Thursday, June 28, 2012

America, the land of deeply confused white people

I never bought a man who wasn't for sale.

(William A. Clark, 19th century Montana “Copper King”)

He is as rotten a human as can be found anywhere under the flag...

Mark Twain, in 1907 essay entitled “Senator Clark of Montana”)

Your Priorities

King of the hill

As an aging white American male looking back over the past and occasionally glancing toward an uncertain and very finite future, it's pretty clear to me that I may have been part of the most privileged group in human history, in a general sense, and coming right after Tom Brokow's “The Greatest Generation.”

But whether or not the word “greatest” is hyperbole of the worst kind, I have to give my father and mother some credit: They survived the Great Depression, beat Fascism and kept sociopaths like Stalin and Chairman Mao at bay. They also made it possible for my generation to have the highest standard of living in human history (albeit with its unforeseen consequences we can no longer afford). In the total scheme of humanity's oftentimes dismal history, it was a better than average performance.

Of course, ignorance and magical thinking is ecumenical; it's an intrinsic characteristic of Homo sapiens. Just pick any location on earth, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sexual preference or any other qualifier. No, I don't want to “just” pick on white Americans, because they've got enough problems at the moment.

The difficulty is however that a relatively large number of white folks in America, especially those over the age of 50, genuinely believe they're above reproach, are unwilling to move beyond a dying status quo, and really do have a sense of entitlement regarding who “owns” the United States … and whose rights really matter the most. This, in my opinion, is a very big problem.

Failure is an option 

America is now a failed state, not because we look like Somalia, have a government like Syria's or have to exist on a daily basis under the watchful eye of a police state like China, but because the United States is for sale and its institutions broken.

While the Democratic party has proven to be feckless and has long since forgotten who it once represented, the Republicans are now nothing more than a degenerate cult and made up of some of the foulest segments in American society, from outright racists, an affliction that has haunted a significant segment of white America from the very beginning, to 19th century theocrats, who apparently fear knowledge and the modern world and would, if given the opportunity, turn this country into something very dark and unpleasant.

Enough has already been said about economics. Suffice it to say that China has proven that what we refer to as “global capitalism” does not require free … open … democratic … representative government to work reasonably well.

Enough has already been said by some remarkably stupid and corrupt billionaires and their political errand boys (and girls). Enough has already been said by some of these ridiculous libertarians and their childish narcissism in a diverse country of 300, 000, 000 people. Most certainly enough has been said by fools that think climate change is a “plot,” or that we can't “create” jobs without showing suicidal disrespect for the planet we live on.

Putting our money where....

Time to move off the entire grid, literally and figuratively and start making a new country. We do know how. Don't we?

After all, aren't we the country with all the entrepreneurial ability, the individual drive, the determination to preserve our “liberty” and “freedom.” To form our own government? To remain free? Here's our chance … to prove it.

Julian Assange & Norm Chomsky & Tariq Ali

Friday, June 15, 2012

We stole it all fair an' square

On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need.... I am an Epicurean.

(Thomas Jefferson)

Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.

(Lucy Parsons, 1853-1942, activist and organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World)

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

(Emma Goldman, activist, 1869-1940)

The security of serfdom

More than thirty years ago I spent a long weekend with my family at a hacienda in the Ecuadorian countryside. It was almost as though we had stepped back into the nineteenth century for three days. On the second day we went horseback riding in the early morning and soon came upon an old man standing quite still by the side of the dirt road, as though he'd been waiting for us to appear.

As we rode past he doffed his straw hat, bowed slightly and said to me in Spanish, “Good morning, Patron.” It was an expected ritual, a gesture of respect and courtesy in the presence of the “landlord,” the person who exerted considerable power over the lives of the peasants residing on the patron's property, even in the late 20th century. It was about the 1 percent. It was about the 99 percent.

More than 30 years later, across the globe, it's easy enough to recall the famous line by William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

In the land of the free and the home of the brave--America-- the citizenry flounders in ignorance, superstition and delusion, its institutions slowly imploding and that very American trait—paranoia--seeping into the cracks everywhere. As someone said recently, America is merely the “cleanest” of the dirty white shirts. The bar is getting lower by the minute.

Potato pickers

As consumerism and globalization crumbles in Greece it appears, according to Greece's'potato movement' grows in power, that the Greeks are inadvertently attempting to create new economic models while, at the same time through trial and error, developing resilient communities.

Getting off the “global grid,” downsizing and building resiliency is no longer a lifestyle choice just for a handful of the affluent, the well educated and a few libertarians desiring to build an old mythical America of “hardy yeoman farmers.”

The ideology of death eating

The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are unique and one of the most remarkable and spiritual (perhaps was) places on Earth, in my opinion. I was fortunate to have spent some time there and was saddened to have come across a recent article entitled Galapagos menaced by tourist invasion.

While human stupidity and bottomless greed—if given the opportunity—will all too often treat the planet like a personal amusement park, our predatory and archaic economic system only encourages the worsening destruction, which offers no Hollywood ending.

Who is John Trudell

Of course climate change may, sooner than we think, let us know what choices we have remaining. But perhaps ignorance is truly a state of bliss, as so many Americans are proud to proclaim: Satirist Stephen Colbert has suggested we just make climate change illegal, while Virginia Republicans ForceScientist to Stop Using 'Climate Change' Terminology.

The Gallup organization has come out with a recent poll ( In U.S., 46% Hold Creationists View ofHuman Origin ), which once again suggests we Americans are, well, “challenged” in so many ways.

Clowns in the Volkswagen

In the United States we can go on debating which of the two principal political factions, Democrats or Republicans, are the most corrupt and clueless, how useless large media organizations have become, the terrible reactionaries that control the Supreme Court, the destructiveness of corporate America, repulsive billionaires and so forth and so forth.

But if we continue to merely complain about these decaying institutions or throw up our hands in frustration we are just part of the same problem. There is no easy, comfortable or convenient way out at this point, for us Americans or anyone else.

We are going to have to build quite literally those resilient communities, develop new institutions, write better creation myths and confront the status quo continually. Of course it will likely be very painful.

But you also have the option in America of hoping you're one lucky break away from being one of the “masters of the universe” … or for that matter just standing on the side of the road clutching your straw hat when the landlord rides by.

There is no social order without trust and no trust without truth or, at least, without agreed truth-finding procedures.

(Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, historian)

Additional Reading:

Monday, June 04, 2012

Liberty and freedom in America and the right to be forever duped

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.... Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow....

(President Abraham Lincoln, 1864)

Season of everyone's discontent

The Roman poet Virgil said more than 2,000 years ago, “Blessed is he who has succeeded in finding out the causes of things.”

The cause, easier said than done. In the United States the dreary political season is upon us, not because we don't have the general right to elect our political representatives (at least for the moment), but because we have chosen to make the process as banal, corrupt and irrelevant as possible.

A book worth reading while wending your way through the spreading inanity of “talking” snakes, stupid billionaires, the “zombie apocalypse,” barely literate politicians and a confused citizenry is entitled The Swerve, by literary historian and Pulitzer prize winner Stephen Greenblatt.

While a handful of critics have suggested that the book does not have sufficient academic gravitas, it is a fascinating story for a general—and literate—audience. That's what makes it a compelling read.

It is about the very real discovery of the book hunter Poggio Bracciolini in the early fifteenth century and what he uncovered in a monastery in Germany, an ancient poem by the Roman poet Lucretius, which influenced the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, men like Darwin, Einstein and Thomas Jefferson. Above all, it seems to me, it says something about human curiosity and optimism, even when everything else appears bleak and hopeless. It is a reason to keep going on and not give in.

Deciding to change

Out of the Mouths of Children—in Canada

Get out while you can. While you still believe. While you still have a soul.

(character of Dr. Fredericks, in the movie The Good Shepherd)

If you're infatuated with unfettered free markets, just visit [Pakistan's] Waziristan.

(Markets and Morals by NYT columnist Nicholas D. Kristof)

Thinking About Health Care Differently

Paul Krugman: Falling Apart

Additional Reading:

GrowingEducation Divide in Cities (the cities that make it)

Thehigh price of 'dark fusion' (government propaganda for Americans)