We enter the season of frenzied consumption with our economy in its worst condition in more than a generation. This means we won’t be able to celebrate Jesus, Chanukah or the Solstice by recklessly spending money we never really had. Private sector credit and employment are declining as fast as the public sector burdens of a bankrupt system are soaring. What was deified as globalization – humanity’s forced worship at the market church of the profit – has revealed itself as the faster deterioration of nature and people, reduced to commodities by the plunder, waste and devastation of capitalism.
The least popular president in history will soon be replaced by an at least momentarily most popular realization of symbolic hope. Our ugly history of slavery and racism justify some genuine celebration for the election of Obama. Symbols are important for what they represent, but you can’t eat a symbol of a meal, or live in the symbol of a house. A symbol won’t do much for solving the problem of a system that both the outgoing dim bulb and the incoming bright light believe is god’s gift to the world. The new CEO is smarter than the old one, but the company is still in the same business, and our problem is the business, not simply the boss.
So maybe without maximum credit and with only minimal cash, we will reach out to one another with love instead of commodities and make this an actual season of peace, joy, caring and sharing? Hope for the best, but always be prepared for the worst. This economy depends on us spending money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, often for people we don’t even like. While such contradictions are the core of the system, without that seasonal madness we will see even more unemployment, debt and hardship. What’s a nation to do?
Creating change we can believe in would be nice, but when we really need change in substance, what we’re likely to get is change in style.
We’re apt to see a return of primitive social democratic policies which existed before the regression to uncontrolled free marketeering. There will be money for infrastructure repair, perhaps another rebate to send us out shopping, and help for states and municipalities faced with severe cuts in support of those who need the most and always get the least. But what we require is a massive program for public works that creates full employment, environmental sensibility, and guarantees health care and education for all by spending trillions more than we have already squandered on finance capital and its imperial wars. In other words, spending to benefit the people and the country, not the people’s leaders and the country’s owners.
According to grade school civics, we are all the democratic leaders and owners of the nation, but it’s time to stop mouthing childishly empty words as though rote repetition was reality, and begin acting as adults in a real democracy by physically creating that reality.
Where would we get those trillions of dollars? From the same place we get them now, except that instead of spending them on waste, war and welfare for the wealthy, they’d be spent on saving America, and helping save the world. The last time we faced a Great Depression, as it was called, programs were introduced that made life better for many who were suffering, but they were a “New Deal” primarily created to save the political economy for capitalism. We have reached a point at which it is necessary to create programs to save the nation, humanity and the planet from capitalism. That means transforming our nation into something it has never been : a society that banishes inequality by practicing political economics that serve all of its citizens, not just some of them. We can invent a label for that democratic solution when we have it, but right now it’s important to understand that our problem is the global corporation of capitalism, and not the sex, race or religion of its CEO.
We’re likely to see domestic policy changes that will be helpful in the short term, as reactionary economics is replaced by a less fanatic tendency that doesn’t rely on totally uncontrolled market forces. But however secular it may seem by comparison to the previous holy war conducted against commoners on behalf of the rich, foreign policy will be handled by the same people who have been working to perpetuate America’s imperial domain. That global order is as near collapse as the domestic financial system, but attempts will be made to maintain America’s rule, which is plainly failing though our leadership still doesn’t seem to understand. Rather than wait for them to find out, it is for us to intervene, in truly democratic fashion, and demand action to turn this system around before it destroys not only our society, but a good part of nature and the rest of the world as well.
Obama has been praised for expressing a desire to speak with our supposed adversaries, in contrast to the belligerent idiocy of the previous CEO. But masters spoke to their slaves, all the time, and that did not change their relationship one bit. We need to not only talk, but act to end our false notion of superiority over others, the ridiculous idea that we are a chosen people by virtue of national wealth and military power, and that the world must bow to our superiority. It will take a social movement larger and more focused than the one that got him elected to affect such a change in American policy towards the more than six billion people of the planet. And we will need such a movement to transform our political economy at home to one of real equality, in order to help create that just and peaceful world.