The Ravages of the New Normal

There are a couple of excellent articles in today’s Guardian that I would like to draw to your attention.

James Meek has written a superb, albeit somewhat lengthy, article on the ravages and rapine of neo-liberalism and the privatisation scam, basically confirming what I posted earlier about the austerity hoax. In his article entitled “Sale of the century” Meek displays excellent command of his material and he presents it very well.

What might come as a bit of a surprise is his imputation that privatisation has also included the privatisation of the powers of taxation, although in a way that is often hidden. I can confirm that from my own experience in the agricultural industry. A tax on agricultural produce in Canada was eliminated by the state a couple of years ago, but was reintroduced as a “surcharge” or “tariff” by consensus of key industry association processors. There was really no rationale or justification offered for this “tariff”, which is substantial. The processors’ association simply imposed it because they could. It represents, in effect, a form of privatised taxation, and it was actually more onerous than the tax that had been removed by the government.

Meek points out that blind-spot and contradiction in Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which has largely served as the Bible of neo-liberalism, at least in its Thatcherite version. The capture of state powers and the commonwealth by private corporations and interests in the name of “public-private partnership” is just as much the road to serfdom and the resurrection of fiefdom. And it’s surprising how most people are blind to that, seduced by the delusion that they are liberating themselves from onerous government taxation and regulation. In some ways, they are merely exchanging one set of chains for another, even heavier set of chains and a yoke over which they have even less say and control.

Which brings me to the second article I thought I would draw to your attention on dirty politics in New Zealand. This article grabbed my attention because it could have been written about contemporary politics in Canada, too, and probably in your own jurisdiction as well. You might think that there’s nothing new in any of this, as one of the suspects in the article also states: “I play politics like Fijians play rugby. My role is smashing your face into the ground. Politics is a nasty despicable game and it’s played by nasty despicable people. Where’s the surprise in this?”

Or, as Orwell put it, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Suddenly, the shocking is not so shocking and the unspeakable not so unspeakable after all. That’s the new nihilism in politics. So, welcome to the “new normal”. And, no, this deterioration and decadence of standards of propriety, both formal and informal,  is not quite the-politics-as-usual as we have always known it — dirty, despicable, and nasty, which now repels the principled and competent and attracts the pathological and the worst of the worst, who still call themselves (and who we call) “the honourable” and “the right honourable”. What is different is the level of acceptance and tolerance for political corruption and the worst of the worst, which acceptance and tolerance is itself corrupting and corruption and the deterioration of standards. Standards and rules have become impediments and obstacles. You probably have all heard of Toronto’s notorious mayor Rob Ford, for example, who despite his corruption still bodes fair to be returned to office in the upcoming election.

“Pathocracy“, Frank Herbert called it, and with good reason. It’s not the-politics-as-usual of the old normal. Contemporary politics is a symptom of a deteriorating situation to which we are becoming habituated — decadence and nihilism.


One response to “The Ravages of the New Normal”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    The new normal is chaotic and confusing and, it seems to me, exists wherever we find an increasingly bipolar economic density. The widening economic gap that “Sale of the century” talks about is mirrored by family, societal, and political loyalties that are either non-existent or exist with maximum force even under the most narrow-minded, ideological, and bigoted conditions possible. These are really crazy times. I interact with this craziness the moment I enter the mass society on a daily basis.

    So, how can one live through this new normal without compromising one’s decency?

    1. One must die to oneself daily. Yesterday was yesterday and today is a different day. Forced amnesia is a wonderful thing to use to maintain peace in one’s life during the reign of the new normal. When the environment is as toxic as it has become, closure of the senses – especially of hearing and seeing – is very helpful.

    2. Patience and deep thought in the face of adversity.

    3. In my environment, having a sense of humor is – by far – the most valuable virtue one can have. One can use it to overcome fear. One can use it to overcome hostility and anger. One can use it to overcome corruption. One can use it to overcome envy and ignorance. One can use it to overcome the new normal.

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