A flag made by Occupy Wall Street campaign demonstrators in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Surely we should be far more disgusted that the 2012 defence budget is over a trillion dollars than at bankers' mismanagement
October 17, 2011
Where did all that money come from? Well, if we're to be honest with ourselves, it came from us. We invest, our banks invest, corporations invest and trade, and so forth. Many of those that end up with our money play with it, roll it around; sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. But the endgame has always been the same, to make as much of it as possible. That, lest anyone has forgotten, is the entire point of a capitalist system.
When things are good people don't take to the streets. During the last two decades, when the gross mismanagement that would lead to all of this was occurring, no one was occupying anything. Insane credit levels were rampant, mortgages low, the world a proverbial oyster. We didn't care who was behind the curtain or what they were up to. And that, whether you like it or not, isn't the fault of a handful of people. It's everyone's fault.
Why? Because you can't seriously expect a system that promotes greed to include accountability as one of its unshakable tenets. Surely that much is obvious.
It's here that I'll forgo my usual rant about the plutocratic realities inherent within the system and how the facade of democracy is used not unlike a pacifying lolly after one goes to the dentist. The richest 3% of the population have controlled commerce and government for centuries. Just because constitutions exist doesn't mean that that reality has ever changed.
What I want to know is why there aren't throngs of people currently surrounding the Pentagon? Yes, the people of the United States bailed out the villains on Wall Street to the tune of $700bn dollars. That said, why isn't anyone just as disgusted – or far more disgusted – with the fact that the defence budget for the fiscal year 2012 is more than a trillion dollars (supplemental costs included)? That, friends, is approximately one 14th of the entire national deficit of the United States and roughly what the US owes China, its largest foreign debtor. And that's not the sum total of a bailout because of financial mismanagement, the roots of which stretch back to the Reagan administration. That's a single, fiscal year's budget all on its own. And do you know where that money comes from?
Your taxes (and loans from other countries that your kids and their kids will have to pay off). But forget even that, and not even taking into account the human cost of the last decade, but what have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere cost? What is the sum total of sequential defence budgets since 2002?
Not to sound like a stick in the mud, but if you're on Wall Street, you're on the wrong street. Where you should be is on K Street, in Arlington, crowding the road around Langley, the gates at Indian Head, and in front of the corporate headquarters of Northrop, Raytheon, Atomic, Boeing, and a long list of others. You want universal healthcare – best to start by taking a look at what constitutes the largest portion of federal spending – defence.
We would live in a vastly different world were the economic notions of Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel put into effect. But the fact remains, Parcecon will never become a reality. If you want to change the mechanism, start with the engine. Its exhaust is merely a secondary notion.
The police might get a little rough here and there – that's to be expected. People might find themselves held in contravention of their rights – that's to be expected whenever something like this happens as well. But what will not be seen on streets in the US and Canada and the UK are armed men shooting people. Tanks will not be deployed, no one will be tortured. Do not confuse Syria or Bahrain with Wall Street. To do so would be utterly arrogant.
A great many people of prominence have spoken about the necessity of what is currently happening, and I will be the first to agree that any mass public action is welcome in this current climate. That said, it all comes down to one thing: what is it that you want?
Naomi Klein recently said in an interview: "The stakes are too high for us not to make the absolute most of this moment." So what is the "absolute most"? The complete reformation of the economic system? The passing of strict regulatory legislation? That those who have not been held to account be held to account – put on trial in some way for abusing a system that, for all intents and purposes, was designed to be abused?
There are only two courses of action. Revolution or a repeat of the sort of 60s idealism that lead to a handful of impacting changes and a lot of talk besides. Revolutions are a tricky business, unfortunately, and demand that a great deal be sacrificed to see them succeed. They require that the entire mechanism be stripped and rebuilt. The problem is that what is transpiring right now is not a crusade for civil rights, federal accountability given the devastation wrought by foreign conflicts, or even a movement to highlight the injustices suffered by the truly impoverished – those that were too poor to begin with to even have homes foreclosed on, etc. This is a movement that is, at its core, about being ripped off by a system that, when nothing bad is happening, is framed by most with a single word – "freedom", and when things aren't going well, because of the inherent corruption within the system, is framed as "criminal".
Watching empires fall is an arduous process. For the citizens of empires, and their provinces, it's a mixture of chaotic frustration, anger over an overwhelming sense of usury, and having to confront the reality that when the empire knew better days we did not question our princes, but exalted them.
What is happening right now is the fall of an empire. The subsequent shock waves being felt around the world are just the beginning. In the end, the results being yielding elsewhere are ones that we will eventually have to endure. For this is the inevitability of empires, occupations or not.
So it all comes down to what this is all about. Revolution or collapse. There is, of course the option of throwing a new coat of paint on a rusted truck, and that may very well be what occurs. But that just means that the rust remains, and eventually will show through again.