WHITE SUPREMACY AND CAPITALISM, FROM 1492 TO FERGUSON
This originally was a podcast done on the site Crimethinc. I have decided to reproduce the transcript minus the conversational personal name references, so it reads like an article. This is probably the most complete historical reference in brief of Capitalism and white supremacy and how it was established in the beginning of the US settler state, and how it is hard copied into the current system. Its worse then you think.
...And these spin tactics directly support police efforts to justify repression. According to New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, “New York police worked with police in Ferguson to share strategies and identify so-called professional agitators at protests.” That’s right, the way they serve and protect us is by sharing strategies on how to neutralize our resistance to their violence.
Meanwhile, the thinly (or not-so-thinly) disguised racist lobby has chimed in, insisting that all this outrage over Mike Brown and Eric Garner is just a reflection of what Rush Limbaugh calls “the current climate in the United States, [in which] a black person can never be the oppressor, and a white person can never be a victim." Conservatives are indignant because some murders of white people aren’t generating similar media attention and outrage; they cite, for example, the case of Dillon Taylor, an unarmed young man described as white or white and Latino recently murdered by a non-white police officer in Salt Lake City.
Clearly evidence that we live in a liberal dystopia of politically correct reverse racism, right?
It is a little strange hearing right-wingers arguing that there should be MORE anti-police outrage, though…
So, according to the despicably racist Guiliani, why should we get so worked up over Eric Garner, when black people would clearly just be killing each other nonstop if not for white police to civilize them?
What a disgusting piece of shit.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, I have to nominate NYC police commissioner Bratton for the single most tasteless thing I’ve ever heard said in this whole series of events…
…and that is definitely saying something.
Bratton said at a press conference about the grand jury convened around Eric Garner’s murder that they’d been making preparations for protests, where they intended to isolate and repress militant demonstrators but were willing to allow people to gather if they remained pacified. Here’s what he said - and this is a direct quote:
“If they engage in criminal activity, such as vandalism actual crime they will be arrested, quite simply. But we have the ability to have a level of tolerance breathing room, if you will.”
Breathing room. Yep, you heard that right. An officer under his command chokes a man to death as he begs for mercy, saying “I can’t breathe”; a grand jury (whose decision he mysteriously knows before they make it) decides the murderer need not risk facing any consequences; and as this pig describes how he will patronizingly choose to allow protests (as if he could stop them if he tried) against him and his murderous racist regime, he has the fucking nerve to describe that as giving outraged and grieving people “breathing room”?
There is truly no circle of hell agonizing enough for the likes of these scumbags. And they are the ones who rule us, control us, surveil us, and determine if we will live or die in any moment.
And they wonder why we say fuck the police?
THE THIN BLUE LINE IS A BURNING FUSE: WHY EVERY STRUGGLE IS NOW A STRUGGLE AGAINST THE POLICE
In this moment, when anger against police is mobilizing huge numbers of people to resist, it’s more important than ever that we connect the critiques anarchists have been making of cops for years to a broader anti-capitalist and anti-state vision. In previous episodes we’ve discussed why anarchists oppose the police and ideas about how to live without them. But to understand the ongoing uprisings in memory of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, we need to look more deeply and broadly about how white supremacy and police violence are woven in to the very fabric of our country and our economy.
To begin our discussion, we want to place the rebellions here in the US into an international context, with reflections on why anti-police revolts have been the catalyst for nearly all of the major social struggles of recent years. Here is an excerpt from a recent feature on the CrimethInc blog, titled, “The Thin Blue Line Is a Burning Fuse: Why Every Struggle Is Now a Struggle against the Police.”
It should have come as no surprise when the grand jury in St. Louis refused to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Various politicians and media outlets had labored to prepare the public for this for months in advance. They knew what earnest liberals and community leaders have yet to acknowledge: that it is only possible to preserve the prevailing social order by giving police officers carte blanche to kill black men at will. Otherwise, it would be impossible to maintain the racial and economic inequalities that are fundamental to this society. In defiance of widespread outrage, even at the cost of looting and arson, the legal system will always protect officers from the consequences of their actions for without them, it could not exist.
The verdict of the grand jury is not a failure of the justice system, but a lesson in what it is there to do in the first place. Likewise, the unrest radiating from Ferguson is not a tragic failure to channel protest into productive venues, but an indication of the form all future social movements will have to take to stand any chance of addressing the problems that give rise to them.
A profit-driven economy creates ever-widening gulfs between the rich and the poor. Ever since slavery, this situation has been stabilized by the invention of white privilege a bribe to discourage poor white people from establishing common interests with poor people of color. But the more imbalances there are in a society racial, economic, and otherwise the more force it takes to impose them.
This explains the militarization of the police. It’s not just a way to sustain the profitability of the military-industrial complex beyond the end of the Cold War. Just as it has been necessary to deploy troops around the world to secure the raw materials that keep the economy afloat, it is becoming necessary to deploy troops in the US to preserve the unequal distribution of resources at home. Just as the austerity measures pioneered by the IMF in Africa, Asia, and South America are appearing in the wealthiest nations of the first world, the techniques of threat management and counter-insurgency that were debuted against Palestinians, Afghanis, and Iraqis are now being turned against the populations of the countries that invaded them. Private military contactors who operated in Baghdad are now working in Ferguson, alongside tanks that once rolled through Kabul. For the time being, this is limited to the poorest, blackest neighborhoods; but what seems exceptional in Ferguson today will be commonplace around the country tomorrow.
This also explains why struggles against the police have taken center stage in the popular imagination over the past decade. The police are the front line of defense for capitalism and racism in every fight. You might never see the CEO who profits on fracking your water supply, but you’ll see the police who break up your protest against him. You might not meet the bank director or landlord who forces you out, but you will see the sheriff who comes to repossess your home or evict you. As a black person, you might never enter the gated communities of the ones who benefit most from white privilege, but you will encounter the overtly racist officers who profile, bully, and arrest you.
It’s not surprising that police violence has been the spark that set off most of the major movements, uprisings, and revolutions of the past several years:
The riots that shook Greece in December 2008, ushering in an era of worldwide anti-austerity resistance, were sparked by the police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
In Oakland, the riots in response to the police murder of Oscar Grant at the opening of 2009 set the stage for the Bay Area to host the high-water mark of Occupy and several other movements.
The original day of protest that sparked the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was scheduled for National Police Day, January 25, by the Facebook page We Are All Khaled Said, which memorialized another young man killed by police.
The police eviction of Occupy Oakland, in which officers (fractured the skull)[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/iraq-vet-oakland-police-tear-gas_n_1033159.html] of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, brought the Occupy movement to its peak, provoking the blockade of the Port of Oakland.
It isn’t just that the police are called in to repress every movement as soon as it poses any threat to the prevailing distribution of power (although that remains as true as ever). Rather, repression itself has been the flashpoint of revolt.
Clara: The police cannot rule by brute force alone. They can’t be everywhere at once and they are drawn from the same social body they repress, so their conflicts with that body cannot be concluded by purely military means. Even more than force, they need public legitimacy and the appearance of invincibility. Wherever it’s hard for them to count on one of these, they’re careful to exaggerate the other. When they lose both, as they have in all of the previously described movements, a window of possibility opens a Tahrir or Taksim Square, an Occupy encampment or building occupation, the occupied QT in Ferguson last August in which it becomes possible to imagine a world without the boundaries and power imbalances they enforce. This window remains open until the police are able to reestablish their facade of invulnerability and either delegitimize the kind of force it takes to confront them, or else relegitimize policing itself.
Such relegitimization can take many forms. In Occupy, it took the form of rhetoric about the police being part of the 99% (which could just as easily have been said of the Ku Klux Klan). In Egypt, people overthrew several governments in a row only to see the police and military resume the same function again and again, each time relegitimized by the regime change; it turned out the problem was the infrastructure of policing itself, not a particular administration. In the Ukrainian revolution, when the police were successfully defeated, the same self-defense forces that had just routed them took over their role, performing it identically. Calls for “community self-policing” may sound innocuous, but we should recall the white vigilante groups that roamed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; we’ve already seen hints of this in and around Ferguson, with the so-called “Oath Keepers”. Policing by its very nature is bound to perpetuate an oppressive status quo.
In protests against the killing of Michael Brown, relegitimizing the police has taken the form of demands for police accountability, for citizens’ review boards, for police to wear cameras as if more surveillance could possibly be a good thing for those too poor to survive within the law in the first place. It is naive to present demands to authorities that regard the police as essential and see us as expendable. This can only reinforce their legitimacy and our passivity, fostering a class of go-betweens who build up personal power in return for defusing opposition. We should be grateful to the demonstrators in Ferguson who refused to be passive after the grand jury ruling, rejecting representation and false dialogue at great personal risk, refusing to water down their rage.
For the only possible way out of this mess is to develop the ability to wield power on our own terms, horizontally and autonomously, stripping the police of legitimacy and shattering the illusion that they are invincible. This has been the common thread between practically all the significant movements of the past several years. If we learn how to do this, we can set our own agenda, discouraging the authorities from taking the lives of young men like Michael Brown and preventing them from enforcing the structural inequalities of a racist society. Until we do, we can be sure that the police will go on killing and no prosecutor or grand jury will stop them.
THE PAST DOESN’T PASS: WHITE SUPREMACY, CAPITALISM, HISTORY, PART I
So killer cop Darren Wilson was not found by the grand jury to have committed a crime when he murdered Mike Brown. He’s not going to face any criminal charges. And we knew that; I don’t think I talked to a single person or read a single commentator who ever thought there was a realistic chance he’d face any consequences, legally at least. But on some level I still can’t understand it.
It’s not that I don’t understand that the so-called justice system is racist; I get it. And it’s not that I wasn’t aware that the police operate with almost total impunity; that much is obvious. And it’s not too hard to predict that agents of the state are not going to be punished by a different arm of the state for taking action that supports the goals of the state - the subjugation of black folks and the poor.
So… what’s the question?
I’m confused because everyone knew that if Darren Wilson walked, the whole country would go up in flames. Maybe not literally, but everyone knew there would be protests in every major city, likely thousands or even millions of dollars in damage from rioting and looting, countless millions spent on law enforcement and military plus private contractors, not to mention a total loss of trust in the legal system on the part of tons of people, and international condemnation and negative attention from all over the planet, to boot.
So how could this possibly make sense for the state? I mean, is it really that unthinkable to make a white cop face some legal consequence for shooting an unarmed black teenager in the back? I mean, they didn’t even have to convict him; they could have agreed that he would face some charge and then stalled it for years in legal maneuvering, gotten him off on a technicality, etc, and let people cool off. Or convicted him of manslaughter and given him probation, or whatever. It certainly doesn’t make economic sense, at least in the short term; it definitely doesn’t make political sense, for the local or state or federal government. Why is it so fucking important that white police be able to kill black people with total impunity, no matter what the consequences?
Ah, OK. Now you’re getting at the heart of it. That’s the question worth grappling with.
Because violent white supremacy lies at the heart of the United States, and to challenge it would challenge the very foundations of this country.
OK, fine. I’m not saying I disagree with you. But that’s not an explanation; it’s a slogan. I want to understand how it is that white supremacy lies at the heart of the United States. What’s so intrinsic about it? How did it get to be this way? And if the familiar stories about how far we’ve come and how much progress we’ve made and how we live in a “post-racial” society or whatever are all transparently bullshit, how do we explain this nightmare we’re living in?
OK, I hear you. To start to answer that, we’re gonna have to look way back into the origins of European capitalism and American colonization, the African slave trade, indigenous genocide, and resistance to all of these things. But in the process, we’re also gonna have to challenge our whole notion of what it is we’re doing when we look at history. Remember in our last episode how we interviewed Savannah, who’s working on a project tracing hundreds of years of insurrectionary history in the southeastern US? When we asked her about what an anarchist approach to history has to offer for struggles today, this is what she said:
“None of this is really over. We’re still in the same shitstorm that happened 500 years ago when colonization began here… When you’re in the streets when someone has been killed by the cops, and you see how shit plays out there, you realize that not a lot has changed.”
So in that spirit, we’re going to delve into some history of the roots of white supremacy and its centrality to this project called the United States of America. Not just because it’s interesting, or because what happened in the past informs what happens today, but because it is literally still happening. This idea of history as a linear narrative of progress, whereby we become more and more free, as democracy is perfected bit by bit: this is designed to obscure how the core dynamics that went into the founding of the United States are still happening today. Different people acting them out, different words to describe them, but the same dynamics. Conquest, colonization, enclosure, accumulation, slavery, genocide, exploitation, domination… In order to understand and name what’s happening in the US today, we need to look into that history, and to understand that history we only need to look around us. The murderers of Mike Brown and Eric Garner are inheritors of a legacy that spirals back through the LA cops that beat Rodney King, Bull Connor and the southern sheriffs of the 1960s, the lynch mobs of Jim Crow and the race rioters in East St. Louis and Tulsa, Oklahoma, all the way back to the overseers and fugitive slave patrols from whom the institution of the police would evolve. And likewise, the people who burned down the QT in Ferguson, the people who marched and shut down the freeways across the country: they inherit a legacy too, a legacy of resistance and counter-violence from Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman to Robert Williams and the Black Liberation Army. The grand juries that refused to indict the killer cops and the police unions and racist trolls that stood up for them, the liberal community leaders who try to defuse or manage people’s anger, everyone else who sits on the sidelines thinking that it doesn’t affect them or not knowing what they can do… They’re all playing familiar characters in the same production that’s been running for centuries in the theater of America, just acted out on a different stage. Which role will you play? Which side will you choose?
OK, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. Where do we get started?
Well, first, we gotta talk about capitalism.
So what do we have to say about it?
To help understand where we are now, we need to get some sense of where it came from. In Episode 2 we talked a little about what capitalism is and why we fight it…
And in Episode 18, we explained why anyone who claims they’re an anarchist but is in to capitalism is totally incoherent…
Right. But this time around we wanna look at how it got started, and how crucially white supremacy figures in to it. And then we can start to make sense of the origins of the United States, and how we found ourselves in the mess we’re in today.
So here we go. Capitalism is a fire; it requires constant fuel. When economists talk about the health of the economy, they talk about the rate of economic growth; a capitalist economy can’t just continue along at the same rate, or else it would fall apart. Business and industry and finance have to keep shoveling more and more capital and labor and resources into the process, and it has to come from somewhere. So as you can imagine, for capitalism to get started, it required a whole lot of fuel up front to get the fires roaring.
That makes sense.
So where is it all gonna come from? This initial process of scooping up huge amounts of wealth through conquest and pillage and privatization is what Marx called “primitive accumulation.” It’s not just earning money through the processes the economy already had in place for generating wealth, like trade and such, but converting resources that used to be held in common into private property that could be invested and reinvested.
So what did this primitive accumulation actually look like?
Well, one of the first steps was what’s called the enclosure of the commons. Starting in the Middle Ages but picking up in the 1500�"1600’s in England and beyond, the rich and powerful began to put fences up around lands that were formerly held in common and privatized them, denying poor people access to collective subsistence from the land. This forced them into the money economy to work for wages, or left them as “vagrants” (the legal term for landless and unemployed), vulnerable to imprisonment, military service or deportation to the colonies. And the land that previously had supported subsistence and direct needs could then be put to use for generating capitalist value.
Next, there’s the conquest of the Americas and the expansion of colonies around the world. From the first voyages of Columbus to the conquest of the Inca and Aztec empires, to the establishment of slave forts along the West African coast, to the silver and gold mines from Mexico to Peru: all of these ventures sucked a staggering amount of wealth from the people and land of other continents to fuel the explosion of the European-based capitalist economy.
And writers such as Silvia Federici have pointed out that new forms of gender oppression that emerged in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages also helped kick-start the emergence of capitalism. Specifically, the witch hunts and other forms of misogynist violence combined with new legal and social restrictions on the roles of women, so that as peasant men were forced into new waged roles as proletarians in the new capitalist world, peasant women were forced into unwaged roles as housewives. Thus women’s reproductive and domestic labor formed another source of this “primitive accumulation,” that is, a source of value marshaled by the wealthy to stoke the growing fires of capitalism.
I’m with you, but I dunno if I see what’s “primitive” about it. It seems like this kind of massive accumulation is actually necessary at all times and phases of capitalist development to keep the whole system running, from the slave trade and silver mines of the 1500s to the austerity cuts and privatizations of the 21st century.
You’re exactly right! This accumulation happens in cycles again and again, as capitalists keep trying to find new horizons of previously common resources that can be privatized and tossed into the furnace of capitalist value. Another way that history goes in a circle, that the past doesn’t pass…
So, the fires of capitalism have been stoked through all of this new wealth…
Aha, yes! But first, a bit more context about Europe. In traditional feudal societies, wealth was primarily based in land held in title through families rather than as private property, while social and political power were based in hereditary aristocracy. Merchants traded all over the world, and had for thousands of years, but the profits that were generated through this tended to be reinvested in land or in other markers of status. So through the 1400’s, 1500’s, and 1600’s, as the social and economic order began to slowly shift away from feudalism into what would become capitalism, a lot had to change. One catalyst was the expansion of sea travel made possible by new technology. As Portugal, Spain, and then other European states began to send ships to Asia, Africa, and eventually the Americas, the investors who funded these voyages made unimaginable profits, which were then reinvested in more voyages, joint stock companies and other new kinds of commercial ventures.
This early phase in the emergence of capitalism in Western Europe is what we might call mercantilism. It’s based on the logic that individual states can grow strongest when they maintain or increase the level of gold and silver currency within the country, through building overseas colonies dependent on the metropolis and exporting more goods than they import, along with high tariffs and promotion of national industries. They saw the economy as a zero-sum game, where there’s a pretty fixed amount of “money”, i.e. coinage, available and if you don’t keep it within your borders then the other guys are going to get a lead on you.
So in this light, the gold and silver mines of the Americas, and the raw materials and slave labor from around the world that could be used for manufacturing, were crucial to giving each nation a leg up in the competition with the others. So you had to have colonies, specifically colonies that extracted huge amounts of resources in return for very little output from the home country, or else you risked being left behind in the zero-sum game of international economics.
Right. Also, this system was very much focused on production; consumption was seen as irrelevant. So the mercantilists saw it as beneficial to keep the working populations of the home countries economically oppressed, as close to subsistence as possible, since extra money or free time or more education would do nothing but undermine their work ethic and destabilize the whole arrangement.
Yikes. Pretty grim.
And that’s another reason why colonies were seen as necessary, and so successful; there were these surplus populations of poor, landless, frustrated people in many of these countries with nowhere to go and no role in their economies. These “vagrants” were getting into all sorts of trouble, and so by transplanting them to the colonies, the authorities could put them to work, get a foothold for conquest, provide a buffer population against the natives, and rid themselves of potentially rebellious populations.
That’s a lot of birds to kill with one stone.
What about this whole notion people love to talk about here in the US about how the Pilgrims founded this country to be free from religious persecution?
Sure, it’s true that some people did flee Europe for religious reasons. But the colonial project as a whole had very little to do with that. The Pilgrims of New England could only conceive of founding their fucking city on a hill on indigenous lands across the Atlantic because of these processes driven by conquest for mercantile capitalism and funneling off surplus landless population.
I’m with you so far, but I have another question.
So if I’m some poor schmuck from England or Scotland or wherever with no money, no land, and nothing to lose, and I turn up in Jamestown or some other colony with a bunch of other poor people and enslaved Africans and thousands of indigenous people living relatively free lives just over the hills…
And my boss or master or the colonial government tried to get me to do backbreaking labor for them, when they’re an ocean away from the center of royal authority and way outnumbered… why on earth should I? Why shouldn’t I just get together with the other workers in the colony, black or white or whatever, and tell the bosses to fuck off and go back to Europe? Or just join up with the indigenous societies already there and live without wage labor or private property or far-off kings or any of that shit?
That, my friend, is a very good question - one that kept the colonial masters awake at night, as you might imagine. And to answer it, we have to start talking about white supremacy: the other major piece in the puzzle that will become the United States.
Let’s start by explaining what we mean with some of our terminology. White supremacy is not the same thing as racism. The classic activist definition of racism is racial prejudice plus power; that is, the belief that one race is superior to others combined with the ability to enact that belief in the world. That’s maybe a little simplistic, but what’s helpful is that it points out that racism is more than just a belief system. Anyone can be prejudiced against another person or group, but without the social or institutional power to back it up, it doesn’t really matter.
Alanis: That makes sense. Take Darren Wilson in Ferguson. It’s a fairly safe bet that as an individual he had negative attitudes about black people, but the fact that he was able to kill Mike Brown and get away with it rests on a power structure that allows individual white people to turn those attitudes into a violent reality. Regardless of Mike Brown’s attitudes about white people or cops or whatever, he had no such power to enforce them. So that definition makes it clear that what constitutes “racism” depends on any given society’s set of power relations around race.
Clara: Exactly. So in our context, white supremacy is the specific form of racism which has emerged over the last 500 years with European colonization of the Americas, the African slave trade, and the foundation of the United States. Here’s a definition from Elizabeth Martinez of the Challenging White Supremacy workshop:
Alanis: White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
Clara: There’s a lot to unpack in that, but some of the key themes are:
First, it’s historical - that is, not natural, or timeless, or inherent; it had a beginning, and it can…
Alanis: …and must!
Clara: …come to an end;
Second, it’s institutional and systemic - that is, not primarily based in interpersonal attitudes and opinions;
And third, it has a purpose - that is, it’s not just an irrational prejudice or a remnant of unenlightened attitudes which will be swept away by the march of progress. Its purpose is to defend a system of wealth, power, and privilege; and if we look around us in the US today, we can see that it has been very successful towards that purpose. So for anarchists and those of us who make it our project to dismantle wealth, power, and privilege, it’s crucial that we try to understand and dismantle white supremacy.
Here’s a longer excerpt from the Challenging White Supremacy workshop, which gives a pretty clear and concise summary of how white supremacy is the foundation of the United States, from the beginning and to this day.
Alanis: The United States is a capitalist nation-state created by military conquest. European colonialists stole the lands of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, committed genocide against the indigenous peoples, then kidnapped and enslaved African people to work the stolen land. The wealth created from land theft and enslaved labor made some of the colonialists very rich and enabled them to establish the United States. The U.S. was the world’s first white supremacy state - a state in which white supremacy and capitalism are like two peas in a pod.
The slave-owning “Founding Fathers” were very clear that they were building a nation-state for white people only. When they wrote the U.S. Constitution, they legitimized slavery of African people and excluded indigenous peoples from the new republic. The Congress of the United States promised to respect the sovereignty and land rights of native nations. From 1790 to 1870, the U.S. signed 371 treaties with indigenous nations, and broke every treaty it signed.
The United States expanded its land by military conquest. It made war on Mexico and took half that nation’s territory. It wrote laws that robbed the Mexican people of their homes and lands in “Occupied America.” And it blessed this theft with the myth of “Manifest Destiny.”
The U.S. imported Chinese and Mexican labor to build the railroads that would connect the vast land mass “from sea to shining sea.” It used Mexican workers to grow the food and extract the minerals that made Occupied America a pasture of plenty - for the rich. Then it hopped a gun-boat and gobbled up Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines. And it has been invading nations of color ever since, until today, the U.S. is the most powerful imperialist state in the world.
Clara: But, says the chorus of liberal voices, although the US has a racist past - we can hardly deny that - look at how much progress we’ve made! I mean, there was the Civil Rights movement, and desegregation, and we have a black president, for Christ’s sake! Certainly today racism is just a question of a few bad apples, right?
Alanis: Well, that’s pretty easy to refute. You don’t have to be a genius to look at, for example, the prison system, and notice that nearly a million black men in prison, wildly out of proportion to the overall population and the prison population, means something fishy is going on. You don’t have to be an economist to see the figures that black unemployment is double white unemployment, that white families in the US have an average of over twenty times as much wealth as black families…
Alanis: Seriously. And on and on and on… Life for black folks is worse in Obama’s America today than in South Africa at the height of apartheid, in terms of wealth gap and incarceration rates and other measures. No amount of token representation in the political class or social norms that condemn openly racist statements can obscure the reality that racist oppression is still a basic empirical fact of life in the United States.
Clara: So, given that the US no longer has formal race-specific laws on the books like during the Jim Crow era, it seems pretty obvious that we need to look at the history of capitalism and white supremacy, and how these systems continue to intertwine and function today, in order to understand how shit is this bad in our supposedly “post-racial” society. For all of the inspiring resistance of the black civil rights movement and other struggles of people of color since this nightmare began, we still live in a world in which Mike Brown and thousands of others like him whose names we’ll never hear can be murdered by white police and vigilantes with impunity.
Alanis: So then, coming back to the question at hand. Why don’t the poor and exploited get together and toss off the colonial elites?
Clara: Well, rewind just a little ways, as Europeans are encountering the indigenous peoples of the Americas for the first time. The motives for European expansion and colonization were economic and religious (probably in that order, though we can argue about that.) But the religious part posed a little problem. Even the most accommodating interpretations of Christianity generally prohibit theft and murder. So how can this widespread theft and murder be justified, especially in a religious undertaking?
Well, part of the answer is finding a way to see conquered and exterminated indigenous people and enslaved African people as not human beings. That’s the approach of the conquistadors; by the time the Pope technically overrules this perspective and insists that the “Indians” are in fact full human beings, a majority of them have already died from massacre, disease, and overwork. But at least the Spanish and Portuguese colonists engaged in a debate about the humanity of indigenous people, and had some religious and legal frameworks to recognize them as such. In the English colonies that became the United States, there was never any such debate; the English strategy from the very beginning was simply to push the natives away or exterminate them, with no pretensions of religious conversion or incorporation into their society. Meanwhile, they refer to Africans as property, cargo, goods; in the Constitution, they’re counted as 3/5ths human. In 1857, Judge Taney of the Supreme Court decrees that black folks have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Today, we don’t need to look any further than Darren Wilson in his grand jury testimony referring to Mike Brown as “it” and calling him a “demon” to see how incompatible black people are with many white people’s concept of humanity.
So is this dehumanization of different races something that’s already locked into the European view of the world at this point, or is it developed specifically for, or through, the conquest and colonization of the Americas?
That’s a tricky question, and there’s a lot of controversy about it. Some scholars see the roots of white supremacy in the Spanish “reconquista” completed in 1492, in which Christian kingdoms united to drive out the Islamic cultures of the Iberian peninsula. They forced widespread conversions of Jews and Muslims and persecuted converts for their heritage according to the ideology of “limpieza de sangre,” purity of blood. This obsession with “blood” and ancestry was translated to the Spanish and Portuguese-conquered territories in the Americas, where they established complex schemas of racial hierarchy among people they called creoles, mulattos, mestizos, and dozens of other precise categories.
Others have argued that further north, the English experience of colonization in Ireland provided the blueprint of racial oppression that was imported into the New World in colonial Virginia and modified into white supremacy.
While these and other experiences of domination provided tools and frameworks for racial oppression in the New World, the system of white supremacy that was created was unique and specific to the conditions of the Americas.
So you’re saying that there wasn’t white supremacy in Europe prior to American conquest and colonization?
That’s right. There was no white supremacy because there were no white people.
No white people?
What do you mean?
No white people.
But then who was it that conquered and colonized the New World?
The conquistadors and colonists were Spaniards (or more likely Castilians and Aragonese and Catalans), and English and Scots and Irish and Huguenots and so on. There was no such thing as “white” people; no “white” identity, no sense of inherent racial togetherness. They didn’t have a shared language or a unified culture; they came from various ethnicities and had a variety of local and regional allegiances, many of which were at war with each other. To whatever extent there was a sense of shared identity, it was as Christians, vis-a-vis the non-Christian peoples they encountered in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. But when all these various peoples arrived in the Americas, there was no guarantee that they would see themselves as inherently different from and superior to the people around them. In fact, countless Europeans fled the confines of Christian colonies in the Americas to join indigenous peoples, preferring their way of life to the one they knew from Europe.
And given how terrible life was for many of the indentured servants who came from England or Ireland or wherever to the American colonies - in the mid�"1600s in Virginia, four out of five died before gaining their freedom - it’s easy to understand why some chose to make common cause and social bonds with Africans or indigenous folks rather than choosing to identify with their exploiters.
Exactly. And that hits precisely at the heart of why whiteness had to be created.
What do you mean when you say “created”?
I mean that whiteness was deliberately constructed by governors and property owners, through laws controlling terms of labor, land ownership, access to weapons, marriage and sexuality, and other dimensions of life, plus a whole set of social norms and customs along with them. The goal of the colonial ruling class was to secure an obedient labor supply to keep shipping goods, materials and profits back to the mother country; remember that in the framework of the mercantile economy, that’s what the colonies were there for. So if you’re part of the ruling class in Virginia or New England, how do you convince a bunch of people, many of whom aren’t there voluntarily in the first place, to go along with your scheme to exploit them, when you’re way outnumbered by them and you’re right next to an entire continent full of people with a totally different social organization and labor system?
Still seems like a dicey proposition to me.
Well, if you think about incentives and punishments - carrots and sticks - there are two carrots you can offer. One is land; European concepts of private land ownership joined with sketchy treaties, military conquests, and outright theft and squatting means that there is an enormous amount of land to offer to settlers. The colonial state offers cheap or free land to settlers who at home in Europe never could have dreamed of such space and resources, and uses that to buy their loyalty and complicity. And since, as you mentioned, a majority of indentured servants who are working towards that dream die before they finish their term of servitude, you get a lot of free labor out of them, too, without even having to pay up.
And the second carrot is a sense of superiority over black people, what W.E.B. Dubois called a “public and psychological wage,” a relative sense of social equality with their other “white” peers - unthinkable in aristocratic Europe - that provided some compensation for their economic exploitation.
Damn. So the idea of creating people as “white” was to divide people along lines of race so they didn’t unite along lines of class?
In broad terms, yeah. To be clear, though, all white people, across lines of class, benefited materially from African slavery. The food that fed them, the infrastructure that sustained their daily lives, the raw materials for their emerging industries: nearly all of these came from African labor, while the greed for indigenous land drove settlers from the poorest servants to the richest magnates. But this exploitation benefited the few way more than the many, and early resistance to the colonial regime made it clear that there was no guarantee which side people would take when it came to conflicts with authorities. They had to find a way to secure the loyalty of European settlers against Africans and indigenous folks to make their whole colonial venture work. So whiteness was created as a ruling class strategy for social control. And that’s central to how it functions to this day. Alanis: All right, so you mentioned free or cheap stolen land, plus a social (but not economic) equality with other European colonists at the expense of black people - the “wages of whiteness” on a social and psychological level - as the carrots the colonial governments could offer to European settlers as they made them into white people. What was the stick?
The stick was that participation in the white race was not optional, and penalties for breaking white racial solidarity were harsh. Take, for example, the very first law in the American colonies that used the word “white,” where it was debuted as a legal concept. It came in 1691 in Virginia, in a law prohibiting interracial marriage. It said, “Whatsoever English or other white man or woman, bond or free, shall intermarry with a Negro, mulatto or Indian man or woman, bond or free, he shall within three months be banished from this dominion forever.”
So the stick could be pretty severe: throw in your lot with black or indigenous people, get banished from your community forever. Notice that the law specifically targets the “white” person for punishment, and that it sets “race,” not status as bond (meaning slave or servant) versus free, as the basis for the category. This is a whole new era.
It’s pretty significant that the first instance of whiteness in the law comes shortly after the laws are changed to make black servitude lifelong and hereditary; in 1662 Virginia passed a law dictating that a child born to a black mother and a white father would inherit the slave status of the mother. This is the beginning of an entrenched hereditary and racially defined regime of slavery. To make that stick and keep the lines clear, there needed to be laws against “interracial” unions, and thus some more clarity about what “race” Christian Europeans constituted.
But you’re saying this was a political construction, one that served a purpose related to securing the labor supply, not something that codified a previously existing sense of racial solidarity.
Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. Who knows exactly what sense of affinity any particular European felt with any other. But the idea of a “white race” didn’t exist in language, in science, in theology, in law, or in any of the other places where it would take root over the next centuries until the late 1600s and after.
Of course, the concept of “black” is also emerging at this time. People who had been kidnapped from Africa were BaKongo or Mande or Igbo or Yoruba, not “black.” In fact, the concept of “Africa” as a distinct continent whose diverse peoples had something inherent in common with each other didn’t predate the transatlantic slave trade. Peoples from north and western Africa were much more economically and culturally linked to the Mediterranean world and Iberian Europe than much of the rest of the continent. The Africans who arrived in the Americas on slave ships spoke different languages, practiced different religions, came from different regions and from societies with different forms of social organization. It was only through the shared experience of being kidnapped from their homelands, transported across the ocean, and inserted into a brutal regime of slave labor that they became “black.”
But that’s pretty dramatically different from the formation of “whiteness.” While Europeans arrived in the Americas either more or less voluntarily, they all benefited from abandoning their own heritage in favor of a political/racial identity as “white.” They got access to land, social and legal standing, control over others, and other concrete benefits for joining the white race. Africans, on the other hand, had their culture and heritage brutally stripped away from them as a process of cultural genocide and social control.
Yes, for sure. Kidnapping them from their homelands, forbidding them to speak their native languages or or practice their own religion, and subjecting them to unspeakable violence were all part of a process of dehumanization intended to render Africans “socially dead,” and thus to white people utterly without inherent value except as sources of profit.
And this seems pretty relevant today, because one o
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For those of you who have followed my posts since 2005, you will find that I spoke about the ominous nature of the "Homeland Security" rubric, and how agencies were going to cross boundaries. Well, here it is, all the proof you need to see that I was correct and not some crazy "conspiracy theorist." However, now you have something that has become entrenched, that will not be easy to disband - something that has been codified into the fabric of US institutions and society at large. It would have been easier to do something earlier, but people were too busy wondering "what is wrong with this crazy guy," not so crazy now.
"If you've been imagining NSA surveillance as something distant, with analysts sitting in remote data centers quietly analyzing metadata" stop now. NSA surveillance has become a part of day-to-day law enforcement fabric in the United States. The Snowden disclosures that were made public as part of Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide drive this point home, and they emphasize why we need real change to government surveillance, not minor reforms.
There are two key points necessary to understand the domestic aspect of NSA surveillance: the integral role of the FBI in helping the NSA spy on Americans, and the acceptance of usage of NSA material for domestic and traditional law enforcement purposes. These are contingent, of course, on the fact that the NSA's procedures allow widespread targeting of Americans.
Much of the material published on May 13 expanded on the disturbing revelations that we've already seen, but there were some standout points: new information about the degree of spying on the U.N. and other foreign officials, documents demonstrating the economic espionage aspect of NSA surveillance, and some interesting technical details about NSA programs. Among those technical details, what was especially striking for those of us in the United States were the slides that described how the FBI enables NSA surveillance.
A series of slides demonstrated that the FBI essentially serves as an attack dog for the NSA, doing the NSA's domestic dirty work. One slide, which was previously published, notes that for purposes of PRISM, relationships with communications providers are only through the FBI. (slide23.jpg). Another slide describes how the FBI and NSA partner to "address an unreliable and incomplete Facebook collection system." (slide81.jpg).
There are also a series of slides describing the FBI's relationship with Microsoft. One notes that the NSA is now able to collect Microsoft Skydrive data as a "result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established." (slide27.jpg). The documents also show that the NSA, Department of Justice, and FBI collaborated to collect Skype data. (slide29.jpg). Similarly, after Microsoft enabled encrypted chat: "MS, working with the FBI, developed a surveillance capability to deal with the new SSL." (slide30.jpg).
Clearly, the NSA would have a much more difficult if not impossible time collecting information without the FBI.
None of this should be surprising. It's easy to forget that Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation not the NSA to apply for production of business records. Remember the Verizon order that jumpstarted the NSA surveillance conversation? That order was an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by the FBI for production of Verizon's business records to the NSA.
The national discourse since June 6, 2013, has been about NSA spying. But talking about NSA spying on its own doesn't make sense. We need to be talking about the surveillance state as a whole.
And it's not just the FBI that we should be concerned about. The NSA's role in ordinary investigations is not new information. But every document that expands on the NSA's involvement in anything domestic, and not national security related, should ring alarm bells for everyone in the United States. We know now that:
The NSA data is fed to the Drug Enforcement Agencys "Special Operation Division." The DEA in turn uses this information in ordinary investigations, while cloaking the source even from judges and prosecutors.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized the NSA to share unminimized data with the FBI, as well as the CIA, with the "Raw Take" order. Prior to this "agencies [had] to 'minimize' private information about Americans deleting data that is irrelevant for intelligence purposes before providing it to others."
Information sharing between the FBI, NSA, and CIA has been routinized through "software which would automatically gather a list of tasked PRISM selectors every two weeks to provide to the FBI and CIA." (slide31.jpg). Similarly, the NSA sends "operational PRISM news and guidance to the FBI and CIA so that their analysts could task the PRISM system properly, be aware of outages and changes, and optimize their use of PRISM."
And, most recently, we learned that the NSA partners with the DEA to record nearly all cell phone calls in the Bahamas but not for national security purposes. This surveillance helps "to locate 'international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers' traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction." In fact, a 2004 memo discusses the NSA's integral goal in the war on drugs.
Everything we now know about the NSA paints a picture of an agency that has grown wildly outside the bounds of its purpose to protect national security. The national security justifications for dragnet surveillance ring hollow. It's time to take Congress and the President to task for this, and call for an end to the unchecked actions of our dangerous spy agencies the NSA and the FBI."
Not that I am any fan of Glenn Beck (decidedly not), but every once in the while he lands on something worthwhile that the American people should notice. This is not something that just started with the Obama Administration, below:
HOW DEEP THE RABBIT HOLE GOES? FEB. 2001, PRE-9/11 THE PLAN GOES DEEPER THEN "AFTER" 9/11 EXAMPLE BELOW:
While the NSA exposes about what they are doing is revealing, it will only result in cosmetic activity, and nothing substantive will change. This is partially due to only showing what the State/government actor is doing, and not its willing accomplice, the intelligence corporations. Nor how all of the other official institutions, like the universities are compromised.
Just like the military, it is one thing to expose what the military is doing in the world, and it another thing to go after the complex/corporations which live and breath off of the murderous process. It is like there is a disconnect when it comes to corporations, it is like having a pool which humanity swims in stocked with hungry sharks - but we call it normal, because we are so brainwashed.
Take any arena you like, look at the environmental movement, people petition the government from local to federal, but they never dream of ever really stopping the corporations which are destroying the environment. The same goes for exposing the government spying while 70% of the money spent goes to these intelligence corporations, which are unregulated moving in the realm of carte blanche.
However corporations like the above are conflated with the so-called American Dream, where you start out with little to nothing and build yourself into an abusing destructive corporate behemoth. So Americans have a disconnect from what is really abusing them, because they are mired, indeed smothered, that they will get nowhere fast in life without getting their corporate passport. There is nothing that is offered in the country for any upward mobility except through the corporate door, the people are educated into corporate slavery - indeed, try to think of anything that is not attached to a corporation.
You are called "Un-American" for putting your finger on this sore, yet these intelligence corporations are just like those which supported Hitler during WW2 - it is fascism, a form of inverted totalitarianism. So the corporations become the new "we the people," indeed legal finding speak of person-hood and free speech is a suitcase full of money!
Therefore men like Barrett Brown languish while awaiting a stacked trial, even though the stakes have been reduced - but I bet you the terms of the plea bargain are just "drop this connection between the intelligence corporations and the deep State (NSA a part of)." Corporations are agents of the State, just look at the charters, their charters are all pointed toward filling their corporate duty - but that duty is never principally to the people, it is not to their employees, and it is not to the general population - it is State fealty and short term profit. These intelligence corporations on the gravy train serve the interest of the few, they are the cadre of the moneyed elite, and this is not just in intelligence, but in every vital area of the so-called pursuit of life and happiness.
So having said this, you can see why the expose of the NSA et al, itself is not sufficient, it is the entire system - it is a twisted systemic issue. The militarism which has destroyed countless countries so the Fortune 500 can thrive is now turned in on the people domestically, it has always been here draining the people like squeezing the sponge until it is as dry as a bone being turned to powder so that any breeze can blow away the remnants.
Read this article written by Kevin M. Gallagher , the Founder and Director, of Free Barrett Brown written in the Huffington Post. I would submit that "Private Spys" need more then just Scrutiny, they need to be STOPPED: __________________________
"It turns out being the only imprisoned journalist in the United States doesn't get you on CNN or MSNBC. If you're Barrett Brown, a firebrand with an outlandish style, a penchant for insulting those very outlets and a history of working with hacktivist collectives, you can consider yourself lucky to get written up in Rolling Stone and the New York Times.
The drama of Brown's case and cancelled trial is all but over, but the media and the public has dropped the ball on what he was trying to expose. That's the secretive world of private intelligence contractors -- an estimated $56 billion-a-year industry consuming 70 percent of America's intelligence budget.
Edward Snowden's leaks have shed a much-needed spotlight on the activities of the NSA and GCHQ -- governmental surveillance, yet very little examination is now given to the corporations and companies who work closely with the state, while selling their capabilities on the open market. To them, dictatorships and authoritarian regimes are just another customer.
The growing nexus of intelligence, defense contracting, and cybersecurity is massive. New enterprises appear every day in response to perceived threats and manufactured demand. What we've learned so far is disturbing and entails a virtual shopping mall for the technology needed to commit rights violations and neutralize dissent.
Spyware created by Gamma International has been deployed against activists in Bahrain and Egypt. Leonie Industries, a defense contractor specializing in information operations, was caught in an online smear campaign against a journalist and editor from USA Today who had written an article that was critical of that same company.
Stratfor was discovered surveilling Bhopal activists at the behest of Dow Chemical, and PETA on behalf of Coca-Cola, as well as monitoring the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Amesys's Eagle spyware was sold to Gaddafi while he was still in power, and used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in Libya. Qorvis, an American public relations firm, has been hired to shore up the Kingdom of Bahrain's reputation as it engages in a violent crackdown against demonstrators.
Endgame Systems and VUPEN are selling zero-day exploits to the highest bidder, vulnerabilities which are used to eavesdrop on communications. Hacking Team's interception and remote control software has been used against journalists and activists in Morocco, the UAE and many other places.
Ntrepid won a large contract from CENTCOM for persona management - software capable of controlling multiple sockpuppets, fake online personalities which are used for disinformation and propaganda. Raytheon has developed a program called Riot which mines data from social media and uses it to predict your next move.
TrapWire, a mass video surveillance system created by Abraxas Applications, caused a scandal when it was revealed that CCTV was being used to detect patterns of behavior preceding terror attacks. Bright Planet has a product called BlueJay which bills itself as a "Law Enforcement, Twitter Crime Scanner".
Syngenta, a large agribusiness, attacked the credibility of a scientist who had published research critical of one of their chemicals.
A consortium of firms informally called Team Themis plotted to disrupt and undermine WikiLeaks and target Glenn Greenwald, along with critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Names such as Palantir Technologies, HBGary, Berico Technologies and Endgame were all involved.
Palantir's flagship product is a big data search and analysis application that is so good, and so ripe for abuse, it's scary. Booz Allen Hamilton -- Snowden's former employer -- earns 99 percent of their revenue from the federal government.
Blackwater had to change their name, and their license to operate in Iraq was revoked after gross negligence came to light. Wackenhut Corporation has been implicated in numerous scandals involving lax security at nuclear facilities.
There's more; we've only scratched the surface... Look up SAIC, In-Q-Tel, Archimedes Global, Cubic Corporation, ManTech International, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman. The industry has become so large that some in the European Union are rightfully pushing for export controls on surveillance technology. Meanwhile, the evolution of cyberspace as a theater of war has troubling implications for the liberty of all who inhabit the internet.
Sure, the NSA, CIA and FBI deserve scrutiny, but we should devote our attention to the private sector also. Outsourcing has always been a convenient way to avoid accountability. Firms such as these typically maintain a revolving door, with executives and board members moving in and out of key government positions.
And since 2012, domestic propaganda has been legal in the United States. With what we know by now, we should be very concerned. But what brave contractor will become a whistle-blower and reveal wrongdoing, when they are afforded very little protections to do so because of loopholes?
What was said by Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer in response to the revelation of Romas/COIN: "I think the public is naive to the actual level of technology that's available and what's being done," is echoed by the sentiment of Barrett Brown: "This is the world we accept if we continue to avert our eyes. And it promises to get much worse."
KEY FACTORS SIGNALING THE IRREVERSIBLE COLLAPSE OF CIVILIZATION
As you read this article look at the complete archives of this blog, the repetition and emphasis - you will see an unmistakable parallel. People ask why I keep talking about a moneyed elite constantly, it was because of my grasp of civilizations throughout the centuries in my studies. Now you do not need to just hear it from me any longer, you can look at a well rounded establishment study which says the same thing below. ____________________
"A new study partly-sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."
The independent research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The HANDY model was created using a minor Nasa grant, but the study based on it was conducted independently. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."
The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:
"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."
Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.
Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharrei and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:
".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."
Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."
Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:
"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."
However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:
"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."
The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.
Although the study based on HANDY is largely theoretical - a 'thought-experiment' - a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative."
"FARAWAY FORGOTTEN LANDS WHERE EMPIRES HAVE TURNED BACK TO SAND" MOODY BLUES (BELOW), NOTE HOW THE SONG BEGINS WITH SURVEILLANCE AND DOMINANCE, WHICH IS ONLY DESTROYED BY OUR TRUE LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, FOR HUMANITY, SET UP IN A CARED FOR INVITING ENVIRONMENT (SEE SCENERY) AND PURE GALAXY/PLANETARY VISION - PRESCIENT:
This is truly the choice, it will be either life and death - with a dominance of a moneyed elite to the death and destruction of all that we hold dear, or our choice to love and live and thrive - all of humanity. It does not take rocket science (no pun intended on NASA), none of us, no one who is sane wants the following:
THE ROMAN EMPIRE, SOMETIME IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE (BELOW):
This is not a subject which is unfamiliar to this blog, in fact, it is the lions share of the subject of this blog. So there is a lot of agreement with the article written by Mike Lofgren, and Mr. Moyer's (seeing Mr. Moyer's wrote about this subject previously about a "secret State"). Where we diverge is when this, as they call it "State within a State" appeared, they talk on the average of when the National Security State was established, 30 - 50 years, etc. I maintain and prove that this country was born for the express purpose of Empire, in fact, a nascent Empire which was described as such by all the "founding fathers" to the man, from early expansion to current global activity (I am not a proponent of the "across the sea" theory, that is, it is not an Empire until it crosses the seas).
Indeed, in the beginning the people were needed to conquer the land, and turn it into a productive commodity to fatten the pockets of the elite few - now we are no longer needed, the people are seen as a liability. So the author and the promoter of this essay say they are waiting with bated breath for this to turn into the State, I submit, it has always been and is now a mature form of the State. There is not some "official" lame government detached from the Deep State, the government has been and always will be the facade which covers the true State. The State has not been nor will it ever be the dog and pony show for the deception of the people that is displayed in Washington. Some believe that you have to sit officially in the middle of the State apparatus to comment about it, not really - it is everyone's duty to address and halt this process which destroys the people both foreign and domestic to enrich the few.
Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.
The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)
"There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. 
During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.
As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented at least since the McCarthy er witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.
These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. 
How did I come to write an analysis of the Deep State, and why am I equipped to write it? As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition. But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.”
Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town’s cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: “You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is classified?” No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.
The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.
I saw this submissiveness on many occasions. One memorable incident was passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008. This legislation retroactively legalized the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional surveillance first revealed by The New York Times in 2005 and indemnified the telecommunications companies for their cooperation in these acts. The bill passed easily: All that was required was the invocation of the word “terrorism” and most members of Congress responded like iron filings obeying a magnet. One who responded in that fashion was Senator Barack Obama, soon to be coronated as the presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He had already won the most delegates by campaigning to the left of his main opponent, Hillary Clinton, on the excesses of the global war on terror and the erosion of constitutional liberties.
As the indemnification vote showed, the Deep State does not consist only of government agencies. What is euphemistically called “private enterprise” is an integral part of its operations. In a special series in The Washington Post called “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William K. Arkin described the scope of the privatized Deep State and the degree to which it has metastasized after the September 11 attacks. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. While they work throughout the country and the world, their heavy concentration in and around the Washington suburbs is unmistakable: Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.
Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. On March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following: “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” This, from the chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes. It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. 
The corridor between Manhattan and Washington is a well trodden highway for the personalities we have all gotten to know in the period since the massive deregulation of Wall Street: Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and many others. Not all the traffic involves persons connected with the purely financial operations of the government: In 2013, General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance. General Petraeus’ expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy. 
Petraeus and most of the avatars of the Deep State the White House advisers who urged Obama not to impose compensation limits on Wall Street CEOs, the contractor-connected think tank experts who besought us to “stay the course” in Iraq, the economic gurus who perpetually demonstrate that globalization and deregulation are a blessing that makes us all better off in the long run are careful to pretend that they have no ideology. Their preferred pose is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well considered advice based on profound expertise. That is nonsense. They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. Domestically, whatever they might privately believe about essentially diversionary social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, they almost invariably believe in the “Washington Consensus”: financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor. Internationally, they espouse 21st-century “American Exceptionalism”: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world with coercive diplomacy and boots on the ground and to ignore painfully won international norms of civilized behavior. To paraphrase what Sir John Harrington said more than 400 years ago about treason, now that the ideology of the Deep State has prospered, none dare call it ideology.  That is why describing torture with the word “torture” on broadcast television is treated less as political heresy than as an inexcusable lapse of Washington etiquette: Like smoking a cigarette on camera, these days it is simply “not done.”
After Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent and depth of surveillance by the National Security Agency, it has become publicly evident that Silicon Valley is a vital node of the Deep State as well. Unlike military and intelligence contractors, Silicon Valley overwhelmingly sells to the private market, but its business is so important to the government that a strange relationship has emerged. While the government could simply dragoon the high technology companies to do the NSA’s bidding, it would prefer cooperation with so important an engine of the nation’s economy, perhaps with an implied quid pro quo. Perhaps this explains the extraordinary indulgence the government shows the Valley in intellectual property matters. If an American “jailbreaks” his smartphone (i.e., modifies it so that it can use a service provider other than the one dictated by the manufacturer), he could receive a fine of up to $500,000 and several years in prison; so much for a citizen’s vaunted property rights to what he purchases. The libertarian pose of the Silicon Valley moguls, so carefully cultivated in their public relations, has always been a sham. Silicon Valley has long been tracking for commercial purposes the activities of every person who uses an electronic device, so it is hardly surprising that the Deep State should emulate the Valley and do the same for its own purposes. Nor is it surprising that it should conscript the Valley’s assistance.
Still, despite the essential roles of lower Manhattan and Silicon Valley, the center of gravity of the Deep State is firmly situated in and around the Beltway. The Deep State’s physical expansion and consolidation around the Beltway would seem to make a mockery of the frequent pronouncement that governance in Washington is dysfunctional and broken. That the secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century: drone strikes, data mining, secret prisons and Panopticon-likecontrol on the one hand; and on the other, the ordinary, visible parliamentary institutions of self-government declining to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.
The results of this contradiction are not abstract, as a tour of the rotting, decaying, bankrupt cities of the American Midwest will attest. It is not even confined to those parts of the country left behind by a Washington Consensus that decreed the financialization and deindustrialization of the economy in the interests of efficiency and shareholder value. This paradox is evident even within the Beltway itself, the richest metropolitan area in the nation. Although demographers and urban researchers invariably count Washington as a “world city,” that is not always evident to those who live there. Virtually every time there is a severe summer thunderstorm, tens or even hundreds of thousands of residents lose power, often for many days. There are occasional water restrictions over wide areas because water mains, poorly constructed and inadequately maintained, have burst.  The Washington metropolitan area considers it a Herculean task just to build a rail link to its international airport with luck it may be completed by 2018.
It is as if Hadrian’s Wall was still fully manned and the fortifications along the border with Germania were never stronger, even as the city of Rome disintegrates from within and the life-sustaining aqueducts leading down from the hills begin to crumble. The governing classes of the Deep State may continue to deceive themselves with their dreams of Zeus-like omnipotence, but others do not. A 2013 Pew Poll that interviewed 38,000 people around the world found that in 23 of 39 countries surveyed, a plurality of respondents said they believed China already had or would in the future replace the United States as the world’s top economic power.
The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.
We are faced with two disagreeable implications. First, that the Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change. Second, that just as in so many previous empires, the Deep State is populated with those whose instinctive reaction to the failure of their policies is to double down on those very policies in the future. Iraq was a failure briefly camouflaged by the wholly propagandistic success of the so-called surge; this legerdemain allowed for the surge in Afghanistan, which equally came to naught. Undeterred by that failure, the functionaries of the Deep State plunged into Libya; the smoking rubble of the Benghazi consulate, rather than discouraging further misadventure, seemed merely to incite the itch to bomb Syria. Will the Deep State ride on the back of the American people from failure to failure until the country itself, despite its huge reserves of human and material capital, is slowly exhausted? The dusty road of empire is strewn with the bones of former great powers that exhausted themselves in like manner.
But, there are signs of resistance to the Deep State and its demands. In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, the House narrowly failed to pass an amendment that would have defunded the NSA’s warrantless collection of data from US persons. Shortly thereafter, the president, advocating yet another military intervention in the Middle East, this time in Syria, met with such overwhelming congressional skepticism that he changed the subject by grasping at a diplomatic lifeline thrown to him by Vladimir Putin. 
Has the visible, constitutional state, the one envisaged by Madison and the other Founders, finally begun to reassert itself against the claims and usurpations of the Deep State? To some extent, perhaps. The unfolding revelations of the scope of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance have become so egregious that even institutional apologists such as Senator Dianne Feinstein have begun to backpedal if only rhetorically from their knee-jerk defense of the agency. As more people begin to waken from the fearful and suggestible state that 9/11 created in their minds, it is possible that the Deep State’s decade-old tactic of crying “terrorism!” every time it faces resistance is no longer eliciting the same Pavlovian response of meek obedience. And the American people, possibly even their legislators, are growing tired of endless quagmires in the Middle East.
But there is another more structural reason the Deep State may have peaked in the extent of its dominance. While it seems to float above the constitutional state, its essentially parasitic, extractive nature means that it is still tethered to the formal proceedings of governance. The Deep State thrives when there is tolerable functionality in the day-to-day operations of the federal government. As long as appropriations bills get passed on time, promotion lists get confirmed, black (i.e., secret) budgets get rubber-stamped, special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy, as long as too many awkward questions are not asked, the gears of the hybrid state will mesh noiselessly. But when one house of Congress is taken over by tea party Wahhabites, life for the ruling class becomes more trying.
If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past. It is even willing to tolerate a degree of gridlock: Partisan mud wrestling over cultural issues may be a useful distraction from its agenda. But recent congressional antics involving sequestration, the government shutdown and the threat of default over the debt ceiling extension have been disrupting that equilibrium. And an extreme gridlock dynamic has developed between the two parties such that continuing some level of sequestration is politically the least bad option for both parties, albeit for different reasons. As much as many Republicans might want to give budget relief to the organs of national security, they cannot fully reverse sequestration without the Democrats demanding revenue increases. And Democrats wanting to spend more on domestic discretionary programs cannot void sequestration on either domestic or defense programs without Republicans insisting on entitlement cuts.
So, for the foreseeable future, the Deep State must restrain its appetite for taxpayer dollars. Limited deals may soften sequestration, but agency requests will not likely be fully funded anytime soon. Even Wall Street’s rentier operations have been affected: After helping finance the tea party to advance its own plutocratic ambitions, America’s Big Money is now regretting the Frankenstein’s monster it has created. Like children playing with dynamite, the tea party and its compulsion to drive the nation into credit default has alarmed the grown-ups commanding the heights of capital; the latter are now telling the politicians they thought they had hired to knock it off.
The House vote to defund the NSA’s illegal surveillance programs was equally illustrative of the disruptive nature of the tea party insurgency. Civil liberties Democrats alone would never have come so close to victory; tea party stalwart Justin Amash (R-MI), who has also upset the business community for his debt-limit fundamentalism, was the lead Republican sponsor of the NSA amendment, and most of the Republicans who voted with him were aligned with the tea party.
The final factor is Silicon Valley. Owing to secrecy and obfuscation, it is hard to know how much of the NSA’s relationship with the Valley is based on voluntary cooperation, how much is legal compulsion through FISA warrants and how much is a matter of the NSA surreptitiously breaking into technology companies’ systems. Given the Valley’s public relations requirement to mollify its customers who have privacy concerns, it is difficult to take the tech firms’ libertarian protestations about government compromise of their systems at face value, especially since they engage in similar activity against their own customers for commercial purposes. That said, evidence is accumulating that Silicon Valley is losing billions in overseas business from companies, individuals and governments that want to maintain privacy. For high tech entrepreneurs, the cash nexus is ultimately more compelling than the Deep State’s demand for patriotic cooperation. Even legal compulsion can be combatted: Unlike the individual citizen, tech firms have deep pockets and batteries of lawyers with which to fight government diktat.
This pushback has gone so far that on January 17, President Obama announced revisions to the NSA’s data collection programs, including withdrawing the agency’s custody of a domestic telephone record database, expanding requirements for judicial warrants and ceasing to spy on (undefined) “friendly foreign leaders.” Critics have denounced the changes as a cosmetic public relations move, but they are still significant in that the clamor has gotten so loud that the president feels the political need to address it.
The outcome of all these developments is uncertain. The Deep State, based on the twin pillars of national security imperative and corporate hegemony, has until recently seemed unshakable and the latest events may only be a temporary perturbation in its trajectory. But history has a way of toppling the altars of the mighty. While the two great materialist and determinist ideologies of the twentieth century, Marxism and the Washington Consensus, successively decreed that the dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the market were inevitable, the future is actually indeterminate. It may be that deep economic and social currents create the framework of history, but those currents can be channeled, eddied, or even reversed by circumstance, chance and human agency. We have only to reflect upon defunct glacial despotisms such as the USSR or East Germany to realize that nothing is forever.
Throughout history, state systems with outsized pretensions to power have reacted to their environments in two ways. The first strategy, reflecting the ossification of its ruling elites, consists of repeating that nothing is wrong, that the status quo reflects the nation’s unique good fortune in being favored by God and that those calling for change are merely subversive troublemakers. As the French ancien régime, the Romanov dynasty and the Habsburg emperors discovered, the strategy works splendidly for a while, particularly if one has a talent for dismissing unpleasant facts. The final results, however, are likely to be thoroughly disappointing.
The second strategy is one embraced to varying degrees and with differing goals, by figures of such contrasting personalities as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle and Deng Xiaoping. They were certainly not revolutionaries by temperament; if anything, their natures were conservative. But they understood that the political cultures in which they lived were fossilized and incapable of adapting to the times. In their drive to reform and modernize the political systems they inherited, their first obstacles to overcome were the outworn myths that encrusted the thinking of the elites of their time.
As the United States confronts its future after experiencing two failed wars, a precarious economy and $17 trillion in accumulated debt, the national punditry has split into two camps. The first, the declinists, sees a broken, dysfunctional political system incapable of reform and an economy soon to be overtaken by China. The second, the reformers, offers a profusion of nostrums to turn the nation around: public financing of elections to sever the artery of money between the corporate components of the Deep State and financially dependent elected officials, government “insourcing” to reverse the tide of outsourcing of government functions and the conflicts of interest that it creates, a tax policy that values human labor over financial manipulation and a trade policy that favors exporting manufactured goods over exporting investment capital.
All of that is necessary, but not sufficient. The Snowden revelations (the impact of which have been surprisingly strong), the derailed drive for military intervention in Syria and a fractious Congress, whose dysfunction has begun to be a serious inconvenience to the Deep State, show that there is now a deep but as yet inchoate hunger for change. What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed."
"[Deep State] I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process." I call this the State, whether others recognize it as such or not, presently functioning.