Category Archives: Mythology

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

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

Charles Bowden

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

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

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

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Origins of Violence? Slavery, Extractivism and War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Ovid Metamorphoses Book 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feminism vs class

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

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

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

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

— Ovid, Metamorphoses Book 15

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

The Punditry of Shithole Thinking

Our capitalist elites have used propaganda, money and the marginalizing of their critics to erase the first three of philosopher John Locke’s elements of the perfect state: liberty, equality and freedom. They exclusively empower the fourth, property. Liberty and freedom in the corporate state mean the liberty and freedom of corporations and the rich to exploit and pillage without government interference or regulatory oversight. And the single most important characteristic of government is its willingness to use force, at home and abroad, to protect the interests of the property classes.

— Chris Hedges, “Corpses of Souls”

Here’s a thought experiment for social workers assisting homeless, recovery (drug, alcohol), re-entry (coming out of prison), and those diagnosed with mental and physical health challenges: Take a college educated “professional,” George, and then a “homeless” person, Julia, and put them in the same tattered clothes, take away phone, ID, money, credit cards, blindfold them, transport them from say Portland, Oregon, and to Toronto, Canada, or Buffalo, NY, and drop them off in an alley in a run-down part of town at 3 am on a Monday. Then challenge them to get back to square “go.”

We know the homeless person, or the former incarcerated person, or the recovering addict will be home — Portland – within 48 hours. The professional, either in FIRE (finance insurance real estate) or any number of elite fields, will tank quickly. Especially if we were to drop that person off outside of town into a homeless camp.

In my field of social work, many employers I talk to would rather have a former inmate, a former felon, who has gotten his or her life back on track, on the job. Really. There are even Harvard (who cares that it’s Ivy League, by the way?) studies to that effect. Of course, the rationale is based on company loyalty; an ex-con would really appreciate his freedoms now; hard work – workaholic – since all that time in the lobotomizing prison system would kick in an obsessiveness toward keeping busy, keeping moving. Then, some employers I talk to think most workers or potential workers are the problem, would steal time, money, goods, and things from the company. So, the felon has already done time, knows the depravity of prison systems, and would stay on the up and up without jeopardizing incarceration. Plus, in the US, companies get a tax break for hiring former felons!

The fields of social work are growing, yet the pay is shrinking, the work conditions are ramped up, the management are bizarre examples of former social workers themselves (very anti worker, very hard on outside-the-box thinkers, and completely blank on what radical social work is and how to even apply the principles of that form of social work). Most non-profits do the dirty work of what a society is looking more and more to not provide for – mental health care for a bigger and bigger share of the USA population; disability services for a larger and larger swath of Americans mentally, psychologically, intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually broken or disabled; financial, employment, education, housing assistance for an ever-growing population of humans who are not able to work and live and transport and find health care for themselves in this New Gilded Age.

The non-profits I have worked for are top-heavy, have very little money put aside or earmarked or grant-provided for the workers; many of the non-profits hire development associates, upper management shills, PR folk, marketing and events coordinators; many are in shining and remodeled digs while casting shadows on the street people they supposedly care about.

Some of us in social services have come from other professions, and like me, many are former teachers. Very few are radical thinkers, and many are just trying to hang on. When you work in an at-will state, where organizing and workplace coordinating is akin to communism, and when you work for people younger and the same age as yourself who once had their lives more or less put together but who are today on the streets, in shelters, in vans on the side of the road, and who have to pay for legal debts – hospital bills, legal financial obligations, debts coming at them via mean-assed debt collectors and repo men —  the idea of Six Degrees of Separation comes cold like melting glaciers as really Only One Degree of Separation.

Manfred Max Neef calls this country, USA — richest, biggest land rip off abusing, military mightiest, vastest financial thieving, culturally insanest — underdeveloping.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.

This short piece – rare for me at DV, LA Progressive,  and other places, since I still believe that concision is not a favorable tool to understanding the complexities of our society and systems thinking – is all tied to really what many Americans WAY WAY before Trump’s family set foot in this country have always believed about Mexico or New Orleans or Dominican Republic or South Africa or Philippines or Afghanistan (just replace a country like Haiti with any number of 120 countries in the world) have said, stated, written and professed undiplomatically and through the Economic Hit Men: They are ALL shitholes.

I have had plenty of people in my 61 years living on this planet, after being in dozens of countries (I have lived and worked in), fellow (sic) Americans (sic) who thought my white skin and my little lists of three college degrees and my male status entitled my fellow Americans to rant on and on about how dirty, backward, primitive, slow-witted, poor, inefficient, shady, criminal this or that country is — countries from which I lived, traveled and worked and those many have not stepped foot in, beyond FOX News and Hollywood propaganda.

That Trump now voices what Americans have believed, and economists have practiced, and our military branches have reflected – America is Great, and the rest of the rabble (well, maybe not Norway or Finland — that’s about it for that pure white race places) are part and particle the shitholes Trump so undiplomatically states the world is.

In reality, though, if we look at the definition of “shit”/”hole,” it all comes back to this warring, militant, earth-killing, global lording over country called the United States of America. Infantilized, lobotomized, one-paycheck/broken bone/auto accident/employment termination/criminal justice involved/foreclosure AWAY from shithole status.

This poor white and now multi-race co-opting country of people who have zero idea how and why its more or less isolated little status among the global actors is set in their minds as “okay . . . Great/Yes We Can/Make It Great Again/Numero Uno” because of the shit we serve up to the rest of the world vis-à-vis military and economic and resource plundering insanity.

While our own country is full of shit-holes– full of systems of penury and debasement and depravity and delusion and destruction and increasing wrath upon its own populations – we see this spasm of protestations from the Liberal Democrats Who Support All Those Democratic Party apparatchiks of regime change and collateral damage carried out on what Bush or Obama see as the “shit hole Iraqis and Afghans and Libyans and Yeminis and Somalis.” Imagine, the democrats crying about Trump and his redneck Americanism.

Which party said we had to bomb them back to the stone age? Which party wrapped up Japanese Americans in barbed wire luxury? Which party helped to wipe out 3 million Vietnamese? Who bombed, razed, illegally mined, economically double-triple tapped the world’s other shit holes? Way-way before two-bit The Apprentice got raves and ratings and millions. It’s Trump who is still on record ranting about the Central Park Five, found to be falsely convicted and held in prison (now released), stating months ago, after the five men were acquitted, found to be innocent and released, that “they are guilty of the rape, man.” His Trump Faulty Towers Corp. paid or two full page ads in the NYT ranting about “their guilty” after they were found innocent.

Again, a reset button is necessary when looking at the big billionaire’s motley mind and fourth grade thinking style: who is he, how did he get here, where did he learn, how did he exist in this country, what is his American soul made of . . . . The who, why, when, what, where and how are questions Americans of all political stripes never ask.

We can tap dance around those “deplorables” voting for George Wallace or Barry Goldwater or George Bush or Donald Trump, or dance around those millionaires who see other shitholes producing other super predators, or two-step into more delusion when Super Rich Hollywood defines You and Me and Success and Failure, or when Amazon dot com comes crashing into your local bricks and mortar, or how the millionaire media or celebrities come into your living rooms via cable or iPhone and kidnap your loved ones, young and old.

Seriously, which shithole shall we concentrate on in the US of A, the engine of shit holes, the Mother of All Shitholes, coming to a neighborhood nearby, or Flint Michigan, or Charlottesville, or Fortune 1000 boardroom or dis-education college faculty and administration?

Who in your group of friends and acquaintances even knows what economics is for? Manfred Max Neef again:

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

I am sorry to say in my years as a journalist, college teacher, union organizer, social worker, environmentalist, urban planner, etc., I have run into more shithole thinkers in this country than all the countries I’ve been to combined, by far. If you want to run into real thugs, real criminals, real depravity, delusional thinking, disgusting thinking, real retrograde philosophy, real illiteracy, real infantilism, come to a town near me – Pacific Northwest, or Texas or Arizona, or anywhere I have done my time in.

Not many anti-Trump people would question the root cause of his shithole role running this shithole country, and the mirror is not large enough for self-reflection: biggest military in the world, biggest land mass stolen from original nations, biggest area cleared of natural ecosystems, biggest group of la-la-land thinkers. Magical thinkers, the lot of us, really.

Let the knee-jerking go on and on as Americans attempt to parse out who they are in that mirror mirror on the wall! Unless you have ended the mythical belief in this country’s prowess and greatness and stopped hiding from this society’s advanced malignant cancer called predatory and consumer capitalism, then you are the Trump in that mirror, without or without the orange glow!

Max-Neef: First of all, we need cultured economists again, who know the history, where they come from, how the ideas originated, who did what, and so on and so on; second, an economics now that understands itself very clearly as a subsystem of a larger system that is finite, the biosphere, hence economic growth as an impossibility; and third, a system that understands that it cannot function without the seriousness of ecosystems. And economists know nothing about ecosystems. They don’t know nothing about thermodynamics, you know, nothing about biodiversity or anything. I mean, they are totally ignorant in that respect. And I don’t see what harm it would do, you know, to an economist to know that if the beasts would disappear, he would disappear as well, because there wouldn’t be food anymore. But he doesn’t know that, you know, that we depend absolutely from nature. But for these economists we have, nature is a subsystem of the economy. I mean, it’s absolutely crazy.

Counter Intuition, False Dichotomies, Zeig Heil for the Siloed Manufactured Causes/Consents

A change in Quantity also entails a change in Quality.
Friedrich Engels

No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

If it seems self-serving and pedestrian to chronicle my own slice of heaven called Working as a Precariat USA, then so be it. I have read so much lately on climate science, on the science around the toxic earth, around the political-billionaire-millionaire miscreants, both male and female (Trump commuted this Kosher Millionaire Rabbi, in jail for bank fraud, 27 years, today, so expect other chosen people of the white collar criminal variety to be pardoned, let go, praised), and the on-going Scarlet Letter Outing of Men, therefore,  coming down out of the ether of punditry and mainstream-and-not-so-liberal-media to get my own ground-truthing framed in what is dog-eat-dog predatory capitalism turbo charged seems like sanity to me.

I could get all British Lit on my reader by quoting John Donne, since inherently I am an entrenched systems thinker, a giver in the Ishmael sense, and understand the principles tied to cooperative evolution:

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne

And I could get all deep ecology on you, and cite a simple but profound set of laws tied to the notion of biomimicry by Janine Benyus:

9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry

Nature runs on sunlight.
Nature uses only the energy it needs.
Nature fits form to function.
Nature recycles everything.
Nature rewards cooperation.
Nature banks on diversity.
Nature demands local expertise.
Nature curbs excesses from within.
Nature taps the power of limits.

But my own little world coming into the Year 2018 (year of the dog) centers around my identity, or part of it, as assigned to me by Capitalists: my age, my gender, my sexuality, my race, my upbringing, my education, my wallet, my political affiliations, my religion, my abilities, my disabilities, my blind-spots, my enlightened self, my weight-height-strength, my IQ’s, my credit report, my military record, my criminal record, my work record, my health record, my belief system, and, well, my Google rating. There is no room in Capitalism for holism, seeing and talking about the “philosophy-ethos-spiritual me”!

There’s so much more to us, most human beings, even deplorables, yet, in USA and the Matrix, it all boils down to what you do for a living, and what do you show materially from that living.

I am still seething from a sacking, almost two months ago, which I have chronicled here and here and here, and part of that sacking was my questioning vaccine safety. My stories have gone viral, in a sense, tied to the educated and safety seekers looking at the vaccination movement. I am clumped into the realm of a large swath of people and organizations looking at the injuries, incapacitation and deaths caused by the forces of genetics in one’s self and vaccines. I am also connected vis-à-vis WWW to those groups doubting the legality and ethics of forcing people to get shot-up with drugs, from the US Air Force pilots protesting the so-called anthrax vaccine, to nurses against the latest flu shot, and those parents and advocates who do not want to be forced to have children pumped up with untested vaccines – 19 or more by age five (32 by age 15!). Many kids are getting shot up without parental (informed) consent. CDC’s dictum:

The CDC has just launched a program that will calculate a catch-up schedule for children who were not vaccinated on schedule. A 5-year-old child who was not previously vaccinated would be required to receive 19 vaccines in one month, including 6 doses of aluminum-containing injections! This catch-up schedule was NOT tested for safety to determine the immediate or long-term risk of neurological or immunological damage.

Let me back up. What happened to me, in a nutshell, is my right to free speech, my right to a safe, open and embracing classroom environment, and my right to be heard in regard to a complaint made by Planned Parenthood were ripped from my hands and vocal chords, so to speak, and ripped from myself as a human trying to do good as a social worker and make a living.

I was in a class, at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in the city of Seattle, two bastions (sic) of liberalism and supposed respect for diverse opinions. I’ve lived and worked there, Puget Sound, Seattle, and I have chronicled that sometimes nauseating place and the select citizens I call “unpeople” here at DV and other places. It is not the nirvana of liberalism, and it’s a place overcrowded, full of citizens who are homeless, and more precarious than success stories, with the rich and the Amazon and Bill Gates groupies high on their own flatulence. That’s another story.

Mine now, as I go to interview after interview since my termination, to get back in the saddle, to get a job to survive, goes like this: I was told I could not finish day two of this almost mindless 16-hour class (we practiced saying vulva and penis in a circle while passing around stuffed animals!), because of the supposed crime of not believing all the news fit to print from the PR/propaganda engines of Big Pharma, Western Medicine and the vaccination makers (I was so much more contrite and reserved in my statements in the classroom of 45 people, four men and 41 women, than maybe the reader can imagine, but it’s true . . . and I have coworker witnesses to attest to it).

I was also told (not directly, but through my employer, a non-profit in Portland) by three Planned Parenthood teachers (sic) that my broaching of Chinese traditional medicine and native American and other cultural systems of healing in a brief aside solicited by the teachers was not just NOT allowed but inflammatory and dangerous to the other students. Finally, these three PP people (and I suppose several supervisors behind the scenes) labeled me as a disruptive force to the learning environment, which is obscene since I was the picture of comportment and low-key engagement!

I expected some decency from my bosses to get my story and my coworkers’ stories, but instead, I was railroaded out of the job. I did not work for Planned Parenthood, it must be stressed. Imagine the conflict of interest tied to Planned Parenthood making millions off of giving boys and girls and young adults the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, marketed by Merck. Planned Parenthood’s $350 million yearly budget is fed through Big Pharma donations and, of course, taxpayer grants/funding. The sex ed classes Planned Parenthood delivers to my clients and to social workers is funded by public coffers. Planned Parenthood also has an international division, and teamed up with Bill and Melinda, Big Pharma and those killer philanthropists who want the great white hope of their messed up lives to be the every glowing smile of Third World victims of structural violence, agricultural rape, mass drug/vaccine experiments, and a new form of Facebook happy meal eugenics. Planned Parenthood also has a political arm, lobbying for their own special interests, some worthy, other nefarious.

Even though I never got into a vaccine debate with Planned Parenthood, really, truthfully, the trainers took a couple of off-the-record anonymous comments written down by me around not appreciating Planned Parenthood taking the side of pharmaceutical hook-line-and-sinker as proof of my heresy and radical view. Hell, how hard is it to surf the internet and find peer-reviewed and millions of anecdotal stories about vaccine injuries and incapacitation and death, tied to the HPV vaccine? There are huge issues tied to the rotten lies of the vaccine makers and distributors here:

Vaxxed Movie
HPVVaxxed Movie

Greater Good Movie
Sacrificial Virgins – Not for the Greater Good –

Part 1, 2, 3 Sacrificial Virgins.
TV3 HPV Documentary
Does anyone need Gardasil?
Colombia 2017: “Fue el Gardasil” (Gardasil Did It) – Abridged version

A hard look at the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the families desperately trying to navigate their way through it.

The Vaccine Court looks at the mysterious and often unknown world of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), the only recourse for seeking compensation for those who have been injured by a vaccine. The NVICP, better known as the ”Vaccine Court,” however, is not without controversy

Medical Doctors Opposed to Forced Vaccinations: Should Their Views be Silenced?

Bill Gates $10 Billion Vaccine Scam

Mandatory Swine Flu Vaccination Alert

The Washington Vaccination Ploy: Puerto Rico And The Zika Quandary

Making The HPV Vaccine Mandatory Is Bad Medicine

Supreme Court Pulls Up Government Of India Over

Licensing And Trials With “Cervical Cancer” Vaccines

Readying Americans For Dangerous, Mandatory Vaccinations

Judicial Watch HPV

Vaccine McCarthyism. What if the Vaccine Paradigm itself is Deliberately Flawed?

Did 2014 Mark the Collapse of the Vaccine Establishment?

Dr. Gary Null – Archive, Vaccines, Global Research

This is the world we are in a nutshell – liberals attacking independent thinkers, radicals on the left like me. The Politically Corrective forces of the liberal class and the big businesses like those outfits run like Planned Parenthood have the power to tell my Portland, Oregon, bosses I am dismissed from a mandatory training, and then, my job as social worker ends in termination with a sham of an investigation.

It’s easy to be resentful of the powers that be, in this case, Democratic Party females who wanted me shut up, shut down, out of social work!

Two and two put together, in a simple sense, is that my few words voiced in a calm, respectful manner at a Planned Parenthood course (repeat, tax payer funded training) on the Fundamentals of Sex (sex ed) precipitated a termination, and now a bruise on my reputation is growing like a hematoma of gigantic proportions. Does anyone think finding a job, a replacement job, is easy now that I was terminated and now that I have voiced all of this on the worldwide net?

Readers must know the particular nature of employment in the Portland, Oregon, area, which is now becoming Califi-cadia, and the fact many people from bigger cities, back east, too, have been coming out here for the evergreens, rivers, snowboarding, beer and (back a few years), more millionaire-affordable-friendly homes and income rentals. The competition for rare jobs with my background, and for someone like me – radical and dissident — is steep.

I know a lot of writers who are more or less safe economically or job wise that could never understand and maybe empathize with my predicament. “Damaged goods, and why have you stagnated in this lowly field with so much going for you in your thirties and forties? Graduate degrees and writing awards. What’s up with that? It must be something about you – your big mouth, something.” Variations on that theme.

Now in the scheme of things, I am reminded daily, I am not a head of a family in Yemen, or journalist in Myanmar, or working as a teacher in Mexico, or plying my trade as social worker in Honduras, or living the dissident’s life as a Palestinian activist in Gaza, so I should count my lucky stars.

All of that goes without saying, for sure, and in the global scheme of things, this is merely a bump in my life inside the United States of Israel’s financial and surveillance hall of mirrors (read Robert Fisk’s smart take on the United States of Israel rather than the cartoon prophecies above linked)

Yet, for me to have any traction on my thinking about how screwed up America is, from the towers of the three men who own half of all USA wealth, to the drone shops helping immolate wedding parties and sleeping babies, to the absurdity of the duopoly political class, to the ever-eviscerating communities from shore to shining shore, I have to go personal, in the now, as the idiocy and injustices unfold for me, from my pennyante perspective. I understand how to make those allusions and comparisons to my brothers and sisters in arms in much more dire circumstances.

This bizarre situation at a Planned Parenthood training demonstrates the power of the forces of stupidity and lock step thinking running certain parts of America’s grand illusion kabuki show; and for me, a rare male in the business of social worker, this has been a reckoning with an upside-down world of social services run by women, some of whom are as uncaring and dictatorial and unethical as their male counterparts who they dis all the time.

Here I am, on a second lawyer listening to me and contemplating the veracity of some wrongful termination suit, looking at whistle-blower laws, and positing possible gender-age-religious discrimination. The first legal outfit I dealt with is a non-profit and stated they were spread too thin to handle my case.

“If only you were disabled, African-American, a veteran, homosexual, and living with PTSD and a speech impediment.” In so many words, that was the prognosis.

The new lawyer says, “Look, you were terminated for being ‘argumentative’ and ‘aggressive.’ For a white heterosexual man, that’s a no-no. But, if you were a woman, and were ‘combative’, they’d see that as passionate and demonstrable of being a great advocate for her clients, as an honorable thing showing you are willing to be there fully supporting clients. They’d say ‘aggressive’ for a woman would be justified and more akin to being smart, focused, confident and ready to take on challenges and advocate for your clients and a worthy way to make real changes for the female gender. And, one man’s arguing is another woman’s opining. ”

This coming from a female lawyer . . .

The world according to the felons running the show, whether it’s political, private capital, big business, and big non-profit and big government, well, my mother told me at a young age, 16: “Your mouth and your passion and your sense of justice and your anti-authority character and constant questioning will get you fired . . . expect a lonely path to old age and a rocky series of rites of passage . . . make family important, friendships key, and follow that vision quest and obsession with putting nature right. As long as you continue understanding why you are where you are, why there are no laurels awaiting you, and why the powers that be do not want you in the same room, then you are possibly more realized and actualized than most.”

Something along those lines, Mona from British Columbia used to say, but alas, the story is never ending, and the gifts that capitalism and elitism and Empire just keep on giving are those that really give it to us. Daily and second-by-second-by-nanosecond.

As the daily diet of perversions and accusations of perversion, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and all things in between rape and coming on to a woman, it is a wonder anyone can think straight about what it means to be men and women working toward justice, toward universal human rights.

I’ve read over at the World Socialist Website stories about how the #MeToo movement is a witch hunt, and while perusing the comments sections, I am feeling as if I am living in the 1950s, or in the Trump-Billy Bush-Howard Stern locker-room with the outward misogyny:

All of this is being ignored in the campaign over sexual harassment. Class divisions are covered up beneath the claim that all women, regardless of their income, share the same “experience” of being oppressed by men, who, particularly if they are white, enjoy the benefits of the “privileged.”

The sexual harassment campaign is right-wing, antidemocratic and politically reactionary. It has nothing to do with the interests of the workers, men or women.

Some of WSWS writer Joseph Kishore’s points are well taken, like there has to be a delineation between something said versus something done, and that there has to be a fair airing of accusations, fairness, and of course, innocence before guilt and a fair answering to allegations. But, are there more important things in the world than a Saturday Night Live comic groping women at state fairs as his role as senator? Isn’t this what we have succumbed to, this cult of celebrity? And, are we really all crocodile teary about millionaires and multi-multi millionaires losing jobs in entertainment (who could count a Charlie Rose as a journalist, or a classical conductor as anything more than entertainer?).

Lost in the entire defense, of course, is that having these creeps masturbate in front of you is a crime, really, public exposure, to say the least. How many of my clients, homeless, living in shit cities with no public restrooms or toilets, get arrested for public urination, and if seen by someone who complains, it’s three times and you are labeled a sex offender.

Lost in this millionaires’ game of exposing genitals and spreading semen, is that who in hell would want their nieces, daughters, wives and sons and brothers put to this test: capitalist men in power, or some form of power stretched down the line far from the corridors of the political and arts and entertainment domains, exposing themselves in front of loved ones? Who wants some actor or director or editor grabbing their loved ones and friends, or mauling girls and women in public or private against their wills? Is this the nature of some of these so-called leftists rebuffing the calling out of the perverts? Any manner of stupidity tied to lecherous behavior in the workplace, and this power dynamic of keeping a job or getting one or a better position based on some male actor’s or journalist’s or CEO’s demented sexual game or worse, sexual assault, should be called out and dealt with.

Is there presumed innocence? Come on, in an at-will state, in a world of precarity, we are all guilty, hence the mandatory background-credit-work history-drug-medical history checks, even before employment.

The fact that these conservative money-grubbing outfits like PBS or NBC or Uber or Walmart are sacking people before a fair trial or investigation, it does speak to the power of Capitalism. All of that is unethical, and unfair, but I see no massive wave of people defending the rights of the worker, the rights of maids and hotel workers and fast-food workers and restaurant servers or anyone working in you-name-the-field to not only not have to live with sexual harassment and quid pro quo but also with unlivable wages, precarious jobs, wage theft, and lack of say in the workplace.

But here, again, blaming the victims, as if women or men ever had the rights and backing to confront bad bosses and bad decisions and harassment and workplace dangers and on and on, but we have the “well if women are going to be Playboy bunnies, then all women are game . . . .”

Kim Kardashian is famous for one thing – her opulent and well-televised derriere. Miley Cyrus has a music video where she swings around buck naked on a wrecking ball, Beyonce is applauded for her “daring feminine rights” song, during which she and her backup singers dress like strippers and dance around poles, the Russian group, Pussy Riot, who have done performances in which they use raw chicken parts to simulate masturbation, were invited to visit the US Congress and were given a standing ovation when they did so, rappers make millions with music videos where women are denigrated and used as props to dance around showing their behinds to the camera, hundreds of women in the US have participated in so-called “slut riots” where they stalk down major thoroughfares in their undergarments just to prove they can and they are lauded for their “daring bravery”, and tens of thousands of Americans routinely enroll their daughters in beauty pageants each year, where they will be judged on their physical attributes.

And yet, anonymous decades-old allegations with vague references to some sort of “something offensive” (not offensive enough for the accuser to have taken action when the “something” occurred, however), are horrifying and can wipe out careers overnight.

This is absurd, and we are also not in some revolutionary moment, some civil rights for women movement stitched into Hollywood’s obvious depravities on many levels.

The stinking world I live and work in is all about political correctiveness, about demeaning HR folk, about top-heavy administrations, about supervisors who could care less about turnover of employees, who are there to berate or control. Daily, the stupidity of people in my profession – social services – belies a compliant field and brow-beater middling people in positions of authority.

They will fawn over Obama or Hillary. Imagine, calling black youth “super predators” (Clinton, Trump). Imagine, bragging about being a good killer and laughing about using “drones on any of my daughters’ boyfriends that get out of line” (Obama). Imagine Madeline Albright saying a million dead Iraqis as a result of US-imposed sanctions was just the business (as usual) of the United States, LLC (collateral damage in keeping with the USA’s economic security). Imagine the bayonet rape of Libya both figuratively and literally with Qaddafi and the smirk from Mrs. Clinton!

I get canned – kicked out of “liberal” Planned Parenthood’s Seattle offices and then fired from a female-run and largely female-staffed non-profit that pays marketing firms to PR their reputation as caring leaders in mental health services?

I just mentioned briefly a vaccine and alternative forms of medicine.

As brief as three sentences written and thirty spoken words.

Sacked, frog-marched out of work, and my young clients, left hanging, many in crisis.

We live in an upside-down world, where this Obama gets laughs and giggles joking about using drones on his daughters’ boyfriends if they get out of line, yet, if the great pretender Obama were to mention the bust and butt of Beyonce after her Super Bowl performance, Obama would have been derided, chided or worse, censored.

Maybe!

I think I started this post around what it means to be a man, a father, a son, a grandson, and, partner/significant other/husband.

Man, in the 1980’s, I was teaching Robert Bly, Iron John, and got attacked on all sides of the issues around mentoring boys into men, around the general thesis Bly was impregnating that book with. He talked about the inner boy in a screwed up family may “keep on being shamed, invaded, disappointed, and paralyzed for years and years.” Bly talked about how boys and men in the USA feel like victims in that messed up family. Bly was attempting to close the door to that victimhood. He talked about the inner warrior to defend “their soul houses” from invasions. It was that warrior, for both men and women, people lambasted Bly, yet, come one, look at today, 2017, 13 years after the book was published. Talk about bad people!

BAD PEOPLE

A man told me once that all the bad people
Were needed. Maybe not all, but your fingernails
You need; they are really claws, and we know
Claws. The sharks—what about them?
They make other fish swim faster. The hard-faced men
In black coats who chase you for hours
In dreams—that’s the only way to get you
To the shore. Sometimes those hard women
Who abandon you get you to say, “You.”
A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed.
It doesn’t move on its own. Sometimes it takes
A lot of Depression to get tumbleweeds moving.
Then they blow across three or four States.
This man told me that things work together.
Bad handwriting sometimes leads to new ideas;
And a careless god—who refuses to let people
Eat from the Tree of Knowledge—can lead
To books, and eventually to us. We write
Poems with lies in them, but they help a little.”
― Robert Bly, Morning Poems

What is it about American Men, about this country’s 70-plus approval of all soldiers, all military, all mercenaries in our armies and navies and air forces and marines? What is it about this country’s women either defending Hillary as the best role model for girls, or those women who voted in the Moore-Jones election, for Moore, of course?

What is it about white women and loving Trump, those that do, and those who love Hillary? They have no inner warriors.

What is it about the white males holding the purse strings, many of them Jewish, as the Jewish web sites and newspapers and columnists continue to glower over. Reading the Israeli and the Jewish voices in print, I am seeing how an untenable Zionism and Judaism is, more concerted and extreme in xenophobia than the ultra-Christians in this country.

I end with this interesting look at father-son:

The changing times are evident in the debate about a current piece of legislation that could be the biggest change to labor law since the days when Marcus’s father was working as a carpenter. The Employee Free Choice Act, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate in March, would change labor law from the 1930s in order to make it easier for unions to organize workers.

Today, as in the ’30s, there are a number of influential Jewish union leaders supporting the legislation. But unlike in the ’30s, a few Jewish voices have surfaced as among the most influential opponents of the legislation. Marcus is frequently mentioned among the leading voices opposing the free choice act. In a famous phone call discussing the legislation with other business executives, he said, “This is how a civilization disappears.” That echoed the words of another child of poor Jewish immigrants, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and Jewish philanthropist who told The Wall Street Journal that EFCA is “one of the two fundamental threats to society,” along with Islamism.

Marcus also has worked closely with the lobbyist leading the anti-EFCA charge, Rick Berman, who has waded into Jewish communal waters to make his argument that the current unions have no connection with the old ones to which Berman’s father belonged.

Many on both sides of the current legislation say that a traditional sympathy for labor that existed in the Jewish community has given way to antipathy in a number of very prominent quarters, with sometimes complicated consequences. Amy Dean, who is active in both the labor world and the Jewish community, says she often encounters people “who have this very warm spot for the labor movement, but it’s sort of romantic and historical. They have these warm feelings for the role of the garment unions, but they think it’s not a modern movement that they want to embrace. We have a huge dissonance within the Jewish community about the labor movement.”

For Berman, this dissonance has appeared in his own family: His son David Berman, a founder of the rock bands Pavement and the Silver Jews, has vociferously attacked his father’s stance on labor unions.

Jews should always identify with the disadvantaged,” the younger Berman (David) wrote to the Forward. “You cannot ‘graduate’ to a life of self-interest and exploitation.”

Berman, Marcus and Adelson appear to have played a role in halting EFCA’s progress through Congress. While passage looked like a sure thing earlier this year, when Barack Obama took office, the bill’s prospects have dimmed as a number of key senators have announced their opposition to it. It is perhaps fitting that the senator whose opposition represented a turning point was Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, the child of Jewish immigrant parents. People such as Specter and Marcus do not see the issue of EFCA in Jewish terms, but they acknowledge that they are frequently contending with history when they take up the current legislation or any other labor issues.

This meant that rabbis would often mediate labor disputes between Jewish workers and bosses, and many of the most prominent Jewish business owners at the time — names like Macy and Gimbels — worked closely with unions. Back in 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was passed, the influential, and heavily Jewish, garment unions in New York City rallied working men and women to provide crucial popular support for the legislation. Historians note that Jews had hardly any presence in groups that opposed the legislation; they were often barred from entering the national business associations.

Since that time, of course, the Jewish community has largely followed the route of Marcus out of the tenements and into the business class. The 2001 National Jewish Population Survey found that 36% of Jewish households reported income above $75,000 — twice the percentage in the population at large.

Nowhere is the dissonance on these points more evident than in the rather personal battle being waged by Berman, the leading lobbyist against unions and EFCA in Washington.

Berman has long been a lightning rod for criticism, thanks to the work that his firm, Berman and Company, has done on behalf of such corporate interests as the tobacco and alcohol industries. Berman’s recent work against unions — his firm has spent $25 million on advertisements against EFCA — has won him enemies not only within the labor movement, but also within his own rather prominent family.

In January of this year, his son David announced in an Internet post that he was leaving his latest music project, the Silver Jews. He took the opportunity to launch an attack on his lobbyist father.

Former lobbyist-turned-advocate Rick Berman's six non-profit groups all funnel business to his for-profit PR company

My father is a despicable man,” the younger Berman wrote in the January 22 post on the message board of his record label, Drag City. The first specific charge that Berman levied against his father was that he is a “union buster.” In an e-mail interview with the Forward, David Berman said that his father — and his father’s generation — had become disconnected from the hardship of their grandparents. Both of Rick Berman’s grandfathers worked in the New York garment industry.

My grandparents are good people, raised by good Jews,” the younger Berman wrote to the Forward, “but their children are just living lives of meaningless acquisition. Within two generations, all memory of injustice is forgotten.

See the source image

What is lost in all of this sadism created by both parties, all the movers and shakers with millions stuffed in pockets, the billionaires like the following have set up empires of shame with their billions upon billions. Like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg ($35.5 billion), Mark Zuckerbeg ($33.4 billion), Sheldon Adelson ($31.4 billion), and Shari Arison, like Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page ($29.2 and $29.7 billion); investors George Soros ($24.2 billion), Carl Icahn ($23.5 billion) and Len Blavatnik ($20.2 billion), and Dell Computer Founder Michael Dell ($19.2 billion);  like Larry Ellison ($54.2 billion), Russ Weiner, the founder and CEO of Rockstar energy drinks, Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox sports franchises, and Ken Grossman, a co-founder of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Weiner is the son of prominent conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage (born Michael Weiner); like Seth Klarman, an investor in the Times of Israel, is also on the list, with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

Within two generations of those death camps, David Berman states, his family and tribal line have become despicable in many cases, taking advantage of power, tax dodges, military-pharmacy-finance-computing-legal-retail larceny on a very global scale.

Those sins of the father, ugh?

Daddy

Sylvia Plath, 1932 – 1963

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You—

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Sex, Drugs and Rollickin’ Roles: Christmas and Our Ever-Changing Relationship with Nature

​​Traditions of the Winter Solstice

Christmas is an ancient feast that has many positive associations for people around the world. While the bible places the birth of Christ in Bethlehem it does not say when, but by the 4th century the Churches in the East were celebrating it on January 6 and the Churches of the West on December 25.

One thing is certain about Christmas is that it is rooted in many traditions and superstitions relating to nature that existed long before Christmas and many have continued in one form or another to the present day. The many strands of Christmas can be seen in the variety of different traditions associated with, or originating in, places all over Europe. These strands are, inter alia, the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz).

The association of Christmas with its earlier midwinter nature worship traditions declined as the Church exerted its power and authority over pagan practices and in more recent centuries as the industrial revolution took people away from the land and into the cities and factories. Since then industrialisation has taken over many aspects of people’s lives as they shifted from being producers to consumers.

As direct contact with nature declined and scientific knowledge was applied to production, our lives were made easier by an abundance of relatively cheap goods and food. These benefits have come at another price though as industrialisation and technology the world over pushes nature further and further into ecological crises. There is much discussion and debate about the potential for a tipping point as the destruction of ecosystems and climate change move headlong towards irreversible damage of the Earth’s biosphere.

This has come about, partly due to our alienation from nature, but also due to a system which blinds us to the excesses of production through mass media, and Christmas has become the vehicle for the worst excesses of industrialisation, commercialisation and commodification. However, this is a gross distortion of its roots in respecting nature and nature worship which was ultimately about a heightened awareness of survival in an unpredictable world.

Sex

The predominant figure of Christmas has become Santa Claus (Dutch: Sinter Klaas) and originated in the stories around St Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra (Turkey), giving anonymous gifts to help people in need or trouble.1 In many European regions St Nicholas came door to door with a bishop’s mitre and crosier on his feast day, December 6. He was accompanied by his helper Ruprecht or Krampus as he is known in the Alpine regions. Krampus is depicted as half goat and half demon and punished misbehaving children with a rod.

Krampus

It is believed that Krampus derives from the much earlier pre-Christian Norse mythology and that he was the son of the god of the underworld Hel. While the name Krampus is believed to originate from Krampen meaning ‘claw’, Ruprecht is believed to be from “Hruodperaht” meaning “gloriously shining one” another name of Wotan. Their negative status is likely the result of Christian attempts to assert dominance over the pagan peoples of the time, in the same way that the Celtic goddess Bridget was demoted by the Christian church to St Bridget. Krampus is an evil fertility demon who scares children (reversing his earlier role as fertility god) with his hazel wood rod:

The hazelnut was holy to Donar, the God of marital and animal fertility. The hazel wood rod was considered a great rod of life. With this symbol of the penis, women and animals were beaten “with gusto” in order for them to become fertile.2

This fertility rite has continued to the present day on Easter Mondays in the Czech Republic when young women are whipped with a braided rod of willow called a pomlázka to “assure womankind with good health, fresh look and keep fertility. The girls then give coloured or painted eggs to boys and men as a sign of their thanks and forgiveness.”

Pomlázka

During the 12th century the church tried to end the Krampus celebrations but it seems that, like with many popular traditions, they re-surfaced and were re-integrated back into church traditions. Unlike the ‘demonised’ Krampus, the Christian St Nicholas distributed typical gifts of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, spices and toys.3 These gifts were also symbols of fertility. Hazelnuts helped people survive winter as they could be easily stored and were rich in fats and vitamins. Apples were associated with the Tree of Paradise and dried fruits such as oranges and lemons served as fertility symbols in the Mediterranean countries as they were the first fruit of the year and thus herald a good harvest.4

Drugs

Another major association of Norse mythology with Christmas is the reindeer pulling the Santa’s sleigh. The first mention of St Nicholas in the air in popular mythology is of him “riding jollily among the tree-tops, or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favourites” is by Washington Irving in his satirical work, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). At this point St Nicholas was not associated with Christmas and presents were exchanged on the night before his feast day on December 6.

However, in a poem written in 1822, Clement Moore has St Nicholas arrive with his presents on the night before Christmas and in “a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer” who “would mount to the sky […] with a sleigh full of toys” and then go down the chimneys to deliver his gifts thus shifting celebrations of St Nicholas in the United States from his feast day on December 6 to Christmas Eve on December 24 instead.5

The phenomenon of flying animals has long been associated in Norse mythology with Wotan (Odin) and his flying eight legged horse Sleipnir, and with Thor and his flying goat-drawn chariot.

​”Odin and Sleipnir” (1911) by John Bauer

Wotan is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded in Old Norse texts and is a fierce god associated with wisdom, healing and war. Children would leave straw in their boots for Sleipnir by the hearth and Wotan would exchange it for a gift in return for their kindness.

Thor was also depicted as a fierce god of thunder and lightning, storms, oak trees and fertility. Another god, Morozko, the powerful and cruel Slavic god of frost and ice could freeze people and landscapes at will, became known as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) but was eventually demonised by the Russian Orthodox Church. As our fear of nature declined and Christmas became more of a child-centered celebration, the depictions of these gods became less fierce over time.

Thor and Tyr in their Goat-Drawn Chariot (From “The Book of Myths” by Amy Cruse, 1925)

The flying aspect of Santa’s reindeers is believed to refer to the reindeers’ fondness for Fly Agaric mushrooms associated with Old Nordic Shamanism. The Shamanic ‘flight of the soul’ was part of the culture of people in arctic Europe and Siberia who would communicate with the souls of their ancestors in an altered state of consciousness helped along by the hallucinogenic mushrooms.6 Like the Church attempts to eradicate the earlier fertility traditions and the gods associated with them, shamanism has been considered mere superstition and attacked by both Churches and governments alike.

It seems that what shamanism and fertility rites have in common is the idea of directly engaging with nature to secure desired material or spiritual goals. Both Krampus and Shamanism have been associated with Satan who “uses deception and demonic spirits seeking our destruction” yet their popularity has ebbed and flowed over the centuries without disappearing altogether.

Rollickin’ Roles

Similarly the Bacchanalian aspect of Christmas celebrations is a survival of Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of Saturn the “god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation” which could also be described as an engagement with the cycles of nature. Saturnalia was “a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry” held on December 17 of the Julian calendar and was subsequently extended to 23 December. Saturnalia originated as a farmer’s festival to mark the end of the autumn planting season in honour of Saturn (satus means sowing).

According to Justinus, the 2nd century Roman historian, these celebratory aspects of Saturnalia derived from, and were explained by, its origins with pre-Roman peoples of Italy who:

were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.

Once again the association with nature and the Golden Age (when people lived in peace and harmony) forms the basis of a celebration which was to be co-opted by the Church and eventually attacked for its excesses. According to a Puritan minister in 17th century England, Increase Mather, Christmas occurred on December 25 not because “Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those pagan holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones]. Stephen Nissenbaum, in his book The Battle for Christmas, writes:

Puritans believed Christmas was basically just a pagan custom that the Catholics took over without any biblical basis for it. The holiday had everything to do with the time of year, the solstice and Saturnalia and nothing to do with Christianity.

Presumably the masters could not cope with the concept of equality and saw Saturnalia instead as a role reversal. In pre-industrial England people would elect a Lord of Misrule who would be in charge of Christmas festivities and who even had license to poke fun at the nobility.7 Yet the Lords of Misrule were an important aspect of Christmas as the reversal of traditional social norms was a safety valve for class tensions in England. It was around this time that the personification of Christmas as Father Christmas began to appear.

​Father Christmas 1848

He was associated not with children, presents, chimneys or stockings, but with adult merrymaking and feasting. During Christmas ‘great quantities of brawn, roast beef, ‘plum-pottage’, minced pies and special Christmas ale were consumed’ and people enjoyed singing, dancing and card games resulting in ‘drunkenness, promiscuity and other forms of excess.’ Thus when the Puritans took over government in the 1640s they tried  ‘to abolish the Christian festival of Christmas and to outlaw the customs associated with it’. The satirical Royalist poet, John Taylor, wrote in The Complaint of Christmas:

All the liberty and harmless sports, with the merry gambols, dances and friscals [by] which the toiling plowswain and labourer were wont to be recreated and their spirits and hopes revived for a whole twelve month are now extinct and put out of use in such a fashion as if they never had been. Thus are the merry lords of misrule suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster.

However by the 1650s it was reported that the taverns were full on Christmas day, churches were decorated in rosemary as usual, Christmas Boxes had been given out, presents exchanged and mummers paid despite the bans. Worse still violence broke out in London when:

a large crowd of Londoners gathered to prevent the mayor and his marshalls removing the Christmas decorations which some of the city porters had draped around the conduit in Cornhill. The confrontation ended in uproar, with arrests, injuries, and the bolting of the mayor’s frightened horse.

The Christmas celebrations returned with Charles II in 1660 and showed once again the attempt to impose a narrow religious view on the multifaceted ancient traditions of people had failed.

Trees

Somewhat earlier, in the 14th and 15th centuries in Germany, craftsmen began to decorate their guild halls with trees and adorning them with fruits and nuts. This eventually led to the German, Charlotte, who married King George III in 1761, potting up and decorating a yew tree and initiating the custom in England. Legend has it that in Germany, St Boniface, an historical figure from the 7th century, saw a group of people honouring the sacred tree, Donar’s Oak (sometimes referred to as Thor’s Oak) somewhere around Hesse, became angry and chopped the tree down (and added insult to injury by using the wood to build his church).

St Boniface chopping the oak tree

Sacred trees and sacred groves were very important to the Germanic peoples and were too important to be cut down. Again we can see that the earlier traditions of pre-Christian society revolved around revering nature:

Some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things.

Over time, cutting the evergreen tree and bringing it indoors became an important part of Christmas traditions [see my previous article on Christmas trees] despite church proscription, because of its shamanic-pagan past.

Another early nature-based tradition is the wassail in England. Wassailing is a very ancient custom that is referenced in history as early as the eighth-century poem Beowulf. The word ‘wassail’ is believed to be derived from the Old Norse ‘ves heil’ and the Old English ‘was hál’ and meaning “be in good health” or “be fortunate.” The wassail had an important significance for farmers:

In parts of Medieval Britain, a different sort of wassailing emerged: farmers wassailed their crops and animals to encourage fertility. An observer recorded, “They go into the Ox-house to the oxen with the Wassell-bowle and drink to their health.” The practice continued into the eighteenth century, when farmers in the west of Britain toasted the good health of apple trees to promote an abundant crop the next year. Some placed cider-soaked bread in the branches to ward off evil spirits. In other locales, villagers splashed the trees with cider while firing guns or beating pots and pans.

The Apple Tree Wassail lyrics anticipate the next year and a good crop:

(It’s) Our wassail jolly wassail!
Joy come to our jolly wassail!
How well they may bloom, how well they may bear
So we may have apples and cider next year.

Solstice and the Unconquered Sun

Our awareness of mid winter and the solstice (‘sun stands still’) is shown to go back to the late Neolithic and Bronze Age with Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England. In both cases the monuments have been aligned to the solstice, sunrise at Newgrange and sunset at Stonehenge. It has been the occasion of celebrations, rituals and gatherings as the sun appears to be reborn and the days start getting longer again. After this time food became scarce (January to April) which were known as the ‘famine months’. It was the last feast of the year as cattle were slaughtered and wine and beer were ready for drinking. The ‘rebirth’ of the sun was known as Sol Invictus or the ‘unconquered sun’ god during the Roman Empire in the 3rd century CE and the Emperor Aurelian dedicated a temple to Sol to be celebrated on December 25. Solar deities have been represented as both gods and goddesses in different cultures and are particularly important in mid winter when the sun is low in the sky. In many countries in Europe the tradition of the Yule log burning was an important festival to help strengthen the weakened sun.

Yule log

A large log, big enough to burn for the 12 days of Christmas, was brought into the houses and burned. It was believed to have originated with the Norse and the Celts who had large bonfires to welcome the return of the sun. The log was thought to have magical properties and the ashes were then used as fertiliser and as cures for both people and animals and would protect them for the year to come.

Nature

Throughout the world there have been many forms of nature worship demonstrating that people respected and feared nature in equal amounts over the millennia. We have a complex relationship with nature, indeed we are an important part of nature. We have to negotiate every aspect of that relationship, be it food, water, reproduction, climate (storms avalanches, floods, droughts, fires), the seasons, the geophysical (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes), light (length of day, sleeping during hours of darkness) etc.

In the past people hoped and prayed that in the next year nature would allow them to live well again and consequently treated nature with respect. To do that people were careful not to over-exploit nature in various ways: by leaving land fallow, having food taboos, allowing areas to regenerate by moving on, by not over-using a food resource, thus creating the basis of sustainability into the future. Their respectful attitude to nature was reflected in what we call superstitions and paganism but it allowed them to celebrate Christmas without guilt in the knowledge that they had treated nature well and that nature would reciprocate with a bountiful harvest the next year.

Today, on the other hand, we are alienated from this way of thinking and living to the extent that people have lost direct control of their relationship with nature. The ever increasing industrial overproduction of meat, over-fishing, over-fertilisation, deforestation, air pollution and extractivism is pushing nature to extremes and already we are seeing the catastrophic results of this in climate change. Maybe as climate change brings ever fiercer storms and destruction of food production we will learn to respect and fear nature again.

  1. Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, by Jeremy Seal, p. 28.
  2. Pagan Christmas: the Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origin of Yuletide, by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, p. 33.
  3. Pagan Christmas, p. 36.
  4. Pagan Christmas, p. 52/3.
  5. From Stonehenge to Santa Claus: The Evolution of Christmas, by Paul Frodsham, p. 164.
  6. Pagan Christmas, p. 46/47.
  7. Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony, Richard Heinberg, p. 107.

Prosperity as a Crypt to Crisis

There is no image of prosperity which is not at the same time an image of crisis. I modify here Walter Benjamin’s famous dictum from Über den Begriff der Geschichte.1 For the current American context, we’ve advanced into a period where national prosperity is realized through social and cultural damage. That is to say, it is a context where tightened borders and criminalized immigration is accompanied by domestic instability and global unrest; where the expansion of global industry and capital accumulation is attended with ecological damage and economic collapse; and where the protection of national security necessarily involves orchestrating foreign wars, heightening surveillance, and reducing civil liberties.

The U.S.’s obsession with national security and prosperity is part and parcel of the American character more generally – one that fetishizes its constitution, brandishes its military through grandiose advertisements and popular television, and unapologetically relies on market fundamentalism and consumer culture. These elements uphold the image of a prosperous nation. Yet, that image has as its dialectical counterimage the enduring damage waged throughout the world. A sufficient account, then, of the ‘good American citizen’ – one who embodies the American moral license and authenticity – shall also be of one who owes his or her sense of virtue to every crisis that America creates. Global catastrophe is also ours, and is no less part of the nation we aim to protect.

In 1701, Daniel Defoe composed the satiric poem, “A True Born Englishman.” The poem was rendered as a commentary on British patriotism and the self-granted sense of superiority. The final stanza is especially prophetic if we apply it to the American national character:

‘Tis well that virtue gives nobility
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive
Which does not from some foreigner derive.

Americans, too, pride ourselves on our foreign heritage and ethnic co-mingling. But, despite what we like to tell ourselves, this history is not merely a cosmopolitan history of foreign migration. Rather, that American-ness is the American-ness built upon imperialism, colonization, and widespread violence. This is the double-sided meaning of “derive from”; it could be interpreted as being part of or based upon a foreign, multi-ethnic heritage. Yet, it can also be read to suggest that the national character derives its sense of self from the endless injustices committed against “some foreigner” – one whose vulnerability and instability is manufactured and preyed upon by America’s globalized mode of economic dominance, as Pierre Bourdieu would have it.

America’s raison d’État

To be a patriotic American is to buy into the gospel of prosperity – to buy the notion that a strong, thriving economy is a mark of ecumenical triumph. Politicians and business leaders alike congratulate themselves for assuring that the GDP is continuously growing. And we’re supposed to believe that this trend is a sign of productivity and prosperity.

What we fail to recognize, however, is that triumph and disaster are bound to one another – that they are complements, not opposites. To be clear, I’m not simply arguing that the U.S. manufactures and exploits crisis to fortify its national position and market domination. Naomi Klein has already convincingly argued this point in her book The Shock Doctrine. I’m arguing, rather, that crisis is prosperity’s symmetrical inverse, growing parallel to and alongside whatever campaign for national success the U.S. happens to be running.

So long as, for example, the U.S. agencies continue to round up undocumented immigrants, all in the name of maintaining national security, there will also be a widespread fear among immigrant groups. For these families, therefore, the push toward national security doesn’t allay their worries about security; it does the exact opposite. Similarly, for nations around the world – particularly those who remain in America’s crosshairs – the narrative of anti-terrorism remains a code-switch for ‘invasion’ and ‘conflict-creation’. These are the crises and abuses that will be forever linked to the enterprise of (so-called) national flourishing.

The unwillingness to concede lessons of history, or to apply sound scientific models to avoid catastrophe and environmental destruction, should be cause for our collective outrage, but yet should not be too surprising. These figure primarily into America’s raison d’État– the stubborn neoliberalism, inviting us to be the country that consumes the most natural resources and lives unsustainably. In the name of unbridled, individual choice and a thriving free market, we can comfortably sleep while environmental, social, and ecological damage continue to ensue. Under the present ideological scheme, it’s as much a sign of our national strength as it is a sign of global catastrophe.

“America first” is Trump’s tagline for this endeavor, and it has been alarmingly effective in misdirecting focus from the impact that this isolationism has had around the world. As Bill Frelick, Director of Refugee Rights Program, points out, the basic outline of Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy has been consistent in one particular dimension: “the stance that refugees should be kept out, diverted to other countries, or, preferably, confined to their home countries.” If we were to actually give a qualitative assessment of how successful this policy is, we could easily measure it by how much instability it has created, how much more it has exacerbated the refugee crisis, and how much it has emboldened foreign distrust. Despite what the current president thinks this image shows, it cannot exist without at the same time being an image of crisis.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, imagines an alternate history during World War II – one in which Charles Lindbergh assumes the presidency in 1940, under his promise to isolate the U.S. from intervening in the war. His rise to the presidency follows Lindbergh’s real-life stint as spokesman for the America First Committee; and in the novel, his popularity and eventual nomination stem from his unabashedly isolationist proclamations.

Roth’s novel is meant to reflect the disruption and poignant heartache that families endure under such a regime. One particularly telling moment of the novel occurs when Roth’s narrative voice reflects upon the historic enigma of Lindbergh’s rise to the presidency:

And as Lindbergh’s election couldn’t have made clearer to me, the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we school children studied as ‘History,’ harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.

This is how the U.S. was able to solidify a national identity divorced from catastrophe: hiding the “terror of the unforeseen”. So long as the official historic record denies these terrors, then the nation can mythologize and celebrate its victories.

This crisis is our crisis

I propose that any claim to American authenticity should also be a claim to its crises, both domestic and global. We should recognize that economic and ecological damage have always sustained American prosperity, growth, and security.

The values that the U.S. holds most dear concomitantly affect the lives excluded from constitutional representation. The right to free speech entails the right to incite violence; the right to bear arms entails the right to stand your ground; the right to a free press entails the right to misinform; and the right to the pursuit of happiness entails the right to consume and exploit. With these inalienable rights, the U.S. is also permitted to commit atrocities in the name of its hallowed constitution.

In the U.S., to criticize the constitution is to commit the worst kind of blasphemy. This is due, in part, to a mythology surrounding the founding fathers who were seen to be carrying on the values of the American people and embedding them within the supreme law of the land. As Bertell Ollman argues:

Their political savvy and common sense were now seen as all-surpassing wisdom, and their concern for their own class of property owners (and, to a lesser extent, sections of the country and occupational groups) had been elevated to universal altruism (in the liberal version) or self-sacrificing patriotism (in the preferred conservative view).

This document, in short, confirms the self-image America wants: the image of prosperity, universal altruism, and self-sacrificing patriotism.

Yet, it’s an incomplete image. For what is beyond the representation of the constitution are those who do not, as Ollman argues, enjoy property ownership that connects them to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are the ones who are victims of crisis and disaster that we allow ourselves to create.

This is a natural outcome of this prefabricated American identity –  an identity which shows deference to prosperity and security, while self-justifying its imperialistic enterprises. After all, strict adherence to these principles has given the U.S. license to sacrifice anything that gets in the way of its ordained rights. Yet, if we hold claim to our crises and the devastating destruction that occurs in the name of national security, prosperity, and success, then we would be quick to re-think this fundamentalist mindset.

Instead of granting authority to history, we can and should destabilize the universalizing narratives to which we’ve grown accustomed. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari famously point out that embracing such a narrow, unifying vision of identity – such as that which is based upon national myth, history, or filiation – grants legitimacy to fascism. Rather, when we recognize the singular multiplicities that characterize our existence, thus deteritorializing the pernicious confines of nation and history, we can re-think how much credence we lend to a mythologized history and to the agenda of national prosperity.

True resistance starts with delegitimizing power, and ends with mobilizing ourselves with new myths and a new vision for stability.

There needs, moreover, to be sufficient accountability for the present. To be alive at a particular time requires that we throw our entire fleshed existence into the chaos of our historical moment. Re-write the American myth to reveal the destruction we’ve created in the wake of our path. Point to the world around us and concede that this crisis is our crisis.

  1. Walter Benjamin. “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”. 1940.

Primary Victims of the Canadian State echo Foreign Policy Mythology

The power of foreign policy nationalism is immense. Even the primary victims of the Canadian state have been drawn into this country’s mythology.

Dispossessed of 99% of their land, Indigenous people have been made wards of the state, had their movement restricted and religious/cultural ceremonies banned. Notwithstanding their antagonistic relationship to the Canadian state, indigenous leaders have often backed Ottawa’s international policies.

At a National Aboriginal Veterans Day ceremony last week Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Stewart Phillip said Indigenous soldiers were “fighting for the common good” and were “on the right side of history.” But, Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II. Ignored in the Remembrance Day style commemoration are the Afghans or Libyans killed by Canadians in recent years or the Serbians and Iraqis killed two decades ago or the Koreans killed in the 1950s or the Russians, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed before that.

While Phillip’s comments reinforces the sense that Canada’s cause is righteous, he’s not a sycophant of power on most issues. Phillip refused to attend a “reconciliation” event with Prince William, called for “acts of civil disobedience” against pipelines and said “the State of Canada and the Church committed acts of genocide as defined by the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Philip was but one of many indigenous voices applauding Canadian militarism during National Aboriginal Veterans Day/Remembrance Day activities. CBC Indigenous reported on a reading in Mi’kmaq of the pro-World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” and quoted the editor of Courageous Warriors of Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Ted Whitecalf, saying: “It’s all for freedom that the people served willingly and voluntarily.”

Outside of war commemorations, Indigenous representatives occasionally echo broader foreign policy myths. Alongside Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde was a keynote speaker at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s “Come Celebrate Canada’s International Contributions!!” event in May. Part of Canada’s 150th anniversary the Global Impact Soirée included a Global Affairs Canada exhibit titled “25 Years of Excellence in International Development Photography” and “Recognize Canada’s 15 international contributions”.

At the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, former AFN leader Matthew Coon Come denounced Canada’s “marginalization and dispossession of indigenous peoples.” In what was widely described as a forceful speech, Coon Come labeled Canada “an international advocate of respect for human rights” and said: “Canadians, and the government of Canada, present themselves around the world as upholders and protectors of human rights. In many ways, this reputation is well-deserved. In South Africa, the government of Canada played a prominent role in isolating the apartheid regime. In many other countries, Canada provides impressive international development assistance.” (While repeated regularly, Coon Come’s characterization of Canada’s role in opposing apartheid is incorrect and aid was largely conceived as a geopolitical tool to blunt radical decolonization.)

Indigenous opinion is, of course, not homogenous. Some chiefs have actively supported indigenous communities resisting Canadian mining projects in Latin America while former chief of Manitoba’s Roseau River First Nation Terrance Nelson called on first nations to forge their own international ties. Author of 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, Gord Hill criticized First Nations collaboration with the Canadian Forces. From Kwakwaka’wakw nation, Hill denounced indigenous leaders supporting recruitment for a force “who continue to loot and plunder not only Indigenous lands here, but also those of tribal peoples in Afghanistan and Haiti.”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Native Alliance of Red Power opposed “efforts to co-opt native leadership into Canadian imperialism.” The Coast Salish (Vancouver) based group protested local residential schools, police brutality, racism, sexism, as well as the war in Vietnam and colonialism in southern Africa.

Indigenous leaders have various ties to the foreign policy establishment. They are part of a slew of initiatives set up by the Canadian International Development Agency, Global Affairs Canada and Department of National Defence. Historically, Canadian military experience significantly shaped indigenous politics. After returning from the Western front Frederick Ogilvie Loft formed the League of Indians of Canada in 1919, the first pan-Canadian indigenous political organization. Backed by a significant share of the 4000 indigenous WWI veterans, the League led directly to today’s Indian Association of Alberta and Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. “The League was also the forerunner of the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations”, explains a history of The League of Indians of Canada.

Rather than echo nationalist myth, Indigenous leaders and activists should be part of a movement for a just foreign policy. First Nation experiences with Canadian colonialism, including so-called aid, missionaries and government financing of indigenous organizations, can offer insight into this country’s foreign policy. Over the longer term an expansion of First Nations autonomy could redefine the Canadian state in a way that helps reset this country’s place in the world.

Genuine Progress Index Be Damned! Grow, Displace, Submit!!

Rapacious. “They got theirs, so I better get mine. Yes, things change, and, sure this sleepy town is about to boom but that’s the way of the world…. Might as well be part of the winning team – that money making side of things. That’s all you can do.”

I just finished talking to white guy in his late forties, gassing up excavators and huge dump trucks. We’re near the Estacada High School, and he tells me the scrapping is to make room for more ball fields. The school already has fields and a football stadium. This is a town with 3,000.

The day before on the very same spot I was walking with Canada geese lighting on the marshy part of the tract of land. I was with flickers, robins, raptors, and bee catches and swallows and maybe 15 other species of birds, including hummers.

The crows were squawking their disapproval of all the rumbling trucks and blades sawing up plywood and siding for the new crop of homes coming to fruition near the spit of land. These few acres with a creek running through them were their paradise, their wintering quarters.

Foreboding, those corvids rallying their ranks in the sunny bluster, really, for me, living in a county with no native American signs, tributes, museums, nothing, left on the surface, just the name, Clackamas River in Clackamas County. There are 99 percent whites here, and many cruise with American flags and Confederate ones as big as trampolines fluttering behind their jacked up Jeeps and pick-ups.

The California invasion is lamented daily, with now sputtering-to-a-stop superhighway commutes, and the constant building and the housing and rental stock vanished into thin banker’s air.

I’ve had someone recently tell me to stop whining about the cost of housing in Portland . . . . “Try San Francisco out, buddy boy.” Yep, I never whine, and the “buddy boy” is to me like a Harvey Weinstein glowering at his secretary.

In calm terms, the stupidity of his statement is torn apart. First, I am with clients as a social worker who are straddled because of the long-arm of injustice pinching them for Driving While Black or Dealing While Latino or Walking While Young. My client load is trying to do something with their lives and get off the endless hamster wheel and rat pipe of addiction, and many are old, and some are very young.

The young are told to go to community college or rip-off trade schools; go get some shitty warehouse job for $12 an hour; and then admonished to find a dozen other Homies and get a two-bedroom crib for the lot of them, anywhere, somewhere and shut the fuck up.

Mr. and Mrs. California, oh, baby, many are leaving their Orange County haunts because they HATE the brown people, the crowds, the traffic, and the cost of living there. Again, the white hoards are the destroyers of entire civilizations (Spain and Inca and Aztec), or the slavers of Puritanical Puerile needs, the entire project of White Hegemony, the white hope for the rest of human kind five hundred years ago, 300, 30 and now.

“Try the roads in LA. You want to see real bad traffic!”

These are cancerous times in a deadening world of people that see barely an inch beyond their noses. I have a graduate degree in urban planning and there is no way in hell I could get a job in that field, one that really doesn’t mean much in the scheme of radical planning, radical design, regional and biological planning. Each entity is vying for those workers, those big ass companies to site in their municipalities or counties, those tax dodgers like Nike, Intel, Apple, Uber, Amazon, you name ‘em, the next big half empty convention center, or how about a casino on every corner . . . . Towns are haphazard, and draining our lives with the noise, the traffic, the same-same sameness.

Back to Estacada and my mind-clearing walk, near a blackberry-plagued stretch of land adjacent to the tract home I live in, in the planned development, HOA included, in a town named after a place in Texas, Spanish of all things, in a county that hosts lots of immigrants from Mexico pounding nails, landscaping and flipping gorditas, but a county where many in the white population support sending “all of ’em” back a la Trump-Obama ICE expressway.

Llano Estacado (staked plain or palisaded plain) is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. This ain’t the Southwest, where I spent many years cutting my teeth as reporter, college teacher, writer, and itinerant environmentalist and novelist.

The old acreage to my north is now graded-over for a whopping 350 homes – times 2.5 people per house and you have 875 people, and, well, that’s 875 more vehicles, plus the motor-homes, ATV’s, boats, and 4×4’s.

The white guys grading and paving and setting it up for the next phase of wasps coming in for the footings and framing – Mexicans mostly – they seem slap happy gleeful. One side of mouth, “I hate those Cally-forn-i-cation-ers,” and then other side of mouth, “Man oh man, keep on coming and show me the money.”

My mind clearing is tied to the fascism of our times – I just got sacked (yet again) for my mouth, but this time it was nothing, really, but again, non-profits are all living hell these days, and social workers like myself (former teacher, real journalist and urban planner of sorts) are in high demand but with low regard, and the turnover rates are terrible. Read here, and here about that part of my life.

I’m trying to collect unemployment, and I am busy applying for jobs – employment opportunities all over the map: executive director for a non-profit giving free med services to pets; development director for a street newspaper; tutor at the local community college; and plenty of social worker jobs, too. Even a job with the Center for Biological Diversity on a renewable energy campaign tied to population and sustainability. My chances are a snowball’s chance in the Arctic . . . Hell!

Hitting the streets at 60 years of age is both surreal and bile-drenching – my grandparents from Scotland and Germany never would have thought this great country (neither sets of grandparents really thought of USA as a great country, but we’ll pretend . . . .) would dish it out this hard to one of its own.

No retirement, man, as each billionaire laughs harder and harder at the idea of retirement for the masses at age 65, let alone 70. Health care cut off at the knees three days after getting the AX.

I talk to this fellow grading the land, and he’s paunchy in his forties, the tell-tale signs of engorging beer and whiskey sessions on his face. The big fellow running the excavator is fifty and has a belly and shirt size that could tarp a family of 12 in Haiti. The 25-year-old pushing the gearshift of the huge dump truck is surly looking. These are big times for these fellows — $35 to $75 an hour, easy. They have blood relatives and high school friends and in-laws working with them in this locked-up market.

Sitting on their fat asses (except for the young guy grinding gears) making twice as much an hour or more than that over what I was making running ragged helping homeless and addicts find some pathway out of that shit (many of my homeless addicts were once in the trades, in construction, welding and excavation!) is one aspect of the insanity of wage inequity, wage unfairness, and what the market should bear!

Here, a little ditty on Estacada from some web site:

Estacada’s History has been a wild road of ups and downs some might say is a reflection of the roaring rapids of the adjacent Clackamas River. In the mid 1800’s small communities of pioneers popped up in the foothills of Mount Hood wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease. Then railroad tracks serving the dam builders of the early 20th century pushed through the foot hills up the mountain creating dams that still power Portland to this day. As the building slowed, the workers left and the work camps turned in to a small tourism community that became Portland’s play ground known as Estacada Oregon.

Imagine, “settlers popping up wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease” as the one liner in America’s great forgetting, great amnesia. We walk the land in a daily forgetting!

Imagine, this anti-Mexican-Muslim-Person of Color hysteria stoked up in the flames of the dying white race, the dying capitalist race, and then think hard about the constant lies the youth and the old hold about the land of theft, US of America/Israel. Genocide!

Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851

In 1949, however, the U.S. government took a step back towards 19th century bigotry, as the Hoover Commission urged the assimilation of the Natives, “The basis for historic Indian culture has been swept away. Traditional tribal organization was smashed a generation ago .… Assimilation must be the dominant goal of public policy.”

I talk with the manager of the True Value Hardware store, and his store’s been at it for more than 30 years here, but the council and chamber and economic developers approve of a National Dollar General Store opening up right in the middle of downtown.

The anchor now of the town that was trying to look funky, post logging years. Out in the bushes and the hills there were once progressive back-to-earthers, hippies, and a few shops in town sell artisan stuff, but now the Dollar General is the cancer in downtown Estacada.

The planners and the tax men and the elected officials, again, incapable of looking beyond their noses. True Value Hardware, locally owned, now looking to compete with a shit store with a shit CEO with shit values and shit for brains and shit worker rights and shit locales to store offshore profits.

In the old days, no out-of-towner with Tennessee and NASCAR roots would ever have been accepted, but hell, just hitting Wikipedia, here, the low hanging goods on the company trading $80.50 on NYSE:

Financial irregularities

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General Corp was liable for making false statements or failing to disclose adverse facts about the company’s financial results, and paid $162 million for settlement.

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General announced to restate its earnings for the past three fiscal years, due to accounting irregularities including allegations of fraudulent behavior.

On March 3, 2005, Dollar General announced to restate its results for 2000 through 2003, due to a clarification of lease-accounting matters issued by the SEC.

OSHA 2014 and 2016 fines

In November 2014, Dollar General was fined $51,700 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an inspection of a Brooklyn, MS branch of the store. The statement from OSHA notes that Dollar General has had repeated health and safety violations: “Since 2009, OSHA has conducted 72 inspections of Dollar General nationwide. Of those inspections, 39 have resulted in citations.” In April 2016, OSHA reported that further citations had been given to the store for exposing employees to the risk of electrical hazards due to missing face plates on electrical outlets. The store was fined $107,620.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, unlike many tribes does not have a central reservation, but consists of eight tribal communities in Mississippi. Those communities are on land held in trust by the U.S. Government for the benefit of the tribe.

Beginning in 2000, Dollar General has had a lease from the tribe to operate a store on tribal land, and obtained a business license from the tribe. In 2003, a 13-year-old tribal member, identified as John Doe in court documents, was working at the store as part of a joint tribal-Dollar General internship program. Doe alleged that the store manager sexually abused him in 2003[5] causing “severe mental trauma.” The tribe took action to legally exclude the manager from tribal lands, but the United States Attorney did not criminally prosecute him.

Tribal and District Courts

In 2005, Doe sued the store manager and Dollar General in the tribal court. The defendants tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that the tribal court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over non-Indians. The tribal court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, and the Choctaw Supreme Court affirmed, noting the case of Montana v. United States allowed tribes to exercise civil, as opposed to criminal, jurisdiction over non-Indians on tribal land when the non-Indians had entered into a voluntary relationship with the tribe.

The store manager and Dollar General then sued the Tribe in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking to stop the suit in tribal court. The manager was dropped from the case by the district court but Dollar General was held to have been in a consensual relationship and subject to the tribe’s jurisdiction.

Court of Appeals

The defendants then appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the decision of the district court. The case was heard by a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, Catharina Haynes, and James E. Graves Jr. Judge Graves delivered the opinion of the Court, finding that the facts in the case met the first exception noted in Montana, allowing the tribal court to exercise jurisdiction of Dollar General.

“Unexpected/untamed/unforgettable” is the City of Estacada’s motto, 2017, and the state of the world is in a microcosm, anywhere I go. I have been able to peddle my theses easily since the entire mess of capitalism is tied to the leech, the tick, the parasites, the slimy octopus of hostile takeovers and forced arbitration and tax havens and lobbying.

Could have been a Walmart or Costco — Amazon Fresh — Anything to make a city or township beholding to the transnationals, their blood soaked dollars yanked from the bellies of the rest of us. A town that gets this big cancer in downtown, one giant footprint, and you have to wonder at the lack of creativity, thinking and slight understanding of the history of bad economics. Box Stores. The whole nine yards.

The California Land Rush has been on for a decade up here, reaching into Hillsboro, Estacada, Gresham, Hood River, Wilsonville, Beaverton, up to Vancouver and Longview, WA. They come in with hard real estate cash, and buy up homes – three or four to a family. They do their house flipping and rental hording. These people are California, in every way.

Trucks in a constant black smoke snake, in a Valley already deemed ripe for the taking; and the mythology states that the native tribes called this the Valley of Death, Willamette, but indeed, now, maybe, the “death valley” was meant for when the white man and woman came in with diseases, diseased values, diseased honor, diseased treaties:

In remembrance of the Kalapuyan and Clackamas (lower Columbia Chinook) indians who lived and died here, and in honor of those who still live here; please stop saying “no one lived here.” Please stop saying that Willamette means “the valley of sickness and death.” Please know that if the natives later referred to this valley as one of “sickness and death,” it came from the biological genocide inflicted on the natives by this civilization. Please go to the library, or better yet find a living native, and learn the real history of this place.

This sorry thing called unlimited growth, this Diaspora of whites going back and forth looking for some place to set down roots, this constant fear the white race has of the wild, of undammed rivers, of grizzlies and open plains, and trees and forest fires.

The microcosm I see in El Paso and in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, in Tucson in Phoenix in Spokane in Seattle in Vancouver — every place now that the roiling white race in a constant flurry away from something, away from any place while landing in a new land where the same leeching machines and excavators roam the land like monster metal ungulates.

Earth movers, earth eaters, earth desiccators.

Imagine a city council and rotary club and an American Legion and school board and citizens groups and county agencies and big-players like OHSU and Nike throwing in — those scraped and raped acres turned into some of the most sustainable and strong growing fields. Food . . . . And young and old learning how to grow it and sell it and package it. Imagine a town investing in deep ecology and permacultue. Imagine this little town turning all those old farmsteads and hay operations and wolf-grass filled plots of land into interconnected mushroom farms, cat-fish farms, bonsai centers, kale-broccoli-bean fields. Imagine a city that brings native healers and native educators to their land — cultural centers, and places of social concern. Imagine this town named after the Spanish “stake plain” turned into a going concern, where people come to study real rural and small-town design. Imagine sustainable low impact centers for aging, centers for teaching youth with autism how to live. Among those gardens and fields, all those flickers and stellar jays and black-black crows, alive, yappy, the angels of Native cultures past, a chorus singing about Homo Sapiens  finally doing something right for the now, for the future, for the past.

Imagine.

Postscript: Vortex I was held in Estacada at the state’s expense, where in 1970 100,000 came to a rock concert after the Governor of Oregon, Tom McCall, believed the lies of the FBI saying 50,000 anti-war activists were going to march against the American Legion’s supposed 25,000 attending their convocation in downtown Portland.

Note: Ecological FootprintEcosocialism;   Carrying Capacity; Radical Urban Planning; Marxist Urban Planning;  Redefining Progress

Looking for a Dry Roof from Which to Bray

All it takes for a society to express fear, paranoia, confusion, and a sort of mad country (riffing on mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy) mental disease is a toxic brew of narcissism, propaganda, amnesia, planned and perceived obsolescence and a transnational economic barbarism against the collective masses, and we end up here:

Leaders (sic) in USA, Canada, Mexico, most of Latin America, most of Europe, Australia, Japan, Israel and Middle East are as nasty and ethically/morally arrested developed as any of the lots in power-on thrones-in war rooms at anytime during the development (sic) of “civilization,” so much so that’s it’s hard to tell which tentacle of a Trump-styled sea monster really has hold of our collective frontal lobe.

These are the days, yessiree — anti-intellectualism, nationalism, demagoguery, disparaging one group after another—Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Asians, women, and any and all competitors. These people in America, like Trump, throw low blows and distribute piles of lies and spread their pandemic of white male billionaire disease, and he rises in the polls, by the very people he and the neoliberals and neocons and Christian-Zionists call parasites, or, deplorables. Adversaries are quickly branded “losers” or “flunkies” or “dopes” or “lowlifes.”

I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate…I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Anyone can postulate just how long it took, really, for humanity – most certainly the hoards of IKEA-loving developed tooled and armed first world and their groomed despots — to succumb to the adage of we are just apes with nuclear bombs (or monkeys with algorithms, surveillance tools, psychological war weapons, and gobs of fossil fuels).

Five decades of collective community abandonment, collective mean styled capitalism, collective delusion; four decades of a collective cult of personality (nothingness), collective imploding of services, public health, welfare, safety; three decades of collective reverse mortgaging education, food systems, public transportation; ten decades of collective see-hear-speak no evil in the midst of massive evil-crimes against humanity/crimes against the globe/crimes against nature/crimes against common sense?

The Humanist: Some people are genuinely afraid.

Chomsky: They are genuinely afraid. The fear is genuine, and you can’t ridicule people’s genuine feelings. In fact you have to sympathize with them, ask where they’re coming from. In this case I think you can understand it. If you’re crushing somebody under your jackboot, you have to have a reason. The reason can’t be “I’m an evil monster.” The reason has to be either “I’m doing it for their good,” which is the usual reason, or else “I’m afraid of them and if I don’t do it they’ll go after me.” That’s a very prevailing attitude. It can be manipulated and cynical, power-hungry political figures working for concentrations of power do it all the time.

Germany, remember, was the most civilized part of the world. It was the peak of Western civilization, the center of the arts, the sciences, and literature. If you wanted to study physics, you went to Germany. Within a few years, it turned into a society of raving maniacs. Why did they destroy the Jews? Out of fear. Because, in their minds, the Jews were going to destroy them. They were defending not only themselves, but the Aryan race against the Jews.

The Humanist: That brings us back to the human animal, apparently a very fearful animal.

Chomsky: Humans are capable of many things. Some of them are horrible, some are wonderful.

The very simple acts of meanness from bureaucracies and the leaders, or so-called leaders, are demonstrative of the scaling up of the barbarity and banality of evil the elite and their minions with their trillions in offshore bank accounts and cachets of diamonds and Great Lakes full of oil have parlayed from this collective lack of empathy. Little Eichmann’s pushing the collective mouse click of despair, and smaller ones with a badge and uniform and pure hatred of blacks-Latinos-gays-demonstrators-people.

In Spokane or Tucson, LA or NYC, the agents of human disposal are hard at work – boulder sized concrete detritus spread out under Interstate 90 in the heart of Spokane so vagabonds or local homeless can’t spread their tents and belongings out of the freezing rain. Three hundred dollar tickets for asking a stranger to spare a dime in El Paso or Ventura – both the panhandlers (sic) and the givers subject to fines, handcuffs, jail.

True, jail, or worse by just imagining (no, this is not a thought experiment) the few of us who fight back, with words, principles, telling off some Gestapo cop with 17-bullet clips on semi-auto German pistols and their three foot batons and their Kevlar vests and their rapid fire 12 gauge shotguns and their reinforced SUV’s and their sixty foot streams of pepper spray and their hydra-headed Tasers and lobbed shock grenades and rubber bullets and bean bag launchers and their noise throwers, flame throwers, tanks, weaponized drones, conveys of armed Humvees and armored command centers.

In Santa Monica you can’t use a public curb to parallel park the old RV or hitched-up trailer. No overnight parking. No living in dignity. No sleeping here, or …? Multi-thousand dollar fines and impounding of those last vestiges of a home before hitting the tarmac with discarded yoga mat.

These fascists, knee-jerking Anglo-Caucasians, pushing over food carts in Atlanta or Albany. All American Flag Wrapped wingnuts swastika-tagging food marts owned by Sikh-Vietnamese-Korean-Punjabi in every town and big city, from Pacific to Atlantic. Those 24-hour ticking time bombs of insults, retrograde reporting, falsifications called Mainline Media, failing not even just the humanity test in falsifying what social injustice is, but rubbing out any semblance of reality, as if each and everyone of them with coiffed hair and sweaty lips is Blanche Dubois and Walter Middy on Steroids-Growth Hormone Replacements Fake Journalist/Person.

In 2014, 64 communities had citywide bans on public camping, up from 40 in 2011. And the number of cities that prohibit sleeping in vehicles jumped from 37 in 2011, to 81 in 2014 and the number of cities that prohibit sitting or lying in public spaces increased from 70 in 2011, to 100 in 2014. Often called “sit/lie” laws, they prohibit the homeless from sitting or lying down on any street, sidewalk, entrance to a story, alley or other public place. This is the age of shitting on thy neighbor and throwing huge chunks of stone in our greasy collective glass houses: more and more cities are passing bans on begging, loitering and sharing or giving food away in public places, which hurts non-profit, community, individual food give-away programs, and pantries or churches who give food to the homeless on the street. The penalties vary by city and law and can include fines or jail time.

Here, read the report on, Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

Hell, I worked for one of Portland’s largest homeless and recovery non-profits, and the dude we called our boss, from one of the top five investment (sic) companies, told us social workers to call the cops if we felt threatened, and he believed anyone leaning up against the bricks of our office should be roused by the cops, as Portland has laws against leaning against buildings (you know, this constant rain 6 months out of the year Mini-Metropolis), so god forbid the poor and homeless might get a few minutes of respite under an overhang.

Poverty pimps – you don’t have to resort to the Urban Dictionary to understand the connotations of that phrase, but here, read!

The term “poverty pimp” is defined as a derogatory label for an individual or group which, to its own benefit, acts as an intermediary on behalf of the poor. Literally, a poverty pimp is an individual or group who solicits for the poor, or it can mean, a welfare system procurer. Poverty pimps gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others.

Under the American system of inter-linked public and private social services the poor get helped but not in any effective way; the big bucks go for overhead. As always, a lot of anti-poverty money is going to people who are not poor. There are whole classes of people who live off the services provided to the poor.

Ahh, the flipped over America – liberals living off the pain of the poor, and the elites, the bankers, the chosen ones in the renter class, legal class, penitentiary class, they make the big bucks on servicing the poor, forcing them to live lives of toil, legal financial obligations killing them, and so many other things coupled with the very idea that a mark is born every second, and a sucker (read poor, forced poor class) is born every nanosecond.

My own work here, at DV, or LA Progressive and a monthly magazine speaks to the shackles poor people trudge around, from a liquor store-gun shop on every corner, to PayDay Loans in every census track, to fence-line communities sucking in the carcinogenic of the hissing, steaming, fogging by-products of the refinery-industrial sized farming industries. Read, my, “Six Degrees of Separation!”

The High Cost of Being Poor,” now eleven years old, from Barbara Ehrenreich, but relevant, by just ramping up the pain and the stats by a factor of five! And this one by Dave Johnson is three years old, good, informed, and yet, keep adding onto the misery these two writers reported — more than half of Americans are near poor, and the one paycheck away from poverty/homelessness /destitution/basement surfing/car sleeping/opiate sucking/booze sucking/suicide is not a story the left-right-in between want to deal with, and those deplorables voting for Trump are most probably not in this huge grouping of Americans working as wage slaves and precarious/temp/ multi-gig fellow citizens who would see the entire shit hit the fan with a bad fall, cancer diagnosis, busted head gasket, death in the family, and jump in the rent even 10 percent.

These purveyors of cultural sickness, country-wide hipsterism, nationwide values – the Mainstream Press – come on hard at us, precarious ones, fellow Americans, or whatever they think we are:

Republicans constantly talk about how good the poor have it. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal called the poor “Lucky Duckies” because they are “the beneficiaries” of the progressive tax system and pay little or no taxes. But the reality is that it just plain sucks to be poor. It’s actually more expensive not having enough money to get by.

Even the pop psychologists who are touted by Alternet and Salon, two pro-Hillary sites, have to weigh in on Trump and our collective psychosis. Here’s one — “Duke Psychiatrist: America Is Having a Nervous Breakdown: Author Allen Frances puts Trump on the couch, and reveals how we might regain our sanity”:

The 20 richest people in America have more wealth than half the country. 20 people have more wealth than half the country. The message is real. The Democratic Party has been remarkably inept in connecting with its natural voters. The Republican Party has sold propaganda very successfully, and Trump is the epitome of someone who is the worst possible messenger for a reasonably important message. He’s a false prophet. Every move he’s made has betrayed the people who voted for him. I think that the hope over the next months will be that his falling popularity, from 45 percent to 35 percent, that we’ll see a gradual erosion of people who realize that he was not the man they thought he was. That the hope they rested in him [was] misplaced, a buyer’s remorse, and he will become more and more isolated in office and as a result, will be able to do less damage.

Shame, blame, recrimination, prejudice, racism, speciesism, genocide. This is the fabric of a society weened on the hind tit of war games, wars, football on Sunday, cults of patriarchy, disaster capitalism, parasitic money making. This is the end line of those fed on Hollywood lies, normalizing murder, fetishes around looking-feeling-tasting-sounding-smelling like some Disney character. Every day in America, more than half the people are tackled by their own fears, their own lost lives, hoping for some cleaning of the slate, massive restart button, personal-national tabula rasa. Lusting after the good old days of slavery, seeding those first nations’ blankets with smallpox days; those glory days of bombing brown people, ripping off the soul of Mexico; those halcyon days where bombs bursting in air is the theme from sea to shining sea.

Everyday I have youth, boy do I have youth, and it’s not just the Trumping of the Worst Presidents on Earth — all 45 — that eats at these 17-to-21 year olds. It’s not the constant bombardment of the gut with the bio-waste of modern (sic) diets eating at the very fabric of their sanity.  They sort of get it that their prostate cancers and breast removals in four or five decades might be tied to the cheese in Cheetos or triple-deck cheeseburgers.

These youth are worn out at age 18. They are gassed and fatigued. Their poverty and their family pedigrees, all of that, with the shit-storm that is America being our CLASS chiseled country, all of that plus the stupidity of industrial education, the plague of low paying job futures, and the absurdity of the heroes/super heroes they adore making the greenbacks they lust after but really know it’s all smoke and mirrors and Hollywood fascism and Pro-Sports elitism and Music Mental Depravity. It’s the daily examples of burned out infrastructure — nothing for youth, except the impending days of wine, vodka, beer consumption when they hit 21. It’s the absurdly lacking public transportation. The clarion call to get hitched up with car loan, over-priced (usury) rentals, and the endless Twitter and SnapChat of more and more expensive pieces of shit smart-dumb phones and sick loan shark level phone and data plans.

Is this the paradise of the blind, the lost generation, the data-info-knowledge fatigue/paralysis generation? Is this the one last thrust of the masses in America to push away those One Percenters and the purveyors of the Christian-Zionist white racist flogging of the other races?

These young people know they have been lied to. They know they are in the same rooms-hallways-corridors-churches-malls-warehouses-classrooms of the great con game impresarios. They know their future is looking like chronic asthma, diabetes, brain fog, loss of motor-bodily-cognitive functions.

Who in their right mind would not BECOME opiate addicted under this shit hole operation, capitalism, and the con men of the last spasm of unfettered capitalism? Which child living under this web and flaming net of exploitation-disparities-abandonment wouldn’t rather choose/enter into the controllers’ house of torture a la Spanish Inquisition? Better to wig out, check out, burn out, veg out. The bastards are high in number, and the body count is rising. Here, Hedges burns it good, in his piece, “How Careerism is a Big Part of Our Social Predicament“:

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

Why do people leave their homelands, and seek the very Turtle Island of many of their own societies’ problems, desperation, despair?  “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” is one way to look at it, coming from poet, Warsan Shire.

There is no land of milk and honey now that the beasts of any nation have been sucker punched and dumped into the shipping canals of the Goldman and Sachs, the countless ones in Fortune 400 circles, by the 20 richest, meanest people on planet earth! Or the richest in America! How good are they? How shapeless are they in their Lost Paradises? And how many levels down the Dantean flaming ladder will they fall? If ever? That is the question, to flail and flog, or not to!

Colonialism only loosens its hold when the knife is at its throat.

— Frantz Fanon

Replace “colonialism” with capitalism, Wall Street, Military-Financial-Big Pharma-Insurance-Ag-Energy-Surveillance-Prison Complex!

Scaling the Heights and the Depths

Until now… men were living both dispersed and at the same time, closed in on themselves, like passengers in a ship who have met by chance below decks with no idea of its mobile character and its motion. They could, accordingly think of nothing to do… but to quarrel or amuse themselves… Hitherto, in spite of external forces whose influence is to bring them together, the relations between spiritual atoms seem to be governed by an inflexible internal repulsion…. The more planetary ties tend to force us together, the more do we feel the need to disengage ourselves from one another.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, October 1970

The purpose of this article is to criticize the non-Leninist left in the United States for failing to provide its population with answers to three questions which every world religion provides answers: a) what are we? b) where did we come from? c) where are we going? This does not imply that the left must become religious. It only means that world religions have learned over thousands of years what draws people to them and, given the small numbers of people who are leftists, we could learn much from religion. I exclude the Leninist left because their theories are less susceptible to my reservations. I call the left in the United States “myopic” because right now it is not rooted in the past and it is afraid to project a vision of the future.

The Rise and Fall of Deep Futures on the Left

Today non-Leninist socialists are mired in the present. To them, only naïve liberals would dare to suggest that any futurist social life could be planned. Only naïve liberal educators, scientists, engineers and technocrats who sit on committees within the United Nations would actually produce such blueprints that never see the light of day. By the 1970’s it would seem that a major activity of left wing social scientists would have been to use the data in the field to construct models for a socialist future. This has not been the case. For 40 years leftist academics, acting as culture vultures, have drowned out any futurist planning schemes in a screeching cacophony of claims that projecting socialist futures was imperialist, oppressive, hopeless and out of date. David Schweickart, Michael Albert and Erik Olin Wright are three exceptions to the rule. Among non-socialists I still find that Buckminster Fuller and Oliver Reiser had breath-taking command of many disciplines and organized them in the service of a planetary civilization. Teilhard de Chardin is at his poetic best when describing the “noosphere” that the Russian Vernadsky coined.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the political left had a deep perspective about both the past and the future. Not only were the workers fighting capitalist owners of the factories in the contemporary world, but theorists like Fourier, St. Simon and Edward Bellamy projected possible socialist futures. Before Marx went on a tirade against socialist planning, it was at least a tolerated activity for intellectuals.

Rise and Fall of Deep Pasts on the Left

Theories of Progress

By the latter half of the 19th century, whether they identified with a liberal Enlightenment, Marxism or even anarchism, most theorists thought that the past was on their side. They speculated that human history did have a direction, and that direction was “progress.” Progress meant that human societies were gradually getting better using the criteria of material wealth, a more expansive morality, and less superstition. All social institutions would soon to be governed by collective reason. Many of the first wave of anthropologists in the 1870’s through 1900 categorized human societies as progressing in several areas. These include moving from savagery to barbarism to civilization (Morgan) and in the evolution of law from law based on status to law based on contract (Maine). According to Durkheim, societies were evolving from mechanical to organic solidarity. For Marx, human history could be organized as moving from primitive communism, to a descent into status and class societies and through crisis, possibly to advanced communism.

Cultural relativism

The second wave of anthropologists, led by Franz Boas, rightly challenged the theory of progress as racist because if the latest societies were the best, then European societies were like adults, agricultural civilizations (most of whom were not white) were like adolescents and the remaining tribal societies in Africa were like children. This scenario worked very well if you were an imperialist or a missionary in the Gilded Age.

The theory of cultural relativism weakened the comparative nature of science in anthropology. According to cultural relativists, no anthropologist could make scientific judgments about how societies evolved in relation to each other because each society was thought to be unique. Who are we to say that one society is better than another? This was the argument of the “Culture and Personality” theorists like Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. Two world wars, a major economic depression and fascism buried the idea that social evolution could be characterized as progress. Whatever the direction of human societies, they certainly were not getting better. Among the thinking of cultural relativists, societies, if anything, were getting worse.

Leninists hold-outs

Meanwhile, Old left Trotskyists and Stalinists continued to believe that there was something like progress going on in social evolution in spite of everything. However, after World War II, it became still harder to stand behind the theory for progress. What made things worse is that the Leninist left failed to update Marx and Engels’ theory. Instead of sensitively incorporating what anthropologists have found about pre-industrial societies in the past 130 years, they continued to hold as sacred a sketch Marx and Engels’ drafted while anthropology was still in its infancy.

New Left anarchists

As for the anarchists, with the exception of Murray Bookchin and maybe a few others, the rebirth of anarchism in the 1960’s was accompanied by a surrender of the idea that the material wealth produced by capitalism was a necessary condition for socialism. The rise of the ecology movement furthered the conviction that the expectation of abundance was a sin and we needed to make do with less. Greens, anarcho-primitivists and individualist-anarchists entertained degenerative romantic notions of social evolution. By the 1960’s when the New Left rejected the Old Left, they embraced cultural relativism and have, with rare exceptions, never questioned it.

3rd Wave of anthropology “Improvised Evolutionists”

At Darwin’s centennial in 1959, a number of anthropologists expressed dissatisfaction with cultural relativism because it lacked a comparative understanding of how human societies are linked to history, to population pressure, resource depletion and ecological crisis. Leslie White tried to understand the evolution of culture through increasingly complex methods of harnessing energy. Elman Service and Marshall Sahlins also argued that there were patterns of culture linked to harnessing energy. Julian Steward saw cultures as adaptations to ecological settings. Marvin Harris presented a theory of cultural materialism in which population pressure and resource depletion were the real driving forces behind cultural evolution. In his book Cannibals and Kings, Harris traced this recurring pattern as he moved from hunter-gatherers, to simple and complex horticultural societies, to agricultural states to industrial capitalist countries. The work of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse) is only the latest version of this third school.

All these “improvised evolutionists” (my term) argued that while characterizing the evolution of human societies as “progress” is obsolete, neither are they satisfied with liberal, humanist, cultural relativist ideas, which describe societies as accidental configurations that have neither rhyme nor reason.

From Socio-biology to Evolutionary Psychology

After World War II, it was thirty years before any biological explanation of human behavior would be tolerated in the social sciences. These conditions were made worse by the publication of E.O. Wilson’s Socio-Biology. His initial effort was to study human societies as they are compared to other animal societies. The problem for socialists arose when he reduced the dynamics of human societies solely to biological explanations.

What most of the left paid no attention to was the growth of a Darwinian evolutionary psychology which was much more willing to consider the active role of human culture in understanding human behavior. Darwinian psychology suggests that there is such a thing as human nature, and that human nature was formed in hunting and gathering societies 100,000 years ago. Many new human problems have come about in the last 10,000 years as we moved into social configurations such as horticulture, agriculture and industry, which were far from the conditions under which our human nature formed. Today “evolutionary mismatches” can explain many current conflicts between males and female over mating strategies, obesity, anxiety and rise in divorces.

Furthermore, the bio-evolutionary theory David Sloan Wilson and E.O. Wilson have argued that altruism has a basis in natural selection, which goes far beyond Hamilton’s original formulation of “reciprocal altruism”. Christopher Bohme has provided significant evidence for the egalitarian nature of chimp societies. If Marx and Engels were alive they would have been thrilled with these findings. So would the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, whose book, Mutual Aid, is a precursor to current evolutionary emphasis on the power of cooperation in natural selection. But for the relativist left, harnessing our biological and social evolutionary deep past is forbidden territory. Relativist leftist theories rob humanity of our deep social history and our connection to biological evolution.

The Human Need For A Theory of Origins

The overwhelming majority of people on this planet are religious. As I said at the beginning of this article, we need a story about what we are, where we have been, and where we are going. If we don’t provide one, the organized religions and cults will be more than happy to continue to oblige. Humanist academic leftists may be proud of their existential anguish and post-modern shift shaping, but no one outside liberal universities would be happy with this scenario. Improvised evolutionists and evolutionary psychologists provide a theory of social origins that has a scientific basis and provides hope. Here, then, is how I would put together a mythological story about our origins.

Prometheus Rising

If human beings stole fire from the gods, as the legend of Prometheus tells us, are we capable of taking that fire and lighting our own way or shall we give fire back to the gods?

For most of history this was not a choice for humanity. People in hunting and gathering and simple horticultural societies were content to work as little as possible and live off the land. Slowly their populations rose, their resources were depleted and they had to work harder and longer to support themselves.

With the rise of states, agriculture and the division of labor between mental and physical labor, there arose the first of a long series of contradictions. On one hand, there was a greater abundance of food, greater control over ecological uncertainties, and a specialization of knowledge. On the other hand, there arose the first social classes where life was good for about 10% of the population and very bad for 90%. These 90% produced enough food and other necessities to end the conditions of social scarcity for them. However, like a sleeping giant, they did not realize their own power.

Then, for the first time in history, the story of Prometheus became a pertinent issue for humanity. Between the rise of agriculture 5,000 years ago, to the dawn of capitalism in the 16th century, for the most part, the vast majority of humanity continued to renounce its own power and give it back to the gods through the form of kings, aristocrats, and ecclesiastical elites.

With the rise of capitalism, more and more of those in the galleys began to feel their own power. Some of those in the middle of the class hierarchy even turned on their masters. The results were mixed. To some extent working conditions got better, and for brief moments of rebellion those at the bottom felt their power. However, due to lack of material resources, lack of confidence and organizational skills, they continued to give the fire back to the gods.

At the same time capitalists themselves faced a unique set of problems. They wished to accumulate as much wealth as possible while enforcing submission on the lower classes. Yet they had to teach the lower classes the collective creativity necessary to problem-solve on the job. Capitalists have never been able to control how these workers used their creativity, especially when they used that creativity to organize against those same capitalists.

The 19th and 20th centuries were the first time that workers took fire from the gods and ran with it. The Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution and the Spanish revolution involved hundreds of thousands of people. They stole the fire and ran with it for weeks, months and even years.

Since the second half of the 19th century the capitalists have faced increasing economic instabilities. Like all ruling classes, they were incapable of managing the systemic crisis they created and like most people so far, they could not think beyond the next generation.

There is now raging an epic battle between the world capitalist class – incompetent, myopic, ignorant of their own system, incapable of ruling – and an erratic lower class caught between wanting the Promethean fire for itself on some occasions yet painfully renouncing their own power on the other.

To summarize, the history of humanity can be understood as a long spiral. The anarchist, Fredy Perlman, waxed poetically that humanity once was much and had little (tribal societies); then had much but was little (life in agricultural and capitalist societies). We have the possibility now of having much and being much. We aspire to be a flicker in the fire of Prometheus, which will take the fire from the gods and light our own world, having much and being much:

… and now, as the normal effect of growing older, we have just opened our eyes. The boldest of us have found our way to the deck. They have seen the vessel that was carrying us along… They have realized that there are boilers to be stroked and wheels to be manned…. they have savored the sweet scent of the Western Isles, over the curve of the horizon: it ceases to be the restless human to and from the same spot. It is no longer a drifting—it is a voyage.

___ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, October 1970