Let Them Fail

Saving the banks is not the only option.

Save the People
Witness, Oil on Canvas, 72" x 36". Used by permission of the artist, Wes Magyar, www.wesmagyar.com

The U.S. government has spent $4,600,000,000,000 on the corporate bailout thus far. According to ABC News, this is more money than the "total combined costs in today's dollars of the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the entire historical budget of NASA, including the moon landing".

How could such an inconceivable expenditure go through without even a glimmer of dissent? In a recent Le Monde editorial, celebrated French philosopher Alain Badiou explains that the only ideology left today is: "Save the banks!". World leaders, journalists and respected intellectuals all seem to claim the same thing: only by saving the banks can we save the world.

But for Badiou, the economic crisis is a spectacle that diverts attention from the reality of daily existence. He encourages us to step back and, turning away from the screen, to gaze not at the crisis unfolding in the news but the crisis unfolding on the street.

Badiou writes, "So what do we see, if we turn things around in this way? We see [...] simple things that we've known for a long time: capitalism is nothing but robbery, irrational in its essence and devastating in its development. Its few short decades of savagely unequal prosperity have always been at the cost of crises in which astronomical quantities of value disappear, bloody punitive expeditions into every zone that capitalism judges either strategically important or threatening, and world wars that brought it back to health."

Badiou's passionate editorial is a call to question the basic assumption underlying the trillion dollar "bail out" whose function is merely to delay the sinking of our overspent, debt-ridden consumer society. If it is not the banks that need saving, is it "the people"? Or is it the environment... or is it something else? What are the real priorities and who should we really be trying to bail out?

(Badiou's full editorial is online here.)

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. Micah is currently writing a book of philosophical meanderings into the future of activism. He lives in Binghamton, NY with his wife and two cats. www.micahmwhite.com