It’s bad enough in the most drastic epoch of wealth disparity in American history that most people are suffering economically. What makes this particular era so heinous is that the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, and the underemployed are being kicked when they’re already down. They are being ground into human mulch for dumping in a vast neoliberal landfill. People are not only poor, their poverty and suffering have literally been deemed crimes by the elite class of sociopaths running the place.
As Henry A. Giroux puts it in his new Truthout essay,
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Economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have argued that we are in a new Gilded Age, one that mimics a time when robber barons and strikebreakers ruled, and the government and economy were controlled by a cabal that was rich, powerful and ruthless. And, of course, blacks, women and the working class were told to mind their place in a society controlled by the rich. What is often missing in these analyses is that what is new in the second Gilded Age is not just about the moral sanctioning of greed, the corruption of politics by big money, and the ruthlessness of class power.
What is unique is the rise of a brutal punishing-incarceration state that imposes its power on the dispossessed, the emergence of a surveillance state that spies on and suppresses dissenters, the emergence of vast cultural apparatuses that colonize subjectivity in the interests of the market, and a political class that is uninterested in political concessions and appears immune from control by nation states. The second Gilded Age is really a more brutal form of authoritarianism driven by what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton rightly calls a “death-saturated age,” in which matters of violence, survival and trauma now infuse everyday life.
Giroux points out that for the first time, an entire generation has been condemned to lives of debt and hopelessness. Other recessions and depressions in our history have ended. This one is being extended, by deliberate design:
What has changed about an entire generation of young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations. Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being “at risk,” they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.
So what can be done to prevent even more of us being treated as garbage by Neoliberal Waste Management? Writes Giroux,
It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the propaganda pumped out by the commanding neoliberal cultural apparatuses. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.
He suggests alliances among disparate groups of feminists, immigration activists, organized labor, teachers, students — and independence from and rejection of the two corporate political parties. Such solidarity is already manifest in spots — for example in Chicago, where immigrants, mental health self-advocacy groups and teachers regularly join together to protest Mayor Rahm “One Percent” Emanuel’s relentless privatization of education and housing and public sector jobs.
Read Giroux’s whole piece. First, you get depressed. Then you get mad. Then you get inspired. And finally, you get moving.
Not to be confused with MoveOn, of course. Because you know what happens in those fake progressive, party-aligned veal pens? You eventually get chopped up and eaten up. And of course you know what happens to the leftovers. They’re thrown out instead of saved. It’s the American way.
So let’s put the ruling class on a diet. If we refuse to be the food on their plates, it will be kind of impossible for them to throw us down their gilded garbage chutes. Right?