Tag: finance

Finance’s dirty secrets – Who will open the hotel door?

 

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

When no one is looking, when silence falls like a heavy blanket, while dust particles float in the shaft of sunlight in the dimness, slim bony fingers move over the keyboard. Nods are given and winks flashed in order to transfer big numbers via noughts and ones from a shady hidden one to a darker other. Old school ties are metaphorically straightened, thoughts turn to the Club when the day’s work is done. Dreams of avarice beckon one on like an old fashioned Soho whore in the doorway. Lust will put its boots on after Greed has paved the way and to make it acceptable to one’s addled moral conscience, cliché upon banality upon lies will tell the story to oneself, to provide the silken pure white sheets that cover the blood and sweated faecal stains of the night’s endeavours.

 

Capital accumulates in strange ways. Some are open and honest, save for the overlooking of the true nature of the transaction which always involves taking more candy from the baby than is actually given to it. This is a sleight of hand worthy of cardsharps and magicians of the most celebrated of seaside ‘end of pier’ shows. Now you see the surplus…. Capital used to just kill people openly by pitting spears and wishful thinking against flag, cannon and musket. Gold, nutmeg and people were exchanged for religion and germs backed up by guns and steel. This imperial and colonial routine followed the removing, at home, of peasants’ access to the commons through telling them the story of Divine Right of Kings, backed up visions of hell for the non believer. ‘Divine Right’ has been replaced by threats of ‘Venezuelan Marxism’ as the stick with which to beat the peasants.

 

Shoving a rifle in someone’s face while you steal their land, is of course a bit passé, a bit too obvious and unnecessary in the digital networked age. Instead, join the Club, the one that Capital keeps hidden in the murk of misinformation, disinformation, ideology and obfuscation. We are told, or we pretend to believe, the Club does not exist. Yet, some of us aspire to joining the Club, dreaming of the day the invitation flops onto the doormat accompanied by the sound of crying and dying babies being droned bombed in far away places to the soundtrack of the tuneless drivel of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ or ‘Gosudárstvennyj gimn Rossíjskoj Federácii’.

 

Its membership is exclusive of course, and the hoi polloi have as much a chance of joining, as it has of finding itself showered with gold plated rose petals in a one star, pissed stained, public lavatory run by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council on fire. Instead the Club works behind the scenes while the hoi polloi get fingered and fucked like a Hollywood starlet in a Producer’s hotel bedroom. Our collective prostate is being massaged by the big, fat, hairy knuckled finger of corporate banking and will go onto until we realise our screams for mercy are caused not by the pain of seeing the ‘skiving disabled sick shirking their responsibilities for looking after their mums and dads while sponging off the state’. Rather we might see that the origins of our screams lead back to the invitation to the hotel room, that it was a promise to be bent over and humped by the fickle phallus of finance lightly lubricated by the emollient of ideological cover. Yet in that room, we have chosen, or been forced, to swallow the salted seminal poison of the misdirection and legerdemain of finance capital.

 

Not all banks are bad of course. But when we read of certain activities linking South Africa, fraud, money laundering, and the buying of influence, which has ruined a UK public relations company and damaged auditors KPMG, we might like to consider that given the heroic role of finance in the US and the UK that this might be a tip of the iceberg? We might want to open the hotel door little wider just as the skirts are being lifted for another go at the naif?

Plucking Imaginary Flowers

“Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.” (Marx Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right)

This quote from Marx has always been a favourite of mine because it clarifies a fundamental truth: that many social practices obscure the actual nature of social relationships resulting in imbalances of power and exploitation which because of self delusion are not challenged. The subject here may be religion as an obfuscatory belief system but it equally applies to the tenets of consumer capitalism as an obfuscatory belief system.

Religion says “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me” (John 3:16). Without going into too much interpretation the message here is that Christ is the only path to enlightenment and knowledge of God, of course accepting that there is a God to know in the first place. Thus is established the first hierachy which was then extended into the human realm by such notions as the Divine Right of kings and the established practices of organised christianity. “Rich man at his castle, poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate”.

The flower: Believe in God (and his ordained ministers on earth) and your reward will be in heaven. The chain: your lowly social position.

The apologists for consumer capitalism use the public sector deficit as an ideological cover for their brand of neoliberalism. They say “We are all in this together” and that there is no alternative to slashing public spending to head off becoming Greece. Public sector pensions are also “unaffordable”:

The flower: Cut public spending and we will prosper. The chain: the inability of labour to break free from wage slavery and to organise an alternative relationship to wealth creation, distribution and exchange.

Illusions abound: It is argued that governments do not make money, they only spend it, and that it is the private sector, and importantly, global corporations that provide jobs and wealth. Note the words ‘government’ ‘private sector’ and ‘corporation’. These are illusory abstractions (flowers). They exist in discourse only to explain how a system works. In concrete reality there are human beings engaged in productive processes arranged in particular social relationships (chains).

Thus Marx calls for an examination of actual social relationships as they exist in concrete reality to reveal that it is labour creating surplus value for capital as the basis for wealth creation. Bright, ambitious individuals prosper partly through their own efforts but also because the system they prosper in has been constructed to reward certain types of effort disproportionately. This is now happening to the extent that a financial global elite are making sums of money most ordinary mortals cannot even concieve of for creating things like Credit default swaps (http://tinyurl.com/negativeCDS) which are basically bets on firms or countries failing in a market worth an estimate $45 trillion. That is to say people are working on abstractions in financial markets (which are numbers in a computer software programme) which bear little relationship to actual houses, food and energy. Let’s return to ‘affordability’ – read that number above again. That is in trillions (1 trillion = 1,000 billion). How much is the financial sector worth in trade each year? How much money sloshes around the global sytem, who earns it,  who keeps it? Affordability is another abstraction. These questions need concret answers before we talk about affordability.

The flowers include buying your own home, owning a new car, a holiday in the sun, a new kitchen…the chains were the loans you have to take out to get these things and the length of time you need to spend in work to pay it all back. You (labour) work in a system which promises you illusory heaven now to cover the the actual hell experienced while capital reaps the rewards. The system is just not sustainable. 

 

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