Civil Unrest in an Age of Austerity: London Calling

by JACK RANDOM (via Counterpunch )

London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls

The Clash

To all those British intelligencia who attributed the recent riots that rocked the streets of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Gillingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool to hooligans, you’re as wrong as the myriad free enterprise economists who swore we had nothing to fear from a deregulated marketplace. You’re as wrong as the killing of an innocent man.  You’re as wrong as holding the poor accountable for the errors of the elite.  You’re as wrong as an economy that creates an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nothings.

Prime Minister David Cameron finds fault with everyone but the policies of his ruling party or indeed the increasingly conservative policies of his predecessors in the opposition.

In the prevailing world of British politics, entrenched poverty does not fit into the equation of civil unrest.  It has nothing to do with thirteen million impoverished citizens but rather to do with discipline in the schools.  It has nothing to do with low wages and rising unemployment but rather to do with excessive tolerance for aberrant behavior.  It has nothing to do with the deprivation of ethnic minorities and everything to do with moral depredation.

As income inequality rises to levels unprecedented in the modern era, Mister Cameron promises a crackdown on the rising turpitude of the ungrateful poor in Britain’s booming slums and the polite society applauds as if to acknowledge a fine golf shot.

What the Prime Minister and his colleagues are desperately trying to deny is the relationship between the riots in England and the events in Cairo, Tripoli, Damascus and Athens.  The combination of inequity, inequality and poverty is a potent brew that leads inevitably to civil unrest.  The only difference is a matter of degree.

London is calling and Washington should be listening.  By every measure the circumstances are worse in America than in Britain.  The poor are poorer, the disparity between the rich and the rest is greater, the social safety net is less intact and the burden of poverty falls even greater on minorities.

Everywhere across the globe the tide of suffering rises and governments have decided that the only solution is to shift the burden downward.  The European Union has become an enforcement mechanism for an age of austerity.  Budgets for relief of the afflicted and assistance to the poor are slashed to protect the corporate profit margin.  In America a presidential candidate complains that the poor do not pay income taxes.  Convinced by their own propaganda machine that the poor are unworthy leaches on society, legislatures in Florida and elsewhere order drug testing of to qualify for unemployment insurance.  Increasingly draconian laws are passed to further stigmatize immigrants at the bottom of the economic spectrum.

Blame the victim has become the mantra of the financial elite, passed down to the working ignorant, spreading like a plague on the nation.

When we have punished the poor all that we can, when we have pushed the once thriving middle class into poverty, when we have evicted families from their homes, when we have forced the family business into bankruptcy, when we have stripped the undocumented of all rights and deported as many as we can, only then will we begin to realize we have been duped.

Civil unrest is the last recourse and the natural consequence of austerity.

Fear not.  The authorities are prepared for this contingency.  Stripped down security forces will be mobilized to protect gated communities.  Violence will be contained in the poor neighborhoods.  Slums will burn.  Crowd control will become increasingly brutal.  Blood will flow on the streets of poverty.  Violence will beget violence in a vicious circle of disorder and ruin.

As in Britain, whoever is president will decry the decay of moral fiber and pledge to fight gangs and criminal elements to restore law and order.

There will be no more discourse on economic policy.  There will be no more talk of universal healthcare.  There will be no more protests against job exportation, free trade agreements or deregulation of industry or financial markets.  We will dutifully elect leaders who promise to crack down on lawlessness.  Our elections will become contests on who can project ever-greater toughness.  We will look for someone to play hardball with the unruly masses.

The erosion of civil rights and civil liberties that began long before September 2001 will continue to accelerate.  The right to privacy is the first casualty.  City streets and public squares will be under fulltime surveillance.  Telephone conversations and communications media will be monitored.  The right to speak freely will come under attack.  The right to assemble in protest will be relegated to obscure and closely guarded locations far from public access where the eyes of the corporate media never travel.

There will be no more mass protests against wars of choice and wars for oil as more and more of our sons and daughters line up to fight – not out of patriotism but as the only means of escaping destitution at home.

For all the unrest, for all the violence and destruction, there will be no revolution.  The government of the United States will not be threatened.  Unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, there are no overlords of justice that will come to our aid.  We the people will stand helpless before the most powerful government in the history of the world.

We will rise up and we will be beaten down.  We will rise again and the government’s response will go beyond what any democratic state can bear.  What then?

What is happening before our eyes is that the governments of the world in concert with their sponsors in the corporate empire have devised a plan to revise the social order.

It has taken me longer than it should have to imagine what the end game of the new world order looks like.  The corporate mind is unscrupulous and greedy but it is not ignorant or foolish.  I have speculated that corporations were so fixated on short-term profit that they refused to see the long-term consequences of their actions.  By destroying the working middle class they were eliminating the very consumers on which they depend.

But it seems to me they have discovered a new consumer class.  Because of the sheer numbers in China and India, they can prosper for decades without a working consumer force.  They intend to replace the working middle class in Europe and America with a management middle class in Asia.

It is the only way it makes sense.  It is a plan laden with risk and it demonstrates an incredible disdain for working people.  It is risky enough depending on the stability of a corrupt democracy in India and an authoritarian state in China.  It is even more risky to create a permanent class of the working poor in the democracies of Europe and America.  There will be pushback.

In the end their plan for a corporate world will fail because the spirit of self-determination, the desire for freedom and the yearning for democracy will prevail. We will ultimately press our cause at the ballot box.  Despite all the technology and resources mobilize to control our minds, we will overcome.  Whether it takes a decade or a hundred years, we will prevail because we are on the right side of history.

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

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