Category Archives: Society

Semper Fidelis or Das Kapital Uber Alles: From Eisenhower to Trump!

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

— Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective.

— Rachel Libert, co-producer of filmSemper Fi

I’m thinking harder and harder about the Continuing Criminal Enterprise that is the Corporate State. Thinking hard about the buffoonery, really, “regular” citizens, and members of the armed services, taking hook-line-and-sinker the foundational belief that it’s we the people, by the people, for the people, because of the people.

How wrong my old man was, 32 years combined Air Force and Army, believing he was upholding some decency, some safety nets for all, old folks homes, jobs for college grads and those without any training. Turning in his grave, absolutely, if he could now witness the evisceration of our post office, libraries, public schools, health care, roads and infrastructure. He fought for government oversight, EPA, FDA, and the rights of nature over the thuggery of madmen and Mafiosi and financial philanderers. He witnessed the abuse and fraud of the US Military Lobbying Corporate Ripoff complex, up close and personal. When he was in Korea, he had the utmost respect for Koreans, on both sides of the line. When he was in Vietnam, he had the utmost respect for the Vietnamese. He taught me the words of General Smedley Butler when I was 12. Now how fucked up is that, man. Living half a century on that graveyard of lies, propaganda and insufferable patriotism.

Daily, that American exceptionalist clarion call is pummeled and delegitimized by purveyors of Capitalism – rapacious, arbitrary, steeped in usury, couched in profits over all, cemented by the few elites and their soldiers – Little Eichmann’s – to define all human and non-human life as anything for the taking, consequences be damned. It’s a bought and sold and resell system, United States. Many times, it’s a rip-off after rip-off system of penalties and penury.

Think of Capitalism as, in spite of the people, against the people, forever exploiting the masses. Daily, I have seen this played out as a kid living on military bases around the world; or in just one of a hundred examples, as a student at the University of Arizona watching white purveyors of capital squash the sacred mountain, Mount Graham, in the name of telescopes and tens of thousands of profits per hour for anyone wanting to peer through the scopes. Sticking to the Sonora, I saw the developers in Tucson and then in Kino Bay, Guaymas, all there to push ecosystems toward extinction and to hobble the people – of, for, by, because – with centuries of collective debt and decades of individual fines, levies, taxes, penalties, tolls, externalities. This has been a Greek tragedy of monumental proportions, my 61 years of hard living, shaped by Marxist ideology and informed with communitarian reality.

Name a system or an issue, and then I quickly and easily jump to the cause and effect of the problem, and searching for intended and unintended consequences, and then comprehending shifting baselines, and then inevitably, realizing the tragedy of the commons tied to anything enshrined in consumer capitalism, and then, finally, acceding to the full context of how exponential growth and the limits of growth all come pounding like an aneurysm into my brain.

Call it death by a thousand rules, death by a thousand loopholes, death by a thousand fine print clauses, death by a thousand new chemicals polluting land, soil, air, water, flesh. Death by another thousand PT Barnum adages from dozens of financial-extracting arenas — “a sucker is born every minute,” all tributes to this casino-vulture-predatory capitalism which is insanity as we go to war for, because, despite it all.

Teacher-journalist-social worker-activist-unionist: Who the hell said I had any place in this society of “money takes/speaks/controls/shapes all,” or the Holly-dirt celebrity that is Weinstein or Rosanne Barr, the lot of them, and the unending perversion of big business-big media-big energy-big finance-big pharma-big arms manufacturing-big war as the new coded and DNA-embedded value system, the existential crisis (hog) of culture, civil society, the commons, community, and nature?

The men and women I work with now, after a cavalcade of careers under my belt, are wounded soldiers, sometimes wounded warriors, and many times wounded children – both the inner child and the literal children of soldiers. We’ve had one-day-old babies and 83-year-old veterans in this shelter. Every type of service, every type of discharge, every kind of military history. Some were never deployed overseas, some were but in support capacities, and others saw combat.

That is the microcosm of society reflected in this homeless shelter. I’ve written about it here and here and here. The prevailing winds of one or two strikes, then one or two bad debts, then one or two evictions, or one or two convictions, and, one or two co-occurring maladies, or one or two levels of trauma, and you are almost out; and mix that up with failed relationships, and capitalism and militarism, joined at the hip like a six-legged frog, and we have homelessness. Living in garages, in mini-vans, on couches, in tents, on floors, in wooden boxes, in abandoned buildings, in cemeteries, in cars.

For veterans, there is some level of dysfunctional help through the VA, the medical and dental system, the psych wards, and with housing vouchers and some debt relief. Thank a veteran for his or her service to the country, well, that’s a sloppy invocation of superficial respect.

The crumbs of the octopus that is capitalism wedded to war trickle down to some sectors of society – those who were diagnosed before 18 with some developmental-psychological-intellectual disability and veterans who served. I am talking about vets who didn’t go full-bore and retire after 20-plus years. These vets sometimes ended up in for four or five years, some a few months, and as is the case, here, the hierarchy of character and demographics kicks in, as veterans deployed to war and those who were wounded in war get a higher level of “benefits” than, say, someone who was in a few months or a year with no splashy combat rejoinder to his or her record.

We have vets in continuous, long bureaucratic lines working on their service connected disability claims, and, it’s sometimes a huge Sisyphus game of producing medical record after medical record going up against the hydra of the US government, Arms Service Committee pols, and the western medical system that was bound for failure after the striped barber pole days ended. The military does not help, denying injuries on the job, in combat or otherwise.

Tinnitus or loss of hearing, well, that’s usually a given after even a few months of service in the military. Knees, hips, feet, back problems. Anxiety, depression, skin issues. Kidney, teeth, TBI issues. PTSD and MST (military sexual trauma). The list is a ten-volume encyclopedia.

What I’ve found is most guys and gals are not wired for the obscene confusion, machismo and endless stupidity of repetition and humiliation of barking dehumanizing orders and tasks coming out of service to our country – all branches of the military make the Sanford Prison Experiment look like a walk in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

A Documentary About Cover-up, Collective Guilt, Toxins in the Water, Death

The precipitating factor behind a review of a 2011 documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, directed and produced by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, is I am working with a former Marine client as his social worker. In a homeless shelter for veterans; that moniker – social worker — is a deep one, a cover-all assignment, with wide ranging responsibilities, some anticipated and others surprisingly serendipitous.

His case, age 63, former Marine, in at age 17 with parents’ permission, is complicated – as if the other cases are not. A lot of these cases involve young men and women, virtually boys and girls, getting out of Dodge. Some with a sense of patriotism, for sure, and a few with aspirations of turning the military into a career. But make no bones about it, these people many times got caught up in the rah-rah patriotism of the day, Apple Pie, Mom, Hot Dogs and Football. Some were in it for the macho badge, and others wanted to learn avionics, electronics, logistics and nursing, etc. Many were discharged because of physical injuries or some sort of mental strain, or many were rifted for the unjust downright downsizing.

I’ll call my man Larry, and he grew up on the Oregon Coast, ending up hitching up with the Marine Corps because he wanted out of bubble of the small town and wanted in with a band of brothers.

Today, he is still tall, but a bit hunched over. His face is frozen in a heavy screen of sadness and fear. Both hands he is attempting to calm, but Parkinsonian tremors have taken over; he can’t hold a tray of food and drink, and he has no signature left. He has bruises on his arms and shines from falling over, tripping. He repeats himself, and knows it, telling me his words are coming out slurred.

He spent two years in prison for what amounts to minor (in my mind) medical fraud with his company. Those two years, he tells me, were nirvana. “The prison guards told me they had never anyone say they were glad to be in prison. I told them this was the calmest and most level I had ever been, or for at least years.”

His life was one of overwork, overreach, clients all over the Pacific Northwest, gambling addiction, big money from his business, lot of toys and big home, and children who ended up spoiled and broken as adults. Larry’s juggling a hoarder wife whose mother is dying, a heroin-addicted daughter with a child, another daughter in an abusive relationship, and countless appointments now to the VA, psychologists, counselors, OT and PT professionals, and support groups.

Today, he is quickly slipping into miasma of Parkinson’s, with all the symptoms and negative cycles of someone with Parkinson’s hitting him daily. He barely got a diagnosis, as early on-set, a few months ago; in fact, he’s been living with the Parkinsonian-triggered suite of maladies for up to 12 years, he tells me. “I remember my clients telling me I was repeating myself. I really think the stupid decision to defraud the state for a few hundred dollars was triggered by Parkinson’s.”

He and I have talked to support groups, looked at the literature around Parkinson’s, watched TED Talk’s focusing on the disease, gone to Michael J. Fox’s web site, and just honed in on what his life will be like in a year, two years, and five.

Right now, his Parkinson’s is one of nine major maladies tied to service connected disabilities the VA is now processing. This ties into the movie – Semper Fi – because my client was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as part of the Marine Corps where learning the art of war was also combined with the silent spring of water contamination that eventually resulted in diseases that both affected the veterans but also their families, and civilians who used the water, as well as their offspring.

This is a three decades long exposure, 1957 – 1987, with an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people who may been exposed to the cancer- and neurological disorder-causing chemicals. They consumed and bathed in tap water contaminated with “extremely high concentrations of toxic chemicals.”

The documentary follows three main protagonists fighting for their lives, the legacy of loved ones who were affected, and for the truth.

This is Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and according to the epidemiologists and scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, it is one of largest water contamination incidents in US history. We learn in the film the main carcinogens the people were exposed to — benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE), three known human carcinogens, in addition to perchloroethylene (PCE), a probable carcinogen.

The list of physical damage caused by exposure is long — Birth Defects, Leukemia, Neurological Damage, Bladder Cancer, Liver Damage, Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Lung Cancer, Scleroderma, Kidney Damage, Miscarriage, Skin Disorders.

My guy Larry is afraid of watching the documentary, as he is now in a spiraling malaise and deep anxiety tied to the reality of what life with Parkinson’s is, and that maybe many of his life decisions, from infidelity in a marriage to spontaneous behavior like gambling addiction may have stemmed from the stripping of his neurological web by these solvents and fuels that were leaking into the water supply, a contamination known by the United States’ Marines.

Knowledge is power but it can be a leveling power, one that forces people to look at the totality of their lives as may be based on a stack of lies and false ideologies. The movie reveals to the audience that this is one of 130 military sites in the USA with contamination issues. Alas, as I’ve written about before, the US military is the largest polluter in the world, and other militaries have the same standards or lack thereof for storing fuel, solvents, cleaners and other chemicals utilized in the war machine of the West.

Three Lives Following the Chemical Trail, Lies and Deceit

The documentary looks at three lives intensely – a 24-year veteran of the Marines whose 9-year-old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, a man who was born on the base and raised there and then developed male breast cancer, and a female Marine who served years at the Camp and who throughout the film is going through chemo to fight her rare disease.

We see the gravestones at the military cemetery at Camp Lejeune and remarkable typographic evidence of strange deaths – babies buried after a day living, stillborn babies buried, families with two or three deceased individuals, the offspring of serving Marines buried in plots surrounded by others who prematurely died.

Jerry Ensminger, the former drill sergeant, pushes hard to attempt to understand how the Marines could have lied and covered up the years of contamination. He fights to understand how the chemical producers through their lobbyists could hold sway over the common sense duty of protecting the citizens of the United States who swore an oath to defend the US Constitution. In the end, Jerry Ensminger (Janey’s dad), Michael Partain (male breast cancer survivor), and Danita McCall (former Marine enlisted soldier) make for compelling film making, since the project went on for four years.

Here, Rachel, the co-producer, talks about Danita:

The woman who shook her head is a woman named Danita, who we also followed in the film. When we met Danita, she was actually healthy, but shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer that honestly had metastasized so much in her body that I don’t think they could even say what the organ of – you know, what organ it started in. And we began to – in addition to following Jerry and Tom and the others, we also followed Danita as she fought to stay alive, as well as fought to get this issue out.

She did not make it in the time that we were making the film. And neither my co-director or I had ever experienced that in a project we’d worked on, and it was really hard. But Danita felt very strongly that her story should be in the film, and she – even though there were times where she was not feeling so great when we were trying to film her, because she had chemo treatment and whatnot, she really rallied through.

The ultimate sacrifice fighting for your life because of chemical-toxin induced cancers are eating at your very soul while also going up against the PR and hellish propaganda systems that define America, define the powerful, the political, the lobbies, the Captains of Industry, in this case, the chemical purveyors who have been given carte blanc the right to kill entire neighborhoods and classes of people and non-people species because Capitalism is predicated on unfettered rights of any snake oil salesman or demon shyster to bilk, bust, and bill for all the disease they perpetrate. Is anyone with a sound mind going to believe that Agent Orange and PCBs were not already deemed harmful to human life before they were even sprayed on the innocents of Vietnam? Does anyone believe the polluted, lead-flecked water of Flint doesn’t kill brain cells? Off-gassing, Volitile Organic Compounds, plastics, solvents, flame retardants, pesticides, fungicides, diesel fumes, nitrous oxide, fluoride, well, the list goes on and on, and those demons will hide, obfuscate, and downright lie to keep the pennies from Capitalism’s Heaven falling into their fat, off-shore, tax-free bank accounts.

Here, Jerry, talking to C-SPAN:

When any family ever have a child, especially a child, that’s diagnosed with a long-term catastrophic illness, without exception — because I’ve talked to so many other families, when Janey was sic– the first thing after you have a chance to sit down after the shock of the diagnosis wears off is that nagging question: Why? Well, I was no exception.
And I looked into her mother’s family history, my family history, no other child had ever been diagnosed with cancer.

We are talking about over one thousand Freedom of Information requests to have Navy, Marines and other government agency files open for public viewing. The concept of we the people, by the people, for the people – public health, safety, welfare – has never really been a reality, but a myth. For filmmaker Rachel Libert, she too has been caught with wide open eyes around how rotten the systems in place are for supposedly cross-checking and protecting people’s lives:

It’s been eye-opening for me. I think the thing that was probably the most eye-opening – I don’t consider myself a naive person, but I – I actually believed that our regulatory agencies were doing their job and protecting us, bottom line, that things that were really, really harmful and known to be carcinogens wouldn’t really be in our environment, in our water and things. And in making this film, I realized that that system is very flawed and that we aren’t as protected, and that was a very difficult thing for me to accept.

I mean, I certainly didn’t go into it thinking, oh, the government’s perfect and there are no problems, but that was a big revelation.

Again, the film is a microcosm of the world I live in, the world I work in, and the world of a Marxist struggling to make sense of the psychology of power and the impact of that power on the common people. Yes, schooling has helped with the American mythology of greatness. Yes, the Madison Avenue shills have aided and abetted the stupidity of a collective. Yes, the genocidal roots of this country’s illegal origin continue to splay the DNA of Americans. Yes, the food is bad, the air contaminated, the medicines polluted and the human spirit malformed in the collective American household. Yes, those in power are perversions, open felons, war mongers and money grubbers.

But, when you see over the course of four years – these main “actors” in the documentary are not paid – the Don Quixotes flailing at windmills, just replace Camp Lejeune with Love Canal or Monfort slaughter house, or fence-line communities around Houston or the flaming waters of the Cuyahoga River. Just spend a few years studying the largest Superfund site, Hanford in southern Washington. Just spend time looking at the research on Glyphosate (Monsanto’s DNA-killing Round-up). Just delve into the research on EMFs and cancers, or cell phones and brain lesions. Again, this so-called exceptionalist country is a purveyor of lies, purveyor of mentally deranged uber patriotism, and without exception, eventually, anyone going up against the system will quickly hold to him or her self the belief we all have been snookered by the Titans of Industry and the Wolves of Wall Street.

Here, the good Marine, 24 years in, Semper Fi, now a farmer in North Carolina, wondering just what he was fighting for:

Well . . . one thing that they’ve done over the years is that they have obfuscated the facts so much, they have told so many half-truths and total lies, they’ve omitted a lot of information to the media, and now if they were to sit down with me face-to-face, I could show them with their own documents and counter what they’ve been saying, and they don’t want to do that.

I mean, I have been very, very cautious throughout this entire fight to speak truth. I’ve told Mike Partain, when he got involved in it, and everybody else that gets involved in this situation, don’t ever speculate. If you’re talking to the media, if you’re talking to Congress, never speculate. If you don’t have a document out of their own files to back up what you’re saying, keep your mouth shut.

And going back to Mike Partain, when Mike got involved in this back in 2007, Tom was starting to fall out of the hike. Tom’s in his 80s. And Mike was a godsend. I mean, Mike has a degree in history. And he has also got investigative skills, because he is an insurance adjuster. He couldn’t – he couldn’t pay to raise his family on high school teacher’s pay, history teacher’s pay, so he went and got a job as an investigator.

Admirable, the story telling and truth Sather qualities in this film, for sure. The audience gets up close and personal with Jerry and Mike and Danita, and the directors let the soldiers tell the story. We get the cold hard stare down of the military brass. Indeed, for the uninitiated this story is compelling.

But also on the outer edges of this piece are the obscenities of blind obedience to command. There are some ugly truths to being a Marine, of following orders, of sadomasochistic drill sergeants, the culture of rape, the outright racism, and all the attendant issues tied to military service.

This is the fiftieth year after the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. The two or three soldiers who stood down some of the killers and reported the crime were vilified. That bastion of war, Colin Powell, was a junior officer whose job was to hunt down any incriminating evidence against the soldiers who reported the murders. Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for his reporting on My Lai. Yet, Colin Powell rose to power, ending up in another war criminal’s administration – Bush Junior. To think of all the illegal wars these soldiers have prepped for and gone to, one wonders if any soldier can believe anything around their sometimes teary-eyed salute the flag patriotism.

The USS Liberty, 51 years ago, and Israel murders 34 sailors, and wounds 171, yet deniability, no repercussions, and here we are, US DoD and US Military are the beckon call of Israel firsters running our government, and the blind allegiance to the apartheid and genocidal state 70 years after forced trail of tears for Palestine, and all those deniers now in positions of Fortune 500 power, and who decide the fate of the plebes, the foot soldiers of industry and military services.

Conversing with my veterans, so many are confused about aliens and Area 54 and reverse engineering from that Roswell kid from space; somehow a Trump is more palatable than an Obama than a Bush. How many times have I been spat upon and cursed when I fought against illegal wars, overt or proxy, in South America, Central America, the Middle East? How many times have I been yelled at for fighting against chemical plants or fighting for clean air, water, soil? How many times have I been called a Pinko Fag for fighting for spotted owls or gray wolves?

As an avowed revolutionary, Marxist, one who has been hobbled by the middling mush that is America, from acidified sea to oil slick sea, I can only say that George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, respectively, say it correctly about this thing called “patriotism”:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

— George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

— Mark Twain

I’ve got a more horrific story to tell about Larry, my former Marine. Yes, he might get some more service connected disability money coming in for the toxic water exposure he attained in North Carolina while on the Marine Corps base for a few years.

He is now stagnant, fearful of uncontrollable tremors, fearful of not getting words out, fearful of falls, fearful of a life now full of attendants, and as we all are, fearful of ending up destitute (he is in a homeless shelter, readers), and alas, his one asset — his brain — is now fogged and riddled with the bullet holes of anxiety and paranoia.

Yet, his toxic waters story pales in comparison to what happened to him as a 17-year-old at boot camp in Dan Diego. A story so bizarre and troubling, that it’s one the military has dealt with since time immemorial, when the first militaries came about under those pressed into service rules of the rich needing bodies to fight their unholy skirmishes, battles and world wars.

That story and series of human penalties Larry encompasses will come soon, but for now, imagine, a country run by the likes of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Trump, et al. Imagine those swollen jowls and paunchy millionaire politicians. Imagine their lies, their sociopathic inbreeding. Imagine the tortures they foment at night. Imagine these people sending people to war, and imagine the entire lie that is America, the land of the free.

Hell, in my own neck of the woods, Portland, again, we are a third world country when it comes to we, for, by and because the people:

In one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the fight for clean water is taxing. From Salem, Oregon to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and from Flint, Michigan to the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana, Americans are finding their access to clean water threatened.

Emma Fiala

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

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

Charles Bowden

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

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

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

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis in Consciousness: Change and the Individual

Our society is besieged by a series of interconnected crises. Millions of people around the world know this and are crying out for change, for a different way of living, for justice, peace and freedom.

Political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the like, are apparently incapable of responding to these demands; they do not understand the depth of the anguish or the complex interconnected nature of the problems. Instead of presenting new possibilities and working for peace and social harmony, they do all they can to maintain the divisive status quo and act in accordance with the past. But life is not static, it cannot be contained within any ideology – religious, political/economic or social – all must change to accommodate the new. And ‘the new’ is now flooding our world, stimulating change, demanding response and accommodation.

The world and the individual are one; for substantive change to occur this basic fact must be acknowledged; responsibility for the world rests firmly with each and every one of us. If we are to heal the planet and create harmony in the world change is imperative, but it must first of all take place within the individual. Over the last 40 years or so a gentle, yet profound shift in attitudes has indeed been taking place within large numbers of people; the increased level of social-political participation and in many nations revolt against historical injustice and suppression testify to this development. Whilst this is extremely positive, urgent and fundamental change is required if the many issues facing humanity are to be overcome and a new way of living set in motion.

What are the crises facing humanity: The environmental catastrophe and war conventional and nuclear – global poverty, inequality, terrorism, the displacement of people, and, festering beneath all of these, the socio-economic systems under which we all live. These issues, and they are but the most pressing, are the effects of certain ideals and conditioned ways of thinking; they are the results of the underlying crisis, what we might term the Crisis in Consciousness, or the Crisis of Love. Not sentimental, emotional love, but love as a unifying force for liberation and change. Love as the Sword of Cleavage, as the exposer of all that is false, unjust and corrupt in our world.

‘Society’, large or small, is a reflection of the consciousness of those who constitute that society; it is formed by the values, relationships and behaviour consistently and predominantly expressed by the people within it. Such expressions are to a large degree the result of socio-psychological conditioning, poured into the minds of everyone from birth by parents and peers, friends and educators, the media and political propaganda. This conditioning pollutes the mind, distorts behaviour and creates a false sense of self. It colours every relationship and forms the corrupt foundations upon which our lives are set. From this polluted centre, filled as it is with selfishness, competition, nationalism and religious ideologies, action proceeds and the divisive pollution of the mind is externalized. Where there is division conflict follows, violent conflict or psychological conflict, community antagonism or regional disputes.

For lasting change to take place, for peace and justice to flower, we must do all we can to break free of this inhibiting conditioning and in so doing cease to add to the collective pollution. The instrument of release in this battle is awareness: Observation and awareness are synonymous. In choiceless observation there is awareness – awareness of the values, motives and ideals conditioning behaviour. In the light of such awareness, unconscious patterns are revealed, and through a process of non-engagement can, over time, be negated and allowed to fall away.

Realizing unity

Through competition, fear and ‘ism’s of all kinds we have divided life up; separated ourselves from the natural environment and from one another. The prevailing economic system encourages such divisions; individuals are forced to compete with one another, as are cities, regions and nations. Competition feeds notions of separation and nationalism, ‘America First’ and Brexit being two loud examples of countries, or certain factions within these countries, following a policy which they mistakenly believe to be in their nation’s interest, meaning their economic interest. Such divisions work against the natural order of things by strengthening the illusion of separation.

The natural environment is an integrated whole, humanity is One and an essential part of that whole; the realization of unity in human affairs, however, is dependent upon social justice, and this is impossible within the constraints of the current economic model, which is inherently unjust. Neo-Liberalism is a major source of the psychological and sociological conditioning which is polluting the mind and society; creative alternatives that challenge the orthodoxy, which proclaims ‘there is no alternative’, must be cultivated and explored.

New criteria need to be established for any alternative economic model; the acknowledgment that human need is universal and should be universally met, and that nobody ‘deserves’ to live a life of suffering and hardship simply because of their place and family of birth. Sharing is a key principle of the time; it must be placed at the heart of our lives and of any new socio-economic structures. Not just sharing of the natural ‘God-given’ resources of the world, but of space, ideas, knowledge and skills, all should be distributed based on need, not bought and sold based on wealth and power. The recognition that humanity is one is crucial in bringing about the needed transformation in consciousness; sharing flows quite naturally from the acknowledgment of this fact and by its expression encourages a shift in attitudes away from the individual towards the group, thus strengthening social cohesion and unity.

Sharing, justice and freedom are vibrant expressions of Love and the Crisis in Consciousness is itself the consequence of a Lack of Love. Like virtually every aspect of life, love has been perverted, distorted and trivialized. Love is not desire, it is not dependent on anything or anyone for its being: Love is the nature of life itself. Remove the psychological clutter and Love will shine forth, bringing clarity and lasting change, within the individual and by extension society.

Ode to America

My own little world
Is what I deserve
‘Cause I am the only child there is.
A king of it all
The belle of the ball
I promise I’ve always been like this.
Forever the first
My bubble can’t burst
It’s almost like only I exist.
Where everything’s mine
If I can keep my mouth shut tight, tight, tight.

— Guster, “Center of Attention”, Lost and Gone Forever Live, 2014

So much for the city on the hill. Narcissism has changed to nihilism and solipsism: “climate change isn’t real”, and the ravages of history continue down the rabbit hole of memory.

Take another look. Genocide and chattel slavery. The war against Mexico, the quite uncivil war, the Spanish-American war, the massacres in the Philippines, the two World Wars. Dust off a book and check out the post-WWII carnage. Three million dead in Korea, three to five million dead in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. A million or more in Indonesia where our CIA handed out kill lists to Suharto’s regime. Untold atrocities in Nicaragua. Juntas and death squads covering South and Central America, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan, a million or more in Iraq. Refugees numbered 65 million last year, with 20 million worldwide at risk of starvation.

Welcome to America, where minorities are killed for loose cigarettes or burned-out taillights. Where kids are shot up in school after warning of the madman dozens of times. Where we are chided to “support our troops” as they massacre, where we’re told “blue lives matter” as black men are murdered in cold blood.

The only solution is to abolish the military and the police. There is no reforming to be done. Likewise the nation-state and the corporation must be banned as well. Banish capitalism to the dustbin of history. The neoliberal globalizers (yes, Trump, that means you too) have got to go.

This is the fourth world war, as Subcomandante Marcos explained brilliantly. Billions of people now are no longer needed in the global economy and form the reserve army of temporary, part-time, and seasonal laborers. This is the new precariat, which along with the ever exploited proles constructs and maintains the property of the oligarchs in our new gilded age.

The risks from global warming, nuclear war, industrial pollulants, new pandemics, and food and water shortages from drought, floods, and extreme weather all should remind us that we are constructing our very own abattoir as well. Seven-and-a-half billion of us fighting and scrambling over the scraps and dregs of our fossil fuel age doesn’t paint a pretty picture when you step back and look at things with a global perspective.

There is an absolute nothing at the heart of Western life. This gets touched up in media and the arts, when terms like “Spaceship Earth”, “The Big Empty”, and “Lonely Planet” are used in a playful way, masking our sorrow. Projecting our own isolation and alienation onto the world, we anthropomorphize features and creatures around us and thus imagine that everyone and everything else must be feeling as helpless, bleak, and disturbed as we are.

Yet, it is just not so. Just because the universe is kind of a lonely and scary place does not give us the right to destroy the planet out of fear of our own mortality, our own sense of meaninglessness.

While our foreign wars mutate and mushroom out of control, domestically, America today is increasingly provincial and insular. Like many subcultures, the political realm is dominated by nostalgia, a return to a so-called Golden Age. From “Make America Great Again” to Bernie Sanders’ New Deal/Keynesian/Social Democratic promises, they are all based on delusions. These are delusions of isolationism, delusions that we can use a Scandinavian blueprint onto a population of 320 million, delusions of American exceptionalism, being the indispensable nation.

There is also a delusion regarding the “living wage”. There can only be a living wage coinciding with a radical restructuring of the economy towards sustainability and ecological living. Without this, what would happen? A wage hike to $15/hour would encourage everyone to spend more, consume more, go on more trips and use more fossil fuels. This would not help any single living thing on the planet, as our economy is built to destroy and degrade the Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Comments on US Left Radicals, with Respect

I also sense a split between two strains of Leftist radical thought in the US: the activist/socialist Left and what one might call the counter-culture/spiritual Left. Turns out, each has much to offer the other.

The activists/Marxists will be instrumental in breaking the passivity, new-age hedonism, and tendency to harp on conspiracy theory of the spiritualists. Organization and discipline on the strategic and tactical levels are in short supply, and here socialists have a lot to contribute to the conversation.

As for the counter-culture/spiritual types, they have much to teach the social justice activists and socialist/communist organizers and academics as well. In a very practical sense, those in the counterculture who have “dropped out” are doing a great service by not contributing tax money to our war machine. Those who squat and occupy public land responsibly should also be applauded, not ignored, by the academic Left. The growing movement in permaculture and homesteading also is uniquely absent even in alternative media (is too much patchouli and yoga a repellant for otherwise intrepid journalists?).

There is also an idea as old as time, summed up by the saying “Man does not live by bread alone”. The constant focus of some on the socialist Left on only materialistic problems and solutions (exemplified by some Marxist and lefty economists, among others) and inequality does not give enough weight to questions of inner life in modern society.

Many of the activist/socialists cannot even be counted on to support full drug legalization. Additionally, many ignore the issue of, or are scared at speaking out in favor of, the responsible use of cannabis and psychedelics, even though study after study confirms their beneficial effects. Of course, I’m not trying to inflate the heads of the credentialed experts, as any hippie on Haight-Ashbury or Rasta in Kingston could have confirmed this 50 years ago.

Speaking of the 60s, 50 years ago the French managed to scare De Gaulle out of the country, with an alliance of students, workers, feminists, artists, Leftists, and citizen protestors. Union workers in the US should be supporting high school students’ calls for increased legislation to halt gun violence, as well as college students’ call to end student debt, creating free higher education for universities and community colleges, etc.

Then there are people who fit neither category, including environmentalists, peace activists, anti-nuke and GMO protestors, dissidents, anarchists, etc. For many here, the Greens are simply not anti-capitalist enough, and the socialists do not put enough emphasis on environmental concerns and ecology.

I have offered a respectful critique of one of the main Left parties, Socialist Alternative, in a previous piece, especially their call to “democratize the Fortune 500 companies”, instead of breaking them down to human-scale anarchic cooperatives and inherently questioning the nature of the consumer goods and production model, which contribute to pollution, misery, disease, alienation, and global warming.  Also, their call for a living wage without structural transformation of the industrial system falls flat, for reasons mentioned above.

Last year, Alan Jones wrote a pretty epic essay dismantling the faulty thinking going on in the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in an essay here.

What is needed among radicals is more guts, and more imagination. We need more people like SPUSA 2016 presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik who called for the military and the police to be disbanded in the LA Times.

What is necessary is to become more grounded in speech and action. Technological utopianism has to be replaced by scale-appropriate bio-regional and eco-centric Earth-based production techniques. To accomplish this, we will need to reorient our culture and pay respects to the main keepers of this wisdom, the First Nations of Turtle Island, the land we know as North America.

Visioning

What anyone with a heart wants is a rainbow nation, not in terms of a country or nation-state with borders, but groups of interdependent communities, aka intercommunalism as the Black Panthers called it, where our brown, black, white, yellow, and red sisters and brothers can live and thrive in a veritable kaleidoscope, a mosaic of multicultural and intergenerational cooperation and beauty. To live in cooperation with each other and live close to the Earth, we will have to learn from and adopt the rejuvenating and conflict-avoidant cultural practices of indigenous communities.

Land and property reform are at the center of this agenda, as is instituting a universal basic income. We must utilize the burgeoning fields of bio-dynamic farming, perma-culture, and agro-forestry to feed ourselves. We must decentralize…Small Is Beautiful, as Schumacher explained.

Over the course of human history, the village was the central unit of society, where bio-regional production, markets, and trading dominated. This is how unique culture is formed, where syncretism and blending is encouraged, not denigrated by xenophobic bigots.

The modern city is completely unsustainable as well as uniquely alienating as it divides citizens by class, race, as well as in the more subtle realms of social and cultural capital, as Bourdieu foresaw.

Holistic, ethical science can be used in tandem with decentralizing farming practices and renewable energy infrastructure. The dream of the primitivist, anti-civ, and “green anarchists” (funny how some have tried to appropriate this term, which can apply to a wide spectrum of theory) to go without any modern technology is ridiculous. Sustainably made labor-saving devises should be encouraged, not denigrated, and applied science based on the precautionary principle must be upheld.

Also necessary will be deliberative councils based on merit, publicly broadcast to stimulate citizen input and education, where scientists can openly debate and plan for strategies to mitigate global warming, industrial pollution, medical and psychological epidemics of suffering (drug abuse is rampant in this country and largely attributable to loneliness and alienation, as the Rat Park study showed), etc. Imagine how much more enlightening and interesting watching the top researchers in their fields resolve crises would be, compared to the absolute shit on CNN, CSPAN, FOX, or MSNBC.

Meritocracies are not utopian, and flourish in scientific research, in spontaneous social situations, as well as for open-source coders, engineers, and technologists. Arthur Koestler sketched this idea out a bit in his book Janus, dubbing it “holarchy”.

Global warming continues to be the number one threat to the planet. By opting out of the Paris Accords (a pitiful excuse for a climate agreement, but better than nothing), the US government has  clearly shown itself to be very clearly at war with the world.

Yet “America” does not exist. Borders do not exist. We must become ungovernable, semi-nomadic if need be, like many of our multicultural, cosmopolitan ancestors were. We should re-wild and reinvigorate our natural surroundings through sustainable communal-based agriculture.

This does not mean consigning every family to peasant-level subsistence farming, as likely only 10-15% of the population would need to work in a food-production based capacity and would be compensated for their hard work and dedication compared to our mass society, compared to the 1-3% in our mechanized agro-business model where laborers and seasonal workers are ruthlessly exploited. There must be a mind-shift from a culture based on scarcity to a culture based on natural abundance.

More and more people are waking up to the ever-increasing dangers of runaway climate change and nuclear war. If the Left does not unify and form a cohesive, coherent strategy that speaks to ordinary people, the proto-fascists in Washington as well as the alt-right will continue to scapegoat minorities for capitalisms’ failures in pursuit of their goal of a tyrannical white-supremacist state.

Possibly the most feasible solution to our interlocking crises is to address the elephant in the room: overpopulation. Instituting a global program promoting woman’s education, safe sex, and birth control, and redistribution of wealth to the Global South could help tremendously.

The fragmentation of the Western Left continues because ultimately it is rooted in Eurocentrism, in a Baconian/Cartesian/Newtonian view of science and the universe. The advent of capitalism as well as the cementing of the Westphalian ideology of the nation-state ultimately leads to oligarchy, fascism, and the destruction of the biosphere and natural resources. Revolutionizing the system of global capital and abolishing the nation-state cannot be delayed for reforms that seem more realistic. Our time is running out.

Little Barbies: Sex Trafficking of Young Girls is America’s Dirty Little Secret

Children are being “targeted and sold for sex in America every day.
— John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

They’re called the Little Barbies.

Children, young girls—some as young as 9 years old—are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

This is America’s dirty little secret.

Sex trafficking—especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls—has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes, “It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a ‘righteous’ pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

According to USA Today, adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

“They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse”, writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

“Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.

This is not a problem found only in big cities.

It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

Don’t fool yourselves into believing that this is merely a concern for lower income communities or immigrants.

It’s not.

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. These girls aren’t volunteering to be sex slaves. They’re being lured—forced—trafficked into it. In most cases, they have no choice.

In order to avoid detection (in some cases aided and abetted by the police) and cater to male buyers’ demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country.

For instance, the Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.

No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.

Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.

The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.

“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women who are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they’re not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They’re little girls.”

Where did this appetite for young girls come from?

Look around you.

Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.

“All it takes is one look at [certain social media] photos of teens to see examples—if they aren’t imitating porn they’ve actually seen, they’re imitating the porn-inspired images and poses they’ve absorbed elsewhere,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Latex, corsets and stripper heels, once the fashion of porn stars, have made their way into middle and high school.”

This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”

“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives”, concludes Bennett. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”

In other words, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators. And then we wonder why our young women are being preyed on, trafficked and abused?

Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.

Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.

While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).

With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.

Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.

Peter Landesman paints the full horrors of life for those victims of the sex trade in his New York Times article “The Girls Next Door”:

Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist patient or the obedient daughter. Her cell of sex traffickers offered three age ranges of sex partners–toddler to age 4, 5 to 12 and teens–as well as what she called a “damage group.” “In the damage group, they can hit you or do anything they want to,” she explained. “Though sex always hurts when you are little, so it’s always violent, everything was much more painful once you were placed in the damage group.

What Andrea described next shows just how depraved some portions of American society have become. “They’d get you hungry then to train you” to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better. We learned responses. Like if they wanted us to be sultry or sexy or scared. Most of them wanted you scared. When I got older, I’d teach the younger kids how to float away so things didn’t hurt.”

Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted, “We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”

This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. Peter Landesman interviewed Rosario, a Mexican woman who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years. She said: “In America, we had ‘special jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more adventurous, harder.”

A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.

Holly Austin Smith was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison.

Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old. “I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn’t have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”

As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”

One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.

This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.

Trafficked women and children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to make our communities safer.

So what can you do?

Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities.

Stop feeding the monster: Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. It is estimated that the porn industry brings in more money than Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

Finally, the police need to do a better job of training, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; and hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds.

That so many women and children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.

But the truth is that we are all guilty of contributing to this human suffering. The traffickers are guilty. The consumers are guilty. The corrupt law enforcement officials are guilty. The women’s groups who do nothing are guilty. The foreign peacekeepers and aid workers who contribute to the demand for sex slaves are guilty. Most of all, every individual who does not raise a hue and cry over the atrocities being committed against women and children in almost every nation around the globe—including the United States—is guilty.

Creative Juices in a Time of Commodification, Watered Down Drivel, Nothingness of American Fiction

The autumn of the patriarch, man, thinking hard about Marquez’s book, thinking back in lamentation bursts, going back in time when I met him at the University of Texas at Austin, and how he spoke to me as a young person, hopeful that I would be something as unique as he was, using what I told him was my West Texas/Chihuahua “magic realism,” founded on what I learned from his One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Those were the days, man — Kurt Vonnegut and Denis Levertov, Annie Dillard and Tim O’Brien, Robert Bly and Leslie Marmon Silko.  So much more in the verdant garden of my youth.

…as he discovered in the course of his uncountable years that a lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth…

…the day shit is worth money, poor people will be born without an asshole

Gabriel García Márquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch

El Paso, Gateway to the Jornada del Muerto

It was a lie, really, belief — young, in my twenties, teaching English, working my ass off in graduate school, odd jobs in Juarez, lots of poetry readings, art shows, radical border rights militancy. In and out of dream, really, living in El Paso, in an old apartment complex that used to be a bordello Pancho Villa reportedly frequented, then turned into a TB sanitarium. I thought I would have been set up like some great American novelist, or ensconced in tenure playing the MFA game, or just a vagabond with a one hit, the one-hit wonder of it all. By thirty.

Long in the tooth, 61 coming barreling down next month. So many connected and fragmented thoughts, and a few dozen novels inside, despair, natural revulsion of Oprah or clique NYC publishing world, and fear of the Hollywoodization of every thought sputtering out of the masses. Here’s a weird scene: I vividly remember the peas and mashed potatoes Cormac McCarthy pushed around on his plate at a cafeteria in El Paso. Man, he was beginning to take words and his spare punctuation big, from the hollers of Tennessee, the muse of Faulkner’s Mississippi hardscrabble set in motion; now in Paseo del Norte, hiding out (sort of) looking for beat-up West Texas seclusion and novel inspiration. It was a brief hello, and on the surface he looked like insurance salesman or appliance store owner. I asked him if he’d come on board by showing show up to one of the undergraduate classes I was teaching at the university (UT-El Paso).

In a nutshell (mesquite bean) McCarthy basically said he didn’t do those things, things like throwing in for students, guiding aspiring writers, messing with his own art with others.

I saw Cormac (The Road, All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian) on a fat lazy chair on the Oprah Show talking to her in her giddiness about his punctuation – or lack thereof. Literary genius?

A Country Not for Old Men — Re-Birth Inside Transitions

How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Unfolding dementia at a young age? The shit I did and saw and believed, no Hollywood or any-Wood writer or director could dream of, script in, or even hang with me living it. This is not some blowhard release, or a “wow look at my experience now that I am turning 61 on February 6, the same day just another nemesis of mine, Ronald Reagan, was born” admonition. This is the reality of a Marxist living and working in “their house,” putting on those scrubs of their trades – English faculty, environmentalist, budding-aspiring novelist, photographer, newspaper journalist. No big laments, for sure, as my luck of the spin on the globe where I was borne probably has given so many incalculable advantages. Guaranteed, most consumers of story – book readers – are looking for simplicity in language, stories set in the love and hate, death and fear that encapsulates American writers, including McCarthy.

Anyone looking at my life seems like an antithetical process of literary creativity, and I am anything but what the average consumer of books wants as an author, but the kernel of what ends up on the page comes from the weight of tides and blurry sunsets and all the storms and heatwaves in between. Sweating through visions, and the hard ache of failure after failure, and the unbearable, sometimes, of witnessing the perversions of the world. We have to take stock in all of that messy emotional landscape. Being out of work this time around – sacked October 26 – and hunting for the crumbs of the capitalists is a process of bleary thinking, emotions lost in an oil slick of the leaky boat listing on the ocean of our discontent.

My birth: San Pedro, California, for my first six months in air, and then, the Azores, thanks to enlisted Air Force father. A real epigenetic reckoning, my first four years on the Portuguese islands, all that sea, those ocean chasms, earthquakes, the white-washed Catholic puritanism, the old fishers and young kids, the poverty and the USA using strips of land for Air Force machinations. I had a local woman – Maria Gloria de la Sauza — taking care of me and my sister, and we went to her family’s place on religious occasions, those memories hard-wired forever. Trapped in some dreams even half a century lived.

The festival of the bread each Saturday, the masses, the fishermen bringing in their hauls. Barracuda caught with piano wire. The weeping candles in black moldy chapels. The priests and the military men. Poverty, bellies protruding, rust, cobblestone roads, potato fields, hacking tuberculosis, heavy hips, skinny men, children like hermit crabs scampering about, the unbelievable heaven in that blue sky and the black ink of the Pacific. Nine hundred miles from Lisbon.

Exactly the spring of my existence – aunties and uncles in Germany and Scotland and England. I remember those trips over the sea, prop planes, the absolutely magical motion of Douglas DC-7’s flying the friendly skies of Pan Am and Eastern Airlines. Imagine, four years old, and one of the four prop engines catching on fire as we were coming back to the Azores. Imagine a time, 1961, when the spring of a child lasted with the touch of fingers on the pages of books, in the hard breathing of hikes, walking, outside until dusk, rain without umbrellas, seas and beaches beckoning youth without the paranoia of the 21st century.

Early Light, Early Seedling Growth

I am treading water here, in the night off the coast of Scotland, maybe, I can only imagine the reader says. It’s night, near Dundee, in a cove near Abroath. Around 1963. Real people expecting a five-year-old to swim, not panic, and see the world from the tide in and out.

Spring for the child as I headed to Maryland, and then, Paris, France, as my Air Force father went US Army, a warrant officer pip on his shoulders, and, a family of four in Saint Germain en-Laye, living with other families from other countries as part of that SHAPE — Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Vietnam War, the French and Yanks, the old WW II tunnels, chateaus as movie theaters, the Algerians living in the sub-basement, languages, competitive teens, and I flittered through those times young, visiting the old ones. Always around adults.

Fast forwarding to 2018, from, oh, say 1986 El Paso, then to Merida, Yucatan, and then hitchhiking to Panama, or, say, to 1992 when I decided to go to Vietnam to push the pulse of the American lie out of my system. At any point in the sinew strength of my late teens, through to 2001, the lies were compounding quickly, as I was given to confidence and pushed-up hope as part of the barrier reef or those malpais lava flows near Warm Springs, New Mexico keeping me from succeeding as I had imagined.

I had a New York agent, man, Jack Ryan (what a name, uh?) and he was old school, as the drafts of those books I wrote – five – came back to me stinking of Pall Malls and filled up with chicken scratch edits and comments. He was a tireless worker, and for me, he was more than just a fan. He had a deep regard for my writing. He too was up against the vagaries of Vassar and Brown University publishing house readers and the market of books, tied to the little swath of being New York hip to the incantations of literary fiction.

What a long row to hoe, and, alas, one book, a collection of short stories, thematically tied together by the Vietnam War tangentially, well, he had a big bite, finally, from Picador Press an imprint of MacMillan. I almost got the book sold – Eyes Wide Open: Vietnam Memories. The deal was a committee of five, Ryan said, had the voting role in a thumbs up or down vote on the book. The publisher of Picador Press said he wanted the book, but he was voted down, three to two, not in favor of going with the project.

The reader has to understand that the publisher accepted the manuscript, essentially saying he was all for publishing it. We lived on that arc of that humanity for a few weeks, but then Jack Ryan got the news that the book project went south.

New York Literary World Gone Sour

I know, I know, again, in the scheme of things globally this is not big deal. Rejection from literary circles. A dime a dozen. We’ve been told as writers that it’s luck, being in the right manuscript pile, or knowing a friend of a friend of a friendly editor; or to just pull yourself up by your boot straps and DIY and self-publish and manage a web site and e-commerce account. Compared to the daily struggle of the Pacific Nation Kiribati, for example, which is disappearing quickly as sea level rises, I get it about “counting my lucky stars.” I always come at the world from that foundation – woe is me can’t cut it in a world of absolutely insane suffering and perverted wholesale abuse on a massive scale. But from the bowels of an artist already way outside the mainstream looking to get a book (or several) schlepped by editors at New York publishers, put into their ubiquitous mainstream fiction or literary fiction categories, well, every disappointment is magnified.

Get this, though – I’m going on age 61, and the last time I attempted hawking a novel was 2001, when I ended up moving from El Paso to Spokane. Odd feeling indeed, in 2001, giving up the quest. I still wrote/write, still published/publish, but not books.

It (book in hand) came pretty darn close, and if you put me into an internet search, “Paul Haeder and Reimagining Sanity,” you’ll get a project that “almost” turned into a book. Well, it’s a book, in pdf form, but not on Amazon’s top 1 million list. We have to Fast Forward from 2001 in Spokane to 2015 on the outskirts of Vancouver. I was contacted by a publisher to write a book based on my musings and comments tied to my work at Dissident Voice, this political on-line magazine going on 18 years.

Heady stuff, the book jack recommendations:

Paul brings out a certain raw, emotional side to his subjects and issues. You never can predict what he is going to ask, and his ability to cut right to the point makes his writing an unpredictable thrill ride to the heart and the truth.
―Bart Mihailovich, environmental writer and advocate

Try reading him … with no allegiances to the elites and powerful. If you need a house call for quick intellectual triage, pick up a book of Haeder’s and dive deep into its layers. At the other end of the journey, you will be baptized in a new wonder of showing no fear, fearing no one.
― Charles Orloski is a working class poet living in Taylor, Pennsylvania, who writes regularly for the Hollywood Progressive and other venues

Haeder’s topic is always the world, and Haeder is the filter through which the world has to pass: rhythmic outburst, lyric language, howling at the moon. When other authors have forgotten to be outraged by the outrageous, Haeder has been a North Star who says, “You gotta look at this! You won’t believe…” and fill in here the absurd and unimaginable bullshit of the universe.
― Michael Strelow, author of Henry, A Novel of Beer and Love in the West; and The Greening of Ben Brown. Kesey is his non-fiction book. Upcoming novel is The Moby-Dick Blues.

Paul Haeder does not have a politically correct bone in his body nor is he willing to rent any! A book by Paul will bring reaction from readers, pro and con, but you can bet that it will be a book people will read with interest.
― Angie Tibbs, Dissident Voice, Senior Editor

It’s a hell of a publishing house that went belly up after just three years, but a dozen or more years the dream of the publisher, Kermit Heartsong:

Tayenlane Publishing
Reimagining Sanity: Voices Outside the Echo Chamber

The belly was exposed by the publisher’s distributor – you have to get these books put into book shows, wholesale book distribution points. The distributors (more and more middlemen) can cut a jugular on a small publishing house, and that’s what happened to Tayen Lane Press. But before the plug was pulled, Kermit the publisher solicited me back in 2015, and I was at/in/on a really bad place: going through a divorce, out of the Vancouver house we had just purchased, away from foster twin boys, and my dog left with my soon-to-be ex. I ended up in a doublewide trailer (no complaints about mobile homes) with a bipolar out-of-work heavy equipment operator, who was flipping out half the time, from euphoria to suicidal tendencies. I was working as a substitute PK12 teacher in several rural school districts, and this fellow I will call Rylee, was drinking all day, sleeping around with two or three women, and the place was heated with a wood-burning stove.

Another roommate was brought on, and a stinky bulldog with flatulence (don’t they all have this problem?) and leaky orifices (ditto) was also part of the mix, and the roommate’s always-present girlfriend.

Man, bonfires out on his five acres until 2 a.m. Beer and tequila and all-night pyres and yelling and moaning about life, as Rylee and the other roommate moved around all this slash from a tree clearing project with the younger roommate’s fully appointed excavator. Drunk, loud, 24/7 cigarette smoking, and I was pounding away at this manuscript, teaching kids and wondering where the hell I’d be in five months.

After two months, I had to sneak out on a Sunday, filling my van with my shit and just skipping out so a confrontation between me and between Rylee didn’t take place. I wanted to kick his ass, but that sort of pile-driver attitude would have gotten me, I believe, handcuffed and charged with assault, a job killer in the fields of education and then a new job as social worker for vulnerable populations.

Reimagining Insanity or Sanity – More Voices

Okay, so I have this anti-memoir going over at LA Progressive, titled, Terminal Velocity: Man Lost of Tribe. That’s thirty-eight up in that series – pieces all over the place, most tied to commentary on the state of the world, the state of my sanity, of my self in a world of pain. Make that 39, since this one now goes up as such. Plenty of railing against the machine, and plenty of angst and polemics.

I have this conversation all the time – some people say they’d cut a finger off to read my stuff, to see my name up on some marquee, my books turned into movies. Some want to see me elevated, and then, most people I run into could care less about lives lived and still being lived, that is, lives unaccomplished or partially gelled. Most people are not interested in struggle, struggling people and the ones who either never got the brass ring or flubbed it on the last merry-go-round. This is a time of celebrity infatuation, and no matter which side of the thin political line they stand, young and old care more and more about what’s in Twitter-land or on Facebook.

We are all navel gazers, now that Amazon Fascism Publishing has everyone set up as a budding multi-book best seller.

Shit, everyone’s a writer, isn’t it so, and everyone is a movie maker, star, and prognosticator and hero or heroine in his or her own mind. Plus, the sheer number of books published, remaindered, cut up and used for insulation, it’s way beyond what the mind can fathom.

Whether a life half resolved is interesting or not, or whether anyone cares about the hustle of living and beating out books and trying to hawk them, those are questions that run through many of our minds.

Lee Marvin and A New Dirty Dozen 

I have this screenplay, Just a Coupla’ Chancers. Set in Arizona,1980s. I wrote it while being a reporter in Southern Arizona for a small conglomerate of newspapers. My byline was in the Bisbee Daily Review among other publications.

Simple stuff, a redneck cowboy along the border dealing with more and more incursions – crossers – into his state and country and on his property. Well, he is hard-bitten, but he finds a heart in the story. Salvadorans dead in the desert, their coyotes or smugglers long gone.

The main character has to make a decision: three children, 8, 12, 15, make it to his property. They are the only survivors, and, well, to make a screenplay short, the coyotes are looking for them, and the rancher has to hide them and then smuggle them away. He’s got the border patrol, local authorities, the crime bosses involved in smuggling, his family and the three siblings’ uncle looking for them and going after him.

This was based on some reporting I did around real people who perished in the desert, right where I was set as a beat reporter. I ended up having a few drinks with Lee Marvin in Tucson, and, after some time, I got his address up in the foothills of the Catalinas. Man, we played tennis, I had lemonade, and I met his wife, and, Lee took the screenplay.

I’ve written about that story, meeting and drinking with the Dirty Dozen’s Colonel, before pitching the story. He ended up dying early, and suddenly, and I ended up going to his widow wondering how I might help, and inquiring about the screenplay, of course. She told me Lee was interested in the main part, as I thought he would. She told me he respected the script, from a young guy, resonated with him — seemed pretty set in reality. Poignant, too.

I’ve written a short story, fiction, about that moment in time, fictionalizing some of the stuff.

Desperados and I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

Lo and behold, here I am, desperate, held to a standard at 61, going to interview after interview trying to muscle out another four or five years working hard in the land of usury and death capital. I just pulled out three dusty manuscripts, three novels, one of which was my graduate thesis I defended.

I’m scrambling now working to get some energy back and rework one of them. This is a story again based on someone real, a woman who had been looking for both silver and treasure in the Caballo Mountains near Hot Springs, now Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

I spent hours with her in her small apartment in downtown El Paso, and she was in her 80s then, in 1987. She was obsessed with silver and that cache of stolen gold and other treasures from the Spanish. I even took her up the mountain, on crazy dirt roads, looking for something, reading her map, but never finding the remnants of the mine she had been working on for more than 50 years, on her own.

I have a discredited reporter ending up in the story. Someone who answered an advertisement in the El Paso Times from a woman looking for a ghost writer to get her story in print. The real woman was even hip to the possibility of her story spanning 80 decades turned into a movie.

Her life was amazing, having grown up in Mexico City in a middle-class family, her father a mid-level bureaucrat and politician. When she was 14, she met a 29-year-old millionaire from San Francisco. He had documents and map and some bibles. He was a frozen food magnate, and he was looking for someone to translate the Latin and the Spanish.

He met my protagonist, and the young woman – turning 15 – heard the stories of silver and gold, heard this millionaire’s gold lust.

Rebecca was 16 when she married him, and they ended up back in San Francisco, and then her new husband took her out into the middle of nothingness in New Mexico, overlooking Elephant Butte, and there she learned how to be a miner’s wife, living with hardened men, learning how her new husband had been bitten by the silver-gold-treasure bug.

Six years into it, they had hit a few lines of silver. Seven years into their mining, a wall collapsed in the mine and took down Rebecca’s husband. He lingered in a hospital bed for eight weeks. His final wish was for her to continue looking for the famed treasure and silver.

For fifty years, Rebecca looked for the cache. She ended up teaching Spanish to high schoolers, and every summer she got the supplies and the few men she trusted to head on up to the mountains.

That’s how she spent her summers, for fifty years, until she hit 75. I met her when she was 82.

Now my book, Woman of the Mountain, has my reporter, a former college football star teaching community college journalism classes. I have a sheriff who has been hiding his homosexuality all his life. I have an old Mexican miner whose father once was on Rebecca’s mining team.

I take the reader back to Mexico City, into the mountains, into Rebecca’s life, and the short time with my African American journalist. The mountain speaks, and the story revolves around her disappearance, and the search for her. My journalist was the last one to see her. The miner ends up missing.

It’s literary fiction, and, well, the story is certainly compelling for today’s reader, and it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to imagine the book turned into a screenplay/movie. Selma Hayek, Tommy Lee Jones, Denzel Washington.

In one sense, non-fiction is stranger than fiction, and those months I spent with Rebecca, hearing her stories, and that time in the mountains with her (she was hacking and coughing, and I thought she was going to die), and subsequent times in the mountains on my own with a decent pistol and Winchester lever action, well, I wrote the book, draft after draft, and sent it out to Jack Ryan, the East Coast agent.

It’s funny the parallel of looking for caches of Spanish gems and artwork and gold, and my own quest to make something of myself in the world of fiction. Shit, my master’s thesis adviser, James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss & Dancing Bear) had a lot of faith in me. I was the go-to guy, newspaper journalist, dive master, a guy in his thirties who went to Mexico and Central America. A guy who did some shady things with my Mexican counterparts. Something wild in me, Crumley could tell. He ended up back in Missoula, Montana, fired from the University of Texas for things unbecoming a writing teacher (or that’s what they said . . . you know, drinking, some lines of coke, partying with students).

So, here’s this book. Staring at me as I finish this article. Big fat old 430-page manuscript. I touch the pages and it’s as if 30 years melt away, the light brighter above me here in Estacada, Oregon, than anytime thus far, more than 1,600 miles away from the center of my writing life, in West Texas,  El Paso, Merida, Yucatan . . . Chihuahua.

Yet that old rush is like morphine inside the spleen, and the imagination, mine, races like the old days of Mexico, West Texas, stories, tequila and coke and all-night sessions talking about story, and sometimes craft.

Crumley’s dead . . . some of my friends, dead . . . Jack Ryan, dead, and the artist friends, many are dead . . . Rebecca dead, wave after wave of memory like the aura borealis in my head, pulsating in dream, and now, as I take this manuscript and look at the pages, I am ready for one more push, one more bite of a dream to get something going, just another chancer, me, believing in some magic, like Ornette Coleman and Charlie Hayden playing away into the night.

Her story, Rebecca’s, will be the same this time around, but the plot and action and sequence will be different. What do 31 years do to a creative world, a novel, one based on some real hard things I heard and saw, but morphed into the dream of a storyteller giving paint and hue to the black and white memory of people?

I know I’ll open up with the jail cell, and the lines from Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston, Dobbs, Curtain and Howard in the Treasure of Sierra Madre. I know I will shift points of view, and go back and forth in time and place. I know this story — mine, Rebecca’s, the mountain’s —  has never been told, never been written, and I push ahead now, treading water, standing on the line of creativity and marketing, looking for an agent, and in between despair and fear.

When you have something to say and a way of saying it, there is so much to lose. Like a welterweight picking up gloves after 20 years out of the ring.

In a scene later made famous by the movie version of Treasure of Sierra Madre, the prospectors run into a group of shady-looking, heavily-armed Mexicans, who they suspect are bandits.

Indeed, the Mexicans are bandits and the meeting ends up in a gunfight. But just before the shooting starts, the leader of the bandits tells the prospectors that they are federales — the local “mounted police.”

Dobbs says skeptically of that claim: “If you are the police, where are your badges?”

In B. Traven’s book, the bandit leader replies angrily (and colorfully):

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre!”

Email me, Paul K. Haeder, @  haederpaul (at) gmail (dot) com if you have an agent or director in mind, don’t you know! Really!

How Societies Form and Change

Hierarchy appears to be an inescapable feature of animal, including human, societies. There are dominants and subordinates, bosses and employees, rulers and subjects, and an individual’s position in the social hierarchy to a large degree determines fundamental aspects of his or her life, including one’s health, access to resources, and influence in society. From the individual’s point of view, the hierarchy provides security, but also reduces one’s freedom. What determines how oppressive society is toward the individual? Would more freedom be better for society? How bad does societal inequality have to become before things start getting better? Are there any fundamental laws or rules that control how social hierarchy forms and evolves in a complex society of many interacting individuals and groups?

I am doing my PhD research in physics on these questions. Something I’m often asked is how can the study of social hierarchy be considered “physics”? The answer is “simple” – physicists try to construct simple models to reveal essential or underlying features of complex natural phenomena. Such a model has to be as simple as possible, yet it must be cleverly constructed so that, in its simplicity, the model captures essential features of reality. If this is achieved, the model can provide insights about underlying rules that may control or influence the real phenomenon.

I have constructed a simple physics model of the formation and evolution of social hierarchies, based on interactions between the individual members of the society. Computer simulations of the model produce societies that resemble real-world societies, and we can study how the simulated societies are formed and how they change in time. A scientific article presenting the model has been submitted to a journal and can be read online at ResearchGate.1 In the following, I outline how the model works for a general (non-specialist) reader and briefly discuss what its results might mean in terms of understanding social hierarchy in the real world.

Violence and authoritarianism in fights for societal status

In the model, we imagine a society of individuals who each possess an amount of a single quantity that entirely determines the individual’s position in the society – this quantity is the individual’s societal status. The only thing that individuals in the model can do is exchange status with one another. This occurs through “fights” between pairs of individuals selected at random from among the population, where the loser of the fight loses a portion of his or her status to the winner. In each fight, two things must be determined: how much status is lost or gained, and who wins the fight. These two aspects of the fights are each controlled by a “parameter” of the model – a simple quantity whose value is set, by the researcher, at the beginning of the simulation.

When an individual loses a fight, he or she loses a fraction of his or her “before-fight” status (the status that the individual had going into the fight). The first parameter of the model, “delta” (δ), is this fraction. For example, if δ = 0.1, then 10% of the loser’s before-fight status gets transferred to the winner following the fight. A large value of δ means that the stakes are high: a victory can provide a large gain in status, but a loss carries a high cost in status. The parameter δ therefore represents the intensity or “violence” of societal interactions. This rule for determining the amount of status lost in a fight means that powerful (high status) individuals lose a lot of status when they lose, such that upset victories result in large rewards to the underdog or challenger, and that fights between high status rivals result in large separations in status, establishing the winner’s dominance over the loser. These are both realistic features.

In the model, the probability of winning the fight depends on the relative statuses of the two fighting individuals – the larger the difference in status between the two individuals, the greater the probability that the higher-status individual wins. The higher-status individual therefore has an advantage in the fight. But the size of this advantage is controlled in the model by a second parameter, “alpha” (α). When this parameter is large, the higher-status individual has a huge advantage in the fight, such that the higher-status individual is almost guaranteed to win, even if he or she only has a slightly higher status than the lower-status individual. On the other hand, when α is small, the higher-status individual must have a much larger status than his or her competitor in order to have a large advantage in the fight. In other words, the parameter α represents the degree to which having a higher status guarantees a victory. If higher status represents a higher level of “authority” in a hierarchical society, then the parameter α represents the degree of deference to authority, or “authoritarianism” in the society.

Simulated societies form and evolve

Based on these simple rules, we run a computer simulation that randomly selects pairs of individuals and makes them fight each other. Following many such fights, a distribution of status emerges. The particular shape of the status distribution represents the “structure” of the society. For small values of either parameter, δ or α, the shape of the status distribution is rather egalitarian – there are many individuals clustered around the average status, and few individuals with extremely low or extremely high statuses. For larger values of the parameters, the status distribution becomes more unequal, such that there are many individuals with low or very-low statuses and a few very-high status individuals. For certain parameter values, the status distributions closely resemble real-world household income distributions, which we use as a proxy for societal status in human societies.2

The model also shows how the simulated societies change with time. For non-authoritarian and non-violent societal interactions (small δ and α), the distribution of status remains the same for long periods of time. Under these conditions, the societal structure is either stable on an infinite time-scale, or changes so slowly that it is essentially unchanged on a time-scale much longer than the time required to form it in the first place. Whatever structure the society has – more or less egalitarian, for example – it will be long-lived for small values of the parameters. As either parameter is increased, however, a transition eventually occurs where the distribution of status begins to change rapidly. Status becomes concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and the society runs away toward a “totalitarian” end-state in which a single individual controls all of the status of the society.

Viewing society through the lens of the model

The model thus suggests that the violence of societal interactions (δ) and the degree of authoritarianism (α) in the society must be kept in check in order for the society to retain its structure over long periods of time and not degrade into a totalitarian state. As either of these features of inter-individual interactions is increased the inequality of the society increases. When the level of inequality becomes large enough that the society nears the transition into runaway deterioration of its class structure, the society may be required to reduce one or both of the parameters in order to retain a viable structure. Analysts have suggested that several recent major political events, including Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, are best understood as backlashes against increasing societal inequality.3,4 According to the model, for such backlashes to have a stabilizing effect on the social hierarchy, they must result in decreases in the violence of societal interactions, the degree of authoritarianism in the society, or both.

The model provides a conceptual framework or “pair of glasses” through which societal changes and their relationship to the long-term stability of the society can be examined. Of course, many questions arise, including just how small (or large) the parameters δ and α should be in order to optimize societal stability, and how do they increase or decrease due to the actions of individuals within the society (rather than being fixed at their initial values). And what happens when groups of individuals interact, and remember the histories of their past interactions? Using simple, realistic models we can try to get insight into these and other questions about how social hierarchies form and how they change in time.

  1. J. Hickey and J. Davidsen, “Self-organization and time-stability of social hierarchies”.
  2. Ibid., Section 4.
  3. M. Blyth, “Global Trumpism”.
  4. C. Phelps, “From Slump to Trump”.

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.

Let’s Unite and Demonstrate the True Meaning of Christmas

(Image credit Banksy)

The holiday period provides us with a unique opportunity to express the new awareness that must inform a less commercialised and more sharing-oriented world. Rather than spending all our time partaking in conspicuous consumption, why don’t we commemorate Christmas by organising massive gatherings for helping the poor and healing the environment?

*****

At this time of year, our overconsuming lifestyles in the affluent Western world are impossible to ignore. Brightly-lit shops are bursting with festive foods and expensive indulgences, while seasonal songs play in the background of shopping malls to keep us spending the money we don’t have on things we don’t need to make impressions that don’t matter.

The frenetic commercialism of Christmas on the high streets continues to escalate to inconceivable proportions. Despite all the warnings from climate scientists that ordinary Western lifestyles are destroying the planet, still we buy enough Christmas trees in the UK alone that could reach New York and back, if placed in a straight line. Enough card packaging is thrown away in this country that could cover Big Ben almost 260,000 times. Not to mention the 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, the 2 million turkeys, the 74 million mince pies and 5 million mounds of charred raisins (from rejected Christmas puddings) that are thrown away come early January. Mountains of e-waste from discarded electronic items – much of it bought as unwanted gifts and soon discarded – is projected to reach 10 million tonnes by 2020.

Pause for a moment and try to picture the extent of that annual waste by the British populace. For if you combine our surplus produce with every Christian nation in Western Europe, North America and other over-industrialised regions, you have an appalling idea of the unnecessary ecological destruction that we collectively contribute to each year. Christmas is, after all, only an exaggerated illustration of the gross materialism that defines our everyday lives in a consumerist society.

What is more difficult for us to contemplate, however, is how our profligate consumption habits also directly exacerbate levels of inequality worldwide. We know that the so-called developed world – roughly 16% of the global population – consumes a hugely disproportionate share of the earth’s resources, and is responsible for at least half of all greenhouse gas emissions. But behind such statistics lies a depressing reality, in which our artificial standards of living in the global North are dependent on the dire working conditions and impoverishment of millions of people throughout the global South.

In spite of the spurious claims of trickle-down economics by the adherents of corporate globalisation, the number of people living on less than $5-a-day has increased by more than 1.1 billion since the 1980s. The vast majority of people who live in developing countries survive on less than $10-a-day; none of their families can remotely afford the wasteful and conspicuous consumption that we consider normal.

Our personal complicity in this unsustainable global order is highly complex, of course, because we are all caught in a socioeconomic and cultural system that depends on ever-expanding consumerism for its survival. Everywhere, we are besieged with messages that encourage us to buy more stuff, as profit-driven businesses increasingly seek to meet our needs – either real or constructed – through interaction in the marketplace. Our consumption patterns are often tied to our sense of identity, our desire for belonging, our need for comfort, our self-esteem.

So we are all the victims of an excessively commercialised culture, not only in a collective way through environmental harm and global warming, but also through the proximate psychological and emotional harm that in some way afflicts everyone. We experience that harm through the time-poverty of affluence; through all the pressures of living in an individualistic and market-dominated society; through all that we have lost due to the competitive work/consume treadmill – our freedom for leisure, our mental space, our community cohesion, our psychological health. There is also an inarticulable form of spiritual harm that arises from simply being part of this exploitative world order, in which our over-consuming lifestyles in the West are connected to the vast suffering and immiseration of people in poorer countries who we do not know, or care to know.

Clearly it is the whole system that needs to go through a radical transformation – but how can that transformation be brought about, when we ourselves are the constituent parts that maintain the system in its currently destructive form?

Over many decades, the basic problem and solution has been well articulated in a theoretical sense by progressive thinkers. Numerable reports cite the physics of planetary boundaries, demonstrating how we already require one and a half planets to support today’s consumption levels. Simply put, it is impossible to reconcile the twin challenges of ending poverty and achieving environmental sustainability, unless we also confront the huge imbalances in consumption patterns across the world, and fundamentally re-imagine the economy as something different that escapes the growth compulsion.

Hence the resurgent focus on post-growth economics in a world of limits, recognising the importance of reducing the use of natural resources in high-income countries, so that poorer nations can sustainably grow their economies and rapidly meet the basic needs of their populations. Nowhere is the case for sharing the world’s resources more obvious or urgent, than in the question of how to achieve equity-based sustainable development or ‘one planet lifestyles’ for all.

Yet our societies remain so far from embarking on this great transition, that the interrelated trends of commercialisation, inequality and environmental destruction continue to intensify year on year. What better example of double-standards and duplicity than the spectacle of French President Emmanuel Macron convening the ‘One Planet Summit’ this month to demonstrate international solidarity in addressing climate change, while at the same time governments were attending the resurrected World Trade Organisation talks in their continued attempts to turn the world into a corporate playground with minimal protections for the poor.

These larger questions of global injustice and ecological imbalance may seem far removed from our daily lives, but everyone who participates in a modern consumerist society is conjointly responsible for perpetuating destruction and divisions on an international scale. Again, our frenzied spending around Thanksgiving and Christmas time is a salient case in point, exemplifying how our relentless mass consumption is directly propping up an extreme market-oriented economic system, and further preventing us all from embracing the radical transformations that will be required in the transition to a post-growth world. What, then, should we do?

There are lots of answers from campaigners about how we can de-commercialise Christmas, like the buy nothing movement that advocates we ignore altogether the conditioned compulsion to purchase luxury goods, thus demonstrating our awareness of over-consumption and how it affects global disparities and the earth. At the least, we can practise ethical giving and support the work of activist groups and charitable organisations. For example, Christian Aid has released a witty video this year that entreats UK citizens to be aware of festive food waste in the context of global hunger, and donate £10 from Christmas food shopping – enough for a family in South Sudan to eat for a week.

Actions like these may constitute a small step towards celebrating Christmas with awareness of the critical world situation, and the need for Westernised populations to live more lightly on the earth, while prioritising the needs of the less-privileged. If extended beyond the holiday season, hopefully that awareness may be translated into a mass movement that rejects the consumerist lifestyle altogether, instead voluntarily downshifting their lifestyles and meeting more of their needs in ways that bypass the mainstream economy.

As proponents of the gift economy, the commons and collaborative consumption variously attest, this is the long-term antidote to mass consumerism. It means becoming co-creators of alternative economic systems in which we reinvest in our communities, shift our values towards quality of life and wellbeing, and embrace a new ethic of sufficiency. It means resisting the competitive economic pressures towards materialism and privatised modes of living, thereby releasing our time and energies for cooperative activities that promote communal production, co-owning and civic engagement. It means, in short, an expanded understanding of what it means to be human on this earth, in which we relearn how to participate in civic life and share resources at every level of society.

The holiday period during Christmas actually provides us with a unique opportunity to express the new awareness that must inform a less commercialised and more sharing-oriented world. Rather than spending all our time partaking in conspicuous consumption that has nothing to do with the message of Christ, why don’t we organise local meetings or massive gatherings for helping the poor and healing the environment, both in our own countries and further abroad?

Such an appeal to our goodwill and conscience is made in a seminal essay by Mohammed Mesbahi, titled Christmas, the System and I. He exhorts us to imagine what could be done if all the money we needlessly spend on festivities and unwanted gifts was collectively pooled, then redistributed to all those who urgently need it. Indeed imagine what could be achieved if people not only donate to charities at this time of year, but also unite in countless numbers on the streets for sharing and justice on behalf of the poorest members of the human family.

If Jesus were walking among us today, writes Mesbahi, surely that is what He would call on us to do. For what cause can be of greater priority in this era of growing inequalities and planetary crisis, than the need to save the millions of people who continue to die from poverty-related causes each year? Perhaps that would be the first expression of the true meaning of Christmas in the twenty first century, when millions of people come together in constant demonstrations that call upon our governments to implement the principle of sharing into world affairs.

The “Me Too Movement”, Sexual Politics and Unnatural Justice

The overthrow of iniquitous power relations is a point many would celebrate. But such overthrows are themselves marked by the contradiction of their origins. Any revolution must, by its very nature, suffer inconsistency, defeats and weaknesses.

In the United States, a different sort of sexual revolution is taking place.  It is not linked to liberation in the way sex was linked to the emancipation of the body in previous decades. There is something distinctly sombre, calculating, and determinedly forceful about the movement to wrest control from men who generally have had it good in the power stakes. Cloaks and covers are being blown.

Those being placed on the pyre for burning are now so numerous as to warrant a multitude of scrapbooks and scribbles.  From across the political spectrum, the casualties are accumulating in the media, political and publicity circuit. Figures considered creature of good repute have been cast to the wolves.  A total inversion seems to be taking place, from the newspaper cycle to the White House.

The problem with such matters is that the allegation has started to assume a substitute force of conviction. It has become sufficient for individuals to lose their positions because allegations, untested by the wearing rigour of cross-examination and investigation, have assumed the force of de facto law.

Even within this accelerating movement, there are disagreements about how far one should go in dismembering the order and its attributes. Are some of the figures being scalped in this business receiving unjust attention?

Take last month’s disagreement shown by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner behind the series Girls, both taking to the barricades defending a friend and writer on the show, Murray Miller, against the accusations of Aurora Perrineau.

To be fair to Perrineau, she has not left it at a mere accusation, hoping to get away with easy gain. According to Deputy Charles Moore of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, she has gone so far as to file a police report against Miller citing sexual assault.

Miller, through his lawyer, rubbished the claims, deeming them “outrageous”. But the point of interest here, at least from the heady consequences arising from Me Too righteousness, is the disagreement it has caused those who would otherwise have taken the torches to the bundles.

Dunham and Konner are careful to pay appropriate tribute.  “During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified.”

As with every feminist, claimed the co-showrunners, the occasion was of celebration. But there came a danger with too much conviction as with “every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets.”

The risks from moving from a selective, judicious targeting of deserving targets – those men who have been resting on crumpled laurels for decades, drawing benefits from a system that has, within it, its own apologetics – to a totalitarian presumption: that all in the various industries must, by virtue of being there, necessarily assault or abuse, are considerable.  To that end, they trigger a sense of power dynamics that should require testing and investigation rather than unquestioned, dogmatic acceptance.

For Dunham and Konner, the case against Miller was full proof. (The point here is interesting, in so far as it presumes a certainty untested in the courts.)  “While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.”  The figure is itself suggestive, extracted from a realm of unreliability.

Dunham, after being subjected to a predictable salvo of baying critics, subsequently issued a statement claiming how she “naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it transpired behind the scenes over the last few months.”

That she had even assumed such a position of scepticism immediately catapulted her into the circles of fire. Gilliam B. White, writing for The Atlantic, simply assumed a robotically programmed position in favour of Miller’s accuser, using a predictable cocktail of identity politics to undermine a defence.  “Intentionally or not, Dunham’s initial call to scrutinize Perrineau, a biracial actress, but not Miller, fed into an implicit message that believability, sympathy, and public rage are reserved only for certain women.”

Rather daftly, such a stance repudiates evidence of conduct in favour of identity as truth, a point that is equally flawed from whichever racial perspective one punts for. Perrineau should hardly deserve exceptional treatment in the stakes of proving claims because she is biracial, a sort of exotic assumption of credibility. But the culture of complaint, as Robert Hughes termed it, has no limits the hyperventilating circles of US identity politics.

Instances of such overtaxing zeal are starting to grow.  Proportion and evidence were certainly left wanting regarding an accusation (note the singular) against the Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush.  The Australian paper, The Daily Telegraph, sniffed a story that the Sydney Theatre Company had received a complaint “alleging that Mr. Geoffrey Rush had engaged in inappropriate behaviour.”

Not being a paper known for its attention to detail, it ran a headline claiming Rush to be “KING LEER”.  This was a howler other papers, notably the companion Herald Sun, refused to run with.  “The Tele are running with a yarn,” went a text message to the paper’s staff, “which is highly libellous.”

Rush responded in kind, launching a defamation suit. “It is an action I am taking in order to redress the slurs, innuendo and hyperbole they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and greater community.”

Detached from probative fields of inquiry, the sexual accusation becomes dynamite and dirt. It destroys the public image, fracturing the brand. Many a figure would no doubt deserve it, but equally, such a figure would surely be entitled to that concept that lacks currency so often in public debate: natural justice.