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values in caricature
The Big Board Game, Capitalism
In terms of articulating what’s going on, who runs things for whose benefit in the country, hell, the world, we are gifted with two stand-out analysts; Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti. I’ve been reading Chomsky’s first book on the subject, American Power and the New Mandarins and an early book of Parenti’s, The Sword and the Dollar (1989).
American Power engages the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time of publication, 1967. This “new release” has a foreword by the late great Howard Zinn, a treat in itself. Chomsky approaches the subject by examining the rationalizations on the liberal end of the spectrum, to devastating effect, for those authors. The conclusion is inescapable – these folks are in service to power, by a pragmatic recognition of the path to privilege and/or self delusion.
I can relate. At the time I was a recent Vietnam vet and hawkish on the subject, until my professors and fellow students got to me with those questions no one else had thought to raise. That along with Senator Fulbright’s enlightening hearings which I read transcripts of in book form. I marveled at how administration officials offered justifications for the war and when the good senator shot them full of holes, instead of admitting they were wrong and changing course they came up with a series of equally flimsy new ones.
Is strikes me how this pattern repeats. I was trying to tell the Georgia Public Service Commission this same lesson. Opponents of Plant Vogtle argued against the plant originally, and its latest expansion. In contrast the supporters painted a rosy picture. Whose arguments eventually turned out to be spot on? The opponents of course. So when it comes to future projects does the PSC listen to those who’ve lost all credibiity or to the opponents who were proven right? You know the answer and it is the same with the Vietnam War, Iraq and many other issues. Perhaps there is a hidden money component? Ya think? There’s certainly an ideological one.
Chomsky also looks at World War II. in the Pacific, from the provocative, economically stifling policies of the Imperial powers, the U.S., Britain etc; which served to strengthen the hardline fascists in the Japanese power structure, to the decisions made to obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The revelation that a frivolous 1,000 plane bombing mission was cynically sent against Japan between the agreement to surrender and the actual, technical signing, blemishes the benevolent propaganda image the machine likes to spit out. Truman’s claim that the atomic bombs were dropped on military targets was also disingenuous and suggests that the real reasons for the barbaric decision were, ah… classified, as usual.
Parenti joins in “U.S. bashing” by sampling an assortment of facts. Like, the U.S. gave more money to the infamous Contras, terrorists by any sober definition, to undermine the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution, than aid to the forty poorest nations on the planet. Most such aid, Parenti points out, is military, aimed at securing local elite rule against their own people, whom they, in service to U.S. corporate interests and anti-socialist hysteria, use to suppress any questioning of this arrangement. Our leaders ever seek stability and what they mean by that is maintaining current class relations, both abroad and at home.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are intricate aspects of this effort. Loans are typically contingent on the dismantling of social programs and/or to be used for the purchase of failing U.S. Enterprises at above market rates. It is largely U.S. taxpayers who fund these institutions who, on the whole, have no idea of their actual purpose. The closest many might get to insight is the propaganda line from the right that the U.S. indulges in way too much foreign aid. This does not include the information that two-thirds of our aid stays in the U.S. due to requirements that shipping, materials etc; be U.S. Third world nations, like U.S. farmers, become indebted beyond their ability to pay, enriching elites but leaving the onerous debt to be paid by citizens who had no say in the borrowing. So the lower classes are saddled with the debt on both ends. In 1973 third world debt was about $73 billion. By 1988 it had grown to a trillion dollars. A large portion of the debtor nation’s earnings go to service the debt. Loaning in this manner is more profitable than direct investment in the countries. Another requirement in the usurious terms is that in addition to slashing social programs the recipients must adopt an export-oriented economy. Thus an agriculturally rich area can have high rates of malnutrition, more collateral damage.
This explains part of the U.S. hostility toward Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya and other nations who attempt to escape this kind of entrapment – always justified by the bugaboo of the Soviet Union, a handy “enemy”, the dissolution of which in the 90s created a scrambling for new “threats” much like the John Administration minions with their justifications for Vietnam. This same boogie man was earlier used to justify Reagan’s two trillion dollar military extravaganza. Parenti likes to point out that a billion dollars is a thousand million and a trillion is a thousand billion. Getting into some real money. And it’s the same people paying for it… and the same people profiting from it. They do have themselves a nice little game going. Another way ordinary people pay is in the fact that as military spending increases, social spending is cut. This is not merely collateral damage, this is part of the intent. Just as social spending abroad is discouraged, social spending at home is under continuous attack for such spending empowers the wrong people. Our current administration has removed all subtlety, approaching these values in caricature, spiced by a jingoist, racist, near-fascist rhetoric.
What is the alternative? It’s my mantra – instead of chasing money our energy could be directed into answering this question: how can we provide food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare for the world’s population without despoiling the life system and creating widespread extinction of other species?
- Image: My Cup Runneth Over and Yours Doesn't is an illustration by the author, Tom Ferguson.