Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Davos, the super-wealthy use "mindfulness" to distract us from death, mass poisoning, and the hideous income & wealth inequality they've created

"a constellation of egos involved in massive orgies of adulation"

--London Mayor Boris Johnson's description of the "World Economic Forum" in Davos, Switzerland ("From Goldie Hawn to Bill Gates: The most powerful people in the world are gathered in Davos to save the world and find their Zen," Yahoo Finance, January 22, 2014)

Above: President Roosevelt didn't need or use "mindfulness" to improve the lives of millions of Americans. He just signed the Social Security Act in 1935. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum

Yesterday, journalist Peter Goodman discussed the 2017 "World Economic Forum" in Davos, Switzerland, and wrote:

"... solutions that have currency seem calculated to spare corporations and the wealthiest people from having to make any sacrifices at all, as if there is a way to be found to tilt the balance of inequality while those at the top hang on to everything they have. More entrepreneurialism, mindfulness training, education focused on the modern ways of technology: These are the sorts of items that tend to get discussed here as the response to the plight of those left behind by globalization. That perhaps private equity overseers should not be paid 1,000 times as much as teachers while availing themselves of tax breaks is thinking that gets little airing here" ("Davos Elite Fret About Inequality Over Vintage Wine and Canapes," New York Times, January 18, 2017, emphasis added).

Davos is a yearly gathering of the financial elite. They meet to talk about solutions to global warming, after their private jets have spewed tons of filth into the atmosphere to get them there. They meet to talk about income inequality, while they giggle to themselves about the billions they've hidden in offshore bank accounts. They meet to talk about the problems of third world countries, after they've invested in companies that have poisoned and killed the residents of those countries (for example, the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry).

Above: New Deal administrators like Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes didn't need or use "mindfulness" to modernize American infrastructure, like this 1936 WPA waterworks project in Birmingham, Alabama. Indeed, these two no-nonsense administrators would probably have considered "mindfulness" for a moment or two, and then said, "Look, we've got work to do, we don't have time for that silliness." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

At the World Economic Forum (which only the tiniest sliver of the world is permitted to attend), they use happy words to distract us from their bad behavior, for example, "entrepreneurship!" "innovation!" "retooling the workforce!" and, of course, "mindfulness."

Here is a definition of mindfulness from Psychology Today: "Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."

In other words, it doesn't really mean anything at all. It's just a neat-sounding word, like "innovation," that the super-wealthy can use to make themselves appear a little less monstrous that they actually are. A word they can use to avoid paying higher taxes or installing pollution control devices that might reduce their profits by an intolerable 1.3%.

Above: The young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, shown here in northern California, didn't need or use "mindfulness" to create or improve our parks and forests, or to fight forest fires. They simply hopped in trucks, went to the work sites, and did the job. That's how they did things back then. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Since "mindfulness" has become the hip new thing (within the last 2 to 3 years I suppose), children are still being poisoned by lead-contaminated water, thanks to infrastructure neglect; hundreds of thousands of children are still dying from air-pollution, caused by the fossil fuel industry; the military-industrial complex is still gleefully bombing the hell of out of people, so that already-rich investors can become richer still; non-wealthy college graduates are still suffocating under a trillion+ debt, while their super-wealthy fellow students graduate debt-free and secure the choicest jobs within a network of well-heeled politicians and businessmen; and yes, despite the serene "mindfulness" of billionaires, the planet is still getting hotter - 2016 was the warmest on record. (Also see, "Corporate mindfulness is bullsh*t: Zen or no zen, you're working harder and being paid less," Salon, September 27, 2015)

And the reason these plagues continue unabated? Because the gobbledygook of "mindfulness" is a pathetic alternative to the New Deal. "Active, open attention to the present" is no replacement for strong unions. Observing "your thoughts and feelings from a distance" is not nearly as helpful as an expansion of Social Security would be. "Living in the moment and awakening to experience" doesn't help our national parks and forests - but a new Civilian Conservation Corps certainly would.

But alas, "mindfulness" doesn't cost any money - higher taxes would. So, the super-wealthy prefer the former. They prefer to mentally pleasure themselves into happiness and peace, instead of funding programs that would actually improve people's lives - like debt reduction, free public college, infrastructure repair, single-payer health insurance, work programs for the unemployed, higher wages for workers, expansion of Social Security, and so on.

The World Economic Forum in Davos should be shut down and discontinued. It is a foolish and impotent exercise, or, as Jeff Macke of Yahoo Finance described it, a "willfully oblivious mix of greed and altruism." Instead, the super-wealthy should be taxed more--much more--so that we have the revenue to improve the planet and lift people out of poverty. We've tried greed and low-wages. It hasn't worked. Let's return to, and improve, the New Deal.

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