Tag Archives: capitalism

Power to the Apathetic! Why Not Voting Might Be a Sign That You’re Smart!

Or so Dimitri Orlov wants us to ponder.  It’s not a new idea, but it is an idea that doesn’t get much play in the media and in our discussions with neighbors.  We are told over and over that voting is the patriotic thing to do.  People died for the right to vote. We get little flag stickers to put on our coats like the purple fingers of Iraqi voters.  Very conventional wisdom.  So why do so many Americans sit the elections out?   And at the same time, if Americans do participate why do we hear over and over from pundits and comments on the blogs that those folks in Kansas and other reddish places just don’t get it. “Why do they vote against their own self interests? ” progressives ask.  The wags note that these voters are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.  But on the other hand, vast numbers of people including women and minorities vote for the blue team and get nothing substantial out of that too. So what’s up?  And yes, why do they even vote at all?

Orlov is a linguist and an engineer who has a blog called Club Orlov.  He has also written several books, one of which, “Reinventing Collapse”, I am reading for advice on how to survive such a collapse besides our two month’s supply of Nalley’s Chili and two generators.  He emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-Seventies and made several trips back to Russia during the Soviet rule and then after the Soviet collapse.  He believes that there are many lessons we in the U.S. can learn from the collapse of the other late 20th century super power.  That there are more similarities than differences between the two super powers, as Orlov describes them, gave me pause. It’s always interesting to look at a common question through a different set of glasses.

Both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. derived their identities from being either capitalist or communist and the “extreme adherence to one or the other” as opposed to healthier countries that mix it up is what Orlov believes led to the doom of one and the coming doom of the other.  Ideologies are all well and good, he says, if they actually work.  But when it becomes clear that the average working citizen is not doing so well, the legitimacy of the rigid system begins to unravel and finally collapse.  He points out that Albert Camus made the observation that the two superpowers were more alike than not back in the 1950s.  Camus said that a specific failure of both systems was their inability “to provide creative, meaningful work.”  This Orlov says leads to mass depression.

 The chief reason why the U.S. is still hanging on, he speculates, is that the ruling elite and their spokespeople keep the people thinking that the system is legitimate by hawking that old chestnut “The American Dream”.  He actually calls this idea of working hard and playing by the rules getting you a good chunk of the pie as “a pathological fiction” promoted by the media. “Masquerading as hope, it gains its effectiveness from a perversion of pride, a psychological trick people use to play on themselves to obscure their powerlessness”.  They can sense that they are oppressed and so their last prideful stand is to pretend that their failures are of their own making, even if they have been most conveniently arranged for them by their oppressors.

And so half of them thinking it’s their own damn fault anyway get sucked into the games called elections because people can further obscure their powerlessness by picking a team or picking a horse in a two horse race, wearing their team colors, plastering their cars with stickers and then cheering on their favorite.  The Soviet Union, Orlov points out

had a single, entrenched, systemically corrupt political party, which held the monopoly of power. The U.S. has two entrenched, systemically corrupt political parties, whose positions are indistinguishable and which together hold a monopoly of power.  In either case, there is, or was, a single governing elite, but in the United States it organizes itself into opposing teams to make its stranglehold on power seem more sportsmanlike…The Communist Party offered one bitter pill. The two capitalist parties offer a choice of two placebos.  The latest innovation is the photo finish election, where each party pre-purchases exactly 50 percent of the vote through largely symmetrical allocation of campaign resources and the result is pulled out of statistical noise, like a rabbit out of a hat.  It is a tribute to the intelligence of the American people that so few of them bother to vote.

Interesting times call for interesting ideas and interesting discussions.  Not same old, same old.  In the small community  I now live in, anybody that disagrees with the free market idea of economics is a “socialist” or is “Russian”.  Time to ask what is the difference between their grey boring slabs of concrete towns and our strip malls and industrial parks?  What’s the difference between their former Gulags and our prison system?  How do our bureaucrats differ from their apparatchiks?  Why are we now emulating the Soviets tight control over information and technology when our tinkerers in garages were the envy of the world?

There is more than one political system out there.  There is more than one story humankind out there.  If you belong to the “game is rigged” gang,   don’t worry about being a tad depressed about that story.  Orlov says that depression is a sign of unconscious rebelliousness.   If you are powerless in the present American system, why legitimize it even more by participating, says Orlov.

In Soviet-era Russia, intelligent people did their best to ignore the Communists: paying attention to them, whether through criticism or praise, would only serve to give them comfort and encouragement, making them feel as if they mattered.   Why should Americans act any differently with regards to Republicans and the Democrats?  For love of donkeys and elephants?

Looks like Americans who still believe in a mom who bakes apple pie rather than one who packs a Luger participate in the sedative called elections.  And those who acknowledge their depression by proclaiming that the hunger game is rigged are the rebels that we need when collapse comes.  It will be their skills in working with alternatives to this rotten system that will be of great use.

Further information on Orlov’s  “Collapse Party” and its platform and practical info on how to survive collapse is in his book.

The Walking Dead

Why is “The Walking Dead so successful?  My take is that it captures what has happened to all of us in the U.S.  in an entertaining way.   Some Americans do try to escape the “deathless  and faceless machines” called corporations because we know that they are not persons.  They “have no soul or human emotions.”  They are relentless and everywhere. (It is no accident that the original series was the concept of Frank Darabont who was the screenwriter/director of the great “Shawshank Redemption”, another escape movie.) Continue reading

Pulling Up Stakes: Secession? Seriously

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Secession is often derided by liberals as some kind of cock-a-mammy right wing nut idea from Texas. But the idea of being free to leave an organization or union or union of states should not be dismissed out of hand. In modern times, thoughtful people have come up with pretty solid theories to support this kind of freedom that both right and left should think about. Continue reading

Dig It! – Making a Wrong Turn in the Fifties – Updated Version

I recently wrote about the difference between a job and work; between “useless toil and useful work.”  And why do we work?  When did we start to devalue leisure time?  A hundred years ago people in the I.W.W. argued for more leisure rather than higher wages.  Keynes talked about the ten hour week.  So when were basic needs replaced by wants? Adam Curtis in “The Century of Self” speculates that it started in the 1920s with the rise of advertising.   But the real push to go beyond needs seems to have occurred in the 1950s.

I just finished Bill Bryson’s memoir “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s and 1960s.   Like all his books, it is filled with amazing detail, hilarious stories, and keen social commentary.  For white folks in America things were pretty good in the 1950s.  Bryson remarks that their basic needs were being met (although he thinks the toys of his childhood like Mr. Potato Head and the Slinky really sucked).  But instead of being content they started living large.  They went from not needing a car at all in cities with streetcars and rail service to buying two cars.  They needed bigger refrigerators and more gadgets. “…televisions, room intercoms, gas grills, kitchen gadgets, snowblowers, you name it.”   That meant they needed bigger places for all the new stuff.  And so they worked more and women started working too.  They were sold the idea of “careers” which were jobs where you could “get ahead”. Continue reading

“Faces Along the Bar”

I picked up a book at a student book store in New Orleans because it’s title leaped out at me. “Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon 1870- 1920” by Madelon Powers.  It’s an academic, well foot-noted but not dry analysis of the saloon culture that arose in the U.S.  with industrialization.  Various middle class progressive reformers like the “Committee of Fifty” comprised mostly of clergymen and academics studied this culture partially to figure out how to create substitutes for it.  They tried to take the energy of the informal working groups in saloons and shovel them into union halls and temperance tearooms. But the saloons prevailed until prohibition.  They served as a way of self-organization and a way of integrating into American life.  They followed a tradition that Alexis de Tocqueville noted earlier.  He called it “the art of association”.  He observed that Americans seemed obsessed with material acquisition and individualism.  The only thing tempering this dangerous self-interest was their equal tendency to form voluntary associations.  And Powers includes saloon life as a form of voluntary association much like joining lodges, political parties, church groups, and Social Aid and Pleasure clubs like the ones that still exist in New Orleans. Continue reading

The Fixer

I keep coming back to Steven Van Zandt’s character, Frankie Tagliano in the Netflix TV series “Lilyhammer.”  His nickname is “The Fixer”.  J.J. Abrams  TV series “Person of Interest” (CBS Thursdays)  also has “a fixer”; an armed and dangerous guardian angel played by Jim Caviezel.  These guys are the opposites of  what we call managers.  Both of them encounter huge public bureaucracies with rules and regulations and they choose to help somebody in trouble by breaking those rules; going around authority.  They don’t seek to control or manipulate the situation or keep it calm.  They fix it.  Okay, and I should add they are very good at cracking heads and are crack shots to boot.

I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with the idea of a “manager” and “management”.  I don’t get it.   Why manage something?  You either fix it or you don’t.  Okay, when somebody is feeling blue or just wants to vent, you can listen to them.  But that’s called “being present”.  You aren’t fixing it; or controlling or manipulating anything as per the dictionary definition of “managing”.  You listen and you let them breathe. Continue reading

A Better Mousetrap

The world is divided into two camps; those who maintain that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it and those who search for a better mousetrap.    The mousetrap works, no doubt about it.  But some of those questioners query; is it the only way to catch a mouse or rid yourself of mice?  Why do you even need to catch a mouse?  “Inquiring minds want to know”, said Socrates.

If you are in a jail in 18th century France or a lonely elephant, you befriend a mouse to keep you company.  If you could train mice to use a mousy litter, you might be able to co-exist.  (Amazing the way it most often comes down to questions of how to deal with excrement.)

I’ve got a very good mousetrap.  It’s called “the cat”. Sometimes the old ways are worth another look.

Boomer

Note: I am about to commit much injustice to Carl Jung by trying to use his theories in such a short essay. Continue reading