We Are Not Powerless: How to Resist Financial Feudalism

by CHARLES HUGH SMITH May 7, 2012

That we are powerless is one of the key social control myths constantly promoted by the Status Quo. What better way to keep the serfs passive than to reinforce a belief in their powerlessness against the expansive Central State and its financial feudalism?

But we are not powerless. Our complicity gives the aristocracy its power. Remove our complicity and the aristocracy falls.

The pathway of dissent is to resist financial feudalism and its enforcer, the expansive Central State. Here are twelve paths of resistance any adult can legally pursue in the course of their daily lives:

1. Support the decentralized, non-market economy. The core ideology of consumerism and financialization is that non-market assets and experiences have no status or financial value. This includes social capital, meals with friends, projects done cooperatively with friends, home gardens and thousands of other decentralized activities that cannot be financialized into centralized market transactions. Identity and social status are established in the non-market economy by collaboration, sharing, conviviality and generosity. Decentralized generally means localized; farmers markets are examples of local market economies where the transactions are in cash (so banks can't skim transactions fees) and the money stays in the local economy rather than flowing to some distant concentration of capital.

If you start valuing non-market assets and experiences as the most important markers of high status, you are resisting both financialization and consumerism.

Top-down centralized "solutions" imposed by the Central State are the problem, not the solution, as they further the concentration of wealth and power into unstable monocultures. Stop looking to overly complex "reforms" and centralized solutions to unsustainable systems and start exploring decentralized, localized solutions that bypass both the Central State and its financial aristocracy.

2. Stop participating in financialization. Financialization is the insidious imperative of the financial aristocracy that seeks to turn every interaction into a financial transaction that can be charged a fee and all assets into financialized instruments that can be sold for immensely profitable transaction fees.

As the finances of local governments implode under the weight of their protected fiefdoms, many are heeding the siren song of financialization as a temporary (and inevitably disastrous) "fix" to their structural insolvency. For example, the revenue stream from parking meters is financialized into an asset that is sold to a private corporation. When parking fees double, the residents of the city have no recourse via democracy or petition, as the meters in their city are now "owned" by a distant concentration of capital that can double late fees, charge outrageous transaction costs, etc., at will.

This is how financialization inevitably transitions into financial tyranny.

The erosion of America's middle class financial security has several structural causes, but chief among them was the financialization of the housing market. This led to a bubble of credit and housing valuations and the widespread extraction of equity for consumption-the classic "windfall" that financialization always produces in its first toxic blush. Mortgage debt doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion in the bubble, and now America's indentured homeowners "own" negative equity of $4 trillion. That is, the difference between the market value of the homes they ostensibly "own" and the mortgages they took on to buy the homes is negative $4 trillion.

3. Redefine self-interest to exclude debt-servitude and dependence on consumerism and the Central State. Unless you are long retired and have no other option, minimize reliance on the State. Reliance on the State weakens the correlation between sustained effort and gain, so the work ethic and entrepreneurism both atrophy as they no longer offer competitive advantages in a system where bread and circuses are guaranteed by the State.

4. Act on your awareness that the nature of prosperity and financial security is changing. Dependence on centralized concentrations of power (Wall Street and the Central State) is now an extremely risky wager that what is demonstrably unsustainable will magically become sustainable at some distant point in time via pixie dust or the intervention of aliens from Alpha Centuri. Security flows from resilience, self-reliance, decentralized, diversified sources of income and abundant social capital.

5. Stop supporting distant concentrations of capital that subvert democracy by using their gargantuan profits to buy the machinery of State governance and regulation. For example, stop watching broadcast programming owned by the six global media corporations that control the vast majority of the media/marketing complex.

Stop eroding your health and sending your money to corporate headquarters for distribution to the financial aristocracy-stop frequenting corporate fast-food restaurants and stop buying unhealthy packaged foods from corporate agribusiness.

Close your accounts with Wall Street investment firms and the five "too big to fail" banks that dominate the mortgage, credit and debt markets in the U.S. If you need such an account to transact your business, then maintain low balances so the banks cannot "sweep" your capital for their own use every day.

6. Stop supporting the debt-and-leverage based financial aristocracy. Liquidate all debt as soon as possible, take on no new debt except for short periods of time, explore localized or "crowd-sourced" private-capital loans that exclude the banks and limit the number of financial transactions that enrich the banks and Wall Street.

7. Transfer your assets out of Wall Street and into local enterprises or assets that do not enrich and empower Wall Street.

8. Refuse to participate in consumerist status identifiers and the social defeat they create. Stop admiring and respecting those displaying status signifiers; start thinking of them as pathetic prisoners of a pathological mindset. Stop judging people as "lower value" based on their lack of status signifiers. Free your own mind from the toxic sociopathology of consumerism and social defeat. Stop watching commercial television and minimize your exposure to marketing and consumerist propaganda.

9. Vote in every election with an eye on rewarding honesty and truth and punishing empty promises. Unless the incumbent has renounced corporate contributions, unsustainable debt, financial tyranny and Central State encroachment of civil liberties, then vote against the incumbent, for they are just another lackey of the State-plutocracy partnership. Avoid voting for either the Demopublican or Republicrat branches of the plutocracy; vote for an independent or third party candidate.

Remember that resistance isn't just about refusing to participate in pathological plutocracy; it's about establishing a sustainable alternative to the unsustainable State-plutocracy partnership. When people say that voting for a third-party candidate is "wasting your vote," reply that voting for either of the plutocrat parties is the real waste of a vote because their "leadership" is dooming the nation to destabilization and insolvency. As independents pick up more and more "wasted" votes, they shift from being "marginalized" to becoming powerful voices of honesty and transparency.

10. Stop supporting inflationary policies such as "money creation" by the Federal Reserve and Federal deficit borrowing. Act on your knowledge that inflation is theft and that the Federal Reserve is a private consortium of banks that is the enabler and protector of the parasitic financial aristocracy.

11. Become healthy, active and fit. Refuse to consume unhealthy junk and packaged food, refuse to squander much of your time in sedentary "consumption" of corporate entertainment and digital distraction, and devote your energy and time to mastery, new skills, developing social capital and friendships, projects you "own" and enterprises that benefit your true self-interest. Refuse to follow the marketing/media siren song into chronic ill-health, addiction and social defeat.

12. Embrace self-directed coherent plans and construct a resilient, diverse ecology of identity and meaning. Build a social ecology of positive, active, collaborative, non-pathological people of like minds and spirits. Be powerful via resistance, not powerless via complicity.

It's easy to confuse faith and political ideology. We resist changing our understanding, as we experience this transition as instability and insecurity. But changing our minds does not require changing our faith; rather, the firmness of our faith-in our Creator, in truth, in prayer, in our ability to help others and prevail-is the bedrock that gives us the discipline and resolve to confront the brutal and unwelcome facts of our circumstances and make coherent plans accordingly.

This was drawn from my new book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change (print $25)     (Kindle eBook $9.95)

Charles Hugh Smith is a novelist and economic commentator who writes for Business Insider and blogs at Of Two Minds.


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