Tag Archives: Politics

Discovering Goldman

17 Oct

Have you ever had a bunch of ill formed thoughts floating around in your head? You have a general feeling of what you’re trying to get at, but you don’t know how to put it all together and articulate it. It’s extremely limiting and frustrating  Have you ever felt stuck like this only to discover someone else who had the same ideas, but who was able to solidify your thoughts and eloquently express them? It’s an amazing and exciting feeling, like coming up from under the water and gasping for breath.

I had this experience yesterday when I stumbled across an essay by Emma Goldman. I had been aware of her loosely and recently subscribed to a podcast Audio Anarchy. My interest in anarchy as a political philosophy has been growing for some time. I guess one of the things that got me curious about anarchy in the first place was just how socially maligned it is. I’m just naturally curious about anything the rest of society seems to reject in a knee-jerk fashion and without much thought. I think that’s also what got me interested in investigating atheism years ago.

I had a rough idea of what anarchism was before discovering Goldman, but nothing substantial. I knew that it meant freedom from coercion  and that most people incorrectly believe it is synonymous with chaos and violence.

The particular essay I discovered was “Anarchism: What it really stands for.” The Audio Anarchism podcast was reading it in two parts and I was really blown away.

For a while now I’ve had this loose idea revolving around how society seems to be moving people towards something akin to farm animals. I’m reminded of the scene from the Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo how people have been turned into batteries.

 

I don’t think we’re anything like the batteries analogy, but I feel that in our society there is this general trend towards farming our productivity.

Get married, buy the house, the minivan, have kids, go to your job, go to church, keep your head down, watch football, consume corporate media, talk about American Idol, take one vacation every 20 years, work like a dutiful cog. All this is aimed at keeping you in a neat little box with the illusion of freedom and choice.

In her essay Goldman references Ouida who says:

“the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls.”

Goldman, in this same essay, also touches on the feelings of disillusionment, the impossibility of change, that led me to stop paying attention to our current political system:

It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be, would either remain true to their political faith and lose their economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.

There are lots of other nice nuggets in that article, and I look forward to reading more from her, but I’ll leave you with her nice summation of what Anarchism stands for:

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

A farewell to politics

12 Aug

A little while ago I had a revelation. My passion in life was a passion of rage about politics. It was something I was intensely interested in, something I followed very closely, and the whole thing was toxic. Paying such close attention to what was going on in my country made me furious, jaded, and boundlessly cynical. It was like a drug. I would do things like flip over to the opinion section of the newspaper just so I could become incensed. I had to break out of this in order to find my happiness again.

I’ve unsubscribed from all of my political subreddits, I’ve cancelled my subscriptions to political news sites, I’ve stopped listening to news podcasts, and I’m actively trying to avoid any discussion of politics. I feel like an alcoholic trying to recover and to abstain. It’s extremely difficult, especially in our hyper politicized society. Whenever I catch myself thinking about politics, I try to immediately start thinking of something else, like travel. Hopefully I’ll break the habit and be free.

Trying to shed politics from my life in no way changes my views on politics or the state of this country. Democracy, freedom, and human rights are still a delusion. The US is still not a country governed by the rule of law. We are going to continue to regress in every area be it reproductive rights, the environment, equality, science, you name it. Basically, everything good is shit and every ounce of freedom or liberty you think you have is a shame. Any horrible thing you can imagine is most likely actually happening in some capacity or another. I still despise our society, its priorities, and all the injustices it needs to run. There isn’t a damn thing you, or I, can do to change any of this. The society is its own super-organism and the will of the individual cogs doesn’t mean a damn thing.

So in the face of this reality I’ve decided to cut the cord. I’m accepting the fate of the country and the world and I’m trying to become at peace by just putting it out of my mind. There’s no sense in becoming upset over something I am powerless to change. I no longer want to talk or blog about politics. Instead I want to focus on the things I do have control over, like traveling, and find happiness in that.

 

 

 

My passion never left, it just changed forms.

3 Aug

Back around the time I was graduating college I started to lose my passion for history, archaeology, and everything I loved. Why? Well I think there were a variety of factors, but I haven’t got that all sorted out yet. What followed was this period of listlessness, of being adrift with no idea what to do. For the 2+ years following my graduation I had no idea what I wanted to do, no idea where my passion had gone.

But then I had an epiphany the other day: My passion never left, it just changed forms.

This occurred to me when I realized how my passion used to manifest itself. Back when I was in love with history, archaeology, etc, those were the things I constantly thought about. When I wasn’t actively talking to someone, or focused on completing a task my mind would inevitably wander back to those subjects. That’s how I knew I was passionate about them, I would always be thinking about those subjects.

Well after my personal collapse in 2010 I stopped thinking about those things by default. Instead my thoughts shifted to religion and politics. I had always been interested in these things, but they had previously taken a back seat to history and archaeology. I created this blog a long time ago as a way to nurture those thoughts that manifested themselves from time to time, and to give them a home, yet history was still my main focus.

Why did I feel my passion had disappeared? It took me two years to figure it out: Rage.

My passion for history and archaeology was built on love. I genuinely enjoyed talking about those things. I got excited to discuss them with others and they made me happy.

As things in my personal life started to fall apart, the happiness was replaced with this rage. I stopped thinking about things that made me happy and started thinking about things that infuriated me. It was not something I could consciously control, it was a byproduct of what was going on in my life.

Religion and politics were two issues I had always cared about, but now they had become toxic. I was consumed by them. I was constantly furious as my idle thoughts always returned to these poisonous subjects.

I felt lost and adrift because, unlike history and archaeology, religion and politics did not have a productive goal.

Back when I was in love with history I had the goal of becoming an archaeologist. It was something I was working towards, something to achieve. I had direction. When that mindset was replaced with rage, I lost that direction. There is nothing productive for me in religion or politics. I’m not about to become a religious figure since I think the whole thing’s bullshit, and I’m not about to go into politics because I have no faith in our system or the possibility of changing it through legal means.

So where does that leave me now?

I don’t know. I obviously need to replace the rage with love. I want so desperately to do that. I want to be happy again. I want to be somebody who’s excited about something, something positive. I just don’t know how to make that happen. I still have to figure that bit out, but this has been an amazing leap forward for me!

Where are the Hank Reardens?

25 Jul

I’ve read Atlas Shrugged. In the book the business owners are portrayed as hard working honest people who want to add value to the world through their labor. They create wealth through their labors. They raise up themselves and those around them through hard work.

Where are those honest good business leaders? I look around and all I see is unrestricted corporate greed at the expense of others for short term gain. The entire financial sector is built of white collar crime as a business model. Many fortune 500 companies get away with negative tax rates while taking advantage of publicly educated workers, publicly funded roads, firefighters, and police. Executive pay is through the roof and workers are getting shafted.

One of the latest and clearest examples is Catepillar corporation. Catepillar makes hydraulic construction equipment. Times are tough and Catepillar has decided to freeze all of their worker’s pay for six years, including their pensions. So for the next six years, worker’s wages will remain flat, regardless of the increase in gas/food/housing/education/you name it costs. Consequently, the amount workers will take home for their savings after living expenses are taken care off will plummet.

But times are tough, what are you going to do right? Except they’re not. Times are great! You know how much Catepillar made last year in profits? Not revenue, profits.

4.9 Billion dollars.

You know how much they’re on track to make this year in profits?

6 Billion dollars.

Catepillar is rolling in money. They have money up to their eyeballs, but no, the workers need to take a pay freeze for six years to help keep costs down. That includes the CEO too right? Hahahahahaha, you’re joking right? Pay freezes are only for little people like the workers that make the company run.

Douglas Oberhelman, the CEO of Catepillar was given a 60% pay increase over the course the year. He now makes $17 Million Dollars a year.

But I’m sorry, the little people need to tighten their belts during these great times.

Where are the Hank Reardens? Where are these virtuous business owners? Where are the CEOs that want to make the world a better place by enriching themselves AND those who help them create wealth?

Instead it seems that the current business model is to leech as much out of society as possible, to squeeze your workers for every possible ounce of productivity you can get out of them while paying them the absolute minimum you can get away with. When workers fight for an decent pay it’s class warfare, when corporations screw them out of every penny possible, it’s business.

 

Refining my world view

24 Jul

All throughout growing up I’ve been refining my world view. Over the years it has undergone numerous changes and modifications. I’m always trying to adjust things to see how I can better make my explanations fit why the world is the way it is. Until now, the biggest shift in my worldview came when I realized that, to many, objective, independent reality doesn’t exist or matter. With this new lens I could better understand why some people, especially conservative politicians, act the way they act.

The epiphany I had recently revolves around super-organisms. The Amazing Atheist explains it pretty well right here in this clip talking about CISPA. Skip to 4:34 to get to the relevant part.

 

TAA uses the example of cointelpro and Watergate as examples of how people don’t care when individuals get fucked over, but they do care when super-organisms clash. Right now the news is full of stories about the Penn State child rape scandal. Penn State university covered up decades of child rape because it was attempting to protect its brand name. Now that the whole thing has blown up on them, all everyone seems to be talking about is the football program. What about the children who were raped? Nobody gives a shit. Why? Because Penn State is a super-organism and they only care about how that super-organism interacts with other super-organisms.

This biggest way this impacts my world view is in how I see political change, or rather the difficulty of political change. Everyone is just a cog in a semi-self aware machine. We are the system that oppresses us. We can elect politicians who can attempt to change the machine, but most often even they are unable to do so.  The system will continue to act on its own will. This really speaks to the powerlessness of the individual in our society.  If even the president is powerless to a degree to affect change on the system, what chance do you have of changing anything?

Class warfare in The Dark Night Rises.

21 Jul

*spoilers*

I went to go see the new Batman film last night and while it’s an entertaining movie, there was a strong undercurrent of class warfare all throughout that drove me nuts.

I read a really great description of Batman from a reddit user dopplerdog:

Batman is a romantic figure. He is the embodiment of the Nietzchean will to power, anUbermensch. He fights for law and order, a bourgeois order which respects hierarchy and property. In his world there are people who work within the prevailing order, and criminals who are outside it. His role is to enforce his idea of justice on those outside his notion of bourgeois order. He doesn’t wish to subvert the order, but rather to save it from itself, because it has become corrupt.

It is fascist because it is a reactionary fantasy to “correct” unilaterally and by force the problems afflicting liberal democracy, by going beyond the limits set by the system. The aim in this fantasy is to restore a mythical order in which hierarchy and property are respected.

One of the first big action sequences we see is Bane and his thugs shooting up a stock exchange. The rich traders are there being polished and snobby, then shoe shiner, janitor, and Bane dressed like a delivery driver pull out guns and start shooting up the place. The thugs weren’t disguised as other traders, no, they were disguised as working class average Joes. The police show up and there is a dialogue exchange between an trader and two cops. I can’t remember word for word, so I will paraphrase:

Trader: “You have to get in there! This is a robbery! He has full access to whatever whatever!”

Cop: “I’m not running in there, it’s not my money. My money’s in my mattress.”

Trader: “Well if you don’t stop him that money might be worth a lot less than the stuffing in your mattress!”

I find it wonderfully ironic that Bane is holding the traders hostage because this is exactly the reverse of what is going on in our society. Back in 2008, when the economy collapsed, our large financial and commercial institutions held everyone hostage. The message was simple: Either you bail us out for our irresponsible behavior or we take the entire world economy down with us.

“Too big to fail” was the euphemism used for blackmail on a global scale. Four years later and nothing has changed. No one has been arrested, the corrupt and broken system remains in tact, and anyone who speaks out against it is denounced as promoting “class warfare.”

The character of Bane uses populist, anti-capitalist rhetoric throughout the film. He claims that he is starting a revolution for the people, giving the city back to the people. He laments the corruption in society and the injustice of a system used by those in power to keep themselves in power. Bane brings up several real issues affecting society today, but by having Bane be the one to voice them, Nolan is single-handily dismissing the issues and painting those who raise them as terrorists. Way to try and frame the discussion so there is no discussion at all.

Cat Woman, who is much more morally ambiguous, also uses populist rhetoric from time to time. She tells Bruce Wayne that there is a storm coming, that soon all the rich people will be thrown out into the cold harsh world and will know what it’s like to be one of everyone else. This actually takes place in a montage that shows rich people being rounded up, their homes looted, and criminals being released from prison.

The whole thing just reminded me of the period immediately after the French Revolution known as “The Terror.” I was further reminded of this when Nolan shows the rich being sentenced to death in sham trials before a “people’s court.” I couldn’t help but laugh when one of the rich decries the lack of due process. In Nolan’s mind the rich and powerful stand as beacons of justice and human rights. In real life things are exactly the opposite.   The “right” to due process has become yet another casualty of war. Eric Holder, the attorney general made it clear that “due process doesn’t necessarily mean judicial due process.”

Throughout the chaos Bane establishes a military dictatorship of sorts, declaring martial law and rounding up those still on the streets for execution. His rule is anything but a populist revolution. He is simply using the rhetoric of such to try and win people to his side, not that he cares either way because he’s planning on blowing up the city regardless.

Queue patriotic shots of police officers being heroic and marching down the villains, people coming out of their townhouses while those in power talk about prosperity and order, and the entire thing is a reactionary circle jerk with Batman as Jesus Christ.

 

Money destroys democracy

17 Jul

Equality is at the core of a 1 person, 1 vote democracy. Your vote is a unit of direct political power. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, your vote matters just as much as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter what title comes before your name, or what your bank account statement says, at the end of the day my vote is just as powerful as yours. Without this equality democracy couldn’t function.

Unfortunately, things are not as simple in reality as 1 person, 1 vote. Is money speech? Is it a form of your free speech to choose to give your money to a political cause? If money is speech, does that mean those with more money have more speech then those with less money? What if a small group of people pool their resources so that they have an inordinate amount of speech compared to everyone else? What if they use this inordinate amount of speech to affect politics? Now you no longer have 1 person, 1 vote system. Money = speech = power; money = power.

 

At this point democracy starts to crumble. A person’s vote becomes irrelevant when there are much larger units of power in play. It’s similar to the difference between an arithmetical increase and an exponential increase. A large group of individuals can coalesce around a cause, but if another group has more money, they will have more influence and power. Congratulations, you’re now on your way from democracy to oligarchy.

The degree to which you’re an oligarchy depends on how much big money is involved in politics. This issue has always been around since the start of democracy, however, only relatively recently have we’ve seen the advent of super PACs and corporations pouring millions into politics in order to twist the law in their favor. The more money in politics, the less democratic those politics become.

“Well what’s the problem with that?” some might ask. If you’re fine with some people having more power than others, then you need stop your flag waving and acknowledge that you don’t support democracy. While you’re at it, stop using democracy as a buzzword completely. Democracy as a term has become as debased and valueless as liberty, freedom, and terrorism have in the past decade. They are cheap, gilded terms devoid of any real meaning.

“Why shouldn’t the rich have more power? They have more stuff and thus more of a stake in society.”

No. The amount of material objects you possess doesn’t matter. We all have the ultimate stake in society, our lives. When someone dies for their country, we say they paid the ultimate price. It is the most valuable thing we have as individuals. Your fancy cars, houses, and trust funds are drops in the bucket by comparison.

Happy 4th of July. Celebrate [the illusion of] freedom

4 Jul

“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” –Frank Zappa

Happy 4th of July. Everywhere you look in America today there is something or someone espousing the attitude of “AMERICA!!!FUCK YEAH!!!!” It’s freedom this or liberty that. Yet despite all this spirited celebration, not a single brain cell is occupied with contemplating what freedoms and liberties we have. If you ask someone, they’ll probably give some answer that sounds like it could be spoken from a character out of the Idiocracy movie. “What freedoms are you celebrating today?” “Well, ah….our freedom to be free!”

You have no freedom. You have only the illusion of freedom.

You might point to the bill of rights as a clear example of the freedoms you have, but then you would be incredibly naive. Rights by their nature are absolutes. If they are not absolutes then they are not rights, their enforcement is subject to the whims of the ruling power; an illusion. The ruling power will maintain that illusion as long as it is convenient for them to do so. In cases where it is no longer convenient, they will dispense with the theater and the true nature of your “rights” are relieved.

Over the past century the US government has shown that no right is absolute. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly? That will be tolerated as long as it is the correct speech, press, and assembly. Look at the brutal crackdowns on protesters, “free speech zones” miles away from the subject of the protest, the police violence .Freedom from unwarranted search and seizures? Nonexistent. Everything you do on facebook, every phone call and text message you send is recorded by the government. You are suspect by default. Every citizen is a potential enemy of the state.

The right to due process, a speedy trial and protection from cruel and unusual punishment? Ask Bradley Manning about that. Or ask Anwar al-Awlaki, an American tried, sentenced, and executed with no due process, no trial, and no appeal. Or ask his dead 16yr old son who was executed two weeks later in the same manner. Ask anyone on the US government’s “kill list.” Ask the owners of Megaupload or any one of the other websites arbitrarily, illegally, and capriciously shut down by the government.

“But at least we’re not some third world country suffering starvation, civil war, and lawlessness!”

No. Making that argument is surrender. You are setting the bar so low that it might as well be on the ground, and yet you seem elated that you’re able to step over it. No amount of sarcasm can express my disdain for this argument. The funny thing is that you can’t even step over it, it’s more like you trip over it. Corruption, lawlessness, and starvation exist here in the US. The difference is that our aliments are better hidden. People are expecting to see starving Africans, or warlords, or guards taking bribes. Yet in America our starving people look like everyone else, or a homeless veteran under a bridge. Our warlords wear suits and drive nice cars. Our corrupt officials take bribes from corporations and sit in congress. There remains only one absolute right in the US.

Your right to remain silent.

The passage of “Obamacare” highlights republican disconnect with reality.

30 Jun

Last week Obama’s healthcare reform legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court. CNN and Fox, showed just how little facts matter to them in their rush to be first to break the story by neglecting to read the whole document before declaring the legislation dead. Meanwhile, republicans showed just how little facts matter to them by promptly exploding upon hearing that the legislation passed.

Some republicans hilariously threatened to move to Canada as a result of this ruling. Little do they know, Canada has universal healthcare much stronger than anything passed in Obama’s legislation.

Romney promptly came out and denounced the legislation, vowing to repeal it on his first day in office.

Which is hilarious because in 2006 it was his idea:

In fact, the whole notion of an individual mandate, the government forcing you to buy something against your will, was originally the brain-child of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.

You see, the anti-free market notion of being forced to buy health insurance was developed by conservatives. Obama’s legislation was crafted by the health insurance industry. It spoon feeds them 30 million new customers who are required by law to buy from them.  Back in 2009, when all this was starting, 77% of the country supported having a public (government) option to generate competition and help keep prices down. Competition would have been bad for health insurance industry profits, so they made sure to take that option off the table. Instead we got this watered down legislation. Yes, it’s better than nothing at all, assuming it lives to take full effect, but what we needed was real systemic reform and this is not it.

But you see, conservatives are masters of compartmentalization and ignoring cognitive dissonance brought on by hypocrisy. None of the above mentioned facts will have an effect on them. They will continue to scream about the evils of making sure everyone has access to health care, and how this whole thing is liberal big government taking over their lives. This just goes to further highlight what I’ve been saying is the rosetta stone to understanding conservatives:

Objective reality and facts don’t matter. Narrative does.

In other news, republicans ban scientists and city planners from discussing sea level rise.

Why are bombs ok, but not condoms?

3 Mar

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of how the conservatives held a one sided “hearing” on birth control where not a single woman was able to testify. Here in America, reproductive health is not viewed as a legitimate issue, and women are not women, rather they are a sum of parts to be regulated. (At least in the eyes of our politicians) One such sum of parts was a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke. She was supposed to go to the hearing to testify on why reproduction is part of human health (seems obvious) and thus should be covered by healthcare. Unfortunately the conservatives barred her from testifying.

Bombastic conservative icon Rush Limbaugh the proceeded to call this woman a slut and a whore for wanting healthcare to cover contraceptives. He went further to say : “if we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

I’m not sure if Rush is aware, but it takes two people to have sex. Actually, Rush might be aware seeing as he was stopped when trying to re-enter the US after a trip to the Dominican Republic because he had a massive quantity of Viagra. What were you doing in the Dominican Republic with all that Viagra Rush? You weren’t married, and according to you, unmarried women who have sex are sluts and whores. Were you on a sex binge with prostitutes? Of course not. I’m sure it was somehow related to a church mission to help the poor.

Conservatives are decrying contraception coverage as symptomatic of the nanny state, a big government waste of tax payer money so others can have sex.

Lets exam this:

1) The government isn’t paying for the birthcontrol. Healthcare companies are.

2) If healthcare companies covered contraceptives, it would save you money. Pregnant women are expensive for healthcare companies. The fewer pregnant women in your healthcare pool, the less a healthcare company has to charge to pay for them and you.

3) It is ok for healthcare to cover Viagra so old men can still get a hard-on and have sex, but it is not ok for healthcare to cover birth control, which some women take as a hormonal treatment and not just so they don’t get pregnant?

Why aren’t conservatives calling men sluts and whores and decrying how healthcare is paying them to have sex? Why aren’t they demanding sex tapes of these individuals online? Like Rush Limbaugh for example. (Hint: Answer starts with H and ends with ypocrisy)

Viagra is used to treat one thing, limp dick. The pill treats a number of issues besides preventing pregnancy.

4) Why is it not “nanny state government” for the government to regulate who can marry, who can have what types of sex in their private homes, and what a woman can do with her body, but it IS “nanny state government” for healthcare to have to cover contraceptive?

5) Conservatives claim that they want to stop abortion. Birth control stops unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortions. If A=B and B=C, A=C, thus birth control stops abortions. (That’s a liberal conspiracy called logic)

A rational person would think that if someone truly wished to lower the amount of abortions per year, you’d invest heavily in birth control and stop the problem before it starts. Surely that would be the most effective use of resources.

6) Lastly, if conservatives can refuse to pay for life saving healthcare, can liberals refuse to pay for their bombs? Why is it ok for us to be forced to pay for you to kill people, but not ok for you to be forced to pay to make people’s lives better?

I’m sure a conservative will try to counter that last point with “national security. Killing people overseas makes us safer” but that’s extremely debatable. A liberal could easily counter with how fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer unwanted children = fewer crimes = safer America.

Let’s be honest. This isn’t an issue of tax payer money going to fund wild sex parties. This is an issue of conservative sexism, hypocrisy, and disdain for women.

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