Aurora of Empire, I tried to understand the political economy of this great city and map certain salient points about how those people have interacted with their artifact and the culture that channels their volition. My point of view there was focused on the evolution of the physical artifact of the city as technology and culture interacted through New Yorkers to create this present on which I now look. Seeing what the thing has become, and living that becoming these last thirty years, direct experience of a corroding of culture has me concerned about the bleaching burn of Mammon's glow as it leafs the city to it's golden taste.
In Shadows On Liberty, when I was just beginning to write, I laid out my thoughts on how our intentions as embodied in the founding documents of this erstwhile Republic have always been more aspirational than their author's practical intent. An affect has been that these idealized notions sit out there generation after generation reinforcing their simple moral clarity in the minds of succeeding generations who, in venerating their predecessors tend to credit them more than history warrants. This salutary process results, however or has until recently, in these successors struggling to live up to ideals whose creators honored more in the breach. In How We Got Here I talked about how the visionary leadership of the New Deal and America's war effort in Europe created the conditions in which the "promissory note" M. L. King saw in the Declaration of Independence, endorsed by Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation was, in part finally redeemed with the Civil Rights Amendments of the late sixties.
As a child of the Jim Crow South and beneficiary of court ordered desegregation in the Austin of my childhood, the perverse values of the likes of Robert McCulloch sear my soul both with their reptile hate and their familiarity. Jim Crow consisted in a nutshell of this: employ a select class of people too little and for inadequate wages and then call them criminals when they try to survive. It was a stratagem to do with economic power what was prohibited politically. Our Kurrent Konservative Khristians, now
in the Midwest rather than the deep south, have added to this the indignity that citizens must fund their own victimization through the gLibertarian epiphany of fee funded justice. Compound this with the fact that everything anyone does is now digitally documented and we've built a an inescapable hell for the unfortunates who wander or are born into it. That nee Attorney General Holder has promised to look into this is hardly encouraging, but perhaps he can see crimes among white cops where he can't among the white collar.
In any case, a brief inspection of what's well written on line about Ferguson and one can't help but be struck by how oppressive conditions on the ground there are. This is an early look at what the impoverishment of the American suburb will look like as we roll it out now as national policy: this is where people can afford a roof over their heads with the paltry incomes from our corporate service economy. Federal subsidies see to it food is covered, so the meagre income can go to rent on some dilapidated ranch house while the car requires gas and parts and breaks with increasing frequency. But don't walk in the street, the cops might shoot you. That, of course, is a blue collar crime, so maybe it's visible to Holder and the Feds, but I'm not holding my breath. The panoply of white collar crimes our Justice Department now ignores systemically more or less guarantees only the unscrupulous will remain on the right side of "legitimate" income. While a legitimate economy remains, what portion gets drawn into the corporate sector gets financialized, what does not gets taxed to death: corporate tax dodging and that of the super wealthy is protected by the legislators they buy, so small business must pay.
And of course the powers that be, in a show of force similar to the multi-city paramilitary action against Occupy Wall Street, trotted out the National Guard to ensure the provocation of the protesters in Ferguson. With the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world and the most aggressive government surveillance network in human history it's not clear who hopes to gain what from this sort of thing except for the "prison industrial complex" who, like our "military industrial complex" appears to have established a permanent Federal cash flow through the misery of others. Apparently human misery is the last remaining growth industry in our post constitutional system where white collar criminals in finance loot globally with impunity. While the suburban poor face the surplus equipment and personnel of our permanent foreign war, the profiteers in prisons, in wars, in financial fraud are indemnified by a government wholly owned by and subservient to them.
It isn't just the private crimes the government refuses to address: the government itself has become a baldly criminal enterprise. With the absurdity of Corporate Personhood, even the Supreme Court has now firmly sided with the powerful players of the money game rather than the Citizens whose rights jurists swore to protect. This on top of defining bribery as constitutionally protected free speech gives the final lie to any Federal Courts duty to the Constitution. All three branches of our Federal Government are clearly owned by those corporate executives with final control of the corporate "donation" budget. In this context, the treatment of an Assange, a Snowden or a Manning makes perfect sense as these individuals all laid out the dirty laundry of corruption, both here and in our wars abroad, for the world to see. It may be the only thing that has kept them alive that they managed to get their "leaks", at least in part, deeply into the public domain. To murder them would be to martyr them and by extension to validate their acts.
The extent of official criminality revealed by these whistle blowers beggars the imagination. Now, routinely, we blow up family gatherings in far away lands with drone launched missiles because someone called someone who knew someone who's GPS coordinates could be loaded to a missile. The crime of torture has, like white collar crime at home, become completely invisible to our officialdom abroad despite every one's knowing what happened, how and at who's command. Obama was elected in 2008 with an overwhelming mandate to remedy these increasingly visible defects in our constitutional structure, but completely abdicated on that mandate. Instead his administration has firmly institutionalized all the crimes his predecessor could at least chalk up to the heat of passion in the "War On Terror" he so carefully engineered.
While always more noble on paper than in practice, our Constitution has claimed to codify a system of laws, not of men. The transparency now with which the powerful can rise above the law without any undue fear of recourse is the sin qua non of our Post-Constitutional form of empire. All the systems of coercion and oppression of the most destructively powerful military and economic empire the world has ever known are now available to the highest bidder and commonly used for their purposes. Ukrainian oligarchs now compete with ISIS to supply markets for our military produce, both indirectly funded by us as a sort of pump priming for the manufactured chaos that supports our industries of munitions, surveillance, coercion and combat. It is a military Keynesianism of carnage for profit that mutually reinforces the bottom lines of oil companies, IT companies, military contractors and manufacturers, that purely manifests the neo-liberal ethos in directly translating human death and destruction into a profit engine.
Really, the Harrkonnens in Frank Herbert's Dune look innocent by comparison. It is one of the beauties of market based systems that they evolve like living organisms to support ever more refined niches within their eco-systems. It is a tragedy that ours has chosen to express its intricate flourishes in a lucrative economics of death. Systems first tested in Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Grenada in the 80s have been rolled out across the Levant now turning the major oil fields into a table-top game for corporate persons who flourish on extractions from beneath the same ground where they profit from exterminations above. We appear to be closing in on a Baudriallard style "simulacrum" in which our "hyper-real" mediated imagery finally delivers a "morally" acceptable narrative of genocide to support a blood bath in the take over of the geography of extractive resources. The invisible because isolated cruelty and instrumental devastation Conrad described in the Belgian Congo, we witness re-formatted in warm multi media light to dis-inform a radically propagandized population that extermination is OK now because "those people" are so bad.
Which brings us back to Ferguson, where this narrative is failing at home because it cannot be hidden. McCullogh formatted his tale in perfect Fox TV style, and there, on Fox, it has been told as he wanted. But the news cycle has not moved on because those people are us and we've not gone away. The corporate structure of the tale will not stand up to the persistence of victims here with little to loose: they are shaming the corporate media where watch dogs now sleep. In the pre-Reagan world of the "Fairness Doctrine", a full time anti-US Government voice of corporate funded propaganda was illegal and the press could on occasion bring itself to savage the bogus claims of the powerful. China, Russia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and many other countries of better and worse legal structure see clearly that press "liberalization" along US lines is an abdication of government responsibilities that will neuter the power of the state by enabling private power grabs: while they may shy from the savagings of a free press, the will not countenance privately funded anti-government and pro-corporate propaganda as is now normal here.
Our Constitution allows, in Article 5, revisions by a Convention called by two thirds of the states. It's time. Maybe a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" or some kind of amnesty will be required to prevent the rouge elements in our current post-Constitutional structure from feeling threatened and inciting violence. But so much perversion needs to be excised from the built up institutional structure that I see no hope for a piecemeal solution. Starting at the top, the Executive needs to be brought back under the rule of law and the universality of Habeus Corpus reinstated. Extra-judicial executions of Americans and of anyone need to be stopped. Our "security" institutions need to be turned back into just that: at present no American can be secure because those institutions can make any claim they choose about anyone for whatever motives they can cloak with secrecy to silence or eliminate individuals.
That done, economic power needs to be similarly re-shackled to the constraints of government power and representational democracy re-legitimized by ending the perversity of money/speech equivalency and the corporate personhood fantasies of our judiciary. Legislators liberated from the constant solicitation of bribes now required by our money driven electoral system may again discover both the power of legislation and the interests of citizen voters. Disaggregated from our current imperial behemoth, where money creation inflates empty wealth beyond all recognition, where leakages from the plutocratic bloat are what the real economy is left to feed on, legislators can renew the engines of real wealth creation with the contempt appropriate for money values: it remains the real, biological world from which we draw entirely our life, a world the Empire of Money sees as a dumping ground for it's externalities
With corporate lucre burying DC, like a heap of mackerel by moon light, it sparkles and it stinks. Two generations of American politicians and corporate executives, with their ethical sinuses blocked, have flourished in its glamorous, putrid evil. That the erstwhile Potomac swamp that is DC now seeps with the miasma of rot again is more than just metaphor: Constitutional government has rotted away. But rot is what we call a phase-change in life: when life's elements cease to function on the scale we recognize and know how to use, they become repulsive as other life at a different scale takes them up. They may be poison to us now, in new form, but no less are they life and no less useful to the larger eco-system on which we both depend. Its' time to drain the swamp, or perhaps, to let the tides wash cleanly through it and disburse the muck into a sea where the larger eco-system will digest its filth, breaking it down as nutrients for new, clean and living things, new life at a different scale. Something beyond, after, lawless empire.
For the moment, money is speech and corporations are people. The reef of Manhattan responds to these sour nutrients in its sea: like the beautiful sunsets global warming makes more common and the cool summers its ice melt has been bringing to the East Coast, the gilding of our skyline is making some breath taking buildings, but for what future? A much better future remains there to be seized, but it is one where people relish their time, not their money, where people listen to one another, not mediated corporate and institutional propaganda narratives and people make things and do things with others that make every ones life better, richer and more fulfilling than the empty wealth of money. Money is a tool that can call forth beautiful, wonderful and useful thing. But as presently used it can pull forth misery and death and too much of the beauty in New York is paid for remotely with these. It is time for an open conspiracy to make the world a better place, and the first step is to not believe those who say it can not be done.