Reflection 238: Entropy & Waste

February 29, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, Occupy Bar Harbor hosted a public showing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job documenting the effects from 30 years of deregulation of the financial services industry. What did we get but exploitation of the many by the few?

What struck me most in this, my fourth viewing, was the unbridled collusion between 1) giant international investment banks, 2) rating agencies that evaluated their offerings, 3) insurance companies that guaranteed a profit even if investments proved worthless, 4) business schools that lent respectability to dangerous practices, and 5) state and national governments that dismantled the legal framework preventing the industry from abusing its clients.

Bill Clinton summed the attitude up in his maxim, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Which, perversely, I now read as, You’re stupid if you think the economy is all there is. That is, the economy is life itself. No, there’s more to it—this muddling life of ours.

Exploiting others is only one example of an extreme way to live. Of setting oneself as the standard and computing all benefit from that narrow perspective. What’s in it for me, me, me? is no philosophy of life. Particularly in a self-proclaimed democracy that claims to respect all citizens as equal. Social (misapplied) Darwinism that leads to treating the elite as more equal than the rest leads to eugenics, dysgenics, winning at all cost, and exploitation of those deemed inferior and less worthy.

Which is why we play games by rules that apply to all players. We share, take turns, are fair in our judgments, and accept loss as a temporary setback, not an evaluation of our humanity.

As I see it from my individual perspective, the drive to dominate others’ minds for personal advantage is at the heart of entrepreneurship and our capitalist version of democracy, including notions of corporate personhood and the spending of money as a variant of free speech (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 262).

That’s where Inside Job takes me each time, to the deliberate abuse of public trust for personal advantage—which is called cheating. I continue the passage in that vein:

Capitalism sets up two classes of people: owners and workers. Because owners have wealth, workers have jobs—we take that as the desirable state of affairs. Getting a job means working for somebody else. Owners, on the other hand, are seen as public benefactors in keeping workers off the streets and public dole. This formula gives all power and all virtue to owners, to whom workers owe the duty of arriving on time, working hard, not complaining, and being grateful for regular paychecks. But as company men, workers lose the right to exercise their own minds, which is more than any man or woman should bargain away for the sake of employment (p. 262f.).

Power is the issue here, or the unequal distribution of power:

The powerful have always depended on the labor of others—spouses, children, servants, minions, slaves, laborers, stewards, consultants, staff, hands, and all the rest. Bodily control depends ultimately on mind control, so workers are expected to devote their lives to the welfare of those they have the privilege of serving (from Latin servus, slave). The economy is designed to justify such a situation as being true to the reality of how life really works—as if individuals were born to one class or the other as children of the owning or of the laboring class—an idea whose time should have come and gone long ago (p. 263).

The collusion between various elites treating the public as losers, dupes, and fools is at the heart of the latest financial collapse as depicted in Inside Job. How is it possible for a class of people to evolve the belief that they can duly suck the blood of the masses like so many vampires—and think they are clever in doing so? In the process wreaking subsequent havoc, chaos, waste, and destruction on a gullible public, generating massive amounts of entropy where civilization depends on sustained social order for the indefinite future.

It all comes down to how we choose to engage with (not in opposition to) our fellow passengers on this planet of ours. If we live at the expense of those we deal with, we are so many lampreys or vultures. If we elect to live as peers equal to the cohort we are born to, respecting others as much as we do ourselves, then there may be some hope for us all.

It is no accident the Occupy Movement chose to camp out on Wall Street where the entire financial services cabal could see their faces. Who wants to grow up in a world where your future is co-opted before you arrive?

Enough already. As ever, –Steve

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