Failed States

by Nic Olson

When history is crafted in the service of power, evidence and rationality are irrelevant.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p100

I am in the business of joy. Lowercase j. I am directly employed by Santa himself to greet the masses of joyless souls and bring the rapture of new merchandise to their lives. Running a business as if it were a business makes sense, as long as a service is provided or goods are traded for money. People convinced they they have a right to demand things in the form of a Christmas list because they believe that forced giving is the thoughtful thing to do, are running their lives like a business, taking advantage of situations and people and money. This does not make sense.

In structure, the political counterpart to a corporation is a totalitarian state. There are rewards for loyalists, and quick punishment for those who “cross party leaders.” The antidemocratic thrust has precedents, of course, but is reaching new heights. It should surprise no one familiar with history that it is accompanied by the most august missions and visions of democracy.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p238

Running a government as if it were a business frightens me. It makes humans commodities and necessities marketable. More regard for the dollars earned than the humans living in conditions where it is impossible to earn enough for basic human comforts. The past and the present have been crafted in the service of power. The connection between the system governed by the powerful and wealthy and the consumerism of this season is not coincidental. Someone, or a series of someones, have carefully crafted this holiday season that is loved by so many into a two-month shopping obligation. Our love for one another that is best expressed through fellowship and merriment has been changed so that we feel the only way to express it is through the giving of unnecessary items. And it has only strengthened their position of power. They have taken what we love more than anything and inverted it into another means of profit. Power is a business.

Among the most salient properties of failed states is that they do not protect their citizens from violence—and perhaps even destruction—or that decision makers regard such concerns as lower in priority than the short-term power and wealth of the state’s dominant sectors.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p38

Violence can be demonstrated in many ways. A boot stamping on a human face forever. An army occupying another country to control the energy reserves and elections to stifle the power of a population. Several levels of government building a handsome yet useless multimillion dollar sidewalk ignoring a housing crisis that continually worsens. Poverty is violence.

Our state has used garlands and lights and parades to help us forget that it has indeed failed. And these lights and garlands have trained us to continue to support the failed state through red Santa hats and a marketable ‘Christmas Spirit.’ Either each year the situation becomes more grave than the last, or each year my cynicisms mount even higher than Santa’s pyramid of elf skulls that he compiles at year end, a physical exposition of the slave labour that his capitalist methods require.

We can demonstrate our power by running our lives as the human lives they are, not as the businesses that they are told to be. We can take back the power from the failed state by refusing to participate in the season that characterizes their abuses and violence more than any other time of the year. We can go a year without ‘celebrating’ to show that our Joy (capital J) is founded in something more than a self-serving system that they created for us to mindlessly follow. We can buy nothing and be better, more generous, less selfish people because of it.