Friday, January 18, 2013

The Guillotine Doctrine

On this blog, 2012 was a year dedicated to the analysis of Liberals in all their various forms. The goal was to determine the reasons why Liberals are the way they are, and what sorts of things drive them to be that way. And, because being analyzed freaks them right the hell out.

This analysis led to the creation of a list of Laws for Liberals that was an attempt to capture the sort of thinking that lies behind the false pretensions to reasonableness and the delusions of slow, steady progress towards a better world that characterize the Liberal mindset.
We must never forget, however, that a sizable wing of the Liberal Party and pretty much the rest of the Canadian political spectrum have no such pretensions to reasonableness. When the OLP leadership tried to put a lid on the teachers after letting them run wild for 9 years, those of us on the right rightfully dismissed it as painfully too little, painfully too late. But even though it was a half-assed effort that would have failed miserably if not for the fact that Canadians unquestioningly accept whatever a Liberal government does, it was something of a positive change for the Liberal government. And right now, the Toronto Liberal leadership candidates are playing endorsement poker with one another with the aim of stopping Sandra Pupatello and blowing out the tiny flame of hope that the government will stand up to the union beast it has created.

(If they were smart, they'd all have gotten behind Wynne already. But their egos will not allow it.)

And who are these teachers unions, anyway? Who are these Occupiers, Red Squares, and Idle No More protesters who keep grabbing headlines? Is it possible to continue to ignore them, to write them off as fringe activists and losers who should get a job? It is not. It was never a good idea to have done so in the first place. They are a serious political concern, even going so far as to form a goodly percentage of the voting base for the federal Official Opposition. And, like the Liberals we have struggled against since time immemorial, they must be studied as well.

Now, until recently, this was uncharted territory for me. The baffling behaviour of those on the far left- teachers unions who don't read their own collective agreements, for example, or native chiefs who assume going on the warpath will obscure allegations of misspending and being driven by grudges- make it hard to figure out what's driving these people.

So I decided to read the sorts of things they read and experience it for myself. And because I don't believe in going in for half measures, I dove right into Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine," on the assumption that the people involved in these mass actions believe some version of what's being talked about in there.

The book is nominally about "disaster capitalism", which is the idea that economic crises are manufactured intentionally for profit, and if Klein had confined herself to pointing out specific instances where capitalism went overboard, I might have gotten more out of the read. But when you are writing a book about economics and the first thing you focus on is the history of actual shock therapy- that is, the crude beginning and negative effects of electroshock therapy for supposedly psychiatric purposes- and then make whatever kinds of connections you can between that and vulture capitalists profiting off suffering, then it quickly becomes clear that your aim is not to bemoan capitalism's excesses, but instead to blame every single bad thing in existence on capitalism.

And boy, does Klein ever wear out the shock therapy metaphor. "The IMF was preparing to administer another shock, which was shocking in its shockfulness. This was another example of shock therapy. By the way, the title of the book you are reading is 'The Shock Doctrine."

I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Klein actually does think that rich plutocrats snigger evilly and engage in Mr. Burns-style fingertip steepling while lighting cigars with $1000 bills as they trade tips on how to ruin the lives of the virtuous poor. In reality, the all powerful corporate oligarchy is a timid group of bumbling overpaid suck-ups who would die screaming if Mama Government ever decided to cut the apron strings. This is what, in generations past, you would refer to as corporate welfare. But we don't hear that time-honoured phrase so often anymore because the aim now is to get as many bailouts as possible for GM and such to protect "middle class jobs".

Klein could easily have said, "These Chicago School people screwed up a bunch of economies and are bad at what they do and we shouldn't listen to them." But it's not good enough for her and her readers for these people just to be incompetent. Nobody can hate goofy incompetent villains- that's like hating the Three Stooges. They must be pure evil. They have all this godlike power over the economy with people all over the globe extolling their wisdom despite the fact that in her version of the story everything they touched turned to garbage. Of course, due to what is obviously 100% corporate media complicity in these crimes, nobody but her with her.....uh....zillion-copy selling book that should have been banned by the 1%?.....has been capable of documenting all of this horror. Ummm.....oh, wait, I get it! The 1% allowed her book to be published and read and bought by zillions of people because they want to co-opt her fearlessness for their own nefarious profit-driven purposes! There's big money to be had in smashing the rotten timbers of capitalism!

And Klein is definitely quick to condemn the shocking shockmaster shock therapists not just for meddling in the economies of every country on earth by exporting Chicago School economics, but also for not meddling in the economies of every country on earth by opposing bailouts. Wait, what? Yep- the Corporate Elite sat by and did nothing during the Asian Tiger Crisis of 1997, intentionally so, so that these economies, which constituted a threat to US/IMF/Illuminati/NWO global dominion, would come begging to them for support. Diabolical! They did exactly the opposite of what Klein spends the first half of the book excoriating them for, but that doesn't mean it wasn't all part of the plan!

And that's not even the most shocking (heh) thing I read in the book. That has to be her treatment of apartheid South Africa.

Now, to you and I, the ending of apartheid in South Africa is pretty huge. The notion is that where once white and black people weren't equal by any measure, there is now progress towards the idea of people not being treated differently because of their skin colour- as is the case, hopefully, in all democracies. No, it is by no means perfect, but it is better. Nope! Not according to Klein. The dismantling of apartheid amounted to little more than cosmetic surgery because the ethic of capitalism was not removed.

You may have asked yourself why the teachers unions are so mad about Dalton giving them the finger. They had some really good times together stomping all over the PC Party of Ontario. Three elections won is nothing to sneeze at. And yeah, when the government finally said to the unions, "OK, party's over," it was done in a dishonest and craven manner. The unions are justified in being annoyed with the government. But for those who opposed the government instead of opting to deal with them, we got full-on Hulkamania rage, as if no goodwill had been built up.

Why? Because, just like it is with Klein and apartheid in South Africa- to the far left, eight years of labour peace does not represent progress.

To them, nothing- nothing- Dalton McGuinty has done in eight years has even begun to scratch the surface. There must be total perfect equality now, or the house must be burnt down.

Do the people running the Idle No More movement feel the same way? Do they think all of Canadian history is one big unbroken horror story? I'll let you look at this flyer a friend of mine found on the subway and you can decide for yourself.

The back says, "That's Not All Folks! This Is Not Disney Land, It's Native Land!" If I pointed out that "That's All Folks!" comes from Warner Brothers, not Disney, does that make me a colonizer?

If all power is concentrated in the hands of the 1%, then it must follow that the 99% are without blame for their own situation. They don't have to take responsibility or feel guilt or even really do anything to change their circumstances. Self-agency and individual rights do not exist. They can't because the all-powerful corporations- who, in the language of those who believe these things, are not people- prevent them from existing. Corporations aren't made of people exercising their own self interest. They are inhuman and must be dehumanized.

And from this point of view, there is qualitatively no difference between Stephen Harper and someone like John Tory, who takes every opportunity to demonstrate generosity, thoughtfulness, moderation. They are both rich white males affiliated with conservative parties, and thus must suffer accordingly. And for Harper to try and demonstrate a cuddly side- sweater vest and all- evokes rage, not trust, in these people. He CAN'T be a nice person if he's a conservative! He's got too much MONEY to be nice!

Let us therefore term the ideology that binds all these so-called populist movements together the GUILLOTINE DOCTRINE (it even rhymes!). The thinking behind them, as was the case with the French Revolution, can objectively be reduced to "Make The Rich Pay."

In my next post I will explore how a merger of the left- which will no doubt make use of some form of the Guillotine Doctrine- will play itself out.

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