According to Terry Eagleton, the modern humanities and industrial capitalism entered the world stage in the same historical epoch, the early 19th century. The purpose of the university was, as he writes, “to preserve a set of values and ideas” that with the rise of industry were “under siege,” [so] you needed among other things institutions known as universities set somewhat apart from everyday social life.” Given the fact that universities in the United States, are little more than corporate training grounds for jobs that don’t exist, a new kind of education is desperately needed. Under the current siege of ideas, the younger generation, the so called “lost generation” are forced into the university for which they must go into debt to the tune of about $36,000 in order to have a chance for a job that doesn’t exist. Something is severely wrong with this development that began with the Reagan administration when he dramatically cut public funding to education forcing universities to jack tuition up over 1200% since.
The burden for educating the public (a value that was traditionally imbued into democracy societies) was now forced onto the individual by banking elites looking to turn a profit. The result over the past four decades is the collapse of the common good, crippling debt with little economic hope for flourishing. This is what many are beginning to realize as the strategy of the 1% and there is a word for this: “neoliberalism” and it’s crushing what was once the free world into total and complete submission to the financial ruling class.
At first no one was noticing. The universities were expanding in areas like feminism, multiculturalism, gender studies, postmodernism and the like, giving Provosts and Deans a feather in their cap. But the economic burden that students now assumed was being ignored, which heightened a basic contradiction: students would have to go into enslavement (to banks via student loans) just to have a seat in class to learn just how alienated they were and how democracy was in peril. An ironic contradiction.
By 2000 the neoliberal outlook, “the [financial] might is right” had permeated into all areas of social life. The banks were being bailout by public funds for their unethical behavior and yet students were forced into enslavement to those very banks. The critical distance that university education was designed to maintain had sold out to the corporate mentality of greed—a social disease.
After the financial collapse of 2008 people began taking things to the street. The Occupy movement spread wide and far, but overtime disappeared leaving an important message: 1% vs. 99%.
Neoliberalism in Europe
Neoliberalism doesn’t just exist in the States but is fully installed in the European Union among other places. This “might is right” mentality where the unelected bureaucrats--the masters of finance are forcing the peripheral countries in Europe (Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Italy) into full submission. This has been going on for nearly 20 years and finally in 2011, after years of austerity, and private corporations buying public assets (healthcare, electrical grids, airports, ports, etc.) countervailing movements have emerged.
Two notable movements are Syriza (in Greece) and Podemos (in Spain). These movements are often dubbed by the corporate media as “radically leftwing” but in reality their platforms are nearly identical to the US Democratic party platform in the 1950s when social equality was in balance. Clearly the corporate media has an agenda that has played itself out in the 2016 US Presidential election when it became clear that illegal activity was used to bury Bernie Sanders in order to install a candidate of the 1%.
But unlike in the United States, new political parties are far easier to mobilize in most countries in Europe, which is parliamentarian. So the rigged two-party system in the US has very little ways to reestablish democracy by the people, but now serves as a mask behind which Wall Street runs the table. One success story is Podemos in Spain who along with the Anti-Austerity Movement 15-M have succeeded in rising to power in order to bring people back into politics. Of course they are under constant threat by the corporate media who endlessly attack Podemos.
There is a vested interest of the 1% to maintain power and their mouthpiece is the media who can destroy a movement that’s good for 99% of the population, but not for them.
Recently The Global Center for Advanced Studies was invited to Podemos Summer University in Madrid. It was there, during four days (September 22-25) of convening with hundreds of people from Spain, that it became very clear how important Podemos and 15-M are to the future of democracy. I spoke with people on the streets of Madrid and those critical of Podemos were just spouting clichés the major media was shamelessly feeding them. The citizen is reduced to a robot of clichés—a tall-tale sign of the tyranny of the 1%.
It was incredible just how a movement designed to save people’s homes, savings, and public assets was so quickly dismissed by the media even though many in Spain support them. But when I spent four days there at the Summer University a much truer more organic story unfolded. This was a story about people, intellectuals and activists devoting their lives for the people. The struggle continues between the 1% (media and banks) and the 99% (the people). When will people start to learn and fight for their power again?
It’s time to stop listening to the ideas that descend from the bank skyscrapers and peddled by the media and begin listening to your neighbors and even honestly reflecting on your own life. The opportunities of our time are far less then they were for our parents and grandparents and there’s a reason for this. Podemos and 15-M are a political movement from which much is to be learned.
As for the universities, nothing will change there—it is a dead-zone for thinking and becoming. This is why we started The Global Center for Advanced Studies to offer the best education for less tuition then community colleges and that’s why we are proud to be associated with Podemos and 15-M. Together we can bring democracy back to the people.