That sentiment strikes me as being so uber descriptive of the current culture of western civilization, or at least of its elite class. It nails the attitude promoted by captialism gone rampant and expressed by the swindles of hedge-fund managers and transnational corporate CEOs. These trade in commoditized human life with no less sociopathy than the biggest slave-owners of the 19th century. Their relentless push for profit at the expense of the very life-supporting capacity of the earth puts them in a realm of evil of Biblical proportions. The end of this system is a phoenix-like self-consumption by fire, but with no prospect of rising from the ashes.
This week I listened to a podcast interview on Writer's Voice of Les Leopold who wrote How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour. Mr. Leopold gave one of the clearest explanations I've heard of just what the Wall Street elites did to create and deflate the housing bubble so as to make billions for themselves, their billionaire clients, and their sponsoring banks. He also makes it clear why this was indeed a swindle.
In a nutshell it's this: These hedge fund managers (hedge funds are investment instruments only for the very wealthy, where they bet on the failure of other investments) created financial instruments that were the accumulation of very bad (subprime) mortgages (and other "junk" loans) that were then sold as good investments to whoever would buy them (retirement funds, banks, companies, even a school district). By any reasonable assessment of the root loans of these instruments, they were guaranteed to fail. That is, they would never be paid back. So the managers then created their hedge funds that would pay billions if the subprime mortgage-based investments failed. They certainly did, and the managers and their investors, banks, etc, raked in billions in fees and fund payoffs. This was a deliberate scheme that worked so well that the European banks wanted in and they waylaid the EU after the same fashion.
Now all this has long been written about in the alternate news and activist circles. Knowledge of the swindle is what led the Occupy movement to correctly identify Wall Street as the source of the oppression being visited on the 99% of the world's citizenry. Mr. Leopold just does a good job of expressing it. In doing so, he reveals the lie in the Fox "News" line of the housing bubble burst being the result of people foolishly taking on loans they could not afford. The truth is that in order to create mortgages guaranteed to default, banks made loans to anyone who was breathing and wanted a place to live.
The answer to the question of Mr. Leopold's book title is that you make a million dollars an hour by becoming a hedge fund manager. Some make around 2 million an hour. He makes the point that this work requires a lessening of any moral scrupples the aspirant manager may bring to the job. The basic operating principal of the hedge funds is at best immoral and certainly illegal. But it was done, is being done, and is why many commentators say the world's economic system is based on fraud. It is a fraud that bankrupts countries and sends millions of families into poverty and suicidal desparation (re: Greece, Spain, Ireland), but it enriches the 1% very nicely.
I also read an interview this week of John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. In his book, Mr. Perkins describes the life he lived as an agent of the elite to facilitate the kind of swindles and economic maneuverings described in Mr. Leopold's book. The two books are probably essential to an understanding of the dysfunctional way the world works now.
That working is the operation of supranational entities--associations of corporations, banks, economic organizations--that literally seek to run the world in a way that enriches themselves and serves only their interests. They slay whole populations with sanctions, policies of austerity, and, as a last but enjoyable resort, with outright military conquest. Even now they are laying seige to their competitors, Russia and China, and fighting proxy wars with them in Africa and the Middle East, and provoking war with North Korea--a country held in a choke-hold of economic sanctions for 60 years--to eliminate a buffer to both.
This is what I gleaned from my week's readings and listenings. The implication for those of us at the street level is increasing difficulty to live as well as we're used to, and the loss of common-right essentials--health care, education, and retirement.
But the Achilles Heel of the global elites is the very predatory economics they worship. Their eastern competitors are attacking the global reserve status of the dollar, which will eventually crash the finances of the west. The debt component of the total money supply will also collapse as populations come to understand it is based on nothing and bank runs will result. And driving it all, is the depletion of fossil fuel inputs that ultimately create the wealth of our industrial/technical civilization.
On further thought, I believe something will arise from the ashes, but it won't be another phoenix. It will be a smaller, more localized life in a much bigger, less hospitable, world.