Category Archives: Culture

PSYWAR and Cultural Rights

Are you sure you’re still American?

Well, of course, you’re not some patriotic sucker welling up or jumping up for cheesy Pavlovian cues of ersatz self-worth and belonging, like anthems or flags. Let’s just say you wound up on this land mass under US government control. What’s so American about that?

You can outlive your state-imposed identity. It’s always been that way. Back in the last dark ages, at some point, the peoples of the Mosel-Saar confluence ceased to be Romans and turned into Burghers of Trier. No one noticed at the time. Decades after Augusta Treverorum dropped back behind the frontier into Germany or Gaul, usurpers and invaders would say and do Roman-sounding things to seem legit, provincial swells would speak in paratactic pidgin Latin to show off. No one knew yet what they had become. Eventually, though, it dawns on you: Guntchram Boso has invaded your home and taken you hostage, the King just set your house on fire to free you, and you see that life has overwhelmed the Roman niceties of your thought. Gregory of Tours may chronicle it in his stilted Latin, but you know you’re not a Roman anymore.

We’re encouraged to ruminate about The Spirit of America, but it’s really quite cut-and-dried. Back in 1951 CIA PSYWAR apparatchiks roped in DoD’s freewheeling propagandists and set up a committee to create American culture once and for all. They wrote the Ur-text of American values, that timeless affirmation of American freedom, PSB D-33/2. They classified it secret so you would think you thought it up yourself. A lone sane misfit on the committee asked, “How [can] a government interpose with a wide doctrinal system of its own without taking on the color of totalitarianism?” Then, suspecting that the nuances of rhetorical questions might escape our cultural nomenklatura, he gave them the answer: “That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.” Cultural containment was to counter the threat of your human right to freedom of expression.

So are you sure you’re still American? Oh sure, people still plaster flags inexplicably here and there. The war machine still has its hooks in you, officials of its police state menace you, extracting tax for more and more weapons you don’t want. You may even know people who repeat what they’re told by NPR, or read state organs like the New York Times or Post, or quote TV. But the ground is insensibly shifting beneath your feet.

State-sanctioned discourse obsesses about the fitness of individuals for high office while shying from the institutional impunity that guarantees state crime. The US government sinks to late-Roman depths of predation on the powerless, and falls into the dynamic that Tacitus first noted: as the state becomes more arbitrary and sadistic, factional struggle intensifies – the stakes rise because winners can destroy the losers. Our latest petty civil war pits partisans of CIA’s anointed figurehead Clinton against the mafiya-backed interloper Trump, a minor money-launderer for CIA. And what’s it got to do with you? The no-holds-barred conflict plays out in a civic vacuum: Which industries will hijack crucial functions of the state for gain? That’s the only thing at issue. In response, we seek identities that make us more than victims of a kleptocratic state. The human right of self-determination has come home.

Now again, just as it happened anciently, the outside world is breaking in. The President of the European Union came out and said it: “At this point, we have to replace the United States.” But gradual change is even harder to discern when the onslaught from without is not violent barbarism but civilization and peace. Your country shares a common standard for achievement with the rest of the world. In the customary international law of the UDHR, which is US state and federal common law, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community. Your community includes the outside world. Everyone wants you to enjoy your rights, especially state enemies Russia, China, and Iran – everyone but the US government currently in power. Your human rights would be the death of this regime.

This is no obscure historic process. It’s the outside world’s law. In law the US government has forfeited its sovereignty with crimes against humanity and peace, invoking the world’s Responsibility to Protect or “R2P.” The international community must curb US government incitement of grave crimes. Their first recourse is Pillar 2: encourage, build capacity, assist – despite what you might have heard here behind the Iron Curtain, R2P isn’t all about dropping bombs. Assistance comes from all quarters: from development agencies, cooperative diplomacy of UN member nations, regional treaty parties, or the public worldwide. Developed regions help less-developed countries like our own. Intergovernmental bodies work with domestic human rights defenders at confidential or public suasion, education, or training. They must restore the things the US government has ruined: “rule of law, a competent and independent judiciary… human rights, robust civil society, an independent press and a political culture that favors tolerance, dialogue and mobility over the rigidities and injustices of identity politics.”1 The outside world will renew and propagate basic civic skills such as mediation, dialogue, dispute resolution, and development without predation. All have atrophied under US state repression. This is no extraordinary effort. Governments go off the rails all the time, and the world knows what to do.

Your government senses this assistance as an existential threat and attacks it ferociously as fake news, foreign interference, propaganda, even aggression. That is the origin of this panicked state and corporate censorship. But the queasy confusion of this atavistic state blinds it to much of what is happening. Human rights do not fit recognized rituals of state-sanctioned party politics, so they escape official public notice. Human rights advocates invisibly undermine repressive US ideology.

Human rights education is the law: US state and federal common law, UDHR Article 26(2). The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has instituted an educational program. The dominant class in the US learns it, as they must, to function in the wider world, from the International Baccalaureate (IB) or elite institutions.2 Universities and non-governmental organizations propagate it independently. In the ‘New Planet’ exercise, grade school students skip the institutional rote of traditional civics and apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constituting new nations for themselves. The American Friends Service Committee in Washington, DC teaches human rights to local youth and turns them loose on Congress to exercise those rights, eliciting highly educational blank looks from the legislature that ratified them.

International civil society promotes human rights education directly. Human rights tribunals teach a new politics: public indictment of state derelictions by human rights chapter and verse. In Philadelphia, local officials and activists from the human rights hotbed Penn worked with a UN special rapporteur to expose government abuses. In Arizona two local organizations, Puente Human Rights Movement and the Border Network for Human Rights, conducted a tribunal in Phoenix under the auspices of the US Human Rights Network. The tribunals applied formal training in human rights. They showed how we can go over the government’s head to the wider world. Citizens learned how to supplant futile four-year electoral cycles with different and more efficacious cycles: expert international review in terms of comprehensive world-class standards for state performance. Instead of trusting US statist propaganda, we work from documented fact.3

Certain segments of US society are particularly sensitive to the outside world’s engagement. Local and especially provincial society is not so brainwashed with US statist dogma. International NGOs work with the public to infiltrate human rights standards from below. The bottom-up “power building” of the National Economic and Social Rights Inititiative (NESRI) renews concerns traditionally confined to stereotyped factions like labor and the left. NESRI grounds longstanding popular demands in world-standard legal guarantees. Local activists work with municipal officials to write human rights into law. The People’s Decade of Human Rights Education (PDHRE) an international organization, lets the public learn by doing, by establishing human rights cities. In the US, the effect is to propagate human rights in a decentralized manner that circumvents central government suppression. The US Human Rights Network links these cities domestically. PDHRE integrates them worldwide. UPR-INFO draws domestic civil society into the concerted international pressure of the Universal Periodic Review. New connections based on human rights standards moderate US isolation and counter state indoctrination. Citizens teach governments human rights and rule of law.

Black advocacy draws on the internationalist history of W.E.B. Dubois, William Patterson, and the We Charge Genocide indictment, as well as the collaborative human rights advocacy of Martin King and Malcolm X. With those traditions Ajamu Baraka seeded two organizations, the US Human Rights Network and the Black Alliance for Peace. The US Human Rights Network draws the public into the international review process of human rights treaty bodies, charter bodies, and special procedures. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) undercuts nationalist manipulation and isolation with international solidarity. BAP attacks US statist culture at its root, opposing diversion of our resources from economic rights to instruments of state repression. BAP poses the most subversive question: Why you have to pay to get your teeth fixed, but you get fighter jets and cops in tanks for free.

Indigenous peoples have autonomy, national identity, and influential human rights defenders in UN special procedures. The poor have developed a culture of grit and ingenuity to survive repression. Where these strengths intersect, Cheri Honkala has assembled a subversive force. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) confounds political stereotypes. They want more than narrow technocratic benefits or programs. They want the comprehensive standards of human rights law. The campaign asserts our human right to food and housing with housing takeovers, food distribution, and urban farming. It complements cheeky public assembly of Clintonvilles and fart-ins with economic-predation truth commissions on African and Latin American models. With negligible financial resources and under corrupt and arbitrary police harassment, PPEHRC hosted a US tributary of the World Social Forum on American Street, Philadelphia’s most downtrodden slum. The World Social Forum is a conduit of unconstrained civil innovation from around the world, an invasive species of political action based on solidarity and human rights.

The Green Party plays a unique role in publicizing these movements. The Greens ran Ralph Nader, who defined the overarching threat of globalization as “subordination of human rights… to the imperatives of global trade and investment.” Jill Stein, Nader’s successor, has become an impresario of human rights advocacy, giving Honkala and Baraka a public platform to expose state suppression and attacks on domestic human rights. In world-standard human rights, Greens offer an alternative to US electoral rituals of inbuilt futility.

The two state-sanctioned parties highlight the Green’s non-electoral results with their confused denunciation. Democrats attack the Greens as spoilers, and in the same breath deride their negligible share of the vote. With gingerly racist xenophobia, Democrats attempted to defuse the subversive import of Baraka’s human rights platform by labeling him solely with the focus-grouped byword ‘weird.’ Democrats charge treachery when Greens join Republicans in litigating electoral manipulation that is domestic, not Russian, and provable, not fabricated. In panic over looming electoral failure, both parties corruptly restrict Green access to the ballot and arrest Greens when they show up to debate.

By straying from the two official party cattle chutes, Greens expose the Democrats’ role in absorbing, dissipating, and forcibly suppressing real reform. By showcasing human rights defenders, Greens perform an educational role. With mischievous public solidarity in international forums, Stein twits statist Red-scare hysteria. The spectacle confounds party loyalists who dimly sense that getting elected has nothing to do with Green subversion. It suggests the unthinkable: that there’s more to civil society than rigged electoral politics. The Green vice-presidential candidates have organizations independent of any party. After the electoral burlesque their supporters get back to work, implementing human rights.

When it all takes hold, what then? What have we become? The overreaching US state is undermined by internationalism from above and below. State-imposed American culture is superseded by a new culture built on human rights and rule of law. No more passive rooting for periodic electoral pageants. Instead, our four-year cycles revolve around independent review of US state duties.

No more taking one of two permitted sides, Dem or GOP, and being force-fed with their predetermined platform. Instead of having party platforms crammed down your throat, you can feed testimony of state derelictions directly into binding recommendations. Unlike the US duopoly parties, human rights review procedures want to know what you think. Treaty bodies and charter bodies actively incorporate our grievances into their public shaming of the state. The US Human Rights Network, formally incorporated into UN consultation procedures, acts as a liaison. In 2014 local US activists worked with the Human Rights Committee to pin down government evasions, feeding panel experts damning information on trial-and-error use of poisons for lethal injection. In a tightening series of inescapable public questions, US citizens confronted state sadism more directly than ever before. US activists worked hand-in-glove with the Committee Against Torture to expose criminalization of the homeless, effectively voiding inhuman and degrading local laws. Citizens’ input to human rights review exposed US psychological torture of dissidents with solitary confinement, and compelled reforms. The Sentencing Project bypassed toothless US anti-discrimination law and held the government to world standards in the most public forum on earth.

No more tolerance for partisan finger-pointing. Instead, the state as a whole stands or falls by the same legal standards regardless of the faction in power. Instead of joining autocratic state-controlled parties, we form organizations of our own to disgrace the government’s failures in front of the whole world. We bring this mechanism home as a National Human Rights Institution, and expert international oversight keeps it free of government subversion. We take this mechanism in hand with ad hoc public tribunals and truth commissions backed by international experts and institutions.

No more government propaganda siccing us like trained dogs on an endless succession of ridiculous enemies. Instead we pursue our own rights and freedoms as we choose. Or we rally round other human victims of overreaching states. Palestinians against their occupiers? Syrians against their foreign-backed invaders? Latin Americans against US government coups? Okinawans and Koreans against their US military occupation? Maybe all of these and more. We decide as human rights defenders based on our own understanding of human rights and rule of law. In turn the population of the world unites with us against the violent kleptocrats in power, demanding all our rights. No more central government preemption of our rights. Instead, our core human rights, written into law in our own town. We see to it ourselves with the whole world looking on.

Yet human rights can only be the skeleton of a culture. There’s much more to cultures that develop organically over time. The government tries to reduce cultural rights to non-discrimination. But free cultural development is acknowledged in Article 1 of the ICESCR, one of the core human rights covenants that the government withholds from us.

CIA hijacked your culture long ago. They published a thousand books. In accord with the classified American values of PSB D-33/2 they set up a front called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. They paid off American PEN. They infiltrated spooks into The Kenyon Review and The Partisan Review and bought up the copies that we didn’t want. George Plimpton promoted the eye-glazing ritual war of football as a spindle-shanked figure of fun, and with the Partisan Review he browbeat you into pretending to like books full of boring navel-gazing pap. Lots of little complicated Henry James emotions, that’s the ticket. Or else some sensory impressions arranged just so in that stolid stupid Hemingway monotone drone. The Partisan Review published seminal Eric Auerbach work on realism – but only the chapter on passive observers Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert, not the one on Zola, because CIA realism stops short of people resolving to get rid of the bosses. CIA drilled soporific interiority into handpicked eggheads at Iowa and subsidiary academic bureaus, taking great care to avoid ideas or anything about the world. Because if you think wrong, you might become a radical or commie.

It wasn’t just a matter of picking favorites. The State Department pulled Melville and Thoreau off its shelves at US Information Agency showcases worldwide – the American renaissance turned out to be too Bolshy. Active suppression of unauthorized culture fell to J. Edgar Hoover, chief of CIA’s secret police. FBI cultural policemen persecuted lots of dissidents: Norman Mailer, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, Dashiel Hammett, Lilian Hellman. They even spied on their exemplary harmless bore, Hemingway. In the epitome of selfless public service, the man immortalized by Nixon’s affectionate epithet as that old cocksucker went so far as to interdict publication of Spartacus, chilling the film’s gayest scenes along with its beefy pinko slaves.

They ruined everything. Admit it, you too have been tricked into standing in front of the large paintings of Jackson Pollack, that bad draftsman and boisterous drunk, anointed by CIA because he couldn’t draw socialist workers. Or sitting still for all those stupid movies they rewrote. One must have a heart of stone to watch the cinematic death of Todd Beamer without laughing. “Let’s roll!” he cries, as the doomed frequent flyers roll a lunch cart presumably stocked with tasty rolls. Face it, you got your most revered cultural touchstones from nun-rapers, torturers, drug-smugglers, assassins, and the pimps who raided Boys Town to blackmail perverted VIPs. CIA knuckle-draggers taught you everything you know.4

CIA’s persistent problem was that these sensitive imaginative types tend to be loose cannons. Wealthy zoomer Robert Lowell wouldn’t fight in World War II and wrote oblique disarmament Samizdat5 to stay out of trouble. When horny masher Arthur Koestler got locked up by fascists, surmising where the CIA money is he wrote about communists doing it to him instead. We got Darkness at Noon. Did CIA make him put in all that cloying Jesusy treacle? Maybe it went to his head. The poor lamb fell from favor by writing one too many books, to wit, The Thirteenth Tribe, when he pointed out that Zionism appeals to a pseudo-nation who are Yehudi only in the elastic sense in which we’re all more or less Irish when it’s time to get drunk on Saint Paddy’s day. Mutatis mutandis, Hadassah is fake ethnicity like the Knights of Columbus, only instead of cheap drinks at the sodality bar, the main club perk is you get to exterminate indigenous Palestinians. Even when their writers were securely on the take, CIA struggled to squelch stray insights of that sort.

ICCPR Article 19 mandates the artistic and investigative freedom needed for cultures to develop. It is a breach of our cultural rights when communities or peoples balk at war and commercial predation, and the government brutalizes them into reverting. The light touch of snobbery was seen to be unsuitable when the public at large started to think for themselves. The counterculture arose spontaneously when US state authorities and doctrines discredited themselves. The state mobilized to crush that efflorescence. The government forthrightly massacred dissident students at Kent State and Jackson State. More discreetly, the government undertook to associate political causes with drugs and criminalize the drugs. The government made intricate attempts to infiltrate counterculture and divert its peace demands to quietist passivity or off-putting satanic misbehavior. The government killed Martin King and Malcolm X to repress their shared human-rights aspirations as its informers displaced African Liberation Day6 with the fake African mumbo-jumbo of Kwanzaa. CIA poisoned popular culture when it threatened to escape state control. Contemporary observers saw it clearly, but the government human-rights blackout ensured they didn’t know their cultural rights.7

When we start again, thinking for ourselves, what will our culture be? No one will emit excruciating verse like “fiery spear-shaft of American song,” that’s for sure.8 We don’t know what our culture is. We’ve never been free of US state violence and fear. We can’t know what it’s like without indoctrination and state-censored dogma. We’ve never had education to promote full development of the human personality, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and peace, as the law requires. We’ve never lived in a state that will not torture you or kill you if you don’t watch what you say. All we can expect is less regimentation and more variety, in a country where livelihoods and means of life are ours by right, when we’re not made to scrabble or crawl or contend for them. When we’re not forced to propitiate a jury-rigged predator economy or starve, we’ll do what’s important to us. Who knows what that will be? It will be better than now, that’s all we know.

When all that has begun to happen, then you’re not an American any more. Congratulations, you’re a human. You’ve got all your human rights.

  1. Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, (A/63/677), p. 20.
  2. Finally, some Glasnost for us. After decades of awkward silence when you could educate yourself to the teeth and never hear the words “human rights,” students can now actually study them at respectable institutions including Barnard, Trinity College or Chicago. That makes it harder for CIA to puff up your patriotic self-importance with “American studies,” or soften you up for Zionist genocide with “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
  3. As human rights defenders we’ll go directly to the facts that CIA’s captive media screen from us: treaty body documents, charter body recommendations, and the proceedings from which they are drawn.
  4. Movies, books, art, history, philosophy, religion, you name it, CIA fingered all your food for thought. Saunders, Bennett, and Greg Barnhisel documented how CIA bureaucrats taint your culture.
  5. Lowell lacked Anna Akhmatova’s brass ovaries, but Joe McCarthy was easy to outsmart.
  6. The All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party celebrated African Liberation Day in Chicago, Oakland, Washington, Orlando, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, and Atlanta with 16 other cities worldwide and nobody here knew it but the spies in the fusion centers.
  7. The full scope of your cultural rights are interpreted by ECOSOC General Comment 21, by a special procedure of the Human Rights Council, and by UNESCO.
  8. One of CIA’s Iowa cutouts penned that.

Eight Things I learned About Palestine While Touring Eight Western Nations

On February 20, 2018, I embarked on a global book tour that has, thus far, taken me to eight nations. The main theme of all my talks in various cultural, academic and media platforms was the pressing need to refocus the discussion on Palestine on the struggle, aspirations and history of the Palestinian people.

But, interacting with hundreds of people and being exposed to multiple media environments in both mainstream and alternative media, I also learned much about the changing political mood on Palestine in the western world.

While the nations I have visited – the US, Canada, the UK (England and Scotland), the Netherlands, Austria, Australia and New Zealand – do not in any way represent all western countries, the diverse platforms that were available to me allowed me to gain a reasonably good perspective on the ideas, perceptions and attitudes of people in government, media, academia and civil society:

First, the civil society support base for Palestine is growing exponentially, not only in the number of people who are concerned with- or interested in – learning about Palestine, but also in the nature of that engagement as well. The detachment or sense of despair of the past, has all but completely vanished, being replaced with a proactive approach – as in people wanted to be agents of change at local and national levels.

Second, the consensus regarding the support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is constantly increasing among unions, churches, university campuses, etc. The old view that BDS was divisive and counter-productive hardly has much traction these days, and most of the remaining debates concerning BDS are not concerned with the ethics of the boycott strategy, but the nature and extent of the boycott.

Third, the degree of decisiveness in supporting Palestinians has also been heightened. The wishy-washy stances that wagered on the Israeli “peace movement’ or Labor Party ‘doves’, while condemning ‘extremists on both sides’, has diminishing appeal.

Indeed, the successive Israeli wars on Gaza and the continued siege on the Strip have all gradually, but irreversibly, pushed the narrative on Palestine towards a whole new direction, one that has little room to wait for an Israeli awakening. The recent lethal Israeli response to Gaza’s peaceful ‘Great March of Return’ protests has further galvanized support for Palestinians, even among relatively apolitical audiences.

Fourth, unable to push back against growing pro-Palestine movements, Israeli and pro-Israel supporters are pushing, like never before, the accusation of anti-Semitism against those who question the Israeli Occupation, use the term ‘Israeli Apartheid’ or support BDS.

While the tactic is no longer silencing the discussion on Palestine, it is creating the necessary distraction to divert attention, energy and resources to less urgent issues. A case in point is the British media’s obsession with the, supposedly, rampant anti-Semitism within the Labor Party at a time when thousands of Gazans were injured and scores killed while peacefully protesting in Gaza.

Fifth, young people are less likely to be intimidated by long-standing Israeli tactics. While the older generation of civil society leaders and activists are unwittingly beholden to the many smearing tactics used by Israel and its supporters, the younger generation is not as easily intimidated. Part of the reason is that digital media – social media, in particular – has helped younger people achieve a degree of global connectivity that has heightened their sense of unity and resolve.

The new generation of Palestinian university students and young intellectuals are also reclaiming their role in this trajectory. Their ability to connect with western societies as insiders and outsiders has helped bridge cultural and political gaps.

Sixth, while ‘One Democratic State Solution’ ideas are yet to achieve the critical mass that could, and will, eventually push for a change in policies amongst various governments, the so-called ‘Two State Solution’ no longer commands a dedicated following. It is almost a complete reversal from the views that permeated during my earlier world tours, nearly 20 years ago.

Seven, some intellectual, and even civil society circles, are still obstructed by the erroneous thinking that the best way to convey the Palestinian viewpoint is through non-Palestinians. This belief is even championed by some Palestinians themselves (especially members of previous generations who suffered political and cultural marginalization and discrimination).

Although many anti-Zionist Jewish and Western intellectuals have been placed at the center stage to articulate a Palestinian message, the alienation of the Palestinians from their own discourse has proven costly. Despite strong and growing support for Palestine, there is still a serious deficiency in an authentic understanding of Palestine and the aspirations of the Palestinian people – their history, culture, everyday realities and viewpoints.

Needless to say, what is needed is an urgent and complete reclamation of the narrative over Palestine and the decolonization of the Palestinian discourse.

Eight, the connection between the Palestinian struggle for freedom and that of other indigenous groups is often highlighted, but much more can be done. Israeli supporters are actively pushing the misleading notion that Israelis are the ‘natives’ of the land and are, thus, reaching out to indigenous communities around the world in search for common ground. While the reality is to the contrary, pro-Palestine groups can do much more to link the struggle of the indigenous native Palestinians with that of other indigenous and other oppressed and historically marginalized groups around the world.

A general, but equally important, realization I have experienced throughout my 3-month journey has been the numerous personal and group initiatives carried out by thousands of people  all over the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people: from 11-year-old Salma, who convinced all of her classmates in Perth, Australia, to write Palestine on the map in her geography class, despite knowing that they would all have been marked down for their action, to the elderly couple in Auckland, New Zealand, who, well into their 80s and walking with much difficulty, continue to hand Palestine flyers to passers-by at a busy street corner, every week, for the last 20 years.

It is these people, and millions like them, who represent the real constituency for Palestine. They are fighters in the trenches of human solidarity that neither Israel, nor anyone else, can possibly defeat.

When Things Fall Apart: A Graduation Message for a Dark Age

When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are the traditional signs of a dark age.

— Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, September 26, 2000

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people.

They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Worse, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Based on the current political climate, things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, don’t become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. All the while, since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and police the rest of the world. This is an egregious affront to anyone who believes in freedom.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war “on different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons,” Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground … that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing right—respect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebut—but don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately … ultimately—you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe—there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy—prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies—he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.

Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

The Origins of Violence? Slavery, Extractivism and War

And the land, hitherto a common possession like the light of the sun and the breezes, the careful surveyor now marked out with long-drawn boundary lines. Not only were corn and needful foods demanded of the rich soil, but men bored into the bowels of the earth, and the wealth she had hidden and covered with Stygian darkness was dug up, an incentive to evil. And now noxious iron and gold more noxious still were produced: and these produced war – for wars are fought with both – and rattling weapons were hurled by bloodstained hands.

(Ovid, written around 8 AD which laments humanity’s loss of its original Golden condition [Ovid Metamorphoses, Book 1, The Iron Age]). 1

The privatisation of property, extractivism, the necessity for food-producing slaves and a warrior class to sustain and further extend the aims of the elites are all neatly summed up in this quote from Ovid. What is noticeable and notable is that over the millennia very little has changed in substance. We still have today wage slaves, standing armies, extractivism and industrialised agriculture that is oriented and controlled according to the aims and agendas of a warmongering elite. However, it seems that things were not always thus.

The coming of the Kurgan peoples across Europe from c. 4000 to 1000 BC is believed to have been a tumultuous and disastrous time for the peoples of Old Europe. The Old European culture is believed to have centred around a nature-based ideology that was gradually replaced by an anti-nature, patriarchal, warrior society. According to the archeologist and anthropologist, Marija Gimbutas:

Agricultural peoples’ beliefs concerning sterility and fertility, the fragility of life and the constant threat of destruction, and the periodic need to renew the generative processes of nature are among the most enduring. They live on in the present, as do very archaic aspects of the prehistoric Goddess, in spite of the continuous process of erosion in the historic era. Passed on  by the grandmothers and mothers of the European family, the ancient beliefs survived the superimposition of the Indo-European and finally the Christian myths. The Goddess-centred religion existed for a very long time, much longer than the Indo-European and the Christian (which represent a relatively short period of human history), leaving behind an indelible imprint on the Western psyche.2

​The Goddess Timeline
A chronological record of archaeological images of women and goddesses on a uniform time scale from 30,000 BCE to the present.
Copyright © 2012 Constance Tippett

Gimbutas notes that it was at this time that a relatively homogeneous pre-Indo-European Neolithic culture in southeastern Europe was “invaded and destroyed by horse-riding pastoral nomads from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the “Kurgan culture”) who brought with them violence, patriarchy, and Indo-European languages”. While this model has been disputed over the years recent research has broadened and deepened our understanding of these movements.

In 2015 an international team of researchers conducted a genetic study which backs the Kurgan hypothesis, that “a massive migration of herders from the Yamna culture of the North Pontic steppe (Russia, Ukraine and Moldavia) towards Europe which would have favoured the expansion of at least a few of these Indo-European languages throughout the continent.”

Another disputed aspect of the hypothesis is the ‘how’- whether “the indigenous cultures were peacefully amalgamated or violently displaced.”  However, the representations of weapons engraved in stone, stelae, or rocks appear after the Kurgan invasions as well as “the earliest known visual images of Indo-European warrior gods”.3  The beginning of slavery is also seen to be linked to these armed invasions.

According to Riane Eisler, archeological evidence “indicate that in some Kurgan camps the bulk of the female population was not Kurgan, but rather of the Neolithic Old European population. What this suggests is that the Kurgans massacred most of the local men and children but spared some of the women who they took for themselves as concubines, wives, or slaves.”3 Gimbutas believed that the pre-Kurgan society of Old Europe was a “gylanic [sexes were equal], peaceful, sedentary culture with highly developed agriculture and with great archtectural, sculptural, and ceramic traditions” which was then replaced by patriarchy; patrilineality; small scale agriculture and animal husbandry”, the domestication of the horse and the importance of armaments (bow and arrow, spear and dagger).4

Not so th’ Golden Age, who fed on fruit,
Nor durst with bloody meals their mouths pollute.
Then birds in airy space might safely move,
And tim’rous hares on heaths securely rove:
Nor needed fish the guileful hooks to fear,
For all was peaceful; and that peace sincere.
Whoever was the wretch, (and curs’d be he
That envy’d first our food’s simplicity!)
Th’ essay of bloody feasts on brutes began,
And after forg’d the sword to murder man.

— Ovid Metamorphoses Book 14

The idea of a fall, the end of a Golden Age is a common theme in many ancient cultures around the world. Richard Heinberg, in Memories and Visions of Paradise, examines various myths from around the world and finds common themes such as sacred trees, rivers and mountains, wise peoples who were moral and unselfish, and in harmony with nature and described heavenly and earthly paradises.

In another book, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era, Steve Taylor takes a psychological approach to the concept of the Fall examining what he calls the new human psyche and the Ego Explosion (which created a lack of empathy between human beings) and resulted in our alienation from nature while making us both self and globally destructive.

However, James DeMeo takes a more radical approach in his book, Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World. He believes that climatic changes caused drought, desertification and famine in North Africa, the Near East, and Central Asia (collectively Saharasia) and this trauma caused the development of patriarchal, authoritarian and violent characteristics.

God creates Man
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”(Gen 2:7)
Author unknown, Creation of Adam, Byzantine mosaic in Monreale, 12th century.

The arrival of violent, enslaving tribes and of a supreme male deity led to the eventual demise of the female deities through demotion or destruction of temples and statues.5 Over time, the many traditions of pre-patriarchal nature worship were destroyed (such as cutting down sacred trees) or eventually assimilated into the new patriarchal religions (see my Christmas article). Thus many of the nature-based ideas of matriarchal religion were turned on their head as the male deity creates man and Adam gives birth to Eve. According to Barbara Walker, in The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, “usurpation of the feminine power of birth-giving seems to have been the distinguishing mark of the earliest gods.” She lists the many ways the male deities ‘gave birth’; e.g., from the mouth (Prajapati), from the head or thigh (Zeus), from the penis (Atum), or from the stomach (Kun) in the section ‘Birth-Giving, Male’.

Adam ‘gives birth’ to Eve
“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man”(1 Corinthians 11:8)
From: Master Bertram, Grabow Altarpiece, 1379-1383

In Christianity the rulers had a religion that assured their objectives. The warring adventurism of the new rulers needed soldiers for their campaigns and slaves to produce their food and mine their metals for their armaments and wealth. Thus, Christ was portrayed as Martyr and Master. In his own crucifixion as Martyr he provided a brave example to the soldiers and as Master he would reward or punish the slaves according to how well they had behaved.

Christ as Martyr and Master
Jan van Eyck (before c. 1390 – 9 July 1441)
Crucifixion and Last Judgement
diptych, c. 1430–1440.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Christianity, according to Helen Ellerbe:

has distanced humanity from nature. As people came to perceive God as a singular supremacy detached from the physical world, they lost their reverence for nature. In Christian eyes, the physical world became the realm of the devil. A society that had once celebrated nature through seasonal festivals began to commemorate biblical events bearing no connection to the earth. Holidays lost much of their celebratory spirit and took on a tone of penance and sorrow. Time, once thought to be cyclical like the seasons, was now perceived to be linear. In their rejection of the cyclical nature of life, orthodox Christians came to focus more upon death than upon life.6

​Pagan festivals chart: [From The Dark Side of Christian History, Helen Ellerbe]

Christian eschatology (study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order) and the idea of linear time took over from the people’s strong connection with nature and the ever-changing seasons. Although, in early medieval times, according to David Ewing Duncan in The Calendar, the peasants still lived and died “in a continuous cycle of days and years that to them had no discernible past or future.”7 Different seasonal festivals such as the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, the Easter hare and Easter eggs etc. all had pre-Christian connections but old habits died hard and left the church no choice but to incorporate some aspects of them into their own traditions over time.

Feminism vs class

While some aspects of the culture of prehistory are still with us today, interpretation of the artifacts from archeological digs has always been open to controversy. For example, Cynthia Eller in her book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a
Future
believes that the theory of a prehistoric matriarchy (female rulership) was “developed in 19th century scholarship and was taken up by 1970s second-wave feminism following Marija Gimbutas.” However, the feminist historian Max Dashu notes that Eller “makes no distinction between scholarly studies in a wide range of fields and expressions of the burgeoning Goddess movement, including novels, guided tours, market-driven enterprises. All are conflated all into one monolithic ‘myth’ devoid of any historical foundation.”

The important point here is that ideas of matriarchal prehistory have been used in feminist theory to blame men for war and violence today (ignoring Thatcher and May). Sure, men have been dominant in the warring elites but many, many more men were caught up in the enslaved soldiers, miners and farmers classes. And as it was violence that was used to enslave them in the first place historically, then surely it would be no surprise if violence is used by them in the fight back against their slavery (class struggle).

The reappraisal of our ancient past and our relationship with nature has become an urgent necessity as climate chaos occupies more and more of our time and energy. It is not too late to learn from the myths of the Golden Age and Ovid’s ancient complaints to create a better future.

This let me further add, that Nature knows
No steadfast station, but, or ebbs, or flows:
Ever in motion; she destroys her old,
And casts new figures in another mould.

— Ovid, Metamorphoses Book 15

  1. From Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age by Richard Heinberg (1989).
  2. The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, by Marija Gimbutas/Joseph Campbell (2001), p. xvii.
  3. The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler (1998) p 49.
  4. The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, by Marija Gimbutas/Joseph Campbell (2001), p. xx.
  5. See: When God Was a Woman, Merlin Stone (1978)  pp. 66-67.
  6. The Dark Side of Christian History, Helen Ellerbe (1995) p. 139.
  7. The Calendar: The 5000-year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens – and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan (2011) p. 137.

Is the U.S. Government Evil? You Tell Me

The greatest evil is not now done … in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, February 1942

Is the U.S. government evil?

You tell me.

This is a government that treats its citizens like faceless statistics and economic units to be bought, sold, bartered, traded, tracked, tortured, and eventually eliminated once they’ve outgrown their usefulness.

This is a government that treats human beings like lab rats to be caged, branded, experimented upon, and then discarded and left to suffer from the after-effects.

This is a government that repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, spies, kills, maims, enslaves, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority, and abuses its power at almost every turn.

This is a government that wages wars for profit, jails its own people for profit, and then turns a blind eye and a deaf ear while its henchmen rape and kill and pillage.

No, this is not a government that can be trusted to do what is right or moral or humane or honorable but instead seems to gravitate towards corruption, malevolence, misconduct, greed, cruelty, brutality and injustice.

This is not a government you should trust with your life, your loved ones, your livelihood or your freedoms.

This is the face of evil, disguised as a democracy, sold to the people as an institution that has their best interests at heart.

Don’t fall for the lie.

The government has never had our best interests at heart.

Endless wars. The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it propelled us into endless oil-fueled wars and military occupations in the Middle East that wreaked havoc on our economy, stretched thin our military resources and subjected us to horrific blowback.

A police state. There is no way the government had our best interests at heart when it passed laws subjecting us to all manner of invasive searches and surveillance, censoring our speech and stifling our expression, rendering us anti-government extremists for daring to disagree with its dictates, locking us up for criticizing government policies on social media, encouraging Americans to spy and snitch on their fellow citizens, and allowing government agents to grope, strip, search, taser, shoot and kill us.

Battlefield America. Certainly the government did not have our best interests at heart when it turned America into a battlefield, transforming law enforcement agencies into extensions of the military, conducting military drills on domestic soil, distributing “free” military equipment and weaponry to local police, and desensitizing Americans to the menace of the police state with active shooter drills, color-coded terror alerts, and randomly conducted security checkpoints at “soft” targets such as shopping malls and sports arenas.

School-to-prison pipeline. It would be a reach to suggest that the government had our best interests at heart when it locked down the schools, installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras, adopting zero tolerance policies that punish childish behavior as harshly as criminal actions, and teaching our young people that they have no rights, that being force-fed facts is education rather than indoctrination, that they are not to question governmental authority, that they must meekly accept a life of censorship, round-the-clock surveillance, roadside blood draws, SWAT team raids and other indignities.

Secret human experimentation. One would also be hard-pressed to suggest that the American government had our best interests at heart when it conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins. The government reasoned that it was legitimate (and cheaper) to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society such as prisoners, mental patients, and poor blacks.

As the Associated Press reports, “The late 1940s and 1950s saw huge growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industries, accompanied by a boom in prisoner experiments funded by both the government and corporations. By the 1960s, at least half the states allowed prisoners to be used as medical guinea pigs … because they were cheaper than chimpanzees.”

In Alabama, for example, 600 black men with syphilis were allowed to suffer without proper medical treatment so that the government could study the natural progression of untreated syphilis. In California, older prisoners were implanted with testicles from livestock and executed convicts so the government could test their virility.

In Connecticut, mental patients were injected with hepatitis so the government could study the disease. In Maryland, sleeping prisoners had a pandemic flu virus sprayed up their noses so the government could monitor their symptoms. In Georgia, two dozen “volunteering” prison inmates had gonorrhea bacteria pumped directly into their urinary tracts through the penis so the government could work on a cure.

In Michigan, male patients at an insane asylum were exposed to the flu so the government could experiment with a flu vaccine. In Minnesota, 11 public service employee “volunteers” were injected with malaria, then starved for five days, so the government could study the impact.

In New York, prisoners at a reformatory prison were split into two groups to determine how a deadly stomach virus was spread: the first group was made to swallow an unfiltered stool suspension, while the second group merely breathed in germs sprayed into the air. In Staten Island, children with mental retardation were given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured.

Unfortunately, these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the atrocities the government has inflicted on an unsuspecting populace in the name of secret experimentation.

For instance, there was the U.S. military’s secret race-based testing of mustard gas on more than 60,000 enlisted men (African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics, etc.). As NPR reports:

All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them.

And then there was the CIA’s Cold War-era program, MKULTRA, in which the government began secretly experimenting on hundreds of unsuspecting American civilians and military personnel by dosing them with LSD, some having the hallucinogenic drug secretly slipped into their drinks, so that the government could explore its uses in brainwashing and controlling targets. The CIA spent nearly $20 million on its MKULTRA program, reportedly as a means of programming people to carry out assassinations and, to a lesser degree, inducing anxieties and erasing memories, before it was supposedly shut down.

Similarly, the top-secret Montauk Project, the inspiration for the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, allegedly was working to develop mind-control techniques that would then be tested out on locals in a nearby village, triggering crime waves or causing teenagers to congregate.

Sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theorists, I know, but the government’s track record of treating Americans like lab rats has been well-documented, including its attempts to expose whole communities to various toxins as part of its efforts to develop lethal biological weapons and study their impact and delivery methods on unsuspecting populations.

In 1949, for instance, the government sprayed bacteria into the Pentagon’s air handling system, then the world’s largest office building. In 1950, special ops forces sprayed bacteria from Navy ships off the coast of Norfolk and San Francisco, in the latter case exposing all of the city’s 800,000 residents.

In 1953, government operatives staged “mock” anthrax attacks on St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg  using generators placed on top of cars. Local governments were reportedly told that “‘invisible smokescreen[s]’ were being deployed to mask the city on enemy radar.” Later experiments covered territory as wide-ranging as Ohio to Texas and Michigan to Kansas.

In 1965, the government’s experiments in bioterror took aim at Washington’s National Airport, followed by a 1966 experiment in which army scientists exposed a million subway NYC passengers to airborne bacteria that causes food poisoning.

Now one might argue that this is all ancient history and that the government today is different from the government of yesteryear, but has the U.S. government really changed?

Ask yourself: Has the government become any more humane, any more respectful of the rights of the citizenry? Has it become any more transparent or willing to abide by the rule of law? Has it become any more truthful about its activities? Has it become any more cognizant of its appointed role as a guardian of our rights?

Or, having mastered the Orwellian art of Doublespeak and followed the Huxleyan blueprint for distraction and diversion, has the government simply gotten craftier and more conniving, better able to hide its nefarious acts and dastardly experiments under layers of secrecy, legalism and obfuscations?

Consider this: after revelations about the government’s experiments spanning the 20th century spawned outrage, the government began looking for  human guinea pigs in other countries, where “clinical trials could be done more cheaply and with fewer rules.”

In Guatemala, prisoners and patients at a mental hospital were infected with syphilis, “apparently to test whether penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted disease.” More recently, U.S.-funded doctors “failed to give the AIDS drug AZT to all the HIV-infected pregnant women in a study in Uganda even though it would have protected their newborns.” Meanwhile, in Nigeria, children with meningitis were used to test an antibiotic named Trovan. Eleven children died and many others were left disabled.

What kind of government perpetrates such horrific acts on human beings, whether or not they are American citizens?

Is there any difference between a government mindset that justifies experimenting on prisoners because they’re “cheaper than chimpanzees” and a government that sanctions jailhouse strip searches of individuals charged with minor infractions simply because it’s easier on a jail warden’s workload?

John Lennon was right: “We’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends.”

Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Just recently, for example, a Fusion Center in Washington State (a Dept. of Homeland Security-linked data collection clearinghouse that shares information between state, local and federal agencies) inadvertently released records on remote mind control tactics (the use of “psycho-electronic” weapons to control people from a distance or subject them to varying degrees of pain).

Mind you, there is no clear evidence to suggest that these particular documents were created by a government agency. Then again, the government—no stranger to diabolical deeds or shady experiments carried out an unsuspecting populace—has done it before.

After all, this is a government that has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

For too long now, the American people have been persuaded to barter their freedoms for phantom promises of security and, in the process, have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.

No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

There’s a scene in The Third Man, Carol Reed’s influential 1949 film starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles in which a rogue war profiteer (Harry Lime) views human carnage with a callous indifference, unconcerned that the diluted penicillin he’s been trafficking underground has resulted in the tortured deaths of young children.

Challenged by his old friend Holly Martins to consider the consequences of his actions, Lime responds, “In these days, old man, nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t, so why should we?”

“Have you ever seen any of your victims?” asks Martins.

“Victims?” responds Lime, as he looks down from the top of a Ferris wheel onto a populace reduced to mere dots on the ground. “Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?”

Lime’s callous indifference is no different from the U.S. government’s calculating cost-benefit analyses.

In the eyes of the government, “we the people” are chump change.

So why do Americans keep believing the government has their best interests at heart?

Why do Americans keep trusting the government?

Why do Americans pretend not to know what is so obvious to anyone with eyes and ears and a conscience?

As Carl Sagan recognized, “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

We should never have trusted the government in the first place.

That’s why the Founders came up with a Bill of Rights. They recognized that without binding legal protections affirming the rights of the people, the newly instituted American government would be no better than the old British despot.

It was Thomas Jefferson who warned, “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t heed the warning.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has ripped the Constitution to shreds and left us powerless in the face of its power grabs, greed and brutality.

So how do you fight back?

How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?

You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.

Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices.

Start recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Demand government transparency. Vote with your feet (i.e., engage in activism, not just politics). Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.

As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.

Global Weirding

Oh, what fun it truly was to experience the “bomb cyclone” in January in New England: the snowfall gave a sense of peace and calm, the winds were less strong than predicted, and the snow, while heavy, was not dense enough to take down trees and power lines in most areas. The following period of intense cold through February and March in the eastern half of the US, on the other hand, seems a harbinger of climate instability which will most likely worsen in upcoming years. As the jet stream weakens and buckles due to climate change, storm intensity and temperature fluctuations are certain to get worse.

The biggest danger for East coasters will remain the hurricane, as September 2017 registered as the most active month in recorded history for the Atlantic.

On the West coast, things are getting a bit Biblical: raging fires alternate with intense flooding and mudslides in Montecito and southern California a few months ago. The 2017 fire season set aflame over eight million acres mainly in the Western states. It’s not just a domestic issue: Portugal faced an epic firestorm in June of last year, killing close to 100, partly due to the monocultures of eucalyptus trees planted across the country. Millions face conditions of famine and drought worldwide.

Sadly, most reporting and discussion of global warming and climate change serves to abstract the issues into a diversionary attitude that the Earth is in crisis. Well, the planet, as a self-regulating super-organism, will do just fine without us, even if it takes millennia to recover from our misdeeds. It is stable and abundance-providing ecosystems that are in crisis, species that are going extinct at 1000 times the background rate, and humanity is the culprit.

Even though man-made global warming is acknowledged by most people, there is still a conflation going on in the West that the all-devouring Earth-mother is out to get us. Rather, it is Western civilization which is stalking any chance for future generations to live and prosper.

Ecosystems in Crisis

In Germany, a study was done measuring insect populations in nature reserves, and it was discovered that there was a 75% drop in total insects collected in only 25 years. Scientists estimate that 30-50% of all species may become extinct by 2050.

Tragically, regarding honeybees, scientists have discovered an important link between fungicide use and the herbicide glyphosate (Round-Up), showing a negatively synergistic effect on bee colonies and resistance to fungal infection. Bees seem to actually prefer honey set in traps with a small percentage of Roundup or fungicides added. Humans are not the only species to enjoy mind-altering drugs, even poisonous ones.

All of our problems involving the destruction of habitat are ultimately bound up in the fact that there are too many of us, conditioned to respond in violent outbursts, consuming too many resources, leading to stress, war, and unimaginable acts of cruelty. These acts are often sanctioned by the state or the corporation or religion or patriarchal vertical hierarchies.

The exponential population growth from the industrial revolution is already slowing and bound to top off at anywhere from 10-12 billion people by 2050-2100, if we manage to avoid the many catastrophes hurtling our way. Thus the growth curve will resemble an S-curve barring unforeseeable circumstances, with small waves and ripples due to the complexities of changing times, food sources, and a multitude of variables. In theory this population model could then lead to a steady decrease in total population due to a voluntary decision by humanity to slowly and carefully have fewer children due to stresses on ecosystems and natural resources. If we don’t convert to decentralized renewable energy and organic, communal-based agriculture, however, there is another model we may follow, and it’s not pretty one. Fossil fuel use is the habit that must be kicked for humanity to help recreate a sustainable world.

One of the most famous examples from studying mammalian populations is the debacle of St. Matthew Island, a warning to humanity. A tiny island located in the Bering Strait, with no carnivores, some lonely US coast guard officers decided to introduce reindeer onto the island. From a starting population of 29 in 1944, the hungry caribou ate through the entire island’s many lichen species, ballooning to 6,000 by 1963. Within two years and no other food source, the die-off was drastic, and only 42 remained in 1965. The entire population vanished by the 1980s. If our coal, gas, and oil run out without a democratic and scientific plan to make the leap to renewables, we are doomed to the same path.

The Unspoken Links

It would be simplistic to relegate these new and unprecedented levels of strangeness to the spheres of ecology and climate science. The deep wounds Western man has inflicted on fellow species and the planet are also inflicted on ourselves. From everything to decreased attention spans, the rise of xenophobia and mistrust towards minorities and immigrants, and billions living in poverty, these are by and large self-inflicted wounds. We must learn to see ourselves in the other, and see the other in ourselves

Cell phone, TV, tablet, and computer use, dubbed “screen time”, can now be understood to have a net-negative effect on human communities when consumed in vast quantities, as it drives anti-social behavior and isolation from the wider community. A recent study concluded the average screen time for US adults was around 70 hours per week. Keep in mind, that means for every person getting 40 hours of screen time there is another getting 100 hours per week.

The rising rates of cancer, autism, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions may be partly due to the stressors and conditions of modern life, including longer lifespans, but they do not account for the majority. Our polluted world and environmental crises play a mostly invisible role in the West, as our federal agencies such as the EPA and FDA have become corrupted by pharmaceutical and corporate interests.

With no way to systemically study or properly account for the rise of ill health and mental stupefaction of the public, medical and health professionals, shackled in their dim caves staring at shadows, have designated the “genetic” component to dis-ease as the Holy Grail. There is some truth to this: undoubtedly certain forms of breast cancer are linked to specific areas on chromosomes, etc. The idea, however, that billions of dollars in research must be shunted into the reductionist model of DNA manipulation and gene therapy is a huge waste of time, resources, and brainpower. (No, I don’t have mainstream “credentials” or a PhD, but I was happy to have my suspicions about targeted gene therapy confirmed straight out of the mouth of a former top researcher at the National Cancer Institute.)

The best way I’ve heard it phrased, regarding chronic disease and our toxified world, is like this: genetics is the loaded gun, and the environment is the finger pulling the trigger. Yes, many people are at risk due to genetic inheritance for many forms of cancers, diabetes, and the list goes on, but magnifying the capacities of the double helix as the primal cause of these conditions is not only dubious, it’s intellectually dishonest and dangerous. One may be at higher risks for certain disorders, but a healthy lifestyle can often slow, negate, or reverse chronic disease.

Many of today’s chemical dangers are invisible and thus fly under the radar of doctors and scientists. Yet, there are visible changes in our bodies that have manifested with the rise of industrial agriculture after World War Two. One change being the rise in obesity worldwide. Yes, we have increased meal portion sizes and live more sedentary lifestyles, and yes, food serves as a palliative for depression and anxiety.

Yet, this does not explain the study (summarized in an Atlantic article here) which concluded that between 1988 and 2006 a person with the same diet, nutrient and exercise routines would be 10% heavier in 2006. This is a historic finding, and I can find nothing in the literature which reports a change in size of any other species in such short a time frame (18 years), other than weight gain in the abhorrent factory farming conditions of chickens, pigs, and cows.

The problem is, as the authors of the study note, there are so many factors it’s nearly impossible to determine what the culprit is. There are persistent organic pollutants, hormones in our food which act as endocrine disruptors, prescription drug overuse which leads to weight gain, and the possibility of a change in our gut bacteria due to mass antibiotic use in animal produce. In all likelihood, it is a combination of all of these factors that is driving the obesity and cancer epidemics. While many researchers are waking up to effects from increasing use of digital technology and social media, hardly anyone in the scientific community and academia have bothered to think about the huge changes to our bodies in the past few decades.

For every one human cell in our bodies, there are about 10 symbiotic bacterial cells. We are in very real sense super-organisms, and the huge influx of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics in our food is forming a negatively synergistic effect on our ability to reason, to exercise, to relax, and to resist these new forms of genetic-biologic oppression.

This comes down to the nexus of corporate agribusiness, complicit federal health “experts”, lack of funding for research and grants for responsible scientists, and a poisoned food and water supply which has hijacked and somehow rewired our metabolism, endocrine system, and immune-response pathways. Have no doubt, this is an uncontrolled experiment being run on us all, without our permission.

The rise in cancer in particular can be tied to the atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1950s, as I and many others have posited. Estimates range that anywhere from 1 million to 50 million or even higher have already died/may die in the coming century earlier than they otherwise would have, because of cancer due to nuclear radiation from these tests.

The chance of getting cancer in one’s lifetime is expected to rise to a 33% chance for women and a 50% chance for men by 2050. This is the microcosm within the macrocosm of a world system based on infinite growth on a finite planet. The ideology of capitalism is death, and there should be no mystification as to why the clear unhealthiness of the hegemonic socio-economic system has been transported into our very bodies via cancer.

A major problem is that modern medicine has become ideological and insular, with predictably deadly results. There can be no patents for plants, herbs, mushrooms, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices, thus no conglomerate, multinational, corporate money to be made.

If it becomes clear on a mass scale that traditional practices including, but not limited to, herbal medicine, meditation, yoga, holistic traditional healing, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine has immense value beyond the instrumental rationality of allopathic medicine, the gig is up for mainstream pill-pushers. Most health professionals would be unveiled as the educated fools that they are, drug pushers promoting dangerous drugs for children and the elderly, not to mention endless unnecessary tests and procedures which make billions for Big Pharma and medical technology companies.

Let me be clear here: I am not by any means trying to scapegoat every medical professional, as researchers and people who treat medical emergencies, trauma, surgeons, and doctors dealing with acute medical conditions do amazing work every day. What I’m driving at is the allopathic way of treating most chronic conditions is a farce, and our society should return to promoting preventative, holistic treatments.

Thanato-politics

Sadly, there is a legitimate reason why so much of society is organized around ignorance, fear, violence, denial of the body, and consumption: the death-drive. One does not have to subscribe to Freud’s exposition of thanatos to understand this: the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the desertification of our world, the razing of habitat shows this quite clearly.

Modern civilization does not only lead to obedience, submission, and structural violence, but also to a certain form of captivity. Humans tend to rebel against such a depraved social order, even if only symbolically, with varying amounts of success. Some do so constructively, forming social movements and protests, yet masses have fallen prey to the siren-songs of nationalism, consumerism, addiction, and war. Along with the enclosure of public land and the destruction of the commons (“There is no such thing as society”) comes a culture of fear, cruelty, and ultimately projections of the outer world as scary and downright evil.

Captivity in action: consider the recent missile alert in Hawai’i. Was this not an example of a captive audience, doomed by elites to worry and scatter over a phantom nuke over the horizon? None of us asked for this. Most of humanity simply wants to be left alone from the vagaries of government and corporate rule to live stable, happy lives. Yet the sad truth of the matter is the elites are not going to leave us alone. Their appetite is insatiable, and they will, in fact, drag down the entire biosphere, because in their current state of mind, they hate life, and want to transcend this world, either to heaven (the Christian fundamentalists) or have their consciousness uploaded or bodies cryogenically frozen for future immortality (the Kurzweillian techno-futurists).

Evil, or rather, a disdain for authentic living, is banal in many senses: one of these is the utter unimaginativeness resting in the dark hearts of our political leaders. Evil is a lack, a poverty of the soul. It is incapacity to create, an absence of imagination, spontaneous creativity, and compassion. You can sense this in our “technocratic” leadership, pushing us ever closer to the abyss of economic depression and ecological ruin.

It often conjures up a chuckle when I remind people of David Graeber’s comments (paraphrasing here) on the elitist corporate/managerial/bureaucratic mindset: “These are the most unimaginative people ever.” This is basically a gallows humor, as the elite are numbing citizens of the will, mental capacities, and physical abilities to organize and resist effectively, and are setting up the masses for collapse of our civilization.

Reclaiming Eros

If there does exist some sort of death drive (most explicitly recognized in Nazi, Italian, and Spanish fascist ideology: “¡Viva la muerte!”) that modern civilization is imposing on us, is there a countervailing force?

Countering the bleak pessimism of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization offers clues. We can extrapolate and widen their focus on libido to consider Eros as an analogy for life-force or life-energy, similar to Eastern notions of prana and chi. If modern society has, in fact, regimented our lives around a Marcuse-esque performance principle, it does so at the cost of our very souls. It was no mythological coincidence that the ancient Greeks wedded the god Eros in immortal bliss with Psyche. One cannot exist without the other.

Alienation in the workplace is so all-pervasive it often goes unnoticed or unremarked upon. Perhaps this orientation around surplus repression is most visible in leisure activities such as today’s gyms, the insular form of physical exercise for the corporate workers and bosses. Regimenting the mind in the office is not enough: bodies must be splayed across endless rows of treadmills and metal strength-enhancing machines like legions of marching ants, with the requisite phone or Ipod and headphones attached. As for the flabby and out-of-shape, it is once again a lack of discipline and failure to take individual responsibility, rather than any oppressive social structure which is the causal factor.

These are the pod people, exemplified in a New York Times piece about a former Nike exec and artist who has refused to watch or read any news since Donald Trump became elected, who even goes to far as to use noise-canceling headphones blaring white noise in coffee shops to not overhear any chatter about world affairs. Why not just play music? “Stray conversation can creep in between songs.” The same game goes for the power elite: stray news about the poor and oppressed, and any possibilities of social transformation, are simply shushed away.

Thus, when the business and political elite blurt the snide “Be reasonable!” they are at the same time using the cynical trope of “no grand ideologies” (read: Marxism) which, of course, hides behind the moral relativism and lack of conception of the good life which liberal democracy has always played at, which is ideology at its purest: “the end of history”, “there is no such thing as society”, “there is no alternative”.

These people, whose ideas simply parrot the cultural hegemonic ruling class framework, are asserting the “logic of domination”. Drawing on Arendt and Orwell, Alexander Stern has dubbed this “Bingespeak”. Following Marcuse:

Reason is to insure, through the ever more effective transformation and exploitation of nature, the fulfillment of the human potentialities. But in the process the end seems to recede before the means: the time devoted to alienated labor absorbs the time for individual needs- and defines the needs themselves. The Logos shows forth as the logic of domination. When logic then reduces the units of thought to signs and symbols, the laws of thought have finally become techniques of calculation and manipulation.1

This corrupted Logos seems to have pushed aside Eros in the modern world. Nietzsche would call it Apollonian overtaking the Dionysian. As the socially-constructed ego has developed under patriarchy, civilization, and capitalism, it has done so with the fear of the maternal-based clan, and the Earth-based tribal modes of life. Returning to Marcuse:

The Narcissistic phase of individual pre-genitality ‘recalls the maternal phase of the history of the human race. Both constitute a reality to which the ego responds with an attitude, not of defense and submission, but of integral identification with the ‘environment.’ But in the light of the paternal reality principle, the ‘maternal concept’ of reality here emerging is immediately turned into something dreadful, negative. The impulse to re-establish the lost Narcissistic-maternal unity is interpreted as a ‘threat,’ namely, the threat of ‘maternal engulfment’ by the overpowering womb. The hostile father is exonerated and reappears as savior who…protects the ego from its annihilation in the mother.2

Does this fear not play out between the lines of today’s discourse around the environment? It cannot be the patriarchal, murderous version of global capitalism which is at fault, but rather, an all-consuming mother planet bent on destroying us all (even though it’s all our own fault due to rampant fossil fuel use). In fact, the father figure of global capital now swoops in to act as a savior for everything he has destroyed.

Contrast, for example, the rush to space and immortality that the Silicon Valley techno-utopian folk seem to prefer, or even the “pragmatism” of Steward “we are as gods and have to get good at it” Brand; with the ecocentric approach of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, co-creators of Gaia theory. Corporate-funded mainstream environmentalists would have us geo-engineer the planet and proliferate dangerous 5G technology via an internet-of-things around the globe. Rather, we should convert to small scale, decentralized renewable tech, and attempt to live in harmony with the biosphere by adhering to an ecological precautionary principle.

Thus, the “primal father” version of the future which Brand and his “green capitalist” (an oxymoron) acolytes believe in necessarily involves sacrifice of the masses and more exploitation of natural resources We are told this everyday: “austerity” is needed for economic recovery; delay gratification to pay off debts; foreigners must be killed and are simply collateral damage to protect the world from terrorism, public land is off-limits or only for recreation, not sustainable agriculture and agroforestry; etc.

Reconciling Apollo and Dionysus, Logos and Eros, a less repressive society would not simply focus on what we must sacrifice, but allow space for passion, imagination, and desire. A democratic society would allow for collective decision-making regarding the scale and scope of a host of socioeconomic issues, including sustainable agriculture, genetic research, preventative medicine, animal testing, as well as chemical use in farming and industry.

With a healthy balance between Logos and Eros, we can transcend the deadly framework of instrumental reason and positivism to build a livable future. Some like to call this a “supra-rational” outlook, a transpersonal and holistic view of the world, where emotional intelligence is blended with the analytic, intuition with abstract logic.

What lessons can we draw here? There must be a concerted effort to blend work and play, especially in regards to communal farming, collective home building, and low-scale renewable energy, to create the grounds for authentic liberation from capitalism.

Sustained and coordinated efforts to build autonomous zones free from governmental and hierarchical organization are paramount: indigenous movements throughout South America and worldwide, the mass strikes in France, Christiania in København, freedom fighters in Chiapas and Rojava, and the MST in Brazil offer models of resistance.

We are going to have to adopt a type of bricolage (Levi-Strauss) culture, scavenging what has not been absorbed by global capital, to create beauty in the ruins of empire. Thus, we can begin the Herculean effort to deterritorialize (as in Deleuze and Guattari) and thus reassemble a heterogeneous, co-evolving, transformational commons; to decolonize our minds from a simulated, mechanical mode of life; to detach from the Spectacle; to unlearn and deschool ourselves (Illich) from the oppressive social systems designed to rob and eventually destroy everything we know and care for.

  1. Marcuse, Herbert. (1974) Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon Press. Originally published 1955. pp. 111-112.
  2. Ibid., p. 230.

The Sleep of Civilization

Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.
— Proverbs 19:4″

James “Mad Dog” Mattis spoke this week, at a pentagon press briefing, saying, among other things, that it was a time for all civilized nations to unite. The use of this trope ‘civilized’ echoes colonial sensibility. It is part of general shifting of meaning in the rhetoric of Empire over the last, say, 80 years.

Never mind that the occasion of this speech, as seems increasingly the norm, was based on mostly propaganda. No evidence for a chemical attack was actually provided. Just as the evidence in the Skripal (attempted) murder (sic) is conspicuously lacking.

This is a time when war criminals (unprosecuted, of course) can simply count on the utter amnesia of both the public and the quisling western press.

So let’s go back and check a few boxes on Mattis. This is the man who oversaw the war crimes of Fallujah and then helped cover them up. One can read about it here

So how is it that Mattis can so confidently count on the silence and complicity of the corporate press? Mattis is no doubt sociopathic. He is a lizard eyed lisping sadist and yet he is fawned over and described as the ‘the most revered Marine in a generation’ by the same prostrate press. The adoration of the military in western media is at an all time high. And entertainment today is laden with the most jingoistic and nativist rhetoric imaginable. Hollywood today produces fiction that is uniform in its opinions and values. Watch this season of Designated Survivor. I know that is asking a lot, but do it anyway. Kiefer Sutherland is one of those actors who in middle age has begun to take on the tight lipped appearance of an aggrieved or constipated Quaker. The show is so stunningly reactionary that one finds some difficulty in arriving at the right words. But it is not an anomaly. Half of network prime time drama is military-based in theme. And today Hollywood staff writers can count on CIA or Pentagon “advisors” taking an active part in the creation of scripts. The blurring of fiction and Imperial fiction, as it were. There are ongoing themes in this Sutherland show about Russian interference in US democracy and most recently a story built around a tiny Asian nation with an insane dictatorial leader who wants nuclear weapons. The depictions of the Asian characters is only slightly less cartoon like than Charlie Chan. And always there are the requisite evil Muslim terrorist.

But back to the disturbing figure of Jim Mattis. His call sign is “chaos”. He is reported to be worth in the neighborhood of five million dollars. This is an absurd low ball figure, but whatever. He is a graduate of Central Washington U. and something called the National Defense University. A quick iinternet search reveals this is a special educational institution on the grounds of Fort Leslie in DC and chartered by the Joint Chiefs. One does wonder what a typical class at NDU looks like.

As for the “pacification” of Fallujah. Brett Wilkins wrote…

According to witnesses and survivors of the assault, Marines indiscriminately killed men, women, children, the elderly and disabled alike. Civilians waving white flags of surrender were cut down by snipers, who also targeted ambulances carrying the wounded and dying to the few functioning clinics not destroyed by US bombs. “I see people carrying a white flag and yelling at us, saying, ‘We are here, just try to save us,’ but we could not save them because whenever we opened the ambulance door, the Americans would shoot at us,” Dr. Salam Ismael, head of Iraq’s young doctors association, told American investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who covered the battle as an unembedded journalist. “We tried to carry food or water; the snipers shoot the containers of food.

No civilizational norms violated there. Nope. Mattis also was the man who had all charges dropped against the soldiers that took part in the rampage at Haditha. Civilians shot point blank, often women and children, and the elderly — in their homes.  Callsign “Chaos”.

Gary Kohls, MD, writing at Veterans Today….

Several of the PEOTUS’ cabinet appointees are high-ranking “lifer” military officers who have an innate disdain for democratic values (as would be expected for anybody whose career has been lived in the bubble of a hierarchical culture whose main junk values are 1) shoot first/ask questions later and 2) the use of dominative power over “enemies” via military violence.

Kohls was primarily writing about Jim Mattis. But honestly, even a cursory examination of ANY four star General will yield similar biographical facts and similar personality disorders. You don’t rise through military ranks without a core ruthlessness, and an innate sadism.
After the bombing of a wedding party in the Iraq desert, Mattis is quoted as saying…

Ten miles from the Syrian border and 80 miles from the nearest city and a wedding party? Don’t be naïve. Plus they had 30 males of military age with them. How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?

The rank Orientalism of this comment, the arrogant indifference to the history and culture of Islam, to the Arab world in general, is also the hallmark of the successful military commander. Kill em all and let God sort it out. Of course, at the time of his nomination the NY Times published an op ed whose headline identified Mattis as a “pontential force for restraint”. That crazy old paper of record. And Mattis is routinely described as an intellectual, a ‘warrior monk’, and yet he doesn’t know anything of nomadic desert societies and culture. He didn’t even consider there might be a cultural gap here, or consider he might need to check alternative readings of the Muslim world, ones not provided for by that steller education at National Defense U. Mattis is not an intellectual, not even by the standards of that warped sub phylum of humanity that is the military.

The media coverage of Syria, in the UK and US, is blatantly biased and pro intervention. The fact that FOX news reactionary Tucker Carlson is the sanest voice in mainstream media is very telling. Carlson hasn’t “woke”…. he just saw a niche demographic that might boost his ratings. Still…he was, in fact, correct.

Danny Haiphong wrote

Tucker Carlson understands that he must appeal primarily to Republican voters weary of US interventions they see as products of Democratic Party-led wars even if establishment Republicans are no less hawkish than Democrats. Meanwhile, Goodman and her funders have subtly aligned with the Democrats as the new leaders of the War Party. War is the only tool at the disposal of imperialism, and there isn’t a single voice in Washington or the “liberal” media unwilling to use it.

Under these conditions, infantile leftists and faux socialists in the Democratic Party camp have felt compelled to choose a side in the imperial madhouse. They claim that Democrats are “Presidential” while Putin and Assad are villains of humanity. No criticism is thrown at the Democratic Party, which sent a delegation led by Nancy Pelosi to Israel just days prior to the planned gun down of Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza. It doesn’t seem to matter how many Syrians or Palestinians are killed by the forces of imperialism when the so-called left is under the swoon of the CIA. So-called US leftists have caught anti-Putin fever at the expense of all other political questions.

This includes the murder of Black people by the police in the US. Barely any attention was paid in the US to the murders of Stephon Clark and Saheed Vassell over the last few weeks. Only community members and the usual left organizations made any noise about these state-sanctioned murders. The same goes for Israel’s wonton massacre of participants in Gaza’s Great March for Return. In the absence of a mass movement, people in the US and West are becoming mere onlookers in a changing a world.

This last few months has revealed as never before both the callous cruelty of the ruling class in the U.S. and UK, but also the degrading of education … for lack of a better description. At the UN, British envoy Karen Pierce, mistakenly thought Karl Marx was a Russian. In a prank phone call Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, thought there was a country called Binimo. And Trump himself noted something or other about an imaginary African country called Nambia. Boris Johnson began an extemporaneous recitation of a Kipling poem (Road to Mandalay) in a temple in Myanmar. And then was told it was inappropriate by an aid, trying to save him further embarrassment, and STILL Johnson didn’t understand.

All of these examples are not mere gaffes, amusing mistakes, but rather a general indifference to the cultures of the world, in fact, an indifference to the world beyond their own small corner of it. Indifferent and hostile. Remember when George Bush, now in full rehabilitation mode by his media handlers, mocked Karla Faye Tucker, on death row, who was begging for her life. That is exactly the cruelty one sees across the board in the leaders of the West today. One wonders does Mattis or Bush or Bolton think the use of Agent Orange transgressed civilizational norms? Did Hiroshima?

What strikes me most acutely, these last few months, is the extraordinary cultural chauvinism of the U.S., or rather mostly of white U.S., as well as an institutionalized orientalism. Most White Americans, as a general statement, think they are better than the rest of the world. And most Americans have scant knowledge about the rest of the world. So the belief in cultural (and moral) superiority is based on what? The answer is not simple, but as a general sort of response, this trust in “our” superiority is built on violence. On an ability to be effectively violent. Most British, too, think they are superior to those ‘wogs’ south of their emerald isle. But since the setting of the sun on Empire, ‘officially’, the British hold to both a sense of superiority and a deep panic inducing sense of inferiority — at least to their American cousins. They are still better than those fucking cheese eating frogs or the krauts or whoever, but they accept that the U.S. is the sort of heavyweight champ of the moment. Meanwhile, the tragic and criminal fire at Grenfell Towers in London elicited a public discourse that perfectly reflected the class inequality of the UK, but also reflected, again, the colonialist mentality of the ruling party and their constituency.

Stephen Brenner wrote of the fire and the government response to it..

There is Sir Martin Moore-Bick,** the former High Court Judge, who has been appointed by May to head a board of inquiry. Fears of a protracted inquiry producing an anodyne report were aroused when Moore-Bick went out of his way to declare that the scope of the investigation would be severely limited to determining the immediate cause of the fire and why it spread so rapidly. Answers to both questions already are known. The Sir Inquisitor-to-be has given the game away in adding that “I do not expect everyone to be pleased by the conclusion of the inquiry” – yet to begin. Moore-Bick’s unprompted utterance shows just how pervasive is the Americanization of British political culture. Unnecessary, embarrassing ejaculations like this have become impulsive – defying the dictates of prudent restraint. No one is confused as to who the “everyone” he has in mind refers to. An impression reinforced by the denial of the residents’ right to ask questions in person as to the scope and form of the inquiry. The only open question is the exact tint that the whitewash will take (stitch-up in British dialect). The first testimony will not be heard until mid-September when panel members, as yet unnamed, get back from their holidays.

Graham Peebles adds

Grenfell Tower forms part of the Lancaster Road West Estate in Notting Hill Gate. An area that, like many other parts of the capital, has been subjected to a gentrification assault accompanied by systematic social cleansing that goes back decades and has intensified over the last 10 –15 years. In addition, the Grenfell affair demonstrates that the United States is not alone in its tolerance for actions that should be a national disgrace but are slighted by a political class incapable of feeling shame. The callous, off-hand treatment given the Grenfell victims is reminiscent of how colonial administrators dealt with expendable natives. If a proper criminal process were undertaken, a reasonable verdict would be Involuntary Manslaughter.

But that is exactly it. The colonial template is one etched in acid in the collective imagination of the West. At least the English speaking West. Expendable natives…which is what Jim Mattis sees everywhere that he dumps depleted Unranium and Willy Pete. It is what Madelaine Albright saw in Iraq or Hillary Clinton in Libya or Barack Obama in Sudan, Yemen, and…well… four or five other countries. It is what most U.S. police departments see in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty. As in those old Tarzan films, when the sound of drums is heard, the pith helmeted white man notes…”the natives are restless tonight”. When one discusses Syria, the most acute topic this week, remember that for Mad Dog and Boss Trump, or for the loopy John Bolton, these are just natives in need of pacification. Giving money to ISIS or Daesh, or whoever, as a cynical expression of colonial real politik, is nothing out of the ordinary. It is what the UK and US have done for a long while. It’s Ramar of Jungle handing out beads to the *natives*.

Domestically, take the example of Flint, Michigan. At the drinking water. When the unelected state appointed emergency manager switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River to supply water to the residents of Flint, the result was a spike in all diseases of insanitation. Everyone knew this was going to happen. The General Motors plant had stopped using Flint River water because it was corrosive to the auto parts they were manufacturing. But poor black kids, who cares. The U.S. has a long history of such stuff, from Love Canal, New York, to the chemical dump in the Elk River in West Virginia. You will notice a theme here. It is class. You don’t find ash spills like what happened near the Emery River in Tennessee occurring in Mill Valley or Scarsdale or Bel Air. Inflicting suffering on the poor is perfectly acceptable to the ruling class. To them, privilege is a sign of superiority. And the less deserving are only there to serve.

The problem with the current wave of propaganda from western sources is that very little, if any, evidence is given. The term ‘very likely’ is much in vogue, probably because it leaves such a huge ‘walk it back’ escape route. Except there is less and less effort to even bother. In one sense the solidification of class power came out of neoliberal policies in the 1970s. The top 1% (really, the top half of one percent) increased their wealth dramatically, with the same occurring in the UK. Clinton pushed these principles even further and then Bush and Blair further still. We are now living the dream of the Washington Consensus economists. And it worth noting the founding statement of Hayak’s Mt. Pelerin Society, in 1947. For Hayak was the godfather of neoliberalism and Milton Freidman his heir.

The central values of civilization are in danger. Over large stretches of the earth’s surface the essential conditions of human dignity and freedom have already disappeared.

There is that word again. Of course, this was really only justification for the 1% to expand the reach of Western capital. To exploit labor and extract resources. And when recalcitrant countries did not submit quickly enough, the CIA was always available (ask Iran, or Chile, or Angola. The latter more of a symbolic lesson for those uppity nations even thinking about not following orders. It also marked open U.S. cooperation with apartheid South Africa. And in opposition to the troops Castro sent to assist the MPLA opposition to the ruthless US supported Jonas Savimbi). This restoration of ruling class power, though, was and is always looking over its shoulder. For the reality is that such profound inequality means life becomes unsustainable, even for the top 0.1% is repressed. And such repression takes effort. And that effort is giving birth to the madness one sees today. From Grenfell Tower to Flint Michigan, to Gaza or Libya or Syria — the principles driving the violence are the same. And it matters not if the urbane and articulate Obama is President, or if the troglodyte Trump, if it is Blair or May, for they are only reciting from a small financial Catechism of financial laws, and these laws are breaking down in the face of environmental degradation and an inequality so extreme that its almost impervious to calculation. They are only the voice of their class.

This idea of civilized man has come to be an almost code-word for class hierarchy. The violence against Palestinians is simply inseparable from the violence that killed Stephon Clark. The violence that makes children sick in Michigan is the same one that causes oil spills or disasters such as the Lac-Mégantic train crash near Quebec, Canada. And, it is the same bigoted smug confidence of bourgeoise identity political thinking. The one that demands Islam rid itself of veils, or that ridicules ANY thinking or practice divergent from Western norms. You cannot expect the system to produce change if the system is based on punishing change. The status quo must be protected. For the ownership class world poverty is mostly the fault of the poor.

The admission that neoliberalism has failed in terms of its announced goals has forced its proponents to a tactical retreat—defending the broad thrust of the neoliberal policy agenda under cover of “reform.” The result is an augmented Washington Consensus that blames client states and not international institutions or transnational capital for the failures of neoliberalism. It is the poor who are expected to make still further adjustments along neoliberal lines. From this point of view, what comes after neoliberalism must be more neoliberalism.

— William K. Tabb, “After Neoliberalism“, Monthly Review, June 1, 2003.

This idea of civilizational norms is connected to a deeply rooted assumption about the virtue of Democracy. Israel is described as Democratic but Cuba is not, for example. The reality, of course, is that the CIA and US ruling class spend most of their energy in deterring democracy (to quote Chomsky).

Any real discussion of democracy needs to be extended beyond the undemocratic nature of the global economic institutions to a larger discussion of democracy, one that goes beyond whether votes are counted fairly, opposition candidates allowed to participate on an equal basis, and the voices of ordinary people heard by their elected leaders. Democracy needs finally to be discussed in relation to class rule in capitalist societies.

— William T. Kabb, “After Neoliberalism“, Monthly Review, June 1, 2003.

As Samir Amin pointed out, the “international community” (the G7 plus that bastion of democracy, Saudi Arabia) is utterly unconcerned with the opinions of 85% of the world’s population. So, both on a political/economic level, and on a cultural level, the Imperialist U.S. sees it as an innate right to decide the policies of the global south. It is anti democratic. The ruling class sees the right to enforce inequality as something of a Natural law. The anti Russian propaganda was born when Putin refused to sign off on the Nazi putsch in Ukraine. The US/Japan/NATO alliance is one that demands both economic submission and increasingly a cultural submission as well. And any rejection of this means a military forced submission. Democracy has come to be a shorthand for submission to neo-liberal economic policy dictated by Washington. Freedom is what happens after *we* destroy your country.

That Mattis or May or various other servants of Empire can talk of civilzational norms with a straight face is actually pretty remarkable. The list of crimes is so extensive that one barely knows where to begin. We could ask about Gary Webb and cocaine and the CIA. Or about the School of the Americas, or My Lai or the siege at Waco. Or….but I feel this stuff really should be well known by now. I am more concerned in a sense with the small cultural appropriations and the gestures of an Orientalist sensibility that I see almost daily in western media. And the growing anti-semitism which one finds even on the left. And the seemingly intractable racism of white America. I just stop having the ability to keep track of it all.

How can the white bourgeoisie demand adherence to their values with such tenacity? Do they really see themselves as somehow representative of some ideal? Tolerance means only adherence to their worldview. To their values. It is this nattering about ecological issues while never questioning the US military machine. But these refrains seem to stick in the collective consciousness of the west…”gas your own people” is one. As if gassing someone else were less objectionable. It is a media universe of entrenched meaningless slogans. It always reminds me of the outcry about steroid abuse. Maybe ask why big Pharma manufacture so many steroids. The medical uses for which are very limited. But no, it is easier to punish this or that athlete who in their desperation is looking for an edge, a way to reach that economic pinnacle so few reach. But question Eli Lilly? Never.

The ruling class has always made money, always been ruthless, but again, the 1970s marked the solidification of systematic plunder, a cohesive and seamless river of money upwards. And enforced by the CIA. One should not forget that the CIA was founded by rich white ruling class scions of banking and finance. Allan Dullus, straight out of Wall Street, William Simon, Richard Mellon Scaife, Frank Shakespeare, and Bill Donovan. I mean the CIA calls itself “the Company”…bit of a tip off, that. If one struggles to grasp foreign policy decisions, always look at US business interests in the region. Remember these are ruthless people (MK ULTRA, Operation Mockingbird, etc). And the media was always part of this. The Graham family of Washington Post fame were directly linked to the CIA. William Paley, Henry Luce, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and hundreds other are all intimate with the CIA. And it is no different now. It was the Clinton cartel that spent inordinate energy and time infiltrating Hollywood. The result is House of Cards, Homeland, Designated Survivor, and all the countless rest. Uniformity of message. Uniformity of values.

I do wonder at times the role of Evangelical Christianity as it runs smack into the Catholic stake-outs in the corridors of power. Perhaps they cooperate, I don’t know. Religion is second to money, anyway. And then there is the role of Israel, that anti democratic neo colonial apartheid state in the Middle East. The ascension of the settler fanatic mirrors the ascension of Dominionists in the current US government. Fanatical zealots. Intolerant and profoundly ignorant of most things outside of their narrow set of concerns. And again, anti democratic. Israel serves the U.S. ruling class, not the other way round. There is no global Jewish plot as I keep reading in social media. The feeding of this bit of classic antisemitism is probably sourced by Israel itself. Nothing serves their PR better than spikes in antisemitism. But Israel is, for sure, more powerful than ever before. More influential.

There is, best case scenario, a new Cold War in place. Worst case scenario, well, doesn’t matter. The real danger is the generalized ignorance now on display. Ruthless and sadistic one can predict, but irrational zealotry and stupidity…that is harder to deal with. And this is for certain the Age of Stupid. As for civilization, I’m coming to think we might well do fine without it.

The Slippery Slope to a Constitution-Free America

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

— Benjamin Franklin

The ease with which Americans are prepared to welcome boots on the ground, regional lockdowns, routine invasions of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses is beyond unnerving.

I am referring at this particular moment in time to President Trump’s decision to deploy military forces to the border in a supposed bid to protect the country from invading bands of illegal immigrants.

This latest attempt to bamboozle the citizenry into relinquishing even more of their rights is commonly referred to as letting the wolves guard the hen house.

Never mind that using the U.S. military as a police force constitutes a direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Never mind that America’s police have already been transformed into a standing army. Never mind that the borders have always been porous—a fact that the government and its corporate partners profit from greatly when convenient. Never mind that Trump’s infatuation with heavy-handed military and police power could pave the way for far greater threats to our liberties than a few underfed, unemployed migrants entering the country.

We are long past the stage where the government—at any level—abides by restrictions on its powers.

What we are dealing with is a run-away government hyped up on its own power, whose policies are dictated more by paranoia than need.

Watching the state of our nation unravel, I can’t help but think of Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s remarks during the Nuremberg trials. As Goering noted:

It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.

It works the same in every country.

The same propaganda and police state tactics that worked for Adolf Hitler 80 years ago continue to be employed with great success in a post-9/11 America.

We keep returning to the same sticking point, forced to make the same choice over and over again: essential liberty or temporary safety.

Time and again, we keep sacrificing our liberties for phantom promises of safety.

Whatever the threat to so-called security—whether it’s rumored weapons of mass destruction, school shootings, or alleged acts of terrorism—it doesn’t take much for the American people to march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, even if it means submitting to martial law, having their homes searched, and being stripped of one’s constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.

Moreover, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

The lesson is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.

This is fast becoming a government that has no respect for the freedom or lives of its citizenry.

Yet there are warning signs we cannot afford to ignore.

First off, there is no such thing as a “border” in the eyes of these military patrols. The entire United States of America has become a constitution-free zone.

According to journalist Todd Miller, the “once thin borderline of the American past” is “an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States—along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border and both coasts… This ‘border’ region now covers places where two-thirds of the US population (197.4 million people) live… The ‘border’ has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.”

As part of its so-called efforts to keep the nation safe from a host of threats, the U.S. government has declared that ever-expanding border region a Constitution-free zone.

Miller explains:

In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within twenty-five miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant.

To recap: 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within this 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

That’s a lot of ground to declare off limits to the Constitution.

The result, as Miller notes, “is a permanent, low-intensity state of exception that makes the expanding borderlands a ripe place to experiment with   tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

Be warned: government agents continue to roam further afield of the so-called border as part of their so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking. Consequently, greater numbers of Americans are being subject to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property.

Second, this de facto standing army that has been imposed on the American people is in clear violation of the spirit—if not the letter of the law—of the Posse Comitatus Act, which restricts the government’s ability to use the U.S. military as a police force.

America’s police forces—which look like, dress like, and act like the military—have undeniably become a “standing” or permanent army, one composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband, which is exactly what the Founders feared. With the police increasingly posing as pseudo-military forces—complete with weapons, uniforms, assault vehicles, etc.—a good case could be made for the fact that SWAT team raids, which break down the barrier between public and private property, have done away with this critical safeguard.

Unfortunately, the increasing militarization of the police, the use of sophisticated weaponry against Americans and the government’s increasing tendency to employ military personnel domestically have all but eviscerated historic prohibitions such as the Posse Comitatus Act.

Indeed, there are a growing number of exceptions to which Posse Comitatus does not apply. These exceptions serve to further acclimate the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.

This begs the question: if the borders constitute a Constitution-free zone, who will police those policing our borders and hold them accountable for misconduct and wrongdoing?

We’ve seen what happens to domestic police charged with wrongdoing: they get little more than a slap on the wrist. Just recently, in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court shielded a police officer who shot a woman four times in her driveway as she stood talking to a friend while holding a kitchen knife. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged in her dissent in Kisela v. Hughes, “It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”

Third, there’s the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security made up of more than 60,000 Customs and Border Protection employees, and supplemented by the National Guard and the U.S. military.

A national police force imbued with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies, the DHS—aptly described as a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast”—has been ruthlessly efficient when it comes to establishing what the Founders feared most: a standing army on American soil.

The third largest federal agency behind the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the DHS—with its 240,000 full-time workers, $40 billion budget and sub-agencies that include the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—extends its tentacles into every aspect of American life.

In fact, just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military: militarizing police, incentivizing SWAT teams, spying on protesters, stockpiling ammunition, distributing license plate readers to police agencies, contracting to build detention camps, tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices, carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities, using the TSA to carry out soft target checkpoints, directing government workers to spy on Americans, conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers, utilizing drones and other spybots, funding city-wide surveillance cameras, and carrying out Constitution-free border control searches.

Finally, there’s this whole question of martial law.

Technically, a good case can be made that the Constitution-free border regions within the United States are already under martial law carried out by a standing army comprised of militarized police and the U.S. military.

Then again, for all intents and perhaps, the American police state is already governed by martial law, is it not? Battlefield tactics. Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Intimidation tactics. Brute force. Laws conveniently discarded when it suits the government’s purpose.

This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force, only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it. This is martial law packaged as law and order and sold to the public as necessary for keeping the peace.

It doesn’t matter whether the so-called threats to national security posed by terrorists, extremists or immigrant armies ever became a reality. Once the government acquires—and uses—additional powers, it does not voluntarily relinquish them.

The damage has been done.

For those who can read the writing on the wall, it’s all starting to make sense: the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies, the massive ammunition purchases by various federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.

Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA’s provision allowing the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework.

Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and it becomes clear that “we the people” are the real enemies of the state.

We’re the ones in the government’s crosshairs.

That wall being built at the border won’t be just for keeping illegal immigrants out—it’s to keep us trapped within the punishing confines of the American police state.

Our freedoms—willingly relinquished in response to endless scare tactics—have been breached, undermined, and eroded time and time again. We’re being conditioned to this life in a police state.

As for this latest maneuver, it’s just another means of poking a hole in the already-tattered fabric of the Constitution.

In other words, it’s a test to see how hard we will fight to hold on to what remains of our freedoms.

If this is a test, we’re failing abysmally.

Face it: we are sliding fast down a slippery slope to a Constitution-free America.

We’ve been heading in this direction for some time now, but this downward trajectory has picked up speed since Donald Trump became president.

This state of near-lockdown has been helped along by government policies and court rulings that have made it easier for the police to shoot unarmed citizens, for law enforcement agencies to seize cash and other valuable private property under the guise of asset forfeiture, for military weapons and tactics to be deployed on American soil, for government agencies to carry out round-the-clock surveillance, for profit-driven private prisons to lock up greater numbers of Americans, for homes to be raided and searched under the pretext of national security, for American citizens to be labeled terrorists and stripped of their rights merely on the say-so of a government bureaucrat, and for pre-crime tactics to be adopted nationwide that strip Americans of the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty and creates a suspect society in which we are all guilty until proven otherwise.

All of these assaults on the constitutional framework of the nation have been sold to the public as necessary for national security.

Time and again, the public has fallen for the ploy hook, line and sinker.

We’re being reeled in, folks, and you know what happens when we get to the end of that line? We’ll be cleaned, gutted and strung up.

Incredibly, no matter how many times Americans are lied to, cheated, swindled, robbed, manipulated, and double-crossed, they still keep falling for the government’s tired, thinly disguised ploys to amass more power at the expense of the citizenry.

Remember when George W. Bush claimed the country was being invaded by terrorists post-9/11 and insisted the only way to keep America safe was to give the government and its gun-toting agents greater powers to spy, search, detain and arrest?

The terrorist invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired police powers made possible by the USA Patriot Act.

Remember when Barack Obama claimed the country was being invaded by domestic terrorists and insisted the only way to keep America safe was to give the military the power to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, label them extremists, and detain them indefinitely without trial?

The invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired detention powers made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Now you have Donald Trump claiming the country is being invaded by immigrants and insisting that the only way to keep America safe is to empower the military to “assist” with border control.

Mind you, Trump is not the first president to deploy military forces to the border.

Nevertheless, you can rest assured that this latest call for boots on the ground (whether those boots belong to the National Guard or the armed forces is mere semantics) to police the American border is yet another Trojan Horse that will inflict all manner of nasty police state surprises on an unsuspecting populace.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution, cannot be overstated, nor can its danger be ignored.

America’s Descent Into Despotism: Finding Our Source of Power Within

The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.

An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rd national security advisor. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.

In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.

In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.

Supremacy of reason

The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.

America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.

This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).

The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.

The sovereign power of We the People

Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.

This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.

Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.

WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.

WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information. This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.

The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.

It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.

In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.

One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.

Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellers renewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.

Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time. When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.

It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort, kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringing information back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.

With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.

Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.

Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.

Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”

This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up ownership and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.

What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.

Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world without central coordination.

Claiming our revolutionary spirit

Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”

The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.

From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.

Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.

Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.