Category Archives: The Ugly Materialistic Culture

Imperialists’ Contradictory Truths

{ahhhh… a poem.  One that tries to keep pace with the times, as once in a while the girl has to express what she feels inside, what she reads, what she observes.} 

***I was remiss in not stating that the quote, “postage stamp mindset” is not something I made up, but that I read from DAVID ICKE. ***

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  ]

From discomfort we loudly proclaim our comfort;
Our corruption defines our character strength;
By feeding generic hate we express our love.

Denial of reality is our unshakeable reality;
Our leaders’ lies are beacons for sacred truth.
From endless deceptions we draw certainty.

With guns and prisons we proclaim freedom;
Prejudice and bigotry: these are our banner;
Turpitude measures our standard of excellence.  

Our wars attest it: we stand for world peace,
However many we must kill to attain this.
The world trembles and bleeds at our holy name.

For we are America, bastion of democracy,
Land of the free, home of the brave;
Ever safe inside our postage stamp mindset.

 

 

The Dance of Death – article by Chris Hedges – from “Truthdig”

My short intro to the article, “The Dance of Death”

Have we entered into another “millennium madness” when the powers that be have destroyed society and we are about to plunge headlong into the terror that immediately precedes and follows the inadmissible truth: that society has lost it’s raison d’être and needs to destroy itself in order to begin again with a new modus operandi?  As the article below describes vividly, have we entered into the spirit of Thanatos, the death instinct of a global civilization?

If that is the case, what does one do, here and now? If society is going to commit suicide and nothing can stop it, is there any point in struggling against the elites’ madness which can only give them more time to enjoy their immoral pursuits purchased through every sort of illegal shenanigan and millions of deaths?

What would a truly wise person do, knowing this is indeed the case; having admitted that global society is in exponential decline and once again dancing the dance of death?

{Posting the entire article here to save you having to jump through the “link hoops” of web surfing…}

_______________________________________________________________

The Dance of Death | Truthdig

“…Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. …”


Chris Hedges

The Dance of Death  (Chris Hedges)

Posted on Mar 12, 2017

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

(Page 2)

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

 

Dear Miss Liberty

(Thoughts du jour)

IRQGIRL

In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq
Whichever one or was it the Gulf War
Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Palestine?
Or is it just the endle$$ War?
Africa’$ in there somewhere

 

Mourn, mourn!
For the thousands
fleeing from their homes
when the bombs dropped
and death rained from torrid skies;

Mourn, mourn!
For those pulverized in the streets
mixing blood and sand,
steel and plastic –
fusing burning human flesh and glass
in depleted uranium.

~*~*~*~

Becoming one
with all that is: what a simple feat
that children, dogs, mice and blades of grass
can accomplish with ease
when war falls
from the oppressor’s lips
and its fire spews from heaven –

did you not hear the monster pray
before he gave the word?

~*~*~*~

Mind dead, heart blind
the power-butchers kill the innocent
claiming it their divine right,
no, more: their sacred duty.
It’s a matter of interpretation
(not to be confused
with questions of morality
or basic human decency):

~*~*~*~

Did not a Master once say
the kingdom of heaven
belongs to little children?
There you have it: kill them now
while they remain children
and give them back to God –

kills two birds with one smart bomb:
gets them out of the way
so they don’t grow up to be terrorists
against the invader –
sorry, against the Chosen Ones.

~*~*~*~

If this seems an oxymoron –
what’s your take on it?
Where were you
when prayers aimed at heaven
rained back down as cluster bombs
upon the innocent
?

~*~*~*~

“Now, Mi$$ Liberty,
How do you wish to pay for those bombs?
American Expre$$?
Of course: thank you.
A pleasure doing busine$$!”

($mile!)

The Kindergarten Art Class

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

From my current level of awareness and observation, I see mankind as a bunch of unruly kindergarten kids crammed together and told they’re having an “art” day.  To get them started, there’s a pile of paper sheets on the floor, and next, a big bowl full of crayons of every conceivable colour.  The kids are sat on the floor and more or less arranged around the items.  Predictably things don’t go as planned, or even as unplanned.  Some kids just lie back on the floor sucking their thumbs, trying to fall asleep.  Some just grab paper and fistfuls of crayons and begin to draw wildly across their papers.  Some quietly and dutifully wait for some sort of instruction.  Some look at the ceiling and smile at something.  Some start to argue over the items, a fight erupts and a couple of kids start to cry.  Pandemonium reigns supreme. 

So far I’ve described our general interaction as social communities through academic, scientific, religious, political, business and financial processes.  Basic Earthian interaction. 

But I missed something, didn’t I.  I forgot to add that there is here at least one adult, one supervisor, someone with presumably superior knowledge and wisdom to bring these children together for a purpose that will bear some fruit.  At the end of the exercise, each child will have a piece of paper with something drawn on it to take home. 

Obviously, the Teacher aspect is missing in earth’s kindergarten art class.  There is no one to bring the kiddies to stop fighting and to cooperate together and share the items offered on the floor.  So you have an entire planet running on a  pre-interventionist-teacher anarchic condition. 

We already know why the kiddies act the way they do: it’s how they were raised, what they’d already observed at home; what they’d seen on TV or what they’d already experienced on playgrounds, in doctors’ offices and daycare.  Also, it’s something locked in their DNA.  It’s what they are.  It’s their nature running its course and without the teacher intervention, that will be the course of their entire lives.  Nothing will ever fundamentally change for any of them.  That last line is worth repeating because it is a truism if there ever was one:  nothing will ever fundamentally change for any of them.   

We’re not short of groups and organizations trying to shove the teacher aspect in our face.  Put your faith in science and all will be well.  Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.  Convert to Islam and Allah will bless you.  Vote for the Democrats.  Join the army.  Join this, join that; support this, protest that; love this, hate that.  There’s stacks of papers and bowls of crayons and anybody can draw lines in any sort of colours they want. Or can they? 

It’s complicated.  Someone’s sitting in the wrong place and they won’t move.  Someone’s using the wrong colours and they won’t stop using those colours.  Someone’s got paper they didn’t pay for which they took from someone else’s stack; they stole from them and now the “victims” want them punished for their crime.  There are threats: if they’re not punished we’ll get some friends (allies) together and we’ll beat them up ’cause we’re better than they are.  

Earthian civilization, in a nutshell. 

Faced with this incurable condition, what do you, as an intelligent person do?  Basically you can do whatever you want.  You can choose to become one of the bullies, or one of their victims.  Or you can choose not to participate in the art class as long as there is no consensus on how it should proceed. 

The Art Class:

               No matter where you sit, it’s anarchy all around and you’re expected to share a space with people who fear and hate other people in the class.  “Look at her: she’s black.  She shouldn’t be allowed in here!”  “Look at him, he’s got no shoes, that’s gross!”  “Look at those two with their ragged clothes munching on a couple of pieces of stale bread: that’s disgusting!”  “Him?  Don’t even think of being friends with him, he’s a Jew and we hate Jews.”  “Look, she wearing a hijab, she’s a Muslim and flaunting it; she needs to be taught a lesson.  Those kids in the corner?  Their parents are commies.”

               We may not be able to have them thrown out of the class but at least we won’t associate with them and when we get the chance we’ll gang up on them and beat the hell out of them.  That’ll scare them and they won’t come back.  We don’t want them here.  This is our place and this is our stuff now.

Let’s say you are a reasonably intelligent person and you realize it’s not possible to participate in the class without compromises.  No matter what, if you choose to sit with the two eating the stale bread, you find out they hate the black girl.  If you sit with the black girl she tells you she hates the kid in bare feet ’cause he’s Catholic.  If you sit with the Muslim girl you discover that she has been taught to hate Jews and Christians and she tells you that as the enemies of Allah they must die.  If you choose to sit with the bullies who by now have most of the paper and crayons, maybe they’ll let you borrow some paper and maybe one crayon but the deal is, you swear to join them in the bullying later. 

Fortunately there is one more choice.  You can turn your back on all of them and walk away, alone.  No paper, no crayons, no personal space on the floor, just yourself and the wilderness: thorns and hail, flowers and butterflies, blizzards and loneliness, gently flowing streams and renewal.  More chaos, surely, but this time it isn’t deliberately ignorant or evil.  It accepts you without throwing a mantle of exclusivity around you. You swim or sink – nobody cares, it’s all up to you.

But what about that programming?  What about that Earthian DNA shit?  Well, that is a thorny problem ‘cause you can’t blame that on anyone else, you have to face it.  You need to get rid of your Earthian programming, or at the very least you need to cancel its inimical effects on your mind. 

That’s when you say, hey, I’m me!  I’m not what I was born to be; I’m not white, French, doctor, politician, student, taxi-driver, female, male, mother, leader, young, old, voter, entertainer: I’m me.  Just me. 

Everything up to and until I left the kindergarten class was me according to society. Society had designed the pigeon holes and I could only choose to function as an adjunct of society from one of those holes.  Not anymore.  Now, I can be me, according to my own choices.  To hell with society and civilization. 

I am about to reinvent myself as something completely new.  Everything I am from this point on is the chosen me; chosen and designed by myself, no one and nothing else.  I will never again return to the kindergarten art class; not for love, not for money, not for reputation, not for salvation.  Being in collusion with the denizens of the kindergarten class is something I will no longer do until the day when I can no longer do it. 

 

Ah well, why not some Fred Reed?

Now don’t go quoting and saying that Sha’Tara indorses (the dictionary claims that’s a variant, but I think it’s an indoor form of endorsement) Fred Reed.  I just think that he’s sometimes a Good Read.  But I do think the following is pretty accurate.  Enjoy, and please, don’t go posting it as if it came from me. It does not, did not, will not.  I just copied and pasted.  Last and final disclaimer.  Ok I did add a couple of comments.  It’s what I do, comment.  I think my entire life is a comment… or a series of comments.   

Also, and for good measure, this was written in 2010, which is like saying, Oh boy, ancient history already!  You think so?  You could write the same article today, about today’s situation wherever in the world and come up with the same conclusions and reactions. Even the tapeworm-brained senator Lindsey Graham is still at it, in fact even worse.  Now he wants the ethics committee done away with.  Well, I’m sure he’s got a good reason, if a tapeworm brain could reason, which it cannot since, as Fred remarks, a tapeworm doesn’t have a brain. Also note that Israel’s “Bibi Nut-and-Yahoo” is also still at it, and much, much worse than in 2010.  His bad everything days are coming closer and closer together.  

Back when in prehistory, my history teacher would say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  If I were in his class today, I’d venture a correction: “Uh, Mr. Andres?  Shouldn’t it be, ‘The more things change, the worse they get’?”  Predictably he’d give me “the look” and I’d be telling myself why can’t I just shut up, just shut the hell up?  

Brain as an App-start using it-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Let’s Attack Iran!     by Fred Reed

Senator Graham has the brains of a tapeworm, making him eminently qualified for the senate. Tapeworms, I note, do not have brains. It is characteristic of warlike innocents, to include the Pentagon, to believe that if you destroy navies and air forces, you win wars. This worked well in Vietnam, you will recall, and as soon as we destroy the Taliban’s navy, Afghanistan will be a cakewalk.  Oh good. I see that Senator Lindsey Graham wants to attack Iran. The US, he says, should “sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard.”

Now, I understand that practicality and realism are alien concepts in American politics, to be approached with trepidation, but maybe, just once, we should think before sticking our private parts into a wood-chipper. Just once. I do not propose consistent rationality, forethought, or intelligent behavior. I profoundly respect my country’s traditions.

However, folk wisdom from West Virginia: Before you say, “I can whip any man in the bar!” it is well to scout the bar.

Some will find the thought of American martial incapacity outrageous. Can’t beat Iran? Buncha towel monkeys? Among grrr-bowwow-woof patriots, there exists a heady delusion of American potency, that the US has “the greatest military power the world has ever seen.” Ah. And when did it last win a war? In Afghanistan, for ten years the gloriousest military ever known, the expensivist, and whoosh-bangiest, hasn’t managed to defeat a bunch of pissed-off illiterates with AKs and RPGs.  Note that the United States cannot defeat Iran militarily, short of using nuclear weapons. It is easy to start a war. Finishing one is harder. I could punch out Mike Tyson. Things thereafter might not go as well as hoped.

At this point Lindsey of Persia will doubtless allude to the wonders of air power, of “precision-guided weapons,” of smart bombs that presumably read Kant on the way down. Those pitiable Iranians would have no hope of stopping our mighty bombers. True.

Implicit in this Thomistic fantasy (Clancy, I mean, not Aquinas) is that Iran wouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t dare fight back without a navy, etc. Lindsey had better be very sure that Iran couldn’t block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation. Enough of the world’s petroleum comes from the Gulf that the price would rise drastically if the Straits were blocked. Some economies would simply stop.

How many supertankers going up in flames would be tolerated before operators of tankers refused to risk it?

The Air Force, to include Naval Air, may be confident that it can destroy all of Iran’s missiles. The Air Force always believes that air power can do anything and everything – make coffee, win at marbles, everything. After all, don’t its airplanes say “Vrooom!” and “Swoosh!”? Don’t cockpits have lots of portentous buttons and spiffy little screens? Unfortunately the Air Force is regularly wrong. Iran recently began serial production of the Nasr 1, an anti-ship cruise missile. Tankers are thin-skinned and highly flammable. The Nasr 1 can be fired from the back of a truck. Trucks by their nature are mobile. They are easy to hide.

In fact the entire military is regularly wrong about the ease and duration of its adventures. For example, it had no idea that Viet Nam would turn into an endless war ending in defeat (if that makes sense). Iraq notoriously was going to be a walk in the park. That the war on Afghanistan would last ten years with a distinct possibility of defeat…this never occurred to the soldiers.

It is barely conceivable that the Five-Sided Wind Box could do what Field Marshal Graham thinks it could do. The unexpected is always a possibility. But, the stakes being what they would be in Hormuz, hoo-boy….

Another possibility is that Israel will attack Iran, as it has threatened. I would like to think that even Bibi Nut-and-Yahoo has better sense but, if the US can produce gibbering wingnuts, why not Israel? The practical effects of an Israeli attack would be indistinguishable from those of an American attack: America would have to solve the problem. Which it probably couldn’t. Israel can bomb Iran’s nuclear codpieces, but it can’t defeat Iran. And if the Strait were blocked after an Israeli attack, the entire globe would holler, “Israel did it!” which would be true.

The distance from “Israel did it” to “The Jews did it,” though logically great, is emotionally short. People think in collective terms. Remember that after some Saudis dropped the Towers, the alleged war on terror morphed almost instantly into intense hostility for Moslems. It doesn’t make sense, but what has that got to do with anything?

Congress doesn’t support Israel because it likes Israel, but from political expediency. If the wind blows the other way, so will Congress. Gasoline at twelve dollars is a lot of wind in a commuting country.I know a lot of Jews, who are all over the place politically and intellectually. They have in common a complete lack of resemblance to the scheming, hand-rubbing, heh-heh-heh Jews of Neo-nazi imagination. Few sacrifice Christian children (a temptation strongest, I can attest, among Christian parents). But…people think collectively.

Things worsen for America, yet we really don’t know where the country is going or how it will react. The last domestic catastrophe was the Great Depression, when America was a very different place. How bad can things get, economically, politically, internationally? How does a pampered population incapable of planting a garden respond to genuinely hard times? “It can’t happen here,” one hears. What can’t? I suspect that all sorts of things could happen, given sufficiently hard times.

The United States is today an edgy, unhappy country, sliding toward poverty, increasingly dictatorial, inchoately angry, hostile to blacks, the French, Mexicans, Moslems and, creepingly, the Chinese.  (Jews, perhaps to their surprise, don’t make the enemies list.) Americans don’t do cosmopolitan. The federal pressure for diversity exists because otherwise no one would associate with anyone else. The Persian Gulf is one of few places that plausibly might wreck the industrial world. There would have to be someone to blame. And Israel can’t survive without American support.

Maybe I’m crazy. But if I were an Israeli, I’d find a nice café on Diesengoff and enjoy a double cappuccino, watch the girls, and keep my bombs in my pocket. Let somebody else take the fall.

{OK, so he forgot to include the Russians in the list of hostiles but then in 2010 they were relatively quiet, watching the latest Pentagon production in wide screen: “Our Troops Conquer Afghanistan” – a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Iraq” which was a late sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Grenada” which was a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Vietnam” which was a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Korea” … OK, so it’s a bit redundant but as long as the sheeple keep watching and paying, just keep the reels spinning, and keep ’em coming. My comment here}

November 9, 2010

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.

Copyright © 2010 Fred Reed

The Best of Fred Reed

Unlucky Number – article by George Monbiot

While those of us with a social conscience are agonizing over the DAPL (Damn All Pipe Lines – my words for the acronym) protests, there are much bigger issues facing this planet.  Issues that leave those of us who actually do look at man’s effects upon this planet wishing quite seriously that we were not here to see or experience them.  I think that as a ruling species given an entire planet to “do our thing” upon, we’ve quite completely painted ourselves into the proverbial corner and no way out.

Mr. Monbiot warns that his article could be depressing.  I suppose it is but I like to look at the truly big picture when considering solutions to the woes of man and his world.  We can no longer be satisfied in looking at solutions to our own problems because such solutions will not have any effect on the overall situation.  In fact if some local problem is resolved, let’s say the DAPL project is abandoned, many locals will feel the job is done, go home and resume life where they left off.  You can’t blame them of course but that won’t solve anything overall.  Overall there is a systematic break down.  Our “old” civilization is no longer sustainable and failing, socially, morally, economically.  It’s a combination of too much having been taken; too high expectations from too many.  Our exponential growth has smashed its face into a cement wall called the finite.  We didn’t need “Dollar” Trump to build that wall, it comes with every finite physical world and it’s up to those who would rule that world to recognize in time that there are built-in limits to growth.  Well folks, “we” chose, crassly and by some belief in entitlement not to acknowledge this number one law governing all life in a material universe.  We have been extremely foolish and we are about to experience the real consequences of that foolishness.

———————————————————-
Here is the George Monbiot article, copied from an email

Unlucky Number

Posted: 28 Nov 2016 04:34 AM PST

We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 25 November 2016

Please don’t read this unless you are feeling strong. This is a list of 13 major crises that, I believe, confront us. There may be more. Please feel free to add to it or to knock it down. I’m sorry to say that it’s not happy reading.

  1. The next occupant of the White House will be a man who appears to possess no capacity for restraint, balance or empathy, but a bottomless capacity for revenge and vindictiveness. He has been granted a clean sweep of power, with both houses and the Supreme Court in his pocket. He is surrounding himself with people whose judgement and knowledge of the world are, to say the least, limited. He will take charge of the world’s biggest nuclear and conventional arsenals and the most extensive surveillance and security apparatus any state has ever developed.

  1. In making strategic military decisions, he has a free hand, with the capacity to act even without the nominal constraint of Congress. His national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, is a dangerous extremist.

  1. Trump’s team is partly composed of professional lobbyists hired by fossil fuel, tobacco, chemical and finance companies and assorted billionaires. Their primary political effort is to avoid regulation and taxation. These people – or rather the interests they represent – are now in charge. Aside from the implications for the living world, public health, public finance and financial stability, this is a vindication of the political model pioneered by the tobacco companies in the 1960s. It demonstrates that if you spend enough money setting up think tanks, academic posts and fake grassroots movements, and work with the corporate media to give them a platform, you can buy all the politics you need. Democracy becomes a dead letter. Political alternatives are shut down.

  2. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Britain’s attempts to disentangle itself from the European Union are confronted with a level of complexity that may be insuperable. Moreover, there may be no answer to the political fix in which the government finds itself. This is as follows: a. Either it agrees to the free movement of people in exchange for access to the single market, in which case the pro-Brexit camp will have gained nothing except massive embarrassment or b. the EU slams the shutters down. Not only is it likely to reject the terms the government proposes; but it might also try to impose an exit bill of around €50 billion for the costs incurred by our withdrawal. This would be politically impossible for the government to pay, leading to a non-negotiated rupture and the hardest imaginable Brexit.

  1. The Italian banking crisis looks big. What impact this might have on the survival of the Eurozone is anyone’s guess.

  1. Whether it is also sufficient to trigger another global financial crisis is again hard to judge. If such a thing were to occur, governments would not be able to mount a rescue plan of the kind they used in 2007/8. The coffers are empty.

  1. Automation will destroy jobs on an unprecedented scale, and because the penetration of information technology into every part of the economy is not a passing phase but an escalating trend, it is hard to see how this employment will be replaced. No government or major political party anywhere shows any sign of comprehending the scale of this issue.

  1. The Jean PingMarine Le Pen has a moderate to fair chance of becoming the French president in May. Whether this would be sufficient to trigger the collapse of the European Union is another unknown. If this is not the sufficient crisis, there are several others lining up (especially the growing nationalist movements across central and Eastern Europe in particular, but to a lesser extent almost everywhere) that could catalyse a chain reaction. I believe that when this begins, it will happen with a speed that will take almost everyone by surprise. From one month to the next, the European Union could cease to exist.

  1. If Le Pen wins, the permanent members of the UN Security Council will be represented by the following people: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Theresa May and Marine Le Pen. It would be a stretch to call that reassuring.

  1. National climate change programmes bear no connection to the commitments governments made at Paris. Even if these programmes are fully implemented (they won’t be), they set us on a climate change trajectory way beyond that envisaged by the agreement. And this is before we know what Trump will do.

  1. One of the many impacts of climate breakdown – aside from such minor matters as the inundation of cities, the loss of food production and curtailment of water supplies – will be the mass movement of people, to an extent that dwarfs current migration. The humanitarian, political and military implications are off the scale.

  1. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss we have 60 years of harvests left.

  1. The extinction crisis appears, if anything, to be accelerating.

Enough already? Sorry, no. One of the peculiarities of this complex, multiheaded crisis is that there appears to be no “other side” onto which we might emerge. It is hard to imagine a realistic scenario in which governments lose the capacity for total surveillance and drone strikes; in which billionaires forget how to manipulate public opinion; in which a broken European Union reconvenes; in which climate breakdown unhappens, species return from extinction and the soil comes back to the land. These are not momentary crises, but appear to presage permanent collapse.

So the key question is not how we weather them but how – if this is possible – we avert them. Can it be done? If so what would it take?

I write this not to depress you, though I know it will have that effect, but to concentrate our minds on the scale of the task.

(Since writing this article, I have thought of three others: the debt crisis emerging in both China and the West; the global pensions crisis and antibiotic resistance. Just in case there wasn’t enough to worry about…)

http://www.monbiot.com

Tomgram: Mattea Kramer, You Don’t Leave Home Without It

Post election blues, or exhaustion?  May I offer the following then.  No, it isn’t going to make you feel better, particularly if you happen to be American.  The good news in the following Tom Dispatch article by Mattea Kramer is that if you are an EDUCATED American (and an educated anyone else) the following will not be news at all.  You know all of this, but maybe not in this particular configuration, and yes, our news may all have the same source these days, but their interpretations, that staggers the imagination.  So, another independent journalist’s viewpoint about being an American in today’s world at this moment.  Should we, Canadians, feel smug?  Or Brits?  We’re in no way better, nor any less guilty because by and large, exception such as myself noted, we support US foreign policy or do nothing about it, which is probably even worse.  For once I would agree, “We’re all in this together” and it behooves us to find our way out: this is the crisis of our time.

(I would have simply “reblogged” but there’s no such convenience on their site and the times I queried them about that and other things, I got the silence of the lambs in return.)

Tomgram: Mattea Kramer, You Don’t Leave Home Without It

Posted by Mattea Kramer at 7:30am, November 17, 2016.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

Not long before Election Day, but thousands of miles away in the Afghan village of Bouz Kandahari, 30 to 36 civilians died (including a significant number of children and infants).  Those deaths took place in a war Americans had largely filed in the library of forgotten events, though the conflict there is still fiercely underway. In a firefight with the Taliban near the northern provincial city of Kunduz, two U.S. Special Forces advisers died and American air power was called in, evidently killing those innocent Afghans. Within days, there were protests by angry villagers burying their dead.  As Mawlawi Haji Allahdad told a Reuters reporter, “My brother and three of his children were killed. My brother had no connection to any group.  He was a laborer. Did you see which of those infants and children who were killed by the Americans were terrorists?”

Behind this incident lies a 15-year-old pattern evident at least since the U.S. wiped out much of a wedding party, killing more than 100 villagers in Eastern Afghanistan in late December 2001.  It was certainly well documented in those 50 shock-and-awe “decapitation” strikes the Bush administration launched to take out Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party leadership in March 2003 as the invasion of Iraq began.  Those strikes killed not a single targeted leader, but — according to Human Rights Watch — did kill “dozens of civilians.”  (In the following two months, almost 3,000 Iraqi civilians would die under American bombs and missiles.)

In these years, this American version of “precision bombing” has never ended in the Greater Middle East, which means that it was an ongoing reality of Election 2016, not that you would have known it.  For instance, since September 2014 when the Obama administration sent U.S. air power against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, just as the American primaries were first gearing up, Amnesty International reports that at least 300 Syrian civilians have died (including, of course, children).  Other groups monitoring the situation have put the toll significantly higher — at up to 1,000.  (The Pentagon has acknowledged only “a few dozens” of civilian deaths in both countries in this period.)

More recently, there were the 15 civilians killed in a late September drone strike aimed at ISIS supporters in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, but which evidently struck a celebration of a tribal elder’s return from his pilgrimage to Mecca.  Some weeks later, there were civilians killed or wounded (again including children) in an air attack on what was believed to be the home of a Taliban commander in the same province. There were also the 15 to 20 civilians killed when a funeral procession on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk was hit, evidently by planes from the U.S. coalition.

If none of this crossed your radar screen, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Such stories aren’t significant news in America.  The eight wedding parties reportedly wiped out by U.S. air power between 2001 and 2013 in Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, to offer but one example, passed almost unnoticed here.  (Just imagine the 24/7 media attention that would be given to a terrorist attack on a single American wedding, no matter the casualties.)  Despite the impressive efforts of groups like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there is essentially no way of knowing how many civilians in and out of official war zones U.S. air operations have killed across the Greater Middle East and Africa in the last decade and a half.  Not that it matters, since it’s a reality about which Americans could care less — and yet, as with those angry villagers in Bouz Kandahari, the air war on terror has proven to be a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups spreading across that disintegrating region.

It’s not that we never pay attention to such deaths.  The Russian air attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, for example, have gotten real attention here.  They were even part of the election discussion, as well they should have been.  The Russians entered the Syrian conflict in the American fashion by letting “precision” air power loose against schoolshospitals, and civilian targets of all sorts (with a significant number of children dying).  In the American media, these are often termed “war crimes,” but similar acts by Americans naturally fall into a different category, so no point in dwelling on them.  You can count on one thing, though: this isn’t going to end in the “new” Trump era soon to be upon us.  So it seems appropriate amid the post-election rancor and uproar to offer some space for TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer to think about what it really means to be an American in such circumstances. Tom

On the Road With Our American Selves 
Or How to Feel Like a Jerk in Mombasa 
By Mattea Kramer

The fluorescent circus of Election 2016 — that spectacle of yellow comb-overs, and orange skin, and predatory pussy-grabbing, and last-minute FBI interventions, and blinking memes hewn by an underground army of self-important Internet trolls — has finally come to its unnatural end.  I had looked forward to this moment, only to find us all instantly embroiled in a new crisis.  And unfortunately, it’s easy to foretell what, or rather who, will move into the bright lights of our collective gaze now: we’re going to (continue to) focus on… well, ourselves.

We are obviously not, for instance, going to redeploy our energies toward examining the embarrassing war that we’re still waging in Afghanistan, now in its 16th year — something that went practically unmentioned during election season, even as fighting heated up there. (You can be sure that Afghans have a somewhat different perspective on the newsworthiness of that war.)  We are also not going to spend our time searching for the names of people like Momina Bibi, whom we’ve… oops… inadvertently annihilated while carrying out our nation’s drone kill program.

For his part, Donald Trump has pledged to “take out” the families of terrorists, a plan that sounds practically ordinary when compared to our actual drone assassination program, conceived by President George W. Bush and maintained and expanded by President Obama.  And while I don’t for a moment pretend that Trump’s electoral victory is anything less than an emergency for our republic — especially for the most vulnerable among us, and for every American who believes in justice, equity, or basic kindness — it’s also true that some things won’t change at all.  In fact, it’s prototypically American that an overlong and inward-looking election spectacle (which will, incidentally, have “big-league” international implications) will be supplanted by still more inward-looking phenomena.

And it jogs my memory in a not very pleasant way.  I can’t help but recall the moment, years ago and 8,000 miles away, when I was introduced to my own American-centered self.  The experience left an ugly mark on my picture of who I am — and who, perhaps, so many of us are, as Americans.

No, Not Us…

Eight years before I heard about a guy in Yemen whose cousins were obliterated by an American drone strike in a procession following his wedding celebration, I gleefully clicked through the travel site Kayak and pressed “confirm purchase” on one-way tickets to Kathmandu.  It was 2008, shortly before Barack Obama would be elected, and my boyfriend and I, a couple of twenty-somethings jonesing to see the world, were about to depart on what we expected to be the adventure of our lives.  Having worked temporary stints and squirreled away some cash, we packed our belongings into my mom’s damp basement and prepared ourselves for a journey meant to last half a year and cross South Asia and East Africa.  What we didn’t know, as we headed for New York’s Kennedy Airport, our passports zippered into our money belts, was that, whatever we had left behind at my mom’s, we were unwittingly carrying something far heftier with us: our American-ness.

Adventures commenced as soon as we stepped off the plane.  We glimpsed ice-capped peaks that rose majestically out of the clouds as we walked the lower Everest trail.  Then — consider this our introduction to the presumptions we hadn’t shed — we ran into a little snafu.  We hadn’t brought along enough cash for our multi-week mountain trek; apparently we’d expected Capital One ATMs to appear miraculously on a Himalayan footpath.  After we dealt with that issue through a service that worked by landline and carbon paper, we took a bumpy Jeep ride south to India and soon found ourselves walking the sloping fields of Darjeeling, the leaves of tea shrubs glinting in the afternoon light.  Then we rode trains west and south, while through the frame of a moving window I looked out at fields and rice paddies where women in red or orange or turquoise saris worked the land, even as the sun set and the sky turned pink and reflected off the water where the rice grew.

Things would, however, soon get significantly less picturesque, as in some strange, twisted way, the farther we traveled, the closer to home we seemed to get.

We arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, in January 2009, on a day when thousands of the city’s residents had flooded its streets to protest a recent, and particularly bloody, Israeli attack on Gaza. Hamas, firing rockets into southern Israel, had killed one Israeli and injured many others.  Israel retaliated in an overwhelming fashion, filling the Gazan sky with aircraft and killing hundreds of Palestinians, including five girls from a single family, ages four to 17, who were unlucky enough to live in a refugee camp adjacent to a mosque that an Israeli plane had leveled.

As I hopped off the matatu, or passenger van, into the scorching Kenyan heat, I was aware that 50,000 angry protesters had gathered not so far away, and certain facts became clear to me.  For one thing, the slaughter of hundreds of civilians, including several dozen children, in what was, to me, a faraway land, was a big effing deal here. That should probably go without saying just about anywhere — except I was suddenly aware that, were I home, the opposite would have been true.  Those deaths in distant Gaza (unlike nearby Israel) would barely have caused a blip in the American news.  What’s more, if I had been at home and the story had somehow caught my eye, I knew that I wouldn’t have paid it much mind. Another war in a foreign country is what I would’ve thought, and that would have been that.

At that moment, though, I didn’t dwell on the point, because — let’s be serious — I was scared poopless. There was a huge, angry protest nearby and we’d just gotten word that the crowd was burning an American flag.  Israel, it turned out, had used a new U.S.-made missile in its assault on Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, it was a weapon designed to minimize “collateral damage” (though tell that to the families of the dead). The enraged people who had taken to the streets in Mombasa were decrying my country’s role in the carnage — and I was a skinny American with a backpack who’d arrived in the wrong city on the wrong day.

We got the hell out of there as soon as we could. Early the next morning we climbed aboard a rusty old bus bound for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I felt a wave of relief once I’d settled into my seat. I was looking forward to a different country and a new vista.

That new vista, it turned out, materialized almost at once. Our bus was soon barreling along a rutted dirt road, the scenery whipping by the window in a distinctly less-than-picturesque fashion.  In fact, it passed in such a blur that I realized we were going way too fast.  We already knew that bus accidents were common here; we’d heard about a recent one in which all the passengers died.

When we hit what undoubtedly was a yawning pothole on that none-too-well kept road, the windows shook ominously and I thought: we could die. By then, my slick hands were gripping my shredded vinyl seat.  I could practically feel the heat of the crash-induced flames and had no trouble picturing our charred bodies in the wreckage of the bus.  And then that other thought came to me, the one I wouldn’t forget, the one, thousands of miles from home, that seemed to catch who I really was: No not us, we can’t diewas what I said to myself, pressing my eyes shut.  I meant, of course, my boyfriend and I; I meant, that is, we Americans.

It was then that I felt an electric zap, as the events of the previous day had just melded with the present dangers and forced me to see what I would have preferred to ignore: that there was an unsavory likeness between my outlook and the American credo that thousands had been protesting in Mombasa.  Wecan’t die, was my thought, as if we were somehow different — as if these Africans on the bus with us could die, but not us. Or, just as easily, those Palestinians could die — and thanks to U.S.-supplied arms, no less — and I wouldn’t even tune in for the story.  Clutching my torn bus seat, I was still afraid, but another sensation overwhelmed me. I felt like a colossal jerk.

Of course, as you know because you’re reading this, we made it safely to Dar es Salaam that night. But I was changed.

Apologizing to Ourselves

I’d like to say that my egocentricity about which lives matter most is uncommon among my countrymen and women.  But if you spool through the seven-plus years since I rode that bus, you’ll notice how that very same mindset has meant that Americans go wild with panic over lone wolf terror killings on our soil, but show scant concern when it comes to the White House-directed, CIA-run drone assassination campaigns across the world, and all the civilian casualties that are the bloody result.  The dead innocents include members of a Yemeni family who were riding in a wedding procession when four missiles bore down on them, and Momina Bibi, that Pakistani grandmother who was tending to an okra patch as her grandchildren played nearby when a missile blasted her to smithereens. And don’t forget the 42 staff members, patients, and relatives at a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killed in an attack by a U.S. AC-130 gunship.  Depending on which tally you use, since 2009 we’ve killed an estimated 474 civilians, or perhaps 745, outside of official war zones (and far more civilians, like those dead in that hospital, within those zones), although the horrifying truth is that the real numbers are likely much higher, but unknown and unknowable.

Meanwhile, duh, we would never fire a missile at a suspected terrorist if innocent U.S. civilians were identified in the vicinity. We value American life far too highly for such wantonness.  In 2015, when a drone struck an al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, it was later discovered that two hostages, one of them an American, were inside. In response, President Obama delivered grave remarks: “I offer our deepest apologies to the families… I directed that this operation be declassified and disclosed… because the families deserve to know the truth.”

But why so sorry that time and not with the other 474 or more deaths?  Of course the difference was that innocent American blood was spilt.  We don’t even try to hide this dubious hierarchy; we celebrate it.  In that same speech, President Obama reflected on why we Americans are so darn special.  “One of the things that makes us exceptional,” he declared, “is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

If you hailed from any other country, it might have seemed like an odd, not to say tasteless, time to wax poetic about American exceptionalism.  The president was, after all, confessing that we’d accidentally fired missiles at two captive aid workers.  But I can appreciate the sentiment.  Inadequate though the apology was — “There are hundreds, potentially thousands of others who deserve the same apology,” said an investigator for Amnesty International — he was at least admitting that the United States had erred, and he was pointing out that such admissions are important.  Indeed, they are.  It’s just… what about the rest of the people on the planet?

The Trump administration will probably espouse a philosophy much like President Obama’s when it comes to valuing (or not) the lives of foreign innocents.  And yet there’s part of me that must be as unworldly as that twenty-something who flew into Kathmandu, because I find myself dreaming about a new brand of American exceptionalism in our future.  Not one that gives you that icky feeling when you’re riding a speeding bus in another hemisphere, nor one at whose heart lies the idea that we Americans are different and special and better — which, history tells us, is actually a totally unexceptional notion among powerful nations.  Instead, I imagine what would be truly exceptional: an America that values all human life in the same way.

Of course, I’m also a realist and I know that that’s not the world we live in, especially now — and that it won’t be for, at best, a very long time.

Mattea Kramer, a TomDispatch regular, is at work on a memoir called The Young Person’s Guide to Aging, which inspired this essay. Follow her onTwitter.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Mattea Kramer