Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Climate Change, Capitalism, and Easy Answers

This is a good essay from commondreams.org: "No, Capitalism Will Not Save the Climate" by Karin Nansen.

We are facing deep-rooted climate, social, and environmental crises. The current dominant economic system cannot provide solutions. It is time for system change.
For Friends of the Earth International this means creating societies based on peoples’ sovereignty and environmental, social, economic, and gender justice. We must question and deconstruct the capitalist logic of accumulation.
The climate catastrophe is interwoven with many social and environmental crises, including oppression, corporate power, hunger, water depletion, biodiversity loss and deforestation.

She really cuts to the chase:

We must tackle climate change and the associated social and environmental crises by taking rapid and bold action to address the common root causes; privatization, financialization and commodification of nature and societies, and unsustainable production and consumption systems.
The magnitude of the crises we face demands system change.

And so on and such forth:

System change must address people’s individual and collective needs and promote reciprocity, redistribution, and sharing.
Solutions include public services achieved through tax justice, social ownership and co-operativism, local markets and fair trade, community forest management, and valuing the wellbeing of people and the planet.

Go over and give the whole thing a read.

But my question is (as always): How are we to achieve the very good things that Nansen is calling for? Our political-economic system is dominated by pro-capitalism, pro-corporate, neo-liberal parties that serve authoritarian oligarchs. Our media system is dominated by neo-liberal, corporate propagandists and "public relations" brain-washers. One-quarter of the voting population in the industrialized countries consists of stupid, ignorant, racist, patriarchal, authoritarian, brainwashed, right-wing chumps. Another one-quarter consists of partisan liberal shills and hypocrites who will turn a blind eye to the most blatant betrayals of their principles if the politician doing the betraying is nominally from their team.

Why do our politicians do the things they do? With some of them, like Donald Trump, the Ford Brothers, or Paul Calandra, ... it's because they're hollowed-out morons. They have neither the ability to empathize with others nor are they possessed of the intellectual weight to be able to discern right from wrong. Calandra has literally defrauded his dying mother. Rob Ford railed against "drugs and gangs" and then smoked drugs with gangsters. Doug Ford is just a stupid bully. A rich man's son who was a high school drug dealer and who used his brother's populist appeal to build his own political career which is all about his personal benefit and the implementation of his own personal belief system of self-serving bigotry and greed. Donald Trump is a serial con-artist, psychopath, rapist and hypocrite. A moral degenerate who could barely restrain his sexual desire for his own daughter. What sort of man would strike his own son in the face for not wearing a collared-shirt and a tie to a sporting event?

It's obvious why scum like this do the things that they do. But what about the liberals?

Not enough has been said about Barack Obama pardoning Chelsea Manning in the closing days of his presidency. I don't see that this action exonerates Obama for his numerous crimes. But considering who Chelsea Manning was and what she did, I find it remarkable. How many other presidents have thrown people like Mumia Abul-Jamal or Leonard Peltier into prison and then left them there to rot?

Obama's pardoning of Manning shows that he often knows what the right thing is, but he chose not to do it. One has to remember that Obama (like most politicians) is something of a psychopath. He did everything necessary to be the first Black US President. His chameleon ability to affect the mannerisms of whoever he's speaking to are well noted. His self-control is extraordinary. As was his brazen duplicity (telling voters he'd go after Wall Street criminals at the same time that he was filling his Cabinet with them). Becoming the first Black President (and not getting assassinated for it) was a difficult achievement. But he hardly tried when it came to climate change. Because that would have meant trouble. It would have meant stirring-up powerful adversaries. For Obama, NOT doing what imbeciles like Bush II did, or maniacs like Hillary Clinton wanted to do, was the extent of his efforts.

I see I've written much more than planned and haven't really said anything. I'll post this now and pick it up later.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The World Doesn't Owe Us a Living

This is one of the most pervasive assaults on left-wing calls for social justice; that we expect that the world owes us (and everyone else) a living, simply by virtue of our having arrived on the planet. It is at this point that those who champion an economic system of unlimited growth on a finite planet begin to shriek about "scarce resources" and how we can't just give people riches without their having to work for them.

But the criticism resonates with ordinary people because resources are scarce. There has never been a time or place where everyone could consume without having to work. (Although some hunter-gatherer societies have, at times, enjoyed periods of considerable leisure.) Ordinary people imagine that leftists are calling out for endless benefits for lazy people (such as leftists) and that they will pay for these benefits by taxing productive people.

This gross oversimplification and outright distortion is mainly the product of a propaganda system that benefits the rich. Certainly there are small groups of people who would like to do nothing and live off of other people via public assistance. Such individuals exist at all times in most large-scale societies. But the numbers of people on welfare have always been small. And the vast majority of this small group of people are using these programs for less than a year. The problem/danger that has been conjured up to frighten people from social justice is imaginary. It doesn't exist.

But there IS a small group of long-term layabouts who consume vast amounts of resources for almost their entire lives. The wealthy heirs of great fortunes! The idle rich who "earn" money from "investments" that other people gave them and which (for the most part) other people manage for them. For instance, those asshole Koch brothers, ... one of them has a son.

Or, Paris Hilton. Or Kim Kardashian. Or Paul Godfrey.

We've gotten to the point where there is more than enough productive capacity to ensure that everyone has a roof over the head and food in their belly. This is PARTLY the result of the release of creative forces through capitalism that Karl Marx spoke about in the 19th Century. But it is this same political-economic system that seems compelled to degrade and humiliate people who might want a roof over the head and food in their bellies and who need public assistance for this because that same political-economic system made them redundant.

Capitalism is dependent on the impossible premise of endless growth on a finite planet, with this growth being achieved by ever-increasing consumption (by those with "effective demand") of more and more resources.

Social justice and other "leftard" values such as environmentalism, democracy, human rights and dignity, are all dedicated to creating a sustainable society based upon the real limits of the planet's productive capacity. It is the "hard-nosed" anti-welfare "realists" who have their heads up their asses.

Edited To Add:

Apparently it was the Disney cartoon and not the Warner Brothers' Porky Pig cartoon that had the song I was looking for.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Good Essay From "CounterPunch"

This piece -  "Workers' Power vs. Climate Destroyers: What It Will Take to Save the Planet," by Bruce Lesnick, is the kind of thing I'm talking about here:
Asking those few with wealth and power to please do the right thing is not a very effective strategy and it hasn’t gotten us very far up to now. A much better approach would be to take the power and wealth into our own hands – into the hands of the majority – and use that power to directly address the problems we face. This would shift us away from the defensive posture of beseeching those in power to kindly consider the greater good, even if it meant acting against their own interests. Instead, we must adopt the much stronger, more democratic position of giving the orders rather than continuing to accept the crumbs offered from the unelected minority that has been running the show for generations.
To break the logjam and implement a rational energy policy, the energy industry must be converted to public ownership. As with the other demands described above, taking the energy industry out of private hands is not a luxury we might shoot for in the expectation of settling for less. On the contrary, we will either nationalize the energy industry under workers and community control or we will not be able to stop runaway climate change. This is a battle we cannot lose if we hope to win the overall climate war.

Personally, I'm not sure we'd necessarily have to nationalize the energy sector under "Workers as Citizens" but I'm not very opposed to the idea.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Inevitability of Steady-State Economics

You cannot have unlimited growth of anything on a finite planet.

Obvious, right?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Soldiers and Cops

In our system the state has a monopoly on the use of violence. The police and the military are the main tools by which the state exercises its monopoly on violence. The only message that I want to convey with this post is that if you have access to members of the police or the military (or, really, any other enforcement arm of the state that can cause serious damage to a person's life), that you use this access to convey progressive messages towards them.

Now, certain types of people are attracted to police work and the military. Often their personality traits are such as to make them our enemies. But many within these organizations have enough intelligence, humanity and principles to make them amenable to concerns about social justice, fairness, and democracy.

Personally, when conveying my message on radical democracy, I wouldn't say anything that would incriminate me later. This is easy because "Workers as Citizens" isn't about smashing the present system but about working within it, by its own rules, to achieve a radical transformation of society.

The more exposure soldiers and cops have to a progressive message and progressive values, the more it will impact on their thinking. It's better than nothing at all. And even if you don't think you've made an impact immediately you might be surprised later to find out that you had more of an effect than at first appeared.

As I said; Even though "Workers as Citizens" is all about working from within the system to implement legitimate changes through legitimate structures ("legitimate" literally and within the stated values and rules of the elites themselves) the elites will not hesitate to distort it and portray it as a seething, violent, illegitimate movement against all that is right and true. I am not naive in that I believe that if a movement plays by the rules that it will not be attacked. I am well aware of the moral emptiness of the ruling class. But I am also aware of their power and our weakness. It seems to me that as much as super-anarchists might revel in throwing off all rhetorical restraints and taking on the system one-on-one in the streets, the fact of the matter is that the propaganda system has most of the populations in the industrialized world against them. Their numbers in the streets are inconsequential. And if they ever went beyond mere token levels of violence and "ungovernability" they would be crushed.

They would be crushed by the violent apparatus of the state. The police and the soldiery. But the police and soldiery are human beings. Often from social strata more like our own than that of the elites they protect. The smallest cogs in the machine can be affected so that the machine doesn't move as smoothly as the elites would wish.

One of the problems of the left is to write-off almost every group that isn't immediately amenable to our messages. It is this process of self-isolation that, well, ... we're marginalized. What else is there to say? T'would behoove us to bring those people as we can onto our side.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Change the Narrative, Create an Alternative Narrative, and Destroy

George Orwell's 1984 describes how a totalitarian government can manipulate people into believing the most grotesque, inhuman absurdities. It can delude people into thinking they're free, even though they're miserable and trapped in a system they can't control. It robs them of the words, the capabilities, to even understand what is wrong, to explain it to themselves.

To a great degree WE live in a totalitarian culture. We're told we live in a "free market" when, actually, we live under an economy dominated by oligarchies that control the governments, and therefore, the parameters of whatever competition there is. Canadians are told that theirs is a country that has no enemies. That we never had slavery. That we are protecting the First Nations. That we are tolerant and fair, democratic and free.

In reality, Canada has few enemies because we're not important enough. But we've created an enemy with the cocaine-fueled Crown Prince Limpdick of Saudi Arabia and from the muted response from our so-called "allies" we see we have very few friends as well. Slavery WAS practiced in pre-Confederation Canada. And we backed the pro-slavery Southern Confederacy in the US Civil War. We didn't (and don't) protect the First Nations. We exploit and abuse them. We attempted deliberate physical genocide against them (through the starvation policy of our Founding Father Sir John A Macdonald), and cultural genocide (through the residential schools) and it continues to this day with the underfunding of services; the mass incarcerations; the almost total inaction on the suicide epidemics in First Nations communities.

I could go on about our shortcomings but this isn't my main point. Just as Canadians are fed national myths; so are the British: That England was a beacon unto the world. That Winston Churchill saved Europe and perhaps civilization. The United States of America has the biggest whoppers; that they're "free" despite the fact that they have the largest proportion of their population behind bars than any other country on Earth. That they're "brave" when they attack civilians with robot drones remotely piloted from bases in Nevada. That they're anti-imperialist when they have military garrisons scattered in hundreds of bases around the planet. That they're democratic when they're blatantly dominated by a super-corrupt oligarchy.

The awesome writer Caitlin Johnstone has been writing an awful lot lately about how the oligarchy's power is based on their control of the narratives that create our worlds and that the biggest thing is to simply reject these narratives and their power will disappear.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. The world is better off being controlled by the collective will of the people rather than the will of a few sociopathic oligarchs, and we absolutely have the ability to take that control by force whenever we want to. All we have to do is shift value and credibility from plutocrat-generated narratives to popular collective narratives, and cultivate an aggressive disgust for all attempts by the powerful to manipulate the public dialogue
Read her if you don't already.

What she says is true though. But I think that something more is needed to more effectively destroy the power of elite narratives. And that is a counter-narrative. We need the story of the mass of humanity. We need a story that justifies the claims of the vast majority of the people who have ever lived. Furthermore, we need a coherent path to power of the many, for the many, for all.

Obviously I'm talking about my own hobby-horse: "Workers as Citizens." And, again, I fixate on this idea because to date I have heard no coherent argument against it. I'm enamored of my own idea perhaps because I'm a self-centred conceited narcissist, or perhaps because I think it makes a helluva lotta sense.

If you don't know already "Workers as Citizens" says that workers, as human beings, should enjoy human rights within their workplaces. A human being is not an object to be used and discarded. If you need to employ other human beings to make your business dream a reality you must concede that they are human beings and make them citizens of your enterprise. It is a COLLECTIVE UNDERTAKING. Especially since it is as labourers that we earn the means whereby we can physically survive. So much that is important hinges upon employment: physical survivor of the workers and their children; self-respect; physical and mental health; etc.,  that it is ludicrous that we allow ourselves to be rented and discarded by the capitalist class so easily. Especially since their power over us stems from the political creation of a landless proletariat with zero rights to anything at the dawn of the industrial era.

Think about it. In the state of nature, you take what you can get. You take what you want. If there is not enough, obviously you starve. But if you're hungry and someone has more, you take it from them. Hunter-gatherer societies were noted for their egalitarian social structures though. If you had enough, you shared it with the community. Property created inequality. Many people farmed and gave a portion to an elite who prided themselves on not having to work. (Smaller numbers of people made bricks or forged metal tools or served as soldiers and etc.,) But even in these societies most people were farmers who were entitled to farm. Western European societies came to gradually abandon domestic slavery (unlike, say, Tsarist Russia with encumbered serfs well into the late-19th Century). It was through the Enclosure Acts whereby the British Parliament took away land from the peasantry and then enacted laws making it illegal to sleep outside; to be on the highway at night; or any number of activities that impoverished people are forced into. The goal was to push these people into the towns where they would have no choice but to labour in the dangerous, inhuman factories that were beginning to arise in 18th-Century England.

This state of affairs is basically where we are today. Those of us who "own" our own homes are obligated to the banks for much of our lives. We don't own our homes and they can be taken away from us if we lack the financial resources to continue paying for their (increasingly rising) costs. The rest of us (more and more) do not own our own homes. We rent and we have no resources other than our incomes from work. We have nothing without work other than uncertain public unemployment insurance programs and meager general welfare assistance. And it is pretty clear that the capitalist class would like to eliminate these "labour market distortions" because of the "rigidities" they create. (And, sadly, most workers, especially low-income ones, would also be happy to see the safety net go, as they imagine that they are working to support those who will not.)

The counter-narrative of "Workers as Citizens" doesn't involve defending the welfare state. (That will happen organically.) It involves elevating the humanity of those who work. Furthermore, it uses the rhetoric of those it opposes against them. It does not advocate a revolutionary upheaval that those in power would be entirely justified in resisting. It does not advocate collectivism over individualism. Every individual worker must be given their human rights because every individual is equal. "Workers as Citizens" incorporates the whole liberal notion of rights and equality and freedom and pushes them to their logical conclusion.

It does not ask of people to imagine a radically different society with different decision-making bodies and new laws and new powers (such as expropriation, or "proletarian dictatorship"). All it does is it asks people to take the world as it is and imagine themselves as free, autonomous individuals with rights within their workplaces. And where do they get this power? Not through the physical takeover of their workplace. But through the passage of legislation. Just like stephen harper's C-51 took away our Charter Rights n' Freedoms, the passage of "Workers as Citizens" takes away the dictatorial powers of capitalist employers over their work forces.

Because, let's face it: The bulk of people don't follow politics too closely. They don't think about the structures they work within. (They simply adapt to them.) Decent liberals will talk about a Tobin Tax or the relative merits of a Carbon Tax versus Cap & Trade while your average shmuck is wondering what sporting event is being televised this evening. When they think about politics it's to self-righteously slam all politicians as "the same" (which is to say liars and thieves) who are giving their money to crack-whores on welfare and bullshit "refugees" who are actually Islamic terrorists or Latino gang-bangers. These people aren't going to read a whole electoral platform. I don't even read those things. Here in Ontario in 2018, Doug "drug-dealer" Ford won an election without even having one. People vote with their gut. And guess what people? To win, we need more people on our side. This HAS to include people that we might call "deplorable." And you're not going to appeal to them with arguments about social justice for other people. You have to appeal to their own self-interest.

After this legislation has been implemented; imagine what flows from there! You could still have imbecile financial sector parasites buying up the stocks of a company and becoming the new owners, but when it comes to laying-off thousands of workers to pay for the debt incurred to buy the stock? Nothing doing. The workers have a vote and, obviously, they tell the parasites to find the money some other way. Is the company in trouble? Just like the government budget, the workers in a workplace have the right to see the company's budget. If there really is a crisis, everyone decides where the cuts are made. New environmental regulations to protect the planet? The management says "fuck that" and proposes closing-up and moving to some impoverished country where there are no regulations. The workers reject this and the company stays.

Say there's a nice hippy guy or girl with all sorts of flower-power ideas about what the factory could be producing instead of useless consumerist junk. Also, they have ideas about reducing waste. Presently, nobody listens to them because it's all a waste of time anyway. But say they have the right to speak freely? And say that there are other workers who have no vested interest in the status-quo. The hippy could get a hearing. "Why don't we do this?" At the very least, people will be exposed to new ideas with the understanding that they could actually make these things come to pass if they so desired.

I could go on, but I want to get to the third section of this post. "Destroy." Obviously much would be destroyed by "Workers as Citizens." Much that NEEDS to be destroyed. The power of the capitalist class would be irreparably broken. The fortunes of the top 10% would inevitably be greatly diminished. The whole apparatus of propaganda, surveillance, inequality, racism and incarceration would be undercut. And the elites would know this. They would have difficulty arguing against a parliamentary implementation of a law elevating the human rights of workers within their workplaces. But they would try. They would distort. They would divert. They would attack the integrity of its advocates. They would promise catastrophe if it were implemented. And, obviously, they would physically attack those advocates.

This is all explained in a brilliant post from the wonderful Ian Welsh: "The Creation of New Worlds Imagined Through Myths"

New worlds, new realities, can only be born in the destruction of the old world.
Because that destruction often entails much suffering and death, often we put off the creation of the new until the old is completely untenable. But by doing so we usually make the transition much worse than it would have been otherwise.
Capitalism needs to end. It needs to end because it has failed the climate change problem: it didn’t deal with a problem so catastrophic it will forseeably kill a billion or more people and which might end in human extinction. Capitalism knew this was likely to happen, capitalism didn’t just not deal with it, but capitalist institutions fought (and are still fighting) to conceal that it would happen and against doing anything.

To create a new world we will inevitably have to destroy elements of the old one. But we like to pretend that things can be done peaceful and easy. You know, I'm sure that Justin Trudeau is not that bad a fellow. And when talk was cheap, before he got power, he could speak sincerely with David Suzuki about the need to seriously fight climate change. Once he got power though, he knew (as he'd tried to put off thinking about before) that it would be impossible to do this without stepping on the toes of Big Oil. Of the USA and China. Of Bay Street. Of the whole denialist economic system. So, like so many of us in difficult situations, he put his head down, mouthed banalities and hoped nobody would get too mad at him. He knew he had nothing he could say to justify his inaction to Suzuki, so he simply stopped talking to him and hoped he'd go away. (Along with the reality of Climate Change.)

Are we any different? I don't think so. We know that on the one hand, we are ruled by amoral, greedy, psychopathic monsters. But what do we do? We continue to participate in bullshit elections with bullshit election platforms that our bullshit parties have no intentions of seriously pursuing. Between elections, we have tiny gatherings of the converted to "demand" things when we have absolutely no intentions of backing up with negative consequences should our "demands" not be met. We believe we can petition our monstrous psychopathic overlords to act against their own self-interest simply because we have facts and morality on our side.

Revolutions are not created by reasonable people acting reasonably. But nor are they won by deluded people acting irrationally. So let's dismiss the anti-Parliamentary radicals right here, right now: Do you have a massive revolutionary movement behind you? Yes or no? You do not. Why not? WHY NOT??? What have you been doing to try to rectify this? Do you have a strategy for taking power away from the present elites outside of the official political process? You do not. Do you believe that dressing in black once in awhile at public events and breaking some windows will bring the capitalist system to its knees? It will not.

One thing that is definitely needed is the destruction of the comforting delusions of super-radicals that their isolated actions and their total lack of strategy will somehow, someday, lead to everything falling into their laps.

Another thing that needs destroying are the mewling fantasies that a social-democratic system can be implemented without addressing the relative power imbalances that exist between progressive and regressive (capitalist-authoritarian) forces.

What could is the truth if anyone who speaks it is assaulted, physically smashed, and incarcerated?

The birth of the new world, however necessary, will have to be a seriously fought one and it will require pain. Let's hope it's the pain of the Dick Cheney's and the Stephen Harpers and the torturers and the militarists and the oligarchy in general. And not ours.

Monday, August 20, 2018


Sort of.

I still think humanity is too stupid to survive. I still think blogging is a waste of time.

But it seems to me that living a lie is also a complete waste of time. Recently, I've been seeing a lot of click-bait titles about how to have a better life. You know these sorts of articles: "Yoga hacks for greater energy." "This Billionaire CEO Avoids These 5 Bad Habits." "The BEST Way To Respond To Set-backs" etc., etc.

There's a flood of them.

Some of them might have some good advice. But the fact of the matter is that it is POLITICS (political-economy) that is going to change real material conditions for the vast masses of people. Everything that I do these days, I do thinking that it doesn't matter one way or the other. Either way, I'll die when I die, and I was just a bunch of atoms and molecules building up to a biologically-experientially invented "self" to move my [this] carbon-based bag of mostly water through a meaningless existence. And, as this "self" I believe that living as an empty-headed, hypocritical moron, sleep-walking through one violation of what I was trained to think was important after yet another violation, is intolerable.

People who say of Mexicans facing starvation in the years after NAFTA flooded their country with cheap subsidized food and made their own farms unviable; "Let them starve!"

People who now say of Central American refugees fleeing violence and oppression; "If they didn't want their children taken from them, they shouldn't have broken the law!"

Such people are imbeciles. Moral and intellectual imbeciles. And hypocrites. Because they would have done, would do, the same things that fleeing populations always do, when placed in similar situations, and they would scream blue murder in the face of the callousness and ignorance that they themselves express.

Most people simply don't care about people outside their own personal network of connections. To some degree they can be made to care briefly about strangers when the media thrusts them before their eyes and when helping these strangers (or just pitying them) requires no great sacrifices on their part. Victims of an earthquake or a drought-caused famine? Give 'em a few bucks. Fourteen Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave? We're praying for 'em! Victims of a government our media has trained us to hate? Somebody should do something! But for the most part, their primary, almost solitary focus, is on immediate family and friends.

And, perhaps, that's the most efficient way to live. Life on this planet was not (I don't think) created by any good god or gods. There might be some unknown/unknowable divine force animating the universe. But being unknowable it would be good of us not to try to speak of it. No, life appears to have been an accident with no moral purpose. We invent codes of morality to negotiate social interaction with one another. And these codes arose out of the same sorts of behaviours shared by our primate ancestors and our primate cousins today. I don't think chimpanzees get too worked-up when they have to engage in selfish behaviour to get what they want or need. And neither do most humans. That's what it takes to survive.

Me, I've got the counter-productive desire/need to have a consistent moral code and a life that justifies its own existence. Not for me the pointless job making or selling useless garbage and subscribing to the incoherent religion that I only half [if that] believe in. (And only as a security blanket to let me believe that I'm going to persist throughout all eternity.) I'd rather die now if I found out that such an existence was going to be my fate.

So, I'm going to blog, and, more than that, attempt real stuff as well. With what time is left to me.

We'll see.