Category Archives: Classism

Labor Day 2019

We celebrate Labor Day by honoring workers — especially the forgotten workers. Stay-at-home mothers who home school their children are often forgotten. Others who are forgotten are those who work in school cafeterias, those who empty bedpans in nursing homes, and ordinary local guys, like my plumber. He is smart, honest and he never overcharges. These are just ordinary people. Most have no degrees — no fancy pieces of paper to frame and hang on their walls. These are the “good guys”. They keep our country and homes running. They are the real backbone of the economy.

There are also many others. Can anyone celebrate Labor Day without thinking about farm labor? If you are too old to remember it, or too young to have ever heard of it, now is the time to crank up your computer and watch “Harvest of Shame,” the amazing documentary made by Edward R. Murrow.

There is no labor more important for our existence and survival than farm labor. Often those who work in the field are the most overworked and underpaid. In Vermont we should be sensitive to the plight of workers on dairy farms. Often they live in substandard housing. They live in fear of exposure if they lack the “right” papers. In Bennington we depend on the workers from the Caribbean Islands who harvest the apple crop every year.

One of our nation’s greatest scandals is the treatment of child farm workers who never seem to have the legal protections necessary. In California, who is looking out for the kids? They often are exposed to dangerous chemicals while working long hours in the blazing sun.

Any examination of the labor force must also include those who are overpaid — corporate CEOs. Corporations have the right to compensate administrators any way and in any amount the board determines — but, the unfair distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the unity of our country. It is unpatriotic. Voters need to speak up and protest the exploitation of workers, which is necessary to provide the CEOs with such obscene compensation packages. This widespread policy of excessive pay for corporate CEOs can be easily fixed by changing the tax code. Place a one hundred percent tax on all income above $100,000 — or a one hundred percent tax on all income that is more than five times the minimum wage. Of course members of Congress are not willing to do that. It is obvious why. We know whose side they are on. A simple change in the tax code could eliminate poverty and provide health care to everyone.

The most outrageous compensation scheme is often in the so-called “nonprofits.” Of all those, the health care business is no doubt the worse. It is the most dangerous because it is, in part, responsible for lack of universal access to quality health care, which can lead to death. The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet — but it is far from the best. Quality of health care in Thailand and many other countries is far superior — so much so that many Americans have become medical tourists. Patients will do anything to avoid the “assembly line,” dehumanized health care in the United States. Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand is one of the world’s best. See this:

Compare the hospital in Thailand to our local hospital which made nationwide news in a 60 Minutes Expose. Remember the ‘Ronald Comeau’ case a few years ago. Quality of local health care has not improved. If we don’t want the plug pulled prematurely, maybe we all need medic alert bracelets engraved with “Don’t Pull the Plug”.

Think back to the good old days when we were patients. Then we became customers. Now we are just algorithms. Has your doctor made eye contact with you lately, or is your doctor focused on a computer screen during the entire length of your annual visit? This is not always the doctor’s fault. They did not design the electronic record system, but maybe they could fix it if they organized and at least tried. There are increasing numbers of patients who have no doctor at all. Many good doctors have left. It is time to change the law and allow doctors from Cuba to come to the U.S.A.

Not all doctors are overpaid. Some are underpaid. The problem is that too much of the money goes to the top and too little to real health care providers at the bottom of the wage scale. This has resulted in a loss of quality in health care and puts patients at risk.

Take a good look at the following numbers from IRS Form 990 reports. Can they be justified?

• Vermont Hospital CEO pay – 2016
• University of Vermont Medical Center: $2,186,275
• Dartmouth-Hitchcock: $1,494,669
• Southwestern Vermont Medical Center: $620,368
• Porter Medical Center: $612,877
• Rutland Regional Medical Center: $565,038
• Central Vermont Medical Center: $503,385
• Gifford Medical Center: $470,574
• Copley Hospital: $435,524
• North Country Hospital: $417,940
• Brattleboro Memorial Hospital: $390,731
• Northwestern Medical Center: $378,272
• Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center: $374,660
• Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital: $350,764
• Springfield Hospital: $264,563
• Grace Cottage Hospital: $124,800

Just one more fact: Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO, Dr. Joanne M. Conroy compensation is being kept secret.

The Difference between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive

The difference between liberalism and progressivism is ideological.

Historically, liberalism started with John Locke, whose philosophy was superbly summarized, explained, and referenced to its sources, here; but the following will instead quote directly from those sources:

Locke (as the commentator said) “praises money as probably no one prior and after him,” because Locke’s 1689 Second Treatise on Government, Sections 49 & 50, asserted that only by means of money, “Man will begin presently to enlarge his Possessions” and thereby start to get beyond the crudest agriculturally based economy. Locke then said in Sec. 124 that “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” In other words: money enables wealth to grow, and government exists in order to protect wealth, not to serve nor protect people. Lord Acton, writing in 1877, criticized Locke’s philosophy because Locke’s “notion of liberty involves nothing more spiritual than the security of property, and is consistent with slavery and persecution.” That was the case about Locke because Locke’s philosophy wouldn’t have won any aristocratic sponsors at all, and would therefore simply have failed utterly and become lost to history, if it didn’t allow slavery, and — even more basically — allow unequal rights that depend upon the possession (and especially upon the inheritance) of wealth, and that generates respecting the wealthy (especially the hereditary wealthy) more than the poor (and with slaves being at the absolute bottom). Locke’s philosophy was affirmative toward the existing class-hierarchy, a property-based hierarchy. However, Lord Acton had, himself, been passionately committed to America’s slaveholding southern states’ Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, because he believed more in the principle of local or home rule (as opposed to federal rule) than he opposed “slavery and persecution” (such as against slaves).

So: the entire aristocracy, except for the outright conservatives (which were the vast majority) amongst them, were hypocrites, and liberalism is based upon that hypocrisy, nothing which is internally consistent. Since it’s unadulterated hypocrisy, it is sloppy thinking, and it is this because otherwise it would be simply “Might makes right” — pure conservatism — unadorned with any pretenses to decency, and to equality of rights irrespective of wealth. In other words: Locke offered the aristocracy a way to consider themselves to be decent people no matter how bad they might actually be, and his intellectual offering to them required a lot of intellectual sloppiness. This is liberalism, at its very outset, and right up till today. It is stupid, but the super-rich consider it to be acceptable, and so some of them sponsor it, which enabled it to become a “classic.”

By contrast, progressivism is a total and unequivocal rejection of conservatism. It doesn’t respect wealth and the wealthy, nor does it despise the poor. It instead admires goodness which seeks no recompense or public honor therefore, but instead springs from as wide a compassion as possible (without regard to an individual’s race, creed, or ethnicity). And it despises greed, and rejects outright the “Greed is good” philosophy (a philosophy that’s consistent with both liberalism and conservatism; so, progressivism repudiates both). And it accords no honor to winning, and no shame to losing. The progressive (like anyone) wants to win, but only for a good cause, as “good” is accorded without any favoritism toward any individual or group or individuals, nor disfavoring of others, but purely with equal rights for all, to freedom and happiness and fulfillment.

Because progressives are committed to the good, they do passionately support the good against the evil; and, to them, the “good” are progressives, and the “evil” are proponents of might-makes-right. This is what progressivism is all about — the difference between progressivism and conservatism. By contrast with those polar-opposite ideologies, liberalism is merely in-between. It is every shade of gray, because it compromises between good and evil. As some liberals like to say, it is “nuanced.”

Might-makes-right — the very core of conservatism — is automatically favoring the rich against the poor, because, in the real world, money is power and the poor are therefore the weakest class of all. Locke’s First Treatise on Government, “Book I. Ch. XI. Who Heir?” (Sec. 107) goes even further into its conservative tradition of might-makes-right. It asserts that “the author” of the Bible (his God) is “affirming that the assignment of civil power is by divine institution, … so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person, to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned.” Liberalism not only accepts hereditary rule, but it rejects any sort of democracy, because, for a liberal, accountability is only to The Almighty, not to any mortal nor public of mortals. Thus, the founder of liberalism, Locke, said there that “it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam’s heir, as it would have been amongst the Jews,” because the will of The Almighty is eternal, and applies not merely in the past.

When America’s Founders refused even so much as to mention any god, and opened the U.S. Constitution with “We, the people of the United States, … do ordain and establish this Constitution,” it was an authentic break away from the past, because they were repudiating not only conservatism but liberalism, and were actually starting progressivism. They were doing this because accountability here was being ordained, in this new country — via its Constitution — to be accountability to the mortals, the public; and not to any The Almighty, at all. They chose to do this — break radically from the past. That act, from them, the U.S. Constitution, gave birth to progressivism — not merey to a new country. This Constitution served as the American Scripture, except that unlike any religious one, it included provisions for its own subsequent amendment, via the public’s representatives. Unlike any religious Scripture, it allowed itself to become improved. That, too (allowance for improvement), is a basic feature of progressivism, which contrasts starkly against conservatism (which relies instead upon some immutable Scripture).

Because a progressive favors equally the rights of all, and rejects unconditionally the supremacy of any nation above any other, a fundamental principle of progressivism is an utter rejection of imperialism (against which America’s Founders had waged their own Revolutionary War), and of any invasion of one country by another which has not become, nor been reasonably considered to pose a danger to become, invaded by that other, which it has invaded. During the War of 1812, Americans waged war to defend their largely democratic republic against imperial Britain’s invasion to re-seize this land. The imperialists committed aggression against Americans, after having lost the Revolutionary War to them. Consequently, for example: America, which since 1898 has itself unprovokedly invaded and sought to vassalize and exploit, more countries than any other nation, is perhaps the most conservative country, at least since around 1900. Today’s U.S. is, in this sense, profoundly anti-progressive and anti-American, because it has become the most imperialistic nation in the world, having taken the place of England, and of France, and of Spain, and of Germany, and of Portugal, and of Japan, and of Italy. America’s Constitution has now become overthrown. America today is ruled by ideological enemies of America’s Founders. Today’s America is unAmerican, in that deepest of all senses.

Consequently, to be a progressive in today’s America is to be ideologically rather isolated, alone with the Founders, in this now extremist conservative society, so alien to its own Constitution. It’s to be at a severe disadvantage, in this society. But, to a progressive, there is no assumption that the good shall be rewarded and that the evil shall be punished. There is a hope for that, but no expectation of it. Consequently, the progressive is a progressive not for personal gain but purely to do justice in the world. Recognizing that the world’s norm is profoundly unjust, a progressive seeks especially to aid the good against the evil, irrespective of the consequences to oneself.

Obviously, therefore, far more liberals than progressives exist. It’s not profitable to be progressive, but it is good to be progressive — and that’s a progressive’s main concern.

It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a liberal and a progressive. One reason that’s so difficult for so many people to do is that many liberals are ‘progressives’ in sheeps’ clothing — fakes — and the biggest policy-area where this is the case is in foreign policies, because whereas average voters know that politicians who fight against lowering their medical costs are bad, they don’t know (nor even care) nearly so much about international affairs. Here is a typical example of a ‘progressive‘ who is also a neoconservative (though garbing it in ‘progressive’ arguments). He favors “a democracy promotion agenda” like other liberals did in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc. He doesn’t even so much as question that the Cold War was about ideology instead of about expanding the American empire. (How can anybody question that it wasn’t, after this? Is he really so ignorant? Or is the explanation something worse? He’s sufficiently ‘well-educated‘ so that it’s something worse. To put it as kindly as possible: he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and he cares more about that than he cares about truth and honesty.)

Locke, having been a liberal instead of a pure conservative, would not approve of today’s America, because by his basing his ethic upon property (wealth), he acknowledged the extreme evilness of conquest. Thus, “Book II. Ch. XVI. Of Conquest” in his Second Treatise on Government, states (Sec. 176):

That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my throat make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror, who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders.

So: today’s U.S.A. stands condemned even in that compromised work, the foundation of liberalism. It stands condemned because John Locke wasn’t a pure conservative — in that passage, he clearly condemned might-makes-right, which he said pertained “in this world,” meaning not in the world of The Almighty, in a supposed afterlife, where power, supposedly, does reflect virtue.

By contrast, a progressive makes no assumption that power reflects virtue anywhere. The only reason for a progressive to be virtuous is to be virtuous — and not according to any ‘The Almighty’, but instead recognizing, from the progressive’s experience of this world, that if this world does reflect, in any sense, the will of ‘The Almighty’, then that Almighty is anything but virtuous — certainly not virtuous, at all. It’s not a progressive world — not at all. To be a progressive is to accept this fact, instead of to be deluded that there is some reward in ‘an afterlife’, because a progressive doesn’t expect to be rewarded for virtue, but, more likely, to be punished for it. (Consider whistleblowers as progressives, and almost all of them are punished for it.) To do something for a reward is commerce; it’s no political ideology, at all. So, again: there are very few progressives. Progressivism is no church which aims to increase the size of its flock (thereby compromising so much as to become worthless, even if it was not so before). Success is not its guidestar. Truth is. That’s what guides a progressive’s conscience. Thus, too, there is no progressive myth. None. A progressive accepts and recognizes history, but no myth. By contrast, a liberal, such as Locke, bases his ‘case’ upon whatever myth he chooses.

*****

PS, responding to a critic: A reader of this has objected: “Progressives are flawed human beings like everybody else. Yet Zuesse converts them into morally pristine übermenchen with all other human motivations outside of his progressive ideals being invalid. BTW, so Progressives never seek to maximize their economic well-being? They never game the system? They are never arrogant and self-serving? They never ignore the laws of unintended consequences? The laws of conflicting objectives don’t apply to them? I’d like to see a follow-on SCF article that critiques Zuesse’s claim to Progressism’s claim to outright and absolute moral supremacy. And then let the readers compare and contrast.” What he described there are liberals, not progressives. The title of this article is “The Difference Between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive.” He missed its point. However, of course all people “are flawed human beings.” That’s just a cliché. And, of course, within the bounds of decency, progressives do “seek to maximize their economic well-being.” But all of his objection ignores the article’s argument and evidence. As regards evidence, here is more.

  • Originally posted at strategic-culture.org.
  • See also “What Is Progressivism?
  • Billionaires and American Politics

    Is the United States becoming a plutocracy?

    With the manifestly unqualified but immensely rich Donald Trump serving as the nation’s first billionaire president, it’s not hard to draw that conclusion.  And there are numerous other signs, as well, that great wealth has become a central factor in American politics.

    Although big money has always played an important role in U.S. political campaigns, its influence has been growing over the past decade.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, by 2014 the share of political donations by the wealthiest 0.01 percent of Americans had increased to 29 percent (from 21 percent four years before), while the top 100 individual donors accounted for 39 percent of the nation’s super PAC contributions.

    With the 2016 presidential primaries looming, would-be Republican nominees flocked to Las Vegas to court billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who had donated well over $100 million to Republican groups during the 2012 election cycle.  Although even Adelson’s money couldn’t save them from succumbing to vicious attacks by Trump, Adelson quickly forged a close alliance with the billionaire president. In 2018, he became the top political moneyman in the nation, supplying Republicans with a record $113 million.

    In fact, with Adelson and other billionaires bringing U.S. campaign spending to $5.2 billion in that year’s midterm elections, the big-ticket players grew increasingly dominant in American politics.  “We like to think of our democracy as being one person, one vote,” noted a top official at the Brennan Center for Justice.  “But just being rich and being able to write million-dollar checks gets you influence over elected officials that’s far greater than the average person.”

    This influence has been facilitated, in recent years, by the rise of enormous fortunes. According to Forbes ― a publication that pays adoring attention to people of great wealth―by March 2019 the United States had a record 607 billionaires, including 14 of the 20 wealthiest people in the world.  In the fall of 2017, the Institute for Policy Studies estimated that the three richest among them (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) possessed more wealth ($248.5 billion) than half the American population combined.

    After this dramatic example of economic inequality surfaced in June 2019, during the second Democratic debate, the fact-checkers at the New York Times reported that the wealth gap “has likely increased.” That certainly appears to be the case. According to Forbes, these three individuals now possess $350.5 billion in wealth―a $102 billion (41 percent) increase in less than two years.

    The same pattern characterizes the wealth of families.  As Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies recently revealed, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries (their fossil fuel empire), the Mars candy family, and the Waltons of Walmart now possess a combined fortune of $348.7 billion―an increase in their wealth, since 1982, of nearly 6,000 percent.  During the same period, the median household wealth in the United States declined by 3 percent.

    Not surprisingly, when billionaires have deployed their vast new wealth in American politics, it has usually been to serve their own interests.

    Many, indeed, have been nakedly self-interested, sparing no expense to transform the Republican Party into a consistent servant of the wealthy and to turn the nation sharply rightward.  The Koch brothers and their affluent network poured hundreds of millions (and perhaps billions) of dollars into organizations and election campaigns promoting tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of corporations, climate change denial, the scrapping of Medicare and Social Security, and the undercutting of labor unions, while assailing proposals for accessible healthcare and other social services.  And they have had substantial success.

    -Similarly, billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, spent $49 million on right-wing political ventures in 2016, including funding Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, and Cambridge Analytica (the data firm that improperly harvested data on Facebook users to help Trump’s campaign).  After Trump’s victory, Robert stayed carefully out of sight, sailing the world on his luxurious, high-tech super yacht or hidden on his Long Island estate.  But Rebekah worked on the Trump transition team and formed an outside group, Making America Great, to mobilize public support for the new president’s policies.

    The story of the Walton family, the nation’s wealthiest, is more complex.  For years, while it fiercely opposed union organizing drives and wage raises for its poorly-paid workers, it routinely channeled most of its millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans.  In the 2016 elections, it took a more balanced approach, but that might have occurred because Hillary Clinton, a former Walmart director and defender of that company’s monopolistic and labor practices, was the Democratic standard-bearer.

    Although some billionaires do contribute to Democrats, they gravitate toward the “moderate” types rather than toward those with a more progressive agenda.  In January 2019, an article in Politico reported that a panic had broken out on Wall Street over the possibility that the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee might go to someone on the party’s leftwing.  “It can’t be Warren and it can’t be Sanders,” insisted the CEO of a giant bank.  More recently, billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman made the same point, publicly assailing the two Democrats for their calls to raise taxes on the wealthy. “Taxes are high enough,” he declared. “We have the best economy in the world. Capitalism works.”

    The political preferences of the super-wealthy were also apparent in early 2019, when Howard Schultz, the multibillionaire former CEO of Starbucks, declared that, if the Democrats nominated a progressive candidate, he would consider a third party race.  After Schultz denounced Warren’s tax plan as “ridiculous,” Warren responded that “what’s ‘ridiculous’ is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves.”

    Can they buy it? The 2020 election might give us an answer to that question.

    Rentier Britain: All the Rent Goes to the 1%

    There are three fundamental issues that lie at the heart of our current economic malaise: the first is unearned income and wealth from land rent, second the creation of money by privately owned banks, and the third is rent-seeking that is used to juice profits out of intellectual property through copyright and patents.

    But the political class, supported by lobbying, continues to avoid addressing these issues. So monopolies grow larger and larger, and as they do, more and more people are excluded from the economy.

    To really address the root causes, why don’t we start by calling out the rentier economy as a structural issue that no progressive society can actually afford?

    Host Ross Ashcroft is joined by the economist, author and co-founder of Basic Income Earth Network Prof. Guy Standing to discuss rentier capitalism and reclaiming the commons.

    Rentier Britain: All the Rent Goes to the 1%

    There are three fundamental issues that lie at the heart of our current economic malaise: the first is unearned income and wealth from land rent, second the creation of money by privately owned banks, and the third is rent-seeking that is used to juice profits out of intellectual property through copyright and patents.

    But the political class, supported by lobbying, continues to avoid addressing these issues. So monopolies grow larger and larger, and as they do, more and more people are excluded from the economy.

    To really address the root causes, why don’t we start by calling out the rentier economy as a structural issue that no progressive society can actually afford?

    Host Ross Ashcroft is joined by the economist, author and co-founder of Basic Income Earth Network Prof. Guy Standing to discuss rentier capitalism and reclaiming the commons.

    Why It’s Important to Understand Cultural Capital

    When categorizing my class background I’ve invariably replied “working class” but in truth that was more aspirational than factual. My father was either unemployed or underemployed and died of a heart attack at age 46 while working as a night shift orderly at a veteran’s hospital in Fargo, ND. I was 12-years-old, with a 7-year-old brother, and thereafter our family income consisted of whatever my mother earned from doing infrequent odd jobs and the social security checks she received for her two boys. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, we had a small house.

    Given our socioeconomic status, I had virtually no exposure to music other the radio’s C&W variety, no domestic or foreign travel save annual visits to my grandparent’s small farm, no books of my own, records, visits to art museums, or attendance at musical or theater performances. Reading material was limited to the local rag, the odd copy of The Reader’s Digest and trips to the public library. Dinner conversations didn’t include soliciting my opinions.

    I experienced my lot in life as tragically unfair and even harbored some inchoate bitterness. Later, my 14-year old teenage self merged this background with unarticulated feelings of self-doubt, of not being “good enough,” especially  in relation to my better-off peers. My point here is that it wasn’t until much later I realized my experience was virtually textbook in terms of how clandestine social reproduction of class works and does so in such an efficacious manner.

    We know that economic capital is accumulated labor institutionalized in the form of property and is at the root of all other forms. One of these forms is cultural capital, a concept originating with the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). He argued that cultural capital greatly facilities inequality, in part because the elite classes determine which forms of cultural capital are “legitimate” and if mastered, enhance one’s social mobility.

    Arguably, the best example is education where the children of the owning class enter the educational system with immense cultural capital advantages. And to be clear, possessing cultural capital isn’t synonymous with being intelligent. Cultural capital includes what one learns outside a formal educational setting and includes non-economic resources, skills and behaviors one accumulates that demonstrate cultural competence. One demonstrates that competency in social interactions and educational settings reward the exhibition of cultural capital. School is one of those settings.

    Transmission of cultural capital depends on the cultural capital “previously invested by the family.” This hereditary transmission begins at birth for the offspring of wealthy families and continues through childhood. The length of free time (free of economic necessity) is one significant advantage that’s extremely hard for others to overcome.

    What does it look and sound like? It includes collective symbolic elements such as taste, mannerisms, clothing, educational credentials (an Ivy League education, for example), a certain and unmistakable style of speech, how to confidently talk to gatekeepers of social advancement. It might include knowing certain foreign films, food and drink preferences, authors, philosophers and different kinds of music. According to Bourdieu, nothing “is more classifying than music.” Incidentally, the upshot is that high status cultural symbols are internalized and converted into socioeconomic gains. To greatly simplify, one learns what to say (and not to say) and how to say it at dinner parties!

    And speaking of social settings, as a newly minted Ph.D. at the start of my career, I recall attending a dinner party where all the other attendees were middle-age academics. Over cocktails, the conversation flowed with names and places that meant nothing to me. From art-house films, summer concerts at Tanglewood, and vacations in Italy or “The Cape” to a new off-broadway play, whether a certain author deserved a favorable review in The New York Review of Books and the best gin for martinis.

    I still recall feeling queasy and apprehensive about the next few hours and pleading illness, I made an early departure. My  meager cultural capital account was already overdrawn. Are such people pretentious, self-congratulatory snobs? Do they, in Baudelaire’s phrase, experience “a feeling of joy at [one’s] own superiority?” According to Bourdieu, cultural capital is acquired unconsciously and disguises educational advance as based solely on individual effort and therefore is wholly deserved.

    Later that “earned merit” distinguishes its owner in ways that permit access to high level, dominant positions. It’s especially insidious in that even if remedial efforts reduce actual economic inequality occur,  this “clandestine circulation of cultural capital becomes determinant” in obtaining rare positions of privilege and power. Note: For years I quoted Bourdieu but never publicly uttered his name. Why? Because I feared mispronouncing it, thus sadly showing the hold that a dearth of cultural capital can still exert.

    According to Bourdieu, most people unreflectively accept their “sense of place” within the hierarchy. In academia, it’s long been an anomaly for someone from a working class background to attain faculty status at an elite college or university. The sorting process begins early but even if one gets through the “old boy’s network,” gender and racial barriers, and miraculously obtains an interview, there’s more to overcome. That is, it’s not implausible to assume that hiring committees look favorably on applicants displaying similar levels of cultural capital on the reasonable belief that future friendships may follow. Finally, based on both anecdotal and published research, they know the rare working class hire will invariably feel like a fish out of water.

    In my own case, I accepted a position at a very respectable college and became what I’d charitably describe as a semi-public, semi-intellectual. I was neither a red diaper baby (closer to red, white and blue) nor owned a copy of Bourdieu for Dummies. But over some 45 years and due to highly unusual circumstances not of my own doing, including the often discounted role of pure luck, I unintentionally accumulated checkered aspects of cultural capital. My relatively privileged position as a college professor afforded me substantial discretionary time.

    For example, invariably traveling on someone else’s dime I was was able to teach and travel abroad several times and also spend summers pursuing my interests without financial encumbrance. Eventually I was able to “pass” in some settings but never within the easy comfort zone of those who gained cultural capital almost via osmosis. I should quickly add that I’m grateful that in my early twenties I joined and have remained on the right side of the class struggle.

    Why is any of this important? On a personal level, one reason I went into teaching was to help students, many of them first generation college attendees, to gain a better appreciation of how their identities and “place in the world” was shaped, not only by huge disparities in economic capital but the equally insidious tool of cultural capital. By demystifying this wholly fraudulent operation, I hoped students would feel empowered and the possibilities for political struggle to eliminate both forms of capitalist oppression would be enhanced.  Today, the need for disarming this weapon has never been stronger.

    Additional Reading:1

    1. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Criticism of the Judgement Of Taste (Routledge, 1986); Pierre Bourdieu, The Forms of Capitalism (1986) in J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York: Greenwood, 241-258); David Morgan, Snobbery (Bristol,UK: Policy Press, 2019).

    The Idiot

    If man were wise, he would gauge the true worth of anything by its usefulness and appropriateness to his life.

    — Michel de Montaigne, Complete Book of Essays, Book 11, Essay 12, Page 543

    For your consideration, the modern idiot in a habitat of prime viral fecundity; after centuries of western civilization spreading toxic oppressive imperialism through contrived financial schemes and brutish warfare the dream of global neoliberalism has come to full fruition where all personal responsibility for actions of selfish business interests has been discretely removed from the profiteers and accountability placed upon all powerful implacable nation states. As a result what has been set into motion is the perfect bewildering breeding ground for the whims of the idiot mind to thrive. Complexity is artificially created in financial systems, legalese, and bureaucratic nomenclature to obfuscate the deceptions and allow the idiots in charge to more deftly carry out their scams on the general public..

    What is before us now are the death throes of capitalism, which is oddly enough also capitalism at its apogee with a precipitous descent ahead due to its profound unsustainability. A common analogy of our times is referencing going off a cliff of some kind to describe the present trajectory of this idiot society, e.g. an unstoppable train with no brakes going over a cliff, or Wile E. Coyote having already gone over the cliff and simply hasn’t bothered to look down yet to notice he’s run out of terra-firma. Whatever variation of the analogy chosen, the point is that we know the cliff is there, but the collective state of our idiocy doesn’t seem to care too much. It has other idiot priorities it deems more necessary to care about, so it plows ahead despite knowing it has run out of track.

    This state of being has of course been intentionally manufactured by the idiots in charge. The direct derivation of widespread capitalist ideology creates faux democracies run by political stooges who are sycophantic to corporate power amounting to an orchestrated production of bureaucratic theater where everyone affected by the reach of this system catches the virus of idiocy and finds themselves at various stages of recovery. Each person inculcated into the cult of the idiot via institutional systems is ensnared by the traps set by boardroom bandits who conspire to break the will of the people by attempting to normalize that which isn’t normal, and comport the natural better intentions of the masses to enrich the loosely formed global capitalist state.

    Their scheme is simplistic yet highly effective; engineer a society based on a need for money issued from a central source and then see to it that money is always in scarce supply for all but an elite class. The effect on the common person is a state of perpetual fear and desperation which allows for the masses to be easily controlled, always servile to the money. The idiotic mind is then molded by saturating the senses in a simulacrum overlay of reality which obscures our real values, uses our love against us, and reforms us into the idiot that the idiots in charge wish us to be so we may be easily exploited once the will is broken, hence the average human animal won’t put up much resistance when they are asked to do the cruel and often ecologically ruinous labor for an elite class. After the institutional indoctrination the hope for a better world becomes a futile prospect with the specter of our own conscious/cognitive deficiencies looming large over our collective actions. And certainly any would-be paradise or substantially better world for all, which theoretically could come into being, will never emerge so long as the agenda of the idiot prevails over higher wisdom.

    A melancholic realization of our predicament is to understand we are trapped in a death spiral under idiotic reign where some horrific form of collapse is nearly inevitable due to our own inability to change the compulsory-destructive-unsustainable-status quo. We are damned to this present state because the idiots learned long ago that all it takes to control a herd of humans to create a self reinforcing system of subservience. This system is instantiated by fostering dependency in a hierarchical social system where a cadre of idiots seize control and installs safeguards to protect their system making it intractable with feedback loops of rewards and punishments, and each time the people begin to wise up to the plots of the idiots in charge they are slapped back into depraved imbecility unless they want to endure more of the whip which power will see to it is all that lies before them if they attempt to stray too much from the desired course of the idiots in charge.

    The idiot is inherently an idiot because they are motivated by idiotic whims. At the core of the idiot are misplaced values leading to misplaced priorities that lead them to take up activities and belief systems which are antithetical to their own contentment, and typically not only are these types of activities a path to nowhere for them but also have added externalities which make their actions corrosive to all life as well. Inevitably their facile search for greater pleasure, status, and legacy damns not only them to their own personal hell, but has the potential to damn all others impacted by their decisions chasing after shallow endeavors.

    The idiot mind argues their positions with a barrage of overlapping nested logical fallacies couched in reductionism and baked down to simplistic one liners which buries the truth so far down it takes an hour to fully unpack a single sentence. “Everything is a cycle”, “Communism has killed 100 million people”, “Capitalism has led to the greatest increase in quality of life”, “Guns don’t kill people, people do” – twisted distractive arguments ignoring a compendium of logical antecedents all purposed to defend capitalist propaganda people have either conveniently or unwittingly absorbed and requires time and a calm dialectical conversation to break apart the conflated lies. However the conditioned idiot mind isn’t really interested in hearing the counterarguments to these claims. They only want a simple reassurance that their previously held positions are correct because admitting one is wrong is painful and requires a degree of humility, a virtue which the idiot has in short supply. And if one attempts to fully explain the full breadth of the argument the more hardened idiots will proclaim that if one cannot manufacture the counterargument in an equally terse and trite statement it must be wrong. The idiot mind will ultimately dismiss the opposing arguments with laconic stupidity and they’ll quickly come to rest on the premise that we can “agree to disagree”, or they’ll claim on any point in which they might potentially be wrong is simply that the truth may be in the middle somewhere, or they’ll suddenly become spurious epistemological philosophers and question what can truly ever be known?

    To be glib and facile is a common feature of the idiot and entails not thinking about arguments in proper scope or with valid supporting warrants, or to casually perhaps conveniently misattribute the root of a problem which in fact may be be a product of a deeper problem(s). The idiot sees before them only what they desire, and their desire so often blinds them. The idiot is jealous, competitive and desires material stuff and power while sometimes not even questioning why they want what they believe they want. Like why do idiots care so much about immigrants? If they had their border wall built and actually were able to keep out 100% of illegal immigration their lives would not appreciable improve in any manner, there would be no sudden spike in their pay or offering of jobs. There’s a long line of issues people think they care about that if corrected would not make much of a difference, and some of them being symptoms of deeper problems.

    A rich entitled idiot will spend countless hours trying to think of ways to make more money and for what? More sexual partners? A new boat? Bigger house? A private jet? What exactly is gained and why is that worthwhile? And a war-mongering bureaucrat like Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, does anyone think he actually cares so much about the security of the US that he feels it necessary to try to attack Iran and Venezuela, and what would be accomplished when they are toppled? Even if he admitted the true reason he wants to attack these countries, for economic neoliberal expansion and to plunder their resources, what is gained even then? What is the end game there? Why do any of these folk who already are much wealthier than the common person and also nearing the end of their lives feel it so absolutely necessary to impose their will violently on others? The results will only end like every military conflict does, with throngs of innocent people dead and the world no more peaceful or better off than it was when they started the conflict.

    And what exactly is gained if an already wealthy US gains more wealth? What happens? Who is happier? Who is better off? Almost nobody. Why they do what they do is an insanity and spreads discord throughout the world, as Hans Koning stated in his book Columbus: His Enterprise regarding the Spanish empire’s plundering of the Americas:

    For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.

    This is the typical result of imperialism. Always has been. Thus the elites imposing their selfish will on others doesn’t do anything of value and never has. This realization doesn’t stop the present idiots in charge from doing their nefarious deeds or cause a hint self introspection, the idiot mind is a busied mind supremely confident they are correct. And once they have a head of steam in a direction they will most always barrel on forward out of nothing more than foolish pride reassuring themselves that whatever minor gains they may receive from any heinous act they take up is worth it, while often taking the shortest, most brutish path, to acquire more of what they desire but don’t need in any conceivable way. They don’t bother to think of the ramifications or the pain they cause; they just do because they feel they have the power to do so, consequences be damned.

    And the facile machinations of the modern idiot in western countries doesn’t seem to want to stop doing even the most frivolous of activities in order to stop the bleeding of mother Gaia. Any capitalist desire is of utmost importance to be maintained to the idiots in charge. They feel like it’s their right in their ostensibly free market to use their money to engage in whatever spectacle or peculiarity they wish no matter the consequence and won’t budge or go without one less triviality, not one less light buzzing over Times Square. Not a single casino can be sacrificed. It would be a tragedy if there was one less assault rifle rolling off an assembly line. An impossibility to go with one less cruise ship, or one less all you can eat buffet, not one less computer server warehouse storing useless surveillance information, not one less gaming console, or Hollywood car crash scene, or all night convenience store or fast food restaurant… Not a thing they will do to impede what their idiot facile minds believe is freedom. To the idiot it’s somehow all a worthwhile endeavor despite if it means inducing abrupt climate change or killing off the majority of the flora and fauna on the planet. The idiots simply won’t stop being idiots until some force greater than them makes them.

    And to diminish the rapid onset of climate change the idiot mind speaks of the money needed to do so. As if human will was solely reliant on convincing the idiots in charge to create more currency for the most pressing issue humans have perhaps ever faced. The idiot ignores history of Native Americans who primarily used a gift economy for likely thousands of years in comparative peace and were more advanced than most modern idiots give them credit, certainly leaps and bounds more advanced socially. But in modernity and throughout the history of western civilization money has been a tool of power and created through loans and enslaving people into debt in the billions of dollars everyday for the most absurd reasons. But debate in the public sphere continually revolves around the idea of how can we afford to maintain our highly destructive system in the face of anthropogenic Armageddon. They insist it’s an impossibility that a bunch of corrupt bankers can’t create the money as they do all the time and an equally impossible idea that perhaps we free ourselves entirely from these shackles and abandon the concept of money altogether to do what is necessary through the bonds of trust and lessen the damage to our environment so we have a habitat to live in while also freeing ourselves from cycle of imperial idiocy created through the use of currency. Truly the reasons for which we are destroying this planet are idiotic, and the things that are stopping the people from fully revolting against the idiots in charge are also idiotic considering what is on the line.

    Our cultural heritage in western civilization is rooted in idiocy, driven by elite idiots in charge with an agenda to make the inability to discern the difference between a higher truth and an outright lie a widespread epidemic so they can convince the masses to do the stupid things the idiots in charge desire. Through tyranny and manipulation the idiot powers that be have manufactured a world which has planted seeds of doubt in otherwise unassailable truths. And perhaps this is why so many people in the west have sought out wisdom within eastern philosophy and shamanistic societies. They seek to find truth that is shunned by the modern western mind, and to understand truth one must disengage from this toxic culture so they can remember once again what the truth looks like.

    The idiocy is compounded by an ironic competitive pride in their intellectual abilities where one idiot proclaims to be smarter and more qualified than another based on idiotic criteria. Like the spurious intelligence in being able to out maneuver another capitalist through underhanded means, or exhibiting the callousness to exploit employees more than their competitors. Or the supposed craftiness in brown-nosing up to one’s superiors in a place of work and appearing more subservient than coworkers as to be awarded a promotion. These are not acts of intelligence but acts of one who is making an obsequious race to the bottom and proclaiming themselves champions for their willingness to sink to lower levels of deception to achieve their so called success. However there is no success when the entire ecology of our world is recklessly destroyed so their ideas of success can be had. There is no success when needless wars and mass human suffering are imposed so their ill conceived goals can be achieved. The idiot’s idea of success is in actuality grand treachery.

    Examples of the idiot’s falsely contrived ideas of success are everywhere. The unemployment rate is seemingly quite low at 3.6%, but what does this mean when so many are excluded out of the equation once they haven’t had any employment for a long enough amount of time, and further, what is considered employment in many cases doesn’t provide the ability to afford a roof over your head. And who cares if the unemployment number is low when the end product of these jobs also makes species extinction and climate change worse. What good are these jobs when they create so much human misery that lives have little value to all those who are stuck in the labor. And who cares if a metric like the GDP goes up if it is achieved through barbarous imperialism, or grossly overcharging for medical care/housing/education, or by creating slave like conditions for people thousands of miles away so corporations can glean more profits? This is again is not success, it is but the apex of disdainful human treachery.

    The idiot is constantly seeking validation externally from others and never generates their own validation through self acceptance. Thus they are ravenous attention seekers, and will inevitably sniff out all things that garner attention for them so they create awards shows, diplomas with haughty ceremonies, important sounding titles of all sorts to manufacture the facade of their worth. If an action is harmful to others in their trek for external validation it’s not of any great importance to the idiot, the worthiness of action is again determined by if it’s beneficial to them and exclusionary society comprised of other idiots so it compliments their high sense of themselves which their ego assures them is valid.

    The idiot believes all things are impossible except what currently exists. They are exceptional at meeting the criteria for the definition for insanity. They do the same thing over and over and expect different results. The idiot does not understand history even when they read it since cultural and self reinforced myopia has rotted away the plasticity of thought in their minds so what they take away from the reading of history is only what is convenient to their present system of thought. The idiot believes in social systems like representative democracies, centralized government in nation states, courts, and prisons that cannot cure the simplest of society’s ailments over thousands of years of use, but to the idiot just one more election is going to make all the difference. One more go around the installed idiotic system with idiotic desires at the root is going to change course and suddenly become wise. They believe by just replacing the current idiots in charge they will be able to cause the change that is so desperately needed, but like a hiker refusing to admit they are lost and continuing down the trail out of hubris they are only further compounding the problem by insisting they aren’t lost. And our society is most certainly lost, and it’s a long way back to the trail that leads to redemption and a place we actually want to be, which we get further away from each day we stay on our present course.

    And after all our idiotic overcomplicated plots and schemes, they are but to mask simple truths the idiot facade tries so desperately to avoid; the inner torments of being afraid of not being good enough, not measuring up to our peers, not meeting arbitrary expectations we either accept from others or set for ourselves, or quite simply feeling like we are not worthy of love. So we play these pointless high stakes games which have a rewards as meaningless and worthless as a plastic trophy just to prove our worth. The idiot is a temporal state of being, although many are finer long term examples of displaying the behaviors of the idiot; however none of us are the perfect idiot. To avoid the affectations of being in an idiotic state it takes conscious effort to live our lives moment to moment with authenticity, to be in a state of awareness of our actions, to always be willing to suffer for something worthwhile and to be consistently well reasoned examiners of what constitutes something worthwhile.

    Society Is in Decay

    Plutocrats like to control the range of permissible public dialogue. Plutocrats also like to shape what society values. If you want to see where a country’s priorities lie, look at how it allocates its money. While teachers and nurses earn comparatively little for performing critical jobs, corporate bosses including those who pollute our planet and bankrupt defenseless families, make millions more. Wells Fargo executives are cases in point. The vastly overpaid CEO of General Electric left his teetering company in shambles. In 2019, Boeing’s CEO got a bonus (despite the Lion Air Flight 610 737 Max 8 crash in 2018). Just days before a second deadly 737 Max 8 crash in Ethiopia.

    This disparity is on full display in my profession. Public interest lawyers and public defenders, who fight daily for a more just and lawful society, are paid modest salaries. On the other hand, the most well compensated lawyers are corporate lawyers who regularly aid and abet corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. Many corporate lawyers line their pockets by shielding the powerful violators from accountability under the rule of law.

    Physicians who minister to the needy poor and go to the risky regions, where Ebola or other deadly infectious diseases are prevalent, are paid far less than cosmetic surgeons catering to human vanities. Does any rational observer believe that the best movies and books are also the most rewarded? Too often the opposite is true. Stunningly gripping documentaries earn less than 1 percent of what is garnered by the violent, pornographic, and crude movies at the top of the ratings each week.

    On my weekly radio show, I interview some of the most dedicated authors who accurately document perils to health and safety. The authors on my program expose pernicious actions and inactions that jeopardize people’s daily lives. These guests offer brilliant, practical solutions for our widespread woes (see ralphnaderradiohour.com). Their important books, usually go unnoticed by the mass media, barely sell a few thousand copies, while the best-seller lists are dominated by celebrity biographies. Ask yourself, when preventable and foreseeable disasters occur, which books are more useful to society?

    The monetary imbalance is especially jarring when it comes to hawks who beat the drums of war. For example, people who push for our government to start illegal wars (eg. John Bolton pushing for the war in Iraq) are rewarded with top appointments. Former government officials also get very rich when they take jobs in the defense industry. Do you remember anyone who opposed the catastrophic Iraq War getting such lucrative rewards?

    The unknown and unrecognized people who harvest our food are on the lowest rung of the income ladder despite the critical role they play in our lives. Near the top of the income ladder are people who gamble on the prices of food via the commodities market and those who drain the nutrients out of natural foods and sell the junk food that remains, with a dose of harmful additives. Agribusiness tycoons profit from this plunder.

    Those getting away with major billing fraud grow rich. While those people trying to get our government to do something about $350 billion dollars in health care billing fraud this year – like Harvard Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow – live on a college professor’s salary.

    Hospital executives, who each make millions of dollars a year, preside over an industry where about 5,000 patients die every week from preventable problems in U.S. hospitals, according to physicians at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The watchdogs who call out this deadly hazard live on a fraction of that amount as they try to save lives.

    Even in sports, where people think the best athletes make the most money, the reverse is more often true. Just ask a red-faced Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, who, over twenty years, has spent massive sums on athletes who failed miserably to produce compared to far lesser-paid baseball players. Look at today’s top ranked Yankees – whose fifteen “stars” are injured, while their replacements are playing spectacularly for much smaller compensation than their high priced teammates.

    A major reason why our society’s best are so often last while our worst are first is the media’s infatuation with publicizing the worst and ignoring the best. Warmongers get press. The worst politicians are most frequently on the Sunday morning TV shows – not the good politicians or civic leaders with proven records bettering our society.

    Ever see Congressman Pascrell (Dem. N.J.) on the Sunday morning news shows? Probably not. He’s a leader who is trying to reform Congress so that it is open, honest, capable and represents you the people. Surely you have heard of Senator Lindsey Graham (Rep. S.C.) who is making ugly excuses for Donald Trump, always pushing for war and bloated military budgets, often hating Muslims and Arabs and championing the lawless American Empire. He is always in the news, having his say.

    Take the 162 people who participated in our Superbowl of Civic Action at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. in May and September 2016. These people have and are changing America. They are working to make food, cars, drugs, air, water, medical devices, and drinking water safer. Abuses by corporations against consumers, workers and small taxpayers would be worse without them. Our knowledge of solutions and ways to treat people fairly and abolish poverty and advance public services is greater because of their courageous hard work. (see breakingthroughpower.org).

    The eight days of this Civic Superbowl got far less coverage than did Tiger Woods losing another tournament that year or the dismissive nicknames given by the foul-mouth Trump to his mostly wealthy Republican opponents on just one debate stage.

    All societies need play, entertainment, and frivolity. But a media obsessed with giving 100 times the TV and radio time, using our public airwaves for free, to those activities than to serious matters crucial to the most basic functioning of our society is assuring that the worst is first and the best is last. Just look at your weekly TV Guide.

    If the whole rotted-out edifice comes crashing down, there won’t be enough coerced taxpayer dollars anymore to save the Plutocrats, with their limitless greed and power. Maybe then the best can have a chance to be first.

    A New Volkisch Mythos

    Greta is able to see what other people cannot see.  She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.

    — Malena Ernman, Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate (mother of Greta Thunberg),May 3, 2019

    If you want to be more ecologically minded, good for you. But don’t be under the bizarre American illusion that your individual action is a substitute for collective action, for systemic change.

    — Umair Haque, Medium, May 2019

    A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power. How long have we known this?

    — Phillip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle, January 24, 2012

    There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

    This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

    What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

    Richard Leakey says:

    I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected.

    So give up on the poor, can’t save them.

    And Leakey goes on:

    Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.

    Okay, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

    And finally Leakey writes:

    Not all countries have constitutional provision for private ownership of land, and instead occupancy and land use are regulated by lease hold. In respect to conservation, this is certainly a better option than group-owned or community-owned land where in time wildlife could be untenable given governance arrangements on community-owned assets.

    As a general trend what I am hearing is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything. The message is ‘we can’t risk it, the danger is so extreme that the practical solution is to allow the elite class to control the planet in order to save it.’ The elites and/or corporate control. All the so-called New Green Dealsolutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.

    Now, one of the curious contradictions in the climate discourse is the selective trust in certain institutions. The western based (and funded) NGOs have a pretty long track record now of craven support for U.S. government foreign policy decisions. Take Amnesty International’s (AI) recent comments on Venezuela.

    Chuck Kauffman from Alliance for Global Justice observed vis a vis AI’s near fascistic litany of lies: “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” The open naked Imperialist aggression against Venezuela, and the attendant propaganda slandering Maduro, is now a staple of all the candidates for the Democratic Party. And, Amnesty is also co founder of Global Campaign for Climate Action…a group that also receives monies from the Pew trust, the creepy AVAAZ, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. Now, just a quick word on the UCS. On the board sits William K. Reilly, former appointee by George Bush to head the environmental protection agency. There are also members that sit on the Council for Foreign Relations, a nuclear scientist who writes on security issues, a lawyer for the US Dept. of Energy.

    And yet, many people rightly concerned about global pollution and over industrialization seem to have no problem accepting the word of these same western backed NGOs when it comes to issues of ecology. They know Amnesty lies, but if the topic is climate change, they leap onboard. Clive Splash (He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values) writes:

    The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.

    Again, we hear that echo of the ruling class (Lord ….LORD Stern?!) and the anti communist agenda at work here. Leave it to the elite class, the captains of Capital, to decide policy. And the first order of business is to save capitalism and that means to save growth. The poor are there to be slaves, not to decide policy. What one sees in Extinction Rebellion and in the Greta Thunberg brand is described pithily by Clive Splash…”When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change.”

    One of the refrains I have heard (and have had directed at me) is, well, we can’t wait for socialism. This is a natural response from a very frightened populace. And it is exactly this response that the ruling class counts on. The infiltration of radical movements has a long sordid history. Ask the Black Panthers. Today the very real threats and dangers of global warming and over-industrialization are being funneled into places that shift the blame from the ruling two or three percent and onto its victims. This is, of course, exactly what the overpopulation alarm does. I see headlines such as *Humans Plunder the Planet* but not *Ruling Class Plundering Humanity AND the Planet*. I see books such as Climategeddon — amusingly penned by a former author of diet self help books and…wait for it….a high ranking Scientologist. But I have had people quote Wollersheim to me. Next stop the Sea Org.
    More trenchant was this week’s bit of Imperialist green concern from war friendly candidate Elizabeth Warren, who expressed worry that global warming might effect the readiness of America’s military. (death of irony moment?) On twitter Club de Cordeliers noted…

    Under Warren’s proposal, each murdered child will be stamped with the slogan: This Killing Achieved with Net Zero Carbon Emissions.

    That the U.S. military is the greatest consumer of petroleum products worldwide seems beside the point. Or, let’s return briefly to Greta Thunberg — who can probably just be referred to as *Greta* these days without risk of confusion. She held up a cute homemade sign for a selfie …tweeting it to jillions of followers. The sign read ‘Let Russia Strike for Climate’. Apparently the *Greta* is getting good advice from Hillary Clinton or Bolton or Elliot Abrams, someone — who knows. She is certainly to be considered *NATO friendly* at this point. The visibility that Elizabeth Warren commands, and that which Greta commands now, too, is an indication that one should be highly credulous. The giant electronic telecom giants and the mainstream electronic media, social media, TV, all of it is in the hands of a relatively few people. These narratives, all of them, are vetted for ideological compliance with corporatism, Imperialism, and a de-facto racism or better put, white supremacy. Visibility is earned, and it’s not arbitrary. And if a *Greta* suddenly appears, rest assured she has handlers. I mean, it’s simply a given, and there are no exceptions.

    So there are several problems looming that tangentially connect to overpopulation alarms. One of them is a recolonizing of Africa (and the recolonizing of former communist countries continues apace, as well). But here Africa, in particular, is viewed as a huge resource for raw materials sought after in the West. The re-colonizing takes several forms but here is a typical example.

    As Cory Morningstar observed vis a vis this …“Can you imagine @WWF promoting the sterilization of women living around national parks in Europe or the US? The fact they consider it acceptable in India and Africa is racism, pure and simple.”

    The white west (and Bill and Melinda Gates leading the charge) are rather unapologetically determined to stop the global south from reproducing. Sterilization and vasectomy suggestions (voluntary, of course) are to be found in countless U.N. sponsored (and USAID sponsored) pamphlets and directives for missions in Africa.

    The new alarmist propaganda tends toward sensationalizing what are a few basic truths, sometimes half truths, and building a sort of screenplay to a disaster movie out of these. The influence of Hollywood apocalyptic film and TV cannot be over-emphasized, actually. For those films are both unconscious projections of the ruling class, and the audience embrace of this stuff speaks to unconscious fears as well. The elite producers of this crap fear the marauding masses (zombies) and the bourgeois audience fear black sites and Bloody Gina’s reprisals if they stray too far off message (like voting for a third party). A good deal of the new environmental panic is not based on the actual (and I hasten to emphasize real) problems and crises, but are more the conditioned response from audiences trained for thirty years, at least, to kitsch media entertainments. People see life unfold like an action movie. Sea levels can’t just rise and destroy infrastructure and crops, wash away beach front property, no, they have to completely submerge Baltimore, Oslo, and London. The sum effect of this is actually to have the real and severe problems in retreat.

    Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance (in Israel where she was never not going to perform), with lyrics like “not everyone is coming to the future, not everyone is gonna last.”

    There is now coming out of Hollywood a near endless stream of dystopian ‘end of times’ films, which (as I have noted before) are reconstruction fables as well. But now the end of times includes the rehabilitation of Big Brother. The state emerges as a sort of necessary mechanism for culling the herd. Madonna was also sporting blond plaited hair and an eye patch. So maybe it’s just me but this new volkish imagery is growing and being used in ways that familiarize the public with fascist motifs.

    Thus, when we are talking about “völkisch” or “Überfremdung,” we are automatically producing images that are inevitably linked to a fascist past. “Überfremdung” describes the fear of being flooded with foreigners, a foreign infiltration. The Duden dictionary explained the term in 1934 as “the intrusion of alien races.” ( ) What is concerning about these “poor words” in the first place is the imagery inherent to them, one that conveys fascism without speaking it. Such words are racist in establishing a hierarchy of ethnicity and, in that way, they have the potential to createm or exacerbate, false divisions between and within societies. The word “völkisch” creates a sense of belonging, an imaginal feature to help distinguish between the in-group and the out-group. The word “Überfremdung” works similarly by implying that there is an abundance of strangers invading the ‘German race.’ What seems to have changed, however, is the definition of the out-group or the enemy. Promoted by PEGIDA and the AfD, the new threat are Muslim immigrants and the idea of the “Islamization” of the Western culture. Thus, this becomes a powerful example for the political myth of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

    — Alexa Lenz, Public Seminar, July 14, 2017

    The ideological road to National Socialism was paved not by Nietzschean self-awareness and self-overcoming, but by völkisch self-congratulation.

    Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Volkisch Ideology to National Socialism, March 1, 1981

    The first volley in the reclamation of volkish language was Bush’s use of the word “Homeland” when he created a new security service. Quite a few people noticed the connection to the German word Heimat. The far right parties in Europe now appropriate a good deal of Nazi symbology, while the even more virulent racism of a Macron (or Sarkozy) is ignored. PEGIDA and the AfD, in Germany, are really pretty much openly using Nazi rhetoric and symbol (both of which are technically against the law).

    Cassirer (1973) analyzed three potential techniques that enabled the myth of Nazism: the magical use of words, the use of rituals and, finally, the recourse to prophecy. Nazi politicians managed to charge words with feelings and violent passions, therefore transforming their semantic meaning to convey magical imagery.

    —Alexa Lenz, (Ibid.)

    I will only add here, as a sort of thought experiment, that one compare the TIME magazine cover of Greta, with the photos in, what Remco Ensel, in an excellent monograph on the Dutch “Heimat” portrait photography called *Dutch Face-ism”, an expression of Völkisch Nationalism circa WW2 and tell me there is no equivalence. (or the VICE lead photo, or even Greta’s facebook portrait).

    Now I know there are many people who will perceive this as an attack on Greta. It’s not. I am certain this young woman has almost zero awareness of any of the implications of her exploitation. And remember, too, that one of the most common rhetorical tactics of fascist apologetics (pretending to be liberal) is to re-state your argument incorrectly and then to respond to their manufactured distortion. It’s a version of straw man arguing. Couple this with the convenient appellation *denier*. If you say, wait, there were no rape camps in Serbia. You are immediately labeled a denier. It matters not at all that you would be correct in saying this. The corporate ruling class take-over of many green movements has a sum effect of reducing rights. For that is the logic of fascism. Remove rights but create space for the self expression of resentments. Property rights will remain untouched.

    The opportunistic proprietor class capitalist sees enormous profit in Green endeavours now. Just as Mike Pompeo sees melting arctic ice as an “opportunity”. Never underestimate the capacity for brutish insensitivity in the lower functioning humanoids that serve as representatives of the ruling elite. It is bottomless, in fact. Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Kushner, Biden…this is the Troglodyte political class.

    Brian Davey wrote about Thunberg, vis a vis her appearance in Katowice at a climate gathering:

    What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

    It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.

    — Brian Davey, Credo; Economic Beliefs in a World in Crises, January 2015

    This is a bit like buying indulgences in the Medieval Catholic Church. So perhaps what is needed is a Martin Luther of environmentalism.

    The ruling class and its marketing apparatus recognized early on that Green language would serve as cover while they re-tooled their industries. Green took on those magical connotations. Cut to Greta’s mother explaining that her daughter was *different*; i.e. magical. She could *see* carbon dioxide. Trust me there will be green Angels, soon, helping further carbon neutrality.

    But there is another issue cutting across much of this, and that is a strange new war on children (and on motherhood in the global south, and black mothers in the U.S.). Although *new* is the wrong word. Whether by design of just as a natural tendency in the residual Puritans of America, the media message has been of late to normalize cruelty to children. From tearing babies from the arms of immigrant mothers and dropping them into cages, or the arrest of suspension of due process in Israeli arrests of children and youth, to the spike in jail time for minors across the U.S. In the 1990s, incarceration of minors rose 311 %.

    Across the United States, thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults { } Some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in America. Children are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities and face increased risk of suicide.

    —Equal Justice Initative, Children in Prison 2018

    The rates for youth have declined slightly over the last few years but mostly due to teenagers aging out of the statistics. That ANY child was ever tried as an adult is all by itself a horror. In the U.S. infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate of those born to white mothers. Poverty is the obvious first reason, but structural racism…the stress of increased contact with the criminal justice system also undermines the health of the newborn.

    67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.”“67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.

    — Nicole Hanson, Rattling the Bars, Real News Network

    Neglect is often considered to be a failure, on the part of a caretaker, to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturance, appropriate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter for a child. This definition also aligns with a definition of poverty, where poverty is considered to be inadequate food, shelter, and clothing.

    — Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014

    Child neglect is then, almost by definition, synonymous with poverty. Those damn poor people just can’t take care of their kids. And yet they breed so much, ya know? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a darn bad thing if we clipped the men…know what I’m saying, Earl?

    In fact, one of the side bar implications in Melinda Gates programs is to strongly associate pregnancy with disease (not for rich white people, of course). And the overpopulation argument feeds in this directly.

    There is not enough space to even scratch the surface here to list the inequalities operative in racial hierarchies in the U.S. What is important here to start to recognize the codes at work. Walter Benjamin famously said that “The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.” But more importantly, at the end of that same essay (Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) he added…

    Its (mankind) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

    Capitalism has abandoned humanity. A shamefully neglected infrastructure has exacerbated the effects of global warming. The loss of jobs, mostly to robots, engenders confusion and anxiety, but also deep resentment. And we are well past the time when anyone thinks robots provide superior service. The need to keep escalating conflict, both at home with a militarized and racist police apparatus, and abroad via a gargantuan military whose size defies all rational comprehension. The suffering inflicted on the world by the U.S. and its proxies (Saudi Arabia, Israel primarily) is so enormous that it is hard to grasp it in its totality. And this confusion breeds reaction. The confusion seems not, however, to breed questioning.

    When capitalism reaches its point of diminishing return, it deliberately creates a crisis or an appearance of a crisis in order to stage a ritual of a rebirth. The crisis is designed to corner everyone to rely on the capitalist framework for survival. This functions to divide people into two groups: a group which sees through the mechanism and a group that insists on solving the “crisis” no matter how (meaning solving it according to the acceptable ways). The establishment destroys the anti-capitalist momentum while co-opting dissident voices, giving them credentials, awards, positions in the hierarchy. The process eliminates enemies while augmenting the capitalist hierarchy.

    — Hiroyuki Hamada (in conversation with me)

    The real problems of ocean acidification, plastic pollution of those same seas, and the endless over production of certain crops that destroy land and poison pollinating insects, these problems are simply the result of needless and pointless industrial growth, a growth that has no rational need driving it. Hunger exists in a world of surplus food. The engine is maximizing profit. And why do so many people seem to just reflexively trust *science*? Trust without even a cursory check on who funds the study, or the institution. And the manufacture of fear is a staple of the ruling class. Fear of germs (from Asia or Africa, of course), or asteroids, or the ignoring of obvious testing failures which goes back to thalidomide. That and the very imperfect world of statistical analysis (see Harvard and Yale sociologists circa 1986 and the spinster’s beware warning) etc. The point is only that while it is clear global warming and pollution present enormous challenges, ones that may change the way nearly everyone on the planet lives, there is also clarity that a crises in Capitalism is forcing an increasing propaganda machine to validate the class hierarchies, and which is rehabilitating the most obscene thinking of the colonial and Victorian era. People are being indoctrinated to experience domination as salutary. Junk science abounds everywhere (facial recognition anyone? blood splatter?) but when it comes to climate and Green issues the bourgeois populace simply does not want to hear it. Which leads me to the idea of a cultic group think going on. And maybe this is tied into the acute narcissism of the boomers. Because just anecdotally my experience is that they WANT disaster. It provides self importance. They demand action and responsibility, but the most dire warnings are received with a barely suppressed pleasure.

    The liberal white American today cannot tolerate the world going on around them with people they have been trained to see as inferior. Fear of the dark skinned global south (I mean Melinda Gates actually has a brochure in one of her projects to teach African women how to hold their baby, because I guess, you know, that’s something they clearly don’t know about), they fear the numbers, they fear fecundity (something that has dropped precipitously in the advanced West), they fear being in close proximity to the poor, the ‘other’ (migration), and they fear exposing their children to this ‘threat’, most of all. Consider that there is a huge movement on the right to ban abortion. And yet, largely, these same people are thrilled with Bill and Melinda Gates work to stop African reproduction. So it’s clearly not too many people, it’s just too many black people.

    The new Volkish body politic is conflating global warming and the poor.

    …the “longing for myth” reflected the pervasive experience of “dislocation and disorientation” precipitated by industrialization, revolution, and the dissolution of community values in the abstract conception of secular society, compounded by the fragmentation of German society “along confessional, social, and territorial lines”; the splintering of traditional social and cultural bonds gave rise to the desire for an “aesthetic-religious imagery” that would “unite modern society just as Greek mythology had supposedly once united the polis.

    — Nicholas Huzsvai (honors thesis, unpublished)

    Over two million people languish in nightmarish prisons in the U.S. Most for non violent crimes. And today the target is increasingly children and women of colour. But people respond with arguments of distraction, just as they are narcotized by screen distractions. The children not targeted for jail are given anti depressants.

    And Gabor Mate has written (following Robert Bly) that fathers and mothers both today work twice as long and with less security and for less money than they did three generations ago.

    Quite the opposite is true now. Far from being helped, working women are actively penalized if they wish to extend the time they are at home caring for their children. For men, it is not even considered reasonable to think of “interrupting” their careers in order to share in that process. Society does little to establish expert and compassionate day care for those children during whose early years the parent(s), for one reason or another, cannot avoid the necessity of working outside the home. Poor women, especially in the U.S., are economically terrorized by the welfare system into entrusting their infants to appallingly inadequate care situations, and then must spend hours daily traveling to low-paying jobs that barely allow their families a subsistence income.

    — Gabor Maté, Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder,

    Leading to what Bly called “the rage of the unparented”. This is America, then, today. Children are targeted by law enforcement — think of the use of gang injunctions, prop 21 in California — which, again, allowed for minors to be sentenced as adults. California has, in fact, been the leading laboratory for terrorizing youth.

    The collateral consequences of an adult conviction are severe. An adult criminal conviction stays on a youth’s permanent record, which can prevent him or her from voting, securing housing, getting financial aid or public benefits, and finding a job. Further, the juvenile justice system is intended to be rehabilitative, whereas the adult criminal system is not. Youth tried in adult court lose the opportunity to access many of treatment and rehabilitative options available in the juvenile system.

    — National Center for Youth Law

    Poor women, and particularly black and latino women, have been zeroed in on by the justice system and now are the fastest growing segment of the carceral state. Their children are warehoused, usually chemically warehoused if they prove in the least disruptive. But this only mirrors in much harsher way the white children of the affluent. For even the petit bourgeois youth is afflicted by a culture of screen addicted distractions and coercive infantile propaganda and entertainments. And they are likely the children of parents who were also distracted and anxious. And the parents of those parents. Three or four generations now who have not been provided with any sense of community.

    A quick glance at the statistics: Children 0 to 5 years, over 600,000 are on one of the following: ADHD medication, anti depressants, anti psychotics, and anti anxiety drugs. But if you look at kids 6 to 17, there are SEVEN MILLION being medicated. I was told by a friend that in the run up to the millennium, in a gallup poll, that a majority of people welcomed an apocalypse of some kind — and the reason given was a belief that nothing was going to get better. They were expecting only worse to come. And, of course, they were largely correct.

    Hollywood has been normalizing a mix of the sadistic and the sexual for going on fifty years, only now the spectre of Big Brother looms over everything, and this is presented as a virtue. There is in this new mythos forming around end-times thinking, an erotic representation of duty to power, and it elicits a kind of frisson. Fascism is now being updated, and it serves up a menu of catastrophe and individualism. Daily life is a combination of drudgery, tedium, meaningless work, and insecurity. And parents are weary of their neurotic complaining children. In sum I think people in the West no longer dream Utopian.

    Nurses Are Leading Strike Efforts: Where Are the Physicians?

    Nurses in New York City are pushing back against hospital systems that put profits over patients and threaten their efforts to strike for safer staffing ratios. While nurses are fighting, physicians, so far, have remained on the sidelines of this struggle.

    The U.S. healthcare “system” is completely and utterly broken. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. system ranks 37th in the world, all while spending dramatically more on healthcare than other wealthy countries. Tens of millions remain without any health insurance coverage. For many, medical bills can mean economic ruin—some surveys show that up to 66.5% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are a result of medical expenses. On the front lines of this system are nurses and physicians—individuals who, by and large, decided to go into the profession to help patients and communities—are becoming more frustrated by their inability to do just that, sometimes even causing providers to leave the profession. While many inside the U.S. medical industrial complex have had enough, nurses throughout New York City (NYC) are putting their collective foot down and showing us the way to fight for better outcomes for patients and better working conditions for providers.

    In March, members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at New York’s “big four” hospitals (Montefiore, Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian-Columbia and Mount Sinai West/St. Luke’s) voted by an overwhelming 97% margin to authorize a strike. The nurses’ fight centers around conditions for patient care, including safer staffing ratios inside hospitals so that nurses can adequately care for each patient. Throughout NYC, nurses are forced to work long shifts and are chronically understaffed. The nurses who recently threatened to strike recognize that these working conditions are part of hospital executives’ push to squeeze greater and greater profits out of workers at the expense of patient health—and they have had enough. New York nurses are fighting just as teachers across the country did earlier this year—including the tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers who struck last January for better conditions for in schools. They are discussing the strike option just as more than 8,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England recently authorized a strike against cuts to healthcare benefits and pensions and the CAMBA Legal Services workers voted to walk off the job if their demands are not met. The nurses are also taking up the example of healthcare workers around the world, including the 40,000 Irish nurses who recently struck. Nurses are recognizing they have the power to fight and win better patient care. But while nurses across New York are standing up for themselves and their patients, a big question remains: Where are the doctors and why are they not threatening to strike together with nurses?

    Why Are The Physicians on the Sidelines?

    Physicians see first hand every day how our dysfunctional healthcare system is simply not built to adequately address patient and community health. For many doctors, these frustrations manifest in burnout and dissatisfaction within a field they once loved. Today there is an epidemic of burnout among physicians, with some studies suggesting burnout affects up to half of all physicians. After training for years with the desire to help others, doctors come to experience medical system that values profit over all else and rarely gives them the tools to make a difference in the communities where they work. This can leave doctors feeling hopeless, and combined with other factors, can lead to depression or even suicide. Today physicians are committing suicide at two times the rate of the population as a whole. Yet, even at this moment of frustration and anger, they continue to keep their heads down, providing validity to this broken system. We see nowhere, among doctors, a resistance like that now being organized by nurses.

    In order to analyze why doctors are not throwing down their stethoscopes and finally saying enough is enough, a review of the U.S. medical education process is in order. As longtime public educator John Taylor Gatto highlights in his book, The Underground History of American Education, the education system is built to create “tools for industry.” Gatto points out that this system conditions those who pass through it to take direction well and to not question authority. At the same time, education aim to instill the importance of profit and continually reinforces the legitimacy of the capitalist system. Health care education is not excluded from this. The fact that the medical industrial complex “serves” suffering human beings gives the system the guise of morally superiority, but both patient and community health remains secondary to profit maximization nonetheless.

    Psychological Conditioning

    Data has shown that physicians typically come from the upper classes in the US. It is not hard to see why. Medical school exams and applications alone can cost thousands of dollars and this doesn’t even account for the cost of exam preparation courses or materials. Overall, the admissions system selects for a particular type of upper middle-class to bourgeois candidate — some reports show the median family income for a matriculating medical student is around $100,000 per year. At a time when close to half the American people do not earn enough afford an unexpected $400 expense, the cost of becoming a physician is prohibitive for the vast majority. Students with families that can bear such costs tend to come from environments that have conditioned them from a young age to respect systems of authority and not question their legitimacy. After all, if the parents have benefited economically from doing so, why would their children act any differently? This rule is then reinforced throughout the experiences of undergraduate school, medical school — as I have written about in the past — and residency education. The young medical student or resident learns that getting close to and appealing to authority figures leads to better outcomes — whether that means higher test scores, letters of recommendation, or better employment opportunities. This makes the physician less and less likely to challenge, much less disrupt, the medical system he will soon be working within.

    Within the hospital, doctors typically adopt an individualist mentality in which they consider only how they can personally make an impact on their patients’ health, while ignoring the need for systemic change. The direct work with individual patients can be personally rewarding, but this method of practice does little to impact the larger factors that lead a patient to become sick in the the first place. A physician sees a patient in a clinical setting, and treats him without ever actually discussing or addressing the social conditions which have caused his illness. They then send the patient directly back into the environment that is harming him. This method of practice ultimately helps to uphold the exact structures making patients ill, but no physician could accept this fact, so instead they tell themselves they are doing important work and making a positive impact. Over time, operating within the system of factory line health delivery — the norm in the U.S. — teaches the physician that change occurs on an individual basis.

    If a physician ever thinks of organizing collectively to withhold her labor in order to demand better conditions for her patients, employers declare that doctors are “abandoning” those in need of care. The Hippocratic oath taken by physicians to “do no harm” is cited. This argument obviously disregards the fact that it is the employer and ownership class which is directly harming patients every day in pursuit of profit—denying care, pushing individuals into bankruptcy, pursuing unnecessary treatments, neglecting systemic causes of illness, etc. It also ignores the fact that by continuing to focus the treatment on narrow individualistic explanations for disease and illness, the physician helps to redirect the patient’s attention away from the larger issues that are truly causing his or her suffering.

    It is clear why few physicians would think about striking after being psychologically conditioned in this way. Many simply believe the work they are doing is adequate and having a meaningful impact on patient and community health. Although many may work under a boss, doctors also often have more autonomy over their work than those in other professions. Their distinct petty bourgeois positions, which allows them the possibility of “being their own employers,” reinforces their individualist, conservative mentality though it is important to note, physician control is ever decreasing as healthcare becomes more corporatized.

    The individualist mindset created through medical and residency education is completely antithetical to the consciousness necessary to take action against an employer — whether protesting, organizing work “slow downs,” or using the most powerful weapon, the strike. Those who organize collectively to strike, such as the New York nurses, believe that change comes from masses of individuals standing together against the status quo. This runs counter to the ideology continually drilled into the physician. Subtle psychological methods of coercion keep physicians in line and unknowingly supporting their own oppression and the continual harm of their patients. This is combined with strong material conditions of coercion which we will discussed in the next section.

    The Material Conditions of Doctors

    Physicians experience the truly sickening state of the U.S. medical system day after day. They see first hand how the profits of health insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and other health care corporations are placed above patient health. For those who truly wish to help the patients they work with, this can be extremely frustrating and could even push the physician to want to resist these oppressive systems, even after undergoing the multiple levels of psychological conditioning. This is where material conditions of the physician comes into play: to ensure doctors stay in line.

    In general, American physicians are more economically well off than the majority of the population. The exorbitantly high pay that physicians find themselves earning after residency serves to support the status quo for the healthcare industry. Physicians become comfortable with their lifestyle and their positions of power in hospitals. They begin to develop a stake in maintaining the system. Though the physician may see various ways the medical industrial complex damages patients, he will be reluctant to put his comfortable position at risk by questioning the current state of affairs. It is much easier for a physician to accept the lifestyle this system provides her than to accept she is being used as a cog inside of the medical industrial machine where the health of patients is only a secondary concern.

    Even before graduating from residency training, the material conditioning of the physician begins. Becoming a physician is expensive. Physicians typically undergo a 4-year university education in addition to their four years of medical school. This can easily leave a new physician entering residency— a 3 to 8-year period of training after medical school — with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt, which is part of the over $1.5 trillion of overall student loan debt in the US, puts the physician in a precarious position in the workplace at the beginning of her career. Indebtedness makes the resident physician less likely to do anything to jeopardize her standing during residency — where she is often used as cheap labor for hospitals and clinics — since it could affect job opportunities later in her career.

    The enormous debt facing a resident — a term coined from the days when they would literally live or “reside” in the hospital — then forces him to work exorbitant hours for little pay. His workweek can extend to upwards of 80 hours. When a residents’ pay is broken down to an hourly wage he often finds himself making just over $10/hour. It is now a fad for hospitals to pretend to care about physician wellness. One group tasked to structure residency programs, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), has attempted to improve resident wellness by putting work limits in place for residents. These have been set at 80 hours per week, averaged over four consecutive weeks, meaning that a resident could potentially work as many as 100 hours in a given week. In this scenario, overwork and exhaustion make physician organizing and resistance even less likely.

    We Must Organize

    Physicians are key actors in the medical industrial complex today. They serve as conduits for profit extraction from sick and injured people. Until physicians begin to put individual endeavors aside and begin to organize collectively, they will continue to see their patients harmed by the “healthcare” system. How can physicians advance their collective organization? They can start by pushing for unionization in all healthcare settings—even if that means going against anti-union contracts that hospitals and clinics often require doctors to sign. Change in this system will not come from hospital administrations, device manufacturers, health insurance companies, or medical academies like as the American Medical Association (AMA). All of these groups benefit from the existing system focused on endless profit maximization. Change will only come through collective action and resistance by healthcare workers.

    Physicians around the world have organized and withheld their labor for better conditions around patient care in the past. In a system that continues to directly harm patients, strikes or various other forms of work stoppages or slowdowns, are an ethical imperative. Whether it is teachers in Virginia or nurses in New York, withholding one’s labor and threatening profit production is, by far, the greatest tool any worker has against an employer. These efforts by teachers have improved educational environments for children in schools. In hospitals, strikes have the potential to provide better staffing ratios, and ultimately better care, for patients. The nurses who give their time and efforts to organize — even while risking their own jobs — are showing what it means to truly care for patient and community health. Physicians have much to learn from the nurses’ example.