Friday, June 30, 2017

"A Nation of Serfs"

I thought I might be succumbing to hyperbole the first time I used the term "neo feudal" to describe the path American society seemed to be on. Feudalism for the 21st Century - modern, high-tech, corporatist servitude cleansed of both economic and political power. It seemed too dark to be real especially in the "land of the free and the home of the brave." Except that it's becoming evident, in so many ways, that Americans are no longer free or meaningfully brave. Certainly neither free nor brave enough to defend their democracy or fight back against those who pry their nation and its government from their hands.

The essential first step - turning the American people against each other - has already been accomplished. American society has never been as divided, certainly not since the Civil War. The rage and fury in this venom-filled sack of flesh jarringly illustrates the situation.

It's the face of a nation whose people have been very carefully, very meticulously conditioned - groomed, if you will - into a state of collective idiocy. A nation of "low information voters" for whom there's no less value in lies than in truth.

The term "neofeudalism" has been popping up in progressive sites with some frequency lately. There's really nothing "neo" about it. The Left and the Right have been accusing each other of feudalistic leanings as far back as John Kenneth Galbraith's book, "The Affluent Society" which was scathingly denounced in the journal of the Mises Institute. Interesting that it was the same Galbraith who opined that Americans would always reject socialism except socialism for the rich.

Yet we have seen, since the trauma of 9/11, the emerging face of a true neofeudal order. From Wiki:

Neofeudalism entails an order defined by commercial interests and administered in large areas, according to Bruce Baker, who argues that this does not fully describe the extent of cooperation between state and non-state policing.[10] The significance of the comparison to feudalism, for Randy Lippert and Daniel O'Connor, is that corporations have power similar to states' governance powers.[11]

The widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the state's provision of security, can result in neofeudalism, argues Marina Caparini, who says this has already happened in South Africa.[12] Neofeudalism is made possible by the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship, says Ian Loader.[13] A primary characteristic of neofeudalism is that individuals' public lives are increasingly governed by business corporations, as Martha K. Huggins finds.[1] Seattle-based technology billionaire Nick Hanauer has stated that "our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society".[14]

John Braithwaite notes that neofeudalism brings a different approach to governance, since business corporations in particular have this specialized need for loss reduction.[15]

Galbraith's economist son, James Kenneth Galbraith, is reluctant to use the term "neofeudalism" preferring to label it "the Predator State" which I have reviewed here, here and here. Galbraith's book is a timely warning of what is likely to befall us in the difficult years ahead unless we're vigilant and refuse to accept what shall be doled out.

Now there's a chilling warning for America's young people at,
"How the Student Loan Industry, Trump and Neoliberals Are Creating a Nation of Serfs"

[T]he untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed to not only redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but also to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole.

Up until her confirmation as secretary of education, Betsy DeVos had financial ties to a large student loan servicer in contract negotiations with the Department of Education. PRWatch reported in January that one of the firms DeVos divested from — LMF WF Portfolio — helped finance a $147 million loan to a student debt collection agency called Performant, which had more than 346 complaints brought against it with the Better Business Bureau. The student loan industry is said to be worth $1.3 trillion in total debt owed, according to Forbes.

 In a lecture delivered at Carleton University in Ottawa 2011, famed MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky argued that the American student debt system fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by financial stress, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low-paying jobs, are afraid to question or challenge the system.

“When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think,” Chomsky said.

One indebted borrower, Denise, whose fiancee, Kevin, spoke to Common Dreams on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, is living proof of the dilemma Chomsky presented.

“I’ve wanted to marry Denise for years now,” Kevin said. “But after seeing what she’s been put through with these student loan companies, I honestly don’t want to risk having a bunch of crooks stealing my paycheck or my tax refund.”

I've seen first hand examples of the crushing force of America's student loan debacle.  My Chicago-born son in law signed up for a student loan in his first year of university. Then, when he realized it was a high-interest vehicle for indentured servitude, he quickly withdrew from school. He discovered if he put his studies on hold for two years he would be eligible for lower, albeit still usurious, student loans. After coming to Canada and finding a very successful position in computer graphics he's still scrimping to pay off those loans. He knows that, had he gone with the first option, he'd have been financially trapped for the rest of his life just like a couple of his friends.


Anonymous said...

Ten years student loan, twenty-five years mortgage and children. I'm now saving up for my death.

The Mound of Sound said...

I hear that, Anon. Loud and clear.