Friday, October 12, 2007

The villian as liberated hero

I recently ran across a meme dealing with "the mad villain archetype as liberated hero" |link| which turns up some interesting discussions of rather unsavory characters. For instance, this is a segment from a discussion of the ravings of Charles Manson.

Is gnosis/enlightenment [always a wholly positive experience]?

How could it be anything else?...

[But] When you’ve transcended the opposites and moved beyond the realm of good and evil, how do you interact with the world?

In mythology we hear a lot about Buddhas or Bodhisattvas who turn back at the last moment to liberate all other beings in the world.

But rarely do we hear tales of the anti-Bodhisattva who transcends the control system, only to become it.

|Super Villains & Super Heroes - Pop Occulture Blog| (emphasis added)
The question interests me and relates to some of my views on law school as well.

As a progressive, I assume that when one learns of a corrupt practice, one would want to stamp it out. But that's not everyone's intuition. Some people think a loophole is there to be exploited.

Some people go to law school because they want to make the world a better place and may eventually become jaded or fall in with bad people.

But I am totally convinced that other people have no morals to begin with and only go to law school to learn the rules, so they can break them with impunity.

This connects with some of Naomi Klein's observations in her new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.


[The Blackwater massacre scandal] definitely feels like a watershed moment. There is this collective understanding that this wasn't an accident, it was inevitable: give a bunch of pumped-up guys guns, and send them to a place where they're above the law, and they'll act like cowboys. But what's missing from too much of the analysis is the obvious next point: this is true of the entire occupation.

Give a bunch of contractors billions of dollars with no accountability, while simultaneously eviscerating the Iraqi state (de-Baathification, laying off the army, flinging open the economy with no regulation) and they'll gorge.

Give a bunch of Heritage Foundation interns control of an economy with no oversight and they'll try to privatize everything in sight.

The entire disaster in Iraq was utterly predictable. But what I argue in the book is that not only was this predictable, it was the plan.

The plan wasn't to destroy Iraq; it was to create a market frontier. And the reason you build a frontier is always the same: nothing is more profitable.

Adam Smith wrote about it in The Wealth of Nations: on the colonial frontier, land can be grabbed, taxes are few, and capitalism can exist in its purest, most profitable form. That's why the Wall Street Journal has been comparing Iraq to a "gold rush" from the very first reconstruction conferences in 2003 -- any frontier is a gold rush.

So what frustrates me about the current Blackwater scandal is the attitude of surprise in the media and congress -- surprise that these companies are acting like "cowboys" in a "wild west." Of course they are -- the occupation was built to be the Wild West.

For four years the White House systematically fought every attempt at oversight of the contractors, specifically granted them immunity under Iraqi law and made no serious attempt to monitor their activities. And it's not just Blackwater -- think of all the tens of billions of public dollars allocated to reconstructing Iraq. The money has all been given away to contractors while Iraq is in worse shape than ever -- those contractors are cowboys too. And that's not even including the roughly $9 billion of Iraq's own oil money that has gone missing.

And what's even worse than the feigned astonishment we are seeing is this insistence on framing everything as an individual "corruption" scandal. Companies are built to profit from opportunity -- to do everything they can get away with to make as much money as possible. It's their legal duty.

So the scandal isn't Blackwater or Halliburton or Exxon; it's the vision of politics we have been living with since Reagan that holds that the central role of government is to be the executive chef for this corporate feeding frenzy. In the eighties and nineties, that meant chopping of major limbs of the state -- water, electricity, the airwaves -- and feeding them to corporations.

Today the process has moved into the very core of the state: armies, interrogation, evacuations.

But rampant corruption has always been part of these neo-colonial privatization frenzies -- think of the instant billionaires in Latin America's privatization wave, when Carlos Slim, now the third richest man in the world, made his fortune, or the lawless rise of the Russian oligarchs during "shock therapy."

What I argue in The Shock Doctrine is that privatization is the post-modern frontier. Essentially, what shock therapy means is selling off as much as possible before the law catches up, just as an earlier era of conquistadors grabbed land and minerals and signed treaties after the fact....

The politicians who designed this war are all supposed to be adherents to a philosophy that holds that there is nothing more powerful in the world than greed -- that it should be the governing force in as many human interactions as possible. Isn't that what Milton Friedman wanted? Iraq's occupation was organized by the Bush Administration to unleash that instinct [greed] with absolutely no restraint.

Either greed belongs in a war zone, or it doesn't. You can't unleash it in the name of sparking an economic boom and then be shocked when Halliburton overcharges for everything from towels to gas, when Parsons' sub, sub, sub-contractor builds a police academy where the pipes drip raw sewage on the heads of army cadets and where Blackwater investigates itself and finds it acted honorably. That's just corporations doing what they do and Iraq is a privatized war zone so that's what you get. Build a frontier, you get cowboys and robber barons. |The Real Blackwater Scandal: Build a Frontier, You Get Cowboys - Huffington Post| (emphasis added)
It's a pretty strong allegation. That the neo-cons and Bush administration designed the Iraqi occupation to require massive contractor support in order to funnel money to their corporate backers.

In essence, they sold the American taxpayer and the Iraqi citizens down the river to line their own pockets and never lost a night's sleep over it.

Now, that is as clever as it is despicable.

What is the appropriate punishment for a crime like that?

I'm thinking scaphism...

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