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Entries in terrorism (21)

Tuesday
Nov042008

My Two Cents

After eight years of the party that wrecked America, I think it is time to hope again that integrity and transparency will have a chance to be the tools of the presidential trade. I think a man of principle and honor has won this election, and one who has demonstrated unparalleled ability to excite people to action for their own good. I think this election trumps the 2004 go around because this was not an anybody-but-Bush election. This time, I felt like we had a good man on the ticket—as good as has been found in national politics for a long while.

It happens that he is also of my denomination, the United Church of Christ. I didn't vote for him solely for that reason, but it was something that helped me understand something of what makes him tick. No two UCC congregations are alike, so his at Trinity is very different from any I have attended, but in the UCC, social justice is a major concern and he has worked for that for many years now, and he understands there is more to it than handing out checks to people. These days, his grassroots empowerment and consensus building expertise is desperately needed. But I think his greatest strength, even before any of that is accomplished, is that he seems to be a keen listener. That alone will be a radical regime change from the status quo!

While I wasn't the stunned and joyfully weeping Jesse Jackson or Oprah, I did find myself a little verklemt as it dawned on me what happened tonight. The camera's sweep across the masses gathered in Chicago reminded me a little of the images of the night when the Berlin Wall fell. And in some ways, this event is as momentous. It is a victory just the same, a victory over the fearfulness and divisiveness of bankrupt ideologies.

Now, jubilation aside, I have my concerns that even Barack Obama—soundly principled as he is—is entering a total shitstorm of history and even he will be a small figure before the wave of events before us. But if we have to simultaneously face assorted crises like peak oil, global warming, terrorism, economic wipeout (that might end up leading us to a new economic philosophy that reins in the excesses of capitalism I hope), and all the woes before us, then I'd prefer Obama as a leader who can talk cool and tough, knowing when it is time to listen more than talk. With the Bushies, the adage of "when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail" was the prevailing but bankrupt logic. I think Obama's tool chest is larger than that.

I heard a section of NPR's All Things Considered where black voters were being asked to share their opinion of a pending victory for Barack Obama. One fellow told a story of how his friend sent a text message to many friends with something like the following:

Rosa sat so that Martin could walk.
Martin walked so that Barack could run.
Barack ran so that our children could fly.
Friday
Sep122008

The War Against Terrorism (TWAT)

the hooded iraqi in silhouette and iconographic starkness, with the words cruel and unusual, america must do betterHow's that war going, Georgie? Oh, which war, you ask? Well, how about all of them? I guess there are too many to really keep straight these days. After all, if you want to keep battling terrorism until you squash it like a bug, you gotta go to war with the whole world now, because there are terrorists behind every rock and tree and dare I say, every computer keyboard! Well, if you think on it hard enough, there are people who support terrorism in your neighborhood. There might even be some in your house right now! I happen to think they have infiltrated the White House and are acting as our nation's leaders even now as we speak. Never mind the hunt for Osama Been Laughin', the real terrorists are operating within (nearly) full view, doin' dirty deeds like they are.

Who now can see the "war" in Iraq as anything but terrorism by a different name? According to IraqBodyCount.org, we leveled the score of 9/11/01 by going to town on Iraq, to the tune of about 90,000 dead civilians. Let's see here—about 3000 of our people is cause to wipe out 90,000 of someone else's. But of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway. Hell, even our dead soldier count is out of whack with the 9/11 civilian count. Man, oh man. I really don't even know where to start with that one.

But for years now, I've come to believe that we have to pat ourselves on the back for this one too. We all have to admit that we as regular Americans enjoy the fruits of a lifestyle that is war-based. I include myself in that assessment. We don't just have a "war president," we have a war economy that itself is backed by a war- and expansion-based national mythology that has allowed us a free pass to taking what we want, when we want. War is just the visible tool that is needed (increasingly so) to live out the national myth. I guess now that we expanded to our western coast, and have scored Alaska and Hawaii, it is time to set our sights elsewhere, and Iraq is but part of that push to appropriate what we want to live a certain way. We don't need to turn it into a state; just a place that plays by our rules.

a densely edited and layered photo collage with odd imageryFin de Siecle, French for the End of the CenturyAll our purchases somehow are linked to this tragic mythology. Even the anti-war crowd is as guilty as the pro-war crowd. We all shop. Ergo, we all enjoy the benefits (from this perspective) of the world being arranged the way it is—with Americans enjoying a place at the top (more or less) while violence props up our lifestyle. Violence, I say because a sweatshop in China or Indonesia is another way of destroying lives of promise, not all unlike what is happening in Iraq as a result of our purposely mis-aimed attack and occupation there to make our nation feel better after 9/11. A life robbed of its potential is violence, and the economic arrangements we enjoy now are not ours to have forever because no one will like to live under such arrangements for any longer than necessary.

The national rhetoric about "getting back" at those who carried out 9/11 is preposterous. Those people are dead because their mission was a success—and, I might say, has been quite a return on their investment of a half-million dollars. Meanwhile, we watch billions and billions go away—hundreds of billions now, and have nothing to show for it but economic wipeout with whole commercial sectors bombing out, an energy crisis looming, whole cities and towns being wrecked by natural disaster, failing infrastructure, deficient education, etc. It is preposterous in so many ways what has been traded away so we might have some "homeland security." I guess we didn't need those hundreds of billions. We have the money to destroy an innocent nation, but not to make ours greater.

I don't kid myself in thinking that this is just a series of unfortunate mistakes. Men who hold power like to hold it for as long as they can. Drive it like you stole it, the saying goes. To that end, anything goes. It is almost as if the bull ride is to hang on for the full eight years, and never mind what damage is done while the bull bucks and tries to buck old Georgie and Dicky off. What will be left after this eight year party thrown by the (grand old) party that wrecked America? I sort of wonder if this year's October surprise will be the news that we have Osama bin Laden in custody. Great! Then the idiots will vote GOP again because the picture will be painted to portray these GOP assholes as heroes and all these years as righteous effort toward defeating evil, yadda, yadda, yadda. The mind boggles.

I lament the loss of life on 9/11 and the videos still shock me. But I can't let that lead me to justify killing so many other people who also did not deserve it. Shame on America for being the leading terrorist state in the world today and having the gall to claim that of others. I repeat again: you and I don't have enemies in Iraq or most other places. (At least none that our government or corporations didn't create for us.) What there is out there is a growing population that is losing its patience with the double standard inherent in our economic structure—and we can't expect people to wipe our asses for ever and still call it progress. Some will break. And should we actually be surprised when another 9/11 type event happens, if this nation has not changed the way it relates to the world?

Monday
May262008

Compassion Day

To honor whatever it is that one honors on Memorial Day, I chose to watch the film Why We Fight (Wikipedia). Of course, as my earlier Memorial Day missives will reflect, I am not precious about the day and its typical rituals of nationalistic bullshit. The documentary features a multifaceted look at the military-industrial-corporate-thinktank complex and questions civilians, politicians, and military alike what motivates this nation to go to war. There is a lot of talk about how Ike predicted (rightly) the massive system which now must be fed our billions of dollars, our young men and women, and helped along by a cheerleading media. What disturbs most is that it is allowed to take over by a public that is lulled to sleep by sensational news, bullshit "reality" TV, working two jobs to get by, and the host of other distractions we face in daily life.

But I also heard a rebroadcast of an episode of Fresh Air (NPR) featuring a Marine and a journalist who have written a book about fallen soldiers and how the Marines dispatch such officers to not only break the news of a combat death, but to help look after the family for as long as it takes for grief to work itself out. The officer told gripping stories of how ritualized the whole thing is in the Corps. It was hard to not choke up and get a bit teared up at some of the things he said. The point was made at how the Corps was trained to be utmost efficient and good at being a killing machine, but this story demonstrated a great deal of mercy and steadfastness in taking care of the family, and indeed a fallen brother or sister, even past the burial. It was genuinely touching to hear. War, terrible though it is, at least doesn't eclipse all the best parts of a man, or even the potential for the human image to shine through what is inherently a dehumanizing institution—the military.

But I like to reach deeper. Jesus taught to love one's enemies. He didn't say this so that they might trample upon you time and time again as you prove your weakness and vulnerability, but that they might be rendered as non-enemies. I heard of a Hasidic tale that had two men talking about love. One said, 'do you love me?' The other said, 'sure I do.' The first asked, 'what hurts me?' to which the second said, 'I don't know what hurts you.' The first came back, saying, 'how can you say you love me if you don't know what hurts me?'

America has done a good job of wrapping itself in the flag for a good while, but none so much as since 9/11. And it all seems so packaged and contrived. It has to be. If we ever had to confront the real reasons for 9/11, our heads would explode. So the easier way is to just declare that "they hate us for our freedom" and other such nonsense. We are cavalier like this in a time when the world grows ever more complex and daunting. But just give us the snappy soundbite reasoning. What is not pleasant to remember is that the world is hurting, and that too often, it is hurting not just because nature can deal some blows—earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, etc. —but that there is plenty of shit that comes down because of man made social constructs—economics, politics, and their dirty-deed-doing comrade, war. The world is mostly hurt today by a corrupt economic model which America champions but one that ultimately is a shameful, destructive thing. So I posit that America has forgotten how to hurt in sympathy with the rest of the world, and because we have forgotten how to hurt, we can remain blind to the real suffering that exists, in part due to our success. As long as we can remain ignorant of this hurt, we can never say that we love the world enough to bring our precious democratic values, our liberty, and all that other jibberish talk.

America has not these values to offer another land because they do not exist here like we think they do. What we have is a military that will aid big business in its expansion into other territories, intruding into the political workings of other nations, and a media that will turn enough of a blind eye so that people here don't really know what is going on. In that vacuum, people feel of no consequence in relation to the system. But the rest of the world isn't so duped. So why are we so surprised that a 9/11 happens? Maybe because so many Americans are without clue as to what really is going on in the world and that contemporary events don't just happen out of the blue? Americans don't like to admit what effects our way of life has in the world. That blindness has earned us 9/11. People argue that our way of life 'must be great because people flock to it.' Shallow argument, I think. Our way of life is hitting the dead end that was inevitable. A world in uproar is part of the sign that the party is coming to an end. And what has been clearer to us that something is wrong than 9/11?

Yet here we are, throwing completely unconscionable amounts of money at the problem with nary a clue to what is really the problem.

It's the economy, stupid.

The world is not willing to be our factory forever. Or our slaves forever. Or our doormats forever. But somehow, all attempts are made to cling to the status quo of easy motoring (as Kunstler says), endless mall shopping, and all this other consumption-based activity, no matter what price the nation must really pay in money, blood, international goodwill, etc. Yet our economists talk about how the consumer activity constitutes 2/3 of our economic activity. They talk about how the consumer feels good or bad, almost as if to scare people into consuming so the economy doesn't falter. I think that is a form of mental slavery, quite unbecoming a nation that fancies itself free and democratic. It is certainly a form of manipulation.

Our economy is founded on serving the needs of others in one great economic circle jerk-slash-merry-go-round from which hardly anyone can escape. Who knows what to do to break out of that? We're trained to produce and consume so that we might be good citizens—er, consumers (the new patriotism it seems). There is a sort of fear instilled in people so that we won't try to avoid our responsibility to the system. It really is the religion of the land. But this economy is different from the one based on real self-sufficiency in an earlier America, or in many parts of the world even now, and certainly in pre-industrial societies where there was no factory to make goods for ready consumption. And, since much of the world is enjoying a growing trend toward industrialism, the social strains are there the same as they were when Britain, the US, and Europe were confronted with the stress of abandoning rural life for urban-industrial settings. America forgot, that is what it is. We were there, experiencing the dislocation from rural, isolated people who were pressed (or drawn) into the cities.

America forgot what it was to have that upheaval. Now we are on the other side of the equation, and we can't understand how the rest of the world feels. I'll bet it feels rather the same as when early industrialists started in on their radical social transformation in the name of progress. Not every farmer who was lured from the farm, or forced off the farm embraced the urban-industrial lifestyle. So it is with other peasants around the world who see change as threatening and not altogether necessary if it means their land or resources will be taken away without real compensation. This is where America has failed to understand what hurts people and nations. This is where America has failed to show compassion in the real sense of the word—suffering with. This is where America cannot say it loves other people or places enough to bring them democracy or liberty of any of that. This is also where America cannot think of itself as a Christian nation. (This is a jab at those righty evangelicals and fundamentalists who say such nonsense.) America cannot foist any more economic injustice upon the world and expect cooperation. September 11 was the wakeup call for that. This means that everything must change or it will be changed for us.

Jesus of Nazareth was essentially a nobody from no place worth mentioning. But, as theologian Marcus Borg emphasizes, he was a man defined by and who defined compassion—suffering with. I think to be Christ-like is to understand suffering of another; to know what hurts a person. I will repeat again that you and me don't have enemies in Iraq or Afghanistan. But what we do have is a problem of thinking we are separated from one another—as if they haven't suffered the same (and worse) as we've suffered. I can't find it in my heart to hate another peasant in a far off land, or even in Mexico, about 20 miles from here. I've been told by my "leadership" that I have enemies out there, and that people are out to get what is mine, and I have to fight them before they attack me. That is the rhetoric these days, and it works as well as in any time and place. But who are our enemies but for other humans who hurt and feel just like you and me, and frankly, have been pushed into more desperate places in their souls than we have? If humans are our enemies, then we'd better get busy killing people, because there sure are plenty of them out there! But if they aren't, maybe killing gets us nowhere, and maybe on a day like Memorial Day we need to realize what a colossally stupid thing we do when we march off to war and engage in a fruitless pursuit that has proven itself to be that time and time again, and no amount of spending and media hype will ever prove anything to the contrary.

I frankly don't know what to think of vets now, seeing how most of them fought wars that were dubious, and a couple wars now were fought with so-called "volunteers." Part of me thinks these volunteers are blind fools, but really I just have to have pity on the poor souls who think that the military is a good place to be in this day and age. Touching as it was to hear how the Marines look after their dead, I still think that sort of ritualistic care should be put into avoiding the whole franchise of war in the first place. One day, let us hope that Memorial Day would be able to actually memorialize ALL the war dead, because there would be no more coming home draped in flags.

Monday
Jan302006

Vision

Okay, if the government ever resorts to using the C-130 Hercules that the Blue Angels use ("Fat Albert") for firebombing civilians in apartments and schools with the intent to destroy all of it but mainly to take out the books and pictures and other vessels of cultural memory, remember folks, you heard it here first.

I just had a bad dream. It goes along with some of the other ones that I've had where the various military services start using fighter jets over the skies of the suburbs starting with what looks like an airshow so that people come outside and marvel, only to turn the whole scene into chaos as the jets just go suicidal as they fly too low, or skyrocket upwards only to shut off their engines and enter a free fall. It's kind of an end-of-the-world endgame as the government wants to get rid of the last of its power by using the jets themselves as bombs, raining down over civilians almost without precision. It looked like the desperation of when they shoved helicopters off the sides of the USS Midway on the way out of Saigon.

In this latest dream, the Fat Albert C-130 somehow was doing overly acrobatic maneuvers such as a plane like that has no business doing unless it was going to be suicidal. I somehow was outside when no one but one friend was outside. We somehow both heard the radio chatter between base and pilots and between the pilots. It was sinister. We got our phones out but they were jammed or something, so we ran back to our apartments knowing that books were one of the leading targets, but not knowing what to do to preserve them from attack.

Monday
Jul252005

High Coup Haiku

Masters and slaves fight
Workers toil endlessly
Greed is great, amen

Perverse men clean house
Their righteousness rules the land
It aint theirs to clean

Poison drunk today
We call it progress and gloat
Better to eat the beef?

WalMart wrecks our land
Save a buck on hair dryers
Bye bye grandchildren

Oil keeps me fed
Beef, pig, wheat, corn—mass produced
Delivered by trucks

Jesus saves the poor
Illegitimate rabbis
They make much trouble

Surrounded by fools
Politics as usual
America now

Right wing nutjobs say
They have more moral values
Show me the money

God is dead today
Waiting on the underground
Radicals bomb there

America sold
Highest bidder gets the prize
China needs more cars

Allah broke all laws
Jesus forgave him humbly
Bush wants them both dead

Toxic fish served here
Food will kill oh so slowly
War will work faster!

Terror in the streets
Middle eastern question
Drive my SUV?

Grandpa worked hard days
Son had other ideas
I sweep the floor clean

Beauty runs rampant
Green trees, fresh air, love all 'round
Aint memory grand?

Saturday
May212005

End Of Suburbia DVD Showing, Intro Speech

Most of what I have to present to you is predicated on Paul Wolfowitz’s comment that with regards to choosing a nation on which to launch a war to promote or preserve American interests overseas, Iraq was an obvious choice over North Korea because it “swims on a sea of oil.” I doubt this was a Freudian slip. Something genuine was revealed in this comment. As a leading architect of this war, his comment surely could not do anything but expose his real reasons for going to Iraq. Maybe he didn’t know he was being recorded. Saddam Hussein’s true crime, as seen by the neocons, is that he didn’t play nice when we wanted his oil, or our oil, as some would say.

I also base my comments on the belief that September 11, 2001 was a response, not an outright first strike attack on America. And the proper response would have been to address the fact that there were 15 Saudis among 19 attackers and perhaps that suggests where our real problem lies—at the heart of oil country, the biggest producer in the world, and one where public beheadings are part of law enforcement. Perhaps Saudi Arabia itself is not a good place to air greviences about the oppression that is a product of the royal family’s ironclad rule and the nation’s place as the world’s largest oil state with generations-old oil deals made with America, the “Great Satan” as they call us. Easier to put a spanner in the works by working within America than from within Saudi Arabia where dissent and rebellion are not tolerated. The Saudi petro elite realize they are in a bubble. Within their own circles, they have a maxim that comes up often enough: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel."

For those of you who are left after the unflattering reference to 9/11, let's begin.

Oil is a lubricant and fuel for most of us, but for repressive regimes it is a vice to squeeze the oppressed. It has always been so, but now that the sun is setting on the oil age, it could only be worse as every nation already enjoying the accoutrements of the industrial age and those who want to get in on the action all have to act in self interest to ensure their shares of the diminishing pie. Our present situation in Iraq is one such move, as was Saddam Hussein’s initial foray into Kuwait. Oil and water are some of the last forms of pure wealth and power in the world. But water doesn’t fuel industry. Oil fuels both economic growth and tyranny.

an example of the pathetic war on self-empowerment: a healthy looking youngish woman using a power wheelchair cart thing to go shopping at a store selling postcardsAds invite us to part with our own empowerment and freedom to be in the world, by substituting a commercially available product to do something we already do for freeBut this is too big a swath to cut for now. The project I am starting is one called EONS NOW which stands for “End Oppressive Non Sustainability now.” I have chosen to use a metaphor to illustrate my point. After watching the great movie The Corporation, and seeing how the filmmakers established the corporate citizen as a psychopath according to the mental health profession’s bible—the DSM 4, I reasoned that on a broad basis, the public is akin to a woman in an abusive relationship with a husband who is drunk most of the time. The drunken husband is the collective sum of the influence of corporate capitalism with its tentacles in the government and the media. Totally self absorbed, the drunken husband abuses his wife, telling her she won’t amount to anything without him, that no one will love her again, and so on. He chips away at her soul by feeding her unrelenting messages of fear and self-loathing. In a similar way, the constant advertising we are exposed to is always sending us the message that we aren’t good enough to live without the “help” of a product or service that will make us any of a number of things we supposedly are not now: smarter, happier, skinnier, sexier, more profitable, virile, etc.

So it raises the question, how in the world did people get through their days without all this propaganda? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that people used to live without this stuff. In fact, our grandparents who are still living were not hit with as much of this, even 60 years ago. 150 years ago, it was not but a fraction of what it is now.

My problem with this is not that these goods and services exist, but that they make us weak and dependent on a system whose resource base is fast becoming extinct. If our corporate/government/media structure is the abusive husband, then it is appropos to say that his own addiction is going to cause him to lose the job that pays the mortgage, leading he and his family into a spiralling collapse of debt and more desperation, which could only lead to more abuse. Similarly, the lust for power and profit is so addictive that no amount of reason will stop the system from failure because of its own greed. The matter that we will learn about tonight is one that is a product of this abusive relationship. Peak oil is the comeuppance from a century of unbridled addiction that has so far been made possible by the usually growing supply of fossil fuel energy, and by conditioning people over time to buy the stuff that is made and brought to market using that energy. A lot of it then is stuff that humans don’t need. In fact, as one peak oil writer says, the industrial economy is primarily one that turns petroleum into garbage. So, like a woman in an abusive relationship, we are conditioned to believe we must participate in the very system that brings on the abuse, or else the problems would be worse.

That, my friends, is what I call oppressive nonsustainability. No sane, free thinking person would choose to live that life. We’ve been conditioned into doubting ourselves. We doubt our ability to feed ourselves, entertain ourselves, clothe ourselves, shelter ourselves, or to even find and satisfy a mate! Relying on that insecurity, capitalism thrives. There is always something new to be sold to people who have doubts about themselves, and in our present economy, it is incumbent to find that “need” for a product and to fulfill that “need.” We reward this effort by revering the entrepreneurial spirit. This is an induced doubt, because once upon a time in America, people like you and I actually built this place from the ground up. Now we hardly trust ourselves to change the oil in our car, or to fix our plumbing, or to find a date. We turn that stuff over to the professionals.

If our economy is indeed one that is founded on people’s insecurities and their need to belong, then let me ask, do we want to keep on with the growth economy?

That might get an answer sooner than later, in the form of geological reality. Oil is estimated to peak on a global level in about 2006, with the peak oil optimists stretching it out to 2013 or so. The peak of oil production will be the death knell of the industrial age, the age of globalization, the age of capitalism run amok. So we have a problem ahead of us. Now that we have been in this abusive relationship for so long, how are we going to break out to reestablish our own identities as humans and not just consumers? We’ve been told we have no friends, no skills, and no hopes to survive outside of this relationship. We’ve accepted this abuse for a long time but somehow decided that we gained more than we lost in the deal. It has been repeated day in and day out. But the drunk is going to lose his job. His mistress is going to leave him. He’s going to crash his car, and the prospects are only going to get worse, and all of that is going to come home and take the form of more abuse. People who care have been telling us to leave the house, but we stay, and despite the usual refrain of “oh, baby, I’ll do better next time” this time maybe it really is time to flee.

My wife Kelli is about to enter seminary this fall, and just a short time back, the school sent a book about choosing peace through daily actions. In it I read of violence described as “anything that impedes one’s ability to flourish. It is the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, anything that prevents you from being who or what you could be.” Would it be a stretch to reason then that our hypothetical marriage is one of violence because it is one of oppression? Does systematically making millions upon millions of people psychologically and physically “dependent” on your product not qualify as oppression?

Again, if our growth economy depends on increasing violence and oppression, is it something we should be demanding? I think it would be better of us to leave the relationship or at least put a new lock on the door while the drunk is gone. But that takes a lot of work. We are going to have to reacquaint ourselves with some old time virtues of hard work of the manual sort, making our own products to feed and clothe ourselves. We will have to fashion and maintain our own shelters. We will have to relearn that our own songs, plays, poems, and visual arts are far more satisfying and genuine than whatever is put out by media conglomerates—chiefly because it is simply not for sale. We will have to slow down and read more, tell more stories, work together more. We will have to trust our neighbor again, and not just in the spiritual sense. We will actually have to know and trust the people next door. We will have to be thankful for what it is that we do actually have, and what we still can do for ourselves. Our economy will be limited to meeting our needs, not all of our desires. But then it might also be one that isn’t founded on the inherent violence, oppression, and inequity such as we have now. We might have a chance to flourish.

Now, I know that this isn’t going to be anything but a dreamer’s vision, but once upon a time, people dreamt of great things that would take humans higher, get them there faster, and carry them further. But now I think is the time to dream of great things that restore in us the time-tested virtues and passions that make human life what it is. Every day almost we lament how hard we have to work just to keep up. We lament the spiritual void we feel. We experience depression. We feel cut off. We isolate. I refuse to believe it was always this way, and I have talked to enough people to know that in fact, this is new to humanity, and frankly, is a hallmark of the American experience of just the last 60 years or so. It isn’t too late to get back in touch with the things that mattered to our grandparents. If the present system is going to be on its way out because it is founded on non-sustainable practices, we don’t want to go down with it. But the world we know is one that is alluring and exciting. I can’t blame people for doubting what I say, but when people say that, it's only a matter of minutes when I find that they already realize the system is flawed, and that they have been longing for more time to spend with loved ones, or a cleaner environment, or opportunities for community service, or whatever.

Our economy makes us run to keep up because it sows the seeds for the failure of community, and the solution for the failures of community is often yet one more good or service that contributes to the problem, thus creating a feedback loop. The gross redundancy of the modern economy encourages people to not share because they can have their own widget. Cars are the gross offenders. Large houses are comparable. In a few decades, the American Dream of car ownership and a McMansion created tremendous redundancy of consumer products and infrastructure. Since then, we have abandoned successful and time tested living arrangements that still have the enduring appeal that modern suburban designs cannot match in terms of genuine livability. So instead of smart growth in high density urban development, we have gone the far more expensive and non sustainable route in the suburbs, using space and resources voraciously. Again, our economy consists largely of building these sorts of places and supplying them with their accessories and the things that such an arrangement demands. And, as you will find in the movie, this whole system is so overblown it's not even funny.

It is a common argument that suburbia was the result of the failures of the city. But some, such as James Kunstler, reason that it’s the other way around. Suburbia takes a lot of money out of its center cities in order to fix the problems of its own existence. Suburban development initially comes at the expense of the inner/older city which pays to have the newer areas and their roads built, which in turn suck the life out of the older regions as the economy of the area moves outward into newer developments as the earlier ones fall into decay in a similar way as the center city area did before them. The suburban layout is one that is designed to accommodate the automobile and residents who own them—essentially rendering these places useless in a carless age. But for the people without cars, they pretty much have to take their place in the second class of society. This is oppressive. But who tends to not have cars? The very young and the very old. And who is missing out on important interactions and life experience because they can’t drive, bike, or walk to the places of cultural value and social interaction? Again, the very young and the very old. And do you know which age ranges are host to the worst suicide problems? Suicide is nonsustainable AND oppressive. It is violent, regardless of the method used because it deprives the person of their potential. Drug use, as we know, is prevalent in the teenage population, but we would be kidding ourselves to limit it to that age group alone. I think the drugs are there for anyone with a spiritual and emotional hole in their lives. The cost of fighting our war on drugs is high because it does nothing to attack the root cause of the use of drugs. If we wanted to fight the real war on whatever it is that is ruining society, we’d need to fight a war on the violent, oppressive, nonsustainable economy that views people as human “resources” and not human beings. But, who among us expects that to happen? For those who are not the very young and the very old, the “lucky ones” as it were—those who get to drive everywhere, their problems are limited to the costs and travails of car ownership, long commutes in isolation that terminate in hellish parking lots, working long hours to pay a premium for a distant house, eating on the run, loss of family life, and all that good stuff. Some can’t keep up with that. We don’t call it the rat race for nothing. The rat race is oppressive and nonsustainable. Indeed. Where is our war on the rat race? Not gonna happen, I’m afraid, even if it would do the most good.

So watch the movie with an eye on the social implications of the dying days of the oil age. Consider the isolation and despair that goes with our everyone-is-an-individual ethos. Consider how much it takes to support that ideal, and how it separates us from our fellow man. And ponder what the alternative is should the system fold under the stress it created for itself. Our own Jerry Lawritson has said a culture of success will collapse under its own weight. The failure of our economy ultimately lies in the fact that is has tried to turn everything into a commodity that can be weighed and measured, bought and sold. The economy has no plan for when everyone has every sort of widget that can be made, or for when the resource base is depleted enough that there is nowhere to go but out of business. There is also no provision for what to do when people realize that their lives are more important than the demands of their pocketbooks alone. No, the human spirit can’t be bought and sold, and before long, people working together to make things of real worth, or working together to have experiences of real connection will be the way we do things, once again. The failure of the disposable economy is already manifest; we see it in decay each day. Murder, suicide, corruption, unemployment, homelessness, divorce, lies about the wars we fight. All this is the product of a century of abandoning the connection we have to our own well being, in favor of the quick fix, and the always-available option of throwing out yesterday in favor of tomorrow. The age of disposable everything from razors to pens to cars to houses to international treaties is over. In every case, we need to take the price tag off these things and just say, ‘sorry, it's just not for sale.’

Wednesday
May182005

Man, They Just Don't Fucking Get It, Do They?

jeep liberty. limited edition.Neurosis in America: Liberty, Limited edition (a Jeep SUV)I was watching Nightline tonight. No scratch that. I was watching the local news at 11 tonight and in the half hour or so, I saw ads for three popular consumer items that are in part to blame for terrorism of the September 11 sort. Yes, among all the other sports car ads, there were three SUV ads that snuck in only in the 20 minutes or so that I watched. There were Expeditions, Escalades, and Tahoes being pitched. In fact, Kelli and I watched the ads more closely and probably 3/4 of them were for cars. Okay, you've read my jabs at car culture before, so I won't bore you. But let's take it to the next stage.

On Nightline just following the SUV ads, er, the local news, the show was about loose nukes and the possible disaster they pose to America and the world. They were talking primarily about a movie partially underwritten by billionaire Warren Buffett. The movie was called Last Best Chance and was a low budget thing that went straight to DVD, because there was no damned commercial potential to it. It was a project spearheaded by Senator Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative group.

You gotta love it. There are car ads out the wazoo, and some of the worst offenders are being sold to the public as the most desirable and prestigious vehicles. Then we cut to a news show about the nuke threat that could be at work right now, with groups of the al Qaeda sort being the leading suspects of trying to get ahold of old Soviet nuke technology and materiel. The good senator was talking about doing great things to protect us, and that we should stave off the threat in any way. There was a question asked that reasoned that if this was supposedly public enemy number one, why was Iraq getting the hundreds of billions of dollars, and this is a topic that is almost off the map? Certainly. Why?

I just could not bear another minute of this ridiculous tug of war within about 40 minutes of TV viewing. Do we want to fight terrorism and rogue violence or don't we? Fucking stop sending mixed fucking messages already!!! We obviously can't have it both ways. Drive big wasteful cars. Use energy like fools. Make bad policy. Anger disenfranchised Arabs. Get attacked. Yes! Better believe it goes that way. So the fucking networks are so fucking greedy and clueless they will sell "arms" to both sides of the conflict. They will give us a legitimately important topic that is not nearly where it should be in the national dialogue, but they will literally turn around and give time to the very things that got us the terrorism in the first place! Fuck. Fuck! Fuck! What a bunch of soulless bastards. (Sorry to any bastards I may have offended.)

If this is not a clear message of how media is fucking us over, I don't know what is. Really. What side of the fence do they want to fall on? Their original raison de etre was to serve as a counterbalance to the government. Now they are arming both camps: giving us public service announcements of dire threats of apocalyptic significance, and also feeding the monster that will bring it on.

Thursday
May122005

Hijacking Adagio

I just got the Leonard Slatkin recording of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and some other tracks that I am not familiar with yet. This morning, I put it on and within a few notes of the Adagio, I actually teared up some. This stuff got all up inside me with no warning, despite having heard it a few times in my mp3 collection, whatever scattered versions I may have collected. I knew only a little about the Adagio, but the stuff that stuck for me was knowing that it was sort of the unofficial compostion of national mourning. It was the soundtrack to the funerals of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. Not a bad association to have, especially for Barber who wrote the thing when he was about 23 or so. Man, I remember what I did when I was 23 and it wasn't even worthy of the tape I recorded it to.

But this last week has been one of working hard on getting my peak oil presentation together, and making the website and some promo stuff for it. And whenever I am involved in reading about that stuff, sometimes it is very hard to do that and not hurt. I mean, who wants to envision a world in tatters, especially the sort that we have now, with all our needs met and all our desires ready to be fulfilled? Who wants to envision population crashes and sustained warfare against anyone who has something we haven't (and vice versa)? Who wants to think of getting our drinking water out of a river or lake into which a factory pumped effluent for 30 years? The images in my head about the overlapping and reinforcing clusterfucks that might lie ahead are disturbing.

A few weeks ago at my church, our minister Jerry Lawritson gave a very comprehensive lecture (sort of an extracirricular thing he offers once a year) on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was willing to give up his right to consider himself a Christian once he committed himself to working with a conspiracy group with an aim to kill Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a model Christian, despite entering into a plot which was designed to fulfill what under normal conditions was definitely not a Christian act. But Hitler was not your normal man, and the WW2 years were not normal conditions. Anyhow, the lecture was really stirring on its own merits, but the music I was asked to play before hand (I am the dude who records various church events, and does other vaguely technical stuff) was Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony in E, but only one part: the adagio. The notes that came with the lecture are as follows:

On April 30, 1945 as news of Hitler's death traveled across Berlin, even as the Russian army entered the heart of the city, Berlin radio played this very music by this same conductor [Wilhelm Furtwangler] to mourn the fuehrer. Bruckner would have been appalled. Incidentally, the last recording made by Herbert von Karajan was Bruckner's 7th as he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. Karajan had been the darling of Field Marshall Hermann Goering and a member of the Nazi party. It was a fact he never recanted. The corruption of talented people and culture was a Nazi specialty. This music reminds us that the demonic often wears a nice face.

Indeed. What part of Hitler's contribution to history earned him the right to have beautiful music played at his funeral? You know, the Church even allowed him a "Christian" burial, and not a summary execution by the side of an open pit grave, which would be more fitting for a man of his station. How does this happen and not go unpunished?

By many accounts, FDR and JFK were good presidents. Good enough to have Barber's Adagio For Strings played at their funerals, anyhow. And a damned fine piece it is. In fact, it is one of the best things I have ever heard, anywhere, at any time. It is just passion put to music. It is not dissonant or upsetting. It is not happy and gay. It is not overly long or too short. It is not particularly virtuosic, but it is not without musical merit. It is just good human emotion conveyed through four types of string instruments. And as an elegy, it certainly makes sense. It does have that slow moving graceful sort of presentation about it.

When I think of it, the images come to mind: mostly the stark and disturbing images of the 20th century come to mind, but also the images that I see when I read about peak oil and the possible things to come along with that. It's a lot of sadness, disaster, doom, and pain. But more than that—it's mourning the loss of a whole chunk of humanity and its progress, as for the first time in centuries, I think we are about to take steps backwards, de-evolving. Being de-evolved is not as bad as going through the process of de-evolving. When I think of de-evolution, I see sights of people mourning the loss of the material items they surrounded themselves to keep themselves "happy." I could see them mourning the loss of the environment, and their latent shame and regret in handing over their God-given rights and freedoms to a government that promised doing so was for their best interest. I see people in America huddled around an oil barrel fire pit in downtown squares and industrial parks. People living in slums where they need to recycle scraps from the industrial age to survive. I see people making odd use of cars and appliances as they end up disintegrating into little more than parts and containers. I see people beaten down when they realize they had money but no wealth, and all the while with their own fervent support of the system. I see people wandering almost like zombies in search of food, and having to settle for some rather dire solutions to get by (robbery, assault on others, prostitution, etc.) I see young people born after the oil crash who still hear their parents and grandparents talking about planes, cars, rock concerts with lighting, NASCAR racing, and rockets going into space. The young people have no way to relate to all that and all they can do is express anger and hatred toward anyone who was to blame for ruining the world for them while still being regaled with stories about the "good old days." Some of these people might just want to kill old people for ruining the world for their own greedy pursuits, or maybe even total indifference toward the older folks, leaving them with little option but to curl up and die. I see a reversion to the days when women are little more than chattle, and are the subject of a lot of misdirected anger and aggression. I see illiteracy as a pretty widespread thing because even today, literacy is in a perilous spot. I see a broken education system that will never return to the good old days in the mid 20th century when education came within reach of more people than ever. I see people having to do a lot more physical work for no money but instead having to settle for the satisfaction of knowing that they are alive (if people still have the ability to consider that a good thing). I see people having to use family planning methods we consider barbaric (abortion, infanticide, selling children, whatever) only so that they can allow the already born to survive. I see the compassionate people having abortions to save people unneeded suffering at least while things sort themselves out. After all what sort of world will we turn over to the next two generations in particular? Toxic, dysfunctional, warring, colder, more disease-ridden, broken, corrupt. What will the next two generations think of you and I if we sit by and let history steamroll over us without raising a finger because it was more important to watch American Idol or The Nanny, or to go cruising the boulevard in search of easy pussy, or whatever garbage passes for culture and recreation now? How will we look our grandchildren in the eyes and not expect them to spit in our faces or to kill us in our sleep while we are diabetic, unfit old farts who only sit around and bemoan the loss of all our luxuries while they have to eat out of the trash and drink toxic stew?

Part of my response to the Barber Adagio this morning was a whole string of these images flooding my head, along with the realization that if Hitler (or anyone misguided enough to carry on his program after he died) could give himself a pat on the back with the Bruckner adagio, then some fuckhead such as Bush, Delay, Frist, or any of these other assholes could do the same. I mean, we are dealing with sick people. Absolutely pathetically and pathologically sick people. They are somehow under the impression that their shit doesn't stink, or that we have been lulled into complacency and olfactory fatigue so that we can't tell that it does, or blinded so that we can't even see they are shitting at all. Or maybe they are confident that since shitting did not appear in the Bible, it therefore did not exist, and that anyone who is convinced otherwise is a God hating athiest scientist or liberal. There are increasingly blurring lines between what Hitler was doing and what our present administration are doing. Piece by piece, they are hijacking this once great nation, a work of art in the pantheon of governmental systems. Hijacking. That is the word. It was not given to them, and even still we are not really turning it over willingly. They are playing peoples fears, the same as National Socialists did in the 20s and 30s in Germany. They are catering to people's existing insecurites and neurosis that they are somehow in danger of losing their dignity if they can't be in a position of sheer power and self delusion. They are driving it like they stole it, because steal it is just what they did. They have no plans for the future—a situation which made Bill Moyers ask, what business do these people with no vision for a future have governing this country? Indeed. Why are they holding the reins? We are governed essentially by nihilistic fascists. They have no desire to preserve the world, or to enhance cultural or scientific development except to further very narrow agendas. They have no interest in the future. They believe the world is so wretched and broken that it must all be flushed down the toilet.

They aren't speaking for me. And I would wager a guess they aren't speaking for you either. In fact, the nutcases who the Bush party can claim "voted" for this madness amounts to about one percent of the GLOBAL population, and only a little over 1/6th of the national population! So where is this mandate they supposedly have? Or have they just hijacked the place for their own business? When will they steal Barber's Adagio For Strings and defile that piece of humanistic greatness the same as the Nazis defiled Bruckner? After they remove a few more civil liberties, and convince people that science and secular humanism is what is bringing ruin upon our nation? Recently I read about a Baptist minister that excommunicated a church member who did not vote for Bush. WTF? Sorry, but some things just are not for sale, and some things are not for hijacking. Some things are too precious or sacred to let fall into the hands of bad men. In fact, I might venture to say the entire world is too precious and sacred to let fall to the hands of bad men.

Man, I am so glad I keep my TVMINDPOISONING to a minimum. It frees up a lot of mental space so I can get down and do some real thinking.

Sunday
May082005

Public Service Announcement

I just wanted to remind everyone that WE ARE AT WAR.

Okay, you can go back to your usual empty pursuits...

Thursday
Jan062005

Okay, the Muslims are going to love us now

It seems acts of God are now good opportunities for America to show how great she is. Maybe we can totally eradicate fears within the Muslim world that we are out to kill them all, by offering a few hundred million dollars and some MILITARY men to help out the tsunami stricken regions.

What will $350 million dollars in aid do for raising the image of America that $200 billion isn't accomplishing as we "win the hearts and minds of Iraqis" by bringing democracy and freedom to the region? It would be hard to match the level of destruction that the tsunami has wrought, but it seems like levelling Iraq is a good start. Then maybe we can take that party over to Iran so we can take out some brown skins there too.

But all will be forgotten because we helped out some Muslims in the Indian Ocean. Oh, let's get a picture of Bush and Powell and co. doing such fine work.

The USA needs to figure out what side of the fence it's going to be on. Are we gonna be the nation known for its killing prowess or its saving prowess? Its greed or its compassion? I'm just waiting for a memo to be leaked from some high up Washingtonian that says 'damn, we gotta send money to the fucking Indian Ocean??? We got some Arabs to blow up!!! Will the distractions never stop???' All this humanitarian aid shit just gets in the way when your first national priority is to figure out how to possess or control all the oil in the world, to fuel a machine that has near total disregard for treaties and agreements of all sorts meant to protect the people of the world. But maybe giving $350 mil is a good loss leader—maybe it buys us good will. Maybe when we want a pipeline or offshore drilling rights, or an LNG terminal, the now-grateful Muslims will just give it to us. Saves a lot in launching "preemptive" war.