Category Archives: Philosophy

An Aperspectival View of the Culture War

Each stage in the history of the civil rights movement has had a specific theme and focus. In the 19th century it was race and gender, in the 20th it was race, gender, gay, bi, trans, queer, in the 21st it is all of them +.

One could say that these are ideas whose time has come, but what kind of society lets members of its own species become slaves, servants and second-class citizens in the first place? How does a society become more civilized when it just waits for solutions to come about in their own time?

If it has taken this long for these smaller, minor civil issues to be resolved, does that mean that the larger ones, that affect us all, will take even longer?

A revolution is only revolutionary if its supporters are enterprising enough to provide an alternative to the system they are rebelling against. It doesn’t matter whether it’s gay rights, affirmative action, or gender parity when it’s the exact same system with the same problems.

I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and for a long time I believed that racism and sexism had been abolished during the civil rights era of the previous decades. That once we had made it through we could not or would not go back. But it seems that knowing history isn’t enough to prevent it from repeating, as if humanity is realizing a perverse desire to go a few more rounds before the pyrrhic victory is declared. Because if humans can’t disagree about something, they have nothing to do.

Up until now we have been in conflict with each other, but we are beginning to realize that our little identity groups are insignificant compared with the bigger picture issues (global socio-economics, climate change, black budgets, criminal enterprises) that make our little factions seem a lot more harmonious than they did before.

It is concerning, but also cathartic, that we are referring to the free exchange of ideas as a war. Concerning because there are people, large numbers of them on both sides, who are very passionate about their ideas and are ready to defend them, violently if necessary, but cathartic because these ideas have always been there, in potentia, and are finally now being expressed.

Historically they have found form as arguments, protests, movements and demonstrations and for a while it looked like we were making some progress, but now it seems that we are fighting for them all over again and not one at a time, but all at once. Fortunately, it is unlikely to ever become a fighting war because of its basis in culture and the intellect.

In culture, people live their ideology, whereas in politics they merely pay tribute to it once in a while. We’ve had political wars, they involve the logistics of people and materiel, while culture wars are fought primarily with words, the casualties are ideas and beliefs, that depending on the outcome, may never be rehabilitated.

That’s not to say that the culture war is not political, identity politics has infiltrated many areas of policy, science and the humanities, but at root these are still social and cultural ideas that are being bandied about. Only laws and policies make them political, which is what has focused the discussion on freedom of speech. Both sides accusing the other of putting limits on this most fundamental requirement of successful communication. But both of these assertions cannot be true. They cannot be true because the whole thing is illogical. It’s not just a freedom of speech issue, a civil, sexist, racist or even a classist one, it’s a human rights issue and human rights transcends logic and rationality to occupy the broader category of integral-aperspectival or ‘vision-logic’.

As its name implies, vision-logic sees the bigger picture rather than looking over here, (Right) or over there, (Left). It is a higher-order, holistic, almost holographic system of ideas. Therefore, from an integral-aperspectival point of view there is no culture war. It’s not racism or sexism that are the problem, they’re not even real because they have no basis in logic. They are ideas that can only be held by equally illogical people.

But many of us have not made it this far yet. We’re still trapped in the old dualist paradigm and the only reason the culture war has lasted this long is because no one can stop watching. It is new territory, equivalent to finding a tunnel to the unconscious outside of the psychologist’s office. Every new development is a new discovery and the ‘so-called’ authorities, our self-appointed guides through this treacherous terrain, have no idea how to deal with it either. But instead of meeting the challenge and following the tunnel where it leads, they have applied policies that restrict the outcome of events rather than letting them unfold naturally.

Just as things were starting to get really real, the frontier was moved, and in order to stave off conflict and possible violence, these policies have limited access into the shadowy world of the unconscious preventing us from giving it a name. Or perhaps this is part of the plan; to make the unconscious, where no one is necessarily safe from criticism, a no-person’s land guarded by taboo terms and arbitrary rules. While this may be possible for a little while, the archetypes and psychological contents are sure to find their way out one way or another like a repressed emotion, which goes on to make an even bigger scene.

Despite all the shadows and shades that have been cast over that particular part of the psycho-sociological terrain, the sounds can still be heard. There is no silencing it, and apart from all the laws that are imposed, the law of the shadow land, or Intellectual Dark Web, is free speech and freedom of expression.

It’s a well-known fact that people become more conservative as they age, that is if they have anything to lose, and many of those people who call themselves revolutionaries now, may end up resenting their teachers, politicians and acquaintances for indulging their utopian ideas about the way the world should be, rather than the way it is. They’re wonderful ideas, of course, but if one is not prepared to dedicate their lives to them, what good is a liberal education?

Whether consciously or not, people are beginning to realize that far from fair, life is in fact arbitrary and what gives it meaning is us. It’s not rich people’s fault, or men’s fault or white people’s fault, but rich, white, men. We could all consider ourselves oppressed and under-privileged in some way, even a few of us white males, which is exactly what we are saying. We were promised something that we cannot have—just like everybody else. What we must do is work together to change the power structure that has enslaved us all.

Race, gender, class and sexuality are not all we’re made of, just as our bodies are not all we’re made of. We must find ways to integrate these aspects and move on to what we do after the fighting is over, what life is really about. If it’s equality and human rights we want, we can work towards that, if it’s fairness, that’s another matter and we are just going to end up disappointed, while feeding everyone else the red pill in the process.

Framing Houses, Framing Lives

“You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.”

— Michael Crawford, writer

One might think a profile of a former Oceanlake school, Taft elementary youth and a teen who dropped out of Taft High School (Lincoln City, Oregon) who now, 21 years later, works hard as a carpenter might not be the stuff of legends.

In fact, speaking with 37-year-old Justin Marical is like a breath of fresh air along with bursts of déjà vu.

He’s scrappy, he’s gone through ups and downs as a framer and construction worker, and he faces the struggle of being a quasi-step-dad to four children and a biological father to his 16-year-old boy who lives in Sedona.

We meet in Waldport, as I shadow him building his specialty now — high-end sheds or office spaces on people’s properties. We cover a lot of ground while he’s putting up siding on the 200-square-foot shed at a house on Bay Street.

He does the work from dawn to dusk, leaving no detail unfinished for this craftsman-like gig before he heads to the next job.

His business — JM Sheds — is going on 12 years, and his life is representative of a lot of young American men’s lives: dropping out of high school after 10th grade, getting sent to an aunt and uncle’s farm to be home schooled, getting a GED and learning a trade to survive.

Add to his formative years a biological father who ended up leaving the family with Justin at the tender age of six.

“I don’t know what the true effects of the divorce on me are, but I am sure I was hurt, yet at the time I wasn’t aware of anything.”

Justin says the Central Coast is a great area for which to grow up, or at least it was when he was younger, although he admits he did “slack off in school” and stopped going to Taft.

“I really wasn’t in any trouble, but I did ditch school, and did smoke a bit and got stoned.”

However, a safety net appeared: he was sent to an uncle and aunt on their 500-acre apple, pear, and cherry farm in Yakima. This really set the foundation for the young Justin’s life and where he is now.

“My uncle worked hard and recently retired well off. That farm was everything to him and to my aunt.”

We talk about the uncle’s hidden but brilliant plan for the young Justin. He had three cousins on the farm, and his uncle bought a bunch of lumber and put Justin to work with a challenge — make a playhouse for the younger girl.

The project was a full-on micro house — eight-by-eight, full-height walls, a roof, windows and a door, all finished in cedar shingles.

It was an after-school project, which Justin did on his own.

“I realized I had just built a building on my own. I totally remembered what my dad did as a framer. All that stuff stuck with me.”

That playhouse 20 years ago set Justin off into a world of construction, and this shed and micro-home business. Thus far, he’s built about a hundred sheds and office spaces.

Justin’s worked for Highline Homes in Salem, keeping busy as a commercial framer. Justin soon realized he could be his own boss, set his own schedule and make more money. Before shed making as a business enterprise, he worked in full home-building construction, but the jobs dried up during the 2008 recession.

“I could have quit and done something else after the jobs dried up. Instead, I built sheds, utilizing my construction skills.”

Justin reminds himself while speaking to me that building sheds got him his first home, got him a nice truck and trailer, and has helped to support his significant other, Emily, and her four children.

All of these skills he learned came from job sites his father, albeit as a divorced dad, took him on. He learned to do grunt work, observed the intricacies of a job site, and picked up vital carpentry skills that got him that golden prize — a complete, cool playhouse built by his own two hands.

It’s clear that once he starts a job, Justin is like a Tasmanian devil: “Once I get that job in front of me, I can’t stop.”

This is one work ethic that is a win-win for his clients who put down several thousand dollars for a nice outbuilding that not only serves as office or studio space, but enhances any property’s value.

“I knew early on I wanted to be a framer, to be in construction.” Luckily for Justin, his Yakima uncle instilled in him to shoot higher — be your own boss, work smarter not harder, and don’t make a living just doing grunt work for someone else.

 

In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building an emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.”

–Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men

Justin and I talk about the failing school system, how tough it is to work with young men today to motivate them, and what it means to be a man in this world where sometimes the headlines and book titles can be off-putting: “Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men;” “The Y Chromosome is Disappearing — So What will Happen to Men?” “Do We Need Men?” “Are Men Going Extinct — Some Experts Give Men Five Million Years.”

While his biological dad always worked and even took the young Justin to job sites, expecting the 8-year-old to throw in as a laborer, Justin is conflicted by some of his relationships with men.

I wish I had listened to the advice of men when I was younger. You know, listened to my buddies’ dads. If I had, I’d be in a lot better place.

He lists off more savings, sticking to one thing and not frittering from job to job, better investment strategies, and making a plan as some of those mentor men’s tips he let go by the wayside. He labored hard in his 20s, framing, but it was working for Friday nights to come around in order to hit the bars and find parties.

This is where a simple story about a plain 10-by-20-foot shed turns into a deeper conversation about the meaning of life, and the meaning of what it takes to raise children — boys in particular — to help them make it in life with a sense of dignity, respect and work ethic.

We talk about Michael Crawford’s book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work — Two of this philosopher’s words resonate when I speak to Justin —

• Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.

• Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right.

While Justin has upped his game with a nice website with amazing photographs of his craftsmanship encouraged by his spouse, Emily, he looks at the value of his skills translated into what young men and women might gain by working with their hands and brains.

A few years ago, Justin was hiring others to help with the shed projects. He could get one of these 10-by-20 sheds up in two days with that help. “I ended up shaking hands, developing quotes and running around getting materials. I wanted to put hands on projects. I had friends and their families who depended on me.”

Have Tools, Will Travel

Now he’s going at these projects alone, putting five or six days into the solo work. This gives him a lot of time to think what he might be doing to not only help his spouse’s two boys, 13 and 16, but to serve his community.

We talk about the housing crisis, about veterans who are homeless, about families not finding any affordable housing. The other crisis — PK12 education — might be the interconnected salvation for a county and state that face colluding forces that tear at the fabric of communities, down to the family level.

Justin drills down into the truancy issues of these two boys, and discusses how young men want to mimic gang-like behavior or even associate themselves with miscreants or wannabe gang-bangers while also skirting doing an honest, hard day’s work. Justin laments what he sees as young men and boys demonstrating a complete lack of respect for their elders, parents.

We both agree that having boys and girls building things, and planning, designing and following through on projects like building greenhouses, sheds, chicken coops would go a long way in the right direction to enable our youth to bring both meaning and skills to their young lives.

Justin and I talk while he puts up a shed, and he asks me about my work in education, about a writing project I am engrossed in to virtually explode the myths that tinkering with public education will make it better. “I have had these questions rolling around my head for a long time, but meeting you, I see what needs to be done.”

Hands-on, no more classrooms. Then, teachers that are inspired, inspiring and with multiple disciplines. We talk about getting youth to raise vegetables, chickens, orchards (permaculture). We talk about youth figuring out how to plan, draft, carry out and finish a building project, like a tiny home for needy people within their own community. We talk about teach-ins — having members of the community come to schools on a monthly or weekly basis instructing youth on their myriad avocations, skills and professions in these elegant round-table community engagements.

Justin wants to figure himself into this mix, working his magic as a builder to mentor and instruct youth on building something that is permanent, things that they can look at with pride.

“Not many young people are learning a trade. With that lack of hands on skill set, they are not getting any sense of accomplishment.”

Answers for Life

In his busy schedule working on this job on our coast, dealing with intermittent rain deluges and sunny breaks in the weather, Justin seriously pondered these questions I raised:

1. What does it mean to be a young man in America today?

For Justin, he sees struggle for young men, and confusion. “They have no solid ground to stand on as males.” He believes that too much screen time, too many other distractions and general parental lack of discipline add to the struggle. Justin isn’t thrilled with the economy getting Balkanized with fewer and fewer small businesses and apprenticeship opportunities.

2. Is there much difference from when you were 17, 20 years ago, then what it is to be 17 today in the USA?

3. How can we motivate young men to follow through, have a work ethic and care about doing honest work and living authentically?

We both believe that the education system — where youth spend 200 days a year, eight hours a day in the “system” — needs overhauling. Justin would like to have a part of educating, working with both disadvantaged youth and others on valuing their minds, bodies and creative spirits doing things with their hands. The “doing and making of things” he emphasized, and Justin means anything from skills working with engines, farming, building, crafting and engineering.

4. One word to describe your work ethic?

Obsessed.

5. Is building a shed creative work? If so, explain.

Just watching Justin go into a project, I can see he is thinking a mile a minute, putting the pieces together in his head. The craft involves architectonics and design and aesthetics.

6. If you weren’t building sheds and framing, what would you be doing?

He tried his hand at logging, and while working like a mule on big construction sites taught him the value of hard work and refining skills, Justin seems to be at place designing, marketing and organizing construction projects, from inception to completion.

7. What do you like about the Central Coast of Oregon?

He impresses upon me that the places on the coast still are and feel like small towns with people willing to get to know neighbors and customers. Just on one job site, all the neighbors around the project site talked with him. More than a half dozen drive-by neighbors looked at his project as it was being put up.

8. Define success.

He sees self-sufficiency and having the flexibility to be his own boss. Justin considers himself “homeless” in that he has no apartment or house mortgage, and he lives on the road, sometimes in his big truck while completing projects. His significant other of 10 years is a safe harbor from the constant dislocation, yet Justin says with all the tools, the trailer and his truck and his skills, he can virtually go anywhere and do his trade.

9. Define failure.

“Simply, being my own man.” Justin emphasizes the person in that statement. He thinks that if he was doing things to cut corners or to scam or rip-off people, he’d be a failure. Do unto others as you would have people do unto you.

190906_oct_carpenterIMGP1814.jpg

We end on a complicated note: More and more companies like Amazon and the like have kits for both sheds, tiny homes and other building types. “I am told by some that, ‘Hey, your shed is $2,000 more than what I saw at Costco for a kit.’ Well, I laugh and tell them good luck with putting up that product by yourself.”

With Justin working here in Waldport, he’s stayed at a local resort for days, he’s been to restaurants, shopped at the locally-owned Ray’s Market for groceries, put gas in his truck at the local Chevron, and purchased construction items at the locally-owned lumber yard and hardware store.

That multiplier effect is not the only value-added service JM Sheds provides the Coast. We get to see a hometown kid done good, pounding and sawing away, on site, with all the personal touches you can’t get from a kit sent to you from Amazon or IKEA.

Czechoslovakia to Chile, Back to Oregon Coast

We’re being accused of being eco-terrorists. But the way the laws are right now, the corporations have priority over the citizens’ right to defend their own health and safety. That’s terrorism.

— Newport resident Maria Sause

We meet at Oceana Natural Foods Co-op. Maria Kraus will turn 77 December. 9. Her face reflects five or six iterations of her life’s journey.

Just four days 80 years ago could have changed this interview – she might not have been conceived and born. Maria’s father Franta (Francisco)  left Czechoslovakia a scant 96 hours after Nazi Germany took over her parents’ homeland.

The Czech family line goes way back: “I just got in touch with a second cousin two years ago who has completed the family tree. The Kraus family goes back to the late 1700s in Czechoslovakia.”

I’m with Maria on a warm Sunday, ready to feature her life — amazing intellectual and creative journeys she’s taken having being born in Chile in 1942 and her own family’s powerful narrative of survival.

I am also scrambling to get some ink down concerning the Lincoln County Community Rights’ “loss” in state court after being successful with a countywide aerial herbicide ban on forestland, AKA, clear-cuts. The short-lived ban was the first in the country won by popular vote.

On September 23rd Judge Sheryl Bachart issued her ruling that Measure 21-177 is invalid based on state law regulating pesticide use. That Measure (for the ban) was voted on by citizens in 2017 okaying the prohibition of aerial spraying of all pesticides.

The fight for our legal, constitutional, and fundamental right of local self-government marches on, and it is going to take the political will of the people to make it a reality if we ever want to stop living under the thumb of corporate government.

—  Rio Davidson, President of Lincoln County Community Rights.

LCCR is now in overdrive, setting up townhall meetings to strategize to fight the judge’s reversal. For people like Maria, this is a huge blow to her community and to her concept of democracy.

Pre-emption laws are made whenever government and industry see the people are rising up against their projects. A government that protects industry at a higher level than it protects the safety of the people is unconstitutional.

— Maria Sause

This concept of having a fundamental right enshrined by the constitution that allows people to decide locally on issue of health, safety and the environment, is held dearly by Sause.

She has witnessed the devastation of total forest removal in her own neck of the woods where she lives in small above-garage apartment on acreage along Fruitvale Road. The stumps are emblematic of her own fight and LCCR’s fight against clear-cutting.

With the ban reversed, who knows when the timber company will begin spraying glyphosate, Atrazine and 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange made infamous in Vietnam) near where she lives.

“Right where I live, they clear cut an enormous parcel of the forest.” Interestingly, her life-long avocation of painting now reflects thick forest, sky and clear-cut landscape.

Holocaust, History, Chile

Maria is an avowed anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist. Her early days in Santiago, Chile, with her industrialist father (he was a licensed medical doctor from Czechoslovakia whose credentials were not recognized in Chile) was one of struggle since he was a highly intelligent but dictatorial man.

Her father was prescient enough to have sent his wife, Lisabet Erica Hirsch (maiden name), to England in 1938 before things got ugly in Europe.

Maria and I talk about history, about the saga of her Jewish heritage and roots. Her Kraus family line was virtually extinguished — 54 members on her father’s side (and an unknown number on her mother’s side) were exterminated in places like Auschwitz. Nazis processed professional Jews through the town of Theresienstadt, a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto established by the SS during World War.

My father in his youth belonged to several left movements. Maybe it was the shock and trauma of losing parents and the entire family that turned him into a right wing conservative.

Maria and her sister were sent to private schools outside of Santiago in the 1940s and ’50s. Her parents, in fact, split when she was one-and-a-half years old and the legal battle for the children put them into a children’s home.

That was a German couple who ran a summer camp that took them in, until Maria was more than six years old when her father took them to live with him and his new wife and new son.

Ironically, the New World formerly conquered by Spain — much of South America, including Chile — is where the Kraus Family ended up. During so-called biblical times world Jewry’s most concentrated homeland was located in what is now Spain. Maria says her paternal grandmother comes from the Sephardic Jewish population, which according to history books had established themselves in Spain almost 1,700 years ago.

Her own diaspora as a secular, non-practicing Jew is what she herself precipitated once she hit age 19 and her father approved of Maria coming to the US to study at the San Francisco State College. She stayed with an aunt and uncle there. That residence lasted six months before Maria was out on her own, working, going to school, and eventually marrying a man and having a son together, Christopher.

Summer of Love, and Ms. Sause’s Radical Education

Maria talks about her vibrant circle of friends and compatriots now in Lincoln County. At 76, Maria has good friends in Lincoln County, and the Lincoln County Community Rights organization is also a life force for her. She has three grandchildren from a single offspring, Christopher, who has spent time in Portland, Tempe, San Francisco and Chile.

Maria’s gone to school to learn English literature as an avocation to becoming a public-school teacher, which she tried her hand at as a single mother raising Christopher, who graduated from Newport High a long time ago.

That lesson, after having gained a master’s in education in a one-year intensive program at Portland’s Reed College, was tough. Getting to Lincoln County/Toledo was a journey unto itself.

She says working as an English-Art-Journalism teacher at Siletz High School was a hard lesson. “The kids just ate me up. I wasn’t prepared for all the behavioral issues. I gave the principal my resignation after two years.”

The Politicization of a Chilean

Maria Sause is busily writing press releases for the Lincoln County Community Rights. Town hall meetings were being set as we spoke at Oceana. The framing to the talks is foundational:

  • Ask your questions
  • Have your say!
  • Find out what’s next
  • What can I do?
  • How can I donate?

Meetings in Newport (October 15) and Yachats (October 16) will have already occurred by the publication of the hard copy of Oregon Coast Today. Lincoln City, however, has one set from 2 to 4 pm, October 20 at the Cultural Center.

The odds against the 21-177 measure were huge more than two years ago — the opponents were funded by big industry groups, to the tune of $475,000; on the other hand, the LCCR citizens group who wrote the initiative received support of $21,600 in cash and in-kind contributions, most of them small gifts from individuals. That was a drop in the bucket for LCCR, according to Sause, to lobby against the national and multinational stakeholders who fought to continue chemical sprays.

She has faced bigger struggles, but the Community Rights movement is her cause celebre, now.

Love and Death in a time of Chile

She returned back to Chile to take care of a dying mother (1990), after she had already taken care of her dying sister in Israel (1987 for five weeks). Both died of cancer. Maria’s is a crisscross journey from Chile to Portland to Newport to San Francisco.

This last time she returned to Southern Chile (1990) for the purpose of taking care of her mother: she met a man, fell in love, started a business and took care of an ailing father for one and a half years before his death. Maria stayed in Chile 18 years.

Cesar Retamal had lived in many places, including studying in East Germany as a machine builder. He had been imprisoned in Chile by the junta. He was an activist, a communist and blacklisted in Chile. He had been arrested by the goons deployed by the country’s American-backed dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.

Cesar, like thousands of students, professionals, union activists, was “disappeared” and tortured in one of the hundreds of torture houses Pinochet’s secret police had set up throughout Chile.

Cesar escaped because he knew one of the guards.

This is a period of time when I had an enormous education.

The couple was afforded their own home next to Maria’s father’s. He purchased it so Maria and Cesar could be close as they took care of him after the once robust man (he had been hiking in the Andes up to age 83) was paralyzed after cervical surgery.

After her father’s death (her mother had died years earlier) they ended up with inheritances (both Maria and Cesar got separate amounts) they ended up looking for land in the South of Chile: near Temuco, about 675 kilometers from Santiago. They ended up living in the foothills of the Andes.

“We built a house which I designed and made a scaled down exact model of it. Four months later the cabin-like home was built by locals. Great gatherings of friends and acquaintances were common there. Politics were central to the parties.

Socialist Owners and Conservative Workers

Maria laughs when she tells me of the construction business she and Cesar embarked upon. “We made sure everyone got the same wages. Cesar and I were working without pay. We did not have any business background.”

The administrators/owners were leftists and the laborers right wing. She laughs hard at that dichotomy.

The business went bust and the creditors were on their backs; eventually, the relationship ended. After that, Maria and Cesar stayed there for two years, in the house they had built. She painted, gardened, and worked as a translator, where she made a decent living conducting legal and technical cross translation (Spanish to English, English to Spanish).

Those years in Chile were vital to where Maria is now in Newport. She witnessed her father turn softer in his old age, becoming friends of Cesar, the avowed communist. The Pinochet regime murdered tens of thousands of innocent people of Chile. Her father was disgusted with that history of right wing politics.

The country is still collectively traumatized by the ugly years of Pinochet: 1973-1990.

Pinochet was arrested in London October 16, 1998. He was 82, recovering from back surgery. The charge was crimes against humanity on the basis of an international warrant issued by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.

He not only was hit with allegations of human rights abuses committed against Spanish citizens in Chile during the military regime, but also the murder, torture, hostage-taking and genocide of Chileans and other nationals.

Pinochet died one year before Maria returned to Oregon to visit her son and grandchildren. That was 2007.

Setting Down Roots

I have a love-hate relationship with Oregon,” she tells me. “It’s got a reputation for having an environmentally minded government. Yet it’s clear industry runs the state.

She recalls John Kitzhaber, when he was governor, saying he couldn’t do anything about the clear-cutting and aerial spraying in Oregon because “my arms are tied by the timber industry.”

So this final iteration of her vagabond life started in Lincoln County when she ended up sharing a house with her former San Francisco State College (now University) Shakespeare professor — Edward van Aelstyn.

That was 2007, and Maria lived with him on Nye Beach, from 2007-2016. He passed away May 23, 2018 at age 82.

Interestingly, van Aelstyn became an Associate Professor of English at San Francisco State College in 1967 mostly teaching Shakespeare. His involvement with the cultural life of San Francisco, and his participation in a union-led faculty strike supporting students were part of the “Education of Ms. Sause.”

“I was very naïve about the United States, about the world and politics. I was taking care of my son, going to school, working odd jobs — a lawyer’s office, for a record distributor and in offices.” She remembers striking faculty at SFSC in solidarity with students, and remembers how those striking faculty were fired.

That’s what began to stoke fire in her belly. van Aelstyn founded the Newport-based Teatro Mundo, which Sause thinks fondly of.

“I like what I am doing now – drawing and painting, sort of getting back into it. I am still finding my way,” she says while describing her life in a studio apartment above a garage as pretty ideal.

“I am almost 77 (December 9) and I am very fortunate to spend my time here on the coast. I am not interested in being a tourist,” she laughs, saying that she couldn’t afford to be a globe trotter even if she wanted to.

She tells me that the fight for a community bill of rights, reversing these state pre-emption laws and having communities determine their health, safety and sustainability takes time.

Maria Sause is no fly on the wall, no Polly Anna, and certainly has certain gravitas in the community. She’s up on the issues why the Liquid Natural Gas proposed port in Coos Bay, Jordan Cove, is wrong for that community and the state.

She alludes to the youth around the world, and in Newport, protesting for climate action. She applauds them.

In the end, her goal with LCCR is “to provoke structural change in government. In that sense, education is key to “give people the  opportunity to see government is not really there to protect their safety.”

“This is why I am here in Newport. I have good friends. I can do my painting. Work on community rights. People have to rise up for their most fundamental rights.”

In an Activist’s Own Words

Paul:  In a few sentences, explain what your philosophy is in terms of your life and your idea of what we as a species have to do on earth.

Maria:  My “philosophy” in terms of my life, if I have one, has to do with learning how to love better and better throughout life, to always live in such a way that I am actively learning something, and with doing things that are meaningful.  I don’t make a big distinction between work and entertainment.  I can have as much fun working as doing something conventionally called entertainment. Work can be, and should be, entertaining, and entertainment, for me, can be something that requires effort and is difficult to do.

What we as a species have to do on earth is a big question which I don’t know anyone knows how to answer.   There are a lot of things we, as a species, shouldn’t do.  We unfortunately learn about them as we witness ourselves doing them and causing harm to other species and our own.  So, what I think we as a species have to do on earth today is retrace our steps in many ways, and start living in a way that allows other species to live and flourish, even if that means relinquishing many comforts we take for granted today.

Paul:  If you could do some things over in your life, what would they be, and why?

Maria:  There are many things I would do differently and hopefully better.  But that happens to all of us.  We learn our lessons precisely because we cannot do those things again.  Don’t we?

Paul:  The value of art and the arts. Can you give us your take on that?

Maria:  Art is a translation of experience into something we can feelingly see, hear, or touch.   So, in a sense, it is experiencing life in another language or in a medium separate from ourselves.  It gives us a deeper connection with life, allowing us to renew our focus on it.  How it does that is a mystery, and mystery is a gift all by itself.

Paul:  If you could meet one person, alive or in history, who would that be, and what would you ask her or him?

Maria:  Maybe it would be a person who lived in pre-historic times.  I have always had a yearning to know what life was like then, and how people saw their lives, and what they thought about life.

Paul:  Homo sapiens is, unfortunately, through the lens of capitalism, an invasive species, with the concept of might makes right, the victors write the history, and those with power and money have always ruled. How do you reframe this for some of the young people you and I now see on the street, valiantly striking for climate change mitigation or awareness or change?

Maria:  I don’t have the answer to this question.  The harm to our beautiful planet home is being done at an alarming rate every day that passes.  What we can and desperately need to do is change that lens – capitalism – through which we see the world and make our choices in life.  We have to regroup, rethink ourselves as the caretakers of Mother Earth, who is growing old.  We have received from her for millennia and now it is time to give back, to ask for forgiveness.  Our social and government structures have to mirror that attitude.  Only that can allow Mother Earth to heal.  Only that way can we as a species have a future.

Paul:  If you were to have a tombstone, what would that say once you pass on? Write it!

Maria:  “We don’t know why we pass through. Let no step we take while here be wasted.”

Red-faced over Blackface

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.
— Matthew 7: 1-2

Justin Trudeau in brownface.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has found himself in the the center of a media tempest, and a countrywide tempest, because of having appeared at events in blackface/brownface in the past. Trudeau appeared before the media and apologized for what he acknowledged is racist, albeit he stated that he was unaware at the time of this action being racist.

Does a Racist Act Mean a Person is Racist?

There are two important aspects to consider with regard to denouncing a person as racist: temporality and intentionality.

Few, and probably none, of us are perfect; consequently, we have at one time or another said or done something we truly regret. These regrettable incidents do not necessarily represent how we truly feel or reveal who we really are. Humans are creatures who can be affected by emotions and negative life events, who thus influenced can lash out unthinkingly and angrily. Yet, afterwards they are filled with angst and remorse for what they have said or done.

What we believe today and who we are today might be very different from what we believed in the past and who we were then. Are we to be condemned for all our past mistakes, despite having accepted accountability, having sincerely apologized, and having lived a morally centered life ever since?

Who will cast the first stone?

More important than when an event transpired is what was meant by the words or acts. The simple reason is that humans are imperfect; they can have otherwise good hearts, and even in expressions of good mirth might say or do something ignorant of what this negatively connotes.

I do not ascribe racist sentiments to Trudeau over his blackface/brownface episodes. To wit, if Trudeau were then aware of any racist symbolism of blackface/brownface, would he then have appeared in a photo sandwiched between two Sikhs while also wearing a turban? (see below image)

The media is assuming a holier-than-thou stance (something Trudeau has been criticized for) in piling on over Trudeau’s past indiscretions. This is hypocrisy.

Is Trudeau Presently a Racist?

Certain political stances reveal that Trudeau is indeed, undeniably, a racist.

Anti-Palestinian

Trudeau has turned a willfully blind eye to the racism and oppression suffered by Palestinians at the hands of Israeli Jews. He mischaracterizes and opposes BDS, a non-violent means for Palestinians to pressure Israel to end occupation and oppression. In another example of poor judgement, Trudeau has appeared at a function for the Jewish National Fund, a racist registered charity in Canada.

Moreover, the Trudeau government has imperiled free speech by agreeing to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. This definition equates criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Especially under Trudeau, Canada has been no friend to Palestine.

Anti-First Nation

In 2015, Trudeau promised to guarantee the rights of First Nations, stating that it was a “sacred obligation.”

There are several examples of Trudeau trampling on the scared obligation. The plight currently facing the people of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation starkly illustrates Trudeau’s fidelity to a sacred obligation between nations.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation lies in the central interior of the province colonially designated British Columbia. The territory is unceded and the Wet’suwet’en people live under their own laws. The Wet’suwet’en First Nation rejected the passage of pipelines on their territory. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of BC decision granted an injunction allowing pipeline corporations to enter their territory.

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all 13 Wet’suwet’en house groups have stood behind the rejection of pipelines in their territory.

The Unist’ot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu / Big Frog Clan of the Wet’suwet’en) continue to press their case in the BC Supreme Court arguing that Wet’suwet’en law must be upheld on unceded Wet’suwet’en lands. They await the court decision which they see as indicating whether reconciliation is sought by the Canadian legal system or whether the colonial laws will continue to be imposed and Indigenous laws and ways ignored.

Media Hypocrisy

Trudeau’s colored faces is a distraction. It is a distraction for longstanding racism that has lined the pockets of corporate types and the government types that facilitate the plunder of the lands of other peoples.

Lastly, the fact that the corporate/state media allow the racist occupations of historical Palestine and First Nations to continue with nary a criticism speak loudly to what underlies the supposed indignation over Trudeau’s facial make-up. Trudeau represents an opportunity for the media to cash-in on another how-the-mighty-have-fallen story that titillates some among the masses. Meanwhile, racism continues to simmer under the mediascape and the wider Establishment.

On the Persistence of Religion

We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 1922

Recently I received an angry note about the persistence of religion in the modern world as proof of the world’s ongoing irrationality in response to some of my comments in my lately published article “The Metaphysics of Revolution.”

I found the response interesting on many levels.

Firstly, the level of anger.

The emotional quality of some atheists’ responses to religion remind me of the worst characteristics of religious fanatics: intolerance, hatred, invective, and a blind desire for collective uniformity.

Why all the rancor if reason is on your side?

Calmly make your argument (as many indeed do, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) and let that be your most potent, deliberative weapon.

After all, I thought emotional appeals are for religious people?

Clearly, for some, personal history and psychological trauma have a defining role to play in their world-view regarding religion (and other matters as well).

Full disclosure, here. I do not consider myself a religious person, but I am sympathetic to those who profess religious inclinations so long as they do not impinge on other people’s freedoms and beliefs. You can believe in whom you want to, but don’t tell me to whom I should bow down to.

With that said, I think the persistence of religion is, contrary to its vociferous detractors, at its a base a mildly rational one. What do I mean by that?

Well, it might all boil down to a frequent childhood question: Why is there something rather than nothing? Modern physicists will tell you that it has something to do with a “negative quantum vacuum” and “an infinity of parallel multiple universes.” Ok, sounds cool. But at the same time, if true, it is a concept that can only be fully grasped by a handful of people on the planet. Which curious fact sets them up as a kind of a new class of priests interestingly enough. They possess the ultimate truths which they proclaim in relatively easy to understand images for the general public. At the very least, this goes against the trend of the democratization of religion in the Western tradition (at least since the advent of Protestantism)

So we have a new naturalistic priesthood who can offer us scientific explanations that do not require any type of metaphysics. Fine and good. Yet, however, the very nature of science is expansive and ever changing, so what is believed today might very well not be believed tomorrow. Furthermore, what we believe in science can only be as good as what we can in some way perceive and test and convincingly confirm. Is it not therefore conceivable, scientifically, that a myriad of unknown unknowns have existed during the vast time since the supposed big bang? Unknowns that, if known, would lead to vastly different ultimate explanations than the ones we entertain currently? The recent discovery of “dark matter” and “dark energy” might be a relevant case in point. Furthermore, since we cannot go back 12 billion years to the beginning of time and space can we ever really be sure that the events which our current models describe took place as we think they did. We will, probably, never be able to perform that experiment (My apologies to CERN).

Thus, there are many naturalistic reasons that may give us pause as to the ultimate knowability of all that is. Science can and will explain many things, but in the end and by scientific necessity will all its theorizing about ultimate origins only serve as a possible, and forever necessarily partial explanation for all that is? And I can hear a true scientist say to that: It’s as good as you’ll ever get, live with it!

The problem is, of course, that the human being (for good and for evil) is endowed with a fertile imagination and (if he or she is lucky) a rich emotive life. The universe and ourselves seem to cast for many a mystical aura. This, of course, can be explained away by evolutionary psychology. But the logical reasoning behind it cannot be dismissed so easily. For as was just argued, science may forever be doomed to offer only theoretical explanations for fundamental questions. In other words, the child’s question of why there is something rather than nothing may forever be out of definitive, scientific reach. This scientific predicament leaves the door open to dreaming. Human dreaming about divinity, epiphany, and mystical teleology of all kinds. Yes this is certainly unscientific, but it fulfills a human need to answer childlike questions. And while we could soberly and severely say with Wittgenstein that: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent; such a resolution to the problem will not do for the vast majority of mankind. Man abhors silence. He will hear the universe speak, even if the output is insoluble riddles.

And perhaps most importantly, science cannot offer us values, reasons to live. Only religion and philosophy can do that. And, yes, science can help to enlighten both but it can never make of its facts and experiments a universe of value, beauty, and love; indeed by its very nature and practice it is not allowed to speak the words “good” and “evil.” It is thus both the morally creative faculty of humankind tied to its aptitude for wondrous imagination that I think will guarantee the survival of religion, or at least the religious instinct, for sometime to come.

The Metaphysics of Revolution

Socrates was the first revolutionary. He opened up with a legendary oracular search of the inner space from which the individual, as we understand him today, would eventually emerge. His “daemon” was that which spoke the necessary freedom and autonomy to become what we are. His was the first lesson.

His student, Plato, brought on the second movement. He postulated the availability of an ideal world accessible and open to a properly trained, disciplined mind. Truth was intelligible and its sighting in a flash of insight or through life-long questioning could and should change both the individual and his society. There were no limits to human malleability according to what was both universally natural and thus comprehensively reasonable. Both the revolutionary chance for a radical human transformation and its totalitarian inversion as ideology in the hands of power was born.

The third movement, as first noted by Hegel, was the advent of Christianity. Here the ideal world of the Greek was equipped with stern Hebraic commandments. The ideal world not only is; it is hierarchical, patriarchal, jealous and unforgiving. All are equal under its apocalyptic sky. Burn with sincere belief and entry into the kingdom of heaven is guaranteed. The seed of the revolutionary equality of all people was here first lain to forever explode the exclusivity of the polis and all other artificial divisions between men; ethnic, national, sexual or otherwise. Thus, the first drops of blood of the French Revolution were shed on the Cross.

The fourth movement, after more than a thousand years of veneration of pagan-christian icons known as saints, was the inner revolution within Christianity itself; the privatization of the relationship between man and God. The destruction of spiritual hierarchy. The loud inner silence of the conscience sacralized and weaponized within the sincere prayers of the heart. Protest-antism against the de facto reigning powers of the earth in the name of the freedom of pure individual thought and feeling. The representatives of the ideal/God were impostors robbing the natural patrimony of the weak and of the powerless for an exemplary, righteous exodus to a New Jerusalem. The modern revolutionary springs forth from burning cathedrals, shattered stain glass, and the gauged out eyes of the saints. God is for all and He is everywhere where I think and breath.

All this was the preliminary metaphysical scaffolding for the revolutionary mind over two thousand years. The fuse burned slowly, but it burned. Philosophy and religion were its handmaidens.

Enter science.

Science brings the revolutionary development of the mind/spirit into material practice. It affords the tools for both material and spiritual transformation. It is the glowing hammer which actively molds our world and if in the 500 years since Bacon and Galileo we have only achieved power after power, the hammer itself cannot be called wise, the hand that moves it cannot be called self-directed, for it is still up to the whole man to enter the blinding parlors and dim antechambers of physics to declare their discoveries for a Nietzschean transvaluation of all values. The scientist cannot do this, only the revolutionary can.

Through the twin legacies of both spirit and machine, the Western World breathed into the rest of humanity the spirit of restless change and desire for maximum freedom.  History declared itself, formally, for global humanity in the revolutions of 1776 and 1789. Here, History if it did not all together stop, declared a significant pause in the long history of revolutionary consciousness.

Representative democracy aged, putrefied, mutated, and exotically luxuriated into new forms of unfreedom, deception and control.

Was this the fault of a historically necessary capitalist class eventually doomed to sow the seeds of its own destruction?

The proletariat, that great Hegelian-Marxist capitalist antithesis, historically dissolved itself into a great sea of the middle class. Success! And the necessary historical end to all revolutionary experiment! The deranged and the disgruntled are to be put to eternal sleep! The great Neo-Aristotelian compromise of the dialectic was born; the middle will hold and stop the resolution of the Marxian dialectic from ever being born.

But it was always and ever to be a still birth.

For the history of society is not a class struggle.

Rather, it is the struggle of the individual to be most utterly himself in a world of hierarchy, in a world where control is in the hands of others. It is not capital and capitalists who structure this world although they surely do have influence. The black stain of unfreedom is much older than that. Indeed, it goes back millions of years as the readers of Frans de Waal may already be familiar. The animal in man, the desire for domination and power in all its forms over other men is the true as yet unbreakable conundrum of history. The Machiavellian Prince and his natural political appetites and not an objectively historical ruling class is the true nefarious and unchanging figure in the affairs of men. Hunter-gatherer, ancient city-state, feudal lord, factory owner, Global CEO, it is not a self-conscious class that determines the action of domination, but the eternal will to power itself that precedes classes, nations, parties, and organizations of all kinds. It is Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy and not Marxian economics that keeps us still firmly in our chains.

In this Thirtieth year since the publication of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, there are those, like Aaron Bastani, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Peter Frase (young men all) who dare to question the situation of today and dream of another world. If not exactly professional revolutionaries like Lenin, they struggle to keep the revolutionary idea alive. And this is all to the good. Yet the question for today is, I think, are the by now classical concerns and concepts of both socialism and Marxism adequate to the particular historical moment that confronts us today? Does protest, opposition, and, even, yes, political violence have to necessarily emerge from the acute revolutionary observations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to activate a critical mass of activists and revolutionaries today?

Is capitalism still the enemy, truly? Or is hierarchy, in all spheres of life, the true oppressor? The division between ruled and ruling, not as a class phenomenon but as an existential way of being of man in the world since time immemorial.

There are bosses everywhere. In schools, in jobs, in political parties, in cities, in nations, in your home even. How can hierarchy be eroded, tamed, reformulated? How can individuals be empowered to live in an eventual Kingdom of Ends, where no one is treated as a means? What can be done to uncover and stop surreptitious power in all its forms? Does the revolutionary spirit of today cry out for a Kantian turn towards a practical unity of knowledge, freedom, respect, love, and individuality? Must we reach back before Marx and Hegel to go forward? We are the heirs of millennia of revolutionary metaphysical and material development. We can make the tomorrow of our own choosing.

The Difference between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive

The difference between liberalism and progressivism is ideological.

Historically, liberalism started with John Locke, whose philosophy was superbly summarized, explained, and referenced to its sources, here; but the following will instead quote directly from those sources:

Locke (as the commentator said) “praises money as probably no one prior and after him,” because Locke’s 1689 Second Treatise on Government, Sections 49 & 50, asserted that only by means of money, “Man will begin presently to enlarge his Possessions” and thereby start to get beyond the crudest agriculturally based economy. Locke then said in Sec. 124 that “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” In other words: money enables wealth to grow, and government exists in order to protect wealth, not to serve nor protect people. Lord Acton, writing in 1877, criticized Locke’s philosophy because Locke’s “notion of liberty involves nothing more spiritual than the security of property, and is consistent with slavery and persecution.” That was the case about Locke because Locke’s philosophy wouldn’t have won any aristocratic sponsors at all, and would therefore simply have failed utterly and become lost to history, if it didn’t allow slavery, and — even more basically — allow unequal rights that depend upon the possession (and especially upon the inheritance) of wealth, and that generates respecting the wealthy (especially the hereditary wealthy) more than the poor (and with slaves being at the absolute bottom). Locke’s philosophy was affirmative toward the existing class-hierarchy, a property-based hierarchy. However, Lord Acton had, himself, been passionately committed to America’s slaveholding southern states’ Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, because he believed more in the principle of local or home rule (as opposed to federal rule) than he opposed “slavery and persecution” (such as against slaves).

So: the entire aristocracy, except for the outright conservatives (which were the vast majority) amongst them, were hypocrites, and liberalism is based upon that hypocrisy, nothing which is internally consistent. Since it’s unadulterated hypocrisy, it is sloppy thinking, and it is this because otherwise it would be simply “Might makes right” — pure conservatism — unadorned with any pretenses to decency, and to equality of rights irrespective of wealth. In other words: Locke offered the aristocracy a way to consider themselves to be decent people no matter how bad they might actually be, and his intellectual offering to them required a lot of intellectual sloppiness. This is liberalism, at its very outset, and right up till today. It is stupid, but the super-rich consider it to be acceptable, and so some of them sponsor it, which enabled it to become a “classic.”

By contrast, progressivism is a total and unequivocal rejection of conservatism. It doesn’t respect wealth and the wealthy, nor does it despise the poor. It instead admires goodness which seeks no recompense or public honor therefore, but instead springs from as wide a compassion as possible (without regard to an individual’s race, creed, or ethnicity). And it despises greed, and rejects outright the “Greed is good” philosophy (a philosophy that’s consistent with both liberalism and conservatism; so, progressivism repudiates both). And it accords no honor to winning, and no shame to losing. The progressive (like anyone) wants to win, but only for a good cause, as “good” is accorded without any favoritism toward any individual or group or individuals, nor disfavoring of others, but purely with equal rights for all, to freedom and happiness and fulfillment.

Because progressives are committed to the good, they do passionately support the good against the evil; and, to them, the “good” are progressives, and the “evil” are proponents of might-makes-right. This is what progressivism is all about — the difference between progressivism and conservatism. By contrast with those polar-opposite ideologies, liberalism is merely in-between. It is every shade of gray, because it compromises between good and evil. As some liberals like to say, it is “nuanced.”

Might-makes-right — the very core of conservatism — is automatically favoring the rich against the poor, because, in the real world, money is power and the poor are therefore the weakest class of all. Locke’s First Treatise on Government, “Book I. Ch. XI. Who Heir?” (Sec. 107) goes even further into its conservative tradition of might-makes-right. It asserts that “the author” of the Bible (his God) is “affirming that the assignment of civil power is by divine institution, … so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person, to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned.” Liberalism not only accepts hereditary rule, but it rejects any sort of democracy, because, for a liberal, accountability is only to The Almighty, not to any mortal nor public of mortals. Thus, the founder of liberalism, Locke, said there that “it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam’s heir, as it would have been amongst the Jews,” because the will of The Almighty is eternal, and applies not merely in the past.

When America’s Founders refused even so much as to mention any god, and opened the U.S. Constitution with “We, the people of the United States, … do ordain and establish this Constitution,” it was an authentic break away from the past, because they were repudiating not only conservatism but liberalism, and were actually starting progressivism. They were doing this because accountability here was being ordained, in this new country — via its Constitution — to be accountability to the mortals, the public; and not to any The Almighty, at all. They chose to do this — break radically from the past. That act, from them, the U.S. Constitution, gave birth to progressivism — not merey to a new country. This Constitution served as the American Scripture, except that unlike any religious one, it included provisions for its own subsequent amendment, via the public’s representatives. Unlike any religious Scripture, it allowed itself to become improved. That, too (allowance for improvement), is a basic feature of progressivism, which contrasts starkly against conservatism (which relies instead upon some immutable Scripture).

Because a progressive favors equally the rights of all, and rejects unconditionally the supremacy of any nation above any other, a fundamental principle of progressivism is an utter rejection of imperialism (against which America’s Founders had waged their own Revolutionary War), and of any invasion of one country by another which has not become, nor been reasonably considered to pose a danger to become, invaded by that other, which it has invaded. During the War of 1812, Americans waged war to defend their largely democratic republic against imperial Britain’s invasion to re-seize this land. The imperialists committed aggression against Americans, after having lost the Revolutionary War to them. Consequently, for example: America, which since 1898 has itself unprovokedly invaded and sought to vassalize and exploit, more countries than any other nation, is perhaps the most conservative country, at least since around 1900. Today’s U.S. is, in this sense, profoundly anti-progressive and anti-American, because it has become the most imperialistic nation in the world, having taken the place of England, and of France, and of Spain, and of Germany, and of Portugal, and of Japan, and of Italy. America’s Constitution has now become overthrown. America today is ruled by ideological enemies of America’s Founders. Today’s America is unAmerican, in that deepest of all senses.

Consequently, to be a progressive in today’s America is to be ideologically rather isolated, alone with the Founders, in this now extremist conservative society, so alien to its own Constitution. It’s to be at a severe disadvantage, in this society. But, to a progressive, there is no assumption that the good shall be rewarded and that the evil shall be punished. There is a hope for that, but no expectation of it. Consequently, the progressive is a progressive not for personal gain but purely to do justice in the world. Recognizing that the world’s norm is profoundly unjust, a progressive seeks especially to aid the good against the evil, irrespective of the consequences to oneself.

Obviously, therefore, far more liberals than progressives exist. It’s not profitable to be progressive, but it is good to be progressive — and that’s a progressive’s main concern.

It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a liberal and a progressive. One reason that’s so difficult for so many people to do is that many liberals are ‘progressives’ in sheeps’ clothing — fakes — and the biggest policy-area where this is the case is in foreign policies, because whereas average voters know that politicians who fight against lowering their medical costs are bad, they don’t know (nor even care) nearly so much about international affairs. Here is a typical example of a ‘progressive‘ who is also a neoconservative (though garbing it in ‘progressive’ arguments). He favors “a democracy promotion agenda” like other liberals did in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc. He doesn’t even so much as question that the Cold War was about ideology instead of about expanding the American empire. (How can anybody question that it wasn’t, after this? Is he really so ignorant? Or is the explanation something worse? He’s sufficiently ‘well-educated‘ so that it’s something worse. To put it as kindly as possible: he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and he cares more about that than he cares about truth and honesty.)

Locke, having been a liberal instead of a pure conservative, would not approve of today’s America, because by his basing his ethic upon property (wealth), he acknowledged the extreme evilness of conquest. Thus, “Book II. Ch. XVI. Of Conquest” in his Second Treatise on Government, states (Sec. 176):

That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my throat make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror, who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders.

So: today’s U.S.A. stands condemned even in that compromised work, the foundation of liberalism. It stands condemned because John Locke wasn’t a pure conservative — in that passage, he clearly condemned might-makes-right, which he said pertained “in this world,” meaning not in the world of The Almighty, in a supposed afterlife, where power, supposedly, does reflect virtue.

By contrast, a progressive makes no assumption that power reflects virtue anywhere. The only reason for a progressive to be virtuous is to be virtuous — and not according to any ‘The Almighty’, but instead recognizing, from the progressive’s experience of this world, that if this world does reflect, in any sense, the will of ‘The Almighty’, then that Almighty is anything but virtuous — certainly not virtuous, at all. It’s not a progressive world — not at all. To be a progressive is to accept this fact, instead of to be deluded that there is some reward in ‘an afterlife’, because a progressive doesn’t expect to be rewarded for virtue, but, more likely, to be punished for it. (Consider whistleblowers as progressives, and almost all of them are punished for it.) To do something for a reward is commerce; it’s no political ideology, at all. So, again: there are very few progressives. Progressivism is no church which aims to increase the size of its flock (thereby compromising so much as to become worthless, even if it was not so before). Success is not its guidestar. Truth is. That’s what guides a progressive’s conscience. Thus, too, there is no progressive myth. None. A progressive accepts and recognizes history, but no myth. By contrast, a liberal, such as Locke, bases his ‘case’ upon whatever myth he chooses.

*****

PS, responding to a critic: A reader of this has objected: “Progressives are flawed human beings like everybody else. Yet Zuesse converts them into morally pristine übermenchen with all other human motivations outside of his progressive ideals being invalid. BTW, so Progressives never seek to maximize their economic well-being? They never game the system? They are never arrogant and self-serving? They never ignore the laws of unintended consequences? The laws of conflicting objectives don’t apply to them? I’d like to see a follow-on SCF article that critiques Zuesse’s claim to Progressism’s claim to outright and absolute moral supremacy. And then let the readers compare and contrast.” What he described there are liberals, not progressives. The title of this article is “The Difference Between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive.” He missed its point. However, of course all people “are flawed human beings.” That’s just a cliché. And, of course, within the bounds of decency, progressives do “seek to maximize their economic well-being.” But all of his objection ignores the article’s argument and evidence. As regards evidence, here is more.

  • Originally posted at strategic-culture.org.
  • See also “What Is Progressivism?
  • Thirty Years Later: Fukuyama Reloaded

    Francis Fukuyama’s book is a profound book and as a profound book it is profoundly misleading.

    A mixture of Platonic and Hegelian psychology/historical teleology as well as offering a good explanation for the historical origins of bourgeois man in Hobbes and Locke, it misleads not necessarily in the assertion that we cannot imagine a better world than one where liberal-capitalist democracy is triumphant but in the positing of the factual statement that we do indeed currently live in such a world.

    To be sure, there is much to be said for Fukuyama’s insistence (borrowed from Kojeve who borrowed it from Hegel) that the “riddle of History” is to be found in man’s desire for recognition. And in a sense, it could be said (as Hegel maintained) that the French Revolution was the beginning of the culmination of that struggle (the original end of history). But that would be a very superficial reading of what actually happened.

    That people do indeed require, seek out, and desire proper recognition for who they are and their intrinsically felt worth is not in question. That the Western liberal democracies do a relatively (in historical terms) good job of delivering on this most political of psychological needs is also, more or less, not in dispute. What is in question are the actual dimensions of possible freedom for modern, ostensibly liberal man.

    Robert Dahl once famously called into question theories of minority rule behind liberal democracies as well as Robert Michels’s famous “iron law of oligarchy” because they are hard to prove empirically. Of course, they are hard to prove! They are by nature indirect, subtle, hidden. The political and social structures within which we live are but the formal husk of a much deeper societal dimension, one which is neither accessible nor visible by the common “citizen”. It is the sphere where real power is exercised. Where the pretense of democracy is most fully revealed and true recognition is afforded to the very few.

    Networks of surreptitious power course through the veins of all our allegedly “democratic” institutions. Nothing is easier to arrange in a free society than true unfreedom. Powerful societal interests (and not just economic) dictate the range, scope, agenda and the very look and feel of our “democratic” daily life. Through the use of concentrated power in the media, security forces, judiciary, financial centers, and political “representatives” (read: carefully groomed lackeys) the facade of democratic politics and life can be maintained while it does not in the least restrain the most powerful figures in the dim background that dictate its daily rhythms and perennial contours.

    Conspiracy? Not exactly although there is most definitely some aspect of that. Rather it is the self-perpetuation of elites (and elite interests) through institutions and the careful maintenance and deepening of personal and professional ties. They know each others minds and most importantly they know each others material and political interests and the prohibitive (murderous?) costs of betraying them. And why betray them, since the benefits so far outweigh the costs?

    To return to Dahl for a moment, he too, along with Sheldon Wolin, understood that the potential for “centralized coercion” had never been greater than precisely at this moment in time. That the setting up of an “inverted Totalitarianism” (to use Wolin’s phrase) would best serve the interests of the powerful few while the “demos” would be carefully spoon fed consumerism and various forms of populism, nationalism, and, yes, superficially packaged issues of human rights and identity politics (none of which could in the slightest damage the exquisite equilibrium of the dual system of de jure rights for the majority hiding de facto power for a minority).

    Perhaps the most glaring proof of this system of invidious power comes in the seemingly unlikely form of President Trump. Actually, Trump is not the absurdity that he initially seems, rather he is the most natural, logical outcome of an absurd system. A system where the real issues of power are kept privately hidden and a consummate showman manufactures “public” issues on a daily basis while the “loyal opposition” feigns its daily shock, effectively hiding its deep complicity in the shadowy compacts of real power. The populace keeps its eyes and ears keenly upon the show placed before them and thereby becomes ever more oblivious to any real issue of political consequence or any possibility for the substantial remaking of the “iron cage” they inhabit. Yes, a multitude of questions are allowed but none with the slightest revolutionary import. But how could they, when ideologically we have reached the end of history?

    After thirty years since its first appearance, Fukuyama’s thesis at the end of his article/book may have presaged a kind of an end after all. An end where ideologically man is satisfied with himself and the modicum of freedoms he has achieved. A Nietzschean Last Man that is tired of questioning, struggle, fame, glory, or intellectual exertion of any kind. Here, I would argue, Fukuyama is at his most provocative as well as perhaps closest to a disturbing truth: that the true end of history is a time where man is so materially comfortable that he prefers the simulation of truth over its active discovery and flourishing practice. That he would prefer the big lie of a system that more or less works for him rather than the uncomfortable revelation of a strict system of strategic micro-control masquerading as a celebration of democracy and freedom. The End of History may ultimately reside in the cowardliness of our present imaginations and our impotence in creating an autonomous collective political trajectory that leads beyond furtive, hierarchical control. We must realize, and soon, how History has tricked us into thinking that we are truly recognized and free.

    Last Men or New Men? Nietzsche in the Global Age

    Does Nietzsche have anything important to say to us, we the current inhabitants of a global age?

    Nietzsche speaks of spiritual health as a result of the superabundance of the life force, of a Dionysian affirmation of one’s existence of one’s process of becoming what one is.

    The courage of laughter is called for. A profound laughter that is in a position to negate what Nietzsche regarded as the worst possible thought: that existence, my existence, repeats itself over and over again without end, forever.

    With this terrible thought as guide, am I still strong enough to absolutely affirm my current existence as it is, as well as the choices I am about to make for myself? Do I have the necessary spiritual resources to fully affirm myself and my willed trajectory of self-becoming?

    Whether or not Nietzsche thought that the Eternal Return of Everything was an ontological reality or not (after all it could never be conclusively proven) is not the point. We must act as if it were real. Its function is as the ultimate moral instance in Nietzsche’s entire philosophy.

    For indeed, despite some of his histrionic protestations Nietzsche is a moral philosopher.  Did he not call for a reevaluation of all values?

    In his writings he went a long way towards such a reevaluation. For Nietzsche, everything that encouraged extreme energetic creativity was good, all that stood in its way was bad.

    And, furthermore, all doctrines, habits, thoughts that steered ones gaze away from the world as experienced by our senses was delusion, demagoguery, and decadent.

    Nietzsche, similar to Tocqueville, Mill, and Mathew Arnold, envisioned a future where people would be culturally, politically, emotionally, and, philosophically castrated. Nietzsche referred to such pitiful creatures as the “last men” or “men without chests”. Individuals purely concerned with their material well being, believing themselves to be perfectly happy in the historically diminished possibilities of their lives. These future beings would be the antithesis to the hero and would experience the current existence of such a person among them as “mad”. In the future there are no great deeds, only herd like obedience. Aldous Huxley wrote an entire book about them: Brave New World.

    But what of our world? Are we too “last men” or are we, instead, preparing for the arrival of the overman (Übermensch)?  For Nietzsche, man was something that was to be overcome. He was a “rope tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss”.
    In 2009, Stefan Lorenz Sorgner wrote a famous essay comparing Nietzsche’s philosophy with transhumanism. Not surprisingly, he found some strong overlap between the two. In this same essay, Sorgner also coined the expression “autonomous eugenics”. By this he meant the freely chosen physical transformation of the individual through the intervention of technology. Ultimately, according to Sorgner, the how, how much, and why of self-enhancement mediated by future technologies is, and should be, a moral choice, not, as in the past, a coercive policy carried out by the state (State Eugenics).

    Where I take issue with Sorgner’s provocative article is whether Nietzsche really had the post-human of the Twenty-First century in mind. Frankly, I don’t think that he could have. I believe that Nietzsche, rather than looking to the far future of a technologized humanity, had the example of Aristotle’s “great souled man” in mind when thinking about the eventual arrival of the overman. Like Rousseau and Hegel before him, Nietzsche looked to some of the ancient Greeks for examples of exemplary human beings.

    Continuing this thought, I suspect that Nietzsche would be initially suspicious of the transhumanist project of human enhancement or transformation. He, being a man of his time, would have expected the coming of the overman to be a question of self-discipline leading to a psychological transformation not a physical one. Indeed, we can ask in what way would a post-human necessarily be better at the self-creation of new life-affirming values than the old human being? Would physical, technological enhancement by itself lead to superior forms of cultural existence? I think Nietzsche would have been skeptical at the prospect.

    Arguing now for the other side and thus beyond Nietzsche, I think Sorgner and other transhumanists are possibly right in assuming that a posthuman would be in a good position to create new values and ways of living. Simply because it is hard to imagine what the removal of the threat of imminent death would do to the self-understanding of a sentient being. What cultural, political projects would such a person pursue? Neither Nietzsche or anyone else for that matter has a clear answer.  So what’s the verdict? Last men or new (over) men? Some of both, I think.

    Insofar as many of us are caught up in a lifestyle of consumption and the cultivation of daily, small pleasures, we cannot view ourselves as unduly heroic or value creating. On the other hand, technological advances are slowly holding out the promise of physical transformation, of a human being qualitatively different from the one now existing. Even so, it will remain a question for some time yet whether or not those who are pursuing transhumanist dreams are the harbingers of the overman or the last instance of a neurotically self-preoccupied, overly self-satisfied, fantastically egoistic, petty, cowardly, morally small pipsqueak of a human whom Nietzsche assumed would eventually and permanently inherit the earth.

    Happenings in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

    There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear.

    — Buffalo Springfield,  “For What it’s Worth,” 1967

    The Sunday newspaper had been left on the park bench.  Its book page had lists of best-sellers, as if numbers two through ten could be the “best” along with number one.  Absurdities were everywhere for the taking.  On the Non-Fiction Hardcover list, numbers 3, 5, and 10 each had the word fuck in the title.  The books were published by two old and respected publishing houses: Harper and Little Brown.  However, something was odd, for the word fuck was spelled f*ck.  These books were about hope, acceptance, and living the good life, cliché topics in a feel-good culture: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Everything is F*cked, and Calm the F*ck Down.  It seemed you had to be fucked first before you could accept the hope that the good life was coming your way.  He wondered if these publishing houses thought that by eliminating the “u” they kept their hands clean and were not descending into the gutter with hoi polloi, while simultaneously titillating potential readers.  Did they think readers would be offended by the word fuck, but would not be by f*ck?  Then it occurred to him that he didn’t know what the fuck non-fiction books were anyway.  Maybe he had been wrong all his life and the opposite of up was non-up, not down.

    *****

    On every table in the seaside resort’s breakfast room there was a brightly colored flower in a clear watered vase.  When he picked it up to smell the orange blossom, there was no smell and the water didn’t move.  He imagined an ersatz form of plastic happiness, a conjurer’s delight, where everything was a trick, nothing moved, not even water.

    *****

    Leaving the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in southern California where white and black Marines were regularly fighting and there were even some killings never reported by the press, the two young Marines escaped the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere on a weekend pass.  It was early February 1967, and they took an overnight bus up the coast to San Francisco where they wandered around and found a breakfast restaurant near Union Square.  There they read in the newspaper that for the week of January 12-19 the U.S. military had suffered its highest casualty count so far in Vietnam: 144 killed, 1,044 wounded, and 6 missing-in-action.  It jolted them awake more than the coffee.  Later that afternoon, the two naifs wandered into the Haight-Ashbury district were they were startled by the first waves of acid-dazed hippies, who would soon arrive in hoards for the “summer of love.” In the evening when they visited a bar for some beers, the waitress who delivered their drinks was topless. While they regarded this slight anomaly with manly indifference, she must have noticed their military haircuts that stood out among the longhairs, and so she served them buttons with their beers. The buttons read: Vietnam Love It Or Leave It. Heading back to the base, they knew where they didn’t want to go.

    *****

    The young man was studying for a PhD.  He was intent on learning what made the world and people tick. He was attending a small seminar at the home of his professor, a famous German emigre who had worked for the Rand Corporation and U.S. Intelligence. Each of the five students was to give a short presentation on the subject of fake news and the issue of knowledge, since the course concerned the sociology of knowledge. The student began his presentation by quoting a famous philosopher’s words: “In formulating any philosophy, the first consideration must always be: What can we know? That is, what can we be sure we know, or sure that we know we knew it, if indeed it is all knowable. Or have we simply forgotten it and are too embarrassed to say anything? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote, ‘My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with my legs.’ By ‘knowable,’ incidentally, I do not mean that which can be known by perception of the senses, or that which can be grasped by the mind, but more that which can be said to be Known or to possess a Knownness or Knowability, or at least something you can mention to a friend.” The student paused and the eminent professor said, “So very interesting. Who is that philosopher?” The student replied, “Woody Allen.” “He is very perceptive,” said the professor, “and yet I have never heard of him.  I will have to read his work.” The student realized he was in good hands with such U.S. intelligence and Rand Corporation experts, so he asked the professor’s wife for another glass of the German wine she was serving and toasted his good fortune with a wry grin. None of the other students got the joke.

    *****

    A young man was reading a book that he highly recommended to his uncle. Leafing through it, the older man came upon this passage: “the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms.” So what was the point of reading such a book, he wondered, since doing so was an exercise in pre-programmed absurdity since there was no freedom.

    *****

    You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says: “Shit Happens.” Some people are just lucky, I suppose, and odd coincidences mark their lives. When he was just out of Columbia College and working for a reputed CIA front company, Business International Corporation, Barack Obama had a chance encounter with a young woman, Genevieve Cook, with whom he had a 1-2 year relationship. Like Obama and at about the same time, Cook just happened to have lived in Indonesia with her father, Michael Cook, who just happened to become Australia’s top spook, the director-general of the Office of National Assessments, and also the Ambassador to Washington. Of course, Obama’s mother, as is well-known, just happened to be living in Indonesia with Barack and Obama’s step-father, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian military officer, who had been called back to Indonesia by the CIA supported General Suharto to assist in the CIA coup against the President Sukarno and the slaughter of over a million Indonesian Communists and Indonesian-Chinese. As is also well-known, it just so happened that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, trained in the Russian language, after teaching English in the US Embassy in Jakarta that housed one of the largest CIA stations in Asia, did her “anthropological” work in Indonesia and Southeast Asia financed by the well-known CIA conduits, USAID and the Ford Foundation. Then there is Cook’s stepfather, Philip C. Jessup, who just happened to be in Indonesia at the same time, doing nickel-mining deals with the genocidal Suharto government. Anyway, “shit happens.” You never know whom you might meet along the way of life.

    *****

    The hostess at the seaside restaurant had an eastern European accent, so he asked her where she was from.  She said, “Belgrade, Serbia.” He told her he was sorry for what the U.S. government led by Bill Clinton had done to her country and that he considered Clinton a war criminal. She said the bombing in 1999 was terrifying, and even though she was young at the time, she vividly remembered it. It traumatized her, her parents, and her family. Then she smiled and said that in the month she had been in the U.S. for her summer job, all the Americans she had met had been so friendly. He welcomed her to the U.S., and as he was walking away, he remembered that Clinton’s savage bombing of Serbia that had killed so many Serbian children and other innocents had been code-named “Operation Noble Anvil.” He wondered what kind of “noble” people would think of innocent children as anvils: “heavy usually steel-faced iron blocks on which metal is shaped,” and did the friendly Americans accept Clinton’s sick lies when he ended his March 24, 1999 war address to the American people with these words: “Our thoughts and prayers tonight must be with the men and women of our armed forces, who are undertaking this mission for the sake of our values and our children’s future. May God bless them, and may God bless America.”

    *****

    The banal, 1967 hit song, “San Francisco” (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair), which was influential in enticing young people to come to San Francisco for the Summer of Love, was written by “Papa” John Philips, who attended the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and whose father was a Marine Corps Captain. “Papa” John’s wife had worked at the Pentagon and her father was involved in covert intelligence work in Vietnam. His neighbor and Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) buddy was Jim Morrison of Doors fame, whose father US Navy Admiral George Morrison commanded U.S. warships in Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf during the “Tonkin Gulf Incident.” Frank Zappa, the father figure of Laurel Canyon’s many musicians who just happened to converge in one place at the same time where a covert military film studio operated, had a father who was a chemical warfare specialist at Edgewood Arsenal. Stephen Stills, David Crosby and many other soon to be famous musicians all came from military and intelligence backgrounds and frolicked in Laurel Canyon. Although they were draft age, none of them was drafted as they played music, dropped acid, and created the folk-rock movement whose music was catchy but innocuous and posed no threat to the establishment. But “shit happens.” In his disturbing book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan raises the question: “what if the musicians themselves (and various other leaders and founders of the ‘movement’) were every bit as much a part of the intelligence community as the people who were supposedly harassing them? What if, in other words, the entire youth culture of the 1960s was created not as a grass-roots challenge to the status quo, but as a cynical exercise in discrediting and marginalizing the budding anti-war movement and creating a fake opposition that could be easily controlled and led astray…. What if, in reality, they were pretty much all playing on the same team?”

    *****

    The reporter was interviewing four of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s young “executive governors,” who were all dressed in three-piece business suits.  They were in the process of conducting Transcendental Meditation’s week-long course leading to super-normal abilities, including flying, levitating, disappearing, x-ray vision, and other siddhis, or supernormal powers.  Their recent press release had advertised the course as “a new breakthrough for human life on earth” for any person.  The reporter was a bit skeptical that people could be taught – for a large fee – to fly or disappear.  He asked one of the executive governors, “Can you literally rise into the air and move horizontally; can you see yourself and can others see you actually fly?”  “Absolutely,” Larry Johnson replied without hesitation, “absolutely.  Once you eliminate all stress from your nervous system, you have unbounded, unlimited potential.  A human can achieve any desire he wants, flying is only one of them.”  “People will be skeptical,” the reporter continued, “How about a demonstration?”  “A public demonstration would cause too much of a ruckus,” said Johnson.  “And we couldn’t show you because we only do it for each other.  Actually, we do our techniques with our eyes closed, but we do peek out once in a while and see each other flying around the room.  You know, one of the siddhis is a technique for making yourself invisible, and the Mararishi has said, ‘Don’t peek out to see if you’ve disappeared.’”  Johnson giggled and added, “We can also teach people to x-ray their own bodies and see through walls. Absolutely, absolutely.  It’s all about infinite correlation.  Absolutely.”  As the battered reporter left the interview, he wondered if the Maharishi was a creation of the CIA.  He remembered John Lennon’s song lines about the Maharishi’s assistant:  “But he often spread rumors through his right hand man/Who used to be with the CIA”

    *****

    What is “exactly clear” is that Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills, Neil Young et al) toured with their Laurel Canyon buddies, the Beach Boys, in late 1967 (their other mutual bud, Charlie Manson, stayed out west presumably to work on his craft) and performed at a very odd venue for a “dissident” rock group, The U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  At that time nearly 500,000 American troops were waging war on the Vietnamese.  That concert was an odd happening, wouldn’t you say?

    *****

    If  everyone actually looked, they’d see precisely what went down, “what’s going down,” and why we are going down.  If you think many of these things “just happen” for no reason, then I guess you are just “f*cked.”  Excuse me, but it’s true.  Does the asterisk help?