The Coastal Post - June, 1997

The New World Odor

By Frank Scott

The expanding global shopping mall, under the control of corporate capital, provides the fragrance of flowers for a minority at the top. But the aroma is very different for growing numbers of the world's population. It takes heavy applications of mind-managing deodorant to persuade people that the increasingly foul stench of our economy is really the sweet scent of roses.

In the neoliberal New World Order, the U.S. unemployment rate is down, and more people are working than ever before. That's after corporate deodorant is applied to cover the smell of people working longer hours, for wages that barely enable them to maintain a life style once possible at a less grueling pace. Remove the scent of mind-management, and the air reeks of millions living in debt beyond their means and dangerously close to bankruptcy.

It's true that large numbers are currently employed, but for every high- wage job created by the new economic condition, there are more low-wage jobs created in the service sector. Evidence of how the USA is being transformed into a third world environment of rich and poor can be found in almost any major American city. Metropolitan areas are partitioned into third world, low income neighborhoods around a core city, where the affluent are lodged at drive-in corporate towers and malls, often cut off from entry by the general public. In the new global order, the USA has taken on the same income and wealth disparity that has become common in the poorer, developing nations of the world.

The future of high-tech wonders like telecommuting is praised by hustlers of merchandising schemes, but as they hype tomorrow's world of work, we're moving back to yesterday's rules of the workplace. Most recently,we've seen an attempt to lengthen the eight hour workday, under the guise of freeing people for family responsibilities.Why not a shorter work day at a higher wage? Wouldn't that help workers better express family values? Instead, the new order strives to reduce workers to what they were in the 19th century, applying enough deodorant to cover the smell of the mill and the mine, while creating the mentality of the mall.

Anti-social-ism threatens to wipe out any vestiges of humanity left after centuries of rule by market forces. Politicians support a new form of government that does nothing but act as mercenary for its commissars of capital. We recently had the spectacle of a corporate president calling on overworked citizens to become volunteer labor in order to perform, for free, tasks once paid for in the public sector. The privatizing of just about everything proceeds worldwide, but at a faster rate in places where history had worked to bring about at least a minimum of social responsibility.

Computerized free trade has corporate capital rushing forward at the speed of light, engulfing and devouring on its path to profit, while over-worked millions march backward at an oppressive industrial pace, heading towards peasantry. Only debt keeps some of those millions from material decline. Meanwhile, the investor class cleans up in a Wall Street profit frenzy, CEO incomes rise by 50% in one year, and two-worker, middle class families barely maintain a standard of living which threatens to decline without resort to modern usury, the credit card.

As government and poverty both become dirty words, corporate privateers move into social services, fast becoming just another storefront at the shopping mall. Now, under market rules, services to needy and unfortunate citizens are often provided by firms seeking a private profit, and caring little for any public loss sustained. Just as nature's floods and storms can overwhelm riverbanks and destroy with their natural forces, so can unnatural moral and ethical policies overflow, inundating innocent humans placed in their path by market forces.

Nothing better exemplifies the New World Order than NAFTA, the corporate scheme to make an enclosed mall of North America. The president and other political employees of capital tell us the critics were wrong, and that jobs and profits have grown thanks to NAFTA. But this can be true of any strategy under the rules of capital. There is always a scent of profit that can be used to make some people miss the stench of loss. If millions are bleeding, there will be profits and job growth in, say, the bandage business. Should we then extol the value of bleeding ? Are such principles the way to organize a civilized nation?

Now, international corporations are planning the Multilateral Agreement on Investment ( MAI), which would allow them to buy, sell and move business anywhere in the world, without interference from governments, environmentalists or other elements of democracy. Further, capital's political flunkies in the U.S. congress are about to run a truck-highway (I- 69 ) from Canada through the U.S. to Mexico, in order to move product more smoothly. This project would destroy farmland, communities, open space and air quality, all at public expense, and for private profit. Take a deep breath, and gag.

A capitalist system of uncontrolled markets that threatened to implode back in the 1930s needed national government intervention in order to survive. By the Millennium -or sooner- it will have reached its earthly

limits once again, and in a far more serious way. The question is whether the people of the world can create a democratic solution to the problem of the system's overpowering stench before it makes any deodorant useless, and any future dubious. The answer may, indeed, be blowing in the wind.