Category Archives: Elitism

The Social Anatomy and Dynamics of Power: Bases, Depth, Scope, and Dimensions

Orientation:

Question about the where, when, what of power 

Is power something inside a person (an attribute) or a relationship between people? Is power a neutral concept, or does power have a positive or negative charge?  Is power vertical or horizontal? Most of the time it seems that power is hierarchical and can be called power over people. But can there be horizontal power, that is power with people? What is the relationship between power and politics? Is politics a specific form of power or is power a particular form of politics? What is the relationship between power, persuasion, and control? Are they interchangeable? Are they three completely different categories or are they related and overlapping?

What is the relationship between power and authority? Are power and authority opposites? Is power a form of authority or is authority a form of power?  Is all power intentional or can power be exerted unintentionally? What is the relationship between power, wealth, and prestige? Can you be powerful but not be wealthy and prestigious? Can you have wealth and prestige but not have power? What is the difference between potential power and latent power? What is the range of power in terms of the number of people it affects, the variety of tactics used or its depth of intensity?

Resources for this article

The field of political sociology has many very good theories of power. G. William Domhoff has written about how power is produced and distributed in two books about how the ruling class rules Yankeedom.  These books are The Powers That Be and Who Rules America? W. Lawrence Neuman has covered much ground in his textbook Power, State and Society. The Italian Gianfranco Poggi has identified three types of power in his book Forms of Power. Michael Mann has written three volumes on power that have demonstrated a deep historical grounding.  They are called The Sources of Social Power. Peter Morris has developed a theory of power from a philosophical standpoint. Stewart Clegg has written three books on power that I devoured. His work would require way more space than a single article. Robert Alfred and Roger Friedland have developed the richest theory of power from the point of view of six sociological schools. However, for purposes of just getting our feet wet, I will only draw from two books, one by Dennis Wrong, and the other by Steven Lukes.  Wrong’s book is titled Power: Its Forms, Bases and Uses. Lukes’ book is called Power: A Radical View.

This piece will focus on vertical power: when a person or class has power over people to harness energy and labor to get work done. How exactly do they do this?  My article is divided into three parts. The first is the delineation of eleven power bases. The second is a description of the three dimensions of power – pluralist, elitist, and class. I will close by answering the questions that I first posed in the orientation. At least as important, how does it get to be that people come to accept their own submission to power? This will be the subject of my next article.

I Range of power

We need to be able to access the range of power. What is the scope of power? In other words how far in breadth and depth does it cover? How long does it last?  Dennis Wrong identifies three areas of extensiveness, comprehensiveness, and intensiveness.

  • Extensiveness has to do with how many people are involved.
  • Comprehensiveness is the variety of strategies the powerholder can employ to achieve their outcome.
  • Intensity is the range of how far it can used before it loses control over people. This has to do with the degree of coordination (in the case of power with) and subordination (in the case of power over).

Let’s use some examples. In the case of the sadist and masochist, power relations are narrowly extensive but highly comprehensive and intensive power relations. While dictatorial-tyrannical power will wield extensive and intensive power, the difficulty of maintaining the visibility at all times of the behavior of subjects sets limits to the comprehensiveness of its power.

There are three reasons why greater extensiveness of a power relation sets limits on authoritarian comprehensiveness and intensity. The first is the greater the number of subordinates makes for greater difficulty supervising all of their activities. Secondly, the more people it subordinates the more differentiated the chain of command is necessary to control them. Thirdly, the more people are involved the greater the likelihood of wide variation of the population’s attitudes toward the power holder.

II Power bases

By what means does the dominator achieve and maintain power? Let’s begin with the typology of power bases provided offered by Dennis Wrong.  I’ve added a few of my own from some of the sources listed in the orientation section.

1) Force With force, an individual or political group achieves their objectives in the face of another group’s noncompliance by stripping them of the choice between compliance and noncompliance. Force is treating a human subject as if they were a physical object or a biological organism subject to pain or injury. There are two kinds of forces – physical force and psychic force.

  1. a) Physical force includes the use of violence, damaging the body. Its purpose is to eliminate people from the scene or prevent them from taking any action at all. Violent force can also involve the denial of food, sleep or on a larger scale, employment. Force can also be non-violent by those resisting to domination. In the case of civil disobedience, resisters use their bodies as physical objects.
  1. b) The use of psychic force involves the damages of ideas, emotions, such as verbally insulting, degrading, or the deformation of character. On a group level, this would be ritual degradation, engaging in sorcery or casting a spell. On a less severe scale, nagging and browbeating are instances of psychic violence.

2) Coercion This is a term that is mistakenly used interchangeably with force. Coercion is a threat of the use of force. For example, I am driving on a city street and I see a cop’s flashing lights go on, indicating for me to pull over. I pull over not because I respect the cop’s legitimate authority, but because he has a gun. A man involved with a woman having a domestic quarrel stands up and begins shouting and pointing. This is not force because there is no physical contact. However, there is clearly a threat of force.

Coercion can take the form of symbols such as “Beware of Dog” signs, or gestures such as shaking a fist, swaggering walks, or verbal statements such as “your money or your life”. It can take place as displays such as in military parades or the flourishing of nightsticks. Coercion can succeed without force, such as robbing a bank with a water pistol. In the short run this is the most effective form of power in terms of extensiveness, comprehensiveness, and intensity while requiring the least amount of communication. However, it is high in the cost of material and human resources.

3) Politics This is the control people exert over what, when, where, and how people can and can’t act. An example is parents controlling their kid’s behavior as long as the kid lives at home: “my house, my rules” say the parents. Nation-states control their populations with passports, laws, and statutes.

4) Economic power This kind of power involves control over material resources such as commodities, wages, salaries, tools, natural resources, money, and stocks. The power of a capitalist over a worker is a typical example.

5) Symbolic power As a college teacher I can control my students by the power I have over their grade. Symbolic power is control over certificates, grades, and diplomas.

6) Information control/persuasion This is control over communication, whether face-to-face or through media. This control can be over information content, information sources or how or when information is presented. Propaganda is hard-liner information control, while rhetoric (debate) or dialectic (classroom) are softer means of communication control.

Persuasion deals with changing attitudes (minds) and/or changing actions through the use of rhetoric. Face-to-face persuasion is more up-front rather than behind the scenes.  Persuasion presents itself as an implicitly egalitarian relationship that leaves intact free choice without resorting to either tacit or overt threat to a group. As with all the forms of power before information control, it is irrelevant who the individual is, what the situation is, and the time and place of its occurrence. With information control, persuasion involves far more sensitivity to time, place, and circumstance. Mass persuasion using mass or internet communication is much closer to propaganda.

7) Charisma This form of power is based on the personal qualities of an individual such as charm, theatrical skills, oratory power, being articulate, or having spiritual vision. When applied to cults, charisma is the most unstable form of power because when the leader dies or is revealed to be fallible, whatever has been built falls with him.

8) Sexual resources Here we have the exchange of sexual favors for money, power, or fame. Sexual resources also involve the promise of sex and the manipulation of the other person with the prospects of having sex. So much of dating relationships is all about this.

9) Manipulation Manipulation is one of those words which is over-used and meant to refer to everything from news manipulation, advertising manipulation, or relations between equals. I will define manipulation as exclusively what happens between friends. It involves getting an equal to do something through exposure, distraction, deception, exaggeration, or guilt. In his book Influence, John Cialdini named many of these forms of manipulation which he called exploitation of reciprocity, foot-in the-door, foot-in-the mouth, door-in-the-face, and low-balling.

10) Legitimation This form of power involves the power holder having formal training, degrees, official clothing, badges, and reputation. What makes this form of power so powerful is that those in subordination have internalized the right of a legitimate authority to rule. Legitimacy means authority sanctioned by social structures and respect is given by subordinates (at least initially.) Authors of books and some political figures are examples. Legitimacy is the untested acceptance of another’s judgment.

All forms of power up to legitimacy require that those holding vertical power expend energy. In one case it involves the use of weapons, jails, and concentration camps. In the other wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, as in doing marketing research or advertising campaigns. In the case of mass persuasion, it involves studying how to write a successful political speech. But all these forms of power require constant replenishing of resources.

Using legitimate power may require initial external input through training or schooling, but over the course of generations the authorities can go long stretches without input because the subservient have internalized their authority. The initial input of authority involves the production of ideology of obedience through mass media, education, and religious socialization which people internalize. Once subordinates have internalized this ideology, this form of power is more or less set. Legitimate power is in some ways the most interesting because here the dominated have come to believe that the dominator deserves to be in this position. The extensiveness of legitimate authority is more limited, but it is most reliable in controlling the anticipated reactions of power subjects. Legitimate authority is most efficient in minimizing the need for keeping watch.

Most workers report to their jobs every day because they need the wages (economic power). But their attitude towards their bosses is mostly that their bosses also have legitimate authority. Many have come to believe that their bosses deserve to monopolize tools, resources, and property. When workers are upset, most of the time they demand better working conditions, more pay, and more benefits. They don’t challenge capitalist authority over what gets produced, how much, or by when. This 500-year-old system appears to be eternal and only rarely in revolutionary situations can workers imagine any other way of organizing production.

11) Competency This last form of power involves getting others to do something because of the powerholders demonstrated skills or know-how. The best example of this in the relationship between a doctor and her patient, a lawyer and his client, or a pilot and her passengers.  On the one hand, all these forms of power are legitimate. But unlike most forms of power there are neither guns nor goods that are shown to command obedience. Unlike in persuasive forms of power, with competent authority no evidence is needed. A patient may listen to a doctor’s advice without understanding the rationale. Their authority is imputed, rather than demonstrated. In competent authority, comprehensiveness and intensity are low. Knowledge is not depleted with use, and costs have more to do with equipment. Its basis of knowledge is utilitarian.

An even better form of competency is a hunting leader of an egalitarian hunting and gathering society. Here the leader has no desire to lead but their leadership is insisted upon by the group because of their skills. A story is told by an anthropologist that the prospective leaders have to be dragged out of the bushes. Oftentimes the captain of a baseball team is chosen by the players, the first among equals because of their competency.

III Multiple power bases are used and morph into each other over time

Human motivation is almost always a heterogeneous mix of different, often conflicting impulses which play themselves out over time. Because of this, a stable power relation of some comprehensiveness and intensity is rarely based on a single form of power. Each form of power usually has more than one power base. For example, a college teacher will use symbolic power as primary force but will support it through politics and legitimacy. An employer will use economic power primarily but combine it with political power and information control.

In addition, power bases tend to change over time as relationships develop over time and routine sinks in. For example, in a cult the charismatic power of love for a leader can deteriorate into a simply authoritarian political bureaucratic power when the leader dies. Prison guards initially use force and coercion but over time some prisoners become attached to the guards (the Stockholm syndrome) and might even see the guards as having legitimate power. An occupation that is chosen initially for financial gain (economic power) but may be maintained out of pride of craft (competency) even when the person is making less money. It is in the long-term, self-interest for the powerholder to try to transform might into right, force, and coercion into legitimacy. On the other hand, the dependence of the subordinates’ position in the power relationship will motivate them to come part way to meet the powerholder.

IV Three dimensions of power: pluralist, elite and Marxist

Pluralist

In liberal theories of power, such as that of the political scientist Robert Dahl, the way power is measured is that different actors and different interest groups compete in different areas of interest. Power is purported to be diffused across situations and there is “nothing going on behind the scenes”. Power is neither unstructured nor systematic.  Power is identified with the issues that agenda has set, for example, at a city council meeting. Power is subject to constant dissipation because of the push and pull of different veto groups. The exercise of power is strictly behavioral and observed and the word power is used interchangeably with persuasion.

Contrary to either elitist or Marxist theory, all power does not involve conflict because people gain power through accidents, unintended consequences, or just stating the issue more clearly. At the same time, those successful in a conflict of interest may involve more of their capacity to do things or more consent from others. There may be no struggle at all.

For the pluralists, the wielding of power is decentralized most of the time into several separate and single issues. This is different from elite theories that argue that the issues are connected. The wielding of power is overt and can be seen, as in the action of the leaders at a city council meeting who are limited in deciding on concrete issues in front of everyone. The preferences in a local participation have to do with the uniqueness of particular individuals rather than underlying class interests. Jeremy Bentham argued that preferences are the same as interests and are revealed by market behavior. Everyone is the best judge of their own interest and people are not seen as having illusions about their interests or being short-sighted about them. Interests are more or less revealed by participating in politics. For pluralists, political parties adequately make room for the interests of everyone because class conflict is the exception, not the rule for pluralists. Pluralists have complete confidence that voters are consciously aware of them and can articulate them. For pluralists it is too cynical to propose that people’s interests can be unconscious or that they can be inarticulate and politicians may have to express their interests for them. On a larger scale, pluralists think representative democracy works pretty well. Workers know what they want, can articulate what they want, and their representatives listen to them and carry out their will.

Politically and sociologically pluralists are rooted in the work of Emile Durkheim who believed that the state in capitalist society could allow democratic participation. When the masses explode, revolt, or create revolutionary situations it is a sign of group pathology rather that that the system isn’t working. For pluralists 40-50% of those who don’t vote do so because their will is being carried out by politicians, with their consent. It is not because there was anything wrong with the system or the candidates. Both the parties and the state are socialized to balance group demands and public interest. The image of the state is as a thermostat or referee between competing groups.

Elitist theories of power

Pluralist theories of power are clearly liberal. Class theories of power are straightforwardly Marxian socialist. Elite theory is considerably more complicated. For example, the Italian political theorists of politics – Pareto, Mosca and Michels – are all conservative. They explain political power as a battle of elites and dismiss the masses as apathetic, ignorant, and superstitious. On the other hand, theorists in the centrist tradition of Max Weber are more interested in explaining power in terms of the autonomy of state bureaucracies. On the left, theorists of power like C. Wright Mills, William Domhoff, Bachrach and Baratz analyze the ruling class much more critically than the Italian theorists and they are more hopeful about the power of the lower classes to assert their power. For the most part, we will focus of the elite theory of Bachrach and Bartaz because they directly challenged pluralist Robert Dahl’s description of power.

Elitist theories of power think there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than pluralists do. For both elitists and Marxists, issues are not diffused across social life, and many issues are interconnected. For example, both elitist and Marxist theorists will say that capitalists allow disagreements to be aired publicly around cultural issues of sexuality and religion but the rulers keep economic issues of the viability of capitalism and the gap between the rich and the poor off the table. For elitists and Marxists, there is not a plurality of different issues and different interest groups. Behind the scenes, there are the same few actors and the same few interest groups that prevail across all issues.  The full thrust of power is not exhausted on the floors of city councils over real issues. For example, a city council will argue about where the next place will be that the homeless are dumped off. However, they will not discuss in public why real estate companies have the right to buy up as much property in a city as possible. For elitists, power is not diffused but stored and concentrated in the circulation of elite groups and is not lessened through the push and pull of competing groups.

For elitists, whether competing groups are more or less competent in what they are trying to do or more or less the subject of accident, all power involves conflicts of interests – whether they are overt or covert. Power and persuasion are not interchangeable. For elitists, all power involves force or fraud, as Machiavelli said. Power for elitists involves limiting the decision-making publicly, while political issues are consciously decided upon by individuals behind closed doors. For elitists, interests are far more important than preferences and they are not likely to be revealed publicly, most especially conflicts of interest in politics or economics. Interests are most deeply human, deep, and dark and are far more important than people’s preferences which are guided by conscious motivation. Elite theories allow that people can be mistaken about their interests and often conflicted about their preferences. For elitists, people who don’t vote do not do so because they assent to the available choices. It is because they are apathetic, ignorant and can’t think beyond their own self-interest.

For elite theorists, the state is more concerned with ruling than with governing, and in managing its bureaucracy (in the case of Weber) rather than ensuring the voices of its citizens are heard. While for pluralists’ society is the state, for elitists the state has independence from society and protects its own interests. For elitists, power is not situational, rising and declining. Power is structural and independent of situations, serving its own interest. Power is stored and concentrated in deep state institutions which stay in place as local regimes move in and out. Power is about politics, force, and the threat of force. The population doesn’t steer its own course but is manipulated. Exploitations come from the bottom of the class structure. Because the population is not seen as capable of self-organization, disturbances are short-lived because the lower classes cannot keep their attention focused. Unlike pluralists, those in power do not govern with consent but rule through competition between elites. For elite theorists, the state both manages the interests of the middle and upper classes, but also has an interest of its own.

Marxist theories of power

For Weberian elitists, power rests in the internal bureaucracy of the state, rather than social classes or interest groups. For Marxists, power is wielded by the capitalist class which controls the state and society and exploits the lower classes. Marxist theory is also cultural and psychological in how it distracts the working-class from defending its own interest.

For the capitalists, power would never be shown either at the city level or even at a state level. Capitalists wield power at the national level in the control of both political parties. Marxists argue that while the capitalist class may have differences in foreign policy, within the domestic sphere capitalists agree to keep any third political party from forming and suppress any workers’ movements for higher wages and better working conditions. Both political parties are anti-communist.

How are disruptions of the lower order treated? This depends about whether capitalism is expanding or contracting. If capitalism is developing in prosperous times, capitalists will attempt to entertain, distract, and present reified images of life to get lost in. Here workers will have false consciousness. If the productive forces are contracting capitalists may be more repressive, neglecting infrastructure and begin militarizing the police. Elitists will claim conflicts exist between themselves which eventually subside. For Marxists conflicts are endemic because there are terminal crises in capital which do not subside but spread to other social sectors. For Marxists, unlike liberal elitists, the state cannot manage conflict in the long run because the conflict between the capitalists and workers is much broader and deeper than anything the state can manage. When it comes to local expression of power at the city level the pluralist will fight over the plays of the game, elitists will fight over the rules of the game, while Marxists will challenge the game itself.

Unlike elitists, Marxists don’t think all conflict involves force. Conflict can express itself through smoldering class conflicts which may not require the use of force. In the areas of decision making, the bias of the system can be manifest without any meeting of capitalist minds. For example, many years ago I was on an economic justice committee at a Unitarian Church and we decided to do a campaign to “buy nothing” on Black Friday. We wanted to place an ad in a city newspaper. The first newspaper refused our ad. We went to another one and the same thing happened. When we were turned down for the third time, one member on our committee claimed the newspapers were conspiring against us. Someone else pointed out that there didn’t need to be a conspiracy. Each newspaper separately would be threatened by advertisers with withdrawing their ads if our ad ran. Since advertisers knew what the competing ads were before the paper was published, we could understand that we would be rejected by all capitalist newspapers without any of the copy editors contacting each other at all.

In terms of interests and preferences. Marxists’ theories suggest that working class people are not conscious of their interests (false consciousness) and their interests are shaped by advertisers behind their backs. Marxists must point out to workers what their real interests are because workers have illusions about their interests, such as the prospects of becoming millionaires.

For pluralists, power is exercised through what is resolved on each agenda item. For elites, power is controlled over the decision-making process, of which items are not even on the agenda. For Marxists, power is exercised in convincing the population to take sides which go against their class interests. For example, recognizing that the funding for the police serves their interest more than low-cost housing. Workers are blinded by false consciousness which comes out of TV shows in which cops are brave and heroic individuals. They fail to understand that the police are a domestic state-terrorist organization mobilized to beat up and kill the working class. For Marxists, what it means to have power is to keep people from even articulating grievances which will threaten the economic interest of capitalism. Capitalists, through sports, movies, and nationalism shape workers’ very cognitions and perceptions so that they express their interests in superficial topics that have nothing to do with their own lives. Like elitists, Marxists think that non-socialist political parties cannot seriously improve life for the working class and that political participation in these parties is a waste of time. Capitalists control workers not primarily through force and coercion but through hegemony, in which the workers consent to be ruled through reactance theory. Reactance theory convinces workers that they are freely choosing. Marxists treat social explosions not as signs of pathology as pluralists do. Rather, they are treated as workers breaking through false consciousness and recognize their real interests lie in overthrowing capitalists.  Please see the table at the end of the article for a summary of these and other contrasting points. 

V The what, when, where, and how of power

Now that we have gone through the eleven power bases and the three dimensions of power, we are in a better position to answer the questions initially posed at the beginning of this article.

Is power individual or social?

On the surface, it appears that when it comes to power, one group has it and the other group doesn’t. But this is a mechanical way of thinking about how power is held. Powerholders can be weak and subordinates can be strong. More importantly, in most power situations those who are subordinate are many and those with power are few. This means we must explain how it is that those in a subordinate position allow those with power to rule. When most people are passive, we have to say that those people have some degree of complicity in allowing the small group in power to have their way. This is why power is a social relationship rather than an individual one. Pluralists and Marxists will agree that power is social. Elitists are more likely to think of power as mechanical with elites active and the masses passive. How subordinates allow those with power to rule will be the subject of my next article.

Is power neutral or is it negative or positive?

It is best to think of the word power in a neutral or even positive way rather than as strictly negative or a relationship that could somehow be avoided. After all, power is a collective and necessary process. Power is neutral in the sense that it is a collective exerted action to harness energy to do work in order to: a) mine resources (economic and sexual); b) confer prestige (status); c) coordinate action; and d) plan future collective action. Pluralists are uncomfortable admitting power exists and see it as negative. Elitists will see power as negative but inevitable. Marxists are more likely to see power as negative and positive and hold out that in communist society power will be used positively.

Is power over people or with people?

Most people use the term power to mean power over people. What this leaves out is the possibility that people can organize social relations without hierarchies, as the anarchists have pointed out. In this article the power bases and the dimensions of power have been used to have power over people. However, the power base of competency can be used to promote horizontal power relations. To be clear I will define two kinds of power:

  1. Horizontal power—harnessing energy to do work in a way in which all groups control all dimensions of society – technology, economics, politics, and culture. This is most prevalent in egalitarian tribal societies and in some kinds of relationships in industrial capitalist countries. Examples are relations among friends or comrades or collaboration at work between people on the same level. This is power with
  2. Vertical power – harnessing energy to do work in a way where one group monopolizes most or all dimensions of society. Vertical power goes with power over

The pluralists of one-dimensional power will think that power is over people and will try to substitute persuasion in their ideal city hall political engagements. For them, the political is situational. Elitists say there is only one kind of power and that is vertical, power over people. Three-dimensional class theorists see power as potentially power with people as part of the emergence of classless societies.

Is politics a specific form of power or is power a particular form of politics

Power and politics are very closely related but they are not interchangeable. As we have seen earlier in this article, politics is one of eleven power bases. Power is the end and politics is the means. Power is collective, exerted action to achieve outcomes. Politics is a means to control what, when, where, and how people move or don’t move throughout time and space. But other forms of power are necessary in order for politics to be successful. This includes force, coercion, legitimacy, and economic incentives. One-dimensional theories of power, being liberal politically, think power is a form of politics and are less willing to consider that power is pervasive so as to include all the other power bases. Two and three-dimensional theories of power claim politics is a means to power.

What is the relationship between power, persuasion, and control?

As we have seen in the section on power bases, persuasion is a particular form of power, and though its methods are less intense than other power bases, all persuasion involves power. However, not all power uses persuasion. Power can use force, coercion, and sexuality in which no appeal to reason is operating. Control is a particular form of power, specifically political. But as I said earlier, politics requires other power bases for it to be successful. Only pluralists hold out for the prospect that persuasion alone can win people over.

What is the relationship between power and authority? Are power and authority opposites? Is power a form of authority or is authority a form of power?

Again, power is the more general category. Authority usually involves the power base of legitimation. However, authority by itself is not enough. As a college teacher, my students might see me as legitimate, yet without the threat of the symbolic power of a grade, I cannot be assured they will listen to me. In addition, power can be asserted without authority. Ten other power bases can be operating in which the power holder will not have authority yet will be successful. Since pluralists tend to be more optimistic about social relations, they are more likely to think the public will listen to legitimate authorities than elitists or Marxists.

Is power intentional or can it be unintentional?

All power is intentional, but there is a difference between acting in order to achieve a certain outcome and achieving it and recognizing that other effects will unavoidably result. However, so long as the effects were foreseen by the actor, even if not aimed at as such, they still seem to count in the theories of Wrong and Lukes as constituting an exercise of power. This is in contrast to unanticipated and unintended effects which are instances where the situation is no longer under the command of those with power.

Some may object and say that intentional efforts to influence others often produce unintended as well as intended results. Unintended results of power should still be the responsibility of the person or group utilizing power. After all a dominating and overprotective mother does not intend to feminize the character of her son, yet this is what often happens. Isn’t she still responsible, regardless of her intentions? The effects others have on us, unintended by and even unknown to them, may influence us more profoundly than direct efforts.

To insist that power can be validly imputed to an actor only when she produces intended and foreseen effects on others does not consider that she may so also produce a wide range of far more significant unintended and unforeseen effects. Effects that are foreseen but not intended count as exercises of power. Those events which are unanticipated and unforeseen are not the responsibility of the power subject. To claim full responsibility for all effects, intended, anticipated and foreseen, unanticipated and unforeseen is to attribute a divine, all-knowing power to the powerholder and make the concept of power strident and unrealistic. Pluralists are most likely to attribute to powerholders good intentions and the negative consequences of their power to accidents or misunderstandings.

Power wealth and privilege

Having power is deeper than having wealth and prestige. Power uses wealth and prestige to maintain itself and achieve its ends. Wealth is a form of economic resources and privilege will usually go with legitimacy or sexual resources. But power can certainly be successful without them, by using some combination of the other power bases.

Potential vs latent power

Potential power and latent power are also very close, but valuable distinctions can be made. Potential power may or may not be used. When it is not used it has no impact on the anticipated reactions of others. An example is a wealthy miser who chooses to conceal his fortune. Another is someone who has a secret arsenal in his cupboard but does not use it. Latent power has anticipated reactions built in which it may have on others without the power holder having issued a command. Both elite and class theories are more likely to be sensitive to these subtleties.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post The Social Anatomy and Dynamics of Power: Bases, Depth, Scope, and Dimensions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History

When a gruesome six-minute video of Ukrainian soldiers shooting and torturing handcuffed and tied up Russian soldiers circulated online, outraged people on social media and elsewhere compared this barbaric behavior to that of Daesh.

In a rare admission of moral responsibility, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, quickly reminded Ukrainian fighters of their responsibility under international law. “I would like to remind all our military, civilian and defense forces, once again, that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations,” he said, asserting that “We are a European army”, as if the latter is synonymous with civilized behavior.

Even that supposed claim of responsibility conveyed subtle racism, as if to suggest that non-westerners, non-Europeans, may carry out such grisly and cowardly violence, but certainly not the more rational, humane and intellectually superior Europeans.

The comment, though less obvious, reminds one of the racist remarks by CBS’ foreign correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, on February 26, when he shamelessly compared Middle Eastern cities with the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, stating that “Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, (…) this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city”.

The Russia-Ukraine war has been a stage of racist comments and behavior, some explicit and obvious, others implicit and indirect. Far from being implicit, however, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov, did not mince words when, last February, he addressed the issue of Ukrainian refugees. Europe can benefit from Ukrainian refugees, he said, because “these people are Europeans. (…) These people are intelligent, they are educated people. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.”

One of many other telling episodes that highlight western racism, but also continued denial of its grim reality, was an interview conducted by the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, with the Ukrainian Azov Battalion Commander, Dmytro Kuharchuck. The latter’s militia is known for its far-right politics, outright racism and horrific acts of violence. Yet, the newspaper described Kuharchuck as “the kind of fighter you don’t expect. He reads Kant and he doesn’t only use his bazooka.” If this is not the very definition of denial, what is?

That said, our proud European friends must be careful before supplanting the word ‘European’ with ‘civilization’ and respect for human rights. They ought not to forget their past or rewrite their history because, after all, racially-based slavery is a European and western brand. The slave trade, as a result of which millions of slaves were shipped from Africa during the course of four centuries, was very much European. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, 1.8 million people “died on the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade”. Other estimations put the number much higher.

Colonialism is another European quality. Starting in the 15th century, and lasting for centuries afterward, colonialism ravaged the entire Global South. Unlike the slave trade, colonialism enslaved entire peoples and divided whole continents, like Africa, among European spheres of influence.

The nation of Congo was literally owned by one person, Belgian King Leopold II. India was effectively controlled and colonized by the British East India Company and, later, by the British government. The fate of South America was largely determined by the US-imposed Monroe Doctrines of 1823. For nearly 200 years, this continent has paid – and continues to pay – an extremely heavy price of US colonialism and neocolonialism. No numbers or figures can possibly express the destruction and death toll inflicted by Western-European colonialism on the rest of the world, simply because the victims are still being counted. But for the sake of illustration, according to American historian, Adam Hochschild, ten million people have died in Congo alone from 1885 to 1908.

And how can we forget that World War I and II are also entirely European, leaving behind around 40 million and 75 million dead, respectively. (Other estimations are significantly higher). The gruesomeness of these European wars can only be compared to the atrocities committed, also by Europeans, throughout the South, for hundreds of years prior.

Mere months after The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949, the eager western partners were quick to flex their muscles in Korea in 1950, instigating a war that lasted for three years, resulting in the death of nearly 5 million people. The Korean war, like many other NATO-instigated conflicts, remains an unhealed wound to this day.

The list goes on and on, from the disgraceful Opium Wars on China, starting in 1839, to the nuclear bombings of Japan in 1945, to the destruction of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, in 1954, 1959 and 1970 respectively, to the political meddling, military interventions and regime change in numerous countries around the world. They are all the work of the West, of the US and its ever-willing ‘European partners’, all done in the name of spreading democracy, freedom and human rights.

If it were not for the Europeans, Palestine would have gained its independence decades ago, and its people, this writer included, would have not been made refugees, suffering under the yoke of Zionist Israel. If it were not for the US and the Europeans, Iraq would have remained a sovereign country and millions of lives would have been spared in one of the world’s oldest civilizations; and Afghanistan would have not endured this untold hardship. Even when the US and its European friends finally relented and left Afghanistan last year, they continue to hold the country hostage, by blocking the release of its funds, leading to actual starvation among the people of that war-torn country.

So before bragging about the virtues of Europe, and the demeaning of everyone else, the likes of Arestovych, D’Agata, and Petkov should take a look at themselves in the mirror and reconsider their unsubstantiated ethnocentric view of the world and of history. In fact, if anyone deserves bragging rights it is those colonized nations that resisted colonialism, the slaves that fought for their freedom, and the oppressed nations that resisted their European oppressors, despite the pain and suffering that such struggles entailed.

Sadly, for Europe, however, instead of using the Russia-Ukraine war as an opportunity to reflect on the future of the European project, whatever that is, it is being used as an opportunity to score cheap points against the very victims of Europe everywhere. Once more, valuable lessons remain unlearned.

The post Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain

These are snooping, snitching, massive canceling, censorious times.

I just talked with a friend who is in San Francisco who has been working hard as a science teacher. He has opened up the curriculum, has worked to be in his school’s union and he has just gotten married. That’s 55, now, and he has to step down from teaching since the school teacher mandates for California are going into effect January 4 or thereabouts.

He might be against mandates because a mandate is oppressive, a dead-end to critical thinking, critical engagement. The mandates, the masking, the social distancing, the forced PCR tests, the constant fear-fear-fear. He sees what this has done to teaching, teachers, students and staff.

But the cat is out of the bag, because the National Union and his state union all are on the same sheet of Moderna-Pfizer-Fauci music. For a science nerd, someone who ended up in physics at Harvard, who has undertaken teaching high school students science, including physics, well having a one size fits all formula,  without a scientific robust challenge to any theory, sticks in his craw.

Criminalizing thought, that’s what this Planned Pandemic is about: no pushback. We have talked, and I have been the liberal arts dude, with some notion that critical thinking can only be gained from liberal arts within the system of education. STEM is fine, but not in a vacuum. How we got here, today, how we are products of the history of everything.

Here, Hedges and Lowkey, and I am not sure of Hedges’ position on the vaccination mandates, and Lowkey, well, who knows. But the interview is powerful in that both talk about the prison industrial complex, and about education, and about deep thinking, truly. Literacy beyond being a serf of the ruling class and the warehouse employment class system.

Education as a key component of resistence.  Resistence and pushing back on the corporate, elite paradigms. And some of those elites and oppressive paradigms are in academe/academia.

The discussion of topics in science is also something we talked about, how there are off-limits discussion, and we talked about how teachers in the old days, if they were valuable and valiant and honorable and truly mentors, that they were honored. That students and parents looked at teachers as guides, as facilitators of inquiry, learning. Showing the stepping stones to life-long learning. As elements in the pathway from youth to participatory democracy. Giving an open hand to youth as a place of dissident thinking.

But the pressure from this gentleman’s school district, the union, the honchos, is to vax up, mask up, and booster up. Schools, where the least vulnerable are being forced to take not one, not two, but many shots in this grand experiment of the SARS-MERS-CoV2-DARPA kind.

As if refusing to get a vaccination, when he is healthy, and capable of doing his own health screens at home. Imagine, how much the landscape of the Delta, Omicron and now Omega-crons have changed. How it is now a cold, or where oh where do the variants go? The seesaw, yo-yo, 180-degree turnaround of the science. Follow the science.

And he is not going to be forced to vax. And, his 20 years teaching in public school is now ended. i am not sure how much he gets from the 20 year “pension/retirement,” but he states it’s like collecting his unemployment. He has just taken a job at a very very small school.

Charter school, a tuition free charter school covering 7th and 8th grades. Two hundred students. Mostly African-American and Latinx youth. And, my friend says, right now, there is a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to Corona Madness.

You know, no mask mandates, but option. No tracking of health records. No mandates for jabs.

Yet. This is December 30, 2021. The courts have ruled against workers, and the mandates for businesses in places like WA, OR and CA are about to go wide and far. So, he is now ending his public education career.

Newly married, my friend is thinking that he is only biding his time. That the charter school, private, with parents and youth, BIPOC, and in liberal (sic) San Fran-Oakland area will be subject to the mandates.

He thought he’d be retiring at 62 with a semi-decent pension. He doesn’t want to leave the Bay area because he has to. He knows the clock is ticking. He talks of creating a pod of other like-minded teachers to open up a free school. Tutoring.

He knows that I look at things asymetrically. That the reality is this is a universal vaccination, testing, digital dashboard (health, banking, jobs, education, purchases, etc)  future. You can’t get a job without being a member of the test-shot-record-big data frame. No subsidized housing without test-shot-record-big data. Proof of life, test-shot-record-big data frame, for your college course. This proof of compliance, test-shot-record-big data frame, for getting health insurance. Move this test-shot-record-big data frame to car insurance, even getting a driver’s license. Social seruit? Proof of this test-shot-record-big data cohersion compliance.

And, what if these smart students ask my smart friend, their teacher, about virus research, about big tech, about the politics of climate change, and, well, about other things that might go contrary to the test-shot-record-big data frame of things? Questioning any number of paradigms and theories and cultural expectations and prejudices and blind spots? And, these youth, many want to know what they should do after high school. How many will go from a charter school to a public school? How will they navigate mandates? And, what about what to major in if they go to college? Would all those years of school, from age 6 to 22, or to 24 or 28, be worth it? What is the value of things now and what about the future?

We talked about how young people this age want answers, want leaders, want direction, demand options and want to work with alternative solutions to today’s problems, and we know today’s supposed solutions will be problems of tomorrow.

Even questions about climate change, globalization, and where this CoV2 came from. Lab experiment gone bad? Intentional outbreak? These youth are smart.

Elaine DeWar

These kids want answers, and they want to rumble in the jungle, truly, with smart teachers willing to take risks, willing to lead.  Yet, we are in sniping times. We are in superficial thinking times. Black v. White times.

So where oh where do we go with teaching, and now, Charter Schools, and that is one messed up economic and education and investment model in most cases — Dissident Voice, Shawgi Tell!

He talked about getting farther away from urban centers, into red counties, red states, as a way to insulate himself from the inevitable. He is a Marxist, and that has been his huge disappointment — how the left has abandoned questioning authority, science, elites, agendas, mass media, propaganda, prevailing commercial interests, and more!

Of course, we could be dealing with Ayotzinapa, and the Mexican oligarchs and narcos and others hating these rural normal colleges where young people go to learn how to teach in order to teach youth and communities  how to stand up to the powers. Resistance. Worker rights. Land rights!

Mexico: Documentary looks at lives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students — A documentary will premier this week at Mexico City’s Cineteca Nacional on the lives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students. Filmmaker Rafael Rangel says that the full-length documentary, “A Day in Ayotzinapa 43”, featuring first hand accounts of the events and interviews with classmates and family members of the disappeared students, aims to boost awareness of another reality of Mexico that often remains hidden from the broader public.

The petition, which already has more than 1,650 signatures, aims to ensure that the "truth prevails" and that respect is shown to the "memory of the fallen, the injured ... the parents, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and for all those who were directly or indirectly affected by that tragic night." EFE/File

So it goes — we can always find other people’s realities much more dramatically harsh than our own. And, teachers get these shots for other things, and, well, there is so much swirling around about how the bat virus got to this highly infectious state, who had the blood and feces of people who got infected almost a decade ago, who was funding the gain of function research. So so much, here, rightly set straight into a world of skepticism.

But, all of them in on it — the vaccination paranoia is real, and the stories, well, we are in a time of shut down, zero critical thinking, echo chambers, and this is a military propaganda campaign.

How many more shots are we to take now that we are in this Virus World?

Here, Sonia Shah, who I interviewed several times in person in Spokane on the stage and in my radio studio. We are talking January 2020. This is a time capsule moment, since so much has changed in two years:

The number of coronavirus cases has overtaken that of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Officials and scientists are racing to track the path of the virus and develop a vaccine. Twenty-two countries have reported finding people sickened with the virus. The WHO has announced a “public health emergency of international concern.”

We’re in a relatively new era of infectious disease outbreak, said prominent science journalist Sonia Shah. Diseases are sequenced faster and tracked more accurately than ever before – but they also arise more frequently, as humankind and nature collide often and with greater intensity.

Shah knows her way around infectious disease outbreaks – along with the public health, epidemiology, and social consequences surrounding them. She’s the author of the 2010 book The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, along with 2016’s Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.

She sat down with Direct Relief this week to talk about the likely scope of the coronavirus outbreak, the public health response – and the potential impacts.

Direct Relief: Your book, Pandemic, is a look at the major contagious disease outbreaks of modern history, including Ebola, MERS, and SARS. Considering what you’ve seen so far, how does the new coronavirus outbreak compare to other infectious disease outbreaks – in transmission, scope, or public perception?

Shah: It’s obviously one that’s causing a lot of alarm, and there’s been a very vigorous public health response, so in some ways that makes it unusual. There are a lot of outbreaks of a disease where you don’t see a big public health response, so I think that’s actually a positive.

China is doing a lot to contain it. And I think you can debate whether all those measures are worthwhile or not, but there’s no lack of attention to this outbreak.

Direct Relief: How are the epidemics of modern history different from those of, say, the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic? Why are there more frequent disease outbreaks, and what are the challenges of fighting them in the modern world?

Shah: About 60% of these new pathogens that we’re seeing, that have come out in the last 50 years or so, they derive from the bodies of animals. About 70% of those derive from the bodies of wild animals.

And that’s because people and wild animals are coming into novel, intimate contact. That allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into our bodies.

Ebola, Zika virus, SARS, West Nile virus – there are any number of novel pathogens that have emerged in the past few decades that come from the bodies of animals.

Animals and people are coming into new kinds of contact because of a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that we are essentially destroying so much wildlife habitat.

What that means is a lot of animals are going extinct, but the ones that remain have to crowd into ever-tightening little patches of habitat that we leave for them. That’s more frequently not in some distant, intact forest. Instead, it’s our farms and gardens and our towns and cities.

Direct Relief: Are we better at fighting infectious disease over the past couple of decades?

Shah: I think there are some ways in which we’re getting better. The fact that we had a diagnostic for this new coronavirus so fast, that’s amazing, and that means that you can track it.

I think in terms of scientific collaboration, discovery of how these pathogens work, diagnostics, and genotyping, those are happening a lot faster now as the technology gets better. We just have so much more knowledge.

But then I think there are valid questions to be asked about whether we’re using that knowledge effectively. Just because we can know that this novel coronavirus is causing this pneumonia – not some other pathogen – is that actually helping us to contain it, or not?

I don’t think we know the answer to that question yet, and we won’t for some years, until after this whole thing blows over and we have time to analyze how it went down.

We saw this in Haiti with the cholera outbreak after the [2010] earthquake. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and it was possible for people to map how cholera was spreading just based on cell phone data.

They could see, “OK, it’s coming down this road, it’s going to be going down this trucking route, it’s probably going to lead to this village in the next week or two.”

All of that…was amazing, scientifically, but it didn’t actually help anyone prevent cholera from breaking out. We knew it was coming, but it happened anyway.

Direct Relief: Why do you think this virus has inspired such a media frenzy and such widespread fear?

Shah: I think there are some good reasons. One is that it’s similar to SARS – it’s a coronavirus, like SARS – and we know that SARS was very virulent and it spread pretty well and it got pretty far. It got to dozens of countries really rapidly and killed 800 people, and this virus is in the same family.

That said, it’s a pretty big family. There are some coronaviruses that are very mild and some that are very virulent, so just the fact that it’s in that family of viruses doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to kill a lot of people.

And I think the other good reason is that it’s respiratory. There isn’t a lot of evidence that we know how to control the spread of respiratory illnesses. Seasonal flus every year take out hundreds of thousands of people.

We try. We have vaccines, we tell people to wash their hands, we tell people to stay home when they’re sick. Do they make any headway at all? It’s hard to know. With the huge scale of flu every year, it would be hard to argue that those measures actually work.

Direct Relief: If coronavirus continues to spread into a pandemic on the level of SARS, what are the likely long-term economic and social impacts?

Shah: There’s going to be huge economic fallout from this. It’s only just starting. SARS had a huge economic impact, and that wasn’t nearly as widespread as this thing will probably be. China is clamping down on its trade routes and travel routes. How do you function in a global economy without China? We don’t know.

All of these outbreaks, when they go global, just show us again and again how interconnected we are, and how much we really rely on each other for all of our essential services.

Direct Relief: Why do you say it’s going to be bigger than SARS?

Shah: Well, because it’s only just starting. New outbreaks are being seeded right now. We know 5 million people left Wuhan before the travel restrictions were put into place, and that’s a lot of people.

Each of those people could seed new outbreaks if they are carrying the virus, and I think we’re seeing the first signs of that.

It appears to be carried by people who are non-symptomatic. That means it’s going to be really hard to contain it. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the peak or end of this thing. If it goes on on the current trajectory it’s going to be bigger than SARS.

[The virus is] not necessarily more deadly. It always seems more virulent at the beginning, because all you see are the worst cases. So as we get more information, it will probably become clear to us that it’s less virulent than we originally thought, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a huge toll.

Because if something’s really catchy, even if it’s only slightly more deadly than a regular flu or respiratory illness that we’re used to, a lot of people can get sick and can die.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Science, and science journalists. Interesting — “The Coronavirus in Context: A Q&A with Sonia Shah, Author of Pandemic

 

Sonia Shah delivering a TEDMED talk. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Shah)

How does my friend field questions from youth who are on the Internet, who are on social media and the dark web and so on? How does the world shape up with all these curriculum controls, when at times, our times seem chaotic, and fearful? Youth are directionless. Attacked by Democrats and Republicans.

Biggest issues with youth is “the GAD” — generalized anxiety disorder. Big problems with the dirty water, dirty air, polluted food, contaminated oceans and repulsive airwaves and entertainment rackets.

My friend is on his journey, and he is fighting for his small family’s survival. This is not what many of us thought would play out in our lives in our 50s and 60s, but in reality Western Lives/Western Culture/Western Privilege has come at a price — all those billions of people we have stolen futures from. Capitalism. Rapacious consumerism. Rapacious tourism. Wars, war machines, subjugation by proxy.

From 10 years ago — Haeder and Real Change News, Seattle!

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Alas, privatizing schools, for investment and control, especially children, BIPOC, to militarize and technotize their minds, is the goal. Check out this site: Network for Public Education!

And, here, again, Alison McDowell, on monetizing poverty, struggle, students, for not just social control, but Internet of Bodies control.

The post Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The left’s contempt for bodily autonomy during the pandemic is a gift to the right

When did parts of the left get so contemptuous of the principle of “bodily autonomy”? Answer: Just about the time they started fetishising vaccines as the only route out of the current pandemic.

Only two years ago most people understood “bodily autonomy” to be a fundamental, unquestionable human right. Now it is being treated as some kind of perverse libertarian luxury, as proof that the “deplorables” have been watching too much Tucker Carlson or that they have come to idealise the worst excesses of neoliberalism’s emphasis on the rights of the individual over the social good.

This is dangerous nonsense, as should be obvious if we step back and imagine what our world might look like had the principle of “bodily autonomy” not been established through centuries of struggle, just as were the right to vote and the right to health care.

Because without the principle of bodily autonomy, we might still be dragging virgins up high staircases so that they could be sacrificed to placate the sun gods. Without the principle of bodily autonomy, we might still be treating black people like animals – chattel to be used and exploited so that a white landowning class could grow rich from their enforced labours. Without the principle of bodily autonomy, we might still have doctors experimenting on those who are “inferior” – Jews, Romanies, Communists, gays – so that “superior races” could benefit from the “research”. Without the principle of bodily autonomy, we might still have the right of men to rape their wives as one of the unwritten marital vows.

Many of these battles and others were won far more recently than most of us care to remember. I am old enough to recall listening in the car on the way to school to “serious” debates on BBC Radio 4 about whether it was justifiable for the courts to presume a husband’s right to rape his wife.

Arguments about whose bodily autonomy has primacy – a woman’s or the foetus she is carrying – are at the heart of ongoing and inflammatory abortion debates in the United States. And protection of bodily autonomy was the main reason why anyone with an ounce of moral fibre opposed the US torture regime that became normalised in the war on brown people known as the “war on terror”.

Bad faith

There is good reason why, in western societies, vaccination uptake is lowest among ethnic minorities. The clues are embedded in the three preceding paragraphs. Powerful nation-states, run by white elites for the benefit of white elites, have been trampling on the bodily autonomy of black and brown people for centuries – sometimes because those elites were indifferent to the harm they were causing, and sometimes because they professed to be helping these “inferior” peoples, such as in the “war on terror’s” promotion of neoliberal “democracy” as the grounds for invading countries whose oil we coveted.

The pretexts change but the bad faith is the same.

Based on their long histories of suffering at the hands of western, colonial states, black and brown communities have every reason to continue assuming bad faith. It is not solidarity, or protecting them, to ignore or trivialise their concerns and their alienation from state institutions. It is ugly arrogance. Contempt for their concerns will not make those concerns evaporate. It will reinforce them.

But, of course, there is also something arrogant about treating the concerns of ethnic minorities as exceptional, patronising them by according them some kind of special dispensation, as though they need indulging on the principle of bodily autonomy when the rest of us are mature enough to discard it.

The fact is each generation comes to understand that the priorities of its ancestors were misplaced. Each generation has a powerful elite, or a majority whose consent has been manufactured, that luxuriate in the false certainty that bodily autonomy can be safely sacrificed for a higher principle. Half a century ago the proponents of marital rape argued for protecting tradition and patriarchal values because they were supposedly the glue holding society together. With 50 years’ hindsight, we may see the current debates about vaccine mandates – and the completely unscientific corollary that the unvaccinated are unclean and plague carriers – in much the same light.

The swelling political consensus on vaccine mandates intentionally ignores the enormous spread of the virus after two years of pandemic and the consequent natural immunity of large sections of the population, irrespective of vaccination status. This same consensus obfuscates the fact that natural immunity is most likely to prove longer-lasting and more effective against any variants of Covid that continue to emerge. And the consensus distracts from the inconvenient fact that the short-lived efficacy of the current vaccines means everyone is potentially “unclean” and a plague carrier, as the new variant Omicron is underscoring only too clearly.

No solidarity

The truth is that where each of us stands on the political divide over bodily autonomy says less about how much we prioritise human rights, or the social good, or solidarity with the weak and powerless, and much more about other, far less objectively rational matters, such as:

  • how fearful we are personally about the effects of Covid on ourselves or our loved ones;
  • whether we think the plutocrats that run our societies have prioritised the social good over the desire for quick, profit-making technological fixes, and the appearance of strong leadership and decisive action;
  • how sure we are that science is taking precedence over the interests of pharmaceutical corporations whose profits are booming as our societies grow older and sicker, and whether we think these corporations have captured our regulatory authorities, including the World Health Organisation;
  • whether we think it helpful or dangerous to scapegoat an unvaccinated minority, blaming it for straining health services or for the failure to eradicate a virus that is, in reality, never going away;
  • and, especially in the left’s case, how reassured we are that non-western, official “enemy” governments, such as Cuba, China, Russia and Iran, have thrown most of their eggs into the vaccine basket too – and usually as enthusiastically as western societies.

It is possible, however, that the way our technological, materialist world has evolved, ruled by competitive elites in nation states vying for power, means there was always likely to be a single, global conception of how to end the pandemic: through a quick-fix, magic bullet of either a vaccine or a drug. The fact that nation states – the “good” and “bad” alike – are unlikely to think outside this particular box does not mean it is the only box available, or that this box must be the one all citizens are coerced into.

Basic human rights do not apply only in the good times. They can’t just be set aside in difficult times like a pandemic because those rights are a nuisance, or because some people refuse to do what we think is best for them. Those rights are fundamental to what it means to live in a free and open society. If we get rid of bodily autonomy while we deal with this virus, that principle will have to be fought for all over again – and in the context of hi-tech, surveillance states that are undoubtedly more powerful than any we have known before.

Coerced vaccination

It is wrong, however, to focus exclusively on bodily autonomy. The undermining of the right to bodily autonomy is slipping into an equally alarming undermining of the right to cognitive autonomy. In fact, these two kinds of autonomy cannot be readily disentangled. Because anyone who believes that people must be required to take a vaccine will soon be arguing that no one should be allowed to hear information that might make them more resistant to vaccination.

There is an essential problem about maintaining an open and honest debate during a time of pandemic, which anyone who is thinking critically about Covid and our responses to it must grapple with every time they put finger to keyboard. The discourse playing-field is far from level.

Those who demand vaccine mandates, and wish to jettison the principle of bodily autonomy as a “medical” inconvenience, can give full-throated voice to their arguments in the secure knowledge that only a few, isolated contrarians may occasionally dare to challenge them.

But when those who value the principle of bodily autonomy or who blanch at the idea of coerced vaccination wish to make their case, they must hold back. They must argue with one arm tied behind their backs – and not just because they are likely to be mobbed, particularly by the left, for trying to widen the range of arguments under consideration in what are essentially political and ethical debates masquerading as scientific ones.

Those questioning the manufactured consensus – a consensus that intentionally scapegoats the unvaccinated as disease carriers, a consensus that has once again upended social solidarity among the 99 per cent, a consensus that has been weaponised to shield the elites from proper scrutiny for their profiteering from the pandemic – must measure every word they say against the effect it may have on those listening.

Personal calculations

I place a high value on autonomy, of both the cognitive and physical varieties. I am against the state deciding for me what I and you are allowed to think and say, and I am against the state deciding what goes into my and your body without our consent (though I also recognise that I have little choice but to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, and eat chemically altered food, all of which have damaged my and your immune systems and made us more susceptible to viruses like Covid).

But at the same time, unlike the vaccine mandate mob, I never forget that I am responsible for my words and that they have consequences, and potentially dangerous ones. There are a significant proportion of people who almost certainly need to be vaccinated, and probably regularly, to avoid being seriously harmed by exposure to the virus. Any responsible writer needs to weigh the effect of their words. I do not wish to be responsible for making one person who would benefit from a vaccine more hesitant to take it. I am particularly wary of playing God during a pandemic.

However, my reluctance to pontificate on a subject on which I have no expertise – vaccine safety – does not confer a licence on others to command the debate on other subjects about which they appear to know very little, such as medical and political ethics.

The fact is, however much some people would be best advised to take the vaccine, there is a recognised risk involved, even if we are not supposed to mention it. The long-term safety of the vaccines is unknown and cannot be known for several more years – and possibly for much longer, given the refusal of the drug regulators to release vaccine data for many more decades.

The vaccine technology is novel and its effects on the complex physiology of the human body and the individual vagaries of each of our immune systems will not be fully apparent for a long time. The decision to take a new type of vaccine in these circumstances is a calculation that each individual must weigh carefully for themselves, based on a body they know better than anyone else.

Pretending that there is no calculation – that everyone is the same, that the vaccines will react in the same manner on every person – is belied by the fact that the vaccines have had to be given emergency approval, and that there have been harsh disagreements even among experts about whether the calculation in favour of vaccination makes sense for everyone, especially for children. That calculation is further complicated by the fact that a significant section of the population now have a natural immunity to the whole virus and not just vaccine-induced immunity to the spike protein.

But stuffing everyone into a one-size-fits-all solution is exactly what bureaucratic, technocratic states are there to do. It is what they know best. To the state, you are I and just a figure on a pandemic spread-sheet. To think otherwise is childish delusion. Those who refuse to think of themselves as simply a spread-sheet digit – those who insist on their right to bodily and cognitive autonomy – should not be treated as narcissists for doing so or as a threat to public health, especially when the immunity provided by the vaccines is so short-lived, the vaccines themselves are highly leaky, and there is little understanding yet of the differences, or even potential conflicts, between natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Perpetual emergency

Nonetheless, parts of the left are acting as if none of this is true, or even debatable. Instead they are proudly joining the mob, leading the self-righteous clamour to assert control not only over the bodies of others but over their minds too. This left angrily rejects all debate as a threat to the official “medical” consensus. They insist on conformity of opinion and then claim it as science, in denial of the fact that science is by its nature disputatious and evolves constantly. They cheer on censorship – by profit-driven social media corporations – even when it is recognised experts who are being silenced.

Their subtext is that any contrary opinion is a threat to the social order, and will fuel vaccine hesitancy. The demand is that we all become worshippers at the altars of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, at the risk otherwise of being denounced as heretics, as “anti-vaxxers”. No middle ground can be allowed in this era of perpetual emergency.

This is not just disturbing ethically. It is disastrous politically. The state is already massively powerful against each of us as individuals. We have collective power only in so far as we show solidarity with each other. If the left conspires with the state against those who are weak, against black and brown communities whose main experiences of state institutions have been abusive, against the “deplorables”, we divide ourselves and make the weakest parts of our society even weaker.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn understood this when he was one of the few on the left to publicly resist the recent move by the UK government to legislate vaccine mandates. He rightly argued that the correct path is persuasion, not coercion.

But this kind of mix of reason and compassion is being drowned out on parts of the left. They justify violations of bodily and cognitive autonomy on the grounds that we are living in exceptional times, during a pandemic. They complacently argue that such violations will be temporary, required only until the virus is eradicated – even though the virus is now endemic and with us for good. They silently assent to the corporate media being given even greater censorship powers as the price we must pay to deal with vaccine hesitancy, on the assumption that we can reclaim the right to dissent later.

But these losses, in circumstances in which our rights and freedoms are already under unprecedented assault, will not be easily restored. Once social media can erase you or me from the public square for stating real-world facts that are politically and commercially inconvenient – such as Twitter’s ban on anyone pointing out that the vaccinated can spread the virus too – there will be no going back.

Political instincts

There is a further reason, however, why the left is being deeply foolish in turning on the unvaccinated and treating the principles of bodily and cognitive autonomy with such contempt. Because this approach  sends a message to black and brown communities, and to the “deplorables”, that the left is elitist, that its talk of solidarity is hollow, and that it is only the right, not the left, that is willing to fight to protect the most intimate freedoms we enjoy – over our bodies and minds.

Every time the left shouts down those who are hesitant about taking a Covid vaccine; every time it echoes the authoritarianism of those who demand mandates, chiefly for low-paid workers; every time it refuses to engage with – or even allow – counter-arguments, it abandons the political battlefield to the right.

Through its behaviour, the shrill left confirms the right’s claims that the political instincts of the left are Stalinist, that the left will always back the might of an all-powerful state against the concerns of ordinary people, that the left sees only the faceless masses, who need to be herded towards bureaucratically convenient solutions, rather than individuals who need to be listened to as they grapple with their own particular dilemmas and beliefs.

The fact is that you can favour vaccines, you can be vaccinated yourself, you can even desire that everyone regularly takes a Covid vaccine, and still think that bodily and cognitive autonomy are vitally important principles – principles to be valued even more than vaccines. You can be a cheerleader for vaccination and still march against vaccine mandates.

Some on the left behave as if these are entirely incompatible positions, or as if they are proof of hypocrisy and bad faith. But what this kind of left is really exposing is their own inability to think in politically complex ways, their own difficulty remembering that principles are more important than quick-fixes, however frightening the circumstances, and that the debates about how we organise our societies are inherently political, much more so than technocratic or “medical”.

The right understands that there is a political calculus in handling the pandemic that cannot be discarded except at a grave political cost. Part of the left has a much weaker grasp of this point. Its censoriousness, its arrogance, its hectoring tone – all given cover by claims to be following a “science” that keeps changing – are predictably alienating those the left claims to represent.

The left needs to start insisting again on the critical importance of bodily and cognitive autonomy – and to stop shooting itself in the foot.

The post The left’s contempt for bodily autonomy during the pandemic is a gift to the right 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!

 

 

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

Masters of Illusion: Sociopathy from the Very Rich on Down

Nothing Changes With the Rich!

You just can’t make this stuff up as a fiction writer (also, see below, at the end of this piece**). Demonic, but sturdy. Boring actuarial folk, or in this guy’s case, making loot illegally in the legal channel that is Illegal Wall Street:

Thomas Peterffy became one of the world’s richest people by mastering risk on Wall Street. Building his Mediterranean-style mansion seven years ago on a vulnerable stretch of Florida’s Palm Beach Island was a matter of seeing the odds clearly once again. The consequences of climate change will play out over decades, and Peterffy is 76 years old.

“I don’t have a care about it at all,” he said over lunch at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, just down the street from his home. “If something needs to be done to save it,” he added, “it’s not going to be my problem.” The founder of Interactive Brokers Group has a fortune of more than $21 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Thomas Peterffy with Lynne Wheat in Palm Beach in 2017 (Nick Mele/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

Glaser is building a new waterfront mansion designed by architect Kobi Karp, replacing a now-demolished estate owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
Seawall installation at property on the intracoastal in Palm Beach.

Nice guy, uh? And even younger ones, in the billionaire class, they whisper that, though they do have bullshit smoke and mirrors philanthropies and foundations to, well, shelter taxes and corrupt the world more with their sociopathy. In the old days, it would have been, “Eat the Rich,” “Kill the Rich,” “Banish the Rich.” Now, though, since they have created a vampire class of millionaires and media mental midgets with millions stashed away, the Rich Are a Protected Class. Until we get daily reminders of the collective insanity of Western culture, Western capitalism, Western cults. This is the rich, giving a damn about the future, or, spending millions and billions on their vaults and prison garden homes. Then, there are 10,000 in Del Rio, Texass:

a group of people in a forest: Large Migration Surge Crosses Rio Grande Into Del Rio, Texas

The temporary camp has grown six-fold since Monday and more migrants are expected in the coming days. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano made a disaster declaration Friday. “I had thought that the alarm was sent on Monday. This is setting the nuclear bomb alarm that this is no longer sustainable or acceptable,” he said. Congressman Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican, is calling on the Biden administration to come up with a solution for the chaos. “Please get engaged, get involved, do something. This is unsustainable. This is not America. This is not the way things should be,” he said. “Folks are coming over and across as if there is no border.” Also Friday, CBP closed the Del Rio Port of Entry and re-routed traffic.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

I have years of writing about and researching urban planning, regional planning, all the gold, silver, platinum of LEED/Sustainability/New Urbanism building. It is a mighty thing to have a few degrees from elite schools (my schools, they are not elite), and then getting placed into the star chambers of planning, architecture and design. To the point of, the Eichmanns are deep into this lie, and there is really, the way they want smart cities and internet of bodies for the future, no global warming, no global climate chaos, no collapsing systems, water shortages, deaths in the millions annually just from air pollutants. No deaths in the hundreds of thousands because of higher and higher bulb temperatures. No reality about water shortages, failing sewage treatment, endless fires, pests-poisons-pestilence vis-a-vis profits at any cost, at costs to anyone or anything, albeit, not against the elite and star chamber folk. The reality is if you believe in capitalism, in all for one, or that technology is going to get us out of the muck, then, you are a denier. The worse kind!

If this doesn’t tell it all, here we are, the great profession (sic) of planners (misshapers, building and real estate protection racketeers) having yet another fake event, virtually. Imagine that, so planners are supposed to be on the land, in the muck, in neighborhoods, looking at systems, ecosystems, people, communities, towns and mega-cities, and, here the gutless wonders are, well, hiding again, in underwear and Snoopy slippers. This was a group I was sort of a member of when I was getting my graduate degree in , well, urban and regional planning:

Save the Date: 2021 OAPA/APA WA Virtual Joint Planning Conference

The 2021 conference continues with the theme of Growing Together Virtually, recognizing the importance and challenges of planning for evolving communities, large and small, in these challenging and polarizing times. The conference will offer more sessions than last year, allowing for greater variety in session content.

Oh, in polite company, we can’t call this a bunch of fucking shit, no? All the communities now within communities, the so-called subcommunities, struggling with forced jabs, forced passports, forced scrutiny, forced surveillance, facial recognition just to enter a football game or concert. Work, sure, servicing those maskless wonders with masks on, but not enough cash to pay the rent, or, all the cash for the rent. No health care, nothing of those safety nets that the RICH have, and do not get goofy on me to profess that the rich do not have entire lobbies upon lobbies in their sophisticated protection racket. The planners — many of them looking for sustainability and gardens and walkability and healthy small downsized living — in the end buckle under the weight of bureaucracy and the rich and powerful controlling the narrative and their own money stream. Look, I understand that every arena I have entered into since, oh, age 13, those places are sacred to liberals, lights, conservative, lights, and that I would also be an outlier or outcast anywhere, or the enemy in some regard, but now, it is way beyond “enemy” or “persona non grata” I represent. It is a matter of outcasting, men, an untouchable, while the APA-WA branch, peddles more lies, meaningless doublespeak:

“What is Planning? Planning is a dynamic profession that works to improve the welfare of people and their communities. Professional planners make great communities happen by working with civic leaders, businesses, and citizens to envision new possibilities and solutions to community problems.”

I wonder what the planners might do around those Haitians, all those cities that are in disrepair, all the rough sleepers, the homeless-in-vehicles, the sheltered-in-basements/garages/hotels. How to plan, man, those smart cities, those hipster places, those virtual venues, the Zoom Rooms, the isolation chambers, the places of mediocrity sold as cutting edge Musk-Apple joints. Imagine, maybe in a year, the Planners can hook into the Bezos Ejaculatory Space Suit Freaks, and have a live feed with Bezos and ask him what’s next in planning cities around his Gestapo-Gulag-Retail-Surveillance-Cloud world. In so many ways, I found the planning profession to be vapid, dead of creativity, and certainly no rabble rousers or deep thinkers in the bunch. They talk a good talk, but in the end, their jobs are the work of the real estate, developer, building and construction lobbies, and the planners I know would never speak up at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. They are the epitome of Eichmann, updated and retrofitted for Cancel Culture and Oh So Hip Stylists.

How about his Salem group, Salem for Refugees? You think planners would want to create grants for people like me to study the dynamics of community building-engagement-employment around these newest immigrants?


With the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, thousands of people are fleeing their home and looking for protection in the US. We have been preparing for refugees and SIV cases. Now we are preparing to also provide resettlement services for individuals who have been identified as special risk (journalists, NGO workers, humanitarian workers, political activists, etc.). Due to the rapid nature of the situation, this group of individuals will have a special Parolee status which will allow for immediate work authorization but limited access to State social services or Medicaid benefits. We need your help in bridging this gap and providing for the needs of these people. In an effort to bring Afghan Evacuees to Salem, the State Department has given us an early approval as an affiliate of World Relief and we are now an official Resettlement Agency! We will begin receiving cases through the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program and in January for all other refugees through the Reception and Placement program!

The good old days when we truly hated the rich:

In 1920, Wall Street reporter Edwin Lefèvre derided “some wretchedly rich people” in a Post article called “The Annoyances of Being Rich Today.” Without naming names, Lefèvre detailed conversations with bankers and heirs about their gripes with imperfect service and ungrateful butlers. One rich man told the author that he feared a revolution was afoot after he asked a waiter for bread and — instead of silent obedience — the response came: “Sure thing!” Others complained about accusations of vanity or the prospect of their service staff seeking higher wages.

Lefèvre sums up the groans of the plutocrats by casting wealth as a sort of illness:

I am convinced that there is a definite social disease which we may call gold poisoning. When a man has too much gold, some of it gets into the system; through the pores, it almost seems. It causes deafness and affects the sight. These ailments, gold deafness and gold blindness, are responsible for most of the annoyances of which the stricken rich so bitterly complain today. Instead of seeing or hearing, they are merely aware of a rumbling sound—the tread of their fellow men marching toward them, armed with bombs, bitterness, and taxes.

Newspaper article

John Stuart Mill called the rich, “the unearned excrement.” Oh, what a day it would be to see that again, lifted up high, daily, in the media, but this is a world of valorizing the rich, listening to the liars and grifters — the thespians — and all the handlers, the hangers-on the rich-super rich employ to massage their messages.

Larry Glickman, a professor of history at Cornell University, says he has used this clip in one of his classes to illustrate the criticism of so-called robber barons of the late nineteenth century: “In the Gilded Age, ‘capitalist’ was really a term given by its enemies to people who had earned wealth in an unfair, immoral way, so a lot of small business men said something similar to what Hickenlooper said.” Glickman says the distrust of robber barons (or capitalists) comes back to the question of hard work. “There was this idea that you had labor producing things, and that accumulating wealth through honest production was a good thing,” he says, “but there was a new class of people called capitalists getting their wealth through unproductive, exploitative ways.” (Saturday Evening Post).

** So, Bloomberg the Billionaire with Billionaire Bloomberg News, has the answer for inequities, which in any other language is, well, wage theft, tax fraud, tax evasion, thievery of a general nature, war profiteering, penury, slave/sweatshop economy. The news just continues with these abhorrent items:

Amazon’s massive new distribution centers, soon to be surrounded by infrastructure built to serve workers, are being compared to Gilded Age company towns. While many are aghast at the idea, fellow billionaires are praising it.

The e-commerce empire founded by Jeff Bezos will offer the American working class a better option than scraping to get by in increasingly expensive cities, investment adviser Conor Sen wrote in a Friday oped for Bloomberg, the financial news outlet whose namesake is billionaire former New York mayor and failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

“Let’s call them ‘factory towns,’” Sen suggests, apparently in an effort to avoid the baggage that accompanies the concept of “company towns.” Popular in the late 19th century among the new breed of mega-corporations – railroads, steel mills, and the like – many of these dormitory communities held workers as veritable prisoners, paying them in scrip that was only redeemable at the company-run store and retaining groups of thuggish Pinkerton “detectives” to stamp out any attempts to unionize. (source)

Yet, Bezos is a joke with the power of deflection, the power of the rich to believe his own dirty secrets of domination. No number of jokes piled on by the millionaire comedian class or insightful (sic) commentaries by the millionaire presstitutes can buckle the Amazon formula. Here, the sweatshops of Amazon, providing slaves with, well, boxes of time out:

Amazon offers 'wellness chamber' for stressed staff - BBC News

 

The post Masters of Illusion: Sociopathy from the Very Rich on Down first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Nation of “Thespians”

In late 6th century Athens (BCE), it was all the rage. Introduced by Thespis, “play-acting” quickly attained widespread popularity among Athenians who, like most people, were looking for diverting forms of entertainment to fill the evening hours. On one such evening the aged patriarch Solon, celebrated lawmaker and civic founder, was persuaded to attend a performance. His reaction?: indignation and an angry rebuke to Thespis, who blithely responded that such “play” was harmless, merely a novel pastime. “No!” Solon retorted angrily (here paraphrasing Plutarch’s account), “It is dangerous. Such a tolerance for pretense and deception will end up infecting all our commerce and civic life.” But Thespis merely shrugged — and, some 2500 years later, we now find ourselves enmeshed in a media-sphere of garrulous, deceitful “actors,” all clamoring for our attention as they exhibit their base arts of “persuasion.” Aristotle, in his book on Rhetoric, had warned presciently that the “base” variety of rhetoric seeks to undermine our self-directed judgment in order to manipulate and control our decisions. Much later, in the mid-18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau followed Plutarch’s account of Solon by writing an angry polemic against the establishment of a theater in his beloved Geneva.

Consulting the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, I find that there are some 70,000 “professional actors” in the U.S. (compared to, for instance, 3000 sociologists). Quite obviously, the requisite job skills require playing different roles, displaying (false) emotions, and “sincerely” persuading us to buy sundry products, “lifestyles” — and candidates. With their omnipresence in all performing media, actors have by now become absurdly over-valued as role-models in everyday life. Writing back in the 1940s, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm had already critiqued the rise of a new American character-type: the “marketing personality” — whose looks, smiles and jokes would be “selling points,” not only in politics, but infiltrating all aspects of social engagement. In short, not the real person and his values (if any), but a simulacrum or image fashioned to display pleasing, if insincere, demeanor, attitudes and opinions.

Sociologist Erving Goffman extended this much further, theorizing that social interaction is inherently “dramaturgic” (read: deceptive), and that those engaged in skillful “impression-management” would “get the job” (no matter how incompetent), and “successfully” persuade others (“leadership”) — into, one can now recall, disastrous debt, blood-drenched wars, and “national security” profiteering. Forty years ago, journalist Lou Cannon wrote his aptly titled book President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.  Hitler once boastingly called himself “the greatest actor in Europe.” As media critics from Marshall McLuhan to Jerry Mander have noted, the visual experience of the television-image has further blunted critical faculties, enabling even poorly skilled thespians such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and George W.Bush to nonetheless persuade most viewers of the veracity of their outrageous lies. (This, in part, can also be attributed to the relative credulity of most viewers, who are unlikely to conceive of the magnitude of brazen, cynical insolence exhibited.) Of course, the triumph of pleasing “image” over something called “truth” has long been normalized and accepted. Which candidate “performed” better in that debate (“fact-checks” notwithstanding)? A histrionic, rabble-rousing “performer” — now matter how ignorant, dishonest and uninformed — can provide sufficient entertainment to be elected president (read Trump). By now, movie and TV “celebrities” are often given equal-weight with scientific and scholarly experts, in the “court of world opinion.”

Social media? If mere persons increasingly perceive themselves as commodities to be marketed — whether in “dating” or “employment” — then Facebook ad nauseam were, of course, the logical outcomes of this insidious trend. An artfully contrived “presentation” — looks, “likes,” hyped-up “accomplishments” — may allow for successful competition in the all-encompassing marketplace which is mistaken for the reality of real individuals, struggling and sometimes despairing (behind the figurative mask). Yes, as Solon sadly foresaw, “acting” (aka, dissimulating) would come to infiltrate all social encounters, from hypocritical “concern” to simulated sexual response. Where then, can the individual find nurture and cherish his authentic values and qualities?  In the freedom of solitude: self-awareness and rational judgment — with carefully chosen boundaries against unwelcome “media” intrusions.

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How America Went From Mom-and-Pop Capitalism to Techno-Feudalism

The crisis of 2020 has created the greatest wealth gap in history. The middle class, capitalism and democracy are all under threat. What went wrong and what can be done?

In a matter of decades, the United States has gone from a largely benign form of capitalism to a neo-feudal form that has created an ever-widening gap in wealth and power. In his 2013 bestseller Capital in the 21st Century, French economist Thomas Piketty declared that “the level of inequality in the US is probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past anywhere in the world.” In a 2014 podcast about the book, Bill Moyers commented:

Here’s one of its extraordinary insights: We are now really all headed into a future dominated by inherited wealth, as capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, giving the very rich ever greater power over politics, government and society. Patrimonial capitalism is the name for it, and it has potentially terrifying consequences for democracy.

Paul Krugman maintained in the same podcast that the United States is becoming an oligarchy, a society of inherited wealth, “the very system our founders revolted against.” While things have only gotten worse since then thanks to the economic crisis of 2020, it’s worth retracing the history that brought us to this volatile moment.

Not the Vision of Our Founders

The sort of capitalism on which the United States was originally built has been called mom-and-pop capitalism. Families owned their own farms and small shops and competed with each other on a more or less level playing field. It was a form of capitalism that broke free of the feudalistic model and reflected the groundbreaking values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the rights to free speech, a free press, to worship and assemble; and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.

It was good in theory, but there were glaring, inhumane exceptions to this idealized template, including the confiscation of the lands of indigenous populations and the slavery that then prevailed. The slaves were emancipated by the US Civil War; but while they were freed in their persons, they were not economically free. They remained entrapped in economic serfdom. Although Black and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately oppressed, poor people were all trapped in “indentured servitude” of sorts — the obligation to serve in order to pay off debts; e.g., the debts of Irish workers to pay for passage to the United States, and the debts of “sharecroppers” (two-thirds of whom were white), who had to borrow from landlords at interest for land and equipment. Today’s U.S. prison system has also been called a form of slavery, in which free or cheap labor is extracted from poor people of color.

To the creditors, economic captivity actually had certain advantages over “chattel” slavery (ownership of humans as a property right). According to an infamous document called The Hazard Circular, circulated by British banking interests among their American banking counterparts during the American Civil War:

Slavery is likely to be abolished by the war power and chattel slavery destroyed. This, I and my European friends are glad of, for slavery is but the owning of labor and carries with it the care of the laborers, while the European plan, led by England, is that capital shall control labor by controlling wages.

Slaves had to be housed, fed and cared for. “Free” men housed and fed themselves.  Free men could be kept enslaved by debt by paying them wages that were insufficient to meet their costs of living.

From ‘Industrial Capitalism’ to ‘Finance Capitalism

The economy crashed in the Great Depression, when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government revived it and rebuilt the country through a public financial institution called the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. After World War II, the US middle class thrived. Small businesses competed on a relatively level playing field similar to the mom-and-pop capitalism of the early pioneers. Meanwhile, larger corporations engaged in “industrial capitalism,” in which the goal was to produce real goods and services.

But the middle class, considered the backbone of the economy, has been progressively eroded since the 1970s. The one-two punch of the Great Recession and what the IMF has called the “Great Lockdown” has again reduced much of the population to indentured servitude; while industrial capitalism has largely been displaced by “finance capitalism,” in which money makes money for those who have it, “in their sleep.” As economist Michael Hudson explains, unearned income, not productivity, is the goal. Corporations take out cheap 1% loans, not to invest in machinery and production, but to buy their own stock earning 8% or 9%; or to buy out smaller corporations, eliminating competition and creating monopolies. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis explains that “capital” has been decoupled from productivity: businesses can make money without making profits on their products.  As Kevin Cahill described the plight of people today in a book titled Who Owns the World?:

These latter day pharaohs, the planet owners, the richest 5% – allow the rest of us to pay day after day for the right to live on their planet. And as we make them richer, they buy yet more of the planet for themselves, and use their wealth and power to fight amongst themselves over what each possesses – though of course it’s actually us who have to fight and die in their wars.

The 2020 Knockout Punch 

The final blow to the middle class came in 2020. Nick Hudson, co-founder of a data analytics firm called PANDA (Pandemics, Data and Analysis),  argued in an interview following his keynote address at a March 2021 investment conference:

Lockdowns are the most regressive strategy that has ever been invented. The wealthy have become much wealthier. Trillions of dollars of wealth have been transferred to wealthy people. … Not a single country did a cost/benefit analysis before imposing these measures.

Policymakers followed the recommendations of the World Health Organization, based on predictive modeling by the Imperial College London that subsequently proved to be wildly inaccurate. Later studies have now been done, at least some of which have concluded that lockdowns have no significant effects on case numbers and that the costs of lockdowns substantially outweigh the benefits, in terms not just of economic costs but of lives.

On the economic front,  global lockdowns eliminated competition from small and medium-sized businesses, allowing monopolies and oligopolies to grow. “The biggest loser from all this is the middle class,” wrote Logan Kane on Seeking Alpha. By May 2020, about one in four Americans had filed for unemployment, with over 40 million Americans filing jobless claims; and 200,000 more businesses closed in 2020 than the historical annual average. Meanwhile, US billionaires collectively increased their total net worth by $1.1 trillion during the last 10 months of 2020; and 46 people joined the billionaire class.

The number of “centi-billionaires”– individuals with a net worth of $100 billion or more – also grew. In the US they included:

  • Jeff Bezos, soon-to-be former CEO of Amazon, whose net worth increased from $113 billion in March 2020 to $182 billion in March 2021, up by $70 billion for the year;
  • Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, whose net worth increased from $25 billion in March 2020 to $164 billion in March 2021, up by $139 billion for the year; and
  • Bill Gates, formerly CEO of Microsoft and currently considered the “global vaccine czar,” whose net worth increased to $124 billion in March 2021, up by $26 billion for the year.

Two others are almost centi-billionaires:

  • The net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, grew from $55 billion in March 2020 to $95 billion in March 2021, up by $40 billion for the year; and
  • The net worth of Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway grew from $68 billion in March 2020 to $95 billion in March 2021, up by $27.6 billion for the year.

These five individuals collectively added $300 billion to their net worth just in 2020. For perspective, that’s enough to create 300,000 millionaires, or to give $100,000 to 3 million people.

Philanthrocapitalism

The need to shield the multibillionaire class from taxes and to change their predatory corporate image has given rise to another form of capitalism, called philanthrocapitalism. Wealth is transferred to foundations or limited liability corporations that are designated as having charitable purposes but remain under the ownership and control of the donors, who can invest the funds in ways that serve their corporate interests. As noted in The Reporter Magazine of the Rochester Institute of Technology:

Essentially, what we are witnessing is the transfer of responsibility for public goods and services from democratic institutions to the wealthy, to be administered by an executive class. In the CEO society, the exercise of social responsibilities is no longer debated in terms of whether corporations should or shouldn’t be responsible for more than their own business interests. Instead, it is about how philanthropy can be used to reinforce a politico-economic system that enables such a small number of people to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth.

With $100 billion, nearly anything can be bought – not just land and resources but media and journalists, political influence and legislation, regulators, university research departments and laboratories. Jeff Bezos now owns The Washington Post. Bill Gates is not only the largest funder of the World Health Organization and the Imperial College London but the largest owner of agricultural land in the US.

And Elon Musk’s aerospace manufacturer SpaceX has effectively privatized the sky. Astronomers and stargazers complain that the thousands of satellites it has already launched, with many more in the works, are blocking their ability to see the stars.

Astronomy professor Samantha Lawler writes in a piece for The Conversation:

SpaceX has already received approval for 12,000 Starlink satellites and is seeking approval for 30,000 more. Other companies are not far behind […]

The point of the Starlink mega-constellation is to provide global internet access. It is often stated by Starlink supporters that this will provide internet access to places on the globe not currently served by other communication technologies. But currently available information shows the cost of access will be too high in nearly every location that needs internet access. Thus, Starlink will likely only provide an alternate for residents of wealthy countries who already have other ways of accessing the internet

[…] With tens of thousands of new satellites approved for launch, and no laws about orbit crowding, right-of-way or space cleanup, the stage is set for the disastrous possibility of Kessler Syndrome, a runaway cascade of debris that could destroy most satellites in orbit and prevent launches for decades…. Large corporations like SpaceX and Amazon will only respond to legislation — which is slow, especially for international legislation — and consumer pressure […] Our species has been stargazing for thousands of years, do we really want to lose access now for the profit of a few large corporations?

Public advocacy groups, such as the Cellular Phone Task Force,  have also objected due to health concerns over increased electromagnetic radiation. But the people have little say over public policy these days. So concluded a study summarized in a January 2021 article in Foreign Affairs. Princeton professor and study co-author Martin Gilens wrote:

[O]rdinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. … Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences … of economic elites and of organized interests.

Varoufakis calls our current economic scheme “postcapitalism” and “techno-feudalism.” As in the medieval feudal model, assets are owned by the few. He notes that the stock market and the businesses in it are essentially owned by three companies – the giant exchange-traded funds BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street. Under the highly controversial “Great Reset” envisioned by the World Economic Forum, “you will own nothing and be happy.” By implication, everything will be owned by the techno-feudal lords.

Getting Back on Track

The capitalist model has clearly gone off the rails. How to get it back on track? One obvious option is to tax the uber-rich. As Chuck Collins, author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (2021), writes in a March 2021 article:

A wealth tax would reverse more than a half-​century of tax cuts for the wealthiest households. Billionaires have seen their taxes decline roughly 79 percent as a percentage of their wealth since 1980. The “effective rate” on the billionaire class—the actual percentage paid—was 23 percent in 2018, lower than for most middle-​income taxpayers.

He notes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-​Mass.) and co-authors recently introduced legislation to levy a 2 percent annual tax on wealth starting at $50 million, rising to 3 percent on fortunes of more than $1 billion:

The tax, which would apply to fewer than 100,000 U.S. residents, would raise an estimated $3 trillion over the next decade. It would be paid entirely by multi-​millionaires and billionaires who have reaped the lion’s share of wealth gains over the last four decades, including during the pandemic.

Varoufakis contends, however, that taxing wealth won’t be enough. The corporate model itself needs an overhaul. To create a “humanist” capitalism, he says, democracy needs to be brought to the marketplace.

Politically, one adult gets one vote. But in corporate elections, votes are weighted according to financial investment: the largest investors hold the largest number of voting shares. Varoufakis argues that the proper principle for reconfiguring the ownership of corporations for a market-based society would be one employee, one share (not tradeable), one vote. On that basis, he says, we can imagine as an alternative to our post-capitalist model a market-based democratic society without capitalism.

Another proposed solution is a land value tax, restoring at least a portion of the land to the “commons.” As Michael Hudson has observed:

There is one Achilles heel in the globalists’ strategy, an option that remains open to governments. This option is a tax on the rental income – the “unearned income” – of land, natural resources and monopoly takings.

Reforming the banking system is another critical tool. Banks operated as a public utility could allocate credit for productive purposes serving the public interest. Other possibilities include enforcement of anti-monopoly legislation and patent law reform.Perhaps, however, the flaw is in the competitive capitalist model itself. The winners will inevitably capture and exploit the losers, creating an ever-growing gap in wealth and power. Studies of natural systems have shown that cooperative models are more efficient than competitive schemes. That does not mean the sort of “cooperation” coerced through iron-fisted totalitarian control at the top. We need a set of rules that actually levels the playing field, rewards productivity, and maximizes benefit to society as a whole, while preserving the individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

• This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

The post How America Went From Mom-and-Pop Capitalism to Techno-Feudalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Tim Cook, Apple, and Runaway Limitless Corporate Greed

David Gelles, the New York Times reporter, likes to report about corporate plutocrats raking it in while stifling or endangering their workers. We’ve all seen those large advertisements by big companies praising the sacrifices of their brave workers during this Covid-19 pandemic. When workers ask for living wages, most of these bosses say “No” but take plenty of dough for themselves.

Gelles reports that Boeing, after its criminal negligence brought down two 737 MAX planes and killed 346 people, went into a corporate tailspin. The company laid off 30,000 workers and its sales and stocks plummeted as it reported a $12 billion loss. No matter, the new Boeing boss, David Calhoun, managed to pay himself about $10,500 an hour, forty hours a week, plus benefits and perks.

“Executives are minting fortunes, while laid-off workers line up at food banks,” writes Gelles. Carefully chosen Boards of Directors rubberstamp lavish compensation packages, as they haul in big money themselves for attending a few Board meetings.

It gets worse. Hilton Hotel had many rooms empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But CEO Chris Nassetta made sure his pockets weren’t empty. He was paid $55.9 million in compensation in 2020 or more than a million dollars a week!

Gelles goes on to report that with “the cruise industry at a standstill…,” the Norwegian Cruise Line, “doubled the pay of Frank Del Rio, its chief executive, to $36.4 million.” That is more than $700,000 per week. He must have worked overtime counting empty ships and red ink.

T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint got government antitrust approval with the assurance that more jobs would be created with cost savings. Instead, they’re starting layoffs while awarding CEO Mike Sievert over a million dollars a week. Sometimes, CEOs make more dollars from their company than the entire company itself makes in profits. Companies that lay off workers pay their top executives huge amounts, and still have the avarice to demand and get federal stimulus grants.

On March 22, the New York Times reported a new analysis by IRS researchers and academics about tax evasion by the richest 1% of U.S. households. Taken as a whole, these super-rich don’t even report a fifth of their income, according to this study. The ultra-wealthy get away with this heist by offshoring to tax havens and pass-through businesses. Adding to this unlawful evasion is their upper-class power over Congress to rig the tax laws so they can avoid even more taxes.

The Republicans, by starving the IRS budget and audit staff over the past decade, have aided and abetted enormous tax evasions. Curiously, the cowardly Democrats have not made this an issue in their campaigns against the GOP. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are at stake.

Trump, of course, made matters worse. ProPublica found the IRS audited the poor at around the same rate as the richest Americans.

Big Corporations make out like no mere individuals. Earlier this month, the New York Times told its readers that The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) study revealed: “55 of the nation’s largest corporations paid no federal income tax on more than $40 billion in profits last year.” These companies even received $3.5 billion in rebates from the Treasury Department, so zany are the fine-print tax bonanzas.

Twenty-six corporations paid no federal income taxes since 2017, according to the ITEP study. These included Nike and FedEx.

Corporations get lots of these tax breaks by arguing before Congress that they need them to invest and create jobs. Repeatedly, these promises turn out to be false. Some have called them lies, citing profits totaling over 7 trillion dollars in the past decade being shredded in buybacks of the companies’ own stock.

Apple, whose quasi-monopoly reaps huge quarterly profits, just announced another $90 billion in stock buybacks. Apple doesn’t know what to do with its cash from vastly overpriced computers and iPhones. Apple, not surprisingly, pays very little in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam – despite the U.S. being the land of its birth and source of ample R & D corporate welfare paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

CEO Tim Cook, arguably the most miserly CEO plutocrat in America, turns a deaf ear to health, labor, and environmental specialists pleading with him to address the solid waste of its junked electronic products and pay its serf-labor in China a living wage. These two expenditures would not consume 10 percent of Apple’s enormous profits. To which, Emperor Cook says no dice.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Kimberly A. Clausing, a U.S. Treasury official, said according to the Washington Post, that while other wealthy nations typically raise roughly 3 percent of GDP through corporate taxes, in the United States that share fell to just 1 percent following the 2017 Trump tax cut−all while corporate profits, as a share of U.S. GDP, were setting records.

The usual progressive members of Congress issue denunciations of this whole corporate, ultra-rich tax escape racket. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes, according to Gallup polling. Unfortunately, nothing happens in Congress to address this injustice.

When are the American people going to move on to Congress and their Big Boy paymasters? When the plutocratic class evades taxes, either there are fewer public services, more public deficits, or higher taxes on the middle class. As Joe Biden says – they must pay “their fair share.” People, use your civic muscle to make your members of Congress act and do it, now!

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