The changing world

It is my thesis today that we are ruled by psychopaths. We have probably always been ruled by psychopaths, but in my youth and a good deal of my mature years we were, or the majority of us were, too naive to realise this. But the nature of today's psychopaths has changed from those of my youth, changed for the worse, and now we can more easily see their true nature.

In my youth we lived in what I have heard described as a benevolent dictature. Our lords and masters for the most part maintained a benevolent interest in our welfare. Of course there were some regional bullies, and I have to admit I do not know how the people fared under these conditions. Perhaps those that could, moved, leaving, as always, the less mobile – the old, the young, the too poor – to languish under the wicked baron. But it was the squire who started the school for the children of his villagers, perhaps encouraged by his daughters who had been reading Dickens. It was the squires – or of course their seniors – who made the roads and maintained them, to ease the transport of their own goods, and at the same time, those of their subjects. And so also with other improvements in the general standard of living.

To be sure, my picture is somewhat idealised. Life was still hard, brutal perhaps, but not, perhaps, as brutal as previously, for those at the bottom of the food chain, whose principal interest was the well-being of himself and his family and friends.

All that has changed, and I would propose that it has changed at an accelerating rate from probably around the nineteen seventies or eighties, and since the turn of the century it has changed almost exponentially.

When I was young, a large company's profit would be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds – let us use today's exchange rate, and convert that to millions of Swedish kronor. A company which made a 5% return on capital was doing well. Today, that company must make a 15% return on capital to keep its shareholders happy, and companies like Volvo, ABB and the like report earnings in the billions of kronor, or, say, the hundred millions of pounds. The profit has increased a thousand-fold, and the return by a factor of three. Which means that the profit per share has increased over three hundred times.

When I was young, a lower middle class wage was sufficient to keep a man, his wife and his children in a reasonable standard of living. Today, for a family in more or less the same class, two wages are not sufficient. To be sure, the definition of 'a reasonable standard of living' has changed over the last sixty or seventy years. My family owned our house, which was, of course, mortgaged. Many owned their houses; many more rented. We had good clothes, we ate well, of a good variety. We owned a television set, and my parents and I read books. We had a telephone.

We did not, of course, have mobile phones nor personal computers. We did not replace our wardrobes every few weeks. We did not go out on amusements often, although my brother was out and about with his friends every Friday, Saturday and occasionally Sunday night. For the rest of us there was, perhaps, a visit to the local cinema once a week (until the television came). (I am told that one of my parents went to the early performance of the weekly film at the cinema which was perhaps a ten-minute walk away. The other parent waited until ten minutes before the second performance was due to start, and then set off, passing the other parent roughly half way between home and cinema, and I was left sleeping in my bed. Oh, the thrill of it for them!)  To be in debt other than to the bank (for the mortgage) and perhaps if one had a monthly account at the butchers, bakers, and candle-stick makers, was shameful.

All these things: the latest electronic devices; new clothes every few weeks; forty television channels all showing cookery programs and reality programs for a monthly fee over half my monthly salary back in the days when I started work; entertainments at home and out of it, Netflix and Spotify; all these have we been encouraged to obtain whether or not we can afford them – usually we cannot, and have credit card debts and mobile loans, and dare not leave our jobs if we can avoid it. We are prisoners of our own indebtedness.

But all this is not my point. These comments are merely the symptoms, but hardly the disease.

Our leaders, whether in industry and commerce or in politics, have now left us out of their reckoning. There is no longer any feeling for their subjects. The dictature is no longer benign.

Here is what I see. Multinational companies move their production facilities from the home country to low-wage countries. For a few years, ten, twenty, perhaps as many as fifty, their wage bill will be reduced before the countries they have moved to have organised their labour and raised wages to more reasonable levels, by which time production will have been fully robotised, and they can do away with almost all their labour costs. Or if not, the standard of living in the original home country will have fallen so low that it will pay them to move their production facilities back, for another ten or twenty years of increased profitability.

Our governments do nothing to penalise this maltreatment of their citizens. Instead they join forces with the companies and increase successively the royalty period of intellectual property, and help manufacturers to maintain the prices consumers have always paid, regardless of the fact that production costs have now been reduced by the move to low-wage countries.

With the decreasing wage structure in the home country, as qualified jobs move abroad and are, perhaps, replaced by unqualified ones, the tax base falls. Taxes cannot be raised for people living on the breadline so the quality of service must be reduced. Services are no longer services, but are turned over to private companies without even the notion of quality control, and the quality inevitably falls, for what is the effect of quality, if not to reduce profit. The higher the standard one maintains, the more it costs, and the lower the return. Even worse, the unemployment rate increases, even though the actual value may be disguised by a creative use of statistics, but the unemployed require support, and this further reduces the tax base, requiring further cut-backs in services.

In one area our lords and masters do not cut back. Military expenditure always increases. To ensure this, those same lords and masters create enemies, real or, more often imaginary, to justify the military expenditure. We know the lies which brought war to Iraq in 2003. Less well known are the lies which brought war to the Balkans in the 1990s, to Libya in 2011 and to Syria also in 2011. And these are just the known wars. Forgotten are the wars in Afghanistan, and the horn of Africa has had its devastating wars also. And one of the principal purposes of all these wars is the sale of weapons. Another is the lust for power. Power to decide over every person on our planet.

Just now three new imaginary enemies are being forced down our throats, or four if one counts terrorism. The other three are Russia and China and Iran. Here is a feast for our psychopaths! Two of the three are unbeatable, singly or together, and an attack on the third would bring the other two into the fray, for these three are all members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (well, Iran will be a full member very soon). The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation, on the military side a sort of Eurasian NATO, with this difference that the SCO is for defence and not, like NATO, for attack. There is actually another difference – the SCO is also political and economic as I said, which means that politics and economic considerations play a role in decisions, and military matters are more likely to be a question of defence. NATO is purely military, and as they say, if you only have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

The size and power and magnitude of these new imaginary enemies are such that direct war, we must hope, will never break out, for if it does, the end of mankind is at hand. But they will be used as the justification for ever increasing military expenditure at home and abroad. And, in a little corner, perhaps terrorism will be targetted, when it is not being fostered.

And still nothing will be done to replace or restore the services we have lost. Indeed they will be reduced even further.

It seems to me that the point of no return has been reached. We can no longer rise up and demand that our leaders change course. The degree of surveillance to which we are subjected is such that there is no chance of accumulating a sufficiently large body of influence before the forces arraigned against any such moves would be brought into action and those brave initiators at the very least denigrated in the media, those powerful weapons of opinion forming, which are totally in the hands of the psychopaths. At the worst they could be defused by imprisonment on some pretext, as so often happens in some countries.

Think about what I have just said: the psychopaths have everyone under surveillance. What happened to innocent until proven guilty – or at least a reasonable level of suspicion? What happened to applying to a court for permission to examine a suspect's mail, tap his phone, watch his every move? Think about the third force in the community, the press, whose brief has always been to critically examine the other two forces, government and parliament, and hold them to account. In the first place, they have been bought up by the psychopaths and now promulgate the psychopaths' message, and in the second place, the mad hunt for profit means that investigative journalism does not have a sufficiently high return on investment. It is far easier and cheaper to report on the latest scandals of well-known figures, which, in the case of people in the entertainment industry, are good publicity. So now the media themselves are the entertainment industry, and one must go hunting on the internet for alternative news, with the concommittent necessity of analysing the quality of what is produced by the various sites.

I suppose one has to point to Donald Trump as an attempt to challenge the psychopaths. Trump can hardly string together two sentences without causing confusion, but the general idea, at least amongst his supporters, and apparently also amongst his detractors, is that he is the rallying point for those opposed to the rule of the psychopaths. And look at the result: the stormiest first month of a presidency; one of his key appointments forced to resign on extremely dubious grounds; another in danger of the same fate for the same excuse; a total lack of positive comments from the media, in fact the reverse, total criticism of every pronouncement; and the ultimate psychopaths, the infamous CIA reportedly leaking secret information – and in the process confirming the existence and universality of citizen surveillance.

I suppose in Trump's case the only reason he got as far as he did was because nobody, especially not the psychopaths, really believed that he would. The problem is that Trump is not the kind of person to lead a successful rebellion. 

1 – 0 to the psychopaths.

© James Wilde 2015