Category Archives: Society

A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window!

I’ll get to the punch line soon, since this is part two of a two-part mini-horror story of a neighbor’s 41-year-old MAGA son, the actual son’s 63-year-old MAGA-mean mom, and alas, the 41-year-old son’s 39-year-old brother. And then the lot of them under the roof of a 63-year-old stepfather who has “US Navy retired” on his Facebook account, as well as every single post about on-line Texas Hold’em. [Part One! Your Right Ends with My Right to Might]

The offending sign:

They are not what David Graeber said, “We Are the 99 Percent.” They are making three retirements, getting social security (times two), government (tax payer funded) Medicare, free VA, and they sold a house (obscene inflated price) in California, and have come to Oregon because this coast is almost “We Are the 99 Percent White” homeland of Sundown Laws. Their house on our street is the largest and newest built right on the dunes overlooking the bay. Cheap compared to Simi Valley. They banked the rest for their glorious days as racists on the coast of Oregon.

You know, criticize students, teachers, journalists, local elected officials, the road department, Portland in general, Democrats, anyone with a green button on, and, well, not exactly connoisseurs of our incredible Hatfield Marine Sciences Center.  For them, spending money at a spendy restaurant in Newport, chipping in a $7 tip, and lording over some subservient waiter is their way of “rubbing elbows with the poor people.”

I know the types because I have talked with others around here — Californians from Orange County, Semi Valley and the like. The ones who for decades have cursed the Mexicans, the Guatemalans, the African Americans, the Koreans, the Armenians, the Sikhs, the Indians, the Chinese, and on and on and on. You know, in places named Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, those all-American English proper nouns.

The single thread I have attempted to help students understand is that we are as individuals what we individually… do, say, eat, drink, watch, read, dream, hope for, act upon, see, smell, hear, hold true, protect, believe, perform, learn, value, preserve, who we valorize, what we consume, build, and write. Collectively, well, one can imagine as a society or culture or nation that we might also have  all of these “what we …” to reflect upon whether we are good people or bad people, takers or leavers, kind or cruel, pacific or warring, COLLECTIVELY.

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

More on the MAGA deplorables in a moment.

Having lived in some interesting places – Bisbee, Tucson, Sierra Vista, El Paso, Albuquerque, Spokane, Seattle, Portland,  Vancouver, and then many other places in foreign lands —  I understand the concept of those who have and those who have nothing or barely nothing.

I understand (know closely) those in crisis, those with bad families, those who have been abandoned by the most important people who should have been there for them – mother, father, sister, brother, uncles and aunts, extended families. I know the directionless mindset of young people who join gangs, use drugs, commit violence,  and are on a war-path toward self-destruction. I know the deep thread of trauma inflicted upon people, and how that stays for life, an ever-lasting series of lamentations, self-analyses, and self-doubts and self-loathing, to just name a few.

It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to know bad hombres when you see them. It doesn’t take the niece or the sister of a Trump Character to know the lack of worth and the insult to humanity a guy like him reflects.

Did Hitler have adverse childhood experiences? Does it matter? Trump? Cheney? Bush? Kissinger? Milton Friedman? Colin Powell? Madeline Albright? Obama? Clinton? Biden? Every single billionaire and every single millionaire?

You know, I have a neighbor here, next door, from Arizona. Husband and wife. They hate Glendale, hate the republican Red State politics, hate the criminal ex-pardoned-sheriff Joe. They are here, and alas, they bought a lot, and built on it a manufactured home. The kind that comes in two parts. You know it from the long line of cars on the freeways with “extra wide load” pilot cars sandwiching them. A nice one with a foundation and it looks like a from-the-ground-up-with-footings house.

The deal is they (no one) can get a traditional mortgage for a trailer or park home or manufactured home. But, that billionaire Warren Buffet made some cool billions by financing mobile homes, using a balloon payment system, and his scheme (one of thousands) caused many (millions) to pay exorbitant fees, interest rates, and many-many homes were repossessed, like yesterday’s Pontiac Grand Am. Then, old Warren inflicts another layer of making money — on the used (repossessed) manufactured home market. This is the scheme of misanthropes, those that make the Forbes 1000 List, those that end up on Obama’s economic transition team. Or Trump’s. Or Biden’s.

The neighbors are nice, but alas, they are voting for Biden-Harris, and even that action conjures up fears, so much so they are afraid to put out a legal, everyday “Vote for Harris-Biden 2020” yard sign. Other neighbors want that same sign up, but fear retaliation.

I know many people living in many countries, including many in Europe, and they are sort of looking at this country from a telephoto lens, and really have not idea how bad, how messed up, how fearful, how spineless Americans are. Sure, they want USA to bomb Iran, bomb North Korea, bomb Venezuela, bomb China, bomb Russia, bomb liberals or bomb MAGA’s, but in reality, this country is all show and all bravado with a few tens of millions of psychopaths with guns running around (driving big trucks) with the red-white-and-blue dangling near the tailpipe.

Show up here on the coast a dark-skinned Italian, Frenchman, Greek, Spaniard, well, you get the picture. A deep swarthy tan, even for a so-called white man or woman, well, that’s a suspect epidermis. REALLY.

I used to work outside a lot, ride a bike for 50 miles in a day, and had dark black hair and a goatee. Sure, the hair on my arms bleached out, but still, in Idaho, in 2001 when I first ended up in the Pacific Northwest, from El Paso, one day in Idaho, while taking guests around, I was asked if I was a Heb – Jewish? Asked if I was an Arab? And asked if I was a Mexican?  I am not kidding. First, you have to deal with the fact being any of those – Jewish, Arab and Mexican – I still think is legal. But then, the undertone, the very concept of questioning who I am, based on nationality (or maybe ethnicity, because you can be any racial member in all three camps – Arab, Jewish and Mexican.

File:American corporate flag.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Deplorables 2001. Deplorables in 1980 bombing innocents in Central America. Deplorables rah-rah Bush and Nixon and Bombing them All Back to the Stone Age. And, those who work for these deplorables, well, some can call them Eichmann’s or Little Eichmann’s like Ward Churchill called many of those working in the World Trade Center. People who work for the masters, the paymasters, the schemers, the grifters, the snake oil salesmen, the high risk loan sharks, PayDay loan sharks, all those used car salesmen who eat the potato salad at the Sunday School brunch, and on Monday, sell another car with saw dust inside the transmission casing or hawk an SUV that once floated around NOL after Hurricane Katrina. Faulty air bags, faked VW emissions, cracks in the O-ring for the NASA Space Shuttle, fissures in the metal containing the nuclear rods at Three Mile Island. You know, all those people, who, unfortunately, have been lumped into “We Are the 99.”

We can say they were duped by the money, made a Faustian Bargain, drank the Kool-Aid, were bought out or sold out. Brainwashed by Capitalism … or greed. Sell their mothers down the river, because something bad in their lives turned them. Excuse/ excuse/ excuse.

I can’t go there now, or even years ago when the slogan began, We Are the 99.” I was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police during Occupy Wall Street. Many of those in the “99” ended up on the message boards and comments sections telling us that we deserved to be pepper sprayed, or what did we expect, or that there are other ways to make our point other than marching peacefully.

So, yeah, no, not part of any “We Are the 99.” Closet racists? Misogynists? Believers in the lie that all faculty at colleges and universities are elitists?

I was not brought up in privilege – my old man was an airman in USAF and then got into the Army as a Warrant Officer. Yes, I got to live overseas, travel overseas, be with relatives in Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany, but we are not talking about anything past lower-middle class. [Of course, there are plenty of psychological studies and cognitive theses on how Americans conflate their abilities, inflate  their actual economic standing, and frame their own narratives around the bastards of the world. Imagine, dirt poor people in Appalachia relating to silver-spooned, poor-hating, accent-mocking, disabilities-deriding, excon-slamming Trump or Bush or Nixon or Reagan.]

Did I strike gold? Well, I was in that time period in 1975 when a state college education was dirt cheap, and the state university in Tucson was progressive, made tons of allowances letting dudes like me major in science, English, journalism – all at the same time, semester to semester. Electives were anthropology [got to do the Garbage Project, garbology, with William Rathje];  marine biology [got to be a diver in Sea of Cortez with incredible professors who had a slew of marine species named after them]; poetry and creative writing [got to be a hanger on at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and all the writers who came through to the university];  journalism [got to get paid reporting for the then daily Wildcat newspaper, a wholly independent newspaper not under the thumb of the journalism department]. We broke stories on the veterinarian school paying for dogs (stolen) for ghastly experiments with ballistics; and broke the story on the football coach scamming refunding unused airline vouchers for his own slush fund. I even got to take a special topics class with W. Eugene Smith, the photographer. We got the Center for Creative Photography and the Ansel Adams slides. I did a first-person series on homelessness in Tucson, and I learned community journalism working on the lab paper, The Tombstone Epitaph. I got to party with Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, and even had beers several times with Lee Marvin. I got the chance to ride my motorcycle as an extra in C.C. & Company, with Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. And, much-much more by the time I was 20 years old.

A measure of an adult is not the size of his or her bank account, for sure, and alas, 43 years later, I am still lower-middle class, having had a life of part-time gigs threaded into a multi-variant quilt. Some of my friends are/were tenured professors, semi-successful novelists, and a millionaire or two here and there.

The bulk of my life has been teaching in places like El Paso and Las Cruces and Tucson, Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver.

The measure of some can be grasped through the quality of their living, their life philosophy and for some, an education inside and outside the hallowed walls of university life. I took education by the horns, got the paid TA-ship for one master’s (in English) and got another almost free ride getting another master’s in urban and regional planning. Learning is and was something you can do outside of a college, but a good college and good students and a vibrant campus and community life, no one can replace. They can bullshit you into thinking everything taught and learned in school is easily learned in the real world, but the problem is the real world is not our house, and the real world is the paymaster. A real education is life-long learning, a community of service learning, and one where curriculum is morphed, special projects encouraged, across disciples are the norm, and the liberal arts the foundation.

As many have said, I should/could write many books on my life and on what I have seen in so many other people’s lives.

Amazon.com : ACAB Anti Cop Stop Police Brutality Protest Statement Garden Flag for Outdoor House Porch Welcome Holiday Decoration, Fit Chritmas/Birthday/Happy New, 3x5ft : Garden & Outdoor

I take radical action seriously, and I know – knew from an early age – the system is rigged for the rich, and that in this country, at least, the majority of people are colonized and co-opted by the complex forces of capitalism as it plays out as predatory, penury, parasitic, usury, sociopathic and ablaze with the profits privatized and all the external costs to us, society, and to the environment, socialized. A society that doesn’t do a drum beat around the tenets of something like War is a Racket and one that has no grasp of that the same fellow, General Smedley Butler, thwarting a military coup against FDR by a group of businessmen, none of whom got “hook-line-and-sinkered” for the crime, well, that society is delusional and infantilized.

I have studied human nature, have been in developing countries, under developed countries and what might be termed as third world countries. I understand the overt corruption of a place like Mexico, where cops-politicians-rich-narcos have laid siege on the people, on the indigenous ones, on teachers and land reformers and environmental defenders. The duplicity, the complete global thuggery of the USA – all those systems of exported extortion, pollution, hostage taking, maiming, theft, fraud, and grifting, again, make the narcos look like school bullies. Right, tales of a few tens of millions Economic Hit Men, thanks John Perkins!

There is something totally hardened by the Yankee and Rebel  –

In 1923, the British novelist D.H. Lawrence offered a grim assessment of America and Americans: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Lawrence’s observations of the American character did not draw upon deep wells of direct personal experience. When he wrote those lines, he had only been living in the United States for a bit more than a year and had spent much of that time among artists and the literati. But he was neither the first nor the last to make such an observation. Nearly 50 years ago, surveying both the wreckage of the 1960s and centuries of archives, the brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.”

The general strike that didn't happen: a report on the activity of the IWW in Wisconsin

Here, David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. He was one of several who helped coin the “We Are the Ninety-Nine Percent.”

Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms. [Counterpunch]

Now how is Graber’s untimely death Sept. 3, 2020 related to the misanthropes across the street who not only exhibit the middling middle class from California hatred of Muslims, hatred of liberals, hatred of education, hatred of book learning, hatred of the arts, hatred of discourse, hatred of debate, hatred of countervailing beliefs, hatred of evolution, hatred of most sciences, hatred of multiculturalism, hatred of youth/color/polyglots/indigenous people.

Every week there is a new yard gnome, a new seasonal flag up – you name the Hallmark celebration, this family puts them all up, during those “correct” calendar spans. They wear sports team clothes, they shop at Walmart, they plant plastic flowers, they have a yippy little dog, they don’t own a bicycle, kayak, canoe, anything to at least prove they are part of the walking species. They don’t walk. Both have hobbled gaits, and at 63 they seem and act like dinosaurs from an Archie Bunker episode.

What takes the cake is that they, as I said in the first part, took down a smallish placard/sign from our property, at our front door. The son did the stealing, age 41, and the mother the next day out and out told me “my son would never do that.”

This is America, the nation of liars and thieves and infants. So, the sign was gone, I caught him in the act, I tried to stop him with my words, and he slinked into his mother’s house at 10:40 pm. All the lights were out.

You see, they were looking at this sign, and not only were they bubbling over with rage, they were talking about it. Somehow, this sign represents everything they are against. Steal a sign from the neighbors.

Ahh, but that just was part one. Now, two days later, we get a bang on the door. Nothing like having to utilize your 2nd amendment rights. Startled, well, I thought maybe this guy was back on a rampage. I saw a Sheriff deputy.

Well, this same boy, at 7 pm, according to two witnesses, threw a large garden cement paving stone into my passenger side window. The witness called the cops. The cop asked if I wanted to report this as a crime. The cop photographed the interior, the paving stone, and then took the stone. He also called for back-up. He told me a neighbor and visitor witnessed the brick being thrown through my window. Of course, on the little Metro, I had the same sign on the back window.

This is it for America, in a nutshell. This is not Covid-19 stir crazy. This fellow has a history of booze and 24-hour drinking at mom’s place. I found this out later. The other son also has issues with going off the wagon. This is the reality of these Trumpies, 39, 41 and two 63-year-olds. Big screen TV I can see every time I go outside. The talking heads of the 24/7 Hate TV, Big Brother Hannity and Fox and Friends Hate TV stars.

But you see, these deplorables were deplorables way before this greasy man got into the White House. Seething against the Latinos and Blacks. Seething against the wildfires (blaming the democrats for those). Seething against the high cost of living, and seething that they were passed up on the time line the day they were born.

Trauma informed care means understanding where people are in their addictions, their mental crises and their involvement in the criminal injustice system. Not about blame or expecting people to meet some “normal” level of functioning, but meeting them there at the trauma and going from here to be an inspiring and helpful case manager.

But when the shoe is on the other foot – the neighbor committing an act of violence (yes, a brick or rock through a car window right outside your home is a symbolic threat to a person’s body) or the politician thieving or the president raping – well, the victim cannot always be so holistic and understanding of those perpetrators’ childhood, juvenile, teen, young and old adult traumas as rationales for bad behavior.

One brick, a few hundred dollars later, then cops who give citations but do not take people to jail because of Covid-19. Guys that are white met by white cops. Lies, excuses, etc. The deputy said this perpetrator was saying, “Come on, aren’t you guys part of the blue lives matter? Come on, what I did was for you.”

There you have it. Me threading the needle, since I know for sure policing has been a giant racist and punishment and sadistic thing in US society. I know if the perp had been a dark person, a BIPOC, then, one backtalk move, and that person would be in cuffs.

Instead, the deputy said this guy was all over the place, was trying to coddle up to the cops, and that he was smelling of booze and that his job was to disarm the individual’s uneven demeanor by de-escalating things.

And, the bottom line is I am told to exercise my 2nd amendment rights, have the gun/guns ready, “and, if any trouble happens on the property, wink wink …,” well, those are the words of cops.

Oh, and they recommended to get a no-stalking order filed at the court, so a judge can meet with me via phone to determine if this one guy, the 41-year-old, will be hit with a court order to stay away from me. For each member of the family, we’d have to file individual stalking orders.

This is America, the hard, cold shallow/sallow America. The California Here You Come America. The Fox News America. The seething white racist America. The Americans who hate welfare while they scoop up all the welfare from their mercenary service (sic) in the US Navy, while getting social security, while getting Medicare and VA benefits, and maybe this fellow, the 41-year-old, he too is on government assistance – unemployment and possibly developmentally disabled before age 18?

I have friends all over the world who think the United States is something completely than it is. They consume so much Holly-dirt, and they maybe smart and read the elites and Ivy League mostly white books on this or that angle in America. Their take on things – because the Ivy Leaguers and Elite Coastal Lizards – have no real sense of how bad the country is, how tough the soul of the white nation is, how quickly the nation of immigrants will turn into a nation of haters.

The paperwork for the no stalking order is absurdly long. Then, the conference courtroom swearing in. All the other no-stalking cases up first – violent spouse or ex-boyfriend. Nothing like listening to all these cases of violence, threats, etc. to get a person re-traumatized. That’s what was on the docket — my case and then women who were in fear for their lives because of violent ex-spouses and ex-boyfriends.

So, get this – in the USA, now, I have a temporary no-stalking order, and the guy will be served soon, which means, you guessed it, more escalation of his testosterone, etc. More of the MAGA might makes right stupidity? That’s one possible scenario. The order goes to a level, according to the judge,  of this fellow not being allowed in my field of vision, which makes it, err, problematic for him, since the house’s stoop overlooks the same road we share.

All the nonsense like –

You will have the opportunity to ask the judge to stop the stalker from:

Following or monitoring you,
Threatening you,
Talking or writing to you (by mail, phone, text, email, or social media),
Interfering with or damaging your property,
Coming near you in public or on private property, and
Showing up at your work, home, school, or daycare facility.

Someone may be stalking you when they:

Follow you,
Conduct surveillance on you,
Appear uninvited at your home, work, or school,
Makes unwanted phone calls or sends unwanted emails or texts,
Leave objects for you,
Vandalizes your property, or
Hurt your pet.

Like I said, I have had an interesting life. Worked as a police reporter and was even threatened as a newspaper journalist by both Sheriff deputies and a local policeman in Bisbee, Las Cruces and El Paso. For publishing too much on the PD/Sheriff. Got to hang out in Chihuahua City and on a couple of ranchos outside the city with some mean hombres – both college educated (MBA and JD) in the USA, but then, also politicos with ties to the cocaine trade. Been in small towns in the south, and up north in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah and Arizona.

The Euro’s and Aussies and Kiwis know nothing about how warped and dysfunctional this country under white banking and war rule is. Imagine, that defective set of genes then moving into 1990 and the 2000s. Complete monsters like Zuckerberg and Bezos, the entire Fortune 5000 captains of industry, the sports team owners, Hollywood, from sea to shining sea.

The MAGA thing is real, not just some kneejerk against the orange monster/menace/accused pedophile/accused rapist. Yet, there are so many Americans willing to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, so many Ellen’s and Karen’s giving Bush Baby the benefit of the doubt. This is the caliber of both sides of the political manure pile.

You’re 77 and Joe Biden and, bam, the slippage, big time. Then the felon, the grifter, the complete imbecile, Trump, 74. Two accused rapists, two rotten men, and one, Biden, living some fabled set of lies, the plagiarist in the Senate and VP. Then the habitual thief, Trump, lying as a tool, incompetent, and believe it or not, dumber than dirt, making Bush Junior look like Stephen Hawkins.

One hundred and fifty-one, the two of them, combined imbecility and lies and entitlement. Both racists, both lovers of the exceptionalism that is the huge American lie. Imagine, having five leaders, 30 years old each, running for president? Imagine that. “Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must: be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States; be at least 35 years old; resident of the US for at least 14 years.”

This is the quality of MAGA, and many of them are old, Christians, sure, and they in any other time in history would not let their daughters come home with a greasy man like Trump for a date, let alone for candidacy for son-in-law. Not exactly all-American virtuous guy. No Norman Rockwell guy. No Norman Vincent Peele kinda dude.

Yet, their televangelists and pulpit punchers are all degenerates, and the country – little do the Euro visitor knows this – is steeped in magical thinking, protective angels, strong belief in papa in the head office guiding the poor and even educated people on what to think, say, mouth, and hear around what it means to be American.

So it goes, these neighbors, the quasi-restraining order (for a stranger, no less – not even work related). People of two generations hating blacks, hating gays, hating people with disabilities, hating the environment, hating hating and more hating.

A rock through the window, and what’s next? What will happen when the Black Lives Matter signs go up? When will they bring out their guns and ammo? When oh when will that restraining order come to the rescue? After two more pavers are thrown into our vehicles’ windows? Gunshots over the house, threw the window or at us?

This is the Trump-Land, and the same scum were there during Clinton (I went to a gun show in Texas and they were selling embossed bullseye targets with Chelsea, Bill and Hillary faces on them. Nixon? Democratic Convention in Chicago? School busing? How many are dead in Ohio? Black Panthers? Which red-baiting McCarthyite went on to, well, advise Mister Queens New York?

Flag for the Black Panthers (Black Panther Party) : vexillology

This is how the sausage was made in America with that secret ingredient always back into the ground up mix–

400–500 years ago, Europe’s unwanted social outcasts and religious extremists began relocating to Virginia and Massachusetts. Grateful crowns back in London, Amsterdam and Strasbourg rejoiced as their most ungovernable and unwanted subjects self-exiled to the new world. There, waste people and pilgrims set about recreating the same intolerance they sought to flee. Puritan Christianity was so intolerant that they were unable to coexist anywhere – neither with their own kind back in the old world, nor with the natives of the new.

These first settlers thought the Inquisition ended too soon and eagerly sought to reproduce it – burning heretics and accused witches, perpetuating the cruel and unusual medieval tortures discarded by their European forebears, and forcing abused wives to wear the scarlet letter. Women and children had no rights; men were vicious tyrants. Colonial promoter Richard Hakluyt back in England neatly summarized the first settlers’ goals in 1585: “The ends of their voyage are these: to plant Christian religion; to trafficke; and to conquer.”  Abel Cohen

Great Debate: Should it be a crime to burn the American Flag? – The Crimson

Oh, those in the One Percent and then the others, in that 19 Percent Group

U.S. has highest level of income inequality among G7 countries

I’ll go with Michael Parenti on this accord — the richest 85 families own as much wealth as the lower 50 percent of the world? Bullshit. Those misanthropes own a hell of a lot more than anything the 3.5 billion people on earth might collectively “have.” No comparison:

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population— whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.— can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down? Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities? especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc. We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are. — Michael Parenti 

And so I get a rock through my car window, get to go to court to file a no stalking order, and await yet more American mean as cuss reactions as the Black Lives Matter and Ecosocialist signs go up . . .  Of course, after I have to purchase and install closed circuit surveillance cameras. Yep, MAGA Mutts for Trump 4.0.

What does it mean if the US flag is upside down? - Quora

The post A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

We Need To Talk About Romanticism

Satire on Romantic Suicide (1839) by Leonardo Alenza y Nieto (1807–1845)

Introduction

Why do we need to talk about Romanticism? What is Romanticism? And how does it affect us in the 21st century? The fact is that we are so immersed in Romanticism now that we cannot see the proverbial wood for the haunted-looking trees. Romanticism has so saturated our culture that we need to stand back and remind ourselves what it is, and examine how it has seeped into our thinking processes to the extent that we are not even aware of its presence anymore. Or why this is a problem. The Romanticist influence of intense emotion makes up a large part of modern culture, for example, in much pop music, cinema, TV and literature; e.g., genres such as Superheroes, Fantasy, Horror, Magical realism, Saga, Westerns. I will look at the origins of Romanticism, and its negative influence on culture and politics. I will show how Enlightenment ideas originally emerged in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Church and led to the formation of a working class ideology and culture of resistance.

Romanticism and the modern world

The whole exuberance, anarchy and violence of modern art … its unrestrained, unsparing exhibitionism, is derived from [Romanticism]. And this subjective, egocentric attitude has become so much a matter of course for us … that we find it impossible to reproduce even an abstract train of thought without talking about our own feelings.
— Arnold Hauser, (1892–1978), A Social History of Art, Vol. 3, p. 166

Romanticism arose out of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century as a reaction to what was perceived as a rationalisation of life to the point of being anti-nature. The Romantics were against the Industrial Revolution, universalism and empiricism, emphasising instead heroic individualists and artists, and the individual imagination as a critical authority rather than classical ideals.

The Enlightenment itself had developed from the earlier Renaissance with a renewed interest in the classical traditions and ideals of harmony, symmetry, and order based on reason and science. On a political level the Enlightenment promoted republicanism in opposition to monarchy which ultimately led to the French revolution.

The worried conservatives of the time reacted to the ideas of the Enlightenment and reason with a philosophy which was based on religious ideas and glorified the past (especially Medieval times and the ‘Golden Age’) — times when things were not so threatening to elites. This philosophy became known as Romanticism and emphasised medieval ideas and society over the new ideas of democracy, capitalism and science.

Romanticism originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1890. It was initially marked by innovations in both content and literary style and by a preoccupation with the subconscious, the mystical, and the supernatural. This period was followed by the development of cultural nationalism and a new attention to national origins, an interest in native folklore, folk ballads and poetry, folk dance and music, and even previously ignored medieval and Renaissance works.

The Romantic movement “emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature.” The importance of the medieval lay in the  pre-capitalist significance of its individual crafts and tradesmen, as well as its feudal peasants and serfs.

Thus Romanticism was a reaction to the birth of the modern world: urbanisation, secularisation, industrialisation, and consumerism. Romanticism emphasised intense emotion and feelings which over the centuries came to be seen as one of its most important characteristics, in opposition to ‘cold’, ‘unfeeling’ Enlightenment rationalism.

Origins of Enlightenment emotion

Whence this secret Chain between each Person and Mankind? How is my Interest connected with the most distant Parts of it?
Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746), An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), Treatise II: An Inquiry concerning Moral Good and Evil, Sect. I.

However, this ‘cold’, ‘unfeeling’ scenario is actually very far from the truth. In fact, the Enlightenment, itself, had its origins in emotion. Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century tried to create a philosophy of feeling that would allow them to solve the problem of the injustice in the unfeeling world they saw all around them.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) believed that all human beings had a ‘natural affection’ or natural sociability which bound them together.  Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) wrote that “All Men have the same Affections and Senses”, while David Hume (1711–1776) believed that human beings extend their “imaginative identification with the feelings of others” when it is required. Similarly, Adam Smith (1723–1790), the writer of Wealth of Nations, believed in the power of the imagination to inform us and help us understand the suffering of others.1

Portrait of Denis Diderot (1713-1784), by Louis-Michel van Loo, 1767

For the Enlightenment philosophers the relationship between feeling and reason was of absolute importance. To develop ideas that would progress society for the better, a sense of morality was essential. Denis Diderot (1713–1784) a prominent French philosopher of the Enlightenment in France, for example, had strong views on the importance of the passions. As Henry Martyn Lloyd writes:

Diderot did believe in the utility of reason in the pursuit of truth – but he had an acute enthusiasm for the passions, particularly when it came to morality and aesthetics. With many of the key figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, such as David Hume, he believed that morality was grounded in sense-experience. Ethical judgment was closely aligned with, even indistinguishable from, aesthetic judgments, he claimed. We judge the beauty of a painting, a landscape or our lover’s face just as we judge the morality of a character in a novel, a play or our own lives – that is, we judge the good and the beautiful directly and without the need of reason. For Diderot, then, eliminating the passions could produce only an abomination. A person without the ability to be affected, either because of the absence of passions or the absence of senses, would be morally monstrous.

Moreover, to remove the passions from science would lead to inhuman approaches and methods that would divert and alienate science from its ultimate goal of serving humanity, as Lloyd writes:

That the Enlightenment celebrated sensibility and feeling didn’t entail a rejection of science, however. Quite the opposite: the most sensitive individual – the person with the greatest sensibility – was considered to be the most acute observer of nature. The archetypical example here was a doctor, attuned to the bodily rhythms of patients and their particular symptoms. Instead, it was the speculative system-builder who was the enemy of scientific progress – the Cartesian physician who saw the body as a mere machine, or those who learned medicine by reading Aristotle but not by observing the ill. So the philosophical suspicion of reason was not a rejection of rationality per se; it was only a rejection of reason in isolation from the senses, and alienated from the impassioned body.

Michael L. Frazer describes the importance of Enlightenment justice and sympathy in his book The Enlightenment of Sympathy. He writes:

Reflective sentimentalists recognize our commitment to justice as an outgrowth of our sympathy for others. After our sympathetic sentiments undergo reflective self-correction, the sympathy that emerges for all those who suffer injustice poses no insult to those for whom it is felt. We do not see their suffering as mere pain to be soothed away when and if we happen to share it. Instead under Hume’s account, we condemn injustice as a violation of rules that are vitally important to us all. And under Smith’s account, we condemn the sufferings of the victims of injustice as injustice because we sympathetically share the resentment that they feel toward their oppressors, endorsing such feelings as warranted and acknowledging those who feel them deserve better treatment.2

Cooper, Hume and Smith were living in times, not only devoid of empathy, but also even of basic sympathy. Robert C. Solomon writes of society then in A Passion for Justice: “There have always been the very rich. And of course there have always been the very poor. But even as late as the civilized and sentimental eighteenth century, this disparity was not yet a cause for public embarrassment or a cry of injustice. […] Poverty was considered just one more “act of God,” impervious to any solution except mollification through individual charity and government poorhouses to keep the poor off the streets and away from crime.”3

Enlightenment emotion eventually gave rise to social trends that emphasised humanism and the heightened value of human life. These trends had their complement in art, creating what became known as the ‘sentimental novel’. While today sentimentalism evokes maudlin self-pity, in the eighteenth century it was revolutionary as sentimental literature

focused on weaker members of society, such as orphans and condemned criminals, and allowed readers to identify and sympathize with them. This translated to growing sentimentalism within society, and led to social movements calling for change, such as the abolition of the death penalty and of slavery. Instead of the death penalty, popular sentiment called for the rehabilitation of criminals, rather than harsh punishment. Frederick Douglass himself was inspired to stand against his own bondage and slavery in general in his famous Narrative by the speech by the sentimentalist playwright Sheridan in The Columbian Orator detailing a fictional dialogue between a master and slave.

As Solomon notes: “What distinguishes us not just from animals but from machines are our passions, and foremost among them our passion for justice. Justice is, in a word, that set of passions, not mere theories, that bind us and make us part of the social world.”4

The Man of Feeling  (Henry Mackenzie)

Writers such as the Scottish author Henry Mackenzie tried to highlight many things that he perceived were wrong during his time and showed how many of the wrongs were ultimately caused by the established pillars of society. In his book, The Man of Feeling, he has no qualms about showing how these pillars of society had, for example, abused an intelligent woman causing her to become a prostitute (p. 44/45.), destroyed a school because it blocked the landowner’s view (p. 72), and hired assassins to remove a man who had refused to hand over his wife (p. 91.), etc.5 Mackenzie shows again and again the injustices of British military and colonial policy, and who is responsible. As Marilyn Butler writes:

Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771), is pointedly topical when it criticizes the consequences of a war policy – press-ganging, conscription, the military punishment of flogging, and inadequate pensions – and when, like the same author’s Julia de Roubigné (1777), it attacks the principle of colonialism. An interest in such causes was the logical outcome of art’s frequently reiterated dedication to humanity. It was a period when the cast of villains was drawn from the proud men representing authority, downwards from the House of Lords, the bench of bishops, judges, local magistrates, attorneys, to the stern father; when readers were invited to empathize with life’s victims.6

It took a long time for the ideas of sentimentalism (emotions against injustice) to filter down to the Realism (using facts to depict ordinary everyday experiences) that Dickens used in the nineteenth century to finally evoke some kind of empathy for people impoverished by society. As Solomon notes: “It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that Dickens shook the conscience of his compatriots with his riveting descriptions of poverty and cruelty in contemporary London, […] that the problem of poverty and resistance to its solutions [e.g. poorhouses] has become the central question of justice.”3

Buss, Robert William; Dickens’s Dream; Charles Dickens Museum, London;

European literary sentimentalism arose during the Enlightenment, and partly as a response to sentimentalism in philosophy. In England the period 1750–1798 became known as the Age of Sensibility as the sentimental novel or the novel of sensibility became popular.

Romanticist emotionalism: the opposite of Enlightenment sentimentalism

Classicism is health, romanticism is sickness.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832)

However, sensibility in an Enlightenment sense was very different from the Romanticist understanding, as Butler notes:

It is, in fact, in a key respect almost the opposite of Romanticism. Sensibility, like its near-synonym sentiment, echoes eighteenth-century philosophy and psychology in focusing upon the mental process by which impressions are received by the senses. But the sentimental writer’s interest in how the mind works and in how people behave is very different from the Romantic writer’s inwardness.7

She writes that ‘neither Neoclassical theory nor contemporary practice in various styles and genres put much emphasis on the individuality of the artist’ (p. 29). This is a far cry from the apolitical, inward-looking, self-centered Romantic artists who saw themselves outside of a society that they had little interest in participating in, let alone changing for the better. Butler again:

Romantic rebelliousness is more outrageous and total, the individual rejecting not just his own society but the very principle of living in society – which means that the Romantic and post Romantic often dismisses political activity of any kind, as external to the self, literal and commonplace. Since it is relatively uncommon for the eighteenth-century artist to complain directly on his own behalf, he seldom achieves such emotional force as his nineteenth-century successor. He is, on the other hand, much more inclined than the Romantic to express sympathy for certain, well-defined social groups. Humanitarian feeling for the real-life underdog is a strong vein from the 1760s to the 1790s, often echoing real-life campaigns for reform.8

This movement over time towards the Romanticist inward-looking conception of emotion and feelings has had knock-on negative effects on society’s ability to defend itself from elite oppression (through cultural styles of self-absorption, escapism and diversion rather than exposure, criticism and resistance), and retarded ‘art’s frequently reiterated dedication to humanity’. Solomon describes this process:

What has come about in the past two centuries or so is the dramatic rise of what Robert Stone has called “affective individualism,” this new celebration of the passions and other feelings of the autonomous individual. Yet, ironically, it is an attitude that has become even further removed from our sense of justice during that same period of time. We seem to have more inner feelings and pay more attention to them, but we seem to have fewer feelings about others and the state of the world and pay less attention to them.9

Thus while Enlightenment sentimentalism “depicted individuals as social beings whose sensibility was stimulated and defined by their interactions with others”, the Romantic movement that followed it “tended to privilege individual autonomy and subjectivity over sociability”.

Romanticism as a philosophical movement of the nineteenth century had a profound influence on culture which can still be seen right up to today. Its main characteristics are the emphasis on the personal, dramatic contrasts, emotional excess, a focus on the nocturnal, the ghostly and the frightful, spontaneity, and extreme subjectivism. Romanticism in culture implies a turning inward and encourages introspection. Romantic literature put more emphasis on themes of isolation, loneliness, tragic events and the power of nature. A heroic view of history and myth became the basis of much Romantic literature.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, painted by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier

It was in Germany that Romanticism took shape as a political ideology. The German Romanticists felt threatened by the French Revolution and were forced to move from inward-looking ideas to formulate conservative political answers needed to oppose Enlightenment and republican ideals. According to Eugene N. Anderson:

In the succeeding years the danger became acutely political, and the German Romanticists were compelled to subordinate their preoccupation with the widening of art and the enrichment of individual experience to social and political ideas and actions, particularly as formulated in nationalism and conservatism. These three cultural ideals, Romanticism, nationalism and conservatism, shared qualities evoked by the common situation of crisis. […] The Germans had to maintain against rationalism and the French a culture which in its institutional structure was that of the ancien régime. German Romanticism accepted it, wished to reform it somewhat, idealized it, and defended the idealization as the supreme culture of the world. This was the German counter-revolution. […] They endowed their culture with universal validity and asserted that it enjoyed the devotion of nature and God, that if it were destroyed humanity would be vitally wounded.10

The reactionary nature of German Romanticism was demonstrated in its hierarchical views of society, its chauvinist nationalism, and extreme conservatism which would have serious implications for future generations of the German populace. As Anderson writes:

The low estimate of rationalism and the exaltation of custom, tradition, and feeling, the conception of society as an alliance of the generations, the belief in the abiding character of ideas as contrasted with the ephemeral nature of concepts, these and many other romantic views bolstered up the existing culture. The concern with relations led the Romanticists to praise the hierarchical order of the Ständestaat and to regard everything and every-one as an intermediary. The acceptance of the fact of inequality harmonized with that of the ideals of service, duty, faithfulness, order, sacrifice – admirable traits for serf or subject or soldier.11

Anderson also believes that the Romanticists remained swinging “between individual freedom and initiative and group compulsion and authority” and as such could not have brought in fundamental reforms, because: “By reverencing tradition, they preserved the power of the backward-looking royalty and aristocracy.”12

Thus Romanticist self-centredness in philosophy translated into the most conservative forms for maintaining the status quo in politics. Individual freedoms were matched by authoritarianism for the masses. The individual was king all right, as long as you weren’t a ‘serf or subject or soldier’.

Beyond morality: Working Class perspectives on Reason and Sentiment

We have never intended to enlighten shoemakers and servants—this is up to apostles.
Voltaire (1694–1778)

Around the same time of the early period of Romanticism, Karl Heinrich Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) were born. They grew up in a very different Germany. Capitalism had become established and was creating an even more polarised society between extremely rich and extremely poor as factory owners pushed their workers to their physical limits. On his way to work at his father’s firm in Manchester, Engels called into the offices of a paper he wrote for in Cologne and met the editor, Marx, for the first time in 1842. They formed a friendship based on shared values and beliefs regarding the working class and socialist ideas. They saw a connection between the earlier Enlightenment ideas and socialism. For example, as Engels writes in Anti-Duhring:

in its theoretical form, modern socialism originally appears ostensibly as a more logical extension of the principles laid down by the great French philosophers of the eighteenth century. Like every new theory, modern socialism had, at first, to connect itself with the intellectual stock-in-trade ready to its hand, however deeply its roots lay in economic facts.13

However, once they had connected themselves to the Enlightenment they soon saw the limitations of both Enlightenment concepts of reason and sentiment. They realised that the new bourgeois rulers would be limited by their conceptions of property, justice, and equality, which basically meant they only applied universality to themselves and their own property. The new rulers were buoyed up by the victory of their ideological fight over the aristocracy but incapable of applying the same ideas to the masses who helped them to victory. Thus Marx and Engels viewed the struggle for reason as important but limited to the new ruling class’ world view, just like the aristocracy before them:

Every form of society and government then existing, every old traditional notion was flung into the lumber room as irrational; the world had hitherto allowed itself to be led solely by prejudices; everything in the past deserved only pity and contempt. Now, for the first time, appeared the light of day, henceforth superstition, injustice, privilege, oppression, were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal Right, equality based on nature and the inalienable rights of man. We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealised kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realisation in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the eighteenth century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch.14

As for sentiment, they were well aware of the Realist critical nature of modern writers (the Realist movement rejected Romanticism) and indeed praised them (e.g. G. Sand, E. Sue, and Boz [Dickens]), but limited themselves to offering some advice. While recognising that progressive literature had a mainly middle class audience (and were happy enough with these authors just ‘shaking the optimism’ of their audience), they knew that this was not by any means a socialist literature and were

I think however that the purpose must become manifest from the situation and the action themselves without being expressly pointed out and that the author does not have to serve the reader on a platter — the future historical resolution of the social conflicts which he describes. To this must be added that under our conditions novels are mostly addressed to readers from bourgeois circles, i.e., circles which are not directly ours. Thus the socialist problem novel in my opinion fully carries out its mission if by a faithful portrayal of the real conditions it dispels the dominant conventional illusions concerning them, shakes the optimism of the bourgeois world, and inevitably instills doubt as to the eternal validity of that which exists, without itself offering a direct solution of the problem involved, even without at times ostensibly taking sides.15

Sentimental literature focused on individual misfortune, and constant repetition of such themes certainly appeared to universalise such suffering, so that, as David Denby writes, “In this weeping mother, this suffering father, we are to read also the sufferings of humanity.” Thus, “individualism and universalism appear to be two sides of the same coin”. Sentimental literature gives the reader the ‘spectacle of misfortune’ and a representation of the reaction of a ‘sentient and sensible observer’ who tries to help with ‘alms, sympathy or indeed narrative intervention.’ Furthermore, the literature of sentiment “mirrors eighteenth-century theories of sympathy, in which a spontaneous reaction to the spectacle of suffering is gradually developed, by a process of generalisation and combination of ideas, into broader and more abstract notions of humanity, benevolence, justice.”16

Workers in the fuse factory, Woolwich Arsenal late 1800s

This brings us then to the problem of interpretation, as Denby suggests: “should the sentimental portrayal of the poor and of action in their favour be read as an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless, to include the hitherto excluded? Or, alternatively, is the sentimentalisation of the poor to be interpreted, more cynically, as a discursive strategy through which the enlightened bourgeoisie states its commitment to values of humanity and justice, and thereby seeks to strengthen its claims to universal domination?”17

While such ideas of giving a ‘voice to the voiceless’ was a far cry from monarchical times, and claims of commitment to humanity and justice were laudable, the concept of universality had a fundamental flaw: “The universal claims of the French Revolution are opposed to a [aristocratic] society based on distinctions of birth: it is in the name of humanity that the Revolution challenges the established order. But for Sartre this does not change the fact that the universal is a myth, an ideological construct, and an obfuscation, since it articulates a notion of man which eliminates social conflict and disguises the interests of a class behind a facade of universal reference.”18

Striking teamsters battling police on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1934

Thus for Marx and Engels defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, that is, a universal moral theory, could not be achieved while society is divided into classes:

We maintain […] that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality. A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life.

Marx and Engels worked towards that morality through their activism with working class movements and culture. Their critical writing also formed an essential part of working class ideology and culture of resistance and has remained influential in resistance movements the world over.

The culture of resistance today still uses realism, documentary, and histories of oppression to show the harsh realities of globalisation. Like during the Enlightenment, empathy for those suffering injustice forms its foundation. And unlike Romanticism, reason and science are deemed to be important tools in its struggle for social emancipation and progress.

Conclusion: Enlightenment and Romanticism today

When we are asked now: are we now living into an enlightened age? Then the answer is: No, but in an age of Enlightenment.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

There is no doubt that the influence of Romanticism has become ever stronger in twentieth and twenty-first century culture. Romanticist-influenced TV shows on Netflix are watched world wide. Love songs dominate the pop industry and superheroes are now the mainstay of cinema. Even Romanticist nationalism is making a comeback. Now and then calls for a new Enlightenment are heard, but like the original advocates of the Enlightenment, they are limited to the conservative world view of those making the call and whose view of the Enlightenment could be compared to a form of Third Way politics, that is, they avoid the issue of class conflict.

  1. Anthony Pagden, The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters (Oxford Uni Press, 2015) p. 72/73.
  2. Michael L Frazer, The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today (Oxford Uni Press, 2010) p. 126/127.
  3. Robert C Solomon, A Passion for Justice: Emotions and the Origins of the Social Contract (Rowman and Littlefield Pub., 1995) p. 13.
  4. Ibid., p. 45.
  5. Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (Oxford World’s Classics Oxford Uni Press, 2009.
  6. Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760-1830 (Oxford Uni Press, 1981) p. 31.
  7. Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760-1830 (Oxford Uni Press, 1981) p. 29/30.
  8. Ibid., pp. 30/31.
  9. Robert C Solomon, A Passion for Justice: Emotions and the Origins of the Social Contract (Rowman and Littlefield Pub., 1995) p. 37.
  10. Eugene N. Anderson, German Romanticism as an Ideology of Cultural Crisis, p. 301-312. Journal of the History of Ideas, June, 1941, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 301-317. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press.
  11. Ibid., pp. 313-314.
  12. Ibid., p. 316.
  13. Marx and Engels, On Literature and Art (Progress Publishers: Moscow, 1978) p. 270.
  14. Ibid., p. 271.
  15. Ibid., p. 88.
  16. David J. Denby, Individual, universal, national: a French revolutionary trilogy? (Studies of Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 335, Voltaire Foundation, 1996) p. 28/29.
  17. Ibid., 117.
  18. Ibid., p. 27.

A Lesson Coronavirus is About to Teach the World

If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus has offered two lessons.

The first is that in a globalised world our lives are so intertwined that the idea of viewing ourselves as islands – whether as individuals, communities, nations, or a uniquely privileged species – should be understood as evidence of false consciousness. In truth, we were always bound together, part of a miraculous web of life on our planet and, beyond it, stardust in an unfathomably large and complex universe.

It is only an arrogance cultivated in us by those narcissists who have risen to power through their own destructive egotism that blinded us to the necessary mix of humility and awe we ought to feel as we watch a drop of rain on a leaf, or a baby struggle to crawl, or the night sky revealed in all its myriad glories away from city lights.

And now, as we start to enter periods of quarantine and self-isolation – as nations, communities and individuals – all that should be so much clearer. It has taken a virus to show us that only together are we at our strongest, most alive and most human.

In being stripped of what we need most by the threat of contagion, we are reminded of how much we have taken community for granted, abused it, hollowed it out. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard.

When death stalks us it is not bankers we turn to, or corporate executives, or hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, those are the people our societies have best rewarded. They are the people who, if salaries are a measure of value, are the most prized.

But they are not the people we need, as individuals, as societies, as nations. Rather, it will be doctors, nurses, public health workers, care-givers and social workers who will be battling to save lives by risking their own.

During this health crisis we may indeed notice who and what is most important. But will we remember the sacrifice, their value after the virus is no longer headline news? Or will we go back to business as usual – until the next crisis – rewarding the arms manufacturers, the billionaire owners of the media, the fossil fuel company bosses, and the financial-services parasites feeding off other people’s money?

‘Take it on the chin’

The second lesson follows from the first. Despite everything we have been told for four decades or more, western capitalist societies are far from the most efficient ways of organising ourselves. That will be laid bare as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

We are still very much immersed in the ideological universe of Thatcherism and Reaganism, when we were told quite literally: “There is no such thing as society.” How will that political mantra stand the test of the coming weeks and months? How much can we survive as individuals, even in quarantine, rather than as part of communities that care for all of us?

Western leaders who champion neoliberalism, as they are required to do nowadays, have two choices to cope with coronavirus – and both will require a great deal of misdirection if we are not to see through their hypocrisy and deceptions.

Our leaders can let us “take it on the chin”, as the British prime minister Boris Johnson has phrased it. In practice, that will mean allowing what is effectively a cull of many of the poor and elderly – one that will relieve governments of the financial burden of underfunded pension schemes and welfare payments.

Such leaders will claim they are powerless to intervene or to ameliorate the crisis. Confronted with the contradictions inherent in their worldview, they will suddenly become fatalists, abandoning their belief in the efficacy and righteousness of the free market. They will say the virus was too contagious to contain, too robust for health services to cope, too lethal to save lives. They will evade all blame for the decades of health cuts and privatisations that made those services inefficient, inadequate, cumbersome and inflexible.

Or, by contrast, politicians will use their spin doctors and allies in the corporate media to obscure the fact that they are quietly and temporarily becoming socialists to deal with the emergency. They will change the welfare rules so that all those in the gig economy they created – employed on zero-hours contracts – do not spread the virus because they cannot afford to self-quarantine or take days’ off sick.

Or most likely our leaders will pursue both options.

Permanent crisis

If acknowledged at all, the conclusion to be draw from the crisis – that we all matter equally, that we need to look after one another, that we sink or swim together – will be treated as no more than an isolated, fleeting lesson specific to this crisis. Our leaders will refuse to draw more general lessons – ones that might highlight their own culpability – about how sane, humane societies should function all the time.

In fact, there is nothing unique about the coronavirus crisis. It is simply a heightened version of the less visible crisis we are now permanently mired in. As Britain sinks under floods each winter, as Australia burns each summer, as the southern states of the US are wrecked by hurricanes and its great plains become dustbowls, as the climate emergency becomes ever more tangible, we will learn this truth slowly and painfully.

Those deeply invested in the current system – and those so brainwashed they cannot see its flaws – will defend it to the bitter end. They will learn nothing from the virus. They will point to authoritarian states and warn that things could be far worse.

They will point a finger at Iran’s high death toll as confirmation that our profit-driven societies are better, while ignoring the terrible damage we have inflicted on Iran’s health services after years of sabotaging its economy through ferocious sanctions. We left Iran all the more vulnerable to coronavirus  because we wanted to engineer “regime change” – to interfere under the pretence of “humanitarian” concern – as we have sought to do in other countries whose resources we wished to control, from Iraq to Syria and Libya.

Iran will be held responsible for a crisis we willed, that our politicians intended (even if the speed and means came as a surprise), to overthrow its leaders. Iran’s failures will be cited as proof of our superior way of life, as we wail self-righteously about the outrage of a “Russian interference” whose contours we can barely articulate.

Valuing the common good

Those who defend our system, even as its internal logic collapses in the face of coronavirus and a climate emergency, will tell us how lucky we are to live in free societies where some – Amazon executives, home delivery services, pharmacies, toilet-paper manufacturers – can still make a quick buck from our panic and fear. As long as someone is exploiting us, as long as someone is growing fat and rich, we will be told the system works – and works better than anything else imaginable.

But in fact, late-stage capitalist societies like the US and the UK will struggle to claim even the limited successes against coronavirus of authoritarian governments. Is Trump in the US or Johnson in the UK – exemplars of “the market knows best” capitalism – likely to do better than China at containing and dealing with the virus?

This lesson is not about authoritarian versus “free” societies. This is about societies that treasure the common wealth, that value the common good, above private greed and profit, above protecting the privileges of a wealth-elite.

In 2008, after decades of giving the banks what they wanted – free rein to make money by trading in hot air – the western economies all but imploded as an inflated bubble of empty liquidity burst. The banks and financial services were saved only by public bail-outs – tax payers’ money. We were given no choice: the banks, we were told, were “too big to fail”.

We bought the banks with our common wealth. But because private wealth is our era’s guiding star, the public were not allowed to own the banks they bought. And once the banks had been bailed out by us – a perverse socialism for the rich – the banks went right back to making private money, enriching a tiny elite until the next crash.

Nowhere to fly to

The naive may think this was a one-off. But the failings of capitalism are inherent and structural, as the virus is already demonstrating and the climate emergency will drive home with alarming ferocity in the coming years.

The shut-down of borders means the airlines are quickly going bust. They didn’t put money away for a rainy day, of course. They didn’t save, they weren’t prudent. They are in a cut-throat world where they need to compete with rivals, to drive them out of business and make as much money as they can for shareholders.

Now there is nowhere for the airlines to fly to – and they will have no visible means to make money for months on end. Like the banks, they are too big to fail – and like the banks they are demanding public money be spent to tide them over until they can once again rapaciously make profits for their shareholders. There will be many other corporations queuing up behind the airlines.

Sooner or later the public will be strong-armed once again to bail out these profit-driven corporations whose only efficiency is the central part they play in fuelling global warming and eradicating life on the planet. The airlines will be resuscitated until the inevitable next crisis arrives – one in which they are key players.

A boot stamping on a face

Capitalism is an efficient system for a tiny elite to make money at a terrible cost, and an increasingly untenable one, to wider society – and only until that system shows itself to be no longer efficient. Then wider society has to pick up the tab, and assist the wealth-elite so the cycle can be begun all over again. Like a boot stamping on a human face – forever, as George Orwell warned long ago.

But it is not just that capitalism is economically self-destructive; it is morally vacant too. Again, we should study the exemplars of neoliberal orthodoxy: the UK and the US.

In Britain, the National Health Service – once the envy of the world – is in terminal decline after decades of privatising and outsourcing its services. Now the same Conservative party that began the cannibalising of the NHS is pleading with businesses such as car makers to address a severe shortage of ventilators, which will soon be needed to assist coronavirus patients.

Once, in an emergency, western governments would have been able to direct resources, both public and private, to save lives. Factories could have been repurposed for the common good. Today, the government behaves as if all it can do is incentivise business, pinning hopes on the profit motive and selfishness driving these firms to enter the ventilator market, or to provide beds, in ways beneficial to public health.

The flaws in this approach should be glaring if we examine how a car manufacturer might respond to the request to adapt its factories to make ventilators.

If it is not persuaded that it can make easy money or if it thinks there are quicker or bigger profits to be made by continuing to make cars at a time when the public is frightened to use public transport, patients will die. If it holds back, waiting to see if there will be enough demand for ventilators to justify adapting its factories, patients will die. If it delays in the hope that ventilator shortages will drive up subsidies from a government fearful of the public backlash, patients will die. And if it makes ventilators on the cheap, to boost profits, without ensuring medical personnel oversee quality control, patients will die.

Survival rates will depend not on the common good, on our rallying to help those in need, on planning for the best outcome, but on the vagaries of the market. And not only on the market, but on faulty, human perceptions of what constitute market forces.

Survival of the fittest

If this were not bad enough, Trump – in all his inflated vanity – is showing how that profit-motive can be extended from the business world he knows so intimately to the cynical political one he has been gradually mastering. According to reports, behind the scenes he has been chasing after a silver bullet. He is speaking to international pharmaceutical companies to find one close to developing a vaccine so the United States can buy exclusive rights to it.

Reports suggest that he wants to offer the vaccine exclusively to the US public, in what would amount to the ultimate vote-winner in a re-election year. This would be the nadir of the dog-eat-dog philosophy – the survival of the fittest, the market decides worldview – we have been encouraged to worship over the past four decades. It is how people behave when they are denied a wider society to which they are responsible and which is responsible for them.

But even should Trump eventually deign to let other countries enjoy the benefits of his privatised vaccine, this will not be about helping mankind, about the greater good. It will be about Trump the businessman-president turning a tidy profit for the US on the back of other’s desperation and suffering, as well as marketing himself a political hero on the global stage.

Or, more likely, it will be yet another chance for the US to demonstrate its “humanitarian” credentials, rewarding “good” countries by giving them access to the vaccine, while denying “bad” countries like Russia the right to protect their citizens.

Obscenely stunted worldview

It will be a perfect illustration on the global stage – and in bold technicolour – of how the American way of marketing health works. This is what happens when health is treated not as a public good but as a commodity to be bought, as a privilege to incentivise the workforce, as a measure of who is successful and who is unsuccessful.

The US, by far the richest country on the planet, has a dysfunctional health care system not because it cannot afford a good one, but because its political worldview is so obscenely stunted by the worship of wealth that it refuses to acknowledge the communal good, to respect the common wealth of a healthy society.

The US health system is by far the most expensive in the world, but also the most inefficient. The vast bulk of “health spending” does not contribute to healing the sick but enriches a health industry of pharmaceutical corporations and health insurance companies.

Analysts describe a third of all US health spending – $765 billion a year – as “wasted”. But “waste” is a euphemism. In fact, it is money stuffed into the pockets of corporations calling themselves the health industry as they defraud the common wealth of US citizens. And the fraudulence is all the greater because despite this enormous expenditure more than one in 10 US citizens has no meaningful health coverage.

As never before, coronavirus will bring into focus the depraved inefficiency of this system – the model of profit-driven health care, of market forces that look out for the short-term interests of business, not the long-term interests of us all.

There are alternatives. Right now, Americans are being offered a choice between a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, who champions health care as a right because it is a common good, and a Democratic party boss, Joe Biden, who champions the business lobbies he depends on for funding and his political success. One is being marginalised and vilified as a threat to the American way of life by a handful of corporations that own the US media, while the other is being propelled towards the Democratic nomination by those same corporations.

Coronavirus has an important, urgent lesson to teach us. The question is: are we ready yet to listen?

Comparative Political Leadership: Gandhi vs. Contemporary Leaders

On 2 October 2019, it will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Gujarat, India. I would like to reflect on the visionary leadership that Gandhi offered the world, briefly comparing it with some national leaders of today, and to invite you to emulate Gandhi’s leadership.

While Gandhi is best remembered for being the mastermind and leader of the decades-long nonviolent struggle to liberate colonial India from British occupation, his extraordinary political, economic, social, ecological, religious and moral leadership are virtually unknown, despite the enormous legacy he left subsequent generations who choose to learn from what he taught.

While touching on Gandhi’s legacy in each of these regards, I would particularly like to highlight Gandhi’s staggering legacy in four of these fields by briefly comparing his approach to politics, economics, society and the environment with the approach of contemporary political leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Xi Jinping (China), Emmanuel Macron (France), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Narendra Modi (India), Binjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Mohammad bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), Boris Johnson (UK) and Donald Trump (USA).

Before doing so, let me offer a little basic background on Gandhi so that the foundational framework he was using to guide his thinking and behaviour is clear.

Gandhi in Brief

In order to develop his understanding of the human individual and human society, as well as his approach to conflict, Gandhi engaged in ongoing research throughout his life. He read avidly and widely, as well as keenly observing the behaviour of those around him in many social contexts in three different countries (India, England and South Africa). Shaped also by the influence of his mother and his Hindu religion, this led to Gandhi’s unique understanding of the human individual and his approach to the world at large.

For a fuller elaboration of the points about Gandhi discussed below and the precise references, see relevant chapters and sections on Gandhi in The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach.

Gandhi’s conception of the human individual and human nature

In order to understand Gandhi generally, it is imperative to comprehend his conceptions of the human individual and human nature simply because these are the foundation of his entire philosophy.

Gandhi attached enormous importance to individual responsibility. He also had a very positive view of human nature. Gandhi believed that humans could respond to ‘the call of the spirit’ and rise above selfishness and violence. Moreover, this was necessary in their quest for self-realization. Self-realization, as the Gandhian scholar Professor Arne Naess explains it, ‘involves realizing oneself as an autonomous, fully responsible person’.

In Gandhi’s view, this quest is an individual one that relies on nonviolence, self-reliance, and the search for truth. ‘To find Truth completely is to realize oneself and one’s destiny.’ But what should guide this search? According to Gandhi, it can only be the individual conscience: The ‘inner voice’ must always be ‘the final arbiter when there is a conflict of duty’. And in his view, ‘the voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth or the Inner Voice or “the still small Voice” mean one and the same thing.’

This point is centrally important, because the usual descriptions of Gandhian nonviolence stress its morality, humility and sacrifice while neglecting the fundamental norm ‘that you should follow your inner voice whatever the consequences’ and ‘even at the risk of being misunderstood’.

The point, of course, is that creation of the nonviolent society which Gandhi envisioned required the reconstruction of the personal, social, economic and political life of each individual. ‘We shall get nothing by asking; we shall have to take what we want, and we need the requisite strength for the effort.’ Consequently, the individual required increased power-from-within through the development of personal identity, self-reliance and fearlessness.

So what is fearlessness? For Gandhi, it means freedom from all external fear, including the fear of dispossession, ridicule, disease, bodily injury and death. In his view, progress toward the goal of fearlessness requires ‘determined and constant endeavour’. But why is fearlessness so important? Because a person who is fearless is unbowed by the punitive power of others and that makes them powerful agents of change.

Gandhi’s approach to society and political economy

Gandhi’s conception of society is based on a rejection of both capitalism and socialism.

In relation to capitalism, he rejected the competitive market and private property, with their emphasis on individual competitiveness and material progress and their consequent greed and exploitation of the weak. He also rejected the major institutions of capitalism, including its parliamentary system of democracy (which denied sovereignty to the people), its judicial system (which exacerbated conflict and perpetuated elite power), and its educational system (which divorced education from life and work).

In relation to socialism, he rejected its conception of conflict in terms of class war, its claim that state ownership and centralization are conducive to the common welfare, its emphasis on material progress, and its reliance on violent means.

The Gandhian vision of future society is based on a decentralized network of self-reliant and self-governing communities using property held in trust, with a weak central apparatus to perform residual functions. His vision stresses the importance of individuals being able to satisfy their personal needs through their own efforts – including ‘bread labor’ – in cooperation with others and in harmony with nature.

For Gandhi, this horizontal framework is necessary in order to liberate the exploiter and exploited alike from the shackles of exploitative structures. This is vitally important because, in his view, ‘exploitation is the essence of violence.’ Self-reliance and interdependence must be built into the structure in order to enhance the capacity for self-regeneration and self defense and to eliminate the potential for structural violence inherent in any dependency relationship.

This social vision was clearly evident in Gandhi’s ‘constructive program’, which was intended to restructure the moral, political, social and economic life of those participating in it. The constructive program was designed to satisfy the needs of each individual member of society and was centrally concerned with the needs for self-esteem, security, and justice. The program entailed many elements, some of which are outlined below in order to illustrate this point.

A crucial feature of the constructive program was the campaign for communal unity. This was intended to encourage reciprocal recognition of the identity of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of other religions. According to Gandhi, all people should have the same regard for other faiths as they have for their own.

The campaign to liberate women was intended to secure self esteem, security, and justice for those most systematically oppressed by India’s patriarchal society. ‘Woman has been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible… In a plan of life based on nonviolence, woman has as much right to shape her own destiny as man.’

The campaign for the removal of untouchability was meant to restore self-esteem, dignity, and justice to the Harijans (Gandhi’s term for those without caste) in Hindu society. Similarly, the constructive program was concerned with recognizing the needs of indigenous peoples and lepers throughout India. ‘Our country is so vast… one realizes how difficult it is to make good our claim to be one nation, unless every unit has a living consciousness of being one with every other.’

The khadi (handspun/handwoven cloth) and village industries programs were intended to make the villages largely self-reliant and Indians proud of their identity after centuries of oppression and exploitation under British imperial rule. Khadi, Gandhi argued, ‘is the symbol of unity of Indian humanity, of its economic freedom and equality.’ The struggle for economic equality was aimed at securing distributive justice for all. It meant ‘leveling down’ the rich, who owned the bulk of the nation’s wealth, while raising the living standards of ‘the semi-starved’ peasant millions.

Thus, Gandhi stressed the centrality of the individual and the importance of creating a society that satisfied individual human needs. ‘The individual is the one supreme consideration’; individuals are superior to the system they propound. In fact: ‘If the individual ceases to count, what is left of society?… No society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom.’

According to Gandhi, then, the foundation of this nonviolent society can only be the nonviolent individual: No one need wait for anyone else before adopting the nonviolent way of life. Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it, is an attitude that only hinders progress.

So how is this nonviolent society to come into being? For Gandhi, the aim is not to destroy the old society now with the hope of building the new one later. In his view, it requires a complete and ongoing restructuring of the existing social order using nonviolent means. And while it might not be possible to achieve it, ‘we must bear it in mind and work unceasingly to near it’.

The political means for achieving this societal outcome entailed three essential elements: personal nonviolence as a way of life, constructive work to create new sets of political, social, economic and ecological relationships, and nonviolent resistance to direct and structural violence.

Gandhi, the nonviolent conflict strategist

So what did nonviolence mean to Gandhi?

According to Gandhi: ‘Ahimsa [nonviolence] means not to hurt any living creature by thought, word or deed.’ The individual, humanity, and other life forms are one: ‘I believe in the essential unity of [humanity] and for that matter of all that lives.’

Given Gandhi’s understanding that conflict is built into structures and not into people, and that violence could not resolve conflict (although it could destroy the people in conflict and/or the issues at stake) his religious/moral belief in the sanctity of all life compelled him to seek a way to address conflict without the use of violence. Moreover, despite his original training as a lawyer in England and his subsequent practice as a lawyer in South Africa, Gandhi soon rejected the law as a means of dealing with conflict too, preferring to mediate between conflicting parties in search of a mutually acceptable outcome.

According to Gandhi, British imperialism and the Indian caste system were both examples of structures that were perpetuated, in large part, as a result of people performing particular roles within them. The essence of Gandhi’s approach was to identify approaches to conflict that preserved the people while systematically demolishing the evil structure. Moreover, because he saw conflict as a perennial condition, his discussions about future society are particularly concerned with how to manage conflict and how to create new social arrangements free of structural violence.

More importantly, according to Gandhi conflict is both positive and desirable. It is an important means to greater human unity. Professor Johan Galtung explains this point: ‘far from separating two parties, a conflict should unite them, precisely because they have their incompatibility in common.’ More fundamentally, Gandhi believed that conflict should remind antagonists of the deeper, perhaps transcendental, unity of life, because in his view humans are related by a bond that is deeper and more profound than the bonds of social relationship.

So how is conflict to be resolved? In essence, the Gandhian approach to conflict recognizes the importance of resolving all three corners of what Galtung calls the ‘conflict triangle’: the attitude, the behavior, and the goal incompatibility itself. The Gandhian method of conflict resolution is called ‘satyagraha’, which means ‘a relentless search for truth and a determination to reach truth’, it is somewhat simplistically but more widely known (and practiced) in English as ‘nonviolent action’ (or equivalent names). While the perpetrator of violence assumes knowledge of the truth and makes a life-or-death judgment on that basis, satyagraha, according to Gandhi, excludes the use of violence precisely because no one is capable of knowing the absolute truth. Satyagraha, then, was Gandhi’s attempt to evolve a theory of politics and conflict resolution that could accommodate his moral system.

It is for this reason then that ‘Satyagraha is not a set of techniques’. This is because the actions cannot be detached from the norms of nonviolence that govern attitudes and behavior. Therefore, an action or campaign that avoids the use of physical violence but that ignores the attitudinal and behavioral norms characteristic of satyagraha cannot be classified as Gandhian nonviolence. Moreover, the lack of success of many actions and campaigns is often directly attributable to a failure to apply these fundamental norms to their practice of ‘nonviolent action’ (by whatever name it is given locally). To reiterate: ‘Satyagraha is not a set of techniques’.

But Gandhi was not just committed to nonviolence; he was committed to strategy as well. Because he was a shrewd political analyst and not naive enough to believe that such qualities as truth, conviction and courage, nor factors such as numbers mobilized, would yield the necessary outcomes in conflict, he knew that strategy, too, was imperative.

Consequently, for example, he set out to develop a framework for applying nonviolence in such a way that desirable outcomes were built into the means of struggle. ‘They say “Means are after all means”. I would say “means are after all everything”. As the means so the end.’

Gandhi the ecologist

According to Karl Marx, the crisis of civilization was created by the production relations of capitalism; for Gandhi, it was created by the process of industrialization itself. This process both stimulated and was fueled by the unrestrained growth of individual wants. The remedy, according to Gandhi, lay in individuals transforming themselves and, through this transformation, founding a just social order.

He argued that social transformation, no matter how profound, would be neither adequate nor lasting if individuals themselves were not transformed. A part of this strategy was ‘the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants’. Gandhi did not begrudge people a reasonable degree of physical well-being, but he made a clear distinction between needs and wants. ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] need but not for every [person’s] greed.’

But, as with everything else in Gandhi’s worldview, he did not just advocate this simple material lifestyle; he lived it, making and wearing his own khadi, and progressively reducing his personal possessions.

Contemporary Political Leaders

While contemporary national leaders obviously display a wide variety of styles, it is immediately evident that individuals such as Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Xi Jinping (China), Emmanuel Macron (France), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Narendra Modi (India), Binjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Mohammad bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), Boris Johnson (UK) and Donald Trump (USA) might be readily identified as representative of virtually all of them.

And whatever one might say about each of these leaders, it is clear from both their words and behaviour that none of them regards the human individual and their conscience as the foundation on which their national societies or even global society should be built. On the contrary, individuals are destroyed, one way or another, so that society is not inconvenienced more than minimally by any semblance of ‘individuality’ or individual conscience.

Moreover, while in some countries there are clearly articulated doctrines about reducing inequality and, in a few cases, some effort to achieve this, there is little or no concerted effort to restructure their national societies and economies so that inequality is eliminated; on the contrary, the wealth of the few is celebrated and defended by law. None of these leaders wears a local equivalent of khadi to express their solidarity with those less privileged and model a lifestyle that all can (sustainably) share.

The oppression of certain social groups, such as women, indigenous peoples, racial and religious minorities, particular castes or classes, those of particular sexual and identity orientations or with disabilities, remains widespread, if not endemic, in each of these societies with considerably less than full effort put into redressing these forms of discrimination.

Not one of these leaders could profess an ecological worldview (and national policies that reflected a deep commitment to environmental sustainability) or the simplicity of material lifestyle that Gandhi lived (and invited others to emulate).

And not one of them could pretend that killing fellow human beings was abhorrent to them with each of these countries and their leaders content to spend vast national resources on military violence rather than even explore the possibility of adopting the strategically superior (when properly understood and implemented) strategy of nonviolent defense that Gandhi advocated. ‘I have always advised and insisted on nonviolent defence. But I recognize that it has to be learnt like violent defence. It requires a different training.’

For just a taste of the discriminatory, destructive and violent policies of contemporary political leaders, see ‘Equality Reserved: Saudi Arabia and the Convention to End All Discrimination against Women’, ‘156 Fourth World Nations suffered Genocide since 1945: The Indigenous Uyghurs Case’, ‘Weaponizing Space Is the New Bad Idea Coming From Washington D.C.’ and ‘Report Shows Corporations and Bolsonaro Teaming Up to Destroy the Amazon’. But for further evidence of the support of contemporary political leaders for violence and exploitation in all of their forms, just consult any progressive news outlet.

As an aside, it is important to acknowledge that the world has had or still does have some national leaders with at least some of Gandhi’s credentials. It also has many community leaders who display at least some of these credentials too, which is why there are so many social movements working to end violence, inequality, exploitation and ecological destruction in their many forms.

Was Gandhi realistic? Was he right?

But even if you concede that Gandhi was a visionary, you might still ask ‘Was Gandhi realistic?’ Surely it is asking too much for modern political leaders to live simply and nurture ecological sustainability, to work energetically against all forms of inequality and discrimination, and to deal with conflicts without violence, for example. Especially in a world where corporations are so powerful and drive so much of the inequality, violence and ecological destruction that takes place.

Of course, ‘Was Gandhi realistic?’ is the wrong question. With human beings now on the brink of precipitating our own extinction the more appropriate question is ‘Was Gandhi right?’

And if he was, then we should be attempting to emulate him, however imperfect our attempts may be. Moreover, we should be endeavouring to improve on his efforts because no-one could credibly suggest that Gandhi’s legacy has had the impact that India, or the world, needs.

Can we improve on Gandhi?

Of course, we can. As Gandhi himself would want us to do: ‘If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors.’

One key area in which I would improve on Gandhi is an outcome of doing decades of research to understand the fundamental cause of violence in human society: the dysfunctional parenting and teaching models we are using which inflict virtually endless ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence on children and adolescents.

This cause must be addressed if we are to have any chance of eliminating the staggering and unending violence, in all of its forms, from our families, communities and societies while empowering all individuals to deal fearlessly and nonviolently with conflict.

Hence, I would encourage people to consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘ which will require them to learn the art of nisteling.

For those who need to heal emotionally themselves in order to be able to engage with children in this way, see ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

There are several vitally important reasons why a radical reorientation of our parenting and teaching models is necessary as part of any strategy to end human violence. One reason is that the emotional damage inflicted on children leaves them unconsciously terrified and virtually powerless to deal with reality; that is, to respond powerfully to (rather than retreat into delusion about) political, military, economic, social and ecological circumstances. As casual observation confirms, most individuals in industrialized societies become little more than mindlessly obedient consumers under the existing parenting and teaching models. This is as far as it can get from Gandhi’s aspiration to generate individuals who are fearless.

Moreover, at their worst, these parenting and teaching models generate vast numbers of people who are literally insane: an accurate description of most of the political leaders mentioned earlier but particularly those who pull the strings of these leaders.

Another reason that a radical reorientation of our parenting and teaching models is necessary is so that we produce a far greater number of people of conscience who can think, plan and act strategically in response to our interrelated existential crises. Too few people have these capacities. Consequently, most activism, and certainly that activism on issues vital to human survival, lacks the necessary strategic orientation, which is explained in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

A fourth reason that transformed parenting and teaching approaches are necessary is that it will open up a corner of the ‘conflict square’ that Gandhi (and Galtung) do not discuss: the feelings, particularly fear, that shape all conflicts (that is, the other three corners of the ‘conflict square’: attitude, behaviour and goal incompatibility) and then hold them in place. Fear and other suppressed feelings are central to any conflict and these must be heard if conflict is to be resolved completely. But, more fundamentally, conflict is much less likely to emerge (and then become ‘frozen’) if fear and other feelings are not present at the beginning. Imagine how much easier it would be to deal with any situation or conflict if the various parties involved just weren’t scared (whether of the process and/or certain possible outcomes).

Anyway, separately from the above, if you share Gandhi’s understanding that the Earth cannot sustain the massive overconsumption that is now destroying our biosphere, consider participating in a project that he inspired: ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

And consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation below)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Despite the now overwhelming odds against human survival, can we get humanity back on track? Gandhi would still be optimistic: ‘A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.’

Are you one of those ‘determined spirits’?

The Integrity Requirement

As our political and governmental systems deepen their dysfunctionality, as corporations act ever more brazenly in their greed, as our planet suffers from the horrors of a broken culture, we clearly recognize that these systems fail miserably when it comes to integrity. When we look at our local and statewide political institutions, we see a similar pattern of corruption, with policies and attitudes that favor the folks with lots of money.

And when we see two horrendous mass shootings only hours apart, one a mere 50 miles from me, we know we are descending into chaos due to corruption.

President Trump is not the cause of our deep seated problems, though he certainly typifies the policies and attitudes that are so destructive to human health and happiness — and that of our planet.

You see, Donald Trump was never taught the value of integrity. Just like so many of the ruling class, greed, power and control far outweigh any thoughts about ‘doing the right thing’. This pattern has been endemic for so long that rich folks like Trump cannot even empathize with those of a ‘lesser station in Life’, much less hold integrity in their hearts and minds.

So why is integrity important, or even required as I suggest in the title? It’s obvious in most areas of our lives. If our home doesn’t have integrity it falls down. If all the hardware and software of the Interweb lacked integrity our phones and computers would be worthless.

Looking toward nature, the integrity of ecosystems is truly a marvel. Patterns of beginning, growth, stability and ending are common to all Life. Without something as simple as the integrity of cell walls we would not exist. The implicit integrity of water or of an ancient forest calls us to reverence. There is a simple elegance to integrity. It is what it is. It requires no bullshit for its justification. Indeed, integrity is a requirement for functionality.

Now let me get personal for a moment. Without our personal integrity we cannot know peace and love. If you are not honest, it leaves a mark, as we are out of alignment with nature and with truth. As children of the Source of Integrity, we require integrity to be happy. We’ve all had failures of integrity, and know the rotten feeling in our gut for exploiting or lying or cheating on another. Again, there is no peace without integrity.

A culture without integrity is doomed to fail, even as ours is failing now before our eyes. How many shootings will it take? How many destroyed lives from war, pollution, climate chaos and inequality will it take? How much can our planet take until it becomes uninhabitable for us?

For too long we have accepted stories because the story teller is ‘important’ or a presumed expert. Growing up in the 1960s there was blind acceptance of what we read in the paper or saw on the TV. And both were more honest back then.

We’re now learning that our culture was hacked by our corporate overloads. It was in the 1980s and 1990s that great waves of media consolidation took place, and the new bosses didn’t want any unfavorable stories. So they put a stop to them. We continue to be hacked by corporate media. Sinclair Corporation, owning nearly 200 TV stations, continues to force local newspeople to spew their biased stories. It’s the reason Rob Braun and Cammy Dierking are leaving Local 12 here in Cincinnati. And in that hacking, the first thing media conglomerates left behind was integrity.

And that’s just in media. In healthcare, finance and Wall Street, food and energy corporations, we find the same patterns. There is no integrity when the only rule is to make money. It’s time we remedy that monumental failure.

You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves [Neil Postman] is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

Andrew Postman

So what would Neil Postman say about this fellow [note title of this essay, referencing Jeff Bezos’ proclamation on what work should mean to every breathing American], or the many fellows like Bezos who have zero patience for a world without disrupting economies tied to their authoritarian business plan of more billionaires deserving (sic) more power. Disruptive and destructive, and not just economies in the book sense, but structural violence and community disintegration, murdering people with debt, lack of housing, no medical care, suicide, that’s Bezos, et al looking to capitalize on every penny gathered from every nanosecond in our individual human lives.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow into one of the world’s biggest companies.

Back in 1997, Bezos told shareholders that employees at other companies “can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com, you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos acknowledges his high standards for employees every year, telling shareholders that “it’s not easy to work here.”

In the 24 years since Amazon was founded, CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow from a modest online bookshop to one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Back in 1997, Bezos was already expecting big things out of his young company. In his annual letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos described how much effort he expected from his employees.

“When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” Bezos wrote in the 1997 letter.

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.”

The New York Times reported in 2015 exactly how bruising the work environment at Amazon could be. Employees were reportedly expected to routinely work late, were encouraged to criticize coworkers‘ ideas at meetings, and were often found crying at their desks. Amazon disputed many of the claims in the Times investigation, though the newspaper defended its reporting.

God forbid we call Amazon Boss Bezos a plantation owner of a different mother, for sure. That Americans — living in small and large cities, far and wide — depend on the Amazon way as if Amazon is sutured into all aspects of American culture (sic) and hardwired into every new born’s head. Same day delivery. A shopping cart that would be the envy of any Rothschild or Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley.

See the source image

This essay, first, was going to address those other masters of the Universe — Google Guys and Algorithm Titans. I barely criticized a billionaire in a DV article —   Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

I criticized Nick Hanauer for his false balance, contrived bifurcation, and his new wind as a billionaire fighting what he calls the educationalism mindset that says that a good, grounded, deep and holistic education might be a thing of kings, whereas Nick says education backing and financing ain’t worth diddly squat in capitalism until more people make more money to buy more things, or just to survive in his nihilistic world.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

In my email box, Google, of course, I get an unsolicited email from an organization for which I have never associated with or even pursued. It’s the old surveillance state of Google and the internet Stasi, for sure —

Image result for stasi

Alas, Neil Postman was correct, in so far as what we say and do as writers really does not count — we are only as smart and deep and truthful as our masters will allow:

In my college economics class, we were taught that wages depend on productivity. The more productive or skilled workers are, my professors used to argue, the more they will be worth on the labor market and, therefore, the higher their wages will be. That’s bunk.

Under this logic, the way to cure our economic woes – whether poverty, inequality, underemployment, or unemployment – is through education. By educating our citizens, we increase their human capital, making them more productive and, therefore, increasing their expected income.

It sounds good, right?

This seductive myth – of education as an economic cure-all – is something Civic Action founder Nick Hanauer calls “educationism.” As Nick writes in a recent article for The Atlantic, it’s a myth he used to believe, and it’s a myth many wealthy elites still propagate. It’s what leads philanthropists to donate billions of dollars to public schools and educational institutions.

There’s just one problem: Educationism doesn’t work. If it did, our middle class would be much better off.

In the last 40 years, while the real incomes of most Americans have been stuck, we’ve gotten a lot more educated. Almost everyone has a high school diploma and the share of Americans with a college degree has more than tripled since 1970.”

But all that education hasn’t translated into higher wages. In fact, if our incomes had done what my college profs told me – gone up with productivity – the average family today would be earning $29,000 more a year. An average of $105,000!

Of course, it’s true that getting an education is likely to increase your own income. But that’s not the same as raising incomes throughout the economy. Not when four out of five of the fastest growing jobs pay very low wages – jobs like cashiers and health care assistants. Meanwhile, the pay of most people who do have a college education barely keeps up with inflation.

What we do need to do is raise incomes for working families and the middle class throughout the economy. That’s how we build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. As Nick writes:

“In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.”

—  Stephen Paolini, Civic Action, email with an ask for $ support

But then, this essay takes a twist, as they always seem to do when I deploy some ground-truthing. You see, most of us in the USA, the 80 percent of the population —  many of which are on the skids, on the near skids, or those of us barely scraping by, and those of us who are unseen but are many short steps away from working for one of those sweatshops like we see with Amazon (there are so many warehouse jobs, forklift gigs, sorting careers) and finding down time in the back seat of our cars)  —  so-so tire of, really, the prognosticators writing away hard in semi-secure status —  even the smartish ones on leftish magazines like The Nation, or digital forums like Truthout or Truthdig or The Intercept.

They have NO idea of what is real in the world, and that rarefied realm of citing this study or making this or that prediction, well, it is bombast at best, propaganda at worst, denuded of humanity in many cases.

Case in point — tens of millions of men and women wandering the land (US), in some warped version of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, really, in a society that eats-sleeps-dreams-believes the crap that Huxley warned of, and that which Neil Postman discussed. Oh the irony, those, that billionaire book salesman, Bezos, dead to the world, dead to us, the 80 percent, living, barely, in the middle of their hellish barbecue.

I was with three fellows — two literally are sleeping in campgrounds, and one fellow living with his parents. A million miles away from what any social worker or Sheryl Sandberg or Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or any of the scions of Holly-dirt or anyone in the Trump Loony Bin Show, or those clamoring around an Obama or Oprah or Rachel Maddow. It’s a triple sick experience even thinking about how vapid that so-called debate was yesterday with half of the half-wits of the Democratic Party wanting to play president.

So, a life of men truly on the extinction block, in several demographics. These fellows I hired on to help my spouse and I move from a rental to a house we had the temerity to purchase in a Time of Climate Heating, Oceans Rising, Food Wilting, Water Draining, Economies Imploding, Saber Rattling, and ICBM Immolating.

Their lives, broken down, seem to hold the familiar life story of many people I have worked with as a non-traditional social worker for the homeless, the just-out-of-prison returnees, and chronically physically and mentally ill. They work jobs, stacking halibut,  packing shrimp, pounding two-by-fours, hauling goods, sorting things, cutting trees, landscaping, roofing. Both of these fellows are 50, living in campgrounds, one with false teeth, the other with nubs and rotting teeth.

Child support for children they have never seen, or can’t see now. Felonies for this or that charge keeping them from even getting to first base on an apartment application. Vagabonds harassed by cops, and living life in a constant move. For my other helper, Brian, he’s a former marine, working as a social services provider, has a wonderful child on the spectrum (autism) and is currently living with aging and sickly parents. All three fit the bill for zero tolerance in this society. Never reflected in the news stories, in the Mass Murdering Media, never on the minds of the One Percent, Point Zero Zero One Percent. I know for a fact, though, that those Little Eichmanns who populate the other 19 percent of the 20 Percenters, well, many of them have one degree of separation when it comes to family members with substance abuse issues, chronic mental or physical illness, depression, suicidal, schizophrenic, and homeless.

You get both barrels of human pain and human survival and some human triumphs when talking with real people, albeit, denigrated folk, disenfranchised humans.

They are really rough around the edges, but these fellows, Tommy and Devon, they are examples of struggle and defeat and some triumph, as Brian and I note and agree. They are so far from any of the discourse going on around the world — the complete irrelevance of all the trolling, all the internet crap, all the stuff that makes for an echo chamber that sucks humanity and human connection from the ether.

You look at Tommy, and you see a man on the skids. Big laughing screwed up face, almost Dickensian, crazy might be one moniker. Hustling and wanting to have people know that there was once a time when he had some normalcy, some sense of being a man in society — not on the skids. Though, Tommy would not see himself on the skids.

Brain injury 23 years ago when a van hit him head on as a pedestrian. And he still works, moves heavy furniture, and hammers roofs.

Devon, a former truck driver, someone who has a few years in the Marines, and as Brian states — people are only awakened to the level of how they have been able to access those tools necessary to be woken up. Yet, Brian states that he’d much rather be in the company of these men than the MSWs and other graduate-level punishers he’s worked with, as I have also worked with, in the non-profit arenas as supposed social services workers.

They probably know nothing about this movement, which could affect Tommy and Devon:

When reporters for the International Amazon Workers Voice interviewed part-time Amazon “associates” (a cheap euphemism for “employees” used to disguise the exploitative relationship between workers and management at the company) in Baltimore to discuss their attitude toward Bezos’ fortune, they were met with a torrent of disgust, calls for sharing the wealth, and social anger.

“Tell Mr. Bezos and the rest of management to come out of their offices and get on the shop floor” said one worker who identified herself as a single mother of two. “At the end of the day, they never feel what we go through in a day for $12 an hour. They get to sit down in their offices and get paid more than we will see in a year,” she said.

Bezos’ wealth typifies the way an increasingly small number of multi-billionaire CEOs and finance operatives extract ever more obscene sums from the international workforce. This process of ever-increasing wealth for the few and exploitation for the majority is reaching a political breaking point.

Explaining her work environment during the holidays, the working mother said, “they just had us move 100,000 packages in 5 hours, and at the end we aren’t even paid enough to take care of our kids. I’m a single mother, I don’t receive food stamps. My rent is $850 a month. I have to pay for gas, electricity, bus passes, plus raise two kids.

“If we decided to quit, who would move these packages out of the door?” she said, noting the social power of the workers employed by the company. “We are the ones making you rich.”

Brian and I talk about Amazon, and the nefarious nature of how the guy at the Washington Post attacks the fourth grader Trump and others, while he is part of the Military Industrial Complex. From The Intercept:

Amazon’s extensive relationship with the NSA, FBI, Pentagon and other surveillance agencies in the west is multi-faceted, highly lucrative and rapidly growing. Last March, the Intercept reported on a new app that Amazon developers and British police forces have jointly developed to use on the public in police work, just “the latest example of third parties aidingautomating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary.”

Then there’s the patent Amazon obtained last October, as reported by the Intercept, “that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice.” In particular, it would enable anyone using the product to determine a person’s accent and likely place of origin: “The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent.”

All of this is taking place as Amazon vies for, and is the favorite to win, one of the largest Pentagon contracts yet: a $10 billion agreement to provide exclusive cloud services to the world’s largest military. CNN reported just last week that the company is now enmeshed in scandal over that effort, specifically a formal investigation into “whether Amazon improperly hired a former Defense Department worker who was involved with a $10 billion government contract for which the tech company iscompeting.”

Bezos’ relationship with the military and spying agencies of the U.S. Government, and law enforcement agencies around the world, predates his purchase of the Washington Post and has become a central prong of Amazon’s business growth. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a massive contract with the CIA when the spy agency agreed to pay it $600 million for computing cloud software. As the Atlantic noted at the time, Amazon’s software “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

Given how vital the military and spy agencies now are to Amazon’s business, it’s unsurprising that the amount Amazon pays to lobbyists to serve its interests in Washington has exploded: quadrupling since 2013 from $3 million to almost $15 million last year, according to Open Secrets.

What would the house-less Tommy and Devon say about this Byzantine world of hyper billions of dollars and hyper trillions of human hours wasted on the things of capitalism, of power and control, consumption?

We were keeping our eye on 1984. But it’s Brave New World we should have feared instead.

I know many friends who wonder why we — people like me — still live in the US? Many wonder what it will take young people to stand down the systems of oppression. Some believe the young people have it, as in Greta the Carbon Dioxide Robin Hood, or AOC, the new face (sic) of American politics.

This system we have now is one where a few voices count (get read, heard, published, followed), and the majority of voices are just bursts of yelling in the woods, in campgrounds, in one’s lovely home in the old sedan, in our own bedlam. People travelling from one insane place to another, but in that realm, a sanity sets in for guys like Tommy and Devon. The world is pretty clear-cut, and on many levels, these people have positive outlooks — toothless, no real estate or swelling investment accounts. Just that hard way forward. Cigarettes and bicycling miles a day. Places to shower. Places to get out of the rain without the bulldozers of misanthropy pushing them further and further into ditches or out on the periphery until they stare us all down, face to face, the coming of a New Brave World. Is it the entertaining ourselves to death cycle, or a little bit of the other — big brother, watching our every move, holding every syllable mouthed in a cloud server, every speck of mole cataloged, and every word penned or typed, collected to hold us at bay, hold us as prisoners of our own faulty beliefs?

 

Needless to say, Charles Dickens grew to hate the system and rail against it in his works. In his seminal novella “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by two portly men raising money for the poor.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the [one of the gentlemen], taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

— Charles Dickens, 1843, A Christmas Carol 

Or, updated for 2020, as illustrated by a commentator on an article about Portland, OR, once the Rose City, now The City of Rocks:

To disrupt illegal camp sites set up by homeless in Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is moving boulders onto the roadsides. The project will eventually cost about a million dollars, but ODOT argues this cost is less than the cost of dealing with existing campsites.

Many have pointed out that this policy does nothing to address the underlying problem or help the people in the camp, but only forces them to move somewhere else.

KGW8


odot boulders homeless camps highway 26 1015 2018

—Scrooge/Marley, Edward Sullivan, Planetizen

A debtor's prison in London.

A debtor’s prison in London.

Marx Still Prevents the Progress of Society

If one searches “theory of alienation” in Google, predominately Marx’s theory comes out because other theories of alienation in a political and economic level do not exist. The question is why? What is so incredible in Marx’s statement that workers get alienated from the products of their labour, which alienates them from themselves? It just does not hold much water because everyone who produces for the market gets alienated from the product at the moment of purchase.

Marx strongly contributed to the scientific understanding of capitalism. He stated that capitalists profit from the production, while their workers only receive a fraction of the capitalist’s profit as wages. Capitalists exploit workers by paying them low earnings. Marx was right about this. He believed that exploitation of workers might be eliminated through socialist revolution only. Marx was wrong here because a violent revolution cannot better society. Although a revolution may replace a certain social injustice, it has always been replaced with a new kind. To ensure the lasting effect of revolutions, new leadership are generally autocratic, and therefore spread alienation throughout society with all the unfavourable dictatorial phenomena that are well-known throughout history. Revolutions have never contributed to the improvement of society as it was desired by people. Marx did not have enough data to be able to build his vision of socialism scientifically. As a result, his vision of socialism failed.

Thanks to social scientists, it is still not known what exactly creates exploitation of workers even though the answer is straightforward – unemployment creates exploitation. Unemployed workers are pressured to accept poorly paid jobs to feed their families. When we eliminate unemployment, we will create a fair market for work. The lack of workers will increase their demand on the market so that employers will have to pay them more. This will create a chain reaction in which workers’ salaries will grow, while employers would still make profits. We may say this would eliminate exploitation. There is no formula which would determine what exploitation is, only workers dissatisfied with their earnings may present it. A fair market of work will remove this dissatisfaction.

The rise in workers’ salaries in the fair market can be proved. In the 14th Century, the Black Death killed one-third of the European population which suddenly increased demand for workers. The shortage of workers increased the workers’ wages. At Cuxham (Oxfordshire, England), a plowman demanded from his Lord a payment 3.3 times greater in 1350 than in the previous year (The Economic Impact of the Black Death, Economic History Association). “In Parliament, in 1351 the Commons petitioned Edward III for a more resolute and effective response. They complained that “servants completely disregard the said ordinance in the interests of their ease and greed and that they withhold their services to great men and others unless they have liveries and wages twice or three times as great as [prior to the plague] to the serious damage of the great men and impoverishment of all members of the said commons.””1

According to this, if a political party wins an election offering a reduction of work to 5 hours per day; the lack of workers would increase workers’ salaries 2-3 times per hour in one year. The daily wages would rise 30-90% for just a 5-hour shift. Workers would work shorter hours and earn more. It has already happened, and it is much easier to accomplish than raising a revolution.

So who is going to pay for such an increase in salary? The wealthy employers, of course! Right now they collect this money as profit for themselves. Can employers refuse to increase worker salaries? They can, but then their workers would find a new employer who would pay more, and that means they will lose the possibility to maintain their businesses. When workers earn more they will purchase more which will, in turn, increase the employers’ profits. So, why have we not created a good economy so far? Because the more workers earn, the less they depend on the rich. The rich keep their power in society by maintaining the fear of unemployment. More about it is presented in my article: Let’s remove unemployment.

*****

Marx thought that the market economy caused the exploitation of workers, so he proposed the elimination of the market economy by a centrally planned economy. Marx knew that the elimination of market economy removes the indicators of economic efficiency so he called upon for worker conscience to replace it. It revealed a consistency problem of Marx’s philosophy. Human conscience belongs to idealism and it was never able to improve society because it was never accepted on the social level. The planned economy was supposed to produce goods and services in quality and quantity to satisfy people’s needs. But the leaders have never learned how to gather people’s needs, so they decided it for them. Such economy alienates itself from the people. The socialist economy also deteriorates because revolutions replace experienced entrepreneurs with inexperienced theorists. The socialist ideology overprotects workers while also taking their freedom which does not stimulate them to work enough. The planned economy is not able to make the balance between production and consumption leaving people unsatisfied. As a result, the Marxist’s economy failed to satisfy people’s needs sufficiently.

The planned economy was tried in the USSR and China. It has significantly reduced material exploitation of workers which exists in capitalist countries but also, it decreased the efficiency of the economy. The economy in the USSR and China had much lower productivity than capitalist economies. The USSR collapsed due to the inefficiency of the planned economy. Thus, Marxism failed. China has learned on their own mistakes, abandoned the planned economy in 1980, and accepted the regulated market economy. From that moment it has become the fastest growing economy in the world, threatening to take the number one place soon. This explains everything about the Marxist economy.

Taking into account the failures of Marxism, why does it deserve such a significant presence in science, media, and in hearts of Marxists? It would not be possible without the approval of the owners of corporations. Without it, Marxists would not be able to participate in political elections. Neither would they be able to teach Marxism at universities and get media support. Why do the rich help the Marxist ideology which promotes violent confiscation of their property? The rich simply knew Marxism could not be a threat to capitalism. Otherwise, it would be banned. They knew that Marxism is on the wrong track and support it because Marxism prevents the progress of society. If Marx proposed reducing work hours instead of revolution, his philosophy would not be supported, and hardly anybody would know he has ever existed.

This is how the conspiracy of the rich works. By supporting Marx, the rich have successfully prevented a better society for 100 years. Now capitalists know they cannot cheat people by supporting revolutions and planned economy anymore, but they do not abandon Marxism because a large number of people are romantically and emotionally still connected to Marx. Most Marxists accepted Marx’s ideology when they were young. Youthful rebellion based on dissatisfaction and injustice in society made them easy prey for the manipulation of the rich. The rich hid the cause of the exploitation and promoted Marx’s philosophy as the escape from the problem. Marx made revolution scientifically acceptable, and people acknowledged it through the study of his excessive work.

Marxists recognize the failures of Marxism, but they still believe they need to find the right method to implement Marx’s philosophy correctly. By accepting Marxism they cannot change their opinion significantly anymore, especially not if a simple idea like shorter work hours tries to break it. The rich are masters of deception and Marxists cannot admit they have been deceived. Helped by the rich, Marxists got a strong influence in the political Left and by promoting the ideology which does not work, they help the rich. They are also helping the rich by preventing new left ideas from coming.

*****

This is precisely what has happened to me. I have presented how to create a good society in the book Humanism – A Philosophic-Ethical-Political-Economic Study of the Development of the Society. It is available free of charge online. The book is based on an original theory of alienation. It states that subjectivity alienates us from objective reality. Subjectivity puts us on the wrong path so that we cannot satisfy our needs. The escape from all problems of humankind lies in the building of objective vision of reality. Democratic acceptance of equal human rights will do it. The implementation of equal human rights will solve all social problems. Nothing else we need for building a good social life and nothing else can make it.

Marx was right when he called upon for equal human rights among people, but he did not see the scope of its development. The ultimate stage of equal human rights will create an equal possibility for the employment of every worker at every public work post at any time. It will be necessary to open a permanent competition of workers for every public work post. The best worker would get the right to work at any time. I know it sounds impossible because such a division of labour never existed. But the realization of it is just a technical problem. The system I have developed will effectively evaluate the productivity of work offers, define the job responsibilities of workers, and harmonize rewards for work. In short, the workers who offer the highest productivity and responsibility, and demand the lowest salary will get the job. No economy can be more productive than the one where each job gets the best available worker. Public companies will become more productive than private ones so that the latter will go down in history. Only this should be called socialism. I wrote more about it in the article: The Failures of Marxism and the Right Path to Socialism and Communism.

The market is the best choice for the economy. The market of goods allocates every good to the most capable purchaser who needs and loves it the most. The producers profit from it the most as well. The further development of the market will improve the economy much more. The market of work will eliminate work privileges which will make each job equally demanded. Such a market will allocate every job to the most productive worker who needs and loves it the most. Shorter work hours will eliminate unemployment while less desirable jobs will be compensated with higher incomes. The market will help society to reach the best life possible. I have presented the bright future of humankind also through stories in three screenplays: Good Capitalism, Good Socialism, and Good Communism.

Even if my ideas are wrong, which they are not, my effort deserves to be noticed, but I have experienced a total refusal by media, science, politics, and film industry. The people who hear me offering increasing salaries for shorter work time, which is the first step in developing the economy and society, think it is too good to be true no matter what arguments I give. Public discussion may help, but it is prevented. One of the reasons for that is Marxists do not like my work.

However, the rich cannot hide the truth forever. It will break through one day. Then people will accept the benefits of full employment and request shorter work hours. The rich will resist it, of course, but they cannot win against united people. This will be the hardest part of creating a perfect society.

  1. Michael Bennett, The Impact of the Black Death on English Legal History, Australian Journal of Law and Society, 1995, Page 197.

Needs finally explained

We need food, clothing, and shelter to secure our existence. It gives us the basic pleasure of living. People are also social beings. Joined in society, they improve their lives significantly and get more pleasure. The most substantial progress comes from the cooperation between free people which may bring the greatest power to satisfy their needs. It may also bring the highest level of personal satisfaction, harmony and love among the people. Cooperation among free people brings a bright future of humankind.

The problem begins when individuals start comparing themselves with other individuals.  Subjective opinion of individuals may increase self-importance and diminish the importance of other human beings. Such thinking alienates people from reality and nature. Alienated individuals often want to reach a better life on the expenses of other people. They invest an effort in building their power which enables them to oppress and control people. The success in it brings pleasure but also it brings an illusion of power which hurts back. In such a society weaker people always suffer. Such life is the origin of social problems which have been damaging society through the whole history of humankind.

When people achieve power over others, they expect a significant improvement in their lives, but it cannot happen. For example, Egyptian pharaohs created absolute power over people and wanted to stay in control forever. They built pyramids to ensure their status. However, what exactly did they get by building pyramids? They enjoyed the power over people, but I think watching their tombs grow every day reminded them of leaving this world. They could not possibly feel well no matter what they believed in about the afterlife. I think pharaohs were much more afraid of leaving this world than their slaves who did not build an illusion of power.

Privileged people are very afraid of losing power. For example, I recently saw on TV Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg so concerned about the future of his company that I believe he has lost the pleasure of living. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, literally cried when his Internet Explorer lost the user demand battle with Google Chrome. What fools they are! The illusion of power has damaged their lives. Such a power indulges people so that everyone tries to build privileges which give them power in society. If people succeed in it, they enjoy it, but then they fear losing power much more than they can enjoy having it.

Besides, one day everyone has to lose to stronger people, and this always brings pain. Wise people think fighting for power and privileges is not worth it. However, people who live in alienated society cannot abandon privileges because they enjoy them very much. As a result, the effort to win and stay the winner creates enormous stress which prevents people from sensing their real needs and then, of course, from satisfying them. Such people cannot feel well. Then their misery oppresses other people more, and then everything goes wrong. Privileges are evil, and the illusion of power harms society.

Those who search for power over others cannot achieve a good life no matter what they do. They can hardly love. They may look like they are capable of loving and caring for people, but this is just narcissism. They love their power and success in society. If something hurts them, they would furiously attack the origin of their trouble. Hurting someone’s narcissism means initiating hatred which does not forgive. That is how we can recognize a narcissistic person. Dissatisfaction makes narcissistic people cruel which brings a lot of suffering to the community. It builds sadomasochism among the people where no good future can be expected for anyone.

When society gets alienated from its nature neither successful nor unsuccessful people have good lives. The attempt to raise power over others is a historically proven mistake. The control over people should not be needed at all. The pyramids and all other significant achievements of dictators do not deserve to be appreciated. If this energy were used productively, we would have lived much better today.

*****

People need freedom. Freedom from authorities relieves us from oppression in society. Free people may get to know and develop themselves, their ideas and feelings. They may learn the objective values of life. It would tell them that all values they can reach lie within them. They are the most important creation of themselves. The more they get to know themselves, the more capable they are of build harmony with the environment, the closer they can come to another individual, the more easiness of living they can find. Then they do not need to compare themselves with other people. Then they do not produce problems in society.

Those who live freely following their nature are much more capable of feeling their needs and satisfying them. Freedom is necessary for the development of a productive way of living. Only free people may do great deeds and improve themselves and society. The less people feel powerlessness in society the less they need power over others. That is how a productive orientation of society is built. Productive people are capable of loving. Love is the most significant achievement people can make in their lives. Love itself brings the most stable satisfaction to people. Contrary to narcissists, people who love are never destructive.

Everything good people do stays in memory and hearts of people who are affected by them. People who left good influences initiate good actions of other people. It is as a kind of reincarnation. Good people live positively in the minds of other people while bad ones do not, no matter how significant the monuments they left are. However, the prime benefit from a productive way of living comes from the fact that good people may have good lives while bad people cannot.

Free people who chose to live naturally, responsible for their lives and for the nature that surrounds them, live good lives. They are satisfied, relaxed, and full of understandings for others. Such people can accept the limitations of their nature. When they recognize that their way of living meets the life expectations they do not need anything anymore. They are not afraid of death. Death brings them freedom in the broadest sense. Wise people declare such a way of living as the best possible.

*****

The policy of society based on the cooperation of free people is the only one that may create a good society. But when we try to implement it, we run into the same problem since the beginning of time. The more alienated society is, the more alienated values are accepted by people, the less satisfied people are, and then the greedier they are. People alienated from their nature require a greater share in the division of power and in the distribution of wealth than society can deliver. Then people cannot agree about anything. We have tried to call upon a human conscience to accept a good policy, but human conscience was never able to change society. We have also tried to make rules which will enforce creating good policy, but we were never successful in it. The fact is we do not know how to create a good society.

I have decided to define a policy which will create a good society. After an extensive study, a conclusion comes to me that the democratic acceptance and implementation of equal human rights will do it. Through the history of humankind, the development of equal human rights policy has improved society greatly. Its further development will improve society much more. The problem is the further development of equal human rights requires the implementation of completely new ideas which cannot be easily accepted by society. However, it should be well understood once people accept these ideas they would create a good society unconditionally. Now I will present the essence of equal human rights.

Free individuals may choose to improve and damage society. States have a strong power to restrict people from damaging society and have some power to encourage people of producing benefits. However, the authorities of states were never efficient enough in creating a productive orientation of society as people might be by the implementation of equal human rights. People may radically improve society by getting equal legislative, judgmental, and executive powers. Each person should get an equal right to punish and award other people. Then everyone will try to produce maximal benefits to people and avoid hurting them. This is an essential step in building a good society.

In essence, every person will get an equal right to evaluate a few people of their choice monthly. A positive assessment will bring a small award to the assessed person, and a negative evaluation will carry a small punishment. Such assessments will encourage every person to do everything they can to enrich the lives of other people and avoid producing evil in society. Such a right will make a radical transformation of powers in the society which will completely change the world and make it a beautiful place to live. I’ve called such evaluation democratic anarchy.

Equal human rights will give each person the right to work. As long as unemployment exists, such a right does not exist. Unemployment will be eliminated by shortening working hours proportionally to the unemployment rate. Elimination of unemployment would increase the demand for workers on the free market so that employers would have to pay them more. Better paid workers will be able to purchase more which will grow the economy. Such a simple measure will remove the problems of capitalism. It will also release people from the fear of insecurity of living in a capitalist society and give them more choices to find a pleasant job. These two simple measures will make capitalism a decent social system.

The ultimate stage of equal human rights will affect the public economy. It will be necessary to develop the market of work in public companies. Everyone will get equal rights to work at every public work post at any time. The best productivity offer of workers would get the right to work. It sounds impossible to achieve because such a division of labour never existed. However, the realization of it is just a technical problem.

The new economy will bring more market than capitalism may afford. To implement the competition of workers for every work post, we will need to develop a system that will effectively evaluate the productivity of work offers, harmonize rewards for work, and define the job responsibilities of workers. In short, the workers who offer the highest productivity and responsibility, and demand the lowest salary will get the job. This is a complex task which is explained in my book Humanism. No economy can be better than the one where each job gets the best available worker. Publicly owned companies will send capitalism down to history.

Better workers will always win. They will constantly bring the most efficient progress to society. But nobody will be privileged anymore, and the losers will not suffer because the whole system will be based on the harmony of the market. The market allocates every good to the most capable purchaser who needs and loves it the most. The producers profit from it the most as well. The market of work will eliminate work privileges which will make each job equally demanded. Such a market will allocate every job to the most productive worker who needs and loves it the most. The market will help society to reach the best life possible.

Equal human rights will bring much more benefits to people. These three measures will dis-alienate society. People will find objective values of life. People will respect each other which is the first step in the productive orientation of society. People will be able to follow a natural way of living and to satisfy their needs. People who permanently satisfy their needs are never destructive. They enjoy life.

The lack of equal human rights has always made problems in society. It was the only reason society was never good. Full acceptance of equal human rights will prevent all social evil and build permanent harmony among people. Such a policy will build freedom, peace, joy, love, wisdom, and a good-quality life to everyone unconditionally. Equal human rights are our real need which we do not recognize enough. Only equal human rights may build a bright future of humankind.

Climate change’s ‘evil twin’ Ocean Acidification (and problem stepchild, Ocean Hypoxia)

People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. Ninety-seven percent earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet – we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.

—- Sylvia Earle

Note: I am helping beat the drum here on the Central Oregon Coast around climate change, pollution, development, plastics and the like, by writing small stories (that’s what I am limited to) for the local newspaper, Newport News Times.

This is an exercise in concision, as Noam Chomsky was once told by Jeff Greenfield of ABC. While the mainstream corporate media hold sway over the public’s lack of understanding of almost everything important to our communities’ and earth’s survival, small town news, this Newport paper I am writing for also holds sway over some of the Central Oregon Coast’s news: it’s owned by a conglomerate, News Media Corporation, which, according to the web site, has dozens of small-town newspapers in its stable — 43 Years in Business;  150+ Publications; 9 States; 600,000+ Subscribers.

Here, at the Columbia Review of Journalism (CRJ), another Poll: “How does the public think journalism happens?”

Is it any wonder why Americans do not trust the press? But, do they trust politicians? Or millionaires and billionaires? The US Military? Teachers? Doctors? Social workers? Presidents?

In reality, Americans are born delusional thinkers because of their lack of critical thinking and unwillingness to learn this country’s foundational history as a subjugator of other peoples, as possibly the biggest threat to world peace, and as the biggest purveyor of pollution, financial war and arms sales.

But, back to the topic — writing for free, cutting back on not only nuancing but depth, to make a small blurb in the local rag to try and bring attention to a topic very important to the fragile cultural and economic bedrock of Central Oregon coast — this place needs clean beaches, decent ways to control growth, a strong, healthy marine and near beach ecosystem, and some way to help old and young human residents to thrive economically, educationally and locationally.

Here, about concision:

As one of the most important scholars alive, Noam Chomsky has frequently been asked about his thoughts on his virtual blacklisting from the American media. He has long been regularly featured in international media outlets — yet, in his own country, he was often ignored. In a segment on the University of California program “Conversations in History” in the early 2000s, Chomsky explained that one of the ways media outlets justified this was with the requisite of “concision.”

Chomsky joked that he could never be on ABC’s “Nightline,” because “the structure of the news production system is you can’t produce evidence.” He recalled “Nightline’s” Jeff Greenfield, who, when asked why Chomsky was never featured on the show, said it was because the scholar “lacks concision.”

“The kind of things I would say on ‘Nightline’ you can’t say in one sentence, because they depart from standard religion. If you want to repeat the religion, you can get away with it between two commercials. If you want to say something that questions the religion, you’re expected to give evidence, and that you can’t do between two commercials,” Chomsky explained.”

“Therefore you lack concision; therefore you can’t talk,” he continued. “That’s a terrific technique of propaganda. To impose concision is a way of virtually guaranteeing that the party line gets repeated over and over again and that nothing else is heard.”

I’ve gone through J-school, in 1975, in Arizona, covering all sorts of emerging issues, and ending up in Tombstone on a lab paper, and then working for a small conglomerate of newspapers along the Southern Arizona Border. Cutting my teeth in El Paso for the two dailies, one of which went belly up (Herald-Post).  The same bellying up happened in Tucson, where I learned journalism — Arizona Daily Star won out and the afternoon paper, Tucson Daily Citizen died.

So, you have all these small newspapers being shut down or being bought up to promote advertising. Little towns can’t get the news from on-line forums or big papers in Portland or Eugene. No matter how much the public loves to hate the media, or the Press, or journalists, the fact is real journalists (come on, if you don’t know what a real journalist is, then, you haven’t been reading) are out there in the tens of thousands, and in other countries, they end up splayed on the streets, shot through the head, and disappeared. Check out Reporters without Borders! United States, ranked 45 for press freedoms!

Back to the little outing I made April 4, 2019, to listen to a PhD with the state of Oregon talk about Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) and harmful algal blooms (HAB) and the how, why, what, where, when and who around the connected issues of culture, livelihood, marine health, resiliency, mitigation, adaptation.

Moreover, I know for a fact learning how to report on climate change — and ocean acidification is tied to the amount of CO2 the ocean absorbs (CO2 being a greenhouse gas and acidifier once it reacts to the chemistry of ocean, wave, air, organisms) — is not only vital in this day and age of dumb downing everything, but also because of the proliferation of the corporate PR firms and burgeoning corporate water carriers that the mainstream corporate media is (pressitutes).

A one-day conference, put on by the Nation and CRJ, titled: “Covering Climate Change.”

A new playbook for a 1.5-degree world

How does the media cover—or not cover—the biggest story of our time? Last fall, UN climate scientists announced that the world has 12 years to transform energy, agriculture, and other key industries if civilization is to avoid a catastrophe. We believe the news business must also transform.

Why haven’t (most) news organizations been covering this story as if everyone’s lives depended on it? How can they craft stories that resonate with audiences? How do they cover this urgent, far-reaching story at a time when journalism’s business model is so precarious?

The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation are assembling some of the world’s top journalists, scientists, and climate experts to devise a new playbook for journalism that’s compatible with the 1.5-degree future that scientists say must be achieved. Join us for a town hall meeting on the coverage of climate change and the launch of an unprecedented, coordinated effort to change the media conversation.

Tuesday, April 30 from 9:00am–3:00pm
Columbia Journalism School
New York, NY

As always, everything is centered in-around-because of New York City, East Coast. So, we have the west coast, from California to Alaska, and Baja, Mexico, that produces much of the seafood those diners in New York City love, yet, how many reporters from the West Coast will be there, and, should we be injecting kerosene soot and water vapors and CO2 directly into the atmosphere with all this flying/jetting around for one-day conferences?

Oh, the conundrum of it all, and yet, 4o people met on a glorious Thursday night to listen to one scientist try to do some jujitsu around the colluding topics tied to ocean warming, acidification, eutrophication, hypoxia, red tides, plastics, sedimentation and  declining oyster cultivation, declining wild salmon stocks, threats to the Dungeness crab industry and other fisheries threats. We didn’t even get around to how many impacts will befall cetaceans — the iconic grey whales (and other dolphins and whales that migrate and hang around) which are part of a growing whale watching tourism industry.

Here is the story for the Newport News Times. It hits around 1,120 words, certainly not reaching the concision of small town twice-a-week newspapers. It might be cut so much (mangled is my term) that it will be a shell of its original self.

At the end of this read, I will insert a few elements I believe are more necessary to this story and the contexts than the pure reportage and narrative flow I create, which I have been told are worthy of a read.  PKH

****

Climate Change’s ‘Evil Twin’ 

Ocean Acidification (and problem stepchild, Ocean Hypoxia)

In today’s changing world of climate change, it might not seem unusual to see a room with forty Lincoln County residents at the Visual Arts Center overlooking Nye Beach on a windless, rainless evening to talk about biochemistry, the atmosphere and oceanographic sciences.

It was a perfect Central Oregon Coast Thursday for tourists and residents alike – low tide and a sunset unfolding inside a cloud-enhanced blue sky. One fellow from Vancouver, Washington, with his family of four asked me where Café Mundo was, and then said, “Man, you are living in paradise. Absolute paradise.”

A few quick introductions for those attending the MidCoast Watersheds Council monthly meeting, and we were about to be schooled in pteropods, pelagic snails, corrosive sea water, pitted and wonky oyster larvae shells, with large doses of talk about Newport’s and the entire Oregon coast’s economic threats caused by increased ocean acidification.

We are talking about $270 million annually the west coast oyster industry generates. “I love looking at critters,” said Caren Braby, manager for Oregon’s Marine Resources Program. “I love working on policy issues important to residents and the communities I love. I’ve lived here in Newport and the West Coast for over ten years.”

The biochemist/biologist with a self-professed passion for all invertebrates gave the listeners a caveat: “I’m going to relate some pretty gloomy things in this presentation, but I will end it with some bright spots, some hope, solutions.”

The attendees were introduced to the basic chemistry of ocean acidification and hypoxia with a 13-minute video: “Ocean Acidification – Changing Waters On The Oregon Coast” – sponsored by Oregon Fish and Wildlife, OSU College of Earth, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, OSU’s College of Science, Sea Grant Oregon and the Turner Trust.

“The ocean may look the same, but the water is changing, especially on the Oregon coast,” said Francis Chan, an associate professor and senior researcher in Oregon State University’s Department of Integrative Biology. It’s all tied to the amount of carbon the ocean is absorbing largely due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. “Carbon is changing ocean chemistry faster than it has the last million years.”

Tying the negative impacts of human development, consumption and resource harvesting on the environment, to lower PH in our waters is depressing and challenging. For Braby, who’s big on “focusing on Oregon … describing the problem” Ocean Acidification threatens the Oregon Coast socially, culturally, economically and recreationally.

For instance, the Dungeness crab industry is Oregon’s single most valuable commercial fishery at $75 million last year. While the sea snails are the building blocks for salmon and other marine species food webs, acidification effects all shell-building species, including the iconic crab.

Those four threats Braby listed, plus the fact lawmakers are concerned with the state’s rural communities, are driving the legislature to follow the lead of marine scientists and stakeholders such as Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians, the shellfish industry, commercial fishing groups, conservation organizations and others to create in 2017 the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (SB 1039).

Both holders of doctorates, Jack Barth, director of Marine Studies Initiative-OSU, and Brady are the OAH Council’s co-chairs.

Unintended consequences should be the lesson of the century when teaching young people how to tackle all these problems scientists like Brady, Barth and Chan are “describing.” For Caren Braby, acidification, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms are a triple whammy of not just alphabet soups – OA, OH, OAH, HAB —  but could be the tipping points in this coast’s livelihood, lifestyle and environmental, economic and cultural longevity.

“Even if we stop releasing carbon dioxide today, there will still be a thirty- to fifty-year increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean upwelling from deep within the ocean,” Braby told the audience. This lag time will affect the ocean’s PH level, causing more acidification. How much, we don’t know.

The deep-ocean conveyor belt brings to the Oregon coast cold water, called upwellings. That water comes from deep in the ocean and carries more nutrients that sustain ocean life. However, bad comes with the good – that water has less oxygen and tends to be acidified. Taking decades to travel to the West Coast, this water last touched the atmosphere decades earlier, when CO2 levels were lower than today. So future upwellings will carry the “memory” of today’s annual increases in CO2.

Ice core science is now giving us an atmospheric earth snapshot that goes back 800,000 years. Today,  atmospheric carbon dioxide is well over the maximum level during this long span. The rapid increase in fossil fuel burning and other man-made carbon dioxide emitters paints a gloomy picture for the past six decades – 1958 at 310 ppm versus 2018 at 410 ppm.

The hypoxia – dead zones – is basically less oxygen in large areas of the ocean. Much of the oxygen is displaced by harmful nutrient runoff or sedimentation, as well as algal blooms. However, OSU is looking at complex climate change elements, including wave and eddy action in the oceans.

Brady emphasized that biotoxins in several algae species – commonly known as a red tide — closed fisheries in 2015. Again, HAB’s are tied to acidified conditions in the ocean. The state’s scientific and commercial fisheries are looking at not only the predictive tools for HABs, but how to mitigate the impacts to clams, crabs, oysters and other commercial species along the food web.

“A massive hypoxic event caused the halibut to go away in both Washington and Oregon,” Braby stated. Add to that acidification’s effects on young salmon.

“Research shows ocean acidification could affect salmon’s ability to smell, which the fish rely on to avoid predators and navigate to their natal rivers.”

This is a global problem, but Braby and others caution Oregonians to not take the “we can’t do anything to solve this because India and China are causing it” approach.

Again, back to our sandbox: Oregon’s coast and watersheds. Braby admits there is not enough money allocated to both study and mitigate the ocean acidification and hypoxia issues we are facing. The Sept. 15, 2018 report she helped write posits five immediate next steps:

  1. continue the science and monitoring
  2. reduce causes of OAH
  3. promote OAH adaptation and resiliency
  4. raise awareness of OAH science, impacts and solutions
  5. commit resources to OAH science

For us overlooking Nye Beach, Brady emphasized the fourth step – socializing these issues through outreach, communication. She admits that scientists haven’t always been good at talking to the public, but Braby is armed to continue these sorts of public outreach events to get the message out about OAH and HAB.

 

Climate Change Mollifiers and Great Balls of Fire CO2 Deniers:

We Can Play the Game of Wack the Mole, But Think Hard Ocean Chemistry

The realities around acidification and hypoxia and biotoxicins and algal blooms will continue, continue, continue no matter how many reports are filed, agencies are created, scientists deployed, and public comment periods extended.

So, the great yawing world of pacifism and passive hope which is focused on our warped political system and endless pleas with lawyers to assist environmental groups and looking to technological fixes and active geo-engineering” things” to get the climate back on track, well, it’s what makes white civilization so-so flawed. There are real solutions tied to a deeper spiritual core than what white business Western Civilization can produce.

We are fiddling while the planet burns.

At the event written about above during that glorious waning night one big final ending struck me — people in the audience (mostly fifty years of age and upwards of 65 and older) wanted to discuss what the scientist and state bureaucrat, Caren Braby, had presented. They really want a forum, a community of purpose, to develop better tools to hash these “climate change issues” with neighbors, politicians, business owners, et al.

The gentleman with the MidCoast Watershed Council wanted the room cleared and questions quashed at a certain “acceptable” moment in the evening. However, people gathering and listening to a PowerPoint want civic engagement. The opportunity to engage 40 people and have some action plan drafted was lost in this American Mentality of Limited Scoping.

This so-called choir needs more tools to discuss the conjoining issues of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, growth (human & development), true sustainability, what energy in and energy out is, and so-so much more.

In fact, one of the active members of the Council discussed how insincere the political will is, discussed how flawed any movement on ocean acidification and hypoxia is without strengthening watershed rules, and how a regional approach is the only real way to move ahead, not just a state to state baby step approach. His 15 seconds of fame went poof, and the conversation ended.

There are many natural climate solutions tied to land stewardship that are not in place to help mitigate this huge problem for coastal communities and the marine life around them. This is where the rubber meets the pavement for small communities like Newport or Lincoln City.

While I am not a big proponent of harvesting the seas for food as a way to provide 20 percent of the earth protein, right now, the earth is criss-crossed with four to five times the number of fishing fleets than the oceans can sustain if fisheries are to stay robust and healthy. Many fisheries are in deep decline or near collapsing.

For Oregon, 37 percent of all greenhou se gasses originate through bad land use. Planting timber is the real solution to carbon sequestration, clean watersheds, protecting terrestrial and avian species and for the so-called coastal economies. How simple is that, planting billions of trees? In a world where private land rights trump everything, well, that seems to be the discussion point a group of forty citizens need to start massaging.

Unfortunately, these green solutions are not high on the table of scientists looking at chemistry and the invertebrates tied to specific fisheries.

Then, you can get so mired in the blue carbon and green solutions that are not high on the scale of bringing down global carbon dioxide levels.

The solutions, unfortunately, are all tied to wrecking “lifestyles, growth rates, consumption patterns, me-myself-and-I ego-centrism, recreation desires, class inequalities” Business As Usual mentality, from the Western Civilization’s (sic) perspective.

It’s all about human-focused survival, that is, what’s only good for Homo Sapiens — nothing said of the rights of any of the millions of other species to live on earth, or honoring wild-lands or mountain tops and corals, even geological formations, just for their sake alone.

Take a look at this article by Dr Phillip Williamson. He’s an honorary reader at the University of East Anglia and science coordinator of the UK Greenhouse Gas Removal from the Atmosphere research program, which is coordinated by the government-funded National Environment Research Council (NERC).

All the options, therefore, need to be on the table – not just the land-based approaches, such as planting new forests and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – which have dominated conversations to date.

This week, myself and colleagues attempt to address this gap by publishing an analysis of 13 ocean-based actions to address climate change and its impacts. The study considers the effectiveness and feasibility of both global-scale and local ocean-based solutions using information from more than 450 other publications.

Each potential action was assessed for a range of environmental, technological, social and economic criteria, with additional consideration given to each action’s impacts on important marine habitats and ecosystem services.

The study assesses seven ocean-based actions that have the potential to be deployed on a global scale. For the analysis, it was assumed that each technique was implemented at its maximum physical capacity.

Each technique was rated for its “mitigation effectiveness” – which was defined as how well the technique could help move the world from a high emissions scenario (“RCP8.5”) to a low emissions scenario where warming is limited to 2C (“RCP2.6”) – for a range of problems associated with climate change, including temperature rise, “ocean acidification” and sea level rise.

Here, sanity one and two:

  1.  protecting coastal areas from floods and nurseries for inshore fisheries
  2. planting new forests and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

Here, the insanity of where we are at in global outlooks and how to cut carbon emissions while still having everything hunky-dory:

  1.  “solar geoengineering” techniques such as, “ocean surface albedo” (the reflectiveness of the ocean) and “marine cloud brightening”, which would work by using ships to spray saltwater into the clouds above the sea to make them more reflective.
  2. assisted evolution” – defined as attempts to harness the power of evolution to make species more tolerant to the impacts of climate change:
  • One example of this could be to make coral species more tolerant to heat stress.
  • The last technique is reef relocation and restoration. This can involve transplanting healthy coral into a degraded reef following a mass bleaching event, in order to aid its recovery.

Source

For Caren, submitting public comments is one action. More research is her mainstay, and as she stated, she is euphoric looking into a microscope at invertebrates. She states: “If we don’t understand what’s happening, we can’t change things.”

Of course, we have shifting baselines, so what Caren and her team work on, well, the predictions of acidification of oceans have been around for decades, with the predicted breakdown in shelled species losing their ability to deliver calcium to make shells. We know what is happening, and we don’t need more collapses and disease and “proofs” before acting.

The partnerships tied to OAH and HAB are impressive, but we are not in a climate where passivity should be dictating our actions —  more science, more studies to delineate the problem and more monitoring, this is lunacy. Then, the proposed lunacy of iron shavings in the ocean and sulfur dioxide spewed into the atmosphere to dim the sky. If this isn’t proof the scientists and industrialists and technologists haven’t lost their minds, then nothing is proof positive of their insanity.

The average citizen wants to stick his or her head out the window and say: “So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” Howard Bale, from the movie, Network.

Here on the Oregon Coast, hypoxia events during summer months are growing in size and duration, and seeing more and more of these biotoxic algal blooms (phytoplankton) making it to the smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, and into oysters and clams, well, the bio-accumulation and bio-toxicity carries up the food chain.  Many warnings will be coming in the very near future —  “don’t eat the clams/oyster/fish” admonitions will be sent out as we move into the next decade.

Caren Braby also talked about pyrosomes, sea pickles (each is technically a colony of other multi-celled animals called zooids), that are not normally seen on the coast but are a result of hypoxia. Warming seas. What have you.

See the source image

We are in some really bizarre times — people like Caren Braby have their laurels and positions with the state and other agencies, but in reality, they are making their incomes off of collapse, the sixth mass extinction, and local communities (both human and not) demises. They have skin in the game, but the truly vulnerable who are precarious at work and in their rental situations, who depend on virile economies tied to clean seas, we have more skin in that game.

How’s this headline for yet another nighttime Stephen King flick: Box jellyfish will destroy future oceans by gobbling up the food

The reality is many thousands and thousands of out-of-balance changes are occurring at the flora and fauna level, let alone at the chemistry level. So, the most abundant animal on earth, zeroing out because of ocean acidification? Not a fairy tale you want to repeat to your five-year-old for bedtime story telling.

As the oceans become more acidic, box jellyfish may start eating a lot more. Their greedy appetites could have a huge impact on marine ecosystems.

Some of the carbon dioxide we release is dissolving in the oceans, where it becomes carbonic acid – making the oceans less alkaline and more acidic. Scientists are scrambling to identify which species will be most impacted.

They are particularly concerned about organisms that play pivotal roles in marine food webs, because if they disappear, entire ecosystems may collapse.

What happens to copepods affects all that depend on them, “which is pretty much everything,” says Edd Hammill of Utah State University in Logan.

Previous studies have found copepods may be fairly resistant to ocean acidification. However, these have largely focused on single species, so community-level effects may have been missed.

Image result for box jellyfish image

So these powerful swimmers, halibut, take off when they end up near a hypoxic zone. Entire coastlines (WA and OR) then have had halibut fisheries completely shut down with no halibut to be found.

Maybe the oceans are an allusion to what we have already done to the soil and air and freshwater on land. Not one place on the planet can you take a handful of freshwater from steam, creek, river, lake and be safe from bio-toxins and deadly amoeba. Every person on the planet has mircoplastic in their feces and many compounds like flame retardant in their blood.

And then we are back in the church of the scientist with her proclamation: “Pteropods are the canary in the mine shaft,” Care Braby stated.

How many canaries in the coal mine comparisons are there now on planet earth in terms of specific species crashing and ecosystems degrading?

Even one of the businessmen as part of the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery said the hatchery’s chemistry manipulations were just “scratching the surface” in terms of how big and far-reaching ocean acidification will be. The shellfish hatchery game, over in 20 or 30 years?

It was here, from 2006 to 2008, that oyster larvae began dying dramatically, with hatchery owners Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, experiencing larvae losses of 70 to 80 percent.

“Historically we’ve had larvae mortalities,” says Wiegardt, but those deaths were usually related to bacteria. After spending thousands of dollars to disinfect and filter out pathogens, the hatchery’s oyster larvae were still dying.

Finally, the couple enlisted the help of Burke Hales, a biogeochemist and ocean ecologist at Oregon State University. He soon homed in on the carbon chemistry of the water. “My wife sent a few samples in and Hales said someone had screwed up the samples because the [dissolved CO2 gas] level was so ridiculously high,” says Wiegardt, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. But the measurements were accurate. What the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing was acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air.

Source: YaleEnvironment36o.

Now is the time (30 years ago, really) to get communities to talk, to come up with collective solutions, to challenge business as usual, and science as usual.

And a flat-lined media, or so-called liberal press will not be benefiting anyone in terms of getting community conversations going and action started. If a rag or TV network is around just to sell junk, then, we have no hope.

One restaurant and seafood market owner I talked with in Newport is aware that her five-star restaurant and local sourcing of seafood is small time in the scheme of things. Her story, again, will be in the Newport News Times.

“There are so many forces beyond our control. I am worried about long-term food security. I want us to be looking at food systems, and to teach that in academic settings,” said Laura Anderson of Local Ocean Dockside Grill and Fish Market.