THE NEOLIBERAL INDOCTRINATION
By Marc Batko, 2017
Neoliberalism is a social ideology that tells the poor and weak they are responsible for their misery. It does its utmost to prevent the true extent of social poverty from reaching the general public. Despite ever higher expenditures, the health system becomes increasingly inhuman, social work erodes, a "re-feudalization boom" rages along with de-democratization, and investors aim to privatize the public education system. When the poor and weak blame themselves for social inequality (low motivation, negative attitudes etc.), the state and businesses escape their responsibility to contribute to education, community, and the infrastructure. Minds are fogged and controlled by neoliberal media, focus on the trivial (celebrity news and sports fixation), and psycho-techniques make resistance against this inhuman ideology mostly impossible.
As low profits led to the explosion of the financial sector and financialization around 1980, the financial meltdown of 2008 led to neoliberalism's discrediting. Homo oeconomicus fades away as an economic theory along with market fundamentalism and market radicalism. Market failure and state violence epitomized by Enron's expansive accounting method and the aggressive wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria should be lessons if the future is worth living.
We live at the close of the neoliberal rollback where universities became profit centers; health care became a privilege, not a right, and trade agreements ignore climate change and protection of labor and the environment. At the same time, foreign investors can sue states for real and imaginary profits. The threat of lawsuits for lost corporate profits will have a chilling effect on labor and environmental protection.
The people are too big to fail, not the banks. Taxpayers paid for risks and bailout costs. Poverty will end through the exercise of real democracy when neoliberalism and Orwellian distortion of language and democracy are unmasked. System change, not climate change, is imperative.
As capitalism grows, inequality grows. Capitalism is an inequality machine (cf. Thomas Piketty). Corporations are sometimes more powerful than nations. In addition to buying back their stock, corporations store trillion in tax havens and deny local, national, and international responsibility and liability. A hundred years ago, the French socialist Jean Juares warned: "Capitalism contains crisis as rain clouds contain rain."
PHILOSOPHY AND THE SEARCH FOR ORIENTATION: THE FUTURE GUIDES THE PRESENT
Striving for utopia is the hope and motivation of the present. The present transcends itself only when it includes hope and promise. The poor live in two worlds, the world of hope and the world of misery, while the rich live in only one world where the future is only a repetition of the present. Life and reality are not linear or self-evident but pluralist and dependent on interpretation. True wealth is manifest in a larger consciousness of interdependence, empathy, historical awareness and humble openness to liberation.
The future should be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present (cf. Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope). The penultimate draws its strength from the ultimate (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison).
We find ourselves at the end of an epoch without clear signs of the new epoch. How can citizens be promoted and not reduced to consumers? How can the state ensure the food, housing and health necessities and not set corporate welfare and corporate profit above everything? How can education emphasize critical thinking and sustainability and be strengthened with money from a reduced pentagon and a downsized financial sector?
ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS: REDUCING WORKING HOURS, EXCHANGING ROLES AND COMMUNITY CENTERS
Community centers could be a third way beyond the state and the market. Vancouver B.C. has 26 community centers, some with swimming pools that take your breath away. The Carnegie Community Center in the poverty-stricken Downtown East Side is subsidized by the province. There hope is restored and becomes concrete in the real functioning mosaic of interdependence and love of life. Inexpensive meals of casseroles, a library quickly filled to the brim, a computer room offering everyone 3 hours of daily computer use, a basketball gym, a game room, a TV room, a theater and counseling, and class opportunities are a life-giving antidote to the nonstop consumerism and cajoling of one-dimensional neoliberal profit worship. The community centers have a cushioning and multiplying effect enabling both working and unemployed to feel integrated and welcomed in the community.
Free Internet books and publishing e-books are examples of the new person-oriented alternative digital economics. The gatekeepers no longer control the gate; e-books have a considerable share of new books today. People are reading on screens and not only on the printed page. Openculture.com gives us 700 free movies (including the 1915 "Alice in Wonderland"), 700 free e-books, and 450 free audiobooks (including George Orwell's "1984"). How can anyone be "hard-nosed" with 700 free movies? Super Amigos is a free Mexican movie from 2007 where the activist refuses anything packaged, goes up against cruel bullfighting, homophobia, and eviction of seniors.
Access could replace excess; enough could replace more. The one thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history. The bomb changed everything except the way we think (Albert Einstein). Work, strength, health, power, and nature must be re-conceptualized to avert re-feudalization, destruction of democracy, and corporate destruction of the environment. As we move into a digital knowledge-based society, qualitative growth can replace quantitative growth. Instead of gazing at the stories of office buildings, we could become storytellers living double vision, universal and particular history.
Music, dance, poetry, and literature deserve essential in a post-material de-commodified world. The military-industrial complex and the horror of the never-ending war must give way to multicultural interdependence, forgiveness, empathy, surprise, mystery, play, and environmental caring.
Reducing working hours, exchanging roles, and community centers are vital in a post-growth, post-fossil, and post-autistic economy. Person-oriented work and investments in labor-intensive sectors could mark our transition and end exploding inequality.
The demonized social state can be re-discovered as the future of humanity. I am when you are. We are fulfilled in the other, in expanding possibilities and awareness, not in amassing things. Lakes are more than anti-freeze, and mountains are more than landfills.
The state should be the support of the majority, rescuing those who fall under the wheel and blocking private interest from eclipsing public interest. "When the government trusts citizens, citizens trust the government," said Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister. Can we promote the welcoming spirit and not the spirit of fear in a multi-polar world in a future that is open and dynamic, not closed, and static? How can the future become a future of generalized security? Could food, housing, health care be human rights and not privileges? How can sharing replace hyper-individualism, narcissism, self-righteousness, and class immunization?
The state is different than a business or a household. The state can become indebted and borrow money from the future so future generations can share the benefits of social investment. Bernie Sanders wants to return people's taxes in the form of infrastructure and education rather than transferring hundreds of billions to military contractors. He wants to regulate Wall Street and break up the big banks. Two ways the bomb changed everything is that weapons can be de-stabilizing, and security cannot be only military security.
Without regulation, there would be no healthy forests or fish in the lakes. Markets are not self-healing or panaceas, but tools helpful after fundamental political questions are answered democratically: What kind of society do we want? How can competition and cooperation strengthen each other? How can the market, the state, and work be redefined? How can nature be protected as our partner and our hope and not reduced to a free good, external, or sink?