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The Privateer’s Lexicon word of the day: Austerity


A new esnl periodic feature, inspired by our muse extraordinaire, Moussequetaure, The Privateer’s Lexicon will explore the semantic subterfuges subversively sculpted by the sloganeers by the empowered psychopaths another mentor, Buckminister Fuller, called the Great Pirates.

For the past 40 years we’ve cherished a maxim drawn from Socrates: Wisdom begins with the definition of terms. I’ve added a corollary: Wisdom begins with the definition of terms as they evolve over time.

More than mere letters printed on a page or transmitted sounds, words are embodied packages, evoking responses knit together from memories that evoke all our senses. Words conjure feelings. Words can make us hungry, happy, nostalgic, angry, amorous, puzzled. Words evoke/invoke sounds, scenes, scents, tastes, and the touch of distant hands.

Words are powerful.

To the sociopath, words are manipulative tools, employed with the intent of extracting wealth from marks. The pitchman twists the meanings of existing words and creates new ones the shape the needs we never knew we possessed. Deliberate restructuring their target’s emotional responses through dazzling displays of patter, the hustler’s seduction is completed when the mark feels impelled to surrender the cash to attain the fulfillment promised in the pitch.

We’ve cited repeatedly the example of the founder of the modern pitchman’s Edward Bernays, who helped sell World War I to a reluctant American public and who enticed  women into the smoking habit by rebranding cigarettes as “torches of freedom.”

Bernays fused politics with the pitchman’s craft. Joseph Goebbells, Hitler’s virulently anti-Jewish media pitchman, was a devoted acolyte of the Jewish Bernays — nephew of the Nazi-demonized Sigmund Freud — and kept his landmark book Propaganda within easy reach.

In the contemporary United States, the ideas of Bernays and his intellectual heirs have been embraced by the neoliberal looters, and nowhere more perniciously than in their campaign to demolish the commons, the institutions built up over two centuries to provide for the common good and promote the general welfare of a democratic government we were told was the creation of, by, and for the people as a whole.

Seizing the reins of powerful after a slash and burn campaign of destruction against the regulatory powers of the state, the privateers wallow in wealth while urging a new, albeit somewhat painful, remedy for the rest of us who have been declared responsible for absolving the looters for the mess they’ve made of things.

A word with a long, sour legacy

The magic buzzword in austerity, derived from the Latin austerus, or sour.

Austerity is closely linked with the notion of penance, of self-deprivation undertaken in the search for absolution from past sins.

The looter pitchmen are right in declaring austerity a desideratum, but they’d have you inflict it on the wrong people.

They’d have us believe that we’re responsible for their successful capture of public purse. They say we’re at fault because we were stupid enough to believe the lies they fed us.

Never mind that massive conglomerates have swallowed the media we once trusted — at least to some degree — to give us an understanding of our world. Never mind that they’ve seduced us into debt so we can buy all the goodies they peddle, along with the promise they’ll free us from the anxieties we feel about buying all their crap in the first place.

No, austerity is the solution, and to make sure we learn the proper lessons, they’ll dip into our pockets to make sure we feel the pain.

But what does austerity really mean, shorn of its semantic add-ons?

Cue the videos. . .

First, let’s hear from political economist Mark Blyth of Brown University’s Watson Institute, whose academic career was sparked by a drive to understand how the British public was seduced into empowering the Margaret Thatcher regime, whose impacts he observed first-hand growing up in Dundee, Scotland. H/T to European Tribune.

A key goal of the privateers is capturing the full range of services provided by governments for their citizens. Roads, schools, water systems — everything’s up for grabs.

You can see the meaning of austerity in this 30 January video tapped in Northern Spain last 30 January, where police and firefighters brawled during a firefighter protest against an austerity measure to privatize emergency services.

Next, what does austerity mean in terms of the growing chasm between the rich and the rest of us?

Here’s an RTEnglish video from 22 December featuring an interview with labor economist Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, who notes — among other things — that “25 individuals in New York will make as much money as 658,000 teachers around the United States.”Our favorite line: “The superrich feel they’re entitled to this money which they only got because we bailed them out.”

Finally, another RT video, from 23 December:

So, what does austerity mean?

Well, it means the privateers are laughing at our pain as they carry their cash all the way to their bailed-out banks.