They Fuck You Up Your Mom and Dad

philip-larkinPhilip Larkin

1922-1985

This be the verse

by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

How to Build an Alternative to Capitalism

How Do We Build Movements That Can Win

Naomi Klein (2017)

In this presentation, Naomi Klein  outlines the strategy she feels grassroots activists need to pursue to resist the growing attacks on working people while building build a genuine alternative to post industrial capitalism. It’s very similar to the one Kali Akuna proposes (see Don’t Just Fight, Build).

While she begins by focusing on climate change, she heavily emphasizes that environmentalists alone can’t solve the crisis of catastrophic climate change – that it will require a large diverse coalition of activists organizing around a broad array of environmental and social justice issues. While she doesn’t state directly that it’s impossible to prevent climate change under capitalism, this is strongly implied.

Another concept Klein stresses is the importance of radical ideas in creating the conditions for major reform. She gives the example of the calls for socialist revolution following the 1929 Depression and during the Vietnam War – how serious discussion of revolution scared the corporate elite so much that they granted major economic reform (the New Deal) under Roosevelt and major environmental reform under Nixon (creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, etc.).

Klein also gives the example of the Leap Coalition in Canada, which is working for bold social and environmental justice reforms, as well as the development of community controlled energy systems (similar to Germany’s) – where the profits from energy production fund community services, such as teaching, daycare and senior care – rather than distant corporations.

Is It Time to Bring Down Civilization?

Endgame: The Problem of Civilization

by Derrick Jensen

Seven Stories Press (2006)

Book Review

Although the writing style is quite informal, the basic structure of environmental activist Derrick Jensen’s two volume opus is that of a philosophical treatise. In Endgame, Jensen makes two highly controversial arguments:

1. The planet and the human species can only be saved by bringing down civilization.

2. This can only be accomplished by violent means.

Like a philosopher, Jensen builds his case on 20 basic premises listed at the beginning of both volumes (see below). By definition, a premise is mutually agreed assumption (as opposed to a statement of fact) that is used to rationally derive a set of conclusions. In other words, if someone rejects your premises, they will also disagree with conclusions based on these premises.

I myself agree with all but premise 9 and 12. Ten years ago, it was believed that the loss of fossil fuel based industrial agriculture would result in a big drop in population. However more recent research shows that permaculture and biointensive agriculture produce higher crop yields than factory farming. I also believe there is a vast difference between rich and poor people, both in terms of lived experience and power.

In Volume 1, Jensen traces the rise of cities, which by necessity steal resources from distant regions and eventually denude the entire landscape of these resources. After making the case that the corporate elite are voraciously consuming an ever increasing amount of energy, land, water and other resources, Jensen reminds us that we live on a finite planet. He then argues that corporations will most likely continue this greedy consumption until everything is used up – or until we stop them.

Volume 2, which is less structured and more informal, encapsulates many of Jensen’s experiences with the environmental movement and dogmatic “nonviolent” resistance advocates. Given the CIA’s heavy infiltration of both domestic and foreign non-violent resistance campaigns (see How the CIA Promotes Nonviolence), these chapters resonated strongly with my own experiences.

Other than general talk about blowing up dams and cellphone towers, Jensen is deliberately (and in my view wisely) vague about the exact form of violence he’s proposing.

Jensen’s (somewhat abbreviated) premises:

1. Civilization can never be sustainable, especially industrial civilization.
2. Traditional (ie indigenous) communities do not give up or sell their resources unless these communities are destroyed.
3. Industrial civilization would quickly collapse without its reliance on widespread violence.
4. Civilization is based on a clearly defined – violence by those at the top of the hierarchy against those at the bottom is often invisible.
5. The property of those at the top of the hierarchy is more valuable than that of those at the bottom.
6. Civilization isn’t redeemable – it will never voluntarily undergo sane transformation.
7. The longer we wait to bring down civilization, the messier the ultimate crash will be.
8. The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.
9. Some day there will be far fewer human beings on the planet than there are today.
10. The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.
11. From the beginning this culture – civilization – has been a culture of occupation.
12. There are no rich people and no poor people. The rich delusionally believe they own all the land and the police enforce these delusions. The poor buy into these delusions almost as completely as the rich.
13. Those in power rise by force. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can decide how best to resist them.
14. From birth on, we’re acculturated to hate life, the natural world, women and children, to fear our bodies and to hate ourselves.
15. Love doesn’t imply passivism.
16. The material world is primary (to the spiritual world). Real world actions have real world consequences.
17. It’s a mistake (or more likely denial) to base our decisions on whether the actions stemming from them will or won’t frighten fence sitters or the mass of Americans.
18. Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.
19. This culture’s main problem is the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.
20. Within this culture economics – not community well being, not morals, not ethic, not justices, not life itself – drives social decisions.

The 2011 documentary EndCiv: Resist or Die is loosely based on Endgame.

The Failing Empire: No Use Trying to Pretty It Up

Guest Post by Shelby Courtland

Shelby left this great comment on an article I posted yesterday by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese (Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese: The Failing Empie). The original article raises important points but is a little too PC for my tastes. I think the time has come to be confront head on the obscene reality of 21st century America, which Shelby does very eloquently with her comment. You can read her blog at https://shelbycourtland.wordpress.com/

Basically, what this is saying is that, “The U.S. is dog shit!” That’s the truth of the matter and there’s no use attempting to pretty it up.

When the focus of this hole is to continuously roam around the globe starting up shit while neglecting what’s going on on the home front, what is going down, is going to go down. When the focus is continuously on building up a military, and I mean, missiles and drones, to the detriment of our infrastructure, education, health and welfare of our citizens, this is what happens. When the world gets fed up with the fact that the U.S. has taken hypocrisy to the extreme by shouting about how humanitarian it is while bombing countries for no reason, the world will eventually get tired of this and make this hole redundant which is what is happening now.

Millions of people in the United States are living in poverty; their situation is akin to them living in a third world country. Millions have simply given up looking for a job. And yet, the government would have you think that the jobs rate is excellent and that we are actually adding jobs. That is a lie! Adult children have moved back in with their parents because they cannot afford to live on their own. Rents are just too high and who can afford a mortgage and all that entails with owning a home? It is impossible for millions. Home ownership is a nightmare! It is no American dream. Homeless tent cities are in every state. Waiting lists for affordable housing would wrap around this globe times too numerous to count. But we have got fake money to pay for military weapons so that we can ignore what’s going down here and concentrate on dropping the Mother Of All Bombs on Afghanistan and for what? For nothing. It is merely a distraction and a ruse to continue to pay for more bombs while children sit in schools hungry while receiving a substandard education. This hole is done for and now the whole world is aware of this and is acting accordingly. Many of us called it and now, we are finally vindicated because what we said would happen is what is happening now!

And a Trump sideshow, dropping MOABs in Afghanistan and a fake ass ploy about Russia interfering with the elections is just another attempt to deflect from all that is going down because they’ve got nothing! And when you’re playing cards and yours is not the hand to beat, you bluff. Well, the bluff is being called, and the cards are on the table and they stink! So, yes, this ’empire’ is finally in its death throes. “Death to the empire!”

Human Nature: Genetic or Cultural?

social-conquest-of-earth

The Social Conquest of Earth

By Edward O Wilson

Liveright (2013)

Book Review

The Social Conquest of Earth is a book dedicated to an examination of human nature. Through an extensive review of scientific, anthropological, psychological and sociological research, it attempts to determine whether “human nature” is mainly genetically or culturally (ie environmentally) determined. The answer Wilson comes up with is surprising. He concludes that the social traits that make us human are mainly culturally based with only a minor genetic contribution.

In my view, these findings have profound implications regarding our ability to do away with capitalism and the state and govern ourselves.

The book’s primary focus is the “eusocial” nature of human behavior. By definition, a euosocial species is one that forms groups consisting of multiple generations in which members are prone to altruistic acts (eg acts in which they sacrifice themselves for the good of the group). Wilson uses his own extensive research into the genetic evolution of eusocial insects (eg ants, bees, wasps and termites) to inform his conclusions about the limited genetic role in “human nature.” I personally find his arguments quite convincing.

My favorite part of the book is where he demolishes Noam Chomsky’s theory of all language having a universal, genetically based grammar (see Sticking it to Chomsky).

I was also intrigued by the extensive research suggesting that our color perception is culturally rather than genetically based. Anthropological research suggests that human ability to recognize different colors depends on whether your native language has specific words differentiating them. Some indigenous groups have no words for different colors and can only identify them as “black” or “white.”

Research findings are consistent across a broad range of linguistic groups. Wilson cites a study by Berlin and Kay showing that the 2-11 colors identified in various societies are consistent across linguistic groups:

  • Cultures with only 2 color terms identify black and white.
  • Cultures with only 3 color terms identify black, white and red.
  • Cultures with only 4 color terms identify black, white, red and either green or yellow.
  • Cultures with only 5 color terms identify black, white, red, green and yellow.
  • Cultures with only 6 color terms identify black, white, red, green, yellow and blue.
  • Cultures with only 7 color terms identify black, white, red, green, yellow, blue and brown.
  • Cultures with 11 color terms (such as English) identify black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange and gray.

A 1%er Looks at Inequality

This is a presentation Oscar Mayer heir Chuck Collins, author of Born on Third Base, gave on November 9th. At age 26, Collins made the brave decision to give his fortune away. He currently works as a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. In his leisure time, he works to educate 1%ers about inequality and their ethical obligations to society. He has campaigned heavily with Bill Gates senior and other billionaires to retain the estate tax and to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy.

Most of the presentation concerns his efforts to challenge the views of other 1%ers on privilege and the grave threat inequality poses to American democracy and the planet.

The Q&As, in which he talks about Donald Trump’s election upset are the best part of the talk. Collins credits Trump’s victory to the dismissive way Democrats view and talk about the working class (ie “the deplorables”). He highly praises  the late Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus for its exploration of this issue.

The best question is when an audience member asks if true equality is possible under capitalism.

Q&A’s start at 41:00

The End of Capitalism

The End of Capitalism

David Harvey (2016)

In The End of Capitalism, geography and anthropology professor Anthropology David Harvey makes the case that economic crises and inequality are part and parcel of capitalism and can only be ended by dismantling the capitalist economic system.

He begins by examining the cumulative “perception control” by the corporate media that has made it virtually impossible (except perhaps in Iceland) to look at any alternative economic systems despite the deplorable performance of capitalism since the 2007 global economic crash.

Quoting from Volume 2 of Marx’s Capital, he goes to demonstrate that growth and debt are structural components of capitalism – how the amount of debt created always equals the amount of capital growth created. In fact, repaying all government debt (as many conservatives advocate) would end capitalism faster than a workers revolution.

He also quotes Reagan advisor David Stockman and former vice president Dick Cheney to demonstrate how the Reagan and both Bush administrations deliberately ramped up the deficit (on unfunded wars) as a strategy to force future administrations to cut social spending.

For me, the most interesting part of his talk is his discussion of the Chinese economy, specifically how their willingness to employ Keynesian tactics (of government deliberately spending money into the economy) to generate 10% economic growth and save the global economy from total collapse.

In elucidating a viable alternative to capitalism, Harvey quotes from volume 3 of Capital, where Marx defines capitalism as a “class relation between owner and worker such that the owner extracts surplus value (profit) from the worker’s labor.” Thus in his (and Marx’s) view, the only viable alternative is a system of worker self-management of our own productive process (ie worker cooperatives). He believes such a system would coordinate production via a Just in Time networking strategy similar to those used by Wall Street corporations.

The video has an extremely long introduction and Harvey starts speaking at 8.00.