Thursday, September 17, 2009

A turd by any other name would smell as shitty

Bernie Madoff does Lebanon!

Sort of:

The money disappeared, judicial authorities say, in a billion-dollar pyramid scheme that has riveted [Lebanon]. Its mastermind, a businessman named Salah Ezzedine, was charged with fraud on Saturday and is being called the “Lebanese Bernie Madoff" in local newspapers. Bankers say it is the biggest fraud of its kind this country has ever seen.

But the dollar figures have drawn less attention here than Mr. Ezzedine’s close links with Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement. Many of the investors — mostly Shiites living in Beirut and southern villages like this one — say those party links were the reason they chose to risk their hard-earned savings with a man who offered 40 and 50 percent profits but never showed any paperwork.


The important thing to note here is that the bold and embarrassing financial crimes of Bernie Madoff and Salah Ezzedine share at least two fundamental similarities:

1. Victims risked money they couldn't afford to lose, greedy for the suspiciously high rates of return they were promised (40-50%? Come on, Lebanon...). This violates the first rule of gambling--never bet what you can't afford to lose. I feel no remorse for these victims who lost everything. They were stupid and greedy and paid the price. Lesson learned. Maybe instead of going on vacation this year, or eating, they can instead read through their religious text of choice and fill their stomachs with the fruit of divine wisdom.

2. Victims took it on faith--literally--that everything was kosher, that their money was safe because they invested it with an affable man who shared their religious beliefs.

I hope at least a few of the victims of both schemers take this as a sign that maybe faith isn't all it's cracked up to be. Religion offers no shelter from evil--indeed, religions shelter far more evil than they repel.

With that in mind, it is a sad truth that religion and politics are inescapably entwined. Religion is the opiate of the people, as Karl Marx wisely wrote. It is one of the major sources of power for the ruling class and enables it to dominate the political playing field despite being woefully outnumbered by the downtrodden. I would argue religion is the most powerful political weapon there is, the more-realistic equivalent of mass hypnosis.

If the people are cowed into obeying their ministers, be it out of fear or respect, and the ministers are in the pocket of the ruling party, then the rulers control the people. Those minorities whose beliefs stray from the party line are generally ignored until they are perceived as a threat, as an organization that might one day decide to put their own king in power, burn down parliament and instigate riots, or even just take control of the purse strings.

Pagans are burned at the stake, Christians are fed to lions, Jews are loaded into ovens, Muslims are wrongfully imprisoned, tortured, and killed in unnecessary wars...why?

Control. If you do not belong to the ruling religion and you are numerous, you are a dangerous faction operating outside of their control and you must be eliminated.

These days, fear among the ruling class is so pervasive that even irreligious intellectuals are being persecuted in the fashion of dangerously-popular religious minorities. These intellectuals, as always, are not drinking the Kool Aid--they are aware of all the bullshit that goes on in our government, all the bullshit corporations are able to get away with, and how deliberately misleading political leaders and corporate media are. They spread politically dangerous information, organize themselves into collectives and prepare to inform ignorant people of the truth by peacefully protesting corrupt political agendas, only to be either preemptively detained or immediately swarmed by riot police on-site and wrongfully imprisoned for days on end, with no charges brought, freed only when the G8/IMF/RNC gathering is over.

Yes, ruling fatcats, 'tis best to keep the people ignorant, fat, and gullible--but we know it is that double-edged sword of gullibility that is your Achilles heel, hence your too-strict control of information and free speech, hence our frequent attempts to inform.

Bringing it back to religion for a minute, it is important to note that Karl Marx was not the first to compare religion to opium, though he was certainly the most direct. Check out the following passage from the Marquis de Sade's 1797 novel, L'Histoire de Juliette:

Though nature lavishes much upon your people, their circumstances are strait. But this is not the effect of their laziness; this general paralysis has its source in your policy which, from maintaining the people in dependence, shuts them out from wealth; their ills are thus rendered beyond remedy, and the political state is in a situation no less grave than the civil government, since it must seek its strength in its very weakness. Your apprehension, Ferdinand, lest someone discover the things I have been telling you leads you to exile arts and talents from your realm. You fear the powerful eye of genius, that is why you encourage ignorance. This opium you feed your people, so that, drugged, they do not feel their hurts, inflicted by you. And that is why where you reign no establishments are to be found giving great men to the homeland; the rewards due knowledge are unknown here, and as there is neither honor nor profit in being wise, nobody seeks after wisdom.

I have studied your civil laws, they are good, but poorly enforced, and as a result they sink into ever further decay. And the consequences thereof? A man prefers to live amidst their corruption rather than plead for their reform, because he fears, and with reason, that this reform will engender infinitely more abuses than it will do away with; things are left as they are.

Left as they are, indeed. Sound eerily familiar to the situation we see today?

A Democratic majority in the California legislature can't pass a budget because the Republican minority refuses to cooperate, refuses to raise any taxes, and, unlike any other state in the country, a 2/3 majority is required to pass a budget.

When do 2/3 of politicians agree on anything other than going to war for no reason, lest they be scalped by illiterate, drunken Southern idiots?

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators are acting like children and doing everything they can to block change for the better, in the health care realm and every other realm you can imagine. Their plan is clearly to prevent ANY legislation from taking place, in order to claim in the next election that "Democrats are pussies who didn't do anything with a sitting President and a Congressional majority. Vote for me because I believe in God, I think your sons should die on foreign soil somewhere so my oil stocks will skyrocket, I will increase spending while cutting taxes, and I believe in God, dontcha know..."

Meanwhile, they are being picked off one-by-one in bigamist/nymphomaniac/pederast sex scandals, each more sordid than the one before. Praise Jesus!

Even OBAMA had to pretend to be religious in order to become president. Everyone I know cringed when he referred to God in one of his speeches (I can't remember which one, but it was in the heat of the race, when he clearly needed the stupid vote to carry him into office) because we viewed him as one of us--the first President in recent memory who is smart and capable and has no regard for the control-mechanism-bullshit that is religion.

Was he just posing? Was he serious? Were we wrong? We would all like to think we wouldn't, couldn't, pander to the masses as he did, but it's impossible to say. None of us have been so close to the presidency we could taste it. You know what they say about power, motherfucker--it corrupts.

The only fact available to us here is that the stupid people in America--who far outnumber the intelligent ones, obviously, sadly--will not vote for a President who is smart enough to realize religion is little more than a island of comfort in a sea of unanswered questions about our existence, little more than a tool of control exerted over weak minds, because not only does the fear of the unknown scare them nearly to death, but it would mean that they were wrong and dumb and have been wasting a lot of time in church.

As the Marquis said far more eloquently, all these people want to do is operate humbly, peacefully, within a system they never even care to understand--that is why they are so easily manipulated and why the world is the way it is these days.

Some day soon--hopefully in my lifetime, so I can have the pleasure of watching Rome burn--activist intellectuals will realize revolt is the only answer and act accordingly. Remember: we outnumber the people in charge!

Will we win? You never know. We can certainly give 'em a good fight, but we might wind up needing a meteor on our side, just to make sure of things. It'll be hard for any surviving enemies to care about interest rates, environmental raping, and corporate tax subsidies when Wall Street is rubble and a war-painted, pipe-smoking professor is bringing a sledgehammer down on their nuts.



Jambone said...

perhaps the problem is all the activist intellectuals are laying around waiting for someone to step up and get the ball rolling on some hardcore revolution. political uprisings, cult foundations, cultural revolutions - throughout history, nearly all are the brainchild of individuals who share three very pertinent characteristics: keen intellect, intense passion, and mindbending charisma. i feel like i know someone like that actually. how bout you, Charlie? know anyone like that?

Goodtime Charlie said...

Well, I realized something this weekend--a weakness in the "we outnumber those in power" argument for rebellion:

0.5% of the people in America possess the vast majority of the wealth and power, but while this allows them to be outnumbered by a united front of intellectuals and a pocket of persuadable everymen, it also means that they have nearly unlimited funds with which to bribe the manufactured peasantry.

In other words, five rich men can rule the world because they can pay 10 million unemployed dolts $100 each to protect them. Maintaining a stable of desperate peasants eager for a handout turns out to be a great political move. (Bush tax cuts, anybody?)

So I guess we're fucked. Although I can't guarantee I won't try something down the road if this whole 'celebrity body-hair stylist' gig doesn't work out...