Category Archives: Opinion

The Radical Derelict: Giving Up the Work Ethic for Peace

The same relentless energy driving a toddler in its Terrible Twos still drives that voice in my head. However, when I see a toddler, I know I’m in the presence of a genius, albeit a naïve one. It’s not the size of the intellect, but the velocity of learning that describes its intelligence. I, on the other hand, tend to move in well-worn circles, constrained by prejudice and vested interest. I’ve learned to “circle the wagons”, so to speak, around particular conclusions.

Essentially, I’m what happens when a toddler’s unstoppable urge to learn gets diverted into supporting a predatory status quo. Open-ended learning gets replaced by a narrowing framework of instruction as the driving force; and a dawning sense of some innate order or intelligence in the world gets short-circuited by dependence on authority and by conformity to the culture’s creeds and isms.

I don’t feel like a conformist or very obedient. But the creeds and conformities that constrain my perceptions are difficult to notice from inside the ism itself, such as white or male privilege. But even these patterns are easier to notice than the more subtle ruts that limit my sense of reality itself, and which prevent a more ecstatic realization of my shape-shifting place in this miracle of a living earth.

These subtle creeds constrict the flow of meaning, making me weaker and dumber than I might otherwise be. The main culprit is “the creed of error avoidance”. A toddler is certainly no role model, but there’s a quality in that beginner’s mind that was thrown out with the bathwater: A toddler doesn’t know error as something to avoid, something “bad.” To a toddler, error is a friend. Everything is unknown, and every mistake is a clue to wider and more inclusive worlds.

Some training is necessary, of course. But if training becomes a pathway to approval, a proscribed path forms, which separates an autocratic right from wrong. Then a prejudice against error becomes internalized, turning error into a boogeyman. This cripples an exploratory spirit (a playful, Trickster’s spirit). And the child begins to fear its own errant probing of the world, and no longer trusts its own intelligence. And this develops into an oppositional or warlike relationship to its own now “unruly” thoughts, which leads to that voice in the head, which is constantly working to maintain an impression of correctness.

In other words, as an adult I’ve been taught to resist error by breaking awareness into fragments, and escaping into the delusion of being the better angel, who can look back at its dim-witted past from an improved distance. As if I were superior to my own immediate past. And these internal revolutions occur in quick succession, like a dog chasing its tail.

And this means that when I encounter my own white-privileged thinking, for instance, I don’t learn; I retreat from this fault by way of clever, dissociative feelings of guilt, or by denial and self-condemnation (as if “I” were the victim of these bad thoughts).

In other words, I lose that essential ingredient of learning: The ability to be edified and bemused by my own stupidity.

Questioning the Work Ethic

I’m claiming that this little quarrelsome dynamo of error avoidance is the engine propelling awareness down ever-narrower and more practical paths, which makes a person susceptible to darker indoctrinations.

Cut off from that rapscallion love of error and mystery (cut off from learning), faith is placed in authorities, ideals and dogmatic certitudes, (in training). Attention shifts from a mysterious reality that is constantly erring from expectations, to the smaller fictions of an idealized Self — whether rebellious or conformist — which needs to be constantly preserved from failure and doubt.

And this anxiety-driven Self inevitably seeks refuge in the larger and more confident ego of an organization, whether it’s the nation or the corporation (or some reactionary group crushed by this pyramidal caste system). And it’s this dynamic that lends a vicious spin to the macro-level hurricanes destroying the world. In the upper reaches of this economic pyramid system, among CEOs and presidents, that dynamo is magnified. Their private desperation for status becomes the desperation of empire. But on all levels of the pyramid it trains dutiful soldiers for what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism”. And the work ethic is one of the main pillars of that totalitarian system.

In other words, most people like to complain about their jobs, but I’m trying to complain about this whole workaday world (this blinkered trek down some career path towards a diabolically mundane vision of the earth as a grab-bag of minerals, and life as a frantic search for status and distraction). It’s hard to complain about something that all-encompassing.

But that’s probably because something this overwhelming begins to look “only natural”. And adults like to pretend they’re serious enough to face reality and not drift off into Utopian fantasies. However, the workaday world is also a fantasy: not a fact of nature, but an artefact of indoctrination. And an inability to question (and bitch at) this dumbed-down way of life is collusion.

The Work Ethic as a Pillar of Inverted Totalitarianism

Joining the workforce requires being subjugated to a regimental authority. Here a bear-sized human potential gets stuffed into the parakeet’s cage of a job. What I get in exchange for this reduction in human potential is money, yes, but also something equally fictitious: status, a cripplingly small façade of identity.

This façade inevitably generates a repressed frustration, which some metabolize as an urge to push the work ethic on everyone else, transforming the ethic into a moralizing judgment against “derelicts” who refuse to sing communal hymns to the harness. And I think this betrays a fear and resentment of the cage-free human being, and a refusal to face my own caged spirit.

Mind you, I’m not criticizing work itself. I work hard if someone needs my help or if there are finite tasks that need doing. But the time clock represents an obligation to the pyramid itself. It claims that my life belongs to an organization from at least 9 to 5. And if I allow my life to be metered in this way I’m essentially agreeing that my time and energy can be owned and directed at the system’s discretion, which is a form of slavery.

After all, these work contracts aren’t presented in good faith. It’s either sign or starve. And I have more pressing responsibilities to the real economy of earth than the responsibilities imposed on me by a company or nation.

Nevertheless, I know it’s hard to distinguish an honest desire to do well at any given task, or a need to work three jobs to provide for a family, from a true believer’s devotion to duty, which goes beyond those necessities, becoming a duty to the lifeless momentum of work itself.

And I know it’s also difficult to distinguish doing something I love from the passion of a workaholic who loves a particular task with devotional blinders. For instance, scientists working on weaponry obviously enjoy analyzing the problems they encounter. But this “love” emerges from a blinkered vision that can only produce what the system itself can monetize. That is, these creative endeavors emerge from an infantilized mind that goes where it’s directed and enjoys the entitled status of not having to think too widely about the consequences of what it loves to do.

To Hell with Morality

Frankly, I often do feel a “moral duty” to support this economic way of life. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome. It restricts my freedom to think or act outside the interests of the status quo. I become reflexively hostile to the idea that I (or especially Others) could ever be trusted to live unrestrained by economic necessities (as if this mad culture’s coercions and controls do anything more than agitate a human spirit already starved of love and learning).

Sometimes I assume it’s beyond my pay grade to question the shape of a system that runs my life. Stay practical, nose to the grindstone. In this way, the work ethic masks a deeper laziness, or reluctance to face the ambiguity, uncertainty, and “error” of myself; a reluctance to do the “real work” of giving up the façade of identity and status that represents my collusion with this way of life.

What Activates Maturation?

I collude in this destructive pyramid system the moment my unruly energy gets tricked into the circular pursuit of status; or as long as it turns constantly towards distraction and escape. Then I become the system’s battery pack, a dynamo in pursuit of an ever more idealized and fetishized commodity of Self.

This dynamo is the desire to avoid error. It embodies a predatory system’s perfect ideal, which rejects what it means to be human. Life, after all, is inseparable from error, mutation. Without it, the maturation process stalls, and the human becomes a monstrous child. Learning requires the freedom to go wrong and not compound the error with circular systems of control. Intelligence (greater maturity) can only be activated by encountering the uncontrolled and the unknown.

And I feel this directly, because in the absence of that subtle enslavement to an economic authority (after my own internalized slave-drivers of guilt and status-seeking have been laughed off), I rediscover a freedom from circular thinking; and relearn how to drift and stumble into a world that resembles a kaleidoscope of cascading visions of order.

And this exploration of order inevitably leads to a clarity about what really needs to be done (as opposed to what I need to do in order to succeed in this pyramid system). And this real need requires no ethic. The self-organizing intelligence of the world is primarily a widening and deepening realization of responsibility to life itself. And this realization trumps duty and morality.

But this responsibility isn’t heavy with moral seriousness. There’s joy in discovering this responsibility and connection. The whole workaday world was built on a false conflation of adulthood with seriousness and striving for perfection. But a “perfect conclusion” would mean the ending of learning. That is, when playing stops, so does learning. Maturation doesn’t mean outgrowing being playful, errant and mischievous. It simply means learning to play in ever more subtle fields.

And by denigrating profound play, society suffers the consequences of leisure, which is little more than a gaudy parole from the everlasting chain of workdays. But if I’m not trained to oppose my errors, then perception is freed from a Literal or dogmatic tendency to pin the world down, becoming entirely metaphoric. And then the uncertainty I was trained to fear and resist becomes something beautiful and inviting.1

A Dereliction of Duty

There’s a spot of dialogue in the movie version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row that I love. The natural leader of the bums, Mack, is baffled by the earnest efforts of Doc, the proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory:

Dock: I got a problem, Mack. How am I going to light them?
Mack: Light what?
Dock: The octopi. Octopi are afraid of light. How can I light them without scaring them?
Mack (with bewildered exasperation): Why don’t you just give up?

Mack is no role model. And despite Doc’s genuine love of learning, thwarted ambition burns a sad hole in him too. But Steinbeck wasn’t writing a moral fable about becoming better angels. He was writing a love story about real people, who will always be diamonds in the rough.

Look, if I can’t love the Mack in me (or the Doc), then I’ll keep striving to “overcome” myself, and denigrating the derelict and the failure in me, and never moving into wider fields of play.

This is contrary to every subtle creed I’ve been taught, but I need to trust my own intelligence here: Learning (maturing) isn’t a path to perfection, but a surrender to an ever more daring honesty. This is only possible when I stop throwing out the bum with the bathwater.

And that means giving up the whole destructive dynamo of self-condemnation and self-promotion that has corralled human energy and attention; giving up that morality of the competitive pyramid; and rediscovering the same broad view Steinbeck had, or that most people have in the presence of a toddler. Only then is it possible to see how deeply you and I have been made sick by work and war.

And then it’s possible to recognize diamonds of wisdom in what is childish, and the spirit of rebellion in a derelict. Because for all his faults, Mack knows something: the battle with ourselves, and even for ourselves, for status and admiration, is worth giving up. Mack is on to something here. Something big.

  1. See the essay “What Is Real?”

The Radical Derelict: Giving Up the Work Ethic for Peace

The same relentless energy driving a toddler in its Terrible Twos still drives that voice in my head. However, when I see a toddler, I know I’m in the presence of a genius, albeit a naïve one. It’s not the size of the intellect, but the velocity of learning that describes its intelligence. I, on the other hand, tend to move in well-worn circles, constrained by prejudice and vested interest. I’ve learned to “circle the wagons”, so to speak, around particular conclusions.

Essentially, I’m what happens when a toddler’s unstoppable urge to learn gets diverted into supporting a predatory status quo. Open-ended learning gets replaced by a narrowing framework of instruction as the driving force; and a dawning sense of some innate order or intelligence in the world gets short-circuited by dependence on authority and by conformity to the culture’s creeds and isms.

I don’t feel like a conformist or very obedient. But the creeds and conformities that constrain my perceptions are difficult to notice from inside the ism itself, such as white or male privilege. But even these patterns are easier to notice than the more subtle ruts that limit my sense of reality itself, and which prevent a more ecstatic realization of my shape-shifting place in this miracle of a living earth.

These subtle creeds constrict the flow of meaning, making me weaker and dumber than I might otherwise be. The main culprit is “the creed of error avoidance”. A toddler is certainly no role model, but there’s a quality in that beginner’s mind that was thrown out with the bathwater: A toddler doesn’t know error as something to avoid, something “bad.” To a toddler, error is a friend. Everything is unknown, and every mistake is a clue to wider and more inclusive worlds.

Some training is necessary, of course. But if training becomes a pathway to approval, a proscribed path forms, which separates an autocratic right from wrong. Then a prejudice against error becomes internalized, turning error into a boogeyman. This cripples an exploratory spirit (a playful, Trickster’s spirit). And the child begins to fear its own errant probing of the world, and no longer trusts its own intelligence. And this develops into an oppositional or warlike relationship to its own now “unruly” thoughts, which leads to that voice in the head, which is constantly working to maintain an impression of correctness.

In other words, as an adult I’ve been taught to resist error by breaking awareness into fragments, and escaping into the delusion of being the better angel, who can look back at its dim-witted past from an improved distance. As if I were superior to my own immediate past. And these internal revolutions occur in quick succession, like a dog chasing its tail.

And this means that when I encounter my own white-privileged thinking, for instance, I don’t learn; I retreat from this fault by way of clever, dissociative feelings of guilt, or by denial and self-condemnation (as if “I” were the victim of these bad thoughts).

In other words, I lose that essential ingredient of learning: The ability to be edified and bemused by my own stupidity.

Questioning the Work Ethic

I’m claiming that this little quarrelsome dynamo of error avoidance is the engine propelling awareness down ever-narrower and more practical paths, which makes a person susceptible to darker indoctrinations.

Cut off from that rapscallion love of error and mystery (cut off from learning), faith is placed in authorities, ideals and dogmatic certitudes, (in training). Attention shifts from a mysterious reality that is constantly erring from expectations, to the smaller fictions of an idealized Self — whether rebellious or conformist — which needs to be constantly preserved from failure and doubt.

And this anxiety-driven Self inevitably seeks refuge in the larger and more confident ego of an organization, whether it’s the nation or the corporation (or some reactionary group crushed by this pyramidal caste system). And it’s this dynamic that lends a vicious spin to the macro-level hurricanes destroying the world. In the upper reaches of this economic pyramid system, among CEOs and presidents, that dynamo is magnified. Their private desperation for status becomes the desperation of empire. But on all levels of the pyramid it trains dutiful soldiers for what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism”. And the work ethic is one of the main pillars of that totalitarian system.

In other words, most people like to complain about their jobs, but I’m trying to complain about this whole workaday world (this blinkered trek down some career path towards a diabolically mundane vision of the earth as a grab-bag of minerals, and life as a frantic search for status and distraction). It’s hard to complain about something that all-encompassing.

But that’s probably because something this overwhelming begins to look “only natural”. And adults like to pretend they’re serious enough to face reality and not drift off into Utopian fantasies. However, the workaday world is also a fantasy: not a fact of nature, but an artefact of indoctrination. And an inability to question (and bitch at) this dumbed-down way of life is collusion.

The Work Ethic as a Pillar of Inverted Totalitarianism

Joining the workforce requires being subjugated to a regimental authority. Here a bear-sized human potential gets stuffed into the parakeet’s cage of a job. What I get in exchange for this reduction in human potential is money, yes, but also something equally fictitious: status, a cripplingly small façade of identity.

This façade inevitably generates a repressed frustration, which some metabolize as an urge to push the work ethic on everyone else, transforming the ethic into a moralizing judgment against “derelicts” who refuse to sing communal hymns to the harness. And I think this betrays a fear and resentment of the cage-free human being, and a refusal to face my own caged spirit.

Mind you, I’m not criticizing work itself. I work hard if someone needs my help or if there are finite tasks that need doing. But the time clock represents an obligation to the pyramid itself. It claims that my life belongs to an organization from at least 9 to 5. And if I allow my life to be metered in this way I’m essentially agreeing that my time and energy can be owned and directed at the system’s discretion, which is a form of slavery.

After all, these work contracts aren’t presented in good faith. It’s either sign or starve. And I have more pressing responsibilities to the real economy of earth than the responsibilities imposed on me by a company or nation.

Nevertheless, I know it’s hard to distinguish an honest desire to do well at any given task, or a need to work three jobs to provide for a family, from a true believer’s devotion to duty, which goes beyond those necessities, becoming a duty to the lifeless momentum of work itself.

And I know it’s also difficult to distinguish doing something I love from the passion of a workaholic who loves a particular task with devotional blinders. For instance, scientists working on weaponry obviously enjoy analyzing the problems they encounter. But this “love” emerges from a blinkered vision that can only produce what the system itself can monetize. That is, these creative endeavors emerge from an infantilized mind that goes where it’s directed and enjoys the entitled status of not having to think too widely about the consequences of what it loves to do.

To Hell with Morality

Frankly, I often do feel a “moral duty” to support this economic way of life. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome. It restricts my freedom to think or act outside the interests of the status quo. I become reflexively hostile to the idea that I (or especially Others) could ever be trusted to live unrestrained by economic necessities (as if this mad culture’s coercions and controls do anything more than agitate a human spirit already starved of love and learning).

Sometimes I assume it’s beyond my pay grade to question the shape of a system that runs my life. Stay practical, nose to the grindstone. In this way, the work ethic masks a deeper laziness, or reluctance to face the ambiguity, uncertainty, and “error” of myself; a reluctance to do the “real work” of giving up the façade of identity and status that represents my collusion with this way of life.

What Activates Maturation?

I collude in this destructive pyramid system the moment my unruly energy gets tricked into the circular pursuit of status; or as long as it turns constantly towards distraction and escape. Then I become the system’s battery pack, a dynamo in pursuit of an ever more idealized and fetishized commodity of Self.

This dynamo is the desire to avoid error. It embodies a predatory system’s perfect ideal, which rejects what it means to be human. Life, after all, is inseparable from error, mutation. Without it, the maturation process stalls, and the human becomes a monstrous child. Learning requires the freedom to go wrong and not compound the error with circular systems of control. Intelligence (greater maturity) can only be activated by encountering the uncontrolled and the unknown.

And I feel this directly, because in the absence of that subtle enslavement to an economic authority (after my own internalized slave-drivers of guilt and status-seeking have been laughed off), I rediscover a freedom from circular thinking; and relearn how to drift and stumble into a world that resembles a kaleidoscope of cascading visions of order.

And this exploration of order inevitably leads to a clarity about what really needs to be done (as opposed to what I need to do in order to succeed in this pyramid system). And this real need requires no ethic. The self-organizing intelligence of the world is primarily a widening and deepening realization of responsibility to life itself. And this realization trumps duty and morality.

But this responsibility isn’t heavy with moral seriousness. There’s joy in discovering this responsibility and connection. The whole workaday world was built on a false conflation of adulthood with seriousness and striving for perfection. But a “perfect conclusion” would mean the ending of learning. That is, when playing stops, so does learning. Maturation doesn’t mean outgrowing being playful, errant and mischievous. It simply means learning to play in ever more subtle fields.

And by denigrating profound play, society suffers the consequences of leisure, which is little more than a gaudy parole from the everlasting chain of workdays. But if I’m not trained to oppose my errors, then perception is freed from a Literal or dogmatic tendency to pin the world down, becoming entirely metaphoric. And then the uncertainty I was trained to fear and resist becomes something beautiful and inviting.1

A Dereliction of Duty

There’s a spot of dialogue in the movie version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row that I love. The natural leader of the bums, Mack, is baffled by the earnest efforts of Doc, the proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory:

Dock: I got a problem, Mack. How am I going to light them?
Mack: Light what?
Dock: The octopi. Octopi are afraid of light. How can I light them without scaring them?
Mack (with bewildered exasperation): Why don’t you just give up?

Mack is no role model. And despite Doc’s genuine love of learning, thwarted ambition burns a sad hole in him too. But Steinbeck wasn’t writing a moral fable about becoming better angels. He was writing a love story about real people, who will always be diamonds in the rough.

Look, if I can’t love the Mack in me (or the Doc), then I’ll keep striving to “overcome” myself, and denigrating the derelict and the failure in me, and never moving into wider fields of play.

This is contrary to every subtle creed I’ve been taught, but I need to trust my own intelligence here: Learning (maturing) isn’t a path to perfection, but a surrender to an ever more daring honesty. This is only possible when I stop throwing out the bum with the bathwater.

And that means giving up the whole destructive dynamo of self-condemnation and self-promotion that has corralled human energy and attention; giving up that morality of the competitive pyramid; and rediscovering the same broad view Steinbeck had, or that most people have in the presence of a toddler. Only then is it possible to see how deeply you and I have been made sick by work and war.

And then it’s possible to recognize diamonds of wisdom in what is childish, and the spirit of rebellion in a derelict. Because for all his faults, Mack knows something: the battle with ourselves, and even for ourselves, for status and admiration, is worth giving up. Mack is on to something here. Something big.

  1. See the essay “What Is Real?”

Charter Schools: Backpack Full of Cash

QUESTION: We have choices in other areas of life. Why not in schools?

RESPONSE: Choice and rights are not the same thing; they are distinct categories with different properties and should not be conflated.

Education is a right, not a privilege, opportunity, or choice. A right is essentially a need, something indispensable for the existence or development of something. Rights belong to humans by virtue of their very being and for no other reason whatsoever. Rights cannot be given or taken away. They cannot be waived, sold, transferred, or forfeited in any way. Nor are they earned, deserved, or based on “merit.” Rights are also not based on skin color, language, religion, nationality, or gender.

Choice refers to the simple act of selecting something from a list of alternatives. Under capitalism, choice means being a consumer who decides what goods or services to buy or sell. Choice in the capitalist “free market” sense rests on the idea that humans are mainly individualistic proprietors, consumers, and entrepreneurs, not humans or citizens. Among other things, choice and consumerism fetishize the “me” while citizenship and being human address the “we.” Choice and consumerism are part of the old antisocial outlook that views humans as reward-seeking “rugged individuals” who bravely fend for themselves in a dog-eat-dog world and owe nothing to anyone else. Risk and peril are built-in features of such a world.

Needs are essential and cannot be selected or unselected. They cannot be chosen, bought, sold, or forfeited. Like food and water, for example, education is not something one can choose to go without, especially in the twenty-first century. No education almost always means no future—in more ways than one. No human chooses to be hungry, homeless, unemployed, uninsured, and uneducated. Indeed, one can only be human when their need for food, shelter, clothing, education, work, and healthcare is satisfied in a way that is commensurate with the level of development of society. You may be able to choose what kind of breakfast cereal you subjectively prefer, but you cannot avoid food because it is a human need.

The right to fully-funded, world-class, locally-controlled public schools in every neighborhood and zip code would mean that parents would not have to be consumers who shop for a school, cross their fingers, and hope it all works out. Modern education should not be a lottery or a gamble.

Modern society based on large-scale industrial production cannot leave education to chance and personal choice. A society based on fending for yourself, “survival of the fittest,” “might makes right,” “rugged individualism,” consumerism, and behaviorism needs to be replaced by a society fit for all—one that provides dignity, prosperity, peace, stability, and security for all. Society can move forward only if the accumulated knowledge of humanity is passed on to the next generation in a conscious, organized, and humane manner.

Conclusion

The choice today is not between privatized, marketized, and corporatized charter schools that operate on the basis of the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market,” verses under-funded, over-tested, constantly-demonized public schools deliberately mandated to fail by the neoliberal state. These are false and harmful choices. Neither serve education and society well.

It is no secret what is needed to ensure world-class schools in every community. Thousands exist already. Given the level of development of society and its productive forces, it is more than possible for a government truly accountable to the people to guarantee fully-funded, world-class, locally-controlled public schools in every neighborhood and zip code. Our society does not lack the resources to ensure this. Scarcity is one of many self-serving and harmful capitalist myths that go unexamined every day.

Fully-funded, world-class, locally-controlled public schools in every neighborhood and zip code would mean that parents would not have to shop for a school. Why should humans have to do this in 2018? It is absurd. The havoc wreaked on education and society by the so-called “free market” and charter schools can be avoided altogether and a big measure of security, reliability, and quality can be attained. It is far from impossible.

Progress cannot happen, however, by remaining silent, being passive, conciliating with the neoliberal agenda, relying on wishful thinking, resorting to careerism, being an opportunist, or hoping “someone else” will figure it out. These are not solutions. They just prolong and exacerbate the pain for everyone. Everyone must become activated in these increasingly dangerous times and play their role at their level. Reality is making itself felt more forcefully. Combating charter school disinformation and raising social consciousness is part of affirming the modern human personality and creating new arrangements that favor the people.

Where to begin? An important starting point for bringing about change that favors the people is by actively implementing the following conclusion: understanding requires an act of conscious participation by the individual, an act of finding out. The prevailing culture blocks serious disciplined investigation in endless ways and rejects scientific theory. Actively resisting this pressure and investigating the world is indispensable at this time. By simply resolving to start everything by investigating, by taking nothing for granted, by rejecting conditioned thinking, and by avoiding facile answers we can all take a big step forward together. This is not small potatoes. Such a disposition is priceless and requires continual cultivation. It is key to unleashing the human factor. The overwhelming disinformation, dogmatism, lies, illusions, and retrogression of the rich and their outdated system only increase anticonsciousness and block the path of progress to society.

The Road to Political Masochism

Nearly a year and a half into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to hold his base and maintain an approval rating of around 40% – close to the same percentage he polled at just after his inauguration. Let’s try to figure out why.

It can’t be because he lies as a matter of daily routine. It can’t be because he’s giving away our store to big business – engaging in crony capitalism, creating more tax loopholes for corporations, shredding corporate crime enforcement, knowingly exposing Americans to more toxic pollution, committing more business fraud, adding more hazards to the workplace, cutting access to health insurance, and thereby making America dread again.

It can’t be because he’s taking your tax dollars away from repairing your infrastructure back home – schools, public transit, bridges, highways, airports, power grids, drinking water systems, etc., and pouring money into the bloated Pentagon budget beyond what even the Generals requested. (The huge “infrastructure project” he promised has yet to be proposed to Congress.)

It can’t be because he is soiling our society’s moral and ethical fabric and breaking the Golden Rule. (Trump is a peerless Oval Office bully, lashing out against the weak, powerless and defenseless.)

It can’t be because he is openly holding onto his business interests and enriching himself from foreign vendors in unconstitutional ways, violating the Emoluments Clause (cases challenging his personal gains while in office are now in federal court).

Maybe it is because he is expediently against a woman’s right to choose and common-sense gun regulation, selects corporatist judges, and keeps saying he loves his country (what politician doesn’t?).

President Trump’s words and deeds have not changed the minds of 40 percent of people polled. What else is going on here?

One answer is Slogan Voters. I’ve spoken to many people who are still for Trump despite all of his lies and misdeeds. They don’t pay much attention to politics. When they do, they reveal themselves as Slogan Voters. They are content with Trump’s rhetoric and rarely look beneath the surface at the details. That is, they are not bothered by being fact-deprived in political matters.

Here is what they tell me: They hate Hillary. They like Trump. They repeat the three slogans: Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up! Over and over again.

When I politely ask whether they are specifically aware of what Trump and his heads of departments and agencies are doing, they draw a blank. They explain that President Trump is shaking up Washington and draining the swamp. They believe that’s the reason why he generates such an uproar from the swamp-dwellers. In a bizarre way, the more outrageously false and nutty Trump’s tweets and actions are, the more these people feel that all the outrage is because he is draining the swamp and the swamp is lashing back at him.

Slogan Voters stress their belief in self-made men and women. They are often college-educated. They are not seen as bigots by their co-workers. They believe if you fail at something, it’s your own fault.

They agree there are bad things going on in government, but it’s not Trump’s fault. Their reaction to bad things that are openly, brazenly, and admittedly Trump’s fault – such as shutting down a consumer agency designed to stop Wall Street and the financial/credit industry from cheating you, crashing the economy, or crippling environmental health protections — is: It’s all part of draining the swamp.

Trump has become homeostatic — whatever goes around, comes around to his advantage for the Slogan Voters. Evidence against Trump is turned around to justify Trump. More than anyone else, Trump has understood this and fed these strange conclusions by inattentive minds.

What would the eminent philosopher of science, Aldous Huxley, think now? He said in 1927: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” But they do for Trump and his Slogan Voters. He creates his own web of delusion, and his supporters say he is draining the swamp and making America great again.

It wouldn’t matter a whit were they to receive critical articles, books, DVDs, or even Trump’s own self-contradictory words and record through the years. Recall his boastful sugarcoating as his giant casinos went bankrupt while he profitably escaped their draining impacts on others (e.g. the employees and unpaid contractors he hired to build them).

Unless someone comes up with a secret key to awaken the minds of Trump’s Slogan Voters, the best response is to draw some of the more than 100 million eligible non-voters to the polls for the crucial November elections. There are far more than enough votes to surpass the choices of the Trump Slogan Voters for the Congressional races.

One thing you have to credit these Slogan Voters for: THEY VOTE!!

Yeah, “Making America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up!”​

Twats and Tweets: Roseanne Barr and the Issue of Proportion

Can anything be said that doesn’t warrant an empaneled jury of twitting twats to determine the fate of an individual?  It is evident that branding, marketing and selling can only be done in a context of controlled hypocrisy.  Companies long happy to use celebrities as fronts for promoting products and the image of a television network have become obsessed with the idea of sensitivity.

While Roseanne Barr’s tweet describing former President Barack Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett in simian terms (“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj”) was stingingly rude, the hammer option adopted towards her by the ABC was manic.  Was the Roseanne Barr slated to return in her show meant to have been reformed, one more economical in her rattled, and rattling, opinions?

The sense among the writers and producers was to fall in line.  People were all meant to be horrified at this new creation, this new Barr.  Executive producer David Caplan claimed to be helpless before the implications of the tweet.  “I really wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t feel like there was really any response to it.  It was so far over the line and so loathsome that I suspected there might not be any coming back from it.”

Caplan recounted Barr during season 10 of the program.  She was found to be “reasonable with the writers.”  Despite disagreements regarding her political beliefs, she proved “reasonable to work with at that point.”

This suggests a bit of hand washing on Caplan’s part in anticipation of future employment: Barr’s tweet had nothing to do with work matters, and certainly nothing to with the scripting of the show.  Keep new freaky marginalised, isolated, for fear of being contaminated.

This stomach-turning sanctimony can be found in the idea that the ABC network is magically tolerant (family values and all that), and that Barr was somehow out of step.  Take Hal Boedeker, who happily marches to a tune that is not only discordant but silly.

In the Orlando Sentinel, the righteous Boedeker made the following observation held down by the assumptions of pure fantasy: “Disney sends the message that it welcomes all. Barr violated the Disney philosophy with her racist tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”  As if it made any difference whatsoever, “Barr also had a history of bashing others with tweets, and she trafficked in conspiracy theories.”

What makes such mind addled assessments even more unearthly is the remark that Barr’s conspiracy theories do not cut it in the world of fantasy. (What runs for fantastic these days?)  “Disney deals in fairy tales, not conspiracy theories.”  A good reading of the text, subtext and inner meaning of many a fairy tale repudiates such a view.  In-between readers such as academics keen to secure their next grant constitute, it could be said, a conspiracy of interpretation, finding a spectral hook upon which to hang upon the next questionable interpretation.

True to corporate form, the production vultures at the ABC are trying to find ways to move beyond RB for what is enthusiastically being proclaimed a salvation.  Spin-offs are being sought, though they must be emphatic on one point: the absence of the protagonist that made it to begin with.  In the manner that resembles something of a theft, Barr, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “would not be able to financially benefit from any new incarnation of the series.” (Legal minds, ready yourselves.)

The point about Barr is that she never changed, which might well be the problem.  To understand the market and the nature of one’s employer is to understand how hypocrisies and cant might change at any given moment in time.  The fury directed against her is the misplaced anger of the trend follower with the attention span of a light lured moth.

Treating Barr in such a manner is also bound to encourage others to come out with their scything swipes.  An example is provided by Jonathan S. Tobin in The National Review, who has asked for “an amnesty for speech offenses.” If Barr can be sent to the television’s salt mines for a racist tweet “why shouldn’t Samantha Bee lose hers for a presumably scripted line on her show in which she called Ivanka Trump a cunt and implied that she could get her father to change her mind about an issue by wearing something tight and low cut?”

Ironically enough, in the age of Trump, where the ad hominem remark has been given a whole new lease of life, becoming total, normal and unstoppable, mechanisms of control and punishment are finding their bearings.  Trust broadcasting to be one of them in their righteous corrections.

Those familiar enough with Barr would have taken her comment as deserving of a chastising, disturbed rebuke, a point she would have been more than capable of accepting.  But debate before the lynch mob is nigh impossible.  The noose speaks volumes, and expression can gradually slide into a dull, controlled oblivion.

Just How Much Do We Love One Another?

On the day of the Parkland massacre, Valentine’s Day, I made a decision, one long in the making since my days as a Philosophy student and instructor nearly fifty years ago.

I had been for decades outwardly idle — “submissive” would be a better word — while watching the world be shaped by people’s interests in certain things (mainly about making money, buying lots of guns, going to church, and feeling good about themselves) and by their equally selective lack of interest in certain other things, such as logic and vigorous, intelligent debate about our connections to one another, and our impacts upon the larger world. I had been told many times by many people that logic, history, science, studies in the foundations of ethics, and reading in general “Just aren’t my passions.”

But inwardly, and quietly, I had been, all those years, observing, reading, and writing much in my journals, and sharing my findings only a little, until recently. My fateful decision was to do this:

I sent a long and significant letter (a small book) to important distant friends the day after that student massacre. As a direct result, predictably as the sun’s setting, I have been cast from their lives.  I wrote that letter for the general reasons I will state here and for the particular reasons given within the letter itself. The letter explained why I made the decision I did, to speak up in a written document rather than in airy personal conversations in which words and meanings are neither understood nor remembered because minds are heated and fogged by fire and smoke, driven more by the dragons of our reptilian hind brain than guided by the light of our brain’s more recent developments. Knowing the trouble I could cause, and the price I might pay, I did so against the urging of everyone whose opinions I faithfully sought. I must live or die with that decision that was, necessarily, my own. As my remaining and now increasingly lonely days permit, I will offer the substance of my cares, concerns, and reasonings to anyone interested, but will not demand, nor even ask, anyone to be actually interested. As my mind is my own to make up, so too it is for each of us to do the same. And like it or not, the implications of that fact have been, and will continue to be, global.

Right or wrong, but with my shingle out for open written debate, I now have much to say about many things, after living a long life of learning and traveling the globe—and being publicly silent, too circumspectly careful, about the most important things. I have been outwardly quiet lest I be branded the cause of “personal offense” and ejected from family and polite society by people who wrongly think I do not love them—all because I argue that Proposition A is false or that Decision B is illegal and fundamentally unethical, for complex reasons no one “has time” to read about or the depth of education to understand (being too busy making money and raising a family, and feeling great about doing so). I have tried to be accommodating and polite and unobtrusive. I have been taken to be an odd combination of “very smart,” “highly useful” —and “duly deferential” to executive decisions that time and again have proven to be fatally wrong. Thus, I have concluded that I have been making an exceedingly terrible mistake of my own.

I had always been asking myself, “How much do we really love one another? Enough to study hard and seek the truth about what we are doing to each other?” My hypothesis, now confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt, was that something horrible has gone wrong in our society that now manifests itself as the outward symptoms of a virus whose periodic outbreaks blood-stain the pages of our entire history. I claim that we do not love our children, nor one another, nor future generations, quite enough to find out the implications of what we are doing—or failing to do. Decades of thinking and searching out the facts (and trying to falsify my own theory about which I have been publicly silent for most of my life) have led me to this conclusion:

This world has been shaped by our frequent and mysterious lack of curiosity about what is true, the implications of our presumptions, and equally by our manufactured ignorance and enabled arrogance; in other words by our lack of interest in genuinely understanding ourselves, our fellows, and the world. As of this day, I have ceased to acquiesce in the face of narcissistic power that 1) assumes—and now literally asserts—that only its own feelings and decisions matter and that, by direct implication, mine own do not; 2) seeks out the company of only like-minded people; 3) seeks to threaten, ignore, or muzzle anyone who begs to differ; and 4) does not know the difference between a fact and a feeling nor between a rational argument and verbal abuse.

In the interests of “getting along with each other,” because we claim to love one another, we have, in fact, chosen to act in ways that permit aggressiveness, ignorance, and malignant narcissism to be reinforced and rewarded in our children and among those to whom we believe we must submit in order to “keep the peace,” “enjoy life,” and “earn a living.” We all think our children are important, most important, in our lives, and that it is their personal happiness (and our own) that is most important. But the trouble is this: Everyone believes this, but it could not possibly be true. Family A’s children cannot really be more important than Family B’s children, however truly important everyone may be. But as this false belief is acted upon across a society, poisonous consequences show themselves.

Because everyone thinks their children are special and must be treated “carefully,” and that their bosses must be treated with extra special deference lest they lose their jobs, a global situation develops in which no one, no individual person, is willing to take responsibility for the reinforcement and enablement of ignorance and egomania, showing itself in the proliferation of weapons, the perversion of religion, the election of Trump, and the perpetuation of sexual and economic predation by many of the most powerful people in the world, people who have in fact risen to power precisely because we each have done our part, deferentially, to allow it all to happen. There is a private, though never a public, cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, and we fail to see that just about everyone is doing this. Doing what? Refusing (out of fear of personal harm or lust for personal gain) to stand up and blow the public whistle against “BS,” that is, against corporate fraud, financial predation, money laundering, tax evasion, racist hatred, religious bigotry, manipulative lies, all manner of political corruption, and invincible ignorance with its contempt for higher education and a sneering suspicion of anything that smacks of literate and scientific intelligence.

My short answer: All of us need to learn the poisonous patterns of pseudo-argument and see them for what they are: strategically ill-motivated substitutes for coherent reasoning, all intended for two destructive purposes: manipulating an intellectually defenseless audience and, if one can pull it off, deceiving oneself to anesthetize the conscience while shifting responsibility. Introductory logic textbooks catalog the jungle of formal and informal fallacies, often identified by their Latin names, and antiseptically defined. They are all symptomatic of a diseased and thoughtless desire, not to get at the truth, but avoid it, or should it be necessary, to confront it, grab it by the throat, and drown it in the nearest bathtub.

“Molly coddling” is the generic term for respecting another’s “feelings” (even our own) above a respect for truth, rationality, and the avoidance of the growth of self-delusion. Turning our backs to the facts, we forget that facts bite us in the ass—in due time. If every employee submits unquestioningly to their bosses, our bosses come to believe that they cannot be wrong and increasingly grow arrogant and presumptuous about their powers, knowledge, skills, and wisdom. They then rationalize their stroked “feelings” (enabled by their parents, peers, shareholders, or underlings) as proof of their ethical superiority and command of reality. Financial “success” adds pragmatic fuel to the “confirmation” that they are right, just, good, and deserving of all they have. Underlings buy into the whole story of how their bosses make a fortune and, in so doing, become not only more tolerant of abuse but wish to imitate what they see as “leadership” behaviors.

Hence we have the likes of Michael Cohen, Sam Nunberg, and half of Congress, who outwardly bow to Trump as their “Mentor,” for example, while Roger Stone asserts that he saw Trump as a nice piece of “horseflesh” to back and exploit in a “race” to advance a personal agenda. Hence we have Weinstein and his “Director’s Couch.” Hence we have the NFL issue a threatening directive about what will constitute “patriotism” in their players. Hence we have a Mark Zuckerberg who has been neither able nor willing to understand the power and the implications of the global machine he has been building, how malefactors could exploit its “mere tools” to turn countries inside out and upside down by hitting targeted ignorant people who lack even the vestigial powers of rational analysis that would help them distinguish news from propaganda. He claims his “virtue” created his “success” by “connecting people globally” and “sellings ads” that selectively target them (more often than not with malice aforethought). Devils and the Lords of Mayhem are often not who we think they are. They are brilliant but selectively thoughtless people who seek to “impact the world” and garner “personal wealth” and thus “make the world a better place.” Still, the executives of “Cambridge Analytica” (a name itself reeking of arrogant pretension) do win the award for being the creeps of the century, for being exactly who they appear to be in surveillance videos.

Education and non-egoistic thoughtfulness take a distant back seat to ego and money and the building of one’s dream home and career and family. Genuine mutual human respect, thoughts about how our individual beliefs and actions impact society when likewise acted upon by others, and the humble willingness to admit we might be factually wrong about a whole lot of things, begin to rapidly shrink—or are stillborn in our childhood. We see the ultimate corruption of politics, of business, and of familial relationships in which the scientifically ignorant, the fundamentally incompetent, the ethically bankrupt, and the psychologically diseased seize power and wield it over others to the ultimate detriment of everyone. Historically, this has been the fatal formula for the rise of autocracy, fascism, oligarchy, tribal conflict, the collapse of countries, and the outbreak of war—all of which we thought we were trying to avoid in the first place.

Someday, the power of ignorance, arrogance, and malignant narcissism may learn that it only exists, and persists, because too many people have acquiesced in silence, fearfully or greedily or naively, but utterly mistakenly.  Meanwhile, our purported “love of one another” is proving, yet again, to be nothing of the sort.

Creating Right Relationship

Within many areas of contemporary life there is a growing momentum for fundamental change. Inequality and injustice are being resolutely challenged and environments in which Right Relationships can evolve are being consistently and powerfully demanded. The establishing of right relationships is a principle hallmark of the unique times we are living in, it sits alongside those other perennial values of goodness: justice freedom and sharing. Perennial qualities that have been held deep within the hearts of humanity for eons though consistently denied and not expressed.

Our current modes of living are characterized by certain dominant ideals: competition; reward and punishment; and desire being some of the leading players. Individually each of these creates divisions; collectively they form an interwoven barrier to all forms of right relationship, a barrier that at times seems impenetrable. Such habitual ways of living are rooted in a view of human nature which maintains that humanity is inherently competitive and selfish, and that desire for personal gain, pleasure and power is not only inevitable but is actually a positive thing, driving personal development and collective gain. Devotees of this view hold that without such motivating forces most people would be overcome by lethargy and do nothing – and then where would we be?

This argument, ardently promoted by the patrons of the socio-economic order, encourages the adoption of values and ways of living that are not only detrimental to the well-being of human beings, it is utterly false. Humanity is a group; we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is a fact all of us know or sense to be true, however faintly. Mankind’s early survival depended upon the ability to work collectively, and so it is again now. We must learn to cooperate once more, to build sharing into our lives and to cultivate right relationships with one another — across national boundaries, race, religions and gender, within ourselves and between humanity and the natural world.

Exploitation, prejudice and intolerance in whatever form constitute the antithesis of right relationship. This destructive, violent trinity occurs in all parts of the world; flowing primarily from ignorance, poverty and inequality it is perpetuated by the current economic system and the architecture of democracy, which revolves around money and big business. Right relationships are corrupted when excessive wealth and power reside in the hands of a privileged elite, such imbalances cultivate false notions of self-worth — high and low – feeding the destructive duality of dependency and entitlement.

Right relationship within all areas of society depends upon a number of interlocking values being in place, complementary colors that when made manifest result in harmony. Social justice is essential and this requires that equality be established: equality of opportunity; gender and race equality, equality before the law, and equality within systems of democratic governance — where equality should be inherent but is often absent. Tolerance and understanding are also required, tolerance of differences, of alternative views, beliefs and practices; tolerance of the unfamiliar, tolerance of ‘the other’, of mistakes and of failure (something education and many parents need to adopt); the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know’, and to thereby allow the brain to be quiet.

The pressure to succeed, or at least not to fail, is colossal, particularly amongst young people who face enormous pressure to adopt the all-pervasive material values, which champion individual success and stigmatize failure. This pressure is a major obstacle to the creation of right relationship within oneself and with others and is a primary cause of stress and anxiety. Fragmentation adds to the internal disharmony, which flows out into the collective atmosphere in which we all live, feeding social tensions and divisions, denying peace – or rather shattering peace, for, free from disorder, peace eternally IS.

Collective harmony relies on there being right relationship with all living forms and the complex ecological patterns of life of this most beautiful world. In order to establish this, the way we live needs to fundamentally alter. In developed nations and increasingly in developing regions, life for many has been reduced to a materialistic game of consumption and hedonism, and both are as poisonous as each other. Consumerism is the root ingredient in the global catastrophe that is climate change. Sold as a way of life by its chief benefactors, it provides a hollow imitation of happiness called pleasure and builds an addictive prison of dependency and attachment in which mental illnesses and environmental abuse proliferate. Through the agitation of desire on which its survival is dependent, discontent, disharmony and disease are caused and maintained, all of which deny the manifestation of right relationship with oneself, with others and with the abundant earth.

If social harmony, peace and environmental integrity are to be brought about, right relationship within the individual is essential. It all begins, and indeed ends with us, with the way we live our daily lives; the way we think, speak and act. Actions that proceed from a position of selfishness and attachment trample on right relationships and result in conflict and suffering; when harmlessness and responsibility are the guiding principles harmony arises. The recognition that humanity is one is the primary requirement for change; the realization of this fundamental fact will light a fuse of truth and clarity that will burn away all that is false, all that divides and all that denies right relationships.

Crib Notes on Late Capitalism

Gordon Gekko, the fictitious corporate raider so memorably personified by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, lectured an assemblage of investors and flaccid board members with this eye-opening burst of insight:

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

Gekko cut to the core of capitalism. He unclothed its essence, he upvoted its pseudo-scientific rationale, and he recognized its dominion over America. We should know by now, all these years and a Great Recession later, that sociopathic late capitalism reduces all morality to a single ethic: increase profits. At any cost. By any means necessary. And always as at a faster pace with fewer hands involved in the assembly, one day to be as seamlessly automated as it is amoral. Even when a throng of angry workers rise up and startle the bourgeoisie from its dogmatic slumber, the subsequent concessions are often piecemeal and temporary. As soon as they are implemented, the animated masses slip back into their consumer coma, and a cadre of capitalist purists, furiously underlining quotes in their laissez faire bibles, begin a massively financed rollback. Without round-the-clock vigilance by a perpetually agitated electorate, the restoration of unchecked plunder seems inevitable. Today that process of unchecked plunder is in full swing. It feels like late capitalism, an exhausted time when the rhetorical salves that once hid the gruesome core of exploitation, have lost their power, revealed as empty platitudes. Late capitalism is perhaps an era unfettered by regulatory regimes or unified labor, in which manufacturing has fled abroad, financialization is pre-eminent, bureaucracies enable blame-shifting and abdication of responsibility at the highest levels, where personal finances are credit-fueled, debt deflation cannibalizes income, and there is no sacred ground that is not ripe for commodification. And crucially, an era in which brutal economic and military aggression has become normalized. Wars are no longer historically bookended epochs, but quotidian realities for millions that live in the crosshairs of imperial greed. A few notes on our present reality and the ways in which we cloak it behind comforting facades:

Acceptable Casualties: What are the consequences of that rollback? Brutal corporate raiding, to be sure, of the Gekko variety. And strip-mining private equity firms like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. And supercharged offshoring kingpins like General Electric. But also extrajudicial murder. Assassinations. Indefinite detention. Saturation bombing. Backing coup d’états birthed at midnight on a distant Maidan. Funding jihadi terrorists in faux uprisings in drought-stricken border towns. Green-lighting neo-Nazi fascists in jackboots with Bandera flags held aloft. Stationing a fleet of drones above the clouds over Yemen, their 24-hour buzz reminding powerless villagers below that their futures and funerals are separated by a hair’s breadth. Launching Tomahawk missiles and flying sorties to destroy legitimate government forces as al-Qaeda terrorists advance toward Tripoli. Enabling a longtime leader’s death by rape in a featureless dune outside of Sirte. Parading tanks and Humvees down the roads of Eastern Europe, shadowing the frontiers of Russia with the clustered muzzles of their long artillery. And, of course, rolling out all the domestic austerities that they pretend must be cut to pay for our protection. And don’t forget jerry-rigging pensions to implode thanks to naive derivative bets placed by deluded municipalities. All to make a quick buck, protect a currency regime, or pulverize resistance to western dominion over MENA energy resources. But that’s just at the national level. On the individual level, the profits system is protected and reinforced and expanded using torture, including simulated drowning and anal rape (Abu Ghraib), slaughtering villagers (Vietnam, Nicaragua), shameless genocide (see history of Native Americans), rampant slavery (see history of African Americans), sending armed terrorists into sovereign nations with the intention of total ruin (Syria, Libya, Nicaragua), and numberless other particularized forms of cruelty against men and women. One of our former arbiters of torture is now assuming command of the CIA, her suburban soccer mom pose pacifying the tired assemblage of corporate supplicants in Congress.

The Pall of Good Intentions: All of this to secure profits (variously euphemized as power, wealth, resources, influence, liquidity, reserve currency, etc.). Of course, these acceptable consequences are acceptable because they can be written off as bad judgment or mistakes. Lapses in foresight. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. As national mythologist Ken Burns’ sagacious narrator purred in The Vietnam War, “It was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings.” This rancid preface is enveloped in the amniotic afterbirth of every act of imperial violence, a postscript rationalization. One can imagine the wizened faces of imperial stormtroopers asking with incredulous naiveté, “What happened?” The Burns documentary is artfully presented, with a master’s touch, and dropped deep into the fog of war from which we can comfortably resolve, “…in war, there is no single truth.” Thus the resolution is no resolution at all. Judgment is judiciously reserved. What cannot be swept under the carpet or plausibly denied, can be amplified into total confusion, confounding even the most discerning observer. In the final analysis, there is no one to blame.

It’s the System! When ill-conceived choices don’t suffice, the blame can be offloaded onto the system itself. As automation in warfare improves, expect more of the moral blame to be shifted to technological malfunctions rather than human error. AI may play in war the same role bureaucracy plays in consumer capitalism, the abdication of responsibility. Remember the middle manager mantra: “Sorry, but that decision is above my pay grade.” This is the requisite assumption of bureaucratic capitalism and the reason why the abdication of responsibility and subterfuge of false historical narratives are so important to the capitalist system. It cannot be conceded that profitability is valued above human life. When such charges are leveled at imperial capital, blame for such inhumane values must be placed on the system, while individuals are set scot free. No major bankers were jailed for the bank-generated mortgage meltdown. No major government figures were jailed for their role in sanctioning torture and war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a consequence, a torturer now runs the CIA and banks have leveraged their derivative bets beyond 2008 levels. Obama launched the largest covert CIA operation since Afghanistan in Syria, ultimately generating the cauldron that displaced half the country and killed half a million. But his staunchest defenders will swiftly lift the accusations from their paladin’s slim shoulders, dust off his lapels, and deposit the blame squarely on the monolithic system itself. No one is powerful enough, therefore no one bears responsibility. Given the casuistry of capital, it any wonder then that the wages of capitalism are so often death?

Capital Fight, Capital Flight: Most of us don’t think of wars as capitalist wars. But what else are they? The United States has established bases inside of Syria’s predominantly oil-rich Kurdish region. That war itself began, conspicuously, not long after Bashar Al-Assad opted to back a gas line built with Russia and Iran over one involving Qatar and Turkey. Wars against Iraq and Libya were both conspicuously ramped up not long after those nations floated the idea of abandoning the US petro-dollar. And you know how temporary installations morph into permanent occupations. Baghdad’s Green Zone didn’t start out as a Bellagio-on-the-Tigris, but soon became a permanent encampment, even if it is now euphemistically named, “the international zone.” Military contractors still have a considerable presence there (surely cheered by the citizenry) and the American wrecking crew has whittled its official footprint to world’s largest ‘embassy’ cum occupation zone. Iraq, too, was a resource war, and yet is not generally grasped as a distinctively capitalist conflict. But the only apparent alternative to foreign exploitation in a rent-seeking system is capital flight.

Savagery as Security: The evidence of bloody exploitation is all around us, but most of it beyond our borders and across abyssal seas most of us have never crossed. Hence the worthlessness of this system of plunder for the majority is better grasped by people living outside the walls of our doctrinal system. People living in the 57 countries we’ve attempted to overthrow since WWII. People living in occupied territories, alongside the 800 military bases we’ve flung like a net across the planet. People living beneath the drone arsenals that float in the sky, or those in nations that suffered the 51,000 bombs President Obama let drop in the final two years of his presidency. These acts are all, suffice it to say, forms of aggression defined as defensive measures. Obama was thus the perfect avatar of imperial conquest, a man who neither seemed capable of anger or interested in expansion. Unlike snarling Dick Cheney and more akin to soothing Bill Clinton, Obama provided the necessary update on Jesse Jackson’s candidacy in 1984 and 1988, tweaking the persona from that of an impassioned African-American decidedly on the side of the working class to one of a cross-class unifier who healed divisions with a kind of amiable centrism. And so Obama and the Democratic Party merely inhabited the emptied husks of progressivism, while embodying in practice the regressive rollback of worker advances.

Domestic Digs: Evidence may be bloodier abroad, but the wages of capitalist globalization have also been coming home to roost for some time. The millions of middle class jobs exported abroad to line the coffers of rich shareholders and impoverish the sad ledgers of working men and women. If there is a definition of the word ‘sellout,’ it ought to sit astride the logos of companies like GE, Walmart, Nike, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, and Halliburton. Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide thanks to the ‘liberalization’ of markets, permitting western multinationals to savagely undercut subsistence farmers in nations like India, and deliberately drives them into urban slums to fortify the surplus army of cheap labor available to faceless capital. Now New York taxi drivers are killing themselves, unable to continue working 16 hour days for ever-declining wages while mobile sweatshops like Uber and Lyft lobby for deregulation, undercut the wages of the entire industry, and hire a multicultural new CEO with a kindly face who softly promises helpful innovation for all. Capitalists fear a falling rate of profit, but care nothing for the falling rate of wages. As Marxist geographer David Harvey said, capitalism will cannibalize the source of its own wealth–something no PR campaign can cure. Every revenue stream will be bled dry. Harvey also said capitalism’s current form, a viciously anti-state neoliberalism, is a conscious project of class restoration, a war on workers by elite shareholders looking to restore their class privilege, despite their role as a parasitic rentier class that induces debt deflation in the larger economy. If labor mis-attributes its travails to personal inadequacies, it likewise misses the fact that it is under attack. Labor is kept afloat through credit, with student, credit card, mortgage, and auto debts all swelling past the trillion-dollar threshold in the U.S. With that increase in debt come obvious corollaries: the one percent grabbed 95 percent of the overhyped recovery in America, while the overlapping global one percent will own two-thirds of all wealth by 2030.

Class Blinders: In practice, capitalism is primarily about the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor. That’s what Barack Obama signaled to elite constituencies when he campaigned for president, a willingness to either look the other way or facilitate exploitation. Even if he believed the lofty rhetoric he ventriloquized through his Ivy League education. Donald Trump may perhaps be a bit more aware that capitalism is red in tooth and claw. But like Gekko, he merely recites the tiresome credos of Social Darwinism, the naturalistic fallacy that conservatives and ambitious financiers never stop falling for. It may be the only method of rationalizing their success as the product of their intrinsic talents, rather than a stroke of fortune delivered by a confection of birth, breeding, temperament, and natural ambition. Marx was right when he proposed a materialist conception of history. Our circumstances do shape our consciousness. The rich have been taught to take credit for their successes and externalize responsibility for their failures. A tireless work ethic provides the moral backdrop to every Fortune 500 profile, but for every bankruptcy, regulation and taxation are reviled. On the flip side, the elite media never tires of conditioning the poor to do the reverse: self-indict for their failures and thank affirmative action and America for their successes. Read Adam Johnson on “perseverance porn,” the celebration of disenfranchised peasants who endure intolerable conditions. As such, too often the exploited blame themselves for their exploitation, and the exploiters blame the system for their failures (the system they rely upon in times of crises).

Money Never Sleeps: No matter, Gordon Gekko had it right. Greed is good–for the one percent. After all, they seem to be the only ones benefiting from institutionalized cupidity of imperial capitalism, for which all are blameless but from which only a handful may benefit. That its unchecked bacchanalia came to a juddering halt in Mesopotamia has bedeviled the plutocrats at the helm of the global capitalism. Their loyal serfs in the military-financial complex have demonstrated alarming judgment since the Syrian conflict began. The plutocrats surely fear their unipolar moment is being threatened by a poker-faced piker in the Kremlin and his infuriatingly refined ally in Damascus. The nervous frenzy in the western media only reflects the disturbed priorities of the corporate state. Perhaps the only question left appears to be whether Washington will make good on its implicit wish to use small nukes to salvage its hegemony, or strategize a more successful use of criminal sanctions, proxy forces and soft coups to redraw the balance of power to their liking. Either choice will entail not only decimation abroad but vacuuming more taxes from social need into metastasizing budgets that fuel military aggression and police a restive homeland. Peace and prosperity are not in the cards. As the infamous Margaret Thatcher said of capital’s creed: “There is no alternative.”

The Europe That Can Say No?

EU president and Polish politician Donald Tusk says the U.S. acts with “capricious assertiveness.” With friends like this who needs enemies?” he asked the other day, adding, “If you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.”

EU vice-president Federica Mogherini met with European and Iranian representatives after the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement. She committed Europe to the following:

  • Maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran;
  • The continued sale of Iran’s oil and gas condensate petroleum products and petrochemicals and related transfers;
  • Effective banking transactions with Iran;
  • Continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Iran;
  • The further provision of export credit and development of special purpose vehicles in financial banking, insurance and trade areas, with the aim of facilitating economic and financial cooperation, including by offering practical support for trade and investment;
  • The further development and implementation of Memoranda of Understanding and contracts between European companies and Iranian counterparts;
  • Further investments in Iran;
  • The protection of European Union economic operators and ensuring legal certainty:
  • And last but not least, the further development of a transparent, rules-based business environment in Iran.

Meanwhile U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton asks rhetorically on ABC: “Why would any business, why would the shareholders of any business, want to do business with the world’s central banker of international terrorism?” He threatens secondary sanctions on nations that, adhering to the agreement, expand trade with Iran.

Some including RT commentators predict Europe will buckle to U.S. pressure and cancel contracts. But maybe not this time. Maybe Europe will become the Europe That Can Say No.

“We are working on finding a practical solution … in a short delay of time,” Mogherini says. “We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive. We have a quite clear list of issues to address. We are operating in a very difficult context … I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side.”

Immediate work to diminish the damage done to world peace and stability by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

According to EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulus, the EU is preparing legislation to block U.S. sanctions targeting Iran. Its members know that if Iran reaps no sanctions relief from the agreement it will also withdraw, charging betrayal. France’s Total S.A. and Germany’s Siemens have indicated they may back out of contracts with Iran due to fears of U.S. secondary sanctions. The U.S. strives to use access to its marketplace to shape others’ investment options, in this case options that can lead to war. No matter that this violates the sacred bourgeois principle of Free Trade.

There are all kinds of good reasons for Iran and the rest of the world to expand trade ties. (French cooks would like access to Iranian pistachios—the world’s best—and saffron.) And there’s no reason for other governments to embrace Bolton’s view that the Iranian government is the central banker of international terrorism. (Surely that is Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading supporter of Salafist Sunni Islamism, which supports the Syrian Liberation Front, the Army of Conquest, and Ahrar al-Sham. The Saudi monarchy, presiding over a society far more oppressive than Iranian or Syrian society—but spared media outrage—pursues its unholy alliance with Israel to bring down the regime in Tehran, preparing for the coming confrontation by invading Bahrain, isolating Qatar, pulverizing Yemen and bombing Syria at U.S. behest and kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister in order to influence Lebanese politics and diminish the role of Hizbollah.)

And there are all kinds of reasons for Europe to stand up to the U.S. and say, “Your sanctions are not our sanctions.” And maybe add: Your intentions for further regime change in the Middle East are not popular in Europe, which fears more waves of refugees. And also add: The sanctions you’ve demanded we impose on Russia following the February 2014 coup in Ukraine and consequent Russian reassertion of sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula are hurting Europe and should be lifted.

There should be a multilateral world. It already exists, actually, but the U.S. ruling class, wedded as it is to “full-spectrum dominance” and notions of U.S. “exceptionalism” resists acknowledging it. Bolton’s remarks are telling.

“I think the Europeans will see that’s in their interest ultimately to go along with this,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend. Asked if the U.S. would apply sanctions to European firms, he said vaguely, “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.” He notes legal devices available to the U.S. such as the denial of licenses. He threatens to pull out all the stops to impede the world’s effort to conciliate Iran. He wants to coordinate Saudi, Israeli, U.S. and MEK efforts to effect regime change in Tehran; as he told an MEK audience in July 2017, he expects this by 2019!

This is the U.S. National Security Advisor, serving an unusually unbalanced, ignorant U.S. president. (The British demanded his withdrawal from the Libya talks in 2004 because he was overbearing, indeed acting like a madman.) He is saying, confidently, Europe will go along “when they see it’s in their interest.” Maybe he and Trump miscalculate. The EU even without Britain rivals the U.S. in population and GDP. If it once needed to obey, it might not need to (or want to) now. The U.S. these days does not smell of freedom, democracy, liberal values, calm reason, tolerated dissent. It reeks of white nationalism, racist exclusion, institutional police violence and murder, and seemingly irrevocable tendency towards the concentration of wealth in the .01%. It is a fundamentally unfair, unjust, unadmirable society that tortures its youth by offering them low-paying jobs and endless student debt if they were lucky enough to go to college. It denies its people the normal standard of public health care and charges them twice the Canadian fees.

It is a basically a fucked-up country. That it, after its (ongoing) disasters in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon and elsewhere, it has no moral leg to stand on in lecturing Europe to maintain sanctions on Iran. After siding 100% with Israel, on everything imaginable, it has lost any credibility as an honest broker in international relations.

The EU comprises various imperialist countries who, of course, exploit workers throughout the world, competing in the process with the U.S. They are not morally different from the U.S. But their governments increasingly chafe under U.S. hegemony, and this particular nut-case hegemon, Donald Trump.

Angela Merkel said last week that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it. “It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us,” she declared, “but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That’s the task of the future,” she said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, who said European nations should not allow “other major powers, including allies” to “put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy [and] security for us.” Trump was all over this guy in his last visit but the bromance ends here. You do not order proud France to cease trade ties with Iran just because you’re looking for another war. Europeans are tired of that. Tired of being taken for granted as slavish allies when the U.S. decides to attack somebody. The Truman Doctrine is dead, the Cold War over, Europe despite Brexit increasingly united in its ability to collectively respond to U.S. pressure.

Let there be an intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions! Let Germany say, yes, brothers and sisters, let us manufacture Mercedez-Benz sedans in Tehran! Let us sell you Airbus passenger airliners! Let us buy your walnuts and pomegranates and carpets. And let us tell the Americans the “American century” is not gonna happen. Because it shouldn’t happen.

Israel Commemorates Nakba with Mass Murder at the Gaza Fence

One of the essential features of European colonialism were the boundaries drawn between Europeans and so-called Western civilization and everyone else. Even during the European enlightenment, the accepted philosophical justifications for human inequality in Western liberal thought meant that women, the colonized, the enslaved and non-property holders occupied different rungs on the ladder of humanity and were excluded from demanding same inherent rights as the White, male bourgeoisie.

The “othering” of human beings on the basis of race, gender, religion, class and later nationality was embedded in the collective consciousness of Europe. But in the colonial context, the process of othering wasn’t just psychological but also physical.  In that context the stratification of humanity into those categories of people who had rights that were recognized and everyone else, had deadly consequences for those individuals and peoples who fell into the category of “other.”

Barbed wire, apartheid walls, railroad tracks, fences guarded by armed officers of the state, and the reservation system perfected in the United States as part of its conquest and containment of Indigenous nations, were some of the boundaries used to police difference.

It is at one of those colonial separations between the “fully human” Israelis and the Palestinians where the latest colonial outrage is taking place. In one day at a fence on a barren strip of land in Gaza that separates “Israel” from the open-air concentration camp where 1.5 million Palestinians are confined known as Gaza, over 50 Palestinians were systematically murdered by heavily armed soldiers positioned elevated on mounds of dirt that turned the unarmed protesters who approached the fence to protest their confinement and occupation into a killing zone. This happened the day before the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe in Arabic, when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and turned into permanent refugees.

While the bodies of men, women and even children were rushed away from the fence after having their bodies torn to shreds by live ammunition, the world’s elites were drinking champagne and celebrating the move of the embassy of one racist, settler-colonial state—the United States—to the conquered capital of another racist, colonial state, Israel.

Watching those scenes of horror, I couldn’t help but wonder about the psychological health of anyone who could find a way to reconcile themselves to that kind of madness. How one could somehow explain away the brutality. How one week you can be prepared to go to war because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly killed over 40 people with gas, but remain silent while dozens of human beings are systematically murdered right before our eyes. The events in Gaza reminded me once again of the insight James Baldwin provided that has become the recurring theme of my writings, and that is the psychopathology of white supremacy.

The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their ‘vital interests’ are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the ‘sanctity’ of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.

One would think tear gas and bullets today would tear away any semblance of civilization that gave cover to the Israeli colonial project. But that pathology is too deeply ingrained in the collective imagination and thinking of the West to be jettisoned by one incident of brutality when the West has been destroying whole nations over the last decade and a half in the Middle East.

On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the “catastrophe” that resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and the theft of their lands, homes, and even their household possessions, the message today was clear: the Israeli state is prepared to maintain its apartheid state by any means necessary.  The catastrophe for the Palestinians was the birth of Israel and was celebrated by the Israeli state with tear gas, bullets and the blood of Palestinians.

For those of us, confined to the zones of non-being with Palestinians and all of the other victims of this 500-year-old nightmare, we have always known what Samuel Huntington openly admitted:

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.

For the de-colonized, we have always understood that simple fact. Our experiences with the horror of European imperialism has steeled us against those same very same horrors.  So, we are not surprised or shocked by the brutality and the moral hypocrisy of Gaza, because we understand Hitler and Nazism. We have had an intimate relationship with Hitler and Nazism for over 500 years.

Hitler came to the Americas in 1492. He traveled with the conquistadors as they destroyed the Aztecs and then the Incas. He oversaw the Transatlantic Slave Trade, then went to the Congo and reduced the population by 5 million. He rode with U.S soldiers at Wounded Knee and advised the French, British, and Portuguese to attempt to keep their colonies after the second imperialist war in 1945 no matter how much native blood was shed.

Aime Cesaire captured the historic travels of Hitler and Nazism, the Nazism we see today in Gaza and in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

They say: ‘How strange! But never mind—it’s Nazism, it will pass!’ And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole edifice of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack. Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside of him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation if man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the ‘coolies’ of India, and the ‘niggers’ of Africa.”

Zionism aligned itself with the European colonial project and adapted its methods, embraced its white supremacy and in the process has written its future. Zionism is Hitlerism, as is the capitalist European colonial project and so Israel’s fate is sealed as the day of reckoning with the 500-year European project as it faces its inglorious end.