"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Materialism’

Materialism And Misery

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm

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Oldspeak:Focus on the material, on self-fulfillment and success places us in competition with one another and strengthens feelings of distrust, alienation and division, all of which run contrary to, and move us away from, our underlying nature, resulting in the inculcation of fear and insecurity.  Mental illness, including anxiety and depression – a worldwide epidemic claiming 5% of the global population – are further consequences of this dysfunctional social model…Those who love material objects are less inclined to love other people and the natural environment…Love of objects strengthens the desire principle, causing fear and dissatisfaction, giving rise to anxiety, stress and unhappiness. Desire entraps: insatiable, it breeds fear and is the underlying cause of discontent and all manner of associated sufferings….The neo-liberal model promotes such short-term artificial goals: goals that strengthen desire, greed and dissatisfaction, pre-requisites for encouraging consumerism and materialism and the perpetual expansion of the ubiquitous ‘market’… Self-centered behavior, motivated by reward, not only erodes any sense of community and social responsibility, it breeds unhappiness…With its focus on the material – including the physical aspect of our-selves – the ‘monetised’ system encourages vanity, selfishness and narcissistic behavior, further strengthening division, separation and aloneness, feelings that are in opposition to the underlying truth of human unity…A materialistic value system with its focus on the individual as opposed to the group, inevitably feeds a consciousness of separation, strengthening what Esotericism calls ‘The Great Illusion.’…rewards don’t make anyone happy and something very fundamental is lost when we reward for certain behaviors…With reward and punishment come desire and fear, desire for the reward and fear or anxiety over possible punishment if we fail. The effect is individual discontent and collective disharmony. Selfishness is strengthened, and, in opposition to the underlying impulse to be helpful, kindness is sacrificed, creating the conditions for depression and stress….Reward and punishment are major weapons of neoliberalism, which has infiltrated almost every area of contemporary society. The destructive duality is a methodology common in many areas of education, and, of course, it saturates corporate life. Goals, bonuses, commission, perks: these are the language of business, the motivating force for, and of, activity….The present unjust economic model has fostered a value system rooted in materiality that is a major cause of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. Change is urgently needed; change rooted in justice and the well being of the group and not the individual.” -Graham Peebles

“Behold! The fruits of globalized Inverted Corptalitarian Kleptocracy. Destroyer of  World. Begetting a whole universe of maladaptive thoughts, behaviours and policies which run completely counter to our natural state of being and literally making us and our ecology  terminally ill. Change is coming whether we’re aware of it or not. All the systems and ways of being that we believe to be immutable & sacrosanct will change. Make a concerted effort to prepare. Not materially. (Though it would be wise to practice consuming and doing with less of everything, as we are depleting and destroying most natural material  our species is dependent on at rates faster than it can be replenished.) But spiritually and emotionally. Practice ‘Creative Maladjustment’.  No amount of material wealth, well-being and security will be sufficient to insulate you from the madness to come. Let go of you attachments to objects & things, you’ll feel so much better that you did.” –OSJ
You have an inclination: In the flash of one second, you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you just act: You just do it. That basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct.” –Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche

 

By Graham Peebles @ Dissident Voice:

We live under the omnipresent shadow of a political/economic system, which promotes materiality, selfishness and individual success over group wellbeing. It is a model of civilisation that is making us miserable and ill. Dependent on continuous consumption, everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, and competition and ambition are extolled as virtues. Together with reward and punishment this trinity of division has infiltrated and polluted all areas of contemporary life, including health care and education.

It is a system that denies compassion and social unity.  Unhappiness and mental illness, as well as extreme levels of inequality (income and wealth) flow from the unjust root, causing social tensions, eroding trust and community. Over half the world’s population (3.5 billion people) live in suffocating poverty on under $2 a day (the World Bank’s official poverty line), whilst the wealthiest 10% owns 85% of global household wealth. This level of inequality is growing, is unjust and shameful, and has far reaching consequences. Materialistically obsessed societies such as America (where income and wealth inequality is the highest of any industrialised nation), have higher levels of drug and alcohol dependency, mental illness, crime and incarceration, as well as child pregnancies and homicides, than more equal nations. People in unequal societies are suspicious of ‘the other’ – that’s anyone who looks thinks, and/or acts differently – and generally speaking don’t trust one another. A mere 15% of people in America confessed to trusting their fellow citizens, compared to 60% in less unequal parts of the world. The resulting divisions aggravate social tensions, fueling criminality and a cycle of mistrust and paranoia is set in motion.

Focus on the material, on self-fulfillment and success places us in competition with one another and strengthens feelings of distrust, alienation and division, all of which run contrary to, and move us away from, our underlying nature, resulting in the inculcation of fear and insecurity.  Mental illness, including anxiety and depression – a worldwide epidemic claiming 5% of the global population – are further consequences of this dysfunctional social model. Millions are hooked on pharmaceuticals (legal and illegal), much to the delight of the multi-national drug companies whose yearly profits in America alone nestle comfortably in the trillions of US $. Suicide, according to a major report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the third highest cause of death amongst adolescents (road accidents and HIV are one and two), and the primary cause is depression.

Desire division discontent

Over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that desire and attachment to the object(s) of desire is the root of all suffering. His message of moderation and balance is more relevant today than perhaps at any other time.

Those who love material objects are less inclined to love other people and the natural environment. So says Tim Kasser of Knox University, Illinois in The High Price of Materialism after various studies. Love of objects strengthens the desire principle, causing fear and dissatisfaction, giving rise to anxiety, stress and unhappiness. Desire entraps: insatiable, it breeds fear and is the underlying cause of discontent and all manner of associated sufferings. “Abandoning all desire and acting free from longing, without any sense of mineness or sense of ego one attains to peace.” [Bhagavad Gita 11, verse 71] Such perennial truths expressed by the Buddha, Christ and other visionary teachers as well as Krishna are ignored in the search for immediate happiness derived from sensory pleasure.

The neo-liberal model promotes such short-term artificial goals: goals that strengthen desire, greed and dissatisfaction, pre-requisites for encouraging consumerism and materialism and the perpetual expansion of the ubiquitous ‘market’. In a detailed study by Baylor University associate professor of psychology and neuroscience Jo-Ann Tsang found that materialistic people “are more likely to focus on what they do not have and are unable to be grateful for what they do have, whether it is their family, a nice house or a good job.” Contentment is the natural enemy of the system; discontent is it’s life-blood, serving well the ‘Masters of Mankind’ as Adam Smith famously tagged the ruling elite and their ‘vile maxim’ – “all for ourselves and nothing for other people.”

In The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality, Graham Music refers to a study at Berkeley University that seems to demonstrate Smith’s truism. “The higher up the social-class ranking people are, the less pro-social, charitable and empathetically they behaved … consistently those who were less rich showed more empathy and more of a wish to help others.” [The Guardian] Self-centered behavior, motivated by reward, not only erodes any sense of community and social responsibility, it breeds unhappiness. Music, a consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London, makes the point that our “monetised western world is going to make us more and more lose touch with our social obligations.”

With its focus on the material – including the physical aspect of our-selves – the ‘monetised’ system encourages vanity, selfishness and narcissistic behavior, further strengthening division, separation and aloneness, feelings that are in opposition to the underlying truth of human unity. “All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” [Swami Vivekenanda] This is the view repeatedly enunciated by those great men – divine men some would say – who have freed themselves of all limitations and have shared their wisdom with us.

We are one, brothers and sisters of One Humanity. As Mahatma Gandhi famously declared:  “all humanity is one undivided and indivisible family.” Separation from one another, from the natural environment and from that which we call God is an illusion. This is the perennial lesson proclaimed loud and clear by an army of Teachers of the Race, who have sought to guide us.

A materialistic value system with its focus on the individual as opposed to the group, inevitably feeds a consciousness of separation, strengthening what Esotericism calls ‘The Great Illusion.’ If humanity is, in fact, one, it follows that our nature is to be unselfish, socially responsible and helpful. In a series of fascinating behavioral studies The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed that 14-month-old babies spontaneously acted with kindness when an adult in the room needed help. Children love helping, and they do not need a reward. Actions, which are inherently selfless, offer an intrinsic reward because they facilitate relationship with our true nature. In fact, when material rewards were introduced the children’s focus shifted, they lost interest in the act of kindness and became fixated on the object of reward. Their action became conditioned and, in a very real sense, polluted. Observing this fact, Graham Music concludes that, “rewards don’t make anyone happy and something very fundamental is lost when we reward for certain behaviors.” And he adds that, “other studies have shown that toddlers feel happier giving treats than receiving them”. [Mercator Net]

With reward and punishment come desire and fear, desire for the reward and fear or anxiety over possible punishment if we fail. The effect is individual discontent and collective disharmony. Selfishness is strengthened, and, in opposition to the underlying impulse to be helpful, kindness is sacrificed, creating the conditions for depression and stress. Studies undertaken in San Francisco found that those members of the community who “volunteered and engaged in other forms of giving when they were adolescents were much less likely to become depressed, even as they got older. New research suggests there may be a biochemical explanation for the positive emotions associated with doing good.” [Healthy Living] Serving the needs of others is de-centralising.  It shifts one’s focus away from the self, with its petty, albeit painful anxieties.

Reward and punishment are major weapons of neoliberalism, which has infiltrated almost every area of contemporary society. The destructive duality is a methodology common in many areas of education, and, of course, it saturates corporate life. Goals, bonuses, commission, perks: these are the language of business, the motivating force for, and of, activity.

The present unjust economic model has fostered a value system rooted in materiality that is a major cause of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. Change is urgently needed; change rooted in justice and the well being of the group and not the individual; change imaginatively designed, which sees the economy as a way of meeting human rights and addressing human need, not one that plays on and inflames human desire.

The materialist may hold that mankind is naturally selfish, and that competition, reward and ambition are necessary and good. Without them we would do nothing and society would grind to a dysfunctional halt, goes the narrow reactionary argument. This conveniently cynical view of man’s nature (usually one held by those who are more or less economically and socially comfortable) is fundamentally wrong and is used to perpetuate the divisive model. The damaging effects of this model are being revealed by a range of studies, which substantiate the ancient message that human kindness, selflessness and community service are not only positive attributes to aspire to, they are the healthy, natural and peaceful way for humanity to live.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Graham is Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org. Read other articles by Graham.

And Then There Was One: Imperial Gigantism & The Decline Of Planet Earth

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 at 8:17 pm

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Oldspeak:The present capitalist model (the only one available) for a rising power, whether China, India, or Brazil, is also a model for planetary decline, possibly of a precipitous nature.  The very definition of success — more middle-class consumers, more car owners, more shoppers, which means more energy used, more fossil fuels burned, more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere — is also, as it never would have been before, the definition of failure.  The greater the “success,” the more intense the droughts, the stronger the storms, the more extreme theweather, the higher the rise in sea levels, the hotter the temperatures, the greater the chaos in low-lying or tropical lands, the more profound the failure.  The question is: Will this put an end to the previous patterns of history, including the until-now-predictable rise of the next great power, the next empire?  On a devolving planet, is it even possible to imagine the next stage in imperial gigantism? Every factor that would normally lead toward “greatness” now also leads toward global decline.” –Tom Engelhardt. We can’t continue to pretend the cannibalistic systems around which we organize our civilization are working. They are is literally destroying us and our planet. We have to change before it’s too late.

By Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch:

It stretched from the Caspian to the Baltic Sea, from the middle of Europe to the Kurile Islands in the Pacific, from Siberia to Central Asia.  Its nuclear arsenal held 45,000 warheads, and its military had five million troops under arms.  There had been nothing like it in Eurasia since the Mongols conquered China, took parts of Central Asia and the Iranian plateau, and rode into the Middle East, looting Baghdad.  Yet when the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, by far the poorer, weaker imperial power disappeared.

And then there was one.  There had never been such a moment: a single nation astride the globe without a competitor in sight.  There wasn’t even a name for such a state (or state of mind).  “Superpower” had already been used when there were two of them.  “Hyperpower” was tried briefly but didn’t stick.  “Sole superpower” stood in for a while but didn’t satisfy.  “Great Power,” once the zenith of appellations, was by then a lesser phrase, left over from the centuries when various European nations and Japan were expanding their empires.  Some started speaking about a “unipolar” world in which all roads led… well, to Washington.

To this day, we’ve never quite taken in that moment when Soviet imperial rot unexpectedly — above all, to Washington — became imperial crash-and-burn.  Left standing, the Cold War’s victor seemed, then, like an empire of everything under the sun.  It was as if humanity had always been traveling toward this spot.  It seemed like the end of the line.

The Last Empire?

After the rise and fall of the Assyrians and the Romans, the Persians, the Chinese, the Mongols, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the English, the Germans, and the Japanese, some process seemed over.  The United States was dominant in a previously unimaginable way — except in Hollywood films where villains cackled about their evil plans to dominate the world.

As a start, the U.S. was an empire of global capital.  With the fall of Soviet-style communism (and the transformation of a communist regime in China into a crew of authoritarian “capitalist roaders”), there was no other model for how to do anything, economically speaking.  There was Washington’s way — and that of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (both controlled by Washington) — or there was the highway, and the Soviet Union had already made it all too clear where that led: to obsolescence and ruin.

In addition, the U.S. had unprecedented military power.  By the time the Soviet Union began to totter, America’s leaders had for nearly a decade been consciously using “the arms race” to spend its opponent into an early grave.  And here was the curious thing after centuries of arms races: when there was no one left to race, the U.S. continued an arms race of one.

In the years that followed, it would outpace all other countries or combinations of countries in military spending by staggering amounts.  It housed the world’s most powerful weapons makers, was technologically light years ahead of any other state, and was continuing to develop future weaponry for 2020, 2040, 2060, even as it established a near monopoly on the global arms trade (and so, control over who would be well-armed and who wouldn’t).

It had an empire of bases abroad, more than 1,000 of them spanning the globe, also an unprecedented phenomenon.  And it was culturally dominant, again in a way that made comparisons with other moments ludicrous.  Like American weapons makers producing things that went boom in the night for an international audience, Hollywood’s action and fantasy films took the world by storm.  From those movies to the golden arches, the swoosh, and the personal computer, there was no other culture that could come close to claiming such a global cachet.

The key non-U.S. economic powerhouses of the moment — Europe and Japan — maintained militaries dependent on Washington, had U.S. bases littering their territories, and continued to nestle under Washington’s “nuclear umbrella.”  No wonder that, in the U.S., the post-Soviet moment was soon proclaimed “the end of history,” and the victory of “liberal democracy” or “freedom” was celebrated as if there really were no tomorrow, except more of what today had to offer.

No wonder that, in the new century, neocons and supporting pundits would begin to claim that the British and Roman empires had been second-raters by comparison.  No wonder that key figures in and around the George W. Bush administration dreamed of establishing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East and possibly over the globe itself (as well as a Pax Republicana at home).  They imagined that they might actually prevent another competitor or bloc of competitors from arising to challenge American power. Ever.

No wonder they had remarkably few hesitations about launching their incomparably powerful military on wars of choice in the Greater Middle East.  What could possibly go wrong?  What could stand in the way of the greatest power history had ever seen?

Assessing the Imperial Moment, Twenty-First-Century-Style

Almost a quarter of a century after the Soviet Union disappeared, what’s remarkable is how much — and how little — has changed.

On the how-much front: Washington’s dreams of military glory ran aground with remarkable speed in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Then, in 2007, the transcendent empire of capital came close to imploding as well, as a unipolar financial disaster spread across the planet.  It led people to begin to wonder whether the globe’s greatest power might not, in fact, be too big to fail, and we were suddenly — so everyone said — plunged into a “multipolar world.”

Meanwhile, the Greater Middle East descended into protest, rebellion, civil war, and chaos without a Pax Americana in sight, as a Washington-controlled Cold War system in the region shuddered without (yet) collapsing.  The ability of Washington to impose its will on the planet looked ever more like the wildest of fantasies, while every sign, including the hemorrhaging of national treasure into losing trillion-dollar wars, reflected not ascendancy but possible decline.

And yet, in the how-little category: the Europeans and Japanese remained nestled under that American “umbrella,” their territories still filled with U.S. bases.  In the Euro Zone, governments continued to cut back on their investments in both NATO and their own militaries.  Russia remained a country with a sizeable nuclear arsenal and a reduced but still large military.  Yet it showed no signs of “superpower” pretensions.  Other regional powers challenged unipolarity economically — Turkey and Brazil, to name two — but not militarily, and none showed an urge either singly or in blocs to compete in an imperial sense with the U.S.

Washington’s enemies in the world remained remarkably modest-sized (though blown to enormous proportions in the American media echo-chamber).  They included a couple of rickety regional powers (Iran and North Korea), a minority insurgency or two, and relatively small groups of Islamist “terrorists.”  Otherwise, as one gauge of power on the planet, no more than a handful of other countries had even a handful of military bases outside their territory.

Under the circumstances, nothing could have been stranger than this: in its moment of total ascendancy, the Earth’s sole superpower with a military of staggering destructive potential and technological sophistication couldn’t win a war against minimally armed guerillas.  Even more strikingly, despite having no serious opponents anywhere, it seemed not on the rise but on the decline, its infrastructure rotting out, its populace economically depressed, its wealth ever more unequally divided, its Congress seemingly beyond repair, while the great sucking sound that could be heard was money and power heading toward the national security state.  Sooner or later, all empires fall, but this moment was proving curious indeed.

And then, of course, there was China.  On the planet that humanity has inhabited these last several thousand years, can there be any question that China would have been the obvious pick to challenge, sooner or later, the dominion of the reigning great power of the moment?  Estimates are that it will surpass the U.S. as the globe’s number one economy by perhaps 2030.

Right now, the Obama administration seems to be working on just that assumption.  With its well-publicized “pivot” (or “rebalancing”) to Asia, it has been moving to “contain” what it fears might be the next great power.  However, while the Chinese are indeed expanding their military and challenging their neighbors in the waters of the Pacific, there is no sign that the country’s leadership is ready to embark on anything like a global challenge to the U.S., nor that it could do so in any conceivable future.  Its domestic problems, from pollution to unrest, remain staggering enough that it’s hard to imagine a China not absorbed with domestic issues through 2030 and beyond.

And Then There Was One (Planet)

Militarily, culturally, and even to some extent economically, the U.S. remains surprisingly alone on planet Earth in imperial terms, even if little has worked out as planned in Washington.  The story of the years since the Soviet Union fell may prove to be a tale of how American domination and decline went hand-in-hand, with the decline part of the equation being strikingly self-generated.

And yet here’s a genuine, even confounding, possibility: that moment of “unipolarity” in the 1990s may really have been the end point of history as human beings had known it for millennia — the history, that is, of the rise and fall of empires.  Could the United States actually be the last empire?  Is it possible that there will be no successor because something has profoundly changed in the realm of empire building?  One thing is increasingly clear: whatever the state of imperial America, something significantly more crucial to the fate of humanity (and of empires) is in decline.  I’m talking, of course, about the planet itself.

The present capitalist model (the only one available) for a rising power, whether China, India, or Brazil, is also a model for planetary decline, possibly of a precipitous nature.  The very definition of success — more middle-class consumers, more car owners, more shoppers, which means more energy used, more fossil fuels burned, more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere — is also, as it never would have been before, the definition of failure.  The greater the “success,” the more intense the droughts, the stronger the storms, the more extreme theweather, the higher the rise in sea levels, the hotter the temperatures, the greater the chaos in low-lying or tropical lands, the more profound the failure.  The question is: Will this put an end to the previous patterns of history, including the until-now-predictable rise of the next great power, the next empire?  On a devolving planet, is it even possible to imagine the next stage in imperial gigantism?

Every factor that would normally lead toward “greatness” now also leads toward global decline.  This process — which couldn’t be more unfair to countries having their industrial and consumer revolutions late — gives a new meaning to the phrase “disaster capitalism.”

Take the Chinese, whose leaders, on leaving the Maoist model behind, did the most natural thing in the world at the time: they patterned their future economy on the United States — on, that is, success as it was then defined.  Despite both traditional and revolutionary communal traditions, for instance, they decided that to be a power in the world, you needed to make the car (which meant the individual driver) a pillar of any future state-capitalist China.  If it worked for the U.S., it would work for them, and in the short run, it worked like a dream, a capitalist miracle — and China rose.

It was, however, also a formula for massive pollution, environmental degradation, and the pouring of ever more fossil fuels into the atmosphere in record amounts.  And it’s not just China.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about that country’s ravenous energy use, including its possible future “carbon bombs,” or the potential for American decline to be halted by new extreme methods of producing energy (frackingtar-sands extraction, deep-water drilling).  Such methods, however much they hurt local environments, might indeed turn the U.S. into a “new Saudi Arabia.”  Yet that, in turn, would only contribute further to the degradation of the planet, to decline on an ever-larger scale.

What if, in the twenty-first century, going up means declining?  What if the unipolar moment turns out to be a planetary moment in which previously distinct imperial events — the rise and fall of empires — fuse into a single disastrous system?

What if the story of our times is this: And then there was one planet, and it was going down.

 

 

Mass Marketing Goes Platinum: Marketers Embrace Growing Gulf Between Rich & Poor

In Uncategorized on August 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Oldspeak:Advertising Age, the marketing industry’s top publication, has curtly declared that “mass affluence is over.” Nearly half of consumer spending today is done by the richest 10 percent of households, and the richest of these richies are deemed to be the most desirable of consumers. Simply put, a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsized purchasing influence. Thus it is that advertising authorities have deemed the middle class itself (roughly 60 percent of us, depending on where you draw the income line) to be unworthy consumers. We’re too poor to matter, they say.”Jim Hightower.  In this age of  the “Shock Doctrine”, the true face of the corporatocracy is revealed. Despite the fact that “Mass Affluence” would benefit us all, and expand their bottom line; “Mass Affluence” is not an objective. Not atal interested in The People, but primarily people with the most money to buy the most shit they don’t need, thus providing it with its lifesblood; PROFIT.  Look past all the benevolent commercials and sponsorships and understand that everything a multinational corporation does is for one purpose. Generating maximal profit. Usually at the expense of quality, safety, worker protection & environmental protection. This is a stark illustration of a fundamental fact about the monetary system: Scarcity and inequality are the key. If everyone had everything they needed, the monetary system would fail. Selling things, wage slavery, straight up slavery would be pointless. Poor disenfranchised and exploited people are an essential part of this system. Goods, services and behaviors are assigned values as a function of their benefit to perpetuating the monetary system, irrespective of their benefits or detriments to the only system that ultimately matters: the eco-system. Our civilization is essentially built on a system that values greed, excess, hedonism, materialism,  hyper-consumption, stratification, exploitation and wanton disregard for our fellow-man and our environment that provided the resources to create our self-annihilating way of life. It can’t last forever. At some point we’ll have to seriously consider a fundamental change to a more sustainable way of life, before it’s too late. Moral of the story; poor, disenfranchised and exploited people are an essential part of this system and they simultaneously don’t matter, socially, politically and financially.

By Jim Hightower @ Other Words:

In today’s fast-moving world of consumer styles, when you’re out, you’re out. Not just out-of-style, but so far out that you no longer interest the big marketers.

Thus it is that advertising authorities have deemed the middle class itself (roughly 60 percent of us, depending on where you draw the income line) to be unworthy consumers. We’re too poor to matter, they say.

Catering to the RichIndeed, even though America’s workaday majority has produced a phenomenal rise in wealth during the past decade, that majority’s income has shrunk — and there’s no improvement in sight. Where did the gains go? Practically all of the new wealth flowed straight up to the richest 10 percent of America’s people, who own more than 80 percent of all stocks and bonds.

Instead of deploring this widening disparity, major hawkers of consumer products are choosing to embrace it. Advertising Age, the marketing industry’s top publication, has curtly declared that “mass affluence is over.” Nearly half of consumer spending today is done by the richest 10 percent of households, and the richest of these richies are deemed to be the most desirable of consumers.

“Simply put,” says Ad Age, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsized purchasing influence.”

The magazine goes on to inform us that households with less than $200,000 in annual income are henceforth on the outs, holding little interest for advertisers. Sure enough, corporate executives in such diverse businesses as airlines, movie theaters, banks, and health care are focusing more and more on platinum-level customers.

Gosh, does this mean they’ll stop inundating me with ads and a flood of other come-ons? I could live with that.

Martin Luther King Injustice Index 2011: Racism, Materialism And Militarism In The U.S.

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Oldspeak: “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values… when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967

From Bill Quigley @ Truthout:

As we remember the courage and hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must not forget that he spoke out and worked against the injustices of our nation, particularly those of racism, materialism and militarism.  Indeed that is what made him so hated and so dangerous when he was alive.

We have achievements to celebrate: the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” the release of San Suu Kyi in Burma; the enactment of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights by the NY legislature that extends important labor rights to 200,000 nannies and housekeepers; the victories of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers; and the exposure of secret US and other country machinations by Wikileaks, among
others.

There has been progress in dismembering the laws of segregation which divided
our country.  We must celebrate the successes that many struggled to achieve.
However, as we celebrate those victories let us not lose sight of the challenges
still facing this country.

Here are some of the facts about racism, materialism and militarism in the US
which we should reflect on as we decide how best to carry on the radical
struggle for justice of Dr. King.  (For each fact, I provide a brief cite to the
sources which are listed at the end of the article).

Let us renew our commitment to the radical revolution of values for which Dr.
King gave his life as we turn to the realities of current life.

Racism: Health, Housing, Income and Jobs

Health

Infants born to black women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than infants
born to women of all other races or ethnicities.  Black men and women are much
more likely to die of heart disease and stroke than their white counterparts.
Hypertension is by far most prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks (42% vs. 29%
among whites).  Uninsured persons are only about half as likely to have
hypertension under control as those with insurance. Source: Centers for Disease
Control (CDC).

Twenty-five percent of black workers and forty-three percent of Hispanic workers
do not have health insurance, compared to fifteen percent of white workers. Source:
Kaiser Family Foundation

Overall, sixteen percent of all whites, twenty-one percent of blacks and
thirty-two percent of Hispanics do not have health insurance. Source: census

Housing

In cities with large African American populations, black segregation looks
pretty much the same as it did 40 years ago; Hispanic segregation is on the
rise.  Source: Princeton

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the crisis in subprime mortgages in minority
neighborhoods was not the result of riskier lending spurred by the Community
Reinvestment Act or a decline in underwriting standards.  Source: Princeton

Even with similar qualities (credit profiles, down payment ratios, personal
characteristics, and residential locations) African Americans were more likely
to receive subprime loans.  Similarly blacks and Hispanics were significantly
more likely than whites to receive loans with unfavorable terms such as
prepayment penalties.  The result: from 1993 to 2000, the share of subprime
mortgages going to households in minority neighborhoods rose from 2 to 18
percent.  Source: Princeton

Because predatory lenders could efficiently target entire minority neighborhoods
with subprime mortgages, larger numbers of people were affected than would have
had they been more geographically spread out.  In true layman’s terms, it was
like “shooting fish in a barrel.”  Segregated neighborhoods just made it too
easy to engage large numbers of people in this devastating scheme and this
multiplied the effect of the crisis. Source: Princeton

Black middle class families have been stripped of more wealth by the real estate
and foreclosure crisis than any single event in US history.  Due entirely to
subprime loans, black borrowers are expected to lose between $71 billion and $92
billion. Source: Devona Walker

Income and Jobs

Median household income for white families is $51,861, for black families is
$32,584, and for Hispanic is it $38,039.  Source: census

The Immigration and Enforcement Agency is on pace to deport about 400,000 people
this fiscal year, more under the current administration than any before.
Source: Slevin

The overall unemployment rate among whites is 8.5% and among blacks it is
15.8%.  For white teenagers the unemployment rate is 22% and among blacks it is
44%.  Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Materialism: Inequality and Poverty

The top 25 hedge fund managers were paid on average, more than $1 billion each
in 2009.  Source: Schwartz, New York Times

Between 2002 and 2007, 65 percent of all income growth in the US went to the top
1 percent of the population; that top 1 percent also held a larger share of
income than any time since 1928, according to economists Emmanuel Saez and
Thomas Piketty. Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

There are 43 million people in the US living under the official poverty line.
While there are more white people living in poverty (30 million) than black (10
million) and Hispanic (12 million) poor combined, the poverty rate for whites of
12% is significantly less than the 26% rate for blacks and the 25% rate for
Hispanics.  Source: census

The bottom 20% of the US population have negative wealth, they owe more than the
value of all their assets.  From 20 to 40th percentile, the next 20% of the
population, average about $5,000 in wealth.  The middle 20%, from the 40 to 60th
percentile, own $65,000 in assets.  The next highest 20%, the 60 to 80th
percentile, are worth about $208,000.  From 80 to 90th, the average wealth is
$477,000.  From 90 to 95th, the wealth is $908,000 in assets.  From 95 to 99th
is $2,734,000 in wealth assets.  And the top 1%?  $13,977,000 in average
wealth. Source: State of Working America

Since the economic recession started there has been a 25% rise in the number of
people “doubling up” in housing by moving in with others, there has been a rise
in the number of homeless families, and in not one of the 50 states can a person
working full-time at one minimum wage afford a two bedroom apartment for his or
her family.  Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

Militarism: Troops, Expenditures and Arms Sales

The US reports it has 1.4 million people in active military service in 143
countries around the world.  The top places for US military are:  Afghanistan
(105,900), Iraq (96,200), Germany (53,951), and Japan (34,385). Source: Department of
Defense

There are an additional 819,000 people in the Reserve and National Guard and
another 709,000 civilian personnel. Source: 2011 Census Statistical Abstract, Table 506.

The US spent $774 billion directly on its military budget in 2010.  The
Department of Defense budget was over $660 billion, counting the special
expenditures for Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Source: The Department of Veterans Affairs
was $114 billion for 2010.

The US spends much more on its military than any other country in the world.
Military spending has increased by 75% since the year 2000 and represents about
$2100 for every person in the US.  Excluding expenditures for veterans the US
military budget in 2009 was over $660 billion.  In second place globally was
China at about $100 billion.  France was third at $63 billion, the UK next with
$58 billion and Russia in 5th place spending $53 billion.  In fact the US spends
more on military than the rest of the top 10 countries in the world put
together. Source: SIRI

The US also leads the world in the sale of lethal weapons to others, selling
about one of every three weapons worldwide.  The USA’s major clients are South
Korea, Israel and United Arab Emirates. Source: SIRI

The US continues to hold 174 people in indefinite and illegal detention in
Guantanamo despite global calls for closure.  Thirty eight of those still being
held have won their habeas corpus petitions in front of federal judges but still
have not been freed. Source: Miami Herald.

The US continues to launch remote controlled unmanned predator drones into
Pakistan, a country we are not even at war with.  In 2010, US drones struck
Pakistan 118 times killing many civilians. Source: New America Foundation

The number of deaths in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are difficult to
calculate since the US only counts US deaths.  The US reports 1277 US military
have died in Afghanistan and 4427 died in Iraq.  The Iraq Body Count estimates
between 99,357 and 108,475 civilians have died in violence associated with the
war in Iraq. Source:  www.iraqbodycount.org

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the total cost of
the Iraq war to the US is more than $3 trillion.  For this estimate he
calculated the actual military costs, the cost of treating and compensating
disabled veterans, a $10 increase in the price of oil (the increase in the price
of oil went from $25 a barrel when the US invaded Iraq to as high as $140 a
barrel in 2008), the increase in the federal debt and the borrowing that
demanded.  Source: Stiglitz

Conclusion

As we celebrate the life of Dr. King, let us realize the challenges that still
face those who seek a world of justice and peace.  He showed us that anger at
injustice can be combined with courage to create real hope for a better world.
Let us address the injustices of continuing racism, materialism and militarism
with the courage and hope that Dr. King displayed in his brief life.