Friday, February 01, 2008

Moritori Te Salutant

Surely everyone recognizes the motto supposedly intoned by the gladiators, who incidentally were usually slaves, when they entered the Coliseum? 'Course, I learned 'salutamus', (we salute you).

I've just been puzzling through a few analyses of the disaster we are now in, that, like the one I cited yesterday from Molly Ivins, foresaw what was about to happen. The comparison I came across that really stood out was about the bubble economy Spain developed after it hit gold in this American continent.

When Africa was the main source of gold and silver, you see, traders prospered. This Brave New World was discovered, and suddenly Spain was mining precious metals less expensively because they simply took over the primitive cultures here instead of dealing with established owners of the resources in Africa. That left Africa in the lurch as to trade, so slaves became the substitute for gold.

Back in the 1st century, farmers in Africa used slaves as workers. The first Europeans to expand this practice and transform it into an international and extensive trade (in terms of volume) were the Portuguese in the 16th century. This was the beginning of what is called the Atlantic slave trade. In the 17th century, slaves, or black gold, even replaced gold as the most important and valuable export merchandise.

Are you feeling like the new black gold? because what is replacing the manufactured goods that in the industrial age made the U.S. prosperous? Look in the mirror. A description at Salon in 2003 by David Pollard gave a rather ugly look at that aspect of our economy.

how we 'make our living': by selling our labour to commercial-industrial enterprises (extractors, producers, distributors, and servicers) whose economic mission is to create and distribute ever more goods & services to ever more consumers.

As such, this acquisitive, capitalist economy might be better called a consumer economy: It requires the human citizens of Earth to be insatiable consumers, and relegates us to be merely that. We are largely valued, as individuals, by how much we produce and how much we consume -- our wealth -- and most commercial-industrial enterprises aspire to be the largest, most profitable and fastest-growing enterprises in Earth's history. We have become wage-slaves to this economy, toiling away at an unprecedented rate so we can afford to consume more, believing this is the only way to 'make a living'.

In addition to our indentured state as 'human capital' in the life-long service of commercial-industrial enterprises, the cost of this new economy is:

* the requirement to produce more than a replacement level of new consumers every generation,
* the ravaging of our natural environment,
* the production of massive amounts of pollution and waste as by-products of our enterprise, and
* the occupation of most of the planet's livable land area,

so that much of the planet's land, air and water have been poisoned, and our planet's biodiversity is in a tailspin.

Notice, things have only gone downhill since this observation was made, and like Molly Ivins' prophetic insights, we see a real disaster growing from the mistakes that were realized in the earlier Salon post. What is the most likely outcome? Let's look at history, say, "Empire of Dirt" by Bill Bonner.

For Spain, the conquests were extremely profitable – after they found huge quantities of gold and silver. But nothing ruins a nation faster than easy money. The money supply grew larger with every ship's return from the New World. People felt rich, but prices soon soared. Worse, the easy money from the new territories undermined honest industry. In the bubble economy of the early 16th century, Spain developed a trade deficit similar to that of the U.S. today. People took their money and bought goods from abroad. By the time the New World mines petered out, the Spanish were bankrupt. The Spanish government defaulted on its loans in 1557, 1575, 1607, 1627. and 1647. The damage was not only severe, it was long-lasting. The Iberian peninsula became the 'sick man of Europe' and remained on bed-rest until the 1980s. (Emphasis added.)

Enter us new slave goods. The 'consumer confidence' theme I have railed against that is being used as a substitute for actual value - you knew I was getting to that, didn't you? - makes us that slave trade.

In a business culture that sees its role as selling to the consumer something it doesn't need to produce its profit, deception becomes a necessity. Calling the present disaster a 'strong economy' presumes you the consumer will allow yourself to be given dirt and believe it's gold.

When we are cajoled to buy products because they supposedly will increase our feeling of self-worth, not because they are a good value, we as consumers have been reduced to ignorant slaves. We are caricatured as having no judgment, but only ego needs, and are a commodity to be used and discarded.

Bread and circuses don't feed and give health care to the public, and it's time we torched the facade that has been set up for us instead of real value, something we get only from a really good economy.

I'm borrowing Diane's theme - 353 more days.


Just went over to Avedon Carol's The Sideshow, and doesn't she have up Susie Madrak reminding us of the prescience of William Grieder on the economy's eminent demise.

Thanks for the nice touch and the h/t, Avedon.

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Blogger Steven said...

"American Theocracy" by Kevin Phillips does a great job of describing how our economy resembles that of Spain, the Netherlands and England throughout history. A great read if you haven't already seen it.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You spelled it wrong.

5:28 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Yes, anonymous, I went to Google instead of getting a Latin textbook.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but it's not at all clear what exactly it is that you expect will change in 353 days.

There's certainly nothing in the preceding analysis that's differed in any meaningful way during the past few administrations, Republican or Democrat, or is likely to change in any upcoming administration.

I must have missed where one of the leading corporate candidates came out against globalisation, unbridled capitalism, and free markets for everyone. I think the media have done their usual fine job of eliminating from consideration anyone who might even remotely threaten that position.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for an insight regarding repeating history I had utterly missed. I have theorized that whatever the cause that over time the deficit spending reeked of a large ponzi scheme, but hadn't seen such a well reasoned analysis in this context. Thank you for the ammo.

If only I had enjoyed history as a child...

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For another take on the whole "soylent green is people" thing, check out the documentaries of Adam Curtis; most are available through Google video.

The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares are the two that come to mind.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks or the great post. I recently went on a boy scout winter outing to an observatory etc. Teh scariest thing to me was how instead of flocking to the exhibits the boys flocked to the gift shop. I mght have expected this from girls, given their reputation but from boys?? At the end of the weekend the boys do roses and thorns and several of the boys said shopping was a rose. If this is what we are teaching our children even in the best programs I am in dispair.


8:07 AM  
Blogger norwester said...

I agree with you. Everyone's so wrapped up in Democrat vs. Republican, they're not seeing that it's really Corporatist vs. Corporatist Lite.
In the meantime, any call for real change is drowned out or simply ignored.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

thanks for all these helpful comments. Several excellent posts by Atrios in recent days have been quite revelatory on the 'credit crunch'.

I disagree that the Nader view of Dems v. GoPervs is the true one, and that he broke his promise not to campaign anywhere it might make a difference in the final vote, meaning that we had FL give Nader 2% of the vote and throw the WH into the Supreme court - and the present disaster ensued. Pls consider what differences a Gore WH would have had from the one we have. The difference between abuse of the public and support of it looks to me like a huge one.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a tiresome rant from a totalitarian leftist twat.

Try to get this through your thick head: people consume because they WANT to consume. They like it. So they freely choose to to go work to earn the wherewithals to support their desire to consume and companies produce goods to satify the desires of free-thinking consuming individuals.

And you just cannot handle this. So you construct this patently ridiculous global conspiracy theory which holds that individuals do not innately wish to consume, but instead they were somehow mysteriously and duplicitously duped into consuming by some massive industrial-military-capitalist-republican-hegemonic-zionist complex.

Your denial of obvious and simple reality jsut makes you look stupid.

That is all.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Try to get this through your thick head: people consume because they WANT to consume. They like it. So they freely choose to to go work to earn the wherewithals to support their desire to consume and companies produce goods to satify the desires of free-thinking consuming individuals"

That's right!

Homer is the quintessential human being.......hmmmmmmm, Duff beer.....cheeseburgers.......candy.......hmmmm....TV........hmmm, drool, drool, RV's.....hmmmmm......

1:24 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Such pathetic twaddle deserves to be left up, altho you are not up to the standards for language on this blog. Please have lots of cheeseburgers.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well handled, Ruth!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it is fair to blame Nader for our current situation. I think the uneducated, self absorbed, and gulible TV watching majority or those controling the media are more to blame.

On the other hand I think the working person today is so busy working to get by that they don't have time to focus on others. Most people don't even understand the United States has actually invaded and occupied another country. The US entered Iraq under the guise of helping to make a better and safer world... Sound farmiliar? Say Poland 1939?

I don't understand why the public is so dispationate about the war. Are there people protesting this war? If so we probably won't see them on the idiot box any time soon.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s pretty hard to spell ‘it’ wrong. I’ve seen the latin morutori, and moritori, if that’s what you meant by “it.”
If you’re going to be petty, do it wholeheartedly!

4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn’t media be compromising their own slice of the consumerism pie by speaking out? What pays their bills? The propaganda, er, I mean commercials, that illustrate the lives we’re supposed to purchase.

4:37 AM  

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