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September 2001

Markets 'R' Us, Not Them

A bipartisan coalition of Reaganoids and Clintonites has strengthened the contemporary chorus chanting the mantra of free market religion to "get government off our backs." Liberated from this burden , part-time citizens have become full-time consumers, groveling at the shrine on the mall and incurring ever more debt. This, in pursuit of freedom only available to those who "shop until they drop" to a kneeling position at the altar of the private market.

The rule of capital has become furious in its assault on anything public. Under the euphemistic label "globalization", which makes the theft of everything sound progressive, this speed-up of private domination is the most regressive and dangerous problem facing humanity.

It mounts the pressures of daily life, raising the bills, lowering the state of mind, clouding the consciousness and fouling the atmosphere. Followers of fashion become casualties of commerce, always out of style and never having content; bigotry and inhumanity lead to identity politics and the victimology of the status quo , rather than collective politics and the psychology of social change; needed shelter for workers near their work becomes town houses for the affluent far from any towns; reality is experienced more on streets and roadways, and less in homes and communities; and new labels preserve old outrages by expanding markets for law, with hate crimes selling at the justice mall alongside - love crimes ?

The most ridiculous policies pass nearly unquestioned. Faith-based charity? Why not, since the other kind was destroyed, and it was never more than a prop for the status quo. Star Wars space defense, even without a Soviet Menace? Sure, since Bin Laden or another poster-boy for corporate militarism might attack from his base in, uh, wherever he's hiding, spied on by our multi-billion dollar Keystone Kops in the CIA and NSA who never know anything until after it happens.

The rush to privatize everything has further sickened an already diseased social organism. Instead of ridding our nation of ghettos, we add to their number by creating moving versions called highways. On these wastes of real estate, millions are in motion but locked up in time, using substantial parts of their lives to phone, eat, listen and shop while driving. These were things that people used to do at less than 65 miles an hour, assuming anyone can reach that speed on our cluttered freeways.

Our individualism , once a strength , has become a collective mental illness. How else to explain a transport system that moves one person at a time, in more than a ton of resources each, powered by fossil fuel , creating pollution, congestion , designed rape of the environment and a death toll that would be intolerable if we controlled our senses, let alone our politics.

What public system would be tolerated that kills hundreds, cripples thousands, and causes property damage in the millions, every single day? Our private transit system is dumber and deadlier than any president. Once, we lived closer to our toil, or had public transit to get us there; now, we live miles from our work, in suburban bliss that has helped create community ugliness and dysfunctional culture. We have to provide our own transit, pay for it in dollars, health and stress, and consider ourselves blessed to have such freedom. The triumph of private capital , or the loss of public sanity?

As more government is perverted in service to the market, the obsession with our economy's private parts focuses on molesting our best public program ; Social Security. However primitive it is compared to the social democratic programs of more civilized nations, this system of protection for retired workers has been an oasis of humanity in a desert of alienation. Anxious to get their hands on a pot of public gold, fanatics of finance insist that it will go broke if not privatized, unconsciously indicting the whole system with such charges.

Despite fairly common knowledge that Social Security can survive 35 more years without any change at all, and that it possesses more than a trillion dollars in government bonds, they insist it's in danger and can only be saved by - guess what? Private Investment! Bow your head, stare at your crotch, mumble a market prayer and try not to think about the deflated stock market, hosts of laid off workers and rising consumer debt. Let's have workers rely on the Wall Street gambling casino for the little they now gain from what should be called Social Insecurity, but will seem marvelous by comparison with what we get if we allow it to be stolen by these thieving corporadoes.

It should be clear by now that the massive injection of private capital into the public bloodstream has created an epidemic of waste, poverty and death, threatening the world with increased personal , social and environmental problems. This single-minded pursuit of private profit will bring more public loss the longer we allow its domination of human affairs.

Only the immune system of a democratic citizens movement can cure this disease and solve the political problem of minority control of global economics. As that immune system seems to get stronger, the resistance of profiteers from the disease becomes more deadly. Like the mad doctors of pulp science fiction , they will stop at nothing to protect their private monster from an aroused public who understand that it means their ruin.

The global demonstrators against international finance are trying to wake the world to this menace , and show that the public can be, must be greater than the sum of its private parts. This new movement has started a march on the castle of capital, and stopped obeying the robber barons within its walls. It's time for the rest of us to join them, in spirit if not in body, or both will ultimately be lost.

 

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