This essay carries the scent of a manifesto.
The funereal tone of the first few paragraphs reminds me of Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth, about nuclear proliferation and its dangers, back in 1982, just over 30 years ago. Not ideological. But grieving. Having observed our changing world, both Schell and Zero Hedge do not hesitate to draw terrible conclusions rooted in common human values.
Fate of the Earth preceded by months the Nuclear Freeze Movement that brought a million people to march the streets of New York City in the spring of 1982, a movement that froze and reversed the arms race.
Likewise now: by splitting “Nation-State” into its two separate words, Zero Hedge throws down the gauntlet. I predict that his distinction between “the State” and “the Nation” will serve as a eureka moment, a mycelliac meme that spreads into this culture to echo the distinction between “the 1% and the 99%” that birthed the Occupy movement two years ago.
The State is the embodiment of the 1%. The 1% deliberately obfuscates that fact, pretending that it is “the Nation,” when it is not, it is a creature of their making. A Golem. Only for them. We are pushed out. The 99% no longer exists. We, and the Nation we like to think we belong to, that is our common home, have both been betrayed.
“I think it is critical that we disentangle in our minds the State and the interests of those who control it, from those of what I am calling the Nation. The State and the Nation are not the same. They are, in fact, at war.”
A.K. And, I’d like to add, it may be just this distinction that can help us dissolve both nations and states as drawing allegiance. Let us leap beyond these silly, artificial man-made borders that map, like a distorting mirror, the unique contours of our still gracious, still abundant, deeply regenerative Mother Earth.
“When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”
— Frank Borman, Apollo 8, Newsweek magazine, 23 December 1968.
In every country I can think of, the sovereignty and wealth of the Nation, which was once the embodiment of the power and will of the people, is being butchered and sold to the highest bidder. Everywhere, the Nation and the people within it, are under attack. Not from without by terrorists but from within. Because in every country the people who run the State have largely decided they no longer wish to serve the people but prefer instead to serve the interests of a Global Over-Class.
Of course we are not encouraged to see this clearly or if we do, certainly not to speak of it to others. And many of those we might try to talk to, do not want to hear.
Many of us prefer instead to find what warmth we can in the false and threadbare beliefs fed to us by the quisling elite of the State and their close friends and allies in a rigged and corrupted ‘free’ market. Together they tell us that whole functions of our nation which we built and treasure, are no longer viable because they are at odds with the ‘realities’ of a global economy. The more ideological of them proclaim that the state, whenever and wherever it tries to do good, will always and by necessity do harm. The more ‘realist’ among them tell us that once inalienable liberties, must now be curtailed or suspended in the name of defending the ‘nation’ from outside enemies. And yet I want to argue it is now, not ever us or the nation that is being defended or empowered. It is always and everywhere a small elite who own and control both the State and the Markets who are being defended.
In my view, we are, in most industrialized countries, watching the machinery of the State being used to betray the Nation in favour of global finance and the elite who own it. It is a familiar betrayal in the third world. One we have all watched with sordid complacently as the wealth of nation after nation is gutted for the benefit of the few. The disease is now with us.
I want to make it clear, as I have before, that I am neither libertarian nor anarchist and therefore have no ideological distrust of the State. In my opinion, there have been times and places, when the machinery of the State did animate and represent some of the wishes of the at least some of the people – of the Nation. There have been instances when the State was, in many, though certainly not in all ways, the means by which the great ideal, of government of the people, by the people, for the people, was made real. The creation of the National Health Service in Great Britain is one shining example.
I think that great ideal of government by and for the people is being butchered – for profit. The Nation-State is dying, because any given arrangement of power can be corrupted and will be, by those who benefit from it most – those who hold its powers – in this case the powers of the State – IF people cringingly let them. And that it what we are doing.
We are allowing the elite of the State, to convince us that we are ‘all in it together’, and to claim that our interests and their interests are still one and the same. But they are not. And we must come to see this clearly – and soon. As long as we deny the truth, that they are not standing ‘with us’, and do not have our best interests at heart – until we can face these self evident but chilling truths, then we are never going to see them for what they have become nor see their actions for what they are.
I think it is critical that we disentangle in our minds the State and the interests of those who control it, from those of what I am calling the Nation. The State and the Nation are not the same. They are, in fact, at war.
The Propaganda War
Our problem and their advantage is that it is deeply ingrained in us to see the State and the Nation as almost interchangeable. The very name, ‘The Nation State’ inclines us to believe that the State and Nation are one and therefore that any action taken by the State, no matter how harsh or unfair it might seem to us, must necessarily be for our good. It allows those who control the State to hide their narrow selfish interests behind a smokescreen of talk about the Nation.
This intentional confusion of Nation and State is everywhere in reporting about global finance and trade.
Battle lines drawn for EU-US trade talks
Cried a recent headline in the Telegraph. To me, it reads intentionally like an old fashioned report of a war. Wars of any sort are fantastically useful for the elite of the State because wars, better than anything else, encourage people to collapse the State and the Nation together in their minds. Faced with an external enemy it is the State and those who guide it, who marshal our defenses and face the enemy. And so we are encouraged to assume that when the EU and the US meet it will be ‘our side’ fighting for us, against theirs. But will it?
In reality it will be unelected, largely un-named trade representatives supported and surrounded by a legion of lawyers, advisors and lobbyists, nearly all of whom will be recently seconded from or still in the pay of global corporations, who will meet behind closed doors to negotiate in secret. Whose interests will they be fighting for?
They, with the help of a largely supine and grovelling media, will claim to be there for you. They will be decked out in flags and called by the names of our nations or national groupings, such as the EU. But the truth will be otherwise. Behind the national name plate a largely unseen machinery will be almost entirely corporate. Both sides will be there to seek advantage, not for you the people, not for the nations whose flags they use as camouflage , but for the corporations who pay them. The US delegation will seek advantage for US based global corporations and the EU delegation will seek advanage for EU based global corporations. Both sides will be hailed victorious. The real question – very carefully never ever raised by the compliant media – will be who lost? And the answer, studiously unreported, will be the ordinary people of both sides.
The object of the whole endeavor is to roll back sovereign protections and powers in favour of an ‘unregulated’, unfettered, free market. How can I make such a sweeping claim? Because we have seen the results of over 200 previous Free Trade Agreements which these same people have negotiated and agreed previously. Just think of NAFTA.
If you think those agreements have benefited you, rather than, as I claim, the global corporations parasitical upon your nation and mine , then show me the proof. Don’t trot out platitudes about increased GDP without showing me who owns that GDP. Don’t bore me with text-book clap trap about how much corporations contribute unless you show me how much tax those corporations actually pay versus how much they quite legally move off-shore to low tax or no tax havens. Show me figures. I challenge you.
In part two I will return to this, and to explain what Bilateral trade Agreements are and what extrordinary and completely anti-democratic new power the State has given to corporations to over-rule Nations and to sue them for democratic decisions corporations do not like.
For now lets move from trade and finance to the actions of the machinery of State itself.
The NSA: Is It American, or British?
Is the title of a recent paper written by Edward Spannaus at Executive Intelligence Review.
What makes the author think the NSA’s primary loyalty is to either, other than simply being used to thinking they must be? The NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, exist in their respective nations but is it really sensible to assume they feel loyal to the people who live there? And yet the author and his paper, like so many who are trying to understand what is going on around us, are stuck in the logic of what I think is now a world gone by.
If you were to ask someone from the NSA or GCHQ who they worked for would they immediately say, ‘the people’ or would they say ‘the NSA’ or ‘GCHQ’?
All those organs of power whose names and acronyms we are familiar with exist officially as servants of the… well of the what? Of the People? Of the Nation? Or of the State? Once power is created, it does not have to remain loyal to its creators. Any organization will come over time, as ambition eclipses morality, to regard its own survival and rise to greater power as paramount. Its original purpose will be drowned in a rising tide of inward looking ambition and greed for power.
It is my contention that we have become so used to the word and the idea of ‘the Nation-State’ that we have forgotten it is a compound of two very different things.
One more example, as quoted at Zerohedge,
Melissa Harris-Perry, from the otherwise progressive cable channel MSNBC, criticized Snowden’s behavior as “compromising national security.”
But is it really National Security Mr Snowden compromised or State Security? When someone appeals to ‘National Security’ the unspoken assumption is that they are talking about your security and mine. We, after all, are ‘the Nation’. But I wonder if Mr Snowden might be more accurately described as having compromised the State’s security rather than the Nation’s. Which doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? State security has a ring of the Stasi about it. And for good reason. Protecting the interests and security of the State is quite different from protecting the interests of the people who make up the Nation. One is about protecting you and me. The other is more about protecting the position, power and wealth of those who make up the State and its various organs of power. State security is about the security of the jobs and social postion of those who are ‘the State’. It is about the security of a particuar arrangement of power and those who benefit from that arrangement. Which one does the NSA or GCHQ serve? Which did Mr Snowden really compromise by revealing the extent of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s indiscriminate and unlawful spying upon ordinary and innocent citizens?
If we wish to hold on to the fiction that the NSA and GCHQ work for their respective Nations then how do we explain that the people we elect, even very senior members of the State, even within the government of the day, had NO idea what the NSA or GCHQ were doing? Certainly the NSA and GCHQ were financed by us, and draw their original legitimacy from us, but they no longer answer to those who we elect. So who do they answer to? To what are they loyal and to whom do they report?
Think of how different ‘One Nation under God’ sounds from “One State under God”.
My point is that we are so used to thinking of the State – our elected officials and the machinery that carries out their wishes, as being part of the Nation, loyal to it and us, that we are not seeing clearly that this relationship has ended. I am not saying that the old relationship between Nation/People, State and Market has altogether gone. It has not. Not everyone in the State has forsaken their old loyalties. We are in a moment of transition. But I am saying we need to see the new relationship more clearly, if we possibly can, because only then can we defend ourselves.
We are at war, we need to know who our real enemies are and take up arms against them.
The New World Order
While everyone agrees you cannot stuff a square peg into a round hole, when it comes to the new and unfamiliar, humans have a dreadful habit of trying. I think this is particularly true at the moment. The world is changing, a new order of things is taking shape around us but we are loathed to see it because we insist on trying to see everything through the lens of the previous world order.
The old order was laid out from left to right: Communist to Libertarian. From those who felt the State was there to guarantee certain protections and provide a minimum of welfare and service, over to those who felt any intervention from the State was no more than an abuse of power by a group of self serving insiders. Largely this is still the range of thought and opinion. Those on the Left see the Free Market as the greatest danger to liberty, welfare, justice and fairness, and regard the State as our best protection against it. While on the Right the fears are exactly the same but the State is now the great danger and the market the best protection. Each side regards the other as hopelessly, even criminally, misguided. Each side sees the other advocating that which will bring disaster.
Into this sterile and suffocating tweedledumness a new ideology and power has grown. It is neither Libertarian nor Left, but has been called both. The Libertarians have seen how eagerly and constantly this new politics intervenes in and distorts the market and cries “Socialism”. Which, it has to be said, makes anyone who knows anything about Socialism gasp with amazement. Nevertheless you can read this ‘it’s socialism’ opinion in most of the right wing press and on most blogs where Libertarians comment, such as ZeroHedge or The Ticker.
On the other hand the Left sees the way the new politics intervenes on behalf of and protects the interests of the wealthy (The financial class and global corporations) doing nothing about tax avoidance, nothing to regulate the banks, insisting instead that the only answer is more free market, less regulation and austerity to be borne by those least able to bear it – and sees clear evidence that this new politics is right wing and libertarian.
Both sides seems only able to see things in terms of the labels and world view they are used to and as a consequence see nearly nothing at all. The truth, I suggest, is that we are at a moment when an entire cultural form is ending. At such times it is not one part or another, government or market, which corrupts and breaks, which betrays the values it was meant to embody and ceases to do the job for which it was created, it is all parts at once. All parts of our society have become corrupted.
We must move beyond the politics of the last century, seeking to blame all ills on a corrupt and captured State or alternatively on a corrupt, captured and rigged market. BOTH are true. Both are corrupt. Neither is working for us. A new elite exists in every nation, has control over every State but which has no loyalty to the Nation of people in which it exists any more than a tape worm is loyal to the creature in whose body it feeds and grows.
The New World Order has its own ideology which does not fit happily on the old left to right axis.
The new ideology is not fully formed yet, but already it is clear that it is not Libertarian because unlike Libertarianism, the new ideology believes the State should be very powerful and large and should intervene. But neither is it Socialist, because unlike the Left the new ideology believes those interventions should be on behalf of the wealthy not the poor.
It’s a new world. We need to see it anew.
In Part Two I will look in more detail at what I merely introduced almost in passing in this introduction: the new and rapidly mutating and evolving ideology in the world of Finance, in particular at Bilateral Investment Treaties which are the real danger point inside the Trade Agreements currently being negotaited. And the mutation of the security and Intelligence world into something that spies upon Nations rather than working for them, in the serivce of a new ‘Greater Good’.