Category Archives: General

Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”

Freedom begins between the ears.

— Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey

“What do old men who don’t believe in Heaven think about?” queried Edward Abbey rhetorically in his masterpiece Desert Solitaire. “… they think about their blood pressure, their bladders, their aortas, their lower intestines, ice on the doorstep, too much sun at noon.” In other words, they think about postponing dying, though many may never have gotten around to actually living.

To die well, one must live fully, Abbey thought, and dedicated himself to the task.

Anarchist, wilderness defender, story-teller, truth-lover, industrial saboteur, sex fiend, river runner, poker lover, beer guzzler, cantankerous social critic, part-time fanatic opponent of unrestrained growth, full-time desert rat, Edward Abbey went at life full throttle, forsaking a long, half-lived, half-life for a shorter span of years indulging his hearty appetite for bourbon, bacon, cigars, and countless nights out under the stars. (Abbey died at 62, before his own father did.)

Faced with terminal illness in late middle age, he never bargained with God for more time or experienced any of the alleged “stages” of accepting death that psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says we all inevitably pass through. The reason? For Abbey it was not death or dying that was tragic, but rather to have “existed without fully participating in life – that is the deepest personal tragedy.” He was philosophical, not horrified, by the inevitability of his own death, which he accepted decades ahead of time while communing with the desert:  “If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture—that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.”

You owe the earth a body, he believed.

A shy man infuriated by the devastating effect of industrial “progress,” Abbey’s rage was an expression of love for all that it destroyed: wilderness, freedom, free-flowing rivers, the pre-Stone-Age desert that his spirit would not leave even in death. And perhaps it was this passionate bond with the earth that gave Abbey his extraordinary poise, which never abandoned him, even in tragic moments. When he collapsed at a friend’s house in 1982 doctors gave him only a few months to live.  Quipped Abbey, then fifty-five: “At least I don’t have to floss anymore.”

In a 1957 journal entry Abbey wrote that we don’t come into the world so much as grow out of it: “Man is not an alien in this world, not at all. He is as much a child of it as the lion and the ant.” But though we emerge from nature, its importance, especially in the desert, is that it bears no reflection of us: “In the desert, a man comes directly upon a world that is not a projection of human consciousness, a world that has not been interpreted by art or science or myth, that bears no trace of humanity on its surface, that has no apparent connection to the indoor human world.” Just this is its essential value. “In the desert one comes in direct confrontation with the bones of existence, the bare incomprehensible absolute is-ness of being. Like a temporary rebirth of childhood, when all was new and wonderful.” The city, for all its treasures, cannot reveal this.

Born in 1927, Abbey’s adult years were lived under the shadow of nuclear annihilation, among other ominous signs of massive destruction, but while others fretted over looming social disaster, Abbey actually looked forward to the end of human misrule, taking solace in the fact that his beloved Grand Canyon had already outlasted thirty failed civilizations.

“Be of good cheer,” he wrote in Down the River (1982), “the military-industrial state will soon collapse.” Although our “military industrial” state is now more of a military financial state, Abbey felt its approaching demise represented “good news,” the actual title of a novel he wrote on the topic, which critics took to be an ironic comment, whereas Abbey intended it as nothing more than the literal truth. Given that human population had vastly overshot its land base, progress required catastrophe, he thought, and he hoped that in the ruins of former cities “a small society of friends in a community of mutual aid and shared ownership of land” might manage to “rebuild the simple farming and pastoral economy that had been destroyed by the triumph of the city.” A Jeffersonian anarchist vision for the 21st century.

Though broadly cultured and obviously possessed of a lively intellect, prolonged visits to the city always produced in Abbey a longing for prompt return to “light on rock, the sun on my bones, the smell of a sweating horse, the bright thirsty air of the high plateaus.” Only a small scale civilization could be compatible with Abbey’s yearning for vast unspoiled wilderness, and then only if it recognized the primacy of nature. “A world without wilderness is a cage,” said environmentalist David Brower, and Abbey fervently concurred.

He flatly rejected the view that his deep urge to preserve what remained of humanity’s ancestral home was a marginal or superfluous concern. Wilderness, he wrote, “is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” Only in wilderness could one find an abundance of life’s essentials: clean air, pristine sunlight, pure water, unbounded space and time, grass and woods to play and get lost in, solitude and silence, “alien” life and the risk of death. “A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original,” warned Abbey, “is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” And the danger part was not to be omitted. Abbey agreed with his friend Doug Peacock that one was not truly in the wilderness unless one was at risk of being eaten.

An original thinker unafraid of honest examination of any issue, Abbey inevitably ran afoul of multicultural dogmas. He felt that liberal taboos against criticism of official minority groups was a form of censorship, and he was regularly accused of sexism, racism, “eco-fascism” and xenophobia for violating those taboos. Abbey rejected these rejections of his work. In response to a suggestion that he remove the “Archie Bunkerisms” from his then forthcoming novel The Fool’s Progress, he ranted:  “I’m not going to toady to chickenshit liberalism anymore; fuck it. I’ve already been called fascist, racist, elitist, as well as communist, terrorist, misanthrope, bleeding-heart etc. so often it doesn’t bother me anymore. To hell with all those petty, taboo-ridden dogmatic minds.”

The critics “hate my books,” he went on, because “almost all reviewers, these days, are members of and adherents to some anxious particular sect or faction . . . . As such, any member of any one of those majority minorities is going to find for certain a few remarks in any of my books that will offend/enrage’s/he’ to the marrow.” Thirty years after Abbey’s death Donald Trump is the arsonist in charge of our ideological fire department, eagerly flinging gasoline in the faces of identity politics dogmatists, setting off an ever-widening sectarian conflagration. Maybe we should have paid more attention to Abbey’s criticisms when he first made them.

Although it is difficult to see Abbey as outright hating anyone (except the rich, whom he loathed), it’s easy to detect double standards in his work and life. While enjoying the benefits of monogamous marriage, he cheated on four out of five wives, using his celebrity to help bed attractive women. Though he was convinced that (1) “girls should be encouraged from infancy on to see the world as a playground of potentiality,” and (2) women’s under-representation in most fields was regrettable, and (3) “no man who is really a man will feel his manhood demeaned or threatened by the act of washing dishes,” he nevertheless disapproved of novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s having left young children at home in order to attend a 1989 writing conference that Abbey also attended (Kingsolver says Abbey was “respectful to the point of deference” in his treatment of her, however).

Abbey’s justification for the double standard was uncharacteristically unoriginal. Women are morally superior to men, caring for others, while men crave sexual variety out of selfish pleasure. (“I’ve never met a nymphomaniac I didn’t like,” commented the hero of Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress). The vast majority of men are polygamous, bogged down and frustrated with monogamy, which they submit to only out of sloth. So why did Abbey, hardly a slothful type, get married five times? His fifth and final wife (Clarke) said that he was seriously conflicted: “There was always the real complex issue of wanting to be married and have a family and wanting to be totally on his own and doing what he wanted.” One illustration of just how serious the conflict was for Abbey is provided by his fourth wife, Renee, who remembers a time she sent him to the store for groceries and had to wait two days for his return.

On feminism, Abbey had a very mixed response. Three years before Roe v. Wade his unpublished “Some Second Thoughts on Women’s Lib” contained the opinion that “a woman’s womb is not the property of the State . . . She must be mistress of all that’s enclosed within her skin.” On the other hand, he saw feminism as androgyny-promoting and contemptuous of working class men. And though he supported the Equal Rights Amendment and reviewed, counseled, and befriended several women writers, his negative portrayal of feminism in The Fool’s Progress offended his father (a lifelong socialist who appreciated the social gains of the Bolshevik Revolution) to the point that he stopped reading the book, and also his wife Claire, who hated the depiction, saying that Abbey never treated her in the sexist manner he sympathetically portrayed in his books. At a book event in 1987 a number of women who apparently shared this dislike walked out of an Abbey reading of The Fool’s Progress.

On the issue of race, Abbey very clearly did not sympathize with the multiplication of victim minorities, which he claimed were “advance men for planetary majorities.” However, it should be kept in mind that Abbey’s misanthropic convictions (in one book he commented that what the world needed to solve the overpopulation problem was a vast, painless plague) made him portray nearly all groups in a negative light, white people included. For example, in a 1956 journal entry he wrote: “On the Negro question: I don’t like ’em. Don’t like Negroes,” which seems to be an openly bigoted statement. But the next sentence is: “As far as I can see, they’re just as stupid and depraved as whites.” Similarly, in one breath Abbey depicted (American) Indians as alcoholic welfare bums, while in the next he had the hero of one of his novels say, “Indians are just as stupid and greedy and cowardly and dull as us white folks” (The Monkey Wrench Gang).

Asians he portrayed as products of authoritarian “anthill societies” mindlessly producing consumer junk for clueless Americans (“Jap crap,” the hero of The Fool’s Progress called it). He rejected the idea that (densely overcrowded) Eastern cultures had anything important to teach the West, and roundly criticized those who thought differently. “I find it pathetic as well as ironic to see the enthusiasm with which hairy little gurus from the sickliest nation on earth are welcomed by the technological idiots of all-electric California,” he said in Abbey’s Road.

However, when Washington unleashed a nearly genocidal assault on tiny Vietnam, Abbey spoke out harshly against the deeply racist slaughter. He considered the Vietnam war the most shameful chapter in U.S. history apart from slavery, and in a 1968 appearance to promote Desert Solitaire, he offended many in his audience by denouncing the war instead. Four years later in a letter to the Arizona Daily Star, he compared it to the worst atrocities of totalitarian states: “Nothing in American history, not even the wars against the Indians, can equal the shame and brutality and cowardice of this war. It makes an obscenity of our Christmas holidays and sinks our own Government and all who passively consent to its atrocities down to the moral level of Stalinist Russia and Hitler’s Germany.”

Abbey called himself a racist in Confessions of a Barbarian, though he defined the term as an aversion to being dominated by a race to which one did not belong, which definition would render nearly all of humanity “racist”:  “Am I a racist? I guess I am. I certainly do not wish to live in a society dominated by blacks, or Mexicans, or Orientals. Look at Africa, at Mexico, at Asia.” Abbey was aware of the contributions of Western colonialism and imperialism to the widespread misery found in those regions, but argued it was but “Western guilt neurosis” to assign primacy to them in accounting for Third World conditions in the late twentieth century.

He urged a complete halt to immigration coming north from Mexico, contending that a porous border was allowing in “millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally, morally, generically impoverished people.” Such people brought with them an “alien mode of life which . . . is not appealing to the majority of Americans . . . Because we prefer democratic government . . . hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful  – yes, beautiful! – society. The alternative, in the squalor, cruelty, and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see.”

Abbey argued that a solution to mass immigration from the south had to be sought in Mexico, not the United States: “Mexico needs not more loans – money that will end up in the Swiss bank accounts of los ricos – but a revolution.” According to his best friend John Du Puy, Abbey considered the Mexican government an appalling betrayal of the Zapatista revolution and he vehemently opposed allowing them to “dump people on us” that they “couldn’t deal with.” In One Life At A Time, Please, he called for the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, but also advocated handing out rifles to those turned back there, so they could return home and settle accounts with their exploiters. Though more rhetoric than serious policy proposal, the implied sympathy for social revolution is hardly racist (racists prefer eugenic solutions). Curiously, Abbey “didn’t think much” of the 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, which implemented a wide range of popular programs for the poor that made it unnecessary for Nicaraguans to migrate to the United States in large numbers, as campesinos from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador did (and still do), much to Abbey’s dislike. Perhaps Abbey was the kind of anarchist who favors every revolution except the (imperfect) ones that succeed.

In any event, Abbey had curious associations for a “racist.” Early in his career he spoke at a Navajo rally, and in 1959 he edited the bilingual newspaper El Crepusculo de la Libertad (Twilight of Liberty), which promoted Indian rights. Years later he favorably reviewed Vine Deloria’s Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, one of several favorable articles he wrote on Indian affairs. He lamented that Deloria’s views were not being taught in schools, and noted that “the many parallels between the war in Vietnam and the war against the American Indian has not escaped the American Indian.”

Though, as noted, he opposed mass immigration from Mexico, he bore no grudge against Hispanics per se, and felt that any immigrant who had managed to live in the U.S. five years or more should be allowed to stay. For many years he wore a cap with the inscription “Viva La Causa,” and his best friend John De Puy reports he was sympathetic to Chicano activists in Taos and throughout northern New Mexico. De Puy says Abbey’s opposition to immigration, both legal and illegal, was not because of contempt for other cultures, but because of the problems inherent in large scale immigration.

Responding to Alfredo Gutierrez in the New York Times in August, 1983, Abbey conceded he preferred his own culture to others:  “I will confess to cultural bias. Though an aficionado of tacos, Herradura tequila, and ranchero music (in moderate doses), I have no wish to emigrate to Mexico. Nor does Alfredo Gutierrez . . . At some point soon our Anglo-liberal-guilt neurosis must yield to common sense and enlightened self-interest.”  In a 1987 letter to Earth First! Journal, Abbey drew a distinction between chauvinism and racism: “I am guilty of cultural chauvinism – I much prefer life in the USA to that in any Latin American country; and so do most Latin Americans – but chauvinism is not racism. Racism is the belief that all members of one race are innately superior to all members of some other race. I do not subscribe to any such belief.” In a 1988 journal entry he wrote that the only “superior” races would be those who have done the least harm to the earth; he suggested the Bushmen of Africa, the Australian aborigines, and perhaps the Arizona Hopi.

If this is white supremacy, it’s a rather novel strain.

Snap-Shots along the Road of Life

You road I travel and look around!  I believe you are not all that is here!  I believe that something unseen is also here.

— Walt Whitman, Poem of the Road

Tragic

Jimmy C., age 9, died on the evening of December 28, 19_ _ from a gunshot bullet to the heart.  He was shot by his seven-year-old brother Dennis, while, as The New York Times reported, “the two were playing with a rifle in a neighbor’s apartment in the northeast Bronx.”  The boys were visiting with their mother and found the rifle under a bed.  It was loaded and accidently fired, hitting Jimmy in the chest.

Another boy, age ten, was sitting on a closed toilet seat two miles away.  The bathroom was warm and steamy and the boy was talking to his father, for whom he was named. His father was shaving.  An only son with seven sisters, the boy adored his father, and, enclosed in this intimate setting, he felt embraced by his father’s love and protection.  For a young boy to watch his father shave and to converse with him alone about sports was pure heaven.

His father switched on a small transistor radio so they could hear basketball scores.  A report came over the radio that a young boy had been accidently shot and killed by his brother in the Bronx.  Then the names came. They were his brother’s sons. Heaven turned to hell.  His father, half-shaved, toweled his face and ran from the room.  The boy sat there stunned.  When he emerged from the bathroom, his father had already left to comfort and assist his brother, the father of the dead boy.

The ten year old could remember nothing of what followed.  It all went blank and was never discussed, as if it never happened.  He was haunted by this void.

Bizarre

A professor was sitting with his secret lover in a college cafeteria.  It was winter and their table was deep into the room by tall windows.  There was snow on the ground.  They were talking about a mutual friend named John because he had been looking at them oddly in recent days and they suspected he might have realized that they were lovers.  Suddenly, John entered the dining hall at the far door.  He saw them and started walking toward their table.  As he approached, the professor said, “Well, look who’s here, if it isn’t the devil himself.  We were just talking about you, John.”

The bespectacled John laughed, said hello to the woman, and sat down next to the professor.  He was so close that when the professor turned to talk to him, he was looking into his right eye, as can happen at a close distance.

Suddenly, what sounded like a gunshot rang out and everyone all around turned toward the tall windows.  The professor quickly turned back to John and said, “I’m sorry, John, I didn’t mean to break your glasses.” The right lens in John’s glasses was shattered.  There was no gunshot, only the power of a look.  The three were stunned.  In the days that followed, John went about seeking answers from physicists and opticians.  None could explain it.

Years later, the woman remembered the incident differently, perhaps because she was the odd one out, but the two men were certain that the professor had shattered John’s glasses. Both are still astounded.

John said he was at least glad that the look didn’t kill him.

Spectral

A few years later, a man was wandering around the diamond district in New York City.  It was a Sunday morning and the streets were deserted.  He had come to buy some books at the Gotham Book Mart on West 47th St., whose slogan was “Wise Men Fish Here.”  Many a famous author had frequented the shop over the years – Eugene O’Neill, J. D Salinger, Dylan Thomas, et al.  It was a cultural treasure whose contents are now archived at the University of Pennsylvania.  The man had arrived too early and the store hadn’t opened, so he aimlessly wandered up and down the empty street, finally stopping to gaze into the window of a large, glass-enclosed jewelry store on the corner.  He walked into the entrance way and looked through the window when he spied a ghost-like figure staring at him through the glass windows from the street.  He tried to avoid looking at this spectral figure, but when he looked up the face was stock-still and staring at him through pale spectacles.  His hair was white and his face its equal.  It gave him a creepy feeling and so he walked out toward the street to confront this pale phantom.  When he got to the street, the strange man met him and, raising a tiny camera, shot him.

The victim of this photographic assault said, “Did I give you permission to take my picture?”

The ghost replied, “Well, you have an interesting face, and I shoot a lot of people.”

“Well, you also have an interesting face, but I didn’t give you permission.  What do you do, go around hunting for interesting people to shoot?”

Andy Warhol shrugged, turned, and faded wraithlike down the vacant street.

The man never saw the photo.  Perhaps it remained a negative.

So much of the past recedes as afterimages, while the road into the future opens out before us shrouded in mystery. 

The old question stills applies. Quo vadis?

Threading the Eye of the Needle: A Few Greenies Ain’t Gonna Cut Climate Change

Needle in a haystack. Little Dutch Boy putting fingers in leaking dike.

The beach clean-up along the Central Oregon Coast, near Devils Punch Bowl, down south to Beverly Beach, is an exercise in patience, Sisyphus, maybe, as many beach and marine life lovers are volunteering with tweezers in hand harvesting the global micro-plastic harvest.

Might as well have a fork to bring in all the world’s wheat crops.

Piece by piece. Or, scoops of sand, with organic matter like shells pieces and driftwood and these microplastic and plastic nurdles plopped on a gurney-sized fine mesh, is akin to — what? Using one household colander to strain the daily pasta and noodle intake in Oregon?

Scott Rosin is tall, grizzled, and head of Surfriders Central Oregon Coast. He’s chair of the Newport Chapter. Another chapter is called Siuslaw Surfriders, taken from the Newport-Yachats area where we live in, specifically the Siuslaw National Forest, also named after the river that runs through it to the Pacific.

Ahh, Rosin – former arborist, former surfer (his shoulder was blasted out in forestry work – he uses a paddle board to ride five-foot waves or less), poet and local activist – has been heading up this plastic clean-up on six consecutive Sundays, noon to 4 pm, on an incredible beach made to order for picnickers and surfers, even in March.

Helping hands included a few women, Mike Harrington, a 72-year-old member of the Siuslaw Chapter of Surfrider, and a black lab whose owner was down on her knees pulling out plastics of every color and shape.

This is what Scott told the Newport News recently about his efforts:

It would be great if we could get more locals involved. The beaches here are, or were, as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I’ve surfed and played on these beaches since 1973. I can tell you that the problem of visible plastic pollution here has grown exponentially.

Nobody knows what the full effects of plastic pollution may be. This isn’t a disaster that you can see coming, like a forest fire or a hurricane. I anticipate a long road to educating ourselves about the dangers involved.

It’s the local newspaper, and a message of doom and gloom and setting the doomsday clock to 11th hour (actually, 11:58) before the apocalyptic midnight hour hits doesn’t sit well for a local rag that sells ads for real estate, B&B’s, summer cottages, whale watching tours, crab fests, and buy-buy-eat-eat-consume-consume visitors.

Scott and I talked the real stuff tied to not just the amount of plastics in the ocean, and not just the bad-bad-bad hypotheticals of animals eating plastic and then humans eating them up, through the food chain. Anyone with a brain knows that whales and albatrosses and Homo Sapiens should be engorged with fossil fuel polymers.

We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution are natural born rights.

The local rag will not allow such real and systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.

One irony is that Scott and Surfriders and members of SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and the few volunteers from the American Cetacean Society might not realize that the Siuslaw people (nation) lived in villages along the river until 1860.

Siuslaw Nation living understanding the land, the estuaries, the ecosystems, the whales and avian world, the fish and fauna. The Siuslaw like all First Nations knew the limits of growth, the carrying capacities of their tribes, the allowable safe limit or killing animals or harvesting food.

So, these natural and long-studied indigenous people who could be here teaching in Oregon’s schools and advising all sectors of government and business, well, they no longer have a practiced language. We may romanticize that Oregon Trail story (even Woodie Guthrie has his song, Oregon Trail), but in 1860 the Siuslaw Nation was forcibly removed to an Indian reservation in Yachats. And, then, quickly those homes, farms, gardens and villages were destroyed and occupied by U.S. settler-colonists.

Now California transplants are on the beach trying in herculean effort to stop the infinite plastics tide from fouling everything they came to the Oregon Coast for in the first place.

From the evidence of locals who are blind to the plastic issue and looking out at these Surfriders and others, young and grizzled, the volunteers seem like a blast from the past. Environmentalists, who stick out like anachronous wandering souls, are the minority, as more and more business-as-usual and business-as-usual-to-the-tenth-power proponents have colonized the beach resorts, the city councils, school boards, county commissioner courts.

This Central Oregon Coast is magnificent, but even along the largest ocean covering 42 percent of the earth’s surface (62 million square miles), the Pacific (and the deepest of all oceans at that), microplastics from fish totes originating in Alaska come to the beach in small and colorful forms for a few volunteers to pick at.

Tumbling ghost fishing gear, equipment, supplies – all polymers – tumbling along the ocean currents and ocean floor, ending up floating at the surface, or just below. Colorful bits sea life take for sea nutrients.

Birds eat the plastics. Mammalian marine life eats the plastic. Fish eat it. The extra big yearly tides – the King Tides – push the plastic way up on the tide line. Now Homo Sapiens Plastica are out in small numbers trying to battle the plastic snow storm with a leaf blower.

Scott has never seen this amount of plastic in his 46 years fishing, playing and making a living in this part of the Oregon Coast.

We talked about plastic in every human being’s feces (recent scientific paper on that tidbit). We talked about how by 2050 plastic floating around the ocean and on the bottom will outweigh the total mass of all the organic-living matter in the ocean (another series of scientific papers). I talked about the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, the deepest canyon in the world — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide and maxing out at 36,070 feet deep from the surface.

In yet another scientific series of papers, researchers have ROV’s – remotely operated vehicles – filming plastic bags floating in the trench. Worse yet, the foundation of the food chain – amphipods – in each collection over many months resulted in every single crustacean-like animal containing plastic remnants in their guts.

We can read white paper after detailed scientific paper, but the bottom line is if humanity were to use even one-thousandth of our collective common sense, we’d all be ranting and raving about stopping plastic production and use of straws, wraps, single use bags, containers, noodles.

Forget the fact that plastics are oil based, and the process of polymerizing them involves a lot of electricity, toxins, off gassing and communities around the world exposed to the industrial toxins and waste products part and parcel tied to the entire harvesting, transportation (by a factor of 3 or 4) and production process.

Lucky for me, I can be a member of various touchy feely groups and do some volunteer work with them, but I am not longer hobbled by my scientific credentials or teaching certificates or so-called neutral journalistic standards. I can see through the hubris, magical thinking, delusional belief systems, the false hope and the elephants in the room as people in this society – good folks like Scott Rosin and others I met at a naturalist certification program I went through with the American Cetacean Society have their hearts in the right place, and many times their minds, but their guts are missing the fact that revolutionary change has to happen.

Not a future of greenie Jetsons, but rather a future like the Flintstones is only going to answer the call now.

I also ran into another old timer, like Mike Harrington, a member of Surfrider who ended up in Oregon in 1976, originally from Central California. He packed up the VW van and got his 20 acres near Eddyville.

He said he came here with two children and a wife, because he wanted his kids to be raised where nature and wildlife both counted and were part of their daily lives.

He made his livelihood as a farrier, and we joked about just who his customers are – well-off, bourgeoise, and those with big bucks and the largest ecological footprints.

It’s super tedious, this sieving the wet sand and separating the plastic from the organic matter. Harrington knows it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket (now it’s the drops in the ocean tub). “You have to start somewhere. I want to make this world a better world for my kids and grandkids. I guess it makes me feel better doing this.”

Amanda Zimmerman and Joanna Davis are sisters doing the bit by bit plastic treasure hunt. The sun is out, more than two dozen surfers are seeking curls, families are making sand castles, and the warmer winter Pacific shore waters are enticing some to go in up to their knees.

Joanna says she has to do something. She too is from California, and now is a 28-year-old living in Portland, wanting that Portlandia lifestyle. She has no children, wants none to bring in the world, and she tells me she’s shocked at how few shells and sand dollars she has seen seeing at Pismo Beach, the closest beach to her when she lived in Bakersfield.

The March 4 City Council meeting in Newport will discuss whether to go forward on proposing a single use plastic shopping bag ordinance. There will be many citizens there speaking on behalf of the proposed ban. Scott will be there, after having sent in written testimony.

I’ve looked at the no-to-the-ban citizens, and from the plastics lobby and grocery store lobby. Imagine, 2019, and a small city with 11,000 residents, and swelling to three times that in the summer months, can’t even wrestle with a plastic bag ban.

Even Forbes Magazine, rag of the uber rich, the uber capitalists, lists the coming age of plastic bag bans. But, again, if we can’t get Puerto Rico’s lights back on, and if we can’t even fund our PP12 schools, and if we throw money at Military Industrial Complex thieves and let them laugh to the bank, are we going to deal with climate change?

Ahh, more coming soon, on Peter Ward’s talk, Under a Green Sky (great book I reviewed).

You have Wallace Smith Broecker, the ‘grandfather’ of climate science, leaving a final warning for Earth at an ASU climate change conference via web right before he succumbed to Chronic Heart Failure. I’ll talk about him in a future blog-article.

We’ll talk about the humanity in all of this new fangled (not really) New Green Deal, which is again just another way to let Musk, Bezos, Silicon Valley, Gates, Dell and other techies play libertarian green game of thrones.

Plastics, man. And get this: Oregon’s State Parks will not let Scott and his cronies bring a solar-power pump to get ocean water to their sieving station. Imagine that, they have to haul all this water in 5 gallon buckets hundreds of feet to wash out the sand. Solar powered.

The state’s reasoning: “Well, goddamned goldminers might see this four hour operation and think, hell, I can bring in my gold mining dredges and pumps and arsenic and such. Damn fine idea.”

Are we going to really mitigate the worse and even least of the worse outfalls from climate change when we can’t even issue a special issue permit for greenies to clean plastics from the beach?

We love to believe that high-tech innovations will fix everything. To produce all of our fanciful technology, many of the raw materials are derived from exploiting other people’s land (Africa, South America, Asia), and the manufacturing comes at the expense of other people’s health and livelihood. Let’s hope eliminating this sort of environmental racism figures into the GND platform. Beyond that, thus far in the course of humanity, our technology has only further amplified all of our detrimental ecological issues. It involves over-consuming natural resources and over-producing more of what we don’t need, while leaving us with less of what we do – organisms and ecological systems.

People are saying the Green New Deal is impossible. What is impossible is saving our planetary ecosystem while preserving our current way of life. For any GND legislation to be successful, it must work to conserve more rather than produce more. Moreover, it must facilitate collective radical personal changes to our way of life that fundamentally change the underlying paradigms of our existence. Otherwise, it will be as fleeting as the original New Deal, and ultimately much more deadly.

When it comes to a Green Deal, the only sustainable policies are radical ones. And when it comes to a sustainable global environmental paradigm, unless you are talking about the natural world, less is always more.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher.

Forbes Magazine list for Oregon and Washington. See all the places for which a ban is in effect — HERE.

KENMORE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags, 5-cent fee on paper bags

LA CONNER WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT ANGELES WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mm, 5-cent tax on all bags

TACOMA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mils thick

FRIDAY HARBOR WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

SAN JUAN COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags

TUMWATER WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

THURSTON COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

OLYMPIA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

LACEY WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MERCER ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

SHORELINE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

ISSAQUAH WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MUKILTEO WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT TOWNSEND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BELLINGHAM WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

SEATTLE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

EDMONDS WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

MILWAUKIE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MANZANITA OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MCMINNVILLE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

HOOD RIVER OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

FOREST GROVE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

ASHLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags

EUGENE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

CORVALLIS OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

PORTLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

Canada a Force for Good or a Tag-along Bully Nation?

Most Canadians think of their country as a force for good in the world, but recent efforts by Justin Trudeau’s government to overthrow Venezuela’s elected government have once again revealed the ugly truth about the Great White North. We are an important partner in imperialism, willing to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, up to and including the use of military force, to benefit the perceived self-interest of our elites.

Over the past two years Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against President Nicolás Maduro. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. Recently she said, “the Maduro  regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship” while in September Ottawa asked  (with five South American nations) the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member.

In recent weeks Canadian diplomats have played an important role in uniting large swaths of the Venezuelan opposition behind a US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by proclaiming the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Juan Guaido, president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaido “facilitate  conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that “Freeland  spoke with Juan Guaido to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president.” Alongside Washington and a number of right-leaning Latin American governments, Ottawa immediately recognized Guaido after he proclaimed himself president on Wednesday. Canadian officials are lobbying European  leaders to recognize Guaido as president as well.

Ottawa has long provided various other forms of direct support to an often-violent opposition. In recent years Canada channelled millions of dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela and 18 months ago outgoing Canadian ambassador, Ben Rowswell, told the Ottawa Citizen that “we became  one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Alongside its support for the opposition, Ottawa expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat in 2017 and has imposed  three rounds  of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned  the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation  of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”

Since its August 2017 founding Canada has been one of the most active members of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed  to Venezuela’s elected government. Canada is hosting  the next meeting of the “Lima Group”. Freeland has repeatedly prodded Caribbean and Central American countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Maduro efforts.

In September, 11 of the 14 member states of the “Lima Group” backed a statement distancing the anti-Venezuelan alliance from “any type  of action or declaration that implies military intervention” after Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro stated: “As for military  intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.” Canada, Guyana and Colombia refused to criticize the head of the OAS’ musings about an invasion of Venezuela.

Alongside the head of the OAS, US president Donald Trump has publically discussed  invading Venezuela. To the best of my knowledge Ottawa has stayed mum on Trump’s threats, which violate international law.

Why? Why is Canada so eager to overthrow an elected government? Recent headlines in the Globe and Mail (“Venezuelan crisis buoys prospects for Canadian heavy crude oil producers”) and Wall Street Journal (“Bond Prices in Venezuela Jump on Prospect of Regime Change”) suggest some short term reasons. But looking at the situation from a historical perspective confirms Noam Chomsky’s claim that international affairs is run like the Mafia. The godfather cannot accept disobedience.

Thus, while the scope of the Trudeau government’s current campaign against Venezuela is noteworthy, it’s not the first time Ottawa has supported the overthrow of an elected, left leaning, government in the hemisphere. Canada passively supported military coups against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz  in 1954 and Brazilian President João Goulart  in 1964 as well as ‘parliamentary coups’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012 and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff  in 2016. Ottawa played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch  in 1965 and Chilean president  Salvador Allende in 1973. In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Canada played its most forceful role in the removal of a progressive, elected, president in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation. Thirteen months before Jean-Bertrand Aristide was, in his words, “kidnapped” by US Marines on February 29, 2004, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international  gathering to discuss overthrowing the Haitian president. JTF2 special forces secured the Port-au-Prince airport the night Aristide was ousted and 500 Canadian troops were part of the US-led invasion to consolidate the coup.

With regards to Venezuela it’s unclear just how far Ottawa is prepared to go in its bid to oust Maduro. But, it is hard to imagine that the path Canada and the US have chosen can succeed without Venezuela being plunged into significant violence.

Alcohol, Atheism, Anarchy: The Triple A Threat to the Pro-Capitalist Salvation Army

The preachers and lecturers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves. Why, a free-spoken man, of sound lungs, cannot draw a long breath without causing your rotten institutions to come toppling down by the vacuum he makes. Your church is a baby-house made of blocks, and so of the state.

…The church, the state, the school, the magazine, think they are liberal and free! It is the freedom of a prison-yard.

― Henry David Thoreau, I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau

First, I am thinking about the systems of oppression designed by bureaucracies, by the middlings who are both gatekeeper and controller. They have a “get out of jail” card for anyone showing just the right compliant behavior and level of genuflection to authority. They want their pound of flesh in the form of restitution and restorative justice. They are the 12-step people, in various iterations of that broken system, who feel that one is flawed if they drink or have mental illness or get arrested or find themselves on the streets or in piles of debt. This is the puritanical nature of America, and the bible is replaced by pseudo crap, big long classes on harm reduction and trauma informed care, when, in fact, for many social services practitioners, they are not informed at all about the various pathways to ending up in the poor house in this country.

See the source image

To truly work on the brokenness of America or England or Australia, outfits like the Salvation Army have to keep people hungry and in check to remind these godless miscreants that they are one bad move from being back on the streets or back in the poor house.

The poor house includes two or three bad jobs at a time, slipped disc, high rents, forced eviction, no public services, the wrong medicine at the wrong hospital, addiction, the wrong school, the wrong zip code, the wrong census track from which to live. The first bad cards one is dealt is right when the papa sperm hits the fallopian tube. Then, the environmental factors of mama’s ingestions, her own mental duress during gestation, and then, bam, the moment of gravity and air, the delivery systems of western quackery industrial medicine, and then the vaccinations, and on and on, until the first moment when papa and mama are at home, whatever that may be, and the interactions of papa with mama, mama with baby, baby with papa.

By the time the child hits three of four, these holders of the “get out of jail/trouble/counseling/services” card are looking down their noses hard at the little youngster. They might give them a green light for another few years, but by the time the “juvenile injustice” bones in those Josef Mengele’s and Nurse Ratched’s start creaking, these controllers turn up the judgement dial on their machines of bureaucratic bile.

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This is not to say all social services people/workers are bad, and many start off great and end up upended by their own brokenness and fears, and disillusioned by the supervisors and administrators who are folks Dante reserves for the inferno of the lawyers. Not all bad social services workers are women, for sure.

I have run into a big hulk of a guy director of the entire agency in one County in Oregon who tells his case workers that he will not provide the services of Planned Parenthood or any contraception funding for those young female charges (foster girls) because, one, he is Irish Catholic through and through and is against such terrible ungodly interventions, and, two, he feels providing contraception or even decent counseling around sexuality just encourages the foster girls to go south, or even more south, since this Catholic white guy thinks there is a lot of “bunk” to the foster youth’s continual complaints about mean, coercive, corrosive, abusive foster parents, who are paid a pretty penny for taking in one, three or even ten foster youth.

Men and women in the foster care system reminding their charges they could be out in the cold, reminding them of their bad bio parents, reminding them they could end up in jail and to just enjoy the PB&J sandwiches and two-week old milk.

Always reminding people they are failures and that the key to undoing that abject rejection by society is a set of arbitrary and many times counter methods and programs to undo the fatal flaw of being flawed. It’s as if the unsuccessful Alcoholics Anonymous motto is tattooed on half these social workers’ asses —God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment. But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work.

These are not always easy pieces for me to write, since I write them from the deep well of narrative reality, mine, in a struggling world myself struggling with the fact that all organizations, all non-profits, all for-profits, all government (county, city, state, federal) agencies are corrupt at the top and infected in the middle and ruined at the bottom with this society of broken thinkers who judge-judge-judge a book by the proverbial cover. The injustices of the systems I become a part of end up being injustices to all, including me. One written warning away from termination for me seems to be the common theme of my work life, and certainly in a world I live in, run by overpaid administrators, middling broken men and women and co-workers who are mostly women and never going to stay long at these places I work at, I have major issues just sitting by witnessing injustice.

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Too many times I am counseled by supervisors for speaking up, speaking out of turn and for being too passionate. Too many times my unfortunate clients-patients-students tell me that I am gifted, doing god’s work, or have a calling and special life pathway that has brought me to them. As I say, that Almighty Force-Power-God just isn’t there to pay my rent, shoulder my gasoline bills and put food on my table.

This is my current last past experience working with veterans and their families at the Salvation Army’s Veterans and Family Center in Beaverton (Portland, OR). For a millennial’s look at the “Army,” go here: “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Ever” !

I am also thinking about the proverbial lack of logic of the rules these bureaucrats play by, those that are with the Veterans Administration who never speak up and for which I just did a stint with as a social worker working for that religious cult bureaucracy, this one religion behemoth with the bell ringers and women in caps — the Salvation Army.

I left December 21, after witnessing so many ails of a broken religious organization utilizing the stiff paddle board of an executive director who in a nutshell treats combat soldiers, non-combat soldiers, spouses and their kids like criminals. I was fighting uphill battles with every aspect of the veterans homeless center, from the lack of clean air in each of the veteran’s room because of black mold invested window air conditioners, to the penalties thrown upon them (sometimes 7-day eviction notices) for not showing up to inane community meetings where the director goes on and on about herself, the higher power of her AA god, and then she’d attack anyone at this community for daring to make some suggestions on how the shelter and rules might best fit the population’s needs.

Bad food, wasted food, internet WiFi taken away by the dragon lady for one guy’s downloading of illegal music, veterans on edge ready to be evicted on a moment’s notice. This woman director (I emphasize woman because all the other staff are female and the majority of the residents are men) looks at all the shelter residents as former addicts and Jonesing boozers when, in fact, most do not have addictions issues.

Soldiers daily were telling me how much they hated her, how they wanted her censured and bad ways stopped, how they wanted respect, and how some felt there was no other resolution other than suicide, or offing her. Then, my cohorts, damaged social services workers all who back-stabbed the director, ending up kowtowing to her until I was the lone outlier making the complaints and formal grievance.

Read about the shooting and the context to this piece here and here in part one of this three part series.

What I am now embroiled in are residents and former clients texting me hourly, emailing me, calling me by phone with every sort of anxiety and PTSD triggered realities of their lives, steamrolled into their lives by a civilian former Betty Ford clinic supervisor with zero military experience, now running roughshod over them at a VA (taxpayer) supported outfit where there is religion beaten over the heads of former soldier.

She told me and several others that Muslims would not be coming to the shelter. She continues to make fun of transgender residents.

She told me and two residents that their simple electric Menorah could not be displayed among the thousands of insipid Christmas stuff plastered throughout the facility. The Anti-Defamation League of Seattle got involved, and basically some Major higher up defended the director’s action and told the ADL that the couple could have their electric light Menorah in their room, with the door shut and not in their window for anyone else to see.

Cops have been called to facility for the paranoia of this new director, and the fear she has infected these supposedly trained social services workers with has turned them into sycophants. She has not gotten good food or decent toilets or new mini-fridges for the place, the place is a dirt-bag that is never thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, airborne diseases run rampant there, but she has instead installed more security cameras, new listening devices and a coat of paint in a public area where outside guests are sometimes hosted. The place is a harbinger of PTSD triggers, and the VA has been notified and elected officials have been emailed as have the high brass of this religious cult.

No positive changes have occurred, except threats of eviction by the female director if any of the veterans or family members talk to former residents . . . or me!

There will be a killing there, mark my words. I’ve told the VA and others. I have encouraged several donors to look for other non-profits for which to support with their thousands of dollars. There will be more cops called, and that will induce residents to react, naturally, to the strong jackboot presence of the law in this three-story facility. This new director herself is living in fear but has gained a new sense of power with the religious cult leaders giving her carte blanche decision making power. Her husband is now wandering the facility as her bodyguard.

Everything happening there is contrary to informed consent, safe space philosophy, trauma informed care, harm reduction and the tenants of giving all people the right to self-agency, the right of free association, free speech and freedom of movement.

Women (wives of soldiers) are being patted down by staff if a staff member has an unfounded suspicion that a resident might have made a 7-11 run and stashed a bottle of beer in a purse or under a skirt.

The VA knows about this, and the blood and fire Salvation Army ethos is running rampant, and with the added trauma she is creating, more and more vets are straddled with suicidal ideations.

We’ll delve into the 12 reasons to reject the Salvation/ Starvation Army soon, in a post by a New Zealander. Ironically, I got the job because the social services arena, including a cult like the Salvation Army, is a field where the worker like me can get hired on without a loyalty oath or bullshit mumbo-jumbo praying or believing the smoke and mirrors of these oppressors.

To add to the irony, both my Irish and Scottish grandparents (on my mother’s side) were sent to Canada as part of the Salvation Army’s colonization program they carried out for England/UK.

Little did I know the true history of the Starvation Army now, as a billion dollar a year industry of thieves, or pawn brokers of people’s lives in the name of fleecing them of their free will and free minds. The founder of the cult was pro-capitalism, anti-socialism, and a believer in all souls the products of original sin that never goes away until blood is let and fire destroys the body.

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Here’s the father of the Starvation Army:

Salvation Army founder William Booth spent years evangelising before he realised that he would never achieve his goal of banishing the ‘three As’ of “Alcohol, Atheism and Anarchy” from England’s underclass if he did not first keep them from starving. The Salvation Army’s social work efforts can be directly linked to Booth’s failure to convert the poor through more conventional means.

A former pawnbroker, Booth was aware that poverty largely stemmed from the structure of society that he was in. However the social system that created conditions of poverty and inequality was not to be improved or replaced via social revolution. Instead Booth hoped to promote a “kinder, gentler” form of industrial capitalism, one with the “Christian values” of hard work, abstinence and charity. Booth characterised the revolutionary Christianity of the Diggers and Levellers as “utopian” and believed that Salvation Army members could earn a large profit from businesses and still keep a good conscience. In his view (and contrary to many others) the Bible was detached from social and economic change. For him the work of a good Christian was to piously tend to the poor rather than work with them in the hope of transforming a society based on poverty for some people and profit for others.

Regardless of their attitude towards social structures the primary aim of the Salvation Army was not to provide charity, but to win souls from the devil. Booth stated that what was important was not “whether a man died in the poorhouse but if his soul was saved”. Dispensing the absolute basics of food and temporary housing to the needy was motivated by the need to recruit rather than by anything in the Bible. Any of the poor who were unfortunate enough to go against the Army’s morals were quick to discover themselves out on the street, hungry or not.

Ahh, look at that last sentence – “quick to discover themselves out on the street, hungry or not.” So, as taxpayers, you and I pay the Starvation Army here in Oregon $60 a day per veteran to be in this Religious Cult Prison, and, these veterans, all with PTSD and co-occurring ailments to include a plethora of mental and physical and intellectual maladies, are being threatened daily with being kicked to the curb.

Imagine the terror of a fellow or gal with military sexual trauma or two legs amputated being threatened with forced illegal eviction if they say a word against Nurse Ratched or come to the facility with a fifth of vodka. Imagine the nightmares on the cold streets in the wet nights of Portland after being kicked to the curb for not abiding by warped rules from a former addict who is a paper tiger. . . the bum’s rush from a supposedly trained (sic) social services leader.

The streets of Portland are not kind, Dickensian, and the cops here in all three counties are sadomasochists who enjoy prodding and poking and pushing veterans (all homeless) to the hilt so they can put another notch on their Jack Boots of more warm bodies in the private prison industrial complex.

So many veterans have sent in complaints to the VA advocate, grievances to others, but to no avail – the starvation minded effete men and women of the Army, with their circus barker uniforms and epaulets and carny hats, want the blood and fire (their motto) to spread to our veterans.

I went up against the Salvation Army when the cops came into our facility, locked it down, brought in SWAT and armored vehicles, guns drawn, closed down schools and major thoroughfares, and then shot a veteran seven times while he was in mental health overload and crisis in his vehicle.

I was there, witnessed the shooting, worked with clients with their own trauma and triggers, and then dealt with the male director who left the next day, and then no Marching Band or Canteen Dragging captains and majors in rear guard to come out to give nutritional and spiritual and psychological solace to the veterans who witnessed the thug cops doing their shooting and targeting.

This Religious Cult and their married officers all talked about, a week after the targeting shooting by cops called in by the Salvation Army, how the Salvation Army’s brand was still intact.

This putz of a small-minded man, Major Zielinski, yammered on and joked while one of our own — my own (being ex-military) — was in a hospital, handcuffed and facing attempting murder of police charges. Read about him in our Portland weekly!

Ahh, the Starvation Army, and George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. Barbara is the daughter of Undershaft, a millionaire arms merchant who believes what he believed in then in the Victorian era (1905 when the play was first performed) which is the exact same as what is believed by today’s miscreant felons in the billionaire and millionaire class – In the Guardian:

In a speech that resonates with today’s concerns about global corporate power, he [Andrew Undershaft] tells his son Stephen, who wants to go into politics: “I am the government of your country … When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman.” (Guardian)

Socialist Shaw does some fine tuning of the vast (supposedly) gulf between the rich and the poor. He himself stated the obvious for 20th Century England and Ireland:

The poor, Shaw wrote in his preface, “do not want the simple life, nor the aesthetic life; on the contrary they want very much to wallow in all the costly vulgarities from which the elect souls among the rich turn away with loathing. What they desire, Shaw wrote, is precisely what, by definition, they don’t have: money. “The crying need of the nation is not for better morals, cheaper bread, temperance, liberty, culture, redemption of fallen sisters and erring brothers, nor the grace, love and fellowship of the Trinity, but simply for enough money.” (O’Toole)

The Salvation Army is all about recrimination, from the early roots of the Booths who started the for-profit charity. It’s a cult, intolerant, evil, and we the taxpayer foot the bill for these shelters where some of those like myself want to help and use the training in trauma informed care, motivational interviewing, self-determination/ self-advocacy, harm reduction and radical social work to assist veterans in crisis in finding alternatives out of the years of failing in a punishment society. Instead, the Salvation Army hires on the abused and abusers, and when you read the article by the New Zealander Reddebrek, you should come away chilled, and devoted to never ever putting a dime or shekel into one of those red metal buckets (kettles) or giving up your used furnishings or clothing to one of the SA’s stores.

So from the very beginning the Salvation Army was in favour of a world made up of bosses and bossed. Its own organisational setup reflected this love of authority, with a military structure complete with uniforms and an army band. Control of the Army passed from Booth to his oldest son and stayed there, until high-ranking officers pulled a coup. The organisation’s basic dictatorship stayed untouched, with little power at the grassroots and almost total control at the top.

The moral code that was enforced was extreme, even by the standards of society when it started. There was no drinking, swearing, smoking, premarital sex or gambling allowed. The only permissible pleasure was praying and playing in the Army band. This was justified by saying that the Bible had described drinking etc. as sinful. This is highly debatable, as the Army itself has been forced to admit. The basis for these teachings is more likely to be found in Booth’s hang-ups than in the Bible.

This moral code had a dark side, in that it allowed the Salvation Army to blame the victims of poverty for their own situation. They could argue that the symptoms of poverty – alcohol abuse, prostitution etc. – were really its cause. This let their rich backers off the hook. It also meant that any of the poor who broke their moral code were denied access to food and clothing, a practice which reportedly continues today.

As Britain’s social problems increased, it was recommended that the poor be sent off to colonise other countries (regardless of the feelings of the people who already lived there, of course). As a solution to poverty this ignored the fact that Britain already had more than enough resources to clothe, feed and house all of its population. Its real aim of colonisation was building a bigger British Empire. Booth was one of the first to draw up detailed plans for how agricultural colonies be designed to soak up Britain’s mass of unemployed and it’s arguable that his plans had some influence on the people who ran the Empire. Big businessmen and politicians like Cecil Rhodes and American president Theodore Roosevelt lent their support. (Reddebrek)

So, a living testament to the Salvation Army’s starvation tactic, I had to lobby and prod the despicable leadership, including one director who touts himself as a combat veteran, to not hold food as a weapon for veterans who utilized the save-a-meal program but failed to pick up their slop from a fridge because any number of reasons. Imagine, telling veterans if they have a job, or appointment, and don’t make it back to the shelter for a 12 to 1 and 5 to 6 lunch and dinner chow call, they would have to find fast food or any food outside the facility to eat. Again, no kitchens in the facility for residents. Holding back food as a weapon. Social Work 101 in Proverbial Chapter One states this is a no-no.

I’m also thinking about Prison Nation, USA, as my former clients are daily being treated more and more like inmates, but this publicly-funded Veterans and Family Center is also a tax-free shelter for this cult. I am thinking also about the Catholic Community Services, and an interview I had just today (1/18) to work for a measly $18.13 an hour to be a personal agent and case manager for adults with developmental disabilities. Three women in a room judging me, using their aplomb to bias me with my age and my gender and maybe my advanced degrees. Note that the job would be doing the things I know how to do, but alas, this punishment and somewhat broken society shines through as this outfit, through the giant Catholic Community Services, manages almost 600 clients/customers who go through the for-profit brokerage for eight Oregon counties. Two hours after a trip to Salem for this face-to-face interview, the three stern, crass and unanimated women said no to me to be part of their team. We are talking a lot of money from various sources adults with developmental disabilities get to help them manage their lives, from cradle to grave, from work to daily activities of living.

Catholic Community Services, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, the Arc, all the same cults of punishment and exploitation, fitting well in their tax shelter status.

Again, as I stated in the previous article, this social services scam is rife with broken women, and my younger sister is a long-in-the-trenches social worker and now a director in Arizona and validates this perspective. She time and time again talks about how underrepresented men are in the social services, largely due to the bizarre and openly misandry-riddled women nurses, clinical workers and social workers. She is attempting to recruit more men in this very large agency she works for, because, in her words, men have their own valid and perfectly compatible perspective that make social services a truly inclusive profession.

So, another three or five or eight women in a room (just in the past month!), interviewing me, for some $18 an hour job, college degree required, caseloads out the roof, and, bam, I never get the call back for a second look or for the job offer. It is exasperating to my sister and to my female friends and significant other who is in the profession of staffing.

It doesn’t do me much good to hear time and time again from women I respect that “women can be the most conniving and ridiculously hard to work with coworkers . . . I hate working with them.” Really, the professions I have chosen – journalism, creative writing, English teacher, teaching adults, social work, and even environmental activism – are all front-loaded with women or those who identify as women.

You think they would see the efficacy and prudence in having experienced, worldly, capable and effective male colleagues. Nope.

This all now gets me thinking about the roller coaster of bad policy, bad services and bad judgment we as a society lay at the feet of students, the infirm, those living with disabilities (over 150 million Americans have one or more chronic illnesses), those who are house-less/home-less, those that are working the most insanely brutal jobs to keep a pittance of bad health insurance and fifty percent of their shekels spent for shitty housing; i.e., rent. I am thinking about how this society has everyone – except the elite, the managerial class, the One Percent, the legal class, and the compliant ones with two-income earners pushing them upwards at $400 K a year combined income – over a barrel, at the end of the barrel of a gun and under the screws of Capitalism’s Inquisition.

I’m thinking about my precarity, my shitty position in society because I have done the shitty jobs, gotten the shitty degrees (English, Journalism, Urban Planning), decided not to be a shitty human being whose goal in life is money-land-things-power-control.

I am living on the edge, in Otis, Oregon, in Lincoln County. Here we are, my significant other, looking at an incredibly beautiful Oregon coastline with dramatic sheer cliffs and migrating whales and swell after swell with sea lions, birds and crab boats on the horizon. Climate change’s front seat as the crabs are not doing well with acidification, as the sea stars are dying of limb rot, and as the tidal wetlands will be inundated by rising sea levels. But still, paradise of sorts . . . .

And, the big houses and fancy B & B’s and the RV’s a big as World War Two bombers. Food, booze, fun. One B & B is $600 a night with a Spago’s level restaurant overlooking grey whale coves while the largess of the locals work their fingers to the bloody bone shucking oysters and packing salmon and cleaning toilets for the rich.

Ahh, yet the contrast of Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford’s America: There are homeless, those squatting lone wolves, entire families without electricity, people wandering the roads at night for a quick break-in to feed their broken selves. Drug abuse. Methamphetamine insanity. Epigentics that have pushed young people to have no skills for life, who have lived under parental tyranny since Pampers, who have had role models that are burglars, car thieves, pimps, prostitutes, users, abusers, and retrograde thinkers.

Yet there are forty-foot brand new RVs, second homes on cliff-sides, endless nights boozing and dining. Could be Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque.

Lincoln County is rural, so there is a public health service here. There are so many young and old with developmental-psychological-intellectual-physical disabilities. Bad teeth, bad diets, bad habits, bad everything.

Kids that are never given the chance to be honored, cared for, regaled, complimented, supported. Never shown the way, that is, how you end up early in life as a product of the old adage – you are/become what you eat, see, believe, say, read, do, think, hope for, drink, entertain yourself with. You are the sum total of that bad shit in your gut, lungs, head, heart, brain.

So it goes, now that the Starvation Army and I have parted, and my daily writing and handyman work and introspection take me to the same old radical places I was fuguing at when I was 16, a communist heart and soul in Tucson, Arizona. And daily, too, now, my former clients report to me the more draconian and penal-like conditions of the place that is supposed to be a transition center for house-less or home-less. Most of my veterans got there because of disease and/or bad debts, evictions, and lost jobs. They are there, after a few years in the military, mostly as an LZ (landing zone) for their lack of choices in small-town America. The so-deemed economic draft.

This place is not a dry out center or one where everyone is facing substance abuse.

The Salvation Army has had thousands of employees and many more clients or people who received their services complain. We are talking about major investigations, going nowhere, because it is a cult, like Scientology, and the backing of the feds and the tax-free status and the stiff arm salute to Booth and this pennyante marching band shit make the kettle ringing outfit one of America’s big basket of charity donations.

Before we look at the connection to the rash of national shootings and pipe bombing conspiracies tied to military vets, and more deeply connected to the military adventurism of this country since time immemorial and the blind patriotism of F-18 flyovers and Golden Knights parachutists at football games, (even at PK12 events, through to college stadiums all the way to the pros), we have to consider the deeper implications of how a punishment state makes money off of the pain and suffering of others shackled to unpaid levies, fines, taxes, surcharges, rents, bills, tolls, arrears all racked up in neoliberalism’s chamber of horrors.

I write about this ALL the time, making the connection to this “underperforming economy” in the USA, as Manfred Max-Neef writes, and the abhorrent fear that has shackled Americans (not including leftists, IWW, communists, anarchists) since “the beginning.”

And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now. I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying – and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house – thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.

We have to drill even deeper into the implications of how one’s formative upbringing and one’s current census track and zip code can determine all sorts of roulette factors that will either produce an Oprah or Precious, a Gary Gilmore or Mikal Gilmore.

The people I work with – the professionals and staff, that is — have a shallow or zero understanding of how the implications of birthhood and early life will taint and most assuredly guide consciously and subconsciously the human being into adulthood. Once most of these Nurse Ratched’s see an adult male like Gary Gilmore with his armed robberies and two murders under his belt, all compassion, understanding, empathy and deep wisdom around all the extenuating factors that turn people like Gary against themselves, their families, society at large and against all the institutions of oppression, authority and bureaucracy. All social services logic and compassion for one’s circumstance, in the case of a Gary Gilmore, go out the proverbial window.

Stealing, getting into fights, drinking, petty crimes, that’s the Gary Gilmore pedigree coming from a violent family, a father who daily beat the shit out of him, from the turmoil of a father and stepmother verbally abusing him and themselves, daily. His story and his younger brother Mikal’s life are compelling and illustrative of the hardwiring of epigenetics linked closely to formative years struggling with a violent father.

I bring up Gilmore for several reasons: I have had dozens of Gary (or Genna) Gilmore’s in my life as clients. I have seen people come out of the military, hit the streets, do gunning and running in the big city, and end up on Measure Eleven or Three Strikes You Are Out prison sentences that kept some in for more than 29 years.

Just what formative years’ event or events can turn a child’s wiring into something completely antithetical to childhood dreams and innocence? Just how many drops of alcohol or draws on the methamphetamine pipe turn a pregnant mother’s womb into a festering cauldron where significant cognitive and behavioral changes are passed onto the child? How many strikes with the shaving strop by daddy or hours of exposure to pornography can turn a child into an abuser or victim, or both?

Gary Gilmore was born in Waco, Texas, and then he moved with his family to Portland, Oregon. Gary’s brother said their father was a “cruel and unreasonable man.” Frank, their father, believed he was the illegitimate son of Harry Houdini, a myth passed down by Bessie Gilmore, their mother. Mikal said he doesn’t believe the story.

Gary was gifted, with high scholastic and academic scores, an IQ of 133 and defined artistic skills. He dropped out of high school at age 14, ran away from home to go back to Texas, and returned to Portland running a small car theft ring which got him his first arrest. Another car heist got the 14-year-old admitted to Oregon’s notoriously sadistic MacLaren Reform School for boys, and after that release, he ended up in the Oregon State Correctional Institution on another car theft charge.

Fast-forward to my life – I remember this 37-year-old life’s cut down in January 1977, when I was a newspaper reporter in Arizona. The newsroom was all full of debates, with anti- and pro-death penalty sides arguing our merits; then the sadistic Utah and Mormon blood-letting demand for eye-for-an-eye justice, as the executioners were at an abandoned cannery, with loaded rifles, all five (one was supposed to be a blank but it wasn’t this time) with live rounds. Then there was Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979 Pulitzer Prize), adapted for TV with Tommy Lee Jones who landed the Emmy portraying Gilmore. Gary Gilmore’s brother, Mikal, wrote a memoir, Shot in the Heart, which was made into an HBO movie with Sam Shepard as the father.

It was clear to me then decades before I even got into social services that Gary Gilmore was a product of a really bad upbringing and a broken education system and a broken society of machoism as a rite of passage, in Gilmore’s case, armed robbery and killing.

Running and gunning and drugging and womanizing and scamming and assaulting and stealing and, well, sometimes second-degree manslaughter; i.e., all pumped up on drugs and emotions, and the wrong (or right) cross punches and uppercuts can pummel a grown man (bad guy just like the offender) down a flight of stairs. Snapped neck, bleeding out, and a murder charge.

I’ve made friends with clients who spent decades in solitary confinement, after two tours in Vietnam, after breaking the law, breaking themselves and breaking the systems of oppression on the outside until they were locked up by the prosecutors and judges that deemed them sociopaths.

My job was to find some semblance of sanity in their releases from dungeons of hell, some sense in their shitty probationary limits, to the continual and repeated punishment. I had to get them into moral reconation therapy (MRT), enroll them into domestic violence classes, pester them to take drug rehab classes and attend group therapy sessions. then my job was to prep them for job training, help them learn computer software, and convince them that a round hole was perfect for their square peg selves.

Grown and old men, bodies broken from years of torture in prison, and they come out and face a phalanx of men and mostly women probation officers, counselors, employment navigators, skills trainers, financial advisers, judges.

This all makes for a bizarre out-of-whack system of soft and hard repression and recrimination. They have to go pay the ferryman many times over, yet, there is no soft landing in a harsh society of high rents, bad work, shitty transportation, expensive living demands, and an abandoned society and family ties.

I’ll end this part two with a short interview with a friend, former marine, whom I met while we both worked with foster youth as case managers in an independent living program, run by another non-profit riddled with petty and in some cases dangerously out- of-touch and uncaring women leaders and workers. We’ve been to meetings in Salem, where we were two lone men out of 60 women in the conference, and any piping in or participation by one of us equaled white male patriarchy privilege. Amazing.

Meet former case manager, Brian Hanson:

Paul Haeder: Why did you get into social services? When?

Brian Hanson: After completing my BS is psychology. What(why?): Helping and service have been cornerstones of my identity since I was little. The more people beat me down the more I gave them a big “fuck you” by helping others I knew needed me.

PH: Highlight working in social services?

BH: The kids, always the kids. The youth of this world are the only ones still with any natural wisdom left.

PH: Why did you get out of social services?

BH: The bureaucracy. Most workers were pretty good, some were really bad. The good ones got shit on by their supervisors and the rotten apples. The entire structure at DHS (the entire State honestly) is a culture of secrecy, lies, and hubris. I’ve actually heard a supervisor tell a worker not to support a youth in crisis, because he was rude to the supervisor who got into a power struggle with the youth.

PH: Example of a low point in the profession.

BH: The worst point was watching a lawyer lie about a client in court (the lawyer was unconnected to the case. Representing a former foster parent that had abused the client) during a regular review process (oh and this lawyer was at every single review throughout this kids life, literally allowing an abusive foster parent to continue to exert fear and control) The lawyer only said a few things, but repeated it every chance he got. “The case against my client was only unfounded”. The problem here is that the lawyer was specifically and intentionally confusing unfounded with unsubstantiated. Neither the case worker, case workers supervisor, nor the judge seemed to even notice the language change or its meaning to the case. This young lady was seized by uncontrollable fear and crying. She couldn’t represent herself. And the supervisor didn’t care, because she was difficult, her life amounted to an annoyance to him.

PH: What needs to be done with veterans in need of trauma and substance abuse care?

BH: Firstly, clinical anything in this country is a flawed premise. This is due to the artificial separation imposed by any clinical practice. Further the vast majority of clinical practice focuses on isolated issues, rather than systems. This is dehumanizing. Period. A good analogy is taking your car in for an oil change and being told that you need new brakes, new drive boots, and oops we cracked the drive shaft while under there, so that needs to go too. Most practitioners are trained to only address the main issue for the session. They are trained to keep the client on a positive progression track designed to accelerate healing and get them back to functioning (out of the therapist office). Instead they stretch out their sessions over months or even years. Sometimes because they like working with the client. Sometimes literally to fill empty work hours. Veterans especially don’t need this BS. They need dignity and to feel useful. And above all they need connections over pills. If we spent more time giving value and worth to Veterans, we would have a massive reduction in harm. Period.

PH: What’ s your background in military?

BH: Four years in the Corps. Field wireman. Went in a punk, came out a devil-dog.

PH: Do you have trauma? Yes, what? No, why?

BH: I have some traumas in my life. A near fatal and debilitating motorcycle crash over a decade ago. A moderately abusive childhood (I got too big before it got bad). Of course, there is my military service, wasn’t a real picnic. The worst was when my daughter was sexually abused. The piece of filth responsible was given leniency because he cried in court about his own abuse. He got three years, six years afterwards and my daughter still suffered from his abuse. She had to spend her entire elementary school in a self-contained classroom. Substandard education, behavior focused teachers, and very high behavior classmates. She was routinely traumatized on a near daily basis. I had to quit my job at Youth Villages because I had to constantly pick her up after just a half day. It has taken a near lifetime to undo the damage that piece of shit did to her. And it only cost her childhood, every friend she could have had, every relationship, and most of her learning.

PH: Anything else to add after reading my first part of this series?

BH: Social service has long been about warehousing those with needs. Vast sums of money and resources go into training and supporting staff. The services offered after all this graft typically are poor. Staff get burned out and service turns into a hassle. The client suffers because the worker won’t take a look at their own fucked up psychology, work place, or profession. I cannot tell you the number of so-called professionals that I wouldn’t lift a finger to help. But damn I bet I’d be happy to have a beer with just about everyone of their patients. That says something.

Next – Part Three – Military veterans at the Salvation Army speak out and give solutions to the homelessness/ suicide issues tied to vets.

Sometimes A Pair of Pants Can Give You Vertigo

Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.  The desolation lies there, not in the facts.

— John Berger, “A Man with Tousled Hair” in The Shape of a Pocket, May 11, 2003

A few days ago, as I stepped into my pants to start the day as is my habit, I happened to notice the label at the waist band.  It read “Gap,” and the sight of this word sent my mind spinning into a whirling contemplation of this void that lies at the center of life today, a subject that has disturbed me for a long time.

I had earlier that morning made the mistake of checking the news headlines on the computer.  This too is a habit that I no doubt share with millions of other people.  It is a dastardly habit no sane person should inflict on oneself.  To rise from one’s night dreams and step into a litany of hyperbolic headlines shouting doom and gloom at every turn is to inject oneself with a poisonous drug before the sap of life has a chance to rise in one’s veins and one’s imagination might give birth to new possibilities.

Standing in my pants, I felt as though I were hovering over Berger’s enormous empty space, and if I didn’t wake up, I would tumble endlessly away.  Thoreau’s words floated up: “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?”

So I stepped over the hole at my feet and tried to shake the monotonous clatter of the monstrous media’s messages from my mind.  In my vertiginous state I dared not look in a mirror.  So many of the media’s lying words that I had already ingested with coffee seemed to float around and within me in an unreality disconnected from the actual world, even the world they were ostensibly reporting on.

I too had written many words about the drastic condition of our world today, thinking somehow my words, different from the corporate media’s, could move the world by pulling back the curtain that the powerful have created through clichés to conceal the sordid reality they have made of this beautiful earth.  Yet the presentation of facts seemed to make no difference.  Very little, if anything, made a difference.  Most of those who read my words more or less already agreed with me. And many, even friends and family, just ignored them, anticipating that they would disturb them.  And the mainstream publications shunned them like the plague.

Between my desire for a changed world and the world that seemed to change only for the worse lay the desolation Berger identified.

Many people feel it, I know, especially dissidents who fight in various ways against the powerful.  But we prefer not to go there, to see what it consists of and how we may transmute it into acts and words that might make a difference. We prefer to make believe we are making a difference by repeating ad nauseum the same prefabricated responses, usually directly political, to the atrocities committed daily.  We are caught in what Czeslaw Milosz, writing in a different context, called “ontological anemia” – “among this illness’s symptoms is the nothingness sucking from the center in.”  We try and try but seem to devour ourselves by repeating the same approaches, as if all the slaves know is what their masters have taught them.  Milosz knew this because he was an artist and a spiritual seeker, not just a political analyst, and also had personal experience with the totalitarian mindset that is descending on the West.

The twists of history can make one’s head spin.

In writing about Vincent Van Gogh, whose hunger for reality drove him to produce works of achingly loving beauty, John Berger, the quixotic Marxist, writes:

Reality, however one interprets it, lies behind a screen of clichés.  Every culture produces such a screen, partly to facilitate its own practices (to establish habits) and partly to consolidate its own power.  Reality is inimical to those with power.

Yet while Van Gogh sought reality by breaking the mold, the rich and powerful have devoured the results of his efforts and have transposed them into commodities.  Last year, his painting, Laboureur Dans Un Champ, painted from an asylum where he had committed himself, sold for $ 81.3 million at Christie’s after a frenetic auction.

A humble peasant working in a field becomes a trophy for the rich, who keep the working man slaving away.  Words and deeds are turned upside down on desolation row where:

Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row1

We need to think again. Imagine!  Today we are caught in a void of clichés and in the clutches of rapacious elites.  Only acts of creative imagination will free us from their clutches.

I look to my right and on a shelf I see a vividly painted Matryoshka doll.  It startles me into the thought that like Matryoshka dolls, so many of our personal habits that deaden us to imagining a way across the gap to a better world are nestled within social habits of thought, speech, and action. We are so often encased like tiny cloned dolls in the social clichés that make us smaller versions of the powers that we say we oppose but which we mimic.  We are carved and painted in their likeness, and caught in the habit of reacting to them in ways that reinforce their control.

We must disrupt our routines.  We must find new ways, not to just respond, but to take the initiative.  When we react according to habits, although we may not realize it, we are being controlled and not in control.  Habits, like the word’s etymology reveals, may reassure us that we have, hold or possess a position of strength from which we can move the world in our direction, but the only Archimedean lever and fulcrum capable of that is inspiration.

That involves a new way of seeing, not vertiginous but visionary.

I think I’ll change my pants.

  1. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, 1965

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

Lying About Age: The Legal Efforts of Emile Ratelband

Oscar Wilde famously warned that one should never trust a woman who revealed her true age; anyone so inclined to do so was bound to tell you anything.  He also, in his characteristic stab at modern manners, suggested that no woman should be quite on the money about her age for another reason: “It looks so calculating.”

Emile Ratelband, from what reports suggest, is not a woman, but a distinctly insecure man on a mission of pure calculation: to secure a different age in the public domain.  While biologically impossible, despite claiming that his ageing has stopped, the Dutchman is testing the legal waters to see if he might slash off some 20 years off his birthdate, making him a more youthful 49.  The world might be slowly going to hell in a hand basket, but the monumental nature of the trivial shall have its day in court.

Ratelband’s view is that of any person feeling an identity pull crying out for legal recognition.  He is inspired by other role models – not merely the insufferable Tony Robbins of US, life coach optimism, but transgendered people, who supply him a shameless ground of comparison.  Despite being a motivational speaker himself, his optimism does not extend to the impediments of age.  “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender.  Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Open slather has been declared in the identity market, and to that end, he has gone so far as to subject himself to a psychiatric evaluation as to whether he was a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome”.  Another evaluation might be in order after Ratelband’s address to the court, in which he claimed that President Donald Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter.  “He’s a new kind of person.”

His fruit salad reasons are, like others obsessed with “the real me”, selfish, having “to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think… I am, my identity.”  Reducing his age by two decades would open doors shut to the aged and ageing.  “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car.  I can take up more work.” (These are things Ratelband could probably do anyway, given his frame of mind, but let’s leave his mind to its own, curiously absorbed devices.)

There is the issue of dating, that minefield of human interaction where initial impressions, toxic, deodorised or otherwise, tend to be everything.  “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer.  When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

Why Ratelband does not take a leaf out of the book of mendacity that has characterised human dating since bipedalism became vogue is hard to fathom.  Again, lie about your age; many people do so with calculation and determination.  Appearance, of which he cares much about, will carry you over.  But the adventurous, if seemingly vexatious Dutchman does have a point: every liar should sport a phenomenal memory, which is a damn bother if you don’t have one. “If you lie,” he told the Washington Post, “you have to remember everything you say.”

The judges of the Arnhem District Court found little to merit this effort at jigging time, and the law.  “Mr Ratelband,” claimed the court bench with cool reserve, despite initially showing, according to the petitioner, a giggly, girly disposition, “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.”  Altering any legal documents pertaining to age, however, would lead to “undesirable legal and societal implications”.

Some of these implications centre on the issue of assigning duties and rights by the mere fact of having an age – the issue of voting, for instance, or the obligation to attend school.  (Neither apply to the applicant in this case, but courts are always distracted by the issue of floodgates and their irrepressible breach.)  “If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

The judges were also concerned about the sheer number of documents that would, quite literally, cease to have any relevance.  To amend the date of birth “would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships.”  An administrator’s nightmare.

The field of discrimination could have supplied Ratelband his ammunition.  The judges, however, needed more convincing.  While the court bench was not immune to the possibility that discrimination might, in some cases, be open, Ratelband had failed to show that he had suffered it, suggesting that “other alternatives” were available “rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband, for his part, is undeterred.  His irritating positivity is both balm and encouragement.  “The rejection of [the] court is great… because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go on appeal.”

Ratelband sounds vain, insufferable, insecure and keen to be heard.  He is entitled to, but this is a selfish time that denies the immutable nature of death (delayed as it is) and presumes that those who age will do so noisily into the social media night.  As Ratelband is unlikely to avail himself of time dilation, a delightful consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity, he will have to seek his change via legal processes.  That might entail moving to a different jurisdiction, and mindset, altogether.

Lying About Age: The Legal Efforts of Emile Ratelband

Oscar Wilde famously warned that one should never trust a woman who revealed her true age; anyone so inclined to do so was bound to tell you anything.  He also, in his characteristic stab at modern manners, suggested that no woman should be quite on the money about her age for another reason: “It looks so calculating.”

Emile Ratelband, from what reports suggest, is not a woman, but a distinctly insecure man on a mission of pure calculation: to secure a different age in the public domain.  While biologically impossible, despite claiming that his ageing has stopped, the Dutchman is testing the legal waters to see if he might slash off some 20 years off his birthdate, making him a more youthful 49.  The world might be slowly going to hell in a hand basket, but the monumental nature of the trivial shall have its day in court.

Ratelband’s view is that of any person feeling an identity pull crying out for legal recognition.  He is inspired by other role models – not merely the insufferable Tony Robbins of US, life coach optimism, but transgendered people, who supply him a shameless ground of comparison.  Despite being a motivational speaker himself, his optimism does not extend to the impediments of age.  “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender.  Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Open slather has been declared in the identity market, and to that end, he has gone so far as to subject himself to a psychiatric evaluation as to whether he was a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome”.  Another evaluation might be in order after Ratelband’s address to the court, in which he claimed that President Donald Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter.  “He’s a new kind of person.”

His fruit salad reasons are, like others obsessed with “the real me”, selfish, having “to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think… I am, my identity.”  Reducing his age by two decades would open doors shut to the aged and ageing.  “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car.  I can take up more work.” (These are things Ratelband could probably do anyway, given his frame of mind, but let’s leave his mind to its own, curiously absorbed devices.)

There is the issue of dating, that minefield of human interaction where initial impressions, toxic, deodorised or otherwise, tend to be everything.  “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer.  When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

Why Ratelband does not take a leaf out of the book of mendacity that has characterised human dating since bipedalism became vogue is hard to fathom.  Again, lie about your age; many people do so with calculation and determination.  Appearance, of which he cares much about, will carry you over.  But the adventurous, if seemingly vexatious Dutchman does have a point: every liar should sport a phenomenal memory, which is a damn bother if you don’t have one. “If you lie,” he told the Washington Post, “you have to remember everything you say.”

The judges of the Arnhem District Court found little to merit this effort at jigging time, and the law.  “Mr Ratelband,” claimed the court bench with cool reserve, despite initially showing, according to the petitioner, a giggly, girly disposition, “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.”  Altering any legal documents pertaining to age, however, would lead to “undesirable legal and societal implications”.

Some of these implications centre on the issue of assigning duties and rights by the mere fact of having an age – the issue of voting, for instance, or the obligation to attend school.  (Neither apply to the applicant in this case, but courts are always distracted by the issue of floodgates and their irrepressible breach.)  “If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

The judges were also concerned about the sheer number of documents that would, quite literally, cease to have any relevance.  To amend the date of birth “would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships.”  An administrator’s nightmare.

The field of discrimination could have supplied Ratelband his ammunition.  The judges, however, needed more convincing.  While the court bench was not immune to the possibility that discrimination might, in some cases, be open, Ratelband had failed to show that he had suffered it, suggesting that “other alternatives” were available “rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband, for his part, is undeterred.  His irritating positivity is both balm and encouragement.  “The rejection of [the] court is great… because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go on appeal.”

Ratelband sounds vain, insufferable, insecure and keen to be heard.  He is entitled to, but this is a selfish time that denies the immutable nature of death (delayed as it is) and presumes that those who age will do so noisily into the social media night.  As Ratelband is unlikely to avail himself of time dilation, a delightful consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity, he will have to seek his change via legal processes.  That might entail moving to a different jurisdiction, and mindset, altogether.