The International Writers Magazine: From our New York Correspondent
Back Page News
I might start my own newspaper and put all the big news on the back page, and decreasing in importance until it reaches the headlines. Wait a minute! That’s what’s already happening. Idiots have known for generations that when you buy The New York Post, you start at the back.
First comes the latest loss by the Knicks. Jeremy Lin has done a lot to energize the team, but they are still leading the Losers Derby, racking recent losses against the Nets, Celtics, Heat, etc. Lin has got the talent, but Coach D’Antoni is going to have to clone four more like him to get the team into the winning column.
Jeremy Lin is the perfect metaphor for what is dragging society back, which is a total adherence to the principle of mediocre inertia, where the best guy on the team is condemned to warm the bench while ordinary snooks get all the playing time. This principle extends far beyond Madison Square Garden, to the citadels of Wall Street, where the most successful thieves, like Madoff and Lloyd Blankfein, are hailed as geniuses and benefactors until the spotlight of enforcement focuses on them and they shrivel up like a scrotum in a frozen lake.
Open the back page to go to the TV listings and the entertainment sector is another case in point. Seventy-five channels and nothing to watch. The whole national media is in a state of denial over the low budget, silent, black-and-white French film “The Artist” winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor categories at the Oscars, beating out multi-billion dollar dinosaurs like “Hugo”. “The Artist” disappeared off the media attention screen the very next day. All the Oscar news was about Angelina Jolie’s leg and dopey Sacha Baron Cohen getting ejected.
Naturally, the whole trend about France has been negative since the Socialists got into power in 1981, and it has gone downhill ever since. But the big news about “The Artist” is that there are still some sparks of originality left in culture that have not been stamped into extinction by the mastodons.
Nevertheless, if you have an original concept to promote, you face a Sisyphean uphill struggle. People’s minds are not able to internalize new developments. It takes generations to bring the public around, and by then the circumstances have changed again, like the boxer whose reflexes are too slow: by the time he has adjusted to what his opponent was doing before, he is getting hammered again by something new.
It wasn’t too many years ago that the economic news was dominated by the inexorable rise of Japanese economic power, which was predicted to wash over the world like an industrial tsunami. The Japanese were like ants, the experts wrote. They were smarter, more organized, more industrious, more focused, all in service to the regent on the Chrysanthemum Throne to bring about world domination. By the time the public finally came around to the fact that the Japanese put their pants on one leg at a time, the same as the rest of us, the Chinese had emerged as the new super race, because right now they are currently the only country that has any cash reserves at all. All of a sudden, middle class strivers were withdrawing their kids from Japanese language lessons and getting them tutored in Mandarin Chinese. Oy vey!
In the disaster movie “2012”, the world is undergoing a global Fukushima-style Shake n’ Bake until the Chinese have to step in and save humanity from extinction (I can’t resist the joke that they do this by ramping up production of backscratchers, rubber sandals and tiny paper cocktail umbrellas). Recently, my girlfriend, the inestimable Magpie, read me an item that Brazil was behind schedule in the construction of athletic facilities and infrastructure needed to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. In all seriousness, she told me, “They are going to have to call in the Chinese to help them". Delegations from Europe and the Americas are flying in to Beijing to plead for Chinese investment with such alacrity that hosting potential debtors is fast becoming a growth sector in its own right.
Economic analysts, who are still apologizing for not having anticipated the current breakdown, like blindfolded wine experts forced to admit that they can’t distinguish one vintage from the next, have conveniently blocked out their former prognostication about how the developed countries are transforming into “service economies” and “information societies”. Those phrases, so prevalent just a decade ago, have been totally obliterated from public discourse, as though Orwell’s Ministry of Truth had decreed a change of public opinion.
Now that the emphasis is back on to industrial production, with the German post-World War II “economic miracle” being dusted off and assigned pride of place in the showcase of economic achievement. The only problem with this miracle is that it is made possible by exploitation of assets that the Germans looted from the Jews before murdering them, a fact highlighted again just this week in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Collecting Unpaid Insurance: Holocaust Survivors Pursue Benefits Owed to Them for Decades”, that documents the billions stolen by huge German insurance and banking combines such as Allianz, whose spokesman admitted to WSJ that “we can’t undo our ugly history”. Let the reader do the maths: the compound interest and investment income on all this stolen money, plus the exploitation of physical assets like factories, department stores, real estate, confiscated art, etc., all looted from murdered Jews. Taking all this into account, the German “miracle” is just the result of the prudent husbandry of plundered wealth. When questioned by the Journal about why the U.S. State Department has not pressed the Germans for restitution on behalf of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. and Israel, a spokesperson simply responded that it would result in “significant problems in our foreign relations”. You bet! I wouldn’t like it either if I were forced to pay back money I had stolen decades earlier.
I’m going to advance my own analysis for why so much industrial production fled to China. First the advantageous tax breaks ceded to the corporate sector as part of the “Reagan revolution” for outsourcing production. Second, outright bribes and enticements paid by the Chinese government to U.S. retail chains. Bribes and luxurious gifts and banquets for the buyers, and promises of access to Chinese markets to their bosses. Sounds like a winning strategy to me!
But the pendulum may be swinging back for U.S. workers. The Obama is paying closer attention to the tax breaks for outsourcing, and huge new sources of domestic energy are being unlocked by innovative use of enhanced extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of natural gas reserves. Energy being a major cost factor in manufacturing, the abundant cheap energy may make it cheaper to repatriate industries that we had written off permanently, like textiles.
When I was a kid living in the down-and-out fringes of Paris, I had a friend named Alex, who came from a family of ardently reactionary anti-Soviet Ukrainian exiles. Alex showed me a book by a Ukrainian author that was entitled “Nineteen Reasons Why the Soviet Union Will Disappear”. The reasoning was that the USSR would collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions as well as the nationalist sentiment of its constituent republics. I naturally laughed it off as wishful thinking until it actually happened twenty years later.
The same could be said concerning Chinese hegemony. Most people are not aware of this, but fully one-third of Chinese territory is composed of the restive, not to say rebellious, territories of Tibet and Xianjang, which are only contained by a massive military occupation. The whole western third of China is unstable and under the boot of the military. Tibet was only conquered by China in 1956 and is continually plagued by military suppression of riots and self-immolation of Tibetan Buddhist monks, a trend that has spilled over into neighboring Sichuan province, which has a sizable Tibetan population.
North of Tibet resides the Uighur people of Xianjang, who are Muslims and more closely resemble the Tajik and Uzbek races of Central Asia. They have little in common with the ethnic Han Chinese and resent being under their heel, which is the only way I can put it because pitched battles between the Uighur population and the military occupiers are a common occurrence. The Chinese solution is to enforce a flood of migration of ethnic Han Chinese into these territories, which is the same strategy attempted by the Japanese in Manchuria during the nineteen thirties, and we all know how that turned out (poorly).
China itself is a seething cauldron of internal contradictions, not least a floating population of hundreds of millions of migrant laborers from the hinterland who are forced to seek sweatshop jobs in the eastern cities, yet are denied residency permits entitling them to housing, social services and health insurance. The contradictions are crushing. The courts and bureaucracy are arms of the Communist Party policy, and decisions are issued subject to political pressure from Beijing or from local party factions. Corruption is not just rampant – it is monolithic, a mirror image of the pre-revolutionary, feudal power structure. The People’s Army is so busy holding down the population that it is hardly in a position to engage in the foreign expansion so ardently feared by U.S. foreign policy experts. Those geniuses might be better employed worrying about the kind of allied military commitment we might have to send to China to help them contain their own population ha-ha!
OK, that’s stretching the point a bit. There could be a Chinese threat to American military dominance of the South China Sea if Chinese leaders, seeking to shore up domestic support, incite a military crisis, the same as the Argentine and Greek military juntas attempted when they realized that they needed a Hail Mary pass to conserve power. The death throes of a regime the size of China’s are bound to have catastrophic consequences. Napoleon once observed, “China is a sleeping giant. When it awakes the world will tremble”. The same might be said in reverse, when the giant passes out.
Anyway, the same analysis might be applied to the U.S. This country is sitting on social and political fault lines that have their origins in the Civil War and the collision of tectonic plates of opinion pitting white, Anglo-Saxon rural populations against the citified descendants of more recent waves of immigrants. Add to that a sizeable erosion of the country’s wealth, which has rendered the idea of “upward mobility” another quaintly outdated expression as certain sectors of society begin to regard covetously the vast, pristine, previously untaxed resources of the super-rich (Romney paid taxes at the rate of 14% last year). The white race is starting to push back with alacrity, expressing the virulent nativism of a country club that is losing its golf course to squatters.
I’d like to give the last word to Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was entrapped, kidnapped to the U.S. (which itself ships $50 billion of arms each year), and is now serving life in a maximum security prison. Just because this guy is serving life doesn’t mean his analysis is any less valid than Henry Kissinger’s. Bout told a reporter, “I’m young. I’ll survive. This empire will fall apart and I’ll go free”.
© Dean Borok March 9th 2012