing over, “Good”, what­ever that is, always fights back and the whole cycle of hero­ism and romance starts over.

Ah, the Amer­i­can ver­sion of all this. The Amer­i­can media (as dis­tinct from Joe Bloggs on Main Street) is in our face every day, so allow us our stereo­types: Amer­i­cans of course are over­whelm­ingly sold on the myth of their excep­tion­al­ism (like the Chi­nese, Kore­ans or who­ever), and see some­thing unique in their own cycle of destruc­tion. Actu­ally it looks like pretty ordi­nary evil, but the bug­gers have too many guns, and we can only point our fin­gers. For what is is worth, as an out­sider to the Amer­i­can Dream, it seems rather glar­ingly obvi­ous to me that shift­ing alliances of elites in Amer­ica have, over many decades, com­mit­ted what we could rea­son­ably call acts of high trea­son against the Amer­i­can peo­ple (not to speak of war crimes against other pop­u­la­tions). Once you start on con­spir­acy the­o­ries though, it is easy to attract a rab­ble of fol­low­ers who reduce skep­ti­cism to farce, so the vil­lains get away unscathed. They know this and exploit it. Nev­er­the­less, the most prob­a­ble truths remain depress­ing. For exam­ple, the so-called 9/11 events only make tech­ni­cal or polit­i­cal sense (to me any­way) if the real per­pe­tra­tors were inside the sys­tem, namely some alliance of US military/industrial/armaments/political careerists of a type who all stay in the same five star hotels.

This hap­pens to be AD 2012, so we are freshly aware of cer­tain dra­mas. (If we ran the movie back by decades or cen­turies, the same amoral tales would be run­ning). As we look out of the bunker, the whole Iraq & Afghanistan deba­cle has been a huge finan­cial suc­cess for a cer­tain caste of five star hotel Amer­i­can vil­lains. In fact, quite apart from the more or less trans­par­ent and vast cor­po­rate prof­its from war­fare (a tril­lion dol­lars did not go to Mid­dle East­ern peas­ants or car­pet sales­men), and the ego esca­la­tor for those who live for bemedalled glory, there is accu­mu­lat­ing evi­dence from econ­o­mists that some part of this evil crew were gam­ing the stock-mar­ket with a flood of put-options imme­di­ately prior to 9/11 [note 1]. The fuse to those excit­ing adven­tures, seems equally dubi­ous. The actual physics of the twin-tow­ers demo­li­tion in New York seems scarcely fea­si­ble from the sup­posed cause, a jet-fueled ram-raid by a hand­ful of spoiled Saudis [note 2] … and so on. The real per­pe­tra­tors have suc­cess­fully esti­mated the dim gulli­bil­ity of enough Amer­i­cans to get away with it (i.e. an his­tor­i­cal deceit that seems so famil­iar in Amer­i­can his­tory that it is almost a tra­di­tion, yet never fails). Sim­i­larly, the GFC is trans­par­ently about crim­i­nal­ity by elites on a stag­ger­ing scale.

Well, that is our Amer­i­can cousins. How­ever, we could pick coun­tries almost at ran­dom, at any point in their his­to­ries, and find a sim­i­lar kind of bas­tardry at play wherever oppor­tu­nity has arisen. Each address has its own cul­tural recipe of course. My own, Aus­tralia, is small enough (pop­u­la­tion wise) and weak enough to have a democ­racy that some­times works. There­fore its polit­i­cal lead­er­ship has a long his­tory of hairy chest thump­ing and timid behav­iour – not least in the inter­na­tional arena, where Aus­tralia for most prac­ti­cal pur­poses is an Amer­i­can client state [note 3, note 4]. Per­haps it is no sur­prise that Aus­tralians choose lead­ers in their own image. If we passed the marshal’s baton to most of these Aus­tralian cit­i­zens would they be wiser and braver than the politi­cians they love to lam­poon? No of course not. Let’s look at the worldly obses­sions of every­man in the street. 80% of Aus­tralians cling to a hand­ful of cities on the edge of a huge empty con­ti­nent. With­out the cor­ner super­mar­ket they would be lost. Their greater pur­pose in life, and there­fore the focus of much latent skul­dug­gery, revolves around bid­ding up the price of real estate. How has this par­tic­u­lar moral­ity drama panned out? Here is the state of play. In Aus­tralia, 30% of the pop­u­la­tion at present (over­whelm­ingly under 30 and there­fore bound to mul­ti­ply) will never own a house. Why? Well, the par­tic­u­lar local dynamic is that gov­ern­ments have bribed votes from the mid­dle classes for two gen­er­a­tions by finan­cial incen­tives to home own­er­ship: an out­right $7000 grant to pur­chase your first home (imme­di­ately increases mar­ket prices by at least $7000), no cap­i­tal gains tax on homes, neg­a­tive gear­ing (mort­gage costs tax deductible), and so on. The pre­dictable result has been asset infla­tion so sev­ere that Aus­tralian hous­ing is nearly the world’s most expen­sive rel­a­tive to income, and thus there has emerged a large class of peo­ple who think they are mil­lion­aires but live on ham­burg­ers. That is, one class of “gen­er­a­tion-lucky” work­ing peo­ple has been set against another class of work­ing peo­ple, and no force short of national cat­a­stro­phe (a Chi­nese inva­sion?) will budge their polit­i­cal greed [note 5]. Ha, ha maybe we need to give licenses to a few Amer­i­can banks…

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Notes:

These ref­er­ences are illus­tra­tive only, not defin­i­tive evi­dence for an argu­ment. Even if the authors of notes 1 & 2 are mis­guided about the exact mechan­ics of 9/11 (though I have no rea­son to sup­pose that they are) the bal­ance of prob­a­ble motives and out­comes which I have argued for above remain unchanged in the absence of con­vinc­ing, evi­dence-based coun­ter argu­ments.

1. Schall, Lars (26 April 2012) Insights into the 9/11 Debate – “Econ­o­mists are Scared”. Asia Times at http://atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/ND27Dj02.html

2. Legg, Frank (6 April 2012) Revis­it­ing the Sci­ence Behind 9/11. Asia Times at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/ND06Dj02.html

3. White, Hugh (27 Sep­tem­ber 2011) No Defence to War­ship Blowout. Bris­bane Times at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/no-defence-to-warship-blowout-20110926-1ktgw.html#ixzz1t97y2zOh

4. Birm­ing­ham, John (19 April 2012) Does Aus­tralia Even Have a Defence Pol­icy? Bris­bane Times at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/blogs/blunt-instrument/does-australia-even-have-a-defence-strategy-20120418-1x7a0.html

5. Irvine, Jes­sica (6 April 2012) Hous­ing Out­look Remains Grim for the For­got­ten Peo­ple. Bris­bane Times at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/housing-outlook-remains-grim-for-the-forgotten-people-20120405-1wfd0.html 

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