Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations’

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.

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Roy Porter on Rising Cost of American Medicine

March 19, 2015

Blood and Guts Cover

The historian of medicine, Roy Porter, devotes a couple of pages to the development of medicine in America in his book Blood and Guts: A Short History of medicine. He notes that the development of private medical insurance and the fees-for-service system in America caused medicine to become a highly developed and lucrative industry. Competition was at the heart of this system, with doctors and hospitals competing to offer better medical service, such as better tests, a fuller range of elective surgery, more check-ups and so on. However, the costs of these procedures became correspondingly expensive, so that President Truman in 1948 mooted a national health service for America. This came to nothing, however, as the American Medical Association campaigned against it.

Part of the American system of private health care are the HMOs, the Health Maintenance Organisations, which began with the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in California. These arose as a cheaper alternative to ordinary medical insurance like Blue Cross. Porter states that health costs have continued to rise, not just in terms of medical personnel and equipment itself, but also in the growth of hospital bureaucracy, administrative and marketing teams – including corporate finance, lawyers, medical insurers, public relations firms and accountants. He states ‘Expenditure has continued to rise, quite disproportionately to measurable improvements in health.’ (p. 167). The result is that by 2000 40 million Americans had no medical insurance. That’s almost one in six people under the age of 65.

This is the system that Cameron, Clegg and Farage wish to import over here. Meanwhile in America, Conservatives are attacking the soaring costs of medicare and Medicaid, introduced by Lyndon B. Johnson to allow the state to pay for the medical care of the poor and elderly, who couldn’t afford it.

There are 92 Tories and Lib Dems, who have links and positions on the private health companies waiting to profit from the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. Andrew Lansley, the current health minister, is a supporter of the privatisation of the health service.

If they win, and get another term, we will not see the NHS survive. The poor will be deprived medicine, but the Tory, Lib Dems and Kippers will profit immensely.

We mustn’t let them.

Labour NHS Privatisation UKIP

NHS-privatisation

Fascism and Big Business on Man as Predator

February 23, 2015

Historians and political theorists have observed that one of the key features of Fascism is that it views human relationships very much as a kind of Hobbesian ‘war of each against all’, and sees humans really as another form of rapacious predator. Hitler and the Nazis were fond of Nietzsche’s celebration of the ‘blond beasts’, while at the same time censoring the other parts of the philosopher’s oeuvre that directly contradicted the foundations of the regime.

Critics of the Neo-Cons, such as the authors of the book Confronting the New Conservatism, also note that the Neo-Cons have an essentially Hobbesian view of humanity as a collection of alienated social atoms, each competing and struggling with the others. They also observe that the Neo-Cons extend this principle to foreign affairs. All countries are engaged in a struggle for supremacy, so there is little point in establishing international alliances. Rather, as superior civilisations, America and the West should be free to impose their will and standards by force.

Brady makes the same point in his book, The Structure of American Fascism. He makes the point that American businessmen have exactly the same views. This has resulted in the invasion and plunder of other countries, in which justification for the military action has been secondary.

The inner face of fascism considers man as a beast of prey. Scientists, artists, the rank and file of the people, may recoil from this doctrine: the leading figures in the business world of Italy, Germany, England, France, and the United States do not. In 1938, Spengler, then approved by the Nazis as a prophet of the New Germany, wrote:

“Man is a beast of prey. I shall say it again and again. All the would-be moralists and social-ethics people who claim or hope to be ‘beyond all that’ are only beasts of prey with their teeth broken, who hate others on account of the attacks which they themselves are wise enough to avoid. Only look at them. They are too weak to read a book on war, but they herd together in the street to see an accident, letting the blood and the screams play on their nerves. And if even that is too much for them, th4ey enjoy it on the film and in the illustrated papers. If I call man a beast of prey, which do I insult: man or beast? For remember, the larger beasts of prey are noble creatures, perfect of their kind, and without the hypocrisy of human morale due to weakness.”

In this view man is arrayed against man. The only code of behaviour which has any real meaning for the species is that “might makes right”. Where only strength counts, the strong are those who have taken; who have the power to have and to hold. The weak are those without holdings – of station, or property, or power. It is a doctrine that human society is nothing but organised “piracy”. Is there any fundamental difference in appreciation of human values or in general outlook on life between a stockbroker and a pirate? So far as the specific activity is concerned there is no difference, not even in the methods of sharing the spoils. What on the open seas is thought of as an outlaw and “piratical” raid of group on group, is in another setting played as a legitimate game in which each man is pitted against every other man for all he can “get by with” short of a snarl with criminal law.

That businessmen in the United States hold this view is beyond question. They hold it axiomatic in describing the character of their own kind, and they hold it to be valid for the human race at large. Anyone who has taken the trouble to interview stockbrokers, captains of industry and finance, advertisers, public relations counsellors, or other participants in, and apologists for, the business system will soon learn that this view of human nature governs their actions and their behaviour in practically all things, and that it is regarded as so obviously true as to require no comment, explanation, or justification.

Thus there is not the slightest objection to using all the armed forces of the state in a war on India, on Morocco, on Manchuria, on Abyssinia, on Nicaragua, Spain, or Mexico. If you are big enough, strong enough to take it, the rule is: take it. Take the country, take its resources, take its wealth, take the lives, health and happiness of all its inhabitants. “Realities rule”; the justification can be concocted later.

Nor, on the other hand, is there the slightest objection to using the troops against strikers, hunger-marchers, share-croppers, or any other group which for any reason whatsoever wants a little of what the insiders may have. All the emphasis on war, all the promotion of the army and the navy, of “national defence,” of that curiously bellicose frame of mind commonly known by the euphemistic term “patriotism,” is born of the same view of life, of human nature, of civilisation and culture.

And this same attitude is very much alive in modern politics. The invasion of Iraq took place not to oust Saddam Hussein as a dictator and threat to world peace. It was so that the Americans and Saudis could control the vast Iraqi oil industry. At the same time, western companies wanted to acquire Iraqi industries, which were to be privatised and sold to them. And the Neo-Cons wished to turn the entire country into a low taxation, free trade utopia. Even more sinister, the GM companies were also lined up to patent the rare crops indigenous to the country, as part of a scheme to force the Iraqi people to use their products.

Back in Britain, we have the Tories passing legislation banning protests and political lobbying close to elections. Just in case these sway the voters and the Tories lose the election. Tebbit has emerged again to urge the government to pick a fight with the unions. And Boris Johnson, the major of London, doesn’t have enough money to pay his firefighters, but he did have enough cash to buy two armoured cars for the police.

As for the character of the international business class, one of Lobster’s contributors wrote that he had asked one of his friends, who had attended a meeting of international financiers, what they were like. ‘Worse than you can possibly imagine’, was the reply.