Saturday, September 17, 2011

Secret of Richistan: We want unemployment

The simplest, most helpful definition of positive peace is "peace and justice by peaceable means." This is a better definition than the far longer and more contextualizing definitions of Johan Galtung and others, since it's easy to remember and it is accurate. It means that we fight for justice using peaceable means, which falls within the clear framework of positive peace. Fighting for justice with violence is how the empire frames peace. Fighting against a particular war with violence is how some 'progressives' frame peace. Both are misleading.

Linking justice to peace in this way also helps, since justice is almost always the rationale presented for violence from any side, whether the insurgent religious/ethnic/identity party or the hegemonic nation-state. "We are defending freedom." "We are seeking justice." "Their attack demands justice." "We only use defensive violence."

Hiding the real agenda is how injustice and violence alike are promulgated. In the case of the dominant culture in any society that uses violence to enforce its laws, more spin is used to mask the intent of the ruling class, which means that speculation is a matter of investigation.

For instance, why do Republicans favor privatization of all the functions we used to hope the government might assume?

The answer is fairly obvious: Privatizing government functions allows for profiteering, which is what Republicans are best at. It means that few jobs are created, since profiteers are against full employment for two related reasons. One, spreading wealth amongst more people means less wealth and power for the elites. Two, a large unemployed class will keep unions weak and competition for scarce jobs strong, thus keeping the market much more profitable for elites who offer low wages and limited or no benefits--if jobs are easy to find, more workers can use collective bargaining to get a more equal share.

This produces the other sort of violence: structural violence, which is the maintenance of structures of inequality and exploitation by the use or threat of violence. The threat of  violence is best effected within a system by passing laws that favor elites and then using violent law enforcement to maintain injustice. This is why insurgents who use violence hate the police so much and regard the police as lackeys, inseparable from the elites, but it presents an opportunity for challengers who use nonviolence, as they work to separate the violent enforcers of unjust laws from those who profit from that injustice.

As an observer of US politics, then, who grew up in an era when the Democrats were the party of the working person, it is troubling to start to learn the particulars of the Obama proposal to create jobs. It is almost all about profiteering and privatization. Rather than a public works project that rebuilds infrastructure as a government project that keeps costs low and creates many jobs, this plan hands over the money, for the most part, to yet another set of contractors who will create as few jobs as possible in order to keep their profits high. This screws the taxpayer yet again and puts relatively few people back to work, even as it produces what is essentially 'lemon socialism," "welfare for the rich," best described as "privatize profits, socialize losses."

We are approaching the day, or perhaps we are there already, when there is no viable political party for average working Americans. This is why we find inchoate responses from the right--e.g. the Know Nothings in the Tea Party or in the Rick Perry "Hate Higher Ed" camp (this is a guy who earned mostly Cs or Ds at Texas A & M)--or sullen despair from the left, as those who identify the Ds with the common person slowly give up on that now righteously ridiculed Obama-word, hope.

If we want justice, we will collaborate for peace, that is, massive demilitarization and all the radical savings that will generate. If we want peace, we will work for justice, that is, an end to the theft of taxpayers' hard-earned wages and salaries into the overstuffed pockets of the owner class as they hijack all the political responses from both parties. At some point, the increasing poverty and its manifestations in higher unemployment and shredded social safety net (homelessness, denial of medical care, extreme debt for education) will produce real rebellion. Our task on the nonviolent side is to help with the methods, to help that rebellion learn and use the best and most effective, least destructive nonviolent strategies and tactics. This will produce the most gain and the least pain for Americans and it's what we can offer.

No comments: