Now Age Minute: Is This the Life We Really Want?


For deceased and surviving residents of the recent fire that befell London’s Grenfell Tower, this is not the life they really want, their crime simply being poor, as pointed out in the London Standard,

A pastor has blamed the “disgusting” treatment of poor people in Notting Hill for the fatal tower block inferno and said residents had been “neglected” in the area.

Danny Vance, an Associate Pastor at Notting Hill Community Church, said the deadly blaze at Grenfell Tower would not have happened in nearby “£5million flats” and that he wasn’t surprised by the fire.

The roaring 80s
As I’ve discussed before in this space, I came into adulthood just in time for the Reagan-Thatcher era, which ushered in Ayn Randian, free-market neoliberalism, like a wrecking ball, dismantling New Deal policies that, by pushing back against Darwinian tendencies of capitalism, built America’s middle class. By the 70s, however, oligarchs and industrialists had had enough of the post-Great Depression era mindset, and set about to retake the economy from the middle class, and those struggling to rise up out of poverty.

With Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and Ronald Reagan here in the States, the oligarchs had their horses on the reins of power. On both sides of the pond, deregulation of the financial sector was job #1 for the duo of social destruction in the name of neoliberal, free-market ideology. As a young man raised on Vietnam, political assassinations, and Watergate, I had every reason to fear the direction Reagan-Thatcher was taking us in. Eight years later, in 1988, when Vice President (and former CIA chief) George Bush the first ran on the promise of a “new world order,” there was little question on the Left as to what he was promising. Neoliberalism was going global.

Move ahead thirty years, and we’re seeing in stark and glaring reality what such free-market, deregulatory policies have done to anyone not fortunate enough to have thrived in our dog-eat-dog, financialized world. According to a NY Times account of the regulatory policies that allowed for the fire at Grenfell Tower,

Business-friendly governments in Britain — first under Labor and then under the Conservatives — campaigned to pare back regulations. A 2005 law known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order ended a requirement for government inspectors to certify that buildings had met fire codes, and shifted instead to a system of self-policing. Governments adopted slogans calling for the elimination of at least one regulation for each new one that was imposed, and the authorities in charge of fire safety took this to heart.

Like in Britain, neoliberalism in the States was a dance that joined conservatives and liberals in copulate thrall to their oligarch bosses.

Insults and injuries
The stories of decimated one-time American manufacturing hubs via globalist policies of Bill Clinton have been well-told, unionized factory workers with respectable pay, benefits and pension packages retrained to work the checkout and unloading docks at WalMart stores for a fraction of the salary, and little or no benefits. What the NY Times is reporting today, however, is the insult to that injury, with retail jobs now disappearing due to disruption from Amazon, and other online retail outlets. From the Times,

Small cities in the Midwest and Northeast are particularly vulnerable. When major industries left town, retail accounted for a growing share of the job market in places like Johnstown, Decatur, Ill., and Saginaw, Mich. Now, the work force is getting hit a second time, and there is little to fall back on.

Moreover, while stores in these places are shedding jobs because of e-commerce, e-commerce isn’t absorbing these workers. Growth in e-commerce jobs like marketing and engineering, while strong, is clustered around larger cities far away. Rural counties and small metropolitan areas account for about 23 percent of traditional American retail employment, but they are home to just 13 percent of e-commerce positions.

Adding additional insult, the resulting shame and despair from low-paid or no work is a prime driver of the nation’s opioid crisis.

Opioid ground zero
Forty years of neoliberal deregulation have resulted in a degree of financial desperation, whereby cannibalization of fellow citizens is not only legal, but occurring in broad daylight. Such is the case in Delray Beach, Florida, the neighboring town to my north, where suffering addicts from around the country come to “get clean,” but where sober house fraudsters are profiting arm-over-needle by pushing recovering addicts to relapse, then collecting insurance money by delivering the victim to a rehab. For locals, this is a nightmare with no solution in sight, as federal laws handcuff local officials, like Delray’s mayor. Earlier this week, Delray’s opioid saga hit the from page of the Times, where they offer an overview of the madness,

Why did this happen? For one thing, Florida, a state famous for insurance fraud, disdains regulation and was ground zero for the prescription drug epidemic. But the proliferation of fraudulent sober homes was in part also the result of two well-intentioned federal laws. First came a 2008 law that gave addicts more generous insurance benefits; then the Affordable Care Act, which permits adults under 26 to use their parents’ insurance, requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and allows for multiple drug relapses.

The result was a whole new category of young addicts with access to insurance benefits. This gave rise to a new class of abusive operator, as painstakingly chronicled in The Palm Beach Post: the corrupt sober house owner. Many drug treatment centers — which also treated inpatients — started paying sober-home owners “bonuses” from insurance money and fees for referring outpatients to their centers while they underwent therapy, according to law enforcement, a grand jury report and court records.

In a country where it’s respectable for the medical system at large to capitalize on one’s illness and suffering, perhaps the outrage in Delray is that deceitful sober house operators do so without the cloak of professionalism. Let’s be honest: capitalism brings out the worst in human nature.

Is this the life we really want?
In his latest release, Is This The Life We Really Want?, as is his wont, Roger Waters pulls back the curtain of the human condition, revealing the most uncomfortable pieces of humanity. With this record, however, Waters is asking us to look at something much more difficult; something we want to avoid at all costs: the human toll of expanding American empire in the name of the neoliberal agenda. Our decrepit leaders – Democrat and Republican – would prefer that we don’t see what our ever-expanding military does to make the world safe for ever-more materialism, all in service to their oligarch paymasters.

My nature as an artist availed me of a sensitive temperament that serves me well in my creative pursuits and endeavours, but is not well suited to the competitive qualities required to succeed in our capitalist framework. I’ve always felt vulnerable to the coarseness of the culture. And with the expansion of the financialized economy that grew as a result of free-market neoliberalism, I’ve felt less safe. Interestingly, the personal growth industry that emerged in tandem with the neoliberal economic culture served to divert focus of one’s well-being from the society-at-large to the individual. While techniques to mollify my fears offer temporary relief, they distract from the larger notion that my anxiety is a completely normal response to perceived danger. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the rules of the American economy and culture today cause a mental illness of insensitivity that comes with acquiescence to the game, or a certain insanity resulting from resisting the economic imprisonment. Either way, you go crazy. This is not the life I really want. How about you?

Sat in the corner watching TV
Deaf to the cries of children in pain
Dead to the world
Just watching the game

–Roger Waters

By | 2017-06-25T21:24:02+00:00 June 23rd, 2017|Categories: Columns, Now Age Minute|

About the Author:

Craig Gordon
Craig Gordon comments on the perverse state of American society, and is the publisher of this website.

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