Ecology and the Pathology of Capitalism by Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
Information Clearing House
January 20, 2012

Capitalism Kills

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Contrary to everything we have been taught, there is no actual United States of America. The U.S. is an occupied territory that could more accurately be described as the Corporate States of America. If the geopolitical states are united, the people are not. We are a nation divided by ideology and by social and economic class. The U.S. is not a democracy and it never was. The systems of power do not allow the voice of working people to be heard or their collective will to be acted upon.

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Religion as a Tool of Repression By Charles Sullivan

https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/

By Charles Sullivan
Information Clearing House
November 30, 2010

Christians cannot love their enemies and kill ...

Image by Dandelion Salad via Flickr

Free speech and dissent are always curtailed in times of war. Whenever soldiers occupy foreign nations, rational thinking is proscribed in favor of nationalistic hubris. Minority opinions, although grounded in ethics and reason, are repressed, often brutally. The majority becomes intolerant of dissenting views. Thoughtful dialog is suspended and irrational ideology gains ascendancy. Civil discourse breaks down, and the social order disintegrates into anti-intellectual emotionalism and chaos.

During World Wars I and II, it was dangerous for anyone to oppose war or to speak truth to power. When Eugene Debs delivered his Canton anti-war speech in 1918, he went to prison. In An Enemy of the People, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen demonstrated that the majority of the people are easily deceived, their emotions manipulated by profiteers and special interests. It requires serious conviction to take a principled stand in the midst of nationalistic fervor in which men and women so easily turn upon one another. During war, nationalism and repression are conducted with the fervor of a religious crusade.

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Defining Moments in US History and their Relevance Today By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

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By Charles Sullivan
May 28, 2009 “”Information Clearing House

There are periods in the history of every nation that define its character and reveal who is really running the government and its social and financial institutions. In the US, one of those periods, of which there are so many, was the political witch hunt that occurred during the 1950s. Known as the era of McCarthyism, this was a time in which the civil rights of anyone with leftist political leanings were violated through a series of tormented public persecutions. During McCarthyism, thousands of law- abiding citizens were blacklisted and thus unable to find work. Among this group, numerous families were torn asunder, divorces sharply increased, and multiple suicides were reported.

The era of McCarthyism, one of many dark epochs of US history, clearly demonstrates that the political forces running the government were conservatism and right wing extremism. They are the very same elements that are tearing the nation and the world asunder today. Men like then Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and Ronald Reagan were manifestations of the syndrome of right wing extremism. Their fanatical neocon progeny are making the world a dangerous place today.

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What if they gave a War? By Charles Sullivan (2006)

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
09/18/06 “Information Clearing House

“What if they gave a war and no one came?” was a popular slogan during the Viet Nam war. It remains a timeless and powerful motto, and is as relevant as ever. It is still a mantra that evokes thought provoking responses and suggests some intriguing possibilities.

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Elections, Capitalism, And Democracy By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
06/26/08 “ICH”

Because so many of the people on the political left fear that John McCain will become the next president, they have allowed themselves to see the very moderate democratic candidate, Barach Obama, as a desirable alternative to the decidedly ghoulish McCain, rather than supporting a genuine progressive like Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, or Ralph Nader. They thus perceive Obama to be far more progressive than he really is. Such comparisons lead us down a dichotomous pathway that assures a continuous drift to the right.

Each election cycle the people on the left find themselves out-flanked by those on the right by allowing them to frame the debate and to define who we are. So each election we end up supporting a very moderate candidate rather than a truly progressive one. Because all of the mainstream candidates are intensively influenced by corporate lobbyists and the electoral system is owned by capital, democracy has remained as elusive as capturing the ghost of a saint with a piece of duct tape.

According to Ambrose I. Lane Sr., host of Pacifica radio’s “We Ourselves,” John McCain has the third most conservative voting record of anyone in the senate. Running an extremist from the opposite end of the political spectrum forces the democratic candidate further to the right than he or she already is. So when progressives fall into this trap, as they so often do, it is a win-win for the corporate lobbyists pulling the strings behind the curtain. They end up supporting a candidate they think can compete against extremists rather than one who actually represents their values. If you have to become like your opponent in order to defeat them, what can you honesty say has been won?

Progressives cannot gain ground by ceding their ideology to their conservative opponents in order to gain office. Without having a viable candidate coming from the far left of the Democratic Party, progressives cannot reasonably expect to push the debate back toward the political center, much less to the left of center. You can make a good case, however, that the democratic leadership under Howard Dean has no real desire to move to the left or to represent traditional progressive values. It likes the status quo just fine; a position that has served its corporate funders well.

Because it has been co-opted by corporate lobbyists—who always hedge their bets—the Democratic Party no longer houses a genuine left-wing faction that can effectively compete for votes in a way that emulates the success of the far right. Because right-wing extremism and corporate fascism are portrayed in the corporate media as reasonable centrist positions beneficial to the people—that is how they are perceived by those who receive their political education from those sources. Thus extremism packaged as democracy is widely considered to be the norm when, in fact, it is not; it is fanaticism couched as something much more benign or beneficial, even if it is a poison pill. Yet it is this extremism that undermines the interests of the nation’s working class people and keeps them subservient to corporate fascism. Voting for meaningful change is like running on a treadmill and expecting to actually go somewhere.

The problem is that capital, rather than informed citizens interested in democracy, is in control of the electoral process. Capital furthers the interest of capital, rather than the interest of the people, and this creates an irreconcilable conflict with genuine human interests. So we end up with a sociopolitical system that is not only fundamentally unjust; it is also predatory and cannibalistic. It consumes the very people who feed it and give it the appearance of legitimacy: the great unwashed working class.

Capitalism flourishes, for a short time, at least, by socializing costs and by privatizing profits and this concentrates and centralizes power into the hands of a select few. Its real purpose is not to serve people; it is to exploit them. Capitalism isn’t even a natural system; it is a purely human construct that has no basis in nature. It is a synthetic system and, as we have seen through chemistry, synthetic systems tend to become mutagens, and thus promote cancer.

Due in part to their extreme political naiveté and to delusional thinking, too many people have accepted corporate fascism as a centrist or “normal” position. Thus they have unwittingly allowed predatory and cannibalistic forces—unregulated markets—to determine the fate of the nation and its people. Neoconservatives and neoliberals, alike, have defined the free market as an unregulated market, which has become their concept of democracy. The so called free market is not under the control of human beings in any meaningful sense, and it does not respond to human needs. Like a creation of Frankenstein, it is a man-made monster that has escaped from the laboratory and is wreaking havoc across the countryside, menacing everyone and everything in its gargantuan steel-booted path.

By themselves, markets are not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly people need commerce and trade. However, it is when markets are deregulated—as required by the adherents of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics—that they turn upon people and become predatory, undemocratic, and cannibalistic. When markets are given more power and more rights than people, people will cede not only their power to them, but also their humanity. This is how markets have become all-powerful entities that have no soul or conscience and are answerable to no one: monstrosities in every sense of the word.

I would argue, however, that the object of commerce and trade should be to serve people and to benefit the whole of society, rather than to generate enormous profits for the benefit of a select few. Commerce without democracy cannot help us toward a free and democratic society; it can only undermine our every effort at genuine democratization.

Either you work for the public interest or you work for self-interest. It is this assertion that finally brings us back to our starting point—the electoral process. Because the process is under the control of capital rather than working class people, it undermines the democratic process and substitutes something else in its place. That process has led us to where we are and it can never take us back to where we started from. Nor can it ever lead us to genuine democracy or to justice. It can only bear the fruit of its own seeds; it can only provide us with more of what it has already produced.

If we the people are serious about real democratic government, we must work for it outside of the electoral process, as well as from within. We must organize a revolutionary force so powerful that it cannot be ignored or denied. We must institute effective and prolonged economic boycotts. We must organize work slow-downs, work stoppages, and general strikes in order to make corrupt government feel our pain. We must create labor unions that genuinely fight for worker’s rights while simultaneously transitioning the country away from an exploitive and self-destructive capital economy toward a people-oriented economy based upon need, rather than privatized profit subsidized by public funds. These are the means to creating a democratic workplace and bringing malignant capitalism to a grinding halt. The electoral process does not provide the tools for revolution; it subverts the process and only delays the inevitable.

While Barach Obama has run for the presidency on the premise of change, his ideology is fundamentally the same as the presidents who came before him: the economic theories of Milton Friedman and the belief in corporate deregulation; profits before people. Obama’s economic advisers subscribe to the same economic theorem that brought us the trickle down economics of Ronald Reagan and his disastrous foreign policy. Obama’s foreign policy advisers subscribe to the same philosophy that brought us the invasion of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine; every one of them a war-mongering imperialist with close ties to the military industrial complex with its nexus of profiteering. His energy policy team has great faith in clean coal and safe nuclear energy, neither of which exists.

Because the Obama team is anything but revolutionary, it is unreasonable to expect them to produce polices significantly different than the ones that are already in play. We saw this with Bill Clinton who campaigned on promises to do one thing but, once elected, did another. Clinton won office by being more right-wing than his republican opponent. That was no victory for progressives. How could it be?

This is not to say that Barach Obama is a bad person in any way. Certainly, he is an intelligent man of reasonably good character and a fine orator, but that does not qualify him as representative of the people or the democracy they so desperately need. Is he a better choice than John McCain? Without doubt he is. But then, so is almost anyone else. A toadstool would be a better choice than McCain. We must remember that Obama has been groomed to become president some day and that grooming was provided by special interests whose unstated purpose is to undermine genuine democracy by substituting an imposter in its place. They are convinced that the American people won’t know the difference. So don’t expect any significant changes under Obama, despite all of the campaign rhetoric to the contrary.

The presence of McCain makes the very moderate Obama an appealing alternative and that assures victory for the status quo. It frightens progressive voters away from supporting real progressives like Dennis Kucinich or Cynthia McKinney. Barach Obama was the real choice of the established orthodoxy all along. The marketing strategists have used John McCain to funnel the votes toward Obama and away from genuine progressives. That is where the real fight was. You can call it voting in the absence of real choice because that is precisely what it is. The same policies that have been in play for decades will continue on and we will keep getting a similar result.

Obama’s recent endorsement of warrantless wire-tapping is not only evidence of his belonging to the established orthodoxy; it directly connects him to the draconian policies of the Bush regime and to those of Senator McCain. No true progressive would want to be associated with the unlawful and unjustified surveillance of law-abiding citizens. This is a red flag that must not be ignored.

This is why the country continues to quietly drift further to the right: there is no real choice in elections and we continue to behave as if there are. It is the capitalist system that is at fault, not the candidates themselves who play the game according to the dictum of its inventors. They, too, as despicable as some of them are, are its unwitting victims.

What hope is there for genuine progressives in a game that is rigged? If we are ever to become responsible citizens, we must learn how to separate the contents of the box from the fancy packaging. The same old ideology, regardless of who espouses it, will not lead to meaningful change; nor will pursing the same old methods. If we are going to be satisfied with that, then we can continue to be pawns in a rich man’s game and accept the results of the game without complaint. If we expect better, then we must begin by demanding better of ourselves by recognizing what is being done in our name and doing something about it. But first we must awaken from our stupor and come to the realization that democracy means direct citizen action.

Charles Sullivan welcomes your comments at csullivan@copper.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Pain and Conscience By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
05/30/08 “ICH”

It is evident that a substantial majority of U.S. citizens are, in principle, opposed to the most destructive governmental policies stemming from the nation’s capital. These include, but are not limited to—the continuing war and occupation of Iraq, as well as the pervasive consumer fraud that preys upon the innocent and the unwary and causes them undue hardship. These charges are born out by the abysmal approval rating of Congress and the president. It is equally evident that the government, while pretending to be sympathetic to these views, continues to carry forth those same policies both at home and abroad. It does so without the consent of the people and, therefore, it has abrogated its responsibility to them.

These destructive policies are formulated in the various branches of government and in the corporate board rooms of America. They are a prominent feature of the run amok presidency of George W. Bush, where they manifest themselves to the world. However, their history precedes Bush and his corporate gangsters by generations, and they are an outgrowth of the exploitive capital system.

In some respects the presidency serves as a distraction from the machinations that are operating behind the scenes to spew forth one disastrous policy after another. With so much attention given to Bush, the people are failing to confront the root cause of which George W. Bush is but a single manifestation: the sociopolitical system that put the present criminal regime in power.

Beyond capitalism, other destructive paradigms are operating to produce a hybridized and even more virulent form of economics. One might call it hyper capitalism. This explains why the American form of capitalism is so much more destructive than most of its European counterparts. For example, most European workers enjoy a shorter work week, higher wages, and have more paid vacation than do American workers; and most of them have union representation and, therefore, more and better benefits. In Germany, even Wal-mart is unionized.

One of these harmful paradigms that interact synergistically with capitalism is the idea of American exceptionalism: the persistent belief that America knows best and everything we do is good for the world. This synergism is tinged with powerful elements of racism, sexism, and other belief systems that are rooted in bigotry, hate, and religious intolerance. It is this lethal combination that gave rise to the concept of Manifest Destiny. It was these paradigms that attempted to sweep the continent clean of its indigenous population, and is blowing across the planet, touching ground in the Middle East and beyond like a violent cyclone.

What is so exasperating to many of us is that the corruption of the political system is widely understood and yet so little is done about it. The people continue to participate in it; they continue to vote in the absence of meaningful choice and they continue to support it with their taxes. There have been peace marches and other forms of token protest, but they have had little bearing on the continuing policies of economic disparity, environmental destruction, and imperial war that are prominent features of American capitalism.

Because protest in America has become more symbolic than effective, those in power can afford to ignore it. Even when participation in protest is great, it is of short duration; it does not cause serious economic or political disruption, and it does not pose a real threat to the established orthodoxy. After a few hours of peaceful marching, the people pack up and go back to their lives and everything remains as it was before they came.

Effective protest causes economic and political disruption. It persists until the just demands of the people are met. The established orthodoxy feels pain and discomfort from it; it feels a palpable threat and understands that the injustice cannot continue. Either it addresses the demands of the people, or it perishes. This is a manifestation of democracy. It is serious stuff that requires enormous sacrifice from those who protest in this way. The Montgomery bus boycott of the 60s was that kind of protest; and it was a protest that was won by the people, despite a constant threat of violence and death.

These days few people are willing to put anything tangible on the line. One wonders: Is there anything that the American people are willing to fight and die for? Is there anything real that we really believe in? Or do we relish the symbols of freedom more than we love freedom itself?

American exceptionalism is fostered in all of our social and political institutions. This includes the educational system and religious institutions. Thus, these beliefs are continually reinforced from cradle to grave, and never more so than in the corporate media. So it is not surprising that our political leaders behave as if they were endowed with the powers of deities, even though they are nothing more than fallible human beings like everyone else. It requires enormous hubris for anyone to adopt such doctrines, but there appears to be an inexhaustible supply of hubris in this country and a paucity of humility and compassion. Those who think in this way are prone to behaving toward the world with vitriol, as we witness daily.

The collective result of so many individually destructive paradigms is dehumanization. When we allow people to be dehumanized it is easy to hate them and to exploit them; to see them as entities endowed with less inherent value than ourselves or our chosen kind. It is easy to kill or subjugate inferior people and inferior beings. That is also how the government (the economic elite) perceives the working class and in their eyes that perception makes working people exploitable and expendable. Giving our continued allegiance to such government is irrational and immoral; it is also cowardly and self-destructive.

We are faced with a situation in which the body politic not only does not care what the American people think; it disdains populism as much here as it does in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. Populism and its close cousin—democracy—pose an enormous threat to the established order; and that order provides wealth and privilege to a select few, while denying it to everyone else. This is why corrupt politicians and so many academicians spare no effort to suppress and crush democratic movements, and cover up their crimes through a disingenuous rendering of history.

Yet with so much of the population aware of the government’s disdain of the people’s needs, why isn’t there effective organized resistance to it? Why isn’t there widespread social and economic disruption? Why do the people not revoke their consent to be governed and refuse their allegiance to a government that is not only corrupt and devoid of moral capital but is also clearly predatory or even cannibalistic? Why do we continue to fund criminal governments, including our own, with our taxes? Why isn’t there social unrest and civil disobedience in the streets? Why are those who expose these crimes punished and the criminals go free and reap financial reward for their malfeasance?

One explanation for the widespread social malaise in this country is that people are overwhelmed by it; shocked and awed by it; disorientated by it. They cannot believe the audacity of the Bush regime. Disorientation makes the plunder of the commonwealth easy to carry out. Even while dazed and confused, so many people remain wed to the idea of America’s inherent goodness and moral superiority to the rest of the world, despite mountains of evidence against such views. Thus, they view the criminal Bush regime as an aberration rather than a continuation of an historical pattern.

Social justice advocates are rightly infuriated to know that amidst this worsening climate a solid majority of the people can remain indifferent and willfully ignorant of what is being done in their names. There is a reason for this. The American people do not want to acknowledge any wrong doing on the part of their government, which is, in theory, an extension of the people. Of course, that is not the actual practice. This refusal psychologically absolves them from guilt or complicity and it permits them the luxury of apathy. By refusing to acknowledge wrong doing, no further action is required of them. They can go on consuming, falling asleep in front of the television and sending their offspring to die in unnecessary wars, while sinking ever deeper into debt and economic servitude.

Furthermore, the inert masses are mentally and spiritually ill equipped to deal with reality; so they block it out of their minds—aided, of course, by the corporate media and the propaganda apparatus of the government, itself. This is why fantasy is freely substituted for reality; plutocracy is mistaken for democracy, and the majority of the people do not know the difference. Millions of good people thus refuse to allow into their psyche the suffering and misery that U.S. policy has produced and exported to the world, even as that reality is closing in upon them. Unfortunately, I can point to my own family as an example of such delusional thinking, as no doubt can many of my readers.

Understanding this, the greatest obstacle to creating a vibrant and effective social justice movement is convincing the inert masses that they must acknowledge the suffering we have caused and are continuing to inflict upon the world. The multitudes must see the wisdom of looking behind the veneer of propaganda and confronting an ugly and often painful truth: the brutal and violent history of our nation, including the suppression of democracy wherever it is encountered. Eventually, perhaps very soon, they must also come to grips with the demise of capitalism.

We the people must find the courage to confront reality, and that means that we must be willing to feel the pain and suffering we have inflicted on others. We must admit that we are not exceptional or superior, and that we are not more entitled to our share of the world’s bounty than any other people. But we must go even deeper than that: we must bring about restitution for our past wrong-doing.

The citizens of the United States must become one with the world and look beyond nationality; beyond race, sex, and religious creed. Suffering and joy are conditions of life and they should be kept in balance as much as possible. Because suffering causes discomfort that few people want to experience, the alleviation of suffering is powerful motivation to demand justice; and that is the force that motivates most good people to do what they do, which is resist the tyranny of evil government. Once our indiscretions have been acknowledged and acted upon, we will find that the world is more than willing to forgive our past transgressions. This act alone will allow us to rejoin the world, so to speak.

Many years ago I questioned my mother about eating meat and the suffering it caused so many innocent animals. Her response revealed much about the American consciousness. She did not witness the suffering of those animals. She did not hear their cries of pain. She saw no blood in the sanitized product that was sold in the grocery store, wrapped in clear plastic and served up on pristine styrofoam. So their suffering was not real to her; it was too far removed from her experience. But the suffering of those animals and their cries of pain are very real indeed; and so is the suffering the United States government is inflicting upon the world.

Were we on the receiving end of our government’s foreign policies, we would have a very different perception of them. But like wrapped meat in the grocery store, we do not see the pain and the blood—or the suffering. So for many people it is not real; it is not happening…but it is.

By admitting some of this pain into our lives we are simultaneously admitting all of the other things into our lives that define our collective humanity; among them hope and joy. Then, and only then, can we take a principled stand for social and environmental justice and build an effective movement toward these ends. We must pry open closed minds and allow reality to penetrate delusion, as witnessing cause and effect often does. By this process sheeple are transformed once again into people, each of them endowed with a conscience capable of distinguishing right and wrong. This moral evolution is itself a revolutionary act of monumental import to any justice movement. It provides the means for people to act according to the dictates of conscience, and that is an act of liberation from dogma.

Revolution begins by altering consciousness. We stand at the brink of a multitude of possible futures, many of them tragic. The failure to act and rebel when the conditions demand it is a betrayal not only of our own humanity; it is a crime of great magnitude. The world’s foremost thinkers and visionaries have always understood this. Can we?

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, a naturalist, an environmental educator and free-lance writer residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@copper.net (no spam).

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

America’s Ruling Clique By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
03/25/08 “ICH

Neoconservatives derive much of their political strength from the portrayal of big government as the enemy of the people: a belief that plays only too well in America. Big government is indeed the enemy of the people when it does not serve the people’s interests, or when it betrays them.

Where the neoconservatives and the chicken hawks have been spectacularly successful is in the field of perception management. The super rich—or the ruling clique—constitutes no more than 0.1 percent of the US population. Yet they control the mainstream media, every branch government, the electoral process and the country’s major financial institutions.

Thus, 99.9 percent of the people are being manipulated and cannibalized by a tiny but powerful minority. It is the interests of this powerful minority that are served by government and it is their interests that are defined as the national interest or as national security; and it is hardly benign. Robbing the poor to pay the rich causes irreparable harm to the victim.

There is a continual conflict between the super rich and the remaining 99.9 percent of the people in this nation. Not only is democracy subverted when a tiny minority rules over a large majority, the majority is diminished and betrayed, and social and economic servitude is instituted. The relationship is not only adversarial; it is fundamentally unequal and unjust. You have a situation where a large majority suffers all of the hardships and makes all of the sacrifices but the small minority reaps the reward, without incurring any risk themselves. One should never call this intolerable and immoral situation a democracy.

Through subversion, coercion, and intense perception management the ownership class always gets what it wants, and almost always at the expense of the working class. We pay the price and someone else reaps the financial reward.

Consider, for example, the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States military and who has benefited financially. The military, comprised almost entirely of working class women and men, is being used to secure Iraq’s nationalized oil fields and turning them over to private firms and foreign investors. Those firms have profited from the theft of Iraqi oil by the United States armed forces without running any risks themselves.

The armed forces ran the risks for them, and turned the profits over to private oil companies who subsequently realized record profits. The entire country has been similarly privatized by a host of corporate predators. War is a form of corporate welfare cloaked in patriotic language. One need only follow the money to understand what it is really about.

Similarly, George Bush is not fighting a war against terrorism as he purports: he is committing unconscionable acts of terrorism against innocent people, and his cohorts in congress are providing him the funds to do so. It is not Islamic terrorists that are spying on law-abiding citizens and intercepting their emails or tapping their phone lines; it is the United States government, authorized by Bush.

The president behaves like a fascist dictator because he is a fascist dictator representing the interests of the ruling clique, while masquerading as a protectorate of the people and the national interest. Never lose sight of the fact that Bush is an emissary for the ruling class to which he belongs and it is on their behalf that he is acting, not ours.

Consider also the fact that thousands of no bid contracts were awarded to private corporations with connections to the Bush White House—such as Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater during the occupation of Iraq. Thus, it is evident that terms such as free trade and free markets are not only misleading, they are disingenuous and fraudulent.

Not only is the ruling clique stealing the wealth of other nations through overt militarism, they are simultaneously bankrupting our nation’s economy. Their intent is to privatize government in hopes of changing it from a service oriented entity into a for profit body. Their goal is to eliminate all social spending in order to further facilitate the ruling clique’s personal wealth creation, and to finance future military invasions; to impose capitalism on the world by means of brute force and coercion.

If they are successful, those with enough money to buy services that are now provided by the government will continue to enjoy those services. Those who cannot afford to pay: the poor, the elderly, the sick or injured, the unemployed and uneducated, will just have to suffer and die. They will be forced to subsist on whatever they can beg, barrow, or steal and slip into the realm of non-persons. It is worth noting that the infrastructure for delivering those goods and services were created with public funds. As always, we are talking about socializing costs and privatizing profits.

Paradoxically, neoconservatives and their media cohorts have succeeded in persuading working class people of modest incomes, conservative and liberal alike, into supporting a wide range of policies that are detrimental to their class, especially those with the lowest incomes.

That is the role that neoconservative icons like Rush Limbaugh plays in the corporate propaganda apparatus. While actually part of the ruling clique, Limbaugh has persuaded his followers that he and his economic brethren are on their side. In reality, Limbaugh and his class are preying upon the fears and prejudices of his followers while accruing tremendous personal wealth from their support, much like George Bush. Such is the power of disinformation, fear, and propaganda.

Limbaugh’s mindless blathering is like the kiss of Judas. He and his kind are impervious to scientific fact and without empathy for the people they so ruthlessly exploit.

Leaving no economic stone unturned, the ruling clique is even privatizing the military. The average soldier assigned the rank of private first class receives a yearly salary of about $40,000; whereas a mercenary working for Blackwater—a private defense contractor—doing the same job in the same place, earns about $400,000. The mercenary soldier costs tax payers ten times more than the government soldier for the same services and is not accountable to anyone.

The privatization of the military began under former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and it continues to this day. Private contractors have such close ties with government these days that it is difficult to tell where the private sector ends and government begins. There are revolving doors that continuously sweep corporate executives into government and government officials into corporate board rooms. That is how fortunes are made in Washington: through crony capitalism and theft.

Rumsfeld, a man who sanctions torture, has long deified Milton Friedman, of the Chicago School of Economics; and it is Friedman’s economic and social theories that are being put into practice. Lest anyone think that the disciples of capitalism are limited to the neocons, they aren’t. Every contending presidential candidate is a Friedman disciple. The president, his entire cabinet, and virtually every member of congress are disciples of Milton Friedman; and that is why voting does not often significantly change policies: the ideology behind them remains the same, regardless of who is in power.

That is where this country is heading but most Americans are sitting on their hands and allowing it to happen. The people need to know what is being done to them and who is responsible. We the people must organize and mobilize to protect ourselves from the ruling cabal or we will be forever cannibalized by them.

Like it or not, we are all in this together and long term survival will depend upon our ability to organize and to cooperate with one another. It will require long term economic boycotts, strikes, work slow downs, dramatically curtailed consumption, civil disobedience, sustained protests, self-education and personal sacrifice. The key is to get organized as quickly as possible.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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US military toll in Iraq hits 4000 & Iran (video)

It’s March 19 and Blogswarm Day! Posts on Iraq War by Lo

Resistance and Hope By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
12/12/07 “ICH

If we Americans are nothing more than hopelessly addicted consumers who think of ourselves as an exceptional people with special entitlements; if we see ourselves as god’s morally superior chosen people; if we are selfish and greedy beyond redemption—then we are complicit in all of the horrible crimes that government commits in our name.

The United States has a violent history of atrocity and exploitation that began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the shores of North America in 1492. It extends all the way to the present and is guided by the same poisoned ideology—Manifest Destiny.

Those who know history understand that we have never come to grips with the horrible past which has led us to the appalling present. We take great pains to suppress a ghastly history of murder and mayhem in order to convince ourselves that we are not the people who exterminated and enslaved the indigenous people of North America; that we were not the practitioners of racism and chattel slavery questing for treasure on the backs of the oppressed or the murderers of striking workers seeking a living wage and decent working conditions.

Americans need to believe that those events and their effects are safely buried in the past, thereby absolving us from culpability for them in the present; but they will not stay buried and they will pursue us to our graves if we do not acknowledge them and comprehend their implications.

Likewise, we suppress our responsibility in unleashing the plague of global warming on the world and we call it a natural cycle so that we do not have to change our ways. Under the unbearable pressure of inconvenient truths, we ignore them in hopes that they will go away rather than fester and multiply. But if that is who we are and if we are incapable of coming to terms with the repulsive past there is no hope for us. Our fate is already cast and a terrible price will have to be paid by billions of people and countless other species. We will reap as we have sown and misery and death will be our just reward.

If that is indeed the case, then everything that follows this paragraph may be an exercise in futility; albeit it a necessary one.

Despite the considerable evidence that suggests we are collectively—like our ancestors also practitioners of Manifest Destiny, history has disgorged some notable exceptions to the idea of American exceptionalism and entitlement. The people who actively opposed injustice throughout American history and offered fierce resistance are a light in the gathering darkness—a beacon of hope to those living in the present and an inspiration to those who will follow us in the future. Most of them were ordinary people who differed from us only in their willingness to resist the injustice and tyranny of their time.

We have only to follow their example to avoid being ship wrecked in a history that endlessly repeats itself. There may be a way out of hell but it will be wrought with difficulty and characterized by individual and collective struggle. The willingness of enough people to engage in that struggle will determine the outcome and define the future.

From thousands of indigenous uprisings against colonial occupation, to Shay’s rebellion and continuing through heroic acts of revolutionary unionism and the courageous peace activists of today’s Code Pink, America has produced a continuous line of revolutionary thinkers and organizers intent on fundamentally restructuring society, including the redistribution of wealth and power.

America is a nation that has always been divided by socio-economic class with the rich and powerful holding the keys to political empire and advancing the agenda of the moneyed gentry over those of everyone else. Yet we persist in calling our republic a democracy—which suggests that we have no idea what a real democracy should look like.

There has always been strong opposition to the tyranny of unjust government and to the prevailing institutions of oppression and inequality. And where there is resistance to evil, no matter how small or seemingly impotent, there is hope. Resistance, apart from being an act of defiance to illegitimate authority, is also an act of faith akin to planting a seed that has enormous potential to change the world.

Resistance creates hope and hope in turn fuels further resistance. Resistance and hope give birth to a faith that believes that just outcomes are possible through struggle and opposition.

Without resistance there is no hope and no possibility of the transformative change that is so desperately needed. No matter how seemingly futile the gesture of resistance—hope is its byproduct. Hope is born of struggle and defiance to unjust authority. It is born of a rebelliousness that refuses to tolerate the intolerable and moves to oppose it. While it is theoretically possible that people can exist without hope, they cannot flourish and become fully human in its absence.

Where hope is abandoned, fear immediately rushes in to fill the vacuum and tyranny quickly ensues. Lacking hope, we are simply biding our time, stealing from the future and waiting for the end to play out. We are passive spectators on the deck of the Titanic awaiting our fate, whistling in the dark and trying to convince ourselves that these menacing waters are safely navigable through blind reckoning and indifference when in fact, they are not.

The great conservationist Aldo Leopold wisely observed: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” That is also the penalty of having a social conscience. Cultivating a social conscience can be exasperating and it can adversely affect one’s health. But the failure to cultivate a social conscience approaches what Dr. Martin Luther King called, “Spiritual Death.” There are rarely easy ways out of the moral morasses we create. Opposition and struggle are the way but they exact costs that too few are willing to pay. That is why injustice is passed from one generation to the next and injustice so often prevails over justice. Our core beliefs should be non-negotiable. Either we stand by them or we are deluding ourselves.

The situation is exacerbated when our fellow citizens fail to grasp the gravity of the crises and even contribute to the injustice, either deliberately or through unintended ignorance of the important issues. In such times the reward of struggle appears small and the temptation to quit is great. As the flag wavers and prevaricators hold sway and ignorance and darkness, it seems, becomes all pervasive and hope seems like a Utopian dream as dim as the long lost sunlight of a nuclear winter.

In the midst of insidious fear and belligerent nationalism, resistance is never an easy proposition; but it is a critical component of human nature that gives rise to hope and, ultimately, to transformative change and justice. Resistance creates possibilities, whereas capitulation extinguishes them.

There are those who can look the other way in times of peril or during the commission of crimes; and there are those who cannot. We happen to belong to the latter group and we must try to set things right. We are hard-wired that way—it is our nature and it is who we are.

The alternative to resistance is as unthinkable as it is unconscionable. As long as a single voice cries in the wilderness hope exists and better outcomes are possible. It is in our DNA to resist evil and, it is the only principled action available to us. Conscience requires that we act on the knowledge we have, regardless of our numbers or the consequences to ourselves. Other good people will recognize the justice of the cause and a few will join the struggle.

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, too, a movement is born with a single act of resistance that is rooted in conscience.

No one knows if enough people will ever care enough to get involved so we can reach the critical mass necessary to evoke transformative change, which is why it is so imperative to continue the struggle. It is impossible to know where we are on our journey, so we must simply continue the excursion by moving forward which is what defines us as progressives and separates us from the crowd.

Humankind is rarely uplifted by its majority or by those who play it safe by looking the other way in the face of injustice. It is advanced by those who see wrong doing and choose to do something about it—the conscientious few that stand on principle and act in accordance with those principles for the betterment of everyone.

Without principled resistance there is no possibility of transformation from an unjust society to a just society; and no possibility of driving a wooden stake through the heart of the imperialist ambition that is killing our children and the children of other people like us in distant lands in war after war.

Fighting injustice is an antidote to the debilitating despair that casts a dark pall over the nation and across the world. Giving in to that despair can only assure its continuation. Opposition to evil is preferable to capitulation to it; and, moreover, it is the only appropriate response. The beauty and joy is in the struggle, in knowing the rightness of the cause; the stubborn refusal to cooperate with evil or to commit crimes against earth and humanity.

While our struggle often feels lonely and futile, we are rarely as isolated as we think. There are almost certainly kindred spirits in our own communities. Put out your hand to see if anyone takes it. You might just be surprised to know who is there.

For every front line activist there are tens of thousands who agree with them in principle but who remain on the sidelines as spectators. As conditions deteriorate and others come to appreciate our position in the same light as we do, more of them are likely to become involved in the resistance. The untapped potential of our moral supporters is both enormous and grossly under appreciated. Fear and uncertainty is all that keeps us apart but they can be overcome through networking and solidarity.

Sweeping change and justice will never come from the inert masses who occupy the safe middle grounds. As corporate fascism spreads across the planet there are no safe places for anyone but the fascists themselves. Nor will transformation come from the neo-conservative regressives occupying the far right, as embodied by the likes of Trent Lott and Rush Limbaugh and their ideological brethren in corporate America. It will not be enacted through neo-liberals such as Hillary Clinton either, or indeed anyone in the mainstream.

Justice will come, as it always does, from the far left that champion the cause of the disenfranchised and the defenseless. It will be derived from ordinary citizens—people like you and I working for justice and accepting nothing less; by standing up and being counted and refusing to sit down and be quiet. Ordinary people must become interested enough and they must care enough to take ownership of government and demand fair and equal representation by it. But awakening is often a painfully slow process and patience is so difficult when urgency is needed.

Government that is not accountable to the people is accountable to no one. That kind of government can only become fascist and prey upon the people it is supposed to serve. Such government must be abolished and replaced by genuine democracy—government of the people, by the people, for the people—all of the people, not just those with wealth and social status.

Obedience to authority that is not derived from the people themselves will ultimately result in injustice and economic inequity. Obedience can only assure the continuation of the established orthodoxy and a future that is significantly worse than the past and the present combined. If we truly believe in what we claim to hold dear we must be willing to fight for those beliefs without compromising them. Faith that is not driven by principled action is useless—it is not real faith at all.

Yet, despite our best efforts, it may well be that the best we can hope for is to slow the spread of the racist dogma of American exceptionalism that, unfortunately, continues to define us as a nation. Perhaps there are simply too few of us actively engaged in resistance to stop the purveyors of hate and extremism. But even if that is the case and resistance is futile, it does not change the moral imperative to resist. Injustice is wrong and it must be opposed. Stepping out of the way or quitting is to cooperate with the evil we rail against. Apathy and hopelessness are the great enablers of tyranny and we must never give in to them.

Given the enormity of the evil that stalks decency everywhere, rage fatigue and depression are the prevalent symptoms that follow. All of us are susceptible to them to various degrees because we feel so alone and understandably frustrated. The few are expected, as they always are, to do the work of many from which all will benefit in the end.

Dealing with the defining issues of our time and the blundering apathy of the multitudes can be infuriating and demoralizing. We cannot do everything but each of us must do what we can to affect the things we can change. Outrage and anger can be powerful tools for motivation or they can become debilitating liabilities. We must take care that they motivate rather than destroy us. Righteous indignation and fury is a just response to what is being done in our name but it must be harnessed and directed.

Continuous resistance is exhausting and necessary work. It is work that will probably never bring us the admiration of our fellow citizens who are more likely than not to hold us in contempt. People fear what they do not understand and most still subscribe to the myth of American exceptionalism. But it is the most important thing that any of us will ever do. It is for us to show the way and keep hope alive.

In these trying times of doublespeak and group think it is easy to feel overwhelmed and demoralized. But action is the antidote to despair. It is vital that we stay connected to other people engaged in related struggles; that we provide mutual support to and encourage one another to continue a spirited resistance that does not know how to quit. We are rarely as alone as we are lead to believe.

It is immensely helpful to know there are other people out there doing the important work that the times require of each of us. Seeing others engaged in resisting wrong doing may inspire others to take up the cause and a powerful movement may someday be born. It is the certainty of that knowledge that keeps hope alive and makes existence not only bearable, but enjoyable.

I am not expecting anyone to do the impossible or to offer oneself up for crucifixion or martyrdom. I am calling upon all good people to simply live a wholesome and simple and decent life and to uphold the principles of fairness, decency, sharing and empathy for others and, most importantly, justice. An injury to one truly is an injury to all.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Providence of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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People Power: It’s Time To Stop The War Ourselves By Aimee Allison & David Solnit

Henry Thoreau and the Patrons of Virtue By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
12/03/07 “ICH

The form of government we have is anything but the democratic republic it purports to be. The more access to wealth a person has the more responsive to his or her needs the government is. Justice and equality cannot follow where access is denied or restricted. Far from a government of the people, for the people and by the people, we now have a government that is the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful and has the same level of exclusivity as an expensive country club or resort. The poor and disenfranchised are barred from entry and are thus marginalized.

Capital government is the equivalent of a bank’s automatic teller machine. Corporate lobbyists put their money into it and the machine prints out the legislation they paid for. It is a system in which the creator of the machines is no longer their master. We have become, as Thoreau said, “the tools of our tools.”

The people should not, and must not lend their material support to a government that so obviously works in the private corporate interest at the expense of the public well being. To do so is an exercise in self-deception and futility.

Material wealth is only rarely attracted to virtue. Voluntary poverty and simplicity is the usual domain of virtue, as history attests. Conversely, immense wealth is attracted to vice, to the mean-spirited, the selfish, the very aggressive and the morally depraved. The best people throughout history did not possess great material wealth. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “Humanity was their business.”

What could be more incompatible than virtue and wealth, than business and morality? What could be more opposed to beauty, to truth, justice; to art and poetry, to life—than big business and capitalism? It is telling that our cultural icons are people like Donald Trump, Bill Gates, George Steinbrenner and other business tycoons, not virtuous men like Frederick Douglas and Henry David Thoreau or women like Mary Harris—the fiercely tenacious Mother Jones.

Corporate governance and plutocracy are manifestations of capitalism that invariably appeal to the worst in human nature. Expansive economic self interest is resulting in an ever expanding private domain and a shrinking public commons. The concentration of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands is not in the public interest; nor is the wholesale exploitation of labor and ecosystems. A system in which means always justify the ends—a values neutral system of production and waste is contrary to the needs of the people, as well as the health of the planet.

The Holy Grail of mature capitalism is the belief that markets should be the final arbiter of all things, the greatest purity that can be attained by unleashing the ravenous dogs of greed upon the world. Free market capitalism does not account for anything that cannot be commodified and traded; and so it assigns them no weight. Hence morality, honesty, virtue, self-sacrifice and public service have no worth and no place in capitalism’s economic formulations because they impose restraints that limit growth. They are as ethereal as the ruddy glow of the morning sky and as unmarketable as the mist rising from a brook.

Any belief system that is not regulated by healthy societal values and the laws of nature is destined to degenerate into a monstrosity. In reality, ecological restraints always exist but they are ignored until catastrophe results and force them upon the public conscience—as in the case of global warming.

Capitalism, with its dependence on ever expanding markets and continuous growth behaves like a planetary malignancy that if left untreated, eventually consumes the host and results in mortality. It persists by virtue of its providing obscene wealth to a few through the exploitation of the many. In this country it is the few who own the political system, not the many. Capitalism would be quickly abolished in a truly democratic society as surely as darkness retreats before the light and ignorance yields to knowledge and understanding.

By participating in capitalism we have created a culture that over emphasizes competition and conquest; a culture that defines greed and lust as the highest expressions of success and as the most desirable symbols of status. It is a culture that feeds at the public trough and gorges itself on imperial wars; a system that pays favors to the legal fiction of corporations while rejecting social justice, the needs of the people and planetary health.

Thus we witness coal companies blowing majestic Appalachian Mountain tops to smithereens: destroying world class biodiversity, polluting streams and rivers and poisoning the air in quest of profits while disregarding the social and environmental damage they cause. The cost is always passed on to the public but the profits remain private. Without massive public welfare, what some might call socialism—capitalism could not exist. Capitalism is always on the public dole.

It is beyond bizarre that corporations enjoy the legal status of persons but without the social responsibility required of real citizenship and personhood. Corporations often serve as masks to hide the faces of criminals operating behind the scenes, just as the white hoods of Klansmen conceal the cowardly faces of those who burn crosses on black people’s lawns in the night. Any force that operates out of public view is liable to criminal intent, especially government.

Corporations routinely commit crimes against earth and humanity but are rarely held accountable. When was the last time that a corporation had its corporate charter revoked for malfeasance? When has a corporation ever been executed for murder?

Under capitalism, competitive advantage is sought at any cost and it is used as a weapon against the competition and the people. The status of the individual is thus elevated above the collective good. The purpose of competition is to rise above others and to lord power over them, rather than for everyone to rise together and share the bounty equally through cooperation. Ideologies that foster equality and fair play are dismissed as unattainable Utopian fantasy or socialist propaganda. We are told there is no alternative to capitalism, so we cease to look for them and make little effort to create something better.

In purely market driven economies—virtue, character and social justice have no use unless they can generate wealth for their owners. Imagine the life of Christ valued only by the income his carpentry brought to his employer; his teachings dismissed as worthless because they did not produce money in great enough abundance.

What remains of the Jewish carpenter’s essence exists outside of the socio-economic paradigm of today’s capitalism and in clear opposition to it. Betrayed by the religious institutions of our time, the prophets of religion have given way to the profits of religion, as documented by Upton Sinclair and others.

With the corporatization of the church, the teachings of Christ were discarded and cast to the four winds in order to give religious authority to capitalism, greed and exploitation. Rather than producing men of virtue like Jesus, who called for restraint and shared wealth, it has yielded a morally depraved leadership as exemplified by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson; men who have risen to prominence to fleece their obedient flock, rather than to enlighten and save them from the ravages of unregulated greed.

Rather than imposing the moral restraints of Jesus upon an unjust society, Pat Roberson and his kind champion the cause of aggressive exploitation, effectively turning the teachings of Christ upside down and using them to justify everything that Jesus Christ railed against and died for. How ironic that the Christian church so often turns out an army of anti-Christs rather than Christians in the image of the man they so eagerly idolize but continuously dishonor.

And so it goes. Virtue, arguably the greatest of human traits, has no presence in the market place and it is slowly sinking into the oblivion of euphemisms and the boiling cauldron of corrupted language from which nothing emerges intact.

Due in part to our unquestioned acceptance of capitalism, we are a people who pay homage to concepts such as democracy, equality, social and environmental justice and freedom, even as we continually undermine them in nearly everything we do. Thus we bear a history of genocide, chattel slavery, racism, sexism, ethnic cleansing, imperial wars and occupation and manifest destiny that have flourished despite the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Henry Thoreau astutely observed: “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.” Thoreau hit the nail squarely on the head, as he so often did. We Americans are patrons of virtue rather than virtuous people. It costs nothing to be a patron of virtue; but it requires character and effort to be a virtuous person. Apparently, we have yet to learn the distinction.

We know that Thoreau was a virtuous man rather than a patron of virtue, as demonstrated by certain events in his life. Like Christ, he found himself in formal opposition to the cultural orthodoxy; he lived apart from society—outside of the social and political mainstream, an oddity to his neighbors and often persecuted by them. Thoreau refused allegiance to money and wealth, understanding that the most important things in life could not be bought and sold. For him, property and possessions were burdens, not assets.

Thus Thoreau wisely refused to waste any more time than absolutely necessary in earning a modest living. He did not rent himself to factories and bosses or to any of the respectable professions; he worked sporadically and only when necessary—usually on his own terms. He was a man of principle who refused to pay taxes that he knew supported an unprovoked war on Mexico; a war that sought to expand the territory of slavery; and he went to jail for his beliefs. Thoreau was also a fierce abolitionist who, against the law, put many a run-away slave on board the Underground Railroad to Canada and to freedom.

Like all virtuous people, Thoreau lived by a higher law. He did what was right, not what was legal or considered respectable or expedient. Unlike today’s political leadership and contemporary Christians, he was guided by incorruptible conscience that could not be bribed.

Thoreau’s freedom from menial work also provided independence from possessions and debt. Thoreau was a minimalist. His freedom to explore Concord and vicinity gave birth to several literary masterpieces, including Walden and Civil Disobedience—works that sold poorly in his time and provided but little income; but are known worldwide today. World renowned moralists such as India’s Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King were strongly influenced by Thoreau.

If Thoreau’s life could be summed up in three words they would be, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” To simplify and reduce one’s wants is a paradigm in stark contrast to the ravenous consumption required by capitalism. It was a way of living that eschewed money and markets; a way of being that afforded opportunity for intellectual pursuits and life long learning. Above all, it was a spiritually enriching way of life that was in harmony with the planet; it was gentle, sustainable, and fulfilling.

In contrast to Thoreau, most of us unthinkingly support a system that is fundamentally unjust, unsustainable and superfluous. It is a system that has no room for virtue and character because these characteristics cannot be commodified and marketed; and they impose market restraints. Yet, these are the very traits that can save us from ourselves and make a better world possible. How ironic that the traits of character that are most valuable to our survival as a species are the ones appreciated the least by capitalism.

Markets unregulated by morality and governments unbounded by justice serve no useful purpose to anyone in the long run, even those who champion them. Planetary destruction is not in anyone’s interest. Sustainability is. Sustainability, unlike its economic counterpart—capitalism, requires virtuous people rather than mere patrons of virtue. Virtue requires people who not only understand what is going on but who have the courage to do something about it—a consciousness that knows the distinction between patronage to virtue and actual virtue.

Our current form of government is a spectacular failure because it is an arm of business and capitalism rather than an institution of democracy with powerful ethical moorings derived from the grass roots—a decentralized, non-hierarchal power that radiates equally from the people like the spokes of a wheel from a central hub. As such, it often attracts the worst kind of people rather than the principled and just. The interest of big business is now and always has been at odds with just causes and the public welfare. Corporate interests and the people’s interests must never be confused.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com .
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Ghosts of Misplaced Conscience By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
11/28/07 “ICH

Everything about America is done to the max—super sized—including ourselves. Americans are fond of excess, fond of glitz and glitter, the bright beads and trinkets of capitalism; the symbols of conspicuous consumption. Millions of us live in McMansions, drive fast cars and hulking tanks and work at high stress glamorous jobs that provide enormous financial reward but leave us spiritually empty.  

We tell ourselves that these events signal that we have arrived and achieved greatness worthy of respect and envy. They are a declaration that we have played the game and won; that we have acquired economic power that results in elevated socio-economic status and disproportional influence over the lives of the less successful; and those who have utterly failed or refused to participate.  

We love to consume and waste with an appalling sense of entitlement. Our lives are enacted amid heaping mounds of swelling garbage and filth, while some of our fellow human beings pass lives of quiet desperation in cardboard boxes beneath our nation’s highway bridges, like beetles that move beneath the bark of  trees: out of sight, out of mind, inconsequential—or so we think. 

It’s a jungle out there where only the fittest survive. Those who cannot compete must not survive to reproduce; they must be expelled from the gene pool. Modern capitalism is economic Darwinism carried to the extreme.   

America is a land of extraordinary contradictions. She has produced not only George Bush and Dick Cheney but also George Carlin, Upton Sinclair, Eugene Debs and Howard Zinn. This is a land of extremes; enigmatic even to itself. It is a place of posh surroundings with all of the amenities money can buy; but it is also a land of unknowable hardship and destitution that often exists in close proximity to stupendous wealth.  

Just as the continent holds lush temperate rain forests, so it also harbors deserts where only the strong and well adapted survive the harsh conditions of heat and drought and oscillating cold. 

Surely the national pastime must be shopping, which has acquired the stature of a genuine addiction; a disease on a par with alcoholism and played with the passion of a competitive sport. Witness the insanity of black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year where people are annually trampled at the doors of Wal-Mart in the quest for the latest incarnation of the X-Box. He with the most toys wins and the losers are trampled underfoot, ground into dust. Possessions matter more than people. 

And we are a restless, fiercely competitive people—constantly on the move; a people that cannot countenance open spaces or unmanaged nature. 

Hundreds of thousands of shopping centers and strip malls bear ample testimony to our excess, as do the mountains of debt that rise out of our spending habits like a newly spawned volcano swelling above a rising column of molten magma. Eventually they will become our gravestones—monuments to our lack of empathy and testaments to our unbridled greed and contempt for the earth.  

The developers cannot relax until every inch of the earth is urbanized and paved and there is a McDonald’s and Wal-Mart on every street corner; a development in place of every orchard and farm. We cannot relax until everything wild and natural has been eradicated or imprisoned in zoos and admission is charged. Imagine a continent sized gated community for the well-heeled and the wealthy. The poor and destitute need not apply.  

More than democracy, more than liberty, more than life—give us our shopping malls so that we can purchase happiness and fill our empty lives with possessions. Our senses are incessantly assaulted by merciless commercialism—we are programmed to consume and to be consumed by our programmers in the advertising industry whose job it is to plant the seeds of want in our all too receptive minds. Conspicuous consumption is the cornerstone of mature capitalism and no people in history have been more prominent consumers than we Americans—as measured by the girth of our waistlines and the girth of our mounting debt.  

But as much as we are the products of Madison Avenue advertisers, we are also products of arrested psychological and spiritual development. We exhibit extreme pathologies because our lives are not rooted in nature and community; nor are they rooted in reality. Like spoiled adolescents, we have locked ourselves away with our box of toys and we call the world our own. We are a danger not only to ourselves but to the entire world. Quarantine should be drawn around us lest we infect the rest of the world with our madness.  

Oblivious to the consequences of our own excess, our sphere of caring rarely extends beyond the self and our immediate families to the communities in which we are embedded that in turn spill into the great world beyond. We have erected psychological and physical barriers that isolate us from the rest of the world which have given rise to pathological visions of grandeur and exceptionalism. And, like a run-away virus, we are replicating our madness to the rest of the world which is, thanks to the disciples of Milton Friedman, seeking to emulate our example.  

Better the world turn away and run for their lives as if we were infected with a new strain of pox or rabies. Better they should save themselves and let us perish, as will surely occur when we are consumed by the festering sewers of our swelling vanity.  

We call ourselves a free people but we are prisoners of our own petty desires; prisoners of greed and excess and manufactured want; the products of capitalism taken to the extreme—replicating with the ease of cancer cells unrestrained by reason or empathy for others and for the earth.  The world cannot tolerate another America. She cannot much longer sustain the one she already has. We have a carbon footprint vastly disproportional to our numbers and we are not only blotting out the sun; we are stamping out countless species of plants and animals and casting them into the abyss of eternal extinction. The ecological cost of our excess is incalculable.  

We go on as if there are no consequences to what we do, ignoring the wolves baying at our door and the grim reaper peering at us through the curtain. We tell ourselves they are only apparitions of conspiracy theorists and alarmists, the ghosts of misplaced conscience.  

Millions of Americans are experts at self-denial and delusional to the extreme, while others are realists and components of active resistance. But, cause and effect rarely enters our vocabulary. History, science and ethics are not our strengths—we prefer to go shopping or watching television, giving no thought to the kind of world we are leaving our children and their off spring, much less the offspring of other species. We hold that the universe turns on its axis and we are its center; but it is not so.  

As a result of our excesses, terms such as ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak water’ have come into existence. Gluttony occurs on one end of the supply chain at the expense of the other; just as food webs are affected by events occurring at all parts of an ecological web the size of the world. One cannot pluck a flower without also troubling a star. All things are interconnected.  

How easily we forget that commercial exuberance rests on the broken bodies of the exploited worker; it rests on the scrolls of flora and fauna that have been pushed out of existence because there isn’t enough room for them and us with all of our precious, energy consuming toys.  

Thus we live in a world that is not enriched by our example but is diminished by us. Injustice is a byproduct of commercial exuberance as manifested by declarations of superiority through class warfare and other avenues of inequality. And it is felt in the dimly lit sweatshop somewhere in the belching slums of industrialized China, engulfed by the droning hum of sowing machines that never cease behind bolted doors; and guided by gnarled hands attaching Nike labels to athletic apparel destined for upscale Target and Macy’s stores in the US.  

True, capitalism has made cheap products available to the voracious American consumer; but it has also given the world preemptive war and famine, global corporatism, pestilence and wage slavery; it has stoked the fires of mass extinction, global warming and ecological collapse—all of which have acquired an unstoppable momentum of their own with unimaginable consequences that extend indefinitely into an already uncertain future. There are consequences to everything we do, just as there are consequences to inaction. 

Yet it is increasingly obvious that too few of us care enough to take action, as long as we are free to buy and to consume. We keep the consequences of gluttony out of sight and out of mind and pretend they aren’t there. But they are present and they matter.  

And this brings me to the main point of my essay: it cannot go on. The age of exuberance—like the age of cheap oil—is mercifully drawing to a close. So I will say what was never meant to spoken aloud in the land of excess; and I will say it loud and clear so that it cannot be mistaken: Americans must dramatically simplify their lives to want less and learn more. We constitute less than five percent of the of the world’s population while usurping more than a quarter of her bounty. This is not acceptable—nor is it ethical.  

No one has a moral right to take more than their fair share when that taking jeopardizes the chances of others of living a decent life, or makes nil their chances for survival—including other species.  

Contrary to what one might think, we do not have to live like third world nations or like the hunters and gatherers of the past. But we must dramatically reduce our consumption and shrink our carbon footprint. Not only must we live within our own means but within the means of the planet to support us.  

The majority of our food should be locally grown and mass transit must supplant the gluttonous and polluting automobile that proliferates on our nation’s highways. Moratoriums on development and urban sprawl must be enacted in order to protect critical habitat and rainwater recharge areas. Cities and towns must be redesigned and revitalized with sustainable industry. Goods and services, including work and jobs must again, as they were in the past, be rooted in vibrant, small scale local economies; and free trade agreements revoked.  

Technological advances—no matter how boldly they are touted as saviors of humankind cannot increase the world’s carrying capacity and they cannot invoke justice. The latter is entirely up to us as sentient beings endowed with conscience. And this brings me to a second point: we must reduce the human population through adoption and cease to procreate for at least one generation—so that the earth can recover her carrying capacity. What better way to save the world, literally.  

Simultaneously simplifying our lives by wanting less and reducing the human population will allow room for other people and other beings to share the bounty of the earth. And it will almost certainly have a beneficent rather than pathological social and psychological consequence: it will end our isolation and reconnect us to the rest of the world. We could finally realize our enormous potential to become world citizens and good neighbors worthy of respect and love.  

Rather than an economy based upon savage greed and exploitation, let us create an economy based upon justice and equality, need rather than excess; a society that does not leave people behind but invites the full participation of everyone and recognizes that, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Let it be all inclusive and worthy of respect: where every woman, man, and child, every being of this earth is the same under the law and equally respected and valued—a great global community seeking harmony rather than competitive advantage.  

In the end, equality is beholden to the system we choose. Did we ask that the world be run on the profits of greed, or the prophets of wisdom? Where was that democratic choice? The profits of greed have given us voracious greed, consuming everything in sight; but they didn’t give us a choice; they took away our freedom and made us into lesser beings. But, if we are to muster ourselves to call ourselves Human one last time, where the prophets of wisdom really did have something to say, where people and the planet are put before profits in the Golden Rule, and where we have one large collective foot standing on the profit of greed then maybe, maybe YES we will turn this thing around: http://www.planetization.org.  

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Of Boycotts and Elections By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
11/19/07 “
ICH

One hopes that at some point the American people will come to the realization that most elected officials these days do not serve the public interest, but their own economic self interests and those of their financial backers. The few who would serve the public interest are filtered out by the insurmountable fortress of capital that is the bulwark of electoral politics, especially at the federal level. Genuine public servants have roughly the same chance of winning a seat in Congress or the Whitehouse, as one has of winning the lottery.

For the totally uninitiated, or those on narcotics: the odds are astronomical.

It requires unfathomable sums of money to even play the game, and that, in and of itself, precludes the majority of us from meaningful participation. It filters ordinary people possessed of ordinary means from serious contention. Ordinary people overwhelmingly comprise the national demographic, and yet they are wholly without representation in government at virtually every level. Without substantial financial backing, you can play but you cannot win. You are relegated to the outer fringes of the system, a distant planet circling a distant sun in a distant orb.

A game in which only the wealthy can afford to play assures that only the wealthy will win. The result is that we have a system of electing politicians to serve a very tiny segment of the population—less than one percent, while simultaneously working against the great majority and, accordingly, the public welfare.

In the rarified lexicon of corporate run politics—profits matter, people don’t; no matter the self righteous proclamations to the contrary. The wonder is that so many people continue to invest so much of their precious time and energy in a system that has so obviously and completely abandoned them.

Perhaps abandon is not the appropriate word. Betray might be a better choice. Electoral politics in the US is the realm of high rollers and robber barons, not of ordinary people from working class backgrounds struggling for a piece of the much ballyhooed ‘American Dream.’ That system has utterly betrayed them, leaving them out in the cold to fend for themselves as best they can, against the very crooks and thieves who are mortgaging their future to the Corporate States of America.

The people’s plight is akin to playing the lottery and hitting the jackpot against enormous odds. It is a game of desperation in which defeat and loss are the predictable outcomes for all but a few.  The money system wins, we the people lose; and we look like fools and chumps for having played the game against such tremendous odds. But, as Thoreau said so well, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Collectively, we have yet to show much wisdom. We just keep doing what we have always done and keep getting the same sorry results, and wonder why things never improve.

When the choice is between Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Edwards and Barach Obama, there is no meaningful choice. The difference between these candidates is primarily a matter of semantics. In each case you are getting essentially the same person representing the same economic self interests, the same policies. All of them are pro war. Contenders are in contention because they are the recipients of serious corporate money, not because they are champions of the people or servants of the public welfare.

Ron Paul is not the answer either, as so many so desperately want to believe. Like his neoconservative brethren, Dr. Paul seeks to shrink the public domain and privatize everything—including all public lands. Economic self interest is the centerpiece of Paul’s political ideology and that not only does not serve the public interest, it undermines it. Dr. Paul is as much a product of Milton Friedman’s economics as any neocon and equally dangerous.

We have an electoral system that always chooses between two evils, what Ralph Nader calls, “The evil of two lessers.”  But choosing the lesser evils assures that evil rules and, as we have seen, the evil is deepening with each successive election.

To my mind, Dennis Kucinich is better suited to represent the people than any of the other candidates in the field. However, the democratic leadership will never permit Kucinich to win the party nomination because he would undermine their authority and threaten the established orthodoxy that controls the system.

Genuinely progressive candidates are cynically used by the party leadership to create the appearance that the party still has an effective liberal wing when, in fact, it does not. The progressive wing of the party exists but it has been marginalized through lack of media exposure, lack of financial backing, and through the lack of support of the party leadership.

Candidates with the qualifications of Dennis Kucinich only serve to retain the party loyalty of progressives. It keeps progressives playing the game while also preventing them from doing anything meaningful or revolutionary.

We saw what happened to Howard Dean a few years ago; and Dean was a very moderate liberal, at best only slightly left of center. Progressives will not be allowed to compete. 

More people already choose not to participate in electoral politics than those who vote. It is not difficult to understand why: because they see elections as the sham they are, riddled with corruption and illegitimate to the core. The people intuitively know when they have been disenfranchised. They know that elections are about profiteering, not about public service or the collective good.

It must also be noted that the previous two presidential elections were stolen by George Bush and his cohorts. There are serious concerns about the efficacy of paperless electronic voting machines, like those manufactured by Diebold with its close ties to the Republican Party and neo-conservatism. A system in which foxes are the guardians of the hen house is not in the people’s interest; nor is it in the interest of justice.

As US citizens, we should have enough integrity that we do not allow the public wealth to be stolen with our blessings. We should denounce the process that unabashedly transfers the public domain into the private sector as the outright theft that it is. We should not pretend that it is the pubic interest or that it is a democratic process because we voted for it. It is self-interested greed and nothing more.

I could not blame any sane person for not voting, for non-participation in a process that is so obviously fixed. We need to devise better and more imaginative strategies through which to express our dissatisfaction, our outrage with the process. A good beginning might be to wash our hands of that system entirely.

Clearly, the solution is to get the special interest money out of politics. But how can the people achieve such an ambitious objective against such tremendous odds? Those who benefit from the system effectively own it, and they are not going to voluntarily dismantle it. It is too lucrative for them to let it go and erect a genuinely democratic system in its place.

Participation in a sham system, while pretending that it is legitimate, will only prolong the prostitution and continue the corporate feeding frenzy at the public trough. We must do something different than what we have always done in the past, if we are to get a different result.

One method of undermining the system may be to boycott the 2008 elections by not participating in them. Since the outcome is already predetermined by the selection of only pro corporate candidates—war mongers and disaster capitalists all, there is really nothing to lose. The system is rigged to keep the war profiteers and corporatists in power, by keeping genuine public servants out of contention. The appearance of democracy and citizen participation is just window dressing, more facade than real.

As democracy craving citizens in an ever more dangerous emerging fascist state, our energy would be better spent denouncing the electoral process that only masquerades as a democracy than participating in it and giving it the appearance of legitimacy to the outside world. We have an obligation to expose it for the sham it is and say, “No more!”

This might be accomplished by boycotting all federal elections until the special interest money is coerced out of the process, and the playing field is leveled; where outcomes are determined by ideas and commitment to public service, rather than access to huge amounts of capital and cronyism.

Perhaps then Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader might have a legitimate chance to win office, or even your next door neighbor. Public service could be put into the political process thereby legitimizing it by making it democratic.

Electoral boycotts could be conducted by large numbers of public spirited citizens turning out not to vote, but instead to protest, which if widely publicized would be too large and too controversial to be ignored even by the corporate media—democracy in action indeed. We really have nothing to lose.

As it is now, government is nothing more than a revolving door between political administrations and business. Corporate lobbyists are running the government rather than the people.

Voting is one of the sacred cows that symbolize a democratic republic but it does nothing to actually create such a republic, especially in the absence of meaningful choice.

The strategy of boycotts is low risk to the individual and it is legal. It requires very little physical effort and little personal sacrifice. Everyone can participate, regardless of political knowledge, income level, age and party affiliation. It could potentially become a grass roots movement toward real democracy and it could begin immediately. If conducted on a large enough scale, it could provide real results too. 

The idea of political boycotts does not originate with me but I believe the initiative has merit. Perhaps we should give it the serious consideration it deserves. How such boycotts might be organized will be left in more capable hands than my own. The first step is to widely publicize the idea and to generate serious discussion about it. Let the dialog begin.

A Note about Reform and Revolution:

Ultimately what we are talking about here is not reform but revolution. Voting in the absence of meaningful choice is a poor substitute for real democratic processes. It is an exercise in self-deception and futility designed to keep the working class people servile and marginalized.

Electoral boycotts are one of many tools available to us as we plant the seeds of revolution and create the atmosphere for a major paradigm shift sometime in the future. Boycotts are a peaceful way of hastening the change that will eventually make a more just society possible; a world in which just people, not wealth and privilege, decides the future.

The political system should belong equally to every citizen, rather than to the moneyed gentry that have locked most of us out. No one is going to give us the keys. We must take them because they rightfully belong to us.

Revolution is possible only with a broad awakening to our predicament in a sham democracy that is subservient to immense wealth and power. Awakening must be followed by enlightenment through self-education and comprehension of the problems we face as a people. It will grow by having serious discussions amongst ourselves and by putting everything on the table.

Revolution is a word that scares some people because it conjures images of armed rebellion and chaotic violence. But it does not have to be so. India was transformed by non-violent resistance to horrible tyranny. The people and their detractors will decide what form it will take.

Revolutions do not just suddenly erupt. They are grown slowly and over increments of time, beginning from seeds that are carefully sown and nurtured. Sowing seeds are an act of faith; an expression of hope that there will be a future worth living.

Revolution should only frighten those who hold the keys to empire. We are only at the very beginning of a long journey of transformation. We are laying the foundation stones of fundamental change and redistribution of wealth and power that must be based upon justice and equality. 

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Solidarity by Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

by Charles Sullivan
http://www.opednews.com

We are living in extraordinarily dangerous times, when evil, rather than justice, prevails. The schoolyard is terrorized by thugs and punks with names like Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh, Robertson, Clinton, Rockefeller, Rice, Rumsfeld, Perle, Kristol and Giuliani—pedigreed people all.

In an inconspicuous corner of the schoolyard, the good people—and they are legion—keep to themselves, afraid. No one wants to be hurt; and the thugs and punks are dangerous, even criminally insane people. They have terrible weapons and criminal gangs who patrol the schoolyard to intimidate and terrorize, looking for those who talk to others; looking for signs of organization and resistance. The good people have witnessed their maiming and killing countless times. They have every reason to be afraid.

An aberration of nature, the blood of the punks and thugs is not red like ours; it is green, the color of money. They have an insatiable thirst for blood—our blood; the blood of all innocents. Blood money is their currency. Through some kind of strange alchemy, they are able to convert blood into money to own the world.

Every aspect of the schoolyard: the church, the Federal Reserve, the banks, the workplace, the corporation, and the militia are under their control. Not only do the thugs and killers have weapons, they have chemical and nuclear weapons, doomsday machines by the dozen. They have no regard for life, human and non-human alike. They are incapable of rational thought guided by just principles. The world, every inch of it, belongs to them. They are its rightful masters, so they think—holding patents on life’s genetic blueprints; gods among mortal beings, without limitations. They are our all knowing superiors and we are their helpless, foolish children tugging anxiously at their pant legs, vying for attention.

The thugs and punks are aggressive without restraint, and they wear the garments of priests and saints and public service. Their minds are disturbed, their hands stained with the blood of the innocent. Their conscience, if it exists at all, is unstained by guilt or principle. Their decadent, wrinkled bodies are devoid of soul, sustained by the embalming fluid of the walking dead.

Their ancestors were the inventors of chattel slavery; ours were their servants who worked the fields and died in their wars. Their ancestors tormented and eradicated the aboriginal peoples under the flag of religion and manifest destiny—testaments to their stupendous strength and superiority; ours were the vanquished and oppressed.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Amazing Grace By Charles Sullivan (Fascism)

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
11/06/07 “ICH

It seems inexplicable that so many of the American people can be so dazed and confused, while moral degenerates ransack our nation, piss and defecate upon the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and brazenly loot the public domain, making a mockery of the rule of law and societal norms; whatever they may be.

Incredible lies are routinely passed as truth and the world as we know it is unraveling, as we prepare to invade and occupy yet another country, perhaps igniting World War Three. We go on with the insipid routine of our dull lives: we go shopping, and bombard our senses with mind numbing entertainment, telling ourselves that it—fascism—can’t happen here, even as its poisoned blossoms unfold before our astonished eyes and fill our lungs with their noxious fumes.

We refuse to believe what we are seeing and we dismiss it as too preposterous to be real. We no longer wholly trust our own senses or follow our most innate instincts, failing to recognize that they are all that is true; all that allow us to survive the wretched madness that pursues us like rabid dogs, and relentlessly nips at our fleeing heels.

Increasing numbers of us move through this world with a sense of impending doom but we do not fully comprehend its origins or the breadth of the disaster it portends. We sense not only that something is wrong—something is terribly, irreconcilably, sickeningly, wrong. We do our utmost to repress those feelings, telling ourselves that our worst fears, our darkest nightmares, are irrational, unfounded phantoms of the imagination; so many ghosts lurking under our beds.

We have been programmed to believe that we are the greatest nation to ever emerge from the mists of history, that everything about us as a people is exceptional and exemplary. Despite a history of endless provocation and war and countless other forms of self mutilation, we claim that we are a peace loving people—god’s own children, animated by divine stirrings.

But perhaps our state of confusion, our disorientation, and our shock at what the government is doing in our name—all of which seems to be occurring at the blinding speed of light—and our refusal to believe that which is so blatantly obvious to all but those who wear mental blindfolds, or the criminally insane, is a form of psychological shock and awe that has been deliberately imposed upon us not only by depraved politicians vying for wealth and power, but by our every societal institution.

We have arrived at our place as a result of an educational system that does not teach us how to think, but to follow rules and obey authority; to bow to self policing peer pressure and group think: a system that prepares us to pass math tests but not those of citizen and neighbor. We dutifully recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag but we hold no allegiance to the world’s people, or its stunning biological and cultural diversity, or to truth. We were led to the precipice by religious institutions that operate by the same principles as “for profit” corporations, encouraged by Zionist and Christian fundamentalists with visions of Armageddon dancing in their crazed, bigoted heads. We are here because we pay attention to a media monoculture that does not inform, but lies and deceives for money.

We are here because we are morally lazy, uninterested, distracted, overworked, over burdened with debt, and apathetic to a fault. We confused the symbols of democracy with democracy itself; and we foolishly thought that democracy could somehow magically move of its own accord, without our participation as citizens. Too many of us believed that all that was required of us was to vote in elections in which the outcomes were preordained by the candidate’s access to wealth. We told ourselves this is democracy, but we were tragically mistaken. And now it is too late.

The rush to Armageddon will occur quickly; it must happen, like the passage of the Patriot Act, before the people have time to digest what is being done to them, before they can concoct an intelligent and rational response to shock and awe; before the people can organize against the premeditated murder and mayhem that awaits them.

We Americans are the product of free market ideologues, religious zealots, and vulgar experiments in social engineering. We are being led to slaughter, and to be slaughtered, by dark and foreboding forces bent on the destruction of all that is decent, just, and beautiful.

Yet many will continue to believe that the president and his henchmen are sane and just people. Some will even ordain them devout Christians and extol their dark virtues as enlightenment and courage. Others will continue to believe that the sycophants in Congress will awaken at the eleventh hour to save us from our own delusions and excesses, not recognizing that we are alone and have only one another. It has always been so; but rather than uniting against our tormentors—we fight amongst ourselves.

Events may already be in motion that have acquired an unstoppable momentum, like a hulking meteor streaking in deadly silence toward the earth in precise accordance with the laws of motion. But like all tempests, they too will eventually blow themselves out and, better people than us will someday attempt to rebuild the world anew. I wish them luck and amazing grace, the kind of grace that is so conspicuously absent in us. In the words of labor organizer, Joe Hill, murdered by the state before a Utah firing squad: “Good luck to all of you.”

No more can we enjoy the sight of soft summer sunsets in tranquil settings, accompanied by the singing of the wood thrush, and choirs of chanting insects embracing the darkling twilight; but forever more the rocket’s perpetual red glare and silent, distant death. We are nearing road’s end. The time is fast approaching to mount the nearest hillside, to hold our loved ones close; to sip some vintage wine, and watch the fireworks that are even now hurtling their way toward Armageddon. The time is nigh to watch the world as we knew it wink out of existence, and to say goodbye. It’s been good to know you.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Behind the Facade of Incompetence By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
11/02/07 “ICH

It is clear that the US media moguls would have us believe that the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq was a sincere effort to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East, gone awry. But we must remember that everything associated with capitalism is about marketing: making the people believe that things and events are the opposite of what they really are, and creating artificial wants that neither benefit the individual nor society, while simultaneously embellishing corporate profits.

This understanding would have been equally evident in the mainstream media’s buildup to the war had we a less propagandized, better read, and more informed citizenry. Even the politically naïve should have known that Saddam Hussein’s threat to the US, so vividly hyped in the media, was pure marketing propaganda.

But the majority of the people bought it, and now we have no choice but to live with our purchase. Short of a major social upheaval, we are going to be in Iraq for a very long time, and the death toll will continue to rise, especially for the Iraqis—the unwilling recipients of our corporate benevolence delivered through carpet bombs, terror, and torture. For these are the undeniable legacy of our foreign policies, and the illegal, amoral, acquisition of property by blunt force trauma.

If we are to survive as a republic, we must appreciate that capitalism and its cousin, global corporatism—not Saddam Hussein, not Communism or Socialism, nor Islamic terrorists, are the greatest threats to democracy. Zionism and Christian fundamentalism, which attempt to provide the flimsy moral basis for our Middle East policy, also pose significant obstacles to world peace by denying justice to others and promoting ethnic cleansing.

It is beguiling that we have yet to learn this fundamental lesson, that we know so little about our own history, and the role that mass ignorance plays in determining the future.

The narcotic of state sponsored propaganda has a powerful and hypnotic effect on our collective senses, and it is rending asunder the fabric of what is supposed to be a free and civil society. We believe what we are told and accept what we are given, without demanding truth, justice or accountability.

It is imperative for the purveyors of war to maintain a cloak of secrecy and a façade of public support where, if the truth were known, none would exist. It is necessary to keep the truth concealed in order to throw the public off the scent of the corruption that is the guiding principle of corporate governance and plutocracy, fomented by morally bankrupt men and women; a system that causes irreparable harm and suffering to its innocent victims and then profits from the misery and suffering it inflicts.

These days it is popular to describe the events occurring in Iraq as the result of incompetence, mismanagement, miscalculation, and benevolent bungling; to characterize them as a well intentioned mistake on the road to freedom and democracy, rather than the moral abomination they are. What we have in Iraq is not the result of any of these phenomena. It is the intended consequence of cold calculation to bomb Iraq into submission, to thoroughly disorient its people, and to apply economic shock therapy before they can recognize what is being done to them.

The intent is to invade sovereign nations either militarily, economically, or both; and to force unbridled capitalism on them. This means, of course, that we must first overthrow the existing governments—many of them democracies, and replace them with ruthless dictatorships willing to betray their own people, and amenable to opening up their countries to corporate exploitation and privatization.

So called free market capitalism requires corrupt leadership on the receiving end that is willing to accept bribes while becoming a puppet to the US. This is how some of the must brutal regimes in the world came into power. Corporate America is always beating the drums of war in search of profits and ever increasing shares of the world’s markets. Enough is never enough—they want it all.

Aside from overthrowing popularly elected governments, the unspoken objective of mature capitalism, guided by the doctrine of economic shock therapy, is to turn once sovereign nations into totally deregulated corporate states, answerable to no one.

This objective will be accomplished by privatizing the nationalized infrastructure, inviting in foreign investors, removing tariffs that protect local business and cooperatives from predatory multinational corporations, and downsizing the workforce; by eliminating social spending, and removing all forms of corporate controls. In short, by conducting a fire sale of each nation’s stolen assets and auctioning them off at bargain basement prices to wealthy multinational investors.

The intent is to create an unfettered corporate state in which the market, driven solely by profit, is the final arbiter of all things; an Orwellian world in which human rights, labor laws, environmental protections, and social justice do not even exist, much less enter into market equations.

Aided by the World Bank and the IMF, we are rapidly arriving at a state of global corporate fascism—the free market reform of manic capitalism, greed on steroids; a horrible economic monster unleashed upon unsuspecting people the world over, masquerading as democracy and free trade. And it is occurring in blatant contradiction to everything that is free, decent, and fair; a monstrosity utterly devoid of humanity and empathy for those struggling to survive.

But behind the marketing façade of a beneficent capitalism that is more oxymoronic than real, the skeleton of Reaganism, free marketry, and trickle down economics is exposed for all to see. We are witnessing naked greed unleashed upon the world like a swarm of locusts the size of North America. The fabulously wealthy are realizing obscene profits, while the majority of the world’s people are forced into economic servitude, many of them living in abject poverty, scratching out a bleak existence on sweatshop wages under horrendous conditions.

Economic slavery and burdensome debt, not freedom and democracy, is what we are imposing upon Iraq, aided by the most powerful military in history and, all too often, with the blessings of an oblivious and propagandized citizenry. Aside from the fierce resistance to the occupation, the US is achieving all of its major objectives in Iraq.

Like flies circling piles of stinking excrement, the lords of unfettered capitalism are buzzing around the bloated corpse of what is left of the world. And they have no intentions of stopping at Iraq. Iran and Syria are waiting in the wings: war that will not end in our lifetime.

If the world were as enamored with capitalism as its adherents proclaim, there would be no need to masquerade it as anything other than what it is—economic self interest for the privileged, driven by insatiable greed, funded by the public treasure. There would be no need to impose it on the world through high tech militarism and occupation, preceded by elaborate propagandistic media blitzes and tricks. All people would seek it out, as they seek water to slake their thirst and nourishment for their bodies.

So we must ask ourselves: When has it ever been in the pubic interest to over feed the rich and starve the poor? When has it ever been in the public interest to destroy the earth for the sake of profits? When has it ever been in the public interest to promote war and injustice over peace and shared prosperity?

Just people everywhere must resist evil or run the risk of being complicit in it. Neutrality, indifference and apathy, are untenable responses to what is being done in our name. Somehow, we must awaken from this media induced cultural stupor. We must do so under the prying eyes of government and private security contractors who are protecting corporate investors from democracy, and from people like us. Each of us is being diminished just as the Declaration of Independence states: “harass our people and eat out their substance.”

Every citizen is faced with a simple choice: organize or perish. The storm clouds of World War Three are looming on the horizon. These are extraordinary times that demand something from every one of us.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Truth Matters by Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

by Charles Sullivan
Dissident Voice
October 26th, 2007
I have been writing political essays for a few years now. I do so as a reluctant enthusiast, not because I wanted to write on these themes; but because, it seemed to me, that professional journalists were not telling the whole story; that significant parts that would allow people to connect the dots and understand what is happening from a historical perspective, was being deliberately omitted from the official version of current events, and from history.

As propaganda, the elements that are deliberately left out of media are as important as those that are retained. It is propaganda by omission, as much as by content. What people are not told shapes their world view and influences their behavior, as surely as what they are told. Imposed ignorance and selective knowledge go hand in hand to forge public opinion and to shape cultural identity. These conditions set the stage for belligerent government and aggressive nationalism.

It is not coincidental that professional journalists, those who write for profit in the mainstream media, are the least likely to tell us the truth, the whole truth; whereas, free-lance writers, who operate under a different set of rules and out of the mainstream, are more likely to serve the public interest, and tell us what we need to know in order to be a free people, and good world citizens.

Professional journalists are beholden to a code of ethics and personal conduct that free-lance writers are not. Namely, they are part of a fraternity, a part of the cultural orthodoxy, with an incentive in maintaining the established order. The incentive is always financial and professional, and involves creating the acceptance and trust of those in power, which may, when properly executed, even result in the celebrity status of the journalist.

Journalists who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo or advancing their careers do not operate in the public interest. Their purpose is not to inform but to deceive.

When a major news anchor reports upon the invasion and occupation of sovereign nations, uncritically putting forth pentagon propaganda as justification for the attack, he or she is in essence acting in the manner of a celebrity athlete endorsing a product. The basketball star may endorse Nike sneakers, manufactured by indentured servants in foreign sweatshops; while the news anchor is endorsing war and disaster capitalism projected around the world by Lockheed Martin and the Carlyle Group. Both are prostitutes.

Mainstream corporate journalism is not about speaking truth to power, it is about selling products and perceptions. It is about creating a culture of ignorant consumers incapable of distinguishing between propaganda and news, fact and fiction.

This is marketing and perception management masquerading as unbiased, objecting reporting. I call it the big lie.

If the mainstream journalist wants to prosper, if they want to have access to the inner circles of power, they must play the game according to the established rules. They must toe the corporate line, and provide cover for the corporate assault on human freedoms, and the conquest of nature, while keeping hidden agendas concealed from public view. Journalists must be able to sell widely objectionable concepts to the people, packaged in the garments of seductive—often patriotic language, in order to make them palatable.

How many soldiers, outside of those under the private contracts of firms like Blackwater, would voluntarily stake their lives for corporate profits, and the subjugation of a sovereign people, if they knew that is what they are really fighting for, rather than the more popular and desirable goal of freedom or democracy?

Freedom, liberation, and democracy have never been corporate objectives; nor can they ever be the objective of corporate governance. They are only selling points that conceal hidden corporate agendas; the attractive packaging for war, occupation, and privatization, obtained at pubic expense.

If news stories are not believable to the multitudes, if they fail to garner popular support by masking corporate agendas behind deceptive language, the majority of governmental polices and private agendas could not be enacted. If the people knew what was being done in their name, and who is profiting from those policies, there might be widespread opposition and even social upheaval. It would be difficult to field a voluntary military that knows it is fighting for the bottom line of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin, rather than for freedom and democracy, as they are told.

Thus those who would serve in the military as self-ordained patriots are sold a bill of goods. By invading and occupying Iraq, they are, in effect, undermining the very principles they claim to hold sacred, including those set forth in the Constitution and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Likewise, the average US citizen is sold a similar bill of goods in order to garner support for policies they would, presumably, never voluntarily sustain, if they understood them better.

That is the genius of modern capitalism and its impressive marketing apparatus. The results have been breathtaking.

Skillful perception management always precedes empire. Well presented propaganda allows history to be presented as a kind of fairy tale that ignores the horrible things the government has always done in our name, at the behest of corporate America and our wealthiest citizens, which should be too well known to bear reiteration here.

In our capitalist culture, journalism must not be thought of as a reporting of facts, but as marketing propaganda—the selling of ideas that might not otherwise be embraced by those who must carry out hidden agendas, or the people on the receiving end of them. Seen in this way, the US soldier and the Iraqi citizen are both pawns in a rich man’s game: the former as the implementer of unjust war and occupation, the other as the unwilling recipient of them.

The end result for both soldier and Iraqi citizen is tragic: the soldier is told that he or she is protecting their country from foreign threats, something that is patently false; while the innocent Iraqi citizen, defending his or her home from foreign occupation, knows that she or he is not a terrorist, but is treated like one, nevertheless.

Both occupier and the occupied share a common foe, but it is not each other; it is the criminals, aided and abetted by the corporate media, who put them in formal opposition to one another for financial gain.

Our recent history would have been impossible without the consolidation of the media that occurred during the Clinton presidency, and has continued ever since. The entire spectra of mainstream media are now under the control of only four or five corporations. We no longer have reporting on local issues stemming from diverse perspectives rooted in local communities, but a monoculture of state and corporate propaganda that betrays the public trust in its pursuit of corporate profits.

Aided by the president and congress, the public owned airwaves were hijacked and are being used against the people by giant multinational corporations.

The result of this media monoculture, as purveyed by the likes of Judith Miller and Tom Brokaw, and countless others, is tragic. And they represent only the tip of the mainstream iceberg. Think of the horrible and shameless lies, the baseless fear and hate that are continuously voiced by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, and the hateful broadcasts that emanate from Bob Jones University, masquerading as Christian theology.

Corporate media is the vanguard of empire and environmental destruction on a global scale.

Unlike its corporate counterpart, reporting truth requires people of unassailable integrity. It requires a thirst for justice with the strength of character to oppose the powerful undertow of manufactured perception and conformity, and the seductive language created to execute the hidden agendas of corrupt governments. Uncovering truth requires commitment to the people, rather than to profit driven corporate agendas.

Only a handful of professional journalists have attained the kind of stature that makes such reportage possible in the United States. Their names are not at all well known, with the possible exception of Seymour Hersch, Robert Fisk, Bill Moyers and Greg Palast.

More often than not, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of independent journalists and unpaid free-lancers. The professional journalist must answer to his/her boss, and portray the corporation that employs them in a favorable light, even if they are profiting from unprovoked war and occupation. In contrast, the free-lancer is bound only by the constraints of conscience, imagination, and ability.

Occasionally, an astonished responder to one of my more poignant essays will tell me that I should forward the piece to the New York Times: to NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, or even the BBC. I never have.

It would be hard for me to imagine any corporation undermining its own profitability by exposing its hidden agendas, and denouncing itself as a commissioner of murder and mayhem, motivated by insatiable greed and a lust for wealth and power that would astonish even the staunchest mafia don. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen! Snowballs in hell have a better chance.

Its not that free-lancers like me wouldn’t like to get paid for what we do; it’s that our views do not enhance the bottom line of corporate giants and, in many cases, actually undermine them. Thus it behooves the professional journalist and the corporate media to ignore or discredit us as purveyors of truth and seekers of justice.

Soon it will be an act of sedition to speak truth in this country. Yet, truth will continue to exist, despite all attempts to destroy it.

Whether they admit it or not, virtually all of the best known journalists in the US subscribe to the racist and sexist ideologies of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, and they go to great lengths to advance these ideas, by presenting them as something other than what they really are. Slight of hand is the rule of mainstream journalism, not the exception.

Conversely, by serving the people, free-lance journalists are, of necessity, undermining the corporate agenda. Thus they are treated as enemies of the state, which has become indistinguishable from the corporation itself. We live in a culture where one cannot value truth and carry forth corporate agendas. Truth is the enemy of empire.

This might also explain why so many unembedded journalists have been deliberately killed in Iraq and the Gaza strip by US and Israeli snipers. The world must not know what the occupiers do, or the propaganda veneer may no longer have its intended effect on the consumers of media.

Speaking truth to power, especially corrupt power, is dangerous business— particularly in war zones and fascist states, like the one evolving in the US.

Corporate media is the vanguard of colonialism and imperialist policy. It plays a key role in preparing the public mind for imperialist wars and occupations and their subsequent puppet governments; it also serves the emerging police state at home that erodes our freedoms, until there is nothing left of them.

Yet, occasionally, even in this artificially constructed myth loving culture, truth wins out simply because someone cares enough to tell it like it is, without sugar coating. Truth matters; and that is—and always will be—of primal importance to some people. Let future historical records show that there was opposition to what was being done in our name, that there were people willing to speak truth to power, to stem the evil tide by standing up for justice, cost what it may.

Future historians of the dominant culture are likely to cast these accounts into the memory hole and pretend that they never existed, carrying forth the myth that the people were always united behind the injustice and tyranny of our time. We saw this in Nazi Germany in the buildup to World War Two, and we are seeing it now in the US.

But a culture that does not value truth and justice is not worth preserving. Such cultures will self destruct and implode upon themselves; the world will eventually unite against them and bring them down. All of the military might in the world, all the subterfuge, is not powerful enough to overcome simple truth.

Any individual who values truth more than lies, who keeps truth alive in his or her heart, despite all efforts to dislodge it from its ethical moorings, is more powerful than even the most advanced weapons systems. Truth emerges unscathed from the rubble of fallen empire as immutable as an inviolable law of nature. Nothing can bring it down because it is real.

If we are to evolve into a justice loving people, truth must become our moral foundation, the basis of our existence as a people. Truth and justice are inseparable partners on the road to liberation from tyranny and fascism.

Concord’s greatest citizen, the poet-philosopher, Henry D. Thoreau, summed it up well: “The one great rule of composition…is to speak the truth. This first, this second, this third; pebbles in your mouth or not.” Perhaps more than anything, that simplistic ability to speak plain truth, and in all languages, is what I most admire about Thoreau. There is much to admire and respect in a man who spoke in those terms, and lived by that simple credo.

Truth is simple and uncomplicated, whereas lies and distortions are complex. Truth stands strong and unwavering without artificial support; lies and propaganda require elaborate schemes and constant propping up, the mask of deception.

More of us must learn the language of truth; we must be its faithful guardians, if we are to be valuable citizens in this world, rather than the useful idiots of empire. By holding truth and justice in the highest regard, we demonstrate that another world is not only possible, but highly probable.

As voracious consumers of media, we must be as careful about what we admit into our minds, as the food we put into our bodies. Food can nourish and sustain us, or it can produce disease and decay. And so it is with media.

To date, we have not been very discriminate, and the result is that we have become a culture of the mentally obese, fed on junk media. Our minds, our souls, have been deliberately poisoned; our perceptions twisted and distorted, our humanity abandoned to the quest for profits and power.

We must purge our minds of junk media and replace it with something more nutritious, if we favor health over disease. Peace is not possible without two essential ingredients: truth and justice. Neither is possible in the absence of the other. We must live as if truth still matters.
Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Providence of geopolitical West Virginia. Read other articles by Charles.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.