The Midas touch

It's not all gold

The Midas touch

As I write it was announced that former US ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State Albright has died. She infamously answered a question about the deaths of nearly half a million Iraqi children with the chilling phrase that she thought it was worth it to meet US objectives. She was not, and is not, atypical for the people who make decisions in the imperial core. They’re quite happy to spend brown people’s lives (although they are equal-opportunity murderers) to control resources and make people afraid to stand up to them.

The unlamented president Ronald Reagan was effectively a drug dealer, amongst many other disgusting things, but as I write he’s still regarded as a hero in some circles. Every US president for as long as you can go back was some kind of war criminal. The same is true of most British Prime Ministers, they happily act as a secondary attack dog for the US and will send troops wherever asked in order to give a veneer of international consensus to whatever new imperial adventure has been dreamed up. Post-war independence movements were suppressed mercilessly by the British state to keep the money flowing into their coffers. Their bloody handed approach to the struggles in Northern Ireland’s six counties is another example. They helped pioneer using development loans to make it easier to rob poor countries in the global south - a strategy since taken up by organisations like the IMF. Imperialism never went away, it just hid itself behind a cloak of faux respectability and outright lies about what it is and what it does. The CIA used to clandestinely fund interventions in third countries, now there’s a raft of organisations from both wings of the US establishment with cute names (National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, USAid, Freedom House) that do it in the open. Cute names doesn’t make messing with the will of sovereign peoples any better, though.

If you read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine the chapter on what happened in Iraq is most illuminating - after the invasion all of the resources were stolen at gunpoint or just left for local thieves and the people who objected were tortured to make them shut up. Bush Junior’s Secretary of State, Cheney, treated the US treasury like an ATM. Billions of dollars disappeared into the pockets of the rich warmongers, and the people who were charged with repairing the damage done by the war were often paid very little after every coordinating group of consultants took their fees. Once the resources were secure the occupiers had and still have no plan to create a legitimate government, indeed they took steps to stop one arising spontaneously and making sure the reins of what passes for a government were under their control.

In mythology King Midas was given the power that meant everything he touched was turned to gold because he loved gold so much. In the end he hugged his beloved daughter, weeping because the gold roses had no scent. She turned into a gold statue and he realised how wrong he was to want such a thing. If I recall correctly eating became something of a problem too. It’s told as a cautionary tale about greed and obsession. The gods helped him out in the end by creating healing waters and the tale has a quasi happy ending.

Albright’s cohort have the Midas touch - wherever they lay their hands in the world it creates gold for our owners. This is why they are lauded by the imperial media and empty apologists in suits like Blair are still allowed to pontificate despite their crimes. There’s a peculiar disassociation where those crimes never happened, a society wide cognitive dissonance that relies on the selective memories of the imperial media and their pets. It’s why they get paid nice fat fees to spread a delusional veneer about how they brought democracy to ignorant brown people. Instead we need to see what lies under this wealth. Firstly, it’s for the wealthy few in the imperial core, secondly, it’s a product of human suffering and death. Their hands create gold alright, but they are dripping with the blood of people just like you and me. It’s like Midas beheaded his daughter first.

Despite their democratic veneer modern states in the imperial core are in reality armed multinational gangs when looked at from the outside. This is particularly egregious in a country like the UK, where constitutionally the royals (actually their plutocrat-controlled government) look after international relations and parliament is supposed to only deal with domestic affairs. In practice the British state’s behaviour is indistinguishable from that of gangsters when force is needed to protect the interests of capital. We still have the eighteenth century buccaneers and slave takers but they mostly use economics, prating about free trade, and the fetish of markets to stand in for the old cannon and pistols. But make no mistake, if you are weak enough their full might will be deployed if they see you as a threat. The imperial core has been at war with people who didn’t want to be exploited or robbed continuously since the end of the Second World War, they even murdered people over the control of bananas.

Most of the states in the imperial core behave like this when it comes down to defending the broad interests of their owners and will semi-obediently follow the US line because they are the biggest gang of all. They will also attack their local populations if they have to, either with legislation or with the cops just making it up as they go along and zero consequences. For example in the UK we have lost the power we once had as a class and our owners can do just about anything they like now. Laws meant to protect us only work if they are enforced, for example see what happened with the P&O workers - it wasn’t technically legal, but that made no difference in the end. The point is also fully supported by looking at the recent behaviour of the Metropolitan Police.

We need to be clear eyed about the underlying relationships and what the latest attempt to Midas poor brown people far away to death really means. Reality is far darker and bloodier than the imperial media would have you believe. There is still plenty of hope, after all we are governed by some species of permission, there are far too many of us to coerce. Our permission could be withdrawn, this is why they still take care not to be completely brutal in their behaviour and dissemble about the real reasons. They have forgotten the power we once used, and how careful they had to be, it’s making them careless. For example back then Thatcher could not have done to the NHS what is being done now because people wouldn’t have stood for it. We never really gave that power up, just listened too closely to the lullaby of the media spin, the comforts of the market, and freedom through consuming.

Differences are emerging in our ruling class. The Ukraine conflict has begun to draw this out. The once-mighty dollar is still being used all over the world to trade commodities. Recently the Chinese government spent a fortune creating a system that allows payments in Yuan but nobody but Chinese people were using it. The Russians are selling gas and oil to them and being paid in Yuan using this system. The Indian government are buying and selling with Russia using this system also. The US monopoly of world-spanning currency is being broken as a side effect of the sanctions against Russia. Given how weak US capital is in reality this is worrying them. Sanctions are forcing the Russian people to start to use payment systems that aren’t dependent on the goodwill of the imperial core’s banks. In the long run this is very bad for the US, and they sleep walked into it. It’s interesting to note that it’s rumoured that at least one of the reasons that Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were toppled was because they were talking about creating a gold backed currency for trading oil and other resources amongst the countries that are not US aligned, say Venezuela and Cuba for example, so we know this is a really sensitive issue for US capital as it challenges their market domination and makes it harder to profit from, and keep control over, other countries’ resources. We need to find ways to highlight these differences and use it to undermine the war mongering. Weakening the dominance of the US empire won’t hurt either.

In the absence of gods to pray to creating healing water to remove the effects of the golden touch (or blood in this case) we must start holding our owners and their attack dogs to account. For years, centuries even, they have stolen, polluted and murdered their way around the globe for fun and profit while pretending they have done nothing wrong, or mostly just lying about it. It’s past time they learn we know better and the jig is up.

As Shelley said after the Peterloo massacre:

Rise, like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many - they are few.