Category Archives: Elitism

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.”

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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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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!

The post Tim Cook, Apple, and Runaway Limitless Corporate Greed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Dalit and a Brahmin

“I hear the lower castes are finding this lack of monsoons rather difficult for their crops,” droned Aashka’s father at their lavish supper (as usual), in the midst of her father’s normal dull conversing with the other Brahmins.

The table was long and elegant and filled every night with rich Brahmins, such as Aashka’s family.  Most of them were reserved old men, who hardly spoke to Aashka save for reprimanding her that if she kept up her unladylike behavior she’d surely be reincarnated as a stick bug.  Some women were present, of course, their faces drawn and lifeless as if no thoughts swam behind their dark eyes and extravagant cosmetics.

“I have heard this as well,” said Priest Sadiva, a burly old man at the end of the table.

“It’s as if they have no idea where to find the food that does exist, for looking at this table, it obviously is present if you know where to look.”  He chuckled at his own joke.

“Dalits, Shudras and Vaishyas are being buried by the cartload.” said Priest Safal, a sour man who Aashka always avoided. “But they wouldn’t have achieved Moksha anyhow; they led lives of great disregard for Brahman, the force that brings us all together.”

Aashka felt a familiar itchy heat rising inside her, as if somewhere inside her, a caged starling was struggling to escape.  You didn’t achieve Moksha in your past life either, she thought to herself.

“That’s unfair, Priest Safal, that really is!” she finally blurted. “They are not trying to starve, and they are decent people, just like any of us.”

Aashka looked around the table, as everyone looked sharply up at her.  The women gasped.

If I’m referring to this lot, I’m not sure the phrase ‘Decent like you’ ‘is very effective, a little voice in the back of her brain piped up.

“Aashka,” said her father harshly. “We have not worked hard in our past lives, studying our faith, to achieve Karma like this, to become the religious leaders to our people and compliment those who are below us.”

Priest Safal’s wife spoke up. “Sahistha,” she said, speaking to Aashka’s father. “Children should  be seen and not heard. I am afraid your daughter has no hope of ever achieving Moksha, letting her soul be liberated with Brahman.  She has a complete disregard for Atman.”

That’s more words than she’s spoken all year, thought Aashka.  Then she noticed her stepmother staring at her with a look of cold resentment and embarrassment plastered to her face.  Aashka’s real mother had become ill and passed away just over two years previously, the day before Aashka’s eleventh birthday.  Her father had married again last spring, and Aashka hated him for it.  Her mother had been the nicest thing about her life.

“Servant, please escort Aashka from the table. Thank you. May Brahma bless you.” said Aashka’s father stiffly, with a note of restrained fury in his voice.

The following morning, Aashka woke to find all the other Brahmins gone, and her father praying.  Aashka found her step-mother at the dining room table, being served breakfast by an ungainly young man who kept stumbling, apparently over his own feet.  Without acknowledging the presence of Aashka, her step-mother nibbled away slowly at her meal.  The young man served Aashka Aloo Paratha (flatbread stuffed with potato) and shuffled back towards the kitchen, tripping on his way out.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Aashka.

“Aashka!” scolded her step-mother, her eyes widening into her signature “you’re-on-thin-ice” look.

“Sorry,” said Aashka, “Only, why’d he keep falling over himself?”

Aashka’s stepmother looked over her shoulder to make sure they were alone.

“The stupid boy,” she drawled, “is new on the job and very nervous.”

“We should give him some food.”

Aashka’s stepmother did a double take. “Whatever for?”

“Priest Safal said people of lower castes are being buried by the cartload. And he looks very thin. I’m worried,” said Aashka.

“It’s not for us to mingle with Shudras.”

“I know, I know.  Anyway, may I go out?  I must…must pray at the temple for Brahma to forgive me for my er…rudeness last night.”

“Very well.” Aashka’s step-mother went back to her eating with a somber face.  “And you’ll go again later as well.  You have a lot of apologizing to do.”

Aashka set out to town with half her Aloo Paratha still in her pocket.  She ran briskly, but kept her face down, hoping nobody would recognize a Brahmin girl running in such a rushed and improper fashion.  Aashka was not going to pray near the cattle.

The streets were more crowded than usual, as Aashka neared the poorer side of town.  Shudras were holding bowls out, begging for just a bit of rice.  Dalits were lurking in the shadows, eyes full of what they knew to be unrealistic longing.  Aashka put her hand over the warm flatbread in her pocket, tempted to stop right there and give it to the first person who asked.

No, she told herself. You know someone who needs this badly.

She was beginning to stick out like a sore thumb, and she knew it.  Her clothes were too luxurious to be a member of the lower castes.  People turned to stare at her, shocked that she was still healthy and well-fed-looking.  For most people around here had been getting very thin lately, scarily thin. Dalit boys trudged past with their ribs sticking out like knives.  Girls brushed by with legs jutting out under dresses that were so thin it almost looked like they were floating.

You’re almost there, Aashka told herself,  please don’t get all wish-washy.

For Aashka was what her Mama had called a “mirror-girl.”  Anytime Aashka saw other people feeling sad, she would feel almost as bad as them.  Right now, there were a lot of starving, disconsolate people out, and Aashka felt it was almost too much for her as she plowed on.

She finally reached her destination, a tiny hut at the end of the street, and pushed inside.  A baby was crying in the corner, a woman rocked her back and forth in her thin arms.  A boy stood at the door, relieved at Aashka’s appearance.  The boy was Agavoli.

Agavoli was Aashka’s best friend.  “What was your excuse, this time?” asked Agavoli, with an amused light in his eyes.

“I told my stepmother I was praying at the temple, praying to Brahma to forgive me for my dreadful sins.  She ate it up like a kitten to cream,” Aashka smirked.

Again, Agavoli’s eyes lit up, as if a candle burned within them.  Agavoli never laughed.  You had to know him well to figure out that this was his method of doing so.

“What would you do if she found out?  Or your father, if he found out?”

“I don’t want to think about it.” said Aashka, shaking her head.

Agavoli’s mother, Mrs. Tanwar, bustled over, with Diya, the baby girl of the family, in her arms.  “Oh hello, Aashka dear, so good to see your face during this terrible famine,” she crooned.

Diya let out a gurgly laugh, sucking her thumb.

“Mama!”

“Yes, Diya, I’m Mama.  Good!” said Mrs. Tanwar with a weary smile.

Aashka thought back to the day she met Agavoli’s family.  Her mother had died that morning, forehead blazing, whispering to Aashka, “Continue what I started, dear.”  Aashka had begun to weep long and hard, her body convulsing, making more noise than she ever had.  Then she noticed her father, sitting stiffly, not even crying, just shaking his head back and forth, back and forth.

“You monster!” she had cried. “Don’t you even feel?  Well, don’t you!?!?”

And she had ran out, ran, ran, ran until she stumbled into Agavoli, at the time a complete stranger, who had been running in the opposite direction, crying.  Aashka could tell he was a Dalit from the way he was dressed, but against all she’d been taught, she did not back away.

“What’s happened to you?” she asked timidly.

“What’s happened to you?” Agavoli had countered.

Then Aashka had found out that Agavoli’s father had just died, the same as her mother.

“Aashka! Aashka?”

It was Agavoli.

“Oh, yes, sorry.” said Aashka, coming back to the present.  “I have brought you some food.”

“Ooh!” said Agavoli gleefully, “What is it?”

“Agavoli! Manners!” scolded his mother while Aashka simultaneously pulled out her offering and said, “Aloo Paratha.”

“Sorry mother,” said Agavoli, but in a sidetone to Aashka, “May I have it?”

Aashka handed him the flatbread, and with a look of someone who was rather tempted to disobey, handed it to his mother to be evenly divided.

“Eat up,” said his mother, “I’ve got to go now clean the farm stalls out down the street.”

An hour later found Aashka running up her mansion’s steps, breathing hard but trying to look pulled together, as if she’d just come back from praying, not giving food to her Dalit friends.

But when she got in, her father and step-mother were in an uproar.

“You-you…you!” screamed her step-mother in an unbound fashion miraculously out of character.  (Aashka might have even laughed at it if not for the confusion seeping through her, like a thick fog.)

“Never!” wheezed her father madly, “Never will I let you out of my sight again!  Terrible…my reputation…no daughter of mine…”  And with that, he collapsed into a chair.

“What’s going on?!” cried Aashka, alarmed.

“Oh I think you know what’s going on well enough!” shouted her step-mother hoarsely, “Priest Safal saw you conversing with a Dalit boy, that’s what’s going on!”

Oh noThey’d seen her with Agavoli.  Everything was ruined.  His family would starve without her help.  Oh no!

“W-why was Priest Safal over there?”

“Priest Safal was preaching to a group of dirty Shudras, that’s why!”

Suddenly, Aashka’s father stood up, and grabbed Aashka by the scruff of her neck.  Aashka saw his strong sturdy hand, flying through the air towards her face, saw her step-mother hastily disguising a look of surprise.

SLAP. SLAP. SLAP.

One Week Later

Priest Safal asked, “More deaths by starvation?”

“Oh yes, and the latest is a baby girl,” said Aashka’s father, as he rolled his eyes.  Lately, he had been getting preaching jobs with the lower castes, teaching them the paths to Moksha, which he thought to be a grand waste of time with “people like them.”  Aashka was always being dragged along lately, since she had lost her father’s trust.

“Knowledge – Having a true understanding of all Hindu concepts.  Work – Doing things that are good for your community.  Devotion – Spending your entire life loving Brahma,” she would hear her father say in his deep, leader voice again and again.

But at the mention of a dead baby girl, her ears pricked up with worry.

“What’s the baby’s name?” she piped up.

Her father looked at her warningly.

“Just some worthless Dalit girl named Diya Tanwar.”

“Diya Tanwar?  DIWA TANWAR?!!?” Aashka cried, filling with dread.

Aashka’s father began to turn purple. “I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse us Priest Safal.”

The man waddled away, and then Aashka’s father looked down at her, murderously.

“AND DOES SHE MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU!?”

Aashka hesitated.  Agavoli’s sister was dead.  Agavoli’ sister was dead.

“Actually,” she said, as a lump rose in her throat.  Don’t cry, she told herself.  Don’t you dare.  “Yes she does! She is-was…my best friend’s sister!”

Aashka’s father looked simply livid.  Aashka’s hand flew to the bruises on her face.

“HAVE I NOT TOLD YOU NOT TO MENTION THAT BOY?!” he roared.

“I-I wish I was a Dalit too!”

Aashka’s father went silent. She was reminded strongly of a bomb about to explode.

Aashka looked timidly at her father’s big hands, scared to show her true feelings.

Gogetoutdon’targuejustGETOUT, she told herself.

And she turned on her heels and dashed away to Agavoli.

Six months later

Aashka walked with Agavoli to an empty field.  No sign on it read “graveyard,” but the two of them knew very well that this was where all Dalits were buried.

Agavoli scattered some wildflowers over the meadow and the two of them were silent for a minute as they…remembered.

After Diya died, Aashka’s father had it.  He had sent Aashka out onto the streets with a big basket of food to fend for herself and make sure to not forget ‘Atman,’ the spiritual component of the universe.  Aashka had felt sad at first, which surprised her, but she had known what to do, of course.  She had gone to the Tanwar’s and mourned with them; then they had gotten busy. Traded tears for dried meat to preserve on the walls. Traded sadness for rice. Traded remembrances for cheese that would keep for months. Traded emotions for potatoes.

And nobody seemed to remember Aashka the Brahmin anymore. Upper castes eyes slid from Agavoli to her, disgusted expressions never changing.  Aashka was fine with that.

She prayed every day, whispering to Brahma, “Please believe that I am the good person I claim to be.”

And that was enough for her.

The post A Dalit and a Brahmin first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Lighting up the Elite’s Solutions will Still Smell of Sulphur

I also know that one must do what one can do. No matter how little it is, it is nonetheless a human testimony and human testimonies, as long as they are not based on greed or personal ambition for power, can have unexpected positive effects.…I believe in local action and in small dimensions. It is only in such environments that human creativity and meaningful identities can truly surface and flourish.

Manfred Max-Neef

There are many-many gross things in the news every nanosecond of anti-social media’s and mass mainlining media’s dead from the navel up “stories.”

Imagine, now, the Great White Hope, the Sir David and the Prince William doling out a few million bucks here and there for, drum roll, individuals, companies and agencies that come up with solutions to the world’s environmental problems.

Imagine that, the deeply steeped in eugenics Attenborough, and the DNA-mutated mentally inbred royalty, having people jump through hoops to help move forward the powers that be in capitalism.

Here’s a doozy from this insipidly wet milquetoast PR spin — “We can’t cut down rain-forests forever and anything that we can’t do forever is by definition unsustainable,” says Attenborough. Adding that “if we act now we can yet put it right,” how amazing would that be? We must all act now.

Oh, cry for me, Military Industrial Complex. Nary a word about the Prince’s jets and missiles. Nothing about the deeply embedded complex that holds up the war lords. Again, to repeat – that’s Silicon Valley, that’s fast food, that’s paint, hardware, clothing, IT, telecom, med, media, pharma, oil, gas, nuclear, wires, plastics, satellites,  technical writers, office supplies, water, air, soil suppliers, engineering outfits, lumber, milling, smelting, big earth movers, drone makers, all of those grand pieces and bits that put together this zombie squid of war war war.

You will not hear that in the Attenborough line – no more war machines, soldiers, flyovers, Kings Guards, air-naval-ground-moon bases. Imagine, he states how he was 11 years old with a world population of, drum roll, 2.3 billion (1937).

And, now it’s 7.8 billion, and huge parts of the globe are dead of wild lands and are invaded by, well, you guessed it (but not coming from the Prince’s or Knight’s mouths) – capitalists and empires running their criminal operations for the banks, the investors, the elites. Oh, mining, ag, metals, fossil fuel, minerals, fish, water, data, human lives for the operation that gets old Attenborough flying around the world in his jet-setting ways.

Let’s see, since 1937, hundreds of trillions spent on missiles, NASA/aerospace, satellites, war-war-war; and what else has occurred since wee David grew up to be 94? No mention of the amassing of chemicals, industrial farms, the huge consumer-capitalist bases of seizing power, products, resources and people from other countries, all for god, country, queen, and Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and, pick your bank poison here  ____________! He will not speak of the accumulation of wealth and land and power by his own Anglo-Saxon greedy men of war-debt-slavery.

He wants birth-control, forced sterilization for the dark people, and LEED and zero waste third and fourth homes-castles-island enclaves for the beautiful people. No limits on the beautiful people’s families and 5.6 earths for their lifestyle Earth Footprint.

This is more of the same bizarre stuff – five prizes, $1.2 million each, for 10 years. This is the infantilism of the globe and the great super hero rescuer narrative for the beautiful people who want nothing more than capitalism that pays, has returns on investments and smells-tastes-feels-looks-sounds like green porn.

“We rely entirely on this finely tuned life-support machine” says Sir David Attenborough when describing our little blue planet, in his recently released book and documentary “A Life on Our Planet.” The legendary naturalist and broadcaster, now 94, has spent his entire life traveling the world documenting wildlife, for us to enjoy from the comfort of our living rooms. He is thought to be one of the most well-traveled people on the planet, for The Life of Birds documentary alone, it is estimated he traveled a whopping 256,000 miles. That is the same as traveling around the world ten times. And this was only for one of the eight series he has made for the BBC over the course of almost 30 years. He now joins forces with Prince William with whom he shares a passion for the environment, to help launch the Earthshot Prize. Aiming to be the most prestigious global environment prize, it will be awarded to those who come up with extraordinary ways to help tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges of our planet. [source]

Prince William and Sir David Attenborough launch Earthshot Prize

Quaint. Bad writing. It is like a Jack and Jill nursery tale. Not journalism.

Here’s my email – contact me ASAP, Sir David and Prince Billy. No millions spent on techno fixes, on big giant scoops for ocean plastic, seed storage projects for the moon or mars. No 29 million studies and 29 white papers and a hundred million sad-sack pretzel logic to save the planet. I got the idea, man, and we can distribute that $60 million to sue the shit out of the main perpetrators of poisons. Outfits like British Petroleum? Uh?

Simple stuff, so again, my contact email, Davey and Willie,  is below. Here

Here, my idea — I can think of a massive one weekend event – how about a thousand or 10,000 thousand two-day charrettes. Globally. Giant brainstorming sessions. Giving young people the facilitation tools to come up with a 10-part or 100-part plan to save people, planets, plants, populations of animal species.

Easy, man – with all the shit-show tools of Zoom and satellite feeds and computers and, well, you think that maybe 10,000 teach-ins and brainstorming sessions simultaneously might produce a few common threads, in the countries on the African Continent, North, Middle and South America, Middle East, Far East, Island nations, and more.

Let’s see – I bet with the right engagement, those young students and their tag-along parents and uncles and aunts might be coming up with this:

  • immediate end to military spending
  • utilizing the equipment militaries have for restorative natural, agro-ecological, and community projects
  • no more billionaires
  • no more men and women ruling from the top down
  • no more corporations dictating the size, shape, limits, lifespans of individual humans, ecosystems, bio-regions, nations, and hemispheres
  • massive collective agro-ecological farming to feed the world
  • massive eminent domain for empty buildings, second, third, fourth homes
  • microhome villages served with intergenerational diverse people healing minds-bodies-earth-natural systems
  • a collective and massive global year of strikes
  • the new framework for producing food, producing goods, producing small-locally owned businesses
  • colleges for all, and all departments engaged in connected and holistic teaching . . .
  • no more economy over anything thinking
  • deep ethics taught in all those subjects
  • community schools led by students and people in the communities
  • native and indigenous led governance, land ethic, air ethic, and cultural engagement
  • arts, culture, intergenerational housing, and, alas, no more shit jobs (RIP David Graeber!)

And, more, and can you imagine all those 10,000 community-based charrettes, where people – the young and the very old and the most vulnerable – are not just at the table, but are the facilitators. Sure, the concepts of global heating will be tantamount as well as restorative cultural-economic-spiritual-racial justice.

I am convinced that these youth forums will produce manifestos so similar, so tied to the very idea of “an injury to one is an injury to all” that all the retrograde, violent, and colonized war lord and banking lovers would be pushed out of the realm. Join us, sure.

But imagine now this Earth-Shot prize being something completely different than the old model of “who has the best ideas to fit into the capitalist paradigm to play around with some of the major issues earth and people are facing.”

Solve microplastics? Well, first, now, stop the plastic’s industry and yank them all out of the hands of felons and profit gougers. The packaging industries? Done. The clear cutters, strip miners, mountaintop removers – gone, out of business.

The commodities trading? Gone. The stockholders, the monopolies, the BlackRocks, gone. I believe those 10,000 or 100,000 charrettes and youth-led think tanks and solutions cabals would produce the tools, the language and the spirit of structural global change. Email me, Dave and Billy.

Oh, I know it will be a lot of work, but the young and the very old and the vulnerable are up to the task. There is really nothing else on earth to do but working for the human/animal/plant family and natural world and working collectively so people in the next county don’t suffer while the other county doesn’t suffer.

Precautionary principle, life cycle analysis, and much more-more for an ecosocialist world. Whoops, did I use the term, Socialist?

The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change,
and the disease is the capitalist development model.
— Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007,

The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

Youth who are not completely damaged by consumerism/anti-social media/drugs/epigenetics/Breaking Bad parents are naturally connected to other peoples, and given the space and chance, they are the solutions makers.

No more TED Talk white bread talkers, no more mass mainlining media info-tainment, no more celebrity culture dominating everything, no more-no more.

Again, utilize this shit-show Zoom Doom and media platforms to get these 10,000 or 100,000 teach-ins/charrettes up on all platforms. Imagine, even all those colonized millionaire media fakes, all those prune headed politicians, all those stem-cell sucking CEO’s like Bezos and Zuckerberg, well, they will have to watch, man.

Old Knights and Princes are not the future. The rich and the white race rampaging throughout history in their empires of greed, religion, conquistadors of rape-pillage-theft-murder; those manipulators, those penury-creators, those bamboozlers, the smoke and mirror charlatans, the debt holders, the criminal injustice purveyors, all those blood diamond types, I know for a fact that two day teach-in and charrette, they will be tossed out as anything more than thieves and destroyers.

Give peace a chance? Give the youth the platform, the facilitation, the attention, the manifestos to change this world.  Coming up with some bio-mimic paint that self cleans will not cut it. Global shit in who is at the table, who writes the rules, who brings forth the ideas. N O  M O R E  white guys setting the stage and making the rules.

Oh, what a world it would be, and what would it take to get those 100,000 global charrettes working? Technology. Computers? Some WIFI connections? Email me now, sirs and princes!

Let the youth, the young from lower economic communities, the people of the so-called developing or less developed world make their mark now. Forget about the compostable toilets and home-sited wind turbine.

And this is what the Earthshot Prize aims to do. Just as the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s was a catalyst for new technology such as the MRI scanner and satellite dishes that helped us go to the moon, this prize aims through Earthshot challenges to create a new wave of ambition and innovation around finding ways to help save the planet. The committee has announced it will spend the next 10 years $60 million, awarding annually five, $1.2 million prizes to individuals, organizations and those around the world who are working to provide solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems.

It is no surprise that the dominant global system which is responsible for the ecological crisis also sets the terms of the debate about this crisis, for capital commands the means of production of knowledge, as much as that of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Accordingly, its politicians, bureaucrats, economists and professors send forth an endless stream of proposals, all variations on the theme that the world’s ecological damage can be repaired without disruption of market mechanisms and of the system of accumulation that commands the world economy.

But a person cannot serve two masters – the integrity of the earth and the profitability of capitalism. One must be abandoned, and history leaves little question about the allegiances of the vast majority of policy-makers. There is every reason, therefore, to radically doubt the capacity of established measures to check the slide to ecological catastrophe.

Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

The post Lighting up the Elite’s Solutions will Still Smell of Sulphur first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Another Capitalist Market Brand: Brain Death

America and the world are suffering a crisis of capitalism like no other in recent history. With an economy teetering on a mountain of incredible debt without which it could not continue, and a virus threatening the globe but with the highest death toll in America and even a president leading in gross ignorance about it testing positive, stresses and strains are created that, while showing positive awakening among some to systemic rather than personal problems, also creates negative descents into fantasy among others that make immaterial religious mythology seem like critical examinations of material reality.

Approaching a national election which will, as usual, have nothing to do with criticizing the system but only that it be run in more or less polite if continued murderous fashion, the American minority which will elect the captain of the Titanic long after it has hit the iceberg is torn apart over which side of the coin should win when we need an entirely new currency based on the value of humanity and not the market forces of private profit.

A historically honest president, if more blatantly arrogant, egotistical and pinheaded than usual occupants of the subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was found intolerable by ruling power and a sign of them losing some of their control was his election to run capital headquarters in the USA.  Constantly called a liar by mind managers whose employers are freaked by his obvious display of what this country is — obnoxious, menacing, rich and dumb — his open honesty is intolerable in a government atmosphere which not only demands insistence that this is a special, wonderful, faultless nation, but rhetorical behavior that is able to call mass murder democracy and the reduction of more of the population to near and real poverty the expression of magical market forces.

The new virus, a product of market-dominated nature, is still poorly understood among a medical scientific community in America devoted, as is every other aspect of the economy, to creating private profit before rather than after, if ever, public good. But critics of the severe reactions on the part of some authority sincerely working in the dark but trying to cope with something never encountered before, has led to accepting tales of the innocently bemused and confused, along with more serious and problematic claims from allegedly sophisticated but often bordering on psychotic types, about all manner of lies, plots, conspiracies and manipulations of public consciousness previously unknown to those who’ve been napping for more than this century and have missed the distortions, misinformation, mind management and consciousness control exercised by market controllers of news, and other aspects of what are called democracy at the universal mall.

Thus, the virus is a plot organized by the elders of Zion in league with Google, or an American disease created in a lab in China, while the Chinese were all out eating fried rice, taking naps or shopping for wind chimes, or, a pharmaceutical arrangement to make money – in stark and shocking contrast to any and every other capitalist endeavor in history! — or just regular madness. This, while Russia and China are allegedly interfering online with American’s messages about their lunch, dogs, gossip, elections and other stuff on anti-social Internet sites like bankbook, insta-brain-mash and flip-flop. They are sending subtle political ads that favor one or the other major party candidates in an attempt to subvert a cherished national democracy which has never existed for a microsecond let alone elected a majority president in the nation’s history.

And these mental, physical and even spiritual fantasies come from sources deemed left, right, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, intelligent, thoughtful, deranged, clinically insane, formally educated on the internet by YouTube, or informally educated at colleges and universities. Spreading the fears of capitalist fascism — while excluding the capitalist part — and socialist Marxism while understanding neither, has become the alienating job of a tiny minority whose only definition of either menace is that it is bad and they don’t like it because authority told them it was bad and they shouldn’t like it. This form of voter education has worked in the past to bring us the present crowning achievement of lesser evil politics providing a choice between cancer and polio which assures the disease continues, and that, as always, lots of people profit from it but even more will not. They will become critically ill, die or be driven to extreme actions for survival the longer ruling power of a wealth-beyond-belief minority is allowed to remain enthroned while we are reduced to arguing over whether transsexuals of color or disabled agnostics or Hispanic atheists of no color should be part of the crew of our sinking ship.

The spectacle of an alleged debate between the candidates of the capitalist party with two caucuses, which would have made Beavis and Butthead blush, may have convinced more people of the problems we face which cannot be dealt with by its creators. The fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans did not view the ugly farce is a credit to the consciousness of the truly silent majority, as a near deranged minority of fake left and phony right mobs follow the lead of their minority mind managers and shriek in horror about a fascist attack from white supremacists or a socialist Marxist subversion into mass murder which is likely to result if one or the other lesser evil is not led, carried or wheeled into the oval office. The serious language molestation has led to use and abuse of words like fascist, genocide and white supremacist but they join the criminal use of words like democracy, equality and humanity to cover the direct opposite of those when we rely on vicious combat among individuals in order to put food on the table, roofs over our heads and clothing on our backs. Nothing is free at the temple of the free market.

As this is written the incumbent has tested positive for what he, in his infinite ignorance, calls the China virus. He has his own radically mad interpretations of reality and has not heard the incredibly brilliant notion that the U.S. created the virus but did so in Chinese labs, un-noticed by any of the one billion four hundred million Chinese, especially their allegedly total authoritarian ruling power that controls everything they say or do. Or believe, if you’re an American who, under 24-7 brain molesting by major and minor anti-social media is worried about foreign intervention in our sacred electoral hypocrisy. According to polls, this is the belief of an overwhelming majority of innocents answering to the name “democrats”.

Creeping crackpotism is no longer confined to wacko legions of a pseudo right, which is mostly composed of abused citizens with no place else to go. Presently liberal legions are swept up in fanatic beliefs that make some right wing fantasies almost seem thoughtful. The hope for the future is that the overwhelming majority of Americans who are totally unrepresented by what passes for a supposed left and right will eventually, after not voting for either of the servants of Wall Street, the Pentagon or Israel, demand and take part in the creation of a new party to represent, for the first time, a majority of American people. We need to hurry that process before the tiny ruling minority bring on more friction and unbridled hatred among their larger minority of those most susceptible to derangement because of the deranged mental state inflicted by ruling mind managers and consciousness controllers.

A nation fairly obsessed with mental problems of a trivial nature, all dealt with by a psycho-neurotic marketplace in which some cannot decide what to eat for lunch until they’ve spoken to a therapist, needs to become far more concerned about physical breakdowns occurring with increasing frequency, but we also need to take much better care of our collective mental state, which, under increasing and more irrational by the minute conditions now comes close to reducing the nation to a mental health crisis center.

Whatever the outcome of the November national election, the best news will be that a majority of the electorate, as always, will be sound enough of mind to not vote for the winner or loser, and that soon after, because earth as well as the USA is running out of time, a transformation to a new order will take up more speed and bring about real democracy and a new nation as part of a new world that offers a future for all and not just some of humanity. Remembering, or learning for the first time, that we are all members of the one human race will help us move in the direction of acting as such. Not only our mental health will improve but more importantly the physical foundation on which it depends. That was obvious to our primitive communist ancestors and we need to learn to emulate their cooperative means of survival in modern democratic form. Fast!

The post Another Capitalist Market Brand: Brain Death first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Morning in Hell

It’s the proper morning to fly into Hell.
― Arthur Miller, The Crucible, 1953

One of the greatest delusions of the average man is to forget that life is death’s prisoner.
— Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair, 1934

Increasingly, I think, the American public operates in a mild dissociative state. I wrote about it here (my blog). It is almost as if people are afflicted with a kind of PTSD — only one where the trauma is generalized, relatively low grade, but ongoing.

Any of us who have questioned the Covid narrative have had to put up with an inordinate amount of hectoring, name calling, ridicule, and ostracism. I remember when I signed on the artist appeal as part of the Milosevic Defense Committee, and the abuse and anger I faced whenever this topic came up. People who had no history with the region, knew little of the political landscape, would nonetheless wax irate, furious and near tears that I would hold such outrageous positions. Now a over a decade later two members of that committee have won Nobel Prizes (Harold Pinter and Peter Handke). You would think that might cause people to take a moment, reflect, recalibrate their thinking on the topic. But alas, it rarely does.

The Covid narrative has generated the same near hysterical indignation. The narrative, as it has been constructed by the WHO, CDC, and more likely a dozen or so billionaires (including Bill Gates) is so rife with contradiction and illogic that one might think cracks would begin to show. That many who accept the word of authority in general might, at this point, start to question why none of this story makes sense. But no. Not in America anyway. (or rather, to be more precise, there is a pushback, but it keeps to a low profile lest the little Cotton Mathers of the haute bourgeoisie put one in the stocks). Leave it to America to make the flu into a morality play. However, there are clear signs of people waking up. In Europe certainly.  See here and here.

And not only Germany, doctors and health care professionals in Belgium, too. But the governments are sticking to the story they were handed. In Norway here I still cannot drive to Sweden. Why? Who knows, there is no reason provided. The PM uttered something about better safe than sorry, and staying the course. Everything is discussed this way, in infantile baby talk, gibberish and slogans. Anti-democratic edicts delivered as if by a kindergarten teacher.

Someone wrote to me on social media the other day and said “Not everyone gets to live in Norway. Here we are surrounded by death”. Now he lives in Los Angeles. In a nice west-side area. He is not surrounded by death. Or rather only in his hallucinatory inner theatre of the mind is death present, surrounding him. But this language has a quality I associate with Hollywood. It’s kitsch image making. Never mind it’s literally not remotely true. But this is a version of something that I think happens all the time now. This man is in his own private movie. It is a movie made of diverse parts; there is something from all the various post apocalyptic zombie films (and TV, think Walking Dead).  There is something of Norman Rockwell in there, or even Thomas Kincaid.  There is Dr. Phil and Oprah and the cheapening of emotion. The snarky pedestrian thoughts of a Bill Maher, too.

This is what has come to pass for public intellectuals and intellectual discourse. All are almost impossibly banal. There are parts from a dozen disaster movies, too. I mean literally all the way back to Towering Inferno. And there is, perhaps most significantly, a quality that is harder to define or outline, but which I associate with JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon. It is a quality of comforting superficiality, of controlled threat in worlds of generic cheeriness. Interestingly both were born in NY and are only a year apart in age (mid-fifties). Both have a background in animation and computer generated affects. Both came out of a comic book sensibility and have, more than anyone else in contemporary media, helped to shape the manufactured nostalgia for a fantasy of America. It is the creation of a longing for a past that never was. But both have established a universe of whiteness and equilibrium where the threat is from without. For it cannot be from within because there is no ‘within’. In that sense these are the anti-psychoanalytic purveyors of a youth culture for adults. A comic or cartoon world view in which the sentimental plays an enormous role. It is a world without tragedy or real suffering. And just beneath the surface but always implied, is a respect for authority. It is also a world where one is encouraged NOT to grow up.

The Covid story takes place in a universe of Whedon and Abrams, with parts of The Hunger GamesBreaking Bad, and the films of John Hughes. (Hughes was really the precursor for both Whedon and Abrams). Covid is taking place on the streets where Breakfast Club was filmed. In people’s heads anyway. Covid, the virus, is an overdetermined symbol — and one that only makes even a tiny bit of sense if it is located in these personal streaming sites in your brain. (and I recommend Jonathan Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production). There is a tendency toward fetishization, too, and hence the ubiquitous appearance and opinion of celebrities. It’s bordering on surreal much of the time: Hip Hop moguls are asked about climate change, Silicon Valley billionaires voice opinion on overpopulation or vaccinations, soap opera stars offer thoughts on stem cell research. Nothing is investigated, really. It is all driven by whatever is most lurid or sensationalized. The ruling class has clearly encouraged, if not mandated, a certain line of thinking on the pandemic. The ruling class has profited enormously from the lockdown, and is quite happy with a semi permanent state of crisis. In fact, it is likely that this was at least partly all planned. I mean what does one think those billionaires at the Bilderberg meeting talk about? Or at DAVOS or the like? The ruling elite anticipated crises in Capitalism, and the lockdown certainly provides cover for massive plunder of pensions, real estate, and really, most everything.

But the system, to some extent, does the work for the ruling class without instruction at this point. For revenue is generated by blood and violence, and secondly by sex. The template has already been put in place. (If it bleeds, it leads). Although something has happened to the ‘sex sells’ dimension of the Spectacle. People seem less and less in the throws of passion or lust. The societies of the west are declining into some form of neurasthenic bloodless onanism. The consumption of porn is up, but I’m pretty sure sex acts are actually down. And the allegorical dimension of the Covid narrative serves as both substitute gratification and as a symbolic purification ritual.

This week Trump announced he had “tested positive”. He had been campaigning for the previous week and felt fine. Then he tested positive and is described as having flu-like symptoms. That this is part of a strategy I have no doubt, but I also could not begin to describe that strategy. But the magical appearance of symptoms the minute he tested positive echoes the overall magical thinking involved in this entire narrative. There is a veritable mania, now, concerning testing. And yet even the NYTimes admits the tests are virtually meaningless. But no matter. We must test more !!

(Just one aspect of the testing problem.)

Magical thinking permeates the climate discourse, as well. Never in history, or never since the Enlightenment, have so many people pretended to know so much. For the educated thirty percent (white and reasonably affluent) it is the era of the TED talk. Nothing dare last longer or be more demanding than a quick (and entertaining) ten minutes. The fires in California have come primarily from downed power lines (badly out of date and rarely serviced), but exacerbated by homeless encampments (rarely mentioned) and fireworks — and, of course, the drought that has extended backward a decade. California has always burnt. It was part of the ecosystem to rid the hills and forests of dead shrub and trees.

Climate is clearly a part — snow-pack is down, and summer heat has dried out shrubbery. But much of what is dried out is shrub not native to California (stuff like cheat-grass, a native of Asia and parts of Africa, and notoriously invasive) whose forests are overstocked anyway. Infrastructure in America is rotting, and per California, the wild areas have been neglected for almost a hundred years. But that is not a part of the narrative. The narrative must be about the rebellion of Earth itself and population. And population matters only in terms of who can afford to over-consume. The problem is that the most obvious pollution issues (militarism and the packaging industry) are never addressed. US imperialism is the cause of most of the suffering in the world. Most of the instability. But the infantile anthropomorphizing of much green discourse is just more baby talk. I often hear “we are waging war against ourselves”. This is a dangerous bit of mystification. (Note that this riff goes all the way back to the Pogo comic strip in the 1960s}. It’s more simplistic sloganeering and like most such chestnuts, class analysis is absent. I have written a good deal on the psychological appeal of certain hi-tech fantasies, the seductive aspect of AI, and yet the world is more proletarianized than ever.  See here and here.

The issue of the seducing aspects of tech…from my blog.  See here and here.

Yes, people, in a very general sense, can be seen as self-destructive. It’s one of the most troubling byproducts of the habituation to screens, the loss of literacy and numeracy and the loss, really, of an ability to think critically. But this cultic hysteria is driven by the increasing precarity and desperation in contemporary life. The loss of unions plays a part, the absence of a real left party, a radical Marxist party. For all the terrific work activist groups do (prison abolishment groups, criminal justice reform, and stuff like the Innocence Project) there remains a vacuum in terms of electoral politics. Perhaps that is just going to be the way this goes. Maybe the entire electoral apparatus is dead. And maybe that is a good thing.

There is a quality of suffocating sameness and emptiness that permeates daily life. People don’t look at each other on the street, they look at their phones. One is walking, all the time, among the pod people. America’s mental health is in a dire state. The U.S., and really this is increasingly true in Europe, too, but not nearly to the same extent, is an excruciatingly lonely country. People have lost the ability to make, and more, to sustain friendships. And how the role of social media plays into that is an open question. Or media in general.

So while, yes, the marketing of technology serves to manufacture an appeal, on one level there are troubling numbers of people who seem, all by themselves, to *want*, to desire, ravishment by our robot overlords. Android sex is a thing, and it’s growing. And it’s not just men who want “pleasure model” androids (okay, for now they have to settle for this), but many want to not just fuck androids– but to get fucked *by* androids.

The engine is capitalism.

A number of world leaders have contracted Covid. Much as many get the flu. There is something curiously similar in nearly every one of these cases. Boris Johnson, Bolsanaro, the fascist interim President of post coup Bolivia Jeanine Anez, Mikhail Mishustin of Russia, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, and India’s Amit Shah, the #2 strongman behind Modi, and also in India, Pranab Mukherjee, former President, who subsequently died (age 84) from the virus (no, actually he died from a blood clot on his brain). I only mention this because I experience an unsettling vertigo when trying to parse all this and make it into something comprehensible. The way Covid tests work one might well think everyone on the planet has the virus.

Already there has been significant psychological harm done to children.  See here.  The clear lesson is to fear the other. That humans are contagious and potentially lethal. Intimacy is officially discouraged. I cannot imagine that message were I fourteen or sixteen. Growing up in the sixties the idea was to promote intimacy, feelings, and to exactly *not* fear emotional openness. The English speaking west has gone from Paul Goodman to Theresa Tam. The resurgent Puritanism is not restricted to odd ducks like Tam…. Even bourgeois pundits are noticing. This is Zoe Williams in The Guardian:

There remains, in public life, a rich seam of puritanism that you notice only when times are so bleak that you could really do without it. A sense that frivolity is immoral, even if it is 95% of your economy; a feeling that they had it coming, all those people dedicating their lives to the generation of fun. Puritans tend not to announce their disapproval except in the most roundabout ways, so you can rarely pin it on them. But standing on the precipice of a year that ends without dancing, bears, dancing bears, playhouses, ale houses, music or Christmas, all I can think of is how happy Oliver Cromwell would have been. It is like all his cancelled Christmases come at once. He would be dancing (not dancing) in his grave.

This is a lament from the privileged class, but perhaps that’s actually a good sign.

The ruling class don’t wear masks or have travel restrictions imposed on them.

There is no longer even a pretense. The rich are entitled to special treatment. The rich deserve a clean depopulated world where they can cavort on the green, frolic in elysian fields by murmuring brooks, and to not be troubled by darkies and riffraff. Remember it was a mere hundred years ago that Belgium brought Congolese from their African home, to be paraded in human zoos. Those they hadn’t already murdered.

Covid is the final act in the transference of wealth to the top 1%. And culture is being destroyed along with everything else. Cinemas are closing, permanently, theatres, too, permanently, and museums. Galleries and other art spaces are shuttered, likely to never reopen. Something like 30 million jobs have been lost. There is an acute desperation across America.

Who survives? Amazon, Netflix, Google, Comcast, Facebook, et al. Those who control the screens control the world. It is a new morning in hell.

The post Morning in Hell first appeared on Dissident Voice.