Uncommon Grace: Biology and Economic Theory By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
10/22/07
ICH

My wife, Alice, and I hold a deed to twenty acres of land in Morgan County, West Virginia. To most people, there is nothing remarkable about this place. But to us, it is extraordinary. I have spent seventeen years exploring the botany of this land: photographing its wild flowers, learning the language of its avian citizens, and capturing its various moods on film and in pixels. Knowing it as I do, I could never think of this place as a resource. It is simply home: the source.

In a society that holds sacred the private ownership of property and economic self interest, it may seem strange that neither my wife nor I consider ourselves property owners. At best, we are squatters or temporary guardians of something that has inherent value; an evolving biological entity that exists far beyond the realm of economic self interest and monetary valuation systems.

Alice and I share this sacred space with numerous plants and animals—most of them wild, and some of them domesticated. Among the latter: five horses, three dogs, and numerous felines. We do not own these animals any more than they own us; they are not our pets. They are simply animal companions, members of the extended human family, and valued equally with human beings, mushrooms, and copperhead snakes.

Unlike my wife and me, none of these animals have to work for a living. They are not expected to perform tricks for us. They are simply free to be who they are. We do the best we can for them with our limited resources. What we get in return is priceless; something that defies quantification. Whatever it is, it is greater than the sum of its parts but as ethereal as the morning mist that rises from a brook. Yet, it is as real as the soil and sky.

It is impossible to commodify the sacred bonds that exist between the human animal, and the non-human animal—a bond that extents into the landscape that spawned them. To claim ownership of another living being, whether wild forest, or domesticated canine, is to break the sacred bonds and reduce them into commodities—mere objects for use. It is to make them our property and force them into slavery; objects for economic exploitation.

So it is with the land itself.

In an ownership society, the land is valued not as an evolved living biological entity with inherent value and rights, including the fulfillment of its own evolutionary destiny, but as a commodity—a natural resource.

In this unnatural schema, wild forests lose their structural and biological diversity to become pulp for paper mills, and are turned into toilet paper, or packaging for ipods. Diverse forests become tree farms and plantations, monocultures thirsting for toxic chemicals to keep them alive. They are no longer natural, no longer wholly real or authentic. This process of industrial forestry moves the land from the realm of the sacred into that of economic theory; and it is falsely called science. That which has inherent value is thus devolved into mere property, a commodity; divested of its sacredness, a severed part divorced from the whole.

Treated as private property, the wild earth, with its essential ecological processes, dies a death of a thousand cuts, as economic myth and Disneyesque plantations supplant the authentic natural landscape, and the artificial is freely substituted for the real.

Surrounded by the artificial, we live in a time when people can no longer tell the difference between the real and the synthetic; the natural and the unnatural. Sadly, they do not even know what has been lost or that it can never be replaced.

Thus we have a culture which holds that economic self interest is the highest expression of human freedom. It is a paradigm that asserts its superiority over all others, including the public welfare and the wellbeing of the earth. It is the foundation of Adam Smith’s capitalism, as espoused in The Wealth of Nations, and modified many times since.

But freedom that subjugates others is not freedom at all.

Private ownership is a paradigm that values the economic parts of nature—those that can accrue wealth to the land owner, while assigning no value to the parts that are economically unimportant, or the greater public good, including the world’s genetic libraries. Yet, in nature, it is often the non-economic parts that provide the essential ecological functions that make life itself possible. Not just human life—all life.

Here in Morgan County, wild forests provide shade on hot summer afternoons, and diverse habitat for multitudes of species, both plant and animal. Together, the interrelationship formed by these species constitute a dance of life that promotes the dynamic equilibrium of a complex ecosystem—the magnificent Central Appalachian Hardwood and Mixed Mesophytic Forest.

Aided by fungus and precipitation, insects residing in decaying trees move nutrients through the earth, building healthy soil. Forests purify the air and remove pollutants, while also trapping and holding greenhouse gases. Wild forests filter pollutants from streams and rivers, providing pure drinking water to foxes, beetles, and people. All of this, and much, much, more, is provided without cost to us; as a right of citizenship in this world.

Left alone, the wild earth—unlike human constructed systems, is a beautifully self-regulating arrangement in dynamic equilibrium; a system that runs on biological capital, rather than artificial economic arrangements. The management of such systems, which have evolved over billions of years, implies the superiority of man over nature, his dominion over the earth—a dangerous and foolish notion that requires unfathomable hubris, and equal parts stupidity.

Cultures that are based upon reductionism and monoculture fail to perceive the organic whole of life; the interconnectedness of all things, both living and non-living. Economic formulae, no matter how sophisticated and scientific they may appear, are a construct of the human mind—an artificial system of accounting. Nature does not recognize them. They have no validity in the real world. Yet we think they are of overriding importance, the basis of everything we do; man as center of the universe, as in the time of Ptolemy.

In truth, ecology and biology are the natural capital upon which nature works. They are the underpinning of all social and economic paradigms—bar none. Impair and denigrate them and everything in them, including us, is diminished. Damage them excessively, and everything falls, including our precious ownership society.

Ecological integrity is the foundation of planetary health. It is the organizing principle of life. Undermining that integrity for short term profits is to limit all future options in perpetuity, the ultimate incarnation of insensate greed and selfishness. It is the work of foolish and misguided men who are undoing the world; men who cannot conceive of anything larger than themselves, including the public welfare, or the planetary ecology; the world’s only authentic economy.

Ecological literacy, understanding how nature works, must necessarily supersede economic self interest in favor of the collective good, the organic whole. The world was not made to be exploited, to be divided into parcels and privatized. Contrary to popular belief, human beings are not masters of the earth. We are subject to the same immutable natural law as yeast cells. We were blessed with a few short years in paradise, and the gift of consciousness of our place in the cosmos.

If we are, indeed, rational beings, we have a moral obligation to defend our place from those who would defile and exploit it. Our allegiance is to the earth and to one another, not to monetary systems that exploit and cheapen life for profit.

Like all economic systems that are not based upon real science, or an appropriate land ethic, the concept of property rights and private ownership are misguided and ultimately self-destructive constructs. The public welfare and the ecological integrity of the earth exceed all economic self interests in importance. Economics are based upon self-serving, false premises, whereas ecology is real.

There are dire consequences to ignoring reality, for substituting the artificial for the natural. The earth will never conform to our views of her. The needs of the greater biological community outweigh the wants of the self-interested few, looking to make a fast buck.

It is a sad and foolish notion that nature must conform to man and his prideful economic constructs. The world operates on natural capital—biological processes from which humankind evolved. That understanding must be the guiding principle in all that we do. Unlike the mythos promoted by economics, ecological literacy encourages a healthy sense of belonging to something much larger than the sum of its parts, the greater biological community; it promotes a healthy sense of the sacred.

Conservationist David Brower once stated: “Economics is a form of brain damage.” I could not agree more. We need to develop a holistic world view in place of that which was born of hubris and economic self interest. That view will not be born of capitalism, or any repressive religious theology. It can only come from healthful interaction with the organic world, in the big outside.

Henry Thoreau astutely observed, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” Like the American Indian, Thoreau’s world view was not anthropocentric (man-centered), it was biocentric (earth-centered); holistic and whole. That is a world view we can live with.

The most precious things in life are those that cannot be commodified, and hence, owned. Like twenty acres in a place we call West Virginia—beauty, grace, elegance, and tranquility cannot be bought and sold, or traded on Wall Street. These qualities are a gift unto the world provided without cost. We should freely enjoy them in ways that are non-consumptive, and therefore, non-destructive. We should give thanks for the natural wealth the world possesses and leave it for others to enjoy, long after we have departed this life.

As Edward Abbey, an anarchist, once lamented, “The earth belongs to everyone, and to no one.” We are simply citizens of the greater biological community, distinguished only by our capacity for destruction and self deception.

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.

Loaded Language and Loaded Guns By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
10/03/07 “ICH

The Meaning of Opposites

One can no longer understand US governmental policy on the basis of conventional language or traditional wisdom. Language itself and its long-established meanings were long ago twisted and distorted in order to deceive the people. Now war is peace and terror and occupation is liberation. In order to make sense of what is happening, it is important to understand everything within the context of a specific economic philosophy, and the distorted capitalist system that spawned it.

That ideology was crafted by a diminutive economist named Milton Friedman, at the University of Chicago some five decades ago. The holy trinity of Friedman’s version of capitalism—privatization of the public domain, corporate deregulation, and deep cuts in social spending—has resulted in enormous societal inequity and socio-economic classes. It has given us the haves and the have-nots, the haves and the have-mores.

Friedman and his disciples, collectively known as ‘The Chicago School’ do not believe in a minimum wage—much less a living wage, unions, worker rights, environmental protections, worker safety, or any other kind of restraint imposed upon corporations. In Friedman’s view, the market should rule and profitability should be the guiding principle, the end results always justifying the means.

The implementation of Friedman’s version of unfettered capitalism relies upon munificent corporate welfare, tax cuts to the wealthy, exploitation of workers, and the outright theft of other sovereign nation’s natural wealth through military force—including oil and minerals, water supplies and other societal infrastructure; cheap labor, and a procession of consumers of goods and services without limits—an impossibility in a closed ecological system.

Convincing the public to support policies that are, in fact, detrimental to them, requires enormous marketing skill, as well as a corporate owned and operated propaganda apparatus that is second to none. This is accomplished by cloaking harmful policies in patriotic language, and other forms of seduction.

In order to achieve this objective, which is really nothing less than unqualified global corporate dominance, the public domain must be privatized and run not for use, but for profit; and the unparalleled might of the US military brought to bear against any nation or people who stand in the way.

It is this thinking—the dominant economic paradigm that shapes all US policy—that has brought us an endless succession of wars and other human tragedies; exacerbated global warming, and unprecedented rapacious planetary destruction, including the mass extinction of much of the world’s flora and fauna — all for corporate profit.

Decades ago, in order to field test the economic theories that were formulated by the right wing think tanks at The Chicago School, Friedman and his disciples descended like locusts upon Latin America. The results were devastating: Democratically elected governments were systematically overthrown and brutal dictators friendly to US business interests were installed in their place—all of which were subsidized by US tax dollars with the complicity of the CIA.

As a result, US-trained death squads roamed the countryside torturing, murdering, and disappearing dissidents, union organizers, and indigenous land holders—a process that continues to this day. The corporate media, itself, an essential cog in Friedman’s capitalist machine, referred to these death squads as freedom fighters, and canonized the likes Ronald Reagan as champions of liberty.

But the recipients of US policy in Latin America—those who survived them—know better. Now the same policies are being implemented in the Middle East, and with the same disastrous results. Elements of Friedman’s policies have been in play here in the US for decades, and the intent is to do to the US what was done in Latin America and Iraq.

Language is a tool that can be used to either conceal or reveal truth; it can be used to inform or to distort. Given the track record of private enterprise, it is not surprising that everything associated with Milton Friedman’s capitalism has been hopelessly perverted, and language is no exception.

Understanding the role played by Friedman and his disciples in shaping US policy—a doctrine adopted and praised by Republicans and Democrats alike, is critical in order to bring the big picture of world events, including our own domestic policies, into clear focus.

The disciples of Friedman’s economic theorem have skillfully manipulated the language to deceive the subjects of those policies. Stripped of the garments of seductive language, the hidden kernel of truth is clearly seen: unregulated corporate power that masquerades as free market trade. The nations that have undergone Friedman’s economic shock therapy: Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia, and many others, were opened up to privatization and corporate plunder that soon left them impoverished and wasted.

The once sustainable and vibrant local economies, most of them characterized by broad public ownership, were thoroughly globalized, as capitalism was forced upon those who had rejected it at the ballot box or through armed revolution. Local manufactures were no longer protected from multi-nationals: prices soared, wages fell, workers lost their jobs, unemployment rose astronomically, and the infrastructure that once provided inexpensive or free public services—among them, potable water and inexpensive food—were privatized and rendered unaffordable to the multitudes.

Shared prosperity quickly gave way to abject poverty and misery; while predatory US corporations bled nation after nation of their natural wealth, and kept the profits to themselves.

Here in the US, the people of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina experienced the same economic shock and awe as Latin America. The poor were relocated and resorts for the rich quickly supplanted affordable public housing. The public school system was virtually dismantled and privatized. Contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater reaped enormous profits on the misery and suffering of the Gulf Region’s working poor. Corporate profits mattered more than the lives of the people. New Orleans will never be the same.

All of this was accomplished by stripping language of its traditional connotations and perverting it into its opposite meaning. Thus lies became truth and predatory capitalism morphed into beneficent public service. The new definitions are designed to conceal the real intent of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, and are employed as marketing tools to make blatant theft and exploitation appear palatable to the multitudes, and to the helpless victims of unfettered capitalism.

Had the hidden agenda of our elected officials been widely known to the public, the people would likely find these policies not only objectionable, but morally reprehensible and offensive. Now Orwellian doublespeak is the norm, resulting in the enforcement arm of capitalism—the police state and an emerging Gestapo society, perpetrated in the name of a democracy that does not even exist.

The dictum of freedom, as understood by rational and conscientious human beings everywhere, has traditionally been applied to people and refers to their treatment by one another and their respective governments. However, when free market capitalists speak of freedom and democracy, as we are witnessing in the catastrophic situation they have created in the Middle East, they are not referring to human freedoms at all—but to unfettered capitalism, absolute corporate rule, and human servitude to wealth garnered at public expense—essentially a global terrorist slave state. That is what is meant by so called free markets as it pertains to the human condition.

Thus democracy, rather than meaning self-government of the people, by the people, and for the people, is perverted into support for deregulated corporations that are accountable to no one, the ultimate arbiter of all forms of power—the market as a Holy Grail; the decisive triumph of private ownership over people and the public welfare by the global elite.

And that, in a nutshell, is what we are fighting for not only in the Middle East, but in 135 nations around the world. These are the American interests the military is protecting; these are the freedoms they are defending from democracy.

In the idiom of free market capitalism, all things—whether soil, mineral, plant or animal, including human beings (wage slaves), are diminished and commodified, and valued only in proportion as they can be privatized and exploited by the champions of Laissez-Faire capitalism.

Furthermore, let it be understood that the president and his cabinet, as well as every member of Congress (with one exception), are disciples of Friedman’s economic paradigm. Not only are they doing everything in their power to implement Friedman’s policies, they have been doing so for a very long time.

This perception certainly demystifies the remarkable homogeneity of US policy that has sent countless young men and women dressed in military uniforms to their deaths, and disappeared millions of leftist dissidents around the world. And it will continue unabated unless we the people put a stop to it.

Author’s note: Anyone wishing a more complete understanding of these policies should read Naomi Klein’s authoritative new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. I cannot underscore enough the breadth and importance of Ms. Klein’s work in understanding capitalism, corporate globalization, and the grossly distorted governmental policies they have spawned. Every citizen, regardless of nationality, should read this book. It is that important.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and social 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. This material is distributed without profit.

Of Hamster Wheels and Men By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
09/27/07 “ICH

It is evident that the US or Israel is going to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran in the near future, just as it did against Iraq and countless other defenseless nations within recent memory. As a result, untold numbers of innocent people will die and huge sums of money will change hands. Both the U.S. and Israel will consolidate their power in the Middle East and injustice and death will follow in their wake.

Bush’s co-conspirators in Congress are standing down, leaving little doubt as to whom they serve. As always, the mainstream media is preparing the way by serving as an organ of the Military-industrial complex by beating the drums of war and perpetuating lies.

Outside of a small number of citizens, few people seem capable of plumbing the depths of our conundrum. Under the umbrella of capitalism, business is the business of America, and death, inequity, and misery are its chief byproducts. Thus the rich are getting richer and the wealth generated by the producers is being concentrated into fewer hands than ever before.

War and class warfare are among the offshoots of capitalism. They are opposite sides of the same coin, like Democrat and Republican. Significant change will not occur until the people rise up in revolt and take matters into their own hands—a state of affairs that is virtually unimaginable. Nothing less than a fundamental paradigm shift from capitalism to a just an equitable socio-economic system is required.

It is not difficult to know what kind of response the present threat demands of us—yet only a handful of thoughtful and courageous people will act appropriately against them.

I am quite certain that indifference, apathy, belligerent nationalism, and dumb-foundedness are not appropriate responses to the cancer that is festering in the Pentagon, the halls of Congress, and America’s corporate board rooms and political think tanks.

I am willing to bet that the average American never contemplates the inequities that capitalism foists upon the world, or the unwarranted faith we have in the concept of private ownership, unregulated markets, and trickle down economics. This is a system that was created to serve the wealthy and to oppress the majority, and it is fundamentally predatory in nature.

Championed by the likes of Milton Friedman, capitalism and private ownership is the holy grail of the American economic system, and they are considered beyond reproach even by those who barely survive under their ponderous weight. The nemesis of capital and privilege is an organized and mobilized citizenry.

Throughout America’s short history, alternative political and economic systems such as communism and socialism, long associated with organized labor and radical unionism, have occasionally gained a foothold in the barren political landscape and, predictably, were thoroughly demonized by the mainstream media and its corporate funders.

Alternatives to capitalism have been tried but they have always been undermined by the US, which allows their critics to assert that these social experiments have been tried and failed. But left alone to evolve without outside interference, other socio-economic systems that serve people and the public interest might well flourish over for profit systems that promote private enterprise, which explains why so much energy and treasure is spent to undermine them.

Does anyone really believe that capitalism would be so prevalent today if it had been so systematically undermined by other governments as its counterparts? The playing field has never been level. Yet, despite such intense oppression, alternatives continue to spring up like undesirable weeds in capitalism’s well groomed garden. Left untended, the garden quickly reverts to its natural state, which, clearly, is not capitalism or public funded privatized wealth accumulation.

Early on, working class Americans have been programmed to rail against any system that poses a threat to capitalism and its attendant Plutocratic rule. There was the era of McCarthyism in the 1950’s, and long before that the constant specter of the red menace that has always been associated with organized labor and other social justice movements.

Any ideology that is opposed to capitalism has always been presented to the people as a threat to democracy itself, which is an absurd notion. Through propaganda and other distortions of truth, the interests of the ruling clique are widely perceived to also be the people’s interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Democracy is the greatest threat to capitalism and Plutocracy; and, as history attests, it is vigorously repressed by those in power, often by acts of state sponsored terrorism and militarism.

Unregulated corporate power and the unbridled exploitation of land and people are as far from true free markets and democracy as anything can be.

Through the judicious use of lies and propaganda the corporate media, aided by the educational system, has successfully steered the collective American psyche away from the very ideologies that might potentially be our greatest benefactors. The underlying causes of societal injustice, including the inequitable distribution of wealth and power, are thus kept safely out of the public conscience, beyond the pale of moral and intellectual discourse. Unregulated corporate power and free markets are hailed in the mainstream media as humankind’s greatest achievements. They are marketed to the very people it exploits as liberating, democratic institutions.

The founding fathers recognized that an aroused and organized citizenry was the primary threat to the ruling elite. Organized labor, in particular, has always been perceived as a threat to the established orthodoxy. A democratic workplace would inevitably lead to a democratic society, and thus deny the strength of the ruling Plutocracy.

It is remarkable that for more than 230 years the Plutocracy has not only successfully kept the majority of the people supporting economic and social policy that is detrimental to the people, they have also kept them from thinking about alternatives that could provide relief from the social and economic injustice wrought by capitalism—among them, universal health care and socialized higher education. The government is always waging a cold war against the working class people, whatever their country of origin.

As a result, we have evolved into a nation of imperialists addicted to war and other forms of violence, which accrues tremendous wealth and power to the rich, while simultaneously undermining the people’s collective welfare, and the wellbeing of the planet.

Attached to their ipods, cell phones, their computers, television sets, and right wing media, the American people are detached from reality. So long as they are free to consume and waste, and sufficient entertainment is provided, the people will not rise up in revolt.

Because of this separation from reality, Americans do not empathize with people outside of their own immediate families, beyond a small sphere of friends and acquaintances. We have no sense of community, and little visceral connection to the wild earth that sustains all life. We are reductionists who do not appreciate the organic whole. Thus we cannot connect the dots and think in rational terms of cause and effect. We have commodified the earth and her people in order to exploit them for profit.

Too many Americans exist with a false sense of entitlement and privilege that is not nearly as prevalent in other parts of the world, where the effects of capitalism are better understood. Confident in our right to consume, while ignoring the misery our consumption and waste is causing others, we do not perceive the connection between capitalism, war, socio-economic class, cheap labor, and planetary destruction.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Wobblies understood: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” But we do not easily think beyond the self and rarely see ourselves as a part of a vibrant global community—a part of nature. We even erect psychological barriers that prevent us from questioning the established orthodoxy, as we witnessed in the aftermath of 9-11. We do as we are told, rather than doing what is right and just. Americans fear the government and tremble before authority.

It is this spiritual isolation and emptiness that allows us to comprise so little of the earth’s population, and to consume so much of her precious biological and ecological wealth—the planetary life support systems that sustain all life.

The American worker, despite all evidence to the contrary, and notwithstanding the lessons of history, continues to subscribe to the ideology of the capitalist model and its empty promises dressed in the seductive garments of the ‘American Dream’. That dream is now, more than ever, as millions of Americans are coming to realize, more myth than reality.

Capitalism has forced a nation-sized plantation upon the working class people of this country, and a world-sized gulag upon people everywhere. Workers keep only a tiny percent of the wealth they create for their employers, just enough to keep them playing the game—a game only a select few will ever win. Someone else always reaps the benefits of our labor.

American workers are like hamsters imprisoned in a cage, spinning our hamster wheels with furious speed, working harder, producing more, more, more—ever more; until our hearts explode or our bodies wear out under mountains of debt.

Hardly a handful of people realize what an elaborate hoax has been erected around us, what a sham this moribund system of waste and exploitation really is.

So we go from one plantation to another, drifting like tumbleweeds from one job to another but always imprisoned by the same exploitive, dehumanizing capitalist system.

At some level, I believe that the majority of the people intuit that something is terribly wrong. Thus they subscribe to the idea of reform and resort to electoral politics—a system that is wholly owned and operated by special interest money and corporate lobbyists. Their faith in the vote is misplaced and their energy is misdirected, which thus helps to maintain the established order, and prevents us from doing anything meaningful and direct. It assures consistency through the centuries: Imperial wars and occupations, a widening gap between the rich and poor; falling wages, union busting, and unfathomable environmental destruction on a global scale.

There are no political solutions available to us. There are no knights in shinning armor coming to the rescue. In a system awash in money the vote has no meaning. It is a mistake to think that the tools provided by capitalism can do anything other than perpetuate the system that is already in place, as history clearly demonstrates. Whether George Bush, Ron Paul, or Hillary Clinton occupies the White House, the result will be the same. Politicians are the property of special interest money. Few of them serve the people.

We must stop believing that reform of this corrupt system is even possible. Misplaced faith in corrupt politicians keeps us from fomenting the seeds of revolution, which are our only salvation and our destiny if we are to survive as a people. If only we could conjure up the fighting spirit that these times require.

People can only affect change by accepting personal responsibility and through direct action. We, ourselves, must become the agents for radical, revolutionary transformation. Rather than putting our trust in George Bush and Hillary Clinton or the sycophants in Congress, we must believe in ourselves and directly assert the power we have. We the people, when organized and mobilized, are the most powerful revolutionary force on earth. All we need is solidarity, but solidarity can be as elusive as a wisp of smoke, especially when so much capital is expended to keep us isolated and disorganized, and propagandized.

Both voting and sporadic protests, while they may temporarily make us feel useful, do not have much long term effect. Let us not simply say no to war with our vote, but with our bodies and our treasure. If we wish to see social justice enacted, we must not merely vote for it, we must, ourselves, become the agents of justice. We must oppose injustice not only on philosophical and ethical grounds, but in the theater of action, with our bodies.

Democracy and justice are too important to entrust to politicians who serve money, rather than people and the public welfare. We must do more than give lip service to the mere symbols of justice while doing nothing to actually obtain justice, or even worse—undermining it by voting more Plutocrats into office. Each of us must act to bring justice to bear. It is wrong to quietly tolerate what is being done to our country.

Our collective tolerance for injustice and mediocrity makes us complicit in them. We do not hold the criminals and the real terrorists accountable and we continue to support the system that ushered them into power by participating in it and pretending that it is legitimate.

Action applied directly at the point of injustice is the only force that can bring about permanent and just change. But action, unlike rhetoric, requires courage and conviction. It means putting the fear of god into the hearts of the government, as ordinary people do in Europe and Latin America, putting our bodies on the line for what we believe in. When the state is an enemy of the people, all just men and women must become enemies of the state.

Change begins and ends with the individual. What we think and what we do matters only if we act on our beliefs and are even willing to die for them, if necessary. Peace can only follow justice; it never precedes it.

By putting faith in those who serve the almighty dollar, rather than directly upholding the principles of democracy ourselves, we diminish our own power—we cede it to the corrupt and diabolical whose primary purpose is to rape and exploit us. Let us leave the safe haven of our hamster wheels and occupy the streets until justice reigns for everyone. There is no other way.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and 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. This material is distributed without profit.

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A rich man’s world By Jeremy Seabrook