The Corporate Death March. ~ Darrin Drda

Via elephant journal
on Apr 12, 2012
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Buridans Esel

The Republican primary race has been so sordid and depressing that pundits have begun to routinely call it a “death march.”

This term, recently revived by Obama’s advisor David Axelrod (whose boss used it to describe his own campaign back in ‘08), might evoke laughter and perhaps even pity if it weren’t so frighteningly accurate in describing not only the current roster of GOP contenders, but also American—if not global—politics in general.

As Santorum, Gingrich, Romney, and Paul all stumble over themselves on their way to almost certain defeat in November, the corporate cash keep rolling in. Despite the candidates’ seeming incompetence, they have been quite successful in furthering the neoconservative agenda, which includes shifting the discourse—and thus the electorate—ever further to the right while portraying the current President as a radical leftist. Although the Republicans may well lose this election year battle, they are winning the war.

Despite the superficial differences among Santorum the theocrat, Gingrich the plutocrat, Romney the robocrat, and Paul the maverick, they all march to the same drumbeat, singing the praises of the free market while decrying the evils of big government and the “nanny state.” The way forward, they proclaim, is to privatize or eliminate public services like education, roll back laws protecting workers, consumers, and the environment, shift the tax burden from the upper class to the working class, and provide loopholes and subsidies for corporations, who (being people) should enjoy unfettered freedom in their pursuit of material gain.

The tune should sound familiar by now. Whether called free market fundamentalism, neoliberalism, laissez-faire economics, or the Washington Consensus, it was composed by Milton Friedman in the late 1950s, preserved for posterity in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, and adopted in the 70s as the theme song of the political right. It was a particular favorite of Ronald Reagan, and all subsequent Presidents—Democrats included—have cheerfully chanted their own rendition. Indeed, whether by conversion, coercion, or compromise, even the “socialist” Obama has learned to sing along, albeit at a slightly slower tempo than the corporate elite would like.

In many parts of the world, the neoliberal number is hardly music to the ears, accompanied as it usually is by bomb blasts and machine gun fire. Regardless of the rhetoric that free people and free markets go hand in hand, the truth is that the latter are almost always enforced by undemocratic and often brutal means. The examples—Chile, Bolivia, Russia, and Iraq, to name a few—are well known to serious students of history and to readers of Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, which painstakingly connects what she calls “disaster capitalism” with violence, repression of dissent, terror, and torture. To survivors of the dead, the disappeared, and the displaced, Friedman’s magnum opus sounds like a frightening dirge.

Indeed the same requiem can be heard throughout the Earth community, which continues to lose species after species to the industrial growth machine. Among the causes of the current mass extinction (the sixth in geologic history) is global warming, which—owing to a relentless and well-oiled disinformation campaign—has been religiously rejected by the New Right as either not real or not caused by humans (none of the current GOP hopefuls take it seriously). This position conveniently releases from responsibility both producers and consumers of fossil fuels, guaranteeing continued profits for the former as well as for corporations ready to rebuild houses, hospitals, schools, sewage systems, and power grids in the wake of the tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, and other natural disasters that are sure to increase in frequency in the years ahead.

This is to say nothing of the steady demise of the middle class, an inevitable consequence of the upward movement of wealth that corporatism creates and demands. For the hardcore Friedmanites, extreme economic disparity is desirable in that it weakens the electorate by ensuring that most folks are too preoccupied with working and meeting the demands of daily life to pay much attention to politics. How can someone in survival mode be expected to devote energy to protesting the breakup of another union or the repeal of another pollution law?

As political thinkers from Aristotle to Jefferson have understood, a thriving democracy depends on a thriving middle class, and the decline of one means the disappearance of the other.

The good news is that the corporate complex, and the global economy upon which it depends, are both destined to fail because they are neither ecologically sustainable nor politically tenable. As resources become increasingly scarce and expensive, and global wealth is filtered into fewer and fewer hands, the people of the world are being jostled awake from the long sleep of history and the nightmares of Empire. We are coming to understand the true meaning of wealth—the natural abundance of the Earth, the riches of community, and the joy of creativity. We are rediscovering the value of cooperation over competition, of diversity over homogeneity, of giving over having, of kindness over cruelty, of the power of love over the love of power. Slowly and surely, we the people are coming back to life.

The human psyche, according to Freud, is dominated by two opposing forces: the instinct for life (Eros) and the urge for death (which Freud called Todestrieb and his followers called Thanatos). Surveying the desolate political landscape against a sky growing dark with smog, one can’t help but wonder which of these forces will prevail. In considering this vital question, we might turn to a Cherokee story in which an old man tells his grandson about the fight between two wolves—one generous, gentle, and kind, and the other greedy, violent, and angry—that rages within his own heart. Nervously, the boy asks, “Which one will win?” to which the elder replies: “The one I feed.”


Editor: Lindsay Friedman


Darrin Drda is an artist, musician, and author of The Four Global Truths: Awakening to the Peril and Promise of Our Times. He is longtime practitioner and occasional instructor of both Insight meditation and loving-kindness practice, and a facilitator for the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, which promotes ecological sustainability, social justice, and spiritual fulfillment.


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10 Responses to “The Corporate Death March. ~ Darrin Drda”

  1. You are free to use anything as long as you attribute it to me and link back to my site.

  2. Mark Ledbetter says:

    The wolf story is wonderful!

    But you can’t connect “free market fundamentalism, neoliberalism [and] laissez-faire economics” with the military-industrial complex and aggressive international militarism. The complex and the militarism are the babies of modern libs and neo-cons.

    Sure, neo-cons sometimes bandy around the language of neoliberalism, but they support its opposite: militarism and corporatism.

    Equally weird is connecting Paul with the other three candidates. Paul is absolutely against war, corporate handouts, and the American Gulag (the incarceration of millions of mostly minority men for victimless crimes). These are certainly the big three issues. Reps (except Paul) and Dems, though, breath not a word about dismantling the M-I Complex, pulling American troops out of all foreign countries, cutting corporate handouts to zero, or dismantling the American Gulag.

  3. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Ok, I’m walking home from work and thinking, maybe I was too harsh on the guy, what with my “weird” comment. He is at least putting out a strong anti-war message.

    Darrin, I would suggest, if you’re anti-war, you have to support anti-war politicians clearly and strongly. On the national stage, there on only two: Paul and Kucinich. All the others in both parties are militarists. Bash the neo-con militarists all you want. That’s great. But you can’t let liberal militarists off the hook just because they happen to agree with you on some back burner issues. If you're gonna bash, you gotta bash both.

  4. Darrin Drda says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comments. If there is a difference between neocons and neoliberals, I must admit that I don't know what it is. It's my understanding that the terms are interchangeable, and that both refer to plutocrats who conflate corporate freedom with the freedom of ordinary citizens. Or at least that's the pretense, whereas in reality those two types of freedom are mutually exclusive (or inversely proportional). Thus the need for militarism, since no population would willingly submit to an unaccountable tyranny without the use of violence or the constant threat thereof.

    So when you claim that "The complex and the militarism are the babies of modern libs and neo-cons," I don't know that you mean. As I see it, commerce and violence have always been closely connected and may be inherently so (Graeber writes convincingly about this in "Debt: The First 5000 Years"). Colonialism may take different guises, but they all involve both greed and violence.

    Yes, I'm anti-war in principle—anti-Empire more specifically. I'm no expert on Paul, but it seems that he is against foreign military intervention but is not anti-war (could any presidential candidate make any headway on that platform?). More importantly, his desire to get rid of the EPA and other agencies make me think that he's a free marketeer, which does not bode well for any country with democratic aspirations like the US. I have a couple friends who support Paul, and we've had some good discussions, but I remain unconvinced that he's not a loose cannon with a couple good ideas (like abolishing the Fed). Maybe you'll be the one to finally convince me otherwise.

    What I dream of (and see happening) is the end of Empire itself, Whether this happens through a revolution to end all revolutions, or through total collapse of the system, it seems inevitable. So I hope for the option fraught with the least suffering.

  5. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Darrin, good evening (leastways, evening where I am). I know I won't convince you to suddenly embrace free market economics, so I won't even try. But maybe I can at least convince you that we are allies in the anti-militarist, anti-imperialist struggle. Me and you, bro. Like, say, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. I'll keep it to a short intro, but even then I'll have to split it up, as long posts aren't accepted by the Ele computer.

    I assume that by neo-liberal you mean classical liberal (ie 19th c. liberal) or libertarian. If so, the difference between neo-libs and neo-cons is huge.

  6. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Start with militarism. Classical liberals and libertarians are strongly and consistently against standing armies and offensive warfare. Technically, Ron Paul is not a pacifist but he is, in the classical liberal tradition, against all offensive warfare. In the American context, that makes him a de facto pacifist and an absolute anti-imperialist. NO foreign warfare, NO foreign bases, NO military-industrial complex, and only a tiny standing army with all members kept firmly within U.S.

    For classical liberals/libertarians, the purpose of the military (and a civilian military at that built, ala Switzerland, around militias) is protection from invasion. Period. There is no possibility of using such a military to support U.S. business interests abroad both because non-professional militiamen need to get home, and because supporting "interests" abroad with the army contradicts all principles of classical liberalism.

  7. Mark Ledbetter says:

    "Austrian" school economics, which is liberal to the bone and THE fundamentalist free market ideology, is and always has been absolute in its opposition to imperialism, foreign wars, and a large military. Also, it is and always has been against government-business collusion. No central banking, no bailouts for Wall Street and Detroit. No land grants for railroads (to take us back in time a bit). No East India Companies (to take us even farther back).

    What I've briefly presented here is not a personal or minority viewpoint. It is the core of classical liberalism/libertarianism. Whenever the military is used to protect American "interests", or whenever you find Wall Street and D.C. working together for mutual profit, you are looking at expressions of neo-con and/or modern liberal ideology. This is NOT what "Austrians," i.e. free market fundamentalists, advocate.

    How often do you hear neo-cons or modern liberals talk dismantling the American empire and the military-industrial complex that supports it? Neo-libs talk about it incessantly.

  8. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Hi Darrin, still around? Just in case you are, and just in case you still suspect philosophical ties between libertarians and conservatives, I suggest a look-see at this article from today’s blog (Mises, the biggest and most authoritative libertarian organization.)

    Ok, this particular author cab get pretty emotional, and drops a lot of names you may not know, but keep reading until he gets to the meat: imperialism.

    His point-of-view is mainstream libertarianism. For libertarians, there’s no real difference (other than cultural things like preferred food, clothes, and vocab) between Conservatives and Liberals, Republicans and Democrats, Bush and Obama. It’s all the above on one side, Libertarians on the other. Cons and Libs may be fighting like cats, but it’s a family feud.

  9. Mark Ledbetter says:

    A couple of illustrative quotes:

    “Obama's most authoritarian and supraconstitutional policies were inherited nearly verbatim from George Bush Jr.”

    (This is uncontestable unless you deny they both support foreign wars, the Mil-Indus Complex, money for powerful industries, and incarceration of millions for victimless crimes. And you can’t deny any of that so long as you are talking reality.)

    “People who feel entitled to rule, whether they are Democrat, Republican, bureaucrat, diplomat, or regulator, feel entitled to do much of it secretly.”

    (Yep, those in love with the power of the state, ie libs and cons, also love secrecy.)

    Anyway, he presents a seriously anti-conservative viewpoint that is totally libertarian. You just can’t connect the two, or if you can, the connection is much looser than that between liberals and conservatives.

  10. […] order to succeed in stopping The Empire Machine, we must also unplug the machine within ourselves: the unconscious impulses and false stories of […]