An Independence Day Reflection: How the Rich Plan to Rule a Burning World

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Yves here. It isn’t a far reach to argue that the creation over the last 20 or so years of a stronger surveillance and control apparatus is part of a long-term plan, above all to protect the powerful and rich. Remember, for instance, that in the early 2000s, Pentagon strategists were warning of coming destabilizing mass migrations, triggered by climate change.

However, having lived in NYC during Hurricane Sandy, I need to correct part of his post. First, the dark zone in Manhattan was roughly 38th Street and further south. Able body people were hiking far enough above that to get provisions and charge their phones (the officialdom also had outposts in the dark zone where they were handing out water, and there were formal and informal efforts to get food to those who couldn’t climb up and down stairs). Second, the now famous Nathan Tankus lived in what is called a limited equity residential complex in Chelsea (what amounts to affordable housing; these buildings have a ten year waiting list), which roughly extends from Eight to Ninth Avenue around 28th Street. They also had their own generator.

Admittedly, it is correct to say that Goldman’s building was the only high rise in the lower Midtown/lower Manhattan to be “lights on” during Sandy, but the article gives the impression that the blackout was more extensive than it was.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

Goldman Sachs, the only living building in New York City during Hurricane Sandy, 2012.

On a Fourth of July when Americans still celebrate an expansive idea of freedom (i.e., that freedom is meant for everyone), I offer this, a glimpse of the world being built in front of our eyes, the view from a window on that coming day when the only freedom celebrated on Fourth of July will be the freedom of the super-rich from the suffering rest of us.

The quote below is from a good and much longer piece published in Australia titled “How The Rich Plan to Rule a Burning Planet.” I’ll have more on this topic in future work.

For now, though, give this a read. It’s from the middle of the essay.

In the years since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, Western governments have expanded and strengthened the state’s repressive apparatus. Today we’re seeing, as many predicted, how the crackdown on basic freedoms carried out in the name of the “war on terror” has created a new normal in which anyone opposing the government’s agenda becomes a target. Environmental protesters, and anyone else standing up against the destructive neoliberal order, are now firmly in their sights.

In the US, the battle to halt the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline provides the most extreme example to date. In November 2016, the Native American blockade at Standing Rock was broken up by a police operation so heavily militarised that it looked like something out of the invasion of Iraq. In sub-zero temperatures, blockaders were attacked with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades. Hundreds were injured and many hospitalised. Two women who were involved in the blockade and who later vandalised the pipeline are now facing charges under which they could be jailed for up to 110 years.

In Australia, we’ve seen those protesting peacefully outside the International Resources and Mining Conference in Melbourne face an unusual level of police violence and mass arrests. In Queensland, the state Labor government has passed new laws targeting environmental activists. In early December, three members of Extinction Rebellion were jailed when a magistrate refused them bail – something without precedent for charges related to acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

Perhaps nothing provides a better metaphor for the future our leaders are steering us toward than a picture, taken during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, of the New York city skyline shrouded in the darkness of a blackout – all except one building, which remained lit up like a Christmas tree. That building was the headquarters of global banking giant Goldman Sachs, where, protected by a mountain of sandbags and using a back-up generator, the company was able to keep the lights on and the profits flowing even while the city was inundated by a three-metre storm surge and hospitals, schools, the subway and most other services were forced to close.

If you imagine this picture as the world, and the Goldman Sachs building as the gilded realm inhabited by the world’s super-rich and the political class that serve them, all you’d need to add is some heavily armed guards around the building and you’d get a pretty good sense of what’s ahead. Our rulers’ apparent lack of concern about climate change is a ruse. They hope that, if they can just head off dissent for long enough, they will succeed in building this future, brick by brutal brick, and there will be nothing the rest of us can do about it.

As the so-far-inevitable climate future unfolds, imagine the image at the top of this piece as the world. If you do, the Goldman Sachs building, as the writer says, looks like a “gilded realm inhabited by the world’s super-rich and the political class that serve them. All you’d need to add is some heavily armed guards around the building and you’d get a pretty good sense of what’s ahead.”

What’s ahead is, sadly, a world of abandonment — ours, by our rulers.

We’ve seen this world already, the one with the guards, the banks and the abandonment, during the Occupy Wall Street intrusion on public order.

Imperial troopers guarding a bank in Portland, November 2011.

That’s a lot of storm troopers for just one bank, and that one is only a branch, a small one at that. This is how frightened the world of wealth became that banks would be stormed, and this is how forcefully they mean to protect that world.

Planning the Disaster In Plain Sight

To keep things simple and (should it need saying) obvious: If the super-rich, those who own and control most first-world governments and many second-world ones, had ever planned to save our species from the coming climate catastrophe, they would be doing so now, and we would be watching them do it.

Instead, we’re seeing the opposite. They’re building highly militarized “security” states even in democracies, states that can and will protect only wealth from the millions — and later, the billions — of refugees their deliberate and obvious policies will create.

If by their deeds we shall know them, then we know them plenty already. They have no plan to save the global climate for the globe’s inhabitants. Not because they don’t think the crisis is coming, but because they don’t want to.

What they do plan to do instead is save themselves.

If I Were King…

If I were running that operation (I’m not), the one that transitions the world from wealth-controlled relative peace to wealth-protected global chaos, I’d have only one goal — keep the masses of people silent and complacent until nothing can be done to stop the separation of their small, energy-rich world from the larger, poorer world of the rest of us.

The story of how that will occur, the phases this project will go through, are the subjects of later work. But for now, suffice it to say, believe your eyes. The security state — the one that keeps them safe — is nearly complete. They’re building it in front of us.

The rejection of any climate plan that doesn’t, have as its only goal, keeping the wealth of the world in the hands of those who hold it happens each day, again, in front of us.

And the health care that Americans, in increasingly greater numbers, will desperately need in a world gone increasingly mad and dangerous — that’s never going to happen. Even the Democrats, as they are currently led, hate you for wanting it — it would be so much better for them if you’d just settle for Obamacare, Medicare For All’s weak and disabled sister, and be done with it.

The Message for This Fourth

So the message for this Fourth of July: Let’s celebrate the amount of freedom we have while we have it. And if it seems like not too much trouble, let’s fight to keep it. If our rulers don’t have our best interest in their hearts, why should we have theirs in ours?

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  1. Skunk

    “Yves here. It isn’t a far reach to argue that the creation over the last 20 or so years of a stronger surveillance and control apparatus is part of a long-term plan, above all to protect the powerful and rich. Remember, for instance, that in the early 2000s, Pentagon strategists were warning of coming destabilizing mass migrations, triggered by climate change.”

    Yes. I have thought this for a long time. Resources will likely be tightly controlled, partly because manufacturing will be tightly controlled to address the climatic issues. Smart cities with networks of surveillance will possibly oversee the use of resources, both to optimize consumption of key resources through algorithms, but also to make sure no one consumes more than their share.

    1. Bryan

      Yes. Optimization is the organizing principle of STs, but with the goal of maintaining current class conditions, of course. Smart technologies will also be used to identify those who seek to expose the rulers and make them accountable for the havoc they wreak. Nor will they stop at identification.

    2. Trainer

      This might also be related to computers running up against the limits of microprocessor computation speeds.

      Computation might now focus on identifying relationships within ever larger data sets, because we have the capability to exponentially increase memory and storage, but not to comparably increase calculation speeds. So manipulating large data sets, data science, machine learning, and data warehouses all appear to be a pivot away from computations that require high processing speeds, and towards computations which have large memory requirements.

      And all this is uniquely suited to surveillance, which often involves tracking a specific subject within extremely large data sets.

    3. the mongrel

      I agree. How can 12-year-olds grasp the existential peril that adults with access to the world’s best scientists can’t? The answer should leave a hand mark on our collective face: OF COURSE they know everything these children know and more. They’re buying their estates. They’re building their fortifications. They’re installing all the mechanisms of security they think will protect them.

      But here’s my question to all: what if their hubris is cataclysmic? What if the domino effect of climate chaos turns the planet into a ball of de-oxygenated ocean and islands of sand. I mean…really think about the pace of change this past decade. Can you not imagine a world so broken NOBODY can live above the surface?

      1. hunkerdown

        At least then there are no “masterless men.” Some reactionaries would prefer to sterilize the planet with gamma rays than allow an unruled mass to roam.

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    This was a lesson they learnt in the 1930s.
    Rather than lose any of their privileges, the rich will just sit back and watch everything fall apart at the seams.
    An account from 1943 when memories were still fresh.

    We stepped onto an old path that still leads to the same place.
    1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
    1940s – World war.
    We forgot we had been down that path before.

    Everything is progressing nicely and we are approaching the final destination.
    This is what it’s supposed to be like.
    Right wing populist leaders are what we should be expecting at this stage and it keeps on getting worse.

    You were lucky last time and got FDR.
    This time you got Obama, who said all the right things but didn’t actually do a lot.
    Trump took full advantage of the situation.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Actually, that wasn’t quite right.
      What the article in 1943 mainly talks about is control and power.
      It’s about wanting to be in control and not losing any of their power.

  3. Idiocrates

    Grim picture indeed, but I am not entirely convinced it’s a done deal…best laid plans and all. There is too much that can go wrong with this plan, and already is. How can you control anything if you cannot produce anything and noone wants your shitty paper money?

    And how will the ‘rest of the world’ react when shit hits the fan in Fortress USA (aka the West)? I am guessing it won’t be in the same way.

    I have a hard time accepting that the Russian and Chinese governments will tow this evil line.

    Just today I see the headline ‘Brazil’s lower house passes bill that would allow BREAKING of vaccine patents in case of ‘public health emergency’ and this is on the West’s puppet’s Bolsonaro’s watch!

    How is that for control?

    1. Mantid

      Idiocrates, Spot on! I am in total accord with this sentence: “How can you control anything if you cannot produce anything and no one wants your shitty paper money?” So may people say veto, protest, make signs, flood the streets, sign petitions…….
      Waste of time. We need strikes. Shutting down the system that feeds the rich is the only option.
      Look what happened in Hong Kong. Near endless protests, but when the powers documented who to stop first, via their surveillance technologies (smart phones, cameras, etc.), they then severed some heads and jailed the people’s leaders. If one was still vocal or taking action contrary to the powers, your newspaper was closed, material confiscated and of course you are also thrown in jail.
      The biometrics used against the Uyghur population was learned and practiced on the Iraqi people with US taxpayer money. “Support our troops” so we can develop biometrics to be sold to and then fine tuned by the Chinese.
      The only recourse the public has at this point is massive strikes. Anything less is useless. Extinction Rebellion is making some headway and learning a few techniques to make their actions a bit more effective. It can be fairly sloppy as sometimes a shut down (of a commuter train for example) can initially be detrimental to the public at large – the people the activists are trying to support.
      Only massive public strikes will accomplish anything of meaning. Right and Left must find common ground (the end of surveillance for example) and shut down the process while they can. Remember the old saying “each the rich”?

    2. hunkerdown

      How can you control it? In theory, sabotage, the same way as anyone else was swayed to want post-1971 greenbacks. To my knowledge, Bichler and Nitzan’s work on capital as power may be the only economic theory, outside of the broken window fallacy popularized by Bastiat, to consider the effects of malicious value-destruction in the context of economic power, and to not assume the moral nobility of the elites.

      Thing is, as long as they can destroy a community’s yearly food supply in six hours without affecting their own meals for the next year, they have the advantage. In the end, it all comes down to resource denial.

  4. LawnDart

    Based upon your observations of behavoir (thus far) during the current pandemic, what do you see that might give you hope that the climate crisis can or will be addressed to the greater good?

    I commute to work by car, not terribly far, and so must share the roadway with fellow motorists. I sometimes must force myself to consciously recognize that the majority of the other drivers that I encounter are not bleeping idiots, but those who are do make themselves quite noticible– just like elsewhere in life.

    1. Idiocrates

      Sure, but ‘idiots’ are not a new phenomenon. The climate crises is a done deal, but I do not see how the rich get to control all of humanity – that’s just giving them too much credit, me thinks. Also, I was not referring to the climate crises, just to the preparations made to control us all. Oh, and the world outside (US, UK, NYC and London) is NOT on the same page.

      Do you think the rich got rich because they are all ‘cleverer’ than the rest of us? There are too many rich idiots to worry about their best laid plans.

      1. deplorado

        Your perspective is wise, Idiocrates, and I find it uplifting. If any optimism should be left, it is of this kind – even the most powerful are mere mortals, no one can control all of humanity even some of the time.

        Also, I can’t help it:
        “My advice to you is to get married: if you find a good wife, you’ll be happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
        – Idiocrates on marriage

  5. PlutoniumKun

    I’m not a huge fan of the English comedian Ben Elton, but as far back as 1989 his comic sci-fi book Stark pretty much predicted where we are now, with billionaires building space ships to escape a world the’ve screwed up, and using mass media to hide their plot. It was also made into a TV show, but I’ve never seen it. His plot is becoming all too scarily our reality.

    1. Idiocrates

      You think the rich can build space ships and escape to the Moon or Mars? That is something I would expect from Ben Elton’s sci-fi story.

      In reality, I think, we’re all in it together, whether we like it or not. It’s only hubris and arrogance which scares us into believing that we are in any kind of control (over anything really).

      I think we are in a situation where we cannot find our collective a**holes even with a mirror on a stick (to paraphrase Jack Reacher).

            1. Idiocrates

              Maybe not NZ :-) I agree, but if a rich idiot builds his hide-away next to a receding coastline…he better also have a submarine ready.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Plus a few hundred million Chinese and Indians looking for a home when China and India become uninhabitable.

            1. Wukchumni

              Really the best bet for a billionaire on the run is to go to Palmyra Atoll, which is US Territory, far from shipping lanes and/or planes.

      1. RickV

        You are giving Elon Musk short shift here. His plans to move 1 million colonists to Mars are well known and have been public for 20 years. His large group of mostly young followers (unlike those elders who post here of which I am one) are well represented by Tesla owners who gladly give themselves up to beta test the newest AI Autopilot updates. He has a good chance of colonizing Mars given his track record.

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            I prefer to imagine them warring with and cannibalizing each other amid the intolerable conditions, both physical and those generated by concentrating such dreadful monads in close quarters.

            It provides some schadenfreude, one of the few things left us…

          2. The Rev Kev

            It will come down to cannibalism before the radiation gets them. I seem to recall that the first three colonies in California starved to death and they weren’t 34 million miles away from their home base.

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            And how about the health damage from a vastly different gravity? And going nuts from the lack of live plants and different sunlight.

            Just the flight over will harm their bones and internal organs. Extended periods of no gravity does that.

        1. Idiocrates

          Elon Musk? Purleeze…AFAIC he is an idiot, so you need to be a bigger idiot to follow him. I mean he probably believes his own pronouncements.

          Anyway, I have little time for people who think they can survive in space (en route to Mars or wherever) or on another planet. Why? Because, you need to first survive here, on Earth, where it is nice and comfy…and is tailor ‘made for us’. For me its elementary.

          You ever seen the state of a human body after returning to Earth, after being on the ISS for a few months? You’re like a jelly-fish and standing up is difficult, coz you know…gravity.

      2. Mantid

        Idiocrates, Here, I respectfully disagree: “In reality, I think, we’re all in it together”. We are not together. The very rich will choose a few serfs by feeding them and their families with crumbs to work for and support the aforementioned rich. The “other” people will be completely cut off from any contact or admittance to the “free zone”. Once a year there will be a lottery to choose who from the “other” will become a serf and allowed to work/live at the beck and call of the rich. The previous serfs, when they falter a bit, get older for example, will be tossed like Soylent Green.
        A perfect example is in the news everyday. Amazon workers. Everyone one wants a “good paying” Amazon job. Yet their turnover is near 100% after about a year. Hire you, use you, when you get a bit of power or try to unionize, off with your head – via “smart app” of course.
        Everyone wants a cell phone even though you know you are being bled dry by it. We are not in this “together”, sadly.

        1. Idiocrates

          I agree with that, but that is not what I really meant by ‘in it together’…my bad for being ambiguous. I meant it more as a species (think ‘animals on Earth’), not a class-based categorization.

          Your points are good, though.

    2. Mikel

      The long term effects of space travel on the body and mind won’t be hospitable to short term thinkers. “Escape planet earth” is short term thinking.
      It took billions of years for this planet and atmosphere to become hospital to our bodies in their current form.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      The comments to your comment seem strange to me. I believe one point of your comment was to express irony that a crazy sci-fi plot crafted by a comedian three decades ago should mirror our present reality. I believe your comment also suggests the remarkable folly of our Big Money Elite — many of whom seem to actually believe they could build space ships to escape Earth, or safely ensconce themselves in remote bunkers.

      I believe none of us will easily escape the trials of the coming collapse and least of all the Big Money Elite.

  6. Sawdust

    The trouble with this, and conspiracy theories is general, is that it assumes They enjoy a level of competence and foresight unknown to mortal man. Peter Thiel might have all kinds of notions about ruling the world from his swanky doomstead, but if things actually get bad, he’ll be frantically jabbing at a dead screen just like rest of us.

    1. Glossolalia

      Yup. I imagine these gilded bunkers from which they plan to rule require quite a few maintenance staff to maintain and who won’t be happy when it dawns on them that they’ll be locked out, too, as rations run low.

    2. Carolinian

      That’s exactly what I was going to say. The folly of the rich thinking they can hide on private islands is all the evidence you need that they don’t know what they are doing. They need us a lot more than we need them.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Conspiracy theories? I read the post, but what post did you read?

      The Big Money Elite have proven their incompetence at rule many times over. That Big Money Elite even think they might rule the world from their swanky doom-steads is bizarre to me.

    4. Mantid

      Hi Sawdust, the term “conspiracy theory” really doesn’t mean much. It dismisses a line of thought/debate and tags it as trash. It’s so easily used to dismiss a concept as opposed to arguing or presenting an opinion or thesis. So, what do you mean to say?

  7. Eye 65

    Hank (Maurice) Greenberg (formerly AIG) was in the office every day during Sandy and checking on same each morning with his underlings at Starr Insurance.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    The top .001 percent (the few I’m aware of) do seem to have enclaves at the ready to repair to, but with some notable exceptions, I don’t see long term protection from the masses, nor the infrastructure to withstand such pressures long term along with the necessities for life.

    In other words, the super rich may unwittingly be planning what will amount to their own demise or at least a totally unexpected future with extinction in slow motion being the likely outcome. And going off planet with such intentions would almost be a guaranteed short order death sentence, only a key stone cops version of it, as opposed to the slower version of demise on what is already a deeply injured mother earth.

    That said, I’m not arguing the article’s point that the intentions are there.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Adding, I often wonder what is meant by, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”? It sounds like one of those visions by individuals who have developed some sort of penetrating spiritual intuition. Yet we have almost succeeded in turning the Earth into a living hell. Not much of a reward for the meek.

      1. Ghost in the Machine

        “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth.
        Better to be poor than a fat man in the eye of the needle.
        As these words were spoken I swear I hear the old man laughing.
        What good is a used up world and how could it be worth having?
        All this time the river flowed endlessly like a silent tear.
        All this time the river flowed.
        Father, if Jesus exists then how come he never lives here?

        Teachers told the Romans built this place.
        They built a wall and a temple and an edge of the empire garrison town.
        They lived and they died.
        They prayed to their gods, but the stone gods did not make a sound.
        And their empire crumbles ’till all that was left
        Were the stones the workmen found.”

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        “The meek will inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights.”
        – JP Getty

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        The meek will need to have armed action groups ready to exterminate the Bunkered Rich when they emerge from their bunkers. Otherwise the re-emerged rich will take over all over again.

  9. Boatwright

    We are lucky enough to live in the northern Great Lakes area — plenty of water, lovely weather for three seasons, or four if you like a white Christmas, low population, low crime. Lately, the mega-rich from around the world are “discovering” a new place to build McMansions.

    Some of the newer manifestations are downright alarming to us old-timers. Real estate outfits are chartering helicopters and private jets for aerial tours of tasty investment opportunities. 200 foot yachts registered in the Cayman Islands cruising, with the owners coming ashore in tenders that are 30 foot yachts in themselves. Former modest summer cottages along the lake shores are being torn down and replaced with huge monuments to the survivalist fantasies of the rich.

    I am soon to be 75 and looking back I see we’ve had a pretty good run, but I fear for the future of our grandchildren.

    1. voislav

      You guys are getting spillover from Ontario. Muskoka region has been turned into a playground for the rich since the 2000’s and waterfront properties are fetching multi-million dollar prices. Even modest cottages with 50- or 100- foot waterfronts are $500,000 and up. Trent-Severn waterway connects the whole region with the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence river and the Atlantic and it’s common for large mansions to have hydroplane dock so that the owner can be flown in to their doorstep.

    2. tegnost

      All the amenities you’ve described are massive energy consumers. The rich I see around here driving their big gas guzzling boats at full speed to get somewhere in a type a’s minute don’t consider the 1000 bucks of gas they burned this weekend. Some of the more recent ridiculous boats have 3 high power engines, usually 350’s. These are giant gas guzzling engines, and it’s not uncommon to see one put a couple thousand dollars of gas on in friday harbor. Also, out here big houses are hard to heat… give me a 425 sq ft cabin over a mcmansion any day, but esp. in the winter when I’m trying to keep the house not too hot from the woodstove and their 500 gallon propane tank has heaters draining it and they’re wearing sweaters, and when that propane tank is empty how does one fill it in a chaos world? I expect these folks to have a very hard time in spite of the fantasy of control, and the famous ingenuity of humans they often tout can and will be easily turned towards taking their stuff, or finding their stuff doesn’t work. And remember, these are the smart people…what could go wrong?

  10. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    I think we will end up in deep chaos due to the likely many unforeseeable consequences of climate change & all bets will be off. Most initial cunning plans have to be binned in crisis situations when reality bites & trying to control & protect a massive pile of assets both virtual & actual & possibly well spread out into defensible positions, might actually become a liability once the shite really hits the fan.

    I also believe that those whose seemingly sole purpose is to extract as much as they can from the trough simply can’t help themselves while likely assuming that as they are in their own eyes the Masters of the Universe that they will stay on top of the pile, but history is full of elite coulda, woulda, shoulda represented by piles of rubble & corpses.

    I guess that I am not very optimistic & how they have handled this Covid overture before the the full tragic opera, doesn’t inspire me with any confidence whatsoever.

    1. Copeland

      “I also believe that those whose seemingly sole purpose is to extract as much as they can from the trough simply can’t help themselves while likely assuming that as they are in their own eyes the Masters of the Universe that they will stay on top of the pile…”

      This is helpful, thank you (bold mine).

  11. The Rev Kev

    Obviously the elite have little imagination when outside of their lane. Not that you can tell them that. They should remember what happened after the Regime fell in France in the 18th century and what happened to the local elite. As Trotsky once said, ‘Revolution is impossible – until it’s inevitable.’ You look at that building all lit up in that image at the top of that article and all I see is a target lit up like a Christmas tree. And remember what Mark Blyth said about the Hamptons? If the State turns against them, where can they turn to? Where can they run away to that is out of the reach of whatever governments comes into being? I swear that dealing with the elite here is like dealing with those aliens from ID4 as they both have the same aims. So I ask them when they sit in that lit-up building – ‘Is that glass bulletproof?’ (2:18 mins)

    1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      I keep thinking of the Bronze age collapse of which the elites of Mycenaean Greece, the Hittite Empire & more besides were destroyed with even Egypt only surviving by the skin of it’s teeth. Global cooling appears to have triggered that within what was a miniature example of globalisation. It does not appear to have been a major climate event like the one we will likely face, but it triggered famine which was probably the main factor in the rise of the Sea Peoples who took to their boats & ravaged most of the Aegean & the Med. It is thought by some that the Iliad described one of the first major raids prior to the Mycenaean elites disappearance.

      We have a vastly more complex system & who needs desperate Sea People when you already have millions on your front doorstep ? I suppose that the biggest human version of the effects of climate change would have been Genghis Khan who ate elites for breakfast which in the example of Iraq, It took 800 years to recover from which ironically was achieved by Saddam Hussein.

      Hubris appears to never go out of fashion, but I hope that I am very very wrong about the potential of a much more complicated historical rhyme.

      1. Mantid

        Eustache. I have to ask, any relation to the one near Les Halles? Anyway, you’re right about the Bronze age collapse. The big difference now is that there’s no where else to go. Egypt did barely squeak by and it didn’t bother the Mayans much, for example. However today, with the climate taking off like a Bezos rocket, we’re all headed for a Venus type of paradise.

        1. Christopher Horne

          I think a better example would be the Mayans, who needed
          lime so much to decorate their temples and plazas that they
          burned up the forests to make it. Or the Anastazi, who managed
          to engineer canals for a hundred-year megadrought until even
          their best efforts were not enough.

  12. freebird

    We would all like for the greedy elites to get their comeuppance, but no, it’s not going to happen. As long as they have a captive media to wash the peasant brains into going along with their choice of red or blue koolaid, they are in absolutely no danger. And there is an endless supply of media spokesmodels and other PMC enablers that will make sure this stays the status quo. And as long as the peasantry needs to eat, stay warm, and communicate, they will remain slaves to this system.

    There was a window to stop this madness, and it has closed.

    1. Idiocrates

      There never is any ‘window’ except for ‘right now’. If we don’t do A now (like eat the rich, stop burning coal) we will have to do B later (like eat their corpses and burn trees), but both A and B will never get you back to the previous present. Its just not how reality works.

      The way reality unfolds in a sequence of ‘presents’ ensures that there are always possibilities to do something, but it is never the same something and the next present is never exactly as you imagined it…

      I think of it as stumbling in the dark. Some of us have a better memory of what it was you stumbled into last time, some have worse.

      Obviously stories about comeuppance and ‘justice in the end’ are just that…

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I must disagree with you. The “peasantry needs to eat, stay warm, and communicate” and they always will, as will all of Humankind. I do not share your belief in the unbounded ability of our Elite to manufacture consent — especially when there is not enough food to eat or water to drink; when there is no warmth; and when communications have been controlled and virtually shredded. There is no window except the window you make and imagine for yourself. Ignore the Koolaid — regardless of color — and take the red pill.

  13. Glossolalia

    I’m not advocating violence of any kind, but I’d just like to point out that *if* you *are* going to go after the banksters in a physical manner then smashing the windows of a local bank branch is not very effective. It would probably be more effective to get them as they’re stumbling out drunk from a restaurant in the Hamptons.

    1. Alex Cox

      As depicted in the film Holy Motors, in which the actor protagonist takes time out of his busy day to murder several banksters and their bodyguards at a Paris restaurant. An excellent film, well worth seeing.

      1. Mantid

        I’ll look that film up. Another one in a seemingly simmilar vein is The Edukators, a German flic. Humorous but deep, simple vs. rich.

    2. Christopher Horne

      This is why the Federal Reserve was created. Capitalism’s nightmare
      was bank runs. So ‘your deposits are guaranteed’ let them rest peacefully.
      And took away a major threat from ‘da people’.

  14. Mtnwoman

    Our Dem and GOP Overlords and their Overlords know the destabilzation that is coming (largely due to their greed and piss poor governance).

    All thru this century, Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden has only added to the police and surveillance state.

    Look at all the very high tech armament our city police forces have. Biden just doubled the budget for police hiring. This is not to protect us, but to protect them.

    And yet so many of friends and family go on thinking “Blue team good, Red team bad”.

    1. Mantid

      Blue team good, red team bad. Funny that, seriously. It’s like a person with a cell phone complaining about surveillance.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Any such rhyme is doggerel. We will live through much more ‘interesting’ times.

  15. Fran

    Freedom of expression? Express too much of it and you will be arbitrarily canceled from the neighborhood.
    Profitable? You bet. At least to the founders.

    Nextdoor, the most massive and intrusive data miner on earth, is about to go public.
    Billions served, but to whom?

  16. Susan the other

    Money will be utterly pointless if civilization collapses. So it is beyond me why governments refuse to fiat the things we need to create a viable future. There will be no fiat at all if it all falls apart. It’s absurd to refuse to legislate because of “the budget”. But that is exactly how stupid and incompetent our Congress (of dithering nitwits) is. I mean, they are trying to privatize medical care as we speak. Pure malfeasance. I truly think they are so useless they need to be ignored and replaced by a functioning new branch of government. We could turn the capitol bldg. into a rest home. Or an actual sausage factory.

    1. Idiocrates

      Yes, what can you do with a billion worthless dollars? It is obvious to me that there will be no escape from the train wreck unless humans learn to cooperate on a global scale, and real fucking quick, like!

      1. hunkerdown

        The money, and the skills of predation that won it, give one a somewhat stable priority of access to fitness-enhancing goods in a systematic fashion, or at least gets people to instinctively allow one to cut in line.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe the bon mot — “Après moi, le déluge”, best encapsulates the “thought” and hopes of our Big Money Elites. Their space flights and Earth bunkers are curious insurance against a worst case scenario.

    1. Mantid

      “Part of the Problem”. That was the name of our community softball team. We were previously called “The Foul Balls”.

  17. john potamites

    “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
    Remember the strikes. Remember the protests. Remember the police. Remember the National Guard.

  18. Thistlebreath

    Since nobody else has posted it yet, here it is:

    Edgar A. Poe
    “Masque of the Red Death”

    The problem w/WWI gas attacks was that fairly often the attacher’s gas shells would burst but the clouds of gas would drift back toward the launcher’s trenches.

    That same hubris of those in command applies to climate change, pestilence, war, famine, all those skeletons astride skeletal horses.

    Time to re read Shelley’s Ozymandias. Or watch Slim Pickens riding the nuke in “Dr. Strangelove.”

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    The image of the Goldman Sachs building is iconic.

    Matt Stoller’s view of NYC during Hurricane Sandy contrasts with Yves description of NYC during Hurricane Sandy:
    “Every age gets the metaphorical crises it deserves, and New York’s came in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit the city and caused power outages across half the city. I was there, and at first everyone was really nice to each other. Within a few days, a Mad Max vibe began to creep into daily interactions. The lights came back on in time to get the city more or less back to normal, though not everywhere.
    [“Why New York City Is On the Verge of Disaster”, ]

    I experienced Hurricane Sandy in a small bedroom community on the mainland across the water from NYC. I noticed neither helpful concerned neighbors and local government nor Mad Max vibes. But Hurricane Sandy was no true test of our mettle. What would happen if the blackouts lasted for months and if there were no outside help delivering water and charging phones? Where I lived, a charged cell phone would have been of little use since many of the cell towers had shutdown. I lived in an information desert for a couple of days. What if it had been for a couple of months?

    People will share when it is a matter of sharing or seeing food waste. Will they share when there is not enough food or not enough fresh water? I believe the impulses to share will be catch-as-catch can. I believe the impulses toward predation will also be catch-as-catch can. I believe we can always cooperate as small groups following a well thought plan that will benefit all, even carrying a few free-riders.

    These thoughts remind me of the movie “Seven Samurai”.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      There is nothing I said that is incorrect as written.

      Nathan Tankus was walking extensively all over his area of lower Midtown and calling me daily with reports, usually a half hour plus in length. I don’t have the impression that Matt was anywhere near as systematic in trying to get a handle on things.

      There were efforts to feed the homebound and the city did distribute water. I never said those initiatives were large enough in scale.

  20. Wukchumni

    Comeuppance see me sometime & I expect to experience a Cali ‘Cold Rush’ in my lifetime as we endure the pangs of purgatory like temps driving those left in the flatlands into the higher climes after the 7th year of the Big Heat in 2027 had left deeper high country lakes as the only reliable source of water & cooling, and all the lakes with trails were festooned on the waters edge with everybody & their mother in ad hoc time-shares, a no go from a sanitary standpoint.

    If Jeff Bezos or Peter Thiel isn’t comfortable walking off-trail to bodies of water where few dare on account of difficulty in getting there, all the money in the world isn’t going to make it so, and the wilderness doesn’t take American Express.

    Of course, they could get there via helicopters-with easy resupply and enough security guard types to secure the perimeter, so there’s that.

  21. Lambert Strether

    > They’re building highly militarized “security” states even in democracies, states that can and will protect only wealth from the millions — and later, the billions — of refugees

    One reason I follow Myanmar so closely is that it’s a very clean, simple, and small natural experiment of exactly this process. Many confounding factors are left out, as a result of Myanmar’s geopolitical position.*

    NOTE * Going off topic here, but since the thought occurs: Absent foreign intervention. The US seems to have written off (“Indo-Pacific”) Southeast Asia as sphere of influence, albeit they’re not above stirring up trouble; China is sensible enough not to get involved in a “land war in Asia,” at least for now; and ASEAN is, as ever, devoted to the principle of non-interference. (Russia is helping the Tatmadaw with weaponry, but Russia is nothing like geographically contiguous with Myanmar, so I’m not sure that matters to China. One more example of Putin, with a weak hand, outplaying Xi and poor old Joe Biden.) So it really is the Tatmadaw and its compradors versus the vast bulk of peasantry, who not only have experienced both cell phones and factory work for the first time in the last twenty years, but many of whom also have “representation” in the form of ethnic armies (granted, led by warlords, not statesmen, and not as battle-hardened as the Tatmadaw). So their post-colonial world today is a lot like our world, except that we have the PMC — the media, the lawyers, the financial advisors, the NGOs, the credentialed — to obscure the central contradiction. Myanmar has its own professional obscurantists, but they are clearly far less effective than our own, or else the “resistance” [gag me with a spoon, Neera Tanden] would already have been crushed. When our (globalist, post-naional, flag-of-convenience) 1% manage to replace the PMC with apps and AI, our world will look like Myanmar if the Tatmadaw stays in the saddle. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Asia hands please correct!

    1. Starry Gordon

      I’d expect the post-apocalyptic West’s large organizations to fall apart under stress pretty quickly given the culture of Individualism (”dog eat dog and Devil take the hindmost”) prevailing in its present leadership classes. Thiel, Bezos, Musk, are not going to build redoubts in New Zealand or on the moon. They’re going to vanish. The enormous surveillance and military structure currently in operation requires that its operators and subjects believe in it as a mechanism for their own and their families’ survival. But there is very little to believe in.

  22. Susan the other

    Just looking at the map, not even figuring whose money/arms backs which pols/generals, and thinking in terms of China, something always tells me this “coup” is part of a greater plan to keep China from using Myanmar as access to the South China Sea and that part of the BRI, traversing down and over to India. That’s one good reason for this disruption. Another is to create a distraction and a problem – a bargaining chip – for Taiwan. We are clearly going to “defend” Taiwan; now Japan too possibly. Sort of the way Ukraine became a bargaining chip (that failed) against Russia’s Norstream plans. Creating a problem in both Taiwan and Myanmar serves to enclose China. And it’s much harder for a landlocked giant to slip under the fence than a few political refugees.

    1. Susan the other

      I’d also add our accelerated exit from (finally) Afghanistan. In classic style we folded our tent and snuck away. To my thinking this wasn’t just intentional, it was strategic, because now it leaves the door open for China to traffic all it wants to in Central Asia and all the way to the EU. And to have to deal with those pesky Taliban. It’s as if we want China to develop Eurasia, making it a buyer of their manufactured goods as we once were, but not to interfere with international trading practices, etc. It looks more like choreography than WW3 to me.

  23. Hepativore

    Actually, the mega-rich might start building even larger floating yachts that serve as mobile floating mansions in order to contend with rising sea levels leaving the rest of the world to bake or drown. With all of the emphasis on autonomous machines and vehicles, I would not be surprised if some of these uber-wealthy individuals think that they would be able to replace much of their human crew or staff with automated systems like Otto from Wall-E.

    Another thing to consider is the fact that perhaps Orwell was on to something with 1984 when he was talking about the massive projects that the three global powers would undertake only to scrap immediately after completion. The point was not to create anything of value or useful but to intentionally use up resources in order to prevent them from going to the general populace so as to permanently keep the lower classes poor and destitute. We also see that now with military spending on private contractors to buy overpriced toys that do not even work. Perhaps this is why the plan seems to be to let things go south to the point to help keep a desperate peasantry in line.

    After a few generations of poverty being ubiquitous in most of the world, perhaps people will be too starved or numbed to their conditions to ever think of planning an insurrection, not to mention all of the new military and surveillance technology that our current overlords have would make the chances of a successful rebellion very small indeed. Plus, the underclasses in the future might become so used to being at the complete mercy and brutal exploitation or neglect at the hands of the global elite that they would not even think of resisting, never having known any different so assuming that this is the way things have been and will always be.

  24. Idiocrates

    Hmmm, I kind of agree that meddling in Myanmar is to inflame, but not enclose China. Coz how can you enclose China if you’re retreating from everywhere, because you’re overextended AND you lost (Afghanistan, Iraq etc)? I see it more as a last ditch effort, than a recipe for success. You know a bad loser kind of behaviour who only has a hammer (so everything is a nail).

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