Article 43

 

Dying America

Monday, December 10, 2018

Austerity American Style Part 17- An American Invention

image: austerity

How Austerity Ripped the World Apart
How the Worst Idea America Ever Had Came to Rule the World

By Umair Haque
Eudaimonia
December 8, 2018

There’s a force that’s ripping the world apart. Slashing through democracy, the future, and society. Reducing the planet to a smoking, melted wreck. Around the globe, people are revolting against it. In Paris, anger against this force has united the left and right into the gilets jaunes - at least for the moment. Perhaps that revolt will go the way of the British one, Brexit - and descend into paranoia, hubris, and self-destruction - only time will tell.

The force that’s ripping the world apart is austerity. But austerity - a term we use all too casually - deserves to be thought about a little more deeply, which I want to do in this essay. Austerity is an American invention - and funnily, strangely, sadly, today, the world is becoming Americanized because it chose austerity, when it should have chosen precisely the opposite - investment, support, nurturance, care. Britain, Europe, and even Canada - all these societies are now beginning to experience precisely all the same problems as America, hostility between neighbours, enmity to historic allies, extremism, folly, despair, rage, stupidity, superstition, selfishness, greed, violence - all the predictable, catastrophic effects of austerity. When you choose what made America collapse - where should you expect to end up but collapsing like America?

Austerity simply means a lack of investment by societies in themselves, in people, in public goods. Things like healthcare, education, transport, energy, retirement, decent jobs, incomes, savings. The problem is that all those things are what underpin the stability of societies, by ensuring that prosperity is something that is realized by all - not just something greedily seized by a tiny few. But Ill come back to all that. It’s obvious to say that this age of austerity is in a superficial way the result of bank bailouts, which foolish governments though left countries bankrupt (they didn’t). But that is only the beginning of the untold story of austerity.

We don’t often think about it, but Austerity is an American invention. So much so that Americans have never really experienced anything but austerity. America has never invested in itself as a society - building robust public goods, like a national healthcare system, transport network, retirement system, safety nets, and so on. From the time of Jefferson to Reagan to Obama, America has been a society in which people have been told to compete viciously against one another - instead of simply providing each other the things they are competing for, healthcare, retirement, income, jobs, and so forth. Compete with each other! Never invest in each other! That is the rule by which America has always been governed. The results, today, are plain to see: they have been catastrophic. The average American lives a shorter, poorer, meaner, dumber life than anywhere else in the rich world, beset by gruesome and bizarre dilemmas, like his life savings, or his life, when hes ill. Basic medicines like insulin cost up to a thousand times what they do in other societies - - while Americans are forced to watch their kids be massacred at school. All those are effects of a society of competition for the things people should cooperate to freely provide one another. Yet because Americans have never experienced anything but that, which is to say they have been brainwashed into believing austerity is the only way life and society can ever be - they are left unable to conceive of a way out of their own ongoing collapse.

Now, austerity was invented by America as a result of its toxic, terrible legacy of slavery and segregation. Americans do not want to admit it - the truth is too much to bear - but America was an apartheid state until 1971. The problem is that an apartheid state cannot invest in itself - what reason does it have to build healthcare systems for all? Instead, it invests in useless things, which genuinely improves nobody’s life - secret polices, barriers, walls, mechanisms of repression and separation. So because America was born in slavery, it evolved into austerity - which simply means that it could never really invest in itself. Trumpism was the ultimate expression of that legacy - kick those filthy subhumans out!! I will never invest a penny in their healthcare, stability, retirement, or rights! They are not even people!! But then you will never have much of your own, either. Bang! That way lies social collapse. At root, austerity is Social Darwinism by any other name - which is also exactly the mentality of a slave owner. But a society is made of people - and a democracy is made of free and equal ones. When it turns into a bitter battle of predators and prey - it collapses.

Now, the wrinkle in the story is this. The world should have understood all this ח and rejected Americas worst idea in disgust and repulsion. But it didnҒt. In fact, it embraced it. Somehow, austerity came to be embraced even by European social democrats. Even by the British Labour party. In fact, at this juncture, the only society which really rejects austerity is China  and while we might object to political aspects of Chinese growth, the fact is that investing heavily in society has led it to become a major force in the world today. But I digress.

Why was austerity embraced even by European and British social democrats - who should have been its most natural and fierce opponents? The answer to that lies in the ideology behind austerity, which is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism essentially says that nothing - nothing -in a society should be a truly public good. Everything = every single thing in a society, from jails to schools to libraries to parks to power plants - should be privately owned, and run for maximum profit.

Now, a concerned reader might ask: what kind of an illiterate fool would think that? The answer is: American economics makes it sound very smart and intelligent to answer every concern possible about life, society, and being with just that, even if - as now - the planet is melting down. It is built on three crucial assumptions. First, that “markets will regulate themselves."Second, that “social investment, governments, can never do anything good or positive” for anyone, period. Third, that “people are atoms of desire, balls of raw appetite, who should only ever be purely, aggressively, one-dimensionally self-interested.”

(Now, the interesting question is: are these assumptions true? The answer is that they are not. We don’t have to look much further than the history of the 20th century, because its three great lessons - learned after World War II  are precisely the opposite of these three foolish American ideas. Market do not regulate themselves ח that is how the Great Depression came to be. Governments are the only actors who can provide the things that markets cannot, and those things are what raise peoples living standards the most җ like healthcare, transport, retirement, safety nets. People are not just little balls of insatiable greed - they are human beings, who desire decent lives, resonant in meaning, purpose, belonging, justice, fairness, truth, stability, freedom. If societies don’t step in to provide those things, which markets never have and never will, then the result will be rising extremism and fanaticism. People will turn away from democracy, and towards authoritarianism and fascism, just as they did in the 1930s. The result will be social implosion = and America, ironically enough, is the example which proves the folly of its very own thinking.)

And yet American economics wasn’t interested - in the slightest - in thinking about all the above. It simply ignored the great lessons of the 20th century, out of hubris, arrogance, and more than a little exceptionalism. It didn’t even bother studying its own collapse. If we think about it, in fact, American economics was simply restating America’s grim and foolish history - this time as answers to every single issue of socioeconomy - as a proud model to follow for the world. The three assumptions above, after all - markets are perfect! governments are the worst! hands off my property!! more of my own property is the only thing i care about!! - are nothing other than the logic of a plantation-owner, of a slave-master. They cannot be the logic of a person who considers themselves a free and equal citizen of a democracy, if you think about it.

So American economics presented the world a pure distillation of Americas epic mistakes, a windowinto the mind of a society founded on slavery and hatred and subjugation, not freedom and justice and equality - and told the world it was the way to prosperity. The world was dumb, naive, gullible enough to swallow it. Much of it, anyways. LOL. How come no one thought this through?

This bizarre and foolish illogic, which would come to be known as neoliberalism, an eerie restatement of Americas history of slavery and segregation, came to rule the world. A whole generation of European social democrats, in particular, came to be its defenders and champions 0 ironically, weirdly, strangely. How? Why? The answer is probably that by this point neoliberalism was something like a full blown ideology. It was easy to believe childish fairy tales like Facebook would replace democracy and apps would become a nations healthcare system. Easier, at any rate, than actually thinking about the world. Europe’s social democrats remained so only in name, to a large degree - in truth, many were ardent neoliberals, who glorified, lionized, and admired America, never having visited its ruined towns, its wrecked cities, its abandoned villages, never having seen its destroyed lives and shattered future. A comforting fable is always more seductive than a difficult truth.

What do you suppose the effect of believing in the ideology that America created - which brought it to its knees, had caused America to never become a modern society, to end up collapsing before it modernised - might be in the rest of the world? Pretty obvious, no? It would probably make you end up like that, too. Believing American logic would lead to you ending up just like America.

And that is precisely what we see, for example, the world over. In Europe and Britain and Canada - thanks to the disastrous mistake of choosing austerity over investment, these societies are now wracked by the same maladies that ripped through America, imploding it from within in just a few decades. Inequality, and the frustration and resentment it breeds. Rising poverty, rising insecurity, rising injustice. A lack of decent jobs, immobility, inopportunity. The concentration of power and profit amongst the most predatory. A massive failure of social contracts. Mistrust and hostility and a loss of faith in the future. A sense of fury and disgust at it all. Middle class stagnation, and working class fury. The rich, who’ve become ultra-rich, laughing at it all, and profiting all the more, as societies turn to extremists for hope, where there is none to be found in the establishment - because it goes on proposing different flavours of austerity.

These societies are - to different degrees - on the verge, or at least the path, of becoming mini Americas. They are ending up in exactly the same place as America, on the same path now: torn apart by extremism, stupidity, greed, despair, folly, selfishness. Those are precisely all the things which many American institutions, like its political parties, its thinktanks, its famous intellectuals and pundits, still cherish and prize. But they are false beliefs - mistakes. They are the toxic residue of the age-old philosophy of cruelty and supremacy which has always defined America. Austerity is Social Darwinism by any other name, And the problem is that this century must be built on something nobler, truer, and wiser than cruelty for supremacy’s sake. Do you really want to end up like America? That is the question no one has really asked Brits, Europeans and Canadians. But it is exactly where austerity leads.

(In Britain, for example, it was places hardest hit by austerity that voted most for Brexit. That is precisely the pattern of American collapse - and it is spreading to Europe, too, where, for example, in Italy and Germany, we see precisely the same dynamics playing out. We see it beginning in Canada, too - in Ontario and Quebec both.)

Austerity doesn’t solve a single problem that a society has ever had. Inequality, a lack of opportunity, decline, a shrinking middle, crime, the decay of the rule of law, corruption - name a single social problem that a society can ever have, and you will soon see: austerity is a fiction in the sense that it has never, and can never, solve any of these problems. In fact, the greatest lesson of history is exactly the opposite of austerity. Progress in the world did not come to be at all until people began to invest in each other, in their own educations, health, longevity, intelligence, in things like universities, labs, hospitals, parks, roads, town squares. Instead of timidly handing their labour, their money, time, and energy, over to their masters, whether they were called lords, kings, tyrants, emperors, or capitalists.

For exactly that reason - because it cannot solve a single social problem that has ever existed - quite naturally, austerity doesn’t solve any of the great problems the world has today. Inequality, mistrust, stagnation, climate change - these are the big four problems of the 21st century. But austerity makes each one not just worse - but in fact impossible to solve, because the only way to solve these problems is through intense, broad, enduring social investment. Whether in clean energy, or in green management, or in better healthcare and retirement systems, or the jobs that doing all that would bring.

And so austerity is ripping the world apart. It ripped Britain from its friends and partners. It ripped social democracy from the EU. It tore through an age of stability and prosperity. It is tearing ally from ally, neighbour from neighbour, country from country, society from society, union from union. That is because it is making it impossible to solve real problems - and so those real problems have all gotten worse, since that is austerity’s true effect. As those problems get worse, people regress to their primal selves, huddling together in tribes, uttering superstitions, cursing their neighbours, bowing before totems, seeking safety from the very flood that they were told would water their gardens. What else can they do?

Hence, thanks to austerity, the world is turning American now. Britain and Europe and even Canada are beginning to be wracked by just the same problems as America җ division, hostility, outrage, extremism, inequality, rage, hopelessness, authoritarianism, stupidity, the self-destructive behaviour that arises when people become martyrs out of frustration with a broken social contract. Many poorer countries are already on the way to following their lead.

But ending up ruined, just like America, is just the perfectly logical effect of choosing the same astonishingly ignorant ideology that ruined America to run your own society, too. Neoliberalism is literally ignorant of historys greatest lesson. It thinks prosperity comes from austerity җ when in fact, the only lever of human prosperity in the long run has ever  ever, what turned feudalism into freedom ח been people investing in one another. That shattering level of ignorance caused America to never become a modern society, to end up collapsing before it modernised  but now it is causing the world to follow Americaגs lead now, too.

And so the question for the world these days is: can it understand even an inkling of the above? Nobody should end up like America. Not even Americans deserve to be in the terrible, bizarre, tragic situation they are in, really. But they have yet to fully reject the philosophies of supremacy and violence hidden prettily inside the neoliberal dream - and that is why America goes right on collapsing.

The more societies that become Americanized - the more unstable, dangerous, and self-destructive this century will become. Can you imagine a world full of little Americas? A world full of Americas? It would never solve climate change. It would cheer while the planet melted down. It would never solve inequality - it would simply abandon people to die. It would never go anywhere but right back into the dark ages. If you just shuddered - now you understand the stakes.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/10/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Austerity American Style
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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Call Center Blues

image: call center

Nothing like being stuck in a cube smaller than a cattle pen for over eight hours a day, tethered to a phone like a cow chained to a barn. Humans are not designed to talk for eight hours a day. I will be shoveling cow manure or pig crap before working in a call center again.

[T]hey get on you about AHT “handle time” being too long. So you have to shuffle customers through and blow them off to have your “talk time"/handle time in line and not get yelled at. Also, there is always some nitpicking about how to speak, no matter how articulate you are
- City-Data

Criticising our work and PUTTING US DOWN is the norm. [M]istakes are shared by management both as an internal note on the ticket for all employees to see, and broadcast on an intracompany mail list… The LEVEL of negative FEEDBACK and MICROMANAGEMENT is SUFFOCATING.
- Can’t Find a Qualified US Worker - Redux 2

Negative feedback should be an unusual event: If you run your own business or are in a position of management, you should be aware that your behavior influences the environment of your company. If you and the people in your company criticize and complain a lot, maybe this is a sign that you are providing too much negative feedback, and the risk is that the work environment can deteriorate. Be aware that critiques should be delivered just once in a while, and not permanently, as too much critique ruins the relationships between your collaborators, and risk their disengagement and consequently their performance.
- 10 Good Ways to Give Feedback

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The Worst Job I Ever Had: Working in a Call Center for a Cell Phone Company
It was four straight hours of listening to complaints, a lunch break, and then another four hours on the phone.

By Lucas McDaniel,
Bloomington, Indiana

How I got in

I was just out of college, struggling to find a job, and expenses were piling up - student loans, rent, utilities, food, car insurance. I felt the walls closing in and knew I had to find a job, any job.

I decided to apply for a job at a call center, answering customer service calls for a large telecom provider. The place had a bad reputation - a couple friends had worked there and told me, It sucks, but IT’S A JOB. Which was my exact mindset heading in.

All I had to do was walk in and fill out the application. The next week they invited all the new applicants in for a mass interview, and if you made it that far, you were basically hired.

We had about eight weeks of training, all of it paid at $8 per hour. The training consisted of the new crop of employees sitting in a room for eight hours a day, looking at PowerPoint slides and listening to recordings of people dealing with customers.

Fewer and fewer people showed up over the course of training. They got a couple paychecks, then bailed. It was demoralizing. I had just earned an engineering degree from a four-year university, and here I was among a bunch of high-school dropouts.

The last week of training was spent on the floor, where we watched customer service reps field actual calls from customers. I learned more that week than I did the previous seven. All the other training was a waste.

When I realized it was going to suck

That’s when I realized I was totally unprepared for the job. I watched the customer service reps log their call information in the internal software system, and quickly realized I had no idea how to use it. “What did you just do?” I asked them. “We didn’t go over that in training.”

“Ask your supervisor” they’d say.

The supervisor said if we had any questions, we should just look it up in the internal learning database and follow the script. But the database didn’t account for most of the situations the customers described. Or the customer would give a response not included in the script, and we’d be left flying blind.

I often had to put the customer on hold just so I could call over a supervisor and ask them what to say.

There were about 500, 600 people on the call center floor at once. It was a wide-open warehouse, with rows of cubicles, 10 to each row. The partitions between them were small, so our calls often bled into each others. I worked nights, and it was miserable going from fluorescent lighting to utter darkness.

Our base pay was $9.50 an hour, but you could make up to $12 if you stuck it out long enough. Promotions were on a merit system. You were judged harshly by the customer satisfaction surveys conducted after each call. If you weren’t able to fix someones problem, even if you followed the script, the customer would rate you low and ruin your chance for a raise or bonus.

One of the points emphasized in training was that we were to always keep the customer happy, whatever the cost. This meant giving them lots of free stuff - phone accessories like Bluetooth headsets or chargers, or upgrading them to a better plan.

I worked for the enterprise division - businesses that bought phone plans for everyone in their organization - and they knew they’d get freebies if they complained. Most of the calls were people not understanding their bills, and me having to point them to certain line items.

One time I made a mistake that caused a customer to be charged more than they should have. I was apologizing profusely, and the person on the other end kept saying, “How are you gonna make it up to me?”

After each call, we had two minutes to enter the details into the system and get a quick breather. But there was never enough time for a break. It was four straight hours of listening to complaints, a lunch break, and then another four hours on the phone.

How I got out

I lasted only a month on the floor. I had had a line on an IT job at Indiana State University, and it finally came through. The day I got the offer, I told my supervisor I quit - no notice, effective immediately. He didn’t bat an eyelash because the turnover was ridiculous.

It was the only job I ever got sick of, and that’s including delivering newspapers as a kid. I would sit in my car before each shift started, trying to psych myself up before walking in from the parking lot.

The job forever cemented in my head that its an actual person on the other end of your customer service call, and to treat them with the according respect, no matter how frustrated you are.

Every other job I’ve had has been a cakewalk relative to working in that call center. Whenever I’m feeling down at work, I just think, I could be stuck answering customer service calls all day. Maybe this mandatory lunch meeting isn’t so bad after all.

SOURCE

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Toiling Away in ‘White-Collar Sweatshops’ - aka Call Centers

By Maria Verlengia
CRM Buyer
ECT News Network
June 9, 2009

Sarah Betesh’s career in customer service began in box office call centers at venues such as the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. She moved on to Tickets.com and Vertical Alliance, at one point becoming a call center manager.
Toiling Away in ‘White-Collar Sweatshops’ - aka Call Centers

However, in spite of her success, Betesh left her call center career behind in 2003. She now teaches autistic children at a middle school in Bucks County, Penn. The high stress levels she experienced in the call center environment left her feeling burned out. Ultimately, she found the work unsatisfying because she did not feel she was accomplishing anything.

High Stress, High Turnover

“I worked for Tickets.com for two years,” Betesh told CRM Buyer. “It’s a really high-stress job. You don’t get a lot of money. The only time people call you is if something is wrong. They’re mad. Phones would ring off the hook. Phone centers are typically very busy.”

Another difficult aspect was the repetitive nature of the work. Betesh likened it to a factory. “It gets boring. That’s tough,” she said.

Betesh’s story sheds light on some of the factors leading to the high turnover rates typical of the call center industry. People take on the typically minimum-wage positions hoping to move on to something else, she said. It’s a good way to enter the customer service field.

“They’re using it as a stepping stone, or it’s their second job,” Betesh observed.

Most people consider a call center position as a way to break into a company or field—not a long-term career, echoed Karl Bonawitz, division manager at firstPro, which fills call center openings.

“People look at it as a foot-in-the-door process,” he told CRM Buyer.

Recession Effect

In spite of the historically high turnover rates at call centers, Bonawitz has seen a tremendous slowdown over the past six months—at least in the IT call centers he staffs in the Philadelphia area—which he attributes to the poor job market.

“I think it’s the economy. The economy has everyone scared,” he said. The moving around that typically occurs in the call center industry is not happening as much.

Will turnover become high again once conditions improve?

“That’s the $10 million question,” he said. Once the job market improves, he foresees people once again moving on to bigger and better opportunities.

Higher Pay, Better Training

Working conditions are a factor in the high turnover rate—especially for people who are not prepared for or suited to customer service work, said Bonawitz. “I think it can be a stressful job. Every single call is tracked. Customer satisfaction is tracked. The volume is high. It takes the right kind of personality. You need a little bit of a thicker skin.”

Additional training would help retain people, he suggested. “People in those roles don’t want to feel stymied. They want to continue to learn.”

Higher pay would also help retain the right employees, Bonawitz maintained, but companies are resistant to the extra expense that would entail, typically viewing call center staffing as a low priority.

That is a mistake, he said, because contact with a call center staff member is frequently the first impression a customer has of a company. A bad attitude can have a negative effect on a customer’s opinion.

“I think it makes a huge difference,” said Bonawitz.

High-Turnover Costs

In the long run, high turnover is very costly, said Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research and director of research for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CALL CENTERS (NACC).

“The hiring costs are huge,” he told CRM Buyer.

In fact, the cost of attrition was US$5,466 per individual, Stockford noted, based on a 2008 survey of 70 call centers conducted by Furst Person, a company that specializes in call center staffing.

Solutions to the Problem

Impersonal workspaces, tightly controlled staff, and some methods of monitoring performance such as critiquing calls and measuring call times all factored into the high turnover rate, said Stockford.

“It’s pretty much like a white collar sweatshop,” he remarked.

In her experience, companies kept a close watch on the performance of call center employees, observed former CSR Betesh.

“All of your calls were tracked,” she said.

When she moved into a managerial position, she recognized the pitfalls of overmonitoring employees. “No one likes to be micromanaged.”

Some companies are taking steps to improve working conditions, such as measuring performance based on successful outcomes of calls, which Stockford believes is a better indicator of performance.

Some are offering telecommuting to call center employees.

“It’s happening more than you realize,” observed Stockford. “That’s a way of keeping employees.”

JetBlue and Veterans2work are two companies offering work-at-home options for call center staff, he noted.

Still, there aren’t many companies offering an option to telecommute yet, firstPro’s Bonawitz said, likely because companies think they cannot adequately monitor employees who work at home.

Although companies may believe that, the perception is unfounded, Stockford said.

“A lot of monitoring is done online anyway,” he pointed out.

Signs of Change

Surprisingly, Stockford does not believe increased training will help alleviate the call center churn problem. Training is currently highly variable among call centers, depending on the complexity of the product. In a survey of NACC members and newsletter readers Saddletree conducted last year, participants were asked asked if they would like additional training. Half the respondents expressed no interest.

Improving the work environment, however, can help reduce churn. Some companies have less than 10 percent turnover per year, Stockford commented—usually, they are companies that understand the value of customer service.

Yet many call centers are resistant to change; Stockford attributes that to a lack of leadership in the industry and calls for more innovation and initiative.

Although firstPro’s Bonawitz reported a definite slowdown in call center staffing, Stockford has not noticed a drop in the turnover rate or many layoffs during the recession in the call center hot spots he monitors such as Phoenix, Dallas and Florida.

That is because companies are doing everything they can to maintain their customer base, he suggested, and they want to keep their call centers running efficiently.

“I think attrition is still an issue,” he said.

The Right Fit

Although working in a call center was ultimately not the right career for her, Betesh acknowledged that a call center job could be the right fit for some people.

Working in a well-managed call center can be a pleasant experience, especially with respect to the social aspects.

“For some people, it’s their niche,” she said. “There’s definitely camaraderie if the office is run right. Huge camaraderie. We had fun.”

SOURCE

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The Last Bullying Frontier
Call center representatives take a beating.

By Guy Winch
Psychology Today
March 31, 2011

Bullying of LGBT youth has received well deserved attention over past months and raised public awareness about every other societal manifestation of bullying-except one.

There is one group that contends with bullying with alarming regularity and although no lives have been lost as a result, the psychological, emotional and financial consequences of their bullying is staggering in scope. They are CALL CENTER REPRESENTATIVES.

Call-center representatives are the people who answer the phone when we call customer service or municipal hotlines to report problems, make complaints, or request technical support. They are entry level employees who receive a few weeks of training before being deployed to the front lines of their industry where they encounter an impatient and highly aggressive public.

Many of us associate call-centers with out-sourced facilities in India or the Philippines but there are thousands of call centers across every state in our nation that employ hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.

How Abusive Do Callers Get?

In doing research for my book The Squeaky Wheel I interviewed many call-center representatives and heard many stories of terrible verbal and emotional abuse (the most dramatic of which is described in detail in Chapter 7 of the book). “People burst into tears here all the time,” a woman at one call-center said. “I was cursed at, called stupid, slow, moron, retard and idiot so many times a day-I cried myself to sleep every night.” Why didn’t she quit? She was a single mother and she needed the job.

Call-center employees can average up to 10 hostile encounters a day in which they are subject to vile and personal insults, screaming, cursing and threats. Imagine being treated abusively in your job numerous times a day, every single day.

While in-store employees can call security if a customer becomes threatening or belligerent, call-center employees enjoy no such back-up. They are required to stay on the line and ‘salvage’ even the most abusive and hostile calls as best they can. Further, they are forbidden to ‘fight back’ as responding in kind to such provocations can cost them their jobs.

The Bullying Power Dynamic

This grossly uneven power dynamic between caller and call-center representative is something of which we the public take full advantage. After going through automated menus or waiting too long on ‘hold’ we take out our anger and frustration on people whose job prevents them from fighting back-in doing so we are bullying them in every sense of the word.

What is striking from a psychological and sociological perspective is how common it is to hear otherwise decent people confess to treating call-center representatives in a manner they would consider verbally abusive and reprehensible in any other context. In fact, we are so desensitized to the plight of call-center employees, such stories are often related without a hint of remorse or recognition of the mental anguish the representative in question might have endured. In other words we demonstrate a problematic lack of empathy (read How to Test Your Empathy here).

Why We Dehumanize Call Center Representatives

There are several reasons why we allow ourselves to bully call-center representatives:

1. We tend to view them as literal representatives of the companies responsible for our frustrations and problems-thus we hold them personally responsible (even though they had nothing to do with our problem) and feel they are fair targets for our anger and frustration.

2. Never seeing their faces allows us to switch off psychological filters such as civility and empathy. As a result, we typically feel no remorse for our actions and have little sympathy for the plight of the call-center employee who was subjected to them. In other words, we are in denial about the emotional and psychological distress our bullying might cause.

3. Our complaining psychology is such that we are convinced (often erroneously) the ‘company’ will make it as difficult as possible for us to resolve our problem or get through to a live person. As a result we get into a veritable battle mentality even before dialing the toll-free number.

The Consequences of Bullying Call-Center Representatives

The impact of our bullying has severe consequences for call-center employees as well as the industry as a whole. Call-center representatives typically experience severe and chronic stress and have high rates of medical absenteeism, burnout and depression. As a result, call-centers have one of the highest employee attrition rates in any industry because few workers can manage our psychological and emotional assaults for long.

The annual costs to companies of having to regularly hire and train new call-center employees can run hundreds of millions of dollars or more. The rapid turnover also creates a vicious cycle in which a chronic influx of new workers increases the likelihood of us encountering hesitant and inexperienced representatives, which then frustrates us and inflames our tempers even further (read about Complaint Handling: Why Companies and Customers both Fail: here).

Dehumanizing call-center employees and treating them as emotional punching bags represents the kind of societal bullying that should be as intolerable as any other form of bullying we decry today. It is a behavior that causes staggering financial losses to companies and untold emotional and psychological ones to tens of thousands of our fellow Americans.

It is up to us as citizens and as consumers to acknowledge victims of bullying wherever they exist. Let’s remind ourselves that call-center representatives are there to help us and that treating them with respect and civility will make our encounters with them less frustrating for us, less painful for them and more productive for all.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 11/29/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Collapse Of Western Morality II

image: tear gassed kid

(Why) America’s in a State of Moral Collapse
What Happens When a Nation’s Taught to Think What’s Right is the Enemy of What’s Good

By Umair
Eudaimonia
November 26, 2018

I spent a gentle and quiet Thanksgiving with family, watching Christmas movies and overeating - away from the internet. Yawning and checking the headlines this morning, I was startled, horrified, to see the picture above - toddlers being tear-gassed. I asked myself what many of you probably did: is this who we’ve become? Or is this, perhaps, who we always were?

What a moral abomination - ATTACKING CHILDREN. Is there anything lower? And yet that’s hardly the only one - what the world regards as moral abomination has become a gruesome habit in America, a grim feature of daily life. Here’s a shocking yet somehow unsurprising statistic - 40% of Americans struggle to pay for basic medicine. School shootings, opioids, suicide, depression, an imploded middle class, the swelling ranks of the new poor - everyday American life is an endless list of the kind of stuff that would make dystopia blush. What links all these things?

America’s a nation in steep, profound moral decline. It “gasses those kids” - while making its own do “active shooter drills.” What kind of society lets this happen? How did America become such a society? I think it happened because America’s moral muscles atrophied to the point that it became a moral weakling - unable to shoulder any kind of weight, to act with much humanity, decency, or goodness, towards itself, or others. Now, I don’t say that to judge or condemn or shame - but to observe gently, and to maybe point a way forward.

(Moral atrophy shouldn’t be a surprise - Americans have been taught, maybe indoctrinated, not to care for one another, that they are only their “productivity” and “utility,” seduced or compelled into a kind of survival-of-the-fittest CULTURE OF CRUELTY, overworking and undervaluing themselves and each other, which is the inevitable result of a history of exploitation, slavery, segregation. It culminated in the apocalyptic every-man-for-himself ideologies of neoliberalism and predatory, which imploded back into the supremacism they were born from. But I’ll return to all this.)

Let me explain what I mean, by way of an example.

Americans are told that the only case they can make for things like immigration and refugees is an economic one - hence, endless repetition of the fact that refugees become immigrants, who set up businesses, and create jobs, and XYZ percentage to GDP and so on. Very well, they do. But that fact alone doesn’t convince the unpersuaded, does it? It seems to elide, to miss, to evade something deeper, more crucial, truer - about the heart and soul of a people and a nation.

What is always left unmade - what perhaps cannot be discussed in America - is the moral case. The truly moral one = not just why acting in everyones best interest is right, but why it is good. Good for us all. Not just right - at our own expense. Do you see the difference? Think about it. Aren’t we told precisely the opposite in America? What’s good for everyone is whats bad for us. But is it really true?

What we don’t discuss - what we aren’t allowed to discuss, really - is how morality, true morality, as in humane and caring acts of kindness and decency, not Darwinian-Nietszchean survival of the fittest - dramatically alters the fortunes of a society, betters the prosperity of a nation, in profound, lasting, and transformative ways. Do you see how foreign and alien it is when I speak this way? It is as if this is something that we can barely bring ourselves to even conceive of in America today.

Why is that? Why cant we make the link between what is moral being genuinely good for us, not just right at our own expense, exactly? Why are we always more or less told to believe, in America, that what is right and what is good are polar opposites? I’m asked by mainstream American thinking to believe, for example, that my greed, vanity, contempt, and selfishness will somehow lead to the best for everyone. In other words, I should never use my moral muscles - that way, everyone will be best off. Whatגs right is the enemy of whats good. But does that bizarre, twisted, convoluted logic seem to have worked out for America to you?

Let us think about what happens if a nation accepts refugees. Not to its economy, per se - but to itself, its deeper capacities and capabilities, all the things that underpin an economy, which is just stuff. That act of care confirms, strengthens, and expands its capacities for empathy, generosity, humility, courage, truth, wisdom, and gratitude. It extends and commits it to freedom, to justice, to equality, for all. It is an act that builds moral muscles, in other words. But what do moral muscles allow - or maybe compel - us to do?

The growth of all those moral capacities, empathy, generosity, humility, and so forth, in turn, make it much more likely that such a nation will act humanely toward itself, too. Those moral muscles will give it the reason and the power both to develop systems like universal healthcare, childcare, retirement. They will help steer it away from inequality and injustice and bigotry and resentment, and towards the opposites. And if a nation has universal goods, like healthcare and retirement and so on, then humane acts, like accepting refugees, will probably reconfirm its commitment to them, as well, by testing the limits of its own goodness, the power of its moral character.

Let me distill the three key lessons. One, humane acts, by testing us, by strengthening us, and by empowering us, build moral muscles in three ways. And there is no other way to build moral muscles, really. Two, using moral muscles builds moral strength. But leaving moral muscles to atrophy makes a nation morally weak. Three, we can only really act as humanely towards ourselves as do to others, and so when we act humanely to others, it confirms and tests, expands and strengthens, our own moral strength, too.

Now. If all this is not just idle theory, but truth, then we would expect to see something particular happening in the world. Those nations with things like universal public goods would also have the most humane policies towards refugees and so on. And that is very much the case. Scandinavia, for example, has the worldגs most expansive public goods, which underpin the worlds highest quality of life җ and also, mostly, the most open stances towards refugees. Many of these are the most moral societies in the world  by that I hardly mean they are perfect, but I do mean that in them, people treat each other with greater respect and decency than elsewhere. Not just theoretically, but genuinely ח socially, economically, politically. You would be quite right to say thats changed in a place like Denmark җ and Id say that stance towards refugees indicates a weakening of moral muscles that will have effects on society itself, too, corroding its humanity towards itself in the long run.

So the link seems to be true in the real world, too - humane acts build our moral muscles, and make it possible for us to act humanely towards ourselves, too. When we do things like accept refugees, we are in a sense going to the moral gym - and making sure we are morally strong also ensures that we have the power and strength to treat each other humanely, too.

You would be right to say that I am suggesting nothing different than Jesus or Buddha or the prophets said thousands of years ago. So why are Americans taught that they were wrong, essentially? That what’s moral must come at their own expense? That whats right is the enemy of what’s good - not that what’s right is whats good? Do you see my distinction? It’s a subtle - but I think a crucial - one.

Let me put it another way. Why are Americans never taught any of this? That there’s a moral case for humane acts җ like accepting refugees  not just an economic one? Why does the kind of discussion above ח that links real world morality to economics and society, and produces a more sophisticated account of the prosperity of a nation  never really take place?

The reason is that Americans have been confused about what morality is for a very long time now. For example, in America, it is perfectly acceptable to label selfishness, greed, spite, and cruelty merely as “different kinds of morality.” But a sensible, thinking person should reject this approach entirely. Me thinking your kids are not really people or denying you healthcare or turning a blind when your kids are shot at school is not moral in any sense of the word - and so if we accept such stances merely as different moralities, we undermine the idea of morality to the point it has no meaning whatsoever. It may be something that elevates my status within my own group - it in no sense is it moral, because what I give to my own, I merely take away from yours.

At minimum, performing one’s moral duty as a citizen of a society is to imagine, to learn about, to reason towards, how to care for all  not just some, those of your own tribe, race, color, creed, religion, place, or stratum. When I put it to you that way, it should be much clearer where America’s problems stem from. It struggles to reach the mature morality of a developed nation, because it has never really built moral muscles to begin with. Americas moral horizons never really expand beyond the idea of caring for your own tribe or group - that is the toxic residue of centuries of slavery and segregation, which resulted in a social philosophy of almost pure atomic individualism, bitter competition, and power, money, and status as the prizes to be won. The idea that ones moral duty as a citizen is to care for all - how could it ever develop in an America that was segregated until the 1970s?

But today, that failure to develop moral muscles has left America in a state of moral collapse. It is having a kind of implosive blowback  only having been taught to care for themselves, or, at best, their own kind, Americans are left unable to build a truly modern society.

And yet at the same time, Americans are;t often offered a perspective of themselves that goes beyond economistic - mere cogs in a capitalist machine, not truly moral agents. But being true moral agents is what forging a genuinely better society - a more decent, humane, caring, courageous, and wise one demands. How can mere cogs in a capitalist machine ever do it? That is why cases for human actions which only analyze economic consequences are badly deficient things. They are well intentioned, but they donҗt ultimately help a society build its moral muscles. If the only reason I am helping you is that I will grow rich - then I am not acting morally at all, I am still just a self-interested automaton. But if I am helping you because it is by helping that you that I help all, of which I am a part, then I am a moral being, who can reason morally, think morally, and act morally, too. Do you see the difference?

The atrophy of their moral muscles has left Americans weak where it counts most. Not just economically or socially or politically. But morally. One of the great lessons of the last century is that morality and prosperity go hand in hand. The riches and wealth we gain from exploiting others come with a curse - they cheat of us modernity itself. But modernity’s riches - societies wealthy in the most beneficial goods of all, like healthcare, education, retirement, which then engender trust, meaning, belonging, and purpose - cannot be had any other than by building one’s moral muscles.

How strong? So strong that it is each ones first duty to lift up all.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/27/18 •
Section Dying America
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Friday, November 09, 2018

Zealots

image: dying america

The Economy Does Not Care Who Won The Midterm Elections

By Brandon Smith

Activist Post
November 8, 2018

Over the past few weeks I received numerous requests from readers to publish my predictions on the outcome of the midterm elections, but I did not do so for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I view the election process very differently from many people. I do not see it as legitimate in the slightest; therefore, my predictions of the past have been based not on voter turnouts, polls or any other such nonsense. Elections are molded events, framed under the false pretense that the Left/Right paradigm in politics is real. As far as the upper echelons of politics are concerned, the paradigm is completely theatrical.

To be sure, the average American does lean either “left” or “right” on the political spectrum. Such divisions are a natural part of social discourse. However, political theater is designed in most cases to drive citizens away from centrally shared principles of freedom and equal opportunity (not equal outcome) and push them to the far ends of the spectrum toward extremism and zealotry. And to be clear, there is no “good” form of zealotry.

Zealots are not self-aware, and they never subject their own positions to scrutiny. They operate on pure assumption that they are divinely correct in everything they do, and anyone who disagrees with them, even in the slightest, is an enemy that must be destroyed by any means necessary. Zealotry is the root of human atrocity. Zealots are a tidal wave of war and genocide. They are a cancer on the soul of mankind.

Certain groups of people within the establishment, namely globalists that desire total centralized control of every aspect of economy and society, prefer that the public remain as radicalized and divided as possible. For them, zealotry is an asset.

To pursue this goal, they purchase allegiance from politicians through various means, including financial favors, media favors and campaign contributions. There are very few people left in politics that are not part of the club.Ӕ Both Democrat and Republican leaders are essentially on the same side the globalist side. They attack each other with rhetoric, but when it comes down to actual policy and action, they are all very similar.

The outcome of elections is, therefore, erroneous in the long term. Their only purpose is to manipulate public psychology to a certain reactionary end game.

When I predicted the election of Donald Trump in 2016 many months before voting commenced, I did so based on which election outcome better served the interests of globalists. I concluded with the highest certainty that Donald Trump would win based on the same premise that drove me to predict the success of the Brexit vote in the U.K.; that premise being that the globalists would allow ԓpopulists (conservatives) to gain an illusory foothold on political power, only to then collapse the global economy on their heads and blame them for the disaster.

At the time it was unclear whether Trump would play along with the globalist narrative of conservatives as ԓselfish bumbling villains. Today, with his consistent relationships with banking elites and globalist think-tank members, it is obvious that Trump intends to play the role he has been given. TrumpԒs policy actions the past two years indicate that he is following a model very similar to the one Republican President Herbert Hoover used just before the crash of 1929. Trump was a perfect choice for the globalists.

So, the question I had to ask in terms of the midterm elections is, what outcome best serves globalist interests this time? The only conclusion I could come to in this instance was it didn’t matter who wins the midterms. The globalists will get their economic crash regardless and conservatives will still be blamed.

The ultimate outcome turned out to be mixed, with Democrats taking the House and Republicans holding the Senate.  The assertion in the mainstream being that this will result in political gridlock.  In terms of stock markets, the reaction is not surprisingly euphoric, as it has been not long after almost every election event.  But there are many that assume this is a euphoria that will last.  This is a narrow view of the situation that ignores economic reality.

It is certainly possible that equities will sustain a jump on the news of a Republican win, but I see this as a very limited event, lasting perhaps one or two weeks. In the long run as December approaches, stocks and every other sector of the economy will continue accelerated declines seen in October.

Here are the facts:

New home sales, an indicator highly valued by mainstream economists, has been in decline for the past year, hitting two-year lows in September.

This has come as a surprise to many mainstream analysts because the story thus far has been that the U.S. is in advanced recovery which should continue the supposed rejuvenation of the housing market. Alternative economists will give you the real story on home sales, though.

The “housing boom” hailed in the mainstream over the past few years was a farce driven primarily by corporate behemoths like Blackstone.  Companies buying up distressed properties across the U.S. using cheap loans and bailouts through the Federal Reserve and turning them into rentals hardly constitutes a “recovery” in housing.

Regular homebuyers have also enjoyed artificially low mortgage rates for many years. But now, mortgage costs are spiking as the Fed raises interest rates, and corporate debt is becoming more expensive, making it less profitable for companies to continue vacuuming up properties.  Add to this the fact that the Fed is now dumping Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) from its balance sheet. These are the same securities that constituted a toxicӔ influence that led to the mortgage and derivatives bubble. It is hard to say exactly what the effects will be as they add to existing ARM-style mortgages and derivatives already on the market, but I suspect the result will be destabilizing.

Auto sales, another fundamental indicator used in the mainstream as a signal for economic health, is also failing recently. U.S. auto sales plunged in September from 11 percent to 25 percent depending on the company and make of vehicle. While the mainstream media argues this massive year-over-year decline was due to destructive hurricanes in 2017 creating overt demand, the truth is that the average monthly payment on new vehicles has rocketed to over $525 and interest rates rise due to the Federal Reserve.

Car sales, new and used, have thrived in recent years in most part because of artificially low rates and ARM-like loans to people who cannot afford them. Much like the mortgage bubble in 2008, the auto bubble is set to implode as car payments become too expensive for the average buyer and defaults increase.

The US budget deficit climbed to six-year highs under Donald Trumps watch in 2018 as fiscal spending skyrockets.  Conservatives hoping for budget responsibility and reduced government spending are given a rude awakening once again, as Republicans and Democrats and Trump ALL seek bigger government.  This is hardly gridlock.  In fact, there has been resounding unity in Washington for ever increasing power, and ever increasing costs.

The trade deficit, which was supposed to decline aggressively in the face of Trump’s trade war, has actually climbed to record highs with China (among other nations).  I have heard claims that the outcome of the midterms will force Trump to end the trade war because he is no longer receiving backing from the Federal Reserve or Congress.  The trade war will not stop.  It provides perfect cover for central banks as they continue to remove artificial support from the overall economy.

Perhaps the biggest factor in economic decline in the U.S. will be corporate debt, as mentioned earlier. Corporate debt has jumped to record highs not seen since 2008, with debt-to-cash levels in 2017 hitting lows of 12 percent. Meaning, on average for every $1 of cash a company has in reserve it owes $8 in debt.

How is all this debt being generated? Its all about stock buybacks. In 2018, U.S. corporations increased spending on stock buybacks by 48%, while only increasing spending on development by 19%. Meaning, corporations are spending far more capital, and borrowing far more money, just to keep their stock prices artificially propped up than they are spending money to invest in future growth.

In 2016, globalists needed a conservative president to sit in the Oval Office as the Federal Reserve pulled the plug on artificial economic life support by raising interest rates into the greatest corporate debt crisis since 2008. At this point, that program seems to be in full swing.

The midterms are now over, but it is important to understand that where economic consequences are concerned, the result would have been the same no matter who came out on top. It makes sense for the globalists to desire a dominant Republican party, for when they crash markets the blame would fall entirely on the heads of conservatives. On the other hand, it also makes sense for globalists to introduce a Democratic takeover of Congress, for they can continue to push citizens to further political extremes as the Left blames the Right for the financial crisis while the Right blames the Left for political interference.

In the meantime, the banking elites can simply blame the extreme political divide, wait until the crash runs its course and then sweep in after the dust settles to admonish the capitalist structure, barbaric nationalism, populism, etc. They will shake their fingers at all of us as if we should be ashamed and then offer their own solution to the disaster, which will surely include even more centralization and more power for the banking class.

The Fed will continue to raise rates and cut assets.  The trade war will escalate. The housing market will continue to falter, auto markets will implode, and corporate debt will become a millstone on the neck of stock markets.

Economic function and repair are far beyond the scope of any political body to fix when the dysfunction reaches the point we are at today. To believe otherwise is foolhardy.  To believe that the political elites actually want to fix the economy is even more foolhardy. The answer is not replacing one set of political puppets with another set of political puppets, but for regular people to begin localizing their own production and trade - to decouple from dependency on the existing system and start their own system. Only through this, and the removal of the globalist tumor from its position of power and influence, will anything ever change for the better.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/09/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

American Implosion

image: dying america

The Final Stage of Collapse and the Institutionalization of Mass Violence

By Umair
Eudaimonia
October 30, 2018

Consider three events from the last two weeks in America. Fascists beat people on the streets of Manhattan. An organized campaign of mass political bombing, by an ardent member of an authoritarian movement, was thwarted just in time. And yet that very same authoritarian movement, expressing no remorse, let alone culpability, began to demonize refugees approaching the border as a caravan packed with mafias and terrorists - precisely the kind of delusion that had probably inspired the bomber.

American collapse is becoming American implosion, my friends. How so? As always, you are to judge, and I will simply state my case.

A decade or so ago, I used to point out - or at least try to - that America was a failing state. Now the pundits, cosseted in their bubbles, neatly swaddled in the safety blankets of ideology = a little more cruelty, it’s good for everyone, laughed and cried: “failing! LOL” how!? “Get a grip, dude!ʔ Yet even then, if you cared enough to look, you could see, very clearly even then, the problems that would lead directly to American collapse. Skyrocketing inequality, a struggling middle, shrinking real incomes, failing public institutions of every kind, a long history of tribalism, seemingly no escape from all the preceding - hence, a growing sense of despair, rage, and frustration, a catastrophic loss of trust in institutions, faith in the future, and optimism for society. Bang! A perfect, classic, setup for social collapse. Itגs not that Im some kind of oracle by any means - its that I was one of a handful of people who bothered to look up at the gathering dust. I wondered, in fact, why more didn’t. But I digress.

And then America did collapse. Funnily enough, ironically enough, when no one thought it would or even could. In three precise ways, which is what Id always meant by American collapse. Society collapsed structurally, into a place where the middle was a minority, and mobility and opportunity were things of the past. The economy collapsed from one that offered something like a dream, to one in which 80% of people live paycheck to paycheck, will never retire, exploited mercilessly, and just as cleverly, by the very capitalism they go on believing in faithfully and cheering for. Hence, as a result, the polity collapsed, too - from something like a barely-democracy, to one which didn’t function at all, as extremists took it over, and began the project of regress, stonewalling, paralyzing, and jamming up the gears of an already sputtering machine. System failure wham!! crash.

In such a society, there is only one route left - each stratum, each caste, must prey on the one below it, punching it down further, for the illusion of prosperity to appear. Bang! Already, perhaps you see the problem: now, such a society is descending into the abyss. There is nowhere to go but lower when everyone is pulling the next now down a little further. Where is the bottom, exactly?

This is the demagogues moment. “It’s their fault! Those dirty Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, those women, those gays!” That much is the story of the last decade, and its culmination, which was the election of a demagogue’s social collapse becoming a grim reality, without often fully or consciously understanding, really, that it is collapsing, or why, or even how. Only desperately trying to survive it. I’ll come back to that.

All this was the story of the last few years in America. But now collapse is becoming something different. It is approaching its final and terminal phase, which is implosion. Let me be precise in what I mean by that. A society collapses socially, politically, and economically - from an open society into a caste society, from democracyגs fundamental goods of equality, justice, freedom, and truth, into authoritarianism’s bads, of hate, spite, paranoia, lies, rage, vice, and from prosperity into predation.

But what comes next?

What comes next, my friends, is the institutionalization - the formalization, if you like, of all those things. And that is the final stage of collapse. When a society has built institutions which pervert democracy, and enshrine and formalize authoritarianism, fascism, and so on, then the work of collapse is done. Society is reborn now - from light into darkness - as a blind, keening thing, screaming for blood. It is just a knife, a gun, a fist now - a system of violence. But I will come to all that.

Democracy offers us the great primary goods above - which are the most valuable ones of all. Authoritarianism offers us, in their place, corresponding bads. It tells us to prey on our neighbours and peers and colleagues and friends - and in that way, to define ourselves as members of the tribe, who are the protected ones, or the true volk, or the party members. It tells us to give up on freedom, justice, equality, and truth, and instead seek spite, rage, hate, fear, and lies - often, so much so that collapsing societies come to call the latter the former  as the primary aims of society, of culture, of an economy, and, of course, the lives within them.

Now instead of institutions which enshrine and promote democracy’s great goods of equality, freedom, truth, equality and justice, a society begins to build new institutions, which produce authoritarian bads - spite, hate, rage, fear, paranoia, lies - instead. How do they produce them? The same way institutions always do. By incentivizing them economically, socially, and culturally. By creating rules, codes, and laws, which punish their nonproduction. By creating values which normalize - spread, promote, and glamorize them - culturally. By creating role models of fine young Nazis, for example, who are profiled in august newspapers. By impressing upon peoples minds that this is who we are now, and this is what we have become.

Let me give you a specific example of what I mean by ғinstitutions of implosion. Today, courts try little infants from certain ethnic groups as if they were vicious criminals. It violates every principles of reason and civilization, doesnԒt it? But why  what is it an example of? Such a court is an implosive institutions, which enshrines ח codifies, legalizes  the bads of hate, spite, delusion, paranoia, and fear.

Now, it’s true that there are always dissidents and resistances and even freedom fighters. Alas, my friends, one of the most misunderstood components of social implosion is that it rarely takes an active, loud, participant majority. It only takes a minority of fanatics - and a majority who is too weary, too apathetic, too resigned, or too foolish, perhaps - to act before it is too late.

When is too late? When the new institutions of implosion have arisen. So what too late means is that by the time such institutions have come to replace enough of a democracy’s institutions, then the game is over. When the courts, the government, the libraries, the polices, and the armies, as an incomplete list, have all been infiltrated, changed, transformed - from agents of democracy, to agents of authoritarianism - then what is there left not just to fight for, but more crucially, to fight with? This, my friends, is why it has never really taken a majority to implode a society - just a minority of committed enough fools.

The problem is that America has had those in spades, and still does. The Newts and Jeff Flakes and Ben Sasses. Men who abjure but do not reject, who are alarmed, but will not act. They do not seem to understand that complicity is not the just the action of bad people, but the inaction of good people, too - and much more so, where and when it matters most. America’s minority of fools led it to the cliffs of collapse, and now it is pushing it off the cliffs of implosion.

Remember my three examples? Lets go through them to understand how badly institutions in America have already been perverted and corroded from democratic to authoritarianism.

When the fascist gang beat people on the Manhattan streets, the police were right there. In Manhattan, they are never more than a block away, really and in this instance, apparently, they stood there - watching. When the would-be mass bomber began to issue threats on Twitter, users reported him - but no action was taken. Then he was suspended - after he was arrested. LOL. And a caravan of refugees - which is to say a few hundred souls seeking refuge - is demonized as a criminal gang full of terrorists daily by some large component of the media, the intelligentsia, and the polity.

How many institutions is that, in just those three examples? You can judge for yourself. The point is that all this is the institutionalization of violence. And while its true in a sophomoric grad-school way to say - but a society always institutionalizes violence, dude! (yes, we all know that - wisdom is understanding there is a world of difference between a system that minimizes some necessary level of violence, so that the the public good is safeguarded, and one that maximizes violence, which trickles down in great waves, from caste to caste, from tribe to tribe, so that there is no longer any public good. One is democratic, and the other, fascist, to speak plainly.

The point is that many, perhaps the majority, of America’s institutions are now beginning the process of institutionalizing authoritarianism’s bads - hate, spite, rage, delusion, lies, paranoia, fear. They are institutionalizing violence - rewarding people for it, whether economically, socially, culturally, professionally, and punishing those, of course, who receive it. So by implosion, I mean the institutionalization of violence.

And when that process begins, it is often both unstoppable, and far swifter and more deadly than people realize. Soon enough, the brownshirts and death squads and morality police stroll down the streets, caning and beating those who look them in the eye. Soon enough people cheer publicly - even if they are disgusted on the inside - when the knives cut and the guns fire on the helpless, powerless, and weak.

Soon enough, a society is just a gun, just a knife, just a fist. Just violence, conducted over and over again, daily, by the mindless against the powerless, at the behest of the powerful. Violence which is ecstatically ritualized, celebrated, and applauded, whose rituals serve the purpose, of checking for and enforcing every last bit of absolute conformity in habit and in thought. Conformity, submission, obedience. To hate, to delusion, to the lie. The lie that is always violence. For the moment we see the truth of another, their grief, their sorrow, their mortality, we do not wish to harm them, do we? We take them in our arms, like a brother, like a mother, like a father. We only harm them when all we see is a monster, an infection, a stain, something to be rubbed away and cleansed, before it infects us, too. Should we think that then we have become what the fascist wanted all along to reduce us to: the gun, the knife, the fist.

Ah you see? You just thought it didn’t you? Don’t be ridiculous!! It can’t happen here!  Ah, my friend. You poor soul. But hasn’t it been, all long? Vote, then, vote, as if your life depends on it. It does only maybe you dont know it yet.

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image: third world

Americas Next Civil War
The United States shows all the warning signs of impending social and political collapse

By Stephen Marche
The Walrus
October 29, 2018

Everyone in Canada with any power has the same job. It doesn’t matter if you’re prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, or premier of Alberta; it doesn’t matter if you’re the mayor of a small town or a CEO of a major company, if you run a cultural institution or a mine. Canadians with any power at all have to predict whats going to happen in the United States. The American economy remains the world’s largest; its military spending dwarfs every other country’s; its popular culture, for the moment, dominates. Canada sits in America’s shadow. Figuring out what will happen there means figuring out what we will eventually face here. Today, that job means answering a simple question: What do we do if the US falls apart?

American chaos is already oozing over the border: the trickle of refugees crossing after Trumps election has swollen to a flood; a trade war is underway, with a US trade representative describing Canada as “a national security threat;” and the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military the world has ever known openly praises authoritarians as he attempts to dismantle the international postwar order. The US has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council, pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and scorned the bedrock NATO doctrine of mutual defence. Meanwhile, the imperium itself continues to unravel: the administration is launching a ԓdenaturalization task force to potentially strip scores of immigrants of their US citizenship, and voter purges = the often-faulty processes of deleting ineligible names from registration listsare on the rise, especially in states with a history of racial discrimination. News of one disaster after another keeps up its relentless pace but nonetheless shocks everybody. If you had told anyone even a year ago that border guards would be holding children in detention centres, no one would have believed you.

We have been naive. Despite our obsessive familiarity with the States, or perhaps because of it, we have put far too much faith in Americans. So ingrained has our reliance on America been, we are barely conscious of our own vulnerability. About 20 percent of Canadaגs GDP comes from exports to the United Statesitגs a trade relationship that generates 1.9 million Canadian jobs. This dependence is even clearer when it comes to oilsomething the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will ship our natural resources to global markets, could remedy. The fact that the premier of British Columbia tried to stall the project in a show of regional power is a sign of a collective failure to recognize how perilous our position is. Ninety-nine percent of our oil exports go to a single customer. And that customer is in a state of radical instability. According to a recent poll from Rasmussen Reports, 31 percent of likely US voters anticipate a second civil war in the next five years.

We misunderstood who the Americans were. To be fair, so did everybody. They themselves misunderstood who they were. Barack Obama’s presidency was based on what we will, out of politeness, call an illusion, an illusion of national unity articulated most passionately during Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America - there’s the United States of America.” It was a beautiful vision. It was an error. There is very much a red America and a blue America. They occupy different societies with different values, and the political parties are emissaries of those differences - differences that are increasingly irreconcilable.

Many Canadians operate as if this chaos were temporary, mainly because the collapse of the United States and the subsequent reorientation of our place in the world are ideas too painful to contemplate. But, by now, the signs have become impossible to ignore. The job of prediction, as impossible as it may be, is at hand.

After the midterms, special counsel Robert Mueller presents his report to the deputy attorney general, and America is thrown into immediate crisis.

Congressional committees call a parade of witnesses who describe the president’s collusion and obstruction of justice in detail. The Republicans respond on television and through public rallies. Rudolph Giuliani, on Fox & Friends, declares that “flipped witnesses are generally not truth-telling witnesses.” Trump airily waves away the Mueller report at a rally for 100,000 supporters in Ohio: “I’m going to pardon everyone anyway, so its all a waste of taxpayer dollars.” A ProPublica survey shows Americans are divided on impeachment.

Since the Republican base remains overwhelmingly supportive of the president, the House Republicans, arguing the need for national unity,Ӕ do not vote for impeachment, which requires a majority in the House. The vote then goes to the Senate, where Republicans refuse to remove Trump from office. Mueller presses instead for an indictment. There is no legal precedent for indicting a sitting president.

The case proceeds to a federal judge overseeing a grand jury and then eventually to the Supreme Court, which has been tipped rightward with Trump nominees. The court rules that the president cannot be indicted. Protests fill the streets of Washington, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Polls vary. Somewhere around 40 percent of Americans believe the government is legitimate. Somewhere around 60 percent do not.

Steven Webster is a leading US scholar of “affective polarization,” the underlying trend that explains the partisan hatred tearing his country apart. In 2016, he and his colleague Alan Abramowitz published the paper “The rise of negative partisanship and the nationalization of U.S. elections in the 21st century,” which was one of the first attempts to track the steady growth of the mutual dislike between Republicans and Democrats.

Affective polarization is a crisis that transcends Trump. If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, the underlying threat to American stability would be as real as it is today. Each side - divided by negative advertising, social media, and a primary system that encourages enthusiasm over reason - pursues ideological purity at any cost because ideological purity is increasingly the route to power. Abramowitz runs a forecasting model that has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1992. After he modified his model in 2012 to take into account the impact of growing partisan polarization, it projected a Trump victory in 2016 - and Abramowitz rejected the results. That should be a testament to the power of the model; it traced phenomena even its creator didn’t want to believe. Nobody wants to see whats coming.

Webster describes a terrible spiralling effect in action in the US. Anger and distrust make it very difficult to go about the business of governing, which leads to ineffective government, which reinforces the anger and distrust. “Partisans in the electorate don’t like each other,” he says. That encourages political elites to bicker with one another. “People in the electorate observe that. And that encourages them to bicker with one another.” The past few decades have led to “ideological sorting,” which means that the overlap between conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans has more or less disappeared, eliminating the political centre.

But its the people in the parties, not just the ideas in the parties, that have changed. “There’s a really big racial divide between the two parties,” says Webster. The nonwhite share of the American electorate has been increasing tremendously over the last few decades, and most of those voters have chosen to affiliate with the Democratic Party. What worries Webster isn’t that the Republican Party remains vastly whiter than the Democratic Party, which, in turn, has become more multicultural - though that’s happened. The real source of the crisis is that white Republicans have become more intolerant about the country’s growing diversity. According to the PRRI/The Atlantic 2018 Voter Engagement Survey, half of Republicans agree that increased racial diversity would bring a mostly “negative” impact to American society. During the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush years, there really wasn’t as much of a difference between the racial attitudes of white people in both parties. “That’s no longer true. During the Obama era, if you look at just white Republicans, 64 percent scored high on the racial-resentment scale. For white Democrats, it was around 35 percent,” says Webster, who analyzed data from the American National Election Studies. The Republican Party has become the party of racial resentment. If it seems easier for Americans to see the other side as distinct from themselves, that’s because it is.

The loathing just keeps growing. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats declared the opposing party’s policies a threat to the nations well-being - up from 37 and 31 percent, respectively, in 2014. Political adversaries regard each other as un-American; they regard the others media, whether Fox News or the New York Times, as poison or fake news. A sizable chunk also don’t want their children to marry members of the opposing party. A lot of people say, “What would happen if there were a very independent-minded candidate, a third-party candidate with no partisan label, who would come and unite America?” Webster says. “That is absolutely not going to happen.” In surveys, independents seem to make up a large percentage, but if you press those self-identified independents on their voting behaviour, they look just like strong partisans. Abramowitzs own analysis of the 2008 election suggests that only about 7 percent of American voters are truly independent in that they don’t lean toward one party or the other.

America is becoming two Americas, Americas which hate each other. If the Democrats represent a multicultural country grounded in the value of democratic norms, then the Republicans represent a white country grounded in the sanctity of property. The accelerating dislike partisans feel for the other side - the quite correct sense that they are not us - means that political rhetoric will fly to more and more dangerous extremes. In September 2016, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin gave a speech at the Values Voter Summit in which he openly speculated about violence if Hillary Clinton were elected: “Whose blood will be shed?” he asked. “It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren.” More recently, Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official, wrote that “it was quite near time” for Trump supporters to kill Trump opponents (the blog post has since been deleted).

Such explicit calls for violence are being driven by a “dynamic of othering” that, once started, might not be easily stopped - except by disaster. “I don’t see an optimistic scenario here,” Webster acknowledges.

the man who assassinates the president uses a .50-calibre Barrett rifle with armour-piercing incendiary ammunition. He purchased it legally at a gun show.

The assassins note, posted on Facebook the moment after the assassination, amounts to a manifesto, but it’s nothing Americans havent heard before. He quotes Thomas Jefferson, about the tree of liberty refreshed by the blood of patriots. He compares the president to Hitler. “People say that if they had a time machine they would go back and remove the monsters of history,” he writes. “I realized that there is a time machine. Its called the present and a gun.”

The assassination of the president leads, at first, to a great deal of public hand wringing. On social media, the assassins heroism is suggested and then outright celebrated. Within a month, the assassin’s face appears on T-shirts at rallies.

The assassination is used as a pretext for increasing executive power, just as in the aftermath of September 11. Americans broadly accept the massive curtailing of civil rights and a dramatic increase in the reach of the surveillance state as the price of security.

Scott Gates is an American who lives in Norway, where he studies conflict patterns at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. His work has been devoted to political struggles in the developing world, where most of the civil wars happen. He now sees that his research has applications at home. The question for the US, as it is for every other country nearing the precipice, is whether civil society is strong enough to hold back the ferocious violence of its politics. Gates isnt entirely sure on that point anymore.

Democracies are built around institutions that are larger than partisan struggle; they survive on the strength of them. The delegitimization of national institutions :almost inevitably leads to chaos,” Gates says, citing Trump’s constant attacks on the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the judicial system as typical of societies headed toward political collapse, as happened in Venezuela under Hugo Chvez. The Supreme Court has already been the engine of its own invalidation. Since the ideologically divided Bush v. Gore ruling which decided the 2000 election, the Supreme Court no longer represents transcendent interests of national purpose. Trust in the Supreme Court, according to a recent Gallup poll, is split sharply along partisan lines, with 72 percent of Republicans reporting approval compared to 38 percent of Democrats. Mitch McConnell’s decision to make the appointment of a Supreme Court justice an election issue in 2018ᒗan appointment that will likely not get the support of a single Democratic senator - is an example of a political institution being converted into a token in a zero-sum game, exactly the kind of decision that has played a part in destabilizing smaller, poorer countries. Once the norm has been shattered, it becomes difficult to glue back together.

In a sense, the crisis has already arrived. Only the inciting incident is missing. In December 1860, the fifteenth president of the United States, James Buchanan, believed he was offering a compromise between proslavery and antislavery groups in his State of the Union address, but his remarks preceded the Civil War by four months. His declaration - that secession was unlawful but that he couldn’t constitutionally do anything about it - became the moment when America split and the war was inevitable.

Few American institutions now seem capable of providing acceptably impartial arbitration - not the Supreme Court, not the Department of Justice, not the FBI. The only institution in American life still seen as being above politics is the military, which, according to a 2018 Gallup survey, is the most trusted institution in the country, with 74 percent of Americans expressing confidence in it. No surprise: the worship of the armed forces has been ingrained into ordinary American life since the Iraq War. Not so much as a baseball game can happen in the US without a celebration of a soldier. Members of the military are even given priority boarding on major US airlines.

If civil order were threatened, could America look to the troops to step in? In 2017, about 25 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans said they would consider it דjustified if the military intervened in a situation where the country faced rampant crime or corruption. In an article in Foreign Policy, Rosa Brooks, previously a counsellor to the US undersecretary of defence for policy and a senior adviser at the US State Department, could imagine ԓplausible scenarios where military leaders would openly defy an order from Trump.

A coup would hardly be unprecedented, in global terms: in Chile, in the 1970s, a democracy in place for decades devolved into winner-take-all hyperpartisan politics until the military imposed tranquilidad. But even the armed forces might not be enough of a power to stabilize the United States. There is a huge gap between enlisted troops and officers when it comes to politics. According to a poll conducted by the Military Times, a news source for service members, almost 48 percent of enlisted troops approve of Trump, but only about 30 percent of officers do. It appears that the American military is as divided as the country.

Would a coup even work? The American military hasn’t been particularly good at pacifying other countries civil wars. Why would it be any good at pacifying its own?

There are trends - which no country can escape, or that few have escaped, anyway - that forecast the likelihood of civil conflict.

A 2014 study from Anirban Mitra and Debraj Ray, two economics professors based in the UK and US respectively, examined the motivations underlying Hindu-Muslim violence in India, where Hindus are the dominant majority and Muslims one of the disadvantaged minorities. The two professors found that דan increase in per capita Muslim expenditures generates a large and significant increase in future religious conflict. An increase in Hindu expenditures has a negative or no effect.

That suggests revolution is not like the communist prophets of the nineteenth century believed it would be, with the underclass rising up against their oppressors. ItԒs sometimes the oppressors who revolt. In the case of India, according to Mitra and Rays research, riots start at the times and in the places when and where the Muslims are gaining the most relative to the Hindus. Violence protects status in a context of declining influence.

ғA very similar pattern of resentment can be seen in the US right now, Gates tells me. The white working-class community perceives its position in life as worsening. ԓAt the same time, he says, ԓthe Latino community and the black community have been improving their status, relative to where they were. In other words, white resentment doesnԒt necessarily reflect actual changes in financial well-being as much as frustration in the face of minorities making significant gains. And, as status dwindles, the odds of violence increase. Gates points to the bloody Charlottesville rally as the kind of flashpoint fuelled in part by a sense of aggrieved white diminishment.

We can track the destabilizing effect of threatened status in other conflicts around the world. A struggle between ethnic groups losing and gaining privilege contributed, in varying degrees, to the brutality between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda in the 1990s and to the earlier Biafran War in Nigeria.

There are deeper anxieties and more troubling visions for anyone whose job is to predict where America is headed. For the really scary stuff, you have to go to Robert McLeman, who studies migration patterns and climate change at Waterloos Wilfrid Laurier University. HeҒs got a kind of cheerful and upbeat way of describing the spread of total chaos thats disarming.

Climate change can bring about political chaos, in large part through migration. ғMilitary people call it a threat multiplier, McLeman tells me. Usually, migration is the last resort, a response to changes that are unpredictable and unexpected. So Bangladesh, to take an example, will typically not experience mass migration because of flood, because people in that region have been dealing with floods for thousands of years. But a drought could cause a serious crisis, causing waves of migration into India.

As its departure from the Paris climate agreement clarified, America is barely able to face the fact that climate change exists, never mind able to come up with effective strategies to accommodate itself to the reality it is already facing. In 2012, a hot and dry year in the US, soy bean, sorghum, and corn yields were down as much as 16 percent. And, because the country is a major producer of commodity crops, the drought pushed up food prices at home and globally. There are a lot more 2012s coming. And, of course, America is utterly unprepared for the vastly less predictable catastrophes of climate-change extremes, as New Orleans and Puerto Rico have both learned to their destruction.

Most worrying to McLeman is the fact that American populations are growing in the areas that are most vulnerable to unpredictable catastrophes. They include coastal New York, coastal New Jersey, Florida, coastal Louisiana, the Carolinas, the Valley of the Sun, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles. Many Central Americans who were separated from their children at the American border were fleeing gangs and political instability, but they were also fleeing drought. ԓEnvironmentally related migration already happensweגre just seeing the thin edge of the wedge right now, McLeman says. Get used to refugees at the Canadian border. There may be more of them.

All right, you say, there are conditions that lead to civil war: hyperpartisanship, the reduction of politics to a zero-sum game, the devastation of law and national institutions in the context of environmentally caused mass migration, and the relative decline of a privileged group. Fine. But when you land at JFK and line up for Shake Shack, where are the insurgents? Then again, in other countries and in other times, itԒs never been clear, at least at first, whether a civil war is really underway. Confusion is a natural state at the beginning of any collapse. Who is a rebel and who is a bandit? Who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist? The line between criminality and revolution blurred in Mexico, in Cuba, and in Ireland. The technical definition of a civil war is 1,000 battle deaths a year. Armed conflict starts at twenty-five battle deaths a year. What if America is already in an armed conflict and we just haven’t noticed? What if we just haven’t noticed because were not used to uprisings happening in places where there’s Bed Bath & Beyond?

If there is an insurgency-in-waiting, it will likely be drawn from the hundreds of antigovernment groups across the country, many of which were readying for civil war in 2016 in the event of a Hillary Clinton presidency. One of the most extreme examples is an ideological subculture made up of “sovereign citizens,” who believe that citizens are the sole authority of law. Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been researching them for nearly eight years. Its been a terrifying eight years. A 2011 SPLC report pegged the number of the sovereign citizens, a mix of hard-core believers and sympathizers, at 300,000. The movement, Lenz believes, has grown significantly since then.

To put that in perspective, the Weather Underground was estimated to contain hundreds of members. Some guesses put the number of Black Panthers as high as 10,000, a debatable figure. Both the Underground and the Panthersҗwho talked a great deal about the justification for violence but managed to commit relatively littlecaused immense panic in the late sixties and seventies and massive responses from the FBI. Sovereign citizens, and antigovernment extremists as a whole, are part of a much larger movement, many are armed, they anticipate the government to fall in some capacity, and they are responsible for about a dozen killings a year. The FBI has addressed them, and their growing menace, as domestic terrorism. In 2014, a survey conducted with US officers in intelligence services across the country found sovereign citizens to be the countryגs top concern, even ahead of Islamic extremists, for law enforcement.

Theirs is a totalizing vision of absolute individual freedom and resistance to a state they believed is ruled by an unjust government. Rooted historically in racism and anti-Semitismthey hovered on the extreme fringes of American politics until the 2008 housing crisis and the election of Barack Obamaחsovereign citizens believe they are sovereign unto themselves and, therefore, can ignore any local, state, or federal laws and are not beholden to any law enforcement. According to the SPLC, the sovereign citizens believe that the federal government is an entity that operates outside the purview of the US Constitution for the purposes of holding citizens in slavery.

Understanding sovereign-citizenry ideology is like trying to map a crack that develops on your windshield after a pebble hits it. ItӒs a wild and chaotic mess, Lenz tells me. Ultimately, the movement boils down to a series of conspiracy theories justifying nonobedience to government agents. Sometimes it expresses itself as convoluted tax dodges, as in the case of the self-proclaimed president of the Republic for the united States of America (RuSA), James Timothy Turner, who was convicted of sending a $300 million fictitious bond in his own name and aiding and abetting others in sending fictitious bonds to the Treasury Department. Turner was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. Bruce A. Doucette, a self-appointed sovereign ԓjudge, received thirty-eight years in jail for influencing, extorting, and threatening public officials.

At other times, the spirit of disobedience expresses itself in straight violence, as in the case of Jerry and Joseph Kane, a father-son pair who, in 2010, killed two police officers at a routine traffic stop in West Memphis, Arkansas. Or in the case of Jerad and Amanda Miller who, in 2014, after killing two police officers at a CiCiԒs Pizza in Las Vegas, shouted to horrified onlookers that the revolution had begun.

he summers grow hotter, and the yields on corn and beans grow smaller. During the first drought, the declines are small. The year after is more serious. Food prices spike. Inflation rises, leading to a sharp jump in unemployment.

China, holding $1.18 trillion (US) of US government debt, dumps its bonds as a retaliatory measure against US tariffs. This causes every other country to panic and sell their holdings as well, bringing China closer to becoming the global reserve currency. With the US bond market routed, higher interest rates ripple through the economy, slowing it down.

The hardest hit are the farming communities dependent on commodity crops. The antigovernment movements in these areas swell and organize. They elect local politicians, particularly sheriffs. Pockets of the southern and midwestern states, under these sheriffs, believe that the federal government has no legitimate authority over them.

By this time, a Democratic president has come to power, with significantly more socialistic ideas than any president in history. She eventually passes legislation imposing national education and health care programs. The local authorities take these programs as illegitimate government interference and, in the heated rhetorical climate, claim the mantle of resistance, which is also taken up by armed insurgencies.

The National Guard swiftly imposes order. But the states consider themselves, and are considered by others, to be under occupation.

The borders of North America are, in their ways, as patchwork as those in the Middle East and as nonsensical. The French lost to the English. The British lost to the Americans. The Mexicans lost to the Americans. The South lost to the North. The alignments of any political unity are forced; they defy historical experience, geography, ethnicity, or political ideology. And that’s why it’s all so breakable, so fragile.

The antigovernment extremists know who they are. They see themselves as the true Americans. And who could deny there’s a certain justice in the claim? What could be more American than tax rebellion, the worship of violence as political salvation, a mangled misinterpretation of the Constitution, and a belief system derived sui generis that blurs passionate belief with straight hucksterism? The next American civil war will not look like the first American Civil War. It will not be between territories over resources and the right to self-determination. It will be a competition over distinct ideas of what America is. It will be a war fought over what America means. Is it a republic with checks and balances or a place that yields to the whims of a presidentҒs executive power? Is the United States a country of white settlers or a nation of immigrants? Its also possible, maybe probable, that the country will never get answers.

★★★

in canada, in the middle of the American collapse, the Queen dies. Charles III accedes to the throne. Despite the prospect of having his face on the money, there is no serious attempt to challenge the status quo. ItҒs a hard time to argue in favour of any dramatic political reordering. For the same reason, though Quebec separatism rises and falls as usual, a new referendum on independence is put away for a generation; theres enough instability in North America.

The refugee crisis at the border continues to grow, quickly outstripping the ability of border agencies to manage it effectively. CanadaҒs appetite for refugees withers as the tide swells. Calls for order grow louder. Asylum centres appear as in Germany and Denmark.

Despite restrictions on refugees from the United States, Canada remains scrupulously multicultural. When a visa applicant from India, hoping to work at Google, is separated from his daughter at the US border, and they are reconciled after a month, the worlds technological elite move to Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. People who have young families and arenҒt white find the prospect of building a career in the United States too precarious.

The hunger among young Canadian talent for New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco naturally diminishes for the same reason. Innovators cannot just head south when they encounter the inertia which defines so much of Canadian life. The stolid cultural industries and the tech world lose their garrison mentality, at least somewhat.

To sum up: the US Congress is too paralyzed by anger to carry out even the most basic tasks of government. Americas legal system grows less legitimate by the day. Trust in government is in free fall. The president discredits the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the judicial system on a regular basis. Border guards place children in detention centres at the border. Antigovernment groups, some of which are armed militias, stand ready and prepared for a government collapse. All of this has already happened.

Breakdown of the American order has defined Canada at every stage of its history, contributing far more to the formation of Canada’s national identity than any internal logic or sense of shared purpose. In his book The Civil War Years, the historian Robin Winks describes a series of Canadian reactions to the early stages of the first American Civil War. In 1861, when the Union formed what was then one of the worlds largest standing armies, William Henry Seward, the secretary of state, presented Lincoln with a memorandum suggesting that the Union “send agents into Canada to rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence.” Canadian support for the North withered, and panicked fantasies of imminent conquest flourished. After the First Battle of Bull Run, a humiliating defeat for the Union, two of John A. Macdonalds followers toasted the victory in the Canadian Legislative Assembly. The possibility of an American invasion spooked the French Canadian press, with one journal declaring there was nothing so much in horror as the thought of being conquered by the Yankees.

The first American Civil War led directly to Canadian Confederation. Whatever our differences, we’re quite sure we don’t want to be them.

How much longer before we realize that we need to disentangle Canadian life as much as possible from that of the United States? How much longer before our foreign policy, our economic policy, and our cultural policy accept that any reliance on American institutions is foolish? Insofar as such a separation is even possible, it will be painful. Already, certain national points of definition are emerging in the wake of Trump. We are, despite all our evident hypocrisies, generally in favour of multiculturalism, a rules-based international order, and freedom of trade. They are not just values; the collapsing of the United States reveals them to be integral to our survival as a country.

Northrop Frye once wrote that Canadians are Americans who reject the revolution. When the next revolution comes, we will need to be ready to reject it with everything we have and everything we are.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/31/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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