Jaded Prole

Surviving Hard Times Together

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no way like the american way

First Published in Veer Magazine, February, 2015.

 

February has been a very hard time for me and my wife. The snow and ice made it much worse. Our car, after much investment in repairs, clunked out in the crowded frenzy of a pre-storm grocery parking lot, its transmission giving in to entropy and poor design. As I approach 60 with aching knees and worn-out joints I’m feeling some sympathy with it as it sits under a shroud of snow, finally at rest.

Economically, I have been on a downhill slide reflecting national trends not often talked about when the delusion of economic recovery is more politically useful. It is true that corporations are reaping record profits and even that hiring may be up a few percentage points but the jobs are mostly part-time low-paying service jobs and wages remain stagnant if not decreasing in relation to actual living costs. The truth is that those being left behind are older workers. People like me.

My last job ended as the economy collapsed back in 2008. In spite of my experience, record of dependability and good work, being unemployed and over 50 made me automatically less desirable to employers. A survey by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that nearly two-thirds of unemployed workers age 55 and older say they have been actively searching for a job for more than a year, compared to just one-third of younger workers. Economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett noted in a New York Times op-ed,

A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months. A worker who is 62 or older and in the same situation has only about a 6 percent chance. As unemployment increases in duration, these slim chances drop steadily.”

I can attest to the reality of this. Though I have remained productive as a writer and publisher and have continued to apply for jobs I know I’m qualified for, I rarely, if ever, get a response. The dehumanization of on-line applications adds to the difficulty as we are all reduced to data in competing for fewer positions like a blood-sport version of musical chairs. It is worse than depressing. As that Times op-ed goes on to report,

Economists Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter estimate a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss. There are various reasons for this rise in mortality. One is suicide. A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate (say from 8 to 8.8 percent) would increase the suicide rate for males by 1.47 percent. This is not a small effect. Assuming a link of that scale, the increase in unemployment would lead to an additional 128 suicides per month in the United States. The picture for the long-term unemployed is especially disturbing. The duration of unemployment is the dominant force in the relationship between joblessness and the risk of suicide.

A more recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that one of the primary causes of mortality in people between the ages of 40 and 64 since the recession began in 2007 is suicide directly related to job and economic losses. I am fortunate to have my publishing, writing and activism which give me a sense of personal identity and purpose, as well as the loving support of my wife Beverly and my community of friends. Without these, I might well be another statistic.

Those of us who spent decades in the workforce before the economy crashed under the weight of rampant corruption and record greed, are paying the penalty for the crimes of others who made a killing on Wall Street, in real estate, and in supplying materials for wars begun by the Bush administration.

The same folks responsible for crashing our economy, exporting productive jobs, undermining the quality and security of the jobs we are left with, and slashing the social safety net are continuing to attack your security and mine. Particularly despicable are the continuing attacks on Social Security given the aging population and the high, seemingly permanent unemployment of older workers. I’ll bet you have heard repeatedly that “Social Security is broke.” There is a good chance you believe this. It is a lie which has been repeated like a mantra for decades by those who would like to hand your Social Security over to the same Wall Street financiers who “broke” our national economy to enrich themselves. Social Security is anything but “broke.”

Nancy J. Altman, co-founder of the group Social Security Works writes,

Social Security, in pension jargon, is current-funded. About 75 percent of its revenue comes from insurance contributions withheld from workers’ wages, matched dollar-for-dollar by their employers. This is a permanent and ongoing source of revenue. As long as there are Americans working, Social Security will have this steady, reliable source of income. It would take an Act of Congress to end this source of revenue. And if no Americans were working, our troubles would be a lot greater than Social Security’s financing!

She adds,

“Social Security is conservatively managed. Every year, its income and benefits are projected out not just five, 10, or 15 years, but 75 years. It is unsurprising that projections out that far into the future may sometimes show a deficit. And current projections do show a deficit, manageable in size and over two decades away. That should be addressed, but it is nothing to be alarmed about, certainly nothing that calls for the loaded, misleading, emotionally charged cry of bankruptcy! In fact, our Social Security system is a creditor of the United States. Whenever Social Security runs a surplus, it invests that surplus. Congress requires that those funds be invested in the safest investment on Earth – government bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the Unites States. The United States currently owes around $18 trillion to its creditors; $2.8 trillion of that $18 trillion is owed to Social Security. The bonds held by Social Security in trust for America’s working families have the same legal status as the bonds held by private pension plans, foreign governments and other institutions.

It is true that in about 25 years Social Security could face a shortfall but that could be easily fixed by simply raising the cap in income deductions. Under the current system, any wages over the first $106,800 are exempt from Social Security withholding. People in the highest income brackets, about 6% of us, have finished contributing by March of this year. Raising that cap would keep Social Security solvent well into the next century and beyond.

Part of the undermining of Social Security and for that matter of our real security – yours and mine, is the raising of the retirement age even while employment for older workers disappears. The justification is that we are living longer but the reality is that, except for the wealthiest, we are not. Altman writes,

Under current law, Social Security’s statutory retirement age is already increasing from 65 to 67. Though hard to understand without being thoroughly familiar with the way Social Security benefits are calculated, raising Social Security’s statutory retirement age is indistinguishable from an across-the-board benefit cut. For every year that the statutory retirement age is increased, all retiree benefits are reduced by around 6 percent.

If anything, rather than cuts and higher retirement ages, Social Security should be expanded. The average age of pension eligibility in most developed countries is 60.

Attacks on Social Security are not just aimed at those of us who funded it for decades through paycheck deductions. The latest attack is on the disabled. Those suffering debilitating workplace injuries and those with handicaps. Funding for Social Security’s benefit package are held in two different trust funds, the disability trust fund and the old age and survivors trust fund. Every few years Congress authorizes a transfer of funds from the old age and survivors fund to the disability trust. Republicans in Congress see this as an opening to attack Social Security by holding this transfer up, calling for cuts of up to 20% on the meager benefits to our most disabled citizens and raising the retirement age to 70.

Republicans argue that transferring money from the broader program to the disability program weakens the program for seniors. A recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that such transfers are routine, have happened 11 times in the past, and that another one right now would be easy to do concluding that

Another reallocation to replenish the DI trust fund wouldn’t threaten seniors, contrary to the rule’s implicit attempt to pit retirement and disability beneficiaries against each other.

Back to you and I. There is no justification in the wealthiest country on earth for young people to be stuck living at home, struggling to find work and feeling they have no future. There is no excuse for the discarding of older workers and the ill. Half of our population is now at the poverty line, in debt and a shaky paycheck away from destitution. Corporate corruption of our government is degrading our economy to third world conditions. Our real economic security is eroding as the disparity between desperate poverty and obscene wealth reaches levels never before seen. We are cynically divided against ourselves with partisan politics by the corporate interests that impoverish us. We do not have to settle for this. What has kept me from giving up is community. Community is really about people looking out for each other whether as good neighbors, church communities or civic and political organizations. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building community. Community is our strength and in it there is real power. The recognition of our united strength is why so much is spent to keep us divided.

It is easy to be crippled by cynicism, hopelessness and despair. But the reality is that citizen activism has a good record of creating change. Citizen activism created Social Security, better working conditions and Civil Rights legislation. It recently stopped the XL Pipeline, saved the open internet and won Norfolk an elected school board. We have to keep in mind that just as decisions made in back rooms affect each and every one of us, together we can advocate powerfully for ourselves affecting those decisions. From local Virginia issues like off-shore drilling, zoning, and local government accountability, to national issues like electoral reform, climate policy and defending Social Security, we can work with others in groups like the Sierra Club, or other regional and state organizing groups to make a real difference. I have found that doing so has been spiritually empowering and even fun. I have made many friends along the way, friends who have in fact pulled me and my wife through this difficult time with both emotional and material support. Not electing Republicans is important but Democrats aren’t much better. We cannot blindly trust any elected politicians to represent our interests. As the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht pointed out, no one but ourselves will act for us, it must be all of us or none.


Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

Remembering the Road to Auschwitz and What Made it Possible

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Auschwitz

First Published in Veer Magazine, February, 2015.

 

                 “Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”               

– George Dmitrov

“Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction.”
– Leon Trotsky

“Fascism is capitalism plus murder.”
– Upton Sinclair

 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, by the Soviet army. Auschwitz was one of many extermination facilities in a large network set up by the Germans in the 1940s. There were also many smaller facilities and factories using slave labor. My parents were the children of immigrants. My mother’s extended family in Hungary were among the murdered, with only three surviving. One, a cousin I met who survived Auschwitz. The reality of this recent experience was never far from our consciousness.

I grew up personally experiencing vicious, often violent anti-Semitism and was warned by my parents that my non-Jewish friends could never be fully trusted. Red-lining and discrimination against minorities including Jews was still common during this time. I was a religious young man and my own experiences lead me to be virulently pro-Israel even supporting Rabbi Kahane’s ultra-nationalist “Jewish Defense League” whose motto was “Never Again.” Though this organization was banned in Israel, the sentiment remains understandably central. I’ve learned a great deal since then and have become a very different person but the foundation of my political consciousness is still anti-fascism.

That the memory of the Nazi holocaust has become an essential part of Jewish culture is understandable. It is important that Auschwitz remain a memorial with regular tours including the recent reunions of survivors. The horrors perpetrated on the victims of fascism, the Jews, Roma, Gays, unionists, dissidents and others should never be forgotten. Though we can recount in gruesome detail what took place there, what seems more important to me, and what is often overlooked, is how a civilized society could get to the point of committing and justifying such crimes. Examining the gradual lead up to this nightmarish state of affairs is vital in preventing it from happening again.

There have been other genocidal rampages or holocausts under many political systems. The genocide of Native Americans in our own history, the mass murder of Armenians in Turkey and the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda come to mind. I separate genocides from other examples of mass murder, like the killing fields of Cambodia, in that genocide is by definition a conscious attempt to eradicate a particular people based on ethnicity. The Nazi genocide is unique in its industrial organization, its reach, and especially in the support and participation of educated, seemingly civilized people. That this occurred under a particular socioeconomic system called Fascism is important.

Fascism is an extreme form of capitalism in which the state is run by and for corporate interests. Its founder, Benito Mussolini described it as such, stating that, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Upon his election, he dissolved the Italian congress of regional representatives and replaced them with representatives of major industries. George Dmitrov, a Bulgarian who successfully defended himself in a Nazi court against accusation of arson in the famous Reichstag fire described fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” In its heyday, many described its spread as a social psychosis marked by extreme nationalist fervor.

As with any disease process, there are symptoms, and it is important that they be recognized. Fascism was a reaction to and a rejection of the enlightenment ideals of humanism and rational inquiry, and especially of labor unions and of socialism with an emphasis on the latter. It emerged in a harsh economic depression when the moneyed elite felt threatened by rising desperation. While German fascism sold itself as “national socialism” what was being socialized were public institutions under the rule of corporate interests, the antithesis of actual socialism. Fascists from Goebbels to Pat Buchanan cynically use populist language to push agendas which are in reality hurtful to working people.

The acceptance and maintenance of tyranny requires enemies. Scapegoating of minorities is part of this, as is creation, identification and dehumanization of others identified as a threat to the nation. Important here is the steering and misdirection of legitimate anger by those in power away from themselves. Aside from scapegoating Jews, German fascists focused public animosity and fear on labor unions, the “liberal press,” the USSR, and on invented aggressions by Poland. They repeatedly identified non-Germans as sub-human and idealized racial purity. We see echoes of this today in the rhetoric of our own far-right, aimed at Hispanic immigrants, Gays, African-Americans, organized labor, “liberals” and the poor. We also see it in the creation and dehumanization of enemies in the Muslim world and in support of Israel’s increasingly brutal and ironically fascistic apartheid system. We see it in our own increasing polarization as well.

Nationalism and Militarism are are key symptoms. Fascism emphasizes strength as a virtue and weakness as something to be despised. The Nietzschian ideal of the heroic individual, or Übermenschtaking what is his by virtue of his strength or the Will to Power is also central to fascism, though individualism itself is made subservient to the state which, in theory, acts for all. In fascist countries, the military and police are idealized and empowered under an authoritarian state. Though our country is not nearly as tyrannically authoritarian as Nazi Germany or Chile under Pinochet, the worship of all things military, the heroization of soldiers and even of assassins, as in the new hit move American Sniper, and the visceral defense of police abuse are indicative of a fascist mentality here at home.

Control of information and repression of journalism are important aspects in the maintaining of authoritarian governments across the political spectrum. While we heard the strident support for press freedom after the recent murder of cartoonists in Paris, we have witnessed record repression against journalists and “whistle-blowers,” or those that report truths which make the powerful uncomfortable. Activist and journalist Barrett Brown is the latest example, sentenced to 5 years and ordered to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution and fines for coming across hacked information and passing on the link while doing research for an article. There are many others.

In southeast Virginia, journalists at the Virginian-Pilot are feeling the heavy hand of repression. After what began as a revealing expose about the presence of Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, as well as the mayors of other local cities being on the board of TowneBank we might have expected more. This article raised questions about conflicts of interest and could have developed into a an important investigative series linking local business and political influence. Unfortunately, upper management, and particularly Landmark’s executive vice president and general counsel, Rusty Friddell put the kibosh on it. As reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, Friddell sits on the board of a local charity with four TowneBank directors and is a former partner of William Harrison, a private attorney for Mayor Sessoms. The same article reports, “As one veteran journalist at the paper put it: “We’re walking around with duct tape over our keyboards.” In our country, media repression is limited not only by government pressure but by the perspective and often heavy hand of corporate owners often hard to separate from the inner circles of power.

The importance of the press and of culture in shaping public attitudes cannot be understated. Every example of genocide, much less of mass murder and war, has been preceded by the coordinated repetition of exaggerations, racist imagery, fear-mongering and outright lies in major press and media. Religion comes into play as a powerful tool of emotional manipulation as well, especially when tied to nationalism. We see this among right-wing Evangelicals, Zionists, Islamists and nationalist Hindus.

Fascism doesn’t require fancy uniforms, or concentration camps. We see its most virulent expressions in those who defend corporate influence and who promote nationalism and militarism. We see it in those who are quick to stereotype minorities and cast hateful judgments at the poor. We see it in the rejection of science and rationality when they conflict with corporate profits. We see it in defense of the influence of wealth and absolute rule of money that defines and empowers corporations as “people.”

Just as German fascism developed in the hard times of the Great Depression, our own moneyed class finds similar ways to twist to their own advantage the righteous anger of those struggling economically due to unbridled corporate corruption. The Tea Party is a prime example as is the blaming of economic hardship on immigrants, unions and “big government” regulations on business. This is made more effective by the well-funded influence of extreme-right propaganda via talk radio and FOX “news.”

What fascism means for us in practical terms is endless war, the neo-liberal economics of increased austerity, the cutting of safety-net programs and even of Social Security. It means increased racial injustice and animosity. It means the disposability and criminalization of the poor, ill and elderly and the continuing growth of an intrusive militarized national security police state. It means misrepresentation, criminalization and repression of citizen political action as we saw with the Occupy movement.

Identifying symptoms allows us to address the disease, preventing its worst outcome. The separation of money influence from politics is key. We need legislation which reverses corporate person-hood and re-instates limits on corporate charters. We need stronger laws against corruption and the kind of lobbying that amounts to bribery. We need to free politicians from dependence on big money donors through electoral reform, and we need to open up our electoral system beyond the monopoly of the two official corporate parties. We need to undo the “Patriot Act” and break up the CIA/NSA. Also vital is real Press freedom which means freeing it from the stifling limitations of large corporate ownership, CIA influence, and government suppression. We need protection of our rights and of democratic citizen advocacy, including organized labor. Most of all, we need to keep ourselves informed and to be aware of how power manipulates information. We need to understand our own shared interests and to be able to identify and criticize racism, lies, and corporate propaganda when we see it. To not do this opens us up to the danger of being misled, as most good Germans were in the 1930’s, accepting lies as true and mistaking blind nationalism for patriotism.

Returning to my early awareness of and reaction to fascism, what I’ve come to understand is that the antisemitism and genocide of German fascism was only part of the picture and was the result of the brutal dictatorship of arrogant, self-serving corporate power. That “Never Again” isn’t just about Jews, it is about all of us. Never Again for Anyone.

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

Hebdo Schmebdo

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non charlie

First Published on Blue Collar Holler, January 12, 2015.

 

“All people want is Justice and Respect.”

– Shirley

 

A good friend of mine named Shirley who had come of political age in the struggle against the KKK in Greensboro, NC in which most of the KKK were also police once said to me, “All people want is Justice and Respect.” Muslims in France have had neither. Muslims living in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Israel have born the brunt of invasion, war, torture, apartheid, assassination and the murderous terror of drones. They continue to have their culture and beliefs attacked and disrespected in the western media. In our country they face violence, assault and attacks on mosques.

There is no justification for the suppression or murder of cartoonists or writers by governments or religious fanatics of any kind. But the reality is that far more innocent Muslims have been attacked and murdered around the world without big marches of solidarity against hate crimes. As for “Charlie Hebdo,” it is easy to be controversial and “edgy” by poking fun at others, lambasting their cultures and beliefs. There is a long history of this. Think of old caricatures in our own country of Germans and Japanese dating from WWII, or for that matter of African Americans who still get little justice or respect. Think of German portrayals of Jews from the 1930’s. A good analysis of this issue shows the utter hypocrisy of making this into a free speech issue.

I guess what irritates me the most about this, given the limits of the US media, is the portrayal of cultural chauvinism drenched in racism as “free speech.” The reality is that there are real truth-tellers relegated to the margins like Amy Goodman and DemocracyNow!, Glenn Greenwald and others on The Intercept, or Consortium News, andTruth Out. There are people like Eric Snowden and Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and many others who put everything on the line to speak the necessary truth.

Then there are you and I. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you read or have been published in the Blue Collar Review. We are certainly controversial if not downright revolutionary in that we speak truth to power exposing the filthy, monstrous, destructive and oppressive reality of the capitalist system. We are even more revolutionary in that we seek to UNITE rather than to divide. I am also a writer publishing articles in a local magazine that speak to real issues and point fingers at powerful institutions including NATO, the CIA and the police. I pay the price for doing so as do many others and you can bet I’m on the local FBI watch-list.

Am I “Charlie Hebdo”? Are you? Hell No! If anything Charlie Hebdo can only wish they were us! If they really spoke truth to power, it would not be getting such coverage nor the hypocritical appearance of creepy leaders. When hate groups or the state comes for me or you, it won’t make the national news but we keep on because we must.

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

America at the Crossroads

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empathy

First Published on The Jaded Prole, January 12, 2015.

 

Let this be the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms
this is the year
that dark-skinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendents
of their executioners

Martín Espada

 

I found the 2014 holiday season a strange combination of seasonal cheer and rising racial tensions as a result of continuing police violence, protests, and the ugly reaction to them. This strange confluence of good will and ugly polarization has caused me to further consider our moment in the dynamic evolution of culture. By culture, I mean the social self-image and mindset that defines how we how see ourselves within the social context and how we interpret the world around us. As I have written before, culture defines our language, our thinking and our actions just as our collective attitudes and actions shape the larger culture. In my observation, we are at a tipping point.

The Senate report on torture was a disturbing indication of this as so many Americans are willing to accept, support, and attempt to defend such monstrous behavior. This cannot be separated from the rise in racist reaction we are witnessing around the country regarding protests of police abuse. In Virginia Beach a “rally to defend police” is one example. As Kareem Abdul Jabbar wisely pointed out, “Police aren’t under attack, institutionalized racism is.” These rallies are not so much support for police as they are thinly veiled expressions of racism.

What we are witnessing is the playing out of the vicious, competitive corporatized culture and attitudes the public has been fed for decades. Cop culture, military, or “warrior” culture, rape culture, and Wall Street culture are inseparable. All are racist, misogynist, inherently violent, alienated, antisocial, and ego-centric. Vengeance, greed, and prejudicial judgment are key to this mindset. It seems the three headed monster of racism, militarism and poverty Martin Luther King warned us about is coming home to roost.

This is the cultural perspective that justifies victim-blaming, criminalization of poverty, racism, sexism, police abuse, torture, exploitation, corporate theft, destruction of the ecology, imperialism, and war. It is the fascist ideology of raw power or, Power of the Will, where the brutal rule of those with power is justified and under which illness and poverty are seen as character flaws and deserved conditions of the weak.

Years ago, I wrote an article called “The Cannibalist System or What’s Eating You” about how the alienated culture of materialism, individualism and greed pushed by the market system causes us to devolve from higher, cooperative animals to the lower variety. Higher animals are those showing cooperation and empathy like apes, elephants and porpoises. Lower animals like crocodiles are anti-social loners who will eat their young. The right-wing/libertarian ethic is an example of this devolution. We as a species are hardwired for empathy. We identify with the experience and even feel the pain of others. Without empathy, there cannot be sympathy or compassion much less ethics or a concept of the common good. We are social animals whose ability to cooperate for the common good not only allowed us to survive the rigors of the Pleistocene but also to create civilizations. Empathy defines our humanity and is the basis of all religions. Economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin writes, “Biologists and cognitive neuroscientists are discovering mirror-neurons–the so-called empathy neurons–that allow human beings and other species to feel and experience another’s situation as if it were one’s own. We are, it appears, the most social of animals and seek intimate participation and companionship with our fellows.

This is not true for all of us. Some people lack the physical capability of empathy. They are called sociopaths or psychopaths. MRIs of the brain show that the area responsible for empathy in these individuals is underdeveloped. Psychopaths tend to do very well in competitive areas like politics and business where having a conscience can be an obstacle to personal gain at the expense of others.

Fortunately, not all are taken in by this pathology, though “conservatives” and the G.O.P seem to have made this their credo, reflected in both campaign rhetoric and policy. The influence of this anti-social mindset has resulted in a more extreme polarization that threatens to build on itself increasing violent repression, class and race antagonism and tearing our country apart.

We have choices. We can be blindly guided by culture and those who manipulate it to their advantage or we can think for ourselves and with each other in mind, actively influencing the culture in better directions. I know this, because as little as I have in material advantage or power of any kind, I’ve been doing what I can for decades. I do it in conversation. I do it by writing articles like this. I do it by publishing books and the “Blue Collar Review” literary journal which I’ve done for 18 years. The focus of what I publish is progressive working class literature. What does that mean? Most of us are not independently wealthy. We must work for others or for ourselves. Like it or not, we are all dependent on each other even for the opportunity to support ourselves. This creates shared interests that include and transcend differences of gender, race, religion and national origin. Working class literature speaks to our common humanity and helps us realize that our collective interests are best served through solidarity. It is a rejection of the alienated hyper-individual pathology of corporate culture that polarizes us. Samples of poetry in the journal can be seen on the website: http://Partisanpress.org. As the ugly reality of corporate right-wing culture is bared, the best remedy is the recognition and rejection of this destructive paradigm, reclaiming and recreating our older, healthier, more community-focused working class culture.

It boils down to this: we can have a self-destructive society based on egotistical hoarding, tribalism and raw competition in which we all suffer for the benefit of a few or we can have a society based on the cooperation that got us this far — a society based on psychopathy or one based on empathy. Many issues are connected to this, from living wages and how we organize work to whether we have healthcare for all or only for those who can afford high-priced insurance. It is connected to affordable housing, as well as energy, environmental and foreign policies. Will we continue to allow corporate psychopaths to run our government in their own interests or will we demand a restoration of our representative Republic, separating wealth from power?

In considering this choice of cultural emphasis, our recent warming of relations with Cuba comes to mind. Cuba is a small, poor, developing country which was a colony of Spain and then run by the US under various dictators until the early 1960s. It remains relatively poor due in large part to the enforced economic isolation of the embargo by the US and has literally been under various kinds of attack every day since its revolution. Though they have problems with corruption, they are far less than what we see in our own country but Cuba has a culture of empathy. Cubans have basic social guarantees and good public health care. They have higher literacy rates and lower infant mortality than in our country. While the US trains torturers and killers at the former “School of the Americas” in Ft. Benning Georgia, Cuba trains physicians. They educate them for free with the requirement that they put in five years serving the poorest people in the poorest countries. We export soldiers and ultimatums. They export doctors. When Katrina devastated our Gulf Coast, Cubans lined up to give blood – which the US refused. While big US corporations drool at the prospects of invading and exploiting Cuba, we would do better to welcome their influence.

As I wrote earlier in this article, I believe we are at a tipping point, both socially and ecologically. I hope that we can recognize this and make the right choices. The quality of our lives and our future existence are dependent on our ability to come together. As Jeremy Rifkin writes, “What is required now is nothing less than a leap to global empathic consciousness and in less than a generation if we are to resurrect the global economy and revitalize the biosphere.” Achieving a critical mass of “empathic consciousness” sounds like an impossibly difficult goal but we can all begin by interpreting our world through what the philosopher Martin Buber called the I in Thou. This means listening to the experience of others and seeking to understand rather than judge. It means recognizing each other, even strangers, as spiritual beings like ourselves and realizing that our individuality, much less our survival, exists only in the context of others – not just other people but all life in the fragile biosphere of which we are a part.

Let this be the year we overcome the manipulated polarization and partisanship, finding our much larger common ground. Let this be the year we turn away from the rancid, barbarian psychopathy that idealizes violence, militarism and greed, recognizing the real cost to all of us of Dr. King’s three headed monster. Let us resolve to make this the year when “us” and “we” replaces “them” and “me.” Let this be the year we begin building a culture of empathy.

 

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

Climate Reaching Critical Mass

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0313-methane-hydrate-630x420

First Published on The Jaded Prole, September 6, 2014.

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

I hate summer. The torpid heat we usually suffer through for months in Norfolk takes a heavy toll on me. This has been a much cooler summer for us than usual, even a little chilly at times. I’m not complaining. Unfortunately, while we got a break this year the unusual weather is symptomatic of changes to the environment that bode ill. Places that normally have mild and even cool summers, like the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, northern Europe and parts of Siberia had much hotter summers than usual. A report from NASA’s Earth Observatory stated,

“Records for high temperatures (mid-30s°C, mid-90s°F) were approached or broken in Latvia, Poland, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden in late July and early August. Searing temperatures also dried out forests and fueled wildfires in Siberia; in the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington, and California; in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Northwest Territories; and even in Sweden. At the same time, cool air moved from high northern latitudes into much of the U.S., setting record-low daytime and nighttime temperatures as far south as Florida and Georgia. Temperatures dropped to the winter-like levels in the mountains of Tennessee.”

The warming of the seas and of arctic tundra exacerbates the pattern by triggering methane release. Methane is about 30 times more potent a heat trapping greenhouse gas than CO2. NASA has reported the release of massive amount of methane from Arctic tundra which holds five to six times the carbon equivalent of what humans have burned in our entire existence. Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean and in other deep sea areas are methane hydrates, a mixture of frozen methane and ice. A March 2010 report in Science magazine indicated that these cumulatively contain the equivalent of 1,000 to 10,000 gigatons of carbon. Compare this total to the 240 gigatons of carbon humanity has emitted into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began. Researchers surveying the Arctic Ocean this year report plumes of methane rising in bubbles from the sea floor. Climatologist Jason Box, who closely followed the research expedition, responded to what he saw tweeting, “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked.” He’s right. The last major release of oceanic methane was during the Permian Extinction which killed 99% of all life on the planet.

Recently formed, massive sinkhole-like methane blowholes in Siberia were discovered and reported this summer. This year we have has also seen a significant increase in the rate at which the Greenland ice sheet is melting. The Jakobshavn Glacier is descending into the ocean at a rate of 46 meters — or half a football field — each day. This adds to our problem of rising seas as does the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets which, according to Robert Bindschadler of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, alone could raise global sea levels 14 inches by the year 2100.

A new assessment by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called, The Synthesis Report, being a summation of previous reports over the last year, offers a stark assessment of the perilous future we face due to climate change unless serious steps to reduce our carbon footprint are implemented soon. The draft states that

“Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions. Those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.”

The report goes on to warn that

“Failure to adequately acknowledge and act on previous warnings has put the planet on a path where severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts of human-caused climate change will surely be felt in the decades to come.” and that “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”

The good news here is that, while billions are still being spent by the oil industry and ALEC to promote skepticism and denial, public opinion is changing as people awaken and come to terms with the reality.

In a New York Times report entitled The Climate Swerve, Robert Jay Lifton writes,

“Americans appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly. Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways. The experiential part has to do with a drumbeat of climate-related disasters around the world, all actively reported by the news media: hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts and wildfires, extreme heat waves and equally extreme cold, rising sea levels and floods. Even when people have doubts about the causal relationship of global warming to these episodes, they cannot help being psychologically affected. Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable. This sense of the climate threat is represented in public opinion polls and attitude studies. A recent Yale survey, for instance, concluded that American’s certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years,and those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position.”

A recent article in the Virginian Pilot reports this new consciousness making itself evident in North Carolina due, in large part, the spill of coal ash into the Dan River and the knowledge that Duke Energy has similar potentially leaky coal ash ponds at 13 other sites across North Carolina. As the Pilot article makes clear, the rising public concern doesn’t end with coal ash. The article reports 100 people showing up at a county commissioners meeting to protest a planned chicken slaughterhouse proposed for Cedar Creek. The article goes on to state, “This mess is resonating with people — including many who in the past have shrugged away environmental issues. Coal ash has brought home the link between clean rivers and what comes out of our taps — and what it can cost to make it clean again after it’s been fouled. State government has spent years asking big businesses like Duke how they want to be regulated, but culture change is coming fast. The House and Senate almost went home without agreeing on a law to regulate coal ash dumps, until it dawned on lawmakers that they were really, really ticking off a lot of their constituents — people who may or may not vote for them in November. And so, they did an about-face and passed cleanup legislation. First state in the nation to do it, they said. And some legislative leaders are already acknowledging that they may need to come back and toughen it up. That sure wasn’t your daddy’s North Carolina at work.

There’s a lesson there for public officials: The sleeping giant is awake and won’t be dozing off anytime soon. Not, for sure, until regulators get tougher and state and local governments show a sense of stewardship over the land and water.”

We are seeing this here in Tidewater as well. People are coming together to support efforts to clean up and protect the Chesapeake bay. In Norfolk, residents are demanding that city leaders address the 90,000 pounds of toxic fugitive coal dust that are dumped on our city yearly and question our sinking city’s contribution to rising seas and climate change in hosting the largest coal export terminal in the country. As in North Carolina, and around the country and world, people are coming together in growing numbers to demand that public safety and environmental sanity take priority over corporate profits.

We, as a species, are at a juncture in history that will likely decide our fate. As we approach what scientist warn is the point of no return, there is literally no time like the present to act if we are to have any future at all. On September 21st, the largest climate rally in history took place in New York City. It began in Columbus Circle with a march to 11th Ave., to coincide with a U.N. meeting of world leaders scheduled to be in New York. People from the most diverse climate coalition ever sent an overwhelming message to leaders across the planet that we need global climate action now. The turnout in NYV was estimated at 400,000, with other large demonstrations coinciding around the world. All this said, Chris Hedges was right when he pointed out the weakness of this event and stated that we need to do much more. It will take real rebellion and direct action as well as massive lobbying and public awareness raising efforts.

Past generations of Americans have pulled together to face lesser challenges. In WWII, people grew “victory gardens,” made personal sacrifices and supported the war effort with volunteer labor. No other issue has been as important as the growing climate catastrophe. We have the ability to minimize the extent of climate change and to adapt to what we cannot change. The only thing stopping us is will power. The primary obstacle remains the myopic, greed-driven power of corporate influence over government but the united critical mass of active public influence is even greater. It will take more than a march, even a massive one, to overcome the power of corporate influence that is destroying our world. It will take the critical mass of our active resistance to capitalist globacide and the hold wealth has on our governments. Together, we will either make history or be lost to it.

 

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

Devolution or Life

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toxic-chemicals 

Confronting our Toxic System

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I was saddened recently to read of the death of Bob Casale, a guitarist who was an original member of the rock band Devo. I listened to them back in the 1980’s and liked the name of the edgy, socially relevant band. It refers to the concept of de-evolution. Years ago I wrote how our Cannibalist economic system reduces us from higher to lower evolutionary species by replacing our cooperative social nature with the competitive self-centered ethic of “I’ve got mine and to heck with everyone else.” Like lower animals, we snarl over our possessions and are ready to kill each other to defend them, seeing no connection to where they came from or the reality of our interdependence — even on nature. We justify throwing families out into the cold for their inability to pay rent; condemn children to hunger and ignorance. We abandon workers to permanent unemployment and homelessness to further enrich the few, and proudly sacrifice our loved ones to wars we have no real interest in based on the latest flimsy lies. This is, in essence, eating our own kind like the most primitive of animals do.

Among the most primitive of life forms are yeast. I sometimes like to make fruit wines. This process involves ripe fruit, water, sugar and yeast. Yeast are small fungi which break things down. Yeasts process sugar to breathe when their surroundings become oxygen depleted, producing both Co2 and alcohol as waste products. Eventually they are poisoned and die from the alcohol they produce. I find an uncomfortable similarity with our own situation.

Last month I wrote about how our local health and our future is being sacrificed by the Lamberts Point coal pier and by the constant presence of poison-laden, dust spewing coal trains. As we are learning from the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River, even after burning, coal ash presents an ongoing threat seeping heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead, and boron into ground water from storage facilities and potentially being released into water and air. The Dan River storage facility that caused the recent massive spills in North Carolina is one of many dangerous sites across the country, Kara Dodson of Appalachian Voices states that there is evidence that local residents were already getting sick from leaks and contamination from Duke Energy’s ash dumping ground. The Dan River, now heavily contaminated with toxic coal ash sludge, feeds into Lake Gaston where our area gets much of its water.

In our own area “fly ash” storage has been an issue contaminating the Battlefield Golf Course in Chesapeake as well as a the Campostella Square area. City Manager James Baker stated back in 2007, “burying fly ash was common throughout the country at that time, and its toxicity was not yet understood. If we knew then what we know now, the fly ash never would have been accepted.” Surface water samples in the area show elevated levels of aluminum, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, and thallium in one or more on-site samples. Coal ash is another toxic item Norfolk and Southern profits from hauling, as it did from another massive spill and clean up in Kingston Tennessee.

We’ve also seen other superfund sites locally like Portsmouth’s Washington Park housing project built atop an old foundry site. Portsmouth children still show high levels of lead which causes nerve and bone damage as well as reduced intelligence. There is a long history of environmental racism in our country with toxic waste and polluting industries usually located where the poorest and most powerless people live. Today, we are getting to the point of saturation where most of us are exposed to dangerous industrial toxins.

 

Due to the powerful influence of corporate consortia like ALEC and the National Chamber of Commerce, legal loopholes and lax government oversight result in many unregulated industrial chemicals in our environment and in our tap water. I know that locally our water is rated as the fourth best on the country but I’ve also worked in places where I’ve seen chemicals dumped down the sink. The reality is that utilities don’t even know what to test for. A recent article in Scientific American states that “Traces of 18 unregulated chemicals were found in drinking water from more than one-third of U.S. water utilities in a nationwide sampling, according to new, unpublished research by federal scientists. Included are 11 perfluorinated compounds, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant.”

 

Aside from the direct health effects we see from environmental contamination which include cancer, pulmonary disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases, there are the long term affects on fetal and infant exposure. An important new study on this by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health and Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was published in Lancet Neurology. In it Philip Landrigan writes, “The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.” This study follows similar research by the authors in which they reviewed clinical and epidemiological studies and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxins: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic and toluene. Lead, arsenic and mercury are present in our local soil due to the aforementioned ubiquitous coal dust. The rise in autism and attention deficit disorders we are seeing appear to be a result of toxic exposures in the womb.

 

 

Environmental contamination, the poisoning of our water and of our bodes is an essential reality of the fossil fuel industry from coal to natural gas “fracking” and oil drilling. The shale oil being mined in Canada is the most toxic and environmentally destructive fossil fuel yet. Nuclear energy, while not producing carbon, is just as bad, though more insidious, because the radiation is invisible and easier to deny. Short of hydro-electric it seems that in our need for energy we, like yeast, are poisoning ourselves with the toxins we produce.

Of course, most of us would not knowingly do this as individuals. The problem is systemic in our profit based system where money and its corrupting influence drive policy. The Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for over 28 years. Efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by further regulating and limiting contamination from industrial waste, fertilizer and sewerage treatment runoff is facing legal opposition from corporate backed leaders of 21 states – mostly Republicans who place private profits ahead of public health. It has become impossible to separate government from the filthy industries which spend billions underwriting political campaigns and legislation. I’ve written before about the vast sums spent by the fossil fuel industry to promote climate denial. This money also funds rhetoric such as the “War on Coal” we hear Republicans accuse others of as well as the non-existent “clean coal” our President promotes. This massive poisoning of our environment for energy production is not even necessary.

The reality is that green energy creates more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. A national study by the Center for American Progress showed that job creation in clean energy outdoes fossil fuels by a margin of 3-to-1. Germany has seen a 4% job growth tied to renewable energy development. We could be developing a hydrogen economy as well as investing is solar and wind energy if our politicians could free themselves from relying on fossil fuel industry backing. That, of course would take real electoral reform along with the legal de-personhood of corporations.

It would be far simpler for us to address the problems we face and to develop clean, renewable energy if we had public utilities. Much of our power grid was built by the government during the last depression and sold off to private companies over time. We could have much more secure, ecologically safe and efficient state and national power grids and more dependable access to water, moving it from flooded areas to drought stricken regions, for far less user expense if utilities were publicly owned and managed.

The power of money that corrupts and cripples our system of governance also undermines its most basic purpose, which is to protect us and provide for our security. Fortunately, unlike yeast, we are self aware. We know, or should know, that we are as much a part of this earth as the soil. We have the ability to change how we live and what we do together as a society and fortunately, there are people organized to do something about the poisoning of our earth. The Sierra Club is a good place to start. As I wrote last month, they can be contacted at coaldust@vasierraclub.org if you choose to get involved locally. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is another important local organization as is Virginia Organizing.

Overcoming the imposed cultural devolution and massive poisoning of the biosphere by this corrupt economic system is no easy task but it is not an abstraction off in some future. It is you and I, here and now. Some of us already suffer the ravages of environmental sensitivity and illness. I certainly do. It is doubtful that our species can save itself without disempowering wealth and reclaiming real, bottom up, ecologically sustainable democracy. We have no other choice if we are not to die off like yeast in our own waste. Apocalyptic thinking is increasingly popular in our culture but our demise is not a certainty. Accepting such an outcome may make it so, but we have a choice. We owe it to ourselves and our children to do what we can to defend life on earth from the insane myopia of systemic greed. We have to start somewhere and our own vulnerable region is a good place to begin.

***

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

The Last of the Human Freedoms

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The Last of the Human Freedoms

Originally published on the The Jaded Prole on August 12, 2013

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

“Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of the human freedoms –

to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl

I tend to comment a lot on, Pilotonline, that is, the online version of our local paper, the Virginian Pilot. For me, it is my morning mental and writing calisthenics but also, it serves a vital function: a public forum where ideas and opinions on the topics of our time can be openly discussed. It is free but because most of us work for others, many people are afraid to post, or post under assumed names for fear of repercussions. I can certainly understand this, having lost jobs for speaking out on issues in ways unrelated to employers, including my last job in 2008, ostensibly for “speaking out against the war” online.

 

This brings to mind the recent firing of Norfolk’s 911 dispatcher Jessica Camarillo for posting a particularly ugly comment on Facebook regarding the unfortunate killing of a young man by Norfolk Police while he was attempting to cash a stolen check. Her comment, suggesting the family be charged for the bullets, was certainly in poor taste but should she have been fired? How does the fear of workplace repression with widely published examples like this affect your freedom to express opinions publicly? As the dictatorial setting of the workplace reaches beyond the workplace itself, this also opens up a root question; can you really be free if you live in fear of exercising that freedom?

 

More and more we are living in a society where our associations and opinions are monitored. Employers search Facebook and Google potential and present employees. And the government, as we are learning thanks to Edward Snowden, is increasingly monitoring our every conversation, location, purchase and association.

My summer reading has further caused me to consider the implications of this on the state of our liberty and the health of our society. I have been reading Hannah Arendt, the mid-century philosopher and holocaust survivor most famous for her coverage of the Eichmann trial and her coining of the term, ,the banality of evil. In reporting on that trial from Jerusalem, what struck her was that Eichmann was not the monster she had expected. He was a bureaucrat who had abandoned any thought or opinion of his own and strove to do his job the best that he could. He had taken an oath of loyalty to his government and that was that. He was a career minded military man who was otherwise normal. She wrote, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” She added that he had given up the option of even considering moral principles or of taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, the very thing which makes us human, and instead had become an accomplice, even a leader, in the greatest crime in history. I personally have chosen throughout my life to only take jobs that did no harm and, at best, helped others. My refusal to relinquish my humanity has not served me well in the workplace but I can look at myself in the mirror knowing I haven’t been a good German.

 

How is the unquestioning loyalty and job focus of Eichmann really different from the fellow operating the drone, working in a munitions plant, mining fossil fuels, participating in missile launches from a ship, the JSOC commando carrying out assassinations, or the many bureaucrats and support workers that keep an ever-growing national security state functioning? This seems especially relevant in our military dependent area. Aren’t we responsible as individuals for everything we participate in? That seems to be the judgment of the Nuremberg tribunals as well as the Eichmann trial.

 

In her book, “Between Past and Future,” Arendt writes about the vital importance of Truth and of truth tellers. In examining what we mean by Truth, she distinguishes “rational truth” from “factual truth. The former being that which is undeniable like geometry, and the latter being historical facts and scientific findings. She focuses on the factual truth which is often contentious due to its implications and challenges to power and wealth. She writes, “The chances of factual truth surviving the onslaught of power are very slim indeed . . . factual truth, if it happens to oppose a given group’s profit or pleasure, is greeted today with more hostility than ever.” Interestingly, this was penned in the 1950’s. She also states that the opposite of factual truth is of course, a lie. She writes, “ . . . a liar, lacking the power to make his falsehood stick, does not insist on the gospel truth of his statement but pretends that this is his opinion.” Thus, those whose interests are threatened by factual truth, often present that truth as merely an opinion. Think of examples like the dangers of Tobacco, or Global Warming, or Evolution. We even do this with the ultimate but threatening truth of death, creating hoped for afterlife alternatives that give us comfort by rendering our certain end an opinion.

More important is the necessity of public communication in the search for Truth. Emmanuel Kant addressed this, stating that, “The external power that deprives man of his freedom to communicate his thoughts publicly, deprives him at the same time of his freedom to think.” We think in community. We need to check the thoughts in our head with that of others to make them valid. This sharing of information is especially vital in a representative republic where opinions become votes. An uninformed and cowed citizenry is an easily manipulable mass, barely meeting the definition of “citizen.”

 

This brings me back to the Pilotonline forum and the voiced intent of the paper to further limit posting privileges by eliminating the protection of anonymity which allows working people to participate in the public conversation without fear. I expressed my objection of this to Editorial Page Editor Donald Luzzatto, pointing out that the only people brave enough to post opinions under their real name were business owners, retirees and those with nothing left to lose. He disagreed but no doubt, knows the limits of what he himself can say in order to maintain his position.

 

In the larger world, we are seeing record levels of citizen surveillance, attacks on truth tellers, and on the Press in order to suppress factual truths our government finds threatening. In a recent ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration won a stunning blow against Press freedom. As reported in The Guardian, “the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial.” The ongoing trial of Bradley Manning the charge of “aiding the enemy” had repercussions for those exposing information that might be vital for citizens to be aware of. The Pentagon Papers would be a good example as would exposure of lies to justify war. Fortunately Manning was found innocent of that charge. If the Press fears reporting anything not approved, is it still a “free press?”

 

Arendt points out, we may not even want to consider if life would be worth living in a world devoid of justice or freedom and that, “these are not possible with the seemingly less political idea of Truth. What is at stake is survival and no human world will ever be able to survive without people willing to say what is.” Throughout history, truth seekers and truth tellers have been ridiculed, tortured and killed and our own time is no exception. Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden are prime examples of this and they are not alone. Abdulrahman Haider Shiah, a Yemeni journalist who reported on the U.S missile attack that killed 40 Bedouin women and children in Al Majala, Yemen, was held in prison on a direct order from President Obama. He was reed last week but his life is still in danger. Truth telling journalists like Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges are sidelined slandered or threatened for their efforts in exposing truths most Americans never about.

 

Activists beyond the world of journalism also take risks, refusing to be like Eichmann, an unthinking cog abetting a larger crime. Brandon Toy, an Iraq veteran and defense contractor working for General Dynamics as an Engineering Project Manager building Stryker armored fighting vehicles recently wrote a formal letter of resignation. He wrote;

“I hereby resign in protest effective immediately.
I have served the post-911 Military Industrial complex for 10 years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor.

At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naïve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.

 

Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency “dirty” wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics.

 

Some will say that I am being irresponsible, impractical, and irrational. Others will insist that I am crazy. I have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing. As long as we sit in comfort, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world, nothing will change. It is even worse to play an active part, protesting all along that I am not the true criminal.
I was only a foot soldier, and am now a low level clerk. However, I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.”

Mr. Toy, unlike Eichmann, reserved his right to choose, to make moral decisions, in short, to maintain his integrity and his humanity. Others, like the Catholic Plowshares activists practice non-violent civil disobedience to bring attention to crimes perpetrated in our names. Greg Bortje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli are facing 35 years in prison for the Transform Now Plowshares action. This symbolic disarmament took place at the Oak Ridge Y-12 plant, where they managed, unimpeded, to get to the building where all of our nation’s highly enriched weapons grade uranium for nuclear warheads are stored. They hammered on the building’s cornerstone – nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of the US empire – and splashed their blood on it, graphically depicting the end result of the production and use of such weapons. They did this to demonstrate the immorality and danger of nuclear weapons and to voice opposition. They are charged with “sabotage” for their actions. Our local Norfolk Catholic Worker activist, Steve Baggarly, has participated in similar actions and has spent years in prison, voluntarily sacrificing himself to express his objection to militarism, war and empire and to bring attention to it.

 

He and many others regularly protest at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia where Latin American soldiers are taught brutal practices of repression and torture. Father Roy Bourgeois has been leading this effort for years.

 

All of us make choices and have to balance our personal values with our need to make a living. In this effort we are subject to many pressures. Our ability to make those decisions is dependent on what we know and on how that shapes our beliefs. This requires access to Truth, for as Voltaire famously said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” History is replete with examples, as is the present. If we are to reclaim an open society and truly defend our freedom we must insist on the freedom to think, the freedom to speak, the freedom to know, and the freedom to choose.

 

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia.

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Event Update For 2019-12-07http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

First cut of the Madrid climate summit"“Buying an offset to fly here is absurd. It takes decades for a tree to grow enough to recoup [...]

"The drift towards near-term human extinction must be averted at all costs."I confess. I a [...]

"Since 2005, winters in Mexico have been my Hemingway Machine."  As winter descends upon m [...]

Waterboarding Flounder"Serious oxygen loss between 100 and 600-meter depths is expected to cover 59–80% of the ocean [...]

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects"We need wooden ships, char-crete buildings, bamboo bicycles, moringa furniture, and hemp cloth [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

A similar problem affects not-for-profits. They need to get contributions. Often, the workers for th [...]

Thank you, Gail. Good hygiene (not eating foods from contaminated soil) might account for humans nee [...]

Thank you, Robert. I wholeheartedly agree. As a practicing scientist, I believe that the grant fundi [...]

As I think about it, inflation seems to occur primarily when there is a new economy, and there is a [...]

I don't remember the sweater speech but I remember the Moral Equivalent of War speech https://e [...]

Trump was born in 1946 so he's another stinkin' Boomer. Bernie and Biden were born during [...]

The millennial consensus is that Boomer is more a state of mind than an age. A lot of older millenni [...]

Bill Clinton was first boomer president, followed by Bush, Obama, and Trump. True, neither candidate [...]

Biden and Bernie are members of the Silent Generation. Neither one is a boomer. I think Trump is on [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The present work shows the experimental evidence carried out on a pilot scale and demonstrating the [...]

Climate change is expected to affect the occurrence of forest pests. This study depicts a method to [...]

The grapevine (Vitis vinifera, L.) has been long since recognized as an ozone-sensitive plant. Ozone [...]

Climate change imposes great challenges on the built heritage sector by increasing the risks of ener [...]