Category Archives: Language

From Enlightenment to Enfrightenment: Romanticism as a Tool for Elite Agendas

We have seen […] that nationalism, that magnificent song that made the people rise against their oppressors, stops short, falters and dies away on the day that independence is proclaimed. Nationalism is not a political doctrine, nor a programme. If you really want your country to avoid regression, or at best halts and uncertainties, a rapid step must be taken from national consciousness to political and social consciousness.
— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 1961

Introduction

Romanticism is an eighteenth century artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement which emerged as a reaction to Enlightenment ideas of science, reason and human progress. Its effect on politics has been to reassert conservative ideas about society based on hierarchy and individualism as the Romantics looked back to medieval times and monarchism for inspiration. Enlightenment ideas focused on the laws as a counter to monarchical privilege and looked to concepts of citizenship and republicanism as the way forward, ideas which were taken up by workers’ movements the world over. However, Romantic ideas of the exclusivist nation are coming to the fore again in a world altered by the positive and negative effects of international worker mobility, immigration and desperate refugees.

The Enlightenment and politics – ‘You were, crucially, a citizen, not a subject’

In the early 18c in Europe the power of the monarchical system began to wane and enlightenment ideas about the running and ruling of society began to take hold. Those ideas focused on the idea of the ‘patrie’. Like many enlightenment ideas, patria was a word derived from pater [father] from ancient Rome and would later be equated with republicanism. Louis chevalier de Jancourt (the biographer of Leibniz) wrote in the Encyclopédie that patrie “represents a father and children, and consequently that it expresses the meaning we attach to that of family, of society, of a free state, of which we are members, and whose laws assure our liberties and our well-being.”1 This new emphasis was based on equality of all before the law rather than on the narrow definitions of ethnicity used in definitions of the nation.

In the pre-modern polity, society was made up of separate feudal sovereignties that were at the same time local power centres. Different ethnic groups lived in insular, heterogeneous communities with local and agrarian independent economies. The economy developed as kingdoms expanded into other ethnic areas. The transition from ethnicity to nationhood happened when the members of different ethnic groups developed a common culture making them into a ‘nation’.

However as Anthony Pagden writes:

Unlike the nation, the patria was a community, a group. You owed it your love and your life, but you were also a part of it. You were, crucially, a citizen, not a subject.2

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689–1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

The patria was loosely connected to the concept of a republican government where the citizen, as Montesquieu wrote, would be asked to love the laws and the homeland (patrie) and that this love would require “continuing preference of the public interest over one’s own.”3

These ideas about the patrie have “come to be called modern civic patriotism. It was benign, generous, outward-looking, and in principle at least excluded no one”.4 They can be seen as universal in that they described a form of politics, republicanism, that was not concerned with language, religion or ethnicity but with the idea that all were citizens and equal before the law.

Equality before the law is the principle that each person must be treated equally by the law (principle of isonomy) and that all are subject to the same laws of justice (due process). This principle arose out of the discontent that prevailed under monarchical rule whereby the king or queen was above the law, so that equality guaranteed that no one or group of individuals could be privileged or discriminated against by the rulers.

This principle was enshrined in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.

Photograph of the Great Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, London in 1848

Equality before the law is a basic principle of legal documents like the Irish Constitution, for example:

All citizens shall be held equal before the law (Article 40 of the Constitution). This means that the State cannot unjustly, unreasonably or arbitrarily discriminate between citizens. You cannot be treated as inferior or superior to any other person in society simply because of your human attributes or your ethnic, racial, social or religious background.

The universal aspect of such principles is an important aspect in that universalism accepts universal principles of most religions and is inclusive of others regardless of other persons ethnic, religious or racial background.

As an approach to ethnic difference in society, universalism is similar to instrumentalist approaches which accepts a minimal set of qualifications for membership of a community, unlike the primordialism of conservative nationalism which tries to fix exclusivist kinship, historical traditions and homeland of the ‘nation’.

The Romantic reaction – ‘from patriotism to tribalism’

It was in Germany that nationalism came to emphasise the ethnic basis of the nation with the ancient origins of the German language symbolising the German Volk stretching back into pre-history. In his essay On the Origin of Language [1772], Johann Herder argued for the national origin of language. He wrote, “[i]t [the urge to express] is alive in all unpolished languages, though, to be sure, according to the degree of each nation’s culture and the specific character of its way of thinking.”5

La République universelle démocratique et sociale, painted by Frédéric Sorrieu in 1848. Top left: Le Pacte, Top right: Le Prologue, Bottom left: Le Triomphe, Bottom right: Le Marché. He was notable for his works testifying the liberal and nationalist revolutions in France and in Europe.

Herder’s influence could be seen in the widespread cultural and linguistic movements that swept Europe from the 1780s to the 1840s. Influenced by the Romantic Movement, the cultural nationalists emphasised the volksgeist of the peasantry as the true basis of the nation. Language became the target and the site for conflicting political ideologies as definitions of the nation were formed on ethno-linguistic grounds.

However, the early nineteenth century also saw the rise of workers movements such as the Saint-Simonians and Fourierists in France and the Chartists and Owenites in the United Kingdom. The industrial revolution had caused a profound change in the social and economic make-up of society internally which resulted in the creation of self-conscious classes and heightened class antagonism.

Thus the workers movements took Enlightenment ideas of equality to their logical conclusion in the form of class struggle and social revolution while the Romantics looked to the peasantry for their ideal, reasserting the primacy of the older vertical structure of society (containing all classes).

The rise of nationalism saw the growth of exceptionalism as ethnic exclusivity became the norm. Under the influence of Romanticism and ideas of ethnic purity, and in parallel with the rise of the centralised nation state, the ethnic homogenisation of the populace meant the (near) destruction of indigenous local languages and local foreign language communities.

For example, there existed in France about thirty patois or popular Romance languages. In A Cultural History of the French Revolution, Emmet Kennedy describes a report to the Convention on 16 prairial Year II (4 June 1794) where the abbé Grégoire lists the extensive range of patois, dialects and languages in France as “Bas-Breton, Bourguinon, Bressan, Lyonnais, Dauphinois, Auvergnat, Poitevin, Limousin, Picard, Provençal, Languedocien, Velayen, Catalan, Béarnais, Basque, Rouergat, and Gascon.” According to Kennedy, “[o]nly about a sixth (fifteen) of the departments around Paris spoke French exclusively. Elsewhere bilingualism was common.”6

Yet, in another report to the Convention in 1794, Barère links the areas where “foreign” languages are to be found, such as Basque, German, Flamand and Breton, with the areas of insurrection and counterrevolution. Barère writes, “[f]ederalism and superstition speak Bas-Breton; emigration and hatred of the Republic speak German; counterrevolution speaks Italian, and fanaticism speaks Basque. Let us break these harmful instruments of terror.”7 In post-revolutionary France linguistic redefinition took on serious political overtones as the question of self/other was redrawn along linguistic lines. Already the interests of the state were taking precedence over the rhetoric of the democratic nation.

Nur für Deutsche (Eng. “Only for Germans”) on the tram number 8 in occupied Kraków.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 – 1814) took exceptionalist and chauvinist ideas of the nation even further. He wrote:

The German, if only he makes use of all his advantages, can always be superior to the foreigner and understand him fully, even better than the foreigner understands himself, and can translate the foreigner to the fullest extent. On the other hand, the foreigner can never understand the true German without a thorough and extremely laborious study of the German language, and there is no doubt that he will leave what is genuinely German untranslated.8

Fichte, like Herder, shifted cultural value from the elites to the common people (volk). According to Tim Blanning in The Romantic Revolution:

Folk art, folk dancing and folk songs were not to be despised for their roughness but treasured for their authenticity. They were the ‘archives of a nationality’, the ‘national soul’ and ‘the living voice of the nationalities, even of humanity itself’.9

The Romantics promoted popular ballads which had been seen as “the dregs of fairy-tales, superstitions, songs, and crude speech”.10 Of particular note was the Ossian cycle of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson from 1760. The work was an international success and was translated into all the literary languages of Europe. Even though Ossian was soon realised to be a creation of its author and not from ancient sources it was highly influential both in the development of the Romantic movement and the Gaelic revival.

As in other forms of culture the Romantics emphasised all that was backward-looking and medieval in opposition to Enlightenment figures who had tried to create a new culture based on reason and science. Moreover, Romantic folk culture was very different from working class culture which developed during the Industrial Revolution. With the influence of socialist ideas and movements over the following decades, working class authors and poets produced many fine poems, ballads and novels about the struggles of ordinary people.

It is interesting to note that in the late seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century, the cultural elites of Europe were more interested in French than their own languages and went on the Grand Tour of Europe to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography, and culture.

Also, it is ironic that the thrill of romanticism often came from the safety of modernity (in the form of enlightenment science) as the development of steamboats and railway systems allowed the new middle classes to experience the sublime in the beauty of dramatic landscapes like the Alps.

Nationalism – ‘countering the worst excesses of neoliberalism’

The influence of Romanticism on politics shifted revolutionary thinking from burgeoning socialist movements to nationalism instead. Nationalism is the perfect class conciliatory ideology in that it retained the full social order/hierarchy (i.e. it includes the elites) and homogenised the people by excluding other national languages and foreign communities while putting the elites into positions of leadership and control.

Using divide and rule tactics and stirring up xenophobic attitudes and fears, the elites ran the new homogenised nations and used them for their old purposes: war. Modern global power struggles of the twentieth century started with nation set against nation in the First World War.

A postcard from 1916 showing national personifications of some of the Allies of World War I, each holding a national flag

Throughout the twentieth century the rise of globalism and neoliberalism led to a breakdown in nationalist ideology as the world became more and more economically interconnected leading some to believe that we had moved on to an era of postnationalism. However, postnationalism is an internationalistic processs whereby power is partially transferred from national authorities to supernational entities like the European Union. Power is transferred from local elites to the super elite of the European Commission.

However, nationalist sentiments are still used to allow elites to consolidate power and new nationalist movements have risen in many parts of the world as people turn to local elites to try and counter the worst excesses of neoliberalism. This has led to Hindu nationalism in India, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and “America First” campaigns, the United Kingdom’s Brexit, anti-immigration rhetoric in Hungary, Germany’s Pegida, France’s National Front, and the UK Independence Party.

Douaumont French military cemetery seen from Douaumont ossuary, which contains remains of French and German soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun in 1916

Conclusion

Romanticist sentiments are still used and manipulated to keep the masses on board with the agendas of the elites thereby diverting people away from questioning the social and political systems under which they live and work. As the global economic and financial crises deepen there is the worrying possibility that more and more people will be dragged into the national and international power struggles of elites rather than examining and fighting for their own social, economic and political interests; i.e., a revival of political and social consciousness.

  1. The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015), p. 259.
  2. The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015), p. 259.
  3. The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015), p. 260.
  4. The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015), p. 261.
  5. On the Origin of Language: Two Essays by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p.149.
  6. A Cultural History of the French Revolution by Emmet Kennedy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 325-6. See also Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 by Eugen Weber (London, Chatto & Windus, 1979), p. 326.
  7. A Cultural History of the French Revolution by Emmet Kennedy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 325-6. See also Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 by Eugen Weber (London, Chatto & Windus,1979), p. 326.
  8. Addresses to the German Nation [1808] by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, trans. R.F. Jones and G.H. Turnbull (Chicago and London: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1922), p. 130.
  9. The Romantic Revolution by Tim Blanning (Phoenix, Great Britain, 2010), p. 119.
  10. The Romantic Revolution by Tim Blanning (Phoenix, Great Britain, 2010), p.120.

July 4th: Return to Sender, No Guarantees, Broken Treaties, Shafted!

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

― Frederick Douglass

 

This two-bit country will cheer the idiotic, overpriced, absurd “tanks” on the White House Mall as this other two-bit in chief can pull on his polyester orange locks and ogle over his daughter Ivanka!

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According to report published by USA Today on 7 March 2006, Trump made the comment during an appearance on the daytime talk show The View while discussing the possibility of Ivanka’s posing for Playboy magazine: “It would be really disappointing — not really — but it would depend on what’s inside the magazine. I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Why would I bring up that bit of perversion on July 4th, 2019? Values, man, and ethics. What a world that in 2019, this non-military veteran slathers his mouth with Big Mac juice while watching tanks sink into the tarmac and overpriced death machines do tricks in the air. This is the “pussy grabber in chief.”

Fact — On July 4, 2019: In 2018, there were 159.41 million men in the United States, compared to 165.92 million women. By 2024, it is projected that there will be 167.08 million men and 173.9 million women in the U.S.

So, this Cadet Bone Spurs has so many rape and sexual assault allegations against him, and he states this creepy stuff about his daughter, well, that’s what — in his mind and in his July 4th bang-bang-bang followers’ noggins — Makes America Great Again.  The USA has a slightly higher number of women to men, yet this is it for the apotheosis of POTUS? Does he represent my 23-year-old daughter’s needs and values? Any woman’s values? Come on!

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What more has to be said about this country’s schizophrenia, political bankruptcy, failing education systems (PK12 and college) and deplorable people who allow child abuse after child abuse on all levels, but also in those internment camps on the border?

Doctor compares conditions for unaccompanied children at immigrant holding centers to ‘torture facilities

According to Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, the center’s annual profiles on child poverty in America, some 41 percent (29.8 million) of America’s children were living on the brink of poverty in 2016 — including more than 5 million infants and toddlers under age three.

I’m dealing with a burn ban in my county on the Oregon Coast, and then all these pop-up tents have been selling ballistics and rockets red glare for the big days leading up to the big lie — God Bless America!

We have a plastic bag ban in the county, and the state of Oregon, but bozos can take out their Roman Candles and big ass rockets — One Bad Mother, Excalibur Artillery Shells, America’s Glory, Chasing Booty!

I even argue with so-called environmentalists how we should be tabling all around the waysides and Marine Reserves/Sanctuaries to not only point out the magnificent gray whales and orcas, but to inform people “to can” their fireworks since they are toxic, belly-choking, neck-strangling, PTSD-inducing examples of the mindlessness of USA. This Article here, which is pretty benign!

Depending on the effect sought, fireworks produce smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds, and other noxious chemicals. Barium, for instance, is used to produce brilliant green colors in fireworks displays, despite being poisonous and radioactive. Copper compounds are used to produce blue colors, even though they contain dioxin, which has been linked to cancer. Cadmium, lithium, antimony, rubidium, strontium, lead, and potassium nitrate are also commonly used to produce different effects, even though they can cause a host of respiratory and other health problems.

Just the soot and dust from fireworks alone is enough to lead to respiratory problems like asthma. A study examined air quality at 300 monitoring stations across the United States and found that fine particulate matter spiked by 42% on the Fourth of July, compared to the days before and after.

Physical particles — colored paper, metal wires, plastics, etc. Think of all those murres and fish and seals mucking about the ocean with volumes of this shit floating nearshore and on beaches?

Of course, TerraPass has a scheme to buy off (carbon offset double speak) the pollution, the embedded, transportation and packaging energy used to produce, package and move the products to those pop-up fireworks tents here in Lincoln City.

Environmentalists, using their “capitalism needs fixing” mentality, will never cross that line, especially now when these greenie weenies are afraid to even engage in simple rhetorical debates with fellow citizens of the deplorable Trump-David Duke-Nazi-Racist kind. I have had a million conversations on how these animal lovers will never have a verbal debate with an in-the-round live Trumpy.

These are the failings of America, from day one, really — to not engage the Indian-Killers, Women-Rapers, Baby-Beheaders, Nature-Razing pigs of the pulpit and penury.

So these racists, these Joe Arpaio-loving Arizonans want that Betsy Ross White Supremacist Shoe Sold in Phoenix? While their state engages in mass arrest, mass child abuse, mass concentration camp policies!

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This entire show — cult of celebrity — is yet another chink in the rusting armor of the mythological madness of American might. Schizophrenia, maybe! WSWS:

On Tuesday evening, the San Francisco Unified School Board voted unanimously to destroy or cover over the historic 1936 “Life of George Washington Murals” at a district high school. The vote is a reactionary decision that marks a new stage in the censorship drive that began last December.

The 13 murals created by left-wing artist Victor Arnautoff were products of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal arts program for unemployed artists during the Great Depression. The murals at George Washington High School (GWHS) depict the contradictory character of early American history, portraying many of the progressive aspects of the American Revolution and also depicting slave labor and the genocide of Native Americans.

At the crowded meeting, supporters and opponents of the murals were each allocated 30 minutes, one minute maximum per person, to state their reasons for or against the preservation of the murals. Speakers from the George Washington High School Alumni Association, California College of the Arts, San Francisco Art Institute, United Public Workers for Action and many others offered statements in support of the murals.

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Alas, July Fourth — what the hell does it mean to the rest of the world, or the few brave people in my cadre who have taken the blinders off at age 12. I recall the fights –physical ones and administrative ones, too — for not standing at football games, assemblies or the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m 62, so this is pre-Celebrity Colin K’s “take a knee” protestations. I was 12, a white boy, sure, in Arizona of all places!

I teach, write about education, and am around youth — big time. We are destroying youth from the inside out, for sure, and we are giving them what is a common but true refrain — they are what they hear and don’t hear or can’t hear; they are what they read (and never read); they are what they see in museums, concerts, performances, readings, art shows (and what they don’t see); they are what they are taught, mistaught, never taught; they are what they are encouraged to be, not encouraged to be, forced to be; they are what their options give them, offer them, force them to take; they are what they self-profess, never-profess, forced to profess.

Forget about the chronic illnesses and the gut diseases, and the effects of Round-up, Atrazine, plastic polymers, and a Rachel “Silent Spring” Carson laundry list of toxins, from gestation to through adulthood. This is what is killing revolutionaries like me —

A mural depicting George Washington’s life at a San Francisco high school is fueling an emotional debate.

The board of educators is considering covering the historic new deal mural that greets students at George Washington High School.

Senior Kai Anderson-Lawson said seeing dead Native Americans and African American slaves working the fields for Washington sets a demeaning tone and it’s time for a change.

“It’s a lot of emotional stress,” Anderson-Lawson said.

“One of the reasons it’s hard to go to school sometimes is because of the mural in the lobby.”

Others however, said it provides an important history lesson and should remain.

“In San Francisco we should be teaching about the mural and what it means,” said Donna Parker. “I, as half Native American Indian see no problem with the mural.”

A tale of two upbringings, perspectives and for me, one of these children are being coached and cajoled and forced to not see the crimes of this country.

That’s $600,000 to paint over a radical’s art work — welcome bombs bursting  in air, July 4.

This is the painter Victor Arnautoff,  born in 1896 in a small village in present-day Ukraine and then emigrated to San Francisco in 1925. He was part of a leftist art collective. Imagine these faux teachers and poor nanny society children being part of any collective in capitalism, where they can individualize their fake hurt, and then gather together and strike down a radical artist’s work.

Happy July 4th!

Arnautoff was an ardent supporter of workers’ strikes during the “great” depression” and then became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in 1937. He was even drawn and quartered by one of Trump’s mentors, or both, Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn, the year before I was born, 1956 — for drawing a “Communist Conspiracy” cartoon that caricatured then-Vice President Nixon.

Get this — with this blasphemy of destroying art, we have youth who will get to the tenth level of hell’s cluelessness. In “The Life of Washington,” the artist put Native Americans, African Americans and working-class revolutionaries front and center in the four largest panels, pushing Washington to the margins as a way to honor the real people and denigrate in artistic fashion the mythological Washington, Father of the Nation . . . Birth of a Nation!

Can anyone imagine those school board members, the teachers and the students and parents who support destroying radical history in this artwork even having the guts to really support those causes of the people that count?

Happy July 4th!

It seems that everywhere I turn and go full force into, I end up back to the linchpin of my life — exposing the lies of a faulty education system that has quite elegantly transformed the collective consciousness and cognition of generation after generation. Anyone want to paint over the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Seattle offices? Well, that would never happen with these kids, and for those of us who have protested Gates in Seattle, we ended up locked up by the Seattle Nazi Police.

Image result for “The Life of Washington,” Arnautoff

Fresh off his successful efforts to transform K-12 education through a combination of investment and support of policy initiatives such as the Common Core State Standards, Bill Gates has turned his eye toward higher education.

His move is the establishment of the Postsecondary Value Commission, which promises to develop methods to measure the “value” of a post-secondary degree or certificate, essentially answering the question “What is college worth?”

They want to know definitively about the “return on investment” of college.

To ease the path towards achieving this goal, Bill and Melinda Gates have started the Gates Policy Initiative, a lobbying group tasked with further the preferred Gates solutions on issues of “global health, global development, U.S. education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically, and efforts to move people from poverty to employment.”

I would like to take a moment to speak directly to Bill and Melinda Gates.

Please, please, please, please, pretty please don’t do this. I am certain you mean well, but honestly, please just stay away from education. You’ve done enough already.

I’m back.

That opening paragraph several inches above is what in the writing business we call, irony, a.k.a., a joke. Bill Gates has not had success transforming K-12 education. His ideas backed by his wealth have had a tremendous, largely deleterious effect on our systems and schools.

Alas, I will be writing soon about a young fellow — 37-years-old — for my bi-weekly column for the trendy Oregon Coast Today. He’s a product of Lincoln City’s PK12 schools (dropped out at 10th grade) and he is his own man, a carpenter, and he questions his own lack of male role models in his life, and now his significant other has four children from previous relationship, three of which are struggling: 13 and 16 year old boys; 18-year-old young woman.

Justin wants to know what can be done with more and more youth missing almost everything, including ethics, work values, and the ability to use their hands and learn hands-on math, science, reading, writing, history.

And this fellow is working class, blue collar, and not some liberal limp wrist or intellectualized union guy. This conversation with Justin, twice while he was hammering away, has been more valuable to me as I embark on the “how to kill children and society too” pamphlet around the “good, bad, ugly of the American education system” than any interview with this or that superintendent, principal, educational consultant or guru.

Gates is Satan, sure, a bumper sticker in Seattle. Bezos is Beelzebul, also a sticker in Seattle.

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See the source image

We can read or listen to Anand Giridharadas as he hawks his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Sure, this young Turk tells us that these shameful ploys — philanthropic efforts undertaken by billionaires like Gates — are really premised on keeping not only the status quo but to in order to cement their position atop the social order. These guys (and gals) are eugenicists and social engineers who need their billions recirculated into society!

Happy Fourth of July (not)!

Thanks to Frederick Douglass

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

[…]

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Frederick Douglass

Finally, a Happy Birthday America goes out to the people we are proud to accept as our own concentration camp “citizens” and “non-citizens” alike:

Japanese concentration camp, Manzanar, Independence, California, circa December 1942  . . . but Rohwer, Arkansas (former Japanese concentration camp) is being considered now for Mexican and Central American immigrants rounded up by CBP and ICE and Trump and Company!

Image result for Japanese internment camps children

Canadian Japanese internment camp, circa March 1942–

Image result for Japanese internment camps children Canada

You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves [Neil Postman] is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

Andrew Postman

So what would Neil Postman say about this fellow [note title of this essay, referencing Jeff Bezos’ proclamation on what work should mean to every breathing American], or the many fellows like Bezos who have zero patience for a world without disrupting economies tied to their authoritarian business plan of more billionaires deserving (sic) more power. Disruptive and destructive, and not just economies in the book sense, but structural violence and community disintegration, murdering people with debt, lack of housing, no medical care, suicide, that’s Bezos, et al looking to capitalize on every penny gathered from every nanosecond in our individual human lives.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow into one of the world’s biggest companies.

Back in 1997, Bezos told shareholders that employees at other companies “can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com, you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos acknowledges his high standards for employees every year, telling shareholders that “it’s not easy to work here.”

In the 24 years since Amazon was founded, CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow from a modest online bookshop to one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Back in 1997, Bezos was already expecting big things out of his young company. In his annual letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos described how much effort he expected from his employees.

“When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” Bezos wrote in the 1997 letter.

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.”

The New York Times reported in 2015 exactly how bruising the work environment at Amazon could be. Employees were reportedly expected to routinely work late, were encouraged to criticize coworkers‘ ideas at meetings, and were often found crying at their desks. Amazon disputed many of the claims in the Times investigation, though the newspaper defended its reporting.

God forbid we call Amazon Boss Bezos a plantation owner of a different mother, for sure. That Americans — living in small and large cities, far and wide — depend on the Amazon way as if Amazon is sutured into all aspects of American culture (sic) and hardwired into every new born’s head. Same day delivery. A shopping cart that would be the envy of any Rothschild or Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley.

See the source image

This essay, first, was going to address those other masters of the Universe — Google Guys and Algorithm Titans. I barely criticized a billionaire in a DV article —   Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

I criticized Nick Hanauer for his false balance, contrived bifurcation, and his new wind as a billionaire fighting what he calls the educationalism mindset that says that a good, grounded, deep and holistic education might be a thing of kings, whereas Nick says education backing and financing ain’t worth diddly squat in capitalism until more people make more money to buy more things, or just to survive in his nihilistic world.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

In my email box, Google, of course, I get an unsolicited email from an organization for which I have never associated with or even pursued. It’s the old surveillance state of Google and the internet Stasi, for sure —

Image result for stasi

Alas, Neil Postman was correct, in so far as what we say and do as writers really does not count — we are only as smart and deep and truthful as our masters will allow:

In my college economics class, we were taught that wages depend on productivity. The more productive or skilled workers are, my professors used to argue, the more they will be worth on the labor market and, therefore, the higher their wages will be. That’s bunk.

Under this logic, the way to cure our economic woes – whether poverty, inequality, underemployment, or unemployment – is through education. By educating our citizens, we increase their human capital, making them more productive and, therefore, increasing their expected income.

It sounds good, right?

This seductive myth – of education as an economic cure-all – is something Civic Action founder Nick Hanauer calls “educationism.” As Nick writes in a recent article for The Atlantic, it’s a myth he used to believe, and it’s a myth many wealthy elites still propagate. It’s what leads philanthropists to donate billions of dollars to public schools and educational institutions.

There’s just one problem: Educationism doesn’t work. If it did, our middle class would be much better off.

In the last 40 years, while the real incomes of most Americans have been stuck, we’ve gotten a lot more educated. Almost everyone has a high school diploma and the share of Americans with a college degree has more than tripled since 1970.”

But all that education hasn’t translated into higher wages. In fact, if our incomes had done what my college profs told me – gone up with productivity – the average family today would be earning $29,000 more a year. An average of $105,000!

Of course, it’s true that getting an education is likely to increase your own income. But that’s not the same as raising incomes throughout the economy. Not when four out of five of the fastest growing jobs pay very low wages – jobs like cashiers and health care assistants. Meanwhile, the pay of most people who do have a college education barely keeps up with inflation.

What we do need to do is raise incomes for working families and the middle class throughout the economy. That’s how we build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. As Nick writes:

“In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.”

—  Stephen Paolini, Civic Action, email with an ask for $ support

But then, this essay takes a twist, as they always seem to do when I deploy some ground-truthing. You see, most of us in the USA, the 80 percent of the population —  many of which are on the skids, on the near skids, or those of us barely scraping by, and those of us who are unseen but are many short steps away from working for one of those sweatshops like we see with Amazon (there are so many warehouse jobs, forklift gigs, sorting careers) and finding down time in the back seat of our cars)  —  so-so tire of, really, the prognosticators writing away hard in semi-secure status —  even the smartish ones on leftish magazines like The Nation, or digital forums like Truthout or Truthdig or The Intercept.

They have NO idea of what is real in the world, and that rarefied realm of citing this study or making this or that prediction, well, it is bombast at best, propaganda at worst, denuded of humanity in many cases.

Case in point — tens of millions of men and women wandering the land (US), in some warped version of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, really, in a society that eats-sleeps-dreams-believes the crap that Huxley warned of, and that which Neil Postman discussed. Oh the irony, those, that billionaire book salesman, Bezos, dead to the world, dead to us, the 80 percent, living, barely, in the middle of their hellish barbecue.

I was with three fellows — two literally are sleeping in campgrounds, and one fellow living with his parents. A million miles away from what any social worker or Sheryl Sandberg or Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or any of the scions of Holly-dirt or anyone in the Trump Loony Bin Show, or those clamoring around an Obama or Oprah or Rachel Maddow. It’s a triple sick experience even thinking about how vapid that so-called debate was yesterday with half of the half-wits of the Democratic Party wanting to play president.

So, a life of men truly on the extinction block, in several demographics. These fellows I hired on to help my spouse and I move from a rental to a house we had the temerity to purchase in a Time of Climate Heating, Oceans Rising, Food Wilting, Water Draining, Economies Imploding, Saber Rattling, and ICBM Immolating.

Their lives, broken down, seem to hold the familiar life story of many people I have worked with as a non-traditional social worker for the homeless, the just-out-of-prison returnees, and chronically physically and mentally ill. They work jobs, stacking halibut,  packing shrimp, pounding two-by-fours, hauling goods, sorting things, cutting trees, landscaping, roofing. Both of these fellows are 50, living in campgrounds, one with false teeth, the other with nubs and rotting teeth.

Child support for children they have never seen, or can’t see now. Felonies for this or that charge keeping them from even getting to first base on an apartment application. Vagabonds harassed by cops, and living life in a constant move. For my other helper, Brian, he’s a former marine, working as a social services provider, has a wonderful child on the spectrum (autism) and is currently living with aging and sickly parents. All three fit the bill for zero tolerance in this society. Never reflected in the news stories, in the Mass Murdering Media, never on the minds of the One Percent, Point Zero Zero One Percent. I know for a fact, though, that those Little Eichmanns who populate the other 19 percent of the 20 Percenters, well, many of them have one degree of separation when it comes to family members with substance abuse issues, chronic mental or physical illness, depression, suicidal, schizophrenic, and homeless.

You get both barrels of human pain and human survival and some human triumphs when talking with real people, albeit, denigrated folk, disenfranchised humans.

They are really rough around the edges, but these fellows, Tommy and Devon, they are examples of struggle and defeat and some triumph, as Brian and I note and agree. They are so far from any of the discourse going on around the world — the complete irrelevance of all the trolling, all the internet crap, all the stuff that makes for an echo chamber that sucks humanity and human connection from the ether.

You look at Tommy, and you see a man on the skids. Big laughing screwed up face, almost Dickensian, crazy might be one moniker. Hustling and wanting to have people know that there was once a time when he had some normalcy, some sense of being a man in society — not on the skids. Though, Tommy would not see himself on the skids.

Brain injury 23 years ago when a van hit him head on as a pedestrian. And he still works, moves heavy furniture, and hammers roofs.

Devon, a former truck driver, someone who has a few years in the Marines, and as Brian states — people are only awakened to the level of how they have been able to access those tools necessary to be woken up. Yet, Brian states that he’d much rather be in the company of these men than the MSWs and other graduate-level punishers he’s worked with, as I have also worked with, in the non-profit arenas as supposed social services workers.

They probably know nothing about this movement, which could affect Tommy and Devon:

When reporters for the International Amazon Workers Voice interviewed part-time Amazon “associates” (a cheap euphemism for “employees” used to disguise the exploitative relationship between workers and management at the company) in Baltimore to discuss their attitude toward Bezos’ fortune, they were met with a torrent of disgust, calls for sharing the wealth, and social anger.

“Tell Mr. Bezos and the rest of management to come out of their offices and get on the shop floor” said one worker who identified herself as a single mother of two. “At the end of the day, they never feel what we go through in a day for $12 an hour. They get to sit down in their offices and get paid more than we will see in a year,” she said.

Bezos’ wealth typifies the way an increasingly small number of multi-billionaire CEOs and finance operatives extract ever more obscene sums from the international workforce. This process of ever-increasing wealth for the few and exploitation for the majority is reaching a political breaking point.

Explaining her work environment during the holidays, the working mother said, “they just had us move 100,000 packages in 5 hours, and at the end we aren’t even paid enough to take care of our kids. I’m a single mother, I don’t receive food stamps. My rent is $850 a month. I have to pay for gas, electricity, bus passes, plus raise two kids.

“If we decided to quit, who would move these packages out of the door?” she said, noting the social power of the workers employed by the company. “We are the ones making you rich.”

Brian and I talk about Amazon, and the nefarious nature of how the guy at the Washington Post attacks the fourth grader Trump and others, while he is part of the Military Industrial Complex. From The Intercept:

Amazon’s extensive relationship with the NSA, FBI, Pentagon and other surveillance agencies in the west is multi-faceted, highly lucrative and rapidly growing. Last March, the Intercept reported on a new app that Amazon developers and British police forces have jointly developed to use on the public in police work, just “the latest example of third parties aidingautomating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary.”

Then there’s the patent Amazon obtained last October, as reported by the Intercept, “that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice.” In particular, it would enable anyone using the product to determine a person’s accent and likely place of origin: “The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent.”

All of this is taking place as Amazon vies for, and is the favorite to win, one of the largest Pentagon contracts yet: a $10 billion agreement to provide exclusive cloud services to the world’s largest military. CNN reported just last week that the company is now enmeshed in scandal over that effort, specifically a formal investigation into “whether Amazon improperly hired a former Defense Department worker who was involved with a $10 billion government contract for which the tech company iscompeting.”

Bezos’ relationship with the military and spying agencies of the U.S. Government, and law enforcement agencies around the world, predates his purchase of the Washington Post and has become a central prong of Amazon’s business growth. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a massive contract with the CIA when the spy agency agreed to pay it $600 million for computing cloud software. As the Atlantic noted at the time, Amazon’s software “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

Given how vital the military and spy agencies now are to Amazon’s business, it’s unsurprising that the amount Amazon pays to lobbyists to serve its interests in Washington has exploded: quadrupling since 2013 from $3 million to almost $15 million last year, according to Open Secrets.

What would the house-less Tommy and Devon say about this Byzantine world of hyper billions of dollars and hyper trillions of human hours wasted on the things of capitalism, of power and control, consumption?

We were keeping our eye on 1984. But it’s Brave New World we should have feared instead.

I know many friends who wonder why we — people like me — still live in the US? Many wonder what it will take young people to stand down the systems of oppression. Some believe the young people have it, as in Greta the Carbon Dioxide Robin Hood, or AOC, the new face (sic) of American politics.

This system we have now is one where a few voices count (get read, heard, published, followed), and the majority of voices are just bursts of yelling in the woods, in campgrounds, in one’s lovely home in the old sedan, in our own bedlam. People travelling from one insane place to another, but in that realm, a sanity sets in for guys like Tommy and Devon. The world is pretty clear-cut, and on many levels, these people have positive outlooks — toothless, no real estate or swelling investment accounts. Just that hard way forward. Cigarettes and bicycling miles a day. Places to shower. Places to get out of the rain without the bulldozers of misanthropy pushing them further and further into ditches or out on the periphery until they stare us all down, face to face, the coming of a New Brave World. Is it the entertaining ourselves to death cycle, or a little bit of the other — big brother, watching our every move, holding every syllable mouthed in a cloud server, every speck of mole cataloged, and every word penned or typed, collected to hold us at bay, hold us as prisoners of our own faulty beliefs?

 

Needless to say, Charles Dickens grew to hate the system and rail against it in his works. In his seminal novella “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by two portly men raising money for the poor.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the [one of the gentlemen], taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

— Charles Dickens, 1843, A Christmas Carol 

Or, updated for 2020, as illustrated by a commentator on an article about Portland, OR, once the Rose City, now The City of Rocks:

To disrupt illegal camp sites set up by homeless in Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is moving boulders onto the roadsides. The project will eventually cost about a million dollars, but ODOT argues this cost is less than the cost of dealing with existing campsites.

Many have pointed out that this policy does nothing to address the underlying problem or help the people in the camp, but only forces them to move somewhere else.

KGW8


odot boulders homeless camps highway 26 1015 2018

—Scrooge/Marley, Edward Sullivan, Planetizen

A debtor's prison in London.

A debtor’s prison in London.

Caught in Their Fun House

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hunter S. Thompson

Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it’s the home of the extraordinary, the only home.

— Phillip Levine

I’m digging the DV piece, “The Idiot” by Jason Holland, since in a critical mass sort of black hole kind of way, his main thesis is reflective of the experiences many of us in the bloody trenches of dying capitalism see/feel/believe minute by minute.

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

That authenticity, moment to moment existence —  and it should be a reveling of life — is good, but there is a bifurcating of sorts when many of us are still subject to the masters of Big Brother and Big Business. We are suffering the dualism of the Century, and the more we know, the more we seek and the more we grapple, well, the more emancipated we are, but in that freedom comes some pretty harsh treatment by the masters and their sub-masters and all the Little Eichmann’s that keep the Capitalist’s trains moving like clockwork toward the global demise set in their plastic worlds!

And some of us think Dachau and Auschwitz were bad! We have already seen a hundred of them since 1945.

For me, I have the benefit of being a writer, and at this time, I have this new gig I created myself to bring to the Oregon Coast a sense of the people who are here living or who come here to set down their own stories . . . people who do things to make this world better and themselves better. Something in the draw that brings my subjects for my pieces here to the coast of Oregon. These are people, and they are not perfections or cut-outs or pulverized remnants of humanity that Capitalism mostly demands in it shark tank of inane media manipulation and marketing.

I crack open humanity and get people’s contexts — entire stories upon stories laid down, strata by strata, and cover their own formula for the art of living in harmony in a world of disharmony. Reading my stuff, I hope, will allow readers of this rag, Oregon Coast Today,  and its on-line version a better sense of authenticity via people they may or may not even run across in their own lives of being the consummate busy tourist and consumer.

A few of the pieces will be worthy of DV display, and I hope that my attempt at drilling down and “getting people” for who they are and how they got here will better the world, in some small shape. Really small, but small wonders sometimes are the ionic glue of a bettering world.

What is more compelling than the average person captured in a truthful narrative, as counterpoint to a society that delves into the celebrity, the spectacle, the idiocy as Jason puts forth in his piece, “The Idiot.”

In many ways, talking to people who have lived authentic (albeit struggle-prone) lives, or who are just embarking on a nascent stage of multiple iterations of living, I get my sense of grounding in a very flummoxed world of inanity and crass disassociation, as in the disease of pushing away humanity and pushing away the natural world to hitch oneself to the perversions of the billionaire class.

Time and time again, daily, my friends who are still in struggle — still trying to make sense of the perverted world of idiots controlling the message, the economy, the environment, the culture, and the mental-physical-spiritual health of the world, as if this is it, Trump 2.0 — give me news feed after news feed of the quickening of not only idiocy that capitalism and consumerism and war engender in our species, but also examples of the inhumanity driving the agendas of the Fortune 500 Class, the Davos crowd, the Aspen Institute gatherings, et al.

Yet, my friend, Joe the Farmer from Merced, hits the nail on the head by providing his own retort to example after example of the cruelty of capitalism and the US of I — United States of Idiots?

If this doesn’t slap the Hell out of you and rub your nose into the proverbial dog shit of what a criminally insane, inhumane, cruel and thuggish enterprise our government has become, then there is absolutely no hope for your soul. The truth tellers like Manning, Assange, Snowden and others, the brave young guys like Tim DeChristopher that monkey wrenched the sale of oil leases to public lands to try and protect the environment, this fellow that is showing his human side by providing water and aid for those dying in the desert sun, are all facing prison terms or maybe even the death penalty. Their crime? Being a compassionate human being.

What in the fuck is wrong with this country? The republicans enact cruel legislation to protect criminal enterprises, slash taxes for the obscenely rich, while removing any social or environmental protections for the population, (the Flint Michigan water system for example).

The republicans are ruthlessly attacking the environment and endangered species, turning their backs on infrastructure that is endangering peoples lives, while the spineless democrats sit idly by, wringing their hands. The democrats won’t take action against the most openly corrupt president we have ever had, that is daily destroying everything in this country as well as the rest of the world with his insane military budgets, trade wars and climate policies. The democrats response to Trump is to promote Joe Biden, a compilation of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Strom Thurman and just about every other corporate whore they could steal parts off of to make their democratic very own version of Donald Trump.

Both the republicans and the democrats promote austerity for the working people and the poor, while stuffing the oligarchs pockets with gold. Both political Parties support endless war and war profiteers but slash budgets for schools, infrastructure, health care and the elderly. Both political Parties shower money on the police state and a corrupt system of justice and private prisons. Both political Parties are turning their heads to what the oil industry is doing to our water and air with fracking and are in fact have promoted legislation to let the oil industry off the hook when it causes unbelievable environmental damage. Both political Parties are doing nothing to check the nuclear industry that is a environmental time bomb waiting to go off and have promoted legislation to limit the industries liability when it does.

What is wrong with the American people that they sit on their collective asses and do nothing while all this is happening? Are they that fucking stupid? Are they that lacking in human decency? Are they that politically dumbed-down that they won’t even fight for their own interests?

The fact that this government corruption has been allowed to go on for years evidently proves that Americans are that stupid and lacking of compassion and politically dumbed-down. Thank God for guys like Dr. Warren the others that are trying to slap some sense into the American public to show us what courage and being humane is all about. Dr. Warren and company shouldn’t be put in jail but our so called leaders sure as Hell should be for their crimes against humanity.

He’s talking about a desert saint of sorts, Scott Warren, who has the power of his call to duty to give water in milk cartons to anyone crossing the Arizona desert. Now that is a hero, yet, he is facing decades in prison. America!

The charges against Warren “are an unjust criminalization of direct humanitarian assistance” and “appear to constitute a politically motivated violation of his protected rights as a Human Rights Defender,” states Amnesty International’s Americas regional director Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“Providing humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Guevara-Rosas added in a statement last week. “If Dr. Warren were convicted and imprisoned on these absurd charges, he would be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his volunteer activities motivated by humanitarian principles and his religious beliefs.”

Yet how many humans in this crime country even give a rat’s ass about one man who is doing the good that all men and women should be doing?

AJO, ARIZONA - MAY 10: Scott Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths speaks with local residents during a community meeting to discuss federal charges against him for aiding undocumented immigrants on May 10, 2019 in Ajo, Arizona. Warren is scheduled to appear in court for felony charges on May 29 in Tucson, accused by the U.S. government on two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy for providing food, water, and beds to two Central American immigrants in January, 2018. If found guilty Warren could face up to 20 years in prison. The trial is seen as a watershed case by the Trump Administration, as it pressures humanitarian organizations working to reduce suffering and deaths of immigrants along the border. The government says the aid encourages human smuggling. In a separate misdemeanor case, federal prosecutors have charged Warren with public littering, for distributing food and water along migrant trails. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Read the great piece about these water bearers on the border at the Intercept by Ryan Devereaux.

flood-the-desert-1556916141

So, here, whatever will come of my new column, “Deep Dive: Go Below the Surface with Paul Haeder,” starting June 7, well, I hope people reading this rag — 18,000 and counting and as they are compelled to hit each longer version of each of my profiles on line, Oregon Coast Today — will understand that life is the sum total of one’s search for meaning and worthy work and community involvement.

Maybe this compulsion toward narrative has always been inside me during my early root setting  living in Canada, Maryland, Paris, Edinburgh, Arizona . . . then on that walkabout throughout Latin America, Europe, Vietnam, USA, Central America!

When times get tough, the storyteller gets writing. Ha. Believe you me, the stories we all have collected in this Marquis de Sade world of capital and artery-clogging entertainment and constant death spiral the elites have banked as their Appian Way to Complete Dominance, they make for so much more validation of humanity than anything Hollywood could make.

Point of fact — I attempted to watch the film, Vice, about Dick Cheney, his perverse family, the perversity of neocons fornicating with neoliberalism. It was one of Hollywood’s “cutting edge” dramas. Written and directed by a Saturday Night Live writer. All the usual suspects with Hollywood multi-millions stuffed in their jowls — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, et al.

It wasn’t that good, but I sensed that the filmmakers were all about trying to make something that was “different.” I didn’t nod off during the viewing. But, I unfortunately had the DVD so I went to the extras section, and then, the behind-the-scenes of the making of Vice. This is when things went south real quickly with neoliberal, Democrat-leaning Hollywood creeps. We get every goofy platitude about each and every department’s genius in making this film. Every actor fawns the other actor for his or her amazing performance.

Then the Limey, Christian Bale, yammers on and on about he was all about making Dick Cheney human, going into his good side, being cognizant of Cheney, the human. Rubbish and this is the quality of men, adults, in our society — multimillionaires with gobs of limelight and credit and awards and houses and yachts thrown at them, and they can’t even begin to attack the cause — capitalism, rampant competitiveness, droll I-got-mine-too-bad-you-can’t-get-yours thinking. Hollywood is the anti-culture, the flagging bumbling money changers, the money makers, the money grubbers, and well, everything is about the pockets and the suits and the “executive producers,” i.e. Bankers.

Oh god, what a trip going into these Hollywood people’s hot yoga, macrobiotic diet, four-hour-a-day workout minds. The director, McKay, actually thinks this drama — make-believe — has given the world new stuff, new insights, new news about the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush-Reagan-Bush world of prostitute politics.

As if there were no real journalists working on all the pre-September 11 illegalities of the republican party and then the post-September 11 evisceration of the few rights the people of the world and USA had before full spectrum war on our planet.

As if journalists hadn’t cracked open the Koch brothers, the fake think tanks, all the pre-Truman/post-Truman lies of empire, from Roy Cohen, through to the rigged systems of oppression. Way before any trivial Hollywood wannabe open her eyes.

Entertainment and a few laughs at the expense of millions of bombed-dead people, millions more suffering-a-lingering-death daily because of Hollywood and USA policies and the evangelicals and the Crypto-Christo-Zionists bombing “the other” back to the stone age. The movie, Vice.

Racists, misogynists, misanthropes, one and all. Yet, we gotta love these democrat-leaning guys and gals making films, having millions stuffed up every possible orifice until their brains gel.

Insight into the flippancy that is Hollywood the Power Broker! Watching people like Amy Adams and Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell play this soft-shoe goofball show, and then in the little “Making of the Movie Vice” documentary (sic-infomercial) blathering on and on about the greatness of the script and every cog of the machine that churns out this pabulum, well, it steels me to continue my small-time, no-fame, big-effing-deal gig writing people profiles to bring some sense to a world captured by capital . . . idiocy!

Oh, how we fall in line. Over at Counterpunch, that cloistered world of writers has the countdown for 2018 — Best Films of the Year, as in the most conscious, socially (give me a effing break!) that is. Nothing in American society once it floats on the offal barrel is sacred, socialist, communist.

Peak TV is creating more opportunities for independent film directors, and for new stories to be told. More films from around the world are released on streaming every day, and Netflix spent an estimated 13 billion dollars on content just this year. More cash available can sometimes mean more stories by and about communities of color, women, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and other communities Hollywood has long ignored. But the movie industry is still primarily about making profit, and it’s main business is reinforcing the status quo, including churning out films that glorify capitalism, war, and policing.

Below are 2018’s top ten conscious films that made it through these barriers, plus twenty more released this year that you may want to check out.

[…]

Hollywood doesn’t have a great record in covering presidential politics (remember Kevin Costner in Swing Vote?). Vice, comedy director Adam McKay’s follow up to The Big Short, explores the Bush/Cheney presidency, attempting to make history and polemic accessible to a wide audience. It’s not as effective as his previous film, but it’s a good history, especially for those less familiar with the ins and outs of the early 2000s corporate power grab.

Lighten up already, many a friend and acquaintance tell me. “You are going to burn out like one of the bulbs you use underwater to do your night dives. Way too much shining the hoary light onto the more hoary caverns of American society. Let things go.”

Ha, well, how can we? We are entertained to death, as Neil Postman states:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book [Amusing Ourselves to Death] is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

And so it goes, as I trail the acrid dust devil of injustice — my own and the veterans’ and families’ I helped just months ago in Portland as a social worker for, drum roll, homeless veterans (and some came with families, including babies and service dogs).

I’ve written about it here and elsewhere — the Starvation Army. The deceitful, unethical, possibly murderous Starvation Army. You see, where I worked, I had these insane Nurse Ratched’s lording over grown men and women treating them like criminals, and infantiles, and the constant berating and recriminations. It was anything but social work 101. Anything but trauma-informed care. Anything  but caring people, enlightened helpers; instead, think mean, warped people who within their own broken self’s, do all the wrong things for veterans.

I decided to jump ship, and, alas, a few lawyers advised me I couldn’t get far with a hostile workplace complaint until I went through the state of Oregon’s, Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) quasi-judicial pathway.

There was great harm put upon the veterans, great harm put upon the staff, because a director was all into herself and her self-described Jesus Saves bullshit, yammering on about her former  cocaine addiction and booze abuse and 350 pounds of flesh, as well as her own failings as a mother. This place has 100 people living in it temporarily, while Starvation Army receives taxpayer money, all part of the poverty pimping Starvation/Salvation Army’s SOP.

In the end, relying on idiots in any state bureaucracy to carry forth an investigation was not my idea of justice. I did my due diligence and filed grievances, first with the Starvation Army, and, then with BOLI. I contacted VA officials, state politicians, and the media. To no avail. They too are accomplices!

To make a long and stupid Byzantine story short, my prediction of zero assistance and zero admonishing from the state to the executive director and the higher ups of the Starvation Army played out. BOLI is a toothless and empty-hearted agency, staffed by soulless Little Eichmann’s counting their paychecks and amassing points to their state sourced pension fund.

I have moved on, as usual, and the injustice perpetrated upon me is minor in the scheme of things. The veterans, however, already foisted with trauma, PTSD, administrative rape, etc., are still vulnerable to the Nurse Ratched’s of the inhumane social services that serves (sic) non-profits and religious crime syndicates like the Starvation Army.

Here, “How the Salvation Army Lives Off (and thrives with) a Special Brand of Poverty Pimping”

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

Here, “Insanity of Social Work as Human Control”

I have since my departure been in contact with a few veterans, and talked a few off the proverbial ledge — several that wanted to off themselves because of the Nurse Ratched’s they encounter at the Starvation Army, in the VA, and in non-profits.  This is the reality, and it’s sick, in real perverted American time —  “Hundreds witness veteran shoot and kill himself in VA waiting room”

In December, Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, put his service uniform on, drove to the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs, and shot himself outside the medical center, leaving a note next to his body.

This is Trump, this is Biden, this is Clinton, this is the lot of them, callous and broken capitalists, who have sold their souls to the devil and brains to Jeff Bezos, et al.
And it ain’t going to get fixed until we cut away the cancer. Really cut away, daily, in small acts of defiance, great collective acts of beating the system.
Not sure what that great director Ava Duvernay says about more and more movies like her 13th or this new Netflix mini-series on the Central Park FiveWhen They See Us will do to eventually get enough Americans (70 percent are racist to the core) to demand change in the criminal injustice system of private prisons, Incarceration Complex, Profitable Prosecutions. That all those cops, dailies, elites, deplorables, Trumpies, and Trump said terrible terrible things about these 5 juveniles, calling them animals, or super predators like the Clinton Klan, well, imagine, an insane 2016 runner for the highest crime lord position of the land, POTUS, Donald Trump, after these five men were released after all the evidence found them innocent, sputtering with his big fat billionaire’s fourth grader’s words that the Central Park Five are guilty, guilty, guilty.

The press coverage was biased. There was a study done by Natalie Byfield, one of the journalists at the time for the New York papers who later wrote a book about covering the case, and it saw that a little more than 89 percent of the press coverage at the time didn’t use the word “alleged,” that we had irresponsibility in the press corps at the time not to ask second questions and literally take police and prosecutor talking points and turn those into articles that people read as fact, and proceeded to shape their opinions about this case that essentially spoils the jury pool, so that these boys were never given a chance.

Trump’s comments in his ads that he took out in 1989 were taken out just two weeks after the crime was announced—they hadn’t even gone to trial, so it was impossible for them to have an impartial jury pool. The printing of their names in the papers for minors, and where they lived, was a jaw-dropper. All of this was done by “reputable” papers in New York that we still read, so I’m curious how these papers take responsibility for their part in this, and also possibly use this to review the part they play in other cases that may not be as famous as this.

Thus, she makes my case — the callous and racist and sexist and xenophobic US Press, and here we are today, 2019, enter Amusing Ourselves to Death and a Brave New World.

The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, “Preface”

Alas, though, we have to keep those words coming, even sent to the great gray hearts and souls populating those state agencies whose workers are supposed to investigate the workplace safety concerns of workers, and are supposed to prevent workplace harassment.

I write to break through the fog, and to envelop a new way of seeing my world, for me and for the few readers that dabble in even attempting to start, let alone finish, these missives.

Huxley was right — ” Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Brave New World, “Chapter 4”

Finding Space Between Despair and Validation

There is nothing very remarkable about being immortal; with the exception of mankind, all creatures are immortal, for they know nothing of death. What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.
— Borges, “The Immortal”, IV, in The Aleph (1949)

All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
— Jorge Luis Borges

I knew it would come at me sooner or later, that feeling of dread that I had steeled myself against . . . staving off that realization that the books are so cooked that every level of societal organization in the USA (elsewhere, too, as in the UK, take, for example, the excellent movie, I, Daniel Blake) is rotting from the inside-out, outside-in. I’ve kept that juggling inside my mental space for a long time, but the blood-brain barrier has been pretty much intact, cloistering away intellectual realization from emotional acceptance; i.e., vulnerability.  It’s this inoculation many of us in the middle of the muck — radical journalism, even more radical social services, and, for this article, beyond radical education —  have to succumb to and for which we have to continue to ramify our emotional ‘scapes with boosters to make it through a day or week or month of travails.

I have to insert a full disclaimer: I know I am not living in Guatemala, San Salvador, Bangladesh, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia or Palestine. Things — basic living conditions — are so-so grotesque in other countries where capitalism and despotic fascism have ensconced those places with the plague of Little Eichmann’s and narcissistic racists who do the bidding of the moneyed classes (sic). Millions of babies are dying of gut diseases a year because of shitty water systems or none at all . . . because of Capitalism; the plague of misogyny is destroying the futures of women and girls in places like Saudi Arabia or a thousand other nations . . .  because of religion; resources are continually being polluted, tainted or collapsing  . . . because of Western Culture’s rapacious appetites, all flowing out of the sewage drain that defines Capitalism. All of that to the 10th power in so-called “third world” societies compared to “our” dragging lives, and, mine, sure (since I maybe enlightened, but too I am pressed into the strata of the death system . . .  USA capitalism), so, sure, how can I complain. Anything the rest of the non-Western world has to go through daily overshadows even the hard times many of “our” people in “our” country face with this old time religion of corporate-government fascism.

Good stuff daily at Dissident Voice, as in:

It is strange to watch the sleepy drama of airports, in which a bourgeoisie and a working class effortlessly intermingle, both seemingly inured to the routines of capitalist life. Something soulless inhabits the pace of capitalist life. One observes it here in the deadened gaze of the wage workers, watching their lives tick away in [airport] terminal jobs; but also in the ceaseless arrivals and departures of businessmen charging off to another sales conference; and in the harried rush of families to make it on their annual holiday junket. One wonders if any of these classes, more the workers than the professional caste, might ever revolt against the system that keeps them ensnared in their drudgery.

— Jason Hirthler, “The Curious Malaise of the Middle Class

We’ll be getting to that soulless rendering of Capitalist lives soon. For now, I’m not talking about a complete blow-out of my emotions here, but I knew that through teaching, yet again, in a PK12 system out here on the Oregon Coast, as a hired gun substitute teacher, I’d open myself up to that sinking feeling not so much of despair, but validation that the entire country has been sold down the river with a super majority of its people colonized by the thinking, or lack thereof, created by the taker class, the destroyer species, so more victims by the thousands in their cribs are created for the elite to chew up every so much and completely every day.

Then millions daily in our public schools, chewed up and spit out. But still marks for a society of Mafiosi-PayPal-PayDay loan sharks that profit in pain, dissolution, human toil, poverty, struggle, economic hell, emotional insanity, and ethical dissuasion.

I knew going into this research project — to discover out how to wrap up my concept for a short book on The Good, Bad and Ugly of American Ed — it would be rough sailing on the edges of this strange continent since I am working in a rural county with high poverty rates, high parental drug use,  homelessness and consistent precarity in the economic realm, with parents working 12-hour gigs or four jobs to a family, and a class of people who have shuttered themselves with beach-combing, Pinot Gris-loving, tourist junkets to Mexico, la Provence in France and ski resorts and mud cleansing camps in Montana. Plus, it’s Oregon, on the coast, a very racist place/history of sundown laws (not to say New York City or Chicago or LA aren’t racist super max militarized black man/woman/Latinix hating police mafia), where the rare sane and giver tribes person is a diamond yet to be found.

Inoculation for me is that I might find personal fortitude from all my many years geriatrically speaking and many more experiences living on the planet dredging up all the detritus deposited in the process of bearing witness to the failure that is America —  the Prison Complex, America — the Warring Complex, America — the Enemy of All Good People Complex, America — the Vapidity Complex, America — the All Polluting Complex. One can still hold out hope for some semblance of solidarity from cohorts and like-minded individuals within my geographical region.

The truth is that while the national media, and the national news and national academics blather on and on about, sure, important issues such as USA Democrats and Republicans parsing out why locking up whistle blowers or jailing journalists like Assange is good/bad, or how the USA ended up bombing thousands of civilians in Raqqa, or, say, the story about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez’s family suing the Border Patrol for $100 million after the Guatemalan was murdered by an agent last year on the Texas border, the work to be done at the local level, even within a fifth grade classroom, is monumental, almost impossible in this murderous carnival of capitalism gone rogue. Wave after wave of spasms after viewing or hearing any number of stories pumped out on the ticker-tape voyeurism that is Bing or Yahoo or Fox or CNN “news” (sic) feeds is interesting in an ironic way — as a student of journalism-media-public opinion trends.

But the toll on communities, on individual children, is so-so deep and grave and beyond the abilities of a Melinda Gates or Michelle Obama or Elon Musk to even begin to comprehend, let alone beyond their capabilities to just sit down and honorably and truthfully engage in healing, or dialogue.

Witnessing the absurdity that is American and Capitalistic exceptionalism, in real time, during work, while trying to accomplish  something worthy, like teaching youth six years to 18 years old, puts a heavy toll on some of us when we many times confront the injustice and insanity of it all, head on. It’s a toll tied to our personal activities of daily living in a colonized world, where, no kidding, someone like me (and I have very few friends or acquaintances who would agree with me on the following spot on quote half a century old, and counting) can’t remove what has become a default fine print disclaimer that should be plastered on anything coming out of America, and American-drenched marketing campaigns of the murderers who run Corporations, large and small:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far…. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

— Susan Sontag, Partisan Review, Vol. 34 No. 1 1967.

This is no flippant thing I’m expressing here, yet so many people have attacked this critique, Sontag’s, that is, and my ascribing it, so deeply, and they rebuff even considering it with so much contrarianism filled with paranoia, or that disease of white guilt, or exceptionalism, or something more, something really nefarious.

The bottom line, a fourth grade thinker like Trump and his coterie of asinine, ignorant, rich, degraded, full-on psychopathic followers, in and out of his administration, hate my students. These students who are 30 to a class. Students who have four or five bullies in each class. Students who have driveling principals who are afraid of their own shadows. Students who are 576 to one counselor on hand. Students who have Chromebooks and giant caterpillar math games in seventh grade. Students who are fed the entrails of fast food and the most dangerous food for lunch that it just makes a grown person cry. Students who are forced in classrooms with bachelor degreed teachers, mostly all with their hearts in the right place, but floundering under the weight of shitty wages and economies that take up more than half our income to just make rent.

Students with local beaches that have Memorial Day warnings of fecal matter in the tides. Students with clear cuts peppered all around them and the follow up aerial spraying of Agent Orange like derivatives to keep the invasives down. Students who have no parks to speak of, no museums, no trolley services to help them get from one beach to the next. Students who are forced to listen to military recruiters, and students bred in the faux patriotism that calls all boys and girls to seriously consider the all-volunteer military (economic draft, that is)  as a gateway to college, when the majority of youth see no end in sight in school.

We hate these kids, if one were to look at our education policies run by an Amway sales person, Betsy DeVos, and if we look at all the other cabinet level people, all those heads of our supposed government agencies for, by and because of the people, and listen to what they want in terms of tearing down every economic, environmental, educational, retirement, housing, health, energy, conservation, community development safety net, how in god’s name (sic) can any thinking adult believe that this administration or any of them really cares about the 80 percent of the country, the majority, our youth, our babies, our teens, our future?

Therein lies the catalyzing moment Friday that spurred me to write this angst-leveling piece — I again, after dozens of gigs, got from the horse’s mouth — the students — that the schools are bullying enterprises, where many in these classes call young girls and boys “fat jelly rolls, fatsos, stupid, sissies, retards, fags,” and alas, nothing is being done to rectify this. Nothing at the administration level, at the classroom level, at the parental level, at the assembly level, nothing.

And so one of these counselors, one in the school, just displayed so many levels of malpractice, stupidity, telling me, a substitute, that unless I heard the boys yelling these things, and even if the girls and boys that are the victims say that happened, are crying, are withdrawn, there is nothing he can do.

Then this ignoramous spewed some platitude about, “I told Mary to not let those boys take her power away . . . to not give them her power.” This is the state of retarded adult thinking, pure reckless operating procedures.

Then, students tell me to not be so worried that the class is going bonkers or is disruptive, or that student x and y are being not only idiots, but disrespectful of me, an elder, in some sense. That this goes on with the regular teacher, and that the students have complained about x and y bully, but to no avail.

I ask them how they even learn with all the disruptions, all the students x and y getting pulled from the classroom, or all the bells and breaks and idiotic things that supposedly have been built into the curriculum because the powers that be believe young minds can’t stick to a problem or a topic for more than 10 minutes, and anything beyond 10 minutes has to be programmed into some Chromebook moving cartoon or video game.

Teachers in middle schools who tell students, “go figure it out yourself,” when confronted with a math problem. Teachers who look like they just spent a day in Yemen under Saudi-USA bombardment after a day’s teaching.

This system for the most part is ruinous of human celebration, ruinous of honoring and stewarding young minds and bodies.

Alas, yes, fixing education is easy, but not under capitalism, not under the weight of the core curriculum or shackled by No Child Left Behind or through all the degrading junk that is shoveled down young people’s throats. Nothing in the classroom is mattering, and fixing the education system again, is what the book I am about to launch is all about.

I guess what triggered me was all the bullying, all the poor ass kids who must have demons for parents, because the amount of disrespect for teachers and peers and visitors is deafening. I am not saying all the youth are like that, or even half like those bullies, but if you get six out of 30 in a class who control the message, control the chemistry of the group dynamics, who are always vying for warped levels of attention and disruptive shenanigans, then the learning experiment begins to wither on the vine.

Add to that significant numbers of youth with behavioral plans and learning plans, youth with reading issues, with intellectual disabilities, or psychological disabilities. Youth with chronic illness. Youth from broken families. Youth with some family member in jail and with an addiction. Youth with no sense of community. Entire elementary schools, middle schools and high schools that hardly ever have anyone from the community come in to facilitate learning, let alone cadres of visiting local and regional experts in biology or other fields, or artists or just plain wise elders from tribes.

This in and of itself shows that Trump and all the suits and skirts backing him HATE America, and the way they are making America great again with untold numbers of more and more victims, beaten down by the forces of oppression and repression and suppression at earlier and earlier ages, that’s his MAGA, Trump’s army of deplorables.

Again, though, “the principal never does anything to these bullies . . . he just tells them that he will give them something if they stop bullying us . . . but they don’t stop . . . there are no consequences . . . and we just have to take it.”

Now, take that to the heart of your soul dear reading and really begin to think how we are going to get out of all the colluding and colliding messes we face in this destructive warring society when we are creating more and more causalities at younger and younger ages who will never ever be able to be part of the solution.

Truly, when the school administration knows/does diddle squat, and when some goofy counselor tells students that “getting upset about a bully is like your kryptonite . . .  letting the bullies bother you is handing them your power,” a grown man not only wants to cry, but he wants to smack that puke of a person from here to kingdom come.

Seriously.

I finish off after talking today to several people about the state of youth, the state of our schools, the state of our young people’s lack of critical thinking skills. So many civilians, or citizens, think they know what’s wrong with education, or what’s up with parents, or why millennials or those in this generation are broken. Yet, adults, so many of them, have zero tolerance for creativity, outside the box thinking, and investing in REAL education, REAL outdoor schools, REAL schools where youth are building solar panels, living in tepees, growing vegetables, planting permaculture gardens, raising chickens, collecting eggs, doing art, making instruments from which to make music, doing community film projects on the old timers, going to old folks homes and reading and performing, or bringing in homeless people to feed and clothe.

Real work, real learning, real systems thinking teaching.

Imagine hundreds or thousands of students working on drive-by photography shoots, telling neighborhood history projects, building wheelchair ramps for the handicapped, getting into real businesses and learning how to be entrepreneurs,  having bio-diesel bus trips to the state capitals weekly.

We know how to lead and follow, teach and learn, share and provide. But the systems of oppression in Capitalism make it virtually impossible to do any good with not only our young but our old, or those with disabilities, or those just out of prison, or those who are traumatized by the most brutal parents and neighborhoods.

Take the following to the bank. Yes, John wrote this decades ago, and, yes, he believed we could do wonders with schooling at home and within the communities. He did not anticipate the powers of Capitalism to generate more and more finely grained sacrifice zones at the census track level, regionally wide, entire states succumbing to an un-United States. He did not anticipate the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism, nor did he really delve into the murderous powers that have harnessed all economic models and all business plans that the USA produces. Trillions spent on war, billions spent on propagandizing this rotten economic system, billions spent on policing and jailing, billions spent on entrapping more and more people into the madness of screens and phones and idle self-aggrandizement and narcissism.

Community schools, and schools inside the companies, and forcing bosses to give time off for workers to tend to the schools. Of course, we need to own our schools, and we need Pearson Publishing and the thousands of other leeches and bottom feeders in educational publishing and curriculum design and management and testing and computerization of learning and on-line madness to be sent to the dung heap.

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.

― John Taylor Gattoo, Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, February 1, 2002

Lowering Standards: Australian Universities, English Requirements and Student Cash Cows

There are no protests on the streets and no effigies of university officials being burned by protesting students today.  There are no protests outside the offices of the over-remunerated Vice Chancellors and their various hench persons.  It is business and malpractice as usual after revelations by Australia’s national broadcaster that Australian universities have been adjusting admission requirements to boost student numbers.  Standards have been cooked, if not waived altogether, on the issue of English proficiency.  Student bodies are the university equivalent of lebensraum: the expansive steppes of the Asian student market, to be exploited and leeched.

Since Australian universities first started entering the foreign market of education in 1986, a dependency on international students has taken a clenching, and corrupting hold.  Such students mean one thing: revenue.  Between 1988 and 2014, the number of international students at Australian universities climbed 13-fold.

Issues such as fudging results on language proficiency, false documents and online sites plump with ready-made material for submission, have proliferated.  But these instances enabled universities to play dumb: they were the ones facing unscrupulous students desperate to get an Australian minted education.  Universities could still claim that they, somehow or rather, were maintaining appropriate standards of admission, whatever those sly applicants might be up to.  A few might get through, but they would be found out and weeded into oblivion.

This façade has been comprehensively holed in recent years, and the brackish water is making its way through the system.  Universities, hungry and operating like famine stricken urchins, have been seeking more students than ever.  In 2015, the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) raked through the university system in that state, finding what it modestly called “corruption risks”.  To “intertwine compliance and profit rather than separating them, and to reward profit over compliance, can be conducive to questionable and corrupt behaviour.”  ICAC is almost sympathetic to the insidious behaviour of university apparatchiks: “Students may be struggling to pass, but universities cannot afford to fail them.” Wither standards!

The recommendations by ICAC were hardly upending in nature, going to, amongst other things, limiting the number of overseas agents with which universities are engaged; divorcing the issue of compliance from the issue of development “where feasible, which may include moving the admission functions out of international student offices that are responsible for marketing and recruitment”; and “considering the full costs associated with international students of different capabilities when making marketing decisions”.

As with other overgrown and self-serving bureaucracies, the modern university resists with a fanatic’s zeal, always happy to doff the cap to such suggestions while happy to expand, and in some cases refine, the abuse.  Which brings us to the Four Corner’s Report.

The picture painted is bleak for those believing in academic standards.  Since 2016, the Federal Government made a cardinal error: granting universities greater scope in determining the credibility of applications from students from certain countries, notably in such areas as English proficiency.  This was the equivalent of giving a bellicose military full scope and decision in making war, removing any civilian controls.

Education departments were cut out of the picture; universities were granted full dispensation to waive standards deemed unnecessary or onerous for the applicant.  Given the value of the education industry – $34 billion per annum – and a reduction in federal funding – this was a license to manipulate and omit.  Approvals from universities, submitted in visa applications, have ensured a smooth, and rapid approval process.  Andrew Durston, former employee of the Immigration Department, was adamant that the practice was yielding unsatisfactory, and spoiled fruit.  “I think there’s evidence to show that there are students who are being granted visas who haven’t actually undertaken an English language test.”

The practice of accepting “medium of instruction” (MOI) letters for postgraduate students from India and Nepal, for instance, stating that students have previously studied in English, has also caught the eye of the Home Affairs Department.  Such a letter would “not meet the legislative requirements” as evidence for a visa application.

This is an act of mutual harm. It denies the student a worthy assessment while also prostituting the application and any requisite standards of offered courses.  What matters is the issue of cash funnelled into corporations that, for the most part, have ceased achieving their public purpose.  They have become ungainly, mismanaged amalgams run by individuals who refrain from performing those dirty tasks of researching and teaching, preferring the cocktail circuit, spreadsheets and boardrooms.

University commissars have come out to deny the existence of any problem.  The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency sees “little evidence to suggest there is a systemic failure regarding compliance with English language requirements.”  Professor Margaret Gardner, Chair of Universities Australia, has access to “overall statistics” revealing that, “international students… pass successfully at about the same rate as domestic students.”  It has been years since the good professor taught a class let alone graded a paper; ignorance is such merry bliss.

There was one exception, if only a minor one.  The University of Tasmania was sufficiently alarmed by Monday’s program to consider a review, despite its Vice Chancellor Rufus Black suggesting how much the institution “intrinsically” cared about “international students”.  (Abusers always feign a degree of necessary caring.)  UTAS had featured in the investigation in a rather damning fashion: a staff member had sent an email outlining the money lust of a recruitment drive.  “As a part of our last-mile efforts to encourage acceptances for July 2018, the university will be waiving the English condition in order to assist the students who have yet to meet their English conditions.”  The true spirit of a standard-free recruitment drive.

When universities speak of an independent external review, both words tend to be suspect.  Pick your investigator, pick your result.  Importantly, pick a person of like mind and background to eliminate room for error and space for disruption.  In this case, the individual selected by the task of examining admission practices in UTAS is Hilary Winchester, director and principal of a company bearing her name, an expert, we are told in “higher education quality assurance”.

Combing through the exploits of Winchester reveals a pedigree that is bound to resist revolt and revolution; brooms and mops will be kept at home.  She is, after all, one of them, greasing the ranks and attaining the appropriate position in the managerial strata of higher education: formerly Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) at Flinders University and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Research) at Central Queensland University.  As universities have been seized by such very types, Vice Chancellor Black and his PVC guards should have little to concern themselves about.  Assurances, if lacking in quality, are guaranteed.

Nationalism blinds Québecers to Oppression at Home and Abroad

To protect its culture Québec has decided veiled women shouldn’t be allowed to teach. But the crucifix adorning the National Assembly can stay, as well as a large cross atop the highest point in Montréal, not to mention the streets named after Catholic saints. The government has decided laïcité (secularism) should be pursued on the backs of the most marginalized immigrants.

Underlying support for this cultural chauvinism is a blindness to power relations that has long been part of Québec’s self-image and is especially evident in international affairs.

The week the governing party, Coalition Avenir Québec, announced it would prohibit public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, Québecer Catherine Cano was confirmed in the No. 2 position at la Francophonie. After former Governor General Michaëlle Jean failed to win a second term as leader of L’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Ottawa/Québec City secured a return to the organization’s previous leadership structure. Between 2006-15 Québec diplomat Clément Duhaime was No. 2 at the Paris based OIF.

Second biggest contributor to la Francophonie, Ottawa gives $40 million annually to OIF and the other institutions of la Francophonie. A member in its own right, Québec says it provides “over 10 million dollars per year … to international solidarity activities in developing countries that are members of La Francophonie.” Québec’s international affairs ministry is named Le Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie.

La Francophonie seems to stir linguistic chauvinism within Québec nationalist circles. During the 2016 OIF Summit in Madagascar Le Devoir bemoaned the decline of la langue de Molière in the former French colony. Titled “Quel avenir pour le français?: À Madagascar, la langue de Molière s’étiole”, the front page story cited an individual calling the post-independence focus on the country’s majoritarian, Indigenous language “nothing less than a ‘cultural genocide.’” According to the head of OIF’s Observatoire de la langue française, Alexandre Wolff, it was “urgent to show French can be useful” in the island nation. The progressive nationalist paper’s hostility to Malagasy wasn’t even presented as a battle with the dominant colonial language. The story noted that “English is practically absent” there.

OIF reinforces cultural inequities in former French and Belgian colonies. While OIF is largely designed to strengthen the French language, is there any place aside from Québec where French has been the language of the oppressed?

Even more than the English, French imperialists used language as a tool of colonial control. Schooling in French African colonies, for instance, was almost entirely in French, which stunted the written development of local languages as well as the rise of a common national or regional language. It also oriented the intellectual milieu towards the colonial metropole.

At the same time newly independent African countries attempted to promote indigenous languages, Ottawa channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to link Québec with “French” countries. Efforts to strengthen the ‘common’ linguistic heritage between Québec and Algeria stunted its post-independence moves towards strengthening Arabic. Though less stark, the same dynamic played out in the Congo with Lingala, in the Central African Republic with Sango and in Senegal with Wolof. In Haiti Québec’s large (linguistically inspired) presence has reinforced the stark French-Creole linguistic/class divide. While basically everyone speaks Haitian Creole, less than 10 per cent of Haitians speak French fluently. French is the language of Haiti’s elite and language has served as a mechanism through which they maintain their privilege. (In terms of Haitians adopting a more useful common second-language, Spanish would facilitate ties with the eastern half of the island while English would enable greater relations with other parts of the Caribbean.)

Ottawa greatly expanded its aid to “Francophone” nations to weaken the sovereignty movement in the mid-1960s. In an influential 1962 internal memo, long time External Affairs official Marcel Cadieux argued that channeling foreign aid to “French” Africa was the most politically expedient means of demonstrating concern for Quebecker’s nationalist aspirations. Canadian aid to former French colonies skyrocketed through the late 1960s and Canada provided as much as a third of the budget for the institutions of OIF.

Ottawa/Québec’s interest in former French colonies isn’t only about culture, of course. Namesake of the 1965 Doctrine that made projecting French the objective of Québec’s international relations, Paul Gérin-Lajoie built up Québec-based companies as head of the Canadian International Development Agency in the 1970s. SNC Lavalin was hired to manage CIDA offices in Francophone African countries where Canada had no diplomatic representation. Six years after Algeria won its independence from France, SNC’s vice president of development Jack Hahn described their plan to enter Algeria: “They might be interested in North American technology offered in French.”

In February Ministre des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec Nadine Girault spoke to the SNC Lavalin, Bombardier, Rio-Tinto, etc. sponsored Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal on “Le Québec à la conquête des marchés étrangers: tirer profit de 50 ans d’affirmation à l’international” (Québec seeks to conquer foreign markets: profiting from 50 years of international affirmation). Girault focused on employing Québec’s substantial linguistically inspired presence in Africa and elsewhere to benefit corporations, noting “we will take advantage of 50 years of affirmation to conquer foreign markets.”

While framed as a defence against English domination in North America, promoting French in Haiti, Senegal or Algeria can appear progressive only if you ignore imperialism and international power relations. But many Québecers have been willing to do just that.

Like Canadian cultural chauvinists who never let the truth stop them from claiming their country is a benevolent international force, nationalism has blinded many Québecers to their oppression abroad and at home. Protecting Québec culture by targeting the most marginalized immigrants is a similar type of cultural chauvinism.

Google Bans Press TV

What?

On April 19, 2019 (the date of the original Patriots’ Day in New England), American tech giant Google disabled the accounts of Press TV, an Iranian news service, and its sister channel Hispan TV, an outlet in Spain.  Google denied their access to all its services, including its popular video streaming platform YouTube and its E-mail service Gmail.  The company’s move took place without prior notice or subsequent explanation.

The action’s date is particularly significant to Americans.  That day marked the beginning of the American Revolution.  It saw the first armed engagement between British soldiers and colonial militiamen at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.  Patriots’ Day was intended to commemorate the colonists’ fight to win freedom from British rule.

But, nearly 250 years later, it observes the loss of that freedom to invisible, uncontrollable organizations.

Google and Facebook, and other social media giants, have been accused of altering search algorithms to slant or even hide information that departs from the government or corporate agenda. Independent media sources on the right and on the left have complained that searched results are tainted and being secretly manipulated on a grand scale. Now the censorship is being imposed openly in the name of political correctness and social harmony. There is a clear campaign to de-legitimize critics of US Government policy.

Target:  Iran.

According to the April 22, 2019 edition of MintPress, “Iran has been on the receiving end of more than its share of censorship. Facebook has repeatedly banned “networks” it believes are “tied to Iran.” Meanwhile, both Press TV and HispanTV have faced prior crackdowns from Google. Recently, Instagram banned a number of Iranian officials following the U.S. designation of Iran’s military as a foreign terrorist organization. In some cases, Facebook has even worked with CIA-funded cybersecurity firms to target accounts. The State Department later trumpeted those findings in a report on Iran’s cybersecurity threat to the U.S., but opted to omit the source of the evidence.”

Additionally, MintPress noted:  “Google’s crackdown on Iran is multifaceted, not just singling out its media for censorship, but also shutting down the accounts of its officials. Indeed, Google is on a path to destroy Iran’s ability to independently communicate its message to the world.”

What’s the issue?

Quoting Yasha Levine, journalist and author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet… “American Internet companies,” such as Google and Facebook, “are not abstract global platforms, but privatized instruments of American geopolitical power.”

And that’s the real issue.

And it’s not only Press TV, the “Voice of the Voiceless” that’s censored. The American Herald Tribune has been under attack, it says, by Zionist gatekeepers.  In August 2018, it wrote one of the authors: “Dear Michael, Google has disabled all of the services we were using.”  Then, the next month, it wrote:  “Dear Friends/Colleagues:  We were unable to retrieve our Facebook page after it was taken down without any prior notice. We have created a new Facebook page.”

Protection from bigots?

The attacks on Press TV, American Herald Tribune, and others are always couched in terms of suppressing the malign influence of the “far-right” and/or “anti-Semitic figures and organizations.”  On May 3, 2019, the Washington Post used those words to headline an article celebrating Facebook’s action in permanently banning “several far-right and anti-Semitic figures and organizations, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos [a former Breitbart editor] and Laura Loomer [a right-wing American political activist] , for being ‘dangerous’…”  The paper saw this as “a sign that the social network is more aggressively enforcing its hate-speech policies at a moment when bigoted violence is on the rise around the world.”

While the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution states:  “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…,” it seems that “The People” can do as they please, as long as they have large Internet organizations behind them and lots of money.  And if there is pressure from supposedly liberal governments influencing them.

The Post went on to say, “Governments around the world are pushing Facebook to take town [sic] bigoted and other harmful content more quickly–or risk being banned themselves.”  Germany heavily fines social media if they run afoul of “The Enforcement on Social Networks Act” (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz). Although it came into force October 1, 2017, social networks were given a three-month grace period to change their policies.  If criminal content, which can include hate speech, defamation, and fake news, isn’t removed within 24 hours of its being reported, social networks can face fines reaching €50 million (US$60 million).

Like in the United States, “hate speech” is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, especially if it deals with illegal aliens, a sore subject in some countries.  This concept is probably the reason why Facebook and Twitter refused to advertise J. Michael Springmann’s book, Goodbye, Europe? Hello, Chaos? Merkel’s Migrant Bomb, an analysis of forced migration into Europe from American wars in the Middle East.

Conclusion

This all boils down to “political correctness” and lack of common sense.  And governmental power.  Allegedly liberal societies now engage in censorship–in the name of freedom of speech and political correctness.  But it’s really censorship and control of information that is the real objective.

The Encyclopedia Britannica notes “our perception of reality is determined by our thought processes, which are influenced by the language we use. In this way language shapes our reality and tells us how to think about and respond to that reality. Language also reveals and promotes our biases. Therefore, according to the [Sapir-Whorf] hypothesis, using sexist language promotes sexism and using racial language promotes racism.”

Clever people in well-placed governmental positions and their cats-paws in large corporations evidently have taken note of this linguistic mind control and are now implementing it on a grand scale.

From Late Victorian Holocausts to 21st Century Imperialism: Crocodile Tears for Venezuela

On 26 February, Stephen Hickey, UK political coordinator at the United Nations, delivered a statement at the Security Council briefing on Venezuela that put the blame for the situation in that country on its government. He said that years of misrule and corruption have wrecked the Venezuelan economy and that the actions of the “Maduro regime” have led to economic collapse.

He continued by talking about the recent attempts to bring ‘aid’ into the country:

… use of deadly violence against his (Maduro) own people and other concerning acts of aggression to block the supply of desperately needed humanitarian aid are simply repugnant… the Maduro regime’s oppressive policies affect… innocent civilians, including women and children, who lack access to essential medical and other basic supplies…

He then went on to talk about journalist Jorge Ramos being reportedly detained, later to be released and deported:

As with the lack of freedom given to journalists, other essential freedoms – such as democratic ones – are simply not present in Venezuela… We stand with… Juan Guaidó in pursuit of our shared goal to bring peace and stability to Venezuela.

We can but wonder what Hickey thinks about the illegal and arbitrary detention and needless suffering of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the best part of a decade courtesy of his own government.

Hickey argued that the only way to achieve peace and stability is by democratic transition through free and fair presidential elections, as demanded by ‘interim President Guaidó’ and the National Assembly, in line with the Venezuelan Constitution.

He stated:

Until this is achieved, the current humanitarian crisis caused by the Maduro regime’s corrupt policies will continue… nothing short of free and fair presidential elections will do.

In the meantime, Hickey called for additional sanctions against individual members of the Venezuelan government who he said had benefited from corrupt policies.

He concluded that:

The Venezuelan people deserve a better future. They have suffered enough at the hands of the Maduro regime.

Something for Hickey to consider

Here are a few facts for Stephen Hickey. In 2018, Maduro was re-elected president. A section of the opposition boycotted the election but the boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; 16 parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 68 per cent. Renowned journalist John Pilger says that on election day he spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers who told him the process had been entirely fair. There was no fraud and none of the lurid media claims stood up.

So what of the unelected Juan Guaidó whom Hickey calls the “interim president”?

Pilger notes that the Trump administration has presented Guaidó, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the legitimate President of Venezuela. Guaidó was previously unheard of by 81 percent of the Venezuelan people and has been elected by no one.

And what of the people who are behind him (not ordinary Venezuelan people, but his backers in Washington)? Pilger says:

As his “special envoy to Venezuela” (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.

Talking about the Western media biased reporting on Venezuela, Pilger adds that the country’s democratic record, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen:

The greatest literacy program in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

None of this happened in the warped world of Stephen Hickey either. He paints a wholly distorted picture of the situation in Venezuela, one which lays the blame for economic woes and their consequences at the door of Maduro and his ‘corrupt regime’. But this is a tried and tested strategy: bring a country to its knees and apportion blame on the political leaders of that country.

Countries like Venezuela have, to a large extent, been trapped by their colonial legacy and have very often become single commodity producers – in this case oil – and find it difficult to expand other sectors. In effect, they have found themselves extremely vulnerable. The US can squeeze the price of the commodity upon which such countries rely, while applying sanctions and cutting off financial lifelines. It then becomes that much easier to lay the blame for the consequences on a ‘corrupt regime’.

Prof Michael Hudson has outlined how debt and the US-controlled international monetary system has backed Maduro into a corner. He argues that Venezuela has become an oil monoculture, with revenue having been spent largely on importing food and other necessities, which it could have produced itself. In the case of food at least, many countries in the Global South have been adversely affected by the ‘globalisation of agriculture’ and have had their indigenous sectors undermined as a result of WTO policies and directives, debt and US-supported geopolitical lending strategies.

However, this is all an inconvenient truth for the likes of Hickey and the Western media. Talking about the BBC, John Pilger notes that it is “too difficult” for that media outlet to include any of this in its reporting:

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6 billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including $2 billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

None of this is up for debate by the BBC or Hickey. He sits in the UN talking about, freedom, democracy and the rights and suffering of ordinary people, while failing to acknowledge the US or the UK’s own role in the denial of freedom and the perpetuation of suffering across the world.

From Syria to Iraq, the ‘squeezing out of life’

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009. And writing in The Guardian in 2013, Nafeez Ahmed discussed leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

But this is where Britain and the West’s concerns really lie: facilitating the geopolitical machinations of financial institutions, oil companies, arms manufacturers and profiteers. And it is no different this time around with Venezuela. Ordinary people are mere ‘collateral damage’ left dying in or fleeing war zones that the West and its allies created. The West’s brutal oil and gas wars are twisted as ‘humanitarian’ interventions for public consumption.

In 2014, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told a meeting at St Andrews University in Scotland that Libya is now a disaster and 15,000 people were killed when NATO (British and French jets) bombed Sirte. The made-for-public narrative about that ‘intervention’ began with some tale about Gaddafi killing his own people, which turned out to be false. Now we are hearing similar about Maduro.

As far as Iraq is concerned, Murray said that he knew for certain that key British officials were fully aware that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction. He said that invading Iraq wasn’t a mistake, it was a lie.

Over a million people have been killed via the US-led or US-backed attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. But this is the plan: to turn countries into vassal states of the US, or for those that resist to reconstruct (destroy) them into fractured territories.

Any eulogies to morality and humanitarianism must be seen for what they are: part of the ongoing psychological operations being waged on the public to encourage people to regard what is happening in the world as a disconnected array of events in need of Western intervention. These events are not for one minute to be regarded by the public as the planned brutality of empire and militarism.

Tim Anderson (author of The Dirty War on Syria) argues that where Syria was concerned Western culture in general favoured its worst traditions: “the ‘imperial prerogative’ for intervention… reinforced by a ferocious campaign of war propaganda.” We are now seeing it again, this time with Venezuela.

We might well ask who is Donald Trump, John Bolton or for that matter Stephen Hickey to dictate and engineer what the future of Venezuela should be? But this is what the US with the UK in support has been doing across the globe for decades. Control of oil is key to current events in Venezuela. But there is also the subtext of destroying any tendencies towards socialism across Latin America (and elsewhere) as well as the need of Western capital to expand into or create new markets: Washington’s hand-picked puppet Juan Guaido will facilitate the process and usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism’.

In many respects, the US has learned its imperialist playbook from its former colonial master, the UK. In the book ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’, the author Mike Davis writes that millions in India were dying of starvation when Lord Lytton (head of the British government in India) said, “There is to be no interference of any kind on the part of government with the object of reducing the price of food”. He dismissed any idea of feeding the starving as “humanitarian hysterics”. There was plenty of food, but it was held back to preserve prices and serve the market.

Indian writer and politician Shashi Tharoor, notes a speech to the British House of Commons in 1935 by Winston Churchill who said that the slightest fall from the present standard of life in India means slow starvation and the actual squeezing out of life, not only of millions but of scores of millions of people. And that after almost 200 years of British rule. According to Tharoor, this “squeezing out of life” was realized at the hands of Churchill in the six to seven million Indian deaths in the WW2 Bengali Holocaust.

Despite Hickey’s crocodile tears, hundreds of thousands in various countries are still dying today due to the same imperialist mindset. Humanitarian hysterics are for public consumption as the “squeezing out of life” continues regardless.

The Battle for Free Speech: Meghan Murphy vs. Twitter

Last week, Canadian feminist and journalist, Meghan Murphy, announced that she is suing Twitter. Having been permanently suspended from Twitter last Fall, Murphy’s lawsuit challenges Jack Dorsey’s contention made last September to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Twitter Transparency and Accountability wherein he stated, “We don’t consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions, period.” Taking aim at Twitter’s contradictory and unevenly-applied policy, Murphy’s lawsuit is legally challenging Twitter by accusing  this big tech company of censoring content made by users based on conflicting political perspectives (eg. conflicting with those of Dorsey or others at Twitter). Meghan confirms that Dorsey has acted against his own company’s mandate which was “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve and do not detract from a free and global conversation.”

In a video explanation, Murphy details the reasons for her lawsuit, outlining the many contradictions within Twitter’s exercise of its policies and its censorship of its users, most notably feminists and anyone who is gender critical. Murphy’s “crime”? She tweeted this: “Men are not women” and “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” Reminiscent of the tenor preceding the Scopes Monkey Trial, this lawsuit is bound to mark the stark terrain between free speech and censorship while also legally cementing the fundamental right to discuss critically the pitfalls of politically acceptable speech when multi-billion tech firms are today sponsoring the main arenas of free speech: social media.

It’s not only conservative pundits who are perplexed by this double-standard of who gets to have a Twitter account (eg. Donald Trump and Louis Farrakhan), but also centrist publications are covering this event. But why are many left-wing news sources ignoring both Murphy’s banning from Twitter in addition to the more problematic elision of women’s rights around which this issue turns? And how will such a lawsuit affect the levels of responsibility that everyone from website/domain hosting companies to social media elites must maintain in order to keep in check with national laws that protect freedom of expression?

This lawsuit is bound to be a game-changer for everyone as it will challenge many basic “givens” about social media and the power of tech giants like Twitter. Without a doubt, Facebook, Instagram and Google, among others in this field, are playing close attention to this lawsuit, since what results from this lawsuit will potentially set out case law for a good many years.

For starters, tech giants are today controlling public opinion through censorship and how they excise certain individuals from public participation on what Twitter itself admits is not a private—but a public—platform. Dorsey is on record numerous times stating just this. When interviewed by Sam Harris about Meghan Murphy two weeks ago, Dorsey is asked about why Murphy was banned when Twitter has kept accounts by numerous people and groups that have posted inflammatory content. Dorsey’s answer contradicts what he told the U.S. government last fall: “I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance any more…I don’t believe that we should optimize for impartiality.” Harris then asks Dorsey, “Why not take refuge in the First Amendment?” as a comprehensive response. Dorsey’s response: “The enforcement of [our rules] is not always apparent….If you just look at one enforcement action, we don’t suspend people purely for saying one particular thing permanently.” While Dorsey exempts violent threats from this rule, it is clear that Dorsey is playing language games in how he has shifted Twitter’s role as arbiter of free speech: “I don’t think we can be this neutral passive platform any more.”  Effectively, Dorsey is advocating for censorship. Hence, the disconnect between what he said to Senate last year and where Twitter asserts itself as a public arena for the democratic sharing of ideas and against what Dorsey calls the “shutting down” of those who “weaponise” Twitter. He goes on to claim that Twitter’s role is more about what the platform “amplifies” and and what conversations it “gives attention to”—all this to couch removal of those who produce content that Twitter does not agree with.

Harris warns the listener before the interview that Dorsey is skilled at stepping around difficult questions, but as you listen to the interaction, it is painfully clear that Dorsey promotes censorship by stating that Twitter’s focus is on promoting certain ideas, not people. Still Dorsey is cognizant that people produce ideas, not the inverse. So in this interview he is slippery, plays with terminology and essentially justifies the removal of what he deem disagreeable viewpoints through the removal of the creators of such viewpoints. Renaming censorship as focusing on “what are we amplifying”, Dorsey has come up with a slick media spin for a metaphorical “re-education camp” for banned Twitter users.

As is the case for Murphy, social media is used for building a brand and career, marketing, research and company promotion. Murphy’s suit argues that being banned from Twitter negatively impacts her work as a journalist pointing to how news publications cite Twitter from The New York Times and beyond. Additionally, where the public geographic spaces of old are being deferred to social media, this brings up new challenges for what Dorsey has repeatedly called Twitter—a “public square.” In fact, in his Senate testimony last year, Dorsey used this term five times to refer to Twitter. So one must wonder why the public square is being privately controlled, or at the very least, why private companies hosting the public forum are exempt from upholding the laws which guarantee free expression.

Like Twitter, fellow tech giants are dangerously approximating the role of censors of free speech in their respective empires which they had claimed, years earlier, to have created to expand free speech. Dorsey clearly expresses a desire for “healthy conversation” but fails to uphold the promised platform for freedom of expression one year later.