On one end of a continuum of theories of governance is Democracy, where the People rule. On the other is Plutocracy where the wealthy class calls the shots. In the public discussion of this polarization in the United States there are those who take a sort of middle position and confusedly think of themselves then as moderates. But is it a “moderate” position to compromise Democracy? The argument might be clarified if we put it in these terms: Democracy demands one person, one vote, Plutocracy demands rule by the rich and “moderation” offers a compromise where the vote is based on dollars, that is, one dollar, one vote. Somehow I don’t think this is what the Greek Philosopher had in mind, that moderation consists in taking a position sort of half way between the extremes. Not when these are false, set up to give the appearance that a violation of the principle of Democracy has parity with it, that Democracy is an extreme. Someone at the table declares they have a right to 100% of the meal so a “moderate” would accept that demand as valid but work out a compromise where that person ends up with only 90%. It is apparently unthinkable in respectable quarters of the U.S. but taking the view that a tiny minority should have disproportionate influence is an extremist position. It is the task of the mainstream media, on behalf of their wealthy and corporate owners, to obscure this simple fact.
The drawing came out of an experience I had at a night club. A Nashville singer-songwriter had a Support Our Troops sticker on his guitar and stated how proud he was of his nephew for serving in Iraq and urged us to Support the troops – I wanted to shout, “Bring’em home!” but I allowed myself to be intimidated into silence. That failure haunted me enough to try to compensate with the drawing.The text below was printed on the flip-side of the drawing, a pocket-sized flyer I would hand out to folks at demonstrations. When I saw Bush or Support our Troops bumper stickers in parking lots I’d leave one under the windshield wiper. The situation has changed somewhat with Obama’s ascendancy to the throne but the pressure to exercise the violence option is pretty intense, whether that pressure comes from the defense industry, patriarchal ideologues or from within one’s own psyche.
The Bush Administration lied about the reasons for invading Iraq, claiming:
* that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and intended to develop nuclear weapons.
* that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and was involved in 9/11
* Both of these rationales were discredited by the 911 Commission. Despite this the White House continued to portray the war on Iraq as a war against terrorism.
Administration officials advocated for invading Iraq long before 911 as part of their fantasies of empire. The real motives seem to lie here and in the oil riches of the region. War profiteering is a predictable bonus for the administration’s friends and allies in the Military and “Security” Industrial Complex. War is always an opportunity to shrink Democracy and accountability, highly favorable advantages when looting the treasury (since reading Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine I now assign this latter motive a more central role).
The Administration talked of “Freedom on the March” but that was transparent propaganda. Aside from the illegal invasion, measures contained in the Patriot Act and other Administration actions, such as ignoring a Supreme Court ruling on prisoner rights to legal representation, the torture scandal, dismissal of dissent at home and the alienation created by its arrogant relations to the world community put the lie to its pretense of promoting Democracy. The Wikileak revelations certainly support these contentions.
The Administration exploited fear of terrorism among the population to distract from its deeply undemocratic agenda. This agenda includes dangerous and expensive militarization, continued transfer of power and wealth to the already powerful and wealthy, and denial of environmental pollution that threatens the viability, even the survival, of our civilization. Administration policies harmed our standing in the world of nations and undermined our security by creating resentment and animosity toward our country. Obama, despite preposterous accusations (socialist, Islamicist, etc;), has made barely detectable change in Bush’s policies. The hysterical animosity toward him is amplified by Fox news, made easier by racism, the other mainstream news outlets and by his own betrayal of his base. The most zealous members of the ruling elite, via their media, reacting to modest reform as if it were revolution, are laying out a warning to all comers: threaten our privilege, profits and power, however mildly, and you will be demonized.
Some 2,500 years ago a city smaller than Atlanta produced painting, sculpture, architecture, theater, poetry, literature and pottery which stand as monumental foundation for the Art we experience around us in the west today. In 1982 I stood before the Acropolis in Athens, awed at the sophistication of a people whose technology was mightily primitive compared to what has developed since. Yet they were able to construct an incredibly advanced civilization which despite our tools, we merely echo. Another aspect that we mirror is a missed opportunity: Instead of building a just and gentle society providing all with basic necessities and leisure to enjoy a creative, celebratory life, they constructed impressive art and implements of war and domination (I know, I know, Sparta was only a stone’s throw west).
In their invention of democracy however they laid a foundation for the possibility which we have, so far, squandered. Until our time it has been by and large a pleasant if utopian dream. With the development of nuclear weapons, and a consuming population growing exponentially, that utopia is an imperative that will emerge when we have put an end to war, domination, injustice and environmental degradation. Imperative because, if we are not successful we will perish in the uninhabitable environs of a wasted life system, well underway.
Perhaps Greek’s greatest gift was the admonition Know Thyself, for that is the means by which we might yet save ourselves. What do those two words mean? If Self is consciousness then attending to one’s consciousness would be following that dictum. This would mean becoming the observer, noting the passing thoughts and emotions and noting also, they are not YOU… YOU are the observer. Thus released from the captivity of those thoughts, emotions… karma… one is ONESELF, the consciousness that exists in, indeed IS , the great now, the eternal moment. That moment is not one of a series but, as the eternal qualification indicates, is the core out of which the temporal world emerges and recedes. Some traditions refer to this as illusion, recognizing that what seems so physical and permanent is an insubstantial if beautiful pageant, which felt knowledge frees one to join the exhilarating dance of life.
This drawing was done in the early 80s when Reagan was using such terms to manipulate us, "Stay the course! If you're just patient, you'll see great prosperity. Any day now, trust me."
Naomi Klein has done us all a favor and lifted the veil that has hidden the manipulators of the levers of power, revealing a very disturbing reality. The ruling economic theory from the great depression to Reagan was Keynesian, a theory characterized by the notion that government should intervene to protect the people from the worst excesses of capitalism. With Reagan came the beginning of the ascendancy of the Chicago School of Economics in our fair land, led by Milton Friedman, a former fringe group that cleverly, and viciously, insinuated itself into a global movement. Characterizing itself as “pure capitalism” it sold a seductive elixir that promised prosperity for all, in the form of trickle down benefits, as an automatic result of a market freed from government regulation. Not surprisingly the Chicago School was heavily funded by large corporations.
Implementation of the theory, Disaster Capitalism as Klein puts it in her subtitle, is everywhere hindered by the resistance of those who will “initially” have to bear the pain of its enactment. The “initial” suffering in every case that it has been tried is actually permanent. When not permanent, that is invariably because its rules were thrown out. When throwing out the Chicago School rules created relief and an improvement in the economy the “Chicago Boys” did not hesitate to claim credit. In fact it was it’s earlier failure in the 1920-30s that nudged Keynesianism into being, partially at least as a reaction to the competing appeal of socialism, an idea that had not quite yet been totally demonized. The program is best introduced in dictatorships where the pesty population can be persuaded, using the usual methods, to stand out of the way. Failing that the next strategy is to have everything in place awaiting some crisis under cover of which the new rules can be quickly slipped in place. Notice how, for all the talk of “freedom”, the theory virtually requires extreme anti-democratic measures.
In her enlightening book Klein walks us through a thoroughly depressing series of successes for the “boys”: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, England, Poland, China, South Africa, Russia and of course the U.S., where Katrina and 911 were used as crisis leverage points by Friedman’s friend Paul Wolfowitz and the other, ah… vultures around W. Success in these cases is a bit different than the advertisement. It would seem that since the adherents proselytize relentlessly, with religious fervor, and since their “successes” always result in the impoverishment of the many and the enrichment of the few, and since they call this success, this must be their actual goal. But like the republican party and conservatives in general, a politician can’t very well state to the electorate, and expect to be elected, that, “When I’m elected I’ll work as hard as I can to bring back Fuedalism.” So seductive, flowery, and divisive rhetoric must obscure the betrayal until it is way too late.
What’s on offer from the powers that be? Reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the U.S., one encounters a chronicle of class warfare - extremely wealthy individuals and, now, corporations, using their cash flow to distort democracy, targeting “liberals” and supporting “conservatives”. Those who might question or oppose, however mildly, complete domination by these funders, the “liberals”, and those who will zealously by-any-means-necessary pursue their agenda, the “conservatives” are locked in battle, with one side, the former, having support of the people they represent and the latter having the advantage of lavish funding. The lavish funding allows, via the media owned by said latter, indoctrination of the natural supporters of the former such that they come to see their friends as their enemies and their enemies as their friends. Thus the choice of “poison” ends up rather narrow and none of it very good for our future prospects as a species, who require clean water, soil, air and justice.
Citizen comment to the Georgia Public Service Commission, 11/8/2010, in opposition to a Georgia Power rate increase request.
There are many reasons to oppose pouring scarce public resources into nuclear projects:
1. the high cost of nuclear reactors, the long lead time to operation and the unacceptably high water usage and thermal pollution.
2. the fact that a nuclear plant to a terrorist, is a pre-positioned nuclear device that can create a sacrificial population and an immense dead zone.
3. Even without the terrorist factor, safety is problematic. Chernobyl proves that when an accident happens it can contaminate large areas for long periods. The planet’s circulation system of rivers, currents and wind patterns insure that contamination is not strictly local. A recent New York Academy of Science report puts the world-wide Chernobyl death count near one million, an assertion it would be criminal to ignore.
4. Since the early 1980s, just after reactors began operating in Maryland, Calvert County's cancer death rate jumped from 2 percent below to 16 percent above the state rate.
5. The more plutonium we create the greater the risk of proliferation. Policy-makers seem oblivious to this troubling fact, exhibiting a pathological, alcoholic-like denial. Over 100 radioactive chemicals are created in reactors. Most is stored as waste, but some is released into local air and water on a routine basis. These cancer-causing chemicals enter human and wild-life bodies through air, food and water. Releasing these toxins into our delicate life system, and leaving what isn’t released to countless, unconsulted future generations to safeguard, can hardly be considered responsible, especially considering that there are benign alternatives.
6. Solar technology and wind generators suffer from none of these liabilities – no terrorist would have the least interest in them. No accident involving these sustainable technologies could conceivably threaten even small populations let alone the life system.
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has released a publication titled, Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, as a book and a free download on their website www.IEER.org. This proposal persuasively details alternatives to dirty energy and could save us a great deal of suffering and wasted treasury. Please do not enable the addicted, oppose this rate increase.
The city of Atlanta, along with the downtown business association, has been accused of conspiring to close the Task Force for the Homeless, a facility that as many as 700 homeless men depend on. The Task Force backs up and takes overflow from other shelters. Criticism of the Task Force includes, in my experience, “They’re not a good neighbor, they enable criminality…”, “They only warehouse the homeless.”, implying that the other facilities do more though, not mentioned, is for fewer and never addressed is what would become of 700 men if the facility closed. Some argue that business interests covet the valuable property. Others emphasize the negative effect on tourism and downtown business of hundreds of homeless men in various states ranging from simply “unsightly” to in-your-face panhandling to mugging, intoxication and mental and physical illness.
The difficulty of the homeless problem is huge. No surprise that some eagerly jump to the solution of pushing it onto someone else’s turf, passing blatantly unconstitutional measures like the so-called Urban Camping Ordinance that gave the police authority to arrest anyone who set their bag down as an illegal “camper”. Business persons in suits who set their brief cases down would not of course have been at risk. Imagine that the city supported the Task Force fully, even expanding it and putting resources into addressing the panhandling, criminal and illness aspects. Likely word would get out and the homeless would gravitate to Atlanta, compounding this intractable problem.
Homelessness is only one of many challenges we face, and given the election results this week, we’ve apparently decided (with a little nudge from wealthy ideologues) our best strategy is denial. Another course would be to look at where we want to be and set about figuring out how to get there. Here’s my vision: we need to devise a way to provide food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare for the world’s population in a way that doesn’t despoil the life system. This means that instead of getting up every morning and chasing money all day we put our creative energy into that task. Any ideas anyone? Probably won’t happen this week, probably not even before the turn of the year but the alternative is extinction by one or more of three intertwined global threats – nuclear or other WMD holocaust and/or pollution and/or overpopulation, hastened and ushered along by our dear old friend, denial.
Come tuesday we'll see if Georgians have shaken off the long-enduring custom of voting against their own interests. I throw out this post/drawing as a desperate act, like calling upon the Gods to intercede or sticking a pin in a voodoo doll. I want to believe it is only a fringe group susceptible to the hysterical rantings of highly paid hucksters, clever and diabolical, or merely emotionally disturbed recruits in the class war (which they deny exists except when some naive soul asks for justice and fairness). Then I note that Fox News has a lion's share of the ratings and I reacquaint with the meaning of REACTION.
I find it discouraging sometimes, the choices we are presented with at the ballot box. A parliamentary system would allow one to vote their real choice and, since it is not winner take all as here, your choice, green party for example, would be represented to the degree that it got votes. North Carolina, i'm told, is instituting an instant run-off system which is a really good idea: you vote first and second choices and if your first choice doesn't win and there's no clear winner your second choice is counted... opens up the process - tho i've heard the e-voting machines don't know how to handle this so we'll see what happens. On the presidential and senatorial level we tend to get two corporate-approved candidates, one they are enthusiastic about, one they'll settle for so for corporations it's pretty much win-win and for us it's lesser of two evils. Worth the effort though since the difference between candidates can be significant in some areas and thus create or reduce real suffering and damage vis a vis peace, justice and ecology. BTW, the system as it works now allows corporate funding of campaigns (with a vengeance given the recent Supreme Court ruling) so as Molly Ivins said, "You dance with who brung ya." If it's the public who finances your campaign maybe you'll dance with them (us) instead of corporations.
These drawings are part of my current activism, desperately trying to insert some sort of influence on the up-coming Georgia election, especially the governor's race. Odds are way against the Democrat despite what should be advantages... as across the country, the right-wing hysteria is warping the electorate. It shouldn't even be close. Of course the media, contrary to what the right claims, is center-right to hysterical right. When 1,000 people protest a mosque in NY it's major coverage but I remember a million people marching against the Iraq war in NY and millions in Rome, Paris, Germany, England, with very little coverage in the mainstream. Of course the peace movement didn't have a major network promoting its agenda, flagrantly lying and smearing the excluded opposition. Just as the U.S. attacks any nation that attempts an alternative to capitalism, U.S. media support the status quo and ignore or attack anything else. I'm tempted to describe the Tea Party folks as storm troopers defending the patriarchy (the white patriarchy), mostly unconscious, just reacting. Doesn't sound too far off for the mainstream either.
I did this drawing in grad school, 1975. Somethings never change.
The fact that the author of a book about the CIA writes for the New York Times raises skepticism in some quarters, the ones where I live for example… confirmed in the writer’s ambivalence about CIA’s mission and in his failure to highlight the Bush/Cheney role in having intelligence fabricated and tailored to suit their intention to attack Iraq, blaming instead the agency itself, and in his acceptance of “U.S. interests”, security “needs” and “enemies”. The “need” for intelligence on and operations against other countries is never questioned and the idea of conducting straight-forward, transparent relations with other nations seems never to occur to the writer. He accepts the use of the word “we” as if it refers to the people rather than a ruling elite. Despite these misgivings Weiner exposes many unsavory CIA projects. A few highlights featuring both morally ugly practices and incompetence:
CIA used gangsters in France and Italy, post-world war II., to disrupt unions - not terrorists, not criminals but UNIONS! Political parties not favored by the U.S. were disrupted with various sabotage and dirty tricks and those favored (right wing of course) were supported with bribes and other funding.
CIA lavishly funded the Gehlan Group, (Gehlan was Hitler’s chief of military intelligence). The group of former SS eventually became West Germany’s intelligence agency. Gehlan’s counter intelligence chief turned out to be a Soviet mole, accounting for the failure of almost all CIA operations in post-war Eastern Europe. These operations included dropping what can only be called terrorists into Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. The mole insured that nearly all of these infiltrators were either killed or used to feed disinformation back into the west. Imagine the response if the Soviet Union had been air-dropping saboteurs and terrorists into the U.S.
CIA Chief of Counter Intelligence James Angleton, a serious alcoholic, was responsible for protecting against double-agents. He coordinated closely with high-ranking British Intelligence officer Kim Philby, also a serious alcoholic and long-time Soviet spy.
CIA spent millions, at a time when a million was a chunk, buying fabricated and useless information from imaginative con-artists in Europe and Asia. Very few CIA officers spoke the language or had studied the culture of the countries they worked in.
CIA overthrew a democratically elected parliamentary system in Iran (1954), installing the Shah and his secret police and torture chambers. A similar operation took place the same year in Guatemala, and the agency was complicit in democracy-undermining coups in Indonesia (1965), Brazil (1963), Chile (1973) and supported death squad governments in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba (before Castro)… a long list continuing today in Columbia, Honduras and an aborted coup in Venezuela.
CIA Phoenix Program: an operation in Vietnam where bounties were paid on human beings; paid informers created lists of suspected communist sympathizers - a minimum of 20,000 Vietnamese were tortured, killed or assassinated.
CIA assassination stories were leaking during congressional investigations in 1975 so President Gerald Ford called a meeting of the editors and publisher of the NY Times to explain that public discussions of CIA history would ruin the reputations of every president since Truman and not serve the “national interest”. This makes sense only if you consider it in the “national interest” of a democracy to keep the people (voters) in the dark about criminal activities of its government.
CIA torture and rendition-for-torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (on-going) with the prohibition against spying on U.S. citizens lifted (not for the first time).
The ideologues in the agency and their supporters/enablers in Congress and the media, seemed never to be troubled by the gross contradictions between U.S. rhetoric around “freedom and democracy” and the consistent siding with undemocratic regimes and forces throughout their history. This apparent puzzle evaporates once one realizes that, to them, the “enemy” is not brutality, dictatorship, tyranny but the appearance of any organized alternative to capitalism. Apparently insecure in their belief that free people would or should always choose “the market” over any alternative economic system, any alternative “threat” must be smashed. Though they were unable to completely stem the tide in Western Europe they did limit the “damage” and were wildly successful in many other parts of the world. State opposition to U.S. workers organizing in the early twentieth century, where National Guard and police were assigned to take the side of owners against workers, is an insightful domestic parallel revealing the actual values behind the rhetoric of what Chomsky calls the servants of power.
The governor’s race is not looking good for the people of Georgia, who have been known to vote against their own interests. Republican Nathan Deal, a retired representative, some say just ahead of an ethics probe, despite this and other questionable financial revelations is leading former democratic governor Roy Barnes in polls. The discouraging thing for progressives, as usual, is that the democrat, though measurably superior to the republican in terms of trust, honesty and ideology, still is a long way from questioning corporate rule. He, understandably – this is Georgia - felt compelled, on veterans day, to praise our troops for “fighting for freedom” when anyone who knows a little history can see the absurdity of that claim. Most Georgia politicians live in a climate where, regardless of their own view, they must deny or avoid the subject of climate change. Right wing media have a firm grip here – a psychological history might help understand this phenomenon but it’s not likely to be funded by Coca Cola.
Good advice, right? But how do you be happy? An effort of will? Probably, but still, how? Just flex those happy muscles? That’s one of the attractions of Tolle’s work, laying out as he does a method of cultivating what most people would accept as happiness or at least highly desirable, a state of peace… and joy. By joy I don’t mean the Joy-to-the-World of holiday Christmas carolers… or maybe I do, or maybe they do. Whatever, what I mean by it is the state of consciousness where one deeply experiences being. There is a feeling of novelty when one shifts over from mind-chatter to awareness which expands the deeper one goes into it, when one begins to realize the spectacular miracle of existence, of consciousness… joy seems an appropriate word to describe that feeling. Love is another, the feeling that accompanies realization of interconnectedness, of Oneness as the so-called mystics throughout history have noted.
No one sees the face of God and lives. That Old Testament Dylan line I believe comes out of scripture somewhere and expresses the fear one experiences when glimpsing depth-reality through the lens of the dominant paradigm of separation. Terror dissipates when one feels interconnectivity. Merely thinking it is just another belief, likely to be overruled by the inherited patriarchal assumption of separateness. I venture that when Christians say “Jesus loves you” This is what they mean, the experience of interconnectivity… just other words for it – not attractive to me because of all the baggage I bring to that but theoretically equivalent.
This is my reply in an email exchange that evolved out of a discussion that seemed to me to equate Muslims with terrorism:
This is where we agree, I think: we both oppose people who harm others, who dominate them, deny their freedom, lie to make themselves look good and others bad, deny people their rights under the constitution and the bill of rights and also our rights under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed I think by all member nations
This is where we disagree, I think: the things that we agree on up there should be the focus, we should hold ALL citizens to those principles. it isn't ALL Muslims who violate them and it isn't ALL U.S. citizens who follow them... we need to go after those who violate them whether they are in Saudi Arabia or the U.S.... and by we I don't mean the U.S., I mean anyone on the planet who cares about those principles, and by "going after" I don't mean with violence ... I mean with law and persuasion, and patience for we ourselves are not so enlightened that we might not be violating other's rights without being aware... and if we are patient and prepared to listen as well as speak we might be persuaded and change our behavior - if we expect it of others then we must expect it of ourselves.
These are ideals we strive for. If we don't make them our main priority then we will have war and with the kind of weapons available and developing, the planet and its people will perish in nuclear holocaust, if not directly then in the aftermath when the environment, the life-system, breaks down, from radiation, nuclear winter and also from the pollutants that our life choices are more slowly but definitely creating - are we on the same page or are we still in different books?
At Katherine Mitchell’s Sandler Hudson Gallery talk (12/19/09) an enthusiastic group of old friends and fans were treated to some background to new work, which was unusual for Katherine for its text-presence. In the course of the talk she read from some of the text that had worked its way onto the canvas and paper works in the show. The paintings still carried Katherine’s familiar visual dignity but I found myself scribbling notes when she read quotes from prominent thinkers. The thought occurred to me that here are really smart people putting their impressive minds to the issues of art, intuition, beauty etc; and yet what we end with is occasional insights embedded in an intellectual fog. I decided to explore this further.
Bertrand Russell said something to the effect that, in reading, what sometimes initially appears difficult is merely muddled. That’s the feeling I get when I read art theory. Donald Kuspit for example always seemed so erudite to me with his references to transcendental consciousness, meaning in art etc; He once wrote that what Minimal Art claimed as its project, being in the moment, is actually a memory of what just happened. It’s close to NOW but not quite. I thought that was insightful at the time but now it seems off. The thought about something that just happened is about the past but being here/now isn’t about thinking about being, it’s being itself which is nowhere else but now.
This goes a long way, for me, toward unmuddling what art is about. Some theorists claim that the primary attribute in Art, dividing good from bad, is a display of skill. Others dismiss this as conservative and actually an obstacle to authentic art. I would suggest that what people are after in this attempt to distinguish good from bad art is to articulate this: that art coming out of presence is recognized as such by those with ample grounding in being – those who have had the frequent experience of moving into the present where the enjoyment of being escapes motor mind.
If you’re not present you’ll be possessed by ego which means being judgmental, comparing, seeking to feel superior, thinking thinking thinking whereas if you’re present you’ll detect the authentic or you’ll recognize the inauthentic productions of the ego, or perhaps a mix. Just as the religious acolyte glimpses “god” but then becomes entangled in theology, so the art seeker glimpses authenticity and attempts explanation in the canon of aesthetics.
Croce talked about the difference between ordering a pizza and Shakespeare as being a matter of complexity not kind. The effort made to make sense of sensory data, to interpret the world to Croce was art at the most basic level. This appealed to me for a long time. Perhaps what he was attempting to describe was the act of creation that occurs out of the state of stillness or presence. In the now you enjoy, no need to do anything… until you are moved to a creative act. And that act reflects the intelligence out of which it flows, to which presence connects us, and is recognized by others when they are attuned to that intelligence through awareness, cessation of mind-chatter - obsession with past, future, fantasy and anxiety.
In support of this notion, one of Katherine’s sources, Cezanne, our father who art in heaven, cautioned, “One must eschew that literary spirit which is so often divergent from the true voice of painting…in order not to get lost too long in interminable speculation.“ The true voice of painting (creativity) is not thinking, nor suffering but being.
Beach Seen, oil painting by Tom Ferguson (images stolen from daughter's sketch books)
What is the best way to arrest our skid toward extinction? How to live an ethical life? How do we advance “spiritually”? How do we create the shift necessary to avoid nuclear war, war in general, alleviate poverty, eliminate pollution and unsustainable practices? I have always been suspicious of one-sentence answers to big questions but Tolle’s take on things overcomes my skepticism as it embodies the beauty of simplicity, a strategy to address the full range of important issues that plague the human family. As with all simple answers elaboration is required.
Seems whatever question you ask Tolle the answer is presence. How do I respond to my perception that the momentum of history is leading us toward extinction? That the quest for profits, power and privilege is devouring the life system? That the most successful in that quest use their considerable influence to insure that no alternative gets a fair hearing, that their preferred mode undergoes no serious questioning. This is accomplished via their ownership of media and disproportionate impact on the political system and other institutional life?
We can use our minds to create strategies to propagate alternatives, we might do that, what we are inspired to do out of presence is not predictable which is why Tolle doesn’t advocate specific actions like blocking logging operations, whaling ships, war materials and demonstrations. Get present, then, connected to the self-evident intelligence out of which flows evolution, you’ll know what to do. It could be those actions, it could be others, but it is known only through stillness.
On some level reality can be conceived as a frequency array. Human consciousness, or unconsciousness, can be seen as part of this array, anger vibrating at a different frequency than affection, judgment different from acceptance… and presence, the state of non-thinking awareness, is a frequency we can call joy or peace. An agitated angry self-righteous demand for peace is little different, frequency-wise, than a similar demand for war. The frequency array is shifted by mere presence and one’s contribution to that is the ultimate form of activism. Presence is the state we are in when obsessive thinking is stilled. That is attained by simply noticing the chatter, bringing it into consciousness where it dissolves.
Now in presence, in the stillness of being, there eventually comes an impulse, an enthusiasm to act and that is the answer to the question, what to do.
Social Security is SEPARATE from the general fund, a separate tax and a separate fund. So beware when you hear politicians or pundits talk about cutting benefits to address the deficit or to “invest” in the stock market. They are either extremists who don’t believe in social security, Wall Street scam artists who want to get their hands on that money or politicians working on their behalf – that’s how they raise campaign contributions and why we need to publicly finance elections. So make it clear to any politician, as we did to Bush when he tried to privatize it, that this scam will not fly, that their career is OVER if they attack social security.
The cartoon refers to then Secty. of Defense Aspin but not much has changed, we can expect the same attitude administration to administration.
Lawrence Kolb's 6/24 opinion piece on the START treaty in the Atlanta Constitution/Journal was an unexpected bit of common sense in an area not noted for sanity. His support and that of the list of other cold warriors he supplies who also support it ought to be enough to convince even Georgia's Senators Issackson and Chambliss. We shall see, we can hope. The position he advocates is welcome but the reference he makes to "emerging threats" gives me pause. Martin Luther King's admonition that violence begets violence does not seem yet to have gained traction among the old, and new, cold warriors, the obviousness of its argument, that actions have consequences, not withstanding. This is no less true of the supposed "liberal" President Obama. One day, hopefully before we perish as a species, our leaders will recognize that so long as we use violence to resolve conflict, to seek some kind of perpetual safety through domination, we drift toward extinction.
I sent this text to someone awaiting diagnosis for cancer, hoping for good news, trying to impart what little wisdom in my possession, what i'd be telling myself if it were me:
this is from Eckhart Tolle who recommends practicing observing: the ego loves to ramble on, thinking this, thinking that, always thinking, mind chatter but this blocks us from the NOW and that's where we are, that's all that exists. Nothing ever happened nor will ever happen outside of the now. In the now one is connected to the whole universe, that is the true nature of reality, interconnection, wholeness, and when one FEELS this interconnection, not thinks it, FEELS it, the sensation is peace (some call this God).
Ego, which is that thinker up there in our heads, believes that we are separate which belief creates our dysfunctional world, of fear, war, bickering, competition, cruelty, environmental degradation etc;
The practice is to as often as you can throughout the day notice your thoughts and emotions, just notice them... that brings you to who you are, the observer not the thinker/emoter... when the mind chatter is suspended for that time one experiences the joy of being...
The practice of being the observer, returning again and again to wordless being, each time reinforcing itself so that you become more and more present, you spend more and more of your time there (here) in peace.
Oprah had ten talks with Tolle which are still available I think on her website and are a treat. The talk was divided into ten, the number of chapters in his book, A New Earth and of course he's on youtube. Good luck good luf
The CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s, has bought, corrupted and otherwise influenced individuals and governments across the world.* Their use of money parallels the way wealth corrupts, buys and otherwise corrupts and over-influences the U.S. government, electorate and other institutions.
Wealthy individuals and corporations make money available to those who serve a narrow, corporate, pro-capitalist agenda and those who will attack and otherwise undermine the efforts of those with a non-corporate, alternative agenda.
The CIA did it in Iran, essentially buying a revolution, over-throwing a democratically elected government, in the early 50s. Same scenario in Guatemala, same time-frame. Gangsters were used to intimidate and corrupt unions and political parties, in France and Italy after World War II., sometimes in exchange for allowing heroine smuggling into the U.S. I risk the obvious: the U.S. consistently chooses to ally itself with criminals against citizens innocently practicing democracy.
Oil-rich Texans influenced the direction of our "democracy" by funding right wing groups such as ex-CIA agent William F. Buckley’s National Review and other activities and other even zanier right wingers such as the John Birch Society. They did not restrict themselves to Texas, targeting “liberal” senators across the nation, lavishly funding their opponents, usually staunch embracers of the religion of anti-communism, meaning actually pro-capitalist privilege. Wealthy activists in other parts of the country may not have been as flamboyant but were no less commited in their determination to undermine democracy.
The ideology of anti-communism is not principled opposition to the lack of justice and democracy, its gulags etc; as is shown by the alliances mentioned above with gangsters, and in the enthusiastic support for brutal regimes world-wide practicing the very evils they, rhetorically, decry. The threat of Communism to these “patriots” is not in its corruption but in its promise of equality and condemnation of class privilege.
*Legacy of Ashes, a History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
Michael Parenti (his book called Superpatriot is excellent) argues that the people of Eastern Europe and Russia had guaranteed jobs, health care, housing, etc; With the fall of the USSR they had visions of suburban ranch, two car garage etc; but what they got is shit and corruption: gangsters running things, no real political input, more or less fake elections like here, malnutrition, no work, no food, no suburbia.... they become third world… and they wish they had back what they had before the fall (they don’t idealize it, they definitely lacked political freedom, due process etc but they had the basics and the basics are pretty important –try going without’em). The comparison isn't of "freedom and tyranny but of having the basics and not.
Noam Chomsky also points out in his curtain-lifting books that in the Soviet domains of Cold War days the people had the bare necessities, even high government officials lived in modest apartments, whereas in the U.S. domains, Central and South America, Indonesia, etc; a tiny elite were immensely wealthy (so long as they served U.S. corporate interests) while the majority population endured deprivation, malnutrition, poverty and were threatened by accusations of "communist", which made them targets of death squads, if they tried to organize to improve their lot. The U.S. provided much of the means for this oppression via “foreign aid”, CIA intervention, military training and arms – funded by U.S. taxpayers of course. So the bottom people of an affluent nation fund the oppression of bottomers of another nation. As the observation goes, the wealth is created by the workers and divided among the owners. The owners own/control the media so we get ministers of misinformation like Rush Limbo, O’reilly etc; keeping us distracted from the exquisite scam by demonizing immigrants, Islam, the homeless, dark-skinned people, gays, women… whatever works. This is one of my blog themes, power. The antidote lies in the other, being.
On some level I am Mona Lisa,… remember that song, Nat King Cole – the voice, just the chorus? Remember that painting? On some level, there we all are, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa. She’s there (here) vibrating in a smile of being and if we’re not there with her we’re missing the profoundest experience our senses can deliver.
We are at the edge of an avalanche of events which pushes us into the future... all that came before affects us with its momentum... we can hardly pause to make choices yet that is all we do, make choices... we choose a story to explain our predicament, we choose an action based on the values we've chosen... moment to moment... our magnificent evolution story instills awe and wonder... convincing in it's anthropomorphism, attributing this goal-making, desirous emerging of consciousness as if it were already consciously choosing... at odds with the more or less random flux and scramble that evolution is usually portrayed as ... yet why not?... it HAS to be intelligent, it IS intelligence, so random is not a satisfying way to describe its groping proliferation. I have to ponder to accept that the trajectory is toward cooperation and consciousness but it's plain in multi-celled organisms and this conversation is an instance of the impulse towards cooperation as we, together, grope for a deeper glimpse of reality.
Being is an experience which is not intellectual,... words can only point at it, name it. It consists, pointing at it, of feeling, knowing ALL, ONE... the past, the future, the present, the physical, the metaphysical, vibrating strings, swirling atoms, dividing cells, slamming doors, devious plans, dancing weekends... distant galaxies, super-clusters and beyond, all simultaneously... the connection where you recognize, feel, your connection with everything else... that is enlightenment, that is beyond the fear that drives our culture. that is the mindshift that will divert us from extinction. As I write these words I shift my attention away from fantasies of future/past and paradoxically recognize that it is mind-chatter, word-chatter that separates me from essential reality which is NOW, here... which is being.
Eckhart Tolle, and other teachers, suggest that we go to the wordless place, the place where the mind is still, NOT thinking... that is where we are connected to the intelligence of the universe and the place is NOW - some like to use the word God for that, being in the presence of God or Being or just being Present. These of course are just words that point at an experience, that experience is the real thing. As soon as we try to "understand it" - with words, it can fizzle and we are back in ego. Ego wants to be "right", only MY words are correct, your words are wrong... let's go to war! No, the only access to BEING, to GOD, is thru the wordless NOW... be here, now,... no words, no thoughts. Now I can hear you saying it is only thru JESUS that we come to GOD and Tolle suggests that that is the same thing, words pointing at the same experience... in fact he quotes from Jesus to support this view, that Jesus was saying this same thing... the kingdom of god is spread upon the face of the earth and we do not see it (because we're in our head thinking). How do we go to the wordless space? We simply become aware, we become the observer. instead of being the words in our head we observe the words and gradually realize we are the observer not the words. Some call this prayer but words are tricky and the mind-chatter habit is ingrained and powerful so we must be careful. I can accept that the word prayer refers to this state but I prefer the more direct word awareness, being, since they are less encumbered with baggage. Be in the moment. Don't judge, just observe.
This post is abit long. Several posts just previous to this on the same subject are more succinct.
In 1952 the Paley Commission, appointed by the Truman Administration to study the energy situation, recommended that the U.S. build itself a solar future, predicting 15 million sun-heated homes by 1975. The Commission specifically warned against going nuclear, asserting the promise of renewable energy sources to be greater than that of nuclear power for meeting energy needs and preventing economic dislocations due to disruptions in foreign oil supply. Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program intervened the next year with its propaganda promises of energy "too cheap to meter". The program aimed to distract a population uneasy with nuclear weapons, providing a shield of commercial nuclear power behind which Dr. Strangelove could amass unhindered megatonnage. More than a trillion dollars has since been squandered, for which we now receive a paltry 20% of our electricity and the dubious "security" of thousands of nuclear devices. Each nuclear power plant, and its cooling pond (spent fuel exposed to air bursts into flames), is a pre-placed nuclear bomb to any determined terrorist wishing us harm.
If this were the whole story we could move on, an expensive lesson learned, a dangerous historical moment passed, its irrationality attributable to reckless youth. Unfortunately there is a legacy, in the form of radioactive waste already released into the environment, more waste in questionable containment with no where to go, warheads out the gazoo and the ever-youthful Dr. Strangelove and friends in the wings, forget wings - on stage!, panting for another trillion dollar go-round.
Let's look a little closer at some of the costs of ignoring the Paley Commission's findings:
A report released by Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) examines U.S. government spending on energy technologies. According to "Federal Energy Subsidies: Not All Technologies Are Created Equal" the U.S. government has spent approximately $150 billion on energy subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power--96.3% of which has gone to nuclear power. There are 108 nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S. To demonstrate just how modern and up-to-date they are, Japan has gone and built 51 while France did them several better, at 60. The nuclear industry promotes itself to third world nations by playing on modern vs. backwater self images.
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) estimates 430,000 "excess" cancer fatalities from atmospheric nuclear testing 1940 – 2000. Extrapolated to the entire period of time that global fall-out from atmospheric testing will remain results in a figure of 2.4 million excess cancer fatalities with incidence many times higher (p.110 Critical Condition: Human Health and the Environment MIT Press 1993).
It's not clear what impact on Soviet policies Paley's recommendations might have had but in 1957 an explosion in the Soviet Union made Chelyabinsk (Mayak) the most polluted place on earth. Chelyabinsk was the heart of the Soviet nuclear weapons production system throughout the Cold War. Three disasters with its nuclear waste--in 1946, 1957 and 1967-have caused cumulative damages comparable to, and probably worse than, the Chernobyl meltdown. Even today, some 100 million curies of radioactivity remain in Mayak's Lake Karachay. Scientists from the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council say, " The groundwater is already contaminated, and the area is subject to Cyclones and earthquakes that could further spread the radioactivity." Rivaling Chelyabinsk is the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia, near the border with Norway. During the Cold War, the harbors of Kola were home to the Soviet Union's Northern Fleet, which dumped used submarine reactors, spent fuel and other nuclear debris into the sea with abandon. The waters now contain two-thirds of all the nuclear waste dumped into the world's oceans.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is proud possessor of 700,000 metric tons of nuclear materials, mostly depleted Uranium. This is perhaps 5% of the total when commercial reactor materials are added. In the 40s & 50s – 440 billion gallons of contaminated liquids were discharged into the ground at Hanford site in Washington State (enough for a lake 80' deep the size of Manhattan). There are 189 metric tons of HEU (highly enriched Uranium - 9,450 Hiroshima-sized bombs) at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, some sitting for 40 years, in facilities vulnerable to fire, in containers of questionable integrity, according to Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2000, Alvarez is a former DOE employee. He claims that the Rio Grande could have become a Chernobyl-sized disaster if the rains had come and washed contaminants into its waters after the May 2000 Los Alamos fire denuded vegetation retaining the waste.
Within a month of the Los Alamos fire another fire scorched nearly half the Hanford nuclear reservation and 20 homes as it crept within two miles of some of the most lethal nuclear waste on Earth, in 177 storage tanks buried six feet underground that could explode if a spark were introduced inside. In August 1984, 300,000 acres of the Hanford site was scorched in another fire. Cleanup of the uranium enrichment plant at Paducah, Kentucky will take a decade and is expected to cost $1.3 billion, according to a report issued by DOE. Nuclear facilities in La Hague, France and Sellafield in Scotland spill hundreds of millions of liters of radioactive waste into the sea annually. Contamination has been detected in sea life around the coasts of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Arctic. Sellafield officials seem to be reneging on a promise to stop the discharges by 2020.
Thousands of radioactive waste barrels are rusting away on the seabed in UK waters, environmentalists have warned. Greenpeace has released a film of the legacy of radioactive waste dumping at sea. It shows corroding, broken and disintegrated barrels of radioactive waste, remnants of some 28,500 barrels dumped by the UK between 1950 and 1963. Mike Townley of Greenpeace said: "Although dumping radioactive wastes at sea from ships is now banned, paradoxically the discharge of radioactive wastes into the sea via pipelines from land is not. "Such double standards are not maintained for technical or scientific reasons, but only because the operators of the nuclear reprocessing facilities in La Hague and Sellafield want to save money."
Forty countries have pledged US$370 million to clean up the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which killed an estimated 30,000 people during the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Five months after the Chernobyl catastrophe, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s true believer, Dr. Morris Rosen said, "Even if there was this type of accident every year, I would consider nuclear power to be a valid source of energy".
A recent study shows infant death rates near five U.S. nuclear plants dropped immediately and dramatically after the reactors closed (Study by New York based Radiation and Public Health Project published in the spring 2000 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology). Smugglers, aiming to transport nearly nine pounds of uranium-containing metal rods into Afghanistan, were blocked by authorities in Kazakstan. Such rods are produced in Kazakstan, Russia and Ukraine.
The federal government announced in January 2000 that many workers who built U. S. nuclear weapons during the Cold War years are likely to become ill (if they haven't already) due to exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals. This marked a historic reversal by the government, which had always maintained there were no connections between work at the weapons plants and later illnesses. This belated, if limited, fessing up, occurred under the Clinton administration. Under Bush we have reinstituted a rigorous denial-as-usual. Delays in the 30-year, $50 billion effort to clean up hazardous wastes at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are increasing risks at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, said an audit from the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general. Tank leaks, plus billions of gallons of more diluted contaminants poured into the ground since 1945, "could reach the Columbia River in as little as 20 years and continue for the next 5,000 years," the report said. At least 25 tanks are estimated to be generating enough hydrogen gas to cause a devastating, radiation-spreading fire if ignited.
The suicide of the director of Chelyabinsk-70, one of Russia's leading nuclear labs, reportedly because lab personnel had not been paid their meager $50 salaries for months, raises serious questions regarding the proliferation of nuclear materials. At the Chelyabinsk nuclear weapons industrial facility more than 60,000 pounds of plutonium are stored in 12,000 stainless steel containers the size of thermos bottles. Two or three of them contain enough plutonium to make a nuclear bomb.
Thirty years ago, Alaska's Amchitka Island was the site of three large underground nuclear tests. Despite claims by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Pentagon that the test sites would safely contain the radiation released by the blasts for thousands of years, newly released documents from the DOE show that the Amchitka tests began to leak almost immediately. Highly radioactive elements and gasses poured out of the collapsed test shafts, leached into the groundwater and worked their way into ponds, creeks and the Bering Sea. At the same time, thousands of Amchitka laborers and Aleuts living on nearby islands were put in harm's way. Dozens have died of radiation-linked cancers. The response of the federal government to these disturbing findings has been almost as troublesome as the circumstances surrounding the tests themselves: a consistent pattern of indifference, denial and cover-up.
Russia has offered the US, in negotiations on START-III, warhead numbers as low as 1,500. However, the US in response has actually tried to persuade Russia to go for higher numbers of nuclear warheads. This again violates the legal commitment to the total and unequivocal elimination of nuclear arsenals required by the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).
Startling findings involving economic impacts of a severe accident: DOE, in one of its Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on Yucca Mountain (a nuclear waste repository in Nevada now under construction – despite failure to meet DOE's own minimal requirements), mentions categories of economic impacts that could result from a severe nuclear transport accident but does not provide dollar amounts. Researchers Resnikoff and Lamb, using DOE's own model, did perform such calculations. What they found was shocking. A severe truck cask accident could result in $20 billion to $36 billion in cleanup costs for an accident in an urban area. A severe rail accident in an urban area could result in costs from $145 billion to $270 billion.
Several years ago, DOE estimated that a severe transport accident in a rural setting that released only a miniscule fraction of the cask's radioactive cargo would contaminate a 42 square mile area of land. The cleanup would cost $620 million and take one year and three months. The totally unlikely accident that recently closed part of Atlanta's I-285 for four weeks was a serious inconvenience. Consider the repercussions if that cargo had been nuclear waste instead of gasoline.
"Just one of our relatively invulnerable Poseidon submarines-less than 2% of our total nuclear force of submarines, aircraft, and land-based missiles - carries enough warheads to destroy every large and medium-sized city in the Soviet Union." - U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 1977, "You have survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict on you. That's the way you can have a winner." - U.S. Vice President George Bush, on how to win a nuclear war. "Military strategists can claim that an intelligent U.S. offensive strategy, wedded to homeland defenses, should reduce U.S. casualties to approximately 20 million . . . a level compatible with national survival and recovery." - Colin Gray, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. "Dig a hole, cover it with a couple doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top. It's the dirt that does it. If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody's going to make it." - Thomas K. Jones, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces, on surviving a nuclear war. "If no new weapons are going to be built, what am I going to be doing?" - John Immele, Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons Technology at Los Alamos, 1993.
This mini-tour of a grimy and terrifying terrain, might lead a citizen to conclude that nuclear facilities, weapons and their deadly by-products are not good for young children, parents, old or young pets, pet owners (all ages), nor old mother earth. The credibility of those who have conducted this little charade is, to be kind, poor in the extreme. They have plans. They would like to build more nuclear power plants, "safe" of course. They expect the public to be responsible for the liability in case of an accident via the Price-Anderson Act. They would like to burn plutonium as fuel in some of these plants and they are just itching to reprocess nuclear waste, one of the dirtiest aspects of the whole business. They want to build more bombs and allocate lots of money for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) so as to maintain an old & cultivate a new generation of weapons designers. They want to build weapons in space under the guise of missile defense and, to demonstrate their profound regard for future generations, they are willing to divert funds earmarked for cleaning up the mess they've made over to their exciting new projects. What this situation calls for is a little, actually a lot, of citizen intervention. A good place to start:
Nuclear Information Resource Service www.nirs.org
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research www.ieer.org
We would like to highlight the following, issues which are not adequately addressed by the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor the Nuclear Power industry.
the dangers of terrorism and insider sabotage at Nuclear sites: • nuclear power plants have shown lax security in the past with 50% penetration in mock attacks, even when security KNEW the dates & times of infiltration. • Cooling ponds are even more vulnerable than the reactors themselves. The spent fuel in these ponds would burst into flames if exposed to air, dispersing radioactivity widely. • It is very doubtful whether a reactor could withstand impact from a 911 airliner attack • It should be noted that wind and solar panels do not spread extremely long-lived toxins when blown up.
Water Usage: • The two new reactors contemplated at Plant Vogtle would use the equivalent of the residential water use of Savannah, Augusta and Atlanta, an impact the NRC, during a time of severe drought, incredibly labels “small”. • The water that is returned to the river will be at high temperatures, negatively impacting river habitat • The water that is lost, 2/3, as vapor is a global warming gas.
It is ironic that the ideological sector most loudly worshipping at the alter of the “free market” is calling for taxpayer subsidies for an industry that cannot compete in that market.
• Expensive, not competitive with wind/solar, conservation • Long-lived radioactive waste with NO storage solution after 50 years • To terrorists a nuke plant is a pre-positioned nuclear device • If nukes are safe why won’t the insurance companies cover them? • Uses way too much water & creates thermal pollution • Routinely releases toxins into soil, air and river and ground water
The apparently irresistible lobbying and campaign contributions that seduced national legislators into signing onto privatization and deregulation schemes over the past decades brought us to the economic melt-down we are now just beginning to enjoy.
The push for SB31 is more of the same. I hope you’ll consider that history and two other things in your deliberations:
Nuclear power is the wrong horse;
This bill is an industry fantasy and a consumer rip-off. (comment to GA Legislative committee on a bill to encourage nukes)
The term fundamentalist ideology probably evokes Islamic fanaticism to many, Christian or Jewish extremists to others but rarely are the promoters of capitalism associated with the term. Yet there is clearly a similar level of intellectual dishonesty. Rush Limbo has been implying that the Gulf oil spill-disaster is caused by “whacko environmentalists” and though he is the hysterical end of capitalism you won’t find a lot of real analysis on the more respectable end either. Numerous pundits approvingly report on the “nuclear renaissance” without mentioning Chernobyl, indeed, scrupulously avoiding the New York Academy of Science’s recent claim that nearly a million people world-wide died as a result of that disaster. And my long unanswered question, if we truly have a free press providing a full range of views for an informed citizenry where are the socialist commentators? In my home town newspaper you get Bill O’reilly all the way over to Thomas Sowell. That’s probably true across the country. No commentator consistently pointing out the contradictions and corruption of capitalism and discussing an alternative need apply to any mainstream news outlet. I need not rehearse the corporate “ownership” of congress and the political process in the U.S. directly related to how campaigns are financed. The owners control policy and media debate and where this leads us is ominously illustrated in the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
I sent this as a letter to the editor to the Atlanta Constitution Journal. Interesting to compare what i wrote to what they ran. It's almost an illustration of my point (what they cut in bold):
The term fundamentalist ideology probably evokes Islamic fanaticism to many, Christian or Jewish extremists to others but rarely are the promoters of capitalism associated with the term. Yet there is clearly a similar level of intellectual dishonesty.
Rush Limbo has been implying that the Gulf oil spill-disaster is caused by “whacko environmentalists” and though he is the hysterical end of capitalism you won’t find a lot of real analysis on the more respectable end either. Numerous pundits approvingly report on the “nuclear renaissance” without mentioning Chernobyl, indeed, scrupulously avoiding the New York Academy of Science’s recent claim that nearly a million people world-wide died as a result of that disaster.
And my long unanswered question, if we truly have a free press providing a full range of views for an informed citizenry where are the socialist commentators? In my home town newspaper you get Bill O’reilly all the way over to Thomas Sowell. That’s probably true across the country. No commentator consistently pointing out the contradictions and corruption of capitalism and discussing an alternative need apply to any mainstream news outlet. I need not rehearse the corporate “ownership” of congress and the political process in the U.S. directly related to how campaigns are financed. The owners control policy and media debate and where this leads us is ominously illustrated in the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Over the years I have attempted to define Art, to puzzle out where it comes from, what it means, its relevance, why we would be drawn to experience or create it. My current thinking is that when we become present we enjoy simple being and in that state we are often moved to create. When we are present, as opposed to engaging in obsessive mind-chatter, we recognize a work of Art that has been created out of that state. This view can be found, vaguely expressed, in the muddy ramblings of Art Theory and in the groping intuitive practice of contemporary Art - muddy and groping signs of an awakening that is timely and imperative.
above image, Twenty Year Work Bench - a painting done on the top of a work table i'd used for 20 years, with all it's spills, scrapes and bruises... overlaid with images from kid's drawings, mostly daughter's. The text is from the back cover of volume 4. of my Mind Stream trilogy, accessible from the link in the upper right corner of this page.
(Emory Prof, Fred Menger asked me to draw up the above idea)
Just finished The Big Rich by Bryan Burrough. One of the things that struck me about the Texas oil-millionaires, aside from their often ostentatious and outrageous consumption, was that almost all, despite immense wealth freeing them from the necessity to work for a living, continued to go into the office six days a week like any other working stiff. Roy Cullen even drove a cheap Chevrolet and brown bagged his lunch. Since they were basically workaholics, why were they so concerned about “big spending liberals” taxing them to death? They could have simply paid the tax owed, say 40% or whatever it was, and still had way more than they knew what to do with. They certainly weren’t working for their salaries, struggling to meet the mortgage, pay the bills.
Unfortunately these very wealthy individuals were mostly extremist conservatives who shifted the country rightward with their undemocratic money influence. Cullen even seriously argued for the idea of one dollar one vote. They funded McCarthy, William F. Buckley, John Birch Society, KKK etc;, right wing radio and newspapers and supported politicians who would do their bidding and went after those who wouldn’t with swiftboat type campaigns and funding their opponents, and not just in Texas. They funded the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua, fully buying into the hysterical religion of anti-communism. Of course not every oil millionaire fits the profile. Some became world-class partiers, some collected art and enjoyed high culture, donated to worthy causes. Cullen, again, gave away over 90% of his fortune to hospitals and universities while otherwise completely embracing the right wing stereotype.
This kind of concentrated wealth has repercussions. When workaholics are out there feeding their addiction and are willing to use their influence to grease government wheels in order to pull off deals that have overlooked harmful environmental and social costs then we all lose enabling a dysfunctional class. Cullen’s one dollar one vote philosophy isn’t that far off as embodied in our political system where politicians must raise huge sums to finance their campaigns. As Molly Ivins, a Texan of a different sort, used to say, “You dance with who brung ya.” If the public finances elections then it is the public who brung the politicians so it is the public, not the corporations and wealthy class, who they owe, who they represent. The health care debate, military spending, corporate tax policy, the whole range of issues would be a whole different discussion under those circumstances. That class would still own the media and thus limit if not control debate but there might be something we could do about that too.
(the "goings on" in Eastern Europe at the time of the drawing was the overthrow of dictatorship, thus the nervousness of dictators in our lil sphere of influence)
The Salvadoran army officers who murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and young daughter n 1989, were pardoned in El Salvador. In outrageous contrast the thirteen U.S. citizens who reenacted the 1989 murders, as part of a demonstration against the School of the Americas (S.O.A.) (School of the Assassins) where the officers were trained, were sentenced to prison. This has happened every year since the murders and is planned to continue until the school is closed.
The pious, if sleepy, Judge Elliot, who found the defendants guilty April 29, 1998 or thereabouts, also imposed on them a telling anecdote: if a man steals bread for his starving children he has good motives but criminal intent, has broken the law and therefore should go to prison. Apparently the learned judge has not read Les Miserable, or perhaps did read the sad tale and identified with the sociopathic prosecutor, cheering on his obsessive pursuit.
The defense took two basic strategies: to call for dismissal of the charges (engaging in banned political activity at Fort Benning where the school is located) on the grounds that only those opposing the S.O.A. were banned while those in favor were allowed to express their support; and that a higher moral law justifies the "illegal" action taken by the group. The analogy was drawn that citizens would have been breaking German law if they had stopped the death trains to Auschwitz but a higher moral law would have absolved them.
Reverend Bill Bichsel, in his eloquent pre-sentence statement, said, " We are not afraid of your jails or your police. We will be back to demonstrate on each anniversary of the murders until that school is closed. I hope one day you (Judge Elliot) will join us." Spontaneous and sustained applause erupted in the packed court room.
The S.O.A. claims that its instruction aims to instill "American" values in its students. Critics claim that the school actually teaches torture techniques (verified by the leaking of a manual). That aside, the fact is that many of its graduates have engaged in undemocratic activities, coups and assassinations, such notorious figures as Manuel Noriega and El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. It is a dubious proposition that a rigid hierarchical military is the appropriate teacher of democratic values. The school’s unspoken mission, and one of the reasons it should be closed, is to establish relationship with Latin American military officers so as to have coup-influence when leaders down there get the idea that democracy is more important than U.S. corporate interests.
Responding to an activist call I wrote the following letter to the editor (the drawing I used on a previous post but it seems apropo):
The most obvious solution to our health care crisis is clearly the single payer, medicare for all, system that works so well for the people in the other industrialized nations (Western Europe, Australia, Canada). This is not even on the table in the U.S. due to special interests who see such a system as a threat to their continuing robbery of the U.S. public - health insurance and drug companies (cartels). There is also the ideological contingent who shout down any rational discussion with cries of socialism! Then there is the medical establishment who seem to be motivated by the same end, profits. This same element opposed the original creation of social security and had they prevailed we would have a huge population of the elderly living and dying on the street. I don't think we should be listening to them this time either. It seems the most we can hope for currently is an expanded medicare and we should not allow undemocratic fanatics and profiteers to stop us.
I lay on the floor of the empty gallery, fairly drunk, savoring the evening, my first serious one-artist exhibition opening. I had stationed myself behind a painted screen with peek-holes and watched the crowd come through, walk along the row of paintings in which was inserted several live tableau – the Sappington twins dressed as elegant society woman and bag lady, Dan Basso in green face and tux sipping martini, Jesse Robertson Altman, at his feet, as housewife in red face, all on pedestals a la Gilbert and George.
Prior to entering this room the viewers encountered art opening food and drink and the first of the chronologically ordered paintings (above). An audio recording, consisting of layered, echoed readings from various of my writings, provided sound track for the experience. The seriousness and obvious respect which greeted the exhibit had my tender ego soaring in triumph.
So is this it? Is life a series of mostly mundane daily experiences dotted here and there by major and minor triumph and humiliation? Probably yes, if the ego is allowed the role of dictator. But dissolve ego in the alchemy of awareness and stand indifferent to outcome, whether success or failure but rather bask in amusement at the fleeting earth dance and the enjoyment of simple being… and in the celebration of creativity.
In our society citizens are vendors, business persons. You have to sell something to make a living. The only product most of us have to market is our time/energy, our labor, which we sell to the highest bidder. Education and skill improve our competitive position as employees. Employers increase profits when they reduce or keep wages low. Most of us drudge away our sales day, at best making the best of it. Failure at or refusal to engage in business has serious consequences - the street being the ultimate enforcer, the bottom line.
So our life-blood is traded for whatever level of food, shelter, education, health care and entertainment, we can attain. But suppose these were givens, the goal in fact of our society as a whole, for all, instead of enrichment of the few, the clever and the ruthless?
Suppose we set out as a nation to solve this riddle: how to create a society whose top priority is the basics (food, shelter, education, health care) for every citizen, at a sustainable level - one which doesn't despoil the earth, air, soil, water? This as the driving force of our culture, to replace the pursuits of profits, privilege and power.
If this attempt were made anywhere else and showed the least chance of success it would be crushed, as it was in Nicaragua, Chile and other countries, by the United States. It has to begin here and before the momentum of patriarchal capitalism finally consolidates its power internationally.
It will happen when we elect state and national governments, and courts, who embrace these values. That can only happen if we-the- people first adopt them, which can only happen through grass roots education, which we best be about. The means to this, as I’ve said in other posts, is to be found, not exclusively but clearly, in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.
What is happening in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, Israel, the United States, where people kill each other with casual bravado?
Certainly some killers are acting out their own abuse as children. A particular political, religious or economic situation might be pounced upon as an opportunity for the release of rage. The psychopath sweeps lesser but like souls up in the frenzy, granted permission by a situation of chaos to act out. If the abused are in authority others go along or risk becoming victims themselves.
As children we learn to limit who we identify with to those of our own family, neighborhood, city, nation, race, class, religion. The them/us mentality is fertile ground for national, ethnic or religious conflict, aggravated by the abusive scenario and exploited by unscrupulous leaders.
Rulers try to direct the process, getting us to think of allies as tentative members of the home team, and rivals as not quite human. Rulers will naturally find dangerous those who advocate expanding identification beyond the state to the whole species. A people who considered all human beings family might limit a ruler's capacity to drop bombs, to dominate economically, or expand territorily.
Now how do we get directed into limited identification? In the U.S. the rulers behind the throne are those who finance elections. Naturally the well-heeled give to those who will do their bidding and withhold from those who will not. Since campaigning is incredibly expensive, anyone running for office unable to buy television time, newspaper ads etc; can't get the visibility to even enter the discussion.
Corporations and wealthy individuals, the prime financiers, can be counted on to support those who will serve their interests, who will maintain and expand their wealth and power. Since this same class owns the major media (television networks, daily newspapers, radio stations) they also largely control the debate. They will certainly not hire someone who believes that capitalism is inherently unfair, stacked against the mass of people in favor of the few. No, your career prospects are definitely improved if you think that capitalism is humankind's greatest creation.
If you for example thought that no one should own more than 500 acres of land, that income over $300,000 should be taxed at 100%...stuff like that. Well you need not apply for editor of the New York Times, columnist for the Atlanta Journal Consitutuion, CBS anchor etc; no matter how great an editor or writer or anchor you might be. So to those who are hired those ideas would seem completely off the wall, not serious, not worthy of discussion. They are excluded, not with a feeling of censorship but with a sense of responsibility.
When all the assumptions a population encounters, everywhere they turn, conform to those of the rulers then on that rare occasion when a non-conformist idea arises it seems quite crazy, readily dismissable. What is being described here is a subtle propaganda system. It is aimed primarily at those who are invested in the system, the middle and upper classes. For the rest there is stupefying television, sports, and other diversions - the occasional, carefully limited election.
There are differences among the rulers and those differences are mirrored in the media. In the eighties, some columnists thought we should send U.S. Marines to Nicaragua. Others thought we should fund mercenaries, the "Contras". Still others, the "liberals", thought we should just crush the Sandinista government economically. But virtually no columnist in the major media took the position that Nicaragua had an elected government and should be supported in its attempts at democracy, land reform, redistribution of wealth. Such a view was radical, not worthy of discussion, even unthinkable to many.
Also not included in the options toward Nicaragua was the possibility of non-violent conflict resolution, a meeting to seek a solution that benefits both parties. Washington always claimed to be trying to push Nicaragua toward democracy but beyond the rhetoric was a fear of democracy, fear of the example of a successful equitable society. Other countries might get ideas. People in the U.S. might get ideas. The upstart must be nipped in the bud.
This meandering attempt to address the opening question concludes with a tentative answer. Limited identification is one of the major factors that perpetuate war and injustice. Acquiring this trait is a matter of course in a highly indoctrinated society and it becomes lethal when exploited by those who wish to dominate others. When our primary loyalty lies not to any particular country or religion but with the whole human family and the well-being of the natural system that makes life possible then the killing will, at long last, stop.