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Tag Archives: totalitarianism

“”It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system for, if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
-Henry Ford

This quote, attributed to Ford by Charles Binderup, reveals the most fundamental fact of life in the modern world. That it is governed by an economic system that is in no way fair to all parties involved. In fact, it is actually exploiting the majority of the population for the benefit of the few.

That, of course, has been the state of human affairs for most of our known history. However, it was thought that the abolition of monarchy and oligarchy in most modern states of the world, and the gradual adoption of democracy during the previous two centuries, would result in the diminishing of social and financial inequalities.

The struggle for human rights during the 20th century, particularly in its second half, made great progress on every level. Working conditions improved, gender and race discrimination was considerably reduced, freedom of expression and speech was solidified and the future seemed brighter. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, everyone in the developed world believed that we were heading towards a new, more enlightened age of peace and growth.

As we now know, that was very far from the truth. The truth is that while the economy has been globalized to an unprecedented extent, a number of political, legal, national, cultural and religious boundaries and differences have made a comparable progress impossible on an administrative level.

Take the EU for example. The monetary union was achieved before any kind of meaningful consensus could be reached on how the European Union could ever become a single entity politically, socially and, to an extent, culturally.

And since, as we all know, money makes the world go round, there are people and corporations now with the means of small countries who can move freely on a financial level with very little control.

Think of it this way: if the people play the role of a King, then banks, corporations and the rich are the barons. And these barons can now act as they please without really being accountable to the Crown. Because the King depends on them to keep his treasury running and because he has no effective way to control them.

If a King has no real power, then we are no longer talking about a monarchy. And if the “King” is actually the people and the people have no real power, then we are no longer talking about a democracy.

The dawn of the 21st century brought with it the promise of growth, equal opportunities for all, and a wealth of goods and services, all courtesy of the “free market”. Unfortunately, these hopes were quickly dashed by the spectre of a financial crisis with no apparent end.

In fact there is no crisis. Or rather, there would be no crisis if the global financial system was equipped with the proper safeguards against fraud, misuse and exploitation. Or, quite simply, if it was fair and sustainable. But that would entail more governmental control and that term alone is enough to send any economic liberalist screaming.

Because the “free market can regulate itself”. Only that it can’t. It is like thinking that you can put two death row prisoners in a cage to fight for their lives and expect them to play fair. They won’t. They will use any trick in their disposal to beat their opposition, no matter the cost.

Likewise, a corporation will do anything it can get away with in order to increase its advantage over the competition. If its customers or employees are hurt in the process, it’s fine as long as it is never proven or detected. Substandard equipment, processes and materials, abominable working conditions and practices, legal loopholes and tricks, literally anything will be employed in the fight.

Not all of them do it, but when most “players” do, then their competitive advantage either drives the rest out of business or into the same game.

Banks are no exception to this rule. Once considered one of the main structural pillars of any economy, they now operate solely and openly for their own profit, with any thought of promoting sustainable growth taking a back seat or getting kicked out of the car altogether.

If a prosperous country like Iceland can be effectively ruined financially by its own banks, then one easily understands how this could happen to any country in the world. All this happened with the government and the central bank of Iceland turning a blind eye to the incredibly irresponsible dealings of a handful of people.

Nevertheless, the first order of the day was not to arrest the persons responsible, but to hand the bill to the people of Iceland, as if they were somehow accountable for this mess.

The exact same thing is happening in most countries of the developed world right now. The people are asked to take the brunt of the cost for gross mismanagement on the part of bankers and corrupt politicians, even from other countries, all in the name of avoiding the deepening of a crisis which, by all accounts, is a bottomless pit.

The crisis will never end because we are trying to treat the symptoms, while the root causes remain unaddressed. The majority of people will see their incomes steadily decreasing, there will be steadily fewer and fewer jobs; work rights, which have been paid for in blood, will vanish.

This has been happening for two and a half years in Greece and in the poorer countries of Europe. Greece is on the verge of total collapse, socially and financially, the neo-Nazi party is on a meteoric rise and the troika is still demanding for more cuts and “reforms” which will be nothing short of disastrous.

But it will not end with Greece.

This system which kicks people out of their homes, jobs and deprives them of a future, which sends young people abroad as immigrants and which has replaced constitutional rights with violently enforced austerity measures will spread. Once the people of Greece and the other “PIGS” countries have been forced to work for wages comparable to those of China or starve, where do you think that most major corporations in Europe will move their manufacturing to?

And what will happen to their own workforce at home?

Fascism now wears a respectable face, a suit and carries a tablet. You may call it “austerity”, “reform”, “free market”, “economic rationalization” or however else you wish. I call it Finanscism.

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A good friend of mine told me the other day about his intention to immigrate. He is not the first of my friends to consider a future abroad and I fear that he won’t be the last. He is thinking about going to New Zealand.

There are more sheep than people there, you know,” he told me excitedly. “Same as here,” I answered.

Sheep are afraid of the wolf and thus follow the shepherd blindly, under the watchful gaze of the herding dog. It does not matter that they have never seen a wolf with their own eyes. It is in their nature to follow without thought. The shepherd knows best. They cannot stand up to the herding dog. So, they go from pen to pasture and back, all their lives, until they are either butchered or just die.

There are no wolves any more. Our civilization has rendered them extinct long ago. However, since fear is necessary to keep the sheep in line, the system resorted to creating “wolves” of its own.

This is not something new. On the contrary, it has been tested throughout history. The most striking example is the “balance of terror” kept up between the two superpowers of the second half of the previous century. The nuclear arms race permitted them to effectively rule the world. The Americans protected the West from “evil communists” and the Soviets protected their own Eastern bloc from “corrupt capitalists”.

It is basically what Orwell described in “1984”. There is always a threat and the media propagate this idea until it becomes the commonly acceptable truth. When the threat disappears, then a former ally can turn into an enemy in the blink of an eye. There must always be an enemy. There must always be fear.

So it was that the Soviets after the end of WWII turned immediately from allies to enemies of the West. The system worked well for four decades. However, after the Soviet Union disbanded, the West was left without an opposing force.

Therefore, a new enemy had to appear, one which could strike anytime, anywhere, even at the heart of the USA. The new enemy is terrorism: invisible, unpredictable and omnipresent. The fear of the unknown is greater that the fear of a known enemy. A terrorist could hide anywhere, they could be anyone, their motives are obscure and undecipherable. In other words, terrorism is the perfect tool for the propagation of fear.

Fear is the best weapon in the arsenal of governments wishing to impose measures, which in every other case would push citizens to the brink of unrest. Such as limiting their freedom, all for the sake of their security, and of course sending troops thousands of miles away, in order to liberate oil fields, opium plantations, gold and uranium deposits, and so on.

Fear is the best weapon at the disposal of a state attempting to restrict the basic freedoms and fundamental rights of its citizens, in the example of any totalitarian regime, without actually being branded as one.

Freedom is not having the potential of taking consumer loans to buy SUVs and expensive vacations. It is having the right to protest when the state enforces taxes on you, yet fails consistently to provide basic social benefits.

When Justice turns a blind eye to an unending series of scandals and crimes by politicians and their sponsors/partners, while it punishes its citizens mercilessly for even the slightest oversight.

When Ministers profess ignorance about the laws they have approved, while citizens must be aware of any trap on the laws governing employment, social security, real estate and any other aspect of their lives.

Laws which mutate constantly like viruses, insidiously and without warning, instead of developing in accord with the requirements of a healthy state, whose purpose it to serve its citizens. Of course, if we trust the words of the great Noam Chomsky, such a state does not exist.

Many Greeks are well aware by now that our state dreams of passive citizens who stand as sheep while they are milked dry and left to die once their usefulness wears out. “Sheepizens” who, unlike other Europeans, have no right to a referendum about matters which will determine their future. Sheepizens who depend on a non-elected government to determine the proper date for the next elections!

All of the above cannot in any way fit under the definition of Democracy.

Democracy is the form of government which holds the freedom and opinion of its citizens as its most sacred ideals. If a state doubts the ability of its own citizens to decide on their own future, then it is no longer democratic. Especially so when it suppresses and subverts the peaceful protest of the people.

And this is achieved by using  so-called “anarchists”, which for some reason seem unwilling to burn ministries, the properties of politicians or the Parliament itself. Instead they torch banks, loot department stores and wreck cars. Not even cinemas are spared from their “righteous cause”.

I truly cannot fathom what kind of anarchist fails so consistently to strike  targets owned by their natural enemy, the state. As I cannot fathom what kind of anarchist terrorist would place an incendiary device, without warning, in a train car with the sole purpose of causing human casualties.

This might not strike someone who is not living in Greece as something out of the ordinary, however it is unheard of in our country. All terrorist groups in recent memory placed anonymous calls to warn before a strike in a public place. There is no instance of fundamentalist or nationalist terrorist activity in Greece, which would explain attacks on innocent civilians. On the contrary, terrorist groups in our country belonged to the radical left or the anarchists, targeting political figures, businessmen, state buildings or media outlets.

Another tragic first was the arson of a bank during working hours, which marked the last time Athens knew widespread riots, two years ago.

That incident resulted in the death by suffocation of three employees, one of them a pregnant woman. The perpetrators were never found. Testimonies which claimed that the bank management allegedly threatened to fire any employee who departed early to avoid the riots were never investigated.

Even more tellingly, the findings by government officials and the police concerning the almost complete lack of any kind of safety precaution in the bank building itself never led to any legal action. In short, the tragic event and the protests which were cut short by it were buried together with the four victims.

It is all but certain that any investigations about this last terrorist attempt will also prove fruitless.

Given the facts, the only way to reach any reasonable conclusion is to determine who is harmed and who benefits from these actions. Who felt guilty when innocent lives were lost because of their attempt to protest? Who felt responsible when several buildings in Athens burned during what was the most massive demonstration in recent memory?

Who is terrorized now that the Athens Metro is threatened? It is the most widely used means of public transportation in the capital and also happens to be the best way to reach the city centre during protests in front of the Parliament.

Do you think that this bomb would scare our politicians who never set foot in the Metro after the inauguration ceremonies of new stations?

Or is it us who are terrorized, scared little people who should be grateful for our jobs granting us less and less money, as we pray for the bad wolves to go away?

Sheep do not protest, nor do they vote. They do not have, nor claim any rights. They do not think, they just survive. If this is the future we want, then all we have to do is follow the same “shepherds” which we know and trust.

We should let them shear us to clothe themselves, milk us to eat, we should hand our children to them so that they can refresh the herd when we will no longer be here.

I just hope that the butcher’s knife won’t hurt too much.

Intermission #6

Constantine P. Cavafy, one of the most important Greek poets of the previous century, devoted one of his most famous poems to the seemingly paradoxical relationship between a state and its enemies, real or imagined. The very meaning of the “civilized” society is put in question and the barbarians are even thought of as a possible solution.

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

      The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
      What’s the point of senators making laws now?
      Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
      and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
      He’s even got a scroll to give him,
      loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
      and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
      and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
      And some of our men just in from the border say
      there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard