Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Breakfast at Noshville


I’m sitting at the counter in Noshville, Nashville’s New York-style  Jewish deli, talking to a well-dressed fellow who tells me he’s a lawyer. Our conversation turns to the economy, and I thought I’d share his thoughts with you as best as I can recall them.

“Let’s face it: the United States is a plutocracy: a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. The only “people” that matter any more are corporations. You may think you’re voting for ideas or political parties, but politicians are owned by plutocrats who use both sides to further their own ends. They don’t care whom you vote for, because they win regardless. This is going to lead to one of five results:

“One: the emergence of an Ayn Rand dystopia, where the government serves the rich and the rest battle one another for the scraps tossed to them. This is where we seem to be heading at the moment.

“Two: the plutocrats will get too greedy and raid the corporations, and the corporations will rebel. The plutocrats have the military on their side, and the corporations will hire private armies. It would be a hot war between billionaires fought with armies poor people.

“Three: the plutocrats will misuse the military, failing to pay the brass sufficiently, and piling up casualties in quest of more power, and the military will rebel, side with corporations, and create a fascist state.

“Four: the 99% will revolt, take to the streets in mass and demand changes. This will cause the plutocrats and the corporations to unite and crush the people militarily.

“Five, the 99% will stop playing the game. They’ll establish local barter economies of scale, opt for a simpler more self-sufficient existence, and allow the plutocrats and corporations to implode. This will cause the plutocrats and corporations to yield some of their wealth but none of their power, to the poor as they try to entice people back into service.

“Which of the five options do I see coming? In the short run I think we’ll put Gov. Romney and the Republicans in power and opt for the Ayn Rand dystopia. Then in 2014 we could see collaboration between Tea Party and Occupy folks against the plutocrats and corporations. It would look like a revolt, and some cosmetic changes would be made to delude the people into thinking they’ve won, but it will be business as usual at the top. By 2016 we might have a populist president and Congress, but they will be puppets of the plutocrats, just like most politicians are now, and nothing will change.

“In the long run I see a war between the super rich backed by the military and the corporations backed by mercenaries with the rest of us as collateral damage. No telling who will win, but I would back the corporations. Either way most of us lose.”

I know this seems very depressing. But I swear it went down better with eggs, latkes, and Diet Coke.

3 comments:

Karen said...

Wow. That's some discussion. I agree that our votes don't seem to count for much. There's too much greed and power at stake and most people are distracted by trying to either make ends meet, or make a lot of money, to take heed of the direction the country's going.

Erick Reynolds said...

I propose that one of the areas of discussion most vulnerable to hyperbolic manifestation is the projection of future paths to self destruction. These are usually based on a imaginary outcome born out of fear (dystopias)or wishes (utopias) and interpolated backwards to align simplistic events between now and then that lead to this outcome. Political junkies love to project hyperbolic future outcomes if the other side wins.
The fatal flaw in these paths to the ultimate end result is two fold:
1) There is no ultimate end. Someone, somewhere probably accurately projected the ultimate end of the Roman Empire only because out of the millions of Roman citizens lamenting “the new generation has lost their way and the empire is going to hell in a hand-basket “(in Latin) over hundreds of years might have randomly hit on right combination of events. Civilizations have come and gone before and since the Roman Empire.
2) The push and pull of politics, economics, human will, human spirit are infinitely complex. Marx wrote the “Communist Manifesto” as a reaction to rich industrialists oppressing factory workers in an industrial age. He could not know the labor movement would bring just enough sanity to business to halt the predicted labor revolution. But his work would unwittingly translate to backward agrarian societies oppressed by out-of-date monarchies and land baron-dominated colonies of old European empires.
One can predict many scenarios of change outcomes. But the end of change is not predictable.

Unknown said...

Here's an alternative. Because we in Canada read so much news and commentary from the US, it's sometimes hard to remember that the lawyer in the post really represents a local view. It's a projection that's got a lot to do with Ayn Rand, Glenn Beck, and a steady diet of conspiracy theories. And the influence of TV.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I don't think the rest of the world shares this dystopian view of the future. I don't know if it's a better future, but my belief is that environmental crises will force us to take a wider view of the planet, and join together to take action beyond the purview of any one country, or even continent. Once that happens, it will be much more difficult to revert to the kind of parochial nationalism we see today.