Volatility

June 25, 2011

Dilemma: Middle Class As Target Audience

I’m still trying to figure out this dilemma.

I don’t seek “middle class solutions”, because they’re impossible (the middle class is being liquidated one way or another) and because the quest for what came to be defined as middle class is what got us all into this mess in the first place.

Plus, the basic phoniness of most existing would-be “movements” is that they’re really just playing to the same old middle class lifestyle ornamentation. And by definition their target constituency is those who can afford middle class accouterments.

To me it’s obvious and rightful that a real movement has to be at least socioeconomically accessible to the working class and the poor, since my whole premise is that except for debt (public and private pensions) that’s what we all already are, and soon the system’s going to default on all its own debt, and we’ll be left both impoverished and indebted, if that’s what we choose.

So I believe all that. But at the same time my “propaganda” is mostly middle class-oriented. That’s because it’s true that the great ongoing current crime of the kleptocracy is the looting of the soon-to-be-ex-middle class, but also because we face the cultural middle class identification, which is the basis of most non-rich identification with the gangsters instead of fighting them.

Most of all, the middle class cultural identification is the last talisman these masses (who have no political or religious anchors in the way they actually live, whatever they claim to “believe”) have. The feeling itself and the fears for it are legitimate, even if the political conclusions they usually draw are exactly wrong.

So that’s the paradox – the movement has to speak to the non-rich as a whole, but since the key position is the disintegrating middle class, it has to speak primarily in their language. (Of course there can be multiple message tracks for different audiences, but I’m talking about the main offensive.)

Yet at the same time the relocalization prescription, as far as what to actually do economically, is counter to the whole middle class mentality. It’s a combination of conventional community activism (but which would no longer be focused on bringing “growth” to town; quite the opposite, seeking self-reliance), voluntary simplicity (except that we contend it’s no longer voluntary, one way or another we’ll be consuming far less), various kinds of communalism and back-to-the-land action, even so-called survivalism.

Now all of this can be melded with any number of political, spiritual, religious elements. That’s why I’m toying with the ideas about parallelism with the colonial revolutionary experience and old-style consitutionalism. In principle it seems like those could still resonate if people in distress could be induced to think about them. People still claim to revere them.

As for the actual economic plight of those various groups, I can say what I’d like them to do, in principle, to free themselves.

All bottom up debtors should simply jubilate. Meanwhile if large enough groups of resolute homesteaders simply went and started farming or market gardening all the land that’s going to waste, and set up mutual self-defense leagues to defend these land redemptions, I doubt the system could cope with it for long. Then new community structures could grow out of the political councils which would already be coordinating this activity.

So that’s two examples of what could be done. Now, as things are right now that sounds utterly utopian, but I’m only suggesting what might be the goal in principle. And then the task would be to figure out how to get there. But I think reasonable people would agree that this would solve many of the people’s economic problems. (And the looming food crisis.)

It would be a livable solution for everyone – poor, working class, and the plummeting middle class.

Well, all that’s just some brainstorming. My ideas on all this are still a work in progress.

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13 Comments

  1. “It would be a livable solution for everyone – poor, working class, and the plummeting middle class.”
    …..

    Only after dissolution.
    As a plan for now?
    Not likely.

    Comment by epagbreton — June 25, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    • We have to start somewhere, so why not with the full plan, however impartial its realization will be at first.

      Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  2. It is a hell of a dilemma, indeed. The psychosocial identity of the Middle Class is fully invested on margin in the belief of inexorable Progress towards less work, more leisure, early retirement. It is quite cliche at this point but I still refer to the Tyler Durden quote from Fight Club “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

    The Middle Class will not believe it is has been mugged until it is stripped naked and lying face down in it’s own blood. Most people simply cannot, will not believe that the naked self-interest they’ve devoted their lives to has been in vane. That their literal survival will depend on abandoning the myth of Progress for a culture and society based on stasis where nothing changes for 500 years and it doesn’t matter because the Earth provides infinitely even without RoundUp and GMOs.

    I think that there are existing American cultural myths that are useful in the struggle. Frontier self-sufficiency and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps are ideal mythos for relocalization efforts. Constitutional Republicanism also offers philosophical grounds for relocalization and de-legitimizing the overreach of the Federal Government.

    More recently, and this will appeal to resigned members of the worker class much more than aspiring rentiers of the Middle Class, is the history of organizing and activism, muckracking journalism and social democracy that flourished briefly early last century and is responsible for the safety net that is being dismantled.

    I think the movement should start from a simple premise that I am borrowing from Derrick Jensen: this culture and most all of it’s members are completely insane. They accept the exploitation of the planet and their fellow human beings for abstract goals of Progress. Meanwhile, they acquiesce to the complete and utter defilement of the Earth. Those people are too far gone and cannot be saved. They cannot be reformed. If we focus on those who are desperately seeking an alternative dialectic out of necessity then we will have the willing converts desired.

    Comment by Ross — June 25, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    • I’m sure you’re right that most of the early activists will be those who understand on an intellectual level how fucked we are. Hopefully later, as the liquidation proceeds, there will be more and more people looking for something new out of a more vague intuition that none of this is an accident, but is the fault of the existing dispensation, even if they don’t know the details of how it happened.

      I think that there are existing American cultural myths that are useful in the struggle. Frontier self-sufficiency and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps are ideal mythos for relocalization efforts. Constitutional Republicanism also offers philosophical grounds for relocalization and de-legitimizing the overreach of the Federal Government.

      More recently, and this will appeal to resigned members of the worker class much more than aspiring rentiers of the Middle Class, is the history of organizing and activism, muckracking journalism and social democracy that flourished briefly early last century and is responsible for the safety net that is being dismantled.

      Those are ideas with potential. Any kind of frontierism needs to be coupled with the fact that it’s the criminals elites who are assaulting us and trying to destroy our homesteads (whatever the nature of these homesteading activities).

      Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

    • Ross: Hold on, are you really saying we should be striving for a society of stasis? That seems disgusting, even perverted. Why the extreme? Its enough that we can found a society on well founded reason, principles, and values proper to human life on earth, and allow people to progress as they might within those constraints.

      All: Is everyone in agreement here that the material prosperity we have experienced is only a result of liberating energy and using minerals in a one-off experiment?

      Is it your cynicism? My naivety? Either way I’m not convinced. And I think its damaging to the cause of creating a just society to paint the future as static.

      What does the future look like? Do you really know? We’re all angry about the mania that is not the norm in our modern culture, but we must seek to move towards what is right, not just away from what we identify as the bad (like excessive materialism, externalizing costs, imperialism…). It seems there are a few possibilities and if you believe in the what this blog is attempting to do, why would you paint a picture so bleak. If this is about a message and inspiring people through the communication of a vision of what we are capable of doing, why would you focus on anything other than what is necessary to change and what new beautiful achievements are possible.

      Comment by Strieb Roman — June 25, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

      • I try to present a vision of a beautiful future which will include material prosperity. But it’s certainly not the same sham prosperity (which seems to have existed mostly in the rat-race chasing of it rather than the attainment and enjoyment, no matter how rich people have been) as that of the fossil fuel age and the growth economy. I thought everyone here agreed that growth was finished, and that most if not all agreed that it was pernicious in the first place. That’s why we so frequently invoke the ideal of the steady-state economy.

        And yes, I’ve written dozens of times that the fossil fuel binge was a one-time drawdown of principal which cannot be replaced. The Oil Age, including its level of industrialization and growth, was an ahistorical blip, and we’ll now be returning to history’s normal course. But we can take with us all we’ve learned during the Oil Age, politically and the practical knowledge of agroecology, so that returning to pre-oil levels of energy consumption doesn’t have to mean regressing to feudal political arrangements and levels of material production. (But that’s exactly what the kleptocrats want to force upon us.)

        It’s difficult to present those ideas alongside a promise of renewed prosperity based not upon gross levels of consumption but material equality and improved quality of life, but that’s what I’m trying to figure out how to do.

        Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

      • Strieb: Yes, stasis. A consistent maintenance and management of life support systems (food, water, energy) and the requisite population control to maintain healthy populations in specific bioregions.

        Cultures that have practiced stasis and adopted non-linear historical narratives have survived the longest on the planet. Western Europeans successfully wiped out most of these cultures through colonization or coercion starting 500 years ago.

        I suppose you are revolted by the implications of a static culture – the loss of individualism, the interests of the group taking precedence over individual self-interest, the loss of autonomy. In societies dependent on the cultivation of a specific bioregion (whether that be a small region of the Northwest USA or the planet Earth itself) for survival (ALL OF THEM), a static husbandry of existing resources is always preferred.

        Comment by Ross — June 25, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

      • “Is everyone in agreement here that the material prosperity we have experienced is only a result of liberating energy and using minerals in a one-off experiment?”

        Strieb- if there’s an alternative hypothesis to this, I’m not aware of it. The enormous energy excess required for our material prosperity is underlaid by fossil fuels, and there is no method of extracting solar energy (wind and wave power are also solar- driven by thermal gradients) that can replace fossil fuels joule-for-joule without seriously disrupting the climate. Geothermal might get you a little more, but the investment required is enormous and viable sites are few and far between. Fossil fuels are by definition one-off, and we use minerals as though they’re one-off (eg. we’ve almost exhausted the planetary supplies of accessible mineral phosphates, and we’ve been washing them into the ocean rather than collecting and reusing them). It’s possible that we could have bootstrapped up to a more-sustainable high-energy civilisation by investing our fossil fuel inheritance in something like spaceborne solar, but it’s about 50 years too late for that.

        In any case, “stasis” is exactly what you want in terms of material loops. Chinese civilisation has persisted for >7000 years on the basis of very-close-to-closed-loop agriculture. It’s worth noting that this “static” civilisation also went through some of the most rapid and revolutionary cultural changes in human history. Some of the most important philosophers in history lived in this “static” society. Some of the most profound cultural and political dislocations occured within its bounds. The Chinese invented timber frame construction while europeans were living in dugouts, and were using moveable type press centuries before Gutenberg’s birth. So material stasis doesn’t have much to do with cultural, political or spiritual stasis. I don’t think it’s a pessimistic vision, really.

        Comment by paper mac — June 26, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

  3. I don’t accept the dichotomy of rich v. non-rich. Most of today’s rich are just tomorrow’s non-rich, the sheep to be slaughtered to satisy the appetite of the wolves above them to maintain their illusion of perpetually growing wealth. Compared to the mostly idle rich of the 1920s, a large percentage of today’s rich are what I call “the working rich” who are at risk under the current cannibalistic system.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — June 25, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    • That’s true, although it doesn’t change the dichotomy. It would just mean there’s turnover of personnel, or in this case attrition. Like a 19th century Marxist would say, if Rothschild lost all his money and had to go to work, he’d then be a proletarian.

      I keep looking for signs that the working rich are starting to be thrown overboard, but so far I haven’t seen any. I wonder if that’s a symptom of the system’s inability to retrench, like I described in my most-read post ever (on account of that Richard Smith stuck it in the links at NC), “The Limits to Racketeering”.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/the-limits-to-racketeering/

      BTW, since I saw that you wrote a post on HB Stowe, I thought I’d mention that the NYT has a review of a book about her, if you’re interested. I didn’t read the review so I don’t know what it’s about.

      Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  4. The American middle class has been living on the blood sucked from other nations, since the end of the Viet Nam war and the Nixon/Connolly end of gold backed US debt, compounded by the end of US manufacturing. Middle class Americans have been living like third world aristocracy for about 40 years. {Payment for he debt for this synthetic lifestyle was due a long time ago.

    Today’s America is starting to resemble post-serf Russia, with its rise of the Government Class serving as a buffer for the noble class. Members of America’s private sector middle class, as they slip deeper into indentured servitude, survive by taking assistant managerial service jobs or by joining the armed forces to fight wars of colonization for an elite group of neo-noble financial overlords. When members of the lower classes, who are not part of tribal gangs like the Bloods, Crips or MS 13, are not accepting protection payments in the form of SNAP cards, unemployment compensation, Medicade and TANF money, are forming violent flash mobs and terrorizing inner city merchants and middle class urban stragglers.

    With Latin American drug lords conducting bolder business on our side of the border, with street gangs practicing almost pure unregulated capitalism, and with violent flash mobs terrorizing middle class denizens, who are, themselves, hyped up on psychotropic drugs scored from pushers wearing lab coats, the time for martial law is upon us. Those left with a modicum of wealth will be begging TPTB for protection at the cost of liberty. TPTB will happily oblige. The neo-nobles have long since extracted their wealth, and we, who still consider ourselves members of the middle class, will give them the license to create a homeland security force to protect their looted plunder.

    Russ, unhappily, I don’t expect to see those localized agrarian communities thriving in tribal, neo-feudal America. I hope I am misreading things, but I doubt that I am. We, who grew up believing that things were supposed to be fair, refuse to accept our social Darwinistic fates. Nothing will stop the big fish from eating the little fish.

    Comment by black swan — June 25, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    • Your dystopian expectation is certainly a possible outcome. All I can do is help try to bring about something better any way I can.

      Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

      • I wish you much success. I much prefer utopia to dystopia, and believe that you would make a far better neighbor than someone who belongs to MS 13, Congress or Goldman Sachs. I already have a neighbor who trades for one of the giant international oil mafiocracies . Under the right circumstances, he could easily find himself happily running the streets with the psychopaths who make make up those spontaneous violent flash mobs in Chicago, and I’m not talking about the members of the Daley/Emanuel Machine.

        Comment by black swan — June 25, 2011 @ 7:09 pm


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