The death of democracy is by design

I’m a little sick today so you’ll forgive me if this post is a little more fevered than usual.

A few things happened overnight which are proof positive that we’ve reached past neo-liberalism into full-on fascism.

Over in the US, Desiree Fairooz was convicted for laughing at Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ suggestion that all Americans are treated equally under the law.

He started a joke which had the whole world laughing and a woman was convicted by a jury of her peers. Trump hasn’t even been President for six months yet and already juries have normalised themselves to this new climate of fear and loathing, and this one has voted to convict.

Then the Republican Congress vowed once again to repeal Obamacare, again, taking healthcare away from 24 million people, apparently with the intention to to give a tax cut to the wealthiest 2%. This includes treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, about which… I don’t even know where to begin.

The Republicans are so brazen, they don’t even feel the need to hide that they would prefer it if poor people died, and decreased the surplus population, in fancy rhetoric.

Anything to spare the rich from their supposed tax burden.

2017 in a single tweet.

Over in Australia, former Prime Minister Tony ‘Onion’ Abbott suggested that the government needs to stand-up for ‘Western Values’.

“While officialdom wrings its hands in nervous self-doubt about anything that might be labelled anti-youth, anti-women, anti-black or, perhaps worst of all, anti-Muslim, Australians show what they think of our country’s knockers by turning out in ever increasing numbers and ever greater enthusiasm on Anzac day,” Abbott said.

These comments come less than three days after Abbott suggested that gender quotas for Parliament could be perceived as anti-men.

Did you get that? Apparently it’s ok – nay, a right – to be anti-women, anti-black & anti-Muslim. But in Australia he draws the line at anti-men.

Oh, and anyone who reports on the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia’s version of Guantanamo Bay over on Manus and Nauru faces up to 10 years in jail.

Meanwhile, over at Fairfax papers, its CEO Greg Hywood walks away with an annual bonus of $2.5 million, while slashing another 125 journalism jobs. His bonus alone could save 50 reporters from the axe. And that doesn’t even include his salary.

Why a CEO would receive a bonus while the company is losing money is beyond me.

This is the way of the world now: Salaries are an irritant to business. Dissent is punished with jail. And anyone who happens to be born poor, or female, or with health issues – well, best of luck to you sweetheart! You’re a hindrance on the 1%’s ability to make bank.

At the same time, Australia is planning to deport thousands of immigrants, who have been earning millions of dollars for the economy, because nothing says ‘jobs for Aussies’ like deporting a bunch of foreigners.

In Australia, our customs officers have become a Border Force, as though they are part of the armed services. In the US, Trump has his own state-sanctioned militarised Gestapo, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE for short), whose job it is to go door-to-door with AK-47’s searching for undocumented workers to deport.

The only mitigating factor is that the judiciary (thankfully) struck down two attempts to ban immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.

I typed ‘dumpster fire’ into and this was the first search result it returned.

Over in France, the fate of Europe hangs in the balance while an establishment investment banker takes on the daughter of a Neo-Nazi for the Presidency.

In Turkey, President Erdogan faked a coup to justify arresting journalists and political enemies and successfully expanded his powers through a referendum, approving a raft of constitutional amendments, giving him near total control over the judiciary and all branches of government, transforming the country from a Parliamentary democracy into a Presidential Republic, allowing him to run for office for two or more terms, and govern as head of the executive until 2029. (Erdogan is like Putin with added religion).

Meanwhile,  Greece’s Five Star populist movement, founded by comedian and web strategist, Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio, both fans of UKIP’s Nigel Farage, using their personal websites and social media channels to push their anti-immigration, anti-establishment, Eurosceptic policies to much apolmb. The party picked up 30% of the vote at the 2013 election.

And in Russia, 115 journalists were assassinated or murdered last year for doing their jobs. 

Power is being harnessed on all sides to support a very small, select group’s ability to maintain their privilege to discriminate against those they consider inferior to themselves, both at the pub and at the boardroom, shrink the price of labour, and remove from the law anything standing in the way of profit and ideology.

This didn’t happen by coincidence. It is by design.

Of the world’s 100 largest economies, 51 are now corporations, only 49 are nation-states. As economist Noreena Hertz  points out in her book, The Silent Takeover, the sales of General Motors and Ford are greater than the gross domestic product of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and Wal-Mart now has a turnover higher than the revenues of most of the states of Eastern Europe.

Since Trump was elected President (and before), there have been many comparisons to Nazi Germany and the events which gave rise to the Third Reich.

‘How did it happen?’, they ask. ‘And how do we prevent WWIII?’

This. This is how it happens. When the purchasing and labour power of a population is diminished to such an extent we have no choice but to sit and accept the decisions made by people we voted, for but who have no concern for or obligation to act in the in interests of their constituents.

Over the last three decades, a cabal of free-market fundamentalists have exploited local and international crises, whether political, economic or natural disaster to advance a corporate agenda.

Ever since the assassination of Chile’s democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, free-market fundamentalists and followers of Milton Friedman have been testing the public to see just how far they can push their luck.

The prescriptions of the Chicago School and ‘Friedman’s Boys’ have been replicated across the developed and developing world, often without the need for messy assassinations.

State assets have been privatised, taxation slashed for the wealthy, social services like healthcare and education defunded, destroying the middle class, and forcing them to go further and further into debt to support the incomes of the rich.

And throughout it all they would point to an ‘other’ to blame that wasn’t them. Catholics. Jews. Muslims. Trade Unionists. Women. Hoping we’ll be too distracted, fighting amongst ourselves to realise that this is a class war.

The thing is, the enemy isn’t immigrants, or Muslims, or Jews, or Women, or Trade Unionists. The enemy isn’t even the rich. Or the super rich.

The enemy is the Uber-Rich. There are probably about 150 of them in the world but they’re keeping everyone – including the moderately wealthy – in shackles. But those 150 people have friends in high places willing to collude with their best interests for the chance of a slice of that sweet, sweet, exploitation pie.

Don’t believe me? In a 2009 essay by infamous libertarian tech billionaire, Peter Thiel he writes that the expansion of employment, including ‘the extension of the franchise to women’ has made the American political system hostile to capitalism.

“I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” he wrote

“Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.”

This essay goes some way towards explaining Theil’s support for Donald Trump, who he hopes will destroy what is left of this democracy and replace it with a better system that is less democratic and makes it harder still for those not born rich to get a leg up in the world.

In a system where everyone can support themselves, the rich still remain rich. Nobody is asking for a significant sacrifice. Arguably part of the problem hastening a return to a more equitable share of productivity, is that everyone is preparing for the day they’ll strike it lucky. We want the same freedoms the rich have now. Even though often the levers of control we want for ourselves are the very economic levers keeping so many of us from ever becoming rich.

Still, most of us are simply asking to be paid a cost of living wage or salary that meets market demand, and to receive the same support currently offered to corporates in the form of subsidies. Because if companies are worth a subsidy, then why not people? Seeing as how they drive productivity.

Even in an era of growing automation, computers still need programming, customers still need servicing, services need consulting, and we will never run out of worthwhile things that need doing for each other. There are a whole bunch of things we humans are essential for and those services we provide have a value which must be met. This has nothing to do with fairness or freedom or morality.  It is just good economics.

But we exist at a weird moment in time where the old guard want a world where the press is tightly controlled and used for Public Relations instead of Public Interest, where business would prefer if labour cost nothing, where their right to offend and discriminate is unlimited and unprosecutable (unless the person you are offending is white and rich and male in which case anyone who disagrees with you can be thrown in jail).

We have moved past neo-liberalism and free-market fundamentalism into full on fascism, where there are a different set of rules for those in power. The more power you hold over other people, the better the rules are.

There are always rules in society. Anarchy is not an option. The questions are, who sets those rules? And in whose interests are those rules set? In a genuine democracy, the rules are set by and for the people. Not by and for the elite 1%. We have moved from this genuine democracy to a system dominated by the 1%.

You want to know how fascism starts? This is how it starts.

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Claire Connelly is working on her first book, How The World Really Works, a guide to recognising rhetorical red flags and immunising yourself against bullshit. You should definitely buy it when it comes out. A podcast of the same name will also be launching in the coming months.