Category Archives: Poverty

“I spoke to impoverished families in 1975 and little has changed since then”

A British family from the film Smashing Kids, 1975. Photograph: John Garrett

John Pilger interviewed Irene Brunsden in Hackney, east London about only being able to feed her two-year-old a plate of cornflakes in 1975. Now he sees nervous women queueing at foodbanks with their children as it’s revealed 600,000 more kids are in poverty now than in 2012.

*****

When I first reported on child poverty in Britain, I was struck by the faces of children I spoke to, especially the eyes. They were different: watchful, fearful.

In Hackney, in 1975, I filmed Irene Brunsden’s family. Irene told me she gave her two-year-old a plate of cornflakes. “She doesn’t tell me she’s hungry, she just moans. When she moans, I know something is wrong.”

“How much money do you have in the house? I asked.

“Five pence,” she replied.

Irene said she might have to take up prostitution, “for the baby’s sake”. Her husband Jim, a truck driver who was unable to work because of illness, was next to her. It was as if they shared a private grief.

This is what poverty does. In my experience, its damage is like the damage of war; it can last a lifetime, spread to loved ones and contaminate the next generation. It stunts children, brings on a host of diseases and, as unemployed Harry Hopwood in Liverpool told me, “it’s like being in prison”.

This prison has invisible walls. When I asked Harry’s young daughter if she ever thought that one day she would live a life like better-off children, she said unhesitatingly: “No”.

What has changed 45 years later?  At least one member of an impoverished family is likely to have a job — a job that denies them a living wage. Incredibly, although poverty is more disguised, countless British children still go to bed hungry and are ruthlessly denied opportunities..

What has not changed is that poverty is the result of a disease that is still virulent yet rarely spoken about – class.

Study after study shows that the people who suffer and die early from the diseases of poverty brought on by a poor diet, sub-standard housing and the priorities of the political elite and its hostile “welfare” officials — are working people. In 2020, one in three preschool British children suffers like this.

In making my recent film, The Dirty War on the NHS, it was clear to me that the savage cutbacks to the NHS and its privatisation by the Blair, Cameron, May and Johnson governments had devastated the vulnerable, including many NHS workers and their families. I interviewed one low-paid NHS worker who could not afford her rent and was forced to sleep in churches or on the streets.

At a food bank in central London, I watched young mothers looking nervously around as they hurried away with old Tesco bags of food and washing powder and tampons they could no longer afford, their young children holding on to them. It is no exaggeration that at times I felt I was walking in the footprints of Dickens.

Boris Johnson has claimed that 400,000 fewer children are living in poverty since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power. This is a lie, as the Children’s Commissioner has confirmed. In fact, more than 600,000 children have fallen into poverty since 2012; the total is expected to exceed 5 million. This, few dare say, is a class war on children.

Old Etonian Johnson is maybe a caricature of the born-to-rule class; but his “elite” is not the only one. All the parties in Parliament, notably if not especially Labour – like much of the bureaucracy and most of the media — have scant if any connection to the “streets”: to the world of the poor: of the “gig economy”: of battling a system of Universal Credit that can leave you without a penny and in despair.

Last week, the prime minister and his “elite” showed where their priorities lay. In the face of the greatest health crisis in living memory when Britain has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe and poverty is accelerating as the result of a punitive “austerity” policy, he announced £16.5 billion for “defence”. This makes Britain, whose military bases cover the world as if the empire still existed, the highest military spender in Europe.

And the enemy? The real one is poverty and those who impose it and perpetuate it.

• This is an abridged version of an article published by the Daily Mirror, London.
• John Pilger’s 1975 film, Smashing Kids, can be viewed at Smashing Kids

The post "I spoke to impoverished families in 1975 and little has changed since then" first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Like a Rocket in the Garden: The Unending War in Afghanistan

Late last week, I learned from young Afghan Peace Volunteer friends in Kabul that an insurgent group firing rockets into the city center hit the home of one volunteer’s relatives. Everyone inside was killed. Today, word arrived of two bomb blasts in the marketplace city of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, killing at least fourteen people and wounding forty-five.

These explosions have come on the heels of other recent attacks targeting civilians. On November 2, at least nineteen people were killed and at least twenty-two wounded by gunmen opening fire at Kabul University. On October 24, at least two dozen students died, and more than 100 were wounded in an attack on a tutoring center.

“The situation in our country is very bad and scary,” one young Afghan friend wrote to me. “We are all worried.” I imagine that’s an understatement.

A new report released by Save the Children, regarding violations against children in war zones, says Afghanistan accounts for the most killing and maiming violations, with 874 children killed and 2,275 children maimed in 2019.

Since the United Nations started collecting this data in 2005, more than 26,000 Afghan children have died.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States signed a “peace” deal with the Taliban in February 2020. It pertains to troop withdrawal and a Taliban pledge to cut ties with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The agreement certainly hasn’t contributed toward a more peaceful life for Afghans, and a U.N. report indicates the Taliban has continued its ties with insurgent groups.

Now, Afghans face constant battles between insurgent groups, U.S. forces, Afghan government forces, NATO forces, various powerful Afghan warlords, and paramilitaries organized by ruthless mafias which control much of the drug industry and other profitable enterprises.

Under President Biden, the United States would likely abide by Trump’s recent troop withdrawals, maintaining a troop presence of about 2,000. But Biden has indicated a preference for intensified Special Operations, surveillance and drone attacks. These strategies could cause the Taliban to nullify their agreement, prolonging the war through yet another presidency.

Mujib Mashal, a correspondent for The New York Times, was born in Kabul. When he was interviewed recently by one of his colleagues, he recalled being a little boy in the early 1990s, living through a civil war in Kabul, when rockets constantly bombarded his neighborhood.

Taliban groups were fighting various mujahideen. Mujib’s father cultivated a vegetable garden outside their home. One day, a rocket hit the garden, cutting an apple tree in half and burrowing deep into the ground.

But it didn’t explode.

Mujib remembers how his father watered the area where the rocket hit, for years, hoping the bomb would eventually rust and never explode. Now he worries that Afghanistan is headed toward an explosion of violence.

“And the fear is that in that space of war, things only get more extreme,” he told the Times. “The violence only gets more extreme. The brutality gets more extreme. That if this slips into another generational conflict, what we’ve seen over the past forty years in terms of the brutality will probably pale in comparison to what will come.”

I recently watched a video of a talk given in June of this year by Dr. Zaher Wahab, an Afghan professor in Portland, Oregon, who laments the intensifying havoc and violence war is causing in Afghanistan. He and his wife lived there for six years, until about a year ago, when they concluded that the city was unlivable.

Dr. Wahab believes there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s woes and calls for the United States to demilitarize as soon as possible. But he also offers ways forward.

He urges forming a multinational trust fund to justly assist with reconstruction in Afghanistan, including efforts to clear mines and clean up unexploded ordnance. Billions of dollars would be needed, commensurate to the sums spent on funding the war. He believes the United Nations should form a peacekeeping presence in Afghanistan relying on non-NATO countries.

The publication of the “Afghanistan papers” late last year highlighted the failure of the United States to accomplish any of its stated missions in Afghanistan. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, expressed his astonishment over the “hubris and mendacity” he had witnessed on the part of  U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan.

Despite its failures, the United States continues to bomb Afghan civilian areas. In 2019, the U.S. dropped 7,423 bombs and other munitions on Afghanistan.

For Afghan civilians, ongoing war means continued  bereavement, displacement, and despair. Bereft of income or protection, many Afghan householders join militias, pledging their support and possibly their willingness to fight or even die. Hence the rise of the Afghan Local Police, numerous militias fighting for various warlords, the Afghan governments’ fighting forces, including “ghost soldiers” who appear in name only, CIA-trained paramilitaries, and military contractors working for NATO contingents.

Afghanistan is a cauldron waiting to explode.

U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, retired, notes that in the 2020 election, neither presidential candidate questioned status quo norms about U.S. foreign policy being based on threat, force, and killing. Sjursen assures that pressure to change must, necessarily, flow from the grass roots.

The United States has landed in Afghanistan like a rocket in a garden. It refuses to rust, it poisons the Earth, and even U.S. voters can’t budge it. Normal life can’t continue with us there.

Meanwhile, an inevitably arriving Taliban-led government—one already in control of most of the country—is growing more fanatic and deadly.

Many U.S. voters, and too many Afghans, weren’t yet born when the current war was begun by the United States in 2001. Much of the U.S. public regards the Afghan people with deadly indifference.

Year after year, President after President, Americans continue to pretend the despair and futility we’ve caused in Afghanistan isn’t our fault. We don’t hold ourselves accountable.

But the forever wars, illegal and immoral, bankrupt our economy and our society as well. The military contractors become a sort of mafia. They are like a bomb in our garden, liable to explode.

And, unlike our Afghan counterparts, it’s not a bomb we can complain about. After all, we put it there.

An Elderly Man on a Kabul street

A child labourer studying on a Kabul street

 

• Photo credit: Abdulhai Darya

• This article first appeared in The Progressive

The post Like a Rocket in the Garden: The Unending War in Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We

Protest in Peru:  The people demand neither corruption or exploitation

This weekend, ten thousand people took to the streets in Guatemala to protest the President and Congress over a proposed budget, the largest in its history, that cuts funds for health care and education as poverty rises, and provides slush funds to politicians and governments. In Colombia, the people held a national strike to protest their violent, right-wing government. In Peru, protests against a right-wing power grab have ousted one appointed president and people are demanding a new government and constitution. And people in Chile won the right to a new constitution. Now they are defending the process to make sure it represents them.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria, in what began as a response to ongoing and severe state violence, the #EndSARS movement, has evolved to a struggle for full liberation from a corrupt and repressive government. Their new hashtag is #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria. I spoke with Abiodun Aremu, a long time movement leader in Lagos, on Clearing the FOG, about the current conditions and history of looting and exploitation by those in power.

In these countries and more, the people are rising up against the elite power structure to fight for their rights. Across borders, we share a common enemy, neoliberal economies that funnel wealth to the top, deregulate industries so they violate worker rights and destroy the environment, and impose austerity programs to deny our basic necessities. We also share a common vision for a world where the self-determination of peoples is respected and all people have equitable access to a life of dignity and prosperity.

Boxes of food were handed out by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Gene J. Puskar/AP.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report that finds the economy, which improved slightly over the summer, is stagnating again. As the provisions from the CARES Act expire, poverty is rising, especially for black and brown people. Women are also being adversely impacted because of the lack of childcare. Most of the jobs that have been lost, 52 percent, are low-wage jobs.

They point to a recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services that predicts ten million more people will become impoverished by the end of this year. Currently, 24 million adults say they don’t have enough food in their homes and 80 million adults say they are struggling to afford basic necessities. Without adequate support from the government, the economy won’t recover and people will continue to suffer.

The COVID-19 pandemic is surging with more than 200,000 cases in one day last week and deaths are rising again. Across the country, hospitals are struggling without enough beds and the staff to care for patients. The United States is expected to remain at this crisis level through the winter unless drastic steps are taken such as a national shut down, including all non-essential businesses. At present, that is not an option being considered by either President Trump or President-Elect Biden.

Both Trump and Biden are putting corporate profits over the needs of people by focusing on reopening businesses rather than providing the relief people desperately need. The Institute for Policy Studies reports that billionaires have increased their wealth by nearly $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic while their workers are left unprotected and without increases in their wages. They specifically call out a “delinquent dozen” of “pandemic profiteers.”

David McNew/Getty Images.

As Congress refuses to provide support for the millions who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and their homes, people are calling on the incoming Biden administration to take immediate action. For example, David Dayen points out that a provision in the Affordable Care Act allows the President to use executive power to expand Medicare to whomever needs it.

Biden, unfortunately, has made it clear that he opposes Medicare for All.  I spoke about the COVID-19 crisis and our for-profit healthcare system with Chris Hedges on his program, On Contact, this weekend.

This past week, more than 235 organizations called on Joe Biden to cancel student debt, which can also be done using executive power. Student debt has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion, a burden that is crippling people in the current recession. The groups state, “Cancellation will help jumpstart spending, create jobs, and add to the GDP. Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency.”

In addition to failing to address the pandemic and economic hardship at home, the United States government also inflicts pain and suffering across the planet through the many regime change efforts and military aggressions. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies outlined ten steps Joe Biden could take immediately to change our foreign policy to one that is in line with international law, provides humanitarian aid instead of bombs and reduces the threat of nuclear war.

Federal spending on the security state dwarfs what is spent on domestic needs. Only 32 percent of the federal discretionary budget is used for health care, education, energy and housing and the biggest chunk of that goes to the Veterans Health Administration. The rest goes to the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and NASA. Imagine what could be done to provide universal health care, child care, fully-funded education through the university level, low-cost clean energy and affordable housing if we stopped our wars and brought the military home.

Sean Rayford/New York Times.

Now that it is clear the next president will be Joe Biden, some people may think it is time to relax and let him go to work running the country. This is the message the power holders want the people to hear. The Biden administration will go to great lengths to give the appearance that it is different and that it will make positive changes, but just as we have experienced over and over again, when it comes to domestic economic policy or foreign policy, there is little difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. Both serve the wealthy class and the military industrial complex.

The power elites are never going to give us what we need. We must demand it. As we see people in other countries doing, we must organize and mobilize with a clear set of demands now. Joe Biden can take immediate steps to relieve suffering, and in a time of crisis as we are in now, he can do it using executive power. We must not give Biden a honeymoon. We must not be fooled by the excuses used to convince us it can’t be done.

The post People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We first appeared on Dissident Voice.

People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We

Protest in Peru:  The people demand neither corruption or exploitation

This weekend, ten thousand people took to the streets in Guatemala to protest the President and Congress over a proposed budget, the largest in its history, that cuts funds for health care and education as poverty rises, and provides slush funds to politicians and governments. In Colombia, the people held a national strike to protest their violent, right-wing government. In Peru, protests against a right-wing power grab have ousted one appointed president and people are demanding a new government and constitution. And people in Chile won the right to a new constitution. Now they are defending the process to make sure it represents them.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria, in what began as a response to ongoing and severe state violence, the #EndSARS movement, has evolved to a struggle for full liberation from a corrupt and repressive government. Their new hashtag is #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria. I spoke with Abiodun Aremu, a long time movement leader in Lagos, on Clearing the FOG, about the current conditions and history of looting and exploitation by those in power.

In these countries and more, the people are rising up against the elite power structure to fight for their rights. Across borders, we share a common enemy, neoliberal economies that funnel wealth to the top, deregulate industries so they violate worker rights and destroy the environment, and impose austerity programs to deny our basic necessities. We also share a common vision for a world where the self-determination of peoples is respected and all people have equitable access to a life of dignity and prosperity.

Boxes of food were handed out by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Gene J. Puskar/AP.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report that finds the economy, which improved slightly over the summer, is stagnating again. As the provisions from the CARES Act expire, poverty is rising, especially for black and brown people. Women are also being adversely impacted because of the lack of childcare. Most of the jobs that have been lost, 52 percent, are low-wage jobs.

They point to a recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services that predicts ten million more people will become impoverished by the end of this year. Currently, 24 million adults say they don’t have enough food in their homes and 80 million adults say they are struggling to afford basic necessities. Without adequate support from the government, the economy won’t recover and people will continue to suffer.

The COVID-19 pandemic is surging with more than 200,000 cases in one day last week and deaths are rising again. Across the country, hospitals are struggling without enough beds and the staff to care for patients. The United States is expected to remain at this crisis level through the winter unless drastic steps are taken such as a national shut down, including all non-essential businesses. At present, that is not an option being considered by either President Trump or President-Elect Biden.

Both Trump and Biden are putting corporate profits over the needs of people by focusing on reopening businesses rather than providing the relief people desperately need. The Institute for Policy Studies reports that billionaires have increased their wealth by nearly $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic while their workers are left unprotected and without increases in their wages. They specifically call out a “delinquent dozen” of “pandemic profiteers.”

David McNew/Getty Images.

As Congress refuses to provide support for the millions who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and their homes, people are calling on the incoming Biden administration to take immediate action. For example, David Dayen points out that a provision in the Affordable Care Act allows the President to use executive power to expand Medicare to whomever needs it.

Biden, unfortunately, has made it clear that he opposes Medicare for All.  I spoke about the COVID-19 crisis and our for-profit healthcare system with Chris Hedges on his program, On Contact, this weekend.

This past week, more than 235 organizations called on Joe Biden to cancel student debt, which can also be done using executive power. Student debt has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion, a burden that is crippling people in the current recession. The groups state, “Cancellation will help jumpstart spending, create jobs, and add to the GDP. Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency.”

In addition to failing to address the pandemic and economic hardship at home, the United States government also inflicts pain and suffering across the planet through the many regime change efforts and military aggressions. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies outlined ten steps Joe Biden could take immediately to change our foreign policy to one that is in line with international law, provides humanitarian aid instead of bombs and reduces the threat of nuclear war.

Federal spending on the security state dwarfs what is spent on domestic needs. Only 32 percent of the federal discretionary budget is used for health care, education, energy and housing and the biggest chunk of that goes to the Veterans Health Administration. The rest goes to the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and NASA. Imagine what could be done to provide universal health care, child care, fully-funded education through the university level, low-cost clean energy and affordable housing if we stopped our wars and brought the military home.

Sean Rayford/New York Times.

Now that it is clear the next president will be Joe Biden, some people may think it is time to relax and let him go to work running the country. This is the message the power holders want the people to hear. The Biden administration will go to great lengths to give the appearance that it is different and that it will make positive changes, but just as we have experienced over and over again, when it comes to domestic economic policy or foreign policy, there is little difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. Both serve the wealthy class and the military industrial complex.

The power elites are never going to give us what we need. We must demand it. As we see people in other countries doing, we must organize and mobilize with a clear set of demands now. Joe Biden can take immediate steps to relieve suffering, and in a time of crisis as we are in now, he can do it using executive power. We must not give Biden a honeymoon. We must not be fooled by the excuses used to convince us it can’t be done.

The post People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Implosion of Capitalism in Guatemala

On 21 November, 2020, thousands of Guatemalans rallied in the central square of the country’s capital, took over the Congress and set fire to several rooms inside. The immediate trigger for this outburst of anger was the 2021 budget – now revoked by the Congress after sustained protests – which, despite being the largest in the country’s history, slashed funding for both education and healthcare. The spending plan was negotiated in secret and approved by congress before dawn on 18 November, 2020. It was passed while the country was recovering from the devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota – a perfect example of disaster capitalism.

With thousands of people suffering from hunger throughout the country as a result of decades of neoliberalism, export-oriented agro-industrialization and the government’s recent carelessness in response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota this year, the opaque budget proposed to cut funding to combat malnutrition  and dedicated $1.9 billion for servicing interest payments. It intended to additionally reduce the budgets of the judiciary which has overseen many government corruption cases. While the budget clearly tried to abandon the poor in the midst of a pandemic, it gave no shortage of funds to politicians. Politicians negotiated an extra $65,000 to fund their own meal budgets. Moreover, the budgets of the nation’s Departmental Development Councils (CDC), bodies run by governors and mayors without significant supervision, were nearly doubled. Out of the $13 billion of the total budget, the budget for the CDC accounted for roughly $4 billion.

In response to the protests, Vice-President Guillermo Castillo offered to resign, telling Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei that both men should relinquish their positions “for the good of the country.” In contrast, the President reacted to the anti-austerity demonstrations through a message which stated: “I reiterate that you have the right to demonstrate according to the law. But we cannot allow vandalism either to public or private property. Whoever is proven to be involved in these criminal acts will bear the full weight of the law”. This tone-deaf approach towards the legitimate grievances of the people resulted in repression being utilized against agitators.

Immediately after the fire at the Congress, the Police Special Forces moved in against the protesters with anti-riot gear, tear gas canisters and water cannons. Fourteen demonstrators were treated at the nearby hospital due to excessive force and effects of the tear gas—one lost an eye, and another remained in serious condition—and 40 were arrested. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned this state repression as an “excessive use of force” by the police. Undeterred, protests continued for a second day with demonstrators again filling the central square and carrying signs with slogans including “I would rather die as a rebel than live as a slave” and “Giammattei Out.”

Instead of representing a simple opposition to the 2021 budget, the protests in Guatemala were organically rooted in the wider framework of capitalism which has comprehensively devastated the daily lives of the poor. The inter-mixing the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency – the latter of which affected a combined 935,000 people – converted the country into a powder keg capable of being ignited by a single event – in this case the 2021 budget. Contemporary protests, therefore, are not an episodic occurrence – they are part and parcel of a nation torn apart by a “normality” which designates permanent poverty and endless exploitation.

US-backed Coup

Whenever Guatemala has tried to work even a bit for the people, predatory forces have intervened, thwarting processes of social change and heavy-handedly imposing capitalism from above. In March 1951, Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán took office as the President of Guatemala. Landless movements and the Left had fought to elect him so that he could push through a moderate land reform agenda of nationalization. This project threatened the US based United Fruit Company which owned a lot of land in Guatemala. As a result, the CIA got to work, the goal being: to “remove covertly, and without bloodshed if possible, the menace of the present Communist-controlled government in Guatemala”. Through a covert operation named PBSUCCESS, the US overthrew Árbenz in a coup in 1954 and installed retired Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas who said, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify, I will not hesitate to do so.”

In 1960, Civil War broke out between US trained counterinsurgency forces and leftist guerrillas. James Painter writes in “Guatemala: False Hopes, False Freedom” that “the Army’s response [to leftist activists] was to launch a campaign of terror that has rarely been paralleled for its savagery (and lack of publicity) in the history of Latin America.” The Civil War lasted 36 years from 1960 to 1996 and resulted in over 200,000 deaths, the majority of which were indigenous civilians. The war included waves of violence which targeted Indigenous populations. One such wave of violence was the “scorched-earth” campaign or “la violencia” that took place from 1981 to 1983 and in which 100,000-150,000 people were killed. The Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification stated in 1999 that the national army was responsible for the destruction of 600 villages and 93% of the deaths in the civil war. Mayan school teachers were often targeted and killed by the Guatemalan army in the 1980s because it was believed the teachers were helping the opposing guerrillas.

Ever-Worsening Neoliberalism

Ever since the coup of 1954, Guatemalan subalterns have continued to battle a downward spiral of neoliberalism, filled with existential wretchedness and capitalist madness. Income inequality and poverty in Guatemala are extremely high. In 1998, Guatemala had the second highest incidence of poverty in Latin America, just behind Nicaragua. According to the United Nations (UN), the overall poverty rate in Guatemala increased during the 1990s and early 2000s (the years of neoliberalization); in 2002 it stood at 57% of the population. The incidence of extreme poverty was even more disturbing at 21.5%. In 2002, the poorest 20% of the population shared 1.7% of the national income, while the richest 20% possessed 64% of the national income. 71% of the indigenous population was considered to be living in poverty. The starkness of poverty in Guatemala is epitomized by an ossuary pit near the back of La Verbena Cemetery. In 2012 the Guatemalan Forensics Team began to perform exhumations in the pit, attempting to locate the remains of about 45,000 bodies in the pit, the vast majority of them victims of the violence of poverty; of having died because they were impoverished or because families could no longer afford the cost of a tomb in the cemetery.

Despair and deprivation are put on full display in the agricultural sector which has been utterly ruined by savage neoliberalism.  In 1988, the Guatemalan Bishops issued a pastoral letter entitled “The Clamor for Land” wherein they argued that the agrarian problem was the country’s most important issue. “The clamor for land”, the bishops stated, “is without doubt the strongest, most dramatic and desperate cry heard in Guatemala.” Two-thirds of the agricultural land in Guatemala is dominated by 2.5% of the country’s farms, less than 1% of landowners hold 75% of the best agricultural land, 90% of rural inhabitants live in poverty, 27% of rural dwellers do not own land and more than 500,000 peasant families live below the level of subsistence. Such a high level of land concentration and rural poverty implies that peasants are invariably subjected to unprecedented amounts of hardships and live a life of complete bleakness.

In a 1977 article, Norma S. Chinchilla, wrote:

Although agricultural production has become large and modern, working conditions are almost as harsh as they were under forced labor. Seasonal workers, recruited on large fincas [farms], often work as a family unit to pay off loans incurred earlier in the year. Their hours are long, their rations meager, their housing sparse. Women and children risk transportation in open trucks and often die in accidents or of carbon monoxide fumes. They live primitively, with as many as 500 workers in large open-air dormitories that have dirt floors and laminated roofs, no sanitary facilities, electricity, or portable water. They sleep on the ground, in hammocks, or on straw mats. They are given about twelve to fourteen pounds of corn per week, one to two pounds of beans, and occasionally some sugar and rice. Children receive half rations and women none if they do not work because of their young children. Sickness among workers who migrate from the highlands to the coastal lowlands is common. Insecticide poisoning is frequent.

With worsening material conditions, class tensions in Guatemala are continually re-surfacing in the form of social explosions. There is no end in sight to rising class struggle since Guatemala has an exceptionally weak healthcare system which will keep burdening the poor with incalculable pain. In his book Becoming Evil, James Waller notes that “over 60 percent of the Guatemalan population lives in dispersed rural communities of less than 2,000 people. Health and educational services are scarce to nonexistent in most of those communities. All told, 45 percent of the population lack minimal health services, and the mortality rate for children under age five was 67 per 1,000 live births in 1995—one of the highest such rates in the industrialized world.” As systemic contradictions come to a head in Guatemala, protests for dignity and justice will keep occurring in the country.

The post The Implosion of Capitalism in Guatemala first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ways You Can Help Eliminate Global Poverty

Image Source: Pexels

The planet may feel like a smaller place, thanks to the ease of travel and the internet, but the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty” and earn less than a single dollar per day.

Poverty affects the health and livelihood of a large number of people worldwide. Thankfully, there are a number of human rights organizations working to end global poverty, some of which the most recognizable include The World Bank, Oxfam International, CARE, and OPAD. Though these four organizations are just a small representation of the many charities and foundations all working towards tackling the global poverty problem, how will ending poverty actually happen? There is no simple answer to the question, although there are some main factors that are a major focus.

Global Water Crisis

Global poverty isn’t only about money. In fact, for many poverty-stricken areas, there’s an overall shortage of resources. Water is one of the most critical. Specifically, “844 million people — approximately 10% of the global population — lack access to basic drinking water.” Water is critical to more than drinking, too — it’s needed for sanitation and to grow food. Companies should invest in developing new water conservation technologies that make it easier and more accessible to reduce the amount of water people and businesses use.

On a smaller scale, being more conscious about environmental issues and our personal water usage around the home could preserve freshwater levels and shift the global collective mindset about how precious water is. Some ways to preserve water include:

  • Replacing water-heavy landscaping such as lawns with drought-tolerant or low-water versions.
  • Installing low-flow valves in household sinks and toilets.
  • Irrigate plants and gardens early in the morning.
  • Recycle grey (used) water by using it to irrigate plants, for example.

Global Food Supply

A bleak statistic highlights how global hunger could be avoided with more efficient food supply and distribution systems. In an article about how to transform global food production, Marlen, a food equipment manufacturer, reports that “30% to 40% of food produced is thrown away as waste.”

While strides were being made in the global food supply chain, the coronavirus dealt the world with a setback. The World Bank highlights how the current food supply is at risk at a national level, as production and distribution in countries across the globe are disrupted due to the shelter in place orders intended to keep citizens safe.

According to the World Bank’s analysis on COVID-19-related food insecurity, the current issue has long-reaching consequences:

Food producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as buyers have become limited and consumption patterns shift. Though food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, disruptions to the supply of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, or labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop.

The population most in danger are the 820 million global poor who were already struggling with food shortages before the coronavirus appeared and negatively impacted incomes and food availability.

You can help fight food insecurity that threatens the lives of the most vulnerable by donating to organizations working to provide access to food and agricultural processes. Some organizations working tirelessly to fight against global hunger include:

Many US organizations on a mission to end hunger focus on foreign countries. However, poverty and hunger are also present in the United States. Feeding America reports that “more than 37 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.” Volunteering and donating to local charitable foundations is the best way to help against hunger in your community.

Energy Sustainability

The poorest locations in the world also struggle with the unavailability of energy sources. The World Bank found that roughly 1.1 billion people don’t have access to electricity. In addition, another three billion people cook with highly-polluting fuels, such as dung, wood, kerosene, or charcoal.

In other poverty areas, energy infrastructure is present, but some people may not be able to afford the cost of the utilities. Developed countries such as the U.S. have programs that help low-income individuals pay their utility bills. In addition, public awareness programs promote the importance of energy conservation in the home, such as using insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances.

Supporting clean energy initiatives, such as wind or solar power, not only benefit your bottom dollar in the form of reduced utility bills but helps companies develop more affordable clean-energy technology. As green energy technology becomes more efficient and affordable, it could be used in other areas around the world lacking basic energy infrastructure.

Eliminating Global Poverty

Ending poverty is a big challenge. It requires cooperation from nations, corporations, communities, and individuals. You can take small steps to help in the fight to end poverty by donating to charitable organizations that resonate with you. Turning to a more sustainable lifestyle can also help by easing the load on the world’s natural resources, so others more in need can access them as well.

The post Ways You Can Help Eliminate Global Poverty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Million and One Ideas that Would Transform the Globe

Writing is not a searching about in the daily experience for apt similes and pretty thoughts and images… It is not a conscious recording of the day’s experiences ‘freshly and with the appearance of reality’… The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.

— William Carlos Williams,  Spring and All

Ahh, just proposing a few hundred “things” to transform the globe into a world where people control their destinies within groups of people who have their destinies in their best interest is teetering on insanity. It’s not what good people in good capitalist company do, allow, or talk about seriouisly.

No Kid Hungry: How you can help end childhood hunger - Between Us Parents

You see, Capitalism lite or Capitalism hard is the same dog-eat-dog world of fend for yourselves, do or die, sink or swim, err, unless you can form a cabal of elites, with their colonies of soldiers and lawyers and bankers and land dealers to entitle you to a different playing field. Inverted Totalitarianism.

Get a group of like-minded sociopaths, get a group of investors who want to make a quick buck, get millions who consume the lies of the business journals, the lies of the celebrity scum that end up controlling the narrative on everything, from how the local dog catcher should or shouldn’t do their job, all the way to the pigs over in Fukushima now letting (sic) out the isotopes of cancerous love into the Pacific. Imagine, the power of that cabal of industrialists.

It’s the same story told with a different spin, but we know the routine — Hanford, bombs, government contracts, the Tri-Cities (Washington state where the bomb material for incinerating one of the Japanese cities was cooked up) “benefitting” from the construction jobs, the nailing and sawing and framing, all the scientists and the support teams (up to 15,000 back then in the 1944) eating out, and that is the disaster and shock and war lord capitalism’s central feature — colonizing people. That entire nuclear material making house of nuclear cards based on bad scientists coming into town, and then the system of capitalism runs like a smooth Atilla the Hun School of Economics. Farmers out in Eastern Washington, and bam, the big bad bomb making boys with their pencil necks, their big cars, their big booze bills, the cigarettes, the new homes with backyard in ground pools, the ancillary and tertiary junk of the consumer/capitalist kind, colonizing in this dry land. Until the smoothly and finely-tuned and well-greased death machine ends up decades later running amok in the people’s thyroids, in the DNA and RNA of papa and mama, and alas, now Native fishers as young as 24 have thyroids removed, and the warning label now says, cut away all the fatty bellies of salmon — NOT recommended not for human consumption. Read my two-part series here at Dissident Voice.

Just the Facts About Hunger in the US & The World | WhyHunger

Capitalism — not for human consumption. That is, all those hyphenated additives and ingredients in baby’s formula, all that stuff sprayed into everything, all those extruded plastics, all those soldered joints, all those capacitors and Prius batteries, the entire thing is not for human consumption.

Now, then,  how can anyone go up against this narrative, or flip the script, or make paradigm shifts and cultural transformations, when the entire mess is defended by the very people, say in Appalachia, where entire mountain peaks are blasted away, trout rivers blackened by the dust, and babies born fifty points or more below the barely average thinking (IQ) capacity of a Trump or Biden evil spawn. Dirt poor, no teeth, USDA Mac’ n’ Cheese food pantry boxes, and, bam, here we are, 2020,   and the dumb as dirt country is being run by thieves, rapists, bombers, land razers, polluters, perverts, sociopaths.

Explore the Issues – FoodBank

Then the compliant ones, all the big burly tough Americans, especially on the GOP and MAGA side, who feign toughness, think they are blustery in their attacks on educators, intellectuals, scientists, youth, raging grannies, women, environmentalists, multi-culturalists, but the bottom line, they are the flag wavers, the slaver statue defenders, the clear cutters, the wolf killers, the church goers, the big truck lovers, lock step on Saturdays for their college football, their Friday night big high school grid iron, their Sunday hour of hate with Jerry Falwell or Billy Graham. Everything about the mythology of America — the white land, everything about the authority of the white patriarch, everything about the Stars and Bars — those are the MAGA/GOP lovers, and they want it their way or the highway. Or the way of the AR-15, and anyone moving in protest shot on sight. Amazingly openly racist, and anything or anyone  that speaks of questioning the Yankee Doodle Dandy and Confederate narrative, the MAGA go ballistic, and their slave patrol cops come in shooting.

This is not to say the other groupings tied to the Democratic party are that much more independent, or fore-thinking. This is the way of capitalism, and the bourgeoise, the professional middle managers, the cultural warriors, all the PC and cancel culture and the co-opting of movement’s, the kids and adults purchasing Che printed on the t-shirt with Pink Floyd emblazoned under him, that is the other side of the capitalist isle. Really, two different breeds, possibly, the products of epigenetics, and both believing in the unholy contract within both the rule of law and the rules of engagement. A contract is a contract, sign on the dotted line for your next lemon.

War, Branding, Amusements, Infantilism, Disneyifcation, Commercials,  Retailopethicus, and the land of milk and honey, through the veins of mother earth, clotted, and the fissures of Turtle Island, radiated, and massive murder and slavery, legitimized. Not much more of that history can be 1619 Project leveled to define this country.

Hunger in America

Until, everyone, on all sides of the political manure pile, are the enemy of transformational living and collectivism.

How many times have I gone up against college presidents who actually come from the ranks of MBA schools, or with degrees in “institutional leadership” (yes, and WTF degree, PhD no less).

Try out the Journal for Higher Education Mangers, running with the AAUA, American Association of University Administrators.  Then, yes, The Journal of Research on the College President. They have their lobbying arm, their professional insiders, their army of propagandists. Always, top down, and nothing to do with teaching and teachers.

10 cities where an appalling number of Americans are starving | Salon.com

Look, more is not better, and bigger is not better, but in capitalism, in supposedly valiant and worthy areas  like education, that is, working with humans to allow themselves to share/advance knowledge and nurturing systems thinking and expanding critical interdisciplinary skills; to learn to work across disciplines, cultures, nations, well, you might think the idea is to work socialistically to bring our societies and our various countries toward some decent survivability and mutual aid across all lines. . .  Each person is an individual in a systems thinking collective. But the reality is that bigger is better in destructive capitalism, schooling or Amazon fulfillment center;  and competition is not just expressed on the basketball courts. Each school, trying to hook the next and the next generation of potential students. More and more Club Med amenities. Working on the Amusing Themselves to Death. A nice tidy $100,000 school loan bill for that undergraduate degree no one in America gives a shit about.

It’s not about intergenerational, multi-dynamic cross-educational pathways to community and collective healing and mutual aid; i.e., emancipation from the consumer path. It’s about the big fish in the ocean eating the most sardines. It is all about free (sic) market hucksterism, and the constant getting one, two, three thousand things over on your fellow citizens. Compatriots for Americans is the opposite of compassion.

Ya think those provosts and institutional leaders and VPs and Human Resources pros give a shit about the actual individual student, or the workers keeping the system, and their big pay checks, going?

Nope. I have worked with colleges where the outliers like me, left of left, are not only denigrated, but marginalized and sacked. I have worked with colleges where exploitation is the maximal form of employment. The student is not always the center of things, and alas, now the student is a customer, or in a time of Plan-Demic, a data donor on a huge Digital Dashboard.

If you want to talk about technocratic and technological fascism, you will not be embraced in neoliberal circles, and lite liberal circles. Not in most departments at the universities. Forget the community colleges, where more and more college across the land have drone technology programs. You know, bomb them back to the stone age from the comfort of your Lazy Boy lumbar supported counsel chair. No matter how much the liberals spew about CSA’s (community supported agriculture) and Farmer’s Markets and the like, they still feel as if technology, Artificial Intelligence, all the apps and tools of the managerial class, the tracking tools, the aggregating tools, all the “so called” medical and banking and taxing tools, well, the show must go on in their Zoom Doom minds. How do you stop it, they might ask. How? And, for the most part, many of them profess that tracking who does and who does not get the vaccinations, who does and who doesn’t agree with the entire narrative, well, that is a-okay to put them on some kind of passport, wristwatch with all the goods on that person.

These are scary times, and desperate times call for desperate/fascistic/ technological neutering measures. That is the narrative of both MAGA/GOP and the Democrats/

Every Dissident Voice and Facebook post, all the entanglements of the process of exploring ideas and expressing opinions, it is like a forever chemical — data, and stories and tweets and postings, they stay in the digital hell of the overlords, ready to be paraded out anytime. I have been told, “You didn’t get the job because they ‘Googled you.'” And those millionaires and billionaires and soon-to-be trillionaires have offered up the backdoor keys to NSA and given all the other alphabet soup agencies of oppression and repression, all the info, as well as given it to any major or minor corporation having the $ to access EVERYTHING. The outfall is, of course, revolt, dissent, dissidence and clarity of dissension will be, well, verboten if one is to survive in this Global Digital and AI/CCTV/Big Brother panopticon — which is now not just an institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. Now, each internet, each bureaucratic, each retail transaction, each consumer moment being observed by a single security guard — the AI God in the Cloud.

The Republicans, the Democrats, the Libertarians, all of them, want that level of control. Even the Chinese, do. This is the value of oppression, economies of scale, the conundrum of each nation out for itself. Each hundred million souls or each half a billion humans must go after the goods, the others be damned.

This is the psychopathic way of “the market,” the bulwark that is the steal jaws of competitive markets, where the commons is always a tragedy, where the Greek Tragedy is played out every nanosecond in the arms of mothers and on the lips of babes, as land is paved over, jawed open, blasted clean, denuded, soil and life and people and animals turned inside out, used in the grand corralling of the minds and bodies. We are the sheep and cattle in the elites sophisticated system of domestication, husbandry, monocropping plants and people.

Social-intellectual-spiritual-dreaming control. Pre-crime is not some Phillip K. Dick fantasy, it is, rather, the reality of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, started decades ago with every transaction, every educational move, every financial move, every medical move, every legal or illegal move monitored, checked, and filed away. AI and Google and the plethora of other evil app providers and software makers, well, they have the web spinning as I write this.

But this screed is not about that so much as it is about my writing. Another novel, started, on a roll, and yet, daily, I am sure, minute by minute somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I wonder “why?” Who the fuck will read this book, and how do I market it, and if I am so radical and communist, in my philosophy, should I be worried about who reads it and how it gets read? The Collector and Story Teller, the working title, very very loosely based on people I meet, including one fellow, who I feature here at Dissident Voice ––  Down and Out in Portland: Retired in Style in Waldport, OR

The problem is I am a novelist without an audience, in this shit-show that was big time publishing in the 1980s through the 2000, when I had an agent looking to score semi-small/median with the NYC/Boston publishing houses, that has shifted big time, until the big bucks are thrown at the putrid people, the Obamas paid in the tens of millions for lies and more lies; all the tell-all crapper books; all those Master of Fine Arts style sessions; and, well, a stack to the moon of how to get rich-how to get laid-how to get self-actualized-how to get one or a million scams  on your neighbor – how to get a million bucks/spirituality/love/instant success/happiness/multiple orgasms without any work.

Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators - Flipboard

I get the scam of publishing (one shit-load of rejection slips and letters, even… “well, mighty evocative, mighty powerful, but not our cup of tea,” and I get the competition is ruthless. In fact, you can create great art, and it will, alas, stay locked up in a file case or hung up in papa’s garage next to the Vargas women.

Imagine, Vassar College and Smith College interns, reading piles upon piles of manuscripts (that was in the 1990s-2000s), and if the first two lines, or in rare cases, the first two pages didn’t catch their attention, then, bam, the slush pile. Rejection City.

My New York agent wanted like hell to get my books/novels sold, but he too was up against this pedestrian bullshit East Coast triple bias.

Now, at age 63, what’s the point of lashing out lines and incredible concepts and narratives, when, well, here we are — a nation of triple consumers. Students called consumers, that is, customers. The entire fear city shit of the plan-demic with all those yellow bellies up against the functionally illiterate masses. To mask or not to mask, that is the fucking question? Really! No fucking MAGA or Christian Pervert will read my stuff. Let alone buy it. Cancel culturists won’t buy/read my fiction. Highfaluting “artistic” types won’t. The pile of mush getting churned out on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, all of that, this is the American gel, the mush and mutilated crap of the elites and the Duck Dynasty folk. Podcast after ever-deadening podcast sucking up more attention spans. The incredible right-wing news (sic) feeds. The incredible unintelligible pop culture, the hate culture, the faux Buddhist shit, the entire mess that is the United States’ has that “artistic” tastes which are more than just banal; they are cancerous.

But here I am, trying to get to the point: In one scene in the fast-paced book, The Collector and the Story Teller, my protagonist, Raymundo Pena, or just Ray, is trying to solve a murder and disappearance of The Collector, Aubrey Searles, and find Aubrey’s disappeared wife, and in that process, he ends up at the food pantry, the food distribution point for the poor and the downtrodden. A very short-lived scene, but real, and telling.

MFA in Creative Writing | | College of Liberal Arts | Oregon State University

Of course, you guessed it, me, the author, having worked in a few places that we call “food pantries,” and now, with the plan-demic, Ray ends up talking to a make-believe few characters working at and utilizing the pantry.

It’s a short chapter, but the reality is this — This country, broken from sea to shining sea, is way bey0nd the massive slippage either of the two prostitute parties will grasp or admit (maybe both of them, and their majority backers, have zero idea how threadbare systems are in the USA for massive poverty and massive slippage of the American people).

Hunger was bad ass before the plan-demic, the entire lockdown, the shuttering of businesses. A mean country, under any bloody Yankee-Confederate flag. Food stamps cut and cut every year. The punishment society ramped up every month, full of token groping rules and laws, making people line up for fucking voting now, for hours, so imagine the shit that poor people and hungry children have to go through for basic assistance (they don’t get it) and then ramp that up and put in poor undocumented people and hungry undocumented children have to do just to get calories.

The 20 Best Graduate Level Creative Writing - College Rank

Now, the local food bank, shortage after shortage. No turkeys, no dry beans, shortage after shortage. Plenty of Mac’n’Cheese cartons given away, and the bread and cookies and cakes, thrown at the pantries. Piles. Mountains of them. Packaged for the next apocalypse, with so many preservative an embalmer would get wet just thinking about that a 20-line ingredient (chemical) list.

Welcome to capitalism, a million choices, but “not really choices.” Which Red Dye No. 5 or Yellow No. 55 Dye do you want in your kids’ cereal puffs? Which inorganic compound do you want sprayed on the baby’s mashed potatoes? Which percentage of sugar-hydrogenated oil-salt lick do you want in the toaster cinnamon buns? How much lead in the pipes and fluoride in the toothpaste? That is America. And we get more hungry every minute. The Hunger of the Elites, hoping for more marks and suckers born every living minute. Hunger. For love. Hunger. For community. Hunger. For justice. Hunger for air. Hunger. For shelter. Hunger. For food.

Hunger Facts | Move For Hunger

The post A Million and One Ideas that Would Transform the Globe first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Directions to the Dumpster

The first time Edward Campagnola answers his phone, he admits he is just about to take a shower, his first in several days.

“Yeah, I’m at the brand new Wellness Center in Santa Rosa,” he says. “I’m literally just about to step into the shower, and when you live on the streets, when you get a chance to take a shower, you take it. But I can talk now if this is the best time, because I really want people to know about this book.”

The interview can wait.

A short 30-minutes later, Campagnola is back on the phone, feeling clean and good, and ready to talk about “Directions to the Dumpster,” his recently-released novel based on his own life experiences, how he came to be unsheltered in Sonoma County, and what day-to-day life is like for a homeless person. Written before COVID, the story would be even more difficult now, he points out, since the homeless have few-to-zero options for keeping out of the way of the virus.

“It’s hard to shelter at home when you don’t have a home, right?” he says. “Some people think about that, but a lot of people don;t, and I get it. We’re kind of invisible, and the virus has just made us more invisible. But I’m hoping people find my book, and get something out of it, because it’s a great story, a really interesting and dramatic story, and there is a message in it that a lot of people have never heard.”

Written mostly in libraries, the book — which was officially released in August 2020 and is now available through his Facebook page, Directions to the Dumpster. The story is so important to Campagnola that, for anyone unable to purchase a copy, he’s offering free e-editions just for asking.

“I didn’t wrote this to make money, though a little money wouldn’t hurt,” he admits. “I wrote it because people need to know what life is like for us. That their assumptions and expectations are not necessarily correct. And that hurts.”

Among those false assumptions, he says, is the notion that all or most homeless people are there because of addiction to drugs or alcohol.

“Truth is, a lot of homeless are not on drugs at all when they end up on the streets,” Campagnola says. “It’s after they end up on the streets that they turn to drugs, because it’s one of the only available ways to find a little self-medication in a truly hard, hard way of life. Same with mental illness. Yes, some folks end up here because they have mental problems, but let me tell you, a little problem can become a big problem when you suddenly have no support and you are hungry, dirty, exhausted and with limited resources.”

Campagnola, who admits he’s always been a reader but only began to tackle writing in the last few years, originally through writing journals about his daily experiences, says that turning himself into a novelist has been one of the best and hardest things he’s ever done.

“You know what’s hard? What’s hard is writing a book and then reading it and realizing how much you could have used a real editor,” he laughs. “I mean, I have sentences that run on for a whole page. I’m hoping people just think that’s artsy, but the truth is, I’m making this up as I go here. So I hope people forgive the roughness of the writing, and just see through it to the story, which is pretty amazing.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Campagnola had a normal enough life until the death of his wife several years ago, after which he became nomadic, traveling to New Orleans, Houston and Las Vegas. While a passenger on a Greyhound bus from Vegas to California, he was violently assaulted, the result being a crippling PTSD he’s struggled with ever since. The book, named for actual “advice” he is often given when asking someone for help, was written as a kind of self-therapy. The attack on the bus, written in breathtakingly vivid prose, is one of the key moments in the novel.

Campagnola notes that being a writer would be easier if he had a home, a desk and a regular routine.

“I am trying to find housing, and I can afford to pay rent, but not the rents that everyone seems to be charging,” he says frankly, adding, “If possible, I would love to find a permanent residence in Petaluma, if they would be so kind as to have me. I love Petaluma.”

Petaluma, he points out, is a big part of how he ended up finding his way to Sonoma County in the first place.

“I met a woman from Petaluma, in Las Vegas,” he says. “We fell in love and I moved to Sonoma County to be with her. It’s a huge part of Directions to the Dumpster.” In the book, Campagnola details his various experiences as an unsheltered person living throughout Sonoma County. In his next book, many of those stories take place in Petaluma, where he frequently spends time, regularly working as a sign-spinner for Mancini Sleepworld, and routinely eating meals at the Mary Isaacs Center on Hopper Street. He says that of all the towns in Sonoma County, Petaluma would be his top choice for a place to eventually make a home off the streets.

“Unfortunately,” he says candidly, “I’m working with a monthly budget of $1,200, limiting me to a shared situation where $800 is my maximum so I can still, you know, feed myself and pay some other bills.”

While he works on that, he’s devoted his time to writing, and to promoting his book.

Directions to the Dumpster needs support,“ he says. ”Its an important, socially significant story, giving society an idea of homelessness, how it can happen to anyone, and how difficult it is to survive and find a home again, particularly in Sonoma County.”

Campagnola, as mentioned, has already finished a follow-up book, tentatively titled Directions to Mercy Street, and is about to begin what he hopes will be the third and final book in the trilogy.

“I’m going to call it Directions Home,” he says.

“I have no place to shelter in place or write,” he allows. “I lack the resources to complete the novel, in the timely fashion I am capable of. I wrote Dumpster at the library, but libraries are closed. Currently, I write with my phone, by sending myself e-mails. I have a laptop but its at a secure location I have limited access to, and I can’t get there as often as I’d like.”

  1. Originally published at Argus Courier.

An excerpt from Directions to the Dumpster, by Edward Campagnola

Another day in Paradise

The sun is rising, the fog is lifting, the beginning of another day here in paradise, but it’s not paradise for everyone. Rolling hills of grape vineyards, beautiful ranches, with horses or cows grazing in the pasture. This is Sonoma County and Santa Rosa is the hub for the wine and weed business. There is an enormous amount of money in this region, it’s where the Googles come to play in the Russian River and taste the wine at the best wineries in the world. The cost of living is astronomical and many can’t afford it and are not enjoying paradise, like the rest. Here in the North Bay of San Francisco, it is impossible to ignore the enormous amount of homeless people on the streets. Every single one of them, has had an individual, unique and personal journey to where they are now.

We all enter in the same way, created equal, given no orientation, no hand books or how-to guide. We cannot program our GPS for life, there is no map to help us navigate through this experience. Nobody knows why we are here and what we are supposed to do. We all get directions from others to guide us, from the people who are close to us, to wherever that destination might be.

Having freedom, liberty and free will to make our choices brings us to the street of our own choice, and since we made the decisions and choices, we own our destinations. When others’ imposed will dictates the ownership of our journey, we may not own it, but in that case we must still live with it. Every one of us is given different directions, none of us knows what the destination is, and we hope to own the directions and place on Happy Street.

This story is about the directions that led to the streets that have no name.

This is a place nobody wants to go to and nobody asks for these directions. The directions to these streets can be tougher to accept and handle than the street itself. No matter who we get them from, no matter how bad they are and how much we protest the wrong turns, we arrive and we have only ourselves to find our way back home.

Those that gave these directions are impossible to find at this destination, which will leave you sad, lonely, and searching for new directions. On these streets, most would tell you, they aren’t having fun or finding happiness. It’s a hard life, none of the comforts of life most people enjoy exist out on these streets. The people on these streets are constantly in harm’s way, their well-being is not secure and constantly at stake. They are judged, defined, persecuted, punished and misunderstood. They are targets for the label-obsessed society we live in, labeled as bad, lazy, drug addicts or mentally ill but that’s not always the case.

Getting out of the situation is next to impossible without the love and support of family, friends and society, who can give the directions back home, to Happy Street.

Out of the dissipating fog rides a man on a bicycle.

His name is Eddie. They call him, “Fast Eddie” on the street. He’s been on these streets for five years. Riding his bicycle on the avenue, his headset on, playing U2, “Where the Streets have no Name,” just like these streets. The music continues in his ears, as he rides fast on his bicycle past the homeless camp the County Sheriff’s Department is closing down. Finishing up with the night’s work, they are removing the people. It’s either moving day or jail for them. Left behind are their piles of former life belongings, clothes, pictures, whatever they had in their camp, now a pile of garbage to be gone through by other homeless.

The homeless are the favorite target for police. They are easy and everyone on the street has, at one time or another, been engaged by them.

“Fast Eddie’ has, so, he moves fast by them.

Eddie is unique on these streets. To start, he grew up in New Jersey but has traveled the country and spent significant time in several states. Over the last ten years, since his wife passed away, he’s been exercising and exploring his free spirit, even exploiting it.

Eddie hates labels and would deny he’s any that are placed on him. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy, slightly autistic and neurologically impaired, a worry wart, like Atlas, he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. He prefers to live and let live, and love one another, but has strong beliefs and he doesn’t shy away from letting them be known. He’s an activist for anything he thinks is a righteous and just cause. He stands up for what is right and selflessly puts himself out in the process, which has cost him. He doesn’t like to be serious, if he doesn’t have to. Always trying to make life fun, he maintains a great sense of humor and can definitely be misunderstood.

With exceptions, he has some firm beliefs he won’t compromise. One of them is authorities. He exercises his rights and they find that he is difficult to prosecute. He’s different in a lot of other ways, as well. He doesn’t steal, rob or take from anyone or any store, as some out here do, and he’s had all his belongings stolen ten times over.

He cleans up after himself and never leaves a mess, he encourage others to do the same. He’s considered weird by these streets, but those that know him, like “Killer Pat,” will tell you the truth.

“From what I seen and know, out here, on these streets, Fast Eddie’s not weird at all,” says Killer Pat. “I know him for a few years, and we hung around that internet café and casino. They all think he’s weird ‘cause they see he cleans up after himself. He even keeps his cigarette remains and any candy wrappers in his pocket until he finds a garbage can. He does the right thing, all the time, never f—s anybody and will help you if you need help. Once I saw him carrying some old ladies’ groceries down the Avenue and up the three story buildings stairs to her door. He gives the police no reason to engage him. I see him work hard, he got several part time jobs. He waves a sign for that mattress store on the avenue and caters part time. He’s a referee, yea, he officiates sports but not as much as he once did. In my opinion, ‘Fast Eddie’ is a righteous brother, once you get to know him.”

The post Directions to the Dumpster first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Adding More Dust onto a Threadbare Empire

Barbara Lee: I’m very terrified with regard to what we see taking place. And the signs are there. When you talk about shutting down the media, putting out their alternative facts, banning dissent and opposition, criticizing people who are exercising their First Amendment rights; trying to get people to believe, really, the distortions that they’re putting out there. That, to me, is very scary. It’s very dangerous. And you see also the corporate and military consolidation of the public sector. You see efforts to privatize schools. When you just look at the nominees, you see very few people with experience in the public sector. And so when you have the corporate sector merging with the military sectors, and when you have cabinet officials who have historically said they want to dismantle the cabinets and the agencies that they’re running, that I’m very terrified that we are beginning to see an erosion of our democratic values and an erosion of the public sector.

Hellraiser' cartoonist wants to offend, help others criticize government | CBC News

The new normal is of course abnormal, antithetical to being a human being, or at least a being that is Homo Sapiens before say, errr, the industrial revolution, or in the new parlance, before the Fourth  Industrial Revolution, or before the internet of all things . . . .

Schooling was bad, for decades, for sure, but redeemable in some sense. Things like educational systems are fixable, or they were before the Zoom Doom decade has begun to unfold. Face to face discourse was always discordant, yet the only way for some sort of consensus or arbitrated whole, but now, with Zoom Doom, etc., and especially now that many western (whites) people want to isolate, stay at home glued to this evil screen, as if glued to some sordid 6-hour daily soap opera, really  want to do things on line, do things sheltered, well, the new species of Western (white) Adam and Eve is, well, not the people I want in my trench if the revolution ever happens . . . .

Which will not unfold, this “revolution,” if this generation and the next one is bred to take a $1000 a month UBI, takes the pink and blue pills/vaccines, and continues to listen to the putridity that is commercialism-retail-PR-spin mixed in with the noise of the day, the propaganda of them all – 2,700 billionaires pointing their antennae in all the right directions for more and more control, overlording and alas gouging the economic and socio-economic and political power from the super majority, us.

So many people I talk with, gentrified with a bit of a retirement, or at-home income, plus the house paid off, more or less, and fairly good health, they are blaming the victims, blaming the poor, blaming the kids who got the wrong degrees and who are now in debt.

The divide and conquer is subtle with democratic voters, and overt with MAGA mutts.

This is the scam of capitalism – the people who have “made it” have done so on the backs of people, and many in capitalism make money on people who are struggling, who are lower income, who are not part of the 20 percent. Divide and conquer. Classify us. Put us on a spectrum. On a scale. Rate us. Give us a score, some detailed credit report, educational report, health report, activity report. Google and the other gulag thinkers, they have the tools to put us all on dashboards, even as I type out this screed, the data and the nanoseconds of my moves will be recorded.

Making money on fines, penalties, arrests, convictions, probation, and then all those middle-middle-middlemen making money on turning this financial screw or flipping this toggle or that investing switch to exact more and more economic pain, more and more generalized anxiety disorder pain. You can’t just do things without added-on layer after layer of people and systems taking a penny here, a dime there, a dollar over there, and a 20 percent or more cut there and there.

The reality is this country is threadbare, and county governments do not have the resources for that D-minus nationwide infrastructure that needs tending to. Counties and states do not have the money for sustaining public health, safety and well-being. We are in a system of money that banks have “loaned” communities putting them into bankruptcy. The loan sharks are large and sophisticated, repo experts of the highest order, foreclosure kings on a grand scale.

Imagine the concept of no clinics in communities, no diabetes clinics, public school nurses and counselors doled out like rare truffles (like one nurse per five schools, one counselor per 400 kids!). Imagine now in Oregon, the current college enrollment is down 20 percent. Think. Where does that go, where do we make up the work people have at community colleges? How do those worthy students move forward? Fulfillment centers? Two college degrees and working in a warehouse at $15 an hour (if you are lucky to be in a few states with that minimum wage) and praying for a universal basic/bumbling income?

And that discourse of a UBI is insane, no? No talk about public ownership of utilities, pharmaceuticals, medicine, hospitals, clinics, state banks, guaranteed housing, food security, and public transportation that can only be imagined by Phillip K. Dick. And I am not talking flying taxis, but clean trollies and constant schedules. Imagine, the end of the car for many people – that internal combustion disease maker, the thing that sits 90 percent of the time in a driveway or parking space. Imagine.

Nope. It’s the transfer of $1,200 a month basic income to the rich and the richest. A basic income in super predatory capitalism. Imagine. That is the paradigm. Sort of the same insanity of a Bill McKibben or Liz Warren saying a cleaner military – one running on biodiesel and one that recycles missile parts, on that repurposes medical waste and builds global bases at a net zero waste LEED Platinum level. Solar panel-wind turbine air force drone bases. All ships and carriers running on forever fuel, nuclear energy. Imagine that insanity. From the greenies.

The democrats and republicans are vicious, are psychopaths, and Americans on both sides of that manure pile who believe this is an exceptionalist society will believe anything to hold up their version of reality. They will wrap themselves up in the red, white and blue in varying ways. Voting is their emancipation from actually doing and acting.

Listen to this freak of a man, Trump, and watch the media just flatten down. Think about how impotent ” rel=”noopener nofollow ” target=”_blank”>mainline media is:

AMY GOODMAN: So, by April 2017, just three months into his presidency, Trump launched a Tomahawk missile attack on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. Jeremy, you say in your series, “Like Pavlov’s dogs, the bipartisan war machine responded accordingly.” Let’s go to some of the media coverage of Trump’s attack on Syria. This is MSNBC anchor Brian Williams referring to a Pentagon video of U.S. missiles fired at Syria as “beautiful” three times in 30 seconds.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Go into greater detail. We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit?

AMY GOODMAN: That was MSNBC’s Brian Williams. And this is CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

FAREED ZAKARIA: I think Donald Trump became president of the United States. I think this was actually a big moment, because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war. He told President Obama, “You cannot do this without the authorization of Congress.” He seemed unconcerned with global norms. President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose.

And yet, this country is waxing poetic about the “clear skies over our cities,” and how the lockdown has “given me space to think, to reflect, to evolve,” and “we are really getting closer to our roots” THANKS to Covid-19.

Dangerous-dangerous thinking. This is it, though … as more and more people (sic) who can work from home (not real work) accept permanent correspondence school-work-medicine-business. No big questioning of the motivations of the tech world, the billionaires, the pigs of AI and Surveillance. No bigger demands for this shit-hole country. No demands for holding all corporations accountable. No pitchforks and tar and feathers for the politicians, the cops, the multimillionaires, the billionaires and their evil seeds.

It is a passive culture, a giant joystick, operation, a couch potato citizenry. The Covid-19 plan-demic fit the narrative so-so well.

It is now rubber-necking to the tenth power. Almost everyone in the United Snakes of BlackRock and then those fleas on the tail of that US dog, Canada, UK, and Australia, is generally looking like a giant cast in a Jerry Springer outtake. The celebrity culture, the thugs of politics, the billionaire lizard class, the entire mauling media, the incompetence of the general population who self-identify as MAGA deplorables and/or middling liberals who believe in Manifest Destiny and Exceptionalism with a little bit of LGBTQA spin, it is the seeding of more and more weeks, months and years of stupidity. To mask or not to mask, to listen to this group of scientists, or that swath of virologists, that is the question.

No deep discussion about how broken the system(s) was/were way back when, and then this rewritten history covering up the bulldozing through the Regan years and up to now. Gutting rights, gutting checks and balances for Wall Street, Banking, Real Estate, oligarchs, polluters, thieves in suits, and the thuggery of cops and troops. Shock and awe, with this crappy media and amusing ourselves not to death but to neutering and spaying glee.

Imagine over 200 rural hospitals shut down just since 2006. Imagine simple compound fracture medical bill of $80,000. Just imagine, brand new aircraft carriers and supersonic jets, football stadiums filled with shiny bullets, and entire shipping ports filled with drones and bombs. This country has no checks and balances to demand human and township/city/state assistance during fires, hurricanes, floods and flu pandemics. No safety nets, no massive shut downs of the perpetrators of fire, poison, imprisonment, shock and awe on the streets by the murdering cops.

Then, we argue how much the thieves are hiding, ripping us off for, and on and on, the broken system.

Some of the most despicable people now are on mainstream media and in the odd-ball media, and the academicians are scurrying like the careerists they are, and then the homegrown extremists, the pussy Trump (not a man’s man or a woman’s man), the murder incorporated men and women on the thin blue line, and on and on. We make those old “banana republic” epithets against our brethren south of the border seem tame. We are a thug nation, a new gilded age society of 18-carrat 5,000 square foot bathrooms for the Botox, and a 1988 Chevy van for the fulfillment worker families parked in an alley.

It all seems like a giant mental anguish experiment.

Mr. Fish Toon- Trump's Yoda - Democratic Underground

The news-news-news is a constant drone of national and international frayed stories, and in the eye of the storm, we have community after community in the USA broken, breaking apart, sliding and of course it never was meant to be a system that is for, by, with, because of the people.

This all brings me to the deplorables, the across-the-street neighbors, whose boys decided my 12 by 14 inch sign that states we believe in a woman’s right to choose and black lives matter, etc., should not only be stolen, but that my car’s window bashed in because of that sign.

Yeah, two deputy sheriff calls, two citations, and then two separate no trespassing citations, and then more and more of my time spent on tracking these cases. So many moments of my mental state thrown into the criminal injustice system. How many phone calls from county courts folk and victims rights folk telling me in their 20 or 30 or 40 years they have never seen such a backlog, a cluster fuck.

Oregon’s lockdown measures, and now property crimes – this putrid 39-year-old boy-man, all 6’5” of him, caught by a neighbor throwing a 10 pound paving stone in my car window and then prancing around the street with hands up and juking as if he just made a dunk.

Then my spouse and I start digging into this “family,” this upstanding MAGA family, and lo and behold, the mother has been evicted from two homes, and she and her current husband filed for bankruptcy in CA more than five times. The perpetrator of the criminal mischievous also has a fine white boy, blued eye semi-man rap sheet – DUIs in CA, and felony charges for, err, animal abuse, AKA cock fighting. This guy’s CA record shows he failed to appear, failed to do court-mandate classes in animal abuse. Charges dropped.

As you peel back layer after layer in America – the blond mother, prancing around the neighborhood telling anyone who will listen how upstanding she and her breed are – the dirty laundry comes flying in your face.

So these anti-Chinese, pro-MAGA mutts, they have some ridiculous business of beach footwear (whatever that is) and they stamp a sea turtle on them, and on their web site, they say “from every purchase we support the sea turtles.” Imagine that, no sea turtle environmental group listed, and alas, these anti-Chinese/China MAGA get those loafers and flipflops from, well, you guessed it – China.

The court systems are super blogged. The property crimes are going unpunished. Cases are being tossed out. Retraining orders are not being followed up on. And this is just one small slice of the angle in America where things are falling apart. Under lockdown. Before lockdown. Beyond lockdown.

Too much on the American mindset’s bandwidth. Again, the mess of crap that comes into Facebook, on Twitter, on those hate channels, on MSNBC, Fox, et al. The paraded queens of stupidity, and the kings of crime, every minute of the day, dragging any attention span left in the American collective intellect/consciousness, pulled out.

This is America. I have former colleagues who are retired, who have their little house on the gentrified hill in this or that town. They believe in this shit-hole country. They think Trump is aberration. They think that all he’s done will go on in perpetuity (lifetime appointments of judges). They believe in this shit-hole system, just putting a few new lipstick shades on the predatory-parasitic-disaster pig that is capitalism left of center, center or right.

POSTS — Lifesigns

You get a chunk of cement thrown into your car window, and you are thrown into the morass that is/was/will be the dead pool of America. All systems no-go. All entertainment zones displaying all those sacrifice zones. All those Netflix documentaries, all those mini-series, all those years and years of drama and soap operas. It’s here, the lobotomy, the collective lobotomy.

A nation of 160 million and counting developing one or more  chronic diseases. One out of five (easily) with recurring depression. A middle manager class and intellectual class stuck in the inertia of cynicism. The gilded age that pushes more and more people into poverty and learned helplessness. This is the country of proud to be stupid . . . proud to be overweight, diabetic, hypertensive and yet, “lock them up . . . give ‘em a good beating . . . shoot them on Pennsylvania Avenue . . . give them a good dump into the east bay with a sack of cement.”

This wimp of a human (bully of that species), Trump, and his suits and ties that are warped (every single GOP before, during and after his death) and who  hold up the violence and extrajudicial beatings and murders this un-man Trump and his un-man Stephen Miller and his Sessions and Barr, putrid puffer fish in Florsheims, demand, we are there, man.

Chris Hedges: We’ve personalized the problem in Trump without realizing that Trump is the product of a failed democracy. Trump is what rises up from the bowels of a decayed and degenerate system. And you can get rid of Trump, but you’re not going to get rid of what the sociologist Émile Durkheim called that “anomie” that propels societies to engage in deeply self-destructive behavior.

Trump 2020 - Mr. Fish

Thanks to Mr. Fish and his incredible mind and drawings/art! Watch his documentary — https://www.mrfishmovie.com/

The post Adding More Dust onto a Threadbare Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.