If you’ve read the title of this post, you’re probably wondering what it has to do with art and being a starving artist. Read on. It has everything to do with art.
The post is about how deranged and downright dangerous the current default human project has become and how so many of us acquiesce and support it, without even being fully aware of the fact or the consequences of our own actions. We’ve all been corrupted by this endeavour. Art can provide some respite.
In my world view (and perhaps in yours), the world has begun to clearly divide between the kind, merciful, generous and compassionate people, on the one hand, versus the selfish, greedy, ruthless, cruel and uncaring on the other. No matter what their nationality, political or religious affiliations, or their belief system, you can quite easily place people in one of those two boxes.
When you do that mental exercise, you quickly realise that the merciless are in control and in the ascendant. They’ve got the steering wheel and are driving the agenda toward their own goals. The merciful are not adequately or effectively countering the actions and ultimate destination of the merciless. The “self-servatives” are winning.
Leaving aside the people that are actually in control and winning, getting their own way with the global agenda, what about the rest of us? How can we be characterised? Sure, we’re a mix of merciful and merciless people, but can we pinpoint our motivations any more precisely? I think we can.
The outsiders, meaning those that are not actually controlling the global agenda or benefitting significantly from it, divide into three kinds of people:
1) Those that want a quiet life and accept the mercilessness as an unchangeable fact of life, in the hope that it won’t directly affect them. Their theory is that if they keep their head down, it will all blow over and they’ll live a happy little life, irrespective of what happens to others. These people, in truth, don’t ultimately care very much about what happens to others. If the merciless get the others, then they’re actually grateful for having been bypassed. They’re busy trying to save their own skins by letting the merciless do whatever they want, unchecked and unchallenged, as long as it’s not to them.
2) There are those that can’t stand the status quo and seek to change it. They almost cannot do otherwise, in all conscience. They often care about others, but not always. The trouble with this group of people is that they seldom consider collective action (meaning non-violent resistance) or strength in numbers, because they have been psychologically conditioned (by the merciless rulers of everything), since childhood, to regard society as a bad thing and corrupted by incessant cultural messages that laud isolated individualism and egocentricity over mass union. Thus, a majority is corrupted into behaving like thousands of fragmented minorities. Every lone voice acts in isolation of those that agree with them.
3) There are those that just want to get rich, within the system that exists, whatever that happens to be. They think they’ve got a good game going on and don’t want to spoil it before they get their winnings. Every one of them is, in their own minds, a temporarily embarrassed future billionaire and not a single one doubts that the path to becoming one of the rulers of everything will be free of obstacle, so long as they uphold the merciless project. These people don’t care about others very much either. They’re out to get theirs and having done so, will insist that the lifeboats then be pulled up. They don’t think they can change the status quo, so they try to play the game according to the established ground rules. The problem is, they don’t understand the rules. They will never be permitted to win.
What these three groups have in common is that they’ve been brought up to act as individuals. They’ve been divided, so are ruled. Each of the three strategies actually fails, when executed on an individual, disconnected basis. However, they can do a lot of harm to each other in trying.
Artists can also be divided along similar lines:
1) There are artists who don’t want to rock any boats or upset any apple carts, with their art, who produce perfectly predictable, safe, yet ultimately unremarkable works with little lasting value. These artists just want to make their art and to hell with any greater goal or vision. Their art finds a market amongst those that want to keep their heads down too.
2) There are those artists that want to press their art into the service of social change. These artists tend to starve, because rich and powerful patrons disagree with the messages contained in their art. Only the poorer customers who care about social change actually like the messages.
3) There are also artists that want to shore up the corporatist agenda, with their art, either explicitly or implicitly, because it has been demonstrated that these artists tend to gather all the spoils. They may not even be very sincere about supporting the societal structures that exist. Much of their artistic output is cynical. However, the rich and powerful buy it, because it reinforces their world view and agenda.
People, artists included, will do very twisted things for money. They will abandon their children, their families and prioritise work and business above their relationships with their nearest and dearest just to make a buck. Some see this as the natural order of things. Others do it under duress, but do it anyway. They don’t feel they have the choice to live without the money, which society has been arranged to require, for life to exist at all. Yesterday, I watched a video of a man who broke his own leg in the service of making money and providing an entertainment for a rich corporation. Why would you do that? It’s insane. This morning, two women came to my door, in a gale, delivering rain soaked fashion catalogues, so that we might consume more clothing sold by a big company. Madness! Some people think that, given the existing system, they need to look for ways to put one over everybody else, for financial advantage. They regard finding such wheezes as a mark of success.
Every day, we all go in to work and work hard, often sacrificing personal time, our private lives, family relationships and our true interests, to promote the interests of people that cause our own lives to be increasingly precarious. Some don’t even know they’ve been brainwashed and coerced into making such tradeoffs. They just think this is how it is and how it always was (and forever will be). They, we, have been utterly corrupted by a belief system that serves only a small number of fortunate other people, in reality. Our moral compasses no longer know which way to point.
Here’s an unfortunate example of the corruption. A mother left her baby unattended in a car, parked in a car park, so that she could find bargains in the Boxing Day sales. How sad is this?
As a society, we seek entertainment, when what we really want to do is play. We buy ourselves a treat when we actually want to be treated as valuable and valued. We consume porn, when what we really crave and need is genuine human intimacy and unalloyed mutual pleasure. Our imaginations are subverted and railroaded into the service of escaping reality, when they should really be used to create our reality. We passively watch others doing things on TV and YouTube, when what we really want to do is create ourselves. We spend our time and energy on computer games, which leave us dissipated, but with no tangible product to show for our concentration, dexterity and labours. We seek superficial novelty, when what we want to be doing is innovating. We’re left with hollow, empty surrogates for the things we really want out of life. We’ve been relegated to the role of passivated bystanders in our own lives, so that we will obey authority without question or challenge, comply with what our corporate employers require and consume on demand. We’ve been farmed, like animals, to provide wealth to the merciless rulers of everything: wealth that we alone create and hand over like zombies.
How has the corporatist agenda served mankind? Has it raised us all up, through the efficiency and wisdom of markets? In fact, business greed has corrupted our food, our air and our water, degraded our land and despoiled our environment, reducing species diversity. This has all been accomplished through the work of ordinary, corrupted people.
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
If you want to know how diseased and abused our farmed food has become, you should read the articles in the links below:
We eat these diseased, degraded, suffering, tortured animals, because everybody loves a bargain and the money system, run by the plutocrats for the plutocrats, keeps our money deliberately scarce, so that we have little real choice. We acquiesce all the same, because we’re corrupted too. We do virtually nothing about the fact that our nutrition is no longer nutritious.
It was recently revealed that RSA, a company that sells software that is supposed to keep our data and our communications safe from prying eyes on the Internet, sold its entire customer base out to the NSA, for a mere $10m. How? They were paid this modest sum to replace a random number generator used for their encryption algorithm with an entirely deterministic, predictable number generator, so that encrypted data could be easily deciphered by the NSA, who always knew which number would be generated next. Why do we still buy the products of this company?
U.S. technology firms are feeling a loss of sales, due to the NSA revelations gifted to us by Edward Snowden and are crying foul, now that it is costing billions, instead of making them millions. They weren’t so vociferous when they were taking money to install back doors for spies in their products. They hoped nobody would ever know.
Perhaps the ultimate expression of cultural corruption is the so called Start-Up culture. This is a thoughtful article that explains the problem: http://bryce.vc/post/17396972172/rise-of-the-independents
To quote from the article, “in that quest to change the world or build the coveted billion dollar company, relationships, family, hobbies and overall quality of life must be offered as a sacrifice to the start-up Gods, in hopes they will find them worthy and bestow the ultimate reward.”
The joke is on these start-up “pioneers”. Opportunity is controlled and has been for all their lives. Many of the sacrifices will be for nothing, but more about that shortly.
How did this corruption of ordinary people become so all pervasive in our society? Was it all the accidental and unintended consequence of a slightly flawed, but salvageable system? Will one more austerity budget cut or one more exclusion of a sector of society take all the corruption away and repair the obvious damage?
If you think the way things have turned out was accidental, you had better think again. A plan was devised and has been enacted, largely through the auspices of the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and their partners, the intelligence communities of the United States. It’s still in operation, like some out of control Doomsday machine that no longer recognises its original purpose or whether or not the original purpose was even legitimate.
Acquaint yourself with the Lewis F. Powell memorandum: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/
It’s worth reading in full. Essentially, a bunch of rulers of everything were concerned about all the grass roots democracy that had begun to function, at the end of the nineteen sixties. Under threat was the American Free Enterprise system, which had concentrated the rewards to the few at the expense of the many. Those that benefited from the American Free Enterprise system most, asked Powell to draw up a plan of action to prevent its overthrow or obsolescence – a plan which is outlined in his now infamous memo. The plan has been acted upon since it was delivered on August 23rd, 1971. It is an explicit plan to undermine democracy and to deny opportunity to those that are not avid, unquestioning supporters of the American Free Enterprise system. It was also a plan to provide blanket propaganda, from education and text books, to television and the media, in the service of promoting the ideals of the corporatist agenda. The emergence of the Internet modified the plan only to the extent that blanket, global surveillance was added to the mix.
To give some historical context, this memo was written during the Nixon presidency, which ended in the Watergate scandal. In fact, Nixon asked Powell to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court. Most people reading this blog post were not even alive when this plan was put into force. It has been in operation for all of most people’s lives! Powell died in 1998, but his project continues. Most people don’t even know that the plan has been in operation all their lives. It’s covert.
Incidentally, the salient point about Watergate that is seldom acknowledged is that it provided undeniable proof that the democracy of the United States (and indeed, the world) was dysfunctional, through and through. The vote of an individual counted for nothing. What was revealed by Watergate was that every arm of government and its agencies was involved in covert operations. The CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department and the Executive were all complicit and involved. What were they doing? Vote rigging, ballot box stuffing, creating misinformation about political opponents, infiltration of democratic movements, illicit surveillance and spying and a raft of covert operations that influenced both domestic and international governments and the outcome of their elections. What Watergate demonstrated was that the government and its agencies were not and still are not working for the people. They cannot be trusted. One of the consequences is that, for one thing, official government explanations of events cannot be accepted at face value. They have form as liars. Their word is no good. The idea that the government wouldn’t do that sort of thing and that a conspiracy that widespread couldn’t continue to function has already been disproven, by Watergate. Sure, a bunch of high powered people went to jail as a token sacrifice, but rest assured that what went on then goes on today, only perhaps more so. Nothing was brought in to change the fundamental operation of the institutions involved or to countermand the Powell memo.
The rulers of everything have never been known as a party fighting for the poor or middle class. They don’t care about or believe in a social safety net. They are primarily concerned about keeping the fortunate wealthy. The problem is that the vast majority of people are poor or middle class. The level of intolerance by the rulers of everything is incomprehensible until the strategy outlined in the Powell memo is understood. When the odd elitist makes bigoted and intolerant comments, that can be dismissed as an aberration, but when an entire chorus line of opinion, perfectly synchronized, is presenting the same bigotry and intolerance, you can only read that as a strategy.
There is a war on democracy, as presented in the Powell memo. How does a minority, the rulers of everything, win a war on democracy when their opponents are more numerous? They fight many battles at once. They fight against the poor, against women, they battle against gays, against minorities, they battle against education and any other micro battle, just to keep their subjects occupied and on the defensive. That’s their modus operandi. It doesn’t matter if they lose a few battles in the process. Their eyes are on the main prize – the destruction of a functional democracy which would, if left to run its own natural course, remove their power, wealth and privilege.
The rulers of everything created think tanks tasked with dispersing misleading information, under a false cloak of scholarly authenticity. They’ve taken control of the airwaves to disperse misinformation (via talk radio, Fox News, CNBC and so on). An unrelenting Chamber of Commerce uses corporate funds to bully policy and politicians. Their policies are designed to squeeze the masses and emasculate the middle classes (e.g. via free trade agreements, outsourcing and so on). They have infiltrated college campuses with directed research for planned outcomes. Elementary and secondary school textbook evaluation processes attempt to promote right wing values. They have used graduate business schools to indoctrinate students on an irresponsible form of capitalism that lays waste to all in its wake. Real wages have remained static, even while productivity has soared. They flooded the country with books and paid advertising promoting the corporatist message. Ever wondered why there are so many business books in airport bookshops? Who do you think writes them all and gets paid for doing so? The rulers of everything continue to subvert, infiltrate and ultimately destroy unions. All of this was planned in the Powell memo. It’s really happening and has been for decades.
By keeping entire populations, communities, cities and countries in a constant state of fear, disarray and chaos, it is easy for the ordinary people to take their eyes off the real problems. Divide and distract. This is the same tactic that has been used in countries where plutocracies reign. Think about Panama and other “third world” countries around the globe, where puppet governments sympathetic to the corporatist agenda are kept in power. In fact, these nations are nothing more than the testing grounds for successful suppressive tactics. The more effective techniques are ultimately deployed against all of us.
The incessant distraction of all these simultaneous battles is nothing more than a plan for death by a thousand cuts. People are so busy just trying to survive, fighting their own individual and sub-class battles that they are unable to fight what really ails them – the plutocracy that the Powell memo sought to preserve.
The ultimate technique employed is control of access to success. Only those that buy into the plutocracy or are useful tools in preserving it are admitted. This extends to artists as well. Now, take a look at the highest paid TV presenters, artists, start-up entrepreneurs and ignore what they say. Observe how they act. Are they delivering more of the corporatist agenda? Are they promoting fairness and justice for all in fact, or do their actions belie a fervent belief in elitism? Do their lives amount to anything more than an emphatic statement that “greed is good”?
”Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.” – Pope Francis.
“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available. Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.” – Noam Chomsky
Denial of Opportunity is one of the techniques the rulers of everything use most effectively. While we are all suffering cuts and austerity budgets, with reductions in services, rights, freedoms and safety nets, there is no austerity in military budgets. The rulers of everything own the military contractors.
Once you understand the Powell memo and the strategy to shore up the plutocracy, you begin to understand why there is a Precariat, worried about rising taxes and fuel bills. You begin to understand why the middle classes are being hollowed out. They’re seen as the enemy. More and more people are being drawn into the ranks of the Precariat, just one pay check away from disaster. The rulers of everything are trying their damndest to preserve the American Free Enterprise system, also known as “corporate power”, for themselves, not for you. If you are not in the merciless, “ruler of everything” class, you will be denied its fruits. The Denial of Opportunity applies to 90% (or more) of the population. We’re expendable. The fact that even a small number of us still believe the hoax that if we work hard or uphold the interests of the rulers of everything, we’ll be accepted into the fold is naive at best, delusional at worst.
If you live anywhere in the world and have business plans that in any way threaten an incumbent corporation, what makes you think that the NSA and the corporation concerned aren’t already crawling all over your strategy and innovation, before you even get started in earnest? What evidence is there that they are not? Clearly, the NSA and powerful US corporations have been in cahoots in instituting blanket surveillance globally and have shown they are willing to install back doors for spies in their products. While some might cite patriotism as a motive, it’s hard to deny that a pure profit motive and the maintenance of power is a significant and real driver behind the collusion.
So why should we care? Why does it matter that the plutocrats are calling the shots, any way they choose? What’s wrong with the maintenance of the American Free Enterprise agenda? The problem is that this selfish approach leads ultimately to annihilation. It’s a depraved project. The world simply cannot withstand their rapacity. Also, no matter how many they exclude, there is always another 90% of what’s left to exclude. That’s how the game works. The problem with the Powell memo and all its devotees and the humble functionaries carrying out its dictates is that the plutocrats, the rulers of everything, are so blinded by short term greed, that they can no longer recognise what is in their own long term interests. They need to keep people wealthy enough to keep them buying corporate products, for one thing. Attacking your own customers is a poor business strategy, even by the standards of naked, rampant Capitalism.
At another level, a system that disenfranchises and disadvantages 90% of the population is, in a democracy, not worth preserving. If it doesn’t serve the majority, what use is it? Yet the plutocrats want to preserve it, despite this fact. To me, that’s a little like defying gravity or King Canute commanding the waves not to break on the shore. By keeping people down, virtually caging them, entrapping them in a situation where the only choices available to them are desperate choices, where equality of opportunity is denied and where they are subject to blanket surveillance, you create pressures. If people’s lives consist of subtle, but ever present, cradle-to-grave psychological manipulation and oppression, fighting constant micro-battles on multiple fronts at once, the seeds of violent and ignorant revolution are sown and will soon sprout. The Powell project causes and exacerbates the problem they are trying to solve – namely the overthrow of the plutocracy. They’re merely throwing gasoline onto the embers of a fire they sought to extinguish.
The plutocrats, the rulers of everything, seek lives of indolence and opulence, being served and fawned over, acting as if incapacitated. But, they have no incapacity. Weirdly, they see art not as objects with intrinsic worth and beauty, for their own sake, but as assets to be speculated upon. It’s instructive to observe the behaviour of billionaires and playboy aristocrats. As a group, they’re misbehaving, by any measure of human decency. On a planetary scale, their actions are making things worse, at a faster rate, rather than better. Why do ordinary people aspire to this and seek to emulate their behaviour? Who wants to be a billionaire?
With all their advantages and wealth, billionaires don’t generally see it as a chance to do their best work and to help humanity. Instead and in the main, they see it as a way to live useless lives of luxury and consumption, speculation and unearned gain. Even when they use their billions to help humanity, there is often a sinister and suspect subtext than can be read into their actions. These leopards seldom change their spots.
Today, there are organisations demanding that bankers give their bonuses to the homeless, since they are largely responsible, through their speculative actions, for causing so many people to become homeless. Needless to say, the requests are falling on deaf, if opulent ears. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/26-1
Of course, there are always those that will read the arguments presented and cry “conspiracy theory” or “envy”, without offering any concrete evidence of their own to counter the documented facts, but these people are either of type 1 (keeping their heads down and hoping it doesn’t affect them) or type 3 (billionaires designate), in general. They want the system to all be fine so that they have an easy life, or else they want it to be there to benefit them. They have ulterior motives in decrying the evidence. It’s time those people started researching what they’re talking about a little more deeply instead of shouting about “what they reckon”, as if by so doing, it confers the status of “fact” on their utterances.
And so we turn to the question of what art can do about the corruption of ordinary people. Art provides an opportunity to learn empathy, generosity, emotional openness and emotional intelligence, but sadly not all artists take the opportunity. Art can show people a different way of existence, can introduce them to different values and to a different value system. Through art, you can experience the joy of creation versus the hollow, temporary, insubstantial, satisfaction derived from consumption. Art can help you recognise the folly of human conceits for what they are. Redemption is possible through art. Through the practice of creating, we can find our way back from corruption.
Compared to all people, I am aware that very few people will have read this far. Of those that do, only a small number of those will actually care. For those that care, I thank you for caring. This was a hard post to write. It rips at one’s guts because the fate of humanity is at stake, yet we are blindfolded, strapped to a juggernaut that is accelerating toward oblivion. Call me old fashioned, but I think humanity matters.
Those that don’t care will go back to hiding from authority, spying on each other and intimidating the powerless with violence, for pay or they’ll go back to selling things nobody needs, to people that don’t want them, on their way to amassing personal wealth. The merciless will remain in charge, building more weapons of mass destruction with public money. That’s their choice. My hope is that enough people will choose differently. Choose to create, not destroy.
“Everything not saved will be lost” – Nintendo “Quit Screen” message.