Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it. (Gen. Douglas Macarthur, 1957)
Help support Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir in their Ban Monsanto Summer Campaign! Learn more here about this latest endeavor to challenge the dominance of one of the world’s most dangerous and destructive corporations.
FLUSH THE TPP!The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement usurps federal, state and local authority, and functions as a global corporate coup. Learn more about it Here
Stop CISPA - Help Preserve Internet Freedom
Like a zombie from the crypt, this terrible rights-killing legislation comes crawling back to consume our internet. Sign on to stop it - again. And pass it on…
Learn more about USTV Media, its history as an original television series, as well as all the latest updates, and new initiatives underway by the producers. Join the USTV Mailing List for action alerts, production updates, program announcements, news bulletins and more.
The letter below was crafted by Catholic Workers and members of our group, Friends of Franz. Franz Jagerstatter was an Austrian Catholic family man who knew his fate when he refused to cooperate with the Nazis in 1943. He was beatified by the Church in 2007.
On September 12, 2015, the following letter will be published in the National Catholic Reporter, the largest lay Catholic publication in the United States. If you are a Catholic or of another Christian denomination and wish to sign on, please read the letter and respond. You need not assist financially, but if you can it would be helpful, for the cost is $2800. - Jack Gilroy
LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS
Dear Pope Francis,
We are Catholics and fellow Christians living in the United States where you will be visiting this September. We respectfully ask that you listen to our request and publicly respond to it with resoluteness equal to the gravity of the matter here raised.
In your recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, you proclaim that “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” Visiting the United States, the most prolific polluter and, not coincidentally, the greatest war maker on the globe, is a challenge and an opportunity that we pray you do not fail to take advantage of.
You have rightly denounced the terrorism of ISIS and similar organizations, and you have appropriately named the murder of more than one million Armenians by the Turkish state in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” There were no Catholic chaplains in the Turkish military in 1915 and the banners of ISIS are not displayed today in Catholic churches. The U.S. military, on the other hand, is predominantly Christian with one-third of the force Catholic, so that it might be hoped that your denunciation of terrorism and genocide might have a more positive effect here and now. We beg you to speak out just as clearly and publicly denounce the terrorism and genocide that your host country, the United States, is even now inflicting on the Muslim and Christian Arab people of the Middle East and the people of Afghanistan . Decades of aggression including sanctions, bombings, invasions, arming of insurgents, have left millions dead, many more millions displaced and homeless. Assassinations by remotely controlled drones destabilize civil societies and kill thousands of innocents. Thousands have been imprisoned and tortured. Many lands are being made desolate and poisoned, and ancient communities are being devastated.
In September you will be visiting a nation that is committing a trillion dollars to the development and production of a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, threatening unprecedented destruction of creation, while many of its own people lack the means needed to live lives of simple dignity. The global inequality that you decry, wherein the poorest suffer the brunt of diminishing resources and the ravages of chaos in the climate, is not judged by those who control the government and the economy in the United States as a problem to be solved, but an advantage to be defended at all costs. With more than 800 U.S. military bases already around the globe, the lands of indigenous people are still being plundered against their protests to construct even more bases.
We do appreciate the pleas for peace and justice that you and your predecessors have made over these horrible years. These good words are only rarely taught by the Catholic bishops, pastors and educational institutions in the United States . They have been systematically undermined by U.S. Catholic institutions to the point where the vast majority of the Catholic faithful, Catholic soldiers especially, are completely unaware that they have ever been spoken.
At the end of World War II, Albert Camus lamented that, even as an unbeliever, he was one of millions who waited for but never heard any word from Rome against the carnage he witnessed. The condemnation from Rome was voiced, he later discovered, but voiced in a style “not at all clear”.
We hope that you will not repeat the error of your predecessors. “What the world expects of Christians,” Camus insisted, “is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person.”
Pope Francis, we understand that you come to the United States as a diplomat and as a pastor, but in these perilous times we need you here as a prophet most of all. Please do not speak to President Obama, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops, and the American people, without making a clear denunciation of the complicity of our nation’s government, its people, its institutions and its churches in crimes against humanity and God’s creation.
If you would like your name added as a sign-on to the letter to Pope Francis, simply reply to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name. Organizations as well as individual names are welcomed.
Suggested donation is $20. If you simply want your name used without a donation, that is acceptable, as well.
Send checks to: Friends of Franz, c/o Jim Clune, Treasurer, 89 Pine St, Binghamton, NY 13901
As July 14th came rolling around and Bastille Day was once again the subject of commemoration (a date which is also, appropriately enough, Woody Guthrie’s birthday), it got me thinking again about the piece published in Politico back in 2014 by Nick Hanauer, the extremely wealthy entrepreneur, on how The Pitchforks are Coming For Us Plutocrats. That piece went viral and became a hot topic of conversation, especially among the social media sphere.
However, there seemed to be a lot of accusations leveled at those who joined in the critique on the growing and dramatic imbalance of wealth in this world, as if such critiques were somehow examples of people “hating” on the rich, or being driven by some kind of “class envy.”
This argument is a red herring, one designed to distract from the legitimate and required discussions regarding the underlying causality of the current situation, and the solutions that may be required to help solve it. It is an argument that serves only to personalize the issues at hand, which is the very chum that the corporate entertainment complex feeds off of.
The nature of the problem should no longer be in question. It has been cogently described by everyone from Thomas Piketty to Tom Petty, who pointed out the problem isn’t about people wanting to make money. It’s about people who want to make all the money.
After all, one can obviously make money doing very constructive, contributive things to society, which is a great (and to a certain degree necessary) thing. What should be rejected are those who enrich themselves by gaming the system, manipulating processes that are destructive to people’s lives and well-being, as opposed to supporting and benefiting those lives.
There can be no respect for those who acquire vast wealth through playing games by, say, getting clever with the books in the selling of financial derivatives through a form of control fraud or mortgage backed securities and other forms of market rigging and price fixing, of which the Libor scandal is the most grotesque example.
The corrosion is also manifested in the corporate health insurance scams, where profit is amassed not by providing care to people, but by denying it. It is embodied in the work of the vulture hedge fund capitalists who buy businesses and tear them up, selling off the parts for profit, but leaving the workers and the communities they live in decimated. Operations like these are the poster boy for all of the clichés regarding capitalism at its very worst.
Yet when the fact is pointed out that the typical household income is now worth a third less than even just a decade ago, and that this state of affairs should be considered fundamentally wrong, out come all kinds of defensive and accusatory responses. The fact that critical analysis of the systemic flaws and injustices in our current system can be so readily dismissed as the rantings of class warring “Marxist-loving leftists” who “hate the rich” is testament to the kind of BS that our well-heeled, Frank Luntz-infused propaganda system has managed to frame such criticism as.
Take a term like “job creators.” It’s an attractive enough, yet simultaneously distractive phrase. It is designed to spin perceptions regarding many of the near sociopathic figures responsible for this current state of affairs, from being that of oligarchs to ones of altruists. For these “job creators” to actually realize the kind of world they propagate, they would actually need an environment conducive to the creation of the needed consumer demand necessary to support those jobs. For it is the willingness and ability of the people to purchase those goods and services who are the real “job creators.” For it is a fact that business owners don’t hire in order to support the workers. They hire them only when there is the necessary demand that needs to be filled, and when they need the support and infrastructure of an additional and enabled workforce to be able to fulfill that demand.
Our corporate-backed media provides a more than an ample share of defenders of the current systemic status quo. This even includes platforms like NPR, with its Marketplace program, and their report on the supposed commonality of people’s ability for making it to the 1 percent. This feature has so many things to take issue with one wouldn’t even know where to start. This story reiterates why this may be my least favorite program on public radio, as here it serves to provide an effective advertisement for an ideological framework which is seriously and fundamentally flawed. For one, using the slogan of “the 1%” as a specific metric for measuring the degree of wealth inequality itself misses the mark. The most shockingly dramatic disparity of wealth is found among the .001%, the ramifications of which was disturbingly laid out in a recent Oxfam report on global wealth inequality. Additionally, it is stories such as the Marketplace feature (in this case about someone writing a song and acquiring a lot of money for it, which is an outlier of an experience for the vast majority of musicians and songwriters in this country), which have little to nothing at all to do with the point of a society becoming an oligarchic plutocracy. Or much more dangerously, it serves to advance the conflation of ideas that to oppose oligarchy means to oppose someone’s ability to financially succeed.
A listener’s comment on the Marketplace website left a related, and probably more effectively thorough response in regards to these issues, and in pointing out a couple of the glaring deficiencies of the story (and I would say that entire program)…
“I’m surprised that Marketplace reported on this research so uncritically, as if it somehow blunted the very real issue of income inequality raised by the Occupy movement. The protesters were not shouting themselves hoarse about a songwriter or an app designer lucky enough to make a few hundred thousand one year. They were talking about the investment bankers and corporate tycoons whose wealth gives them access to political power the vast majority of Americans will never have–the people whose unbridled greed and hubris brought the economy to the brink of collapse with almost complete impunity. This is in fact NOT a group that millions of Americans move in and out of each year. If the Occupiers got something wrong it was their math–rather than “the 1%,” it’s probably more like the .01% or maybe even the .0001%. But then again, “We are the 99.999%” doesn’t quote have the same ring….”
“Two things about this report: First, it seems that the more relevant “1%” is not income but wealth. I doubt that that population fluctuates nearly as much as income. Second, if Rank and Hirschl were actually interested in a fair discussion of government policy, they would also discuss what portion of the population spends time in the bottom 10% or 20% of the income scale. This report is silent in that regard, even though Rank and Hirschl probably have access to that data….”
We cannot provide even a brief addressing of this topic without noting what is possibly one of the most disgraceful aspects of mass wealth inequality, that of how Inequality Affects Health. As friend and colleague Dr. Karen Korn once pointed out, “Inequality damages us all. Human health. Environmental health. Political health. It’s unhealthy for any society to have great disparity of income, and even more unhealthy to have a great disparity of wealth. This is clearly demonstrated in history. Why do we even want to question this ‘fact’ unless if it is to attempt to create some sort of collective cognitive dissonance?”
Good question. And speaking of inequality and health, there’s the always relevant Yves Smith, who posted a piece featuring David Llewellyn-Smith on how ebola is an economic black swan, highlighting some of the dramatic consequences which transpire when we default our response to collective problems to “individual incentives” and traditional “market forces.” This specific case is regarding the economic causalities behind the ebola outbreak, but it could very well be about any number such health crisis caused by such related neoliberal economic policies. For in the end, we all pay when this kind of inequality becomes systemic throughout the very processes that our society functions upon, and the kinds of problems it responds to.
Unfortunately, many of the evangelists of neoliberal ideology seem no closer to understanding that “the market” may not be the most efficient and effective arbiter for solving many of the social problems and civic challenges we face. These zombie policies of “trickle down” economics seem to continue to be paraded through the corridors power and the media outlets that serve it, no matter how much damage they do and suffering they demonstrably inflict.
What might be most disingenuous about these efforts is the rather effective propaganda campaign waged in its defense, as if any alternatives are somehow a kind of un-American, leftist commie undermining of our free society, no matter how many times they have been effectively implemented throughout the nation’s history (worker’s rights, social security, public education including state-supported higher education, the public highway system, the list goes on).
Perhaps most ironically, many of these self-perceived patriots would never dare to question the efforts or intentions of America’s so-called “Greatest Generation,” who were fighting explicitly for many of these very things now dismissed as “socialist welfare statism” (see Harvey Kaye’s work on FDR and The Fight for the Four Freedoms). Not only that, but the Second World War itself was won not by letting the “market” solve it, but through the implementation of a form of command economy. It was one that worked by tapping into entrepreneurial business, but on the terms and objectives set by the government. (One would think there resides some historical lessons here regarding approaches to tackling the problems of climate change).
It took the implementation of such a system to win that war, just as it is going to take an increased level of shared effort to address the rapidly growing economic problems being inflicted upon the dwindling middle classes (to say nothing of the already suffering poor), ones caused by the ever-expanding wealth gap. This is a gap which has been politically engineered over the previous decades, particularly since the rise of Reagan and Thatcher. The political re-engineering of such a system, one which increasingly works only for a small minority, is way overdue. And it is becoming not simply about providing needed relief to those in need, but for many, including one could argue for the nation itself, is now a matter of survival.
And one doesn’t have to ‘hate rich people’ to understand that.
This is not a bad analysis of the prognosis for who will end up being the Democratic nominee for the presidency next year. There are of course so many factors involved that come into play that who really knows. However, what can be stated is that whatever change is made in that office will have little to do with the changes needed and necessary. Whether those needed structural changes begin to truly manifest remains to be seen. What we do know is that whoever ends up as the poster boy or girl figurehead for executive authority in this country will be a reflection of those changes, not an agent of them.
It’s looking to me like Jim Webb is going to be the democrat’s nominee, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve been living on another planet if this country is going to elect an avowed socialist. It’s not only the corporate sponsored fear pandering that will be employed, though have no doubt, they have the power to make almost anything convincing against any sanity and reason (just look at the Republican slate for a ready example). Hillary is toast without progressive support, and I just can’t see that support. And no self respecting Republican, in spite of her record, could bring themselves to vote for her.
Now look at Webb. He’s an ex-Republican with all the quirky, 20th century idealism that I’m pretty sure any pundit will recognize as transcending party lines, and the oligarchs know it. He is the only candidate with tattoos, which will deliver the throngs of intellectually impaired libertarians into his camp, as they find someone they can identify with. Progressives will be marginalized into an insignificant bloc, masturbating in the shadows to “the Bern.” Webb reportedly once kicked Ollie North’s ass in a Marine Corps boxing match. This will ignite liberals and conservatives alike; liberals because North was a prototypical Nixon-style example of chauvinistic patriotism, and conservatives because he smeared Reagan’s regime. Webb’s also got some deep military credentials, and if I recall correctly he left the Senate because he was fed up. People will like that. He also holds southern values in high regard. He’ll be seen as the perfect guy for this country.
By the way, in regard to Trump’s surging poll numbers, there is a significant minority among us who subscribe to the notion that presidential leadership requires corporate skills, and they like his candor in all the racist pandering. I’m seeing a Rubio/Webb contest, and I’m pretty sure in that context Webb will kick ass. We will get what we deserve I guess. Just be grateful I don’t know what I’m talking about.
- Denny Zappin
Perhaps Denny has a better grasp on what he is talking about here than he gives himself credit for. At least in regards to the cultural context within which such elections are constructed and directed towards.
We have yet to see the political pandering machines go into overdrive regarding the candidates, particularly against Sanders (though its coming). As USTV Media co-producer Ed Lacy has pointed out, Hillary Clinton will likely attempt to co-opt the Bernie Sanders constituency into their campaign if he isn’t nominated (Clinton has already started by launching her campaign from the memorial to the most progressive American president in the last 150 years, Franklin Roosevelt). If they try, “I think they have a big surprise in store.” HRC is a DLC fraud, and Lacy and many others are increasingly vocal about how they “would never trust her or vote for her no matter what she says now. If she or Jim Webb or any of the rest of that New Labour/New Democrat/Goldman Sachs crowd think that they can just pivot Bernie Sanders constituency if he isn’t nominated, I think they have a big surprise in store.”
Pope Francis is not letting up. This guy is doing the Lord’s work, that seems for sure. This recent report of his visit to Bolivia, and his critique of unbridled capitalism being the “dung of the devil” is a direct challenge to our era’s competing theology of market fundamentalism. (though a spanish-speaking connection of mine has informed that was a mistranslation, that it was in reference to a “drug of the devil,” something I can’t confirm).
The notion of “unbridled” is the key here. Too many marketeers can’t take the disconcerting truth that their preferred system has metastasized out of control, and is a cancerous plague on human dignity, and on life itself. I’m all for market exchanges and the tools of capital within how we operate economically within society, but its truly diseased, fatally so, when capital becomes an “ism,” the dominant religion of society, and becomes not a tool in the system, but the system itself. It will, when left to its own devices and logic, turn into a revolutionary force, a cancerous process that eventually devours and destroys everything. That’s not an extreme position to take. That’s a rationally lucid analysis of what is happening right before our eyes; one not hard to see if we have the intellectual honesty to overcome the ideological blinders and incessant market propaganda that our society is saturated in.
“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” the pope said, decrying a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature”.
“This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he said in an hour-long speech that was interrupted by applause and cheering dozens of times.
The pontiff appeared to take a swipe at international monetary organisations such as the IMF and the development aid policies by some developed countries.
“No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice,” he said.
“The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor,” he said.
And not to get lost within this, was the striking declaration from the pontiff…
In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America”.
It’s the Fourth of July in America. And here we are with shark attacks and burning churches, presidential candidate’s poll numbers rise on the strength of immigrant stigmatization… I feel as if I am just a minor character in a dystopian novel; insignificant but driven by quixotic delusion.
It was in such national celebration that I took my grandson to watch fireworks from his boat club’s downtown docks last night. There were a lot of families milling around, tables of food and a couple grills going. I approached a lady working one of the grills and asked if the food was free or if we had to pay. She informed me it was a pot luck and people were supposed to bring their own meat. Not easily offended, I overlooked the obvious surplus and quietly walked away.
The note the expressions of patriotism as they continue to proliferate around me. I still have a couple of friends posting confederate flag reverence, and one who even went so far as to conflate gay marriage with government intrusion. I watched the fireworks last night wishing I could just enjoy the lit up sky with everyone else. It’s the sound of not so far away guns. It confuses me that this stirs a patriotic pride.
My patriotism began to shape almost 50 years ago. I was at the Nha Trang airport trying to catch a flight to Cam Ranh. I was sitting quietly on a bench, smoking cigarettes, when a grunt drags this Viet Cong prisoner to the floor in front of me and sits down. The shackled VC was wearing those cut off white pants they wore and nothing else. He had a super hero’s body but was covered in dirt, slime and he stunk. He sat there defiant and he caught my stare. Our eyes locked. Another GI came up and spit on his face, uttered some vindictive shit and walked away. The prisoner’s stare never broke. I don’t think I had ever been the object of so much hatred in my young life. It was his unyielding, proud defiance that got me. This guerrilla warrior, probably off of some small, struggling farm, in this moment of irrepressible, glaring defiance, may have been the most beautiful human being I had ever seen. I think it was one of my most profound moments in that war, questioning what the fuck we were doing there, and experiencing an admiration for an “enemy” defending his country. It started me thinking in a way that has cursed me all these years. Interesting how this memory always resurfaces as we celebrate our “independence.”
I’m sharing this story in the hope that maybe a few of us might take a moment and stare with me, back into that guy’s eyes. I mean, sharks are attacking, churches are burning, an entire field of misanthropic theocrats are dominating one of our thoroughly owned, lock stock and barrel political parties. Enjoy the skies but listen to that sound, it too is a sound of terror.
All said and done, I do love my country. I am awed by how visually beautiful she is, even in our cities. However, once I get past what seems to me to be a superficial sheen in our new developments, cool as the architecture may be, I just don’t feel any “spiritual” connection. I much prefer experiencing the power in the ghost of our seemingly bombed out industrial ruins, with the neighborhoods that have within a generation gone from being sources of life to being boarded up windows and high weeds.
I love the imposition of our historical reality. I am also drawn to and often overwhelmed by our natural landscapes and the magic they evoke. As a people, it is expressed by the clashing of cultures. Well, maybe “marriage” of cultures would be a better term (much to the chagrin of certain political forces), that have made it possible for the birth of such amazing musical genres, as just one example of our national potential.
Make no mistake, there is plenty I see to be critical of, but I consider that on an historical world scale, we are just making our way through a difficult adolescence. It is through this perspective that anyone who has endured the parenting of a teen will understand my long term optimism. It is with that thought in mind that I wish all my countrymen a contemplative and calming celebration in consideration of our potential, and a good Fourth.
My friend, the author and scholar Harvey J. Kaye, delivers this missive on BillMoyers.comfor the 4th of July, reminding us that social democratic principles are, contrary to right wing rhetoric, not “leftist extremism,” but at the very heart of the creation and evolution of America’s political purpose.
Social democracy is 100 percent American. We may be latecomers to recognizing a universal right to health care (indeed, we are not quite there yet). But we were first in creating a universal right to public education, in endowing ourselves with ownership of national parks, and, for that matter, in conferring voting rights on males without property and abolishing religious tests for holding national office.
But there’s even more to the story. It was the American Revolution’s patriot and pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, a hero today to folks left and right, including tea partiers, who launched the social-democratic tradition in the 1790s. In his pamphlets, Rights of Man and Agrarian Justice, Paine outlined plans for combating poverty that would become what we today call Social Security.
As Paine put it in the latter work, since God has provided the earth and the land upon it as a collective endowment for humanity, those who have come to possess the land as private property owe the dispossessed an annual rent for it. Specifically, Paine delineated a limited redistribution of income by way of a tax on landed wealth and property. The funds collected were to provide both grants for young people to get started in life and pensions for the elderly.
The social-democratic tradition was nurtured by Americans both immigrant and native-born, by the so-called “sewer socialist” German Americans who helped to build the Midwest and, inspired by the likes of Eugene Debs and Victor Berger, radically improved urban life by winning battles for municipal ownership of public utilities. By the Jewish and Italian workers who toiled and suffered in the sweatshops of New York and Chicago but then, led by David Dubinsky and Sidney Hillman, created great labor unions such as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. By the farmers and laborers who rallied to the grand encampments on the prairies organized by populists and socialists across the southwest to hear how, working together in alliances, they could break the grip of Wall Street and create a Cooperative Commonwealth. By African-Americans who came north in the Great Migration to build new lives for themselves and, led by figures such as the socialist, labor leader and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, energized the civil rights movement in the 1930s.
And beyond simply the struggle for civil and labor rights, the very premise of the efforts of the so-called “Greatest Generation” reiterated
Moreover, those we celebrate as the Greatest Generation, the men and women who confronted the Great Depression and went on to defeat fascism, fought for the decidedly social-democratic Four Freedoms, freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear, and the chance of realizing them at war’s end.
Polls conducted in 1943 showed that 94 percent of Americans endorsed old-age pensions; 84 percent, job insurance; 83 percent, universal national health insurance; and 79 percent, aid for students, leading FDR in his 1944 State of the Union message to propose a Second Bill of Rights that would guarantee those very things to all Americans. All of which would be blocked by a conservative coalition of pro-corporate Republicans and white supremacist southern Democrats. And yet, with the aid of the otherwise conservative American Legion, FDR did secure one of the greatest social-democratic programs in American history: the G.I. Bill that enabled 12,000,000 returning veterans to progressively transform themselves and the nation for the better.
I do take issue with Harvey on this rather overly generous inquiry regarding the perspectives and intentions of Hillary Clinton…
Though she never did actually pronounce the words of FDR’s Four Freedoms, her speech revealed some awareness of a reviving - dare we say it? - social-democratic spirit? Whether simply tactical or genuine on her part is an important question that remains to be answered.
I think that question has been clearly and thoroughly answered by a lifetime of policy decision making by this woman, whose politics are aggressively neoliberal in content and militaristic in application. Her latest political feint’s in this direction are simply designed to fend off the surging wave of support for Bernie Sanders, and to corral the insurrectionary spirit surging up among the American electorate back into the dead end of the Democratic Party.
So on this 4th of July, here’s to reinvigorating that revolutionary spirit within the trajectory of the American political scene. The very creation of UnCommon Sense TV Media was predicated upon awareness of that need, one seemingly required more than ever today by the circumstances of our time.
For the political revolution of 1776 was in many ways a fundamentally radical act (though the English Civil War of a century earlier helped set the precedent). If the American Revolution was about anything, it was about challenging the notion of government being a tool to confer privilege on insiders, on power being wielded by the few in order to benefit the few at the expense of the many; an age old dilemma we continue to confront generation after generation. Though highly imperfect in what it defined as the “many,” and the “people,” it was a major step in a progressively expansive direction, a notable act towards increased justice on that “long arc of history” that Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of. Long live the Revolution.
I don’t know, but somehow it feels like we might be in a kind of Berlin Wall falling-type moment right now in American history.
All of these issues around the Confederate flag, the Confederacy, the entire legacy of the Civil War, and the white privilege and power for which it was fundamentally fought - it seems to be coming to some kind of real turning point. Dylann Roof wanted to trigger a new Civil War, a new resurgence of the exact same cause that was unleashed in that same town of Charleston over 150 years ago. It didn’t quite work out the way those original Confederates anticipated. I’m sensing this one may not either.
Perhaps this effort will go the same way, and maybe, just maybe, begin to truly put an end to the ignorantly racist illusions for which it was originally initiated. It’s as if southern culture and national racist xenophobia was never truly eliminated, just repressed. And like a diseased infection, has continued on like a permanent low grade fever, always present, always compromising the health of the nation. Myths and illusions about the Confederacy and “southern pride” have been allowed to fester on in a way that would have been totally intolerable in Germany after the defeat of National Socialism. In the U.S., we have continued to allow for, and even institutionalize, expressions of respect for that which is wholly unrespectable, and displays of honor for that which is fundamentally disgraceful. Perhaps those days are coming to an end.
I hope the Confederacy is about to *finally* for once and for all lose the Civil War, and its violent, racist ideology get chucked into the dustbin of history. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia did not mean the end of the Confederate cause. It just went into guerilla mode, turning the struggle into a campaign of terror and domination.
However, as I’ve referenced before, hopefully the jig is finally up. The U.S., to its lasting shame and degradation, incorporated an unreconstructed barbarity into its national structure; a virulent, knuckle-dragging racist ideology that, rather than calling it out and purging it for the disease that it is, mollified it and perfumed it with words like “honor” and “heritage” and “tradition.” There’s is no honor to what became a nation that allowed for a domestic terror organization to become the de facto governing authority of power within a huge realm of American society for over a century. It would be somewhat akin to allowing Nazis to continue to fly swastikas and hold office and run the police force through half of Germany for a century after 1945. However, the Nazis wanted to exterminate those they felt superior to. The southern racist Confederates and their copperhead sympathizers just wanted to own and dominate them, and exploit them for their own personal profit. Is one that markedly worse than the other?
In 1917, the publication the Confederate Veteran made it quite clear who these southerners thought was the real hero of the war, and what they were fighting for…
“Great and trying times always produce great leaders, and one was at hand‚ Nathan Bedford Forrest. His plan, the only course left open. The organization of a secret government. A terrible government; a government that would govern in spite of black majorities and Federal bayonets. This secret government was organized in every community in the South, and this government is known in history as the Klu Klux Clan…
“Here in all ages to come the Southern romancer and poet can find the inspiration for fiction and song. No nobler or grander spirits ever assembled on this earth than gathered in these clans. No human hearts were ever moved with nobler impulses or higher aims and purposes. Order was restored, property safe; because the negro feared the Klu Klux Clan more than he feared the devil. Even the Federal bayonets could not give him confidence in the black government which had been established for him, and the negro voluntarily surrendered to the Klu Klux Clan, and the very moment he did, the Invisible Army,vanished in a night. Its purpose had been fulfilled.
“Bedford Forrest should always be held in reverence by every son and daughter of the South as long as memory holds dear the noble deeds and service of men for the good of others on, this earth. What mind is base enough to think of what might have happened but for Bedford Forrest and his Invisible but victorious army.”
As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out…
“In praising the Klan’s terrorism, Confederate veterans and their descendants displayed a remarkable consistency. White domination was the point. Slavery failed. Domination prevailed nonetheless. This was the basic argument of Florida Democratic Senator Duncan Fletcher. The Cause Was Not Entirely Lost, he argued in a 1931 speech before the United Daughters of the Confederacy:
“The South fought to preserve race integrity. Did we lose that? We fought to maintain free white dominion. Did we lose that? The States are in control of the people. Local self-government, democratic government, obtains. That was not lost. The rights of the sovereign States, under the Constitution, are recognized. We did not lose that. I submit that what is called “The Lost Cause,” was not so much “lost” as is sometimes supposed.”
Time to bring this charade of white “freedom” to a close for once and for all. Time to make it clear to the racist, murderous, antebellum South that it ain’t gonna rise again. Ever.
For as Coates points out…
“The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. The embarrassment is not limited to the flag, itself. The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance. A century and a half after Lincoln was killed, after 750,000 of our ancestors died, Americans still aren’t quite sure why.”
This is an extremely important piece of television documentary work on a vital
communication rights (i.e. human rights) issue - that of mass suspicion-less surveillance and its sweeping ramifications on the future of the internet and all that entails for the future of society and all of us living in it.
This film touches on a host of issues, including the role data collection holds over political and economic power, its use in advertising, and its impact upon our ability to live our lives in freedom.
As Bruce Schneier, a leading internet security expert points out, “As you are being surveilled 24/7, you are more under control. You are less free. You are less autonomous.”
It delves into the vital effects that encryption can have on these issues, for good and bad, and the history and purpose of these technologies, especially that of the Tor system.
David Chaum explains, whose groundbreaking work was the foundation for the Tor project, its use was designed to provide protection against a world in which our communications could be analyzed and potentially used against us.
You may not realise it, but every time you open up your laptop or switch on your phone, you are at the heart of one of the greatest battles now taking place in our midst - what shape will the internet take in the future, and what role will anonymity play in deciding it?
“The power of that data to predict and analyse what we’re going to do is very, very high,” says Dr Joss Wright of the Oxford Internet Institute. “And giving that power to somebody else, regardless of the original or stated intentions, is very worrying.”
What Dr Wright is talking about is “traffic analysis”, which allows the prediction of the behaviours of individuals, not by looking at the contents of their emails, but by looking at the patterns of communication.
It’s become ever more possible as we spend more of our lives online. However, what few may realise is that scientists at the dawn of the information age predicted such issues would eventually become matters of public concern and interest.
Finally - someone pointing in no uncertain terms the stark obviousness of the “impossibility of growth”, and how things that cannot go on forever…don’t.
Last spring, British writer George Monbiot wrote this starkly lucid and honest piece on how and why our economic systems (and thus the political ones which enable them) must fundamentally change. The system has to fundamentally change, and our notion of what “progress” is has to be conformed to something other than economic cancer.
As he says, discussion of this primordially important issue is “the great taboo of our age ‚Äì and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing. Of course, turning our focus upon this issue is being aided of late by the outspokeness of Pope Francis, who has increasingly used his notably visible platform for addressing the fundamental moral and ethical dimensions upon which this whole subject resides.
Not that it’s “new” to many of us, but to see this spelled out in such socially uncomfortable detail in a global publication like this is telling. This is a must read for just about everyone. Monbiot, bringing the party of truth, whether you like it or not…
If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up
To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.
Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled for a few hundred years the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.
It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.
The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.
Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space - which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them - have resurfaced.
As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.
The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.
You’ve heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the international “trade” deal which is in essence a corporate coup over the organs of self-governance. Here, Monbiot elaborates on a EU-US version of this process.
This bonfire of regulation is accompanied by a reckless abandonment of democratic principles. In the Commons on Monday, Cameron spoke for the first time about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If this treaty between the EU and the US goes ahead, it will grant corporations a separate legal system to which no one else has access, through which they can sue governments passing laws that might affect their profits. Cameron insisted that “it does not in any way have to affect our national health service.” (Note those words “have to”). Pressed to explain this, he cited the former EU trade commissioner, who claimed that “public services are always exempted.”
King was right about people. Malcolm X was right about systems. And systems have their own way of sublimating people, regardless of their individual nature or intentions. Its why you can’t look to change systems by appealing simply to people’s individual conscience. They are part of the social ecosystem for sure, but its like trying to combat climate change through changing light bulbs and recycling.
Chris Hedges lays out a provocative analysis about the comparative importance of both figures, yet leaving little doubt as to which one he believes should be considered more relevant to our situation today…
Malcolm X , unlike Martin Luther King Jr., did not believe America had a conscience. For him there was no great tension between the lofty ideals of the nation—which he said were a sham—and the failure to deliver justice to blacks. He, perhaps better than King, understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.
King was able to achieve a legal victory through the civil rights movement, portrayed in the new film “Selma.” But he failed to bring about economic justice and thwart the rapacious appetite of the war machine that he was acutely aware was responsible for empire’s abuse of the oppressed at home and abroad. And 50 years after Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem by hit men from the Nation of Islam, it is clear that he, not King, was right. We are the nation Malcolm knew us to be. Human beings can be redeemed. Empires cannot. Our refusal to face the truth about empire, our refusal to defy the multitudinous crimes and atrocities of empire, has brought about the nightmare Malcolm predicted. And as the Digital Age and our post-literate society implant a terrifying historical amnesia, these crimes are erased as swiftly as they are committed.
“Martin [Luther King Jr.] doesn’t have the revolutionary fire that Malcolm had until the very end of his life,” Cornel West says in his book with Christa Buschendorf, “Black Prophetic Fire.” “And by revolutionary fire I mean understanding the system under which we live, the capitalist system, the imperial tentacles, the American empire, the disregard for life, the willingness to violate law, be it international law or domestic law. Malcolm understood that from very early on, and it hit Martin so hard that he does become a revolutionary in his own moral way later in his short life, whereas Malcolm had the revolutionary fire so early in his life.”