LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC DISASTER
Abenomics has come, but is already on its way out. A short-term pack of phony reforms to befuddle public opinion, buy time, and develop new bad panic responses to Japan’s enduring economic crisis. Because this is New Normal anywhere in the former rich nations – which are called “advanced industrial” as well as “postindustral” (well exhibiting their cognitive dissonance, schizophrenia and existential crisis) – Shinzo Abe and his clique of crony corporate profiteers stumble along to their next crisis with their heads held high. TEPCO, until March 2011, was a peer-respected player in the crony corporate court circus close to power. Today it is special – because it brought down a nuclear disaster of planetary scale, bigger than Chernobyl – but Japan’s crony democracy, like its peers is hardwired to only react with panic to any disaster its incompetence produces. Bad panic or good panic, always panic.
To be sure we have the left, intellectuals, historians and philosophers bemoaning the demise of vibrant democracy, the impoverishment of political life and the worldwide installation of No Alternative corporate crony capitalism. The Japanese nuclear disaster throws a very cruel light on this entropic and degenerate fin-de-siecle deathwish, very similar to the late 18th century birthplace and times of economic liberalism in the last years of King Louis’ reign as visiting Adam Smith glimpsed Marie Antoinette and imbibed the ramblings of Francois Quesnay, her charlatan soothsayer and “economist” who taught so much to Smith.
At its worst, the Fukushima disaster could or might usher-in totalitarian government in Japan – this worst case option cannot be excluded. At best, that is at least, it will further drive public despair with the image of a government sphere where dialogue and shared responsibility have shrivelled to nothing, replaced by hubris and unbridled intolerance, the triumph of greed, ignorance, fear, anger and the loss of reason in public life.
Whether it is Shinzo Abe or his lookalike and talkalike No Alternative leaders perorating in Pretoria and preening their image at Soweto’s Soccer City, in a mix of football hysteria and funereal razzmatazz for Nelson Mandela, we have a spectacular death-grip embrace of infantile emotionalism. However, this is already outdated. It was built for the early years of black-and-white television, the George Orwell era of atomic weapons, mass communication with bakelite radios, 78 rpm records and the leaden prose of a select few leading national newspapers dictating and dominating public thought.
LIBERAL ECONOMIC DISASTER
This infantile emotionalism is made for television. It was designed for the Cold War, the first age of nuclear power – that is nuclear weapons, massive overkill and mutually assured destruction. The economic disaster of nuclear power came later, but surely and certainly, like a cancer.
The goal of lying and infantile emotionalism is to empty the language of public life of all substantive content, and dovetails perfectly with its only other goal, to hawk consumer gadgets, sell commodities and pump up equity “values”, promote celebrity culture and create a heavy background atmosphere of Armageddon and world’s end, which was impeccably reproduced by the long-running but laughably incompetent Global Warming hysteria doctrine.
One very simple reason we should be terrified by the Fukushima disaster is that it is already clear, today, that Tepco has no intention of “fixing the problem” and is technically bankrupt. It basically cannot afford to clean up its gargantuan mess. Liberal economics indeed proposes and operates by the unlimited printing of chaff money in the post 2008 world– called Quantitative Easing – but this fools nobody. The economic resources are not available to deal with a crisis of the Fukushima magnitude. Only an international and multilateral response could handle the disaster. But this is unlikely until it is too late.
The context was exactly the same with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Fake national pride is in play. Soviet arrogance symbolized by the egoist “Gorby” or Mikael Gorbachev decreed a point blank refusal of any foreign clean-up help. That was until the total panic phase started, when very brave foreign nationals were permitted to give their own lives, alongside the lives of The Liquidators, in the bungled and deadly clean-up operation.
The Chernobyl disaster surely and certainly helped make the fall of the Soviet Union more certain. Its coming defeat in its absurd and aggressive, racist and incoherent war in Afghanistan – exactly like the US war in Afghanistan – was already certain. Its economy, despite the laughably pathetic liberal economic reforms of “Gorby”, called Perestroika, was already broken and could only collapse. The Chernobyl disaster was a flag event of this collapse – not a false flag, but a real one. Only one end result was possible.
For Shinzo Abe, a check on the Chernobyl disaster may be useful to him. However, due to the post-Soviet world, the post-2008 era of permanent economic crisis, and the liberal deathwish of abandon and degeneracy – what we can call the Comfort of Corruption and the Desire for Decline – Shinzo Abe is opposed by strawmen reporters wallowing in the wreckage of journalistic standards. Abe can count on the Internet circus of hysteria to create a confusing smokescreen of mostly-fake conspiracy stories.
CIVILITY AND ANGER
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Asian philosophy teaches that Obsession is the opposite of Generosity, and Civility is the opposite of Anger. When civility, which demands and expects truthfulness, is denied and thrown into the wastebin, Anger is certain. Public anger is certain in response to the elite panic response that Shinzo Abe has enacted, like Gorbachev enacted before this egoistic charlatan was swept from power amid total economic meltdown. Gorbachev was unable to count on his state propaganda system to smother public anger. Shinzo Abe cannot count on today’s counterpart of Soviet propaganda – civic illiteracy, the dumbed down mass, junk news on the Internet – to hide the extent of his failure.
The decline of civility has another counterpart – the emergence of mob rule, enacted in Russia in the wake of the Soviet collapse by the quick emergence of and takeover by the Oligarch Mob, using Mafia methods for their somber version of Mother Russia. In Japan and any other of the world’s 29 nations said to be “committed to peaceful nuclear power”, the age of Soviet technocratic ignorance and anti-intellectualism – symbolized by nuclear power – lives on. Public illiteracy in this case concerns the inability of mass audiences to grasp the extent of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The upstream cause of this is political and will stay political. Glorifying the principle of private and individual self-interest and greed as a “paradigm for understanding” is especially disastrous in this case, because the Fukushima catastrophe is already – by its radiation release – worse than the Chernobyl disaster. Shinzo Abe may well try to turn public anger against “foreign devils” to explain the Fukushima disaster, his playact will be interesting to watch – for example blowing on the embers of political and territorial disputes and conflicts with China and North Korea. Bread, circuses and war!
But we are already 2 years and 9 months into the crisis. Time is certainly counted, and is counting down by the second. The most extreme forms of mob rule and public illiteracy could be the default situation, that is a lurch into totalitarian rule. Alongside this we will have the culture of militarization, the cult of security, the urge to denounce and to spy.
All of these forces, whose public educational influence should not be underestimated, constitute a new type of civic illiteracy helping further the drift apart of connecting everyday problems people face with larger social, environmental, economic, scientific and existential issues and forces. The result of this divide further depoliticizes public life and further hollows out politics, making it only an empty gesture. Very soon, Shinzo Abe may be fully able to operate the spectacle of national humiliation and rage in a playact panic response to the Fukushima disaster.
Nuclear power with its illusion of “clean, cheap and safe” energy for the consumer nirvana of constant economic growth fits well with the society of spectacle. Nuclear fear, which is intrinsic, can be reduced to private anguish — privatized in the real and full sense of the term. The dangerous cocktail of elite arrogance and privatized anguish however has limits and thresholds, as the global warming clique pretended was true for climate change and human CO2 emissions. The willed and wanted paralysis of public fear submerged in a sea of resentment is the age-old breeding ground for manipulating extremists of all kinds, from religious fanatics to political fanatics. Played correctly by the crony elite, the public demand for an answer to their individual anguish and their emotional woes, and the fact of nuclear disaster, can be thrown together like a ball-and-cup atom bomb detonator, and canceled out leaving only public numbness and a further decline in calls for political responsibility and meaningful action.
Casino finance, the corporate state (all power to the multinationals!), privatized anguish and privatized crony education conspire to make Fukushima a celebrity disaster. As a spectator cult event it is still carried by evening news shows, but well after the football and stock exchange news. Celebrity nuclear disaster is modeled around the one-only model of narcissistic and privatized needs of consumer culture – as we await the free market innovative response! But believing that will come will take the exhaustion of far too many half-lives of the radiation spewing from the wreckage, day and night.
In Japan as elsewhere in the former or ex-rich societies, stripped of ethical and political importance or “relevance”, the public domain is a space where private interests are displayed and then aggregated, piled on top of each other in a layer cake of private woes and problems. By definition there are no solutions except those mystically delivered by “the market”, when or if it chooses. Most importantly, the idea of concerted public action no longer exists because that is politics from a time before.
For Japanese liberal democratic society and its hollowed-out economy, emptied of any substantial content, the ability of individuals to transform their privatized anguish into genuine public debate, political concern, and collective action is doubtful and difficult. The Fukushima disaster occurred at a similar cultural, economic, political and social moment for the USSR, with its Chernobyl disaster. The new and one-only mass illiteracy can only respond and react – with hysteria and a potential lurch into totalitarianism – to the disasters it creates.
Under national emergency conditions, authoritarianism is “the natural response”. Abetted if not enabled by a dumbed-down public, by its inability to grasp the questions of power and public consciousness, the Fukushima disaster has serious and real potential for transforming Japan’s society and politics in the worst possible way. As we know, Japan’s government like that of the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and other “nuclear nations” was always willing to invest vast sums in nuclear power and war preparedness. Like them, whether openly authoritarian or not, and for 30 years since the 1980s, it has locked itself into a system in which the public – meaning private persons – are complicit in their own exploitation, disposability, humiliation and potential death by cancer.
The celebrity cult only operates by default and through extreme public weakness and ignorance. The celebrity nuclear disaster is a vast, extreme version of this cult, the exhibition 24/24 of public incompetence and inability, submerged in a whirling sandstorm of fake-and-real news and information. It is a problem as serious as any the self-defined “democratic world” has ever faced, not merely a political issue exhibiting the degeneration of politics, but also a cultural and educational issue.
Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO. McKillop is Co-author ‘The Doomsday Machine’, Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012