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Cultures of Violence in the Age of Casino Capitalism

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Posted on Dec 19, 2013
Hakan Dahlstrom (CC BY 2.0)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

(Page 2)

The magnitude of this type of infantilized masculinity and its proliferation of systemic violence is particularly evident in the current policies promoted by right-wing Republican Party extremists in Congress. Women and children are particularly vulnerable under this regime of casino capitalism-fueled-hyper masculinity. According to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, “nearly one in five women has been raped or has experienced an attempted rape . . . one in six women has been stalked, and one in four have been reported being beaten by their intimate partner.” In addition, each year children experience a shocking amount of violence due to abuse by adults and fueled by a gun culture that celebrates aggression in the name of freedom and security, but in reality is nothing more than a huge source of profit for the defense industries, corporations that trade in violence and death, and the growing incarceration state.  The figures pointing to the deaths due to violence against children and youth are staggering. “Each year: More than 1,500 children ages 0 to 17 die from child abuse and neglect - about 80% of deaths occur among children younger than age 4. More than 5,000 young people ages 1 to 24 were murdered, making homicide the second leading cause of death for this age group.” The Republican Party’s response to such issues has been to curtail women’s reproductive rights, curtail valuable health-care facilities for low-income women, criminalize the behaviors of young people, engage in voter suppression, saturate schools with the police, and remove millions of poor children from valuable food stamp assistance.

America has not only lost its moral compass, but any vestige of credibility in its alleged support for equality, freedom, justice and democracy itself. The United States is not a banana republic, as some critics claim, but much worse. It has become the enemy of democracy and a symbol of the new authoritarianism. As Joseph Stiglitz, Michael Yates and many other theorists of inequality have demonstrated, power and wealth are now firmly concentrated in the hands of the 1% and translate into forms of material and symbolic violence evident in a range of policies designed to dismantle all vestiges of the welfare state from school lunch and food stamp programs to benefits for the unemployed. The social contract is not under attack by the plutocrats, it is being shredded. As usual, Bill Moyers gets it right and is worth quoting at length:

We don’t have emperors yet, but one of our two major parties is now dominated by radicals engaged in a crusade of voter suppression aimed at the elderly, the young, minorities, and the poor; while the other party, once the champion of everyday working people, has been so enfeebled by its own collaboration with the donor class that it offers only token resistance to the forces that have demoralized everyday Americans . . .Why are record numbers of Americans on food stamps? Because record numbers of Americans are in poverty. Why are people falling through the cracks? Because there are cracks to fall through. It is simply astonishing that in this rich nation, more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full-time work, many of them running out of jobless benefits, while our financial class pockets record profits, spends lavishly on campaigns to secure a political order that serves its own interests, and demands that our political class push for further austerity. Meanwhile, roughly 46 million Americans live at or below the poverty line and, with the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percent of kids in poverty than we do.  Yet a study by scholars at Northwestern University and Vanderbilt finds little support among the wealthiest Americans for policy reforms to reduce income inequality.

This form of concentrated power is a machinery of social and civil death intent on waging wars, destroying public schools, public transportation, unions, the environment and all vestiges of the commons, social contract, and public good.  Accumulating capital is the new common sense of the land, making exchange value the only value that matters, regardless of the social pathologies it promotes throughout the entire society.  Unsurprisingly, faith in the defining institutions of democracy are at an all-time low as politics becomes simply another swindle created by a casino capitalism in which the house always wins. Instead of moral and political outrage manifested in massive demonstrations and new-found political struggles, there is a eerie quietude and sense of desperation enveloping the fast-moving darkness of authoritarianism that is engulfing the country.

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America has become a society that thrives on a denial of reality - mistaking democracy for capitalism, massive inequality for meritocracy, ignorance for reason, war for peace, charity for justice, freedom for an unchecked individualism, and entertainment for cruelty. Casino capitalism’s Clinton-Bush “greed is good” image, made famous by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, has been replaced by the more realistic and sinister values represented by Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.  As power becomes global, unrestrained by the politics of nation states, it has become more arrogant, less controllable and more vicious in its pursuit of resources, profits and wealth. This predatory ruling financial class are the new zombies - parasites sucking the blood out of everything they come in contact with while spreading misery, suffering, and death all over the globe.  One consequence is that more and more individuals and groups are becoming imaginary others, defined by a free floating, largely unaccountable capitalist class that inscribes them as disposable, redundant and irrelevant. This is particularly true for a growing number of people, especially young people, who increasingly inhabit zones of terminal exclusion - lacking jobs, burned by overwhelming debt and written out of the discourse of democracy.

This grim reality has produced a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy.  Casino capitalism destroys those institutions that generate the capacity for critique, dissent, thoughtfulness and collective struggles. In its place, it has erected a series of cultural apparatuses that revel in idiocy, celebrity culture, conformity and infantilization. Fox News is the new Pravda, only dumber. Ninety-five percent of talk radio is controlled by right-wing ideologues spewing out an endless tirade of racist, sexist, hate-filled discourse, parading as innocent escapism.  Hollywood almost exclusively embraces big-budget films whose worth is defined largely through the aesthetics of hyper-violence and the number of people slaughtered graphically, often in slow motion. The mainstream media does not produce violence directly, it simply legitimates it as a form of public pedagogy, parading as innocent entertainment. This is the pedagogy of infantilism - an unacceptable obscenity of the stupid and arrogant trading in violence, spectacles, common sense, and, ultimately, repression.


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