Are We Fiddling While Rome Burns?

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Top Tier Gear USA


Solutions abound, but they require the retirement of obsolete systems that defend entrenched interests and soul-crushing inequalities.

It turns out Nero wasn’t fiddling as Rome burned–he was 60 km away at the time. Did Nero Really Fiddle While Rome Burned?

The story has become short-hand for making light of a catastrophe, either out of self-interest (one theory had Nero clearing a site he desired for a palace with the fire) or out of a mad detachment from reality.

Are we fiddling while Rome burns? I would say yes–because we’re not solving any of the structural problems that are dooming the status quo. Instead, we’re allowing a corrupt, corporate mainstream media to distract us with fake “Russians hacked our election” hysteria, false “cultural war” mania, and a laughably Orwellian frenzy over fake news which magically avoids mentioning the propaganda narratives pushed 24/7 by the mainstream media–narratives that are the acme of fake news.

The media is only half the problem, of course; the audience doesn’t want to hear about structural problems that can only be fixed by disrupting the status quo. If we don’t accept that the financial system we inhabit is imploding, maybe all the problems will go away.

The system is coughing up blood and we still want to believe it is “recovering” from a cold.

Here’s a short list of structural problems we should be tackling:

1. Soaring inequality and the institutionalization of economic privilege.Systemic economic privilege doesn’t exist in a vacuum–it’s enforced by a centralized hierarchy, a dynamic I describe in my book Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege. Systemic inequality doesn’t just undermine the economy–it also undermines the social and political orders.

2. The central state (government) has one default setting: endless expansion into every nook and cranny of daily life. There are no mechanisms for contraction and no institutional memory of government reducing its control of every aspect of life.

As I explain in my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change, this concentration of power attracts concentrations of wealth which then buy the machinery of governance: democracy is reduced to an auction that excludes the bottom 99.9%.

3. Finance has detached from the real-world economy, distorting every function via financialization, which concentrates income and wealth in the hands of the few. As I have often explained in the blog (and in my book Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform), if we don’t change the way we create and distribute credit-money, we change nothing.

4. Our educational system is obsolete but the the current system is incapable of transformation for structural reasons. These include high sunk costs, bureaucratic sclerosis, self-serving fiefdoms that fear disruption of their gravy trains, a lack of understanding of the emerging economy, a dysfunctional centralized hierarchy and the state-funded exploitive machinery of student-loan debt.

I explain all this and present a model that would cut costs by 90% in my book The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy.

5. The economy and thus our society (i.e. our mode of production) are changing beneath our feet in dramatic ways. Highly centralized hierarchies (government, corporations) are the wrong unit size and structure to manage this transformation to the benefit of all rather than to the benefit of the few.

I present a decentralized non-state, non-corporate, non-financialized model in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology & Creating Jobs for All.

For individuals navigating these disruptive forces, I wrote an overview guide to the emerging economy, Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

Solutions abound, but they require the retirement of obsolete systems that defend entrenched interests and soul-crushing inequalities. The world is changing rapidly, and centralized systems that worked well in the past are failing because they are optimized for a world that no longer exists.

The status quo is coughing up blood, and the situation is dire. Denial won’t fix what’s broken, and neither will magical thinking (the economy is “recovering,” symbolic gestures and virtue-signaling will fix everything, etc.) Clinging to the absurd hope that the status quo just has a nagging cold will only increase the disorder when the system breaks down.

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  • Frank

    Apart from this article being shameless self-promotion for the books that he’s written, the concept of Centralization being a single point of systemic failure is sound.

    Decentralized and semi-autonomous but networked system components provide a resilient, flexible, and adaptive system design that can provide products and or outcomes faster and with less disruption (for need of re-tooling) than a single point of production or control.

    The Industrial Revolution and subsequent technological advances have facilitated the increasingly centralized means of production and control; resulting in the mutation of once able-bodied, self-sufficient and self-reliant people into indigent, dependent, government reliant zombies.

    Yes, it’s time to break this model that is slowly enslaving those who are not privileged to be owners of the means of production and control, and DISRUPT the systems that we are allowing to bring our own demise.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, so it’s time to invent, disrupt, and bring decentralization to build a fairer, more resilient and adaptive system – in many disciplines.

    • SP_88

      It is indeed true that the centralized government/corporate marriage has created a system that benefits the few at the expense of the many. The government has created a situation where corporations are able to pretty much monopolize their industry and prevent any competition from interrupting their bottom line. As a result, they have amassed great wealth, which has enabled them to buy political favor, which further prevents competition, and enables them to continue with their monopoly on the industry.
      We need to divorce the government/corporation marriage and decentralize the means of production. There needs to be a system that stops the corporate world from buying political favor and creating policies and regulations that suffocate competition and a true free market economy.
      Capitalism has been replaced by fascism, and most people haven’t even noticed.

  • Perhaps we’re fiddling as we’re being diddled 😛

  • John C Carleton

    Whats this “we”?

    I have been calling for war crime/pedophile trials in Tel Aviv/Washington DC, and for Texas to Secede.