Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are We so Dangerous? Why, Thank You, Revered Powers-that-Be!

Some bits of reading make my day. They’re like an unexpected splash of sunshine, where you previously thought only dark charcoal clouds ruled. Mr. Timothy Egan’s piece on today’s NYT afforded me with such a moment a few minutes earlier. He was writing about the plight of the Roma in our backwater, uncivilised Old Europe, and lording it over us in general — it’s true that the US has so many worthy lessons to give us, the latest of them concerning their oh, so fair and gentle and humane treatment of the Mexican illegal immigrants, but let’s not be nasty. However, that wasn’t what drew my attention and made me laugh. No, it was this nice, informed and balanced little barbered jab:

“And how can you not laugh at the recent mass marches in France by people being asked to push their retirement age back to — gasp! — 62?”

I read that, and thought to myself, w-o-w. I guess I should be ashamed, and start writing letters of profound apology, all directed to Mr. Egan for my, and all those like me, outrageous refusal of the dictates of the Powers-that-Be. We should be ashamed for refusing to cut on our welfare so that the high and mighty can keep on hoarding profit, can keep on devouring resources and riches, and deny us of our hard-earned rights! Yes, we should!

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Nope,Mr. Egan, bad journalist, bad His Master’s Voice. No cigar.

Here is a man writing about the plight of the poor Roma – conveniently forgetting about the poor Mexicans, the poor Americans, and the poor all over the world in the process – and who takes advantage of his column to deliver this oh, my god, so painful blow to the protests in France. Yes, that’s what make me laugh.

I mean, what else can you do but laugh, when you see a man stupid enough to mock people who fight to keep their RIGHTS, the RIGHTS they fought for and gained.

What else can you do, but laugh when you see a man blind and prejudiced enough, brainwashed enough by the Powers-that-Be’s propaganda, so that he’ll actually think kthat people should be in favour of working longer, in worse conditions, and be happy to give up what is their right to ensure the continued existence of a system – hello, capitalism! – that has done nothing but hurt, destroy and tear apart every single being (and thing) it touched!

What else can you do, but laugh when you see ignorant courtesans like that do the Powers-that-Be’s bidding, attempt to ridicule us, hence giving us a voice and an existence in places which would otherwise shun us? The only thing such a piece by such a servant of the establishment means, is that even the worst attack will do.

Anything will do, if it tells readers we’re a bunch of retarded, privileged fools who refuse to bow down to the inevitable! Which means, that up there, the Powers-that-Be are frowning at what’s happening. Contrary to what Mr. Egan implies, it’s not inconsequential. It’s not worthless. It’s threatening. And that’s good.

That’s very good.

And it makes me smile, to know that people can yet rise in this world to defend their rights, to fight for what is theirs. People who refuse to bow down and who rise to fight what Powers-that-Be would impose upon them are no fools. They’re brave. They’re alive, contrary to all those like Mr. Egan, who’re nothing more than blind cattle quietly walking down toward the slaughterhouse at the rhythm demanded by their masters.

So, thank you, Mr. Egan, for making me laugh today.

Thank you, for showing everyone that we make the Powers-that-Be nervous, that we’re a threat.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Trouble with Retirement? What Trouble?

It’s the furious, impassioned debate of the moment, well, of the decade.

People live longer. They grow older. They don’t have as many children as they used to in times past—and yet the population keeps growing, how’s that for an amusing paradox? Still, it’s all horrible. We can’t go on the way we’ve been going: we can’t allow people to retire at 60 any longer (or 65 in many countries). It’s not a question of ideology, it’s a simple question of mathematics, of arithmetic: since the pension of the people who retired is paid for by the social contribution taken on the wages of working people, the growing number of old people and the dwindling number of people at work simply makes it impossible to keep the system alive as it is, financially speaking. It’s obvious to all, regardless of their political opinions. Obvious, I tell you! You cannot, you may not gainsay the Powers-that-Be! So say we all! (yeah, right)

Really, who do those, oh so wise Powers-that-Be think they’re kidding?


We live longer. Hey, newsflash: it’s a good thing, it’s a happy thing. We should be rejoicing, not gloomily spreading around predictions of doom! When someone we know retires, we congratulate him/her, we don’t start commiserating and nodding in empathy with the unhappiness the lucky person is about to experience!

Let’s go back on our beautiful, so-called unarguable mathematics: the more time passes, the less people under 60, and the more people over that age, yeah. So, what? How does that portend the doom of our pensions? Say I apply this kind of “mathematical argument” to farmers in the beginning of the 20th century: imagine, we’re in the 1900s, and I go around foretelling general famine in the country by the year 1930, since the farmers’ numbers will dwindle so much that there won’t be enough people to farm the land and feed us all anymore. Yeah, it's ridiculous, I know. But the argument is exactly the same as the ones used to foretell the death of our pensions. And it’s as invalid for farmers and general famine as it’s for the ageing population and pensions.


Simple: farmers’ numbers dwindled, but techniques improved, productivity grew dramatically, and so we compensated for the reduced numbers. We didn’t starve, did we? It’s the same here: the funding for our pensions comes from the social contribution taken out of our wages. If you take a good look at the system, it doesn’t exactly depend on an ever-growing number of people who contribute. What it does depend upon is the total amount of money coming from the social contributions. There, you have it. Of course, to completely understand, you need to know some pieces of history nobody ever cared to put in the school programs—I reaaaaaally wonder why, by the way.

As we progressed in time, as productivity rose, and industry profits along with them, social contributions were raised (them and our net incomes along the way). This resulted from a very simple, a fair equation: more profit means more money to distribute, to share between workers, CEOs, and shareholders. As Gross Domestic Products (GDP) rose in our countries, so did the social contributions, and so did the funding for our pensions, our social security system, and so on. However, that movement stopped at some point.

It happened in the end of the 1970s. That’s when the neo-liberal reform started.

That’s when Powers-that-Be, frustrated that their profits were not skyrocketing quickly enough, decided to take on what was slowing them down: sharing a fair portion of the profit with the people who do the actual work. From that moment on, they started working at unravelling our welfare system, they bought media, they bought politicians. They brainwashed us, they manipulated us into believing that all the things we have to live through, all the hardships, all the economic and social crises—all that is inevitable. Mathematical. Inescapable. Unarguable.

Don’t trust me? Well, by all means, don’t. Simply go check the numbers on the growth of the GDP in our countries over the years, and of course the numbers on wages growth, and shareholder dividends’ growth. You won’t be disappointed.

GDP has kept rising over the years.

Wages have kept rising lower and lower over the years.

Shareholder dividends have skyrocketed over the years.

So, you see, there is no problem with our pensions. None. The only problem there is, is in making the Powers-that-Be give up their ever-growing greed and thirst for more and more profit, more and more money. We need only re-distribute the profits fairly. If we do, our welfare system, our pensions will never even blink, no matter how old we grow as populations.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not at all impossible.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a political decision.

And, remember, you’re the ones who vote.

You’re the ones who choose, and who put politicians in power.

So, that’s it from me for now.

I could go on, of course. I could also explain how people who’ve retired more and more remain active members of the community, and as such that their activities should be given an economical value, same as ours. I could then explain that, with this in mind, the so-called problem of the retired versus active people ratio simply ceases to exist at all…but enough with my ceaseless babblings!

Good night, and good luck (and read Bernard Friot if you can!)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

When You Peer into the Abyss

If you're crazy or brave enough to start looking down into the Abyss, you'll find it staring back at all of us with the face of an orthodox economist spewing out his so-called “wisdom”. He’s smiling, that orthodox economist. If you try listening to the strange sounds which come out of his mouth, spluttering past his smug smirk, you’ll realize that the man actually believes that economy is a science, and that the things it calls laws are Absolute Truths the universe bows down to and has been praying to everyday since the Big Bang.

He tells you that you must be virtuous, that orthodox economist, like all good priests and religious practitioners do. He explains that you must present Good Numbers to the Markets, or they’ll eventually punish you for your sins, and that’s only natural. Of course there are no subtitles, but you can hear the capital G, N and M that indicate he’s mentioning sanctified elements of the almighty religion that economy has become. It’s now so powerful that it’s been officially set above populations’ welfares, above kids, above women and men, old and young and middle-aged. We are servants of this economy, it’s our master, and if we fail the laws it imposes upon us without even a by-your-leave, then we will be punished in the end. We must be punished.

Of course, when we populations, through the swift and decisive actions of our governments, indebted ourselves to save the Holy Banks and the Almighty World Financial System, so quickly and so deeply that we ended up with extremely Bad Numbers for our collective budget deficits, nothing happened. No lightning crackled in the Heavens of Economy to smite us sinners down. One could have started wondering at the versatility of Economy at this point, but then religions in all of humanity’s history have always had a ready answer to the questions and doubts of heretics and sceptics:

The Divine Works in Mysterious Ways.

There, you have it. Bad Numbers were tolerated then, welcomed even, wished for and demanded. Now, well, things have changed. But then, perhaps it has something to do with those who mention the necessity to tame in the Holy Markets, to rein them in and impose rules on them, so that they again go back to what they should never have ceased to be: tool in the service of human beings, and not the other way around. Perhaps it has something to do with those states that would attack the Holy Sanctity of the Markets. Heretics! Of course they must be punished. Of course they must be struck down and brought to their knees. Of course. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now: round up the all-powerful rating agencies, and the nations will tremble, the world will shake and start blabbering excuses, apologies, and profess renewed virtue, offer sacrifices in the form of austerity plans that will accomplish nothing except for smothering real people and weakening all those who want to defend people’s rights against the blind dogma of Holy Economy that only exist to serve the interests of a lucky few.

And then what? People fill the streets of Athens in protest against decisions made by a government that will destroy what little they still had, all so that privileged castes can keep their riches? People have the gall to demonstrate in Greece, to refuse to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause(*)? Why, shame on them! The Markets won’t take kindly to these protests, to these people refusing to bow down and accept the inevitable return to virtue! They will react, and their retribution will come, swift and harsh.

Oh, yes. That’s what the orthodox economist who’s sitting down at the bottom of the abyss and stares back at you with a snigger says. He tells you that you must bow. He tells you that people’s freedom of expression must give precedence to the Holy Markets and the All Powerful Dictates of Economy and Finance. Seriously. Gently. Like a father shaking his head at misbehaving children.

So we should all be German. We should all be serious, virtuous. Now, can anyone tell me why? I mean, seriously, can anyone explain to me what we, as people, as women and men of flesh and blood, stand to gain by being like Germany? What? We’d have terrific Numbers to offer the Markets on their Holy Altars (another name for Stock Exchange)? Errm, yeah? So what? Remind me again, how is the welfare of the German people? How are their lives? Wages dropped, security of employment dropped? The number of working poor—you know, those people who have a job, who work day in day out, and don’t earn enough to make a living, to pay their rent, their food, their clothes, their bills—exploded? Chronic unemployment in less favoured regions never abated? People aren’t happy, except for the same social classes, or castes? Germany is now better known as the Country of the Euro Jobs?

And we should be like them? We should want to please the Holy Markets?

I don’t think so.

Economy is powerful because it’s backed by powerful people who’ve tried to rig all the circles of power. This should ring a bell. Aristocracy used to be powerful. In France, kings ruled, their power coming from what the Catholic Church labelled as the Will of God. It was the Order of Things, and it lasted for many centuries. Then came 1789.

Looks like that time is coming again.


(*) causes are, among the most important ones: the privileged high social classes (high bourgeoisie and also, in the public sector, think high-ranking officials during the Yang Dynasty—that, or apparatchiks in the now defunct USSR) and all the laws designed to allow them not to pay taxes, the companies also privileged by specially designed laws to allow them not to pay taxes, black market economy, restaurants, cafes, shops everywhere never paying VAT, not to mention their taxes, landowners not paying taxes linked to the wealth they have and the value of the land they own (first among them the Orthodox Church, first landowner in Greece which doesn’t pay the first cent in taxes but, hush, it’s a secret)…oh, and let’s not forget Germany and its crass behaviour, its devastating handling of a crisis which would NEVER have taken place, had it simply chosen to say “shoo” when the first, feeble little sparks of the now European Blaze started. Now the monster is unleashed, and virtuous priest Angela Merkel may well find that she won’t be able to control it, and that in the end, it will devour oh so zealot and virtuous Germany along with it. Sometimes, I almost wish this would happen.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Invictus ?

Undaunted, unvainquished? Why, maybe, but “invictus” is Latin, and Latin uses gender to qualify adjectives. Where “undaunted” is genderless, and applicable to male or female, “invictus” is marked as male. The female form would be “invicta”. But never mind.

So, invictus—or invicta—yes, but whom does this apply to?

The financial system, which plunged us down the abyss, saved through the use of massive blackmail by the use of taxpayer money, it has then spit upon? This financial system which refuses any kind of regulation even though the whole world got the bright display of its utter failure and its innate danger? This financial system which got saved by our money because it threatened governments of massive bankruptcies which would cause chaos on a global scale, leaving people, leaving us, without money, a money we gave to banks for safekeeping and they lost while playing at the casino?

Capitalism, this economic system which also demonstrated its inevitable failure where people’s wellbeing is concerned? This economic system which showed it can only function through endless sequences of crisis that harm these insignificant human variables in its “perfect” equations?

Barack Obama and his Health Care Plan, which cleared the House and Senate under fire, under the most incredible, outrageous campaign of blatant lies ever conceived (death panels where they decide to pull the plug on grandma, anyone? To think that there are people crazy and stupid enough to buy such bullshit just...urrrgh)? This plan which, even though opponents and bought-off Democrats helped gut as much as they could, will nevertheless revolutionize the way things are done, and help millions of people to get coverage?

The Republicans, who are busy rearing their ugly heads and blaming Obama for inept security designs and measures THEY planned and enacted? The worse there is that there would be people who’d agree with such blatant manipulations…

Nature, which still knows Winter, and can have snow on the eve of the new years in regions where it’s normal that Winter be cold? Nature, which will always survive, no matter what ecologists say, even if temperatures keep rising? Of course humankind would most likely disappear, but nature would adapt, and develop other solutions, life would prevail, there’s no doubt about that, it’s called “evolution”, the thing that foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics of all religions, Christianity included, refuse to acknowledge in spite of scientific proof.

Hope for freedom, in the hearts of millions of people in Iran? People who keep fighting and demonstrating in spite of the use of brutal force by authorities who are now mired in their own contradictions and failed plans to remain in power?

Us? Trade union people who keep our heads held high and refuse to bow down to the dictates of powers-that-be who’d have us renounce our rights in order to save a system that has failed, and all but enslaved us all?

The great Hadron Collider in Geneva, which is now reopened for business? This fantastic ring which some feared might cause a black hole that would engulf the earth within a heartbeat? This ring which may be the crucible inside which we’ll find the Boson of Higgs, the Particle of God?

Michael Moore, who will not renounce trying to explain to his fellow citizens just what kind of trap they’ve been ensnared into for generation? However exaggerated the tone of his moves, however outrageous his images and words can be, however mocked and ridiculed he can be by powers-that-be and “well-thinking, well-educated-and-bred” people of the good society, he will not stop. And every single person who listens, and then simply starts thinking, and asking questions, seeking answers, is a victory.

China, who will see the west destroyed before making the first concession to anything? China, who will kill a man with known mental illness simply to prove a point? China, who uses scores of millions of its own population, the migrant workers, as slaves, as cannon fodder for its blooming economy?

Black and white, light and dark. Good and evil. Contradictions. That’s who we are. That’s human. And that’s certainly undaunted. Unvanquished.

But “invictus”? Ah, no, sorry. Invictus is male, and applies to “Sol Invictus”, this celebration which Christianity parasitized, among countless others, and then claimed as its own. Male, because Sol is the sun, and the sun divinity was considered male by many civilizations. Although why that would be is beyond me, except if you take into account the design to put males in the role of dominant, radiant, strong, and the females in the opposite role. I happen to disagree. But then, I happen to be female; and born Aries, so sign of Fire and color Red. That does look like the sun, doesn’t it? And trust me, I’m female!

So, no “invictus”. But undaunted. Changing and unchanging. We are true to our nature, which is not exactly beautiful as a whole. We are who and what we are. We can only try to grow, to be better. And that hope, that attempt at greatness, well that also is undaunted.

And that, at least, is a good thing.

Happy new year 2010, and may it be wiser than the last !