Archive for Orwell

The Myth Of Progress – Pricking The Bubble

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2020 by jtoddring

Again and again, I am reminded of the need for humility, as well as dignity and confidence. I am reminded not only by my own faults and errors, which are numerous enough, but also by many of the people I respect the most. Again, and again, I read an exceptionally brilliant book, am floored by the clarity and lucidity of mind, and then, am momentarily shell-shocked by the seemingly sudden loss of clarity, and the introduction of what to me is a glaring error. Few people are omniscient or infallible. Shared illusions, furthermore, are not only possible, but are the norm. Shared illusions with regards to the mythology of progress, are a perfect example.

(Stephen Toulmin’s, Cosmopolis, a brilliant book on the history of the modern world, made me reflect on these things again today. A once in 400 year book ends with an assumption, a presumption, of the myth of progress? As I say, question everything. If the most brilliant minds are capable of error, and often great errors, what are our politicians and media pundits capable of? Sheer idiocy, outright lies, half-truths, distortions, evasions, blatant self-delusion? Yes, all of that, and more.)

No one demolishes our modern illusions about progress so marvelously, or with such wit, as Thoreau; but I will do my best here, to follow in the footsteps of one of my great heroes; and urge everyone to read Walden, and On Civil Disobedience, again.  We need such uncommon clarity and Earthy, practical wisdom now.

This is a short bit of reflection on a subject I have returned to many times over several decades – not a comprehensive discourse or treatise on the mythology or ideology of progress, by any stretch. But pithy kernels of thought are useful, it seems to me, because they spark further thought and reflection. Consider this one small spark – knowing that that is all it takes to begin a wildfire: one that can burn through our shared illusions, like the sunrise dispels the darkness of the night.

*

The Western world is heavily influenced by certain founding mythologies (mythologies in the proper sense of the term, meaning grand narratives, subtextual philosophies or worldviews), or confluences of mythology, culture and thought: including Judaism, and later Christianity and Islam; those of ancient Greece, both pre-Hellenic and Hellenic; Roman; Medieval, that of the Renaissance, and of the Enlightenment. (We are dealing in major patterns here, though of course there have been, and are, many other currents.)

Core among Western assumptions, are assumptions or mythologies surrounding the nature of time. Four common mythology groups can be identified, as a start, with regards to views of time: linear descent, linear progress, eternal return, and time as an illusion.

Let’s take the last view first. Time as an illusion is the least common view in the West, the view or mythology with the least cultural, psychological or historical influence – though it is most accurate. All is change, as Heraclitus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu have said, and King Solomon as well; yet, as the Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist views all assert, and mystics of the West as well, time remains an illusion, because while the many are always changing and in flux, the many are always, in truth, the One – hence all is in constant change, yet all change is illusory; therefore time is illusory. Compassion within the illusion of time is paradoxically essential to an intelligent life, much less an enlightened state; yet time remains an illusion, because duality is an illusion, and hence, no true change exists, but only changes in appearance or form.

We will pass over the mystics’ view of time, for now. Let’s look at what the non-mystic great majority have believed about the nature of time – since, unfortunately, they have shaped Western history more than any sages have done.

For the great majority of people, both East and West, time is very real. (Transcendent Oneness may be an attractive idea, but few are genuinely interested in even exploring it. Maya is everything.) And here we are left with three major remaining mythologies, philosophies, or views, with regards to the nature of time:

1. Time is linear, and everything is in a state of decline from an original golden age, or the paradise of Eden. This is the view of ancient Greece, China and India, and with important variations, it is also the core Judaeo-Christian view. Everything was wonderful, then there was a fall from grace, and we are on our way down to the bottom. And if we look deeply at this view, in all cases above, the bottom is not final, but only a nadir, from which rebirth is certain to occur. There is much to be said of, and for, this view, but that is not the topic of this essay.

3. The third view is one of circularity in time: the eternal return. Time may look linear to us, but it is circular in reality. There is much to be said for this view as well, but it too, is not the topic at hand.

2. The second view is linear time marked by an inevitable upward trend. This is the mythology of progress. This is – or became in the modern world – the true religion of the West.

When the Enlightenment thinkers revisited the ancient Western mythology of time, they turned it on its head – similarly to Marx turning Hegel on his head, and with similar general confusion.

The modern view became the mirror image of the traditional Judaeo-Christian view. Now, time is viewed as linear – that much is retained of the mythology; but the path is not inevitable descent, but inevitable ascent.

Modernity became as religiously devoted to the ideology and mythology of progress, as Judaeo-Christianity was wedded to the idea of the fall, decline, decay, the end of time, and cosmic rebirth.

The modern view was simply a secularization of the mythology of redemption. But redemption was to be by our own power and cleverness. (As Nietzsche said, “The ego –  our last article of faith.”) Progress is our redemption; and progress is assured – inevitable.

Thankfully, I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase, “You can’t stop progress”, in quite some time. The mythology has cracked, and is crumbling. “Progress” is not so assured to us now.

And what of the notion of progress? (The author John Michael Greer makes the case well: it is a dying and outmoded notion, that was largely illusory to begin with.) The ideology or mythology of progress takes it as an unquestionable truism that everything that comes later in time, must, by definition, be better than which came before. But is that really true?

Clothes produced in Chinese sweatshops tend to be low quality and wear out quickly – but moving all manufacturing to China and other low-wage areas of the world is a new phenomenon: so all products made in China must therefore be better in terms of quality, since this is a new “development” or phenomenon. Clearly this is not the case.

If the mythology of progress was true, then in the 1930’s, when fascism was rising in Germany and Italy, since fascism was new, it must therefore be an improvement, and must have been better than the free and open democracies which it replaced.

Clearly, only the criminally insane and the pathological would agree that Nazism and fascism were improvements over democracy, or free and open societies, simply because they came after democracy, and (for a time) crushed democracy. Clearly, what comes later in time is not necessarily better than what came before.

*

I do have faith, or confidence, if you prefer, in the long-term upward trajectory of humanity. I firmly believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But I have no illusions that we cannot have set-backs, or that temporary regression is not possible. Clearly it is. Look at the Nazis and other fascists in the 1930’s and ’40’s. Clearly, we can regress, just as easily as we can progress. You can climb up a mountain, stumble, and fall back down again. Stumbling and falling are not impossible. Descent is as real as ascent.

China is now ruled by a totalitarian bureaucracy that has wedded itself to neoliberalism, every bit as much as Western corporate neoliberalism has wedded itself to it. It is a match made in hell, and the two deserve each other – while humanity deserves neither.

China represents neofeudal technocratic corporatism (or Red fascism, as I call it); the West is ruled by a technocratic corporate neofeudalism. One is the mirror image of the other. Neither can be tolerated by those who value freedom or democracy, civil rights, or a world where people are something other than slaves, consumer drones, and mindless cogs in a great machine.

But this new form of society for China, this new Confuscianist-Orwellian neofeudal corporatism, came after Taoism and Zen. Does that make it superior to Taoism and Zen, because it came later in time? The newer is better, right? Everything that is new is best. That is the mythology of inevitable progress.

To my mind, one would have to be out of one’s mind, to say that an Orwellian-Confucian neo-feudal bureaucratic corporate police state is superior to either ancient Taoism or Zen. I think there is absolutely no question about this. What came latter, happens to be a profound regression – not progress at all. That can and does happen in history. We can make miss-steps.

Neoliberalism is a recent ideological construct, not yet quite 50 years old – because it is new does that mean it is better? Must the drive toward a global corporate oligarchy be accepted as inevitable, or worse, as inevitable progress? I think we would be quite delusional and deranged to assume such a thing, when all the evidence is that neoliberalism, and the corporatism – aka fascism – which it represents, is extraordinarily destructive to people and the planet both.

Viewed in this light, we have had 50 years of regress.

Culturally, it is clear we have progressed greatly in the past 50 years. But in terms of reigning political-economic systems, structures and ideologies, we have simply fallen into a ditch – because we followed blind men.

We’ve had fifty years of neoliberalism – which is the ideology which rationalizes the corporate take-over of the world – and fifty years of post-modernism – which effectively lobotomized intellectuals for five decades, spinning polysyllabic webs of confusion justifying a hidden nihilism, which in turn provided the perfect cover for a corporatist (that is, fascist) take-over.

Maybe now we can regain our senses, and reject both neoliberal corporatism, which is fascism with a pretty face, and also post-modernist nihilism, which vacates all intellect and common sense, neuters the people, and paves the way for the justification of, and collusion with, almost anything – including the worst of evils, and the worst regression.

Are post-modernism and global neoliberal corporatism improvements over the values of the Renaissance, of dignity and confidence, with a counterbalancing of  tolerance and humility? Are they improvements over Spinoza, or over Plotinus, Socrates or Aristotle? Are they improvements over Jesus, Mohammed, Daniel or Moses? Are they improvements over the Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, and solidarity, the values of the American and French Revolutions, the values of democracy and common sense? I would say that any reasonable or honest accounting would show both post-modernism and neoliberal corporatism to be deeply regressive, barbaric, profoundly myopic, and frankly delusional. We had best retrace our steps, and think again.

There are many treasures to be saved, and preserved, and cherished, from our 5,000 year journey. Neoliberalism and post-modernism are not among them. These belong on the dung heap,

*

We can take the best from the past and the present, and decide to reject certain new trends, ideologies or technologies as destructive to life on Earth: nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons; along with fascism, neofeudalism, and neoliberal corporate oligarchy – all of which are various ways of describing the same single system; are among the things which we should reasonably and unequivocally, and firmly reject.

In short, we have choices. There are dangers, and there are opportunities. We must make the best of the latter, while navigating around, overcoming, or defeating the former. This should be a matter of common sense.

Chomsky sums it up well, as he so often does:

(I am paraphrasing from memory here)

“The world is filled with ominous portent, and signs of great hope. Which result ensues, is largely up to what we do with the opportunities at hand.”

Exactly.

Let’s not be complacent. There is work to be done. We have a better future, and a better world to build – a task we are entirely capable of fulfilling. But complacency and denial are luxuries that we most certainly cannot afford.

JTR,
April 6, 2020

 

Further reading:

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies,
Year 501: The Conquest Continues,
Class Warfare,
and
Requiem For The American Dream: The Principles Of Concentration Of Wealth & Power
George Orwell, 1984
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, and Brave New World Revisited
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Jack London, Iron Heel
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule The World
Susan George, Shadow Sovereigns
John Pilger, The New Rulers Of The World
John Perkins, A Game As Old As Empire, and
The New Confessions Of An Economic Hitman
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite
Peter Phillips, Giants: The Global Power Elite
Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom
Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom
Bertrand Russell, Roads To Freedom
Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

And perhaps most urgently:

Ronald Wright, A Short History Of Progress

For philosophical, cultural, anthropological and historical perspective, there is no better guide or place to start than here – an immenseley erudite and deeply perceptive book which reveals precisely, by contrast, and exactly where we stand in the early 21st century: still lost in a continuing dark age that daily threatens to get ever darker – until we reflect, and change our course:

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Time to wake up. Fascism is rising, and the planet and the people are in peril.

 

Viral Fads? Collective Escapism Through Displaced Fear?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2020 by jtoddring

 

I could be wrong, but every indicator to me so far is that the latest virus scare is vastly over-hyped, as they almost always are. Still it’s at 2,800 death toll globally, and that is in comparison to 650,000 deaths a year from the flu (actually non-influenza flu-like infections, which the flu vaccine is useless against).

So “the flu” kills 300 times as many every year as the new exotic virus has to date. That makes it sound like fear-mongering and distraction tactics on the part of the corporate-state media and governments is the pattern, not serious threat assessment, which our society has become devoid of.  

See my blog essays: Danger and Delusion: ISIS to Ebola, and Reality Check. 

Again, I may be wrong, but it seems unlikely. More importantly, people forget that it’s Germ-Host Theory, not Germ Theory. The strength of the host, which means our immune strength, is 99% of the equation, 99% of the time – not the real or imagined virulence of the germ.

Vitamins C, D, B-12, garlic, ginger, omega-3s, vegetables, fruits, sunshine, fresh air, exercise, a positive frame of mind and stress reduction, will protect us best from germs. Not panic, fear, masks, dubious vaccinations, mass quarantines, draconian measures or hand sanitizers, imo.

Remember, poverty and hunger kill *20,000 A DAY* – a death toll thousands of times higher than any new or old infection – and obesity and poor diets kill even more.

What is a vastly bigger danger than any infectious germ is the rising tide of fascism across the West, which virtually everyone seems oblivious to. Not to mention the economic and ecological catastrophes which fast approach, and the rising risk of nuclear war. 

The biggest danger, by far, is the psychopathic elite who are razing and looting the planet, and driving us toward neofeudal global fascism, and either ecological collapse and slow-motion extinction, or nuclear war.

IF this virus is “the big one”, and wipes out 30-50% of the population, as the Plague did in Europe, over 500 years ago, fear and panic won’t help. The immune boosting regimen outlined above, will. But odds are extremely against this being the once in 500 year “big one”, and worrying about it will only weaken your immune response in any case.  

Rule one: turn off the corporate-state news.

Rule two: question everything – and don’t believe the hype.

Stay calm, and carry on, I say. And let’s collectively address the big problems, not avoid them.

JTR,

February 27, 2020

Empiricism and Dogmatism

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by jtoddring

Or,

Evidence-based opinion versus ideological fundamentalism

There is a major difference between evidence-based opinion and opinion-based evidence. The former is empirical, and sane, the latter, dogmatic, and either insane or dishonest.

There are always a few people, many in fact, who adopt an ideology first, then mold the facts to fit their ideology. This is called fanaticism when it is a sincere and honest mistake of simply irrationality, and Orwellian or Machiavellian cynical deceit when it is a conscious distortion of the truth.

There will always be zealots, ideologues and liars in the world. The key is to speak the truth as best we understand it, question all dogmas and assumptions, and reveal the actual evidence, so that saner, clearer, and more honest minds may prevail. The challenge is on-going, especially in a culture pervaded by propaganda and distraction, but it is essential work, and cannot be neglected.

JTR,

October 18, 2015

CNN lies, distorts, while its own polls tell the truth: Bernie won the debate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by jtoddring

CNN’s own polls show Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential debate last night, Tuesday, October 13, 2015, hands down. When CNN polled, and asked “Who won the debate?” 83% of people said Bernie Sanders. 83%. Yet, CNN headlines are splashing the big, bold message, Hillary wins debate by landslide. Can the media be any more Orwellian – and blatant about it? Better said, and more to the point, can they be any more disgusting?

Not only is CNN completely distorting, misrepresenting, and flatly lying about the public response to the debate, proclaiming, utterly deceitfully, that Hillary won – when their own polls show the opposite is undeniably true; but they are shamelessly and blatantly slathering support on Hillary, in an open demonstration of extreme bias. The corporate spin in favor of the (Democratic) candidate for corporate America could not be more stark, or more brazenly obvious.

This is why, by the way, CNN has been hemorrhaging viewers, along with the rest of the corporate media – because more and more people see through the propaganda, spin and distortion, and are sick of it.

By the way, C-SPAN also reports that its own polls indicate Bernie won the debate by a landslide.

So it is clear: Bernie has a tremendous and rapidly growing support from the people – far more so than Hillary, who is widely viewed with suspicion, and deep skepticism, and as a Wall Street hack – which, of course, she is; but the corporate media, surprise surprise, don’t support the populist candidate who has declared a war on Wall Street, and the billionaire class who have taken over the political process (as well as 90% of the US media). The network media supports the candidate most favored by big business and corporate America, the candidate who is awash in corporate political “donations”, Hillary Clinton.

None of this should be surprising, but the popular support which is confirmed, and unequivocally confirmed by the public response to last nights debate, for Bernie Sanders, is heartening, and hopeful; while the pathetic display of manipulation, spin, and sheer corruption of the media, is dismal indeed, and in fact, deeply sickening.

The Republican candidates are fringe candidates, frankly, and it is hard to deny – they are lunatics from the extreme right wing of (corporate-driven) American politics. And they have only a slim support among the people. On the Democratic side, three of the candidates have now destroyed their chances of winning after last night’s debate, leaving only Hillary and Bernie, effectively, in the running.

83% of Americans feel strongly about the need to get big money out of politics. It is the single hottest issue in the country. And that includes an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats who feel this way. Bernie’s central message, and his central campaign platform, is to reign in Wall Street, break up the “too big to fail” banks, which the great majority of the American peole also support, and get big money out of politics. So Bernie is resonating with the American people in a deep and broad, powerful way – and with people from across the political spectrum, including liberals, conservatives and progressives. Meanwhile, Hillary is widely viewed as just another politician: a poser, a mouth piece, a shill, a PR machine with a hair-do – not all that dissimilar to Donald Trump (another hawkish war-monger and cheerleader for the agenda of corporate America the billionaire class), but more polished, and with a better hair stylist and PR handlers.

“We have seen a rapid movement in this country toward oligarchy, toward a government owned and controlled by a handful of extremely wealthy families. We need public funding of elections [as Norway has, for example], which will enable any candidate to run for office without being beholden to powerful special interests.” – Bernie Sanders

Hillary has picked up a good deal of Bernie’s talking points, and is now trying to paint herself as a progressive, but the polls show that people remain sceptical about her – and rightly so. Hillary is awash in corporate money. Any talk she makes about getting big money out of politics would be supremely hypocritical and hollow, and everyone knows it. As the Christian Science Monitor said, prior to the debate, all the candidates have something to prove. Hillary had to prove she has integrity and honesty, Bernie, that he is electable. Well, the polls showed clearly, after the debate, that Bernie is definitely electable, with 83% of CNN poll respondants saying Bernie won the debate. Hillary, on the other hand, blurted out in the midst of the debate, “I represented Wall Street”. Her credibility and integrity in the eyes of the people remain shaky at best, and more likely dwindling.

As I say, Bernie’s message of getting big money out of politics is resonating with the people across the nation, while Hillary’s trustworthiness is seen as questionable at best. This is why Bernie’s support has soared, from him being virtually unknown across the US just six months ago, to leading Hillary in key primary state polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, to clearly winning the Democratic debate by a landslide, according to CNN and C-SPAN polls, while Hillary loses ground the more she opens her mouth, and the more the people get to know who Bernie Sanders is.

The tide is turning. I would say, in fact, that it has already turned. The first true populist President of the United States in a very long time, the first true President for the people, and not for Wall Street and the super-rich, in a very long time, is about to arrive. His name is Bernie Sanders.

Go Bernie. The groundswell of popular support will not be stopped, no matter how hard the corporate media tries to kill it.

J. Todd Ring,
October 14, 2015

Update, October 22, 2015: CNN has now deleted its own poll from its website

Who actually won last night’s debate? It’s difficult to tell because for every poll you see showing Bernie had a massive win, you have a headline on a newspapers saying Hillary won.

Did Media Declaring Hillary Won Debate Influence Polls?

What Bernie Sanders ‘Won’ in the Debate:

The news media consensus is that Clinton came out on top. Here’s why she didn’t.

ISIS and Terrorism – A Reality Check

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by jtoddring

“The responsibility of intellectuals is to speak the truth and expose lies.”

– Noam Chomsky

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

According to a February 2015 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans consider the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL — and the international terrorism they support to be the greatest threat to the United States’ vital interests.

This is really quite amazing, when you think about it. Not global warming, not record droughts and crop failure, not de-industrialization, massive and rising unemployment and poverty, soaring inequality and the demolition and razing of the middle class, not catastrophic ecological destruction, not the poisoning of our food, air, water, soil, our bodies and children, not disastrous “trade” deals (read, corporate rights deals), not a ravenous and criminal Wall Street cabal that rules the nation and is pillaging and plundering the middle class and the poor – no, it’s a few armed thugs half a world away, with no tanks, no battle ships, no air force, no ICBMs, and the military power of one ten thousandth, at best, of that of the US, which is the greatest threat to “America’s vital interests.”

Holy delusional.

Former National Security Adviser, and chief intellectual and geopolitical strategist in residence to the Western elite, Zbigniew Brzezinski, recently scoffed at such delusions, and said, “What are they going to do, swim here?” But the hysteria has been manufactured, and fear is a powerful weapon, as the BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, clearly showed, and Orwell and other observers have also recognized and noted.

The “war on terror” is a campaign that is being used to justify wars over oil, and geopolitical power and empire abroad, and a full frontal assault on democracy, freedom and civil liberties at home, in order silence the people, and to protect and consolidate the powers and the interests of the currently ruling corporate elite. It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

It’s time we got real. We are being lied to.

The US wants to impose a regime change in Syria – and that is flatly in defiance of international law, and is defined as a war crime under international law. As Chomsky said, if the Nuremberg trials were held today, every US president since WWII would be hanged for war crimes – and the war crimes continue to this day. And they are war crimes, regardless of how they may be justified.

Because the US is trying to topple the Assad government in Syria, the CIA has been arming, funding and training terrorist groups in that country – just as it did in Libya, Afghanistan and other countries. So we’re fighting terrorism by arming terrorists. That makes sense.

And why does the US want to topple the Assad government? Is it because Assad heads a brutal regime? No – the US was friends and allies with Saddam Husein when it suited their interests, even though Saddam headed an even more brutal regime.

Saddam was targeted for regime change only when he stopped obeying orders from Washington. The same has happened many times, and always for the same reasons: brutal regimes are fine – so long as they cooperate with the masters in Washington; and when they don’t, they are either brought under control, or taken out: either through bribery, economic and financial extortion, or by covert, or overt use of violent force.

And why does the US want to take out the Assad regime, if it’s not for human rights reasons? For oil, most likely – as with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan…. There is a proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that “could radically alter Europe’s energy supplies, diminishing Russia’s fossil fueled prowess in Europe” – and Assad opposes it. So he has to go.

“These strategic concerns [of the US, to control oil and gas in the Middle East], motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.”

– The Guardian, August 30, 2015, Syrian intervention plans fuelled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns, by Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It

Now, not only is Syria spiraling further into crisis and chaos, with the US intervention only making matters worse, but it has also generated a refugee crisis in Europe, with refugees pouring out of Syria, and 4.5 million people displaced – a refugee crisis that the US and its allies actively helped to create. All for the sake of oil and gas profits for the US and its allies – and the corporate interests which they serve.

Russia on the other hand, wants to protect the Assad government, because Assad is a Russian ally, and because Assad opposes the pipeline deal which would radically reduce Russia’s fossil fuel super-power status in Europe – which is most likely the real reason Russia just started bombing in Syria, and not because it wants to fight terrorism.

With the US and its allies fighting and bombing in Syria, and Russia now entering the conflict, and bombing in Syria, and for the other team, the US trying to oust Assad, and Russia trying to prop him up, we are now literally faced with the very real threat of an outbreak of WWIII. And all this, for the control of oil and gas money. This is clearly insane.

So the motives are all twisted, when we’re talking about the major players, in both the West and in Russia, and it is the people who are suffering, while the military actions, the bombings and the regime changes simply serve to foster ever greater hatred and ever more terrorism – exactly as the US intelligence services warned they would do.

“Let’s see…. The resort to violence, to war, bombing, and forced regime changes – read, coups – didn’t work, and has instead sown chaos, hatred, further hostilities, greater instability, and more terrorism. So let’s redouble our efforts, and try the same methods again.

As Einstein said, “Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome is the very definition of insanity.”

But fighting terrorism and creating peace were never the objectives. It’s about controlling the flow of oil and gas, and the astronomical profits, and power, that derive from it.

The Guardian is quite unreliable in terms of the consistency of its quality of reporting and commentary – sometimes it does a great job, and sometimes a poor one, or even a terrible one – but they got it right here, with regards to Syria and war in the Middle East:

“The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

– The Guardian, August 30, 2015, Syrian intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns

If we are serious about reducing hate, violence, war, conflict and human suffering, then we should, among other things, be racing to get the world off its deadly addiction to fossil fuels, and end the wars over oil, pipelines, and the politics of fossil fuel addiction, and switching as rapidly as possible to clean, renewable energy.

How about diverting half or three-quarters of the obscenely bloated US military budget to massive investments in solar, wind and other renewable energy industries and technologies, and kick-starting the economy and providing millions of jobs in the process?

Nope. Can’t do. The oil and arms corporations require that we continue with business as usual, so that is simply not possible. The wars, therefore, must continue – and the people and the earth be damned.

How about this for a proposal? End the wars in the Middle East, and use the money saved to buy a fully electric Tesla Model S for every home in the United States over the next 20 years. That would cost approximately $5 trillion. By comparison, the wars in the Middle East have cost an estimated $6 trillion – so far. So this is completely feasible.

There are probably better, more effective ways to invest in clean, renewable energy, and to break our addiction to oil and fossil fuels, but this was meant simply to make a point. How about ending the wars and spending the war budget to install solar, wind and geothermal heating, cooling and power systems for every home in America, making them fully off-grid and energy self-reliant, as well as being powered by clean energy? This would cost about the same amount, roughly $5 trillion, and could be done over the next 20 years, if the wars are ended now. That would also cause the economy to soar, and millions of jobs to be created. And this is not even mentioning the lives that would be saved and the suffering averted by ending the bombing and the wars.

By ending the wars, we would do more to halt terrorism – by not participating in it, and not fueling it – than by anything that has been done so far. Certainly the “bomb-em-to-bits” strategy has been a complete disaster, and has only increased terrorism, exactly as US intelligence services said it would do. And the money saved could be used to rebuild the US economy, create full employment, shift the nation to renewable energy, break the dependency on oil and other fossil fuels, and halt our race toward ecological cataclysm and collective suicide.

But we can’t do that, because the oil and arms corporations are making a killing, both literally and figuratively, off our addiction to fossil fuels and war.

*

Here are some startling figures to contemplate. Official terrorism – which means, terrorism carried out by official enemies, and not by Washington and its allies in Canada, the UK and France – accounts for roughly 20,000 deaths a year. Meanwhile, over 20,000 children die every day from hunger. Poverty is the far greater killer, but where is our war on poverty? There is lip service, rhetoric, but no serious action, as poverty continues to rise globally, and also in the United States, the richest country in the history of the world.

But even more people now die from over-eating and obesity than from hunger – with millions dying every year from heart disease and stroke alone, primarily due to poor eating habits. But are we launching a war on MacDonalds and fast food? No, we’re fighting ISIS – supposedly – even though the fast food industry kills far more people every year than ISIS could ever dare to dream.

We should be launching major public health campaigns, and anti-poverty campaigns, and stopping the Wall Street war on the middle class and the poor, because the death toll from that, and the toll in terms of human suffering, is vastly greater than that caused by official terrorism, which is positively dwarfed by comparison.

The real terrorists are in Wall Street and Washington, where the financial and conventional bombings are coordinated, and the global looting is orchestrated and carried out. You want to fight terrorism? Start at home, and start with Wall Street.

Please see my recent essay, also on my blog, entitled, Danger and Delusion, from ISIS To Ebola, for a deeper look and some critical perspective on the real dangers that face the United States and the world today. It’s time for a reality check.

We need to remember that the media are overwhelmingly controlled either by corporations or the government. In the US, six corporations control 90% of the media. We should not expect anything other than propaganda, considering these facts.

Fortunately, according to another recent Gallop poll, roughly 40% of the people have virtually no faith left in the media – and the corporate and government controlled media continue to lose credibility, and their audience, at a rapid and accelerating pace.

So while the majority of the people, a slim majority, continue to believe the lies and the propaganda, the tide is changing, and the people are waking up. This is happening none too soon. All we can say is, we had better accelerate the awakening, because the world is in serious peril – and peril, above all, due to the lies and illusions which are being propagated daily, and which need to be cut through, and demolished.

J. Todd Ring,
October 3, 2015

And this just in:

U.S. Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital, Killing At Least 19.
Doctors Without Borders’ statement suggests more than just collateral damage. The Afghan trauma center “was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.” The hospital reportedly had 105 patients and caretakers, and more than 80 staffers from all over the world.
According to the aid group, U.S. forces continued bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling them the hospital was being bombed. “All parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the M.S.F. facilities – hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.
October 3, 2015
http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/10/03/3708837/doctors-without-borders-bombed/
Who is fighting terrorism? And who are the terrorists? Are we really so certain?

As Chomsky has repeatedly said, the leading terrorist centre in the world is Washington, DC – and global polls show that the great majority of the people around the world agree.

The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria

Noam Chomsky: US, Not Iran, [Nor ISIS] Poses Greatest Threat To World Peace

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/22/noam_chomsky_the_united_states_not

On Civil Obedience

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by jtoddring

“Laws control the lesser man…

Right conduct controls the greater one.”

– Mark Twain

Never be obedient. Obedience is for dogs. No offence to dogs – I love dogs, and dogs are very admirable, as well as lovable, and there is much that we can learn from dogs. But we are not dogs, and we should not behave like dogs – or cattle, or sheep. Be cooperative, yes – at least, when it is intelligent to do so, and when it does not compromise our integrity or our principles – but never be obedient.

Be respectful, be compassionate, be cooperative when and where it is ethical and intelligent to do so, but never be obedient. The world is filled with obedient men and women, and it is because of this, that the world is also filled with horrors and terrible acts, committed by a few individuals who are mad with greed, hate, ego mania or power-lust. It is precisely the apathy, and the obedience of the many, that allows the sociopathic few to get away with murder – and often literally so.

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~Albert Einstein

Stop being obedient. Never be obedient. First, be a man, be a woman, be human – then decide for yourself how to act.

Obedience is deadly. Sever all habits of it, and now. To paraphrase Thoreau, our first loyalty should be to our own conscience. All else follows from that, and not before.

*

To be clear, I am talking here about adults being overly obedient to whatever powers happen to be dominant or ruling in a given society at a given time, not children, who do not yet have enough awareness to make every decision for themselves. If children were allowed to decide their own meals, for example, they’d be eating chocolate bars and pizza-pops all day long; so clearly, children need guidance. But adults being overly obedient to authority is a problem. I would say that it is due to such an undue obedience to authority that it took so long, for example, to abolish slavery, or child labour, or to bring in the universal right to vote, or end racial segregation or apartheid. And I would say it is because of an excess of obedience and conformity that the severe social and ecological problems which we still face today, are not being resolved at anywhere near the speed they need to be. This is a very serious problem. This obedience may cost us our survival as a species.

It is worthwhile here to quote Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience, for there has never been a more lucid essay or literature of any kind on the subject of obedience to authority versus obedience to one’s own conscience.

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have…..But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

– Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

I think we would do better if we were more obedient to our own conscience, and less obedient to social authorities. In that, I side with Thoreau, and his great essay, On Civil Disobedience – which inspired Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, the movement to end the war in Vietnam, the environmental movement, and other, very positive social movements, right up to today.

Einstein said it best: “The world is a dangerous place, not because a few people do terrible things, but because millions of people let them.” The great sociologists C. Wright Mills and Erich Fromm would agree, as would Aldous Huxley, Chomsky and Orwell. Many people are rebellious in foolish ways, in ways that lead nowhere, but are passive and timid and deferential, and excessively obedient, when and where it counts. That, I think, is a real problem.

There is a time for casting the money changers from the temple. And sometimes, that means challenging, and even defying, authority. And we have good precedents and examples to follow in that.

J. Todd Ring,

September 18, 2015

For further reading, see:

The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, by Etienne de la Bottie

On Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

And my recent book, Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium, on Amazon now.

The New Blackberry 10 – Time to ditch Apple and Google both

Posted in tools and technology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by jtoddring

The Blackberry 10 has just been unveiled, and the question returns: Blackberry, iPhone or Google-based Android smart phone? Here are some thoughts, techno-weenie talk aside. We’re talking pure functionality and ethics here, not who has the best gizmo-gadgetry whiz-bang for the buck.

Google is a partner in evil, willingly collaborating with the super-creepy NSA’s deeply Orwellian global surveillance state, so Android phones are out for me because of that link. Google is also a parnter in creepiness and crime in its willing support of Chinese censorship.

Apple has apparently evil production and labour practices, so Apple is not a company I want to support at all. And as good as their technology is, ethics still matter. Blackberry is equally as good for phones in any case – if you don’t need the children’s toys of an iPhone – and Linux is superior to Macs as well.

Besides, I just want a phone – I don’t want my phone to bake bread, polish my shoes, walk my dog, or have a million largely useless apps that I’ll never use. And I’m not interested in wasting time playing games on my phone either. I just want a phone for calls, texts, email and web browsing, and maybe a note pad, alarm and calendar. The rest of the bells and whistles are of no interest to me. I’m not twelve years old, and they don’t impress me in the slightest. I want a straight-up, no-nonsense business-minded phone, not a toy.

And I’d rather support a Canadian company in any event, and definitely not support one of the global corporate giants, such as Apple or Google.

Blackberry wins for all these reasons, in my mind. Google and Apple can go stuff themselves.

“Do no evil?” That was Google’s mantra and motto, but that went out the door when it partnered with the NSA and the Chinese commissars. (Maybe Google should look up “Tiananmen Square.”) Apple is not much better. I’d rather boycott them both, along with notoriously sleezy Microsoft, and go with Blackberry and Linux instead.

The Blackberry I’m already on, and have used it for a few years now. I’ve had zero problems with it, and love it. I hate touch pads as well, by the way, now that I think of it, and I love that I can use a keypad or touch pad with a Blackberry.

Linux I’m planning on switching to, as Apple has serious ethics problems across the board, and Microsoft is, well, garbage.

But Blackberry? Definitely. Hands down.

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