It's Mourning In America

 Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Now that America has been transformed from a high-trust social order into a low-trust social order, there's no going back.

The birth of financialization in the early 1980s was morning in America because finance-- the collateralization of previously low-risk assets and the resulting explosion of credit and leverage--gooses demand and asset valuations.

Now that we've at long last reached the demise of financialization, it's mourning in America as the hyper-stimulation has reached its zenith and is beginning its inevitable end-game of uncontrolled implosion. The hyper-financialization of American life has fatally distorted the nation's production, politics, values and social order.

Regardless of our political persuasion, we're all mourning for what's been lost to either decay or erosion, both of which are so gradual that we cannot discern the full extent of the damage. We sense it, though, and this fuels the nation's distemper.

The decay, erosion and distemper remind me of a quote from French author Michel Houellebecq:

"I have the impression of being caught up in a network of complicated, minute, stupid rules, and I have the impression of being herded towards a uniform kind of happiness, toward a kind of happiness that doesn't really make me happy."

Substitute con for happiness and we have an insight into the source of mourning in America: we're being conned 24/7, on every level and in every nook and cranny of the economy and society.

The key to any good con is to persuade the mark (victim) that it's not a con. The most direct approach is to claim the con is true, factual, etc. Once this claim starts unraveling, then the con switches to an alternative reality that has enough shreds of credibility to be plausible.

This is why so many confuse the con and propaganda. Both are self-serving, of course, as the goal of propaganda is to generate compliance and conformity in the populace by constructing an emotionally compelling context that is both appealing and plausible. Those spewing the propaganda do so to secure their power and further their own self-serving agenda.

For example, that we're all enjoying unprecedented prosperity in the best of all possible worlds. Look at all the low-quality rusting junk we can buy from manufacturers in totalitarian nations at low, low prices--wow! It doesn't get any better than this. Stainless Steal (February 26, 2023).

The difference is that those spewing propaganda can be true believers in whatever cause is being pushed. In most cases, propaganda is issued by cynical, manipulative sociopaths who are merely hired guns for whomever seeks all the advantages of persuading people that enriching and empowering the few at the expense of the many is not only allowable, it's the right thing, the only option, etc. But propaganda works best when it converts the previously uncommitted or apathetic into true believers, much like a religious conversion.

A con, on the other hand, is a swindle, a fraud, a bezzle, that takes advantage of the mark's naive trust. This trust might be in a blood relative, a friend, an enterprise, an organization or an institution. The con exploits this trust to defraud or break the mark into an unknowing patsy.

The fundamentals of the con are:

1. The gains are guaranteed, i.e. low risk.

2. The benefits are exaggerated while the costs and consequences are left unsaid.

Here's the metaphor the con presents: I'm leading you to a glorious fruit tree loaded with ripe fruit. All you have to do is harvest as much as you want.

Since we're all still hunter-gatherers in Wetware 1.0, this greatly appeals to us. We're inherently risk-averse and greedy to exploit windfalls, and the con promises us near-zero risk and one windfall to stripmine after another. It's irresistible.

The con always has an end date, when the mark discovers they've been fleeced. Trust is destroyed, and the mark, bitterly enlightened to their own credulity, laziness and greed, vows to never fall for such a con again.

The higher-order con never lets trust be completely destroyed. Instead, the con-man either rushes to console the mark and apologize for the unexpected loss, (Jeez, this never happened before--it must have been a glitch in the Matrix), or the con-man brazenly blames the victim for misjudging the situation and failing to take advantage of the unbeatable deal.

You blew it, pal, I can't help you with that. But hey, since I'm such a nice guy, and you're deserving of a second chance, I'm gonna let you in on another deal, not quite as good as the one you blew, but still a gem.

This is America in a nutshell: a continuous cacophony of cons. This is why trust in institutions such as the media, corporations, political interest groups, government and education are in free-fall, along with social trust in our fellow Americans. Every node of power is dominated by people out to maximize their personal gains at the expense of the public, customers, voters, members, students, etc.

Listen, kid, you're gonna be on Easy Street if you go borrow $120,000 and give it to us for a college diploma. You'll be set for life, it's like shooting fish in a barrel once you pony up the dough and we give you the paper. Don't be a chump, kid, you gotta look out for yourself, and we're trying to help you here.

This medication is safe and non-addictive, you're gonna feel a lot better as soon as you start taking it. Here's ten pages of side-effects, but don't worry about all that, it's just boiler-plate. We're here to help you, pal, and the $27,000 a month cost is mostly on the government, so it's a slam-dunk win for you.

Gee, I'd like to answer your questions about the district budget, employee salaries and overtime, it must be in this 293-page annual statement somewhere. You can buy a copy for only $25.

And so on, in an endless profusion of self-serving cons. Ernest academics ponder this decay and propose all sorts of scholarly possibilities, while never mentioning the obvious source: every node of power in America is hopelessly corrupt, covering its cons with tsunamis of propaganda aimed at "trust-building" among "stakeholders," whipping up the conned faithful, cherry-picking evidence to string along the marks just a little longer, and pointing to the long history of the institution as trustworthy--a reputation that is being pillaged to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

The most successful cons divert attention from the con-men to some other group of marks / victims. You got fleeced because of them. The fact that everyone outside the nodes of power has been fleeced is left unsaid, as this realization might generate a common cause of the marks against those benefiting so richly from the cons.

It was fun while it lasted, exploiting the supercharged-cons of hyper-financialization and hyper-globalization, but those cons have been tapped out and there are no replacements.

It's tough recognizing that we've been credulous, naively trusting, and greedy for low-risk riches. Every one of the countless skims, scams and cons has exploited our willingness to trust and our self-interest in easy wealth.

Now that America has been transformed from a high-trust social order into a low-trust social order, there's no going back. 

This is why it's mourning in America. Trust can only be rebuilt slowly, first by opting out of all the self-serving cons and then re-establishing trust at the local level.

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