The Billionaire Takeover

In the Guardian this week Nathan Robinson, the editor of ‘Current Affairs’ asks, “Why do billionaires keep presenting themselves as America’s great new hope? [1]”

The past week saw both the passing of Ross Perot and the entry of Tom Steyer into the presidential race. It’s fitting that the two events should coincide – as one billionaire presidential candidate leaves us, another steps up to take his place. But while “rich guy who tells it like it is” candidates are not necessarily doomed to electoral oblivion – one of them sits in the White House today – they represent everything dysfunctional about US democracy.

Yes they do, and not just in the United States. Throughout the world, political systems are feeling the strain of big money muscling in on governments, either by direct election or the use of lobbying to coerce politicians into doing their bidding.

It’s nothing new, but algorithms have swung the balance in favour of big money thanks to the efforts of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Neither is it a recent aberration, in fact it can be traced back almost to the beginning of human habitation of this planet. Every civilization to date has been led, or controlled, by those with the money. It buys power, and it’s almost the only thing that does – though physical prowess was once a necessary requisite to leadership when the only weapon of war was the sword or the lance.

The England of the Middle Ages was an era highlighting the power of money and prestige that held sway over the ‘working classes’ of the time. They were little better than slaves, owned by their powerful ‘Lords’ and allowed to work his land on payment of tithes that ensured they remain impoverished all their short lives. In time of war they were forced to fight and die in the service of their master, and for whichever of the antagonists he chose to support.

Societies have changed since the Middle Ages, but those changes have come about because ordinary working class folk fought hard against the moneyed and powerful who used all the resources at their disposal to put down those rebellious peasants. We have much to thank Wat Tyler and his followers for, though I dare say there’s few around today who’ve even heard of him.

And that’s very sad because civilization has always been a struggle between the haves and the have-nots. Right now the latter are losing the battle. It’s unlikely we’ll all become peasants again in the near future, though climate change may well hasten the process for many, but the advent of the hedge fund has enabled sufficient of the greedy to amass vast wealth (and the accompanying power) and between them they’re using it to take over our democratic governments at an alarming rate. The irony is they are using us as the pawns to attain their end.

The internet is a perfect tool to manipulate the masses and it’s being used to good effect. Newspapers are now owned by billionaires with political agendas that they push both online and in print. Companies work behind the scenes; they specialize in mining our data to feed algorithms that spew forth carefully constructed political advertising that pours onto our computer screens like wasps to a honeypot.

The saddest part is most people don’t even realise it’s happening. They won’t until AI takes their job away, their houses are foreclosed due to mortgage arrears, and they’re forced into high-cost rented accommodation owned by the same billionaires who took their jobs.

We had a preview in 2008, after the financial crash. Many Americans lost their homes and were forced to live in their cars while the billionaire bankers made sure they did very nicely out of it.

It’s time for the next peasants’ revolt. Unfortunately, most of the peasants haven’t realised it yet. They still think the Trumps and the Johnsons, with their loud-mouthed false promises, are going to fix things for them.

As Nathan Robinson concludes in his Guardian article:

Billionaires succeed in getting attention because they have money, and while money isn’t itself speech, it can certainly buy a whole lot of it. But billionaires can also get votes, when people are despondent and tempted by someone who promises to solve their problems. This isn’t a healthy political system, though. It’s a sort of elected oligarchy where the only meaningful choice is which filthy rich person we want to rule over us. True democracy requires mass participation. We can’t just wait for a benevolent billionaire, because their candidacies are always about themselves rather than us.

[1] “Why do billionaires keep presenting themselves as America’s great new hope?” Guardian, July 13th 2019

 

Anyone For Mars? No, No, Not YOU!

“This is the BBC World Service. Here is a Public Service Announcement. At a gathering of world leaders yesterday in Washington it was agreed that the time had come to inform all citizens that, despite the best efforts of scientists, politicians and religious leaders, the planet on which we all live has now only a short time period left to support human habitation. It is anticipated that oxygen depletion and temperature rise will render life extinct within the next six to eight weeks.

In a short statement, recorded earlier, US President Ivanka Trump said, “Citizens of earth, be not downhearted that our species will be eradicated. Even as you hear my words, we, together with one hundred and fifty hand-picked individuals from the highest echelons of our societies, are headed to our new colony on the planet Mars where we will begin the rebirth of the human species. It will not be easy, but we make this sacrifice on your behalf. I wish you all good luck, and may God bless you all.”‘

                                              ———————————————-

I wonder how long it will be before someone in authority has the courage to stand up and say, “Sorry, folks, but you’re all doomed!”

Only a few years ago scientists were talking about climate change seriously affecting the planet by the end of the century, if no immediate action was taken to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.  Well, the end of the century is still eighty years away, and already the effects of global temperature rise have become obvious to all – with the possible exception of the only people with the authority to do anything about it, our supposed leaders. They’re too busy feeding their already obese egos with extra-large helpings of international power-play.

Donald Trump plays silly economic games with Xi Jinping, while making love to possibly the world’s worst dictator, Kim Jong-un, and demolishing nuclear agreements with Iran for no other reason than he’s able to do so. UK politics is in a shambles over Brexit, with no hope of a reputable Messiah appearing to put things right. The next British Prime Minister is almost certain to be that king of political clowns, Boris Johnson. He’s despised by other western leaders; the only exception being his transatlantic doppelganger presently ensconced in the US White House.

The list of world leaders behaving in a dictatorial manner is growing rapidly: Trump wants a lifetime presidency, because Xi Jinping has one; Duterte of the Philippines is a would-be dictator and a mass murderer;  Mohammad Bin Salman, almost certainly the perpetrator of the foul murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is heir to the Kingdom (read, dictatorship) of Saudi Arabia.

These are the bigger names, but let’s not forget Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela,  Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, and in Europe: Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Andrej Babis of Czechoslovakia .

Of course, the above list is the tip of the iceberg, with Africa and parts of Asia awash with would-be dictators all jostling for more and more power and wealth.

It’s human nature to be greedy, but these people are beyond greed. Their obsessions with wealth and power cannot allow for any action to negate climate change. They are like a gang of bullies in the schoolyard, fawning over the leader while secretly plotting to oust him and take control. Meanwhile they make the lives of those they dominate insufferable.

Then there is the rest of us. How do these would-be dictators and right-wing autocrats gain their power in the first place? Setting aside the few who gain control by military coup or other undemocratic means, the sad truth is we hand it to them through a ballot box. While bemoaning the effects of climate change, we really aren’t prepared as individuals to forsake the luxuries that make life worth living in this overcrowded world, and woebetide any politician who tries to do so. His will be a short career.

Consequently, while politicians pay lip service to curing our planet of its ills, they are loathe to take serious action for fear of being ousted at the next election by a wrathful electorate facing higher taxes, fuel price rises, escalating food prices, and other stresses on the individual wallet.

Finally, we have the corporations. Corporate control of politicians (including would-be (or fully-fledged) dictators), is relatively easy. We all know that everyone has their price, and if there’s one thing the corporations have it’s a slew of filthy lucre. Recent evidence has emerged of major fossil fuel companies paying large sums for pseudo-scientific reports disparaging climate change, much as the tobacco companies did with the medical profession earlier in the century. Paying corrupt politicians to prevent the passing of legislation detrimental to corporate interests is not even illegal in many western nations; it’s called ‘lobbying’.

Mix it all together and you have an almost perfect recipe for a dish of climate annihilation. No oven is needed, the planet will provide all the heat necessary to cook us all.

Meantime, just sit back and enjoy the plagues, the wars, the lawlessness, and the utter vile degradation that will accompany the passing of Homo sapiens from this planet.

We are all doomed. But no politician or person in authority will ever tell you. At least, not until it becomes patently obvious that they have already left.