Blindland (4) Consumerism: The Con!

 

“When people have lost their authentic personal taste, they lose their personality and become instruments of other people’s will”. Robert GravesthY98TUIFY

While, Graves was referencing food, it nonetheless becomes a powerful political statement about consumerism in general. Consumerism is a method of control over the unsuspecting.

The Overlords want to access your brain to empty your pocket; much like a burglar and your house. They want to keep you on the treadmill and thus devise ways to harness your attention. A bit like Pavlov’s dogs, which were trained to respond to stimuli. Or Skinner’s book Walden Two, written by the psychologist where it was envisaged that the masses would be conditioned to behave appropriately. The last thing the Overlords want is for you to think!

look into my eyes

look into my eyes

It may be a bit like being hypnotized. Look into my eyes – when I click my fingers, tout de suite – you are under my control – you will now do many silly things. Advertisements induce a similar response, they make people buy, buy, buy! Meanwhile the Overlords live in the twilight world of obscene wealth and no doubt some come to believe they are paternalistic deity.

Are we being conned? A quick glance at computers may lead us to Reason. We have a desktop – we need more power – more ram, more hard- disc. Then we need even more and the latest software and the upgrade and we arrive at windows 8.1. Will we stop there? No, no, no! We need a laptop and soon go through the same procedure as with the desk top. Now we need a smart phone an all singing dancing acrobatic smart phone. We need: little kids in primary school need, old grannies in care homes need, suddenly there’s a mountain of need.

Who decided we need? Was it us? Are we in control, making personal decisions about

shop 'till you drop!

shop ’till you drop!

our desires? Another master class in ‘we need’ stems from fashion. We must have this year’s colour – decided for us 18 months in advance. Must have that dress worn by the supermodel or celebrity. How many pairs of shoes does one person need? We are also at the mercy of built in obsolescence whereby manufacturers make goods designed to falter after a period. Type in – built in obsolescence and be staggered by the multitude of examples.

Consumerism is a method of control; people get trapped in a pleasure zone. Each time they buy an item the endorphins race into their head and the buyer gets a kick just like a druggie. They are as lab-rats spinning the treadmill. Why else would companies spend £/$ billions on advertisements if they did not influence. Supermarkets are designed to make you buy more than you intended. We are being conditioned to respond.

Take note of the words of Edward Bernays from his book Propaganda 1928:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute the invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country,…We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Bernays claim to fame came from public relations. It was he who made smoking ‘cool’ for women in the 1920s. Who made America believe that bacon & egg was a natural breakfast for the U.S. For Proctor & Gamble, he convinced millions that Ivory soap was the best. Today others have taken over his mantle to convince us that we need, need, and need. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays

In 2006 a journalist at Der Spiegel carried out an interview with the founder of a PR company Burson-Marstellar: “Bernays thought he could control public opinion. His methodology of course was fundamental. Most of the things we do today were identified by Bernays 80 years ago”. Harold Burson www.sorcewatch.org

Large companies spend £/$ billions to make their product a ‘brand’. The costs of the adverts are added to the cost of the product – therefore you are paying for the company to manipulate your buying habits. How ‘cool’ is that? The Overlords have control!

Many get so caught up in consumerism that they camp overnight to be the first to have the new iPhone; even though millions will have it within a few weeks. Likewise many must have this year’s new car, even though it loses value as soon as it leaves the showroom, and the price will drop in a few months. These are the most powerful free adverts a company can get, thanks to you.

Reason has no defence against being ‘cool’. We spend £/$ billions annually trying to be ‘cool’. Any purchase from the iPhone, coffee maker, and specific brands. Some folks will not leave the house unless they have a ‘brand’ to wear! We generate billions of tonnes of waste trying to be ‘cool’:

 

a valley of barrels

a valley of barrels

“220 billion cans, bottles, plastic cartons and paper cups are thrown away each year in the developed world”. www.verdant.net/society.htm

In the developing world the situation is disastrous. The nations are offered free trade as a panacea for all their ills but does it work for the benefit of the people? Under the arrangement the countries can have all their needs met by the multinational companies, therefore they import a lot. If the country is compliant they can manufacture some goods to be sold in the West.

Thus the nation becomes dependant on imports = balance of payments deficit = need tothCA2OLY29 borrow = debt = IMF/World Bank help = job cuts, wage cuts = poverty = cheap labour + long hours = sweat shop = virtual slave labour = dependant on charity = foreign aid = corruption = poor investment = lack of local business development = dependant on charity = vicious circle = no human rights = cheap gear for the developed world.

Where are all the trendy socialists and liberals now? Let us hear them rage against the dying of the light!

“The market, one has to conclude, is not always the best guarantee of free choice or democracy”. Charles Handy: The Hungry Spirit p123.

Consumerism may bring pleasure to the unsuspecting but it brings with it severe costs. Our environment is under constant attack. Our ability to breathe fresh air diminishes with every new car and truck. China has a potential 150 million cars on the road and the number is set to grow. www.worldwatch.org/node/810 The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. UN Only recently(April 2014) in the UK a report by Professor Frank Kelly, Department of Health has suggested that diesel cars are responsible for smog and a lot of Nitrogen Dioxide and as many as 7000 deaths per annum.

In America transportation accounted for 30% of US energy demand. “In 2005 motor vehicles produced $56 billion in health and other non-climate dangers”. Also “Coal fired plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S.”. National Research Council Oct: 2009.

“ ..the air in our cities has pollution levels that are higher than those recommended by the World Health Organisation”. The natural and the social: uncertainty, risk, change. Steve Hinchcliffe & Kath Woodward (ed:).

The degradation of our environment; is it our fault or the result of the Overlords control over us? Can we excuse ourselves by claiming we were drugged by consumerism? Move away from the herd, follow the path to Logic and escape the Overlords control. Somewhere out there a sleeper has awoken, join them. Help make tomorrow’s world a place to breathe!

“The sobering thought is that individuals and societies are not, in the end, remembered for how they made their money, but for how they spend it”. Charles Handy: The Hungry Spirit p127.

 

Syria: The Cost of Power.

 

sy-map[1]

An estimated 130,000 deaths and millions displaced. (Times 20/1/14) It all began in March 2011 with the opposition to Bashar al – Assad and his dictatorial government. Assad himself was the son of a dictator. Even in death the despot cannot relinquish power. It seemed straightforward enough; get rid of a dictator and institute a democracy and everyone will be happy. Three years on and few are happy. Who is to blame for this tragedy?

Assad the dictator is an obvious candidate for the dog house. But what can be said of the opposition? Were they true democrats who wanted to instil a powerful and lasting democratic structure or men hungry for the fruits of power? Once the civil war began the West jumped in like a mob in the playground. Fight! Fight! Fight! What did the West have to gain? With Assad gone they surely hoped to have an influence on the new government, give a sore lip to Russia and a bloody nose to Iran and further isolate the country. But do they need a squint towards Saudi Arabia?

Ancient Magnificence

Ancient Magnificence

 

Do the opposition have the leadership to replace Assad: Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front, Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)?  Can there be agreement? This is when power teases. Is this a dagger I see before me? These rebels of the regime are now too busy killing each other to find a leader. It’s like a sequel to the Godfather, all the Mafia Dons fighting it out to see who runs the town.

Modern country

Modern country

What is interesting is that we have two branches of al Qaeda with different objectives and potentially fighting each other. We have ISIL of al Qaeda in Iraq and Nursa Front of Syria. Power, the mind boggles!

It is reported that somewhere in the region of 700/900 of the opposition to Assad have been killed in factional bloodletting. Assad must be having a chuckle to himself at this internecine slaughter. As for the politicians of: the West, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia they will be busy luxuriating in the trappings of power, happy to let the plebs get on with it.

The cause of this murderous debacle is obviously the leaders of the ‘Powers’.

Torn Apart

Torn Apart

The West is busy throwing $millions at the humanitarian crisis they helped create. The UK boasts of £500m. Secretly they are feeding the slaughter.

  • They don’t want Assad – too late to broker a deal with him.
  • Don’t want ISIL and their version of an Islamic state.
  • Need a form of democracy to prove a point. E.g. our way or no way. (see Egypt)

Saudi Arabia:

  • Want their brand of an Islamic state. A Sunni dominated one.
  • One that can take orders.

Iran:

  • They want to maintain an interest in the area.
  • A secure outlet for import/export that otherwise may be subject to intense scrutiny.
  • Prove they can stand up to USA. A beacon for the disaffected.

Russia:

  • To sell more weapons
  • Get oil cheaply
  • Be photographed at the top-table.

These then are the Mafia Dons. Who will emerge as the Capo di tutti capi? The boss of bosses!

Every day the death toll rises. The most recent headline was that the regime had systematically murdered 11,000 people, having first tortured them. Yet no side is innocent of committing atrocities. Note the statement of Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian chief, who says that all sides have shown a, “total disregard for their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law”. In essence we have a frenzy of killing. The veil of humanity falters to uncover a barbaric reality. Human life it seems is as worthless as that fly you are about to swat! A true horror of this civil war is that no one is sure how many have died.

We keep being pressed with figures, 130,000 dead. (Times 20/1/14) A week before Reuters was quoting 100,000. (13/1/14) Meanwhile, on the 8th January the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville was quoted as saying that they have stopped counting the death toll because they can’t verify whether the information is correct. (Independent) What a eulogy to human society!

All sides in the conflict will tell you they are fighting for Syria, for the people, for freedom. But the Guardian (13/1/14) brings a true edge to the façade with their headline, “Syrian refugees no longer know who is fighting let alone who is winning”. Later in the same piece they quote a local man, Abu Hussein, “All there is, is hatred”. The killing illustrates the point markedly. For all the beauty of a Renoir or the depiction of Thomas Eakins Thinker, we are just tribal after all.

It’s a callous world. Yet some like to delude themselves that eternal peace is just around the corner. Well, I’ve looked. I can’t see a thing for the plumes of war that are blocking the light. The barbarism displayed by all sides in this civil war needs no further evidence of man’s inhumanity than the death toll of men, women and children. The beliefs of men become paramount and hate overrides love as a motivator. And, we are, as we have always been, naked with our club!

Humanity cannot take a step forward until we understand and are able to control the proclivities of men for sex and money. We must also look at the disparities of capitalism. A thousand years should do it! This is not a message of despair; rather an appreciation that ‘Meism’ has still not been challenged as a false God.

Aid: A Dependency Culture

 

Agony does not sleep

South Sudan – Liberia – Malawi – Uganda – the nightmare continues:

For decades, Sudan has been torn apart by war and, famine rages. As of July 2011 Sudan is two countries; a northern Arab state and a predominately Black and Christian South Sudan. Over the years war has cost 1.5 million lives, the destruction and displacement is untold. Even today the conflict continues in the Darfur and tension is high in the Blue Nile region.

What future, what hope for such a ravaged landscape? Aid pours in relentlessly but to what effect? South Sudan is in the top 3 for humanitarian aid and in the top 10 for general aid. It has received over $4billion in aid since 2005. War, hate and distrust abound; the government of the north are accused of genocide against the people of Darfur. And the army of the new government in the south has been accused of human rights abuses in the Jonglei region.  There are border disputes, oil disputes; how soon before tension gives way to conflict? In such an environment it is so easy to impose or become dependent. In that scenario dependency just adds hopelessness to the existing nightmare.

The situation in Liberia is not a whole lot better. The Civil War may have ended in 2003 but there is still massive disruption in all walks of life. Liberia has the worse infant and maternal mortality rate in all sub-Sahara Africa. The UK recently gave another £8 million, the USA considerably more. Aid constitutes around 30% of gross income, yet the horror story continues.

Malawi has only recently been reintegrated into the world community. The late president was believed guilty of human rights abuses and the aid was suspended. When he died suddenly in April, his successor, Joyce Banda the vice president took over. She promised changes and the aid came flowing like a waterfall. Altogether the international aid donors sped $500 million to a beleaguered Malawi.

Same government – change of faces – loads of money!

The wheels on the bus…..  Sorry, it’s the cynic in me.

Aid now accounts for about 40% of gross income while 80% of the people survive at subsistence level in agriculture.

Uganda is a real horror story of aid not being any aid whatsoever! Most recently (12th October) it was reported that ten million Euros (€10m) given in aid had been frittered away, many suspect into Swiss bank accounts. The Irish, Swedish and Dutch governments are furious and are demanding an investigation. Their anger is justified but this is just one of a host of stories about corruption in Uganda. But, but, but the aid still pours in; £100m annually from the UK alone.

“Corruption thrives at a large scale in government”. Nicholas Kallingi. The Monitor.

  •          The World Bank estimates that Uganda loses $300m in corruption each year.
  •          The President has a private jet, the Prime Minister a new Mercedes.
  •         Auditors have found 7,600 ghost workers whose names appear in payroll & pension payments.
  •          Global Fund has given Uganda the lowest grant – of $300m to combat HIV, TB and malaria because of their concerns over corruption.
  •          NY Times, of Uganda – “…to be one of the most corrupt nations in the world”.

What is really sad is that Uganda could be a beacon state in sub-Sahara Africa. It has all the means necessary to be a strong, independent and wealthy country.

However:

In Uganda, US aid has ultimately created more problems than it has addressed. NY Times.

….aid has continued to stunt economic, democratic and private sector development in Uganda……..the country remains hooked to aid despite its rich mineral wealth.                    Observer (Feb 2012)

Moreover, several states in the region of sub-Sahara score very poorly on the Transparency International Perception Index. With ten (10) as a high, many score below five (5).

A crystal ball could not help the aid agencies. They have poured their Liberal guilt into Africa by the boatload and created an insipid mire.

A Genuine Legacy?

  •          Rwanda – 33% of income is aid.
  •          Liberia – 30%
  •          Malawi – 40%
  •          South Sudan – 40%+
  •          Uganda – 40%

    Help or hindrance?

Can anyone honestly say that these countries have not become dependent on aid? Not only have they become dependent on aid but that very balance of their economy determines the politics of these nations. It gives the incumbent government an enormous power of patronage which can be fully utilised to their advantage come election time. Thus elections may appear free & fair but there’s a whole shipload of buts here!   See Post: Made of Sand, Rwanda. Aid: Where Doubts Arise.

Aid – corruption – elections

You decide

Hope: An Internal Spring?

“Let us not become addicted to free things….people have learned how to be fed and not feed themselves”. Salva Kiir, President, of South Sudan. (2012)

“Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty”. Dambisa Moyo (2010)

“Huge bureaucracies are financed (with aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not independent”. James Shikwati (2005)

These statements make it abundantly clear that many Africans are conscious of their continent’s need. What is required now is a seismic shift from the aid donors in attitude and programme. Listen and learn; let there be an internal spring!

 

Aid: Made of Sand?

 

Where does all the money go?

Is the money well spent?

Why are we spending so much?

The UK is to increase the amount of foreign aid by a whacking 35% over the next few years. That will bring the total spend by 2015 to £12 billion, and change.

It’s a rich man’s……

The Government are keen to point out that it supports many laudable programmes via aid:

  • Supporting freer and fairer elections in 5 countries. (Where?)
  • Vaccinates some 12 million kids. (Great)
  • Supports 5.3 million children going to primary school. (Smashing)

And much more beside; but where is the evidence?

There are numerous stories about schools being built but have no equipment. Of others being supplied with computers but have no electricity. Hospitals constructed but without sufficient staff or medicine to cope with demand.

Rwanda

In support of fairer elections the government might point to Rwanda, where since the genocide of 1994 millions of dollars have been poured in. A previous Labour government under Tony Blair, was quick to praise Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame, for the excellent work carried out. However, in the recent period the UK has withheld £16 million in aid because of a suspicion that the Rwandan government was/is supplying arms and supporting rebels in the Congo.

But, but, but,

Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative minister for International Aid has unfrozen the money and the first tranche of £8 million was released in early October 2012, with the second lot due to in December. The PM, David Cameron, has characterized Rwanda as a ‘success story’. However, Amnesty International says that the Human Rights record in Rwanda is appalling. While the UN, has accused Rwanda of giving aid and weapons to the rebels in the Congo. The leader of the rebel force, Bosco Ntaganda, and his M23 army are suspected of war crimes.

Land locked Rwanda

Why has the aid been re- established? Has Mr Kagame and his government agreed to do what they are told in the future. Were they perhaps looking towards China for help? Was it a case of better the devil you know?

What do Blair, and Cameron, know about Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame, that no one else seems to know?

It has also emerged that the UK already gives £37 million from the general budget, – not the aid budget. Why is Rwanda so deserving?

There is considerable dispute as to the leadership of Paul Kagame, with several people calling for him to be tried for war crimes and various atrocities and suppression of opposition within Rwanda. Notwithstanding, the UK, the USA, and several Non Governmental Organisations, (NGO) continue to grant substantial amounts of aid to the country.

As aid makes up an estimated 33% of Rwandan government income, it does not take much imagination to see a link between aid and the supply of weapons to the rebel force in the Congo. How long was the suspicion held regarding Rwanda before the aid donors halted the flow of cash? It would seem that aid money was being used and therefore the international aid community were party to criminal activity. Well done guys.

 

Typical farm worker

Meanwhile, 90% of the population were busy surviving at subsistence level in the country’s agricultural sector. Over 45% of the population live below the poverty line. The main exports are coffee & tea; though the country has to import food. Is it just me or is there something wrong here?

Do the guys who dish out the dosh really know where the money is going and how it is being used? I would have thought that they were bright enough to have ‘intel’ on the ground. Hmm, I might be wrong on both counts.