Your Overclass at Work

The human race will need every synapse of its collective brain-power to figure out a way to escape the twenty-first century with its decency and some of its modern technology.

Meanwhile, how are our glorious corporate entrepreneurs laboring to serve our pressing needs in this coming struggle? In the usual manner: by trampling on them.

At the political level, they are absolutely obstructing us, as success in snatching decent survival from the closing jaws of the status quo will, of necessity, be very bad indeed for big business and the established fortunes it exists to serve.

As if this weren’t enough, however, as I’ve reported before, corporate planners are also busily using their own neocortexes to build “emotionomics” into the marketing operations by which they conduct the crucial day-to-day process of selling us products. Here is how they are learning to understand the human brain:

The business message being learned and applied, thanks to new advances in neuro-biology, in ever-greater detail is that:

Emotions are central, not peripheral, because they drive reason more than vice versa. In other words, we’re not nearly as rational as we would like to think we are. Our neuron-biological legacy means that emotions enjoy pre-emptive, first-mover advantage in every decision process. Conscious thought is only a small portion of mental activity. [Even] recall is emotional. [Dan Hill, Emotionomics]

The idea inside the marketing juggernaut that utterly dominates the way we ordinary Americans spend our “free time” is that the subordinate biological place of rationality is a very good thing, as it leaves so many openings for profit-seeking manipulation of the underlying population of “targets.” Bang, bang — out go the lights! Hence, SOP in corporate enterprise is to strive to ensure that the sway of reason remains small and secondary.

History, should we survive this still-growing assault on our most basic need, will not look kindly upon the sponsors and practitioners of “emotionomics.”

The Rock Touches the Hard Place

Last week, the great Jared Diamond, whose Pulitzer-winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, is the greatest thing since Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital, published an op-ed in The New York Times. Titled “What’s Your Consumption Factor?”, the piece hits one of two very big political nails right on the head:

[W]hether we get there willingly or not, we [residents of the USA] shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.

Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts. Ask yourself whether Americans’ wasteful use of gasoline contributes positively to any of those measures.

This is all very true, as far as it goes. But it only goes half-way.

What Diamond is basically saying is that, if we were to use our democracy to end the criminally insane and egregiously outdated reign of the automobile over transportation (and life in general) in the US, we could have a higher quality of life and also finally get serious about genuinely helping the world’s other people live better.

The big problem, however, is the fact that our extremely well-entrenched economic overclass is quite literally and intractably addicted to perpetuating autos-ueber-alles in America. Without the auto-industrial complex’s trillion-plus-dollars-a-year “stimulation” of a huge array of business opportunities, corporate capitalism would quickly implode into an intractable economic depression.

Meanwhile, as Diamond argues, replacing our cars with world-class railroads and towns reconstructed around rails, bikes, and human feet is not only possible and desirable. Thanks to Peak Oil, it is, as Diamond almost says directly, simply the only imaginable way forward to a decent future.

And here’s exactly where Diamond’s rock meets the still-unmentionable hard place: Both because it is certain to be managed as an urgent, profits-NOT-first public project, and because it would put an end to the vast, self-renewing flows of capitalist-friendly economic waste (and investor profit) that inhere in our existing cars-first arrangement, ending autos-ueber-alles is simply verboten as a subject of public consideration. Modern railroads and cities that favor human-muscle-powered locomotion, you see, are exactly as bad for long-term profit-making as they are healthy and vital for the welfare of ordinary Earthlings.

Hence, until we commoners learn to see the light and put our collective foot down, our economic and political overlords will continue to shove the issue of decent survival raised by Diamond down the “un-American” hole. The reason is simple and classic:

“Après moi, le déluge!” [“After me, the flood!”] is the watchword of every capitalist and every capitalist nation. Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society. To outcries about physical and mental degradation, premature death, the torture of overwork, it answers: “Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

Hence, if we are to do what Jared Diamond rightly says we must, we will have to conduct one hell of a fight just to get the human future onto the public agenda. History’s richest (and, thanks to the “market” structure of capitalism itself, most deniable) ruling class, armed as it is with history’s greatest mass-sedative (TV), is simply not going to permit the choice Diamond highlights to reach the public mind.

It will only do so through our own conscious and militant insistence upon it. Of necessity, a big part of this consciousness will have to be (hold onto your hats!) class consciousness. If we don’t begin to acknowledge, emphasize, publicize, and combat corporate capitalism’s addiction to selling cars, the jaws of historic defeat will finish snapping closed.

This coming struggle is not just a fight for the world’s children and grandchildren, it is, as Diamond says, a literally necessary one. Hence, as somebody on a crashing airplane once famously said, “Let’s roll!”

Magnificence! (Where have you gone, Joe Strummer-io?)

The late great Joe Strummer once satirized the depth and humanity of the choices one enjoys if one resides in one of corporate capitalism’s core selling zones:

“A car in the fridge or a fridge in the car?”

prophet of good newsWell, thanks to corporate marketers’ relentless efforts to discover and satisfy our deepest needs, the wondrous breakthroughs, of course, never cease, despite Joe’s death in 2002.

Et voila, here is the newest wonder-fridge:

The $2,249 refrigerator that is “cool inside and out” because it allows you to avoid the headache and clutter of using magnets to hang pictures on its doors!

No, I ask you: Who among us would not fight and die to preserve our way of life, which now (O, Miracle of Miracles!) allows our radically undertaxed, self-absorbed, yuppified overclass to have electronic photo frames and mp3 players on their fridge doors, and also so that the Whirlpool corporation can keep marking up (rather than down) the price of one of modernity’s most technologically settled and established basic products?

Available Now: $200 Pet Rocks

Caption: i vant to suck your blood...I vant to suck your blood!

The New York Times reported yesterday that the candibots who are today opening the active sales phase of the political marketing process will be spending about $200 per “vote” they harvest in Iowa.

Given that absolutely nothing is at stake in the so-called “election,” this makes the infamous 95 percent of the “cost” part of the retail price of a tube of corporate-brand toothpaste that goes to cover the marketing (not the making) of the dentifrice a comparatively excellent deal. The numbers here are promotion 100, content zero.

Vote for Mike Gravel, or just stay home.

Passport to Carmageddon

to where?

The Honda Motor Corporation entered this monstrosity in yesterday’s Pasadena Rose Parade. The float, called “Passport to the Future,” is an obvious attempt to reach young minds with the message that SUVs (as well as cars) have a future.

The kids that saw this thing will almost certainly have to explain to their own kids how such amazing forms of distraction were rolled out even as the world crossed the pinnacle of Peak Oil.

Manslaughter in Boston: Tragedy or Typical?

A Boston man was using his cellular phone for text messages when he drove his Ford Explorer over a 13-year-old boy. The boy was killed.

According to the Boston Globe, the texting driver, who didn’t stop at the scene, didn’t even know he’d run over a human being:

The man accused of killing a 13-year-old boy in a hit-and-run in Taunton told police he was behind the wheel typing a text message on his cellphone when he lost control of the sport utility vehicle and hit what he thought was a mailbox, a prosecutor said today in court.

Craig P. Bigos, 31, told investigators that he did not realize the SUV had struck the boy on the bicycle until he drove back down Poole Street hours later on his way to work at a restaurant, said Bristol County prosecutor Aaron T. Strojny.

Predictably, the Globe quotes a police detective as describing this equally predictable (and certainly not one-time) consequence of the commonplace co-employment of two of corporate capitalism’s core products as “a tragedy.”

It is no such thing. Tragedies strike unexpectedly out of the blue. People running kids over while texting in their SUVs is simply part-and-parcel of our way of life.

The only tragedy involved is how we have been trained to accept the waste and manslaughter involved in this typical event as normal, natural, invisible, unquestionable, just part of the background.

And, of course, one doesn’t have to wonder what the super-urgent texts were about: “Should I get tacos or pizza?” “Should we watch ‘American Idol’ or ‘Dancing With the Stars’ tonight?” “Wazzup!!!!????”