Category Archives: Culture

One Degree of Separation: There Will be Parasitic Capitalism’s Blood

This year’s NDEAM theme is prescient: “America’s Recovery – Powered by Inclusion.” October 2021.

The power of acceptance in this diverse world will follow the arc of social justice; however,  it’s a long journey, still, in 2021.

When I was 15, I had to do community service for ripping through the Tucson desert with my unlicensed motorcycle while I had no driver’s license.  For three months, I read poetry, drama and letters to people in the last stages of their lives at a hospice.

When I sat with some of these patients, I was both humbled by and shaken awake to life’s fragility. My favorite person was Gloria, who was on her last stages with a tube running from her 60-pound inoperable tumor to draining ghastly fluids.

We  talked about her days in theater, and I read plays to her, including Shakespeare’s Othello and Sam Shepherd’s, Curse of the Starving Class. I met her 55 year old daughter with Down Syndrome.

Disability, or handicap, and other phrases like terminally ill, vegetative state and bed-ridden flummoxed me into a state of wokeness.

I am still working with drama and engaging people who fit the Disability Month profile: adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

This awareness campaign — started by Congress 33 years ago – is close to my heart since I’ve worked as a trained customized employment specialist, initially with United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon.

This work was in the tri-county Portland area, and successes were high points in my life, probably more so than the clients’ lives. Helping land jobs for people who have challenges and face unimaginable hurdles tied to discrimination, stigmatization and poverty is rewarding.

There have been big changes in how we relate to people living with disabilities; however, prejudice and disenfranchisement are still prevalent. Discrimination against those with a developmental disability is high.

The “National Snapshot of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in the Labor Force” was commissioned by Special Olympics. The facts are sobering:

  • Only 44% of adults with ID aged 21-64 are in the labor force. This is compared to 83% of working-age adults without disabilities who are in the labor force.
  • 21% of working age adults with ID are unemployed. This is compared to less than 8% of adults without disabilities who are unemployed.
  • 28% of working age adults with ID have never held a job.
  • Only 34% of adults with ID aged 21-64 are employed.

In Lincoln County, adults with intellectual disabilities work in  grocery stores, hotels, landscaping businesses, restaurants and other settings. State agencies are committed to making sure adults have the opportunity to work in competitive environments.

However, stigma and unique circumstances make it challenging to get job placement: many with DD/ID can’t work more than PT jobs;  transportation is problematic; and many need a job coach on site to ensure successful day-to-day activities.

Historically, in 1941, National Employ the Physically Handicapped week cracked open the nut. In 1962 “physically” was removed. 1973 harkened the Rehabilitation Act declaring discrimination on the premise of disability was illegal. Then, more headway: Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975).

Thirty years ago, Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, guaranteeing access to work and prohibiting discrimination against individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities.

Today, more families and communities are comprised of an increasing number of people who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Still, today, those wanting integrated employment that have an employment specialist assisting in customized employment face roadblocks.

Cultural change must galvanize this philosophy of “it takes a village to ensure the safety, health and well being for all our fellow citizens.” That means business owners must step up to the plate.

In the words of Mister (Fred)  Rogers himself:  “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

2021 NDEAM Poster English

Ahh, that’s the piece coming out in the Newport News Times, above. The reality is I have 750 words to work with, no graphics, and alas, no polemics. And, yes, this concept of disabilities of a wide variety should be on everyone’s minds now, in 2021, the Year of the Jab, the Year of the Long Haul, the Year of Weathering, the Year of the Haves Putting the Screws Down on the Haves Not!

You see, the injuries caused by the felony offenders, Pfizer and their mRNA experimental what not, those are disabilities to be argued over for years to come. Lawyers lines up, judges bought and paid for through the ugly world of Capitalism — adding these prefixes: predatory, usury, chaotic, casino, disruptive, mafia, and so many other terms for this predation and rip-off scam. Structural violence is built into the system, and whether you are injured by glyphosate encrusted foods, or the unending cascade of carcinogens and neuro-toxins put out by the great believers in “better living-chronic illnesses through chemistry”, or injured by the jabs, or the bioweapon that is the perfect triple storm, or just by the endless threat of eviction-incarceration-bankruptcy, homelessness, medical-educational indebtedness, all that Repo that is the Republic, there ain’t no Demon-crat or Repulsive-can to come to anyone’s rescue. Prostitution is honest compared to these continuing criminal enterprise winners in government-big business-big finance-military-tech-Pharma-et al.

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.

Old news:

A GRANT PROPOSAL written by the U.S.-based nonprofit the EcoHealth Alliance and submitted in 2018 to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, provides evidence that the group was working — or at least planning to work — on several risky areas of research. Among the scientific tasks the group described in its proposal, which was rejected by DARPA, was the creation of full-length infectious clones of bat SARS-related coronaviruses and the insertion of a tiny part of the virus known as a “proteolytic cleavage site” into bat coronaviruses. Of particular interest was a type of cleavage site able to interact with furin, an enzyme expressed in human cells.

The EcoHealth Alliance did not respond to inquiries about the document, despite having answered previous queries from The Intercept about the group’s government-funded coronavirus research. The group’s president, Peter Daszak, acknowledged the public discussion of an unfunded EcoHealth proposal in a tweet on Saturday. He did not dispute its authenticity.

Disability — what pray tell is that? There are dozens of chronic illnesses that generate many levels of loss of abilities; i.e., disabilities. I work with all sorts of disabilities, and all sorts of chronic illnesses go hand in hand with disabilities, especially with homeless and those who are fighting addiction and poverty and incarceration. Then, the luck of the roulette wheel — intellectual, developmental and psychiatric disabilities.

Anyway you cut it, this is the Land of Chronic Illnesses. Food and factories, and the filth in prescriptions and in the peddled crap of fast food, junk food, packaged food. The chronic illnesses are at birth, and many are tied to all the hormone disruptors and neurotoxins and gut and brain discombobulations. We are really in a world of hurt, with so many with fatigue, fatty livers, kidney malfunctions, obesity, all the drug injuries from the Pharmaceuticals, and so much more of the pollution, single point source, and all of it mixed together into a veritable pureed mush of poisons in the food, soil, air, water, airwaves and just living in a mass psychosis society. . . . Where the rich, undeserving, celebrity of every dirty kind, play god, and determine who and what and where and why and how we are as people. Elites are the cancer of cancers.

And then, you have this human tick, Trump, and boy what a sick world of people who would never ever let this guy forget who he is — racist, fascist, undeserving, soiled un-Man, Donald Trump (and his followers and bootlickers)

‘The poor guy’

Referring to the 2001 article (published by the Washington Post) at a South Carolina rally on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump called Mr. Kovaleski “a nice reporter”.

“Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy,” he continued, before launching into an apparent impression of Mr. Kovaleski, waving his arms around with his hands at an odd angle.

“Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember. He’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.’”

Mr. Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the movement of joints and is noticeable in his right arm and hand.

A New York Times spokeswoman told news site Politico: “We think it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,”

The original Washington Post article by Mr. Kovaleski said that authorities in Jersey City “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river”.

Since Mr. Trump’s claims about Muslim Americans celebrating 9/11, the reporter has said he does “not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating”.

Yeah, October, the month when the folks like Fauci and Trump and all the other enablers of pain and disaster capitalism should be set to sea. We all are useless breathers, eaters, walkers, sleepers, in and out of wheelchairs, what have you, to the rich! Hence, the planned demic, bioweapons 6.0. May they all rot in proverbial hell.

LEAKED GRANT PROPOSAL DETAILS HIGH-RISK CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH

The proposal, rejected by U.S. military research agency DARPA, describes the insertion of human-specific cleavage sites into SARS-related bat coronaviruses (source)

Disabilities month, indeed!!!

The post One Degree of Separation: There Will be Parasitic Capitalism’s Blood first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Banning Books is just One Form of Closed Mindedness, Close Democracy

Note: I try and keep the plates spinning in Newport-Lincoln County, where I live, write and work. So, this piece came out in the rag, The Newport News Times, a Wednesday and Friday newspaper sucking wind for sure, but still, a newspaper. This is what the community standards can take, so after this piece, I’ll comment, take out the machetes, and blaze through what it really means, Banning Books (ideas/curricula/discussion/debate/protest/public displays/thinking) . 

Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us. American Library Association. ala.org/bbooks

Banning Books – An American Tradition that Should be Stopped

site-logo I cut my teeth in El Paso as a graduate TA teaching English – writing, composition, remedial reading, literature – in the early 1980s. That’s when librarians were robust, gutsy and on the front lines of free speech. They helped develop library materials and organize talks around Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2).

I also peddled stories and books as a fiction writer, and I was the Sunday book reviewer for the El Paso Times. My raison d’être was to make sure my writing and everyone else’s was made available to me, my students and my colleagues.

Throughout the next forty years, I’ve headed up talks and readings celebrating diverse voices and works from people outside the Eurocentric dominant force in our traditional K12 and higher education arenas. Books by Caribbean, Mexican, South American, Central American, Native American, Iranian or Ethiopian writers were not just curiosities. For many of my students, reading Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, Sherman Alexie or Zora Neal Hurston created a deep and long-lasting interest in their own cultures, in education, in lifelong reading and in bringing into focus the power of their own identifies reflected in others’ writing.

This year’s banned book week is tantamount to motivating as many people as possible to understand active and passive censorship.

There are entire lists of books removed from high school libraries. There are all kinds of books that are targets of school boards, parents groups, religious groups and political advocacy committees. As a writer, I know my published words are not always appreciated by a variety of readers. I write with many hats on, and in that capacity, I am able to cross the Rubicon many times: from poetry, to fiction, to essays, to polemics, to blogs, to traditional journalism, and more.

I’ve faced down bigotry and hate for books I have put on my syllabi. I have had people walk out of my readings and those of more important people like Winona LaDuke or Tim O’Brien. Walking out is one’s right, and so are bigoted diatribes.

However, stopping the publication of books and demanding books be  removed is not a right. I was teaching at a state community college in Washington when I faced a student who demanded I give her an alternative text for – The Fight Club. Ironically, we looked at various themes in that book, and the writer, Chuck Palahniuk, was coming to town and opening himself up to talking with my students.

That English class included other books that got under the skin of other students and/or their parents (mind you, this was a college class, not a religious school). Bringing writers to campus and having students read their books is part and parcel what educators must do to open minds and create critical thinking.

College deans, department heads, provosts and even presidents must protect that right of freedom to read.

Yes, students in high school have a right to have a history teacher assign Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. Or a film teacher has a right to assign her under-18-year-old students, I Am Not Your Negro and Exterminate All the Brutes to delve into filmmaker Raoul Peck’s work.

Reading Fahrenheit 451 and then comparing Raymond Bradbury’s work to François Truffaut’s 1966 version or the 2018 adaptation directed by Ramin Bahrani is vital to learning. Today, cancel culture rests in identarian politics.

Misinformation campaigns around the 1619 Project or what “critical race theory” are ongoing.  This muddies the water of opening up critical thinking skills for both educators and students.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman posits the future would look similar to the one depicted in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World. Postman explains that the only way to avoid this fate is to see and question what we’re seeing rather than blindly trusting the media.

Others predict a world unfolding closer to 1984, the George Orwell’s classic. Others might choose to riff with and analyze Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. All those books have been put on some school district’s banned book list: driven by a fervor seated in xenophobia, lack of understanding of what literature is, and deeply held conservative beliefs.

Cancelling out books is akin to burning them. We all know where that led the world. This year’s theme — “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

+–+

All right, then, end of the Op-Ed for the newspaper that is in a pretty typically odd community, though Newport does have that “dichotomy”: lots of professors and researchers at the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Sciences center, and the NOAA team posted here, and, those people from Oregon who have a few college degrees who ended up with summer homes here, now turned into full-time homes AND then the service economy, the logging industry, the fishing industry. You have to look at that, too, which is the divide in America, partially self-directed, and certainly directed by the elites, the billionaire class, the military-media-propaganda overlords.

When you see red vs blue, when you see cultural wars and the religious zealotry of the Christians, and when you have K12 so flagged and flogged, so vapid of real learning, real community- based learning, real critical thinking, then we get these divides. And, while the beautiful people, the managerial class, those in the upper income brackets far away from us, in the 80 Percent, well, they may have some Buddhist retreat or outward bound or special science camp to send their young ones, the reality is they especially, and those of us in the 80 percent, have adults and then youth and then each new brood epigenetically forced into sheeplehood and ignorance of who the enemy is, as Ralph Nader put down here:

 

If you think elementary, middle, and high school students know too little history, geography, and government, try asking them about the corporations that command so many hours of their day, their attention, what they consume, and their personal horizons.

 

Howard Zinn published A Young People’s History of the United States (2009), to go with his best-selling pioneering work, A People’s History of the United States (1980), but he didn’t do justice to all the modern corporate controls of just about every facet of American life, including educational institutions.

 

Today, school children are engulfed by corporate apps and software, textbooks biased toward the corporate definitions of an economy, and myths about “free markets.” For years free school materials and videos produced or sponsored by business groups, including the coal and nuclear industries, have flooded elementary classes. Our report: Hucksters in the Classroom: A Review of Industry Propaganda in Schools by Sheila Harty (1979), documented this mercantile assault on education. Students even take tests designed by corporate institutions. (DV– “Teach Youngsters about Corporatism’s Harms”)

 

Yes, this lack of disclosure and exposure around how curricula and school junk and colleges and university endowments are predicated on what the rich, the powerful, the gigantic, the corporations, the MIC want included and not included in teaching, books, materials, etc., it might even been worse than that.

To the left of this piece is a list of DV-recommended books. I’ve read many, and I’ve written two of them. Few people I know, however, read books, and those they do, are insipidly bad, soap opera porn, feel good and how to do/be/see/eat/cook/make money books.

Fiction, and hardcore deeply researched and lived books on China, on Mexico, on all those countries that are shit-holes in the eyes of Biden/Trump/Lesser Evils, they aren’t read by the so-called managers of democracy, the administration, the honchos-as appointed to all those governmental positions. The books aren’t read by the generals or the CEOs.

The books on really the core of the problems globally and locally are not read by the people who need to be taken to the woodshed for a real tutelage of the mind by the people who live in, say, North Korea, and know the language and have books with 80 pages works cited and endnotes.

The Zuckerberg, the USA Today, the ticker-tape of Fox-UnNews and CNN (Clinton/CIA UnNews Network) and then all the followers in media looking for less gray, fewer second and third page jumps, they are part of the problem of killing knowledge, curiosity, deep thinking and robust public arena smart dialogue.

Echo chambers, sure, the have always been there, especially if you end up in groups like the Chamber of Commerce or any group that pushes a group-think and allegiance to a narrow (usually pro Capitalist/pro Business/pro USA/ pro Empire mentality.

It only gets worse, this banned books concept. The reality is that the Newport News Times would NEVER run a piece, a long one, on people (let’s give them degrees and long titles and decent worldviews) who might be looking into lockdowns, the legality of lockdwons/lockups, the origin of DARPA jabs, the history of USA bio-poison-toxin weaponry research). NEVER.

Putting my byline on that too, as a journalist, would subject me to threats, death threats, deplatforming, and probably termination. I’d not get gigs teaching (there are not many) at the local community college. Even if I wrote the piece as traditional long-form journalism, pulling in too-man-to-count experts on virology, on vaccines, on medical procedures, on the history and politics of medicine and bioweaponry research and the illegal doings of the Big Pharma. Nope.

So, that is a form of banned books, vis-a-vis the gatekeepers, those community standards, all those aspects of Edward Bernays and Josef Goebbels concocted 9 Forms of propaganda, the one that marketers really utilize, BandWagon. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-11.png

I’ll list more of those techniques below. But, again, it is what isn’t taught, what isn’t allowed, what isn’t debated, what isn’t filmed/acted/written about that is what signifies as a ban. Think of all the books that were written, and alas, those are now gone, gone, gone.

The person who controls the spigot, the information channels, the medium for the messages, controls the narrative. Having Americans unlearn all the bad things, all the insipidly racist, retrograde, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-people of color shit that comes across the desks of teachers, educational planners, curriculum designers and then into the folders and Google Chromebooks, that is a huge task.

Bad habits die hard, or long.

We need a 12-step program for re-centering this generation so they can breed the next and they the next of real thinkers. And I am not just come fly on the wall, or Pollyanna. I have fought hard in the colleges and universities and newsrooms and social work domains for a real sense of social justice, but also deep knowledge based thinking, and what I have come across is the dumb-downing of everything.

Sure, we can listen to Henry Giroux and Chris Hedges, but again, they’re two elites in their fields (millionaires with a small “m”). They never interview or have on their shows lesser known or unknown people on who might set the record straight.

While Hedges goes after/attacks the celebrity culture, he is still colonized by it in some form, always going to the person with laurels and with titles and books.

Yes, this a good interview, but I guarantee few like me will watch is, and the elites will never watch it:

Then, sure, Giroux and Hedges get to some facts, but again, they go for the Republican Party and the Conservatives and Rightwing Racists as their whipping posts.

They are far from knowledgeable around how poorly placed those Democrats are, those mandate fuckers, all those incredibly bad nightmarish Democratic Governors are.

 

CH: Welcome to On Contact.  Today, we discuss the age of manufactured ignorance with the scholar, Henry Giroux.

HG: Power, when it’s invisible, becomes all the more powerful, to use that term.  But I think there are two issues here for me about neoliberalism in relation to your question, that are really central.  One is it operates off the assumption that there’s no such thing as social problems, that there are only individual problems.  And this notion that we’re ultimately and individually responsible for everything that happens to us literally depoliticizes people because it makes incapable of translating private issues into larger, systemic considerations.  So there’s this question of this really putrid notion of market-based individuals, and this inability to translate and bring together, and connect issues that would give people a full understanding of the world in which they live in, what they may be able to do about it.  Particularly as it affects their everyday lives.

 

Show:

Yes, so much more could be written about what isn’t in the curriculum, how British Petroleum (BP, the new marketing tool after the blowout of millions of gallons of crude in the Gulf of Mexico — Deep Horizon, anyone?) designed the geology and other sciences curriculum in California. Monsanto gives money to Washington State University, so you think those departments are going to have an easy time of challenge Round-up and GMOs?

Come on — I was in Spokane, wrote about this stupidity, and alas, this is a form of censorship that takes place and never makes the news like Michael Pollan did:

A book chosen by a Washington State University committee as appropriate food for thought for all incoming freshmen will not be distributed at summer orientation after a member of the board of regents raised concerns about the work’s focus on problems associated with agribusiness.

WSU’s president said the decision to halt the “common reading” program was related to the university’s financial crisis.

In “Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,” author Michael Pollan discusses the social, political, moral and environmental implications of the food people eat.

A selection committee picked the book for this year’s WSU common reading program, which provides freshmen with a work that crosses academic disciplines and can be incorporated into study throughout the year. (source

UPDATE: Washington State University reinstates freshman reading of ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’

Imagine, all those books taken off the shelves of public libraries. This is not just a ban To Kill a Mockingbird moment. 

This is not silly, either, and Banned Books week does what it does, for sure, but, again, would Ward Churchill be invited to campus to read from one of his books, or the essay that got him un-tenured? 

…what I think we’re witnessing fifty years on is consolidation of precisely the kind of entity extolled by then-U/Cal Berkeley president Clark Kerr in his 1963 book, The Uses of the University. For those unfamiliar with the tract, Kerr likened what he preferred to call “multiversities” to governmentally/corporately-owned factories—albeit, “knowledge factories”—wherein managers such as himself employed to oversee a worker force—the faculty—whose job it was to convert raw material—that is, students—into the finished product or products desired by the owners, all with maximal efficiency. Sound familiar?  (Churchill

Conservative professor: Ward Churchill firing a travesty – Colorado Daily

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019
View the Censorship by the Numbers infographic for 2019

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

George by Alex Gino

Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”


Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased


A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

And so it goes. Imagine all the ideas stopped and flailed and all the books never written but should have been written. Imagine all the ignorance peddled by marketers, publishers, media, government, corporations. Imagine all the harm done with these lies. Wars and genocide, started and perpetrated because of knowledge and thinking bans. You think Turkey wants the Armenian Genocide in their k12 history books. Israel and the Nakba in their books? The Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing in those Japanese books? Right!

Planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence used to be taught by yours truly around the consumer/retail war, the Story of Stuff. Planned and perceived obsolescence is now really agnotology, and the erasing of people, the caste systems being set loose and the Fourth Industrial Digital Gulag Revolution. No little newspaper like the one in my county will deal with these topics. Why should it when the reality is giant schools like WSU try a ban, or the papers of record, the big ones, throughout the land, to include the NYT and WaPo are in so many ways rotten to the core, in the service of the Military Congressional Industrial Complex and the billionaires and giant corporations. 

Onward, to the propaganda, those Mad Men/Mad Women and the USA and EU and Capitalists Murder Incorporated!

 

 

Thumbnail of frame 6

The post Banning Books is just One Form of Closed Mindedness, Close Democracy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Three Strikes You’re Out for Western Psychotherapy

Orientation

Patient questions and therapeutic answers

The therapist says to the client, “tell me about your dreams” and the client shakes their head slowly and says “I had this dream …”. A therapist says to a teenager, “who are you?” The teenager answers, “I don’t know”. The therapist says to the teenager, “that’s normal at your age”. A client tells their therapist, “I am very angry at my father”. The therapist says, “let’s do a role play. You be your father and I’ll be you. I’ll show you how to do it.” A client says they are sick of their job but they stay because the money and benefits are good. They want to get into another field. The cognitive therapist says, “let’s brainstorm the different fields you want to get into. We can look at the Occupational Handbook for the skills and pay scale for the different kinds of jobs. Then we can set some goals and seasonal objectives so we make sure you follow through with your goals”. The client feels overwhelmed but agrees. A mother expresses great sadness when her thirty-three-year-old son is getting ready to move out. The therapist says to the client, “it’s long overdue for your son to leave.” After the patient leaves the therapist adds “dependent personality” to her diagnosis.

If you are an individualist living in an industrial capitalist society, both the problems and the therapeutic responses probably sound familiar and the therapeutic interventions sound reasonable. But how good are these interventions with people whose home culture is collectivists outside Yankeedom, specifically India, China or Japan?

What are collectivist and individualist selves?

Roughly 80% of the world’s population is “collectivist”, consisting of most parts of the world with the exception of the United States and Western Europe. The latter country and part of a continent have been characterized as “individualist.” For collectivists, the group is prior to the individual in two senses. The caste group is prior to the family, and the family is prior to the individual. For individualists, the importance of the individual is prior to that of the family and the family is prior to one’s membership in a social class. In the history of human societies, there have been two kinds of collectivists, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal collectivists have been hunter-gatherers, simple horticultural societies who do not have castes or classes. This is why they are called “horizontal” collectivists. Agricultural states are vertical collectivists because they have social castes. We will be using the agriculturalist states of India, China and Japan for our case studies for collectivists. Industrial capitalist societies will be the type of societies we will characterize as individualist.

For collectivists, society is like an organism and extension of nature. Different castes within that society are pictured as being like the organs of a body. Individuals are like different cells in the body. For individualists, society is autonomous from nature and is governed by its own laws. Social institutions are built up by individuals via a social contract. Individuals are independent of society and social relations appear to them as being voluntary, contractual and accidental. Lastly, collectivists value stability. What is old is revered and what is new is looked upon with suspicion. For individualists it is the reverse. There are many other interesting differences. Please see Table A for the full list. The question we will seek to address is how well will Western theories of personality work with collectivists?Six western theories of personality

There are six western theories of personality: Psychoanalysis; Behaviorism; Humanistic; Biological Physiological; Biological Evolutionary and Cognitive. Each of these theories can be broken down into sub-schools which have various kinds of quarrels and emphasis, but for our purpose the six original theories are plenty.

Unit of analysis

The basic unit of analysis for psychoanalysis is dreams, fantasies and drives. For behaviorism the basic unit is habits – what people do, over and over again. For humanistic psychology the most important focus is curiosity and peak experiences. For the biological-physiological school, what matters most are hormones, genes and brain chemistry. For the biological evolutionary school what drives individuals is survival and reproduction. For the cognitive school the main focus is the qualities of reasoning.

Structure of the psyche

The structure of the psyche for psychoanalysis is the id, ego, superego and the unconscious, the conscious and the preconscious. For behaviorism, the structure surrounding the habit  it is what happens just before the habit (associations, Pavlov) and what happens after (consequences, Skinner). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs focuses on where to place the individual for humanistic psychology. For the biological physiological theory, one major topic is temperament theory. For biological evolutionary school adaptation and sexual selection strategies is where the action is at. For the cognitive school automatic thoughts, cognitive interpretations , explanatory styles and assumptions is the focus.

Sources of conflict

For psychoanalysis there are two conflicts: between the conscious and the subconscious; and between id and the superego. For behaviorists the conflict is between the unconscious acquisition of associations and consequences which reinforce bad habits. For humanistic psychology the conflict is between the false self which is acquired from what they call a “a materialistic“society and the real self. For the biological physiological school, conflicts arise when people don’t know their own temperament and find themselves in a work or educational setting that are mismatches with their temperament. The use of drugs to stabilize hormonal balances can cause problems due to overuse and side effects.  For evolutionary psychologists many psychological problems stem from “evolutionary mismatches” between the predispositions we acquired as hunter-gatherers where we formed our human nature and our existence in industrial capitalist societies, which are far from our human nature. For cognitive psychologists, conflicts come from far-fetched automatic thoughts, cognitive interpretation distortions, pessimistic explanatory styles, and irrational assumptions.

My claim

On the surface it appears that western psychotherapy theories are very different from each other and they are –relatively. But when we consider the whole world, 80% of whom are collectivists,Western personality theories have more in common than they are different. Western psychotherapy is oozing with individualism as it falls under individualism in the last twelve categories under Table A. Because of this, Western psychotherapy has major liabilities as a therapy for collectivists. The “three strikes you’re out” in the title of this article stands for the average length of time some researchers have estimated that collectivists will stay in therapy with Western psychotherapists. My sources for this article will be the Sue’s book Counseling the Culturally Diverse; Harry Triandis’ book Individualism and Collectivism and John Berry’s Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Qualification

What I will  present covers a thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000. Perhaps in the past twenty years things have changed. I remain skeptical because cross-cultural psychology is the black sheep of the field and the field of psychology has historically resisted social and cultural explanations for psychological process, whether it be class, race, gender or religion. I would be happy to know that Western psychotherapy has become more cross-culturally sensitive in the past 20 years.

Where are we going?

The heart of the article will be to cite:

  • instances of problems that collectivists may raise in therapy;
  • Western psychotherapists’ interventions with a particular interpretation or suggestion; and,
  • why the intervention won’t work.

I will strive to have at least two examples for each school of Western psychotherapies interventions. As you will see, some Western theories are worse than others when it comes to alienating collectivists. After these examples are given I will state my five qualifications and then draw conclusions.

Ways in Which Western Psychotherapy Fail Collectivists

Psychoanalytic

Since moving to Yankeedom four years ago, a collectivist son has begun to see a counselor who his friend recommended because he feels worthless.  He claims it is because he is not able to keep up with the other kids in terms of dating and partying. After many sessions, the psychoanalytic therapist suggests to the son that his parents may be trying to keep their son dependent because it makes their lives more meaningful. How will the collectivist respond? Not well. The collectivist would be horrified to think that his parents, to whom he owes his life, would be capable of these machinations. He was raised in a Confucian culture where the family comes first.

A collectivist woman expresses dissatisfaction with her marriage. The therapist suggests the collectivist take out a sheet of paper and list all the virtues and vices of her husband. Then on the back sheet of a paper, list the virtues and vices of her father. The therapist then asks the client to compare the characteristics of her husband and her father. They are very similar. The therapist announces that their client is going through the Electra complex – a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father. How good an interpretation is this? It is out to lunch. Even if Freud’s theory was right, in order for it to work you would need to live in a nuclear family. The collectivist woman lives in an extended family with her grandfather and mother’s brother helping to raise the child. This diffusion of male responsibility will undermine Freud’s Electra complex.

A collectivist teenage boy has been feeling anxious in the presence of his older brother. An Adlerian therapist suggests that as the second born in the birth order, what he might be feeling is repressed competitiveness. “Competitiveness with the older brother  is how middle children behave.”  How will that go over with the collectivist? It won’t make much sense. Adler’s birth order assumes that the primary relationship is between the parents and each of the children taken separately. This ignores the fact that in collectivist societies older children take care of younger ones. Brother-sister dynamics are strong enough to throw a monkey wrench into the birth order theory. The job of the middle child is to take care of the younger child, not compete with the eldest.

A collectivist parent comes to therapy and says his son does not display the proper respect for them or towards his elders. The son talks back to them, questions their authority and complains that he can’t stay out as late as the other kids. The therapist suspects the problem is that the parent is raising the child in an authoritarian way. Will it be helpful to tell the parent this? No, it will not. With rare exceptions, collectivists of all castes raise their children to be obedient. What this parent is doing is not pathological. They are raising their children in the way in which the entire culture operates.

A collectivist female teenager comes to a school counselor because they are tired of taking care of their younger brothers and sisters. The Eriksonian therapist asks the teenager what they would like to do with their time. The teenager says they don’t know. The therapist announces  that teenager is going through a developmental crisis called “identity vs role confusion”. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self. How well would this interpretation work for this teenager. Not well. Typically, collectivist teenagers do not have a time as teenagers where they go to school and not work. They begin helping their parents, working as early as seven years old. They are also expected to do the same work their parents did. There is no asking “who am I?“ There are no “rebels without a cause” in collectivism.

A female therapist has been seeing a single collectivist male patient once a week for the past two years. The male patient asks his therapist if she would go out with him.

The female therapist thinks to herself that the transference is going very well. How right is her interpretation? She is off.  Transference is based on the idea that in order to become healthy, the patient must temporarily transfer their loyalties from the family of origin to the therapist. This theory will not work with collectivists because the family is too important to the client to ever allow any transference to occur.

Behaviorist

A collectivist is court-referred to attend therapy because of a drinking problem. A behaviorist therapist begins asking his patient what were his associations right before he began to drink. Then he asks him what were the consequences (positive or negative reinforcement) right after he has a drink. The therapist explains the patient must change the associations and consequences in order to stop drinking. How will this work for the collectivist? Not well. Behaviorists are very optimistic about getting people to change because mostly they think of people as blank slates. The collectivist is much more conservative and thinks of himself as a certain “type” (temperament) and there isn’t much that can be done.

When this technique doesn’t work well, the behaviorist refers the collectivist to an AA meeting. The collectivist is a Muslim and it is difficult to find an AA meeting with a Muslim higher power. Eventually he finds one. At the first meeting, in front of complete strangers, he is asked to admit he is an alcoholic. He is very uncomfortable and leaves after one meeting.

A collectivist man is violent with his partner. A social behaviorist following Bandura is interested in the relationship between watching television violence and committing real violence. The therapist suspects that the models he is following are attractive and competent and are not punished for their violence. The collectivist wife doesn’t think much of the intervention. She says men have always been violent with their wives and it goes back generations in her family. “That’s just how men are.”

Biological physiological

The medical doctor notices a collectivist female patient seems to have extreme mood swings and refers her to a psychiatrist at the hospital the doctor works for. The collectivist is embarrassed to see a psychiatrist because that means she is “crazy”. She goes anyway and the psychiatrist diagnoses her as bi-polar and gives  her medication. He explains to his patient that the drugs will “even out” hormonal imbalances. The collectivist takes the medication but does not understand how temperament can be changed with medication. She thought temperament was something you were born with and doesn’t change.

The collectivist woman’s mood stabilizes and she feels much better. She would like to continue to see the psychiatrist and, in fact, she invites him over to meet her family.

The psychiatrist tells the patient the hospital does not provide for ongoing therapy. The patient says okay, but still wants the psychiatrist to come over once to meet her family. The psychiatrist explains that would be very unprofessional. The collectivist is hurt that the psychiatrist rejects her offer.

Humanistic

A collectivist female patient complains to the therapist that her daughter is being selfish. She wants to go away to medical school to become a doctor. The collectivist patient says she should be helping out with the family business so they can pass their business to the next generation. The humanistic psychologist sides with the daughter and tells the patient her daughter is striving to be self-actualized as an individual and she should make room to let her grow. How does the collectivist react? Negatively. Collectivists have no models for self-actualization, and especially not for women.

A collectivist arrives at a therapy session and wants to report on a dream. The therapist is a follower of the Gestalt psychologist, Fritz Perls (image at the front of the article).  Perls believed that all the different parts of the dream were fragmented parts of their client’s personality. Perls wanted the patient to act out the different parts of the dream. So if part of a dream was a spewing fire hydrant, you acted that out. If a spinning house were part of the dream, you acted out the spinning house. Then the different parts of the dream talked to each other. Perls believed the parts of the dream talking to each other were ways to integrate the personality. How would that work for collectivists? It would be a disaster.

In the first place, collectivists do not think they are the authors of their dreams. They do not say, as individualists might, “I had a dream”. Rather they say “A dream came to me.” Secondly, collectivists do not think the dream is about their personal life. All dreams are about the group. Thirdly, collectivists’ dreams are not random firings of the brain or fragmented parts of their identity. Collectivists think that dreams are prophetic. They predict some future event that will happen to the group. Imagine the Gestalt therapist’s surprise when he learns his patient has travelled to Chinatown in another city to warn his people about a coming flood!

A collectivist has recently been widowed and claims that the house she has lived in with her husband is haunted by him. She claimed he is haranguing her for not showing respect to their grandparents. The therapist asks the client what she thinks is really going on here. Expecting his client to realize this is a projection of her own feelings, the therapist is disappointed that the collectivist lacks insight. This humanist psychologist thinks that insight and understanding are a necessary foundation for action. The collectivist is also disappointed. She came in expecting advice about what to do, not to play mind games.

A collectivist, after much reluctance, admits he is upset with his father for not doing more work on the family business. The Gestalt therapist says to the client, “let’s bring your father into the room”. The frightened collectivist agrees. Then the therapist says “let’s make believe your father is right here. In fact, let’s make believe he is this pillow. What I want you to do is punch the pillow are hard as you can and tell him how you really feel”. The collectivist grows silent and says he can’t do it. There are long awkward silences. Mercifully the session ends. The collectivist never returns. The humanistic psychologist thinks that his patient needs assertiveness training.

Humanistic psychologists are the enemies of formality and structure. They prefer their clients (they refuse to call them patients) call them by their first name and they dress more causally than other professionals. Furthermore, they set no agenda for the session because they want to “be in the present”. Lastly, they want the sessions to be led by the client, rather than the therapist because the client must take the initiative in their own self-healing. How will this work? Badly. Collectivists expect their therapist to play a professional role, including dressing for the occasion and referring to themselves as “doctor”. The collectivist expects the therapist to take the lead in what they will talk about and there needs to be procedures that are explicit in how the problem will be solved. All this lack of structure will raise the anxiety level of the collectivist. The humanist psychologist thinks the anxiety is good for them because it teaches them to handle anxiety in real life. It never dawns on the therapist that the collectivist’s home and work-life might be very structured.

Biological Evolutionary

Why are we attracted to fat and sugar when we know it is no good for us? Evolutionary psychology says because they are quick sources of energy and they are adaptative if taken in small quantities. In the era in which we formed our human nature, neither fat nor sugar was readily available. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, for upper-class collectivists in agricultural states, being overweight was a status symbol because it showed that you were more important and were less likely to be a victim of famines.

However, in the past 300 years sugar and fat are readily available. At the same time, over the same time period, life has been more sedentary – at least for the upper classes. These factors combine to make more people obese. What this meant for collectivist is that being overweight no longer had high status because even the lower classes now carried extra weight.

This upper class collectivist is told by a bio-evolutionary psychiatrist that they need to lose twenty-five pounds. The collectivist is upset because they are proud of their weight and losing weight will affect their perceived status. The collectivist asks the hospital if they are able to transfer them to an Indian doctor who understands these things.

A collectivist has lived in a temperate zone where the sun sets between six and nine PM, depending on whether it is winter or summer. The collectivist works as a middle manager for a transnational corporation and he is reassigned to work in Fairbanks, Alaska. The collectivist notices he has become depressed in the winter. His bio-evolutionary psychiatrist explains to his client he has seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and needs light therapy. The collectivist thinks that remedy is weird and does not want to buy any “magical” light box. He thinks he is depressed because he misses the people in his country of origin.

Collectivist parents come to therapy because they are unhappy with their daughter’s choice of a partner. The boy lacks broad shoulders and he appears scrawny. In addition, the boy has no interest in introducing his parents to her parents. The evolutionary psychologist explains to the collectivist that times have changed. He tells the collectivist that broad shoulders and physical strength were adaptive when men pulled plows. However, with the development of tractors, it became less necessary for a farmer to have physical strength to be an attractive mate. What matters in industrial capitalist society is these teenagers have common interests and are emotionally compatible. Further, he says that these days people marry for love and not for economic reasons.

This is incomprehensive to the collectivist. Their daughter’s boyfriend seems more likely to become sick and not provide for their daughter. Furthermore, their daughter is in no position to know what she wants in a partner. Sexual attraction is a very unstable reason to marry. Both their parents know more about what it takes to make a successful marriage. How can the therapist think that two people barely twenty years old are in any position to decide their future? The collectivist parents leave therapy because they think the therapist is incompetent.

Cognitive

A collectivist mom is upset with her six-year-old daughter for not making a list of all the groceries they need when they go to the store. The cognitive psychologist explains that it’s a lot to expect of a six-year-old to make lists of food and drinks and anticipate when they might run out before next week’s shopping. The therapist explains that her daughter has not mastered Piaget’s concrete operational stage and she is not likely to do this well. The collectivist does not know about western stages of development and treats children as little adults.

A collectivist man is required to attend a 40-week program for domestic violence. His partner is seeing a priest for help and as a result she is getting stronger. This makes the collectivist man very depressed and sad. The cognitive psychologist in the group program suggests they work on a writing a five-part radial message to his wife. A radial message consists of sense data, emotions, interpretations, intention and consequences. For the next three sessions the collectivist man disappears. When he returns, the cognitive therapist asks “where were you?” The collectivist confesses that he travelled to another city to confer with a shaman for help. They did a ritual together and the shaman claims to have expelled the evil spirit that has possessed his wife.

A collectivist lives in a city which has just had flooding as the result of a storm. One of his sons has been injured and there has been significant damage to their house. The cognitive psychologist, trying to be helpful, suggests the collectivist make a list of all the things that need to be done and set a time line for each task of the project. He further suggests that this may be a good opportunity to set some long-range goals for his children. How will this be received? Not well. The therapist is operating with an internal locus of control. That means how long something lasts, how much the event will affect other areas of a person’s life and whoever is responsible is largely under the person’s control. The collectivist won’t go for this. He thinks that the causes of things are either the will of the gods, luck or possibly due to sorcery. How long something lasts, as well as it how it affects the rest of his life are not under his control. He understands the therapist means well, but the therapist is naïve. Meanwhile the therapist is toying with a diagnosis that the collectivist is depressed.

Qualifications

Vertical collectivists are not the only kind of collectivist

As mentioned in the orientation section, I have only discussed collectivists in agricultural states. Horizontal collectivists at the tribal level of society are very different from vertical collectivists. However, we think Western psychotherapy would fare at least as bad with them

The degree of success or failure would depend on the acculturating group membership upon entering the country

There are six kinds of acculturating groups: immigrants, ethnic groups, refugees, sojourners, native peoples and slaves. Immigrants are migrating people who have come to new country intentionally, plan to stay permanently and have at least a modest savings upon entering the country. These folks have the highest probability of having limited success with western psychotherapy. Sojourners, who move from place to place, if they are students, might not do too badly if they had some extra money and would have become more familiar with western ways through courses taken. On the other hand, refugees are usually fleeing their country of origin because of economic, political or religious persecution or natural disasters. They have little money and no clear intention to stay. They are less likely to enter therapy voluntarily and more likely to be court-referred. Native Americans, given the genocide and persecution to which they have been subjected, would hardly come to therapy voluntarily.

There are collectivists in separate countries and subgroups within countries

My article has focused on collectivists as they exist in different countries. However, there are also collectivists who exist within a single country, even in Yankeedom.

There are predictable sociocultural factors that would make people more or less collectivist even within an individualist culture. For example:

Maximum Collectivist                        Maximum individualist

Working class                                              Middle class, upper-middle class

Racial minorities                                        Racial majority (72% white)

Women                                                         Men

Older than 50 years of age                       Between 20-50 years of age

Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian     Protestants, Jews

Rural                                                             Urban, suburbs

Deep south, farming                                  Coastal cities, industry

Military service                                           No military service

Children                                                       No children

Space does not permit me to explain this, but my point is there can be individualists within agricultural civilizations just as there are collectivists within industrial capitalist societies.

Pristine vs Hybrid Collectivist

In this article I have treated agricultural civilizations and industrial capitalist societies as if they existed in a pristine form with no interaction. But in the last two hundred years capitalism has traded with, colonialized and manipulated India, China and Japan so that they are no longer pure collectivist societies. China, despite the control of the Communist Party, has allowed forms of capitalism to come in so that the Chinese today are not the same as they were two hundred years ago. The same is true of India, thanks to British imperialism. While the Japanese industrialized themselves in the second half of the 19th century, they had their constitution dictated by the Yankee rulers after World War II. Despite this, both Chinese and Japanese capitalism still contain a collectivist core which has not been hollowed out.

I am not saying Western psychotherapy never works with collectivists

It is much more likely to work with people on the individualist side of the collectivist columns above. So a light-skinned collectivist, upper middle-class man between 20 and 50 living in a coastal city without children and no military experience might be very receptive.

Conclusion

I began my article with five psychological problems an individual in an industrial capitalist society might have, along with what seem to be good therapeutic interventions. The issue this article raises is two-fold:

  • How helpful will these interventions be with people who live in collectivist societies such as India, China or Japan?
  • Are the problems the client raises universal problems all people have or are the problems themselves not relevant for people living in collectivist societies?

My claim in this article are that therapeutic interventions fail to deal effectively with the problems that collectivists might face if they are immigrants, sojourners or refugees.

I began by defining what it means to have a collectivist or individualist self. I provided a table which compares collectivists and individualists across nineteen categories. I then gave an overview of six western personality theories and compared them across three categories: the unit of analysis; the structure of the psyche and the sources of the conflict to lay a foundation for understanding Western psychotherapeutic interventions.

The heart of the article is to raise, on average, three psychological problems a collectivist might have in a Western psychotherapy session. Each school was faced on average with three problems the collectivist will present. Then their interventions were criticized for being cross-culturally insensitive.  I closed my article with five qualifications.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Three Strikes You’re Out for Western Psychotherapy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Big Tech Cartels Versus Freedom of Speech, Culture and Conscience

I released a song called Rome is Burning to most streaming platforms on March 1, 2021. The next day the video of the song was posted on YouTube. The song and accompanying video are based on the mass protests that took place in 2020 against state organized racist violence and oppression triggered by a bystander’s filming of the brutal police killing of George Floyd.

To send the song/video to activists and organizations in the forefront of resistance, I signed up a Facebook account, which previously I did not have. My accompanying message on Facebook with the link to the video said: “We need to build a new society fit for human beings! I hope my new song/video contributes to this movement!”

After sending the message and link on Facebook to just five Black Lives Matter chapters a popup appeared on my screen saying my Facebook account was suspended and I was required to provide my phone number. I complied and received a text with a code that I had to enter into the Facebook message box to reactivate my account.

After sending four more messages to BLM chapters another popup from Facebook said I needed to provide a clear picture of myself for purposes of verifying my account, which I did. However, this made me wonder how Facebook could possibly verify the person in the picture was me. Another Facebook message quickly arrived confirming receipt of my information with the warning that if my account activities did not follow “Community Standards” the account would remain disabled. No further information was provided as to how long the account would remain suspended, who was reviewing the account and what action, if any, had to be taken to reactivate the account.

The following day when I tried to sign in to Facebook, a new popup message said my account was permanently disabled because I did not follow “Community Standards.”  The message also stated the decision could not be reversed. No reason was given for canceling my account other than providing a link to Facebook’s “Community Standards,” which lists everything under the sun as a potential violation of terms of use. Facebook offered no possibility to discuss the specifics surrounding what it deemed to be a violation of its standards or to enter into any dialogue with whoever made this decision.

Monopoly censorship parading as “Community Standards”

In my view Facebook’s action qualifies as monopoly censorship and suppression of speech and culture. Not for one second do I agree with the argument that Facebook is a private company, therefore it has the right to decide whatever it wants. Facebook is a company operating as a public utility in Canada and therefore must answer to Canadians and modern-day principles of freedom of speech, culture and conscience. Canadians and all citizens of this world cannot allow arbitrary decisions of private interests made behind closed doors to decide whether or not someone can participate in social and political communications.

Community standards are for the community to decide not some faceless individuals parading as dictators. Forms have to be developed to allow the people to decide community standards that serve the common good both in the general sense and particular cases. Faceless individuals in positions of privilege and power defending their private interests, wealth, world view and outlook must not have the right to decide for the people.

At no point did I receive any indication of violation of any given rule or practice for which discussion, debate and argument could be made. No justification was provided when my account was banned other than Facebook has the right to do so. No one, including myself, was given an opportunity to defend and discuss the views presented on the site and video or the reasons Facebook dismissed them as contrary to community standards. I am confident that the broad Canadian and American public would not find my message, song or video to be out of line with modern day principles of freedom of speech, culture and conscience and acceptable moral standards. Increasingly there are public outcries which find the practices of Facebook and other Big Tech companies undemocratic and reminiscent of medieval autocracy and its imposition of religious obscurantism as the only acceptable thinking, speech, culture and conscience.

Facebook banning of my account is part of a trend that activists concerned with the direction of the world face on all social media platforms, which includes algorithms for “throttling” and “shadow banning” to limit communication and the sharing of opinions with others. These practices amount to suppression of speech and are a form of thought control by those in charge of these global tech cartels.

Progressive voices are not alone in being silenced. Conservatives have had their opinions eliminated as well. The most famous case involving the suspension of the Twitter account of the former President of the United States can be summarized as in-fighting between factions of the rich and powerful.

Freedom of speech and conscience

If someone is to be banned or suspended from having their voice heard for violating “community standards” on a public platform then according to modern principles of freedom of speech and conscience, a public hearing or trial must be held on both the particular alleged violation and on the validity of the so-called community standards.

Community standards set by oligarchs are unacceptable as the final word and verdict, as if from their privileged positions of wealth and power they have the medieval right to decide what can be said and thought. Community standards are developed in practice as people engage to defend their rights and develop forms to ensure the rights of all are not violated without exception. The defence of freedom of speech, culture and conscience lies in the fight to defend the rights of all. I believe my song Rome Is Burning is a contribution to that fight and banning of it or limiting its promotion is an attack on the rights of all.

Social and political forms must be developed to encourage broad discussion involving the people to decide important decisions including the potential banning of individuals or groups. If countries such as Canada and the United States are to be considered modern and just, the control over such decisions must be in the hands of the people not a privileged few gathered in some government or private backroom who declare they can decide and exercise control simply because they own or control some institution or won an election. New social and political forms must also present the facts detailing how certain actions have caused harm and in the case of banning give the accused an opportunity to explain themselves and debate and challenge the decision. All of this must be open and aboveboard and not be taken lightly unlike the practice of Facebook and others.

Freedom of conscience and the right to freedom of speech and culture especially in ideological form go to the very core of what it means to be a modern human where people have rights by virtue of being human. Violation of these rights point to the dubious position the people find themselves in with regard to mass communication and social media. Powerful monopolies and cartels of Big Tech own and control these public utilities and forms of communication; they have given themselves the right to decide and control how they are used and what is said. This control by rich and powerful private interests violates the right of the people to decide and control those things that affect their lives and these crucial matters involving freedom of speech, culture and conscience, the exchange of ideas and discussion, how to develop their relations with others and with nature and to solve problems nationally and internationally without violence.

At this point in history people expect and demand as a public right instant mass communications without interference. Clearly, private determinations using the excuse of ownership of means of communication to define community standards and declare what is acceptable thought, speech and culture are not an objective or legitimate way to oversee mass communications.

Facebook and other tech companies may be privately owned but they cannot and should not be considered private companies. They are public utilities operating globally and accountable to the people. Facebook and others must conduct themselves with the permission of Canadians and in accordance with Canadian standards and regulations decided and established by Canadians not by arbitrary dictate coming from some distant head office representing private interests.

Facebook is said to employ 60,000 workers whose work built the public utility and means of communication and allow it to operate. Those thousands of skilled workers were trained and educated within schools and institutions that can only be considered public and products of the people’s collective thought material handed down from thousands of years of work and struggle to produce, live and develop. Facebook is part of an infrastructure of means of mass communication that belongs to all the people not a select and privileged few.

Another disturbing aspect of Big Tech’s control of speech is its connection to the political police of the U.S.-led imperialist system of states and the surveillance of citizens, including the collecting and tracking of personal information and data. Many are familiar with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to activities of the U.S.-led “Five Eyes” in spying and interfering in the political affairs of the peoples and nation states.

If certain individuals in Facebook object to the song and video and want to censure them, they should present their views openly and in debate with the people. Their position of ownership and control of a public utility does not give them the right to act with impunity as dictators and censors. Denial of freedom of speech, culture and conscience are aspects of condemning people to civil death. Opposition to this practice is a central theme of the song Rome is Burning. People of African descent, Indigenous peoples, political activists and others have long suffered civil death in North America from the state structures that have been established and entrenched by a small ruling elite over the past hundreds of years to protect their right of property ownership to exploit the work of others. Police violence, mass incarceration, and killing of Black and vulnerable people reflect the continuing civil death of many; resistance to this is both important and necessary. State-organized inequality, racism, poverty and wars cannot continue and the people must link their arms in resistance to open a path to build the New as the song indicates.

Public utilities and platforms of mass communication must be accountable to the people. They must allow and encourage free exchange of ideas and debate over what has to be done to move the world forward. They must come under the control of the people and not the other way around; the problem posed is how to bring this about. The people cannot be silent on this and must raise their voices to make it happen.

My and others’ banning from Facebook are aspects of continuing the autocratic practice of condemning people to civil death and blocking a path forward to peace, equality and justice. If Facebook maintains its stance as the privileged arbiter of free speech, culture and conscience, then the people will condemn it to the dustbin of history faster than it hit the scene. I am certain the people will not tolerate its arrogance and dictate because freedom of speech, culture and conscience are rights that belong to human beings and are a matter of life and death to build a new society which leaves behind the old world of inequality, violence, denial of rights, poverty and war.

Editor’s Note:  Subsequent to being banned by Facebook, Mistahi’s Twitter account was banned and his video was demonetized and restricted on YT.

The post Big Tech Cartels Versus Freedom of Speech, Culture and Conscience first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Alien Minds and the Will to Believe

Once upon a time in my youthful naiveté, I would mock those who said they believed in out-of-space aliens and flying saucers.  In my hubris, I even wrote an extensive academic paper saying that the popularity of science fiction and the myth of planetary escape provided by the UFO cults and the media served the function of distracting us from earthly problems connected to the changing social structure of western societies and the concomitant transformation of our symbol systems from the traditionally religious to the scientific and technologically based.  I argued that there was something devious in this new narrative, like the story of astronauts playing golf on the moon.  Although I didn’t then say it, I imagined the next public relations stunt would be ping pong on Mars.  But I now know that ping pong is a Chinese dominated sport.

I must confess that I have never seen a space movie like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars or the television series Star Trek; and I have never read any science fiction like Childhood’s End.  I was always repulsed by such fantasies, since figuring out what was going on here on earth was hard enough to grasp.  They always seemed like a diversion to me.  Of course, I have studied their story lines and know about them, and fiction is fiction, right?  The movies and television shows aren’t real, right?

Culture, I argued in my youthful academic days, is the higher learning we are all subjected to; and culture rests upon the crystallization of a symbolic order that was then changing.  I was writing about the late 1960s and early 1970s when the promotion of esoterica of all kinds was widespread and growing madly.  And as Philip Rieff wrote in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, “Faith is the compulsive dynamic of culture, channeling obedience to, trust in, and dependence upon authority.”

I then sensed we were undergoing a massive symbolic transformation in which the controlling symbolic (from Greek: to throw together) order was being replaced by a diabolic (from Greek: to throw apart) order (that controlled in a different way) and new stories were emerging that would not order people’s lives but would disorder them as they were offered a pastiche of choices to scramble their brains so “they would never know” for sure. This was all happening at the time of the political assassinations of the 1960s, the war against Vietnam, the drug and sexual revolution, the crisis in traditional religion, the turn to the east especially among the young, women’s liberation, etc.

As a sociologist, I was following a tradition of theorizing that tries to describe social change and how culture organizes personality through its symbol systems, in this case the crisis happening between the mainstream faith in science and the counter-cultural reactions and the ways this alleged either/or was being manipulated.

Silly as it now sounds, I argued that as a result of the failure of rational, scientific, and technological culture to replace the traditional religious symbolic plausibility structure it destroyed, resulting in a deep existential void of meaning, an alternative myth about outer space and extraterrestrial life was promulgated to divert people’s attention from the creation of our Nazi-run military space program, nuclear weapons, and the military-industrial complex’s nihilistic intention to use them.  I was so naïve then.

My thesis was that through this symbolic transformation, power over all life and death passed from God to men, and a need arose to provide a story about the gods’ continuing existence.  Thus the UFO and outer space motifs whereby alien gods – through the technique of deus ex machina – might swoop down in flotillas of extraterrestrial spacecraft and swoop up the deserving ones to a beautiful beyond while the rest of the world was incinerated in a nuclear war, a staple story line of science fiction.  Of course, they might also rape you; but they were the bad aliens who were at odds with the good.  ET and The X Files were still to come.

This myth of outer space was joined to a widespread rise in the promotion of occult phenomena – astrology, the Tarot, alchemy, crystal balls, satanism, witchcraft, spiritualism, etc. – that opened up all kinds of alternative, hypnotic visions of other lives past “death,” incredible new visions of inner “realities” and the cosmos, spiritual journeys to worlds unheard of, aided or not by the fuel of psychedelic drugs that were pushed by the CIA.  Thus the gods within were added to the alien gods without and new faiths were born – or rather, created.  These were mixed in a witches mélange with mainstream science or pseudo-science to create an anti-faith faith in forces that could save or destroy us, whether they be aliens, astronauts, or Indian gurus such as the creator of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose exotic teachings were married to pseudo-science and promoted as a way to reduce crime and violence and bring peace to earth.

This, I maintained in my youthful ignorance, was not a cultural accident.  Mass cultural confusion seemed to have a malign purpose that was setting us up for a reactionary backlash that would return us back to the future.  To a time when we could “never really know” but knew what we were meant to know.

That was in my old life as a scholar.  I was so much younger then but I’m older than that now.  For a few years, I have just been a regular beer-swigging normal dude walking unpaved roads and woodland hikes looking for the wild life.  I have dispensed with the books.  I have recently had a revelation like Saul on the road to Damascus but without the light or falling down. I heard no voices.  It happened inauspiciously.

A while back I learned of a nice, peaceful place to take a walk down by the river across an old covered bridge down a dirt road where lovely birds could be seen and heard.  I was surprised to learn of this place since I have lived here a long time and have sought out every wild country walk I could find.  But serendipity happens and epiphanies occur.

Three years ago when I first walked the bridge over troubled water, the place was deserted.  On the other side of the twisting Housatonic River I was surprised to see a large stone monument with an inscription signed by the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker.  I knew Baker, a Republican, like the former governor Mitt Romney, was the type of “mild” Republican that the overwhelmingly Democratic voters generally didn’t complain about.  The monument commemorated a 1969 UFO event,  attesting to it being “the first off-world/UFO case in U.S. history” when a nine-year-old boy named Thomas Reed and his family were said to have encountered a UFO and were taken out of their car by the aliens to a cavernous enclosure with strange lights. Beamed up and out in other words. Then deposited back in their car.

I had mocked such reports before but this one was endorsed by the mild-mannered and thoroughly establishment Charlie Baker, a former CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and I was shocked.  So I read about it and discovered it had been a big event in the area on the night of September 1, 1969 when about 40 others reported seeing a UFO.  It made me laugh at people’s gullibility since remnants of my intellectual skepticism still clung to my numbskull.  The more I learned about it, the less I believed it, despite Baker’s endorsement.

When I again returned to the spot a few years later, the monument was gone, and I learned a controversy had ensued, some people had complained, and the town had hauled the monument away.  Now there is a smaller round shaped plaque on a metal pole commemorating the event.

It seems the 1969 event caused mass confusion, which would seem appropriate for that time and place, as my youthful writings about culture at large explained.  This was two weeks following Woodstock, the height of the Vietnam War, twelve days after the release of the movie, Alice’s Restaurant, based on the 1967 experience of local resident Arlo Guthrie’s famous encounter and song about getting anything you want at Alice’s restaurant, a local establishment run by Alice Brock that attracted hippies and counterculturists from all over.  Clearly something was happening here, what it was wasn’t exactly clear, since you could get anything you wanted in those tumultuous times.  And anything and everything was everywhere in the culture.

But things are so different now.  We are all older and wiser.  We follow the science.  We just do what we’re told.  We read the papers about the new government report about UFOs or what they now call UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena).  There are some things we just don’t know but others that we think we do, just like the Defense Department and the intelligence agencies.  That’s what they say, isn’t it, and they wouldn’t lie?  We follow the science today. The CDC wouldn’t lie, right?  We just do what we’re told.

The creator of the television show, The X-Files, Chris Carter has a prominent Op Ed guest essay in the New York Times to explain why he so desperately wants to believe in aliens and how he actually does so without actually admitting it.  Along the way, Carter makes sure to slyly tell us he knows the truth about COVID-19:

We are living in times of uncertainty, where truth may be unknowable.  I don’t have to tell you this has bred a universe of rampant conspiracy theories. From the Covid conspiracy documentary “Plandemic” to the idea that we’re living in a black hole created by the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider when we discovered the Higgs boson.

He follows the science.  He thinks truth may be unknowable, a saying that you may have heard before. You know: “We’ll never know.” Except for certain truths. For he knows all about the pandemic and aliens.  And he tells us:

When we were dressing the original set for Agent Mulder’s office on “The X-Files,” I came up with the poster with a U.F.O. on it that reads “I Want to Believe.” And I think that’s where most people come down on the whole extraterrestrial business. Not quite there yet, but waiting for a sign.

I’m not waiting.  I’m there.  I received the sign.  I know.  I got there just a few days ago when again, in my new found clarity devoid of my old intellectual perspective, I walked that bridge over troubled waters and saw a large piece of metal lying in a watery ditch right where Thomas Reed described his abduction.  It was new and very shiny.  Talk about signs!  If that isn’t science, I don’t know what is.  Direct observation has brought me to the truth.  The aliens came back and lost a bumper.  Although you might say that’s just circumstantial evidence, I must disagree.  It’s not a symbol, I know that.  I saw it with my “eyes wide shut.”  I follow the science.  Life is not a movie, is it?

I once thought the UFO people were crazy and there was a concerted effort to confuse people.  But I was so much younger then.  I’m older than that now.

Carter ends his essay by saying, “I want to believe.”

The post Alien Minds and the Will to Believe first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Arc of the Moral Universe?

On April 21, police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina executed Andrew Brown. According to a private autopsy, he was shot five times, including the “kill shot” to the back of his head whil;e his hands were on the steering wheel of his car. Seven officers equipped with body cameras were at the scene but only a 20-second snippet was provided to the family. Based on what we know so far, the official story has zero credibility.

This unfolding story, along with many others, prompts me to once again pause and think about the metaphor, “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But Bends Toward Justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frequently employed the above phrase as did Barack Obama. King was paraphrasing a portion of a sermon delivered by the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker who said in 1853 “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. … a long one. My eye reacts but little ways; I cannot calculate and complete the figure by experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

Given this context, I think we can read the longer statement as more nuanced, more equivocal than the abbreviated more popular version. And here it’s worth remembering that Rev. Parker was a Transcendentalist who believed there was a natural morality in the universe that would eventually triumph. Because slavery was such a terrible evil, that would happen sooner rather than later and, if necessary, God himself, would intervene.

King’s version, with its historical determinism and preordained justice undoubtedly provides comfort to many people, including those harboring the belief in American exceptionalism, that we are on an odyssey of continual progress. Barack Obama liked King’s version so much that he had it woven into a rug in the Oval Office. Cynically, I suspect he did so because looking at it allowed him to abdicate responsibility for doing anything.

However, the unrelenting trajectory of racial animus and white supremacy, going back 250 years, suggests the statement is magical thinking and even dangerously naive. And to those lacking the certainty of religious belief, it’s even more problematic.

I want to think it’s possible that white people can be anti-racist, that racism is not an unchangeable character deficiency, that Americans can divest themselves of white supremacy. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I want to take issue with the Afro pessimistic claim that most white people (not only cops) see Blacks as not fully human subjects. I want to believe that UC-Irvine Prof. Frank Wilderson errors in positing a structure of anti-Black violence in this country that lies under the surface of leftist dreams of a universal humanity and intersectional solidarity.

I want to dismiss out of hand that whites are incapable of seeing that this country was built on genocide, stolen land, violence and Black slave labor. And along with activist Bette Lee, I want to think it’s possible that white Americans will eventually agree that “Only an honest reckoning with its history of settler colonialism and its toxic legacy of systemic racism, white supremacy and grinding poverty will lead to real social change and the transformation of America to where justice can prevail.” I want to think it’s possible that whites will grasp that this responsibility is entirely on us.

To this last point, the editors at Black Agenda report (April 21, 2021) remind us that “Black people cannot change white people’s warped perception of the world, although, Lord know, we’ve tried.” As such, housing and school segregation are more entrenched than ever; incarceration functions as a “Black-erasure machine;” White people continue to believe they are the “primary victims of racial discrimination;” and white supremacy is “impervious to any legal recourse.”

I think it’s important to see things as they really are before proceeding to respond. And that means that it will take more than reforms because, as the saying goes, “culture eats policy.” And that begs questions about the origins of our culture and who benefits from it?

Finally, given all of the above, there are days when it feels like our legacy of ghettoization, marginalization, the entire criminal justice system, mass incarceration, warrior cops, massive structural violence and rest means that pessimism and feelings of hopelessness can’t be dismissed. It remains an open question whether most white people are committed to lending their weight toward bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice. That said, in the spirit of Gramci’s pessimism of the intellect but optimism of the will, I’ll conclude with a quote from Edward Said: “Where cruelty and injustice are involved, hopelessness is submission, which I believe is immoral.” For me, assuming this responsibility is tantamount to saving our secular souls.

The post The Arc of the Moral Universe? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Windigo Disease of Resource Capitalism and Global Dispossession of Indigenous Peoples

This is a version of a speech given outside the headquarters of ReconAfrica in Vancouver BC on Water Day — March 22, 2021.

We are on stolen CSḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) land and what is happening here today, the assault of Indigenous peoples and the invasion of their territories by Canada, its corporations and economic elites is also happening to the San people in Southern Africa. In a recent petition by activists we have learned that: “ReconAfrica has been given permission to drill for fossil fuels in the Kavango basin between Namibia and Botswana and the Kalahari Desert extending to the south eastern banks of the Okavango River and Delta. This area includes numerous areas of international significance, but for the San indigenous people who live there this is their sacred and ancestral ‘homeland’. The San people are the rightful current inhabitants and have been the custodians of this land for thousands of years. They have never been consulted, nor have they given their consent to any entities to prospect for oil and gas in their lands. By pursuing oil and gas development in the are the governments of Botswana and Namibia, and the Southern African region contravene their commitments to various international declarations an agreements as well as their own national laws. The oil and gas drilling operations will ruin roads, damage Indigenous livelihoods, deplete water resources and negatively impact biodiversity within the precious region. The Kavango Basin, which includes the Okavango Delta, lies beneath one of Africa’s most biodiverse habitats. It is home to a myriad of bird and megafauna species—including the largest herd of African elephants and African wild do populations—as well as many other threatened and endangered species. Potential impacts to local people and ecosystems include: massive water resource depletion, human induced earthquakes, disruption of avian species communication, breeding and nesting.”

Sounds familiar? This is because it is.

San hunter-gatherers walking across the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. (Courtesy of L.K. Marshall and L.J. Marshall. Copyright President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum #2001.29.390.)

The struggles of the San people connect with the struggles of Indigenous peoples here in settler Canada. We should remember that despite the fact that we are separated by different colonial contexts and most importantly by continents and oceans the history of colonization in the two continents is very similar even though the trajectories are different; and what happens here also happens there. Because in a globalized world we are all interconnected and what we do here has a violent impact there. As Ina-Maria Shikongo, a climate activist from Namibia states: “The problem with this whole deal is we can really see what is happening all around the globe, it is a total take over of the oil industries of the last reserves of the green spaces that we have. They don’t care about the people, the animals, nothing! They just care about the money. We can all see that the weather patterns are changing drastically and we are still talking about digging up fossil fuels when we should stop.”

ReconAfrica is a Canadian-US corporation whose headquarters are based here in so-called Vancouver, that is on stolen land. And I can’t help it but notice the irony that this Canadian company on stolen land is set to seize the land of the San people in Southern Africa. The theft might affect different peoples but bears the same racist and colonial violence. The theft follows the same patterns of white supremacy and environmental racism that has devastated First Peoples and their sacred territories around the globe.

ReconAfrica does not come out of the blue. It continues the early legacies of racist colonialism and racial capitalism, systems that are 500 years old but have now mutated into resource capitalism spurred by oil and gas corporations and new forms of land grabs. The very country this company operates from, (Canada), is itself a petro-state, that often behaves as a corporation and has a violent and non-consensual relationship with its own Indigenous peoples. Canada consistently props up the mining and fossil fuel industries and together state and industry break treaties, invade Indigenous territories without their consent and often with the help of militarized police and the criminal justice system, pillage their lands, criminalize land defenders and throw them in prisons. By displacing them from their land, Canada and its corporations systematically destroy their cultural and food systems and subject Indigenous communities into abject poverty, homelessness, and food and water insecurity, all in the name of profit. Canadian companies either wreck the homes of Indigenous peoples here domestically or the homes of First Peoples there, internationally. The game and the pattern are the same: there is no corner of the earth and no people that resource capitalism will not ravage.

Let there be no mistake: ReconAfrica is an extension of the colonial project that began in Europe 500 years ago and has morphed today into local and global extractivism. Since the emergence of capitalism in the 16th century European extractivism intensified and ran rampant during colonialism through the extraction of materials such as minerals, gold, silver, timber, furs, fish an so on. Naomi Klein tells us that before Canada became a nation it was an extractivist company, the Hudson Bay Company trafficking in furs, and pelts. Recon’s greed for oil follows in the footsteps of the Hudson Bay Company. Through Recon the Canadian model of unbridled extraction and devastation of ancestral Indigenous land and livelihoods is being now exported from this continent to the African continent and the ransacking of its First Peoples, the San people.

And like the Hudson Bay Company, ReconAfrica is genocidal: it is a symptom of toxic colonial land grabs that some commentators link to the industrial genocide of Indigenous peoples. Original peoples across the globe have experienced genocide since the moment the European colonizers arrived uninvited on their territories. By pillaging their land, reducing it to commodities whose goal was to flow into and eventually industrialize Europe, the violent eviction and systematic extermination of Indigenous peoples became the very foundation of the wealth of Europe and settler states such as Canada. Indigenous peoples not only lost their land and thus their sustenance, and their livelihoods, they impoverished, relocated into reserves, starved, and their children were abducted, abused and experimented upon in residential schools to be assimilated in settler society and their cultures to be ethnically cleansed. Their communities are still experiencing profound poverty, higher rates of incarceration, addiction and suicide, and lack of fundamental human rights such as access to health, education and clean drinking water. As Jason Hickel has forcefully claimed in The Divide the Western world including Canada are the developed and industrialized First World that they are today because they have methodically and brutally de-industrialized and underdevelop the rest of the world.

In other words, their industry and wealth are not some sign of good luck or ingenuity or innovation owed to European and Western superior genes of civilization; rather it was built on the violence of colonialism and stolen from Indigenous peoples. Western industrial “progress” has been made on the backs of First peoples and what is happening today to the San people is an iteration of that earlier colonial and genocidal project. It is fair to say that the economic prosperity of Canada and its corporations depends on the racist violence that is about to be inflicted onto the San people. And it is also fair to say that ReconAfrica’s money is nothing but blood money. And it is also fair to say that some prosper on the death of others and the destruction of their homes. And it is also fair to say that our energy greed is built on the devastation of people, lives, homes, ecosystems, the planet. I don’t know what you call Recon but to me they sound like parasites and scavengers of lives in pursuit of profit.

In fact, ReconAfrica is guilty of environmental injustice that is racist, white supremacist and colonial. In “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World,” Naomi Klein argues that environmental injustice is also directly connected to environmental racism through the process of othering of sacrificial and disposable people. For ReconAfrica and the political and local elites of Namibia and Botswana the San people are not people but just obstacles to their drilling goals and so called economic development of these countries. Their land and entire rich ecosystems are simply impediments and the groundwater, the aquifiers, the endangered species are nothing but hindrance to the oil and gas that lie beneath.

Recon and economic elites have so dehumanized and othered the San people and their land that they do not count and therefore they can be removed or poisoned, or pillaged or destroyed. Who cares if the groundwater is contaminated through the drilling and mining operations? Who cares if this impacts the health and food security of the San people? Economic development and profit matter more than Indigenous peoples’ lives. As Klein further reminds us othering is also directly connected to notions of racial and civilizational superiority because in order to have other and disposable people you need to have people and cultures that they count so little for their exploiters that they deserve sacrifice for the ever expanding energy needs of the Global North. And in contrast, you need to have people that see themselves as superior, as uniquely human and thus deserving of having it all, excessive lifestyles at the expense of those other thought of as subhuman.

Our economic elites think of our culture as superior because we are developed; we arrogantly call ourselves the “developed world,” and we call the cultures we ravage and dehumanize “underdeveloped,” “not yet advanced,” “primitive savages” that just sit on oil and precious metals used for our laptops and electronic devices. And we arrogantly think that all we need to do is remove them to get to that black gold. In the early colonization of the so-called Americas, Indigenous peoples often were completely shocked to see the deranged behaviour of the Spaniards lusting after gold. And there is an urban legend that tells the story of how some Original peoples of this continent thought of gold as the “excrement of the devil.” Who would have thought that Recon continues the legacy of the Spanish conquistadores in its frenzied greed after the excrement of the devil we now call black gold, oil.

Klein also cautions us that toxic colonialism justifies the sacrifice of people and dispossession of land through virulent intellectual theories that Western culture has harnessed to legitimize their destruction. Colonialism has always been aided by scientific racism and its cousin, Social Darwinism, theories that are fraught with racist ideas about the superiority of Northern races destined to rule weak Southern races economically, politically, culturally. Again we might want to remember that we call Northern cultures “developed” and Southern cultures “under- or un- developed.” And we keep saying to ourselves the patronizing and self-serving myth: “They do not know their own good, they can’t understand the wealth they sit on and if only they let us develop them. This is also called the “White man’s burden” that the Northern nations have to bring civilization in the form of economic prosperity to Southern peoples living in the dark ages. We are the advance and they are the barbaric.

But my friends, I know of no other barbarism than the one Western economic elites inflict in devastating the home of First peoples, driving the climate crisis and destroying the planet. The eviction of the San people is a barbarity and those who do it are the barbarians and the savages. The climate crisis is a barbarity, not progress, and certainly not civilization. The collapse of the planet is a barbarity and those who are responsible for it are criminal and genocidal. Our economic institutions, our corporations and our economic elites are driving us all to destruction; not development. They are a threat to all Indigenous peoples across the globe and the existential annihilation of all life on this planet. I call them profiteers of death.

As Bay Street depicts the Kavango Basin (green patch)


What is happening in the Kavango basin is not just outright racism. It is also the story of commodity frontiers and capitalist expansion and is an extension of the colonial principle of the “doctrine of discovery” or in the words of some commentators “the doctrine of Native genocide.” You may know that when Europeans arrived here they thought of it as empty land that they had just discovered. Of course, what is really arrogant and foolish about it is that “you can’t discover something that is already the home of Indigenous peoples living here.” For Europeans the doctrine of “Discovery” served to remove the Original people to settle on their land, commodify it, exploit it and eventually degrade it, cut down its forests, toxify its watersheds, poison the soil, overfish it, kill its buffalo, endanger and eclipse multiple species. Here in so-called British Columbia, settler culture is wiping out the salmon along with countless plant and non-human animals. But I’m digressing. The doctrine of discovery serves the capitalist desire for a never ending expansion and growth. As land is being exhausted in one place and its peoples are driven out, “new” land needs to be “discovered and thus occupied.”

Today the global capitalist economy and financial markets of which Recon is a symptom continue to “discover new land” to grab. They might not call these “discovered territories” but they have invented highly elaborate euphemisms that mean exactly the same thing. They now call “discovered land” “new market opportunities” or “land investments” or “economic development.” We must see these new terms for what they are: “the emperor has no clothes” because the naked truth is that the global empire we call capitalism continues to treat the entire world as a frontier of conquest and terra nullius, or empty land to satisfy larger economic interests that are specifically located in the Global North. And that entails genocide of traditional peoples that live on those lands.

The truth of the matter is that African countries since colonization were “discovered” by European powers only to be harnessed to the global economy and serve as the economic satellites of the Global North. African countries have always been used as exporters of raw materials including human enslaved labour to Europe and later its colonies and even later what we call the Global North. In parallel, African nations have been importers of manufactured products from the North. This condensed history of unequal economic relationships mired in brutal exploitation must not also omit the violent legacy of the slave trade in which millions of Africans were abducted from their ancestral homelands to work in what is euphemistically called plantations—but were actual death camps—in the American continent and industrialize its economy. And there we have it again: the enslavement of humans that gave rise to the economic prosperity of this continent is not separate from the enslavement of land and nature through the extraction of energy and raw materials for the enrichment of corporate elites in the Global North.

African American scholar, Cedric Robinson calls this phenomenon racial capitalism. This is an economic system that on the one hand was built on the exploitation of the free labour of African people who were once Indigenous to the African continent; and on the other racial capitalism thrives on the genocide of First peoples in the American continent that are displaced from their ancestral homelands. Racial capitalism is also a system that treats the world as a storehouse of endless commodities or commodity frontier ever expanding to amass more land. As Robinson suggests, capitalism “emerged within the European feudal order and flowered in the cultural soil of a Western civilization already thoroughly infused with racialism and racial hierarchies about superior people and inferior others whose land and labour can therefore be exploited. Capitalism and racism, in other words, did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of racial capitalism dependent on slavery, violence, imperialism, and Indigenous genocide.” Within this context, we can clearly see how ReconAfrica is a symptom of a larger disease: that of racial capitalism.

Let there be no mistake: when you treat the world and its Original Peoples as a frontier of conquest you establish with the earth an exploitative relationship based on ever expanding places to commodify and people to remove or enslave. And when that place is exhausted and its populations ethically cleansed the search begins again for another place, another frontier and another people to dispossess so long that your degradation of the “new” land and your crimes against the communities you displace remain invisible to energy consumers in the Global North. Out of sight, out of mind, none of us need to worry where did this energy or coltan for our electronic devices came from.

We see the logic of the frontier of conquest not just in the Kavango basin but here closer to home and the way domestic companies including the Crown corporation of TMX and foreign corporations have been stealing Indigenous land, breaking their treaties, dispossessing them from their territories, and fuelling the climate crisis, we are all subjected to today.

Windigo by Norval Morrisseau

Ojibwe activist and scholar Winona LaDuke calls this form of greed the Windigo disease: In Anishinaabe tradition understanding the need to avoid a culture of commodification, domination, exploitation, greed, consumption, and destruction of the planet is guided by the Windigo teachings. The Windigo is a cannibalistic being that is cursed with an overwhelming hunger that can never be satisfied, no matter how much it consumes. The Windigo wanders the Earth, destroys whatever it finds in its path, in an agonizing and unending quest for satisfaction, an unending quest for more land to pillage and more people to destroy in the name of profit and greed. ReconAfrica is Windigo. TMX is Windigo. Coastal Gas Link is Windigo. Line 3 is Windigo. Barrick Gold is Windigo. Enbridge is Windigo. Imperial Metals is Windigo. Anvil Mining Limited is Windigo. Suncor is Windigo. Teck Resources is Windigo. Canada and its extractivist economy are Windigo.

While Indigenous peoples across the globe have been treating the land as our sacred home corporations such as Recon have been treating it as a frontier of conquest. Unfortunately, we are running against severe ecological limits: this is called climate crisis and the collapse of living ecosystems as well as the extermination of Indigenous peoples across the world.

We denounce ReconAfrica and its crimes against the San people and the land. We denounce Recon’s environmental racism. We denounce the Canadian government’s complicity in allowing this company to exploit and potentially destroy million acres of the Kalahari Desert. We will resist along the San people who are the rightful custodians of their land against the Windigo disease called ReconAfrica. We will remain unwaveringly committed to Indigenous peoples in Turtle Island and their fierce resistance that began 500 years ago and still continues strong till they slain all the snakes of pipelines, and the Windigo of corporate greed in this continent and defend their land.

The post The Windigo Disease of Resource Capitalism and Global Dispossession of Indigenous Peoples first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Milquetoast for all Three Meals: All’s Dumb in the United States of A

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
— aphorism

There is dumb-downing, cancel culture (I’ve been cancelled since beginning in 1972 in high school, way before the trendy terminology), forced consent, manufactured bifurcation,  false balance, triangulation, perception as reality, equivocation, a host of propaganda techniques unleashed by Edward Bernays and Goebbels,  and the ugly quartet of  Infantilization-McDonaldization–Walmartization-Disneyfication:

George Ritzer introduced the concept of McDonaldization with his 1993 book, The McDonaldization of Society. Since that time the concept has become central within the field of sociology and especially within the sociology of globalization.

According to Ritzer, the McDonaldization of society is a phenomenon that occurs when society, its institutions, and its organizations are adapted to have the same characteristics that are found in fast-food chains. These include efficiency, calculability, predictability and standardization, and control.

Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization is an update on classical sociologist Max Weber’s theory of how scientific rationality produced bureaucracy, which became the central organizing force of modern societies through much of the twentieth century. According to Weber, the modern bureaucracy was defined by hierarchical roles, compartmentalized knowledge and roles, a perceived merit-based system of employment and advancement, and the legal-rationality authority of the rule of law. These characteristics could be observed (and still can be) throughout many aspects of societies around the world. — Source 

Understanding the Phenomenon of McDonaldization

Now, we know infantilization was once applied just to young people, teenagers and such, giving them the one-two punch of treating them as if they have the mental capacity of a four-year or six-year old (now, the nanny-state, and the SARS-CoV2 paranoia and ignorance, making youth think a virus leaps from the ground outside while running in track by themselves will give them the DARPA virus — even DARPA isn’t that good, hail to virologist bomb makers at Fort Detrick and Plum Island). Underestimating the potential of 16-year-olds to understand “our” adult world, or the complexities of society. You know, give a 16-year-old the right to vote since it is that group most affected by the bad bad brew of politics and electioneering that will effect them the most and longest. Nope. That concept of infant-making of the American mind, of course, has been scaled up to an entire society fed on pabulum, cultivated through mass media that are geared to childish concepts of consumerism, fear, patriotism, and celebrity culture and bowing to the rich and famous.

Patronizing might be just one aspect of infantilization, but believe you me, I have been in many arenas — social work, education (higher and K12), environmentalism, union organizing, politics, journalism, the arts (literary, photography), urban planning …  and then in so many workplaces as an organizer and social services specialist. I’ve seen some dumbdowning and infatalizing and agnotology from supposed brightest and best coming out of elite Ivy Leadure schools. What has happened in the USA is one broad infantilization and massive Collective Stockholm Syndrome. It took 50 years, or 60.

Walmartization is pretty simple and deadly — Large chain stores moving (bulldozing) into a region (neighborhoods) which then not only devastate local businesses driving and then displacing those workers into low paying chain store jobs, but the money made by these national and multinational chains  leaves the community. It could be a bank chain, or hardware chain. That Home Depot is moving profits to shareholders, to the huge monster at the head of the huge serpent that kills local enterprise, local community support. Community of place is replaced by the transnational community of purpose — that purpose being profits anyway possible, and cutting labor costs, benefits, health and safety. Hell, get those workers on state Obama Care, food stamps, and the leftover public assistance. If you work at Amazon, what’s so wrong with three workers living in a beat up RV?  That Walmartization is about economies of scale, eating the soul of small manufacturers, small retail businesses, mom and pop’s, and, alas, the money leaves the community and goes to the highly paid family owners or company roughriders — the Cabal of millionaires, multimillionaires, hedge funds, and billionaires that are to put it kindly, bloodsuckers, and viruses.

NYC Educator: The Walmartization of Education

Disneyfication is a sophisticated intended and unintended set of processes that basically strips a real place (built environment, nature, etc.) or thing of its original character. That is the strip-mall which has boom and busted, and the great 200 acre malls, or the same 7-11 in a million places, as well as those Starbucks shit stores placed everywhere including the bathrooms. It is both a sanitization of real life, of real character, of real communities. Again, anything negative — like telling the real history of this Indian-killing, slave-owning/killing, union-busting/killing, global terror cop propagating country (sic) —  is removed, hidden, and then, here we are, with facts that are dumbed down with the psychological and marketing intention of rendering any negative, truthful, hurtful subject more pleasant and easily grasped. Replacing the real bar, the real bookstore, the real coffee shop, the real bodega, the real restaurant, the real park, the real playground, the real forest, the real wetlands, the real swamp, the real everglades, the real farm, with something either idealized … or giving something tourist-friendly veneer. There is a fake “Main Street, U.S.A.” everywhere,  and then the ugly side of what makes Milquetoast (but globally deadly) United States of Amerigo Vespucci a dying, wasteful, broken, rotting country.

The Disneyfication of Edinburgh – Bella Caledonia

Now, below will be a short Opinion piece I penned quickly to help my county to realize we have yet another deficit — lack of a literacy initiative, literacy center, literacy professionals and volunteers to help people learn how to read, learn how to decipher children’s schools’ labyrinthine rules and guidelines. To participate in this 21st century, or the Century before this one and the one before that one: learning how to read, and to critically evaluate all the snake oil labels, all the scams, all the hidden fees-tolls-poles-fines-add-ons, to call spade a spade when PayDay comes to town, or when red-lining rules the roost, or when complete and total neighborhoods are fleeced financially, culturally and environmentally.

1963,1966: Campaigns to Repeal Texas Poll Taxes | South Texas Rabble Rousers History Project

Literacy — And I have been at that game since, well, since my first year of college, University of Arizona. I’ve taught in prisons where lack of literacy is one big reason for many being locked away. I ran a communications program at a large military base (Fort Bliss, El Paso) where privates all the way to five or six striper NCOs had reading grade levels of 4 or 5 or 6. That’s fourth, fifth and sixth grade (if they were lucky).

I’ve written about this before — cartoon instructional manuals (usually with a buxom blonde white woman as the instructor in series after series cartoon strips) bending over to show how to arm a Stinger missile or how to use a Vulcan machine missile gun.

The U.S. Army Had an M-16 Comic Book | by War Is Boring | War Is Boring | Medium

If reading isn’t important, than, I suppose every single law drawn up by ALEC and every single omnibus bill, every war lord’s thousand-page contract for this or that bound-to-be-triple-cost overrun killing systems, whether in the air, on the water, underwater, on land, in space, over the web, inside telephones and computers, or inside a bacteria or virus just is not that important.

To the point where 9 or 11 trillion dollars is missing from DoD, and how many trillions have been shelled out to war lords, bankers, virus mercenaries, poverty profiteers?

That I have to work on getting one person into a volunteer-run literacy program as if I am writing the new laws or formulating something unique is troubling (read my Op-Ed piece below).

Functional or complete illiteracy. Remember Jonathan Kozol:

Kozol believes that liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by “culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.”

Oh baby, did I have Kozol on speed dial in the college classes I taught —

  • Kozol, Jonathan. Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools. Houghton, 1967, revised edition, New American Library, 1985.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. Illiterate America. Anchor/Doubleday, 1985.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. On Being a Teacher. Continuum, 1981.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope. Crown, 2000.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Crown, 1991.
  • Kozol, Jonathan. Shame of the Nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. Crown, 2005.

This is what Studs Terkel said about Kozol’s Illiterate America — “Stunning… with passion and eloquence Kozol reveals a devastating truth… and offers a challenge and remedy.”  Source

If it is any comfort to this man, he should know that he is not alone. Twenty-five million American adults cannot read the poison warnings on a can of pesticide, a letter from their child’s teacher, or the front page of a daily paper. An additional 35 million read only at a level which is less than equal to the full survival needs of our society.

Together, these 60 million people represent more than one third of the entire adult population.

The largest numbers of illiterate adults are white, native-born Americans. In proportion to population, however, the figures are higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites. Sixteen percent of white adults, 44 percent of blacks, and 56% of Hispanic citizens are functional or marginal illiterates. Figures for the younger generation of black adults are increasing. Forty-seven percent of all black seventeen-year-olds are functionally illiterate. That figure is expected to climb to 50 percent by 1990. — Kozol, Illiterate America

Now, that was from a book Kozol wrote 36 years ago. THIRTY-SIX. Those numbers above pale in comparison to this year’s averages. Since we have 335 million in this country, and alas, functional illiteracy is at an all-time high, a larger percentage of people are duped, fooled, cheated, imprisoned, bankrupted, scammed, and structurally murdered because they can’t read or can’t understand what they are reading. Make that 80 percent of people reading the car-seat instructions for their loved one’s safety, in fact, install the car seat INCORRECTLY after reading a 7th grade level set of simple instructions.

Image below: Jonathan Kozol a long time ago teaching reading

Why do I use milquetoast in the title? Here, Kozol, telling it like it is about Dumb Downed USA, with Sleepy Joe — “Joe Biden’s shameful record on school segregation

Advocates for children and civil rights who have not yet given up entirely on the struggle to break down the walls of racial isolation in our public schools may want to take a good hard look at Joe Biden’s shameful record on school segregation. Despite his recent effort to allay concerns about that record, it cannot be expunged or easily forgiven.

In an education-policy proposal released by his campaign on May 28, Biden briefly spoke of encouraging diversity by giving grants and guidance to districts that are willing to pursue it. But he said nothing to disown his long history as a fierce opponent of school busing and a scathing critic of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Milquetoast to all the idiots who fight me tooth and nail when I explicitly state I never have or never will vote for a democrat or republican for president. That a two-minute scribble exercise called voting does absolutely ZERO for me, and for the causes I fight for, including a literacy center in every rural, suburban, urban community.

Illiteracy is bad all around, but oh is it sweet to the bankers, real estate folk, the doctors, lawyers, accountants, IRS, military, marketers, flimflam folk that rule this country …  as you will read in the short piece I did for the small twice a week rag, Newport News TimesBut what makes this country a house of horrors and run by corporate and war lord whores, is how all of those elites and monsters conspire to make people dumb downed, and that is the McDonaldization-Walmartization-Infantalization-Disneyfication of everything.

Literacy is a matter of life and death, happiness or penury

I used to get my elbows up into many literacy projects as an English and writing faculty member at community colleges, universities, prison school programs and writing/journalism workshops for people who are exploited because of their status as low income or as former felons, and those homeless citizens as well as adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Events like “Banned Books Month” (October) or National Poetry Month (April) I worked hard to promote/support. Big journalism organizations like Project Censored and groups like Reporters without Borders are still in my blood.

I am now working again in a small rural community dotted with small towns. I am not only supporting folks with job development and on-the-job training and coaching, but I am helping two Lincoln County citizens with reading literacy.

In my situation with Shangri-La, these two are adult men in their 30s who are seeking reading literacy programs.

It may come as a surprise to citizens, lawmakers and politicians alike, but Lincoln County does not have a literacy center. There is no one-stop place for people who need literacy tutoring, whether they are functionally illiterate in their English skills as a U.S.-born citizen, or those who are English as a second/third language learners.

I’m working with a Salem group, Mid-Valley Literacy Center (founded in 2009). Vivian Ang is my contact who is helping train Newport and Toledo-based citizens to help tutor my two clients. This is not an easy task, and Vivian, with more than 20 years of tutoring including at Chemeketa Community College, says it’s hit or miss.

“I do not have any experience with assisting an adult with a learning disability (developmental disability) to learn how to read,” she has repeated to me several times.

An adult who drives a car, works at a factory, runs a large piece of construction equipment, lives on his own and presents as a “regular sort of guy” can be in one of the most dire of circumstances — functional and complete illiteracy.

Wanting to learn how to read when you are in your 30s takes guts. There are stigmas for someone who can’t read an insurance form or simple job application.

The need is high in Lincoln County for adults like this client of mine — born in Newport and educated in Newport’s K-12 system, including special education classes — to learn how to read. But we have many from Mexico, Guatemala and other countries in our communities where learning how to read and speak English is more than just a step toward better pay.

Vivian tells me a story about an Oregon woman, from Mexico, illiterate in English, who had a sick daughter who needed medication to improve. The prescription stated, “Take this medication once a day.” In Spanish, once is the word for the number 11, so, tragically, the mother followed the prescription contextualized in her Spanish reading abilities. At 11 times a day, after a few days, the medication killed her two-year-old daughter.

Navigating housing, employment, the legal system, utility companies, landlords, cultural activities, and representative politics are basically off limits to a person who can’t read or write. The amount of exploitation, fines, fees, garnishments, late payments and other penalties is a regular occurrence for people who can’t read and write.

According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy (founded 1991), low literacy in the USA costs us as a society $2.2 trillion a year. According to U.S. Department of Education, more than half of U.S. adults aged 16 to 74 years old (54 percent or 130 million people) lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.

For my many clients across the board, lack of reading, low reading levels and functional illiteracy can be linked to poorer health, low levels of civic engagement and low earnings in the labor market. On average, more than 70 percent of people following the seventh grade reading level for instructions on how to install an infant car seat fail to follow the proper steps.

I am enlisting tutors for my two clients. I have a librarian and a library technician on board. Three retired women living in Toledo and Newport, too. One of my client’s workplaces is stepping up and paying the nonprofit Vivian runs for the materials and training. That general manager is also providing a private space with internet access to his worker (I’ll call him Samuel) who is illiterate.

He tells me, “I wish I had 22 Samuel’s working for me. He’s an incredible worker, reliable, goes the extra mile.” Source

 

The post Milquetoast for all Three Meals: All’s Dumb in the United States of A first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Culture of Slavery v the Culture of Resistance

Inde etiam habitus nostri honor et frequens toga; paulatimque discessum ad delenimenta vitiorum, porticus et balinea et convivorum elegantiam. Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.

(They adopted our dressing fashion, and begun wearing the togas; little by little they were drawn to touches such as colonnades, baths, and elegant talks. Because they didn’t know better, they called it ‘civilization,’ when it was part of their slavery.)

— Tacitus, Agricola

Introduction

The general problem of culture today is its ability to facilitate and support negative aspects of society through encouraging escapism, diversion and ignorance regarding many important issues of contemporary life, such as economic crises, repressive legislation, poverty, and climate chaos. Or worse still, the use of culture to promote elite views of society regarding power and money, as well as imperialist agendas through negative depictions of a targeted ethnic group or country.

In this, some would call a neo-feudalist age, we see echoes of an earlier feudalism with its abuse of power and wealth that the philosophers of the Enlightenment tried to deal with and rectify. The Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.

It was led by philosophers such as Cesare Beccaria, Denis Diderot, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hugo Grotius, Baruch Spinoza, and Voltaire. Their concerns about injustice, intolerance and autocracy led to the introduction of democratic values and institutions, and the creation of modern, liberal democracies.

A painting of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Conference. The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, by Benjamin Robert Haydon (died 1846), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1880 by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Oil on canvas, 1841. 117 in. x 151 in. (2972 mm x 3836 mm). This monumental painting records the 1840 convention of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society which was established to promote worldwide abolition.

However, a new movement in the arts and literature arose in the late 18th century, Romanticism, which emphasized inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual. Romanticism was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, aristocratic society and politics, and the scientific rationalization of nature. Romanticism became the basis of many subsequent cultural movements whose common feature has been anti-science and individualism.

The Romanticist influence can be seen in ‘mainstream’ mass culture and high culture in terms of its emphasis on formal experimentation or emotions over sociopolitical content. Romanticist reaction stressed “sensibility” or feeling, and tended towards looking inwards. It was a movement whose ideas have come to dominate much of culture today.

Weighing scales, planets, and fractals

Romanticism is portrayed as having left and right aspects. If we picture a weighing scale with opposing ideas, for example,  we can have the radical opposition to fascism (Romanticist Expressionism) on one side and the radical right of National Socialism on the other side. However, what if this weighing scale was on one side of an even bigger scale? On the other side of that bigger scale would be Enlightenment ideas.

Little weighing scale on one side of an even bigger scale

We rarely get to see the Enlightenment side of the larger scales. We live in a society where we are generally presented with the small scales two sides to everything (the bi-party system, good Nazis [only following orders] v the bad Nazis [gave the orders], this ‘good’ person v that ‘bad’ person, good cop v bad cop) but the reality is that they are usually different sides of the same coin. Similarly, on the smaller scale, the left and right aspects of Romanticist ideas are also two sides of the same coin, because what they both have in common is their rejection of science and reason.

Yet, on the big scales, the Enlightenment side we find progressive politics, the left opposition who were the first to be put into the concentration camps in the 1930s, the community workers, writers, and activists who work diligently today for change in the background are all squeezed out of the large, dominant media-controlled picture.

The problem with this skewed picture is that understanding what is going on becomes as difficult to ascertain as the movements of the planets were to the ancients. Seeming to go in all sorts of strange directions, the ancient Greeks called the planets ‘planeta’ or ‘wanderers’. The movements of the planets were perplexing in a geocentric (earth-centered) universe. It was only with the application of modern science, putting the sun at the center of a solar system, that the odd movements of the planets suddenly fell into place and made sense. We have the same experience of ‘revelation’ or understanding when science is applied to many different difficult problems in various aspects of history, philosophy and society itself.

‘Planets appear to go in one direction, take a looping turn, and then go in the opposite direction. This appears because of the differences of our orbits around the Sun. The Earth gets in an inside or outside track as we pass them causing a planet to look as if it had backed up and changed direction. They wander around the sky.’

The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin wordscientia‘ meaning ‘knowledge’ and is a systematic exploration that allows us to develop knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.  The development of science has allowed us to determine what is truth and what is falsehood. Truth is defined as the property of being in accord with fact or reality and the application of science allows us to verify truth in a provable way.

In this sense truth is like a fractal. Fractals are geometrical shapes that have a certain definite appearance. When we magnify a fractal we see the same shape again. No matter how much we magnify the shape, the same geometrical patterns appear infinitely. Truth is similar to a fractal in that whether the truth of something is held by one person, a group of people, a community or a nation its essence remains the same on a micro or macro level.

‘Fractals appear the same at different levels, as illustrated in successive magnifications of the Mandelbrot set. Fractals exhibit similar patterns at increasingly small scales called self-similarity, also known as expanding symmetry or unfolding symmetry.’

The heliocentric view of the universe remains true even if only one person believes or many believe, even in the face of powerful forces. For example, Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism led him to be investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, where he was found guilty of heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The truth eventually came out and Galileo was pardoned by the Roman Catholic church (359 years later).

Contradictions and falsehoods

It has often been said that the truth will set you free. We live in a society of contradictions and falsehoods where lies, cheating and deception contradict reality. However, many refuse to see the truths of modern society, while others are actively involved in creating the deceptions that maintain the status quo. We know that people are ‘unfree’ and we accept many different levels of this condition: captivity,  imprisonment, suppression, dependency, restrictions, enslavement, oppression.

We may even see this condition as applying to others and not to ourselves. But if we examine closely and truthfully our own position in the societal hierarchy we may recognize our own powerlessness: the contradiction between our view of ourselves and the reality of our situation. Although we vote and we recognize the social contract by rendering taxes to the state, the fact is that very little of substance changes and generally things seem to get worse.

As I have written elsewhere, the fact is that we are triply exploited: we are taxed on wages, alienated from wealth created (profits), and we pay interest on the money borrowed from the wealthy to pay for the capital and current expenditure needed for the maintenance of society and fill in the gap created by the wealthy in the first place.

How is this system of exploitation maintained? Aside from the obvious threat of imprisonment for nonpayment of taxes, and the existence of police and army to enforce the laws of the state: the most influential, and sometimes most subtle tool, is through culture.

The culture of slavery

Culture has a long history of use and abuse, from the bread and circuses of Roman times to the social media of today.

In modern society mass culture helps to maintain this system of exploitation and keeps people in general from questioning their position in the societal hierarchy. The middle classes are lulled into thinking they are free because of better wages making for an easier life, while the working class work ever harder to achieve the benefits of the middle class: higher education, higher status, higher wages. (It has been suggested that the middle class are essentially ‘working class people with huge debts’; e.g., large mortgages.)

However, in general, people work in a globalized system of exploitation in states that support and maintain it thus making wage slaves of the 99 percent.

Slaves in chains during the period of Roman rule at Smyrna (present-day İzmir), 200 CE.

The traditional definition of slavery is ‘someone forbidden to quit their service for another person and is treated like property.’ Modern slavery takes on different forms such as human trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labour:

Experts have calculated that roughly 13 million people were captured and sold as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries; today, an estimated 40.3 million people – more than three times the figure during the transatlantic slave trade – are living in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest figures published by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation. Women and girls comprise 71% of all modern slavery victims. Children make up 25% and account for 10 million of all the slaves worldwide.

While this may apply to the most extreme cases in modern society, the majority of workers have no control over the wealth they produce:

One of the defining features of the employment relationship in all capitalist countries is that the worker’s will is, by law, “subordinate” to the employers. The employer has the right, within broad bounds, to define the nature of the task, who performs it, and how. This shows up in all kinds of surveillance, control, and submission — also known as maximizing productivity and extracting profit.

The investors and the shareholders benefit the most, while the employees receive wages of varying levels according to the demand for their particular skill-set.

We are encouraged to accept this way of life and there are plenty of different state methods to make sure that we do. However, culture is an important tool of soft power, in particular, mass culture.

The role of mass culture is absolutely essential for the creation, maintenance, and perpetuation of a broad acceptance of the ever-changing forms of technological ‘progress’ and geopolitical shifts in modern capitalist societies, particularly as the global financial crisis (corporate and national debt) deepens.

Culture on three levels

To do this, modern mass culture operates on three different levels. The first level is creating acceptance through diversion and escapism and turning people into passive consumers. Secondly, through the overt representation of elite ideology. Thirdly, and more controversially, through covert manipulation of mass culture to benefit the agenda of elites.

In the first case, consumption becomes inseparable from the ideas of enjoyment and fun. Earlier twentieth century theorists of the Frankfurt School saw consumers as essentially passive but later theoreticians such as Baudrillard saw consumption as an unconscious social conditioning, consuming culture to achieve social mobility by showing awareness of the latest trends in mass culture.

Secondly, overt representation of elite ideology is evident in mass culture that glorifies the upper classes and promotes racism and militarist imperialism. In particular, mass culture depicting historical and contemporary events can be portrayed from an elite perspective.

Thirdly, conscious manipulation of the masses using psychological means, and more controversially, predictive programming. In the 1930s Edward Bernays was a pioneer in the public relations industry using psychology and other social sciences to design public persuasion campaigns. Bernays wrote:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.

‘For Adorno and Horkheimer, the culture industry creates false needs to keep us purchasing products we do not actually need by manipulating our psychological impulses and desires.’

Another form of mass manipulation is the concept of predictive programming. Predictive Programming is the theory “that the government or other higher-ups are using fictional movies or books as a mass mind control tool to make the population more accepting of planned future events.”  It is by its nature hard to prove yet the many extraordinary coincidences between events depicted in mass culture and later actual events is, at the very least, disconcerting. For example, the film The Manchurian Candidate depicting the son of a prominent U.S. political family who is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy, was released in 1962, a year before the assassination of J F Kennedy in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald, an emotionally disturbed ‘communist sympathizer’ who declared his innocence and believed he was being used as a ‘patsy’.

Thus, these three levels allow elites to control how the past, the present, and the future is depicted in mass culture, according to national and geopolitical agendas.

Cultural producers

In their defense, the role of cultural producers has never been easy, and the more money or support that is needed for a cultural project, the harder it is to maintain an independent position.

While with modern production methods and technology it is easier to produce books, films and music independently of the major producers and distributors, in the past elite pressure, censorship, and imprisonment were common.

Pushkin, for example, in his Ode to Liberty, exclaimed with indignation:

Unhappy nation! Everywhere
Men suffer under whips and chains,
And over all injustice reigns,
And haughty peers abuse their power
And sombre prejudice prevails.

However, later during the time of Nicholas I, he changed and ‘adopted the theory of art for art’s sake’:

According to the touching and very widespread legend, in 1826 Nicholas I graciously “forgave” Pushkin the political “errors of his youth,” and even became his magnanimous patron. But this is far from the truth. Nicholas and his right-hand man in affairs of this kind, Chief of Police Benkendorf, “forgave” Pushkin nothing, and their “patronage” took the form of a long series of intolerable humiliations. Benkendorf reported to Nicholas in 1827: “After his interview with me, Pushkin spoke enthusiastically of Your Majesty in the English Club, and compelled his fellow diners to drink Your Majesty’s health. He is a regular ne’er-do-well, but if we succeed in directing his pen and his tongue, it will be a good thing.” The last words in this quotation reveal the secret of the “patronage” accorded to Pushkin. They wanted to make him a minstrel of the existing order of things. Nicholas I and Benkendorf had made it their aim to direct Pushkin’s unruly muse into the channels of official morality.

Pushkin’s contemporaries, the French Romanticists, were also, with few exceptions, ardent believers in art for art’s sake, the idea of the absolute autonomy of art with no other purpose than itself.

In the twentieth century, Ars Gratia Artis (Latin: Art for Art’s Sake) would become the motto for the American media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to designate art that is independent of political and social pressures.

Of course, while some believe that art should not be politicized, others think that if art was not a social endeavor, then it would be used as a commercial item only available to the rich; e.g., a profitable escapist product while simultaneously maintaining and promoting a conservative mindset.

‘During the Cold War period, films were an important factor in the persuasion of the masses. They would be used in various ways, to present the ideal image of their country and to distinguish a national enemy, to name a few.’

However, any thoughts of art as a progressive tool were soon quashed by the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) in the USA, a body which was set up in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and any organizations with left wing sympathies.

Dialectic of Enlightenment

Not long after, a theoretical analysis of consumerist mass culture was published in a book by Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) in 1947 entitled Dialectic of Enlightenment in which they coined the term the Culture Industry. For Adorno and Horkheimer “the mass-media entertainment industry and commercialized popular culture, which they saw as primarily concerned with producing not only symbolic goods but also needs and consumers, serving the ideological function of diversion, and thus depoliticizing the working class.”

They believed that the production of culture had become like a “a factory producing standardized cultural goods — films, radio programmes, magazines, etc.— that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity.”

Thomas Hart Benton, Hollywood 1937-38 oil on canvas; 56×84 in. (142.2×213.4 cm)

More significantly, Adorno and Horkheimer also believed that the scientific thinking the Enlightenment philosophers had developed “led to the development of technologically sophisticated but oppressive and inhumane modes of governance.”

Adorno and Horkheimer believed that because the rationalization of society had ultimately led to Fascism, science and rationalism provided little optimism for future progress and human freedom.

However, this view of the history of science and its relationship with human emancipation is, according to Jeffrey Herf in ‘”Dialectic of Enlightenment” Reconsidered’, one that ignores many progressive movements and changes brought about by Enlightenment ideas, and that Horkheimer and Adorno’s view of modern society and politics simply reduced modernity to technology, science, and bureaucracy. Herf outlines many of the events, institutions, laws, rights, treatments and other human benefits that Adorno and Horkheimer (and others) had ignored:

In Weber’s sociology, Heidegger’s philosophical ruminations, or Dialectic of Enlightenment, the panoply of ideas and events associated with the 1688 revolution in Britain, the moderate wing of the French Revolution, and the ideas and institutions that emerged from the American Revolution, and then from the victory of the North in the American Civil War, are simply absent. As a result of this paucity of historical specificity, Horkheimer and Adorno’s view of modernity during World War II was a very German caricature that did not include ideas about the extension of citizenship, British antislavery, American abolitionism, feminism in Europe and the United States, and the rule of law. Theirs was modernity without liberal democratic ideas and institutions, the rule of law, and the freedom of speech, of assembly, of the press, and of religion or unbelief. […] Dialectic of Enlightenment presented modern science as primarily an exercise in the domination of nature and of human beings. Theirs was a view of the history of the scientific revolution that left out Galileo’s challenge to religious authoritarianism and Francis Bacon’s liberating restatement of the role of evidence in resolving contentious issues. From reading Horkheimer and Adorno — as well as Heidegger and Baumann — one would conclude that modern science was first and foremost a source of control, and would have no idea of how modern medicine, unthinkable without the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, had come into existence.1

Thus, Adorno and Horkheimer’s view leaves us with an almost Nietzschian nihilism, that knowledge is impossible, and life is meaningless because to try and improve society will fail and ultimately only increase oppression. Without action, Nietzsche predicted a society of ‘the last man’, the “apathetic person or society who loses the ability to dream, to strive, and who become unwilling to take risks” and slave morality characterized by pessimism and cynicism. A society which has not only lost its ‘will to power’ but also its will to revolt.

The culture of resistance

Throughout history, oppression has been met with resistance in many forms such as uprisings, rebellions, and insurrections.

‘Richard II meeting with the rebels of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

(The Peasants’ Revolt, also named Wat Tyler’s Rebellion or the Great Rising, was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death pandemic in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years’ War, and instability within the local leadership of London.’)

The resistance often starts with strikes, boycotts, and civil disobedience, leading to mass movements of people who ultimately reject the old system of governance and change it for a new system which can be anti-colonial, anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist. The rise of resistance seems to generally develop in three stages, each affecting culture in very different ways. These different stages could be called criticism, substitution and implementation.

Irish Citizen Army group outside Liberty Hall. Group are lined up outside ITGWU HQ under a banner proclaiming “We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland!”. Photo taken in early years of WWI.

Resistance often begins as criticism of the policies or nature of government, or the state. This can be aesthetic or intellectual resistance appearing, for example, in various art forms. Critiques can be of an ideological nature, or simply to highlight social problems and issues. Resistance can take the form of criticism of officially sanctioned culture through demonstrations and boycotting.

It may also take a violent form, for example, the blowing up of colonial statues in Ireland (see my comprehensive list of statues blown up in my blog post here). The blowing up of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin in 1966 was celebrated subsequently in two different ballads which became immensely popular, an aesthetic critique arising out of a violent ‘critique’.

On a formal level resistance can also be ‘form-poor’ as struggle without help from educated or trained professionals is left to amateurs.

Substitution

Gradually, a new ideology, a different reading of history, a new set of artists and writers produce culture which eventually substitutes the old culture with a new culture as the movement gathers momentum.

The less costly forms like art, music, ballads, books etc. can become very popular and important elements of the resistance itself. The more expensive cultural forms are difficult to produce in the new culture; e.g., cinema, theatre, opera, TV etc., (unless, of course, if the format is changed like in community theatre substituting for state theatre).  Digital equipment can be vastly cheaper to use for the making of movies for mass viewing assuming that the outlet for presentation, the internet, is not closed off through censorship.

Implementation

The final stage is implementation, whereby popular resistance takes control of the state and is able to implement progressive culture as state policy. This is particularly important for the most costly art forms which also gain access to state finance and auditoriums. It allows movies, for example, to cover ignored themes such as histories of resistance, or to show past events from more radical perspectives than the previous elite mindset and agendas.

These different levels of cultural change: criticism, substitution, and implementation can be a long process or all come together in a short span of time.

The storming of the Bastille, 14 July 1789, during the French Revolution.

I have tried to show in my previous examination of ten different art-forms (see: art, music, theatre, opera, literature, poetry, cinema, architecture, TV, and dance articles) that since the Age of Enlightenment there has been a strong vein of radical ideas relating to social progress. Over the centuries radical culture has looked at the plight of the oppressed using different forms such as naturalism, realism, social realism, and working class socialist realism.

The philosophers of the Enlightenment believed that advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization would have universal application globally. They also believed in the idea that empirical knowledge should be the basis of society and that with these ideas political and societal change would strengthen civilization itself. While social progressivism, as a political philosophy, is reformist in nature, it also has the potential to snowball into more radical action through discussion around questions as to who runs the state and ownership of the means of production.

The form and content of the culture of resistance has many aspects. Some emphasize change on the community level, developing the skills, community spirit, and artistic sensibilities of the community members whether they be producers, creators or observers. An important element of this strategy for social change is encouraging critical thinking through participation in active dialogue. General themes for discussion have been, for example, gender equality, human rights, the environment and democracy.

The Bash Bush Band musical protesters at Bush’s 2nd inauguration, Washington DC.

Others have taken a more radical approach of examining human conflict and its sources. They look at human conflict from a social perspective and see society in terms of conflicting economic classes. By portraying economic classes in conflict they hope to evolve or expand a working class consciousness or at least an understanding of, and empathy with, oppressed groups. Radical artists, writers, composers etc are encouraged to take a scientific approach and work against superstitions and blind practices. As radical cultural producers they try to present the truth and inspire wide-ranging social and political activism.

Future of culture?

Modern resistance, often in digital form on the internet today, is now subject to a creeping censorship as big tech tries to slow down the efficacy of the internet at making widely available different perspectives on many different issues. At the same time, big tech tries to portray technological progress as social progress, and is at the forefront of liberal campaigns for individual rights at the expense of mass movements for collective or group rights. Such group rights allow for organizations to speak for, and negotiate on behalf of, trade unions, trade associations, specific ethnic groups, political parties, and nation-states.

However, internet censorship and the gradually increasing power of the state (through police, courts, and prisons) using current and new legislation will be able to continue unabated, that is, unless the slave culture that facilitates it is shaken off and a new culture of resistance is born.

  1. Jeffrey Herf, Dialectic of Enlightenment Reconsidered, Source: New German Critique , FALL 2012, No. 117, Special Issue for Anson Rabinbach (FALL 2012), pp. 81-89 Published by: Duke University Press [p84] Stable URL.
The post The Culture of Slavery v the Culture of Resistance first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fast Culture, Slow Culture

A couple of years ago I experienced one of those quick flashes of insight that seem to come to us few and far between. I was cooking – I don’t remember what was on the menu, but I was probably recovering from the stressors of the work day and had turned for solace to the kitchen, that warm sensory capsule, with its many tactile and menial tasks and practical problems to solve. Cooking, I have found, slows me down in a way that just feels right. For years I have been aware of this and sought it out as a palliative, an anti-dote to the quicker-than-me rhythms of not only the rushing stream of professional demands that crowd my time and psyche, but also the rapid-fire news cycle and its open firehose of unsettling events and looming dangers.

As I chopped, and cleaned, and primed the oven that evening, an idea flashed on inside my head like a bulb with a new source of energy. It wasn’t a complicated idea: it simply occurred to me that the positive emotional connection that relationships are built on, the solidarity and mutuality that are the felt core of our social bonds, is slow to develop. In contrast, the negative emotional cathexis that preempts and destroys relationships can happen quickly. Considered as an occurrence, love is a slow motion affair. Hatred can be quick (as can be its kindred attitudes contempt and dismissal.) The difference is like that between a nine-inning baseball game and a boxing match that ends in the first round with a hard blow to the head. The difference between a friend and an enemy, between fellowship and discord, in other words, is a matter of time. The time required to close the gap between us, or to widen it to a chasm. The speed of love vs. the speed of separation.

As epiphanies go, this one was not earth-shaking. Nonetheless, I chewed on this idea for months. Is it always the case, I wondered, that love is slow while hate is fast? The apparent exceptions to the relative velocities of solidarity versus separation either didn’t hold up, or were the exceptions that underscored the rule. Love at first sight is more of a romantic myth, I decided, than the kind of radical centering of other people that develops at the heart of the full spectrum of relationships truly worthy of the descriptor “loving.” Being slow to anger is atypical enough to be called out as a positive trait; anger (kissing cousin to hate) is recognized thereby as nearly universally quick to occur. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that, yes, love is a slow-moving beast, a mammalian embrace that cannot be hurried, while hate or scorn can strike fast as a viper.

I’ve talked to my kids – since they were old enough to pretend to listen – about how the things that matter the most require the most dedication, because they take the most time and energy. Want to learn to play the saxophone? There is time and energy required, and quite a bit of it. Want to develop your skills in math, tennis, or carpentry? Love is one of those things that matters. There are no short cuts. Love is the long road, and one that we travel on foot.

Haters gonna hate, as the saying goes. And we do so prolifically, easily, in the United States of America. One has only to think about the current spectacle of U.S. politics, as I suppose a great many people the world over have been doing in recent years. What is most striking about the nation’s political situation is not that the country is divided (this has become conventional wisdom), and that the division is steeped in animosity (this is the emotional core of our moment). What is most striking is that there is an infrastructure that sustains and accelerates the state we are in.

This is not “who we are.” Americans aren’t more divided and divisive because what people call “human nature” suddenly changed for the 330 million humans gathered within U.S. territory. If we think of “human nature” the way that U.S. philosopher John Dewey thought of “human nature” – i.e., as the cultural state of development of human possibility – we can see that our division and animosity are organized and produced within that arc of development, and that there are features of our cultural environment that are doing the organizing and producing.

Social media platforms, short-form visual propaganda, the meme, and the 140 character tweet, are frequently named, obvious culprits. These comprise a twittering machine that, on the surface anyway, draws us together across vast distances. And yet, underneath it all – like that mythic “human nature” or “national character” people like to imply as cause and origin of our misbehaviors – algorithms invisibly shape the cultural field so that different kinds of utterances can more quickly reach their distinct intended target markets, and so that multiple utterances of common cause (memes, Tik Toks, tweets, decontextualized video clips) can all cluster around our individual heads, like a mass of signifying houseflies. We aren’t drawn together so much as channeled and penned, our differences cultivated by a kind of weird animal husbandry. Commercial interests herd us effectively into niche markets in this way; and a two-party system and its facile outrage populisms herd us into opposing camps, click-baited by conflict-oriented corporate media.

I wonder about the question of speed, though. It is important to notice that the Internet, and the computers whose work and logic it coordinates, is premised on speed, on rapid delivery of message and response. French theorist Paul Virilio points to that same premise as shared by both commercial and military strategy. Virilio coined the term “dromocratic” to name the dominance of the logic of speed in modern politics and social life. “Dromocratic intelligence,” he wrote in his book Speed and Politics (1977), represents “a permanent assault on the world, and through it, on human nature.” Virilio did his thinking about speed before the Internet would emerge as a public illustration of his argument when it passed from its original development as a military technology to its ubiquitous commercial use as a new kind of what Virilio called “habitable circulation,” an architecture of constant regulated movement and velocities.

The spectacular antagonisms of U.S. public life, in other words, are not solely a function of algorithimic penetration of everyday life. That penetration is accompanied by an acceleration of processing, a quickening of the pace of the message-and-response cycle, a shifting of cultural gears that privileges the image over the word, information and innuendo over sustained argument or thought, reaction over reflection, connotation over denotation. Virilio’s decades-old argument resonates strongly with our present virtually-mediated moment: “Let’s make no mistake: whether it’s the drop-outs, the beat generation, automobile drivers, migrant workers, tourists, Olympic champions or travel agents, the military-industrial democracies have made every social category, without distinction, into unknown soldiers of the order of speeds.”

We are all subject, one way or another, to the fast culture of the Internet. In a sense, the Internet collapses the spaces between us much more effectively than the automobile or the airplane ever did. This speed, this simultaneous obliterating of distance and intensifying of separation, has exposed and subordinated the relative slowness of much of our culture. “Snail mail” did not earn its name until electronic mail began to rocket silently and instantaneously from screen to screen all over the planet. The text message outpaces the phone conversation. Can you read a book online? Yes, of course, just like you can write a letter via email. But the relative slowness of the book as a reflective cultural medium, or of the process of long-form writing as a communicative cultural practice, competes for our attention with the reigning velocities of the Tweet and the instant message. So much so that many people still prefer to read a book offline, as if the cultural artifact of the book simply rejects its transplantation to a virtual host.

Through Virilio’s lens, the Internet and its social media can be seen as recently developed “technological vehicles” in an “empire of speed” that we all inhabit: whether it’s the migrant workers, tourists, voters and non-voters, long-haul truckers, soccer moms, veterans, gun enthusiasts, anti-war activists, neo-Nazis, labor organizers, anti-racist activists, or Do-It-Yourselfers, democrats or authoritarians. Fast culture is dominant – culturally, but also politically and economically. Fast culture is based, after all, in the dromocratic logic of the instantaneous global routing of finance capital, and of military strategies for assault and defense. All other sectors of society are playing a losing game of catch-up.

Slow culture – the infrastructure of solidarity, reflection, and deliberation – ranges from potluck dinners and other “barn-raising” habits of community and mutual aid, to books and correspondence and long conversations, to debate and negotiation. In the hierarchy of speeds that governs us, slow culture is a plodding horse hitched to a high-speed automobile. The technology used for the instantaneous global routing of finance capital, and for military strategies for assault and defense, sets the pace for interpersonal and political communication, for news and information.

You can hear and see and feel the resistance to this state of affairs, if you attend to the ongoing work of slow culture. In his book In the Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr argues that the intellectual ethic of the Internet re-trains our brains by favoring skimming and impressionistic quick takes, non sequitur-like jumps from topic to topic, and rapid shifts of attention, all to the detriment of the slower and deeper reflection required by book culture. When I read this book recently, I noticed that he concludes his argument with reference to a University of Southern California brain study that found that “the human brain responds very quickly to demonstrations of physical pain” but that “the more sophisticated mental process of empathizing with psychological pain unfolds much more slowly.” In other words, “It takes time for the brain […] to understand and to feel ‘ the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation.’”

The Internet doesn’t undermine our morality, Carr is quick to point out, but that is not the issue. Speed plus morality is outrage, a weaponized morality. (The so-called “culture wars” are a high-velocity phenomenon.) What fast culture does is short circuit the more time-intensive processes that make solidarity the ground for moral (and political) decision making. This is evidently not a problem for global finance capital. But perhaps the social relationships necessary for a healthy society, and for a healthy democratic society at that, aren’t built on speed.

Perhaps it’s time to notice that our politics is being dragged along at the speed of global finance capital, instead of vice versa. Perhaps it’s time to invert the relationship between slow and fast culture. Fast food and fast politics are equally unhealthy. Speed has its moments, but speed is not the way. There are no shortcuts to solidarity. A politics of love takes its time.

  • Image credit: Syd’s Illustrations
  • The post Fast Culture, Slow Culture first appeared on Dissident Voice.