The saga of the OceanGate Titan submersible was the sort of story that rivets millions of people. Not only was it revealed that passengers paid $250,000 to see the wreck of the Titanic, but the vessel was poorly built, and its creator ignored warnings about its defects and continued to use it. When the incompetence and arrogance of its creator was revealed, the jokes began in earnest, as the internet is the perfect place to make light of serious issues. The readiness to make fun of the feckless and arrogant is understandable. In fact, there is a positive side in the willingness to engage in schadenfreude over the deadly debacle. After all, no one should argue against hostility to rule by the wealthy.
The ultrarich are prepping for doomsday right now. France is on fire. The U.S. ruling elite and the mainstream media they own are avoiding reporting on it. The American rich want to exploit the workers more and more, and facing the wrath of the “common man and woman” is their greatest fear. So they have been increasingly coming up with ways to avoid the guillotines. The ruling class knows what’s coming: social instability caused by a combination of the climate crisis, banks failing, the soul-killing inequality of late-stage capitalism, and the impending dilution of the petrodollar. So what’s going on here?
Our political class does not govern. It entertains. It plays its assigned role in our fictitious democracy, howling with outrage to constituents and selling them out. The Squad and the Progressive Caucus have no more intention of fighting for universal health care, workers’ rights or defying the war machine than the Freedom Caucus fights for freedom. These political hacks are modern versions of Sinclair Lewis’s slick con artist Elmer Gantry, cynically betraying a gullible public to amass personal power and wealth. This moral vacuity provides the spectacle, as H.G. Wells wrote, of “a great material civilization, halted, paralyzed.” It happened in Ancient Rome. It happened in Weimar Germany. It is happening here.
It’s been a banner month for people who love invoking the “free speech” buzzword. Whether Elon Musk was promoting it as a catch-all abstract value to justify inviting transphobes and neo-nazis back to Twitter, or mainstream journalists were invoking the idea in response to a petulant billionaire banning his critics from the large social media company he just purchased for $44 billion, everyone these past few weeks has had some opinion on “free speech,” what it means, and who its supposed champion—or, more often than not, its most hypocritical defender—truly is. What the conversation has been largely lacking (other than a coherent definition of “free speech”) is a serious acknowledgment that free speech as a concept means very little if we don’t discuss how massive asymmetries in the distribution of power and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a tiny few effectively determine who has the right to speak freely and who doesn’t.
The New York Stock Exchange suffered a poor day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking by more than 600 points. However, for a select few companies, stock values have gone through the roof. It was thanks, in large part, to a group of amateur stock traders with a vendetta against veteran corporate insider short-sellers betting on a company’s failure, with the video game store GameStop taking center stage. Before the drama was over, the company’s value had jumped by more than 1,700%, an investment firm had lost billions, and some small-time investors who gambled it all were able to afford some of life’s costlier necessities with their windfall.
At birth, all of us begin a journey that offers opportunities either to grow – not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually – or to stagnate. The journey we undertake lasts a lifetime, but there are dozens of moments each day when we have a choice to make tiny incremental gains in experience, wisdom and compassion or to calcify through inertia, complacency and selfishness. No one can be engaged and receptive all the time. But it is important to recognise these small opportunities for growth when they present themselves, even if at any particular moment we may decide to avoid grasping them.
I heard friends praising Bill Gates' philanthropy a while ago; it still surprises me how people respond to billionaires. The wealthy improve their image financing self-serving projects they present as “serving others” but few question their motives or suspect them of hidden agendas. Most take billionaires at face value and forget how they made their fortunes. Gates is a monopolist who crushed others in the process of building Microsoft. At least, J.D. Rockefeller (the first) made it a bit easier for us, he was blatant enough to call competition a “sin” and built Standard Oil monopoly trying to protect its privileges...