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Conversations with Great Minds - Brian Miller - The Self-Made Myth P1

This is an interesting discussion about the Neo-Liberal myth of the Self-Made Man. The myth is not unlike the myth of the Adam Smithian Barter Savage myth that Polanyi critiques in his criticism of Neo-Liberal ideology. The common thematic thread the two myths share is that these myths are designed to provide ideological justification and therefore acceptance of wealth inequality and commodifization of money in a self-regulating economy.

Ren mentioned an important aspect of ideological justification of this particular kind of Smithian market capitalism:

The argument is part of modern day economics, which was supposed to be a scientific endeavor to explain the underlying scientific principles behind this concept, and Adam Smith is credited with being the perpetrator of this so-called science. Because it's considered a science, it fits with the classical liberal trend towards rationalism, which is given credence as being the basis for an advanced society, towards which some people see humanity moving in a progressive fashion.

Science plays an important role in laying the foundations of Neo-liberalism ideology so as to be accepted as true by society, and to resist criticism when markets fails. Polanyi examines another important myth which combines the concepts of self-regulation, and competition that are the submerged assumptions of the Self-Made independent individual myth. Polanyi recounts Joseph Townsend’s belief that political economy should be based on human science: specifically, the theorem of the goats and dogs.

Townsend’s Dissertation, ten years afterward, centered on the theorem of the goats and the dogs. The scene is Robinson Crusoe’s island in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Chile. On this island Juan Fernandez landed a few goats to provide meat in case of future visits. The goats had multiplied at a biblical rate and became a convenient store of food for the privateers, mostly English, who were molesting Spanish trade. In order to destroy them, the Spanish authorities landed a dog and a bitch, which also, in the course of time, greatly multiplied, and diminished the number of goats on which they fed. “Then a new kind of balance was restored,” wrote Townsend. “The weakest of both species were among the first to pay the debt of nature; the most active and vigorous preserved their lives.” To which he added: “It is the quantity of food which regulates the number of the human species.” We note that a search* in the sources failed to authenticate the story. Juan Fernandez duly landed the goats; but the legendary dogs were described by William Funnell as beautiful cats, and neither dogs nor cats are known to have multiplied; also the goats were inhabiting inaccessible rocks, while the beaches—on this all reports agree—were teeming with fat seals which would have been a much more engaging prey for the wild dogs. However, the paradigm is not dependent upon empirical support. Polanyi, Karl (2001-03-28). The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (pp. 117-118).

Townsend constructs a paradigm, or ideological model of the behavior of animals to provide a “scientific” explanation of how human beings behave in a self-regulated market.

But on the island of Juan Fernandez there was neither government nor law; and yet there was balance between goats and dogs. That balance was maintained by the difficulty the dogs found in devouring the goats which fled into the rocky part of the island, and the inconveniences the goats had to face when moving to safety from the dogs. No government was needed to maintain this balance; it was restored by the pangs of hunger on the one hand, the scarcity of food on the other. Hobbes had argued the need for a despot because men were like beasts; Townsend insisted that they were actually beasts and that, precisely for that reason, only a minimum of government was required. From this novel point of view, a free society could be regarded as consisting of two races: property-owners and laborers. The number of the latter was limited by the amount of food; and as long as property was safe, hunger would drive them to work. No magistrate was necessary, for hunger was a better disciplinarian than the magistrate. To appeal to him, Townsend pungently remarked, would be “an appeal from the stronger to the weaker authority.”... The paradigm of the goats and the dogs seemed to offer an answer. The biological nature of man appeared as the given foundation of a society that was not of a political order. Thus it came to pass that economists presently relinquished Adam Smith’s humanistic foundations, and incorporated those of Townsend. Malthus’s population law and the law of diminishing returns as handled by Ricardo made the fertility of man and soil constitutive elements of the new realm the existence of which had been uncovered. Economic society had emerged as distinct from the political state. ... Since the emerging society was no other than the market system, human society was now in danger of being shifted to foundations utterly foreign to the moral world of which the body politic hitherto had formed part. The apparently insoluble problem of pauperism was forcing Malthus and Ricardo to endorse Townsend’s lapse into naturalism. (Ibid.,pp. 119-121)

Not only does the myth of the goats and dogs provide a perceived “scientific” justification of minimizing the role of government in protecting society against the vicissitudes of market imbalances like unemployment, hunger, and poverty, but the mythos “naturalizes” these inhuman conditions by argument of analogy, “The laws of commerce were the laws of nature and consequently the laws of God.” (Ibid., 122). Neo-Liberalism posits that society is to be organized according to this myth of zoological determinism!

The Malthusian law of population reflected the relationship between the fertility of man and that of the soil. In both cases the forces in play were the forces of Nature, the animal instinct of sex and the growth of vegetation in a given soil. The principle involved was the same as that in the case of Townsend’s goats and dogs: there was a natural limit beyond which human beings could not multiply and that limit was set by the available food supply. Like Townsend, Malthus concluded that the superfluous specimens would be killed off; while the goats are killed off by the dogs, the dogs must starve for lack of food. With Malthus the repressive check consisted in the destruction of the supernumerary specimens by the brute forces of Nature. (Ibid., pp. 130-131.)

Malthusian population law and the law of diminishing returns provide ideological justification for allowing a large part of society to starve without intervention because it is the “natural” state of things—the law of Nature that is built on a myth. Such is the power of ideological propaganda. What Malthusianism failed to take into account is that an increase in population not only is followed by an increase in the demand for food, but a parallel increase in productive labor power. Also, the accumulation of cultural knowledge in the arithmetical production of food can overcome the geometricalgrowth of population. Hunger in the market system often is the result of overproduction of food- market surplus- rather than market scarcity.

Within Ricardo’s system itself the naturalistic and the humanistic factors coexisted which were contending for supremacy in economic society. The dynamic of this situation was of overwhelming power. As its result the drive for a competitive market acquired the irresistible impetus of a process of Nature. For the self-regulating market was now believed to follow from the inexorable laws of Nature, and the unshackling of the market to be an ineluctable necessity.(Ibid., p. 132).

This perceived scientific and naturalistic myth is actually an irrational reified philosophy that distort experience. Society (Community) and the Subject (Individual) are distorted according to narrow political interests by subtracting the community’s complexity and history through ideological abstraction. I wrote earlier about this radical abstraction and how ideological systems can invert the relationship between market concepts and experience, “The upside-down relationship between society and this doctrine of self-regulating markets-placing markets above society- is a strong analogy in my mind with the debate during the early 1900’s of the epistemological status of mathematical logic in philosophy. Yes, there is a strong parallel with the Logical Absolutism of Husserl and Bertand Russell that understood mathematics and logic as referring to ‘some-thing.’” In Adorno’s “Negative Dialectics” he makes this same connection between the abstractions of logic and the abstractions of “vulgar” economic theory:

In full-blooded critical theory mode Adorno discerns parallels between Husserl's view of the status of logic and those of "vulgar economic thought" (ME 72/65). (1) Both logical absolutism and vulgar economic thought see an intrinsic significance in some particular thing-logical validity and the value of goods respectively-failing to realize that these significances have social origins (ME 72/65). (2) There is also the residuum parallel. In just the same way as the "value" of a commodity is what remains once all of the production costs are subtracted pure logical validity is what remains once the agency of subjectivity is factored out (ME 76/70).Brian O'Connor. Adorno's Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) (p. 137).

Adorno uses the language of Subject-Object epistemology to explain reification: the subject is the knower, and the object is the known. The subject is consciousness, and the object is external to the subject, but grasped by a concept. The concepts of the market, the individual, or freedom are a complex of multiple concepts unique to its cultural history. Cultural concepts are composed of a

...historically sedimented character: an accumulation of uses and meanings. The picture of objects that emerges from this idea of "sedimented history" is that of objects as a complex of concepts. These concepts are acquired and accumulated in the history of the object's position in what Adorno terms the social totality.... (Ibid,. p. 59).

Adorno take the idea(s) of freedom to show what he means by social totality of the concept of freedom:

To take an example of a purely conceptual object discussed by Adorno (ND 153-154/150-151), the concept of freedom is a human invention and it has various connotations. Clearly these connotations have arisen from the efforts of people-not least of philosophers-to articulate a theory of freedom: yet the notion of freedom, which comprises the complex of its various connotations, cannot be reduced to the intention of any individual. Ideas of freedom have arisen through the activities of subjects and they are sustained in the social totality as experientially independent of subjects.... By virtue of the significance of the object in the social totality its meanings necessarily transcend the individual subject.(Ibid.,(p. 60).

Yet, freedom in the reified theory of the self-regulated market is reduced to a “market view of society which equated economics with contractual relationships, and contractual relations with freedom.”(Polanyi, p. 266).

Reified concepts result in a reified intellectual life in which experience is distorted and impairs our ability to articulate the complexity of our own lives and world. Reification is radical objectivism that reduces the irreducible object to a limited false concept. Reification is a false consciousness that embraces a “Naive Realism” that gives epistemological validation to reified assumptions in whichthe object is independent of subjectivity and is apprehended as it is in-itself. It presents the order of knowing as a fully given object being passively received by a subject.” (Adorno, p. 50.) Radical empiricism, or positivism, is distinguished as an epistemology of the passive subject, or passive knower that merely collects data. The reified consciousness cannot conceive of objects that are not reducible to pre-fabricated concepts.

More on the topic of reification see:

False Memories of Reified Worlds

Antifascist's picture
Antifascist
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Not to in any way diminish your excellent unraveling of this reification process and it's undoubtedly befuddling relationship to adherents of Ron Paul and his political philosophy (along with Adam Smith, neoliberalism, and on and on) that relies on this fundamental process you've described of creating a reiffied, simplified illusion in place of a much more complex reality, but I just want to fold in the works of someone else along this line, merely as a way of a way of introducing my own commentary, and note too that it's work that essentially became the basis of the NeuroLinguisticProgramming Thom Hartmann once taught as part of his talk show on the radio before he went national with his talk show business.

But first let me just call attention to what one might recognize after working through all that you've posted, and I think this can be important for anyone to recognize in trying to make sense of our current political/social quagmire: An understanding of all that precise detail of mental processing you've presented might result in someone noticing that what we humans come to hold to be real and true, and will often kill each other over, is a self-created illusion. Or as polycarp likes to conclude his posts: "ideology is a disease". I find that especially so of that "reification" principle.

So, why should anyone give a damn? Well, recognizing illusion in just about everything people think to be real and true might raise a serious question: How does one go about acting out one's very own life, behaving sensibly in a political world with any sane, sensible thoughts with the confluent streams of ever multiplying illusions, which includes ones own tossed into the mix? Might even bring up questions of sanity.

I think many of our greatest sages have encountered and responded to exactly that paradoxical challenge. But I think, personally, to ignore this conundrum and talk about creating any intentional society, that is, to speak of designing one as modern day systems analysts and scientific managers attempt to do, one runs dead on into this conundrum that whatever anyone creates, no matter how brilliant that individual may be, will be composed of reified illusions. What's most interesting about the above revelations -- yours, Polanyi's, others -- that laissez faire free markets is based on these fabricated stories -- myths -- is that reification of a false proposition of the sort, and concluding such propositions to be the scientific, rational truth, has created a false notion that becomes the mythological basis of today's cultural belief in the self-made human who can somehow exist apart from the complex whole, and of course doesn't need any damn government meddling about.

Simply put, that is the answer to the present conservative argument for individual freedom and the primacy of markets over government intervention. And why Ron Paul has nothing new to offer, other than the pretense that he wants to reduce certain aspects of American Empire.

But what Polanyi shows so thoroughly with his historical review, is that "free market" was always an illusion, and the "freedom" itself had to be imposed, because people don't really behave as basic economic trading entities, we are much more complex, and experienced social reality is so much more for us than that -- that is, unless it's stripped away from us and we end up like 1984's Winston Smith, in front of our propaganda pictures streamed live into our homes, presenting a false picture of the world while manufacturing our consent.

And so we have today's Orwellian attitude embedded in much of the population that they are free, independent, self made and that there is a collectivist plot (socialism, communism, you know the words) to take away their freedom. But the historical truth Polanyi revealed is that collectivism was always the spontaneous reaction to the imposition of what this so called "freedom" ends up imposing on them. Which is a form of slavery to those who end up with most of societies' wealth as their property, and that has to be imposed by force.

These are not the actions of great sages. This is not the Awakening of Intelligence that Krishnamurti tried to share in his talks. But it does appear to be the awakening of hubris, arrogance and all the human behaviors the great religions called to attention as ultimately destructive of human community.

So, back to my introductory paragraph and a tie in to Thom's NLP. I am reminded of another contemplater of this problem who made a similar analogous conclusion in his General Semantics work, perhaps you recall a fellow by the name of Alfred Korzybski. You might say he also revealed these false notions of facticity in science through human-created illusions of reality with language based thought. He too was working in this era of rebellion against the attempt to place rational above all else through a kind of Aristotelian-based logical positivist science, and in 1933 he came out with his version, a founding principle of today's NLP, in his work Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.

He describes the principle simply enough: "The map is not the territory." Correlative to your post, Anti, "map" for Korzybski would be another word for these reified, stripped down abstract concepts that people create in their minds and then go around acting as if they are "reality."

Perhaps you can see the similarities between your above analysis and this one from an essay stimulated by Korzybski's Science and Sanity by Flemming Funch:

Quote Flemming Funch:

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY

The world is what it is. We can make all kinds of maps and models of how the world works, and some of them can be very useful, and we can talk about them with great benefit. But the models and maps and any words one can put together can never do more than approximate the actual world or the actual phenomena being examined. The actual territory is beyond verbal description.

As humans we make abstractions all the time. An "abstraction", as used here, is that one simplifies, condenses, or symbolizes what is going on in order to better talk about it or think about it.

For example, if I walk down the street, I might experience an event taking place. My perceptions in themselves constitute an abstraction. Different people will experience the event differently, depending on where they perceive it from and how their perceptions work, and it will never be more than a portion of what went on, passed through certain filters of perception. So, I will record certain sights, sounds, feelings and so forth, which will form my representation of the event. I might then start describing what I experienced and that will abstract it further. I could say "I saw two cars, a blue Ford going west and a green Honda going east, and the blue car was going to turn left, but then the green car swerved out of its way and hit it". My description might give somebody else an idea of what went on, but really it is a very imprecise approximation of what I actually perceived, which is again an imprecise approximation of what actually went on. The next day I might create a further abstraction by simply saying that I saw "an accident".

If somebody took my verbal description of an accident as WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, then all kinds of mistakes might come out of that. But if one always realizes that it is only a map, and that different maps might be drawn for the same territory, then it becomes much easier to reconcile differences.

Whatever one can say about something isn't it. Whatever you can say about a pencil is NOT a pencil. The pencil is what it is, something fundamentally unspeakable. If that is recognized then language and models are of couse very useful in daily life.

I liked this supposition when I read it, it seems so simple, yet ultimately so unlikely:

"But if one always realizes that it is only a map, and that different maps might be drawn for the same territory, then it becomes much easier to reconcile differences."

Becomes much easier to reconcile differences... if only... Unfortunately it takes more than "one" to realize that when people go to war over ideas.

.ren's picture
.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

This is why I have said that "Reality is God" and vise versa. False realities are false gods, and the question of what difference "reality" makes matters. The idea that this is "secular thinking" just finesses the mystery into substance defined in observation and language. There is no place to debate what is observed, only the meaning of the facts. What happens here is that "facts" become given instead of themsleves being descriptive and suggestive more than "definitive."

"Reality" gives authority to act. Instead of the Truth "setting us free," it brings certainty and objectivity. That is, it comforts our curiosity with answers instead of suggesting further investigation. The whole idea that we have a "right to know" about the universe and ourselves becomes a closed system even if we only know it in part. Up to a point, this is a legitimate aspect to the pluralism and mystery of Truth, for we cannot just "make up our own reality." We do get to think differently about this one, however, and to do so we cannot equate our ideas with ultimate Reality. Not even our ideas about reality.

If what we "knew" were only dreams and fantasies riffing on "reality," this would be all well and good. But, the point of this thinking about the mystery of our being here in time and space is to be here and be "ourselves." We are serious stakeholders in our own mind. Objective observation of our own existential reality is a funny idea. The Zen of Being Real is its own joke.

The point of the joke is to overcome fear and alienation. The market in answers and techniques is awesome, but they are only tools or maps at best. Even this image is too flat and technical to get at what "knowledge" does to us as we work with it. "Your mind is a dangerous place, don't go there alone." But, don't go handing it over to some "teacher" or charismatic figure either. It is your story and your joke you are "in on."

I don't see any politician winning by offering questions instead of answers. Whether it is narrative or issues, the idea that we are dealing with uncertainty and shift makes changing one's mind in the light of experience and new knowledge uncouth, to say the least. We want to know what people we elect will do. We want that defined agenda, and we want those promises kept. Again, we don't want to be sold out, but these metrics are deeply flawed. What we do need is a sense of direction and goal, but not a fixed and final product. We need a vision in progress, not about getting to the Promised Land. In this sense, "progress" only means moving toward morality and the embrace of what it is to be human in this world.

Among the dilemmas we confront here is the ambiguity of the "message" v. the clarity of the ideology. Truth is complex, and honesty rarely allows an unqualified declarative. But, it is not a fog or mystified illusion either. We live here and do it in the midst of time. Breathe. Be in time instead of on time. Enjoy.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Following up on this theme of naturalizing political order, or reification of market forces and its effect on human society being legitimized, I wrote in post #102:

Not only does the myth of the goats and dogs provide a perceived “scientific” justification of minimizing the role of government in protecting society against the vicissitudes of market imbalances like unemployment, hunger, and poverty, but the mythos “naturalizes” these inhuman conditions by argument of analogy, “The laws of commerce were the laws of nature and consequently the laws of God.” (Ibid., 122).

Malthusian population law and the law of diminishing returns provide ideological justification for allowing a large part of society to starve without intervention because it is the “natural” state of things—the law of Nature that is built on a myth.

Prof. David Ingram states it much better here:

In the final analysis, class conflict can be contained only be depoliticizing the class relationship so as to conceal exploitation....The freedom to dispose of personal property permitted by bourgeois civil law is conducive to the unfettered development of productive forces. At the same time the market relieves the political order of pressures for legitimation. Since Locke, natural law theorists have dispensed with appeals to divine authority by locating the conditions of universal freedom in the market exchange of equivalents. Bourgeois ideology thus succeeds in masking exploitation behind the impersonal facade of voluntary wage contracts.

Class conflict is now displaced from the politicized arena of social interaction to the non-normative, largely impersonal domain of market transactions. In both traditional and capitalist societies, class conflict reflects an underlying contradiction inherent in the organizational principle....In capitalism...it appears primarily as a systemic crisis that only secondarily assumes the guise of class conflict. Thus the contradiction that formerly manifested itself as an antithesis between incompatible claims to justice now manifest itself as an antithesis between incompatible system imperatives. The accumulation of capital is pitted against the conditions necessary for its production, consumer demand. Unlimited development of labor-saving, cost-efficient technologies leads to overproduction; accumulation of capital by fewer and fewer investors goes hand in hand with progressive impoverishment of unemployed consumers. Without able consumers willing to dispose of the surfeit of capital, the accumulation process cannot but reverse itself, the subsequent depression revealing the inherent injustice of the market and its pretension to be an impartial system of exchange. Without a functional analysis of the system of exchange...however, economic crises assume the fetishistic guise of natural, fated events. Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason, David Ingram, Yale University Press, 1987, Chapter 8, ‘System and Lifeworld,’ pp. 122-123.

By ideologically framing economic crises as the playing out of natural events of impersonal forces, class conflict is not viewed as political, or exploitive. Economic human suffering is interpreted as the result of invariable natural laws and so as to legitimates systemic market crisis, or economic depressions, as evitable and natural as earthquakes. But economic crisis is not solely the result of impersonal forces of instrumental rationality (technology and science), but normative (social values and culture) practices that organize society in a specific way that leads to economic crisis. In fact, capitalist society organizes its productive powers in such a way that overproduction results in scarcity of products in the market: that is the contradiction of market capitalism. The more capital is massively accumulated by the few, the more the consumer is impoverished. The more the laborer produces, the less he is able to consume toward the trajectory of unemployment. This situation of systematic exploitation and impoverishment is understood by the laborer/consumer as the natural state of things in an organic naturally self-regulating market of automatic exchange.

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Antifascist
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Antifascist:

Prof. David Ingram states it much better here:

It's only much better if the average every day people around us, consumers, producers, idealizers, other legitimizers of the status quo, can recognize after reading this stuff that they are spouting myth and lies when they blissfully and blatantly repeat the market ideology as if it's fact. I see no evidence that attempting to point out the errors in their thinking has any effect whatsoever. And they are unwilling to give up the base myth that this is all happening as a result of the natural (i.e. rational scientific) basis of human existence which was finally "discovered" about 1776.

Those living in traditional societies that explain what happens according to references to their own versions of abstractions of reality, like their gods, spirits and so forth, have no more sense that those are mythological creations of their culture passed on in traditional manners as the somewhat arbitrary rules of the game they all play every day (what Ingram refers to as "politicized" relationships) than those living in the self defined "rational" capitalistic market economy based societies understand that their rational, economic science of their political economy is a mythological creation of their culture passed on in another form of traditional manner that now can be easily identified as sociological propaganda -- something that is not easy for any individual living a comfortable life within the system to see.

The "depoliticization" he refers to is merely a repoliticization into another mythological order, the positivist science mythological order, which includes the natural science notion of Adam Smith's "economic man", that itself involves internalizing a language borrowed from the rigor of the scientific method and applied as an abstract form of "naturalistic fact" -- everybody talks about the "facts", don't they? the political news is supposed to be about transmitting "the facts" so people can think properly and rationally decide... something. The very possibility of "knowing" (another questionable positivistic concept) facts is a concept invented during the Renaissance when the "I think therefore I am" revolution of rational thinking against the traditions of the Church kicked off this fervor of naturalism, but it's really just more mythology at work in another political form, and that form allows for something utterly dehumanizing to take place, a kind of mechanistic form of social relationships without an underlying soul of humane conscience that emerged with the industrial revolution and Adam Smith's (and the others like Ricardo who helped invent it) myth of the natural economic barter and trading man.

People who discover their own humanity will recognize that we've been mythologized, those who don't, won't. And we are now stuck in a world where recognition of our humanity may be ultimately imperative or a deadly, planet-destroying system will carry itself, those who believe in it, along with the rest of us who want something different to our collective demise.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

I've spent some time recently re-reading articles that have influenced me through the years. As I was doing so, I thought of something Goff said:

Quote Stan Goff:In saying this, I am obliged to clear up a common misunderstanding of what this means and what I mean to say. It is easy to jump from the very general outline I have presented of three aspects of US foreign policy – finance, food, and force – to the conclusion that I mean to say, or that these facts tend to support the idea that, there is a conscious group of the conspiring powerful who direct the world. On the contrary, I want to emphasize that this system has evolved through a series of contingencies, and that its stability is maintained precisely because it is what some systems theorists call self-organized.

I present 3 links to articles that I've kept since around the time I experienced my first rather dramatic shift in consciousness:

S. Brian Willson

Shining the Light on White

Incarceration Nation

There's the holocausts that Willson describes. There's the conscious effort to divide poor blacks and whites so as to prevent revolt, as described by Martinas. And then there's Bosworth's description of the prison industrial complex. Greed is a common thread. Bigotry another. While I can agree that Bilderberg-style, Alex Jones conspiracies do a disservice, I find it difficult to accept the notion that the horrors of the world are not the result of the conscious choices of individuals. Some might say those individuals are acting rationally, but many of us don't think there's anything "rational" about greed and treating fellow humans as if they are less than human. Just as there's nothing "rational" - from my perspective - about preparing for disasters that you cause by being somewhere you shouldn't be, doing things you shouldn't be doing. I'm referring to this: http://news.yahoo.com/ice-cap-melts-militaries-vie-arctic-edge-072343565.html

I could be misunderstanding Goff's point. Perhaps I don't fully grasp the "self-organization" aspect of what he's saying. I welcome input on that score.

I think what may be in order is a more thorough discussion of what each of us means when we refer to "the system." Up until now, I've thrown that term around too liberally, if you will. What does it mean? Neoliberalism, for which many of us seem to have a common enough definition, is an ideology that seems to be a driving force for at least the past several decades. But is an ideology "the system?" Does "the system" not go back much further than this ideology to which many affix the label "neoliberalism?" Does "the system" not consist of numerous ideologies going back through time? When did "the system" begin? 5000 years ago (what Korten would call the Age of Empire)? Is "the system" not the result of conscious choices (actions and reactions), be they selfish or unselfish, loving or hateful, violent or peaceful, and so on? What does it mean to alter or replace "the system?" How does that come about?

Why is it that those who sit atop governmental hierarchies are consistently committing atrocities? Why is it that people such as Goff or Graeber or Polanyi or Korten or a peace-loving, pro-sustainability fool like me is never found in those positions? Are psychopaths and sociopaths the only ones drawn to positions of power, or does power somehow require one to be sociopathic? If so, why? Governmental power, that is. Afterall, am I powerless? Do I not have the power to consume less? Do I not have the power to not be sucked in by mainstream distractions? And so on...

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am

The abstraction of human reality occurs in a number of ways, and I am afraid "the human" can become another of these. "System" allows us to think "mechanically" now, but it could also have been the given and Divinely ordained "system" of princes and prelates from whom all authority and truth was received. It is basically, the given--The reality that we use as the construct for the world in which we live.

Our humanity is our idea of who we are and what we (personally) are to do to be "moral." In the view of the Right 'secularists,' "economic man" defines what it is to be human. Our fundamental moral purpose is to produce and our way to be "happy" is to be beyond "self-sufficiency" in our economic performance. The Rightwing Religious may have a "believe in Jesus" and He will bring you "wealth" defined in various ways, but there is something about our need for Jesus and what He does for "us" that answers that need.

My concern is what Liberals and Progressives are offering and how we are heard as well. We have a number of people here who are beginning to realize that economics is a bad debating ground, not because we cannot meet the arguments of the Right but because the answers already concede the "economic man" frame and make "the system" the global economy. How we confront the larger moral/practical question of humanity to bring others to the subject with their own minds intact is by doing it. I like the OWS meme that the act of doing is the message, and they are also doing a good job of modeling the "leaderless" need to participate rather than merely follow.

I am fairly optimistic that the discontent is known even by many of those who cling to ideology or Hedges' illusion. If their "choice" is between keeping their money or having it taken, they will want to keep it. If they believe that "investments" they can afford will keep the "system" working and that it is preventing chaos and horrible consequences, they will pay their taxes. They will not feel any joy from this. They will just be getting approval from Mammon or Mars for preventing the collapse of the Empire.

If, on the other hand, they can dare to care and see sharing as a human bond that also protects them, I think there is some joy and satisfaction beyond the more arid and military meaning of service and duty. I believe we have to model this to sell it. The souls that are starved need more than abstract hope to do more than wish it could be so.

We also need to steal back "family values" and apply it to humanity and community instead of kinship enclosed hearth and home.

As it is, "the system" is the New Rome. As "the greatest" empire in the history of the world, it is also only "an empire," another destined to crash and burn and not the bearer of Divine Mandates and Peace on Earth. Love may seem weak and puny in the face of all that might, but along with justice it does speak directly to our humanity, to our fears and insecurities as well as to hopes and dreams. Instead of being embarrassed to be "unrealistic," let us get back to what is more real than all that 'economic man' abstraction and meaness.

DRC's picture
DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

2 articles from Robert Jensen that I've kept also speak of the system (they also help explain why I no longer engage in presidential politics, and find it difficult to relate to those who do).

In one Jensen refers to the "systems of domination and subordination." http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/the-sorrows-of-race-and-gender-in-the-2008-presidential-election/

In another he refers to "oppressive systems that structure our world." http://www.countercurrents.org/jensen110908.htm

From Howard Zinn in the middle of the 20th century to the likes of Hedges and Jensen today, we see this acknowledgement that small scale community building is the only hope.

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How hard is it to vote or to see whether your vote is likely to give the GOPimps anything? The point is not that voting is what it is all about, but it is what it is and you might as well do what you can with it. It does no good to abstain from Presidential politics as if that was how to keep pure or even "sane." If you live where the results are clearly one way or the other, vote protest.

Do you vote down ticket? Some of the same logic applies. It does not have to get in the way of what you find important.

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Quote Robert Jensen:I believe that the last place we should be sinking our energy is into presidential politics. When the political leaders vying for our votes make it clear they are committed to systems and institutions that keep us locked in the death trajectory, why should we offer them anything that is precious to us?
Quote Robert Jensen:This is a time to realize that the dominant political institutions offer nothing beyond a tweaking of the same failed systems; in the middle of this presidential campaign, none of the major players are acknowledging the fundamental problems, let alone proposing meaningful changes in policy to acknowledge the problems. It’s also time to realize that old approaches to progressive political organizing don’t seem to be working; large scripted street demonstrations may have some benefits, for example, but they aren’t significantly advancing the goals we claim to want to achieve.

Selecting a manager or relegating oneself to 'it is what it is and we better work with it' will only lead to self-perpetuation of that which you decry. In my opinion, of course. You're free to place your energy whereever you wish.

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Fine. I was saying it takes very little energy to vote and not a whole lot of attention given the state of the elections. So get deeply involved in your local OWS, or do food security, or build a Green Party, or whatever. You can do more than one thing.

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No, voting itself doesn't involve much energy. But you seem to spend a great deal of energy responding to any post that is critical of the Democratic Party or Obama by suggesting that people must still vote for the lesser evil (or subset of the same evil).

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I think Obama and the lesser evil, if you will, make a significant difference compared to the greater evil of the GOPimps and am not interested in discouraging those who want to put their energies into voting. I tell them, as I did you, that there are other important things to do as well. I tell them that for their votes to get them close to what they want, the conditions around Obama and the Congress have to change. But, I don't buy the line that the parties are the same even if the system is both flawed and corrupted.

When people make criticisms of Obama and the Democratic Party with nuance and context, I often state my agreement with those criticisms. I am not a fan of the purity or protest vote when it serves the greater evil. It is not nice to make other people pay for my anger or disappointment. I hope this helps understand what I do, and I have been far more encouraging to your positions than not.

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Difficult, but great questions about "system," Garrett78 wrote;

I think what may be in order is a more thorough discussion of what each of us means when we refer to "the system." Up until now, I've thrown that term around too liberally, if you will. What does it mean? Neoliberalism, for which many of us seem to have a common enough definition, is an ideology that seems to be a driving force for at least the past several decades. But is an ideology "the system?" Does "the system" not go back much further than this ideology to which many affix the label "neoliberalism?" Does "the system" not consist of numerous ideologies going back through time? When did "the system" begin? 5000 years ago (what Korten would call the Age of Empire)? Is "the system" not the result of conscious choices (actions and reactions), be they selfish or unselfish, loving or hateful, violent or peaceful, and so on? What does it mean to alter or replace "the system?" How does that come about?

We have discussed these issues in that long thread " Republican Neoliberalism is Touching Us All." about system, and ideology. I introducted the Husserlian concept of "Lifeworld," and Heidegger's concept of Being along with instrumental reason from Adorno. These concepts are used by Habermas to construct a theory of social ontology. I have found a very condensed summary of how theses ideas answer your questions about system. These ideas are useful in understanding questions of economics, religion, and morality. It is when system consumes, or colonizes the lifeworld that society develops pathologies of nihilism, alienation, and neurosis.

Habermas’s social ontology is a theory of the make-up of late 20th-century society. At the heart of his theory is the distinction between lifeworld and system, two distinct spheres of social life each with its own distinctive rules, institutions, patterns of behaviour, and so on. Lifeworld and system are the respective homes of communicative and instrumental action, and here again Habermas argues that the latter – the system – depends on the former. Before we say anything about their relation, we need to examine these two terms more closely.Finlayson, James Gordon (2005-04-26). Habermas: A Very Short Introduction p. 51. OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

The first concept is that of Husserl's "Lifeworld."

The lifeworld is a concept for the everyday world we share with others. Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), the German philosopher who invented phenomenology and taught Martin Heidegger, first used this term in order to contrast the natural, pre-theoretical attitude of ordinary people to the world with the theoretical, objectifying, and mathematicizing perspective of natural science. Habermas does something similar. The lifeworld is his name for the informal and unmarketized domains of social life: family and household, culture, political life outside of organized parties, mass media, voluntary organizations, and so on. These unregulated spheres of sociality provide a repository of shared meanings and understandings, and a social horizon for everyday encounters with other people. This horizon is the background against which communicative action takes place. The phenomenological metaphor of the horizon is instructive. An horizon designates the limit of a human being’s field of vision under normal conditions. The field of vision is unified, but it is not a totality, since it cannot be apprehended all at once. We cannot get the whole horizon into view, because we can only see in one direction at a time. A horizon is also perspectival: the boundary shifts, albeit little by little, when we move. The boundary of a geometrical figure, by contrast, or of a piece of ground, is fixed and measurable. By analogy, the shared meanings and understandings of the lifeworld form a unity, but not a totality. Any part of this web can be thematized or brought into view, but not all of it can be thematized at once. The contents of lifeworld are open to revision and change, but in the lifeworld change is necessarily piecemeal and gradual. Note that change, although gradual, might nonetheless be radical and thoroughgoing. In principle there is no reason why eventually every part of the lifeworld should not be revised or replaced. This is a characteristic the lifeworld shares with language, and not accidentally so, for communication is the medium of the lifeworld. Otto Neurath (1882–1945), the Vienna School philosopher of language, came up with a memorably vivid image of our linguistic situation. We are in a boat on the open sea. We cannot take the whole boat into dry dock and inspect it from outside, but we can individually replace any rotten plank of the boat and still stay afloat. The same holds for the lifeworld. On Habermas’s picture, the task of carrying out running repairs to the lifeworld falls to communicative action and discourse. The lifeworld has several functions. It provides the context for action – that is, it comprises a stock of shared assumptions and background knowledge, of shared reasons on the basis of which agents may reach consensus. So long as this shared context remains in the background or, as Habermas says, unthematized, its effect will be hidden, but it will still perform its function of making the attainment of consensus likely, and indeed usual. Thus, on the one hand, it is a force for social integration. At the very same time, the platform of agreement that the lifeworld provides is the condition of the possibility of critical reflection and possible disagreement. Overall, the lifeworld is conservative of social meaning, in that it minimizes the risk of dissent, disagreement, and misunderstanding that attends any individual instances of communication and discourse. Every time a successful communicative action takes place, a consensus is reached that feeds back into the lifeworld and replenishes it. Thus the lifeworld supports communicative action, and communicative action in turn nourishes the lifeworld by topping up the fund of shared knowledge. The lifeworld is thus able to function as a kind of bulwark against social disintegration, resisting the fragmentation of meanings and preventing the eruption of conflicts of action. Finally, the lifeworld is the medium of the symbolic and cultural reproduction of society. It is the vehicle through which traditions are passed on, albeit through the critical lens of communication and discourse. Under normal conditions, that is in the absence of massive social upheaval, the lifeworld serves as the medium for the transmission and improvement of all kinds of knowledge: technical, practical, scientific, and moral. (Ibid., pp. 52-53).

And opposite of the Lifeworld is "System." These are the two most important concepts in critical theory.

The system refers to sedimented structures and established patterns of instrumental action. It can be divided into two different sub-systems, money and power, according to which external aims it imposes on agents. Money and power form the respective ‘steering media’ (that is, the inherent directing and coordinating mechanisms) of the capitalist economy, on the one hand, and the state administration and related institutions such as the civil service and state-sanctioned political parties, on the other. According to Habermas, the systems of money and power cut deep channels into the surface of social life, with the result that agents fall naturally into pre-established patterns of instrumental behaviour. For example, anyone who works for a company, whether a top executive or lowly employee, will be guided by their role into patterns of action in pursuit of financial aims. Since the aims of instrumental action are determined antecedently and independently of reaching consensus, most of the ultimate goals to which the actions of those in the system are directed are pre-set, not chosen by them. Moreover, they will not always be apparent to the agents who work to realize them. Whether they are aware of it or not, the actions of the supporters of Manchester United football club are serving the aim of making enough money for Manchester United plc to pay a dividend to their shareholders. The chief function of the sub-systems of money and power is the material reproduction of society, that is, the production and circulation of goods and services. But they fulfil another very important function similar to that of the lifeworld, for they coordinate actions and have an integrating effect of their own. Habermas calls this effect ‘system integration’, in contrast to the ‘social integration’ provided by the lifeworld. As societies become bigger and more complex in the wake of industrialization and modernization, and as people become more mobile, the task of social integration becomes increasingly difficult. Under these conditions, systems such as the economy and the state administration ease the burden that falls to communication and discourse; they help hold society together.We can see here already how Habermas differs from Adorno and Horkheimer, who have an almost entirely negative view of instrumental rationality in general and the capitalist economy in particular. Habermas is not hostile to instrumental rationality per se, nor to the institutions that embody its instrumental logic – the state and the market economy. He recognizes that they fulfil important and necessary social functions, and that abolishing them or doing without them is not an option. (Ibid.,pp. 54-55).
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Chris and I might have an interesting discussion about the "alienation from power" rebellion stance and the "participation in power" definition of freedom. The idea is not to be permanently in revolution but to attack the empty facade, illusion, of democracy so that we can actually participate.

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Thanks, Anti. I may have to read Finlayson's book, as that's interesting stuff and not too difficult to grasp (I have a hard time with the more esoteric). I'm not sure I agree with Habermas's view that we can't do without the state and market economy. Such a view seems to assume that our species must continue to become increasingly mobile and that "societies" must continue to "become bigger and more complex." I cling to the hope that that isn't inevitable. Perhaps I'm in denial, or naive.

It's hard for me to think of "mass media" as an "unmarketized" aspect of social life, or of the lifeworld. I think of "mass media" as a key tool of those who wish to manage/sustain the system. Maybe this is what Habermas means by the system being dependent upon the lifeworld, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that relationship.

When I or my wife goes to work in order to help provide food, shelter, electricity and various nonessentials, might it be said that we are working within the system in order to provide for our lifeworld? Is there really any way out of that predicament? Maybe Habermas would say no, but I want to believe that there is. It would seem, thanks to ethnographies, that there is some basis for my hope. It's not merely that other worlds are possible. Other worlds have existed and continue to exist.

Thinking aloud here, as I edit this post: "Sedimented structures and established patterns of instrumental action" can only be maintained if our species chooses to maintain them, correct? Those selected to hold positions of power consistently do just that. Why? Because those sedimented structures are positions of power. That's rather circular. Why is hierarchy kept alive? Why is money kept alive? Hierarchies are a human invention. They aren't a necessity. Same with money. I can take personal responsiblity. I don't have to be beholden to an abstract concept. But is Obama, for instance, really constrained, as Goff says? Or is he merely a willing contributor to the effort to maintain the system? Again, why are those in positions of power consistently willing contributors to the system's survival? Why must Obama or Romney manage the system instead of helping to bring it down? Is that like asking why a parasite continues to be a parasite? As Hedges says, rebellion is about "the permanent alienation from power." But what does that look like? Can someone in a position of power, therefore, rebel? What if he or she doesn't truly have power but is merely put in a position of seeming power by moneyed interests who trust that person to do as they please? In that case, can such a person rebel? The system is described above as consisting of both power and money, but isn't the latter the source of the former? I feel like I'm rambling now and may not be making much sense.

I didn't mean to jump your post, DRC.

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Quote DRC:

Chris and I might have an interesting discussion about the "alienation from power" rebellion stance and the "participation in power" definition of freedom. The idea is not to be permanently in revolution but to attack the empty facade, illusion, of democracy so that we can actually participate.

I'm not sure what you mean by "participation in power."

I appreciate the distinction Hedges draws between revolution and rebellion. The former is replacing one power structure with another. The latter is about "perpetual revolt and the permanent alienation from power." He goes on to say, "it is only in a state of rebellion that we can hold fast to moral imperatives that prevent a descent into tyranny."

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Garrett, I'm working through your post #107. It presents some difficulties for me in my efforts to interpret your questions, and I'm not sure how to address those difficulties so we can work at the questions themselves. First, I read your Brian Wilson's -- what I would call, anyway -- overview of the history of what we see taking place in the world now, which I would call the neoliberal globalized world, for lack of any agreed upon definitive description. I hope we can agree there is something going on even if we can't agree upon a good descriptive narrative, which I think is the disagreement that underlies your questions, because your questions seek a kind of certainty in definition, which implies an underlying uncertainty.

I recognize Brian Wilson's historical narrative and its fundamentals as something I might include in my own narrative. Brian and I share a kind of era in historical narrative making, so that's a possible explanation for why I might see something to recognize. But it's more than that. I also find recognition in writings that provide a similar critique through others mentioned here, and on other threads recently, like the "sharing" question thread, where we've mentioned Karl Polanyi, David Graeber, Jacques Ellul, and of course your own reference here to Stan Goff.

So. In my own loose way of making sense of these narratives, which I think has more of a literary basis involving the framework of metaphor rather than the framework of philosophy with its tendency towards esoteric technical definition one finds in these extended philosophical tomes which make reading them a handy sleeping pill late at night, I find themes and structures of thought that are similar enough that I feel we are all talking about something we sense in our imaginative capacities that is roughly the same thing. If so, that in itself is a kind of miracle to me these days.

Ok, here's a sentence I find difficult, and difficult because I don't understand why what you are saying is troubling for you:

Quote Garrett:

While I can agree that Bilderberg-style, Alex Jones conspiracies do a disservice, I find it difficult to accept the notion that the horrors of the world are not the result of the conscious choices of individuals. Some might say those individuals are acting rationally, but many of us don't think there's anything "rational" about greed and treating fellow humans as if they are less than human. Just as there's nothing "rational" - from my perspective - about preparing for disasters that you cause by being somewhere you shouldn't be, doing things you shouldn't be doing. I'm referring to this: http://news.yahoo.com/ice-cap-melts-militaries-vie-arctic-edge-072343565.html

I don't believe that anyone in the narratives you refer to, including Stan Goff's you reference with a quote, argue that conscious individual choice is not a part of the process. Nor would I. So, assuming I and all those I feel kinship with regarding these narratives are seeing pretty much the same process taking place, I'll try to give my version of it.

Human beings actually have to decide for themselves in their own minds to act. There's not a master servo-brain with a circuitry connected to all the human beings in the world so that when the servo brain thinks, an electrical impulse sends orders to mechanical parts that are in fact individual human beings all over the world, and they act according to the definitional structure of a giant system. So how is it that all these human beings are acting in accord with what I've called on many occasions a vertically integrated system? How does a giant bureaucracy like the military manage to decide that the Arctic is going to melt and then begin to act as a kind of collective entity to get ready for a future geostrategic positioning required to vie for that soon to be ice free zone where all these potential resources are waiting to be exploited?

The answer is going to require some degree of rational mental organization, which I would call generally "systemitizing" information and thereby describing how things work. That will involve many kinds of familiar things, not the least of which are the well known "job descriptions" for which people write their resumes in hopes of fulfilling basic requirements so they can get jobs. Does the President of the United States tell the military he commands to do all that in detail, like he's a big servo brain everyone gives a president credit for being? Does anyone? Can you imagine the size of a computer that it would take to have that capacity?

What happens is what happens in a corporation, and I know about this because I somehow was "lucky" enough to be in a position to become a systems analyst and then that evolved into a strategic planner for some corporations (when all I was trying to do was make some money as a writer).

What I understand from experience is this: A large corporation is a managed system of departments. The departments don't necessarily run all their information through each other, so levels of management in the corporation itself have to evolve to manage and coordinate the activities of the departments. At the top of all this is a CEO, who cannot know the details of everything, but does get these reports, and those reports are also further condensed into something called "Executive Summaries" so the busy CEO doesn't have to read every detail of a two hundred page report someone like me would write. I discovered all this because I can write and they needed me to write these things, and I got the boilerplates for how to do it and wrote reports for different levels of management. This is all very logical and rational and everything that takes place involves individual decision-making. But note, it is taking place within a system and that system has a set of rules, they are somewhat flexible and individual decision-making is therefore necessary, but one also has to be conscious of limits. Those limits are also part of the programming that some people are now calling "corporate culture".

The book you've begun reading, The Technological Society, is an extended, detailed description of the parameters of that kind of culture. The notion of Technique is part of that logical, rational structure that Brian Wilson refers to as "conditioning". He uses the concept in different ways, but here is just one example:

Quote Brian Wilson:

First, the 5,500-year (nearly 300-generation) period of acceptance and deference to large vertical authority structures (whether monarchial, military, or elected) has led to a chronic pattern of mindless obedience (De La Boetie).

Goff's difficult point about "self organization" includes the notion of individuals acting rationally. Perhaps you remember that reference I made to his explanation of the meaning of hegemony. Whether people behave at the hegemonic end of the spectrum or the coercive end, they still must act on their own, and their actions can easily be called rational. It's very rational to do what someone tells you to do something with the threat of a gun pointed at you, or working out your professional capacities within a collective system like a corporations, because you see that in doing so you will continue to live. One way of living may be more complex than the other, but the end result is pretty much the same.

Do you see what I'm saying? If so, can you see how this might relate to the effort to generalize all of this under the concept of "system"? I mean, just so we can take a stab at talking about it together.

If people are rationally doing their jobs, they do not necessarily need to think of the combined effects of a system in which they are simply performing their jobs. That may even be true of those at the top of these hierarchies. It gets even more complicated when someone wants the top political jobs in a system called a nation state, and they require something like a vote from a majority of their state's population. Then all sorts of things get mixed together to try to make that happen, and no one single person is capable of doing it alone. What happens from there becomes this whole nightmare we keep trying to unravel, sometimes called "power".

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That makes sense, Ren. I'm reminded of when Ellul spoke - about the abdication of personal responsiblity - in that video about the German soldier who didn't have time to think about the horrors of what he was engaged in, because the bodies were piling up and he had a job to do.

But, again, why is it that people like Graeber or Ellul or you or me aren't ever found atop governmental power structures? Do people start out caring about humanity, thinking they can bring about systemic change, only to become just another cog in the machine of death and destruction? Or are those drawn to power sociopaths and psychopaths, while the rest of us simply have no desire to seek or attain those positions? Was that German soldier a sociopath? Is it not reasonable to expect someone to be a conscientious objector and declare their humanity?

Quote .ren:How does a giant bureaucracy like the military manage to decide that the Arctic is going to melt and then begin to act as a kind of collective entity to get ready for a future geostrategic positioning required to vie for that soon to be ice free zone where all these potential resources are waiting to be exploited?

That the Arctic is going to continue melting is obvious. I imagine greed is the primary driving force behind the response to that reality. Those who were drawn to run oil and natural gas companies (something a person such as myself would never consider) do all they can to deter alternatives, and then bribe elected officials who run the military to order said military to protect their interests. And any member of the military who wishes to keep his or her job will be obedient. I doubt very many of the soldiers think too much about why they're in the Arctic doing what they're doing. Just as I doubt those who take cruise ships to the Arctic, where the military is prepared to rescue them if they sink, put much thought into how selfish and destructive they're being.

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Quote Garrett:

But, again, why is it that people like Graeber or Ellul or you or me aren't ever found atop governmental power structures? Do people start out caring about humanity, thinking they can bring about systemic change, only to become just another cog in the machine of death and destruction? Or are those drawn to power sociopaths and psychopaths, while the rest of us simply have no desire to seek or attain those positions? Was that German soldier a sociopath? Is it not reasonable to expect someone to be a conscientious objector and declare their humanity?

One of the psychologizing arguments about the conditioning involved in taking part in The Technological Society is that the system itself is sociopathic because it's so mechanical and anti human in nature, and that people in general become like the system. Of course, people being what we are, some of us don't. Even as a consultant I was working independently, under contracts I took part in devising, and when I was given opportunities to be part of a corporate management team because of some perceived abilities saw in me, I always turned them down. I imagine other people, especially those with MBA's, would have jumped at those opportunities. My reasoning goes back to feeling "trapped" in something I perceived to be a horrible enterprise, and that's the military. I promised myself I'd never be trapped again. So I've struggled to be self employed. That's just my neurosis. I suspect Brian Wilson who describes his own military experience in a aura of horror has a similar sense of it. And others. Stan Goff came to his after years in service, but I sense he's come to it.

Then there's all that work done on the Authoritarian Personality if you are looking for other explanations for why people willingly go along, and why some end up at the top of hierarchies. I think there's a fair amount of variation within the species even though the authoritarians keep wiping us out through the works of their minions like the one Ellul talked about in that video:

The Treachery of Technology

Maybe some of us like a slower way of living so we can reflect on what we do. From the video:

Wisdom does not come from intellectual reflection. It is achieved in a long process of transfer from generation to generation. An accumulation of experiences in direct relationship with the natural social climate. Nature served as an example for us. We must divest ourselves of all that. For in a technological society traditional human wisdom is not taken seriously.

Technology also obliges us to live more and more quickly. Inner reflection is replaced by reflex. Reflection means that, after I have undergone an experience I think about that experience. In the case of a reflex, you know immediately what you must do in a situation. Without thinking. Technology reuiers us no longer to think about things.

(around 22 minutes into the video)

And in listening to that I can't help but reflect upon the factors involved in technique, like scientific management that leads to the MBA these days, and led to the creation of assembly lines, and the "just doing one's job" mentality dealing with all the bodies Adolf Eichmann (or perhaps his underling Kramer, the good "soldier" you mentioned) described he had to deal with in his trial ("that atrocious excuse" about 8:09 minutes into the video). That of course led to Ward Churchill's much derided essay describing the people who died in the 911 attacked Trade Centers as "little Eichmanns" (and by extension all of our technological neoliberal globalizing society thus all of us), and then there's all that came down on Churchill for the audacity of his remark. For Eichmann (and by extension all the "little Eichmanns") there was no time to reflect about the effected horrors of his job. So in the reflexes that we call politics one can see how reflection itself gets removed from the scene.

And in a kind of anticipation of James Cameron's Terminator series, where humans rebel against the machines he says: "La Technique will not tolerate any judgement passed on it." (28:08 minutes in).

Perhaps those who become thoroughly conditioned to these systems won't allow it either, for they in essence have become these sociopathic machines as well.

At that point Ellul notes that ethical and moral judgement is the highest freedom of mankind, and that through this process we are robbed of our highest freedom. Think about that and how a positivist law rationally works when combined with the efficiencies of a corporate technology designed to provide the long forgotten basic survival of human beings, now relegated to the specialty technique many people call "economics". I find it can be a little disturbing when I reflect on it. And I've taken great trouble to make certain I have the time to reflect.

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Quote Garrett:

That the Arctic is going to continue melting is obvious. I imagine greed is the primary driving force behind the response to that reality.

If you look into it you'll find that the military does studies based on these scientific questions, like "is global warming happening?" and then, as part of their legislated job description, they do "what if" scenarios along with related strategic plans to deal with potential threats to the U.S. This is part of what the defense budget is all about. It's why politicians brag to their constituents about our "defense" capabilities. It's like a bureaucracy on steroids that has no reference to cost-based reality for much of what it does once you have the public conditioned with fear.

I'm sure greed can be found in there somewhere, but I don't see it as the driving force, from the good soldiers at the top (the President) on down to the minions at the bottom all diligently performing their jobs. The MIC system has its requirements to provide defense, and then there are so many departments that take off and do their little job description roles. As Eisenhower himself noted at the end of his Presidency, beware, the thing takes on a life of its own.

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Garrett, "participation in power" is a classic definition of human freedom that I like. I take participation to be an active engagement, not just being "included." But, the active decision may to be what ren describes above as going along with the job or team rather than fundamental questioning of what is going on. What some have discovered in stories of resistance is that the farther away from personal contact and engagement you are with the vicims, the less likely you are to oppose it. People at border crossings had to look into the eyes of Jews trying to get out of Germany. For some, that was what made them disobey orders. But, others just saw what might happen to themselves if they opposed authority.

Hedges' focus has been on the power of the illusion, so his permanent sense of alienation from power is about not falling under the power of the system and its myths. "Participation" in power is obviously the other side from alienation, and I think conscience ties them together. Being a permanent outsider is not enough. But, it matters critically to be aware rather than to identify with the systems of power and authority. Knowing what kind of system or institution one is part of is also critical. I think hierarchical and authoritarian systems are antihuman. The exceptional nature of the military ought to be for rare and exceptional situations, not the pattern for normal human behavior. We have made it the norm.

I saw CEO's come talk to Biz School students and always complain about how "powerless" they were at the top of the dinosaur. Going in, did they have ideals? Some. But the system engulfed them. We have the illusion of power being at the top, but what we see is people at the top doing what the system demands and explaining power to truth at best.

The challenge I see us grappling with is how to do democracy and ground power in the bottom rather than the top so the top acts in accountability to the bottom. Rather than put a new system in place and hope some hero can make it behave, we have to transform "management" into constituency building and interaction rather than ren's description of CEO data control and direction.

The basic idea is that those doing the job know the most about it. All the managing should serve this expertise and make doing it easier. It does require those doing the work to be creative and aware rather than just trained to function. "We've always done it this way" is function. Environmental design is looking for a better way. It is looking for harmony and balance with nature rather than a way to defeat or finesse nature.

We have had a lot of discussion about the way we are individuals and also belong to family and community. Our collectivity and teamwork allows us to achieve synergy and accomplish things we cannot do alone. They take different forms and personal contribution. I have given a lot of thought to what the idea of a "community of faith" is compared to a cult. Community encourages individuality and conscience, and "faith" is about its integrity and realism. What it takes to have such a "body" and to be involved in them as moral individuals is worth a lot of thought. It is also worth doing.

Then there is all the denial and despair being acted out, and the temptation to give it all up or find "an answer" to avoid the ambiguity and confusion. Have a nice day.

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Quote DRC:The challenge I see us grappling with is how to do democracy and ground power in the bottom rather than the top so the top acts in accountability to the bottom.

Perhaps because it's all you've ever known and been a part of, you seem to be working off an assumption that there must be a top and bottom. That hierarchy is a necessity, or at least inevitable. I'm coming from a totally different perspective that assumes no such thing.

I still don't have any idea - after reading what you wrote - what this "participation in power" would actually look like in this nation of 320 million people, or this world of 7+ billion.

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am

"The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest."
--Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774.

Ron seems to be pandering more and more. Not that I agree with his utopianism either. All too willing to remove the bandaids before stopping the mad slashers from lacerating the people. We learned from past mistakes such as the Great Depression. We don't want a living wage to bankrupt business. Its the fair thing to do and it will stimulate the economy mre than trickle down to China. I totally agree with Ron Paul's Constitutional stance on the drug war and against Bushcheney lies in Iraq. Although I'd argue that it was not Ayn Rand or even Libertarianism, Xenophobes and John Birchers/Birthers maybe. Like his predecessors Bob Barr and Harry Brownrivers RIP. They are too ingrained in the system to fight it, let alone stop it. Since he has a snow ball's chance in hell of winning I'm happy to hear him spout off at the GOPerverts.

Ron Paul's "death knell" was siding with the Wingnuts.

I think there is a theory, a theory of evolution, and I don't accept it. ... The creator that I know created us, each and every one of us and created the universe, and the precise time and manner. ... I just don't think we're at the point where anybody has absolute proof on either side.
—Ron Paul, Nov. 1,
Remarks made at a state Republican Party meeting in Spartanburg, S.C.

While it is evident that the human right to produce and use energy does not extend to activities that actually endanger the climate of the Earth upon which we all depend, bogus claims about climate dangers should not be used as a justification to further limit the American people's freedom.
—Ron Paul,
Speech on House floor opposing cap-and-trade legislation, June 4, 2009

Ron Paul accuses the CIA, Bush sr, and the democrats of drug trafficking

This does sum up the Ganjawar, but not enough for a vote.

Did you really think we want those laws observed? said Dr. Ferris. We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be
much easier to deal with. (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged' 1957)

Booshammy

How Neo-Cons, Neo-Nazis And Neo-McVeighs
Crashed Ron Paul’s Tea Party
The Tea Party, which started off as a Libertarian protest against taxes and government, has turned into a right wing, corporate sponsored, racist hate-fest. Three groups have joined the Libertarian founders of the Tea Party movement to add money, racism, hatred and conspiracy theory based paranoia to the Tea Pot.

Ron Paul: Hemp for Victory
America's most famous libertarian talks about making hemp legal again—
and what budget cuts he and liberals can agree on.

Medical Ethicist on Corporate Control
Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself—And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future."

In the hands of a slash and burn Liberterrorists? Reminders of ole Harry Browne complaining about air quality. Getting a Libertarian to regulate medical corporations monopolies and profits...

Kochaine A.L.E.C. Drug Detention Centers
$72,000.00 a head... Tax paid Teabogs...

On this following quote I can agree and I see as a major problem of the country, besides the Ganjawar.

"No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. ....the 63% of the German people who expressed their opposition to Hitler were much too divided and shortsighted to combine against a common danger which they must have known would overwhelm them unless they united, HOWEVER TEMPORARY, to stamp it out."
-William L. Shirer, author;
"The rise and fall of the Third Reich" **p.259**

U2b Nader, Ron Paul, Kucinich Speak to Occupy Wall Street

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DdC
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Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

Ren,

I'm probably suffering from the effects of believing for so long that there is a distinct line that can be drawn between guilty and innocent, between good and evil. And I don't want to think of myself as a "little Eichmann," even if I do realize that I contribute to atrocities via tax dollars and just by being part of the power+money system described by Habermas.

Quote .ren:
Quote Garrett:

That the Arctic is going to continue melting is obvious. I imagine greed is the primary driving force behind the response to that reality.

If you look into it you'll find that the military does studies based on these scientific questions, like "is global warming happening?" and then, as part of their legislated job description, they do "what if" scenarios along with related strategic plans to deal with potential threats to the U.S. This is part of what the defense budget is all about. It's why politicians brag to their constituents about our "defense" capabilities. It's like a bureaucracy on steroids that has no reference to cost-based reality for much of what it does once you have the public conditioned with fear.

I'm sure greed can be found in there somewhere, but I don't see it as the driving force, from the good soldiers at the top (the President) on down to the minions at the bottom all diligently performing their jobs. The MIC system has its requirements to provide defense, and then there are so many departments that take off and do their little job description roles. As Eisenhower himself noted at the end of his Presidency, beware, the thing takes on a life of its own.

I guess I think of the military as merely a tool of the plutocracy, and that every action it takes is done for the wealthy by the wealthy in order to increase wealth. And that "defense" is merely a cover, which members of the military no doubt believe is the purpose of what they do, and why they're in the Arctic or wherever military personnel find themselves. Is that perspective flawed in your judgement, Ren? Is it too conspiratorial or simplistic? When we read or hear a phrase such as "defend the interests of the US," isn't the maintenance of wealth disparity (via the control or acquisition of resources, which are directly tied to wealth) at the heart of such interests? George Kennan seemed to suggest that maintaining that disparity was the driving force behind US foreign policy (the instrument of which is the military).

Quote George Kennan:We must be very careful when we speak of exercising "leadership" in Asia. We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have answers to the problems, which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction...

In the face of this situation we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. We should dispense with the aspiration to 'be liked' or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague — and for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

Perhaps my flaw is in thinking plutocracy is a cause, rather than a symptom. But what, then, is the cause?

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am
Quote Garrett:

I guess I think of the military as merely a tool of the plutocracy, and that every action it takes is done for the wealthy by the wealthy in order to increase wealth. And that "defense" is merely a cover, which members of the military no doubt believe is the purpose of what they do. Is that perspective flawed in your judgement, Ren? Is it too conspiratorial or simplistic?

If we see what the technological system supports and at the same time creates, which is power, and if we see that power accumulates, and when it does, we see that the measures of accounting we summerize as wealth ends up in the hands of a smaller and smaller few, then it's not too hard to give an institution a kind of mythic life of its own, and see the institution in a kind of summary fashion as a tool supporting the accumulated power of the system.

But those are just figurative ways of seeing and "system" as a concept is part of that figuration.

What I tried to show was that people participate willingly in the system. People do not en masse decide to throw down their spears and walk away to do something else. They are actively living their lives every day as if this is the way to live life. There is no macro computer making decisions for everyone. So we grapple with trying to understand something we now call the system, and one of the ways we do is to set up paradigms that take the model of hierarchy and attempt to describe it as a conscious control model, which naturally, because it seems to have that characteristic due to the accumulation of power, works from top down.

But it may be something entirely different from that. And that's why I brought up the discussion about reflection and reflex above. Technology and its built-in imperatives systematizes our lives and make it possible for us to act in most of our living moments reflexively. Anyone who has gone through boot camp has been ultra programmed to act reflexively. It's less obvious in a corporate chain of command, but maybe not so less obvious for anyone who has worked on an assembly line. Thus, due to the reflexive nature of behavior, the power coursing through the system continues unabated. Naturally, because of the very nature of the system itself, power accumulates, unless something is done to redistribute power.

I think people need to reflect more. They need to exercise that one freedom Ellul identifies is our highest freedom: ethical and moral judgement.

However, the accumulation of experience through generations and the cultural practices that results from that accumulation has been effectively destroyed by the power of exercised efficiency by everyone in the system (that we can now call The Technological Society if we want). So exercising our greatest freedom requires a lot of outside work on the part of any given individual, which consumes their time, and requires as well a sharing of knowledge that has been excised from our everyday lives by our very participation in that Technological Society with all its inherent power if we are to reflect on our current experiences and exercise our freedom to make ethical and moral judgements. Because the system of power in place does not care about those judgements. Nor does it need them. Therefore nothing efficient in a high speed existence can come of exercising our freedom. So most people choose to be entertained and comforted after a horrible day at the office. It's much more efficient.

Because of its efficiency technology leads to more power. But also to more risks. For efficiency is everything. All else is peripheral. Including risks, therefore. But in the case of more power and greater risks people themselves must change too. They must be sufficiently independent to control that power and perhaps not use it fully. And they must try to avoid risks. So it is necessary for people to change quickly so that they can apply the technology in the proper way, not simply efficiently. That is why something must change.

As the French philosopher Bergson said long ago in 1930: The more power people have the greater the strength of mind they need. There must be a kind of refinement. But if people think of only one thing, namely power, and they are given control over means of power, they will use that power as quickly as possible and without even thinking about it.

(The Treachery of Technology starting at 25:12)

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

This was missing from the paragraph I quoted when I copied and pasted it:

Quote Garrett:

When we read or hear a phrase such as "defend the interests of the US," isn't the maintenance of wealth disparity (via the control or acquisition of resources, which are directly tied to wealth) at the heart of such interests? George Kennan seemed to suggest that maintaining that disparity was the driving force behind US foreign policy (the instrument of which is the military).

I don't think that additional thought changes my above response. I will add that the system requires a certain amount of persuasion to keep people from removing themselves from the matrix (I think it's "taking the red pill) and therefore from exercising their freedom to ethically and morally judge their own actions (which by extension are the actions of empire).

Is Kennan trying to get people to stop participating or merely to believe that somehow by recognizing that the a small percentage accumulates the power of the system somehow it will magically be reversed? Who's this "we" he's talking about? It ain't me I can say with certainty.

What is the cause? It feels like a chasing my tail kind of question. We are if we participate, seems to me. If we don't judge our own system and what we do, it will continue. If we throw down our spears for empire as Chalmers Johnson finally did when he wrote his first in that now well known trilogy of his: Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire, presciently foreseeing 911, the thing just keeps going.

I'm getting chilling flashes of 1984 at the moment and I need to get away from this stuff for a bit. :)

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

The Art of War - Sun Tzu
To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands.
But the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
If you know the enemy, and know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

"All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."

"Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise."
From Benito Mussolini contributing to the "London Sunday Express," December 8, 1935

"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
Harry Anslinger, U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics, testifying to Congress on why marijuana should be made illegal, 1937.
(Marijuana Tax Act, signed Aug. 2, 1937; effective Oct. 1, 1937.)

Parallel to the training of the body a struggle against the poisoning of the soul must begin. Our whole public life today is like a hothouse for sexual ideas and simulations. Just look at the bill of fare served up in our movies, vaudeville and theaters, and you will hardly be able to deny that this is not the right kind of food, particularly for the youth...Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea."
Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf", Vol. 1, Chapter 10

"A violently active, intrepid, brutal youth that is what I am after...
I will have no intellectual training.
Knowledge is ruin for my young men."
Adolf Hitler quoted by John Gunther "The Nation"

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . we need believing people."
Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933, from a speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi Vatican Concordant of 1933

"Arbitrary and capricious" is legal language that was used by DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young in 1988 to conclude that DEA was obligated under the Controlled Substances Act to reschedule marijuana as a prescription medicine. DEA Chief Administrator Robert Bonner proceeded to arbitrarily and capriciously disregard Judge Young's well researched and reasoned decision, which the Act allowed him to do.)

"We should resist the temptation to identify our religious convictions with the platform of a party or the platitudes of favored politicians."--Ralph Reed, 1996

"We're going to bring back God and the Bible and drive the gods of secular humanism right out of the public schools of America." --Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan addressing the anti-gay rally in Des Moines, 2-11-96

"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."
--Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue,
The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 8-16-93

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DdC
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Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

DdC, are you just trying to get attention or are you attempting to imply something?

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

Truth ain't that hard ren, the post is self explanatory to those without an agenda and to those who can read. Attention is given by others, I made no requests. The parallels are there for those with eyes to see... Joseph Goebbels - Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister is no different than OxyRush Limbaugh. Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering could have penned the words Attorney General John Ashcroft spewed warnings of terrorists. Bush Sr and his entire Klan of UnAmerican activities. It's all there including the TV media reading memo's. What is it you're having such difficulty understanding?

But, if I have to spell it out for you...

"...somebody has to take governments' place,
and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it."
- David Rockefeller - Newsweek International, Feb 1 1999.

"The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one."
From Benito Mussolini contributing to the "London Sunday Express," December 8, 1935

"How many murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, holdups, burglaries and deeds of maniacal insanity it causes each year, especially among the young, can only be conjectured...No one knows, when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a joyous reveller in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher, or a murderer..."
HARRY J ANSLINGER
Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics 1930-1962

"The masses have little time to think. And how incredible is the willingness of modern man to believe."

The German people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led."

"Another weapon I discovered early was the power of the printed word to sway souls to me. The newspaper was soon my gun, my flag - a thing with a soul that could mirror my own."
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini together in the heyday of 1930s fascism.

From Whom Did the Fascists Get Support? Parenti thirdworldtraveler
Italian fascism and German Nazism had their admirers within the U.S. business community and the corporate owned press. Bankers, publishers, and industrialists, including the likes of Henry Ford, traveled to Rome and Berlin to pay homage, receive medals, and strike profitable deals. Many did their utmost to advance the Nazi war effort, sharing military industrial secrets and engaging in secret transactions with the Nazi government, even after the United States entered the war. During the 1920s and early 1930s, major publications like Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Saturday Evening Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Christian Science Monitor hailed Mussolini as the man who rescued Italy from anarchy and radicalism.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country... Corporations have bee enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Abraham Lincoln, attributed November 12, 1864,

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty, He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
Thomas Jefferson, 1814

I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag."
--Ralph Reed, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 11/9/91

Alphabet Channel Alternatives

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DdC
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Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am
Quote DdC:

Truth ain't that hard ren, the post is self explanatory to those without an agenda and to those who can read.

So you are just trying to get attention.

The Lord blesses you for knowing the truth.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

See if any of this makes any sense, these are the parting words from Jacques Ellul in that video, The Treachery of Technology:

(Previous to this he leads up with a discussion on analysis itself, in which he says: "I must make sure that I can analyze it just as I can analyze a stone or any other object, that I can analyze it and fathom it from all angles. As soon as I can break down this whole technological system into its smallest components my freedom begins." (my bold))

So we can ask ourselves whether there is really any sense in all this to be investigated. But the search for it cannot be a strictly intellectual activity. The search for sense implies that we must have a radical discussion of modern life. In order to rediscover sense we must discuss everything which has no sense. We are surrounded by objects which are, it is true, efficient but are absolutely pointless.

A work of art, on the other hand, has sense in various ways, or it calls up in me a feeling or an emotion whereby my life acquires sense. That is not the case with a technological product.

And on the other hand we have the obligation to discover certain fundamental truths which have disappeared because of technology. We can also call these truths values, important actual values, which ensure that people experience their lives as having sense.

In other words, as soon as that moment arrives when I think that the situation is really dangerous, I can't make do any more with purely technological means. Then I must employ all my human and intellectual capacities and all my relationships with others to create a counterbalance.

That means that when I think that a disaster threatens and that developments threaten to lead to a destiny for mankind as I wrote concerning the development of technology, I, as a member of mankind, must resist and must refuse to accept that destiny.

And at that moment we do what mankind has always done at a moment when destiny threatens. Just think of all those Greek tragedies in which mankind stands up against destiny and says: No, I want mankind to survive and I want freedom to survive.

At such a moment you must continue to cherish hope, but not the hope that you will achieve a quick victory, and even less hope that we face an easy struggle. We must be convinced that we will carry on fulfilling our role as people.

In fact it is not an insuperable situation. There is no destiny that we cannot overcome. You must simply have valid reasons for joining the struggle. You need a strong conviction.

You must really want people to remain, ultimately, people.

This struggle against the destiny of technology has been undertaken by us by a means of small scale actions. We must continue with small groups of people who know one another. It will not be by any big mass of people. Or any big unions or big political parties who will manage to stop this development.

What I have just said doesn't sound very efficient, of course. When we oppose things which are too efficient we mustn't try to be even more efficient. For that will not turn out to be the most efficient way. But we must continue to hope that mankind will not die out and will go on passing on truths from generation to generation.

(The Treachery of Technology starting at around 46:30 with a scene in a subway where people are rushing to get on their trains while a musician with the traditional open box filled with a few coins in front of him sits and plays a trumpet which he holds up to his mouth with his right hand while he plays an accordion with his left, managing to use his fingers on each hand accurately for each to create music.)

(my bold in that one paragraph, by the way)

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

I finally got around to reading the excerpt from Conquest of Cool for which you provided a link earlier in this thread.

Quote Thomas Frank:The enthusiastic discovery of the counterculture by the branches of American business studied here marked the consolidation of a new species of hip consumerism, a cultural perpetual motion machine in which disgust with the falseness, shoddiness, and everyday oppressions of consumer society could be enlisted to drive the ever-accelerating wheels of consumption.
Quote Jacques Ellul:This struggle against the destiny of technology has been undertaken by us by a means of small scale actions. We must continue with small groups of people who know one another. It will not be by any big mass of people. Or any big unions or big political parties who will manage to stop this development.

I can connect both of those quotes to my concern over policies geared toward allowing a greater number of people to engage in mass consumerism or benefit from the fruits of technological advancement. This "progressive" ideal is probably not going to combat overconsumption or resource depletion, or prevent the environmental degradation that will result. I liken it to carbon trading. Company A pollutes less, so that means Company B can pollute more. It's insane.

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am

Can technology exist without us (humans) being dominated by it, as Ellul acknowledges he is. And as Western Civilization, as a whole, is. Does resisting that domination require the complete abandonment of technology or technological advancement?

I suppose a definition of "technology" is called for. Is a wheelbarrow an example of technology?

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am

Garrett, to address a much earlier question, my belief is that we are talking about acting locally while thinking globally. Instead of our "democratic" identity being about membership in the macro, our personhood is invested in our localities and its democracy. Our global connections are about uniting those localities in a common sense of bottom-up power, but also in a unity of humanity that features cooperation over competition, or, the latter as only a heuristic 'game' we play so we can party after.

To simplify the "technological" question, I can think of human beings using techniques and inventions to serve human life rather than the reverse. I love the wheel, and a good wheelbarrow really saves me a lot of work in the garden or doing home repair. Wheels on luggage show how dumb we are for it taking so long to get them. I see the economy in similar form where having an economy to serve human community and let us do more together is fine, but becoming the mirror image of the economy is not.

It is obviously much more complex than this; but I think the basic issue is alienation from the human soul and caring, sharing mutuality. How we get seduced by the magic and the wizards who promise that "the nation" or "the economy" or "the dogma" will lead them to paradise or make them safe is the problem.

As a "Progressive," I am not buying into the teleology of "progress" as much as the socially inclusive humanism against Corporatism and other Mass Authoritarianism. I find Enviromental Design a better frame for placing humanity and the human environment in harmony with nature, and each other. It also is about using technology with harmony and humanity as the goal instead of making us into its servants and devotees.

My experience with the "culture of cool" is best framed by the Che exhibit at a London Museum where he had become a logo for all sorts of products. My favorite cartoon in that line is Che wearing a Bart Simpson shirt.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

The most important thing I thought Ellul was pointing out, and which I keep stressing as well, is a need to return to a human-based culture. That's why he says this must occur among people who know each other, in order to avoid the process that inevitably takes place at the mass level -- that commodification process Thomas Frank describes so well.

That by the way also goes back to Marx in the early to mid 1800s, who was already recognizing that process. If we make technology into something to revere -- and convince me that this society hasn't done that -- then in order to accomodate ourselves to what we revere, that very thing can dominate us. Commodification is part of that reverence-making process. Rock "Stars" are commodifed idolazations, for instance, as is their "coolness" or whatever it is they project that turns people on.

People have argued that this is deterministic. I disagree, it's merely looking at the reality of what we humans do when we organize ourselves, something becomes our cultural practices because that's what we practice and invest ourselves in every day. It is utterly human to do that. Those are the points I try to make.

What Ellul called for is for each of us to go through a deep analysis of our culture. I think this is something that happens together, with smallish groups of people who know each other intimately. I think that's what Ellul also recognized. A definition, therefore, seems to me to be insufficient. We must go beyond what we call technology to understand our society and its relationship to our technologies. I think that's why Ellul came up with his concept for "Technique". It is in that deep analysis that we take the act of becoming free, not simply defining technology. After all:

A stick used by a chimpanzee to get termites out of a hole is technology.

A stone can be a technology.

In his book Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, Richard Heinberg does some of that deep analysis. He has a chapter titled: Tools with a Life of Their Own, in which he also mentions Ellul as well as others who recognize this characteristic of technology.

Quote Richard Heinberg:

NEARLY EVERYONE complains from time to time that our tools have become Sorcerer’s Apprentices; that we have come to serve our machines instead of the other way around; and that, increasingly, our lives are regimented as if we ourselves were mere cogs in a vast mechanism utterly beyond our control.

We are not the first people to feel this way: criticism of technology has a history. The Luddites of early 19th-century England were among the first to raise their voices — and hammers! — against the dehumanizing side effects of mechanization. As industrialization proceeded decade-by-decade — from powered looms to steam shovels, jet planes, and electric toothbrushes — objections to the accelerating, mindless adoption of new technologies waxed erudite. During the past century, books by Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Kirkpatrick Sale, Stephanie Mills, Chellis Glendinning, Jerry Mander, John Zerzan, and Derrick Jensen, among others, have helped generations of readers understand how and why our tools have come to enslave us, colonizing our minds as well as our daily routines.

These authors reminded us that tools, far from being morally neutral, are amplifiers of human purposes; therefore each tool carries its inventor’s original intent inherent within it. We can use a revolver to hammer nails, but it works better as a machine for the swift commission of mayhem; and the more handguns we have around, the more likely it is for inevitable, daily personal conflicts to go ballistic. Thus, as clashes over human purposes form the core of ethical and political disputes, technology itself, as it proliferates, must inevitably become the subject of an increasing array of social controversies. Battles over technology concern nothing less than the shape and future of society.

In principle, those battles, if not the scholarly discussions about them, reach all the way back to the Neolithic era, and perhaps to our harnessing of fire tens of thousands of years ago. Lewis Mumford drew a through-line emphasizing how modern megatechnologies are externalizations of a social machine that originated in the pristine states of the Bronze Age:

The inventors of nuclear bombs, space rockets, and computers are the pyramid builders of our own age: psychologically inflated by a similar myth of unqualified power, boasting through their science of their increasing omnipotence, if not omniscience, moved by obsessions and compulsions no less irrational than those of earlier absolute systems: particularly the notion that the system itself must be expanded, at whatever the eventual cost.1

John Zerzan goes further, asserting that it is the human tendencies to abstract and manipulate, which are at the heart of our tool-making ability, that cut us off from our innate connections with the natural world, and therefore obscure our own inherent nature.2

Heinberg, Richard (2010-08-27). Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (pp. 31-32). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

In that chapter he takes Ellul a little further because he is arguing that we have also become addicted to a technology that depends on abundant cheap energy. He says this about classifying tools in order to help sort out what technology relates to in terms of our cultural organization and the upcoming problems with energy so many have been trying to warn us about:

It is helpful for our purposes here to classify tools according to their energy inputs. The following four categories, outlined in my book The Party’s Over,5 correspond very roughly to four major water-sheds in social evolution:

A. Tools that require only human energy for their manufacture and use. Examples: stone spearheads and arrowheads, grinding tools, baskets, and animal-skin clothing. These sorts of tools are found in all hunter-gatherer societies.

B. Tools that require an external power source for their manufacture, but human power for their use. Examples: all basic metal tools, such as knives, metal armor, and coins. These tools were the basis of the early agricultural civilizations centered in Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, and Rome.

C. Tools that require only human energy for their manufacture, but harness an external energy source in their use. Examples: the wooden plow drawn by draft animals, the sailboat, the fire drill, the windmill, the water mill. The fire drill was used by hunter-gatherers, and the wooden plow and sailboat were developed in early agricultural societies; the windmill and water mill appeared at later stages of social evolution.

D. Tools that require an external energy source for their manufacture and also harness or use an external energy source. Examples: the steel plow, the gun, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the jet engine, the nuclear reactor, the hydroelectric turbine, the photovoltaic panel, the wind turbine, and all electrical devices. These tools and tool systems are the foundation of modern industrial societies — in fact, they define them.

For thousands of years, human beings have engaged in a constant struggle to harness extrasomatic energy (that is, energy from sources other than the food they eat). Until recently, such energy came mostly from the capture of work performed by animal muscles. In the US, as recently as 1850, domesticated animals — horses, oxen, and mules — were responsible for over two thirds of the physical work supporting the economy. Today the percentage is negligible: virtually all work is done by fuel-fed machines. Slavery was a strategy for capturing human muscle power, and the end of most formal slavery during the 19th century was more or less inevitable when Class D tools became cheaper to own and keep than human slaves — or domesticated animals, for that matter.

Heinberg, Richard (2010-08-27). Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (pp. 33-35). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

So there are some things to think about. I have to go and I don't have time to edit, so this is how it will be.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

Thank you ren, but seriously I am only the messenger with occassional opinions. I have no need for your attention. Take it or leave it... Knowing Truth is a reward in itself, if the "Lord" was concerned he would bring it to more people. Since there seems to be an abundance of liars. Maybe the "Lord" is sitting this one out.

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DdC
Joined:
Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

May not be the right place for this but earlier Thom was talking about the very limited selection/airwaves for progressive radio and that sent me on a rant (my area no longer has any progressive radio airwaves).

Anyway, found this: Clear Channel Communications supposedly supports progressive talk shows and I wanted to know more about them: clearchannel dot com/Corporate/PressRelease.aspx?PressReleaseID=2243 reports that they finalized the " completion of a merger with an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, Inc., a corporation formed by a private equity group co-led by Bain Capital Partners, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P." in July 2008.

I checked into these links (can you rely solely on Wikipedia as a source??)here at infowars dot com/bain-capital-owns-clear-channel-romney-supported-by-talk-show-sphere/ and it does seem possible that Bain/Clear/Romney could be coordinating. HMMMM

All I know is that a quick search of progressive radio stations proves Thom's point that there are just a FEW of them! Obviously this is a 'far right' country and doesn't remotely look--sound--centrist to me at all!!

eeeek
Joined:
Mar. 14, 2011 11:41 am

The Ron Paul Revolution will not be televised, people gotta go check it out for themselves.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ron Paul Speaks to a crowd of over 2500 at Texas A&M University
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2gX-4L_6ik

Ron Paul crowd at Fort Worth, TX - 4/11/12 - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4u69-AgsGE

Ron Paul draws crowd of 10000 at UCLA! - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypEAx31LtF0

Ron Paul Draws MASSIVE Crowd at UC Berkeley Rally! - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwPYEWJDyZo

MEDIA BLACKOUT on Ron Paul Record Crowds - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWuSFLCM2dk

Romney Crowds vs Ron Paul Crowds Michigan Election 2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgbofNiQpKo

Ron Paul Continues to Draw Massive Crowds Across the Country
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCtm0tuvp9E

RON PAUL DRAWS CROWD OF 5000+ IN WISCONSIN - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emISUkE4Hw8

Ron Paul: Media Ignores Us - Bigger Crowds Than the Rest - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j56FZSrXUM0

Ron Paul at UCLA Entry and Crowd Response (4/4/2012) - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNN6juT6YK8

Ron Paul Draws Massive 6200+ Crowd In Chico, California (4-4-12)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfOXo7WGXH8

Receptive student crowd greets Ron Paul in Madison - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBKUL9okxWE

Ron Paul Crowd in Fort Worth 4/11/12 - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bx8FqBN_iQ

Ron Paul UCLA OVERCAPACITY CROWD! 4/4/2012 - Part 1 ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCKzRuAcBp0

Ron Paul-Huge Crowds & Critical Mass.mov - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhVbY3our4

Ron Paul Only Candidate that Continues To Draw Huge Crowds
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifv0dlf-Tpc

Ron Paul Draws 7800+ at UCLA Rally! Video of Crowd and Speech
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ootad-Ylvqg

Ron Paul draws RECORD CROWDS / MEDIA IGNORES! - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjRwczr7gc8

antikakistocrat's picture
antikakistocrat
Joined:
Apr. 18, 2012 3:41 pm

I wish people would make themselves aware of what's being discussed before posting. If you don't, you're just spamming.

Quote .ren:The most important thing I thought Ellul was pointing out, and which I keep stressing as well, is a need to return to a human-based culture. That's why he says this must occur among people who know each other, in order to avoid the process that inevitably takes place at the mass level -- that commodification process Thomas Frank describes so well.

That makes sense. And it relates to our discussion in that other thread (there are only 2 I bother with anymore) in which we contemplate whether or not genuine cooperation can be forced by institutions.

I have (but have not yet read) The End of Growth. It seems I'll need to get that other book of Heinberg's. Tainter, when discussing innovation, made me aware of this "peak everything" concept. When output is less than input, it's game over for oil. But it's not just oil that's peaking. As a result, I wonder if a more human-based culture will be forced upon us all. I welcome it, but the mayhem in the meantime is concerning.

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 9:20 am

I've been told that Ron Paul is kind of taboo here and that anyone mentioning him tends to get banned cuz of some extremist leftist moderators.

Since they have allowed this topic to be created I thought I would let the Ron Paul backers and those on the fence all the progress and support that Ron Paul really has despite corporate media blackout.

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antikakistocrat
Joined:
Apr. 18, 2012 3:41 pm

Alphabet Channel Alternatives

DdC's picture
DdC
Joined:
Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

OBAMA'S BROKEN POT PROMISES ARE BEST COUNTERED
BY RON PAUL'S CONSTITUTIONAL CONSISTENCY
Meanwhile, Ron Paul creeps along like the Constitutional Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, not for three years, but for three decades of consistently calling for an end to the drug war, illustrating the folly of interventionist foreign policy and, with an eerily accurate understanding of economics you usually won't hear from him.

DdC's picture
DdC
Joined:
Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

Garrett, I'm abandoning this discussion. I think it has been confusing to go from that other thread to this one. The cross over point is several pages back. I personally could not care less about Ron Paul. I believe we can successfully take up this localization issue with regards to cooperation and sharing.

Quote antikakistocrat:

I've been told that Ron Paul is kind of taboo here and that anyone mentioning him tends to get banned cuz of some extremist leftist moderators.

I doubt any of that's true. I happen to know who one moderator might be and he has never banned anyone, or so he says.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

He may not have but many people get banned from here all the time.

antikakistocrat's picture
antikakistocrat
Joined:
Apr. 18, 2012 3:41 pm

As usual most people know more than I do.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

ren, I think you are right about where the discussion can continue. As to Ron Paul and his cult, we have had lots of people come here convinced that Mr. Paul is the only truth bearer, and they tend to get countered by intelligence. Some give up on us and others become beligerant and difficult. I have heard his rap, and the points of agreement are few. We oppose the wars. Good. We think pot should not be against the law. Also good.

But, Mr. Paul belongs to the Republican Party and hangs out with creeps. He has bizarre economic ideas and some truly anti-social positions. He is not taken seriously by Republicans and he only convinces Democrats that a stopped clock can be right twice a day.

His attraction to some Americans is interesting, but more from a pathologist's perspective. I think he appeals to extreme individualism and does not lead his followers to a social realism called politics. He is not nearly good enough on gay rights.

If you want to follow someone who is outside the duopoly for much better reasons, try Dennis Kucinich.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
"I reject her philosophy," Ryan told National Review on Thursday. "It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don’t give me Ayn Rand."

Oh, don't worry Ryan, idolatrous theistic religious nationalism works just fine with fascistic Ayn Randian atheism: they go together like meat and potatos.

Paul Ryan Suddenly Does Not Embrace Ayn Rand's Teachings.

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Antifascist
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

These politicians would be amusing if they weren't in a position to be so dangerous when elected.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

Since the Greek and French elections last weekend endorsing antiausterity, the bankers and traders on Wall Street have been in a total state of panic sensing that the Neo-Liberal debt scam-what-am economic model is starting a gigantic domino like collapse of $707,568,901,000,000 trillion dollars of derivatives. The European Central Banks pump money into the countries' monetary systems and immediately suck it out as debt payments to themselves--all this money is just moved from one room to another and back again-- the people never see it. If Greece and France refuse to be the parasitic hosts for the ECB, the parasitic meal is over and their debt default will ripple all the way to the United States Banking system which has been quietly pumping $600 billion into foreign banks. That is why Wall Street is peeing on themselves while crying about socialism--they are really upset! In fact the Eurozone is so desparate that they are holding a gun to their own head saying to Greece, "Stay with austerity or we will shoot ourselves!" Meanwhile, the American news media has live coverage of "Dancing with the Stars." Enjoy.

Waiting for Copernicus: On the Slow-Death of Neoliberalism by John Feffer, May 9,2012.

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Antifascist
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Currently Chatting

GOP Blocks Equal Pay...again.

Just in time for election season, Senate Republicans blocked legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap. For the third time since 2012, Republicans refused to allow debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and reminded women that the GOP doesn't believe in equal pay for equal work.

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