As the year comes to a close we here at Scallywag and Vagabond have been wondering about the degree of discord that we’ve all as a society have been subjected to; from mass unemployment, mass capitulations in the housing sector, the erosion and disregard of our stock portfolios, the indignation of watching investment banks being bailed out for capricious behavior and the dislocation of the individual’s rights, merits and sanity. Let’s not even talk about the abatement of trust at the hands of the purveyor of economic wealth and
management- Bernie Madoff, and the guys at the treasury while not involved in their own grand Ponzi scheme, have been playing at something approaching legalized giving and taking from you to them (we love you Washington Mutual.) Add to this the subjugation of the individual’s right pursuant to the “Freedom Act,” (free to be less free….), the unrelenting news about Britney Spears and her supposed ‘barbaric’ acts, the dumbing down of America via presidential elections and paparazzi shots which extol the rigor and costs of wardrobe up keep as opposed to health, educational and survivor upkeep, and we’re wondering ‘is this the land of the bold and free or just the land of the over sold and fat free?’
Call it lax regard, apathy, shell shock, or consumer indifference we’re hardly reacting to what’s going on around us, that or ‘being stupid.’ Hardly reacting but suddenly noticing, grumbling and pushing that toe into the carousel called self determination, turning up to the polls and for once noticing that the grass is no longer greener on this side. In a society that has always defined freedom as the ability to consume (at will) as opposed to propagate independent thought and dissension the scales are starting to change, starting to wear out, starting to tell you that fat free diet you were on is more fat than free.
There’s an old axiom that goes something like this; “Over in Europe, the governments fear the people where as over here in the States, the people fear the government.” Given our current observations one can further qualify this statement by arguing not only are governments in Europe fearing their people, they’re also fearing other governments, uprisings within government and the continual agility of either the extreme right or left wing to greet them on election day. See the Guardian.
Here in the States where the interests of three hundred million people are supposed to be represented by the agenda and constituency of two political parties, one slightly more right wing and war mongering than the other (but still war mongering- see the current president elect’s response to this weekend’s bombings in Gaza and ramped up efforts to join the fray in Afghanistan….the opium buds are so tasty after all), the paradigm that could best describe this interesting coalescing of affairs is people are entitled to their freedom as long as they agree with what we think free means. It’s kind of like if you pick heads that’s great, but if you pick tails you should spin it again until you get heads…mmh.
Thus ensuring lax regulations of financial markets, corporate movements, endowments and trajectory of our collective funds and resources. The oligarchy was free to behave and misbehave because ‘after all it was in the hot pursuit of freedom.’ Isn’t that why we’ve always been getting involved in world affairs, to perpetuate freedom? Whatever that exactly means or doesn’t…
Far be it from the schemes of this author to offer a dichotomy of European and American sensibilities as it pertains to the doctrine of government what we here at Scallywag and Vagabond are quite enthused about is how dogma, dissent and outrage is beginning to be cultivated, expressed and finally after watching the chicken pen being mutilated and disgorged whispered out aloud. Suddenly Paris Hilton isn’t as interesting as she used to be (although we do confess a special affinity to this countess of pleasure and savvy).
What seems to be more interesting is how on both sides of the Atlantic people are now beginning to wonder, shake their head, and enter the frame of discussion they have been avoiding for so ever long (well Paris did have some good farm show on for a while…).
Watching the recent eruptions unfolding from Athens, Greece, the place where the Gods brought you democracy, Plato, Socrates, frappe (and chain smoking) one has to wonder with some giddy delight how the youth managed to finally react to the oppression of their times. Initially reacting to the innocent death of a teenager by the police, the youth, (unlike in most uprisings where it’s usually the homeless, economically disenfranchised who rebel) across the country have decided to resist the apathy, the widespread corporate and government ineptitude and corruption that has led to the majority of the population having less than their parents generation to look forward to. The sons and daughters of the middle and upper class have taken to the streets and begun to press their cause, often unhindered by a government and police force where culturally it’s perceived a right of passage to walk around with molotov cocktails, disassemble luxury billboards and the eclectic avenues where one usually shops for BMW and Ralph Lauren.
Back in 2003/4 Paris, France (not Hilton) had some of their own uprising to attend to. Disillusioned (that word again…) the immigrants (mostly from Arabic heritage) living in northern Paris took to the streets and began to burn cars, schools and express vile outrage at their supposed notions of ostracizing they felt they were been subjected to, the ghetto slums where they found themselves living and the lack of jobs (once again the riots were instigated by the innocent death of a youth at the behest of the police).
Referring to them as ‘scum’ Nicolas Sarkozy (the French leader) was able to abate them with force and imprisonment. What’s interesting to note was how the behavior in Paris was excused to be the result of ‘sub humans,’ and therefore by implication meaning less. The rebellion in Greece on the other hand has been perpetuated by the very classes that the Greek and French premiers try to cater to every election cycle. Suddenly the outrage has merit, sustenance and increasing curiosity amongst all world democracies, even the one we call the United Stated. Although it should be noted coverage of the events in Athens has not been widely heralded in the US media, and if anything kept hush which does beg the question-
Wondering whether the Greek equivalent of the youth in Greenwich, Connecticut might be so inspired to reiterate their ancient cousin’s actions might be momentarily laughable and very weird one does have to acknowledge at some point after unfettered corruption, loss of income, disingenuous management of hope and economic resources, one may one day be inspired to walk into town and resist the temptation to buy a new pair of Tommy Hilfiger sneakers and even sneer openly at the authorities that are nervously holding court.
This of course does bring an interesting question to mind, if they’re now rebelling (others will choose to use other words such as instigating, plundering, skimming which infer other sensibilities) over there in Europe how are we as Americans to react to our current woe, misrepresentation and collective losses?
To begin to answer this question one has to go back to the 1960’s the last time the country was living in a state of inertia, vile ineptitude and violent undertones ( well I do hear the 70’s were nasty too with all those oil shocks and economic malaise). Back then we were reacting to the uprisings of racial intolerance, sexual orientation, literary and cultural paradigm constraints, and the threat of having a Viet Cong bullet, knife, grenade lassoing your leg in half, and maybe your life.
The threat of conscription, of being forced to fight in an unpopular war (sold as securing freedom nonetheless) certainly had the effect of charging a lot of civil unrest. Nothing like the idea of death and war that will get the collective youth to take a stand you’ll say. Of course that’s no longer the case, ever since Rambo went and came back and dealt with our collective enemies. With conscription no longer an issue ( and ironically with our economic woes the preferred job placement of the socially and marginalized part of our society) all we have to lose is our economic viability and mobility. This until now had never been a problem, because the stock market always went up, house prices always appreciated and Britney Spears once again was on meth.
It was fine until it all lasted, fine while we cheered our collective heroes from Federal reserve governor Alan Greenspan and the wonderful designers who were able to bring you two thousand dollar handbags and one toy closer to immortality. What now? After all you’re probably on meth or some other clever pill yourself.
Heck you even went to the voting polls in mass to express your desire for change. From ultra right wing to ultra light right wing. But for now Obama is our man. The jury is still out on this one, but if one is to observe the appointments Mr. Obama has made from Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State, the ex Fed Reserve Governor of the New York Fed bank Timothy Geithner as our new Treasury Secretary one has little to wonder and be assured that the only change we’ll be getting is the speed of bad news, that or the engendering of the status quo. Although for now this author is willing to reserve judgment until you yourself no longer reserve it. That of course is conditional on you actually taking the time to notice, reflect on your declining liberties and mobility.
But how to react? Molotov cocktail bombs, chain smoking and Karl Marx lectures you think, and what the hell am I going to do without my Jimmy Choos? Perhaps you’ll start to support your underground designers, writers, playwrights, artists, choose to become United Nations peace workers, electrical engineers as opposed to smart ass derivative traders (like this author a lifetime ago), phony money managers, and overworked investment bankers and legal attendants to capricious interests. But maybe not. Making lots of money does have its rewards, as long as it’s there to be made, and the good thing about living in America (or let us just say the Western world) sanity and providence can always be bought at the department store, assuming it still exists next month after the very lousy Christmas sales. Assuming of course you also have a healthy paycheck. Then again economic theory has always been based on rational assumptions, a rational idea except when the world refuses to behave rationally…(otherwise known as the Black Swan theory).
Perhaps we’ll have to redefine what freedom means, not overtly concern ourselves as to the ability to spend money and define yourself (since you have less to spend…). Negotiate freedom as a state of mind, state of being as opposed to what’s on your being. Just a thought, but if sanity is important to you you’ll be giving it some thought too. Perhaps we wont be trying so hard to emulate the lifestyles of the very rich and famous and believe we are on the way of being loved and admired because we can replicate lifestyles we read on TMZ, not that the amphetamines that some of these darlings are self administering themselves should bother you.
Maybe this is what the Beatles meant back in the 1960’s when they came up with their song ‘Revolution.’ Instead of bearing arms, they reacted with gusto and challenged the prevailing sensibility and were one of the most prodigious and most influential artists of their time and still to this day.
After all revolution doesn’t have to be about guns, knives, and looted store fronts and deposing political paradigms. It could be about challenging those sensibilities, arriving at ones sense of self, and procreating a communal grass roots way of dealing with self and others.
Picking arms and heading off to the streets would surely (if the history of the Americas are a guide) would be an open invitation for the authorities to react heavy handedly, impose martial law, further stifling your freedom and by osmosis further controlling the interests of power. Being well read, well versed, open to other sensibilities and supporting each other would be a first start. The internet is a wonderful tool and does offer myriad formats to read so as to begin to conceive and realize our wonderful world. If the ancient Greeks did it, surely we can too.
Over all we’re in for very interesting times, and each one of us will have to reach within and begin to find genuine ways to find fulfillment and economic viability. Institutions, legality will have to be challenged, and instead of wondering what Paris (Hilton, not France) is doing we should be wondering what we’re doing and learning to build bridges to prosperity and legitimacy.
After all a shaman like Bernie Madoff and other corporate ventures that go wrong don’t come to be without our complicit support. One can argue that people and institutions never used to let us down, but that’s more of an irrational as opposed to rational assumption. History would agree. Of course one can’t live devoid with trust and co participation in society, but maybe instead of believing the hype you’ll be questioning those in their stripes.
As Plato once said- “madness doesn’t always happen in the mind, sometimes it happens in the streets.”