A Void.

November 30, 2010

The Creator was listening to Eric Clapton, which should interest nobody, not even Clapton, and then Clapton started singing “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out”, and this got the Creator thinking deeply, again, possibly a first in history for Clapton.
That song is pretty clearly a Depression-era song (“Bought bootleg liquor, champagne and wine” locates it in Prohibition). It’s a bit more cheerful than the whining “Buddy, can you spare a dime?” but it has the same message: once you were all right, now you’re a nobody, and God knows when you’ll get back on your feet again. A lot of the gangster movies of the era, like Little Caesar, had essentially the same message (although at the command of the censors, all the gangsters had to get killed in the end). Meanwhile, even the pabulum of Ginger and Fred contained a message which paralleled this; enjoy yourself while you can. (“High hats and coloured collars/White spats and fifteen dollars/Spending every dime/For a wonderful time”).
So what the Creator thought was this: what has the cultural impact of the Depression been this time? Where is the radical iconography? Where are the haunting melodies in response to it? Where the defiant architecture? Where the theorizing?
The answer, bloody hell, seems to be “Ain’t none”. The popular music scene is every bit as vapid as Ginger and Fred (although, with due respect, people can’t dance quite as well even if they have prettier bodies to throw around — only Fafblog appears to have noticed the remarkable resemblance between Fred Astaire and Barack Obama) but there’s no visible depression-era content to it. The books which are being written are, for the most part, vastly less interesting than, say, Hemingway (to take an example of someone whom everyone agrees is overrated, so it is easy to make comparisons). The contemporary cultural icon, the blog/Twitter feed, contains nothing of interest at all on this matter. Movies? Visual art? Theory? Look away, look away. (Slavoj Zizek tells us we are living in the end-times because capitalism doesn’t work any more. No, Slavoj, there are alternatives to capitalism. If we are living in the end-times it will be because there are no alternatives to the natural resources we have used up. But there probably will be, for some of us at least.) You might argue that hip-hop is an exception, addressing the real world, but hip-hop is addressing a fantasy world which it created for itself two decades ago; the world may have decayed so much that reality is starting to look like hip-hop’s fantasies, but this does not make Kanye West a prophet.
What is accounting for this void at the heart of consciousness? One factor may, quite simply, be that culture no longer fulfils the function which it did even thirty years ago. In the latter days of apartheid South African culture was politicised, not because there was money in politicised culture, but because the public paid more attention to politicised culture; an artwork like “Butcher Boys”, a song like “Sit Dit Af”, could attract attention where less politicised artifacts simply looked irrelevant. (It did happen that the politicised culture of the time turned out immensely more lasting than the depoliticised culture, in part because the people producing depoliticised culture were essentially running away from a reality which they could not truly avoid. They tended to be the inferior producers who felt that their material would succeed because officialdom liked it.)
Nowadays those inferior producers are at the top of the pile because officialdom likes them, puts up the money and sponsors them, and encourages critics and intellectuals to praise them (or to blame them for stupid reasons). Or, to be precise, because nobody else gets a look-in. There is still interesting music and art out there, but it is on the fringes. More to the point, in the past, the fringes were the centre; the place where you looked for the avant-garde.
Again, the Creator was reading William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and meditating on precisely what a lost, hopeless person Gibson had become. Gibson’s central character in that text is a rather pathetically ineffectual female geek with serious psychiatric issues who is also, implausibly, a “coolhunter”, a person working for marketing and advertising companies fulfilling the task of identifying new elements of popular culture which might possibly be profitable. Ironically, Gibson presents this person as desirable and attractive, rather than loathesome and contemptible, perhaps because Gibson is himself a geek without a cause and therefore seeks to see some outlet for geekishness which is both intrinsically positive and applauded by the establishment. The contradiction is obvious. (The book was written two years after Naomi Klein’s No Logo blew the whistle on such practices as the ones Gibson favours.)
Now, perhaps this points the way. Not a good way. The way is to see the world as one where everything original is immediately commodified where possible, and where the process of commodification is so privileged that originality, or any intrinsic merit, falls away entirely. Where the value of an activity derives entirely from its commercial potential. It is a very familiar world, isn’t it?
But then, in this world, the one where we live, it becomes actually almost impossible to distinguish cultural activity managed for profit, from cultural activity undertaken out of an expression of individual or collective psychic desire. It also becomes, therefore, almost impossible to introduce anything into the system which does not correlate with profit management. The point being that Gibson’s iconoclastic “coolhunter”, who has a psychological allergy to brandnames, is a contradiction in terms; in the real world she would simply appropriate whatever she thought might be commercially viable and turn it into a brandname, and she would do so as quickly and easily as possible. In other words, genuine art on the edge would be immediately discarded as unnecessarily difficult to brand; what would be more easily appropriated would be what would be most familiar.
Therefore, the reason why our culture does not actually reflect the social conditions of our existence is that the people who stump up the money to promote cultural activities are not interested in those social conditions. Now, this is not altogether the case, but only because sometimes social conditions can be marketable. Pornography, for example, is quite sensitive to social conditions. So is some elements of political branding — an example being the Tea Party in the United States, which is an attempt to appropriate social discontent and, thanks to the ignorance and prejudice of those who feel discontented, make use of it for the political gain of a portion of the people who are responsible for the conditions which led to that discontent. But clearly that is not a reflection of those social conditions; instead, both are appropriations of reflections of those social conditions. Popular culture is by definition controlled and marketable culture.
Now, you might also say, so what else is new? Well, one new thing is the degree of penetration. Another new thing is the extent of appropriation. When Elvis started out he was quite alarming; then he was appropriated. When the Beatles started out, however, they were an already-appropriated commodification of rock’n’roll which suddenly became subversive — even though it did not stop being commodified. In other words, it was possible for those who had been appropriated to undermine the system in spite of that. (Ditto Johnny Cash. Ditto Edith Piaf.) On the other hand, can the same really be said about Brenda Fassie? Certainly it can’t be said about Aryan Kaganof. These are people who are either deliberately constructing themselves for appropriation, or who are extremely open to appropriation in spite of themselves because the cultural system is much more capable of taking your image and making use of it for themselves.
Ouch — that’s painful. It means that rebellion could be easily turned into money, as the Clash complained about while taking money, of course. But there’s another side to it — which is the discrediting of the act of rebellion. You look at Lady Gaga and, oddly enough, nobody sees her as a rebel. They see her as a calculated marketing tool; whether the tool is making use of the system or whether the system is making use of the tool is not interesting. And, therefore, when you wish to rise up in rebellion, you will most certainly not use cultural methods, because culture is part of the system. Everything is part of the system. Therefore it is impossible to revolt. Therefore, stay home in bed.
People have not read Baudrillard, thanks be to Zarathustra, but they are acting as passively if they have. The silence of the cultural lambs as they wait for the knife? Or do they hope the knife will never come? If so, they hope in vain.


This Best Of All Possible Worlds.

November 29, 2010

So it turned out that the second-hand time machine I got at Cash Crusaders very cheap (the guy behind the counter said it must have fallen off the back of the lorry into the arms of the guy who sold it to him) was working after all. It was one of those “batteries not included” jobs, and when I went down to the cafe and got some rather dodgy-looking AAs it all turned out fine.
The thing looks like one of those old video game consoles that kids used to play in cafes in the 1980s, being made of beaverboard with a control panel in front that’s a couple of joysticks and an on-off switch and three buttons. Except that where the video screen would be, there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing, that is, and when you put your hand into it, your hand isn’t there. You can’t feel or move your hand, either. But you can pull it out. Well, you can pull it out once. I’m not putting anything in there again.
The way it works turns out simple too. You go wherever you want in time. The screen isn’t really big enough to reach through, and I’m not trying although maybe Cash Crusaders has a pair of lazy-tongs that would work. But you can go wherever you want in time and space. It takes time to go in space though, and I don’t have space for that sort of time, so I mostly stuck to the Earth in time and space this time.
When you get there, you can make changes. I guessed that. You can then push the second button and move around in time and see how the changes you made affect time. Of course if you push the third button the changes you made turn out to be real. I don’t know what would happen if you went back to kill the guy who built the second-hand time machine and then pushed the third button. Something bad, I suppose. Maybe in a good kind of bad way? I don’t know. Really.
The obvious thing to do in time was to save Chris Hani in time, so I went and borrowed an R-4 from my friend and a couple of fifty-round magazines and went and hunted around and saw him killed a couple of times that Easter and then used the time joystick to go back and the space joysticks to move around until there was Janus Walusz waiting and I filled him full of lead, copper and antimony. It was quite fun, and it didn’t do my karma any harma because I hadn’t pushed any other buttons yet so it wasn’t real. Then when I pushed button two it was real, but only in an alternate universe, like in science fiction movies except this one had better scripting.
What did surprise me a little was the ten guys with AKs who jumped out of the Mamba around the corner and came and gunned down Chris Hani while he was standing over Walusz’s riddled body looking like he was trying for the Multiple Sclerosis award, and then they put an AK in Walusz’s dead hands and it really looked like I had wasted my afternoon.
So I went back to my friend and borrowed an 84mm Carl Gustav with a couple of spare rounds and went back and first blew away Walusz and pushed button two and then went back again and used the Carl Gustav on the Mamba, which worked fine except it set fire to the original Barack Obama HOPE poster on the wall behind me. And then I pushed button 2 and followed Chris’s subsequent career, which of course really took off after he arranged the sale of Lesotho to the Enron corporation, and when he twinned Sandton with Pyongyang and elected himself Pope. After he addressed the Republican Convention in 2008, though, I decided that was too much to take, so I pushed button one again and erased everything. Maybe Mbeki had been right after all.
I decided that I might have made too many assumptions there. So I decided to solve the problem of apartheid. Specifically I decided to take out Hendrik Verwoerd. I went back to 1960, thinking that I would save South Africa from being expelled from the Commonwealth. But again I had only an old .32 revolver, and although I blazed away like anything everything just lodged in the bastard’s head and this poor fish named Pratt got all the blame. What was worse, I accidentally pushed button 3, and it was all in the history books all of a sudden — in fact, the National Party won the next election instead of losing it, so the United Party missed its chance of self-destructing.. I decided to go forward to 1966, hoping to solve the Rhodesian crisis, but it had already happened, and I’d only got a long knife by that time (my friend was complaining about the cost of the ammunition I was using), and before I could work out how to reach him, this other bastard get to Verwoerd before me with an even longer one and after that there wasn’t much point.
It seems that the past is a big mess. I wondered if maybe I should try not to be so ambitious. I took the trouble to go back to the conception of George W Bush and flipped a morning-after pill into one of Barbara’s martinis the morning after and pressed button 2. That seemed to work pretty well. As far as getting rid of Bush went. In fact, Al Gore was elected President in 2000. The whole world was spared the horror of a Bush presidency. The invasion of South Africa went ahead on schedule in April 2003, and it was interesting to watch the 82nd Airborne descending on the ruins of Bloemfontein. (I’d really thought that Gore was greener than that — I didn’t expect him to use nukes.) After that, though, things got quite sticky, what with the Indonesian invasion of the United States, the imposition of sharia law in Utah, and the appointment of Fatima ya Muhammed (who was called Ann Coulter before her country’s enemies invaded her country and converted them to Islam) and Hillary bint Rodwell as joint Caliphinas of New Baghdad.
I really hadn’t expected all that to happen. I suppose the point is that stuff happens and you work with the past that you have, but still, it did seem that things could have turned out differently. It’s a funny old world, really.
I decided not to try getting Hitler even if I did consider Supergluing a lockbox over button 3 first. Besides, Stephen Fry had already done it. I really didn’t want to touch Jacob Zuma with anything. That didn’t leave very much left from the bucket list. It occurred to me happily to go back a long way and give my ancestral male incarnation in this world a good spanking when he was little but then it occurred to me unhappily that he might take it out on his children, and then where would I be?
Change is pain. And it must come from within. Organically. Kind of like cholera in that way.
Maybe it might be fun to go to the Cape Town Heerengracht in 1652 and take out Jan Van Rebecca. I hated learning about him at school and his face looked really stupid on the old Rand notes. My friend won’t lend me any more surface-to-surface weaponry, but I can probably fashion a bow and arrow out of stuff lying around on the building site on the next property. Maybe then South Africa will turn out for the better and we can have a proper African Renaissance and stuff like that. Anything is possible if you can only believe. Or maybe the Manchus would get so encouraged by the death of a third-string Dutch bureaucrat that they would come over and conquer us and we would at last have some kind of work ethic going. It’s hard to be certain of things like hope and change and pain.
If I can only get some better batteries next time.


Disaster II: The Bills Come Due.

November 29, 2010

There has been a very enthusiastic response to the latest Medium-Term Budget Framework issued by the government. There are good reasons to be suspicious of anything which attracts an enthusiastic response from the crooks, fools and toadies of plutocracy who constitute our opinion-forming class. There are especially good reasons to be suspicious of praise for the present government, which has a very solid track record of lies, dissimulation and breaking promises. Possibly this enthusiastic praise derives from the assumption that what is being done will be beneficial for the corrupt layabouts who infest South Africa’s boardrooms. Possibly it derives from sheer habit, since those corrupt layabouts have been commanding enthusiastic praise for their Cabinet catspaws ever since the Week of the Long Knives in September 2008, when Zuma and his criminals were installed in positions they were comically unfit to sustain.
So let us look at this Budget Framework.
There are a few serious problems with the South African economy. Employment is declining due to lack of investment. The distribution of wealth is terrifyingly unequal and growing more so continually — has been since a few years before Zuma took over, but certainly Zuma has made the situation worse. State expenditure massively exceeds state revenue. We import far more than we export. Infrastructure is in a state of decay and the socio-political systems intended to resolve the problem at municipal and provincial level are utterly inadequate to meet the crisis. Economic growth is sluggish at best. Meanwhile, the state has committed itself to a gigantic but overpriced electrical generation programme which bleeds the fiscus of resources to ameliorate any of these problems.
So — let’s see what the Medium Term Budget Framework entails. The assumption is that in the near future growth will be around 3% per annum, although the pretense is that at some time in the future it will, for no obvious reason, zoom up to 7%. There is no plan to increase investment; on the contrary, exchange control for corporations is being further relaxed to encourage them to invest abroad. There is no plan to increase employment; the plan is to phase out the puny subsidies paid to corporations to discourage them from sacking workers. There is no plan to redress the skewed distribution of wealth. There is no plan to increase state revenue. There is no plan to increase exports or decrease imports.
This cursory survey shows us that the MTBF offers no solutions to any of our problems. On all the major issues, the MTBF thus is relying upon the market to solve the problems, or is assuming that the problems, in some other way, will disappear all by themselves. It is worth pointing out that these problems have arisen partly because the Mbeki administration neglected to deal with them effectively or was distracted from dealing with them by the growing political instability after 2004, and partly because the Zuma administration has done essentially nothing about any of them. In other words, the experience of the last few years suggests that all these problems tend to grow more extreme if the government refuses to address them. Hence the neoliberal argument that not doing anything is good (because governments only mess things up) is manifestly false. However, this argument may lie at the root of the praise for the MTBF, since governmental inaction makes it easier for rich people to loot the system and thus they naturally pay their praise-singers to endorse this.
Well, what are we going to do with this 3% growth, assuming that it happens? The MTBF proposes to use this growth to reduce the budget deficit. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The current budget deficit is somewhere between 6% and 7%, down from somewhere between 7.5% and 8% last year. This 1% reduction has taken place due to a massive increase in revenue from company taxation; baldly speaking, company tax derives from company profits, and companies made very little profit in 2009, whereas in 2010 they are making a much more substantial profit and hence there is more to tax. This is, in short, an extraordinary increase in revenue due to the fact that the economy has stopped contracting and begun to expand a little. It won’t happen again.
Now, notice another annoying point. A few years ago we had a budget deficit comfortably below 2%. Under Zuma it has risen well above 6%. This is not simply due to Zuma’s mismanagement; it is due to a shortfall of income together with an excess of expenditure, and only the excessive expenditure is due to mismanagement. However, now that the income is up again, note that the deficit is still huge — immensely greater than it was under Mbeki, for instance. The plan of the MTBF, in fact, is to restrain expenditure sufficiently to reduce the budget deficit to 5.2% of GDP in 2011, which is approximately what the budget deficit was when GEAR was launched in 1996.
Things need to be said about this budget deficit. According to the ideas of John Keynes, one should spend loads of money during a recession. The reason for this is that during a recession, people stop buying stuff, so the manufacturers of stuff stop making stuff, so they lay off workers who then stop buying stuff, so the manufacturers of stuff stop making stuff, and so on until stuff production virtually ceases and everybody’s on the dole, if there is one. Spending loads of money encourages people to buy stuff, which means that manufacturers continue making stuff and retain workers, who continue buying stuff, and so on until stuff production picks up with the end of the recession. That’s all quite simple.
However, this requires that one should spend money in areas which encourage people to buy stuff. In other words, use the capitalist market to sustain the capitalist market during a capitalist market failure. If you spend money in areas which don’t encourage people to buy stuff, you are actually making the situation worse, because that’s money which could have been used in the economy, but instead the money is being wasted. Instead of spending R20 billion on solid gold hats for all municipal councillors, you should rather cut VAT by 1%, because then the public will have more to spend. (Cutting income tax is much less helpful, simply because only a tenth of the population pays income tax whereas everybody pays VAT.)
The problem with our budget deficit is that it is a business-as-usual deficit rather than an expansionary deficit. It is therefore quite hard to get rid of. The US or British budget deficits will decline sharply now that the US and British governments have stopped borrowing money to give to their banker friends and instead are simply printing it, out of homage to their mentor Robert Mugabe. (Not decline enough, however.) Our budget deficit will be more intractable.
If the current deficit is in the vicinity of 6.2% (it is probably more; the statistics have become increasingly implausible in the last few years), then reducing it to 5.2% seems easy enough. After all, if we have 3% economic growth then that still leaves us with 2% in hand, doesn’t it?
No, unfortunately not. That is a 1% reduction in gross domestic product — the whole economic bang-shoot. What you are reducing is state expenditure, which is about 40% of gross domestic product. What is happening is that expenditure is at 40%, but revenue is at 33.8%. Somehow, that gulf has to be reduced so that expenditure is at 40% but revenue is at 34.8%.
Well — how about that 3% increase? A 3% increase in 33.8% raises the level to 34.8%! Hurrah! Problem solved! We just have to spend exactly the same as we spent this year, and in a year, the revenue will catch up to the level at which our budget deficit is satisfactory! Indeed, if we carry on doing this for two more years, the following year the budget deficit will reduce to 4.2%, and the year after that to 3.2% — and that’s exactly what the MTBF is predicting over a three-year period! All we have to do is not increase our expenditure at all for three years, and sustain an economic growth rate of 3% per annum, and we will attain the MTBF’s goals!
It looks very much as if someone in the Ministry of Finance has spent five minutes with a pocket-calculator and that this was the gist and sum of the intellectual efforts behind the MTBF.
Look, this is not possible. Population growth alone means that expenditure has to increase if service delivery is to remain constant. (In fact, everybody agrees that service delivery is inadequate and must improve, which will take an increase in funds.) The government is committed to a National Health Insurance system which will mean an immense increase in funds which will be only doubtfully affordable and has not been costed yet, although it will kick in around the third year of the MTBF. Historically, large projects almost always have overruns and we must assume that the energy generation programme, which has had a cost overrun every year since 2007, will continue to do so — and here we are talking about tens of billions of rands. 1% of GDP is 25 billion rands, and the cost overrun of the energy generation programme in 2008 was twice that. The MTBF is a fantasy.
It’s even more of a fantasy if you consider that under this proposal, state salaries cannot increase faster than the rate of inflation. Unfortunately, they have been increasing faster than the rate of inflation every year for ten years, so this means that somehow the public service has to be told that it will have a slower rate of wage increase for the next three years than in the past ten. Given that this year many middle-class public servants got an increase 2.5% higher than inflation, and have been screaming the house down because they didn’t get 3.5% and are going around telling everyone that they have been cheated, are they likely to welcome an inflation-constant salary next year, and the year after that, and the year after that? Are we going to see COSATU happily refusing to exploit an opportunity to exploit their members by telling them that they ought to rise up and defy their evil employers? No way. State salaries amount to a vast chunk of state spending (in some departments, more than 70%) so when they get increases higher than the rate of inflation, the bill goes up fast.
What that means is that expenditure is likely to increase substantially. Probably we are talking about a 1.5% increase in expenditure, at a minimum. Let’s tabulate that.

Revenue (at 3% growth) Expenditure (at 1.5% growth) Deficit
2010 33.8% 40% 6.2%
2011 34.8% 40.6% 5.8%
2012 35.8% 41.2% 5.4%
2013 36.9% 41.8% 4.9%

As you can see, that’s not enough. Now, it isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough. It isn’t anywhere near where the MTBF hopes it will go. Please note that in 2013 the budget deficit is still 163% of the economic growth rate, meaning that the national debt will be growing like a house on fire. In those four years the national debt will have grown by 22.3% of GDP. And that assumes that we do not have any serious global economic downturn which reduces our economic growth below 3%. (If economic growth averages 2.5%, here’s how the table looks:

Revenue (at 2.5% growth) Expenditure (at 1.5% growth) Deficit
2010 33.8% 40% 6.2%
2011 34.7% 40.6% 5.9%
2012 35.6% 41.2% 5.6%
2013 36.5% 41.8% 5.3%

And that’s a problem left out of the equation. Various countries are starting to put up their interest rates and if they do, we will have to, in order to attract capital to balance out our trade deficit. In that case, having a massive debt will become a problem, because you pay interest on that debt. If the interest is only 5%, then an extra 22% of GDP means an extra 1.1% of GDP is being paid servicing that debt. Which means that as of 2013, the expenditure would have to be in the vicinity of 42.9% to accommodate this. Which means that the deficit would be 6%, or virtually where you started. Alternatively, you would have to slash real expenditure back still further in order to make room for debt servicing costs. But then where does the cut come from?
The MTBF is a fantasy, but it is a dangerous fantasy. COSATU is correct to suggest that it is a neoliberal plan, because it valorises (and reifies) spending cuts and ignores the responsibility of the government to resolve the problems faced by the nation. Of course, COSATU has also endorsed this plan, so they are as responsible for it as anyone else.
It seems that we are in even bigger trouble than we knew before. But we should have guessed that from the newspapers. Every positive headline received by Zuma’s team suggests that we are a step nearer damnation.


Disaster I: All Charged Up.

November 29, 2010

Let us for a moment consider the problem of South Africa’s electrical requirements and the South African government’s proposal to resolve this problem.
Abundant electrical power would be central to the construction of a “developmental state”. If we want industrial development, we need electricity. If we need a reliable inter-city and municipal public transport network, we need electricity. (Dependence on trucks, buses and taxis is what causes our horrendous road-death rate and also boosts our trade deficit because of the need to import oil.) If we want to improve household conditions, we need electricity. Everything desirable in the future evolution of South Africa goes back to the need for the level of abundance of electricity which we possessed from the 1970s, when the state overestimated South African economic growth and budgeted for a gigantic electricity demand which did not arrive until thirty years later.
Self-evidently, we need more electrical generating capacity than we now have. Even if the power outages of 2007-9 were largely driven by corporate and political corruption, they reflected the fact that power demand growth was reaching a point at which power outages were at least credible threats. At the moment, the electricity company is proposing to spend nearly 500 billion rand on developing less than ten billion watts of power, a rate of far more than R50 a watt. Obviously, somebody is pocketing a large fraction of this, and equally obviously, somebody ought to be looking into this, and equally obviously, nobody wishes to look into this because they are being paid off by whoever is doing the pocketing. We don’t need to be Marxist geniuses to recognise this. Government, electricity company and business (especially their propagandists) are in cahoots to rip off the public.
Recently, the government unveiled its strategy to sort out all our electricity problems by 2030. Of course, this strategy did not say what would be done with the electricity — that would have been too much to ask for. But it did make some proposals about where the electricity should come from.
How did they do this? We have a Ministry of Minerals and Energy. This Ministry is supposed to regulate the activities of the private mining companies and energy companies, and of the parastatal (but really, apparently, all but privatised) energy company. Therefore it is supposed to contain people who know what they are doing. But they did not know this well enough to be able to develop a strategy to sort out our electricity problems, even though this could have been done by one of the Creator’s cats in its spare time from warming its tummy in the sun.
Instead, they outsourced the development of the plan to ESCOM, the corrupt ur-privatised parastatal responsible for the waste of money and the fraudulent power-outages. This was remarkably similar in behaviour to that of George W Bush when he handed authority for energy supply over to his Vice-President, the construction and defense industry magnate Dick Cheney, who in turn handed authority for planning development over to ENRON, the corrupt power company which speedily collapsed owing to incompetence and criminality. There was quite a lot of outrage over this behaviour by Bush and Cheney in the United States. There was no outrage in South Africa over this behaviour by Zuma and company in South Africa. So utterly have we abandoned any desire to rule ourselves effectively, that we are even beneath that hapless kakocracy which decays between Tijuana and Niagara.
So the fox was put in charge of the henhouse, and unsurprisingly, presented a plan for the most effective slaughtering and dividing-up of its contents. This plan was apparently predicated on the absurd lies told by Jacob Zuma at Copenhagen about how South Africa would somehow reduce its carbon dioxide emissions immensely by 2014, which was not going to happen. At any rate, the end product was a plan which (according to Kevin Davie, the Mail and Guardian’s corporate cheerleader) shifts us from 88% coal, 6,5% nuclear and 5,5% other (mainly gas turbines and hydroelectric) to 48% coal, 14% nuclear, 16% “renewables” and 22% “other” by 2030.
Let’s ponder this a bit. Nuclear in South Africa is Koeberg, which is 1,8 gigawatts (thousand million watts, or GW). If that’s 6,5% of the total, then our total is about 28GW. Of which coal makes up 24.64 GW. The new coal power plants, which are costing all that money, will push that up to about 30GW at least. So assuming that in 2010 coal is 30GW, and this is 48% of the total, that means that the total will be 63GW. The proposal is, therefore, to increase our power output in twenty years by 125%.
That’s impressive, considering that it costs R450 billion to generate 10GW by coal plants — the cheapest available, supposedly — and therefore the plan to create 35 extra GW will cost R1,575 trillion. Well, at least Jacob and company, and that company in this case is ESCOM, aren’t thinking small.
But hold. We aren’t talking about more coal plants. We are talking about 8.8GW in nuclear (7 additional nuclear GW even if we weren’t decommissioning Koeberg, which would be 46 by 2030 and thus a decade past its design limit). We are talking 10 GW of “renewables”, meaning direct solar or wind, all of which will have to be built in the next 20 years because these “renewables” are currently insignificant. We are talking 13.8GW of “other”. At the moment, this “other” is only 1.5GW, virtually all hydropower. So in 20 years, we have to build 29GW of power plants which are immensely more expensive than coal-powered; of this, the nuclear plants are probably the cheapest, costing only half as much again as a coal plant (although they have the problem that we would have to import the fuel, whereas the coal plants are fuelled from domestic sources) as opposed to much more costly wind and solar, which (if gold-plated, which appears to be the current plan — all those carbon-fibre-blade windmills one sees here and there bought from Europe) costs considerably over double what a coal plant costs.
Are we, then, going to be able to do this? Well, for a start, we don’t have the infrastructure to produce enough concrete for the dams we will need. We cannot manufacture most of the machinery for the other power plants, whether nuclear or coal or renewable. We will probably not even be able to produce all the material to house and found all these plants. Therefore, in order to do all this in twenty years, we have to either develop a great industrial base, or we have to import almost everything which we will need to get this done. In other words, substantially more than two trillion rands’ worth of goods, something like a whole year of gross domestic product, will have to be imported over a twenty year period. A hundred billion a year of imports. Two arms deals a year for the duration of twenty years, to put it another way.
The Creator doesn’t think it can be done. It seems quite likely that our ports and our rail network wouldn’t be able to handle the extra traffic. So, firstly, we almost certainly don’t have the money, and secondly, we only doubtfully possess the capacity to get the work done if we find the money. (Do we even have the engineers and other qualified personnel to undertake this gigantic project? Or are we going to hire the personnel, too, from elsewhere?)
Of course, all this can be done. We can start a massive investment now. But unfortunately we are already investing extensively in important stuff for the Medupi plant. And we have a couple of other projects on the go, too. So, basically, if we are to accomplish this transformation of our entire electricity generating capacity, we have to start immediately at the project of trying to fund it, trying to avoid having to devote too much of our resources to imports so that we can no longer afford to import the other things which we need at the same time, trying to get enough of our people working on the project so that the expense of this whole affair, an eighth of our entire national budget, is not to drain away money which could be used on creating jobs. But also, of course, getting the general public on board. And making sure in all this tremendous project that only a small fraction of the money is drained away on corruption or mismanagement, because if only one percent goes on corruption, that would be twenty billion rand.
There is no sign that any of this is happening. Indeed, there is no sign of plans to increase taxation or float bonds or do any of the things which will be necessary in order to accomplish the funding for this gigantic project. Needless to say, there is no sign of any attempt to direct public or private investment towards laying the basis for accomplishing any aspect of this gigantic project. What is being done, apparently, is what was being done before — namely, continuing to build the one big coal-powered project, trying to decide whether or not to build another big coal-powered project called Kusile, trying to decide whether or not to start considering whether or not to build a big nuclear-powered project, and pretending to care about whether or not to build some large renewable projects.
The renewable plan is supposedly to have 10 000GWh a year by 2014, which is impossible as even the renewable enthusiasts. There are vast imaginary plans in places like Upington, but these are certainly pipe-dreams even though someone is making a little money out of doing the environmental impact assessments for these projects which are not going to be built. But none of this is going to happen. All that it is doing is enabling a handful of people who pretend to be green to acquire consultancies where they can pretend to work. These people appear to be trying very hard to sustain the propaganda of the fossil-fuel industry and of famous dead idiots like Michael Crichton, that all conservationists are corrupt and greedy imbeciles. (Something of this also turns up in Julian Barnes’ Solar; perhaps he has met a few of this kind of person.)
But the grimmest fact of all is that most of this is just a cloak for increased private involvement, via such things as the mad plan to get large numbers of people to install solar water-heaters, supposedly subsidised, but without any guarantee that the subsidy will be paid (the money for the subsidy often seems to be filched, or diverted to other projects, even before the plan is implemented). Meanwhile, these heaters are counted as if they were solar power plants, which they aren’t. It is easy for a corrupt government to pretend that it is doing something when it isn’t, and to fool a public which is often underinformed. And as if that weren’t enough, it is particularly easy for a corrupt government to abrogate its responsibilities and suggest that business can take up the slack. Then, when business fails to do so, the government can tell its supporters that this was business’s fault, while business, which controls the press, can tell its supporters and anyone else who will listen that it is the government’s fault. And if the lights go out, at least we have someone to blame, and meanwhile someone has made a pile of money.
Which appears to be all that the Zuma administration cares about any more.


For Now Is The Time For Your Tears.

November 12, 2010

A couple of decades ago, the American cartoonist Dan Piraro drew something which seemed funneh at the time. It showed a little knot of men in suits wearing construction hard-hats and carrying clipboards squinting at a patch of land while their leader gestures. The joke lay in the caption, which was to the effect of “OK, what we do now is put a fence around this field and dig a big hole, then some people will come and put a building in it and some flowerbeds at the front — all we need now is money”. Back in the 1990s this was a joke; nobody believed that people really behaved like that.
But this is exactly how the National Health Insurance has been treated!
The call for National Health Insurance was raised at Polokwane. Like most of what was raised at Polokwane (apart from doling out jobs for Zuma cronies) it was vague and questionable. What would National Health Insurance entail? (That is, if we dig a hole, what kind of building are they going to put in it?) What effect would National Health Insurance have on the national healthcare crisis? (Unanswerable while the first question went unanswered.)
The answer to these questions seems to be that nobody went to Polokwane with any intention of answering such questions. The idea of National Health Insurance was taken directly from the platform of the American Democratic Party — in other words, it had no connection with anything South African at all. It was presented in an effort to show that the Zuma faction had ideas for solving the South African mess, and that was all. Once it had been safely presented, the idea went back to the bottom of the bottom-drawer of the filing-cabinet in the spare room, along with the used condoms and empty booze bottles, where it belonged.
But then, unfortunately, COSATU began flexing its little muscles. Its leaders began denouncing everybody again, because its membership were not getting any return on all their rhetorical efforts to create a make-believe left-wing policy. Rather than confront this titanic toddler, the ANC and SACP decided instead to distract it by offering it some pabulum. (Note that this did not happen under the relatively sane and coherent leadership of Kgalema Motlanthe, but only burst into prominence like a titanic pustule after the Zuma regime, that empty khanga held up with a strap-on dildo, came into being.) So the National Health Insurance was launched as a solid policy, albeit with no idea what that policy meant. Someone, in the fullness of time, would come and put a building in it.
The person in charge of this is Olive Shisana. Olive was, no doubt, once a worthy person. However she is a darling of the white liberal community, which is always a fatal sign. She earned her stripes by nebulous denunciations of Thabo Mbeki, which ensured that she would be supported under the Zuma administration. Meanwhile, she turned the Human Sciences Research Council into a corporate propaganda organ (admittedly many people working for the HSRC were useless, lazy frauds, but although she fired some of these she imported many, many more and turned the whole institution into a consultancy mill). This rather indicates her favoured path of operations, and indeed it has been so. We do not know what kind of building they will put in the hole, but it will, whatever form it takes, be a “public-private partnership”, meaning a structure devoted to stealing taxpayer’s money and shovelling it into the pocket of businesspeople — like the HSRC itself these days.
“All we need now is money” — yes, indeed, and this is essentially the only thing which Shisana and her hand-picked corporate hand-job team have come up with. They have decided what they intend spending on the thing whose nature and structure is yet to be determined. When you come across any business plan with a series of headings all bearing under them the legend “TO BE DETERMINED” and then you find that there is a very specific number under the “Budget” heading, you should immediately put both hands in your pockets and walk away very fast. Unfortunately, because this process is not under our control, we can’t do that; Zuma’s hands are both in our pockets and our ankles are chained to an immense iron ball with the logos of all of South Africa’s Medical Aid Schemes embossed on it in platinum letters.
The amount of money required by Shisana & Cie Plc Gmbh dot-com is a fairly large sum. In 2012 it is supposed to be of the order of R120bn. By 2020 it is expected to rise to R250bn. That is, presumably, annual sums. The former figure is approximately 5% of gross domestic product. The latter figure is approximately 10% of gross domestic product. At present, the government’s Health budget is 3,4% of gross domestic product. Therefore, National Health Insurance will raise the cost of state-sponsored healthcare by 47% over two years, and by no less than 194% over ten years.
That’s a lot of moolah. It is, proportionately, a greater spending commitment, by 2020, than the U.S. military budget at the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s. It is much more than the military budget of the apartheid state at the height of apartheid’s dirty wars. Supposedly, we are going to finance this through increased taxation, and one of the original suggestions raised has been that the poor can be made to pay for it by increasing VAT.
Before we say that this is unaffordable, we must notice that it is perfectly affordable provided that it offers enough benefit to the state system. What the system will do, for instance, is to include the entire current medical-aid system, which entails a large part of South African healthcare for the affluent, into one national system into which all private medical aids will feed. The difference is that everybody will be paying for this, not just the affluent. Particularly, middle-class people will be subsidising the healthcare of the rich as well as of the poor, unless the poor are compelled to subsidise healthcare through VAT, in which case the poor will be subsidising middle-class healthcare as well as healthcare for the rich.
Put that way it doesn’t sound like a very good idea.
There are at present three healthcares in South Africa. There is the extremely expensive, extremely well-funded private healthcare. There is the rather expensive, decidedly ill-funded public healthcare provided in cities and towns. And there is the extremely cheap, desperately underfunded public healthcare provided in villages. The idea of the National Health Insurance is that these three completely different systems, with completely different purposes and different histories, should all be folded into one system funded from one source. This is not exactly like the unification of the different education departments of apartheid South Africa, because they all derived from the same origins and had really been funded from the same source even though their mission statements and structural systems pretended otherwise. What Shisana’s gang are proposing to do is much more like the reunification of East and West Germany. We all remember how quickly that was completed, how cheap the process was to pursue, and what a triumphant success it ended up being.
How is all this going to be done? It appears that the start of the process, which seems sensible enough, would be to revitalise rural primary healthcare. One feels nostalgia for this, because it was what was attempted by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during her five-year term as Minister of Health. However, the whole plan was destabilised firstly by GEAR, which forced cutbacks in new infrastructure and new staff hires, and then by the campaign against Dlamini-Zuma which led to her replacement by Tshabalala-Msimang — a much less dynamic figure — and then by the need to divert funds into the gigantic AIDS treatment programme. After all this there was nothing left for rural primary healthcare. So, it seems like a welcome and sensible manoeuvre to plough funding into rural primary healthcare.
But that’s not going to be sorted out by 2012, which is when the system is supposed to come into operation, when the South African government will assume responsibility for all funding of all healthcare activities, both public and private, in the whole of South Africa. And when there will undoubtedly be a critical financial shortfall, because there always are in these projects — because the initial funding proposals are always underestimates so as to lure people into committing themselves. But, incidentally, it is quite likely that 2012 will be a recession year which follows four years of increasing budget deficits, so that suddenly National Health Insurance will feel like a drain on the fiscus equivalent to the bottom falling out of the money bucket. How is this to be met?
At that stage, the biggest single budget item will be the health budget and the biggest portion of it will be National Health Insurance which will constitute virtually the whole of the health budget. There would be screams if education, policing or social services were significantly cut. Cutting any of these would entail cutting existing, well-established programmes with powerful backers in politics and the trade unions. In that case, would it be possible to cut back cautiously on the health budget itself?
Obviously, not on the section of the health budget funding the big rich urban medi-clinics. Those are the hospitals to which the political and commercial elite go. What about the section of the health budget funding the big impoverished urban public hospitals? But those are the hospitals where NEHAWU and MASA members work. Furthermore, those are the hospitals to which members of active ANC branches with contacts in the Zuma administration are likely to go if they can’t afford the big rich urban medi-clinics. Those are also the hospitals at which the media and the DA point the figure when they fail, and it would be extraordinarily bad politics to slash their funding for they would then have cast-iron excuses for their failure.
So, in that case, it would be logical to put the recapitalisation and expansion of rural primary healthcare on ice, to save a few billion a year by not finishing the new clinics, not providing the additional staff, and not supplying the public transport which people in rural areas need to get to clinics which may be 20 or 30 kilometres from where they live. Rural people are not going to vote DA, and rural clinic staff, even if they belong to NEHAWU or DENOSA, are in no position to toyi-toyi where the TV cameras are watching, nor do any journalists venture so far away from the tarred road.
It is thus a 10-1 bet that National Health Insurance will not serve the interests of the rural poor, and will thus not actually improve access to healthcare.
Of course, it may improve access to healthcare in urban areas. The very poor living in the cities will all have their National Health Insurance cards with which they will be able to travel to the underfunded urban public hospitals. (It is virtually certain that they will be referred to these rather than to the well-funded urban private hospitals.) That could be an improvement — although, of course, those are the hospitals to which they try to go anyway, pleading desperate poverty, and this is why those hospitals are so understaffed, underequipped and underperforming. But now they will do it with National Health funding, which will presumably be directed to the hospitals through the National Health Insurance system.
How will that funding be directed? You arrive at Castro Hlongwane General, with, let’s say, a simple broken arm. A broken arm requires X-rays, setting, a day or so’s observation and medication, and then release with a later appointment for examination and removal of any cast, stitches, etc. You can work out how much that costs and set a flat fee for a simple broken arm which is paid to any hospital wherever it is. But in that case, with a flat fee, any hospital can gain extra money by just doing as little as possible. Why have more than one X-ray? Why provide unnecessary medication? Why not just wrap the arm in bandages to immobilise it? (That was how the Creator’s paternal ancestor on Earth lost his leg through gangrene.) Then the doctor in charge can afford a Porsche instead of a Mazda.
Alternatively, the NHI can make allowances for probably lousier care at Castro Hlongwane General as opposed to the Mamphele Ramphela Medi-Clinic, and therefore provide lower subsidies to the former than to the latter for the same treatment. But in that case, Castro Hlongwane will continue to be subsidised at a lower rate than Mamphele Ramphela, and in consequence the township-dwellers will continue to get the shitty end of the stick as compared to the gleaming cleanliness of the suburbanites.
The whole thing will be controlled by the National Health Insurance system, with the Ministry of Health reduced to a body transferring the funds provided by the Treasury to the NHI, which will be essentially an organisation of administrators, bureaucrats and accountants. Therefore, this body will stand between any healthcare programme desired by the government, and the situation on the ground. This body will also consist almost entirely of people who go to suburban private hospitals. It isn’t hard to guess what their funding priorities would be, and it isn’t hard to see how difficult it would be for the Ministry of Health to order them to do anything else, even if it wanted to. Or, as Steve Earle put it, “accountants wielding scalpels and counting out the pills”. An enormous bureaucracy whose purpose is to ensure that someone else’s money is sent to the places where the bureaucracy wants that money sent, with no reference to public need, since the bureaucrats are neither elected nor responsible in any other way.
The place to have started would have been to try to get the actual health service right, of course. But that wouldn’t have made money for the system. The pretense is that the NHI is modelled on the British National Health Service. Actually, the NHI is modelled on what New Labour has tried to turn the NHS into. It looks like being a cracking success for the accountants.


Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz, I’m Dreaming My Life Away.

November 2, 2010

The Creator went to see Inception the other day. That isn’t altogether true, of course. The Creator actually went to see Salt, because the notion of a movie hiding the crimes of the CIA behind an immense pair of bosoms and levitating collagen-crammed lips seemed appallingly appealing. However, Inception happened to be at the house, and the Creator resolved to plunge into the depths of. After all, it isn’t every month that the Creator manifests in an urban area large enough to support a movie-house.
Well, it was disappointing. The Creator had been led to believe that Inception would be a tremendously confusing, hard-to-follow flick. The first few minutes were insufficiently difficult to follow to be confusing, and after that it was essentially a caper movie. It was mildly entertaining at best, and rather dull at worst (as in essentially all of the action scenes and many of the explanation scenes). Why the movie was sold to its audience as a kind of puzzle is difficult to account for. Possibly these days the desire is to sell us simple stuff which we are to pretend is confusing so that we can tell ourselves that we understand it and are therefore clever. (The opposite of conspiracy theory, where the confusing complexity of everything is simplified into something which we claim to understand and are therefore accused of being stupid.)
What the movie is about is fairly simple — indeed, it is rather like the basic US propaganda theme which apparently lies at the heart of Salt. The CIA, it will be remembered, tried to develop ways to do two separate but connected things — to develop ways of absolutely reliably getting information out of unwilling people, and to develop ways of planting false ideas in people’s minds. This was all part of the KUBARK project, much written-about nowadays, which, as Naomi Klein pointed out in The Shock Doctrine, appears to have survived in the degenerate form of the American military torture and humiliation programmes applied against their captives.
This project did not arise out of any sane appreciation of how the world worked. It arose out of fantasy. On one hand, the Americans had been obsessed with the idea that the Nazis had a “truth drug” during the Second World War. (We now know that the Americans and the British were reading the Nazis’ secret communications and therefore must have been very nervous that the Nazis would find it out, but the real basis of this is a fantasy of control.) After the Korean War, the Americans discovered that a surprisingly large number of American prisoners of war in Korea (immensely more than that of any other nationality) had collaborated with the enemy. (This was arguably attributable to their very low morale, which was also the case in the Second World War, although there comparatively few Americans collaborated with the Nazis.) The Americans decided not to speculate on any objective reason for this, and instead concluded that the fiendish Chinese had a technique called “brainwashing” which enabled them to introduce hideously wrong ideas into harmless, innocent American heads. This racist power-fantasy had actually existed earlier (Fu-Manchu supposedly had the power to do this kind of thing, via hypnosis) but, as The Manchurian Candidate shows, the notion of thought control became something of an obsession with Americans (it was also the age when fantasies like “subliminal advertising” arose) and so continued into the present day.
Inception fantasises the fulfilment of both of these dreams. On one hand, people are able to get into other people’s dreams and manipulate them in order to make them, in their dreams, expose the truth. Once the truth is available, one can wake them up and with any luck they will not even know that they have revealed the truth. We know that it is the truth because it derives from the subconscious, and therefore must be true.
On the other hand, the movie suggests that one might also be able to get into other peoples’ dreams and introduce false notions via the dream, which then become real for the people doing the dreaming. Therefore, because dreams are naturally more powerful experientially than real life, these false notions come to obsess the person into whose psyche these have been inserted. Therefore, the false notion introduced via a dream enables one to control the person in waking life.
Now, obviously this is self-contradictory. If it is possible to insert something into the heart of a person’s psyche via a dream, so that the person does not know that it has been inserted, then the person trying to extract something from that dream will not know whether that something has been inserted or not. In other words, this means that the supposed absolute reliability of extracting information via a dream is nothing of the kind. This naturally raises the endless problem of garnering information; how do you know that you can trust it? And, more to the point, the idea that someone’s psyche is the reliable place to get information from is, in any case, extremely dubious. (What if that person has been persistently told lies? Possibly if it had been possible to go to the heart of George W Bush’s mind it might have been discovered that, at that unsteady centre, there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Yet that didn’t mean that there were weapons of mass destruction, only that Bush conceivably had been persuaded, or had persuaded himself, that they existed.)
Very well, but let us pretend that the premise of the story is indeed true. In other words, there is a foolproof system by which information can be extracted from people, and there is a foolproof system by which people may have false behaviour patterns imposed upon them. The dream of the U.S. military and its secret police thus is made flesh in this film. Nobody can keep a secret, for spies can easily extract it, and nobody can be sure that their motives are their own, for spies can easily insert motives and ideas. The secret police and the propaganda agencies therefore, in theory at least, have absolute power over the human mind, and given a properly widespread application of these processes, absolute power over human society in consequence.
This ought to be frightening; it suggests a degree of dystopian mind control greater than almost all the horror stories of the past, but in Inception such issues do not rate a mention.
Any movie or text dealing with messing with people’s minds has impressive antecedents. The obvious ancestor is the various writings of Philip K Dick, from Eye in the Sky (which is about a shared experience of fantasy worlds) to Ubik, but also taking in short stories like “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (about insertion of memories) or “The Electric Ant” (about a man who discovers that since he is a robot, his experience of the world is partly conditioned by his programming — but then which parts of the world are real, and which parts programmed?). The interesting thing about Dick’s work is that his fantasies always spin out of control, and are always threatening and dangerous. For this reason, even when they are treated as little more than conceits, they are always opening windows on new worlds. Henry Kuttner’s “Dream’s End” is about being unable to tell when you are dreaming or not; for that matter, Kelly and Kessel’s Freedom Beach is about being in an artificial dream imposed on you for educational purposes — but the artificial dream includes some uncomfortable elements from real dreams and from the dreamer’s own psyche, and the whole world in the book is being made over by a sinister (or is it reassuring?) cabal called “the dreamers”. Who is in charge of the dream?
This is, perhaps, what is so unpleasant about Inception. Granted, it takes no account of the political significance of its ideas, even though it makes it absolutely clear that its entire world is dominated by a narrow, corrupt and mentally damaged power-elite. (In other words, its political naivete is almost certainly conscious and deliberate.) However, fair enough; this is a movie made by the power elite so why should we be surprised that it urges us to surrender to them? Unfortunately, though, the movie has an enormous potential simply because it is dealing in dreams.
And it fails.
These dreams which it describes are not dreams. This has been noticed by numerous people, so the Creator does not have to pretend to be clever. In dreams you don’t quite know what is coming next because you are not in control — to be precise, you do not know whether you are in control or not. But in daydreams, of course you are in control — you can imagine anything. Daydreams are all about power. Dreams are about not having power. Daydreams are fantasy; dreams are reality.
And in this movie, the dreams are carefully planned. They are architecturally designed, and nothing interesting occurs in them. Nothing interesting except absurdly overcomplicated structures which, in the end, are not even interesting, like gigantically inflated shopping-malls and pedestrian plazas. But nothing happens in these dreams. Nobody is tricked into exposing their truths. There are no passions, no hopes or disappointments. Shit just happens. Neither visually nor conceptually is there anything interesting about the dreams in Inception, and as a result there is nothing either challenging or encouraging about the movie.
So the movie does not say anything interesting at all. It provides no ideas. It is not even exciting visually, in the way that, say, Avatar attempted to rise above the blandly unimaginative narrative with a vaguely interesting, if overstated, use of computer graphics. This banality is surely an element of Inception’s attempt to undermine our minds. Not only does it refuse to raise socio-political questions, it also refuses to ask any questions at all. It is merely drab and mindless. The only challenge is provided by the drab and mindless attackers who arrive in their vast numbers to protect the mind of the person in whose brain the dream is taking place, copied without productivity from the “agents” in The Matrix. But in a real dream, either these attackers would win effortlessly or they would be defeated effortlessly; in a real dream, the proper challenge is in the structure of the dream, in the fascinating distortions arising out of the part of your brain which you can’t access.
But it is axiomatic in Inception that all of the brain must be accessible, for otherwise, how could you control it? So the universe of this movie is as shallow and empty as the universe projected onto the world by the American power elite. This is, if you like, the banality of evil; this is what is wrong with the American daydream domination of the world, the fact that this domination is not rooted in desire to do anything or learn something, but simply in power for its own sake. (Like a kid who was bullied at school taking her resentment out on the universe.) Not Dr. Faustus, but Ernst Blofeld is the model upon which the American power elite depends. Perhaps for this reason, the movie is worth having seen. But not worth seeing. Don’t blame the Creator for sitting through this. Have the knowledge of having seen Inception implanted in your mind. Perhaps it will change your life.