Maybe it’s the coffee you’re drinking (top photo)
Just a little less than five years ago now, I wrote that we would soon face a moment when one could be formally charged with committing a hate-crime, for objecting to a war crime. I wasn’t trying to be funny (I really did see a moment like this coming), but I was still hoping like crazy that I was wrong, and that some force I hadn’t considered or weighted adequately, would turn us away from this (almost gleefully) insane and self-destructive path – even on the ethical plane.
So – how come everything keeps getting worse and worse, sometimes by slow stages, and sometimes by sharp crisis, without anyone even suggesting a truly positive direction? What happened to the aspiration for doing things better? You would think that after two solid decades of ruinously expensive mass murder which has very clearly led to increasing poverty in the west and outright lethal destruction in places all around the world, we would all be very sick of war by now, and profoundly determined to overcome it, everywhere, in every last form it does or can take. But that is really not so – instead, for the first time in a full century in the west, simply objecting to war and violence on principle is being criminalized – once again by the very same super powerful monopolist class of corrupting aristocrats (0.1%) who have always used mass murder as a tool for profit and political advancement.
Yes folks – the exact same people who want the crushing power of the state to censor individual citizens, even to the point of depriving them of a livelihood, have spent the last century plus, assembling vast wealth and corrupting power by killing human beings in industrial quantities, and/or by using our tax money (so obviously needed for infrastructure, housing and ecological modernization) to oppress and exploit helpless others.
All those years Americans were finger-waggingly lecturing the world about micro-aggressions, they were dropping an average of one bomb every 45 minutes, round the clock, on Afghanistan.
We should recognize this as an outstanding ultra-advanced achievement in cognitive dissonance.
As far as I can tell, the place where we all went wrong is so basic, it’s hard for us to see it, let alone believe it – the very tricky and complicated balance between self and other.
This balance – how much me and how much everyone – has long been recognized as key to being happy and productive as an individual, it is crucial to having a functioning community, neighbourhood, society or nation, to educating and supporting children, and to caring for the weak and elderly (many of whom haven’t been in quite such a woefully starved-out hopeless state in generations).
It is also the fundamental basis of art and philosophy – not only what part of perception is in the observer, and what in the observed – but just as surely – what part of life is my duty, and what prize or help should I expect, in my turn?
Consumerism messes us up horribly here (one of the reasons I go on about advertising, even more often than the also scary raw-materials side of it). There was a brief moment long ago when advertisements mostly described features, but from the ascendancy of psychological manipulation best known as Public Relations (about a century ago) ever since, the pitch is not about the physical properties of the object they want to sell, but how you will feel if you get one.
Of course it is cliche to say that sex sells in advertising, but we see two other really strong and repeated themes also. Getting something for almost nothing, and winning advantage while others outright lose – instant better-than for sale!
Oddly, we’ve spent lots of energy pushing back against the use of sex in media (with extremely mixed results, to be sure), but when you consider that sex is at least fun, good physical exercise, and about human connection, I actually think the other two themes are far more dangerous to us – especially in combination.
Day after day, year after year, we get trained to think we ought to be able to find a deal which lets us get full benefit, while only offering half responsibility. Worse still, we practise feeling triumphant when someone else is pushed down.
The extent to which people are now blind to their own tribe’s version of such (always bullying and unfair) collectivized hared, and yet utterly apoplectic about the very similar versions used by people they don’t like so much, would be hilarious, if it wasn’t almost certain to lead to more, and still more, industrial mass murder.
NO – we cannot have a full rich society and only pay for it with half responsibility – and it isn’t even reasonable to pretend that’s a question anymore – results are in, we all got an F and MUST repeat morality 101 from scratch next year, if we want any hope of getting a passing grade.
Alternately – if we are now so in love with our hatred of THEM that we aren’t interested in learning or mirrors – and don’t plan to be anytime soon – we should declare ourselves to be some special category of psychotic narcissists (I suggest HG Welles’ term Eloi), promise never to mention morality again, and also to no longer embarrass any serious philosophy (whether left, right, novel or ancient) by mentioning it, or pretending that we would ever even consider taking the framework we delight in using as a cudgel against others, as any kind of restraint upon our own excesses of conduct or interaction.
Catherine and I enjoy watching videos about other ways to live, made by normal people from all around the world. Here’s something you can’t help noticing – and it really does apply all around the world – and yet continues to be completely filtered-out of the highly edited (always was fake – and we all always used to know that) “mainstream media” picture of our planet and cultures.
Poor people talk in ways that rich people think are rude. They live lives with so many levels of practical imposition challenge and frustration, they just don’t have the patience to spare for codes of speech and dress, or the fashionable modes of address preferred by the wealthy. Like Maslow observed, you don’t even start thinking about stuff like self-actualization, until you are so well fed and housed that you don’t even worry about it.
Let me put this in super clear and pithy terms – if Youtube ever set their evil bots one single task – to hunt down and remove all “Offensive” content using the N word – they would instantly silence millions of the poorest (and already most silenced) voices in North America.
Rules which are appropriate for a daycare/university in a rich safe neighbourhood, are absolutely not valid or fair – and even less measures showing respect for the downtrodden – if we try to make them universal codes, backed up by state violence. But more and more of us who are housed and fed comparatively well, are making such mistakes in thinking, by forgetting how different the life of the other can be from our own.
I have middle class friends who call themselves ‘environmentalists’ but still drive, who scream blue murder about how crucially important carbon tax legislation is. Some even seem to think that “Mister Pipeline” Trudeau should be elected yet again, to pass that one single piece of legislation, despite his unbroken record of deceit, arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. I mean seriously folks, not only has he failed to fix the government payroll system (though he did give hundreds of millions more, to the same company that screwed it up in the first place) he has even managed to lose taxpayer money creating a national legal weed industry. Can there be a lower bar? I know twelve year olds who figured that shit out!
The point is that what is important is the environment, not any one policy or law. The reason my friends are so upset is their own narcissism – they can’t imagine actually sacrificing even something as small as their own convenience, for the sake of their loudly stated principles. They demand the government make it so expensive they are forced to change – because they are so ignorant and contemptuous they think everyone else is as weak and amoral as they are – and presumably just as spoiled also.
But wait a minute here – just what year do we think this is, folks?
Carbon pricing would have been a great thing to do twenty years ago, instead of spending trillions of debt dollars and decades of effort on insane wars against the foreign poor. (So often angry and rude, and so easy to silence, because of it).
Back then we had more family wealth more widely distributed, more safety net, way less poverty in the west, and an incalculably lower sense of global desperation.
At this point in time, carbon pricing is in no way adequate to the scale of effort required. WE MISSED OUR WINDOW FOR THAT BEING ANY PART OF A FIX. What it remains at this late date, is a way for middle class hypocrites to insist they are being moral by demanding that the poor be made MUCH more desperate, because the cozy and lazy can’t imagine behaving in a moral way without threat of state force.
I honestly don’t even know what kind of crazy that is – but it ain’t left and it ain’t ecological either. Find someone whose climate model excludes never ending war, please.
For those of us who are both comfortable and morally concerned about the environment – it is on us to pay full price in responsibility at last and choose to stop driving (flying, cellphones). Because (so far) the plan B on offer does NOT mean saving the planet, it means demanding even more jackboots on more poor kids necks – as we continue to do great damage to the future by pretending we don’t have to change that much – and frankly, we would all already know that if we weren’t so spoiled. (Honestly, the whole idea of a bourgeois left was always vomit-inducing, but the demonstrated practise has been almost unbelievably more so)
THE SPOILED HAVE NO MORE RIGHT TO DESTROY THE POOR TO GET WHAT THEY WANT THAN NEOCONS AND BANKERS HAVE A RIGHT TO MASS MURDER AND BRIBE THEIR WAY TO HUGE STOCK MARKET WINS. Au Suivant!
No more paying half and taking full – that shit has to end. Starts with us, and it sound a lot more like doing it, and a lot less like complaining about the other guy.
And no more feral grin as we do the other guy down, either. That evil indulgence kills morality and mutuality dead – for no win or gain whatsoever.
Finally, lest my whole point be mistaken for something topical, rather than one more piece in my lifelong dedication to the study and advancement of pacifism and opposition to state force, poverty and oppression, I should show you one prime example of how screwed-up this stuff gets, when we all go panicky-nuts at once.
The Uhuru Movement is a Black Power movement which has flourished in America for many generations, younger kids might best reach for the Black Panthers for reference (except the Uhuru group are peaceful and not at all about gun rights – mostly critics and educators – albeit with that ‘ruder language’ proviso which applies to the poor and struggling, always and everywhere).
You might think you don’t know their work, but I say you do! Ever heard of the idea of reparations for slavery? However you feel about this proposal, they are widely credited as the group which first brought the idea to public attention for serious debate – decades ago.
In sum, they are what people on left and right once recognized as dedicated revolutionaries (albeit one said with admiration, and one really not so much). One of those free and contending critical democratic (principle, not party) voices, out of which social progress is so often forged.
Considering the chaos of the world of late, and the depressing way “Big News” mostly points the spot-light in places which don’t embarrass the favoured governments too much (which means that when they do finally admit something is bad, it’s actually beyond horrible), you can be forgiven for missing the story about the Uhuru three.
Mind you, if you know anything about the history of political movements, the fact that they conducted a pre-dawn SWAT raid with flash-bang grenades on an unarmed eighty-one year old, fast asleep in his own home, will really remind you of the Panthers, some of whom were outright murdered by the government, because it was so infuriated by their hard hitting and popular political critique of their hyper-violent racism.
Three of these powerful elder figures in the Uhuru movement are now charged by the government of the United States for being, of all things, Russian Spies!
Want to know why? Because Russia sent these dedicated lifelong activists some money to help with a freakin’ book and lecture tour a couple of times! You think I’m kidding? – read the details below.
The unbelievably dangerous logic here says that even when someone is saying something true and important, which one has firmly believed their whole life, that speech should be banned on any minor technical grounds we can find, if it embarrasses the government – because criticizing the government isn’t the exercise of free speech – instead it now means aiding our enemies!
This (Biden) government has twisted principle completely, to make democracy itself, treason!
If the people have no free unfettered voice, ESPECIALLY FOR CRITICIZING THE GOVERNMENT then there is no way for us to claim we are even attempting any such idealistic thing as embodied popular will. We speak our aspiration and anger both, or we are made serfs by default.
Now – even if you’re still unsure, perhaps hung-up on particulars of this case (as is understandable) try zooming-out just a bit and looking at the other side of the danger.
How many charities and groups of various kinds do we in the west contribute to, overseas?
Are the groups we promote in other countries all “Spreading disinformation” by making their local government look bad, simply by revealing that they are failing to provide some basic service? Are our longstanding charities, really stealthy undermining political accusations?
What about our support for political parties which seem to embody values which we find especially familiar or desirable? Isn’t all of that the exact same damn thing as “Foreign Election Interference?”
That interpretation of one thing as another sounds insane, probably racist and wildly paranoid, right? And yet, it is nothing but perfect fairness, our own code reflected back (MIRRORS, PLEASE!)
Day after day, we now read hear and see fearful, formerly principled people, outright begging the powerful to muzzle the anger of the poor, already at a full boil.
Quick, shut those rude voices up now, so I can go back to pretending they don’t even exist!
Now let me ask you to meditate on this question. Can you think of one single example in all of recorded human history when muzzling the furious working class, has worked out well for all?
(and, um, don’t want to be rude here but – have you read any history, like, ever?)
The simple TLDR summary? Jackboot bad (yes, sorry, always).
And we all gotta smarten the (heck) up. Now would be good.
Here is the absolutely crazy making (and vastly under-reported) story about the Uhuru Three.
And here is just one of uncountable examples of very real (and rude) life that you will never ever see on the news, except through the lens of a pitying (and equally contemptuous) bourgeois social worker. This is the true power of the web, folks. Voices to those who were voiceless.
Also – a tiny footnote about the modern link for Au Suivant. Brel’s own performances are unbeatable (though she makes a wonderful and respectful effort), but thanks to way too much fighting about his incredible cultural contributions, you can no longer see well translated English subtitltes for the incredible lyrics under his own versions (live, especially amazing and life-filled – no one like him).