Archive for sociology

The Most Dangerous Epidemic Of All

Posted in activism, alternative, analysis, consciousness, corporate fascism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

Just over 100 deaths in the US from the coronavirus, and what is the government response? Fascist lockdown. The pattern is the same across the Western world, mirroring the police state which is China. Fascist lockdown. People are hysterical over a virus that kills fewer than bathtub drownings, motor vehicle accidents, air pollution, or MacDonalds – or the common flu. But they’re utterly complacent and obliging when their rights are stripped away, people are placed under mass house arrests, travel restrictions are invoked, and with restrictions on freedom of assembly, divide and conquer is the clear modus operandi, with the urgings to “social distancing”, while entire cities and nations are sealed off, closed down, and “quarantined”.

And no one is worried about the clear moves towards fascism – which, for anyone who has been paying attention, has been the undeniable trend since 9/11, 2001, when the “war on terrorism”, which everywhere has been a war on democracy, was officially launched, and the Western police state construction began.

Erich Fromm (echoing Aldous Huxley and others) was also right: people will take flight from reality if their reality becomes too unpleasant to them, or too painful – due for example to harsh economic conditions – among other, deeper reasons – and they will seek to escape, not only from reality, but also from freedom. Fascism is the result. (See Fromm’s classic of social psychology, Escape From Freedom, published in 1941, in the midst of WWII and the fight to defeat the Nazis and the first wave of fascism.)

Robert Bly was right. By the late 20th century, people in the modern Western world had not only been “dumbed down” by the mass media, advertising, the corporatization of the culture and society, paternalistic and increasingly authoritarian governments, entertainment addiction, mass distraction, materialism and consumerism, and the harmful effects of these on people’s psyches and intellects; but further, the majority had regressed to the state of adult children. And this is clearly, and sadly, the case.

Bly became wildly popular overnight with his book, Iron John. But when his later book, The Sibling Society, portrayed our society as a society of adolescents, suddenly he was dropped from all discourse, and disappeared, almost instantly, from popular culture, and from memory and mind.

People – a lot of people at least – don’t like the truth. The truth is often uncomfortable. Being comfortable is preferable.

Escapism, fantasy and denial are preferable to the truth. Comforting illusions are preferable to the truth. Almost anything is preferable to having to face the truth of our present reality. Apparently even fascism is preferable to having to face the truth, and having to deal with reality.

*

25 years ago I was at an international development conference in Holland. The topic for discussion at the conference was encapsulated in the conference title, which had a catchy, thought-provoking word-play in Dutch (which I am probably misspelling, going solely from memory, and my few words of Dutch): Minder Mensen Of Minder Wensen? Which translates as, fewer people, or fewer wants?

(See Views From the South, for an excellent overview of the central issues.)

The central question of the conference was and is the central question of international development issues, and global issues generally. It asks the question raised by Malthus, and reasserted by the Neo-Malthusians (such as Bill Gates and the Rockefellers, along with other powerful elites, and the Western elite in general). The question is this: Is the central problem in the world over-population, or over-consumption?

The international development community, with people and organizations from around the world, with quite literally hundreds if not thousands of years of combined experience and research behind them collectively, concluded in general agreement and consensus, that the answer was unquestionably the latter: over-consumption is the primary problem, as the figures show perfectly well, and conclusively, beyond all doubt.

By that time already, roughly 20% of the world’s population (mainly, but not exclusively, in North America, Europe and Japan) – the affluent 20% – had come to consume 80% of the world’s resources, and produce 60% of its pollution and waste. The over-consumption of the affluent, and the inequality and disparity of wealth globally, have only grown exponentially since then.

Over-consumption is the overwhelmingly central cause of our problems on Earth, with fossil fuel dependency and war coming a close second and third. Over-population will become a problem soon if left unchecked, but we will discuss the clear, and humane, answers to that, below. But in any case, we cannot be distracted from the conclusions which the facts demand: the richest few are consuming the planet. Period.

The findings of decades of efforts at international development and poverty relief have certain conclusive results. Among them, are this key finding, which everyone in the international development community knows to be a proven fact: Population growth quickly stops, and even reverses, when two criteria are met: a) poverty is eliminated; and b) women are educated and empowered. In the southern India state of Kerala, the twin objectives were met with decisive efforts, and population growth was halted in just a few years.

We now know without doubt, and have known for some decades now, that population growth can be stopped, and stopped quickly, and without harsh, inhuman, or draconian methods. The problem is, it requires a systems change: a sharing of wealth and power – and the elite do not want that.

So yes, population growth, if left unchecked, would certainly become a crippling global ecological problem. However, population growth can be halted very quickly, and reversed, by eliminating poverty and empowering women. The Western elite know these facts as well as the international development community. They simply don’t want to take this course of action.

That would mean sharing the wealth, and worse, the power. They don’t want that. They seem intent on fulfilling what Adam Smith called, “The vile maxim of the masters”, which, as he said, is, “All for us, none for anybody else.”

*

The elite want it all. They are not content to be rich and powerful. There seems to be no end to their greed. The richest three individuals in the US – Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates – now have more wealth than the poorest half of Americans. And they want more.

The richest eight people in the world now have more wealth than the poorest half of humanity. And the trend is accelerating, as inequality continues to soar. As the Canadian philosopher, John McMurtry has said, the super-rich are devouring the middle class, the poor, and the Earth.

We are being eaten alive. And yet, the elite still pose as our saviours, our only hope. Don’t believe the lie. The illusion must be wearing pretty thin by now.

So, sharing wealth and power is out of the question – depopulation is on the table, however, in the eyes of the elite.

And what is furthermore unquestionably on the table, and in play, is fascist lockdown.

As of early 2001, when the global poll of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, came back, the ruling plutocrats, the billionaire club at Davos, knew that they faced a global crisis of legitimacy which was deep, and growing, and would sweep them from power, just as a crisis of legitimacy dissolved and collapsed the Soviet Union like a house of cards – unless they took immediate decisive action.

That was early 2001. Nearly 20 years later, we now have a global surveillance and police state, while freedom and democracy are under full scale attack.

*

Facing the present deep and growing crisis of legitimacy, world “leaders” – or more neutrally put, elites – have three choices:

1. Respond to the people’s wishes, and compromise; and not be quite so greedy for privilege, wealth and power. This is the path of equity, compromise, and democracy. (A deeply unpopular choice among ruling elites, both historically and today.)

2. Get ready to abandon power, and to lose all power. (Elites seldom wish to lose power. Today’s global corporate empire is no different.)

3. Respond with intensified propaganda – and with a resort to force: prepare for lockdown, repression, and fascism.

The Western elite have made a clear choice. It has been made perfectly clear since 2001. And it becomes ever more stark with time – particularly now, in March of 2020, when the test run for full-fledged global corporate fascism is floated, or the final fascist lockdown has begun (at this point, it is uncertain as to which it is, but it is unquestionably one of the two).

The elite certainly do not want to lose power, or be swept from power by the global awakening of humanity that is occurring, along side the growing crisis of legitimacy for the ruling elite. They are in no mood to compromise, and they have repeatedly shown their contempt for democracy and freedom, and their preference for fascism and dictatorship, as US foreign policy spanning more than 100 years, for example, has shown. (See Chomsky and William Blum on the history of US and Western elites’ very strong, clear preference for fascism and dictators since WWII.)

Yielding power is out. Compromise is out. That means democracy is out.

What it means is, the elite are saying to the people, “Let them eat cake.”

Since losing power is out, and sharing power – which means equity, compromise and democracy – is out, that leaves only one choice: the choice of the elite has been made clear: it is fascism, and lockdown.

That is the context to what is happening now – but not even the “alternative media” seem to recognize it, and the people are asleep.

“What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?

Meak and obedient you follow the leaders

Down well-trodden corridors

Into the valley of steel

What a surprise!

A look of terminal shock in your eyes!

Now things are really what they seem –

No, this is no bad dream”

– Pink Floyd, Sheep

*

Late 20th century and early 21st century modern society has become a society of mass addiction, as well as mass distraction, mass propaganda, mass illusion, and mass escape from reality, above all.

The opioid crisis is just the most obvious tip of the iceberg. When you look at the gamut of addictions, it becomes quite startling: drugs, alcohol, smoking, shopping, consumerism, materialism, status seeking, power addiction, video games, pornography, workaholism, social media addiction, internet addiction, entertainment addiction, media and infotainment addiction (“news” junkies – very similar to people who like to watch car accidents and train wrecks), sex addiction, compulsive eating, pharmacuetical addiction (sometimes necessary, or at least helpful, but often of dubious value)…the list goes on and on.

What drives this mass addiction is a mass, pandemic impulse to escape from reality. (It’s worst in the most “advanced” and “leading” industrial nations of North America and Europe, but it is spreading fast.) And the impulse to chronically and systematically escape from reality is an extremely dangerous impulse, if left unchecked – because reality always wins in the end: whether we face it, or not. We either deal with reality, or reality will deal with us.

Materialism has created a society that is filled with stress and hurry, worry and anxiety, alienation, loneliness, insecurity, inequality, tyranny and toil, meaninglessness, inner poverty, escapist addictions, numbness, and quiet despair. The response of the majority has been to increase ever further the fixation on material consumption, entertainment, distraction, and things. It is a viscous cycle, and there is no bottom to it. It leads to hollow minds, hollow hearts, hollow souls, social decay, decline, and collapse – but not before fascism and a new dark age takes hold, if we are foolish enough to allow this course to continue.

Ann Wilson Schaff remarked, in her book, When Society Becomes An Addict that the root of addiction is the will to escape from life, in order to escape life’s pain. It never works. The attempt to escape life, in order to escape life’s pain, results in an escape from love, intimacy, connectedness, aliveness, wholeness, integration, inner peace, joy, personal freedom and empowerment, meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as responsibility, adulthood, and reality. It results in alienation, loneliness, boredom, inner poverty, and a restless insatiable hunger for that mysterious something which is always missing. It results in perpetual distraction, self-delusion and escape from reality being the core compulsion. And that is a psychological, sociological, political, economic, and ecological disaster.

And the stakes keep getting higher, with every year of avoidance of reality. Hard core drinkers, drug addicts, gamblers and other users and addicts, come to know the pattern, and its costs. Its costs, sooner or later, become total self-degradation, self-emiseration, deepening dependency, various forms of slavery, decline, decay, numbness, deepening self-delusion, and finally, death.

Now, the core impulses of the majority, which used to be love, compassion, creative work of various kinds, from parenting to carpentry to art, to some other form of meaningful work, along with solidarity and mutual aid; have instead become comfort, the illusions of security, conformity, obedience, herd instinct, and sticking with the herd at all costs – even, and above all, in terms of shared beliefs, which generally means shared delusions.

Mass addiction to entertainment, and infotainment, mass compulsive distraction, mass avoidance of reality, and mass escape from reality, have become the true epidemics – and the most dangerous epidemics of all.

*

While the elite devour the poor, the middle class, and the Earth, at ever-increasing speeds, the mass of people live in denial of reality, escapism, and avoidance of the problems we face. This, by far, is the greatest of dangers. Nothing comes even close – not SARS, not Ebola, not swine flue, not bird flu, not H1-N1, not COVID-19, all of which are minuscule in death toll compared to the mass deaths from fast food, junk food, obesity, poor diets, poverty, hunger, war, traffic accidents, or even bathtub drownings.

If we care about human health, or human well-being, then we should start by facing reality. And the greatest dangers facing humanity, in the early 21st century, are these:

1. War, and the very real and growing threat of nuclear war

2. Ecological cataclysm, due, among other reasons, to our continued addiction to fossil fuels

3. Economic collapse, due to the games-playing of elites who have wildly destabilized the economy

4. Fascism – which, by the looks of things, is here, now.

What will allow these dangers to persist, and to go unmet, unresolved, or to bear bitter fruit, and horrible human suffering? Only denial and aversion to reality on the part of the people can allow the worst to come to fruition. When we face reality together, we can solve virtually any problem. But not until we face the problems squarely, and deal with them honestly and soberly.

The most dangerous epidemic of all, therefore, is the pandemic of denial.

Safety can never come through a denial and escape from reality, nor from lies, from illusions, or from self-deceit or self-delusion. That much is certain. When we have the courage to face the truth, then a greater well-being, health, safety, and aliveness and quality of life, can become possible. Not before.

While the global awakening of humanity is real, and is accelerating, it is also true that it is a minority of humanity, albeit a rapidly growing minority, which is waking up; while the majority remain stubbornly fixed upon denial and avoidance of reality, and ever more desperate efforts to chronically and permanently escape from reality.

The result of a chronic habit of escape from reality, is, of course, a narcissistic regression to an infantile state. This, tragically, and very dangerously, is the current trajectory of the majority. And nothing compares to the danger of this – not the coronavirus, not even the power games of the elite.

Only the wilful avoidance of reality can truly sink or destroy humanity. But the majority of the people seem intent on making that happen. If this does not change, and very, very soon, then dark times most definitely lie ahead.

The Western elite have repeatedly used crises to their advantage – regardless of whether they were natural or manufactured, exaggerated, fictitious or real – from 9/11, and the “war on terror” which instantly became a war on democracy, and a smokescreen for the global war to control oil and other resources, to the economic crisis of 2007-2010, and the trillions of dollars stolen by the elite from the people in the form of bailouts, “stimulus” packages and QE, as well as before and after these major turning point events. In the process of exploiting crises to their advantage, the elite have been destroying the economy, the middle class, democracy, constitutional rule, civil liberties, human rights, and freedom, as well as the planet, in their wake.

We must resist and refuse their claims as being our heroes and saviours. They are not. The elite have become what Hilary Clinton called, “super-predators”. We are being played. This is point number one to realize. Until the people realize this. We are in a truly dire state, and in far greater danger than any terrorist group, rogue state, hackers, petty thugs, or virus can ever pose.

I’ve always been far more interested in two things above all: helping people and other living beings on Earth, and working for social change; and the pursuit of the truth, as the primary tool in seeking to help others, and in working for positive change; much more than in any concern for what other people may think, or how they may react. As Thoreau said, above all, give me truth. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, however; and mass distraction, and escape from reality, have become the norm.

Human beings are innately intelligent, as well as empathetic, and highly cooperative, as science has confirmed. (See Jeremy Rifkin, The Empathic Civilization, Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, along with Rianne Eisler’s The Chalice And The Blade, and Murray Bookchin’s, The Ecology Of Freedom.) But we are also highly social in darker ways – seeking the comfort of group-affiliation, with conformity and obedience to authority, and the acceptance of commonly held “herd illusions”, as the dark results. Whether the former set of qualities comes to the fore, or the latter predominates, will determine the course of the next few years, and decades, as well as the fate of the Earth; and whether we live in a police state, in a new dark age, determined to destroy ourselves along with the Earth, or in a free and green society – and moreover, whether we continue to live at all.

JTR,
March 19, 2020

Post-Script:

Someone with a brain, a heart, and courage (remember the Wizard of Oz: these are good values!): Canadian philosopher John McMurtry, author of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism – which I have been meaning to read, and must read right away.

Here is a very short list of people worth listening to most thoughtfully, or reading – when almost everyone seems to have lost their minds, their capacity for clear or rational thought, or their ability to cut through the fog of propaganda, mass distraction and illusion, which have enveloped the world:

(a very incomplete list, of course: I am keeping it intentionally very short)

Noam Chomsky

John McMurtry

John Perkins

Naomi Klein

Gerald Celente

Joanna Macy

Vandana Shiva

Turn off “the news”. Get the facts. Read a well-chosen book. Forget the drivel, and the hysteria. Read. And question everything.

Fantasy and Indoctrination: Rough notes on a few fantasy novels: part one

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2020 by jtoddring

New Spring, The Novel:

The Wheel Of Time: In The Beginning – Robert Jordan (so the cover says)

(Lord of the Rings films and Terry Brookes Shannara novels got me hooked on epic, high fantasy – and no, I have no slight embarrassment about that. I think too much. Sometimes, I just want a novel that washes over me, where I can rest my mind and NOT think. Like looking at gardening magazines, or taking a hot bath, or a sauna, fantasy novels relax my mind – but only if they are well-written, and only if the content is not overly disturbing, or disgusting, of course, as it occasionally is; such as in this case.)

If Tolkien is the grand master of fantasy (I have not read him yet, sadly, but know his story-telling of course, and it is brilliant), Terry Brookes is one of his best, shining students. This novel, however, doesn’t remotely come close to the master or his protege, it seems to me. It reads like a book written for 12 year old pre-teen girls in a rich girls boarding school. I am now at page 111, and it seems to me there have been 96 pages of filler – very boring filler, at that. Dull, with a capital D, is the first thing that comes to mind, in describing this book. Extremely dull. Master of banality, maybe – not masterful fantasy, or even mediocre fantasy. D for dismal, as well as dull, I would say.

The character development is slow, plodding, and dull. The dialogue is pre-teen banal drama, and extremely dull. The setting is, at times, a bit more interesting, but rarely. Mainly it is absent, and thus, entirely dull. And the plot is plodding, and more like a barely moving bog, than a quietly meandering stream, much less a river.

Far worse than the dullness of the writing style, however, is the content. This is a book filled with feudalism and authoritarianism – and the ideology and mythology of feudalism and authoritarianism firmly upheld – with obedience to authority, knowing one’s place, pride of place, all-pervasive consciousness of status, class and caste, cheerily accepted arrogance of those in high places, and cheerily accepted condescension, if not disdain, for the common folk below. The ethos consistently conveyed is that hierarchy, inequality, feudalism, authoritarianism and elite rule are natural, inevitable, right and good – and so, an attitude of superiority among the higher classes is presented as natural, normal, right and good; and extra privileges, along with great wealth and great power, is to be expected for the elite, naturally, along with an attitude of superiority, because, of course, they are superior – as everyone rightly knows.

So yes, whether it was intentional or not, this book acts as a good system of indoctrination for rich girls and boys who are being groomed to rule over others – and for the lower ranks and classes to accept such inequality, hierarchy, and unequal power and wealth, as normal to life.

Wonderful! Let’s all return to medieval times, in the worst sense of that period, and return to feudalism! How grand that would be!

(And that is exactly where we are heading.)

And of course, fittingly, the book is also filled with infantile, or at best adolescent, ego games and power games, scheming and manipulation, by characters of all ages and levels of status, especially the “higher” classes, and this is also presented as natural, normal, inevitable, perfectly acceptable, unavoidable, intelligent behaviour, necessary and good. Machiavelli would approve, with a sly, sickening grin, as would Thomas Hobbes. Orwell and Jefferson would roll in their graves.

This book seems to be a “prequel” to the original series that was written by Robert Jordan, and presumably, and apparently, this book was not written by him, as he had died earlier. Hopefully, the original series, written by Robert Jordan, and not a team of writers using his name, is a far better quality of writing, far more engaging, far more interesting, and above all, is not steeped in the ideology and mythology of authoritarianism, feudalism, classism and elite rule.

(After this disaster of a novel, I will try the first book of the original series, and hope it is far better, in terms of both content and style.)

I don’t know whether I can finish the book. I hate not finishing a book, even if I strongly dislike it. But this book is both dismally dull, and thoroughly disgusting in its ideology. A book filled with obvious racist and sexist ideology, or chocked to the gills with graphic, gratuitous violence, would be no worse than this. It is not only dull, it is revolting.

Bring me some Dickens, or Ursula Le Guin! Before I throw up!

JTR,
March 5, 2020

Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think – Scientific American

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2016 by jtoddring

The great divide between our beliefs, our ideals, and reality

Source: Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think – Scientific American

 

I don’t normally post anything on my blog other than my own original articles and essays, but sometimes a rare article or video is just too important to pass up, and needs to be highlighted. This is one of them.

And once you’ve finished that short, pithy piece, here are a few more I would urge everyone to read:

 

 

Davos’ Blind Eye: How the Rich Eat the Poor and the World

https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-davos-blind-eye-how-the-rich-eat-the-poor-and-the-world

 

“The pitchforks are coming . . . for us Plutocrats” – Nick Hanauer, Politico Magazine, 6/26/2014

 

Prospects For America: Sanders vs Civil War,
By J. Todd Ring, February 15, 2016

https://jtoddring.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/prospects-for-america-sanders-vs-civil-war/

 

Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium – Volume One:

Introductory Essays in Political-Economy, Social Analysis and the State of the World

By J. Todd Ring

http://www.amazon.com/Enlightened-Democracy-Millennium-Introductory-Political-Economy/dp/1481074776/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455111715&sr=1-1&keywords=ring+enlightened+democracy

 

Lest We Forget: Reflections On Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, and the Current Corporate Assault on Freedom and Democracy Around the World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by jtoddring

The 21st century was the most violent and murderous period in human history to date. And with our current direction, the 21st century may well surpass it in violence and war. Have we forgotten the lessons of the past, or have we yet to learn them? Worse yet, not only has war not ended, but also, the threats to freedom have not ended, but only changed form, and grown stronger. Yet, the great majority of the people remain asleep, and live inside a bubble of illusion, or a dream.

I honour and respect those who fought to defend freedom against fascists and others who threatened it. But the irony is this. Not only have we continued the horrible tendency toward war, but we have also allowed fascism to arise again.

Although a great many still do not yet realize it, the corporate take-over of the economy, the financial system, the media, the political process and most governments of the world, and democracy itself, is nothing short of a fascist coup. It is the merger of business and the state: and that is corporatism, which as Mussolini himself said, is the proper term for fascism.

We are now faced with the duty to defend freedom once again. If we refuse this duty, this moral obligation, then our cowardliness and denial will result in the death of freedom, and the death of democracy, and a new and terrible era will begin.

The stakes could not be higher, nor the hour more late. What we do now, or what we refuse to do, will be decisive for the future of humanity.

What is needed, is a grassroots popular movement to reclaim democracy and freedom, and our human rights and civil liberties, all of which are being lost, and which are now under attack by a power-hungry business elite, and a political class which loyally serves them.

To be more direct, what we need is a second wave of democratic revolutions to sweep the planet, and to remove the power-mongers, the new tzars or pharaohs – the newly ensconced and presently ruling oligarchy of the global corporate elite – from power, and to restore power to the people.

The reality of our present situation is this. Either we will have a revolution, in which the people reclaim their power and reclaim their democracy and their freedom, and remove the presently reigning corporate elite from power; or we will see a new and more terrible dark age than the world has ever seen – and with it, not only a new form of fascism, and a new form of feudalism, with freedom and democracy destroyed and the great majority of the people reduced to serfs, or slaves, but also, a further acceleration of the rape and pillage mentality of this corporate-culture, with the result being a descent into the edge of extinction, and beyond, into self-annihilation. Surely these this latter trajectory, which we are now embarked upon, we cannot allow to come to pass in full fruition. Surely, the writing is on the wall, and we must stand now.

Lest we forget? The culture has already forgotten. Lest we remember, is more to the point. Unless we remember the dangers of any group of individuals becoming drunk with power or lost in an infantile grandiosity in which they seek to be rulers of the earth – as the presently ruling corporate elite have clearly become – then we shall be no more.

Amidst the parades and the honorariums, let us not forget our duty, not only to remember the past, but to respond to the present.

It is time to make a stand. Let the elders guide the young, or the young guide the elders, as the case may be, and whichever is needed, but let us stand now. We either stand now, and live in freedom, or we die slowly, and on our knees.

Stand.

J. Todd Ring,
November 11, 2015

No more war. Here is a musical playlist that I made for youtube on the subject.

For those who still have doubt as to the nature and urgency of the present situation, here is a short list of must-read works that will remove all doubt:

A Game As Old As Empire – John Perkins

When Corporations Rule the World – David C. Korten

The Corporation – Joel Bakan

The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein

The End of America – Naomi Wolf

Year 501: The Conquest Continues – Noam Chomsky

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies – Noam Chomsky

A Brief History of Progress – Ronald Wright

Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed – Jared Diamond

The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies – Richard Heinberg

When Technology Fails – Mathew Stein

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Wisdom of the Elders – David Suzuki

Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

The Power Elite – C. Wright Mills

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

The Ecology of Freedom – Murray Bookchin

On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Discourse On Voluntary Servitude – Etienne de la Boite

Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium – J. Todd Ring

Will Ferrell does a mock music video of gangster rap – and it’s a scathingly hilarious critique of the genre

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by jtoddring

A musical commentary, followed by social and political analysis, followed by hilarious spoof rap videos, and more

This is scathingly funny. Will Ferrell does a mock music video of macho gangster rap.

Man, how I despise that music. As Rage Against the Machine said, “So-called rap’s a fraud.” Worse, most of it is disgustingly offensive, as well as hollow and noxious.

The majority of it is macho, sexist, hate-filled, poser pablum that screams insecure, status-seeking, pre-teen angst and a desire to be “big” – in all the wrong ways, and with nothing to say and nowhere to go but down.

Bob Marley would roll in his grave. Angry and misguided, emotionally disturbed twelve-year-olds with an attitude problem could be forgiven for liking this music, but that’s about all. Only new country and death metal can compete with such sleazy, aggressive, pretentious garbage for the “first into the sewer” rankings.

At least new country is simply vacant, vacuous and vapid, overly commercialized twaddle and wallpaper music, worthy only of playing in elevators, and for a maximum of fifteen seconds, but as unoffensive as it is bland and banal, like a harmless old shoe – death metal and gangster rap are psychologically disturbed and disturbing, and morally bankrupt.

Give me old-school R&B, jazz, blues, soul, reggae, classic rock or classic country, gospel, classical, funk, punk, scat, ska, swing, big band, folk, Latin, electronica, chant or even opera, but spare me that macho rap crap shite!

*

And for the more serious-minded, here is some social commentary to accompany the musical commentary.

Musical tastes aside, there is something to be said about the influence of music – and particularly, music that expresses and generates a violent, aggressive attitude – and how such messages are likely to affect human behaviour, with the result of increasing violence in society.

Violent crime has been declining for decades, but fear and hysteria are at record levels. The media has a great deal to do with this. But in any case, violence in society is still, of course, a very serious concern; and violence in the United States, in particular, is far above the level of other major nations, and needs to be addressed. And violent music, media and video games are likely to have far more to do with this than guns.

In the US there is great hew and cry about gun control, but the obvious facts, or what should be obvious facts, are either overlooked or simply ignored. The fact is that Switzerland and the US have the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, along with Yemen; but while the US has one of the highest rates of violent crime and murder, Switzerland, with similar levels of gun ownership, has one of the lowest rates of violent crime and murder. Clearly guns are not the cause of violence. Something in the culture of the United States is causing high levels of violence.

Getting rid of guns, even if that was possible, would not end the violence. The US government tried to ban and prohibit alcohol, but that did not stop the flow of alcohol – it simply caused organized crime explode, and caused violent crime to explode as a result.

The US government has tried for decades to eliminate drugs, with its infamous, “War On Drugs”. But that has not stopped the flow of drugs. All it has done is to repeat the patterns of prohibition, causing gang activity and organized crime to soar, and with it, the violence that comes in its wake.

A war on guns would be as utterly ineffective as the prohibition of alcohol or the war on drugs, in terms of stopping the flow of guns. And aside from that most critical point, guns are not the cause of the violence – a culture of violence is the cause of the violence.

Evidence links the decline in exposure to lead poisoning with the decline in violent crime in the United States, and this should give us a major clue: when people’s brains, bodies, hormonal systems and nervous systems are being disrupted and poisoned by toxic chemicals in our food, air, water and environment, serious psychological problems, from mild depression to violent, homicidal impulses, are one part of the result. So a war on pollution would be far more effective, more rational and more sane, from all the available evidence, than a war on guns.

More people are murdered with kitchen knives, blunt objects or bare hands than by guns – people will find ways to harm or to kill, whether or not guns are available. What must be addressed are the causes of violent impulses, not the manner or form of their expression. This should be obvious, but the obvious is routinely being missed at present.

What is causing violence in society, and high levels of violence in American society? Could soaring poverty and inequality, frustration, desperation, and a resulting and very understandable and predictable rage, be a large part of the answer? Of course it is.

“We are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity,
and it is about to explode.”

– Amnesty International

The problems are sociological, and cannot be fixed through technocratic means. The “law and order” ideology will not solve it. In fact, it is making things worse, as prison populations soar, repression and militarization of the culture becomes normalized, brutality becomes accepted as necessary, and the cycle of a culture of violence perpetuating itself, continues. The culture is severely out of balance, and it is causing a small minority of people to do desperate and terrible things. Repeating and intensifying the same failed methods and responses is a recipe for continued failure, and escalating social disaster.

But people are only now beginning to be willing to look at the underlying, deeper issues; and most are still focused on the mere surface of things, and are utterly distracted, beguiled and bewildered, propagandized and deeply indoctrinated. This has to change. Inequality must be addressed, or violence will rise beyond its already high levels. Band-aid solutions will not work, and will not do.

As Bob Marley said,

“Everyone is crying out for peace,
None are crying out for justice.
But there will be no peace,
‘Till there is equal rights, and justice.”

Senator Bernie Sanders and many others understand this. If we want peace, then we must sow justice and equality. And if we are to succeed in that effort, then we must make war on Wall Street; and peacefully, but boldly and firmly, transform the system which benefits the richest few, at the expense and tremendous suffering of the great majority; end the reign of the corporate oligarchy of the billionaire class, and restore and reclaim democracy, and return the power to the people.

And maybe while we are making war on poverty and inequality, we should also look at music, television, film and media which make it seem cool to be violently aggressive, narcissistic, egotistical and machismo.

I’m not saying censorship is the answer. Freedom of speech is essential to a free society. Censorship, like prohibition, is not only useless and ineffective, but also dangerous, and produces far more harm than good. But we do need to look at what kind of messages the media, and the music and film industries, are pushing out in mass production into the culture of modern society. And a great deal of it is simply toxic sludge.

We need to create a culture of peace, to replace the culture of violence which, to a large extent, exists now. Courage and strength are shown and measured by compassion: not selfish and narcissistic, puerile pretension, self-inflation, aggression, hate, and egotistical parading of infantile grandiosity – be it from Donald Trump or gangster rappers.

Who shows real strength, who deserves the greatest respect? Certainly not thugs or wanna-be thugs threatening to “cap your ass”, or baring their asses in some other adolescent show of macho bravado. It is people like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Rosa Parks and others, and musicians like Bob Marley, who show the courage of compassion and love, who deserve our greatest respect, and who show the greatest strength.

There is a time for ferocity, but if it does not come from compassion, and is not guided or channeled wisely, then it is hollow posturing at best, or worse, and far more common, a self-destructive flame that is blinding,  burns all it touches.

Music is powerful, as are films, TV, video games, the internet, and the media in general. We should think about what we subject our minds to, and our children’s minds as well.

And artists and media workers should think about what they are producing. Their role should be to inform, inspire, unite, uplift and empower; or if it is simply entertainment that is being produced, then it should at least not be mental poison. We would be infinitely better with silence, than with that.

But music is one thing – systemic injustice, violence, extreme and growing inequality, and clearly fascist tendencies among the presently ruling corporate elite, are quite another. And it is this second set of concerns that should trouble us. The music is more a symptom than a cause of the real problems we face, although it is sometimes a little of both. It may be of some concern, but the latter, second set of patterns, is simply disastrous and intolerable.

We can change the station, change the music. But far more importantly, we should be willing to change the system – because the system is broken, and it is corrupt, as everybody knows.

J. Todd Ring,
October 28, 2015

Warning: The following videos are not for little ears.

Will Ferrell: Step Brothers – Boats ‘N Hoes

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post/async/embed/dialog/?source=6&url=%2FWillFerrelll%2Fvideos%2Fvb.169242926568179%2F250702351755569%2F%3Ftype%3D3

And of course, Everyday Normal Crew – from the Live As Fuck Tour

And on a more serious note, here is some rap with a message – and a soul:

Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine: Lyrics

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rageagainstthemachine/wakeup.html

And the de-classified documents quoted in the song, Wake Up:

“Through counter-intelligence it should be possible to pin-point potential trouble-makers, and neutralize them” – National Security Archives

https://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/mlk-document-friday-through-counter-intelligence-it-should-be-possible-to-pinpoint-potential-trouble-makers-and-neutralize-them/

The Hollow Men – Poem and Commentary, for All Hallow’s Eve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by jtoddring

Want something spooky, even terrifying, for Halloween? Read this.

The Hollow Men: I think this truly epic poem (one place where the word is meaningfully used) should be read at least once a year, if not once a month, just to remind ourselves of what is actually going on. It speaks volumes, like few other pieces of writing have ever done, as to the nature of our modern society, and the challenges we face.

Life is what we make of it. But if we choose this path that T.S. Eliot so vividly describes, and which he like many others, have seen as the norm, that would surely be unwise, to say the least, and to make the greatest possible of understatements.

This poem is a masterpiece, like few others, and a great warning. The future is in our hands, as is our present. We should hope to not sleep through it. And if we do, tragedy will not be a strong enough word to describe it. But that is our choice, and the choice remains open.

JTR,
October 26, 2015

Here is the poem in full:

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer-

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The Hollow Men, Read By Tom O’Bedlam

Marlon Brando Reads The Hollow Men

A sinking world, and sane responses to it

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by jtoddring

My country is sinking like a rock (for reasons of corporate oligarchy, neoliberalism, corporate rights agreements, and an addiction to oil revenues and the politics of a resource extraction-based economy, and the thorough corporate domination of the political process), though the great majority of my fellow citizens do not realize it, lost in a stupor of denial as they are (I can think of twelve countries in the Western hemisphere which are either moving in a positive direction, or at least showing some fight – and Canada is not one of them); and so too is the greater part of the world descending, and rapidly so, into a morass of injustice and ecological suicide, to say nothing of concerns for freedom, human rights and democracy, (as well as a pervasive malady, and an epidemic, of economic fundamentalism, neoliberalism and neoconservatism being the primary, and reigning, quasi-religious orthodoxies, along with other forms of ideological and even “scientific” fundamentalism, which are widespread, and far more influential today than their mirror image, which is religious fundamentalism, and an even worse epidemic of illusions of powerlessness, as well as an epidemic of apathy, denial, conformity, and undue and excessive, and frequently mad obedience to power) with only a handful of countries as the exception. How am I not to be distressed, if not anguished, and even furious, or all of the above?

All of the greatest minds and greatest spirits have echoed the same thoughts about the modern world. As David Suzuki has recently said (paraphrasing from memory), “There has never been a better time for being scared and angry….. We should get mad as hell, and then fight like hell.”

Where is the fight in us? And why should we be ashamed of being distraught with a world that is on a collision course with both tyranny and collective ecological suicide, as well as being steeped in war, violence, rampant injustice, inequality, poverty and a culture of voyeurism, vicarious living, materialism, consumerism, and a pathological aversion to the real?

As the great sociologist Erich Fromm said (again, paraphrasing from memory), “Normal only exists in relation to a profoundly abnormal norm.” “The fact that there is neurosis [or psychological strain and distress] is a good sign. It is a sign of a healthy individual, an individual that is still struggling to be fully alive, and by necessity, is struggling against a society that wishes to turn him or her into an atomaton.”

As the saying goes, “If you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs – you’re not paying attention.”

Calm is good. Heart-break for the state of the world is natural. And action is vitally needed – and urgently so.

Let’s see more action, and the heart-break will fade into a memory of times past, and lessons learned.

JTR,
October 7, 2015

Essential reading:

(A few among many other great books that could be included in such a list)

A Brief History of Progress – Ronald Wright

The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies – Richard Heinberg

When Technology Fails – Matt Stein

Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein

A Game As Old As Empire – John Perkins

The End of America – Naomi Wolf

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies – Noam Chomsky

Year 501: The Conquest Continues – Noam Chomsky

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

The Ecology of Freedom – Murray Bookchin

The Chalice and the Blade – Rianne Eisler

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Ancient Futures – Helena Norberg-Hodge

Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

Roads To Freedom – Bertrand Russell

Wisdom of the Elders – David Suzuki

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Discourse On Voluntary Servitude – Etienne de la Boite

Mutual Aid – Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin Was No Crackpot – Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, June, 1997

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

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