“It’s turned us back into cowboys and Indians again,” he [Chapoose] said. “The tension is higher than it started but it hasn’t reached a plateau. That’s going to happen Monday. Then we’ll see the battle lines.” (Shaun Chapoose, councilman of the Ute Indian Tribe business committee)
Two areas designated as national monuments have knocked down to size, reduced by nearly two million acres all told, so as to be opened for development. White men coming in to extract resources is, of course, simply a variation on one of America’s central themes. It’s also an illustration of the way capitalism works. Read more
Stats on wealth inequality get a bit hazy, as stats can be. Back when we were protesting with Occupy Wall Street, the wealth inequality number that I remember citing wasn’t about the 1%, it was that 20% of the U.S. population controlled 80% of the wealth. That seemed like a lot to me, back in 2010. U.S. inequality was at the level of “Third World” nations, and it all seemed completely out of control.
We tried to raise awareness, and it worked, we raised awareness, but our political system was too broken to make the kinds of deep reforms needed to change the trends. Obama tinkered around the edges but didn’t put forth the kind of sustained effort that would have been needed to turn it around. So, the trends just keep getting worse.
I’ve always thought of it in gangster terms. Once you’re the mafia boss and you control the wealth and you pull the strings, you can set it up so that you’re getting a piece of all the action. That seems to be the trend. Read more
As it so happens, I was sent two “Ugh” links on the same day. It isn’t unusual for me to be sent two Ugh links in one day, after all this is the era of Trump, a time period in which there is a great push to entrench our nation in our old and enduring prejudices. Still, these two Ugh links seemed to sort of ding, for me, the kind of ding that makes me want to write.
A few days ago, I found myself explaining socialism — well, it was sort of socialism in a nutshell — and even though I talk about socialism (a lot), I was at a loss for a quick minute. I didn’t want to just provide a dictionary definition of socialism, I wanted to talk about why it mattered, or more to the point, why does socialism matter to me?
To many, the idea of “socialism” seems abstract. Even to my liberal comrades, socialism seems a sort of distant goal. I’ve even been told that it’s a distraction to the current struggle against Trump and the Republican attack on the individual liberties of minority groups. There’s a suspicion of white male leftists like myself: it’s only because of my position of privilege that I can talk about socialism and other rather abstract matters, instead of fighting for the real and immediate dangers that under-privileged groups face.
“I grew up playing in the woods, floating coolers of beer down a river, shooting off fireworks, just generally raising hell, all that kind of stuff,” said Neely. “Things most people would consider a part of redneck culture. We’re trying to acknowledge the ways we’ve made mistakes and bought into white supremacy and capitalism, but also give ourselves an environment in which it’s OK to celebrate redneck culture.”
There are several commonalities between the far left and the far right – including a disdain for liberals – but the biggest divide is on the topic of intolerance.
I’ve long said that climate change is important but that we’ve got even bigger problems, what researchers are now calling ‘biological annihilation’, a term from a recent study that reveals that we have lost billions of populations of animals in recent decades. It all boils down to human overconsumption.
Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.”
Yesterday an article of mine went up at Cinema Faith, comparing the James Bond and Jason Bourne films and the various versions of America that they present. The films are intertwined into American culture, spanning decades (29 films total, between the two of them), so I’ve planned it as a series of three articles.
Bourne’s journey mirrored my own, and many others. It mirrored our own spiritual and national amnesia. Like many of my peers, I was taught a sanitized, glorified version of American history, a Christian ideology of “one nation, under God.” Sure we had our messy periods — what with slavery and that nasty bit with killing all of those Indians — but we fixed all that, didn’t we? The America of today is a land of opportunity, opportunity for all, isn’t it?
Interesting book on sale today at Audible, their Daily Deal. For a mere $2.95 you can study the concept of post-scarcity, post-capitalist economics, working backward from the Star Trek Universe. The premise is that in a world where our basic needs are taken care of, the nature of human desire changes. Having conquered scarcity, a new form of socialism can emerge that allows human beings to flourish. This was one of Marx’s points. Is such a world possible? I’ll direct you to Manu Saadia’s Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek.
Source: Trekonomics Audiobook | Audible.com
Over the last year, my approach and attitude toward politics has evolved. That’s probably true for most of us. A year ago, I was engaged and optimistic about the possibility that Bernie might beat the liberal establishment and make a serious run at the White House. I was in McCarthy, Alaska a year ago, and I went to a Democratic caucus where something like fifteen people showed up, which may not sound like much to you, but McCarthy is a remote community that is literally at the end of the road, way out in bush Alaska, so fifteen people represents roughly half of the winter population. The caucus turned into a party.
But then the establishment struck back and Bernie got booted out, and since then, our political situation has only devolved in a downward spiral of outrage and cultural dysfunction. The worse it gets, the more I find myself single-pointedly posting politically. I can’t help myself.
I don’t apologize for filling my social media with political shit, but it’s odd because I’m not sure that I like it that way. I’d like to broaden my horizons a bit. For example, I’m a new author, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, trying to build a writing career and publish a novel. So from a marketing perspective I know that I should be posting stuff that’s more neutral, less politically charged, in an effort to broaden my influence among potential readers. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m undeterred, day after day posting on politics and power and socialism and, of course, Trump. Is it possible to break out?
Well said. With things in the U.S. going to shit, it’s time to think about options. Remember: things don’t have to be this way.
Yuval Harari is the internationally best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which is probably my favorite book of 2016. In the introduction to this fascinating YouTube talk (see below), Harari discusses one of the central elements of the modern self and of the modern world: the authority of the individual’s inner voice. We decide essential questions of personal identity, of right or wrong based on our inner sense. We make critical career choices or other life decisions based on how we feel. “Look within,” we tell each other. “What’s your gut telling you?” we ask. Then there’s that ancient Greek inscription that seems to say it all: “know thyself.”
This approach is often derided by religious types. This was certainly true back a decade or so when I haunted churches, seminaries, and other evangelical enclaves. There’s a higher authority than the self, evangelicals would say. For evangelicals, this was biblical authority. For other Christians, it might reside in the church. In conservative politics, the constitution has (for all practical purposes) a biblical authority. But not so fast.
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
What I liked: It was a thrill ride, a thinkers thrill ride, but a thriller nonetheless. It’s a bit creepy to contemplate the reach of the government in the post-9/11 world. Even creepier, I submit, when a skilled author brings characters to life who have to grapple with the issues in real time, on the run.
Plot Summary: A clean up by the NSA leads to a cover up, and cover ups lead to more cover ups. The body count and loose ends lead an analyst inside the agency to start to ask questions, questions that she knows she isn’t ready to answer, questions that peel back the curtain on the NSA’s power and god-like reach.
“Something about all that power seemed to make the assholes who wielded it believe they were invulnerable.”
There is, after all, something revolutionary in Christianity — a tendency to upend, reverse, and radically transform. In Mary’s magnificat, the song of praise, she offers at her meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant . . . He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This list of upsets issues from the mouth of a peasant girl who has been promoted to an almost unimaginable status. That the radical reversals of Christmas are enumerated to us by a young woman of no particular social standing is itself an incredible bit of turnabout.
The revolutionary character of Christianity is usually washed out and mostly confined to specific political moments when it’s useful to refer to it. But this selectivity, too, should be upended. Christianity is at all times concerned with the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most oppressed; it is permanently interested in reversing this order, in aiming at and accomplishing the unexpected.