Saturday, March 21, 2015

The authentic invasive species

Several days ago I received some material from the Sierra Club reminding me to renew my membership, which I had let lapse for a couple of years. What caught my attention however was a short letter that was included in the membership material. The letter read as follows:

“Dear Human:

Imagine that, little by little, your home was taken away from you. The forests and mountains where you once roamed freely disappeared, replaced by roads and concrete buildings.

What if politicians in suits, someplace far away, decided your fate … decided that you, your family, your friends, and neighbors had become a nuisance—a menace—to those who had invaded your home?

And so now, you must die.

Imagine these politicians rallying for your slaughter … ignoring what science has told them, encouraging citizens to hunt you down and kill you.

Imagine your family under attack. Defenseless, with nowhere left to hide, you must dodge bullets from the ground and sky, just to find food for yourself and your young children.

Imagine that, in one of these public hunts, you watched your offspring die.

Then you will know the terror that wolves face every day … and why we so desperately need your help.

After all, you and your fellow humans are the only ones who can save us. Our fate is in your hands.

So I hope you will answer this cry for help. You are our only hope. And time is running out ….”

Murder for fun, profit and prestige

The late, great comedian George Carlin once remarked that we humans can't destroy the Earth. The planet will deal with us without difficulty. I remain optimistic that after humankind vanishes (at least the current variety of Homo sapiens), the remaining life on Earth, as science writer Michael Tennesen says, “ will survive, adapt, diversify, and proliferate.”

I don't want to think that the combination of our technology, slow evolutionary development and general ignorance could actually turn our planet into an uncompromising nightmare like that offered up by the novelist Cormac McCarthy in his novel The Road.

Yet, regardless of whether or not we humans do ourselves in sometime in the future, the mind numbing misery we're inflicting on other species right now is appalling. It is conceivable that up to 50 percent of plant and animal species could have gone extinct by the end of the century. Unlike other mass extinctions, the principal cause this time will most likely be humankind. There's a reason that most scientists refer to our current geologic age as Anthropocene.

Wide areas of Asia currently, because of official corruption, greed, ignorance and even what is casually called “cultural” cuisine, are destroying plant and animal life across the planet at an astonishing rate. We humans have become like the invasive plant kudzu on steroids.

While we collectively—with some notable exceptions—have been killing and destroying most everything around us for thousands of years, it was far less noticeable before the industrial age and a global population under two billion. But now, with a population of more than 7 billion humans and increasing, we are destroying life on Earth on an industrial scale, seemingly unaware of its consequences for us.

So what ought we to do? One possibility certainly is that we may not be able to do anything in time. Fields like neuroscience and behavioral genetics have provided considerable insight in how humans think and process information and why we often do what we do ... but, the “so what” question however can't be tossed aside.

How do we confront, educate and find the resources fast enough to turn the human death cult into a manageable problem at the very least. Cowboy yahoos in the American West, clueless Chinese bourgeoisie desperate for the “bling” of ivory and other human predators are not going away anytime soon.

Maybe it does begins with trying to understand what the wolf could be thinking as he stares at his dead cub bleeding to death from the gunshot wound. Maybe we have to find better ways to talk to narcissistic Homo sapiens. Anyway, I renewed my membership in the Sierra Club. Giving up can't be an option.

For an unvarnished assessment of wildlife destruction read The Politics of Extinction. Getting angry is good but then come up with a plan. We need one right away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welfare queens in America

You know, they're just lazy, drug addicts, poorly educated, naturally inclined parasites.... The taker class.

The Best of American Capitalism

Monday, January 05, 2015

White America's secret, part 4

The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome.
(Andrea Tantaros, Fox News TV co-host, responding to U.S. Senate report on torture)

The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.
(The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)


It's the unsettling truth that may be the hardest part right now for a large portion of white America; after all, the U.S. has the oldest functioning Constitution in the world, and that might be the problem on any number of levels.

It was the brilliant James Madison, author of the United States Bill of Rights and one of the authors of The Federalist Papers who, in 1787, said, “They ought to be constituted [the nation] as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” Ah, always the dangerous mob, the rabble, a consistent yet unspoken “through-line” of the United States.

Is an 18th century document going to serve our needs in the 21st century? Most likely not. Our social and political myths—created most certainly by white America and in particular the “minority of the opulent”--have largely remained intact for more than 200 years. The last occupying foreign army in the United States was the British during the war of 1812.

The many reasons given for not voting in the recent mid-term election represent at the very least intellectual laziness, be they offered by the “millennials,” those that just find the Republican party repugnant and of course the “disenchanted” liberals. But we've reached the point where we can probably say “so what” with some qualifications. The rot has advanced too far.

The Democratic party is a feckless relic, a hollow shell; yet, it possibly could morph into some sort of sane conservative movement, at some point in the future. The handful of genuine Democratic political progressives in the party, and they are only a handful, ought to be spending their time building a new progressive movement elsewhere.

The Republican party, the party of Lincoln, at least outside the benighted Confederacy, is really about the intentional development of an authentic, nativist, totalitarian movement, what the Europeans were familiar with in the 20th century and that may be once again rearing its head in Europe in the 21st century.

Black America, more than anyone else, clearly has a compelling reason to develop an organized and disciplined movement, one capable of acquiring greater political power at the national and most definitely at the local level.

The Occupy movement demonstrated that people could come together for political change with a serious moral purpose, but Occupy ultimately floundered and became a minor irritant to the kleptocracy and the political hacks that do its bidding.

We seem to have difficulty accepting the fact at the present time, but radical change is never a brief “get together” without any clear, definable objectives. To succeed, a movement has to ultimately bring in large, diverse groups of people of all ages, who aren't going away under any circumstances.

Of course it's about power, gathering it in and confronting those who refuse to give it up. Above all, it has to be unremitting and offer an understandable alternative to the status quo. This is not something done overnight nor is it a fervent wish for some messianic vision to make it happen.

An excellent time to begin is in January 2015. There will be more than enough motivation to go around. Once again from The Great Gatsby, a novel about illusion: “Americans while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.” Well, we'll find out.

For an interesting documentary on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the use of police repression and the connections between what happened more than a 100 years ago and today, watch the video below.

Some Additional Reading and Considering Other Possibilities:

Thursday, January 01, 2015

How to go California

Hens, unbound

We need to pressure the rest of the United States and across the planet. Change can happen. Non-humans--everywhere--deserve more than unremitting human cruelty.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So long 2014

Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot
(Eugene O'Neil, playwright)

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
(Alan Turing, mathematician)

We live in capitalism. It's power seems inescapable. So did the divine rights of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.
(Ursula K. Guin, writer)

“With a little help from my friends”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A small Christmas present for non-humans

Considering how we humans in general treat each other, it's not surprising how we deal with non-humans. But now perhaps one small step in human behavior, but much more to be done.

Argentina: Court grants orangutan basic rights

Monday, December 15, 2014

White America's secret, part 3

“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam...”
(poem and song published in 1870s)

Round em up, round them up

The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of the American Western. It was also one of our most popular exports. Television shows like Bonanza, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Have Gun, Will Travel and Maverick were among the most highly rated programs on television. I recently watched the 1959 TV pilot of Rawhide, where Clint Eastwood made his first appearance, about cowboys on a cattle drive.

It's quintessentially American … sort of. Stoic white men and go-it-alone kind of guys solve problems, protect children and the women folk and aren't afraid to use their guns, which of course are omnipresent. This view was in fact part of the West but only one small part, the part that has always been most comfortable to white people, who decided how the West “was won.”

The real story is of course much broader, much more ambiguous and oftentimes far darker, literally and figuratively, and the laconic lone cowboy was more often than not an unremarkable cog in a much bigger system. It is also about how large corporations and politicians first colluded on a large scale to plunder the resources of the West and where the ends justified the means.

The state of Idaho is sponsoring a Killing Competition on National Forest Lands. The contestants will be competing for cash prizes. The prizes go to those that kill the most wolves, coyotes and other wild life. To paraphrase Rap Brown, blood lust “is as American as cherry pie.”Yeah, it's about continued disrespect and disconnect but more important it's about mass delusion.

It's part of an old story about taming the frontier. Ranching interests today in the western states are the ones behind most of the shooting, trapping and poisoning of millions of animals. Ranchers drove the Mexican gray wolf to extinction and continually oppose any recovery efforts. Grazing on public lands has threatened or endangered hundreds of species, and thousands of miles of rivers have been polluted by livestock waste

Politicians in the western states love to talk about their Libertarian roots and how they are the “true” protectors of the environment and the authentic America. It's once again about white America making up stuff on a grand scale. No doubt many of these characters and their constituents actually believe the claptrap they utter—but why wouldn't they.

I hear the chickens are coming home

“You didn't hear about the terrorists planning to blow up the subway in Paris?” I had not. “Do you think it's safe to fly to New York”? I said I thought it was perfectly safe.

We had one of the lowest voter turnouts in years (36%) for our recent mid-term elections, terrible even by the dismal American standard, yet some $3.6 billion was spent to “buy the election.” The low voter turnout wasn't because of widespread contentment among the citizenry. But who did vote were the older, whiter, wealthier and more conservative voters. And who they voted into office at both the national and state level will guarantee all of us “interesting times” come January 2015.

I suspect the next two years will be unpleasant for a great many Americans, especially for those of us that don't want to revisit the 1950s let alone the nostalgic era of President William McKinley, 1897-1901.

“What do those people want?” “You ought to open an account in the Caymans, only the ignorant pay more taxes than they should.” “Stopping the system of dependency in this country is the most important thing we can do.” “We're the real victims.” “Next time we'll have a President who is, well, you know.”

I happened to run across a particular group of tennis players this past summer, who I ended up playing with periodically. They were white men, all over the age of 55, middle class, some of whom were retired … engineers, business types, one or two had worked in the public sector, with grown children and grandchildren. I listened to what they had to say.

They were a subset of white America but have always been an influential constituency and certain about their place in the order of things, until recently. It's about a world they know that seems to be now unraveling, difficult for many of them to comprehend. The television and radio info-entertainers tell them that, while they're in the right, they also ought to be afraid—of virtually everything. And they are resisting the inevitable changes, sometimes mindlessly.