All posts by Gary Engler

Racist, misogynist, militaristic, imperialistic, homophobic, white Christian supremacy

Canadians like to think of ourselves as less racist, less right wing and especially less violent than Americans. But two recent events coming after a previous series of mass murders has shaken this belief.

Four members of a Muslim family were murdered in a hate crime while out for a stroll last Sunday in London, Ontario; two weeks earlier 215 First Nations children were found buried on the grounds of a Kamloops, B.C. Indian residential school; one year ago 22 died during a shooting spree by a Nova Scotia wannabe cop with a severe anger management problem after a fight with his girlfriend; four years ago 26 people, mostly women, were mowed down by a misogynist on a Toronto sidewalk leaving 10 dead; a year before that, six worshippers were shot and killed by a young man in a Quebec City mosque. All murders motivated by right wing hate.

This isn’t the real Canada, some people say. But it is. And always has been.

The truth is Canada, the British colony that preceded it, and the French colony before that, were all founded on racist, misogynist, militaristic, imperialistic, homophobic, white Christian supremacy. This is a history we share with the USA, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, all members along with Canada, of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance.

Our countries have proudly glorified white male warrior, racist colonialism and participated in it at home and abroad. Our laws, our institutions, our foreign policy, our culture have all been affected by these vile practices and ideologies, and they continue to infect and influence us today.

And this is not ancient history.

Born in 1953, I have lived in a Canada with genocidal residential schools, racist laws and immigration policies, that forbade people from voting based on their ethnicity, that ensured property could only be sold to white Christians, that jailed people for their sexuality, that had quotas for Jews in universities, that criminalized women’s reproductive rights and taught me in Catholic school that men were the head of the family and to be proud of the British Empire. The legacy of all that remains alive in me and my country.

These are historical facts that, if acknowledged, can be confronted, and overcome. But you can’t build a better world on a foundation of lies or ignorance, only on concrete reality.

And confronting our past is not just “virtue signalling” or part of “woke” culture or some academic exercise or ritual self-flagellation to earn forgiveness for our sins. There are those who revel in and glorify this past and would return us to it, whether we like it or not. Ignoring or whitewashing our history empowers the right-wing extremists who today wish to create something very much like Margaret Atwood’s Republic of Gilead. It is not only our neighbours to the south who are at risk of an authoritarian fascism built upon making America great again. There are people in all the “Five Eyes” who promote racist, colonial, imperialistic, misogynist, militaristic, homophobic white Christian supremacy and will use violence to achieve their goals.

Having spent the past four years researching and writing about the extreme right in the FAKE NEWS Mysteries, including my latest, American Fascism, there is no doubt in my mind that more violence is coming.

Fascists are conservatives in a panic. They are panicked because they see the victories of women, people of color, First Nations, anti-racists, the LGBTQ+, unions, socialists, peace advocates, environmentalists and internationalists as threatening. They are funded by some very wealthy people who use fascists as the tip of the spear against economic democracy. At its root fascism is a violent defence of economic and social privilege.

To combat those who would inflict Gilead upon us, we must understand who we were, who we are and who we would like to be. As many self-help books posit, knowing yourself is the first step to change. That’s exactly why conservatives and fascists glorify the past, defend statues of racists and insist history should focus on instilling patriotism instead of telling the truth.

To combat them we must educate ourselves and especially our children. Only then can we build a better world, one where all people can live together in respect, dignity and equality. One that is not afraid of positive change. One that can resiliently resist right wing extremism.

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Top 10 Signs of Looming Fascism

While spending some rather unpleasant months writing about fascists as fictional characters in a new mystery novel, American Fascism, it was necessary to get inside their heads, to imagine how people with their understanding of the world might react to certain events.

The book ends when Donald Trump is no longer president, but the threat to democracy remains real.

Informed by the research that went into the novel, I’ve come up with a quick fascism worry checklist. Consider this penance for trying to write believable (and therefore somewhat sympathetic) extreme right-wing characters. It is based on a definition (see below *) of fascism by historian Robert Paxton as well as the experience of living with some very worrying people inhabiting my imagination and real life.

Fascism Checklist

  1. The loyalty of the police in defending all people, democracy and the rule of law is in question, at least in part because the far right has significant support inside their ranks. True or false?
  2. A popular political party pushes the idea that a “successful” strong man, often a billionaire, is needed to lead the nation against its enemies, foreign and domestic. True or false?
  3. This country glorifies the military. Everyone is expected to react with an unquestioning patriotism no matter what it does. True or false?
  4. Those who profit from waging war have created powerful lobby groups. Their self-interest is to define rivals as enemies who must be “defended” against, justifying ever increased spending. True or false?
  5. While external “enemies” are used to promote militarism, internal minority groups have become targets of hate campaigns to warrant paramilitary militias who are supposedly “defending” the nation and its values. True or false?
  6. 5. Specialists who have been trained in the “art” of propaganda targeting other country’s affairs and in overthrowing “unfriendly” governments are available for hire by domestic politicians. True or false?
  7. A mass movement to oppose “socialism” can be easily mobilized by the wealthy to defend their “property” against increased taxes or efforts to reduce inequality and provide better social services. True or false?
  8. Verifiable, objective truth is ignored by growing numbers of people. Instead, they believe “Big Lies” or conspiracy theories, which are becoming more common. True or false?
  9. A political movement has been created in which loyalty to a leader above all else is the critical test of party membership. True or false?
  10. Many “important” people, especially the wealthy, plus those in the military and police, no longer trust democracy or believe in elections and are willing to manipulate results to get their way. True or false?

If you answered “true” to four or less questions, you live in an ordinary, but likely severely unequal, 21st century capitalist country.

If you answered “true” to five and up to seven questions, be worried about the potential for fascism in your country.

If you answered “true” to eight or more questions, good luck. And seriously consider joining with other activists in the antifa movement.

* “Fascism is a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

The post Top 10 Signs of Looming Fascism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Top 10 Signs of Looming Fascism

While spending some rather unpleasant months writing about fascists as fictional characters in a new mystery novel, American Fascism, it was necessary to get inside their heads, to imagine how people with their understanding of the world might react to certain events.

The book ends when Donald Trump is no longer president, but the threat to democracy remains real.

Informed by the research that went into the novel, I’ve come up with a quick fascism worry checklist. Consider this penance for trying to write believable (and therefore somewhat sympathetic) extreme right-wing characters. It is based on a definition (see below *) of fascism by historian Robert Paxton as well as the experience of living with some very worrying people inhabiting my imagination and real life.

Fascism Checklist

  1. The loyalty of the police in defending all people, democracy and the rule of law is in question, at least in part because the far right has significant support inside their ranks. True or false?
  2. A popular political party pushes the idea that a “successful” strong man, often a billionaire, is needed to lead the nation against its enemies, foreign and domestic. True or false?
  3. This country glorifies the military. Everyone is expected to react with an unquestioning patriotism no matter what it does. True or false?
  4. Those who profit from waging war have created powerful lobby groups. Their self-interest is to define rivals as enemies who must be “defended” against, justifying ever increased spending. True or false?
  5. While external “enemies” are used to promote militarism, internal minority groups have become targets of hate campaigns to warrant paramilitary militias who are supposedly “defending” the nation and its values. True or false?
  6. 5. Specialists who have been trained in the “art” of propaganda targeting other country’s affairs and in overthrowing “unfriendly” governments are available for hire by domestic politicians. True or false?
  7. A mass movement to oppose “socialism” can be easily mobilized by the wealthy to defend their “property” against increased taxes or efforts to reduce inequality and provide better social services. True or false?
  8. Verifiable, objective truth is ignored by growing numbers of people. Instead, they believe “Big Lies” or conspiracy theories, which are becoming more common. True or false?
  9. A political movement has been created in which loyalty to a leader above all else is the critical test of party membership. True or false?
  10. Many “important” people, especially the wealthy, plus those in the military and police, no longer trust democracy or believe in elections and are willing to manipulate results to get their way. True or false?

If you answered “true” to four or less questions, you live in an ordinary, but likely severely unequal, 21st century capitalist country.

If you answered “true” to five and up to seven questions, be worried about the potential for fascism in your country.

If you answered “true” to eight or more questions, good luck. And seriously consider joining with other activists in the antifa movement.

* “Fascism is a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

The post Top 10 Signs of Looming Fascism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Personal has Always Been Political for Rich People

The personal is political for Donald Trump, even though he is certainly no feminist. The president, who was a young adult at the time this women’s liberation slogan was popular — to point out that what happens in a woman’s private life was part of a larger political problem of male supremacy — may have unintentionally absorbed the words, but never understood their meaning.

Ironically, while the slogan can express an important feminist truth, “the personal is political” also seems an apt characterization of a Republican 21st century, neoliberal, Ayn Randian and evangelical Protestant tinged belief system in which everything is personal, including politics, the economy, culture, morals, religion etc. Right-wing hero Maggie Thatcher captured the sentiment well with her quote: “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

Why do religious bigots care so much about a woman’s right to choose an abortion or gay marriage? Because they see even the choices of other people as a personal affront to their morals.

Trump, with his actions and words that have set the impeachment process in motion, demonstrates he truly does not understand the difference between his personal interests and the political role a head of state is supposed to play.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has paid even passing attention to his career; the Trump brand has always been about being a celebrity. And to be one of those, to self-consciously promote yourself over decades, to constantly insert yourself into the “news” through the use of publicists and marketers both requires and reinforces the narcissism that so clearly affects the POTUS. After 40 years of building his brand before becoming president, why would he abandon what has gotten him where he wanted to go?

The Trump triumph in the 2016 election can be seen as a sort of culmination of celebrity culture. To the outside world The Donald is, was and always will be a caricature of the Ugly American — a Frankenstein-like creation made from recently harvested parts of a used car salesman, game show host, TV preacher, military man much like the colonel played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now and an ex-child movie star who has long grown out of his charm but not really grown up. Yet he, more or less, won the election. And apparently tens of millions of people old enough to vote still support him.

Makes people across the planet wonder who else could be elected. Or makes them hopeful that if Donald Trump is the best that the system currently has to offer then this form of capitalism must be near its end.

The impeachment process is a sign that some very important people do worry that the president could bring down the entire neoliberal world order. One suspects this is more about image than policy. Certainly most of Trump’s policies have been great for the billionaires and multi-millionaires who own enough politicians to get their way, damn the consequences to the majority of the world’s people. And it’s not as if the rich and powerful really object to using the government’s power to promote private interests. They have always believed that their personal interests are political. And they’ve been pretty damn successful at it. To give just a few examples from a very long list:

· In 1947 the U.S. government passed the Taft-Hartley Act to weaken the power of unions because that was in the personal interest of factory owners and other capitalists.

· In 1953 the CIA overthrew an elected government in Iran because that was in the personal interest of the owners of major oil companies.

· In 1954 the CIA overthrew an elected government in Guatemala because that was in the personal interest of the owners of the United Fruit company.

· In 1961 the CIA organized an invasion of Cuba because that was in the personal interest of some major organized crime families.

· In 2017 the U.S. government passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because that was in the personal interest of rich people in general.

What Trump doesn’t get is that the president is supposed to represent the collective self-interest of rich people, not just his or those of his financial backers. Real politicians learn this early in their careers, but he was never a real politician. Presidents are not supposed to disgrace the wealthy and powerful, but Trump clearly embarrasses a certain segment of the American ruling class.

Perhaps the majority of the wealthy and important have gained what they wanted from his tax cuts and judge him now to be a liability, a danger to their system of command and control. Perhaps the thought of President Trump in charge during a widely expected serious recession has spooked them into supporting impeachment.

But will he be impeached? Or win a second term? It depends. Not upon what the majority of American citizens think, because that’s not how the system works. But rather it depends on what the majority of the wealthy and important judge to be in their self-interest. Because the personal for them always becomes political and they have money to buy the politicians.

Imperialism is Like a Multilevel Marketing Company, with its Own Military

You can call it the way the world works, capitalism abroad, or simply the system. But whatever you call it, it is interesting how much the international economic structure operates like multilevel marketing.

In a typical MLM company — Amway remains the best known example, but there are many others — products are sold, but so is an ideology. This ideology is the key to generating profit for the capitalists who started the corporation and a few lucky early insiders. While Amway does sell health, homecare and beauty merchandise, its most important product is the idea that anyone who joins the company can become rich. Selling that notion is what keeps every successful MLM company going. It’s what attracts new recruits, who soon learn that the best way to make money is by enticing more new recruits and on and on. A percentage of the revenue generated by every recruit goes to the person who recruited her and on and on back up the pyramid to the founders of the company.

If you get in early enough it is possible to get rich, but the further one gets from the top of the pyramid the more difficult it becomes to make any money at all and it may even cost people thousands of dollars to learn this reality. In fact, Canada’s “national newspaper” recently ran a story by journalist Ellie Flynn with the headline “Multilevel marketing sells a dream. Don’t buy it” that reveals this and more.

Flynn writes about the number of people involved: “In my home country, Britain, there are more than 400,000 people signed up to MLMs. In Canada, this number rises to 1.3 million, while in the United States, there are more than 18 million distributors. Worldwide, there are an astonishing 116 million people involved.”

Interestingly, in my over 50 years of reading and working for newspapers I don’t recall ever seeing an equivalent story about the world economic system (WES) even though it works in much the same fashion as MLMs and over 7.5 billion people are involved.

Multilevel marketing includes all sorts of ways for the originator of the scheme to make money off new recruits including: seminars, classes, conferences, books, videos, huge mark-ups on products, a percentage of all sales, etc. Capital flows back to originators (primarily North America and Europe) of the world economic system from franchise agreements, patents, copyrights, loans, currency fluctuations, driving down wages, service agreements, profit repatriation (often to a tax haven) and many more means, legal and illegal.

(The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] offers countries advice on how to deal with at least 10 ways mining companies cook their books and that’s just one industry.)

Just like the vast majority of people who try to get rich through multilevel marketing fail, so too will countries who play by the rules of the world economic system (WES).

Why do poor and “less developed” countries accept all this? Why don’t they set off on an independent path of national self-development that in fact has been the means by which almost every successful capitalist country (including newcomers like China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan) built its economy to the point it could actually compete and win in the world economy.

A big part of the reason is that just like Amway the world economic system sells an ideology to go along with its products. The basic notion is exactly the same as Amway’s. “You too can become rich if you just follow our system.” And of course a few people in every poor country do well enough from promoting the world economic system that the idea of becoming rich can be believable enough, at least for some time. Equally important is the principle, embedded in the ideology of Amway and the WES , that if you fail it is your fault. It is never the system’s fault. “You just didn’t work hard enough or follow the rules closely enough. You need to try harder.” That message is everywhere.

While Albert Einstein’s quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” [except Einstein never said that — DV ed] may seem to apply, there is another reason people choose to blame themselves rather than the system.

While the carrot of getting rich is awfully enticing, there is something else. The system gives countries a choice: Eat the carrot, even if it’s not your favourite veggie, or face the stick. Like Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, or Bolivia.

Imagine that Amway also had the largest military force in the world. What would it do? Pretty much exactly what the USA and its WES “allies” do. Protect its profits and way of doing business. Threaten any “unfair” competitors. Destroy enemies often enough that any potential competitors or places that just wanted to do things a different way would be leery of crossing you. Or course enticing people by the promise of getting rich would always be the preferred method of staying on top, but when that doesn’t work …

The reality is Amway does have the largest military force in the world. And so does GM, GE, Amazon, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Unilever, Royal Bank of Canada, Mitsubishi, Apple and many other huge corporations. It is the USA/NATO armed forces. And along with that comes the world’s most powerful cyberwarfare capabilities, “intelligence” services, and propaganda machine. If you blame the system instead of yourself, you may face all that.

Neoliberal imperialism is multilevel marketing, exploitation, the rich getting richer and militarism.

And it is real fake news when the media tries to tell us otherwise.

Do Something to Change the System or Face the Consequences

It is the worst of times. It is the best of times.

My dear American cousins, looking down from a country that stretches across the top of your map it seems you are living through a tale of two ever more divided classes.

It is about as bad a time as has ever been if you’re a mother with three children from Honduras who is desperately trying to escape an abusive husband and start a new life in the United States.

But it is a very good time indeed if you’re an American billionaire with hundreds of millions of capital gains you seek to shelter from taxes.

If you’re a 23-year-old recent university graduate with over $50,000 in student loans, your job is mind-numbingly soul destroying, pays $11 per hour and requires a car you cannot afford, the future seems bleak indeed.

But if you’re a White nationalist business owner who refuses to serve gay or transgendered people and supports a law, similar to the Israeli nation state law, proclaiming the USA to be a Christian country, you feel very hopeful.

If you’re a supporter of a woman’s right to choose an abortion, a feeling of dread overcomes you every time the Supreme Court is mentioned.

If you understand science and have read the latest reports about climate change you feel we may be living through the beginning of a mass extinction.

But if you believe the Bible as interpreted by Reverend (fill in the blank) is the literal word of God you are enthusiastic about a president who is appointing good people as judges.

If you desire to make America great again, and don’t like immigrants, your country seems headed in the right direction.

But if you have diabetes and your wife suffers from hypertension and your employer just announced your co-pay and deductible will double, you are absolutely scared of what tomorrow might bring.

If you’re a gun-loving, citizens’ militia member, Trump supporting, impeachment-hating man who dreams of fighting in the next U.S. civil war, you’re excited to be alive and hopeful of becoming the next Stonewall Jackson.

What should an outsider, a non-American, make of this state of your affairs and should we care?

I’ve visited all your states except Hawaii. One of my grandfathers was American. One of my uncles fought for you in World War II. I’ve counted many Vietnam War draft dodgers as friends, had more than a few American professors and even possess a U.S. Social Security card because of working on ships that visited Washington and Alaska, so of course I care.

Like most Canadians who read newspapers, websites, listen to the radio and watch TV, it is impossible to ignore your news and I must be frank: You’ve got me worried. You’ve got a lot of us worried. What happens in the United States does not ever stay in the United States.

My partner and I were in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, and dined with an American couple on the day after Donald Trump was elected president. If we had known they were Republicans the dinner may never have happened, but I’m glad it did. We had a great discussion. They seemed as surprised as us that Trump had won. They seemed as worried as us about what would happen next. They seemed like genuinely nice people.

This is what gives me hope. I believe in the goodness and intelligence of ordinary people. I believe that if all the facts are presented to them and a fair debate amongst all points of view is held, they will make the right decisions. I believe in democracy.

I wouldn’t presume to interfere in the internal affairs of another country — a principle that should be in the UN Charter (oh, that’s right, it is Article 2.4) — but would offer these thoughts for you to consider.

The evils you do unto others is often visited upon you. One could argue that disregard for truth, ignoring the law, racism, misogyny, environmental catastrophe and “making America great again” are all blowbacks from what has been done in your name to others.

While he enables much of the bad stuff that worries the world, Donald Trump did not cause it. Rather, he is the product of a system that says greed is good, which was built on the foundation of slavery, racism, patriarchy and ecological destruction.

This point is critical. If you do not understand it and then do something to change the system, most people in your country, mine, and all the others, are truly in for the worst of times.

Bank Report Reveals Where Ruling Class Lives

While clearly not intended as a tool for the subversion of capitalism, the 2019 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report provides a fascinating glimpse at the inequality that the neoliberal era has produced, who has benefitted and those who have been left behind.

According to the tenth edition of the report, recently released, “The bottom half of wealth holders collectively accounted for less than 1% of total global wealth in mid-2019, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth and the top 1%  alone own 45%.” (Note that this a study about wealth and not income. It measure assets [housing, stocks, bonds etc.] minus debts.)

Further evidence of the incredible inequality generated by neoliberal capitalism:

  • North America and Europe together account for 57% of total household wealth, but contain only 17% of the world adult population;
  • 2.9 billion people, 57% of all adults,  have wealth below $10,000 US in 2019. Of course many of these have more debts than assets;
  • Average wealth per adult in Africa is $6,488 while that figure for North America (which seems to be defined as Canada and the USA) is $417,694. For India it is $14,569 while in Latin America the average wealth is $22,502;
  • Average wealth in “socialist” China has grown more rapidly than elsewhere over the past two decades to $58,544. (It seems government intervention in the economy is good for wealth creation);
  • The share of total global wealth owned by millionaires (47 million or 0.9% of adults) has grown from 34% in 2000 to 44% today;
  • About 40% of millionaires reside in the USA and more than half of the 1.1 million who achieved that status in the past year live in the land of Trump. The U.S. growth of millionaires exceeded that of the next nine countries combined (Japan, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, India, Spain, Canada and Switzerland);
  • Australia lost 124,000 millionaires over the past year, primarily due to declining real estate prices;
  • The wealth of 41 million of the millionaires was between 1 and 5 million dollars. Another 3.7 million are worth between 5 million and 10 million, and almost exactly 2 million adults now have wealth above 10 million. Of these, 1.8 million have assets in the 10–50 million range, leaving 168,030 with a  net worth above 50 million;
  • Of these 168,030 members of the capitalist ruling class, 80,510 (48%) live in the USA. China has 18,130 (11%) , Germany 6,800 (4%), the UK 4,640, India 4,460, France 3,700, Canada (3,530), Japan 3,350, Russia 3,120 and Hong Kong 3,100.

The importance of knowing where rich people are and might be popping up next is what has produced this annual “most comprehensive and up-to date survey of household wealth”.

In ancient Greece people would consult the oracles in order to choose the fruitful path, but today the most common source of such divination is the wisdom of the dollar and its associated deities. Rather than seek advice from experts at interpreting the various Hellenic gods, we consult those who specialize in illuminating where “the money” has been and is going. The ancient oracles could be found at shrines to the various gods; the modern version of these advice givers reside in universities, think tanks, mutual fund companies, brokerages, banks and the ever-present business media. The offerings of those seeking the guidance of today’s financial gods support a multi-billion dollar information and advice industry.

This seems “rational” behavior only because we live in an economic system that distributes power on a one-dollar-one-vote basis. To divine where the dollars are is to learn where best to seek the power that comes from them. In other words, the rich get richer and those who want to catch the crumbs as they fall off the banquet table need to be present at the court of King Capital.

Like the royal courts of feudal Europe that moved around its realm from castle to castle, money, in the form of capital, travels around its planetary realm from country to country, city to city, economic sector to economic sector, searching for the highest profit. This movement of capital creates real estate and other booms in favored locations then financial crises when the wealthy decide it is time to move on.

According to supporters, capitalism is supposed to be all about competition. The system is supposed to reward merit. Winners and losers are legitimate because everyone has an equal chance to succeed. But this is clearly not true in the actual world as described by the Credit Suisse report.

How can the 2.9 billion adults who own less than $10,000 in net assets compete fairly against 47 million millionaires, let alone the 168,030  who own $50 million or more?

The system is rigged. In a neoliberal capitalist competition to buy the most profitable companies, processes, patents, ideas, and anything else that can be made “property” the winners will always be those with the most money.

This report illustrates the pyramid of capitalist wealth and the peculiar property of money that guarantees most of it floats to the top.

The only way for billions of people, most countries and entire continents to escape the inevitable “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is by using the power of collectivity (call it government, socialism or mutual aid) to counter the power of one-dollar-one-vote capitalism.