Rotten Again

14 Apr

I took a few days’ respite to enter the world of my (almost) four-year-old, which is wonderfully magical; utopian even, if you will (and you will), but not devoid of rules and consequences which must be enforced with, at times, an iron will (but not hand). Throughout the last 53 hours, despite the distraction, Johnny Lydon’s words from 14 January, 1978 hung around and chiseled their way to the top of the Thought Queue from time to time, prompting me to spew here a second part to the post below.

Don’t believe the hype.
I was looking so forward to seeing National Geographic’s “Human Footprint” which premiered last night, but frankly, after the initial wow factor was gone (within the first 6 minutes), the two-hour extravaganza amounted to nothing more than a staggering, relentless statistic machine spewing out numbers upon numbers of our appetite for consumption. For some suspect reason (not really), when outlining the number of bread loaves we consume in our lifetimes, the producers chose to line up scores of thousands of Wonder Bread product (shown several times at several points of the show), prompting any wise viewer to ask: who exactly sponsored this programme? A quick shot of research gives us nothing in terms of finance or corporate endowment. Statistics, however, were compiled by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. What I do know is that in April, 2007 billionaire media entrepreneur John Werner Kluge gave $400 million to Columbia for financial aid — one of the largest gifts ever to an American university.
Don’t believe the hype.

When my daughter was younger and tried hard to impose her will onto some situation we did not wish to occur, the best way to deter her was to deflect. Distract. Usually the deflection was situation-based, but just as often, the material version would do the job. Don’t want her to open the drawer of knives in the kitchen? Distract her with an event going on in the living room (Sesame Street videos, rubber ball bouncing, etc.). Don’t want her to pull down the floor lamp? Ring some ringhy-ding-ding toy in the other room and watch her wobble straight to it. Ah, the artful science of deflection. It’s much like what’s happening to-day with advertising. It’s much like what’s always been happening. We’ve fallen for advertising like slobbering zombies for a century running. And advertising is nothing more than deflection. Distraction from the real issues. Material distraction usually works with grown-ups, in that it builds upon the other–the situational–because we understand material prowess yields everything else. And so, financial power (security? freedom?) is the initial step to the situational distraction: take that vacation to the Caymans. Because you can afford it.

I’ve been writing about “the American Dream” and the powers-that-be (initially the Church, then monarchy, and government, now corporations funneling favours through government legislation via intense lobbying) dangling that carrot in front of our eyes for years now. At this point, I truly cannot imagine why anyone would want to come to this country to stay. Or make a living. I truly cannot. As horrible as conditions may be around the world, I cannot see why well-informed immigrants would want to choose this country to settle. And therein lies the issue. Information. Not all of us have the time and access to read through diligently, find the truth, and make a well-informed decision. Not all of us have the energy and time to conduct research and not be driven mad, straight to the bottle or syringe, after finding out the truth about the FDA (Food AND Drug Administration: conflict of interest), the FAA, the IMF/World Bank, Health Maintenance Organizations, pharmaceutical companies…and corporations in general. The “powers-that-be” have morphed (and joined) and become so compartmentalized and mitotic that they’ve attained the sanctified status of a venerable labyrinth watched over by a corporate, sterilized Pan ready to strike down anyone who figures out the convoluted path out of the quagmire. Instead of the mythic flute, our corporate-sponsored son of Hermes dons a giant Louisville Slugger with which he keeps all in line.

There is a loophole in the mentality of The Corporation which dissenters and dissidents often exploit, thereby enabling them to push through information which may balance and challenge the advertised “truth.” And that is: The Corporation believes in nothing. Nothing but profit. And so it will allow anything that may have a chance at generating just that. Even criticism of its own practices. It will allow the likes of Michael Moore (disclosure: I am not a fan and believe he’s as big a propagandist as the entities he criticizes) to make his films because they will generate incredible revenue for Miramax and the Weinstein brothers. But I believe the big boys have figured out that loophole–and why not, they’ve created it originally–and are now taking advantage of it themselves. It is the reason why Wal-Mart has suddenly “gone green.” Going Green sells. It’s huge business. Going Green has sprung divisions within private sector corporations (and government) which bring in magnanimous amounts of profit. It’s the snake who devours his own tail, figuring out how that is actually self-serving and most importantly, self-preserving.

And so, watching The Human Footprint last night, a perfectly feasible theory was proposed by my better half: this is the intentional flooding of “the market” (the consumer) with such overwhelming, swelling, truthful information pertaining to the destructive path that we all leave behind as top of the foodchain consumers, that it will drive us to, in effect and literally, throw up our hands in despair and give up because there is no choice. The train has left the station decades ago. There is no way to reverse the runaway locomotive. There is no time. Mundane details of our lives are devouring our time and so, if we cannot beat them, then we might as well align with them in the pursuit of The American Dream and have the flat screen, have the SUV, have the four-bedroom/three-bath, have havehavehavehavehave it all sold to us. There used to be a joke floating around in the 80s: you’d tack on “…we are Beatrice” to the end of any phrase. It would elicit a great many laughs. For those who don’t know, Beatrice was a conglomerate incorporated in 1898 and dismantled under a leverage buyout in 1986. Beatrice was built on the current tradition of decentralized and conservative management, acquisitions, and mergers, and constantly expanding profits for shareholders. It became one of the world leading but least-known companies, and expanded its base from milk and butter to a diversity of foods and goods ranging from LaChoy Chinese food products to Tropicana juice to Playtex underwear to Samsonite luggage to Avis rental cars to…you get it. And so–to personalize this–the joke runs: “Hi, my name is Alex Pruteanu…we are Beatrice.” You get it.

There is not enough room here–or more accurately, brain power and knowledge from your humble commentator–to talk about the current financial situation in the States and how Ben Bernanke and the boys are scrambling to avoid the dreaded R-word. But I will try with simple, common sense and with the limited history I do know: in 1785 the Americans adopted a bi-metallic standard of silver and gold. In 1900, the U.S. switched entirely to a gold standard. The U.S. maintained convertibility of the dollar into gold until 1933 when FDR banned U.S. citizens from owning gold, but the U.S. continued to honor convertibility by foreign central banks until Nixon closed the gold window to foreigners in August 1971, ending the Bretton Woods era and leaving the U.S. dollar as the world’s only reserve currency. The dollar from that point on has been no more than an “IOU Nothing,” to quote economist John Exter.

With the dollar tied to gold there was virtually no inflation from 1785 to the formation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. In fact, 20 years before he was appointed Governor of the Federal Reserve, then private businessman Alan Greenspan released a very profound statement summing up the reality of a sound money/credit system tied to gold: “As the supply of money increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no store of value.”

In light of Alan Greenspan’s almost total disregard for the dollar’s integrity over his past 17 years at the Fed, and the inflation which has ensued, it is hard to believe he would stand by his statement of 1967. However, reports of conversations with the Fed Chairman indicate he recognizes gold as money and privately still embraces the gold standard.

Debasement of the dollar during the 90 years of Federal Reserve management is recorded for the world to see. Goods and services obtained in 1913 for $100 would cost $1840 today, and the loss of the dollar’s purchasing power goes on unabated.

Bernanke is particularly interested in the economic and political causes of the Great Depression, on which he has written extensively. On Milton Friedman’s ninetieth birthday, November 8, 2002, he stated: “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve System. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”


And so…now what? What are the answers? The solutions? Are we to just throw up our hands in despair and “join ’em?” We’ve been rendered impotent, it seems, by the sheer size of the intricate system which we’re traversing daily. So much so, that corporations are thumbing their Pinnochio-sized noses at us by flaunting the futility via statistics and numbers. In effect they’re saying: “we’ve created this almost infinite mess; look at the cyclopian numbers…just look! There is nothing you can do now. Nothing you do matters; recycling, voting, writing measly opinions on blogs, grass-roots volunteering…NOTHING. So, forget it all, have a good time, and partake in the destruction (which is imminent). Or, if you’re feeling a bit like a radical, a bit…tree-huggerish, here’s your Prius hybrid. Feel good that you’ve made a difference.” Made by Toyota, a corporation who’s figured out how to make a car that gets 55 miles per gallon, yet is currently fighting a 35 mpg standard. What are the answers?

Who is to be trusted?

“…ah, haha…ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
–Johnny Lydon, Sex Pistols, January 1978, San Francisco,California


8 Responses to “Rotten Again”

  1. Slyboots 14/04/2008 at 7:38 PM #

    I guess the question that I ask when I finished reading this is, “why do I have to trust anyone?” And yes, that’s a personal thing. But seriously, it’s nothing new to figure out that all anyone really wants from me is my money, my time, my ability to do a job, and eventually for me to perpetuate the cycle by breeding new little consumers to keep the whole thing spinning. Now, the fact that I haven’t fulfilled the final piece of this bargain, doesn’t mean that I haven’t fed right into the first parts. This is all probably nonsense, and too much exposure to Locke, but still. I don’t think that entities as a whole deserve any trust at all. Nixon blew that apart when I was little, and I have yet to witness any reason to re-think that.

    Ah, you made me think a lot. And on a Monday even. Fine job, that!

  2. (S)wine 14/04/2008 at 7:56 PM #

    Yours is a complicated question, because if I’m to distrust everyone (and most times I do), then I run into problems like: is my drinking water safe? is my food supply safe? does this drug really work for my migraines/high blood pressure/etc.? “They” say it’s safe, “they” say it works, but…
    There is a certain amount of trust we need to place in entities, or regulators, or watchgroups, as consumers, as human beings who need to feel protected, and so it’s a difficult question. I am hearing that too much fluoride in our water supply may cause abnormalities in older children…weirdness such as periods in 5-year-old girls. For years I’ve thought fluoride in our water supply was good but…
    This whole thing recently with the FAA and American Airlines. I need to feel that SOMEONE is making sure our planes are safely wired. I have to trust that SOMEONE is inspecting for this kind of problem (and others). What’s the point of even being alive if I cannot place SOME trust in SOME one?
    Good question.

  3. momentofchoice 14/04/2008 at 10:25 PM #

    The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

    that’s all i have for you today :)

  4. (S)wine 14/04/2008 at 10:36 PM #

    Ah yes. And although it just makes good sense, I am not one to talk, having spawned my own. However, I will say that the Evangelicals and other church-goin’ folk will come out of their sanctified woodwork in droves and claim their God-given right to pro-creation, more than likely invoking the N-word (no, the OTHER N-word: Nazi) in their attack on sterilization.

    Then there’s this:
    And so it goes…

  5. zombieswan 14/04/2008 at 11:00 PM #

    OOH what a can of worms you’ve opened today. Look at them all, wiggling, spawning new worms, eating their own filth. Why did you have to open the can when we were all blithely ignoring it sitting there and/or pretending that cans like that leave no carbon footprint? :)

    I don’t trust ANYONE. I don’t even trust them to make my water safe (have you read about the drugs in drinking water?!) Or my airplanes. Usually, I figure about half of it is sheer dumb luck and the other half is no one paying attention. And a good guardian angel or something.

    I trust that “going off the grid” is really the only way to get away from it all but then there are these articles in my gardening magazine about where to find the lovely products for going off the grid. What website hosts that paint, this recycled tin roof (which of course is much more expensive.)

    We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. And yes, I’ve spawned my own little inheritors of the big old mess I myself have inherited. Maybe they’ll be smarter than all of us. The last thing out of Pandora’s Box, after all, was hope.

  6. (S)wine 15/04/2008 at 5:56 PM #

    Dr. Z, actually…if memory serves (and it might not, after a lifetime of ingesting brain-zapping “Jesus juice”), Hope was the only thing LEFT in Pandora’s box. She didn’t let that get away. Everything else came out. So, someone get that damned thing and open the lid.

  7. Erin O'Brien 16/04/2008 at 5:41 PM #

    Gee. That’s not good news about the gold standard and everything and I should probably say something smart like everyone else but the simple fact is that I’m a bit more fascinated with that Wonder Bread outfit. I sure hope I can find one in my size.


  8. (S)wine 16/04/2008 at 5:54 PM #

    i have had at least two nightmares about this wonderbaby. in the latest version, he was holding a plate of fried chicken in one hand, and pepper spray in the other and winking at me. the face was that of a baby Abbie Hoffman. bizarro!

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