Monday, 31 December 2012

The discourse of austerity

Disclaimers (Introduction)

I haven't really much of a background in semantics and linguistic philosophy and haven't really started my planned reading on the topic so this post is “premature” but these are notes and are frequently updated so I hope you will forgive or attempt to correct, via contact, any errors I make.

My knowledge of games theory is likewise limited. The search term yields all sorts of possibilities but I'm not even going to pretend to read or to be able to understand them. I picked the prisoner's dilemma partly as a starting point because it's all I've read about games theory in the past (until recently) and it seemed to fit.

The question I am asking is: even if you profit from the policies of the Etonions, do you not choose to put the interests of your “exceptional state”, the UK, before your own short-term selfish interests. Mathematics might indicate that you are acting counter to your own long-term interests and those of your loved ones if you choose the Etonions over “the exceptional state”, the UK.

Also, please note I am employing the Frankfurt School Odysseus and the Sirens metaphor, not out of any classical Marxist sentiment but using it as a critical attack upon our current political zeitgeist, which I refer to as “Etonionism” - because that's where a lot of them, and David Cameron in particular, went to school.

The Odyssey and Etonionism

Recall the story of the Odyssey, which, in brief, is as follows. After ten years of warfare the Greeks defeat the Trojans and return home. Odysseus and his men set sail for Ithaca, where Odysseus rules as king. They encounter various perils on the return voyage, many of them in mythological form. For example, the Cyclops Polyphemus traps and eats several of Odysseus's men. Employing the cunning for which he is renowned, Odysseus, the man of many devices, manages to blind Polyphemus and escape with most of his crew. Polyphemus prays to his father, the god Poseidon, asking that Odysseus return home alone, only after a long delay and many troubles, to find sorrows in his home. Poseidon grants his prayer, thereby becoming Odysseus's enemy and the cause of his long journey home. After further adventures, including the passage by the Sirens and sailing between Scylla and Charybdis, adventures in which his entire crew is killed, Odysseus is shipwrecked on the island of the goddess Calypso, who keeps him as her lover for eight years. All the while his wife Penelope, who is under intense romantic siege from the suitors who have taken over her home, faithfully waits for Odysseus to return. Eventually, Calypso releases Odysseus, who sets sail for Ithaca. Six weeks later he returns in disguise, reunites with his son Telemachus, and the two of them slaughter the suitors. So, after going off to war twenty years earlier, Odysseus has finally returned home to resume his rightful role as king of Ithaca.

Horkheimer and Adorno claim that Odysseus is "a prototype of the bourgeois individual" (43). Ancient Greek kings are certainly not members of the bourgeoisie as Marx conceived of them, so how can Odysseus be a prototype for them? What does he have in common with them? What unites the two is Odysseus's cunning, his most famous trait. Like the bourgeoisie of the capitalist world, Odysseus employs instrumental reason to advance his self-interest. This enables him to survive the mythological terrors of the ancient world. He sacrifices all else that he might desire and value, even his crew, all of whom die on the way back to Ithaca. And so he escapes the mythological world of his voyage. Yet what does he return to? An enlightened world of freedom and autonomy? No, he returns to his kingdom, resuming his place as ruler of his people. His odyssey is thus a voyage in which — to express a complicated matter in a simple formula — Odysseus oppressed resumes his place as Odysseus the oppressor.
Source: Odysseus and the Siren Call of Reason: The Frankfurt School Critique of Enlightenment

Adorno and Horkheimer choose to focus on Odysseus' encounter with the Sirens, mythical evil creatures whose songs lure unwary sailors to their deaths.

Odysseus' employs his reason to deal with the problem - he has his crew's ears stopped up so they are deaf to the calls. He himself is tethered to the mast so he can enjoy their song passively without acting upon it.

Although we all experience the economy in various direct ways on a daily basis - our diets for example, it is something of a phantom in that few of us understand it. It is another phantom which resides somewhere beside or within the wider phantom of the exceptional state. Like the Sirens of myth, or nature, it is something that must be mastered by reason. Luckily for us we have those Etonions Osborne and Cameron at the helm of our ship.

I think the message from our great leaders (sic) is that we are the oarsmen, we must have our ears stopped, by austerity, so that they can employ their reason to overcome the deficit, while they suffer nothing, get richer and continue to enjoy the Siren's call - the Siren here being luxuries like holidays, nice cars, nice clothes, multiple expensive homes. It's as if Eton itself has become “the exceptional state” and the rest of us are dragging them down somehow.

It's my view that “the austerity project” and power in general offer us continual choices - to collaborate or defect - do we accept hostile (working) conditions and arbitrary decisions from “up top” at the risk of sanction (unemployment, poverty and its natural consequences) or “defect”. How I employ my ego depends partly upon my power and self-knowledge - a person in a ghostly nexus of power relations, I should know my limits, or at least not wail at adverse consequences I inflict upon myself. However, to question the adversity inflicted in general is legitimate, especially as I believe it goes against the interests of us all.

The austerity project sets up a kind of semi-random but adversely skewed Monte Carlo version of the Prisoners' Dilemma , i.e. some of those “ordinary working families” who “collaborate” will become unemployed pariahs anyway.

The advert - scroungers versus “ordinary working families”

This image was recently used by the Etonions to justify social security cuts - let's “decontruct” it a little, thanks to Dr √Čoin Clarke and others we know it's a composite of cheap clip art. We don't know if that's even a real family, if they're British - we know nothing of the guy on the sofa either. Does this mean the Tories collectively do not know an “ordinary working family” that votes Conservative or are they too lazy to find one, or are they afraid of becoming hostage to the Monte Carlo fate that austerity brings? Might any Conservative voting family fall victim to their own Monte Carlo austerity? i.e., that their “ordinary working family” might fall into disrepair.

1,470 more job losses brings a the total workers axed in 2 days to over 5,970

Also, the image tells us that desperate Etonions are resorting to “divide and conquer” tactics. They want to set communities against each other - those paying taxes resenting those who don't and find themselves sick or unemployed.

With Etonions it's always a case of Kansas city shuffle - “you can't have a 'Kansas City Shuffle' without a body” and in this case it's some guy on a sofa, living on £50 a week and laughing all the way to the food bank.

In reality such sofa dwelling individuals do exist, though it's doubtful they exist in great numbers, and you have to wonder what underlying mental health or social conditions would make a person choose this awful lifestyle - of no aspirations, no love and no self-esteem. Perhaps they are entitled to other benefits ATOS has denied them or they themselves are evading, because they lack even the will to get themselves diagnosed.

Most job-seekers are very active - I've seen people dressed for interviews just to sign on for their benefits - after a while perhaps some individuals treat successive failures to acquire a decent job as “their choice” rather than admit that society has no productive use for them?

It's a given sociological fact that repeated rejection and long-term unemployment cause depression and the attempts of repeated governments to create work schemes have been largely inept and self-defeating.

These schemes are all devised by for-profit rationalists who want to bludgeon circles into the square holes allotted to them in order to make money - if you imagine the Little Big Man scene where an utterly blind-to-himself General Custer insists, despite all protestations, that someone is a “mule skinner” then you're in the right kind of ball-park - “This man has spent years with mules, isn't that correct?”

At this point it's relevant to dwell much further on some of the issues as to who the Etonions benefit reforms target: it turns out it's “ordinary working families”. Others have done a much better job than I in contradicting this blatant scam. These include but are not limited to:

The Tories' shameful new ad campaign against “the scroungers”

Polly Toynbee has also done a fine job Tax credit cut will hit hardest those the Tories love to praise – working families

10/01/13 In the interests of diversity I'm offering a link opposing view to my own also: The Tories have a moral mission – and David Cameron should say so

In Don't call folk scroungers Conservative MP Douglas Carswell explains why he's voting to cut benefits - he argues that unemployment is a choice bought about by flaws in the system, basically denies there aren't enough jobs and that almost all unemployment is involuntary. towing the party line while trying to appear reasonable, it's just more propaganda. His avatar reminds me of a young Heinrich Himmler, which isn't really relevant, I'm just saying.

The austerity project is touted as rational but for the average person to collaborate with it is utterly irrational based on a principle of endless reiteration of the Monte Carlo austerity scenario - the chances that they or their loved ones become sick, bankrupt, unemployed or consider entering higher education increase with each repetition of the austerity model.

These redundancies in recent days make a mockery of the divisive Etonion “shirkers” versus “strivers” juxtaposition.

Let's say an “ordinary working family” manage to escape the everyday pitfalls of falling into unemployment, bankruptcy, injury or education that can afflict us all at any time. What of the lucky ones?

The Great Leader speaks

His address isn't too easy to embed but the link is here: David Cameron's New Year Message

In this address Cameron makes the basic claim that cutting welfare is good for the country and harkens to the spook of the economy to justify his hatchet job.

So, we owe it to the younger generation to pull the rug from beneath their feet? Read this sobering report Child poverty facts and figures and it seems that child poverty costs the UK an estimates £25 billion a year.

Even a psychopath accountant might shiver at the child costs, not to mention the human suffering, but the Etonions plan to scrap Winter fuel payments for old age pensioners entirely too, despite the obvious costs - Cold homes cost NHS more than a billion, Age UK study says - if you're a Grandparent looking after a sick or absent child's children imagine the tornado this represents.

Further, these costs will have to be borne by a National Health Service which also finds itself under concerted attack from the Etonions and is increasingly become two-tier. The people who can't afford to heat their homes won't be able to afford private health care so their care will have a disproportion effect on the lower tier which will affect all members of that group.

If I said that whistling on a Tuesday was illegal and that fines would be levied retrospectively you'd say I was crazy, not just the crime itself but you can't fine people retrospectively for performing legal acts. According to Ian Duncan Smith you can.

Child-related benefits may be 'capped' at two children - so, tough luck for you if you planned your family carefully, paid your taxes and some unforeseen disaster wipes you out, your children only get a third their proper share.

This is really just a preliminary draft and despite the date stamp was written in haste over eight or so hours. I wanted to get this finished before New Year. Any corrections would be gratefully received. Happy New Year.

Conclusion

This country is being run by mathematically illiterate psychopaths who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. They believe that Eton specifically and the private schools in general constitute “the exceptional state” - Eton is a state within a state and unfortunately they seem to have landed on the UK at random.

Or, is that Etonionism is particularly English disease?

Come to think of it, don't the sirens represent ordinary emotions like care? Our great leaders being impervious to the call of love and community?

Addendum: It was mostly state school pupils who trounced the world in the Paralympics and Olympics. So how did the Etonions inherit a failing school system?

This blog Mind In Flux has an excellent comparison of Nazi and Etonion attempts to set communities against each other.

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