|Progressive Calendar 12.29.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2007 03:32:28 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 12.29.07 1. Stillwater vigil 12.30 1pm 2. Ban landmines 12.30 6pm 3. AI Augustana 12.31 7pm 4. Cuba Rev Ole! 12.31 8pm 5. WAMM giving 12.31 6. Rovics music/CTV 1.01 5pm 7. Malcolm Martin - Socialism is the only way 8. Ray McGovern - Creeping fascism: lessons from the past 9. Chris Maser - How we've made ourselves into abstractions 10. ed - Bumpersticker #1 --------1 of 10-------- From: scot b <earthmannow [at] comcast.net> Subject: Stillwater vigil 12.30 1pm A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2 p.m. Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be positive. Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers. If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it. Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to <http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/>http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/ For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560 [Or not, you know, it's up to you. -ed] --------2 of 10-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Ban landmines 12.30 6pm Jack Rossbach?s Banning Landmines Birthday Party The 10th anniversary of the Signing of the Banning Landmine Int'l Treaty The 10th Anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Int?l Campaign to Ban Landmines Party with a bunch of Nobel Peace Prize winners and marvelous others Pot Luck or just bring yourself -- lots to share Sunday December 30, 2007 6:00- 9:00 p.m. St. Martin?s Table 2001 Riverside Ave., Mpls - 612-339-3920 or Jack at 651-488-0524 jack2ros [at] yahoo.com --------3 of 10-------- From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net> Subject: AI Augustana 12.31 7pm Augustana Homes Seniors Amnesty Intl Group meets on Monday, December 31st, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the party room of the 1020 Building, 1020 E 17th Street, Minneapolis. For more information contact Ardes Johnson at 612/378-1166 or johns779 [at] tc.umn.edu. --------4 of 10-------- From: Minnesota Cuba Committee <mncuba [at] gmail.com> Subject: Cuba Rev Ole! 12.31 8pm CELEBRATE THE 49TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION AN EVENING OF MUSIC, FILM AND FUN 8:00 pm, Monday, December 31 1314 Marquette Avenue, Apt. 803, Minneapolis - Salsa - Mojitos - Cuban food - Sneak preview of award-winning film about Cuba's "special period" On January 1,1959, the "barbudos" marched triumphantly into Havana, and the dictator Fulgencio Batista fled to the Dominican Republic. Join us and millions of Cubans in celebrating the 49th anniversary of the revolution. Donations of a special dish or some music to share are welcome. Suggested donation: $10 Proceeds will go to support the Cuban Five (www.freethefive.org) and the ongoing work of the Minnesota Cuba Committee Parking is available at the Loring Municipal Parking Ramp, 1330 Nicollet Avenue between 13th Street and Grant Street. Some street parking is also available. More info: 612 623-3452 For more information about the Minnesota Cuba Committee and meeting times: http://groups.msn.com/minnesotacubacommittee --------5 of 10-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: WAMM giving 12.31 Last Day for Year-End Giving (Special Benefits for Age 70+) Midnight, December 31 Last day to give to Women Against Military Madness, if you would like to take advantage of a special provision in current tax law that brings additional benefits to donating from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Donating to WAMM can reduce your adjusted gross income and lower the amount of income tax you owe for the year. Consult your tax accountant, advisor or IRA custodian. --------6 of 10-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Rovics music/CTV 1.01 5pm Most excellent St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts in St. Paul on Tuesday evenings at 5pm and midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am. All households with basic cable can watch! 1/1/2008 5pm and midnight and 1/2 10am "David Rovics in Concert: Haliburton Boardroom Massacre Tour (Part 2)". The musical voice of Democracy Now! Part 2 of concert plus post concert interview. (a repeat) --------7 of 10-------- Socialism Is the Only Way by Malcolm Martin / December 27th, 2007 Dissident Voice Much like Charles Darwin, who discovered immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx was a pioneering scientist. He guided humanity through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and dominate for a time, and how its inherent contradictions condemn it to death. Marx forecast capitalism, once dead and buried, would be replaced by a superior economic system. Under socialism the shots would no longer be called by a wealthy few but by all the productive people in society in a genuine democracy. For the sake of human survival, sharing rather than competition would be at the foundation of the new system. History up to Marx's day and time recorded the transition from feudalism to capitalism as a bloody mess. So Marx well knew that it was likely to be just so when capitalism was forced to make way for socialism. One thing he could not gauge was the scientific and technical advance capitalism would make before it reached its dying days. So the problem humanity faces is that capitalism in its last throes, rotting internally, irrational and increasingly insane, is now armed with doomsday weapons and has created the technology to create the Orwellian state. The system infects culture and controls the mass media and education across a growing part of the world. It places its servants in seats of political and military power, and creates philosophy and myth to glorify its own existence. It is completely amoral. It has now evolved into a system that would not bat an eye before killing every single human being on the planet. In the near term, capitalism will take increasing advantage of war, disaster, disease, terror, and slavery to feed itself. Wholesale destruction and regime change will be visited on the oil producing states like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela and other resource-rich areas. Left unchecked, eventually the United States, China, India and the European Union will fight wars for control of world markets and access to resources. Capitalism depends on profits to live and the appetite for those profits simply cannot be satisfied! For example U.S. oil companies have realized world record profits every quarter for the past several years yet Big Oil must continue to raise the price of gas. The fact is, unless they make ever-greater profit into the indefinite future ExxonMobil and Chevron will wither and die. That is why, against every instinct toward justice, the oil company's servants in the Congress reject a windfall profits tax, have given away billions of dollars of royalty rights revenues, and will eventually give up drilling rights prohibitions on the Gulf Coast and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today, even the largest corporations, like General Motors, Nissan and Renault, seek the comfort of each other's arms. They will only survive in combination as wealth is consolidated in fewer and fewer entities! But wars for resources, higher commodities prices and mega-mergers are only putting off the day of reckoning for capitalism. There is only so much technology can boost production or wages can be depressed until a slave system must be created. Even at that, the system will then stare into the eyes of its fatal contradiction. Slaves cannot buy the products they produce. The American electorate again slogged through the political muck to try to be heard in 2006. Their effort turned out to be an exercise in complete futility or the nation's symbol of anti-war motherhood Cindy Sheehan would not be challenging the nation's first female House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008. The experience, frustrating as it was, will open more minds to the real source of our oppression and the true telling of our nation's history. The fact is that the story of the United States of America is bound up in the birth and rise of capitalism, and the nation's present descent into dictatorship is part of the same economic system's decline and inevitable death. Coincidental with the birth of the US, fueled by the Industrial Revolution, the capitalist system was beginning to break the brutish shackles of feudalism on the people of that day. At the same time capitalism began creating the only force capable of destroying it - the working class. Nascent capitalism enjoyed explosive growth and it spawned revolutions around the world, including the American Revolution. The young and dynamic economic system found that a bourgeois democracy was the most fertile soil for development. The new nation and several other rising industrial countries adopted this form of government. >From the birth of the republic, capitalism has been able to provide the American people with several powerful incentives to buy into the program. Five percent of the world's population is invited to consume 30% of the world's resources by way of imperialism. Then the white American majority is invited to enjoy a disproportionate share of that material wealth by way of racism. An especially comfortable place is provided to politicians, intellectuals, academics, bureaucrats, and entertainers in the narrow strata of society Marx called the petty bourgeois. Nowadays though, the deal with the capitalist devil is becoming more and more difficult to keep! The U.S. is being integrated into a global economy as capitalism searches for the lowest possible wage and the greatest possible profit. The process is steadily reshaping ours into a subsistence-wage service economy. The jobs of elite industrial workers, from auto and steelworkers to airline pilots, are disappearing across the country along with their health benefits and pensions. Even white Americans have begun to feel the pain of a declining standard of living. It is a process that will not be reversed. Capitalism's contradictory impulses have begun bumping into each other. It's happening in the ongoing national debate on immigration and it happened in the recent Dubai Ports World controversy. Profits remain the system's lifeblood so the ruling class craves an immigrant guest worker program and the United Arab Emirates' petrodollars but the rabid anti-immigrant and anti-Arab sentiment coursing through U.S. society blocked that path to greater riches. The situation is worsening though. No matter the potential backlash now, desperate crumbling financial pillars of the system like Citicorp and Morgan Stanley are happily accepting the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China. Racism and xenophobia and nationalism and patriotism and every other tactic of division have been promoted relentlessly by capitalism with good reason. White supremacy, Black Nationalism, religious fundamentalism, sexism, homophobia, and all the crackpot schemes and the nihilistic cults of the bourgeoisie, like al-Qaeda, are dead ends for all of us who work. In contrast, our unity would be a poison arrow shot into this system's Achilles' heel. Now as capitalism enters its final stage, a nearly seamless political transition to fascism is well underway in the United States. The mass media, the electoral machinery, and both major political parties are under corporate control. The trappings of bourgeois democracy are a hindrance on profits and so they are being shredded. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are being rendered meaningless by plans for perpetual war, by presidential signing statements and the theory of the unitary executive, extraordinary rendition, government surveillance programs and the like. Programs based on democratic principles like the public schools, Social Security, and Medicare are being starved to death. Separate and parallel Internet and military forces are being constructed along with internment camps and the legal construct for a martial law declaration. Blackwater is the growing private military force of the ruling class, protecting them in Baghdad and patrolling the streets of New Orleans for them now. Because there are too many sons and daughters of the working class in the US military it can not be trusted by the bourgeoisie when the order is given to attack the American people. Likely the two militaries will one day face each other in combat. Bloodless coups in 2000 and 2004 installed George W. Bush in the White House and it would take a team of psychoanalysts and profilers to catalogue the many and varied mental pathologies of Bush and his henchmen in the U.S. government. The point to keep in mind is that in this time and in this place the capitalist system required barely human persons in power capable of carrying out insane and grotesquely inhumane policies, up to and including nuclear warfare. Capitalism, like the HAL 9000 computer onboard the spaceship Discovery in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is out of the control of its makers. The system now has only human sentinels, best represented by the so-called Neo-Conservatives in ruling circles. American bourgeois democracy is being held under water. It will drown, never to be resuscitated. The liberal intelligentsia of the petty bourgeois spins its wheels in the mud of this reality. On this point Al Gore's quixotic campaign to sound the alarm on the ecological disaster right around the corner is instructive. In An Inconvenient Truth Gore lays out the incontrovertible facts of global warming, hoping to organize and agitate to a tipping point that changes governmental policy. A young Al Gore saw Dr. Martin Luther King do just that in his confrontation with racism. Despite titling his recent book "The Assault On Reason" Gore clings to the idea that rationality still has influence in American ruling circles. The real inconvenient truth is that even the great Dr. King could not generate an effective civil rights movement in this era and that the rape of the planet will not end until a stake is driven into the heart of capitalism. The sad truth is that the petty bourgeois cannot defeat the capitalist ruling class! They are a timid and passive group who, in this time for warriors, gather at the gates of the palace to nag and complain essentially to each other. There are scores of Internet websites, magazines, newspapers, radio programs and networks, and some small television networks where liberal, left, progressive, and other commentators show up to whine out loud. They rail against the outrages and inhumanity of the U.S. government and the Bush Administration. They point out the duplicity, the corruption, the hypocrisy, the inhumanity, and the utter criminality loosed in the world today but to no useful end since capitalism will not be reformed nor shamed to death. Pointing out the defects of capitalism has become as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. The ruling class brushes its liberal democratic critics off like gnats as long as they stay away from the third rail. But let one of these voices dare mention unity based on working class-consciousness and a mobilization to strike at profits and great danger would shortly thereafter visit. No matter the danger, it must begin to be spoken by a warrior vanguard: socialism is the only way humankind will live into the distant future on this planet. Only a working class with a consciousness of itself and united across all racial, national and cultural boundaries is capable of seizing power. Only a working class in power will see to the end of this madness and willingly share our available resources for the sake of human survival. Malcolm Martin is a teacher and an elected teacher's union official of an American Federation of Teachers affiliate. He can be reached at: Malcolmxmlk [at] aol.com. Read other articles by Malcolm. This article was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 5:27 am and is filed under Communism/Marxism, Socialism. --------8 of 10-------- Creeping Fascism: Lessons From the Past by Ray McGovern Published on Thursday, December 27, 2007 by CommonDreams.org "There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater.Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later..." These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as "Geschichte eines Deutschen" (The Story of a German). The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages-in English as "Defying Hitler". I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner's birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and emailed to ask me to "write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush's America - this is almost unbelievable". More about Haffner below. Let's set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how "odd" it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such "calm, superior indifference". Goebbels Would be Proud It has been two years since top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W. Bush administration had been eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The Times had learned of this well before the election in 2004 and acquiesced to White House entreaties to suppress the damaging information. In late fall 2005 when Times correspondent James Risen's book, "State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," revealing the warrantless eavesdropping was being printed, Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., recognized that he could procrastinate no longer. It would simply be too embarrassing to have Risen's book on the street, with Sulzberger and his associates pretending that this explosive eavesdropping story did not fit Adolph Ochs' trademark criterion: All The News That's Fit To Print. (The Times' own ombudsman, Public Editor Byron Calame, branded the newspaper's explanation for the long delay in publishing this story "woefully inadequate".) When Sulzberger told his friends in the White House that he could no longer hold off on publishing in the newspaper, he was summoned to the Oval Office for a counseling session with the president on Dec. 5, 2005. Bush tried in vain to talk him out of putting the story in the Times. The truth would out; part of it, at least. Glitches There were some embarrassing glitches. For example, unfortunately for National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the White House neglected to tell him that the cat would soon be out of the bag. So on Dec. 6, Alexander spoke from the old talking points in assuring visiting House intelligence committee member Rush Holt ( D-N.J.) that the NSA did not eavesdrop on Americans without a court order. Still possessed of the quaint notion that generals and other senior officials are not supposed to lie to congressional oversight committees, Holt wrote a blistering letter to Gen. Alexander after the Times, on Dec. 16, front-paged a feature by Risen and Eric Lichtblau, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts". But House Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) apparently found Holt's scruples benighted; Hoekstra did nothing to hold Alexander accountable for misleading Holt, his most experienced committee member, who had served as an intelligence analyst at the State Department. What followed struck me as bizarre. The day after the Dec. 16 Times feature article, the president of the United States publicly admitted to a demonstrably impeachable offense. Authorizing illegal electronic surveillance was a key provision of the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. On July 27, 1974, this and two other articles of impeachment were approved by bipartisan votes in the House Committee on the Judiciary. Bush Takes Frontal Approach Far from expressing regret, the president bragged about having authorized the surveillance "more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks," and said he would continue to do so. The president also said: "Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it". On Dec. 19, 2005 then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-NSA Director Michael Hayden held a press conference to answer questions about the as yet unnamed surveillance program. Gonzales was asked why the White House decided to flout FISA rather than attempt to amend it, choosing instead a "backdoor approach". He answered: "We have had discussions with Congress, as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible". Hmm. Impossible? It strains credulity that a program of the limited scope described would be unable to win ready approval from a Congress that had just passed the "Patriot Act" in record time. James Risen has made the following quip about the prevailing mood: "In October 2001 you could have set up guillotines on the public streets of America". It was not difficult to infer [[ http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/60/19945 ]] that the surveillance program must have been of such scope and intrusiveness that, even amid highly stoked fear, it didn't have a prayer for passage. It turns out we didn't know the half of it. What To Call These Activities "Illegal Surveillance Program" didn't seem quite right for White House purposes, and the PR machine was unusually slow off the blocks. It took six weeks to settle on "Terrorist Surveillance Program," with FOX News leading the way followed by the president himself. This labeling would dovetail nicely with the president's rhetoric on Dec. 17: "In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September 11 helped address that problem. And Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed NSA from 1999 to 2005, was of course on the same page, dissembling as convincingly as the president. At his May 2006 confirmation hearings to become CIA director, he told of his soul-searching when, as director of NSA, he was asked to eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant. "I had to make this personal decision in early Oct. 2001," said Hayden, "it was a personal decision. I could not not do this". Like so much else, it was all because of 9/11. But we now know. It Started Seven Months Before 9/11 How many times have you heard it? The mantra "after 9/11 everything changed" has given absolution to all manner of sin. We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of our leaders, and this tends to make us negligent. After all, we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that drastic changes were made in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue and toward Iraq at the first National Security Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2001. Should we not have anticipated far-reaching changes at home, as well? Reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and court documents and testimony in a case involving Qwest Communications strongly suggest that in February 2001 Hayden saluted smartly when the Bush administration instructed NSA to suborn AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest to spy illegally on you, me, and other Americans. Bear in mind that this would have had nothing to do with terrorism, which did not really appear on the new administration's radar screen until a week before 9/11, despite the pleading of Clinton aides that the issue deserved extremely high priority. So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us. We know that the Democrats who were briefed on the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA). May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy? It is an important question. Were the appropriate leaders in Congress informed that within days of George W. Bush's first inauguration the NSA electronic vacuum cleaner began to suck up information on you and me, despite the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment? Are They All Complicit? And are Democratic leaders about to cave in and grant retroactive immunity to those telecommunications corporations - AT&T and Verizon - who made millions by winking at the law and the Constitution? (Qwest, to its credit, heeded the advice of its general counsel who said that what NSA wanted done was clearly illegal.) What's going on here? Have congressional leaders no sense for what is at stake? Lately the adjective "spineless" has come into vogue in describing congressional Democrats - no offense to invertebrates. Nazis and Those Who Enable Them You don't have to be a Nazi. You can just be, well, a sheep. In his journal Sebastian Haffner decries what he calls the "sheepish submissiveness" with which the German people reacted to a 9/11-like event, the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) on Feb. 27, 1933. Haffner finds it quite telling that none of his acquaintances "saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from then on, one's telephone would be tapped, one's letters opened, and one's desk might be broken into". But it is for the cowardly politicians that Haffner reserves his most vehement condemnation. Do you see any contemporary parallels here? In the elections of March 4, 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazi party garnered only 44 percent of the vote. Only the "cowardly treachery" of the Social Democrats and other parties to whom 56 percent of the German people had entrusted their votes made it possible for the Nazis to seize full power. Haffner adds: "It is in the final analysis only that betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight". The Social Democratic leaders betrayed their followers - for the most part decent, unimportant individuals. In May they sang the Nazi anthem; in June the Social Democratic party was dissolved. The middle-class Catholic party Zentrum folded in less than a month, and in the end supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that "legalized" Hitler's dictatorship. As for the right-wing conservatives and German nationalists: "Oh God," writes Haffner, "what an infinitely dishonorable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterward.. They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of Jews.. They were not even bothered when their own party was banned and their own members arrested.. In sum: "There was not a single example of energetic defense, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion. In March 1933 millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown.. The result is today the nightmare of the rest of the world." This is what can happen when virtually all are intimidated. Our Founding Fathers were not oblivious to this; thus, James Madison: "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.. The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home". We cannot say we weren't warned. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. A former Army officer and CIA analyst, he worked in Germany for five years; he is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com. --------9 of 10-------- How we've made ourselves into abstractions Written by Chris Maser Jan Lundberg's Culture Change Letter culturechange.org Editor's note: Chris Maser is a leading author with an interdisciplinary knowledge-base of sciences. His purpose is to help his readers and clients deeply understand our world and its problems, so that his answers resound with logic and heart. In considering the development of our species, touched on briefly but well done, Chris identifies our essential challenge: "...once the world is divided into 'us' versus 'them,' people perceive the necessity of acting either in 'self-interest' or 'self-defense,' which today translates into our 'national interest' versus everyone else's. And it's this sense of dualism that's the seat of humanity's increasingly fragmented view of a seamless world." He develops this further in a section titled Consolidation of Personal Power. Chris's insights include hunter-gatherer culture, which helps him be a most effective ecologist and forester, among other capabilities. - Jan Lundberg In discussing how I think fear subverted the sharing, caring way of life that most hunting-gathering societies enjoyed (replacing it gradually, insidiously with a life ruled progressively by acquisition, competition, subjugation, and fear itself), it is important to remember that mine is - at very best - a grossly simplistic notion of what might have happened, beginning with the development of language. Development of Language Of all the gifts of life, language is one of the most incredible. Through language, we can create, examine, and test concepts, those intangible figments of human thought and imagination. Concepts, such as love and fear, can only be qualified, not quantified; only interpreted, not measured. And concepts can be reinterpreted hundreds, even thousands, of years after they were first conceived, uttered, and written. Language thus guides thought, perception, and our sense of reality by archiving knowledge - and our cultural sense of fear. Knowledge, in turn, is the storehouse of ideas, and language is the storehouse of knowledge. Language therefore allows each succeeding generation to benefit from the knowledge accrued by generations already passed, as well as their perceptions of love and fear. Language is a tool, a catalyst, a bequest from adults to children - that based on love is a gift, whereas that based on fear a curse. Moreover, language allows each generation to begin farther up the ladder of knowledge than the preceding one. Language is an imperative for our survival because the tenets of society are founded on it. As well, our understanding of Nature, and our place therein, is founded on knowledge conveyed through language. We simply must understand one another if our respective societies are to survive. Technology and the Abstraction of Life Development of any kind is the collective introduction of thoughts, which inevitably lead to further introductions of practices, substances, and technologies in a strategy to use or extract a given resource or to defend those already in possession. Another facet of technology is the sense it gives us humans of ever-greater control over our environment, which in today's Western industrialized society is often a war against the uncertainties of Nature - against the creative novelty of the Universe itself. Consider the development of weapons. The abstraction of life, which shifts our perception from the spiritual to the material, began unconsciously through the technological development of weapons. Weapons initially came about as a means of protection from predators and for obtaining food. The first weapon probably was a hurled rock or a piece of wood used as a club. Then, a human-like creature saw the advantage of using a long piece of wood to hold some viscous predator at bay. With time, it was discovered that a stick could be fashioned into a more potent weapon by rubbing one end against rough rocks until a sharpened point was affected, one that caused pain or death. Next, a pointed stick was hurled at a foe or potential meal, and thus was born a spear, the sharpened point of which could be hardened by subjecting it to heat from a fire. Then a piece of sharp bone was fastened to the end as a more lethal tip and finally a piece of stone shaped into a cutting point. With time, a throwing stick or atlatl was devised to hurl a spear with greater force than available in one.s extended arm. Next came the bow and arrow, which could be shot faster and farther than a spear could be thrown. In addition, one could carry more arrows than spears, and arrows were probably more economical to make and less of a setback when broken or lost. This progressed to the crossbow and finally gunpowder and guns. Today's rifles can fire bullets so fast one scarcely has time to see an enemy's face, and others are exceedingly accurate at long range. Each technological advance made life and killing more abstract - such as "smart bombs." Domestication of Animals With the advent of domesticating and herding animals, came the necessity of continually finding enough pasture on which to graze one's herd. The more people in a given vicinity who had flocks of sheep or herds of goats, and later herds of cattle and/or horses, the more inevitable it became that competition for grazing lands would sooner or later find its way into culture. Competition became accentuated when people viewed their animals as their wealth and thus built flocks or herds to numbers far exceeding those necessary for mere survival. Here the challenge is that once the world is divided into "us" versus "them," people perceive the necessity of acting either in "self-interest" or "self-defense," which today translates into our "national interest" versus everyone else's. And it's this sense of dualism that's the seat of humanity's increasingly fragmented view of a seamless world. Invention of the Irrigation Ditch As the first ditch - a human-created water diversion - became the many ditches, it allowed the expansion of humanity, plants, and animals into places heretofore uninhabitable by those needing water in close proximity. In so doing, the supply of available water and the ability to divert it to areas of one's choice became a basis of a more secure life with respect to the production of food. Thus, local populations of people increased, as well as competition among them. With time, the supply of available water became contentious as those people who controlled more land than others wanted more of the available water. This scenario was compounded when water either originated on the land controlled by an individual or ran through a piece of land under a person's direct control. The farther away one's land was from the source of water one used, the more at the mercy and good will of the person or people upstream one was likely to be. Over time, ditches, and the water they carried, gave rise to agriculture and eventually led to such feats of engineering as the Suez and Panama Canals, each of which physically connects one ocean with another, and in the process, both canals became commodities over which wars have been fought. Centralization of Leadership Centralization of leadership, which may well have given rise to the proverbial struggle for power, probably arose with the acquisition of material goods, such as herds of livestock, and the inevitable material advantage that came from having more than someone else. Such distinct material advantage undoubtedly prompted the notion of personal privilege-based material wealth. For example, when the first European invaders set foot on the shores of the "New World" and saw its wealth, did they not set out to get what they decided was rightfully theirs by the act of "discovery" before someone else did? However, the New World was already discovered - and occupied - by humans, but that did not stop the European invaders, with their superior technology, from stealing whatever they wanted. So began the centralization and consolidation of alien powers in the New World. Consolidation of Personal Power The struggle for power was born the moment the first person with a social advantage consciously eliminated human equality from the heart of the hunter-gatherer way of life and replaced it with inequality based on gender and/or social class, both of which are a contrived behavior disguised as privilege and translated as "power." This sense of privilege, the underpinnings of most organized religions, is based on holding power. Fear of losing power through opposition means that all voices but its own must be silenced - as exemplified by the Catholic Inquisition in olden times and dictatorships today. With the advent of wealth and personal power, still another lesson from the hunter-gatherer culture was lost, namely that self-centeredness and acquisitiveness are not inherent traits of our species, but rather acquired traits based on a sense of fear and insecurity within our social setting that fosters the perceived need of individual and collective competition and the notion of "rights" such competition for power engenders. Establishment of "Rights" The establishment of "rights" led to the introduction of slavery, subjugation of the growing masses, and finally to the perceived unequivocal and absolute "ownership and rights of private property." Speaking of rights, the Dalai Lama said: "If we are prevented from using our creative potential, we are deprived of one of the basic characteristics of a human being. It is very often the most gifted, dedicated, and creative members of our society who become victims of human rights abuses. Thus the political, social, cultural, and economic developments of a society are obstructed by the violations of human rights." Those who violate human rights attempt to do so in the secrecy of an information blackout. To remove the cloak of secrecy and shed light on these violations, hundreds of journalists have given their lives to bring the news of such atrocities to the world by going into areas where free journalism is discouraged, if not outright forbidden. Today, one understanding of a "right" is a legalistic, human construct based on some sense of moral privilege. Although a right in a democratic system of government is created by people and defined and guaranteed by law, access to a right may not be equally distributed across society. Conversely, a "right" does not apply to any person outside the select group, unless, of course, that group purposely confers such a right on a specifically recognized individual - someone from a foreign country seeking political asylum from clan violence in Somalia, rape in Kosovo, or forced sterilization in China. Ostensibly, a "right" in democracy gives everyone equality by sanctifying and impartially protecting socially acceptable behaviors while controlling unsanctioned ones - which includes the "right" to extract natural resources by the global corporate powers. There is, however, a price exacted for having rights, even in a true democracy. Rights have responsibilities attached to them, such as protecting the legitimate rights of all peoples from the overreach behavior of resource-mining corporations, which means protecting the rights of extant hunter-gatherers, even those who simply want to be left alone to live their lives in peace and harmony within their homelands, be they forest, jungle, desert, or Arctic shores. Thus, whenever a law is passed to protect the rights of the majority against the transgressions of the minority, everyone pays the same price - a loss of freedom of choice, of flexibility - because every law so passed is restrictive to everyone. Put succinctly, we give up personal freedoms in order to gain personal rights, but those without access to the cherished "rights" reap only less freedom. The problem is that rights, as granted by humans to one another in daily life, including in the United States, are based on access, not on equality. Access is determined by some notion that one race, color, creed, sex, or age is superior to another, which means that differences and similarities are based on subjective judgments about whatever those appearances are. In American society, for example, men are judged more capable than women in most kinds of work because society has placed more value on certain kinds of products, i.e., those demanding such masculine attributes as linear thinking and physical strength as opposed to those demanding such feminine attributes as interpersonal relationship and physical gentleness. With notable exceptions, the stereotype holds that perceived differences in outer (superficial) values become social judgments about the inherent (real) values of individual human beings. Superficial characteristics are thus translated into special rights or privileges simply because the individuals involved are different in some aspects and either perform certain actions differently or perform different actions. The greater the difference one perceives between another person and oneself, the more likely one is to make black-and-white judgments about that person's real value as expressed through one's notion of that person's rights. The most extreme example of personal judgment is the use of superficial differences to justify a social end. One group of people thus declares itself superior to another group because it wants what the other group has. The "superior" group tells the "inferior" group that they have no rights, and through this denial of rights justifies its abuse of fellow human beings. By replacing spirituality, Nature, and human well-being with material wealth, as symbolized by the money chase, the road to social impoverishment, environmental degradation, and, in numerous instances throughout recorded history, the collapse of societies and their life-support systems become the norm - exemplified by the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Capitalism If we leap forward in time by the thousands of years it took to advance from the domestication of animals to the Industrial Revolution, we find that technology was still idealized both as labor saving and as a means of increasing the predictability of control over Nature in maintaining material lifestyles. But then something shifted in the human drive for predictability and power, a shift that began to focus technology on replacing people with machines, which in turn fostered the growing social inequality among those with material means and those without. Those who could afford to own the machines, which did more work than one person could, kept more of the profits. Thus, if it originally took ten men to produce a given amount of goods for sale, each man was paid a certain amount. With the advent of a machine that could now replace nine of those men and still produce the same amount of commodity, the reasoning became something like this: "I've invested my monetary capital in the purchase of this machine; therefore, I'm entitled to keep nine-tenths of the profits since my machine represents nine-tenths of the productive capacity because it takes only one person to operate the machine." And so the first people were put out of work by a "labor-saving" invention that not only separated economic production from social life but also strictly reinforced the tie of individual well-being to individual production. This coupling of individual well-being to individual production inevitably led to competition, which in turn led to social inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation. Labor-saving technology shifted to social tyranny when those who lusted after wealth and power discovered they could both own and use technology to produce more of a given product with fewer people and thus keep a disproportionate amount of the profits for themselves. At that point, the unspoken purpose of such technology began to move from labor saving in terms of creating a better life for everyone, to people-replacing in order to garner more wealth and power for the few who could afford to own the technology. After all, machines do not ask for wages; are not late to work; do not call in sick; make no human mistakes; do not want child care or maternity leave; do not expect health benefits, paid vacations, retirement pensions, and so on. The Industrial Revolution spawned not only the ability to produce more products than were needed to fulfill life's necessities but also the capitalist economic thinking that contrived the notion of scarcity as an economic construct to foster consumerism and increase profits. And thus fear choreographed the psyche of the industrialized human to deal with the economist's notion of scarcity and want. The contrived scarcity, which is built around the economist's vision, which perceives the ever-increasing need to consume-always consume, was built into the Rational Economic Man (and Woman) as an inherent part of human nature.1 As the dominant behavioral paradigm permeating conventional economic theory, Rational Economic Man is a bundle of assumptions about human nature from the philosophers of the Enlightenment who were responsible for early economic thought. The features assumed by economists to define Rational Economic Man are: 1. self-interested 2. competitive with perfect knowledge of all alternatives 3. acquisitive 4. materialistic 5. believing more is better - always preferable to less 6. preferring immediacy - something now is preferable to something later 7. always making the same choices ("rational") 8. the desire for power and its perceived psychological benefits 9. and, I might add, an addiction to machines and gadgets To the uninitiated eye, the traits appear to accurately describe human nature and behavior. Anyone who builds mathematical models realizes that realistic assumptions generate useful models because they have the ability to accurately predict real-world phenomena. Economists, among others, go to great lengths and invoke elaborate semantic gymnastics to convince themselves and others that their assumptions are realistic and, therefore, "factual" in that people really do act this way. In so doing, their style of speaking can be incredibly difficult to decipher, which Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan refers to as "constructive ambiguity." When, however, economists are confronted with evidence of human behavior that is inconsistent with the assumptions of Rational Economic Man, the instinct of self-preservation often leads them to point out that a particular assumption was not really granted or that a twist in language, which would indicate an apparently altruistic behavior, was really self-interest, and so on. If nothing else, they retreat to the premise that most people act consistently with the assumptions of Rational Economic Man most of the time, and that should be sufficient to ensure the validity of their "rationalistic" economic theory. Of course, if exceptions do exist, monstrous errors in describing the goals and behavior of people can also occur, as pointed out by Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson: "While the individual man is an insolvable puzzle, in the aggregate, he becomes a mathematical certainty." Holmes goes on to explain that it is impossible to foretell what any individual person will do, but an average number of people are always predictable because, although individuals vary, percentages remain constant. Holmes, in his discussion of the predictability of human behavior, touches the core of special cases and common denominators. Although each person is a special case and therefore unpredictable, if we study enough special cases with an eye for their common traits (common denominators), then we can make certain predictions about the generalized behavior. Where technology is not yet available to replace people, corporations still find ways of divesting themselves of those people they feel cost more than they want to pay. As corporations downsize, and as technology increasingly replaces people, lower-paying jobs, such as clerks in retail stores and positions in fast-food establishments, fill the gap, but most receive minimum wage or slightly higher (usually without benefits, such as health insurance), which is not enough to pay for housing. As a result, many people with jobs are homeless. That is different than in the past, when a full-time job almost guaranteed a person the dignity of being able to afford housing. There is yet another way human dignity is lost, one that especially affects men.2 In the days of the hunter-gatherers, there were clear rites of passage to help men find their path in life. In the not-so-distant past, men had communities (churches, unions, political groups, civic groups, and various associations of war veterans) to help them find their way along the time-honored path of masculinity. Now, however, good work is difficult to find and real community has been replaced by virtual community, which offers but a faint shadow of the once ways. Today, there is a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of many a man's stomach as the bedrock of community continues to crumble. For lack of a more substantive way to define themselves in today's society, men have become overly obsessed with their images because their jobs not only change too often to become a firm basis of personal identity but also are increasingly demeaning. Nevertheless, the dark side of technology (and its negative, human fallout) is ignored, brushed aside, as it were, by most corporations and many economists so more and "better" technology can be developed to deal with the problems of earlier technologies. The latter, however, more often then not become the technological problems of tomorrow and the endangerment of social-environmental sustainability. Although I could go on at length about the cumulative impact of making ourselves into abstractions, I think the point has been sufficiently made. So, where is society today? Now that we humans have the technological capability to destroy the entire world as we know it, more and more people are beginning to question the wisdom we possess to cope with many of our so-called technological advances. I find hope in this questioning because people are beginning to realize that we have duped ourselves into thinking that technology can progressively allow us to control Nature and therefore to separate ourselves from Nature, and from one another along the way. By the same token, people are gradually beginning to understand that they are, in fact, an inseparable part of both Nature and one another's experiences of life. Endnotes 1. The discussion of Rational Economic Man is based on: Chris Maser, Russ Beaton, and Kevin Smith. 1998. Setting the Stage for Sustainability: A Citizen.s Handbook. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL. 275 pp. For a more thorough discussion of Rational Economic Man, refer to Chapter 6 of this book. 2. The preceding discussion about American men is based on: (1) Susan Faludi. 1999. The betrayal of the American Man. William Morrow & Co., New York, NY. 662 pp., (2) Joseph H. Pleck. 1999. Balancing Work and Family. Scientific American 10(2):38-43, and (3) Martin Daly and Margo Wilson. 1999. Darwinism and the Roots of Machismo. Scientific American 10(2):9-12,14. * * * * * This essay is condensed from Chris Maser's 2004 book The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence: Rethinking the Future. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp. Chris has written several books that are showcased on his website, chrismaser.com. Chris lives in Corvallis, Oregon. He is a consultant on environmental land-use development, sustainable communities and forestry. Further Reading: "Ancient innovations for present conventions toward extinction" by Jan Lundberg, Culture Change Letter #161, June 10, 2007: culturechange.org [More soon from Mr Maser -ed] --------10 of 10-------- bumpersticker #1 ---------------------- Hillary is THEM ---------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney
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