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Euro Win/Win versus American Polarized Dichotomy

I have yet to come across a cogent discussion of the global war being waged by the majority of multinational corporations against local democracies. Such a discussion must needs also assess some underlying differences between the USA and the EU, in two arenas: (1) the social contract (the “safety net”), and (2) what incentives influence social behavior in support of, or to the detriment of society’s core values. So, here’s my analysis of that “war,” and of those two variables.

Western Europe – mostly multi-party Parliamentary democracies – has steered a checkered, sometimes staggered course, between the needs of The Market – which does need to be unencumbered enough to generate money to reward investors (and which helps pay for a government’s social safety net) – and an equally arguable need to pro-actively support the defined basic rights of Everyman, based not on his or her wealth, but the basic fact of their citizenship.  In discussing Europe, note that I do not use the dichotomized word “versus.”  For that is a Puritan/Yankee concept which does not apply there.  Read on!

Euro Win/Win versus American Dichotomy

I have yet to come across a cogent discussion of the global war being waged by the majority of multinational corporations against local democracies. Such a discussion must needs also assess some underlying differences between the USA and the EU, in two arenas: (1) the social contract (the “safety net”), and (2) what incentives influence social behavior in support of, or to the detriment of society’s core values. So, here’s my analysis of that “war,” and of those two variables.

Western Europe – mostly multi-party Parliamentary democracies – has steered a checkered, sometimes staggered course, between the needs of The Market – which does need to be unencumbered enough to generate money to reward investors (and which helps pay for a government’s social safety net) – and an equally arguable need to pro-actively support the defined basic rights of Everyman, based not on his or her wealth, but the basic fact of their citizenship.  In discussing Europe, note that I do not use the dichotomized word “versus.”  For that is a Puritan/Yankee concept which does not apply there.  Read on!

In Europe, those two needs (corporate elbow-room, and, honoring a society’s social contract) are viewed as a potentially win/win balancing act, ever requiring fine-tuning, occasional quite chaotic conflict, and then temporary rebalancing.  Keeping those various plates spinning is never “over.”

Whereas, in the USA – with its deep Puritanism driving the American psyche, we are constantly polarized into thinking in fruitless dichotomies: the two-party system; business “versus” government; avaricious and brilliantly self-serving corporations “versus” well-meaning but ineffective progressives; even our vaunted 60’s generation radicals believed this dichotomy: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” In the USA culture, we are totally immersed in and blinded by such unseen, rigidly dichotomistic thinking. Make no mistake: this is Crazy Thinking, embraced by all the inmates in the American asylum. When everyone agrees with such a delusion, it of course seems “normal.”

Unfortunately, this mass delusion at the base of Americans’ consciousness has been brilliantly used and reinforced by one “side” of recent debate, reflecting an even larger historical mass trend, ripening during the last 30 years. This trend is the so-far losing battle between inefficient (even when well-meaning) national, democratic governments and increasingly amoral global corporations.  

Need but one example? The USA and states like California know they are losing billions of dollars of annual corporate tax revenues, since the Big Boys cleverly play global shell games with their profits – all the while efficiently rigging local democracies via unlimited campaign contributions, perpetual lobbying and phalanxes of corporate lawyers. In this global game of Tax War, the democracies seem unable to win even minor battles.

Corporations are not winning these battles because they are smarter, more agile or more determined. That is another conservative shell-game myth; anyone who’s worked in a big company knows how insanely bureaucratic, self-defeating and short-sighted they can be.

Rather, the real difference between a multiple-constituent-based democracy and a single-constituent-based corporation is clear: the democracy must at least appear to be following rules or principles, whereas most corporations have devolved into behavior which in an individual would be clinically labeled sociopathic.

More and more, corporations are pursue one single-minded imperative: get bigger and richer, by any means possible. This development is clinically sociopathic as all other values: humanity, fairness, ethics – are being discarded as quaint and “inefficient.”  

Corporations have become the out-of-control Ego of humanity, willing to destroy even its own host organism – mankind–  in order to prove its prowess and control. To such a pathologically out-of-control ego, winning is everything – even if everyone on the playing field is dead at the end of the game.

So, back to that key difference between the EU and the USA. In Europe, the same pressures are most definitely being brought to bear by global corporations against the “interfering nuisance of democracy,” but so far with lesser impact. Whereas here in the USA, the political “discussion” (all devolved into propaganda by now, with the corporations much better at it) can essentially be summed up as:

Conservatives:  “We all need to be free to make unlimited money, unshackled by government meddling.”
                                                      ("versus")
Progressives:     “We owe it to our citizens to provide a social contract, including equal opportunity, freedom from crippling poverty, health care and a safe old age.”

Here’s but one example of the fruitlessness of these extremes: Lest you think that Obamacare is an unlikely, anti-corporation “win” for Progressives – and even if it does end up benefitting many previously uncovered citizens, note that the often-cited foul-ups and limitations in this program are nearly all the results of adroit and persistent monkey wrenches, thrown into its machinery by government-hating conservatives. Most of those conservatives are shamelessly paid surrogates of the “Medical Equipment / Pharmacological / Insurance Complex.” Then, "conservative” (what a misnomer) opponents to such a Progressive program, – without so much as a blush – then criticize Obamacare for its many influenced-by-them defects.

Just imagine a government think-tank building a fantastic super-car; then imagine conservatives pouring honey, or better still, nitroglycerine, into its gas tank. When the car blows up, these same corporate conservatives instantly will say: “See, I told you so.”  

This is but one example of the repetitive-circular lying which corporations totally have mastered – at the peril of their souls, I might add. Such totally single-value behavior (“bigger and richer” at any cost) is exactly what all clinical Sociopaths do: manipulate, lie, destroy, win. The new "corporate conservatives': motto has long since become: “I’ve got mine, the devil take the rest of you – and – look how cleverly I’m doing it!”

Given Europe’s much longer history and its resulting healthy cynicism about politicians in particular and elites in general, so far pulling off an all-out assault on any key aspect of the social safety net would still be political suicide (2014). This is because of Europe’s historical win/win (versus dichotomized) orientation – its determination to balance money-making businesses with fair treatment of citizens. Still, however, global corporations do keep assaulting Europe’s safety net. Let’s examine why that is.

It's basic: global corporations have more and more been falling into the American model, complete with all its unexamined Puritan-thought assumptions. Those assumptions, deeply ingrained, are rarely noticed, much less deliberately examined:

Puritan Mind-Set Assumptions

•    Every issue is black versus white
•    Scarcity is the bedrock of reality (if I win, someone else must lose)
•    Rich people are meritorious, the non-rich are defective
•    Business is good  (chest-thumping frontier freedom) –
          whereas government is bad (“they’re stealing my ‘hard-earned’ money
              which earlier I stole from someone else” [see Balzac, below)
•    And this chestnut from Calvinism – through New England Puritanism and then the Social Darwinists, including their sociopathic prophetess, Ayn Rand – “If you are rich, you must be predestined by God for symbolic salvation; all others need not apply."

The latter point is self-evident: just talk with any newly uber-rich American who’s psychotically convinced of her or her own unassailable merit. Such people have become cartoon clichés. Their attitude reflects the truly (Puritan-) “religious” person’s unreasoning faith that s/he is on the way to The Rapture, while the rest of us are surely damned. Unseen and unexamined, that crazy religious “concept” has seeped into and now drives the America’s business psyche – and by pervasive puppeteering, all of our domestic politics.

The Americanization (and Puritanization, and sociopathification) of international corporations has become an out-of-control, self-fulfilling prophesy. Those corporations willing to do ANYTHING to get bigger and richer have a full-court financial advantage over those still “confused” and “bound up” by espousing multiple values, such as treating people decently or even “playing fair.”  

Thereby, of course, the now-deified "marketplace” indeed does seem to better financially reward amoral, sociopathic, “single-goal” behavior by business. For companies with only one goal: bigger and richer, usually do become so, while their more humane competitors lose out. All this is perfect, Jesuitically-circular reasoning. It is the “evidence” which empirically proves to such corporations that their sociopathic corporate behavior is “better” and more efficient: that is to say, if money and power are all one cares about.

In this worsening milieu of the last 30 years, I would argue that corporate leadership selection could not have been better designed to elevate sociopaths to positions of unaccountable authority, than has actually occurred. And that is what we are now dealing with in the global corporation war on democracy: its leaders are crazy people being ever-more lionized for having used their craziness to “create” wealth.

America would appear to be already lost to this terrible downward spiral. The wealthier and more global its corporations become, the more resources they have for rigging democratic decks, all the while brainwashing an increasingly uneducated public (thanks to systematic but trickily-framed assaults on U.S. public education since Reagan). Their message: unchecked “freedom” (for corporations, not really for YOU, fool!). "Unlimited freedom" is presented as the ultimate John Wayne value for American dupes. The religious right, the Tea Party – have been just the latest successive foot-soldiers pawns, falling for such simple-minded and brilliantly marketed lies.

Meanwhile the dichotomistic and shrill debate between the corporations – amused, pulling the wings off the democratic fly – and frustrated, impotent Progressives (who more and more have to badly play the corporation’s money game to get elected – hello?) has yielded totally fake American democracy; all we have left is window-dressing out on the sidewalk, while the bank inside is being systematically looted.

This all makes me harken back to French history – and its much longer cellular-memory of what happened over the several hundred years leading up to 1789. Scores of generations of French farmers, poor merchants and craftsmen saw their sons sent off to die in ridiculous wars between English and French rulers – mostly cousins of one another, playing an insane parlor game. That resulted not just in terrible multi-generational family grief, but also famine, plague, wholesale theft and repeated economic catastrophe.

So, when Voltaire and other philosophers (resurrecting Cicero) accidentally threw their conceptual democratic match into that multi-hundred-year-long “gasoline tank” of stifled citizen rage, 40,000 members of the former royalty and their sympathizers lost their heads. Perhaps half of them were guilty of having actively played along with that historically-inherited, horrible system (elitism versus “everybody else.”)

And oh, does such an elistist system sound eerily familiar today? The thing is, our baby nation – the USA – has no such racial memory. So far, we have never had such terrible things recurrently happen to us, things that forced us to awaken, to actually see the insane evil swinishness of elitism – run by those who worship only money and power, and who lack all human empathy: nowadays the corporate, rather than the royal sociopaths. Of course it took a Frenchman to capture best this core issue of insane ego-inflation – Balzac, who said: “Behind all great wealth lies a crime.”

My hope is that Europe’s deeper racial memory – perhaps largely unconscious – will serve as a dyke against the invading flood waters of sociopathic, American-modeled global corporatism. If not – and given another insanely sociopathic capitalism which has so hugely resurfaced in that other supremely amoral culture, China – I’m glad I’m an old man and most likely won’t be around to see a possible “battle of the global corporate-fascist sociopaths.” None will likely survive (given massive environmental degradation), although the Earth itself WILL recover from "us" in the geologic twinkling of an eye.

                                                           # # #

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipped and rec'd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    War on Error, unfangus, boudi08

    for what looks like a first diary on DKos.

    The theme you wrote about in this piece is coming to a head in western Europe. I focus on France and the EU in Brussels.

    The NSA practice of mass surveillance is helping to gather a critical mass of public awareness about the alliance that unites amoral business corporations and government.

    The transatlantic free-trade agreement  is also focusing attention on the increasingly dominant role business assumes in its partnership with national governments.

    Having a long history and an education system that teaches it is critical for people to know who they are. How many Americans know there was a Progressive era in the US a hundred years ago?

    I'm optimistic that France will resist the trend toward globalized corporatism. That joke about the French lacking a word for entrepreneur isn't true. France has an unusually large number of small to medium sized businesses (less than 250 employees.) It has more enterprises in that category than Germany and it reflects their heritage and ethic about work. There's a tradition of producing finely made things, with an emphasis on quality instead of tons of crap that belongs in the trash.

    I can't say that many Americans are interested in looking to Europe for an example though. It's just something to scorn, even by people who hardly ever venture into the next county.

    There is no existence without doubt.

    by Mark Lippman on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:19:15 AM PST

    •  Mark: Thanks for reading my first diary (0+ / 0-)

      It's always a shocker for me to spend time in France and then return "home" to the USA.  For (exactly as you say), in France there remains great pride in well-run small business  (which U.S. corporate-puppet conservatives pretend they are "for," which is but one of many of their Very Big Lies) – and also in that amazing French concept, the métier.  

      As I'm sure you already know, métier translates badly into English as "profession."  Whereas actually it combines: "cherished calling," "pride of work," "worker dignity," and "respect for the craftsman" – all in a single term.  A waiter in a Parisien bistro put this in perspective for me:  "I spend all my life here; why should I not seek to bring contentment to others by serving them well? That is what my grandfather and father did; it celebrates the joie de vie; it is good enough for me too!"

      I can't think of a single contrast more telling than that between that concept of métier versus the American fantasy-goal of everyone becoming a mega-rich celebrity. That fantasy, of course, is fanned by our stunningly empty culture and its 1% handlers.

      Métier is something we used to have far more of in our country too: solid blue-collar and middle-class worker pride in doing a great job while being treated with respect, versus The Great Mistake that occurred at the Harvard and Sloan business schools in the 1950s.

      For it was in those Ivy League bastions of pure Platonic business conceptualization, that It Was Decided that workers (labor) should be moved from the Asset side of every business' balance sheet, over to the Liability side. (Let that sink in for a moment).

      Sometimes (truly bad) ideas do cause history, aided and abetted by economics (or by apologists for economic greed).  For, the current Puritanical divide between owners (the 1%) and everyone else in this country, was in part launched by that terrible "conceptual" balance sheet redefinition.  

      After that shift (which took another half century to become the New Normal), no more were people seen as an enterprise's most important Asset; instead they were now viewed as a Liability – to be trimmed, minimized and wherever possible, shed entirely (see NAFTA, tax policies that favored shifting manufacturing offshore, the "invevitable" trend toward wholesale robotics, and aggressive union busting).

      I'm old enough to remember when the vogue in business was to be extremely proud of taking care of one's talented people. Whereas now, "cleverness" is defined by the myriad ways in which the annoyance of "expensive" people can be minimized or even –  pant, pant! – eliminated entirely.

      Shifting workers over into the Liability Column is as opposite as one could ever get from the French notion of métier.

      By the way, I learned of the Great Balance Sheet Shift from a student of Edward Demmings; Demmings had watched that conceptual shift with his chin on his chest, tried to reverse it with U.S. Automakers, was laughed out of the room – and took it to Toyota, whose Zen Buddhist then-chairman was driven by other values than knee-jerk greed.  But that's another story, from another non-Puritan culture.  Thanks for reading!

  •  Had to log in and say (0+ / 0-)

    HERE Hear!

    Excellant presentation

    Spot on

    Thank you

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 06:48:18 AM PST

  •  We need to also STOP letting (0+ / 0-)

    corporations play county vs. county, state vs. state, country vs. country, with their lure of JOBS.

    I agree with what you say, but what you call U.S. thinking, I would call republican thinking, e.g., seeing issues as black/white, meritorious/slacker.

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:07:44 AM PST

    •  Einsteinia ~ thanks for reading and commenting! (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for your reply. You're so right about the cynical games global corporations are playing, and even more so about their lure of "jobs" (which, after all, the Corporate Lords can take away as imperiously and capriciously as they might Give).

      I wish you could have sat in with me in an astonishing Harvard undergraduate history course provided by a visiting Oxford Don (Donald Fleming) in the 1960's.  His course shone a light on our immensely powerful subconscious Puritan brainwashing, so that (from his "foreign" perspective) I could see how our American minds ARE shaped from the cradle to see everything as paired and polar opposites.  

      I once asked my then-elderly relative, Bucky Fuller about this – himself a self-imposed exile from Puritan New England. "Oh," he said, "there are usually scores of wonderful win/win solutions between the black and white extremes – but if one is brainwashed into thinking only the extreme black or the extreme white 'solution' is possible, you can't even SEE all the other alternatives."  "And that," he said, "is how Americans are so easily manipulated, because THEY are blind to all the other options – which, by the way, are NOT necessarily "compromises."

      Einsteinia, you are certainly correct that Global Corporations and their neo-con political puppets DO use this American dichotomous blind spot to excellent advantage. Most Americans will fall every time for ridiculous premises such as: "EITHER we block the union from entering the VW plant in Chatanooga, OR the Germans will leave."  ("either/or").

      Most Americans will fall for this sort of fear-tactic every time, because its black and white nature seems Perfectly Plausible (to Puritans).  Never mind that that dichotomy was a total, fabricated lie. The tactic works.  Never mind "facts."

      I cannot agree with you, however, that we Progressives have immunity from the American habit of dichotomous thinking.

      Our ilk, for example (and as I mentioned in my original article) sees the social contract as a (righteous) Progressive Imperative – with big business as the intractable (and opposite) enemy of enlightened social policy:  OPPOSITES.  

      Whereas in Europe, these two elements are seen as differing forces to be ever-balanced. Since global corporations are (as you note) utter masters of polar opposite fake premises, Progressives are out-foxed in nearly every skirmish.  

      If we Progressives could instead master the art of proposing wonderfully plausible sounding (and practical) WIN/WIN policies (looking for Bucky Fuller's many alternatives between black and white), we could de-fang much which has been so reprehensible on the part of the sociopathic right.  

      Just saying!  We have met one of the enemies, and he IS us.

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