Reporter: What sacrifices will appease our capitalist god-kings?
Rastani: Nothing, you tool. Figure out how to make money from a downward market, because Goldman Sachs and the big funds are going to crash the economy.
Well, even though he’s pimping Treasury bonds here, I think he’s right about the lack of correspondence between capitalist incentives and economic health. There’s no end in sight. The big finance capitalists (Goldman Sachs, the big funds) are crashing economies for fun & profit, and their politicians (Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron) don’t have any strategies other than to support them in their crashing endeavors.
How do you make money in an economic crash?
Rastani’s trying to get you to buy Treasury bonds, because he’s a trader and that’s what he’s betting on…so you might or might not want to do that.
A la Joe Kennedy, you could buy stores of and stock in the classic commodities of escapism:
oil, gas, cigarettes, movies, and booze.
plus video games.
Oh and here’s one more compensatory economic strategy.
The Liberal-conservative Cleanup Committee has so far forwarded 4 cleansing approaches to the viral spread of this impolite video:
1) Pathologize the Individual / ad hominem 1: Claim that Rastani is a particularly evil man, see my response below.
2) Speculate that Rastani is a Yes Man. This hypothesis has been disconfirmed.
3) Pathologize the Individual / ad hominem 2: Claim (or insinuate) that Rastani’s analysis is void because he has a pathological psychological compulsion to “seek attention.”
4) Invoke Elitism / ad hominem 3: Claim that Rastani’s analysis is void because he is not a member of polite society, as defined by wealth.
Banal Evil?: Against the Arendtian Framing of Rastani
In this case, I would temper Arendt here hard with Nietzsche (Graeber’s got a great interpretation of Nietzsche in “Debt” (2011)).
I’m inclined to think it’s a system dedicated to generating greed monsters (utilizing varying strategies) that’s abhorrent. The question is at what moral decision-making “stage” does evil enter, and while we can compare, I don’t think this is a question of quantifiable units of evil.
I’m not very disgusted by this individual’s (Rastani’s) strategy in this case. He socially admits that the system is not responsive to human needs, while he fails to voluntaristically reject the system. Instead of voluntaristically rejecting the system, he simply plugs and bets on Treasury bonds. He acts within an evil system. Superficially, this looks like Arendt’s banal evil; below I argue it is not banal evil, but tricksterism.
It’s not unambiguous heroism, but what non-confrontative (or semi-confrontative) action within an evil system is heroic? I certainly don’t feel betrayed by Rastani’s strategy (Which is usually prohibited and punished–certainly not for moral reasons, but for the maintenance of hegemony.)–because it stimulates others’ capacity to interpret and decide, to exercise freedom. That’s not evil.
If you want to compare, it’s slightly less evil than the stuff we all do in this system that shuts down freedom, including all the pious, everyday TINA work we do to create the pretense, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, that the economy and the environment is not undermined by capitalist incentives, infrastructure, and culture.
Etage Moral 1: Choosing Truth or Banal Evil
I certainly feel we’re not in the presence of evil when we’re admitting that systemic (capitalist) incentives undermine economic and social welfare. That’s a solid moral decision at the outset, and not evil like the immediate, first-stage retreat into ad hoc, opportunistic, idealistic denialism–let’s call this evil the Innocence Path. This innocence can coexist with sporadic tricksterism or insurrection, but usually, as with political party people and J-Comm types, it tends to lend its agency to conscious, active evil (see stage 3 below).
Etage Moral 2: Choosing Insurrection or Tricksterism
The moral decision-making tree then forks again at a second level–to play the system as is (which as you’ve recognized is destructive), or to rally people to collectively overcome the evil system. Here the trader does not choose the virtuous path.
Let’s weigh the evils, and consider which is properly banal evil. In terms of comparable evils, finding a niche in an exploitation order in which you opt for first-stage evil, automatically (and at times strategically) exploit thousands (to millions) of people while pretending that’s not what’s going on–the Innocence Path, is not less scandalous than taking a niche in which you strategically, consciously exploit thousands (to millions) of people, admitting that this is the system.
Either way, as you’re acting within the evil machine, your actions are not virtuous. Banal evil, however, isn’t simply non-elite evil. Crucially, committing to first-stage evil forecloses the possibility of liberation and lends itself to full-bore third-stage evil. Therefore, first-stage evil is proper banal evil.
Second stage evil, while egocentric, is not anti-social; it does not attempt to foreclose the possibility of liberation and does not abet third stage evil. It is therefore tricksterism.
Etage Moral 3: Evil
Down the “conscious capitalist” moral decision-making path, distinctive, proper evil really enters at a third stage: Deciding to defend the evil system from the systemic change others have decided to struggle for at moral stage two. This is using the evil order to activate banal evil and suppress freedom. You recognize the order is socially inhumane, you act within its inhumanity, and you volunteer the social power you’ve appropriated to protect the inhumanity from change. Now we’re talking evil, conscious, voluntary evil. And the Innocents are your pawns and troops in evil.
Banal evil is created by an evil system overdetermining moral choices, and it is activated by conscious evil.
Essentially, I think varying moral interpretations of this Rastani case illustrate pro-capitalist Judeo-Christian understandings of evil, v. ‘pagan’ understandings of tricksterism. As professional hegemonists, J-comm types are supposed to defend capitalism against both tricksterism and insurrection. Capitalism’s reliance on hegemony creates abhorrence (My way or the highway) for tricksterism, which is anti-hegemonic but still lives (even fairly comfortably) within the system. But that doctrinaire abhorrence certainly doesn’t mean that tricksterism is either greater than or even equal to the sacrosanct, everyday evils perpetuated automatically and consciously within an anti-human, anti-environmental system of rampant exploitation and exaggerated inequality.