Category Archives: Socialism

Tatuy TV: A Revolutionary Munitions Factory

Logo commemorating Tatuy TV’s tenth anniversary

With a trajectory of over 10 years, Tatuy Televisión Comunistaria is a reference in Venezuela and abroad, producing a variety of content which is essential for everyone looking to understand and follow events in Venezuela. In this interview we talked to two of its members, Juan Lenzo and Iris Rodríguez, about the history of Tatuy TV, how it’s organized, how they see the role of community media in the context of the Bolivarian Revolution. We also talked about the series “Chávez the Radical”, one of the more recent projects by Tatuy TV.

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Ricardo Vaz:  Tatuy TV recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. How did it all begin?

Tatuy TV:  Tatuy TV was formally created in August 2007. But we had already been working since 2006, out of political motivations. We are a group of young revolutionaries from Mérida trying to make use of communication/media as a tool for political struggle.

Our project started off as a traveling cine-foro (cinema-forum). We would travel to different communities in Mérida, show a film, and then have a discussion with the people. Out of this work, which lasted for months, came the idea of a TV station. So a group of 14 people gathered around this project and became the founding members of Tatuy TV. These people came from social movements, some were journalists, AV producers, revolutionary militants, we had many different backgrounds.

RV: So you go ahead and launch a TV station?

TTV: We kicked off the project for the TV station in 2007. To broadcast on television in Venezuela one has to apply for a permit to broadcast in the radio-electric spectrum, which naturally belongs to the Venezuelan state. We started this process in 2007 but it wasn’t until 2012 that our request was approved and Tatuy TV went on the air as channel 48 in the spectrum.

What did we do between 2007 and 2012? Normally a TV station that’s not on the air doesn’t do much. But we had a lot to do! First of all we had to train ourselves, both in terms of the technical aspects and the conceptual, political/ideological ones. We also went on with the cine-foro activities, interacting with communities, taking part in community and political organization tasks, as well as gearing up for what was coming once the station was up and running.

RV: But were you already producing content?

TTV: Tatuy was born with the interview we did with the singer Manu Chao in 2006. That was the first production out of Tatuy. During these first years we did not produce much because we were still learning, but there was already some audiovisual production that essentially from 2009-2010 started to become more regular. And we also found ways to distribute content on the web, through Youtube and social media, which allowed us to distribute our content before our station went live.

RV: And then the TV channel went live in 2012?

TTV: That’s another story, and a tragic one! We started broadcasting on June 14, 2012, thanks to an endowment from RED TV through the Cuba-Venezuela agreement. But we were on the air for only one and a half to two years, because we had constant, and suspicious, technical problems with transmission.

Our first serious technical problem was before the presidential elections of October 7, 2012, which Chávez won. Tatuy’s signal went down for several days. At the time we managed to organize, solve the technical issues, buy new equipment, and with the help of RED TV, which is a state company that services public and community media, we went back on the air.

Then Chávez died and in the April 2013 elections, when Maduro was running, we suffered another sabotage. We recovered once more, and later during the guarimbas (violent street protests) in 2014 we lost the signal for good. From that point on we could not recover, we could not guarantee the technical stability of the station to go on broadcasting.

RV: Did this force you to rethink Tatuy TV’s mission?

TTV: Yes, at this moment we asked ourselves: what are we going to do? Because we did not have the resources to solve these technical problems. Even though the state has a policy of supporting community media, the support towards Tatuy was never reliable, despite the state having ample resources to ensure that an experiment like this one can go on.

This forced us to think about our vision for Tatuy. We knew that we had to keep producing content, to keep training ourselves, and to continue taking part in social and political struggles. And we understood that Tatuy is not an end in itself but an instrument of struggle. Therefore we started thinking and discussing, that if we conceive of the TV channel as a cannon that fires content, then let us reinvent ourselves and become a munitions factory.

In other words, we create content that is then fired by other cannons. That’s more or less the logic that we’ve followed in recent years now that we are no longer on the air. But this way we’ve had a bigger reach and a bigger impact, which has allowed us to place our content, our ideas, in community media, not just in Venezuela but also throughout Latin America, as well as in Venezuelan public media, where we have a chance of reaching a wider audience.

So in some sense this crisis ended up being a gift. It was a crisis that was enough to put a fledgling community station like Tatuy out of business, and, in fact, this has happened to almost all community media in Venezuela, which are struggling, broken, practically vanished. What allowed us to survive was this understanding of our role. And furthermore we did not want to become a private medium, where there’s an owner calling the shots, paying salaries. Rather this is a militant space.

RV: Let’s talk about the role of the media. It’s easy enough to understand it for private media, and the same can be said for state media. But what’s the role of community media, speaking of Tatuy TV in particular?

TTV: This has been a topic of constant debate, community media and their role. We have to go back to the origins of community media, which appear as expressions of concrete struggles, and not the other way around. At a certain moment the idea of a community medium was flipped on its head and fetishized, so first you created the outlet and then you went out to look for a struggle and a community. This inverted process hollowed out community media and many of them became private companies, with advertising revenues, salaries, titles, hierarchical separation of tasks (e.g. someone responsible for collecting cables, someone dedicated to cleaning, etc). They would also have a director, and quite often a given political backer behind the outlet, like a mayor or an MP.

Chavismo in Venezuela, having protagonist and participatory democracy as a premise, has tried to create many different organizational spaces. There have been lots of efforts, some successful and others not so much. But the goal has always been to strengthen this idea of protagonist and participatory democracy not as the end in itself, but as a stepping stone towards what Chávez proposed as the communal state. Therefore in principle a community medium should be charged with collaborating in this process of jumping from protagonist and participatory democracy to the communal state, to popular power, or what the classicists call the dictatorship of the proletariat.

These are then the tasks that a community outlet should embrace. We at Tatuy are very clear about our role. Tatuy is a weapon of communicational struggle, in the media and outside, with the goal of deepening the revolutionary process and building socialism as an historical project. This is our mission. If Tatuy does not fulfill this, and does not contribute towards this, then it ceases to make sense and we should look for different means of struggle.

Covering the May 20 presidential elections (Photo: Tatuy TV)

RV: How does Tatuy TV operate in terms of resources?

TTV: For us the most important “source” is voluntary work. Many of us work for the state (and right now the salaries are very low!), and the rest of our militant work is dedicated to Tatuy. There is a small group of people that currently work full time at Tatuy, either because they’re studying or looking for work. But that’s the basic principle, voluntary work and militancy. Another source of revenue for Tatuy are the contributions from these members that have jobs, as well as donations from comrades and collaborators.

We have also had projects financed by the state, but always in exchange for something. In other words, we are paid something in exchange for producing a series of contents, or workshops, or a community organizing process, etc. And we’ve produced lots of stuff with resources for example from the social responsibility fund of CONATEL (state telecommunications company), or from the federal government council, or from the Ministry of Communications, but always in exchange for something. Nothing has been gifted to us. But one thing that is very clear to us is that we have never accepted commercial advertising as a source of revenue, because we believe that amounts to surrendering principles. It would mean embracing a logic that would question the nature and political orientation of Tatuy.

Therefore that is how Tatuy has survived, with a militant, consistent and independent editorial line. Many people ask us: who is Tatuy’s “political godfather”? Which minister, or vice-minister, or MP, is behind Tatuy?

RV: In some sense it’s Chávez himself!

TTV: Yes, exactly, it’s Chávez and nobody else! That’s our response. Who is your godfather? Chávez! Everything that has been built, the conditions that allowed for a project like Tatuy, and our vision, they all emanate from Chávez’s legacy and the project of building socialism that he proposed.

RV: In a private outlet, like you said, there’s someone who is the director and someone charged with picking up cables. Is there a rotation of tasks in Tatuy?

TTV: Yes. There’s no boss here, nobody is going to tell you that you need to pick up the equipment or clean up, and, of course, we’re not going to hire someone to do those things. If we are looking to construct a new model, than it has to materialize in our practice, not just remain in speeches. So we started with basic things, rotating tasks like watching over the space, cleaning, putting away equipment, making sure everything is in good condition, ensuring that the spaces are well kept.

But moreover, nowadays in the current crisis situation, a new interesting experiment has emerged. In order for our material needs not to interfere with our work, here everyone needs to know how to cook! Every day someone is responsible for cooking for everybody else, so that the others can focus on work, and this is rotated. The same thing applies to buying food supplies, everyone has their turn.

And the same applies to the tasks that are more specific for a media outlet. There isn’t a single person in charge of taking photos because they are the ones that do it best. Here if someone doesn’t know how to use a camera they have to learn, just like they have to learn how do video editing and motage. Everyone needs to be an integral member, as well as develop politically. So there isn’t a division of labor, certainly not between manual and intellectual labor.

RV: How many members does Tatuy have at the moment?

TTV: We are 14, and 9 are women. That’s also something interesting, the fact that many comrades from revolutionary feminist movements have joined Tatuy, and we have looked to consider and develop awareness on the issue of the “care economy”. In other words, when we assign tasks we always need to be mindful of ensuring our collective well-being. How we take care of ourselves, our physical, intellectual and emotional integrity, so we can commit to our revolutionary work in the best possible conditions.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we look to distribute work as fairly as possible, without any division of manual and intellectual labor, there are tendencies. There are people that feel more keen and comfortable, for example, doing photographic work, and therefore we also create the conditions so they can become good photographers.

Preparing to interview Venezuelan writer and historian Luis Britto García (Photo: Tatuy TV)

RV: Is there any relation between the work at Tatuy and the other jobs members might have?

TTV: That’s another interesting point. For example, I (Juan) am currently teaching political economy at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. This task, of organizing a syllabus and teaching, was given to me by Tatuy. In other words, part of my responsibility at Tatuy is also to reach these spaces like universities. Similarly another member of Tatuy is in charge of audiovisual coordination at Unearte.

So then Tatuy has an impact on this front, which allows us to define study programs, methods, community programs. We have managed to increase our range of activities as a medium, and reach new spaces of struggle. That is to say that our impact is not just in producing audiovisual content but also in these other spaces, like classrooms, where we can socialize the knowledge and ideas that are being generated at Tatuy.

RV: In practical terms, how do you decide which contents to produce, and how tasks are distributed for each project?

TTV: Every January we shut ourselves here, and sometimes we overdo it. That has been part of our learning curve, sometimes we would be halfway through the year still working on a plan! But in recent years we have been much more disciplined and precise in elaborating a yearly plan. So every January we sit down and discuss. We take stock of the political developments of the previous year and do a prospective analysis: what do we expect from the upcoming year?

Based on that we do a political analysis of the current context, in terms of political relations, popular subjectivity, and from there we start thinking about production lines. And we also evaluate previous productions, what impact they had, which should continue, which should be dropped, which should be picked up again, and as a result of all that we draw the editorial policy for the year. This policy in turn should be adjusted to a document that outlines the editorial framework of Tatuy, the broad strokes of our mission.

RV: We have to ask: how did you come up with the idea of “Chávez the Radical“?

TTV: The starting point is the fact that Tatuy and its militants are political sons and daughters of Chávez. Our militancy, our process of political development, with the exception of a couple of older comrades, happens with Chávez. The thing is that, at first sight, Chávez looks like an ideologically eclectic figure, that one day meets with businessmen and the next day expropriates a company. So apparently he is a contradictory figure.

But we have an assessment, which we explained in an article that outlined our vision of “Chávez the Radical”, that essentially Chávez’s political trend as time went on was towards radicalisation. This doesn’t discard the fact that at certain moments he had to take a step back, make tactical alliances, negotiate in order to avoid conflicts with powerful actors that could not be confronted at the time. Nevertheless Chávez’s political trend was always towards radicalisation.

This radicalizing trajectory is actually the subject of our latest episode. Chávez kicks off his project convinced of the possibility of a “humane capitalism”, third-way politics. But after the coup in 2002, after the attacks from the US empire, Chávez said “I am forced to declare the anti-imperialist character of the revolution”. And following that, faced with the dynamics of class struggle in the Venezuelan political reality, Chávez sees it necessary to define a path, and the closest or more realistic way to guarantee the well-being of the people, was socialism. Therefore it was always a path of radicalisation. If one looks at Chávez’s speeches, right before falling ill, these are the clearest, deepest, most radical and most revolutionary speeches he produced.

RV: What is then the goal of this series?

TTV: Simply put, it’s to rescue and portray Chávez in this process of radicalisation, this radical Chávez, which from our point of view is the authentic Chávez. Chávez’s radicalism is not an attribute, an accessory, it’s immanent, inherent to the figure of Chávez and his political project. That’s how Chávez was. So this is an homage to Chávez, to the radical Chávez, and beyond that it’s a tool for our struggle, because it allows us to take part in the ideological battle inside the Bolivarian Revolution having Chávez’s thought and legacy as the starting point.

RV: In the current context of economic war and imperialist aggression, there’s a debate about the positioning of the media with respect to criticism. How does Tatuy manage this need to remain critical while at the same the tendency is to close ranks?

TTV: For us it’s clear that there are two enemies in every revolution. The direct, obvious enemy, starting with the US empire and the traditional capitalist right-wing forces. The bourgeoisie, as a class, is the historical, classical, open, obvious enemy. But there’s another enemy that’s typical of revolutionary processes and which emerges from within, which Chávez compared with this political figure of the Leopard1 (“gato-pardismo”), which is what we call reformism.

Tatuy believes the Venezuelan revolution has two main enemies, imperialism and the national bourgeoisie on one hand, and reformism on the other. These are two permanent battlefronts, chavismo cannot avoid it. Chavismo fortunately is not a homogeneous, obedient mass. It’s a space of conflict, where multiple visions are expressed; in short, it’s a space of class struggle. Therefore above all we recognize that any revolution in Venezuela from here on out will go through chavismo. That’s one of Chávez’s great achievements, that there is a critical mass that accepted socialism as an historical and emancipatory project. This is no small feat.

So we insert ourselves in that arena of struggle. We are chavistas and we consider that inside chavismo there’s a struggle to be waged. There are reformist sectors, capitalist sectors, popular revolutionary sectors, and the struggle is to conquer hegemony inside chavismo, to conquer the subjectivity of chavismo. And that’s the battle that we embrace. We critically assume the revolutionary political construction, but always, without a doubt, inside chavismo.

• First published in Investig’action

  1. This political term refers to the sentence “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same” said by one of the characters of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s book “The Leopard”, later made into a film. In a revolutionary context this reference is targeted at those that only look to make superficial changes, leaving the existing power structures untouched.

For His 200th Birthday, Honoring Marx As An Activist

In 1888, Marx wrote, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

On this 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx we focus on Marx as a political activist, rather than what he is best known for, an economist and philosopher who wrote some of the most important analyses explaining capitalism and putting forward an alternative economic model.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” He believed political change stems from the history of conflicts between people who are exploited against the people who are exploiting them. This exploitation leads to conflict and revolt. Marx posited revolution as “the driving force of history.”

The root of the political struggle for Marx was the economic system creating a struggle between classes. This conflict has varied throughout history; e.g., the serfs vs. the lords in the Feudal Era, the slaves vs. their owners in the era of slavery, and today between workers and their bosses or capitalists.

Iconic picture of the 1848 revolution in Berlin. Unknown artist. Public domain.

Marx Was a Political Activist Working to Change the World

In an interview with Immanuel WallersteinMarcello Musto described Marx’s political activism, noting:

For all his life, Marx was not merely a scholar isolated among the books of London’s British Museum, but always a militant revolutionary involved in the struggles of his epoch. Due to his activism, he was expelled from France, Belgium and Germany in his youth. He was also forced to go into exile in England when the revolutions of 1848 were defeated. He promoted newspapers and journals and always supported labor movements in all the ways he could. Later, from 1864 to 1872, he became the leader of the International Working Men’s Association, the first transnational organization of the working class and, in 1871, defended the Paris Commune, the first socialist experiment in history.

Wallerstein adds that Marx played a major role in organizing people on an international level and that “Marx’s political activity also involved journalism…. He worked as a journalist to get an income, but he saw his contributions as a political activity. He had not any sense of being a neutral. He was always a committed journalist.”

At 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government, he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844.

In 1848, Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto.  “The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first International where he was active in organizing the International’s annual congresses.

Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships like the former Soviet Union that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the state, but which class controlled the state. A society can only be socialist if power is in the hands of workers themselves.

Photo: Dean Chahim/flickr/cc)

Our Tasks: Expose Inequality, Create New Economic Systems

Marx’s critique of capitalism focuses on how it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth. Marxism was seen as extinct after the Reagan-Thatcher eras and the end of the Soviet Union. But, now after nearly 40 years of neoliberalism, the inequality of deregulated global capitalism has made the occupy meme of the 99 percent versus the one percent a factual reality.

The Independent reports on Marx’s anniversary:

Unsurprisingly, several decades of neoliberalism have been the greatest testament to how a deregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw, siphons wealth to the top 1 per cent or even 0.1 per cent. Recent figures show that the wealthiest eight billionaires in the world (whom you could fit into a people carrier) have as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population, or some 3. 5 billion people. Astonishingly, the equivalent figure was the 62 wealthiest billionaires in 2016. Back in 2010 it was more than 300. This is how rapidly wealth is being sucked up to the top – this may be termed the vacuum-up effect as opposed to the myth of trickle-down economics.

In the United States, three people hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of USians “have zero or negative net worth.” That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination. In some US corporations, the CEO earns more than 1,000 times the average worker; i.e., workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as the CEO makes in just one year.

The contradiction between extreme wealth and widespread poverty and economic insecurity, between the efficient production of goods and services and the refusal to share the prosperity created by efficiency, and between the use of natural resources and the destruction of the planet and enormous threats of climate change are leading people to see the failures of capitalism.

In 2017, the National Review reported that a poll found as many as 40 percent of people in the U.S. “now prefer socialism to capitalism.” A 2016 YouGov survey found that respondents younger than 30 rated socialism more favorably than capitalism, 43 percent vs. 32 percent. “Socialism” was the most looked-up word on Merriam-Webster’s site in 2015. “Socialism has been near the top of our online dictionary look-up list for several years,” said editor-at-large Peter Sokolowsk.

In 2014, David Harvey, a top Marxist academic, wrote, in Seventeen Contradictions And the End of Capitalism, that the extreme contradictions are leading to major transformations:

“It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play.”

How will that change occur? The answer is in part up to what those working for change do. Youssef El-Gingihy writes in the Independent of one likely possibility:

The transition of capitalism to an alternative political and economic system will likely play out over a protracted period, even if it is catalyzed by revolution. Much in the same way that feudalism evolved into capitalism through the dual industrial (economic) and French revolutions (political), in which the bourgeoisie superseded the aristocratic order preceded by the 17th-century English civil war.

We see the slow transition in process with the development of a myriad of economic democracy projects that give workers control of their employment through worker cooperatives, give communities control over their development through land trusts, give people direct control over budget decisions through participatory budgeting and democratize banking through public banks. These are some efforts to create an economy that serves the people without limiting control to workers, whose numbers are shrinking due to automation. Many of these new economic models are in their early stages of development.

Marx believed that:

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

The lessons of Karl Marx show that our tasks are to heighten class conflict by exposing the reality of abhorrent inequality and create new systems to replace failing capitalism.

Greater Of Two Evils: Why The Democratic Party Is Worse Than The Republican Party For 85% Of The U.S. Population

How to conceive of the two-party system

Lesser of two evils

Among liberals and the different types of socialists, when the subject of the Democratic Party comes up, there are at least two variations. One is the familiar liberal argument that the Democratic Party is the “lesser of two evils”. For them, the Republican Party is the source of most, if not all, problems while the Democratic Party is presented as shortsighted, weak and/or incompetent bumblers. Among some of the more compromising members of the Green Party, the lesser of two evils manifests itself when it implores its voters to “vote in safe states”.

There are a number of reasons why I will claim that the Democratic Party is not the lesser of two evils. But for now, I want to point out that the lesser of two evils has at its foundation a political spectrum which is organized linearly with conservatives and fascists on the right. Along the left there are liberals, followed by social democrats, state socialists, and anarchists on the extreme left. All the forces moving from liberals leftward is broadly categorized as “progressive.” What this implies is that there are only quantitative  differences between being a liberal and being any kind of socialist. In this scenario, being a liberal is somehow closer to being a socialist than being a liberal is to a being a conservative. However, there is an elephant in the room, and the elephant is capitalism.

What unites all socialists — social democrats, Maoists, Trotskyists, council communists and anarchists — is opposition to capitalism. What divides us from liberals, whether they are inside or outside the Democratic Party, is that liberals are for capitalism. In relation to the economic system, liberals are closer to conservatives than they are to socialists of any kind. So, the “lesser of two evils “argument is based on the expectation that socialists will ignore the capitalist economic system and make believe that capitalism is somehow progressive. It might have been possible to argue this case 60 years ago, but today capitalism makes its profits on war, slave prison labor and fictitious capital. Characterizing this as “progress” is ludicrous.

The parties are interchangeable

Most anarchists and various varieties of Leninists claim there is no difference between the parties. They say that capitalists control both parties and it is fruitless to make any distinctions. I agree they are both capitalist parties, but what most socialists fail to do is point out that, in addition to protecting the interests of capitalists as Republicans do, the Democratic Party: a) presents itself as representing the middle and lower classes; and b) stands in the way of the formation of a real opposition to the elites.

The second reason I disagree with the idea that the two parties are simply interchangeable is that it fails to make a distinction between the interests of the ruling and upper classes (Republicans) on the one hand, and the upper middle class (mostly Democrats) on the other. There are real class differences between elites that should not dissolved.

The Democrats are the greater of two evils

The argument I will make in this article is that the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party for about 85% of the population. I make this argument as a Council Communist, and my argument in no way implies voting for Republicans, Greens or even voting at all. Before giving you my reasons for why the Democratic Party is worse for most people I want to give you a sense of how I came up with the figure of 85% .

Old money vs new money and the class composition in the United States

Sociologists have some disagreements over how many classes there are in the United States and what occupations cover what social classes. While some might have a bone to pick about my percentages, I am confident that I am at least in the ballpark. The ruling class constitutes the 1% (or less) of the population and the upper class another 5%. What these classes have in common is that they all live off finance capital and do not have to work. This is what has been called “old money”. This old money had its investments in extractive industries like oil, mining and the war industry. This is the stronghold of the Republican Party.

The upper middle classes consist of doctors, lawyers, architects, and senior managers who make a lot of money, but have to work long hours. It also includes scientists, engineers as well as media professionals such as news commentators, magazine and newspaper editors, college administrators and religious authorities. Yet there are tensions between the elites and the upper middle class. The upper middle class represents “new money” and makes their profits from scientific innovation, the electronics industry, including computers and the Internet, among other avenues. This class constitutes roughly 10% of the population. The upper middle class is the stronghold of the Democratic Party.

A number of economists from Thomas Piketty to Richard Wolff have argued that for these social classes there has been an “economic recovery” since the crash of 2008. For all other classes there has been decline. The role of the Democratic Party is:

  1. To represent the actual interests of the upper middle class; and,
  2. To make believe it is a spokesperson for the other 85%.

Far be it for me to say that the Republicans and Democrats represent the same thing. There is real class struggle between the interests of the ruling class and the upper class on the one hand and the upper middle class on the other. My point is that for 85% of the population these differences between elites are irrelevant. What the top three classes have in common is a life and death commitment to capitalism – and this commitment is vastly more important than where the sources of their profits come from.

Who are these remaining 85%? Poor people, whether they are employed or not, constitute about 20% of the population. When they are working this includes unskilled work which simply means no previous training is required. Working class people — blue and white collar — represent about 40% of the population. This includes carpenters, welders, electricians, technical workers, secretaries, computer programmers, and X-ray technicians. Middle class people — high school, grammar school teachers, registered nurses, librarians, corporate middle management, and small mom-and-pop storeowners — are about 25% of the population. Most poor people don’t vote and in a way, they are smart because they understand that the Democratic Party can do nothing for them. While many working-class people don’t vote, highly skilled working class people do vote, and many will vote Democrat. Middle classes are also more likely to vote Democrat with the exception of small business owners. In fact, research by labor theorist Kim Moody into the voting patterns of the last election showed that a high percentage of this petty bourgeois voted for Trump.

The Democratic Party has nothing to offer the middle class

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my father worked as a free-lance commercial artist about 40 hours per week. My mother stayed home and raised my sister and I. One income could cover all of us. My parents sent me to Catholic grammar schools and high schools, which were not very expensive, but they had to save their money to do it. They helped pay for part of my college education after I dropped out and then came back. They helped my partner and I with a down payment on a house in Oakland, CA. Today both parents in a middle-class family need to work and the work-week for middle class workers is at least 10 hours longer. As for savings, if a middle-class family buys a home, it is much more difficult to save for their children’s education.

In 1970 I was living in Denver, Colorado and had my own studio apartment for $70/month. I worked 20 hours a week at the library as a page and could afford to go to community college part-time. Twenty years later I tried to communicate this to my stepdaughter who was 20 years old and then compared it to her experience. She was working full-time as a waitress, had to live with two other people and could only afford to take a couple of classes without going into debt. Reluctantly and seemingly defeated she had to return home to live if she were to ever graduate from a community college. The Democrats did nothing to stem the tide of the decline of the middle class. Working class and middle class people may continue to vote for Democrats, but that doesn’t mean Democrats are delivering the goods. It just means these classes don’t want to face that:

  1. a) They have no representation; and,
  2. b) There is no alternative party and they do not live in a democracy.

Now on to why I believe the Democratic Party is worse that the Republican party for this 85% of the population.

The Democratic Party has nothing to do with being liberal

Most people who support the Democratic Party don’t really consider the party as it actually is, but how they imagine is should be according either to political science classes they’ve picked up in high school or college or from what they have picked up unconsciously through conversations. They have also gotten this from Democratic Party members themselves who talk about liberal values while in practice acting like conservatives. These voters think the Democratic Party is liberal. What do I mean by liberal? The term liberal has a long political history which I have traced elsewhere1 but let’s limit the term to what I call “New Deal Liberals”.

These New Deal liberals think that the state should provide essential services like pensions, food stamps, natural disaster relief as well as road and bridge construction. They also think the state should intervene to minimize some of the worst aspects of capitalism such as child wage work or sex slavery. These liberals think that Democrats should support the development of unions to protect the working class. This class deserves an adequate wage and decent working conditions. They also think — as it is in the American dream — that in order to justify their existence, capitalists should make profit from the production of real goods and services. These liberals think that the Democratic Party should support the development of science and research to create an easier life so that the standard of living for the American population should go up from generation to generation. These are the values of New Deal liberals. If the Democratic Party acted as if it supported these things, I could understand why liberals would say voting for the Democratic Party is the lesser of two evils. The problem is that these New Deal liberals are trapped in a 50-year time warp when the last real liberal Democratic president was Lyndon Johnson. The Democratic Party hasn’t been liberal in 50 years. This is one reason why the program of New Deal liberal Bernie Sanders had been so popular.

It does not take a Marxist to argue that the United States has been in economic decline since the mid 1970’s. It won’t do to blame the Republicans alone for this 50-year degeneration. The Democratic Party has had presidents between 1976 and 1980, in addition to eight years of Clinton, as well as eight years of Obama. They have had twenty years’ worth of chances to put into practice liberal values and they have failed miserably. Under the Democratic Party:

  • The standard of living is considerably below the standard of living 50 years ago.
  • The minimum wage bought more in 1967 than it does today.
  • The standard of living for all racial minorities has declined since the 1970’s.
  • Unions, which protected the working class, have dwindled to barely 10%.
  • With the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich, no Democrat is prepared to commit to building infrastructure as a foundation for a modern civilization.
  • The proportion of wealth claimed by finance capital has dwarfed investment in industrial capital compared to fifty years ago.
  • The Democrats have signed off on all imperialist wars for the last 50 years.
  • Science has lost respectability in the United States as it fights a battle against fundamentalism. Do Democrats come out unapologetically for science and challenge the fundamentalists and the New Agers? There are more people in the US who believe in astrology than they did in the Middle Ages. Does the Democratic Party, in the name of its claimed roots in the Enlightenment, rescue the public from these follies? Hardly.

Please tell me in what sense is this party liberal?

The Democratic Party is not an oppositional party: the Republicans play hardball; the Democrats play badminton

It is right about this time that a liberal defending the Democratic Party would chime in and say something about the Supreme Court. The line is “If we don’t get so and so elected, then the evil right-wing judge will get appointed and Roe vs Wade will be threatened.” This line has been trotted out for the last 45 years. What it conveniently ignores is that the Democratic Party has been in power for at least 40% of the time, whether in the executive or any other branch. It has had forty years to load the Supreme Court with rabid liberals so as to bury the right-to-lifers when they had the chance. An oppositional party would have done this. The Democratic Party has not.

Trump has been on a tear destroying what was left of US international diplomatic relations put into place by Kissinger and Brzezinski. His “policies” are consistently right wing “interventions”, whether they succeed or not. At the same time, domestically Trump has been consistently right wing on every issue from public schools, to immigrants to social programs. What he has done has destabilized international and domestic relations. Conservatives have been doing this kind of thing for 50 years, but with more diplomacy. If the Democratic Party were really an oppositional party, I would expect to find liberal interventions that are roughly the reverse of what Trump and the conservatives have done. There have been no such interventions.

Examples of what an oppositional party would look like

Under an oppositional Democratic regime we would have found a normalization of trade relations with Cuba. There would be scientists and engineers sent to Haiti to build and repair roads and bridges destroyed by natural disasters. There would be normalization of relations with Venezuela and bonds built with the social democratic parties of the Latin American left. Domestically the minimum wage would be restored to at least the standard of 50 years ago. After all, statistics show “productivity” has gone up in the late 50 years. Why wouldn’t the standard of living improve? Social Security and pensions would be regularly upgraded to keep up with the cost of inflation. Bridge and road repair would have been undertaken and low-cost housing would be built. A real liberal president might be so bold as to deploy US soldiers to build them since most them would no longer be employed overseas. They might also have put forward bills implementing a mass transit system, one that is as good as those of Europe or Japan. Has the Democratic Party done any of these things?

This is “opposition”?

Internationally the Democratic Party’s policies have been indistinguishable from the Republicans. Obama did try to normalize relations with Cuba but that was in the service of the potential for foreign investment, not out of any respect for the social project of building the socialism Cuba was engaged in. The US Democratic regimes have done nothing for Haiti. Its attitude towards the Latin American “pink tide” has been hostile while supporting neo-liberal restoration whenever and wherever possible.

Domestic Democratic regimes have done nothing to stem the tide of longer work hours and marginalization of workers as well as the temporary and part-time nature of work. Social Security and pensions have not kept up with the cost of inflation. The Democratic Party has had 20 years to repair the bridges, the roads and the sewer systems and what has it done? The Democrats had 20 years to build low-cost housing and get most, if not all, the homeless off the streets. What have Democrats done? Like the Republicans, the Democrats have professed to have no money for infrastructure, low cost housing or improving mass transit. Like the Republicans they have gone along in blocking Universal Health Care that virtually every other industrialized country possesses. But just like the Republicans they suddenly have plenty of money when it comes to funding seven wars and building the prison industrial complex. Time and again Democratic politicians have ratified increasing the military budget despite the fact that it has no state enemies like the Soviet Union.

In 2008 capitalism had another one of its crisis moments. Marxists and non-Marxist economists agree that the banks were the problem. The Democrats, with that classy “first African American president” did not implement a single Keynesian intervention to reign in the banks. No banker has even gone to jail. What a real Democratic opposition would have done is to tell the banks something like, “look, the public has bailed you out this time, but in return for this collective generosity, we require that you make your profits from undertaking all the infrastructural work that needs to be done, like building a 21st century mass transit system and investing some of your profits in low cost housing.” This is what an oppositional party would do. Notice none of this has anything to do with socialism. It’s straight New Deal liberalism.

In sum, over the last 45 years have you ever seen a consistent left liberal intervention by Democrats that would be the equivalent of what Trump is doing now or any conservative regime has done in the last 50 years in any of these areas? Has Carter, Clinton I or Obama done anything equivalent in their 20 years of formal power that Republicans have done in their 30 years? No, because if they ever dreamed of doing such a thing the Republicans would have them driven from office as communists. When was the last time a Democratic candidate drove a Republican from office by calling them a fascist? The truth of the matter is that the Republicans play hardball while the Democrats play badminton.

The second reason the Democratic Party is not an oppositional party is because “opposition” is a relative term. The lesser of two evils scenario works with the assumption that parties are partisan: all Republicans vote in block and all Democrats vote in block. This, however, is more the exception than the rule. Most times some Republicans support Democratic policies and most times some Democrats support Republican measures. Many Republican policies would not have been passed had the Democrats really been an oppositional party. In 2004, when Ralph Nader ran for president, he was raked over the coals for “spoiling” the elections. Yet as later research proves, more people who were registered Democrat voted for Republicans than the total number of people who voted for the Green Party.

The Democratic Party is a party of the elites

Those politicians and media critics who inhabit the nether worlds between left liberal and social democracy such as Robert Reich, Bernie Sanders, Cornell West are tenacious in their search for the “soul” of the Democratic Party. They insist on dividing Democrats into conservative and liberals. The latest version is to call right-wing Democrats “corporate” Democrats as compared to some other kind of Democrat labelled “progressive”. The implication is that it is possible not to be bought hook line and sinker by corporations if you are in the Democratic Party. I am skeptical that any person can run as a Democrat candidate, win an election and not make some compromises with corporations even at a local level. I am cynical this can be done at a state or national level. Corporations are ruling class organizations and they own both parties. There is a reason why Martin Luther King, Malcolm X never joined the Democratic Party.

If the last Democratic primaries in which Clinton II was handed the nomination over Bernie Sanders was not enough to make you leave the party, the World Socialist Website published two major articles on how the CIA is running its own candidates as Democrats this year. When a world terrorist organization runs candidates under a liberal banner, isn’t that enough to convince you that the Democratic Party is a party of the elites?

Earlier I stated that the upper middle class represents the Democratic Party and the upper class and the ruling class represent the Republican Party. While each may have inter-class differences it is essential for all three social classes that their struggle be seen by the 85% as something this 85% has a stake in. It is important for the ruling class and the upper class that there is a party that appears to represent the unwashed masses (the Democrats). The ruling class and the upper class need the Democratic Party even if they have differences with the upper middle class, whom the Democrats represent. They need the Democratic Party to help create the illusion that voting is an expression of democracy. But the Democratic Party has as much to do with democracy as the Republican Party has to do with republicanism.

The Democratic Party’s presence is an obstacle to building a real opposition to elites

By far the greatest reason the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party is the way in which the presence of the Democratic Party drains energy from developing a real opposition to the elites and the upper middle class.

The Democratic Party attacks the Green Party far more than it attacks Republicans

While the Democratic Party plays badminton with Republicans, it plays hardball with third parties, specifically the Green Party. It does everything it can to keep the Greens off the stage during the debates and makes things difficult when the Greens try to get on the ballot. After the last election, Jill Stein was accused of conspiring with the Russians to undermine the Democrats.

If the Democratic Party was a real liberal party, if it was a real opposition party, if it was a party of the “working people” rather than the elites, it would welcome the Green Party into the debates. With magnanimously liberal self-confidence it would say “the more the merrier. May all parties of the left debate.” It would welcome the Greens or any other left party to register in all 50 states and simply prove its program superior.

The wasted time, energy and loss of collective creativity of non-elites

About 10% of the 40% of working class people are in unions. Think of how much in the way of union dues, energy and time was lost over the last 50 years trying to elect Democratic candidates who did little or nothing for those same unions. All that money, energy and time could have been spent in either deepening the militancy of existing unions or organizing the other 30% of workers into unions.

Think of all untapped creative political activity of working class people who are not in unions that was wasted in being enthusiastic and fanatical about sports teams because they see no hope or interest in being part of a political community. Instead of being on talk show discussion groups on Monday morning talking about what the Broncos should have done or could have done on Sunday, think of the power they could have if instead they spent their time strategizing about how to coordinate their strike efforts.

Think of all the immigrants and refugees in this country working at skilled and semi-skilled jobs that have wasted what little time they had standing in line trying to get Democratic Party politicians elected. That time could have been spent on more “May Days Without An Immigrant” as happened thirteen years ago

Think of all the middle class African Americans whose standards of living have declined over the last 45 years who wasted their vote on Democrats and put their faith in the Black Caucus. Think of the wasted time, effort and energy of all middle class people who often actively campaign and contribute money to the Democratic Party that could have been spent on either building a real liberal party or better yet, a mass socialist party.

For many years, the false promise that the Democratic Party just might be a party of the working people has stood in the way of the largest socialist organization in the United States from building a mass working class party. Social Democrats in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) who should have known better continue to blur the line between a real socialist like Eugene Debs and left liberals like Bernie Sanders. With 33,000 members there are still factions of DSA that will not break with the Democrats.

Are there real differences between the neo-liberal Democrats and the neo-conservative Republicans? Are there differences between Soros and the Koch brothers? Yes, but these differences are not, as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire have said, “a dimes worth of difference”, especially compared to what the presence of the Democratic party has done for 50 years to 85% of the population. Their fake opposition has stood in the way of building a mass left political party.

The Democratic Party is a parasite on social movements

Can you remember a time when the Democratic Party had an innovative program of their own that was clearly separate from the Republicans yet distinct from any left wing social movements?

I can’t. What I have seen is a Democratic party that does nothing but sniff out the flesh and blood of social movements and vampirize them. I have no use for identity politics, but I can remember a time when the Democratic Party wanted nothing to do with it. Now it runs candidates based on identity politics. Black Lives Matter is now part of the Ford Foundation, a Democratic Party think tank. The Occupy Movement term “occupy” was taken as a name for a Facebook page sympathetic to the Democrats, Occupy Democrats, as if the Democratic Party could be occupied. The Democratic Party, which did nothing for feminism while it was attacked and marginalized by the right wing since the 1980’s, has suddenly “discovered” feminism in the Pink Pussy cats. This is an upper middle class party that sings “We Shall Overcome” fifty years too late.

What should be done?

Rather than focusing on the evil Republican Party, which makes the Democrats seem merely wishy-washy or inept, the policies of the Democratic Party should be attacked relentlessly while paying little attention to Republicans. In the election years, the Green Party should abandon its strategy of soliciting votes in “safe states”. Instead, the Greens should challenge those who claim to be “left-wing” Democrats to get out of the party as a condition for being voted for. In my opinion, there needs to be an all-out war on the Democratic Party as a necessary step to building a mass party. The goal of such a party should not be to win elections, but to use public opportunities as a platform for deepening, spreading and coordinating the commonalities of the interests of the poor, working class and middle class people.

  1. Counterpunch, “Left Liberals Have No Party”

No Matter What the Western Propaganda Says, Chinese Democracy is Alive and Well!

New huge wave of ‘China bashing’ is once again rolling from Europe and North America. Its water is filthy and murky. It tries to smear everything about the present Chinese system: from its own and unique democratic model, to its leadership, as well as the political, economic and social system.

I am periodically reminded that every year, just before China’s annual two sessions, there will be rising voices declaring that the People’s Congress play the role of rubber stamps, and China’s democracy can’t truly represent the people.

Criticism of the Chinese system sometimes comes from within the country, but more often it arrives from abroad. Even local critics are usually deeply influenced by the foreign perceptions.

China is often ‘analyzed’ and judged strictly by the Western norms and rules, and that is chauvinistic and amazingly patronizing.

My friend and colleague Jeff J. Brown, a leading expect on China, author of a book China Is Communist Damn It! wrote indignantly in his recent essay “Western Racism and Hypocrisy Foaming at The Mouth Over China’s Constitutional Changes”:

So-called “China experts” are piling on with all kinds of doomsday the-sky-is-falling scenarios… President Xi Jinping is being portrayed as megalomaniac, power hungry tyrant. His 1.4 billion citizens respectfully disagree.

This whole Western charade exudes the worst hypocrisy and at its core, racism. When was the last time the mainstream media got into a snit because a Western country changed its laws? In 2001, where was Western propaganda when George W. Bush & Co. forever destroyed any semblance of the US Constitution conferring civil and human rights to its citizens, when a false flag 9/11 gun was held to the heads of every congressman and senator, to sign the Orwellian named “Patriot” Act – literally in the middle of the night, never having a chance to read it? America’s corporate whore media was right there, screaming, Sign it! Save us! Protect us! This is how corrupt, Western “democracy” “works” …”

 A distinct Turkish professor Tugrul Keskin, from Shanghai University in China, calls recent trends in the West simply and correctly: Chinaphobia.

*****

For decades and centuries, in the West, Chinese people suffered from spiteful racism and discrimination. In the United States, Chinese migrants were ridiculed and humiliated at best, and physically liquidated at worst. European powers attacked, occupied, divided and destroyed China, even succeeding in ransacking Beijing.

I wrote entire books (including Exposing Lies Of The Empire) and numerous essays, in which I argued that China, with thousands of years of tremendous history and culture, has undeniable right to be defined and judged by its own people and by its own measures.

But now let’s talk about democracy.

First of all, the expression democracy is derived from Greek language. It loosely means ‘rule of the people’. It doesn’t stipulate that a truly democratic country has to follow a Western multi-party/corporate model, or more concretely, a model in which big corporations and ‘powerful individuals’ are financing political campaigns (while backing the candidates), and de facto selecting the governments.

In the West, and in its ‘client states’, most of the ordinary people are destined to serve the corporate interests, and the government is there to make sure that they do not break ‘the rules’.

China simply cannot follow such model. Chinese people fought hard for their independence, they struggled during the great revolutionary war, and all this in order to create a system which would be serving the people. After great sacrifices, people of China achieved their goal. The system is theirs, it exists in order to improve their lives. It is not perfect, far from it, but it is rapidly evolving into perhaps the most humane system on our Planet.

Chinese corporations are there to serve the people, to serve the nation, and they are told what to do and how to behave by the government and by the Communist Party, not the other way around. Again, it is not as simple as that, and there are problems and setbacks and corruption, but the country is marching forward, irreversibly. Anyone who knows China, knows that the country is improving dramatically, and not only economically but also ecologically, socially and culturally.

There is no other country on Earth, which is changing lives of its ordinary people for better, so rapidly and with such determination. And it is happening because of the system, because of the Communist Party’s leadership, and because of the NPC. Some people ask me: “Do you think China’s democracy, or the political system of Party’s leadership, and NPC can improve people’s livelihood?” I always answer: “Not only they can, but they do; day by day, year by year!”

Those who deny it either don’t know China, or are simply sore losers.

*****

Unlike in the West, Chinese leaders are listening attentively to their people. China is ‘direct democracy’, and it functions without huge army of political parties. I don’t want to exaggerate and say that the ‘leadership in China is afraid of the people’, but is definitely respecting and listening to them.

It is nothing new: it has been this way for centuries and millennia, since the “Heavenly Mandate” was born. To rule, to be ‘at the top’, could never be taken for granted. To rule, in China, also means ‘to serve’. Arrogance and self-indulgence was rarely accepted, and when it was, it was a warning signal that the country was in decline.

Recently, in Claremont, Ca., I discussed China with a great U.S. Whiteheadean philosopher, John Cobb Jr., who has been, for years and decades deeply involved in China, particularly in the “Ecological civilization” project. He replied:

I think that in China, many leaders actually do genuinely care about the well-being of their nation.

Something that could be hardly said about the leadership in the West.

*****

When Chinese people sent clear signals to the top that they want more economic freedoms, more consumer goods, and that they want to be able to freely travel abroad, Deng Xiaoping launched sweeping reforms.

Some people agreed with those reforms; some didn’t. But that is what the majority at that time, truly wanted. Party and the government were only responding to people’s demands.

Decades later, people got tired of so many elements of the market system; of growing inequality, environmental issues and negative by-products of the super-rapid economic growth. And they were listened to again. President Xi Jinping put great emphasis on the environment (“Ecological Civilization”), on the great Chinese culture, and above all on improving lives of all Chinese people no matter where they live. Powerful and progressive model of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” was reinvented, improved and put to work with new determination and zeal.

Result: soon, perhaps as early as by 2020, there will be no pockets of extreme poverty, anywhere on the territory of the People’s Republic of China. If this is not socialism, that what really is?

All this is clearly proof of the Chinese democracy at work. Even when there are protests, when people are demanding changes, look closely what many of them are holding in their hands: they are waving the little red flags of the Communist Party of China; definitely not some symbols of the Western regime.

*****

What will be remembered about all this in hundreds of years from now?

While it cannot be denied that several Western countries gave at least some freedom and passable standard of living to their citizens, the price has been paid by the plundered continents, squashed under the Western colonialist and neo-colonialist heels. Tens of millions of non-white people died and are still dying, in order to fulfill tremendous greed and gluttony of so-called Western democracies. I saw it, unfortunately too often, with my own eyes. Only lives of the European and North American citizens are respected and protected, not at all the lives of those who are forced to serve them.

China showed to the world a totally opposite path. Everything in the PRC is created with hands of the Chinese people; with their brains, their muscles and their sweat. It is ‘clean’ and honest progress, not one that is resting on the corpses and blood of the millions of ‘others’.

And that is not all. Brainchild of President Xi, One Belt One Road, is essentially this: “sharing of China’s achievements and success with the rest of the world”, especially with the struggling and unfortunate countries.

China does not turn its success into religion. It believes that everything positive should be shared, that there should be progress, social justice and respect for different cultures. The entire would should be benefiting.

This is true internationalism, and true human decency, as well as unmistakable sign of ‘democracy’, serving all human beings, on truly global scale!

• A shorter version of this essay appeared in Chinese press

Why is China Lifting the Two-term Limit for Xi Jinping?

The modern, affluent new China. Incomprehensible to many Western minds.

Why does the CPC want to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the country’s Constitution?

Why is China lifting the two-term limit for Xi? The answer can be found by reading the amendment itself (and remembering a little history):

1. In the seventh paragraph of the Preamble to the Constitution, “the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents” is amended to read “the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”; “improve the socialist legal system” is amended to read“improve the socialist rule of law”; before “work hard and self-reliantly” is inserted “apply a new vision of development”; and “promote the coordinated development of the material, political and spiritual civilizations, to turn China into a socialist country that is prosperous, powerful, democratic and culturally advanced” is amended to read “promote the coordinated development of the material, political, spiritual, social and ecological civilizations, to turn China into a strong modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful, and to realize the great rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.” This paragraph is accordingly amended to read: “The victory in China’s New-Democratic Revolution and the successes in its socialist cause have been achieved by the Chinese people of all nationalities, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, by upholding truth, correcting errors and surmounting numerous difficulties and hardships. China will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time to come. The basic task of the nation is to concentrate its effort on socialist modernization along the road of Chinese-style socialism. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist road, persevere in reform and opening to the outside world, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop the socialist market economy, develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist rule of law, apply a new vision of development, and work hard and self-reliantly to modernize the country’s industry, agriculture, national defense and science and technology step by step and promote the coordinated development of the material, political, spiritual, social and ecological civilizations, to turn China into a strong modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful, and to realize the great rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.”1

A little history: In 1980, Deng Xiaoping challenged China to provide a basic xiaokang society by 2020, ‘a society in which no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home and a comfortable life’.

That goal will be 100% achieved in 2020, so it’s time to set new goals that will take China in the direction Mao set for it: a harmonious dàtóng society.2 Since, as Mao observed, it will probably require 100 years to reach dàtóng and since Reform and Opening has achieved its purpose, it’s time to set China back on the Communist road again. That is, after all, the overall job of the Communist Party! Duh!

The only people who will be surprised by Xi’s return to (more) Communism is those who thought that Reform and Opening represented China’s capitulation to Capitalism, the Western media and Western Chinese ‘experts’. The Chinese people will not be. 90% of them greatly enjoyed their earlier experiments with Communism, despite their problems and shortcomings. Today, 75% of them feel nostalgic about the Cultural Revolution and President Xi called it ‘a dream that could not be realized at the time’.

Why could not the dream of the Cultural Revolution be realized in the 1960s? Because the West placed China under crushing embargoes and constantly threatened it with nuclear attacks, so Deng decided to get strong before permitting any more communist progress–for which he was much criticized by Maoists, though he was probably correct (the USA only stopped bombing China in 1989).

2021 will begin a new era, in which China is strong enough to do whatever it chooses so Xi is responsible for coming up with his own thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.

He will fill in the details on June 1, 2021, the centenary of Mao’s founding of the CCP but Xi told the 19th Party Plenum in 2017:

  1. China’s GINI under Mao was the best in the world but, as Deng warned, some grew richer than others during Reform and Opening and China became almost as unequal as the USA. So, until 2039, we must devote ourselves to re-creating a society in which wealth and income are so equitably distributed that the world will envy us.
  2. Once our GINI is fixed, until by 2049, we must complete the job of making China, once again, the envy of the world: the richest, most beautiful, most powerful, most harmonious society on earth: a prosperous, modern, Socialist society.

Since Xi is the architect of this program and since his first term was so successful, it makes sense for him to stay for a third term, just as it did for America’s greatest President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In the early twentieth century, the great Chinese thinker and reformer Kang Youwei wrote a book entitled Dàtóng shu (Book on the Great Community) in which he advanced an original and radical interpretation of datong, drawing mainly on both Liyun and another of the Confucian classics—the Gongyang Commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, which propounds a theory of progress in human history from the Age of Disorder to the Age of Ascending Peace and finally to the Age of Universal Peace, the idea of the common good in traditional Chinese social and political philosophy. The Chinese Communist Party’s current ideology, including the “preliminary stage of socialism” and the “xiaokang society,” are best understood in light of the concept of “datong” (Mao constantly advocated datong).

Deng conferring with Mao: Two visionary giants


Datong is where the Great Way prevails. It is usually interpreted to refer to a Golden Age in prehistoric times, that the ideal society that has subsequently declined. In the datong society “the world was shared by all alike. The worthy and the able were promoted to office and men practiced good faith and lived in affection. Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as sons only their own sons.”

Although this has never been officially recognized, there is in fact a surprising degree of convergence between some important ingredients of Kang Youwei’s datong thought and the official ideology currently propagated by the Chinese Communist Party. According to this ideology, the Marxist vision of the communist society is still the highest ideal pursued by the Party and the Chinese people. However, this ideal can only be realized after socialist society has reached a high level of development. “The development and perfection of socialism is a long historical process.”10 China is, and will remain for a long time, in the “preliminary stage of socialism,” because China, as an “economically and culturally backward” nation, needs to undergo “socialist modernization.”11 The theory of the preliminary stage of socialism implies that full socialism cannot be practiced yet, and China may legitimately borrow capitalist techniques from the West. Not all means of pro- duction will be socialized and subject to public ownership, and there will still be economic inequality among the Chinese people. The idea that the ideals of social- ism and communism will be realized, and will only be realized, in the course of a long process of historical development and social evolution thus converges with Kang’s idea of historical progress and his vision of the datong world in which socialist or communist principles will be applicable in economic life.

The official view of the current level of economic development in Chinese society is that it has just reached the xiaokang level. It is hoped that by the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (2021), China will have reached a “higher level of xiaokang society,” and by the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (2049), it will have reached the level of a middle-level developed country and will have “basically completed its modernization”.  Thus the term xiaokang, which dates back more than two millennia ago to Liyun, is still being used today to refer to the second-best level of development. The concept of “harmonious society” advocated in recent years by the Chinese Communist Party also draws on traditional Chinese thought, particularly the Confucian vision of social harmony and amicable social relationships.

In the final analysis, the datong philosophy in Liyun and in Datong shu speaks not only to the Chinese people but to the whole of humankind. It is a philosophy that is universalist in nature rather than particularistic and dependent on a particular culture or religion. As a philosophy of the common good, it is a valuable contribution to the common heritage of mankind. Though ancient in origin, it still speaks to the needs, circumstances, and challenges faced by the contemporary world. Though Chinese in origin, datong is capable, as Kang Youwei has demonstrated,of entering into dialogue with the utilitarian, socialist, and liberal traditions of the West. It is to be hoped that datong thinking will continue to develop and contribute to the Chinese social and political philosophy of the twenty first century.

  • First published at the Greanville Post.
    1. This article, among other changes, adds Presidents Hu Jintao’s and Xi Jinping’s political ideologies to the Preamble; replaces “legal system” (法制) with “rule of law” (法治; which is effectively rule bylaw, one could argue); and modifies the goal of the Chinese people’s endeavors in accordance with the phrase used in Xi’s report to the Party’s 19th Congress.] — NPC Observer
    2. The Concept of “Datong” in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good. Albert H.Y. Chen. The Common Good: Chinese and American Perspectives.

    Propaganda! Pardon me, is mine really bigger than yours?

    They say Propaganda! In the West, both the mainstream media and even some of the so-called progressive outlets are shouting: “Those Russians and Chinese and the others like them, they are at it again! Their vicious propaganda is infiltrating our democratic, freedom-loving countries, spreading confusion and chaos!”

    Yes, ban or at least curb RT, contain TeleSur, and if at all possible, throw Press TV to the dogs. And put the writers of NEO, Sputnik, Global Times and other foreign outlets on that proverbial Western mass media ‘no fly list’.

    How truly democratic. How open-minded, how ‘objective’!

    It goes like this:

    “We have been indoctrinating the entire Planet for centuries, mostly unopposed, but if anyone dares to bite back, we will do our best to discredit, even to muzzle them, in no time.”

    Then if you protest, if you dare to say that kicking out and gagging alternative media sources stinks of the lowest grade of censorship, and of imposing some sort of monopoly on propaganda, you’d be shouted at: “What do you know about propaganda? You really want to see some hard-core propaganda, look at those colorful military parades and political speeches coming out from Pyongyang!” Naturally, these are taken out of context and presented (or framed) in a certain way, and only after that are they always readily available on the BBC and other, should we say ‘reputable’ and ‘objective’, European and North American television channels.

    What you will not be told is that if you happen to live in New York or London, Paris or Sydney, Munich or Madrid, you yourself are most likely in the highest bracket of propaganda consumption in the world; that, in fact, you could easily be a true propaganda junkie – hooked on it, fully dependent on it, seeking it, even regularly demanding it, at least subconsciously.

    *****

    Propaganda, what is it really?

    We all ‘propagate’ or ‘propagandize’ something. At least we publicize what we think and believe in our emails, we are spreading it in the pubs, or while out meeting friends and loved ones.

    Some of us do it professionally. We write essays, books, give speeches, make films. We go to politics. We join revolutionary movements. We want to change the world. We speak, write about what we believe.

    It is all propaganda — spreading our ideas, trying to influence others. What is done in the church or mosque, is clearly propaganda as well, although it is rarely defined as such publicly.

    All of us have some opinions, some worldview. You know, at least some very basic one… Or when it comes, for instance, to the mainstream media outlets, their bosses and owners definitely have quite clear designs, opinions and goals (employees, those journos sitting in plastic cubicles, are simply doing their well-paid job of presenting the ideas of their masters in a standard, elegant and grammatically correct prose).

    *****

    In brief: whenever we want to influence the world, we try to ‘package’ and present our thoughts beautifully, extracting the most powerful and attractive parts and passages of our ideals and principles.

    There is nothing wrong with that. We communicate, we propagate our thoughts and dreams, as we are trying to improve the world. Such propaganda is, I believe, healthy.

    The true problem begins when the same tactics and techniques are used for something absolutely destructive and objectively evil: like colonialism, racism, imperialism or the attempt to control and plunder entire nations and continents. And an even greater problem arises, when it happens with almost unlimited funding, and as a consequence, some of the most capable brains get involved, including those of the communication experts, educators, and even psychologists.

    When such a scenario develops, it is not suddenly anymore about ‘discussion’ and ‘finding the best way forward for our humanity’. It is about total, full control of people’s brains, about the elimination of all alternatives.

    That is brutal, fatal propaganda. And it is exactly the propaganda which has been domesticated in the West, and is rapidly spreading its metastases all over the world.

    If unchecked and unchallenged, such developments may lead to the absolute destruction of humans’ ability to think freely, to compare and to analyze, but it may also eradicate the ability to feel, to dream and to dare.

    This most likely is the aim of Western neo-colonialism. Its ‘success’ depends on the total, dogmatic cultural and ‘intellectual’ monopoly imposed by Europe and the United States on the rest of the world. Such a monopoly can only be attained through a one-sided interpretation of current affairs as well as world history.

    The main goal is the absolute and unconditional control of the Planet.

    After the destruction of the Soviet Union and during the rapid pro-market reforms in China (and the Western infiltration of China’s education system) in the same period of time, the West came extremely close to achieving its goal.

    The world fully abandoned to Western imperialism and market fundamentalism, began suffering from a monstrous wave of privatization, theft of natural and other resources, and consequent social collapse of entire huge nations, from Russia to Indonesia.

    Then ‘something happened’. The impact on the Planet became so devastating that many parts of the world abruptly stopped following the Western dictate. Russia had risen to its feet. China, under the guidance of the Communist Party and especially under the leadership of President Xi, returned to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, putting a much greater accent on the quality of human life, culture and ecology, than on financial markets. Latin America began its new wave of the struggle for independence against the US and its own European elites. Many other countries, from Iran to South Africa, Eritrea, Syria and DPRK, refused to surrender.

    They got demonized by Western propaganda, demonized day and night, systematically and relentlessly.

    Whoever has stood for the interests of his or her people, be they a Communist, a socialist, a patriot, or even a populist, has been incessantly smeared, ridiculed and humiliated. President Assad or Ahmadinejad, Putin, Xi, Duterte, Zuma, Maduro, Castro, it mattered nothing how popular they were at home; it matters nothing! Simple as that: Whoever stands tall and fights for his people, faces character assassination in the Western media, which, in turn, directly or indirectly controls most of the media outlets in the world!

    To get all of the patriotic and progressive leaders out of the way openly serves the interests of the Western Empire and its business offshoots.

    No one has doubts about this anymore. It would take tremendous discipline not to see it.

    Yet the opposite is being constantly repeated by the Western television stations, newspapers, magazines, and even the universities.

    Ignoring facts, manufacturing conspiracy theories, denying that white is white, black is black, refusing to admit that human blood is red, that our hearts are on the left, and that above all, people are desiring their own identity, culture, justice and safety, isn’t this the highest level of propaganda, of indoctrination, of total brainwashing?

    Those who are trashing ‘state-owned’ and ‘state-sponsored’ media outlets in non-Western countries, should be asking some very essential questions: “Is there any difference between those ‘private’ or ‘state’ media outlets in the West? Is there any substantial ideological drift between the CNN, BBC, The Independent, The New York Times, France/24 or DW?”

    In Europe and in North America, as well as in their ‘client’ states, business interests control the government. They are actually the ones who are electing, or call it ‘selecting’ the government. Private or state-funded, the Western mass media is towing the same line. It is part of the apparatus.

    In non-Western countries, the state-supported media outlets are beginning to propagate various new lines, mostly defending and highlighting the interests of their own countries, which in a way is a revolutionary development.

    So, there is finally some global competition, isn’t there, dear comrades imperialists and capitalists? But what do we see… suddenly you don’t like it? You want your global monopoly? Is that your idea of freedom and ‘free competition’? You want your propaganda to be the only one on Earth!

    *****

    Several years ago, when I was making the film and writing a book with Noam Chomsky (On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare, Pluto Press), we spoke a lot about Western propaganda.

    Noam brought to my attention that Nazi Germany was extremely impressed by the U.S. advertising industry.

    Then, in a way, Western propaganda also became shaped by shameless advertising production, by brainless and outrightly deceiving commercials. The continuous downpour of pseudo-reality has been melting away all human decency and rationality ever since.

    I have written about this issue a lot, too, particularly in the pages of my book Exposing Lies of The Empire.

    Television, Hollywood, but also indoctrinating, intellectually sterilizing and the grotesque way of ‘spreading knowledge’ by the North American and increasingly also by the European universities – it all has very little to do with the reality in which the world is living, as well as with the true concerns of the people; with their hopes, fears, and desires and aspirations.

    Western commercials, entertainment, educational institutions – these are all powerful tools of propaganda. They propagate, force and inject into human sub-consciousness extremely primitive, false but powerful messages: “No matter what, our present arrangement of the world is correct and just. Our economic and social system is the most natural in the world. Our political system is not perfect, but it is the best nevertheless.”

    *****

    Noam Chomsky seemed to be fascinated with my past, and for some good reasons: I myself was totally indoctrinated, endlessly brainwashed by Western propaganda, when I was a child, and then a very young man.

    I was born in the beautiful city of Leningrad, Soviet Union. My mother is a Russian-Chinese architect, father a Czech scientist. I grew up in Pilsen, in then Czechoslovakia. Pilsen was only 60 kilometers away from Bavaria. To be a ‘dissident’ there, at the age of 15 or so, was absolutely obligatory, otherwise one would have been considered an absolute loser, even a freak. That was naturally hammered into our brains by the BBC, Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, West German television channels like ARD and ZDF. We were all listening to Radio Luxemburg, to Bavaria 3, we read ‘samizdat’ literature.

    Pilsen is a little town of 180,000 people, known for its heavy industry and beer, but when I was a child, it had a permanent opera house, countless libraries including a science one, several small avant-garde theatres (which, yes, all tried to put on stage something that could be read ‘between the lines’), great bookstores, 6 cinemas, including an excellent cine-club where we basically saw all the great existential and experimental films from Europe, Japan, U.S. and Latin America.

    Communist Czechoslovakia was to some extent, gray, but extremely well educated, cultural and actually, really fun.

    When I first visited Italy, I was shocked by its slums around Naples, by the sad lot of African immigrants. But I was conditioned to see the world as it was presented by Western propaganda. I protested against the ‘occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union’, because that is what the World Service of the BBC prepared me to do. Despite being educated on great literature, poetry and music, I saw Rambo as a freedom fighter, and Maggie Thatcher as a liberator of the ‘free world’.

    I still somehow believed in the ideals of the Soviet Union, in the internationalism. But my brain was fried – it was a goulash that consisted of pseudo images coming like an avalanche from the West, and of solid and the not too colorful reality of socialist Czechoslovakia.

    My two Czech uncles were true internationalists, and they built sugar mills, steel mills, pharmaceutical factories and other great things in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and China. They did it with honest zeal and the love for humanity. I considered them to be two losers, idiots, ‘fanatics’. In reality, they were great people, and I was simply sick, brainwashed and blind then!

    Then, as now, Western propaganda spat at everything pure, altruistic, and honest. Western media is scared of true heroes, of people who are helping others to gain independence, of strong, truly free men and women.

    I emigrated. I wrote total shit, my first book of poetry, I got involved in the Solidarity movement in neighboring Poland, hit the bottle while chain smoking some 50 cigarettes a day, and emigrated. Or more precisely, I was kicked out, or whatever… You know, a Soviet kid in Czechoslovakia, writing dissident stuff… It was embarrassing, so they just suggested I go to the West, where I loved it so much.

    I went. To make my story short, after I got my political asylum in the US, I was at Columbia University Film School in New York City, when the U.S. performed its first strike against Libya.

    That week was crucial. Film Faculty students quickly clarified to me, what was going on, in regard to Libya. Then, in the pub, they asked me about those ‘bread lines’ in Czechoslovakia. I humbly explained about all the sorts of delicious fresh-baked breads available in Pilsen, but they couldn’t believe me. They kept asking about censorship… I was much better read than they were, and apart from Hollywood productions, I had seen more great films, but that, again, was shocking to my new friends.

    From the windows of East Campus, we watched the endless fires burning in Harlem. It was pre-Clinton Harlem, real tough stuff.

    All around me, in New York, I saw misery, despair, discontent, but also total obedience and resignation. But there was no ‘going back’.

    I began visiting Harlem, by car service, as no yellow cab would take me there. I discovered a little wonderful jazz club, the Baby Grand. I would drink there and listen to jazz, and at night I’d cry holding onto the owner, a big African-American mama. I still remember one night; puke all over the floor, and spilt beer. “I was so stupid!” I howled! “I was such a fool!” She caressed my hair and repeated: “Hush… It could be much worse. My people have had it much, much worse… Be strong, young man!” I was 19… Or 20, I forgot. In Harlem, they clearly explained to me, what it is America.

    Later I was married into a multi-millionaire’s family in Texas, and I saw what was going on ‘inside’. The oil, the hatred of ‘big government’. As a simultaneous interpreter (I was moonlighting doing that work, supporting my writing), I was present during some of the most horrible negotiations between the Western ‘private sector’ and what was then left of the Soviet Union, and then Russia. What the West did to my country, to the Soviet Union and then to Yeltsin’s Russia, was theft, just shameless looting. In those days, I was making over 1,000 dollars per day, ++. I quickly understood what capitalism was, and imperialism. I wanted to die. I almost killed myself. I ran. I ran away from all that. I ran to Peru, to write about then the most brutal civil war on Earth. I hit the road. I shed all my identity. I became an internationalist. And I never stopped being one.

    And I never returned to Europe or to the United States in order to live there. I only come to show my films, to launch my books, or to give one or two insulting speeches, as I did two years ago at the Italian Parliament in Rome.

    It took some time to understand. I did. After living and working in more than 160 countries, after listening to tens of thousands of real stories, after almost losing my life on at least ten occasions, I understood.

    I understand perfectly well, and I despise profoundly, what Western propaganda has done to the world. And I fight it, with all my might, day and night, for those millions, for billions of boys and girls, who are now, like me so many years ago, getting thoroughly indoctrinated, lobotomized and brainwashed by brutal professionals in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.

    *****

    I say and write what I want to say, what I want to write.

    I also say and write what thousands of people whom I have met, in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, want me to convey. They cannot do it themselves, they are too lost, too debilitated, too confused. They tell me the stories, not even hoping that anything can ever change or improve. They believe that their misfortune is permanent and fatal.

    Then, I write my ‘propaganda’ pieces! I take sides. I speak of the horrors created by the Western neo-colonialist regime. Am I ‘subjective’? You bet! And I am telling you openly that I am.

    I am an Internationalist, a Cuban-style internationalist. I am not hiding what I am. It is all honestly spelled out in my essays, in my profiles, in my books.

    I ‘propagandize’ what I think, in what I believe. In fact, I’d much rather be called a ‘propagandist’ than a journalist, which is, lately, synonymous with ‘the oldest profession’.

    People who are like me, are free, and they write, speak, make films, precisely as they want.

    If we join the Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Venezuelans – we do it because that is what we want, because we think that what they are doing right now is generally right. It is not a job, it is a struggle, a battle, a true life!

    Tough, not easy, but life, which I’d never trade for anything else.

    But they, our adversaries in the West, those journos, are simply cowards, hypocrites or much, much worse!

    They pretend that they are ‘objective’, while no ‘objectivity’ can really exist in this time and age, particularly not in the West. They are hiding their true shameful trade behind their impeccable Oxford accents. They are still getting great mileage from being white.

    They simply lie, openly and shamelessly, solely by refusing to openly admit who is paying them, what is expected of them, and what would happen to their careers in case they’d dare to tell or write the truth.

    *****

    My propaganda is my own. Or it is designed (by myself) to help my comrades, and the countries and governments that I admire and support.

    Am I fully objective? Please read this carefully: “NO! Definitely not. And I am not aiming at any false objectivity! I select the places where I go, I select the stories that I want to cover. That is how I ‘maneuver’ politically. But once there, once at the frontline, I tell the truth, and I produce images that simply cannot lie!”

    My opponents from the Western mass media, from their governments, multi-nationals and advertising companies, are lying day and night. And they never admit what game they are playing.

    That is why their propaganda is ‘bigger’ than mine.

    I freely write what I think is correct, and my readers are reading my stuff freely (or sometimes even despite great obstacles).

    My adversaries from the West, are using the lowest state and business apparatus, even fear, to penetrate people with their lies. They have psychologists, demagogues, business gurus at their disposals: to help with spreading their fabrications all over the world.

    Technically, they are so good at what they are doing that even the poorest of the poor, even those who have already been robbed of everything, are readily buying into their ‘worldview’. Just go to Kenya or to Indonesia, go to the slums there, and you will see.

    For many of the victims, the greatest honor is still to become as indoctrinated (and well-spoken) as those who have already robbed the world of almost everything.

    This, my dear Comrades, is an outcome of perfectly successful and evil propaganda!

    I’m terribly sorry, but I’m sticking to my own. My propaganda may be perhaps transparent, Imperfect and raw, but it is sincere.

    And I’m not afraid, at night, to look at the mirror!

    The Punditry of Shithole Thinking

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

    — Chris Hedges, “Corpses of Souls”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Two, development is about people and not about objects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No Man Is An Island

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

    — John Donne

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

    9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Vaxxed Movie
    HPVVaxxed Movie

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill Gates $10 Billion Vaccine Scam

    Mandatory Swine Flu Vaccination Alert

    The Washington Vaccination Ploy: Puerto Rico And The Zika Quandary

    Making The HPV Vaccine Mandatory Is Bad Medicine

    Supreme Court Pulls Up Government Of India Over

    Licensing And Trials With “Cervical Cancer” Vaccines

    Readying Americans For Dangerous, Mandatory Vaccinations

    Judicial Watch HPV

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

    Did 2014 Mark the Collapse of the Vaccine Establishment?

    Dr. Gary Null – Archive, Vaccines, Global Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This coming from a female lawyer . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As brief as three sentences written and thirty spoken words.

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

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

    Maybe!

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

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

    BAD PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

    I end with this interesting look at father-son:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See the source image

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

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

    Those sins of the father, ugh?

    Daddy

    Sylvia Plath, 1932 – 1963

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jesus Was Born in a Police State

    Jesus is too much for us. The church’s later treatment of the gospels is one long effort to rescue Jesus from ‘extremism.’

    — Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant

    The Christmas narrative of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one.

    The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable, where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus.

    Unfortunately, Jesus was born into a police state not unlike the growing menace of the American police state. When he grew up, he had powerful, profound things to say—things that would change how we view people, alter government policies and change the world. “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Love your enemies” are just a few examples of his most profound and revolutionary teachings.

    When confronted by those in authority, Jesus did not shy away from speaking truth to power. Indeed, his teachings undermined the political and religious establishment of his day. It cost him his life. He was eventually crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be.

    Yet what if Jesus, the revered preacher, teacher, radical and prophet, had been born 2,000 years later? What if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, he had been born and raised in the American police state?

    Consider the following if you will.

    Had Jesus been born in the era of the America police state, rather than traveling to Bethlehem for a census, Jesus’ parents would have been mailed a 28-page American Community Survey, a mandatory government questionnaire documenting their habits, household inhabitants, work schedule, how many toilets are in their home, etc. The penalty for not responding to this invasive survey can go as high as $5,000.

    Instead of being born in a manger, Jesus might have been born at home. Rather than wise men and shepherds bringing gifts, however, the baby’s parents might have been forced to ward off visits from state social workers intent on prosecuting them for the home birth.  One couple in Washington had all three of their children removed after social services objected to the two youngest being birthed in an unassisted home delivery.

    Had Jesus been born in a hospital, his blood and DNA would have been taken without his parents’ knowledge or consent and entered into a government biobank. While most states require newborn screening, a growing number are holding onto that genetic material long-term for research, analysis and purposes yet to be disclosed.

    Then again, had Jesus’ parents been undocumented immigrants, they and the newborn baby might have been shuffled to a profit-driven, private prison for illegals where they would have been turned into cheap, forced laborers for corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret. There’s quite a lot of money to be made from imprisoning immigrants, especially when taxpayers are footing the bill.

    From the time he was old enough to attend school, Jesus would have been drilled in lessons of compliance and obedience to government authorities, while learning little about his own rights. Had he been daring enough to speak out against injustice while still in school, he might have found himself tasered or beaten by a school resource officer, or at the very least suspended under a school zero tolerance policy that punishes minor infractions as harshly as more serious offenses.

    Had Jesus disappeared for a few hours let alone days as a 12-year-old, his parents would have been handcuffed, arrested and jailed for parental negligence. Parents across the country have been arrested for far less “offenses” such as allowing their children to walk to the park unaccompanied and play in their front yard alone.

    Rather than disappearing from the history books from his early teenaged years to adulthood, Jesus’ movements and personal data—including his biometrics—would have been documented, tracked, monitored and filed by governmental agencies and corporations such as Google and Microsoft. Incredibly, 95 percent of school districts share their student records with outside companies that are contracted to manage data, which they then use to market products to us.

    From the moment Jesus made contact with an “extremist” such as John the Baptist, he would have been flagged for surveillance because of his association with a prominent activist, peaceful or otherwise. Since 9/11, the FBI has actively carried out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations on a broad range of activist groups, from animal rights groups to poverty relief, anti-war groups and other such “extremist” organizations.

    Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist. Law enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize signs of anti-government extremism during interactions with potential extremists who share a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.”

    While traveling from community to community, Jesus might have been reported to government officials as “suspicious” under the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” programs. Many states, including New York, are providing individuals with phone apps that allow them to take photos of suspicious activity and report them to their state Intelligence Center, where they are reviewed and forwarded to law-enforcement agencies.

    Rather than being permitted to live as an itinerant preacher, Jesus might have found himself threatened with arrest for daring to live off the grid or sleeping outside. In fact, the number of cities that have resorted to criminalizing homelessness has doubled. by enacting bans on camping, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and begging in public

    Viewed by the government as a dissident and a potential threat to its power, Jesus might have had government spies planted among his followers to monitor his activities, report on his movements, and entrap him into breaking the law. Such Judases today—called informants—often receive hefty paychecks from the government for their treachery.

    Had Jesus used the internet to spread his radical message of peace and love, he might have found his blog posts infiltrated by government spies attempting to undermine his integrity, discredit him or plant incriminating information online about him. At the very least, he would have had his website hacked and his email monitored.

    Had Jesus attempted to feed large crowds of people, he would have been threatened with arrest for violating various ordinances prohibiting the distribution of food without a permit. Florida officials arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless on a public beach.

    Had Jesus spoken publicly about his 40 days in the desert and his conversations with the devil, he might have been labeled mentally ill and detained in a psych ward against his will for a mandatory involuntary psychiatric hold with no access to family or friends. One Virginia man was arrested, strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having “mental health issues,” and locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait.

    Without a doubt, had Jesus attempted to overturn tables in a Jewish temple and rage against the materialism of religious institutions, he would have been charged with a hate crime. Currently, 45 states and the federal government have hate crime laws on the books.

    Had anyone reported Jesus to the police as being potentially dangerous, he might have found himself confronted—and killed—by police officers for whom any perceived act of non-compliance (a twitch, a question, a frown) can result in them shooting first and asking questions later. Daniel Shaver, 26 years old, was crawling on the floor, sobbing and begging for his life, and had just reached down to pull up his shorts when a police officer opened fire on him with an AR-15 rifle. “If you move, we’re going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it,” the cop shouted at Shaver before his partner started shooting.

    Rather than having armed guards capture Jesus in a public place, government officials would have ordered that a SWAT team carry out a raid on Jesus and his followers, complete with flash-bang grenades and military equipment. There are upwards of 80,000 such SWAT team raids carried out every year, many on unsuspecting Americans who have no defense against such government invaders, even when such raids are done in error.

    Instead of being detained by Roman guards, Jesus might have been made to “disappear” into a secret government detention center where he would have been interrogated, tortured and subjected to all manner of abuses. Chicago police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people into a secret, off-the-books interrogation warehouse at Homan Square.

    Charged with treason and labeled a domestic terrorist, Jesus might have been sentenced to a life-term in a private prison where he would have been forced to provide slave labor for corporations or put to death by way of the electric chair or a lethal mixture of drugs.

    Either way, whether Jesus had been born in our modern age or his own, he still would have died at the hands of a police state.

    Indeed, as I show in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, what Jesus and other activists suffered in their day is happening to those who choose to speak truth to power today.

    For those who celebrate Christmas as a season of miracles, it is indeed a time for joy and thanksgiving. Yet it should also be a time of reckoning, re-awakening and re-commitment to making this world a better place for all humanity.

    Remember, what happened on that starry night in Bethlehem is only part of the story. That baby in the manger grew up to be a man who did not turn away from evil but instead spoke out against it, and we must do no less.

    Thus, we are faced with a choice: remain silent in the face of evil or speak out against it. As Nobel Prize-winning author Albert Camus proclaimed:

    What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today. The grouping we need is a grouping of men resolved to speak out clearly and to pay up personally.

    An Afghan Year: My Road from Soldier to Socialism

    Hell is everything that Christian mythology paints it as. Hell is pain, death, suffering, bleakness, and fire. But it isn’t some mystical dimension where rapists and Hitler are suffering for eternity. Hell is right here on earth, war is hell; it’s not made to punish evil people, it’s made by evil people and it’s the innocent who suffer. It’s children, parents, brothers, sisters, people just trying to live their lives, all being tortured and killed, brutalized and raped. The innocent are the ones left weeping while the evil ones reap rewards. War is indeed hell in ways that no one can understand unless they’ve seen it. I have not been to hell, but I could see it from where I stood.

    Welcome to Kandahar

    I joined the National Guard to pay for college. I didn’t really think of the consequences at the time. After all: I’m an American, I was raised to worship my country and adore the military, and I did. Receiving a college education seemed like fair payment for “service to my country.” But that whole illusion of patriotism and “American exceptionalism” began to break down the moment I found myself stepping off an AC-17 into the blinding sun of Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the spring of 2012.

    It was surreal, like living inside the beginning of a war movie. But unlike all those movies where the grizzled veterans jeered at the new arrivals, everyone just ignored us as we walked down the tarmac to the building where we would receive our briefing. It was also loud, beyond what I had expected. There was an absolutely constant roar of aircraft taking off, landing, being run-up for maintenance. Aircraft of every size, purpose, and origin, were there. They told us later that Kandahar Airfield, or KAF as it is “affectionately” called, is the busiest airport in the world. I can certainly believe it. The roar was so deafening, so constant, that there was no escaping it. Not during the day, not when you tried to sleep at night. It was the first constant companion I was introduced to, and it started to wear me down in just the first few days.

    Once inside a small domed building, the civilian contractor gave his “welcome to Kandahar” brief, of which I paid zero attention. I was too busy looking at the building I was sitting in. It was ancient, and apparently it was a madrasa (Muslim school) before the U.S. occupation of the airfield. It was also the last-stand of the Taliban in Kandahar, and was riddled with bullet-holes. After the briefing, we all shuffled out into the street and waited for the buses that would take us to our RLB’s (Ready to Live Barracks.) It was at this moment I was introduced to the second constant companion that everyone is stuck with in Afghanistan: dust. And I mean DUST. There is no dirt. It’s talcum powder. It just hangs in the air, sticks to your everything, and forces you to breath it all the time. I also realized as I stood next to the dust bowl they called a street, that KAF is a city, not a base. Most of the buildings are simple plywood, and there really isn’t any order to most of them. The streets are mostly unpaved dusty roads, but it is still a city nonetheless.

    The runway is almost 2 miles long, and the area from one row of hangers on the north side of the runway to the row on the south side is almost half a mile wide. All that was just the operations area of the base. The south side of the base was all housing and the DEFAC’s (dining facility). It had an area they call the boardwalk, which had shops and restaurants run by both locals and contractors alike. The base even had its own water purification and bottling plant, also operated by contractors working for the company KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. I would see a lot of this company during the next year.

    On our way to our RLB’s we passed the “poo-pond.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: a huge pond of human waste, sitting out in the heat right in the middle of the base. Despite its scale and its age, KAF still didn’t have a more sanitary way to dispose of sewage. KAF still hadn’t caught up with the l9th century in this regard. It smells as nice as it sounds.

    After rolling around in the buses (crappy ten passenger vans with 20 people shoved in them) for a half hour, we finally arrived at the RLB’s. These “Ready to Live Barracks” would be our “homes” for the next year. They are shipping containers that have been cut in half and stacked like an apartment building. On the open end they put a door and a window. They were designed to house two people, and we would be living in them 3 per unit. We unloaded our bags and moved into our units. The rest of the day was spent aimlessly walking around the base. It was strange, like standing in the eye of a hurricane. But it was the last calm day we would experience.

    Blood on the rocks

    About a month in we had our first rocket attack. A sudden boom and then a mushroom cloud in the south part of the base. Frankly I had expected more. Looking back on it now, I should have been terrified. Normally you don’t have fiery death-tubes lobbed at you. But the locals had no way to aim them, and I never heard of anyone being killed by one on KAF. The sirens would go off and we were supposed to run to the bunker to hide until the all-clear was sounded, but we never did. Instead we usually ignored it if we could, and stayed where we were to “watch the show” if we couldn’t ignore it. One morning we were attacked pretty badly just as I was getting up, but I wasn’t having any of it. I had a routine, and this routine was everything to me, it kept me sane. I was going to have my shower and coffee made with my french press, even if it killed me. While I was in the shower I felt the whole stack of RLB’s shake. I didn’t hear the rocket roar overhead above the sound of my shower, but a couple of the other guys did, and it shook them up pretty badly.

    A rocket had managed to strike just a few yards from where I was standing in the shower. It struck a metal container and sent shrapnel flying all over the place. Apparently it shook the DEFAC pretty good, ruining everyone’s breakfast. When I felt it explode, I chuckled a little bit at the thought of it killing me in the shower: “He made the ultimate sacrifice, naked and wet.” I’m not trying to paint myself as brave, I’m not brave. I was fearless. Fearlessness isn’t a virtue, bravery is. Bravery is doing what you know needs done, despite your fears. Fearlessness is just a lack of fear. Fearless people are those who just don’t care anymore. Fearlessness is a kind of depression, a mental illness.

    The American response to these attacks always seemed a bit ridiculous. The Apache attack helicopters, that circled KAF at all times, would descend and kill everything in the vicinity of where the rocket was launched. It was like watching someone kill mosquitoes with a shotgun. They often did this before the rocket even struck. They had some kind of tracking system that could tell where the rocket came from before it hit. And they could respond faster than the rocket traveled. Of course, usually the rockets were on some kind of timer, and the people who set them up were long gone by the time they actually launched. But they didn’t always set them up in an empty field. Often they launched them near houses, in a place where they knew people would be. All to ensure that innocent people died.

    Noises like this were constant. You could always hear gunfire in the distance, it was like thunder that never stopped. Like natural thunder, the thunder of man heralded a storm. But that storm was one of fire, metal, and death. That storm never stopped. Not for the time of day, nor the change of season. It was constant. And it swirled all around me. I couldn’t escape it.

    My job on KAF was to supervise a squad of CH-47D mechanics during daytime operation hours. It was a fast, chaotic and sometimes painfully boring job. During the first few months in the summer though, it was nonstop chaos. It was the height of the fighting season, and we were running a lot of missions in extreme weather and dust. This caused all kinds of problems with the aircraft, especially the engines. I lost count of how many we changed, but I know that we were up to doing two a day. All the other units that worked around us were just as busy. The air force parajumpers (PJ’s for short) were flying non-stop to rescue downed pilots and other people injured in battle. The regular medevacs were doing the same. They both would land on the rocks next to the tarmac to wash the blood out of their aircraft with fire-hoses. I watched them with a morbid fascination, and I could see the red waterful wash out of the opposite side of the aircraft. This would happen every day, all day, for months. The rocks were permanently stained a dark red in that spot.

    The Undead

    The summer was a blur. I honestly do not remember much beyond the fact that I was tired and stressed the whole time. However, in the fall it got boring. As the weather got colder, the fighting died down. It was most boring while the aircraft were out on missions. We had 13 aircraft, but only 3 or 4 would be used for missions in a day. This was necessary during the summer because they were being pushed so hard that if they weren’t on a mission they needed maintenance. But now everything was slower, the missions were shorter, so there was much less to do. We had almost nothing to do for the several hours the aircraft were out on missions. This was the most difficult time. During the summer I could just focus on my work. There wasn’t time for anything else. But in the fall I had hours each day where I had nothing to focus on but my own thoughts, and those were not pleasant thoughts.

    Our pace may have been slower in the fall, but the war still raged all around us. The heat was still there, the noise of war still thundered, the dust was still choking. It all slowly ate my mind. But the worst part was what I was slowly being forced to accept: everything I had believed in my whole life was a lie. I had always been a patriotic American. I believed we weren’t perfect but that we were “the good guys.” I truly believed that the Afghans wanted us there, that we were protecting and helping them. But now, as I saw the war around me, and why it was being fought, as well as the inhuman attitude towards even the Afghan civilians that my fellow soldiers had, I couldn’t keep believing this lie.

    There was no greater example of the lie than the contractors who were there. It was these contractors that first started to hammar cracks in the walls of my mind built by this system. I came to find out that they outnumbered military personnel ten to one. And all of them were doing jobs that they still train and deploy the military to do. But our system doesn’t allow direct investment in the military, they have to invest in companies. So the government gives multi-million dollar, even billion-dollar contracts to these companies which perform tasks that the military is still capable of doing, but for quadruple the cost. The politicians who awarded the contract now have a safe investment, because they know exactly how much the contractor is going to make since those same politicians are the ones who gave them that money in the first place, straight out of government funds. The roads: built by KBR contractors. The food: cooked and distributed by KBR contractors. Our laundry: washed by KBR contractors. All despite the fact that the military still trains and deploys construction engineers, cooks, and even laundry personnel (or they could have just given us a washing machine and let us do it ourselves). But none of those military personnel doing these jobs can be used to make money for a capitalist. I wrote a Facebook post at that time that explained how I now believed capitalism was heartless. I hadn’t read a single word from any socialist literature at that point. I had come to that conclusion purely based on what I had seen.

    Every time a gunfight broke out in the distance, every time an Apache descended to kill “mosquitoes,” every time the base security apathetically fired their weapons beyond the fence, and every time I saw contractors doing the job that there were already military personnel there to perform, another crack formed in the wall that shielded my comfortable false narrative from the reality of the world.

    I took pictures of everything because I wanted to find some kind of beauty in that place. And it was there if you looked hard enough. More often than not, though, it was a sort of dark beauty, like the art that was painted on all of the bunkers around the base. Some of it was just pretty pictures, but most of it was anti-authority stencils or graffiti. The sunsets were also amazing, but always marred by helicopters. I really enjoyed watching the farmers outside the fence, who grew watermelons – of all things. I took pictures of all that, and it gave me some relief. It reminded me that there was still a world out there where people were just living their lives, where people weren’t using death to make themselves rich, a world where blood wasn’t being washed out of helicopters with fire hoses.

    One time, as we were riding back to the RLB’s in those crappy little vans, we were passing a point along the fence where we always did. Outside this section there was an old Soviet minefield. The U.S. could have removed it, but that cost too much money. What they did instead was to offer a reward to any locals who brought them mines from that field. This was cheaper, and didn’t risk American lives, but it was far more dangerous for the locals than it would have ever been for Americans. The locals had no equipment to detect or remove landmines. Sometimes we would see them working out there at the end of the day as we passed by. But this day there was only one figure out there: a little girl. She couldn’t have been older than 5 or 6, her clothes were rags, and she was covered from head to toe in mud and gore. She raised an arm above her head and stared at us as we drove by. I learned there that the undead are real, but they aren’t walking corpses, just the opposite. Their bodies are very much alive. It’s their souls that have died. Her eyes were hollow and haunting, they were a knife to my heart, and it was the final hammer that brought that wall in my mind down. There in the abyss of her eyes died the last excuse I had to defend what I used to believe. They begged one question at me: “why?” And I had no answer that could defend this system. Capitalism hurt that girl, and the culture that supports it. Greed and the need to increase profits kept that minefield there. I learned in that moment what we all are to Capitalists: a source of wealth, nothing more. And when we cannot give anything more to them, then we are worthless to them. I never took a picture of that girl.

    Casualties, Apathy, and The End

    A few weeks after that, as we were all smoking inside of a bunker, listened to an old sergeant brag about the moped he had bought from one of the spec-ops guys. He gleefully told the story of how the operator (military slang for special-operations soldier) killed a kid (yes, he said kid) who tried to run away from the operator on that moped. The operator left his body there for his parents to find, and kept the moped as a trophy. Who knows if the kid actually was a terrorist, his only crime was running away. But to them only guilty people run away. The story still makes me want to throw up.

    On November 9th, 2012, Spc. Daniel Carlson, a blond haired 2l year old kid who worked in the parts room, put his rifle in his mouth and blew his brains out in his RLB. I had spoken to him no more than a few hours before. He wasn’t someone I knew very well, an acquaintance really, but I did talk to him every day. I had made my job the “parts and tools fetcher” so that my guys could focus on maintenance and didn’t have to run all over the place. SPC Carlson was the only person in that tool room who did their job. Everyone else all but refused to do anything. I don’t know exactly what made him take his own life, but I do know that he had requested emergency leave from his superiors 3 times, and 3 times he was refused because his work ethic “made him too valuable.”

    Thanksgiving came, and we were all required to attend dinner at the DFAC for a photo-op, and pretend to be happy patriotic Americans. No one wanted to attend. It really reminded us all of what big tools we were; we were just pawns to make politicians and citizens feel patriotic and supportive of this charade. I hated it most of all, and I scowled right into the camera. All the officers and higher enlisted were smiles from ear to ear. That’s when I learned what a bootlicker really looks like.

    By winter the heat suddenly went away. It was replaced by cold and rain showers. The rain pretty much ended most flight missions; there were actually snowstorms in the mountains around us. We kind of coasted our way to January and the end of our deployment. Before I knew it, we flew our last mission, us maintainers posed on the ground as the aircraft took off in the background of the picture. After that, we broke down our aircraft for transport back to the U.S. Then we climbed aboard a C-17 headed for Kyrgyzstan, and eventually the U.S.

    I sat on that plane in the dark morning and did what I had fantasized about for a year: I took off my helmet, took out my beat up clunky ipod, closed my eyes and listened to “violence and variations” by Bear McCreary as the plane lifted off and took me away from that place. I had imagined that music as the end of my story, the part of the movie where the credits roll and the audience stretches their legs. But as those promising notes lifted tattered remains of my soul, I knew this wasn’t the end of my story. With all the things I had seen, and all the ways they had changed me, I knew this was just the prologue.

    In the morning we landed in Kyrgyzstan. We had been in Afghanistan for only 9 months, not even a year, but no one called it less than a year, it sure felt like even longer. Time is different there, surrounded by all that. It was an Afghan year, and what a year it had been. But all of it was over now, all the things I had taken for granted back home now seemed so alien, and wonderful. There was snow, mountains, and trees: My god, there were TREES. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

    I found a secluded grove at one end of the base and just sat in the snow for a long time. The air was clear and cool, there was no dust, no mud, no aircraft exhaust, no rockets, no gunfire, no minefields, no waterfalls of blood being washed out of aircraft, and no hollow eyes of little girls. It was just quiet. Everything just sort of hit me at once, and I cried.

    • First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism