The Chance for Peace Revisited

A PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH REVISITED

dwight_eisenhower

On this eve of another war (the potential involvement of our nation in a conflict with Syria) that after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the people agree, even if our government does not, we do not need, nor want perpetual war to continue.

As a nation we can ill afford this war, paying for the last two has destabilized our economy and with the failure of the economy due to financial greed and corporate malfeasance left us reeling with economic sanctions against our poorest and neediest citizens in the guise of the sequester.

Meanwhile corporate America continues to boast record profits as they farm out their labor to foreign nations, reduce the local workforce to little more than temps and day workers in their own country and modernizing the workplace into a hostile environment relying on fewer workers to do more work in less time with fewer resources under worse but vastly overpaid management.

With the worst Congress in recorded history, literally uncivil servants who can agree on nothing, who make no effort to disguise their allegiance to their corporate masters and are willing to take the economic goodwill of our nation hostage against our best interests, is now going to decide if we go to war. Canny work on the face of it, the President has put them in the unenviable position of proving they are against the needs of the people, or defying their corporate masters who would love perpetual war to continue.

In the light of these issues, I bring to you the words of the last man who was a general in the military and became president of these United States. His words have been taken from his speech and made into a number of memes on the internet but I feel we might want to consider the entire message as well. Memes are good but, in my mind, context is better.

His speech works on any number of levels and may have been the last time a president truly spoke his mind in a way that put the people of this great nation, first. He put the people before profit, before corporate opportunities, before deciding that war should become a way of life, not a least satisfying solution to an intractable problem in policy.


The Chance for Peace

by Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)

April 16, 1953, Washington, D.C.

President Bryan, distinguished guests of this Association, and ladies and gentlemen: I am happy to be here. I say this and I mean it very sincerely for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is the number of friends I am honored to count among you. Over the years we have seen, tanked, agreed, and argued with one another on a vast variety of subjects, under circumstances no less varied. We have met at home and in distant lands. We have been together at times when war seemed endless, at times when peace seemed near, at times when peace seemed to have eluded us again.

We have met in times of battle, both military and electoral, and all these occasions mean to me memories of enduring friendships.I am happy to be here for another reason. This occasion calls for my first formal address to the American people since assuming the office of the presidency just twelve weeks ago. It is fitting, I think, that I speak to you the editors of America. You are, in such a vital way, both representatives of and responsible to the people of our country. In great part upon you — upon your intelligence, your integrity, your devotion to the ideals of freedom and justice themselves — depend the understanding and the knowledge with which our people must meet the facts of twentieth-century life. Without such understanding and knowledge our people would be incapable of promoting justice; without them, they would be incapable of defending freedom.

Finally, I am happy to be here at this time before this audience because I must speak of that issue that comes first of all in the hearts and minds of all of us — that issue which most urgently challenges and summons the wisdom and the courage of our whole people. This issue is peace.

In this spring of 1953 the free world weighs one question above all others: the chances for a just peace for all peoples. To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent moment of great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of 1945, bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hopes of all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace.

The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the world. Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel of despair but also the self-deceit of easy illusion. It weighs the chances for peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the vain hopes of 1945.

In that spring of victory the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument — an age of just peace. All these war-weary peoples shared too this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power.

This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads.

> The leaders of the Soviet Union chose another.

The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.

Third: Every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward true peace.

This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing the war’s wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own toil.

The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the future. In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

The result has been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet Union, it has also been ironic.

The amassing of Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.

It instilled in the free nations — and let none doubt this — the unshakable conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom, they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the risk of war.

It inspired them — and let none doubt this — to attain a unity of purpose and will beyond the power of propaganda or pressure to break, now or ever.

There remained, however, one thing essentially unchanged and unaffected by Soviet conduct. This unchanged thing was the readiness of the free world to welcome sincerely any genuine evidence of peaceful purpose enabling all peoples again to resume their common quest of just peace. And the free world still holds to that purpose.

The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the Soviet Union that their firm association has never had any aggressive purpose whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed to persuade themselves, or tried to persuade their people, otherwise.

And so it has come to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world.

This has been the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and force.

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?

The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?

The world knows that an era ended with the death of Joseph Stalin. The extraordinary 30-year span of his rule saw the Soviet Empire expand to reach from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan, finally to dominate 800 million souls.

The Soviet system shaped by Stalin and his predecessors was born of one World War. It survived with stubborn and often amazing courage a second World War. It has lived to threaten a third.

Now a new leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its links to the past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its future is, in great part, its own to make.

This new leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its history, by the will to stay free.

The free world knows, out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty.

It knows that the peace and defense of Western Europe imperatively demands the unity of purpose and action made possible by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, embracing a European Defense Community.

It knows that Western Germany deserves to be a free and equal partner in this community and that this, for Germany, is the only safe way to full, final unity.

It knows that aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are threats to the whole free community to be met only through united action.

This is the kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership confronts. It is a world that demands and expects the fullest respect of its rights and interests. It is a world that will always accord the same respect to all others. So the new Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help turn the tide of history.

Will it do this?

We do not yet know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet leaders give some evidence that they may recognize this critical moment.

We welcome every honest act of peace.

We care nothing for mere rhetoric.

We care only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds. The opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a great number of them waits upon no complex protocol but only upon the simple will to do them. Even a few such clear and specific acts, such as Soviet Union’s signature upon an Austrian treaty or its release of thousands of prisoners still held from World War II, would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a power of persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.

This we do know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust among nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial nor punitive.

With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are ready, with renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes of our day.

The first great step along this way must be the conclusion of an honorable armistice in Korea.

This means the immediate cessation of hostilities and the prompt initiation of political discussions leading to the holding of free elections in a united Korea.

It should mean, no less importantly, an end to the direct and indirect attacks upon the security of Indochina and Malaya. For any armistice in Korea that merely released aggressive armies to attack elsewhere would be a fraud. We seek, throughout Asia as throughout the world, a peace that is true and total.

Out of this can grow a still wider task — the achieving of just political settlements for the other serious and specific issues between the free world and the Soviet Union.

None of these issues, great or small, is insoluble — given only the will to respect the rights of all nations. Again we say: the United States is ready to assume its just part.

We have already done all within our power to speed conclusion of a treaty with Austria, which will free that country from economic exploitation and from occupation by foreign troops.

We are ready not only to press forward with the present plans for closer unity of the nations of Western Europe but also, upon that foundation, to strive to foster a broader European community, conducive to the free movement of persons, of trade, and of ideas.

This community would include a free and united Germany, with a government based upon free and secret ballot. This free community and the full independence of the East European nations could mean the end of the present unnatural division of Europe.

As progress in all these areas strengthens world trust, we could proceed concurrently with the next great work — the reduction of the burden of armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we would welcome and enter into the most solemn agreements. These could properly include:

1. The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all nations.

2. A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be devoted to military purposes.

3. International control of atomic energy to promote its use for peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic weapons.

4. A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of great destructiveness.

5. The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions by adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection under the United Nations.

The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex.

Neither the United States nor any other nation can properly claim to possess a perfect, immutable formula. But the formula matters less than the faith — the good faith without which no formula can work justly and effectively.

The fruit of success in all these tasks would present the world with the greatest task, and the greatest opportunity, of all. It is this: the dedication of the energies, the resources, and the imaginations of all peaceful nations to a new kind of war. This would be a declared total war, not upon any human enemy but upon the brute forces of poverty and need.

The peace we seek, founded upon decent trust and cooperative effort among nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat and by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and timber and rice. These are words that translate into every language on earth. These are the needs that challenge this world in arms.

This idea of a just and peaceful world is not new or strange to us. It inspired the people of the United States to initiate the European Recovery Program in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with equal concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.

We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be productive and prosperous.

This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of any savings achieved by real disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the undeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitable and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.

The monuments to this new war would be roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.

We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.

I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of the United States.

I know of no course, other than that marked by these and similar actions, that can be called the highway of peace.

I know of only one question upon which progress waits. It is this: What is the Soviet Union ready to do?

Whatever the answer is, let it be plainly spoken.

Again we say: the hunger for peace is too great, the hour in history too late, for any government to mock men’s hopes with mere words and promises and gestures.

Is the new leadership of the Soviet Union prepared to use its decisive influence in the Communist world, including control of the flow of arms, to bring not merely an expedient truce in Korea but genuine peace in Asia?

Is it prepared to allow other nations, including those in Eastern Europe, the free choice of their own form of government?

Is it prepared to act in concert with others upon serious disarmament proposals?

If not, where then is the concrete evidence of the Soviet Union’s concern for peace?

There is, before all peoples, a precarious chance to turn the black tide of events.

If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages will be harsh and just.

If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least would need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has condemned humankind to this fate.

The purpose of the United States, in stating these proposals, is simple. These proposals spring, without ulterior motive or political passion, from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in the hearts of all people — those of Russia and of China no less than of our own country.

They conform to our firm faith that God created man to enjoy, not destroy, the fruits of the earth and of their own toil.

They aspire to this: the lifting, from the backs and from the hearts of men, of their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find before them a golden age of freedom and of peace.

Thank you.

Other Reference Articles:

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants are Getting Crushed – Propublica.com

Eisenhower’s Chilling Analysis Of Defense Spending – Business Insider

Worst Congress Ever! - Daily Kos

The Permanent Militarization of America – The New York Times, OpEd

How Perpetual War Became US Ideology – The Atlantic

Social Justice Speeches: Source for Eisenhower’s Chance for Peace speech

Kerry, Hagel lay out military objectives during Senate hearing on Syria strike – The Washington Post

The Disastrous Consequences of a U.S. Military Attack on Syria – AlterNet.com

International Malaise to the War in Syria (and rightfully so)

John CleeseAs to the pedigree of this post I cannot be certain, but it sums up my feeling on the Syrian crisis and the worldwide response to it quite nicely. So I can be on record, we belong in Syria like fish belong on Segways, zipping across the surface of the Martian landscape. For those immune to sarcasm, that means absolutely not.

We have two wars on record we have not paid for, millions of lives lost, tens of millions of lives affected, billions of dollars spent, decades of disruption in the region, both theirs and ours and to what aim? What have we gained as a country from this debacle except a police state, totalitarian rule, an omni-surveillance society and the most disgusting agency in the security field groping the hell out of six year olds every time they want to fly and see Grandma. Screw wars in foreign countries…

Now back to our show, brought to you supposedly by the wise and funny actor-comedian, John Cleese. If he didn’t write it, he should have. If he did, hats off to you sir, it is brilliant.

From JOHN CLEESE

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels ..

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

Regards,
John Cleese ,
British writer, actor and tall person

And as a final thought – Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.

Life is too short…

Kill Your TV. It’s making you stupid.

Stupid TV

 

COMMENTARY / OPINION

Okay, that’s not fair. TV isn’t making everyone stupid but it IS making some of us, stupider by the second.

That was harsh. And unfair.

I wanted to write something better.

Then I realized I could not say it better than A. Person did in his video. (See at the end of the article)

My writings on this site address some of these issues. Indeed the very name, A Matter of Scale talks about the fact our problems are no longer solvable by a single person, they have grown too large to address unless we are all involved. It is literally a matter of scale.

I probe into the questions of why we can do certain things like creating food on a massive scale, transforming it into any number of other forms and distributing it to people for what is an amazing economy of scale, while at the same time, we throw away food by the ton at our supermarkets and megastores while people all over the planet are suffering from starvation.

We don’t seem to see the contradiction.

We don’t seem to feel the suffering.

We have become disconnected from our humanity, our sense of feeling, our sense of responsibility.

Our sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves has eroded to just our family, the people we share a blood relationship to, or maybe our religious group who base our affinity on the invisible relationship we have to a divine being who may or may not exist. We devote our time, our energy, our efforts to THAT relationship while allowing our more reachable, touchable, necessary and mundane relationships to people outside of our blood to languish, to fail, to wither away, in some cases right before our very eyes; opportunities for love, laughter, and a life worth leading languishing on the vine.

I wanted to write something as touching as A. Person did, showing I understood his wrath at things like Game of Thrones, where people invest so much of their emotional capital into something that doesn’t exist. Where people are so upset about a thing that happened, not at all, anywhere, while real atrocities which would make the Red Wedding little more than an afternoon of fun for the whole family.

I am with him when people say to him that he is crazed for NOT participating in Game of Thrones, only the most pivotal television to have ever happened ever. Because like him, I say, it is not real.

Are you seeking treachery on the scale of Game of Thrones?

  • How about the financial institutions that gambled with the mortgages of millions of people and lost it all.
  • Then needing to be bailed out by the government, who is in actuality the voice and the money of the people.
  • Then to find out later, the banks would not only fail to be accountable to anyone regarding what happened, they would have a profit that made their previous earnings insignificant by comparison.
  • But the ultimate treachery was made manifest when banks, having been rescued by the government, the agency of the people, turned around and told the people who rescued them “‘Fuck Off’ you won’t be getting any help with your mortgage.”
  • Instead you will be put out of your home onto the street, and I, the banker, will still make money while you and your family rot, displaced and dispossessed, on the street, dodging the police for living in your car, struggling to keep your job and hold your family together and those same bankers will never know a day of drudgery or suffering ever again in their lives.
  • These same bankers will derail the economic policies of the nation by making sure what little regulation that might protect people from their predations in the future will NEVER happen.
  • This did not happen to a single family. This happened to MILLIONS of families. Amplify the anguish and suffering of the Red Wedding, score it like the Nielsen ratings and you would have had a show that would have had epic numbers. No show could compare with the anguish of the Red Financial Crisis of 2008. More people watched helplessly, more lives were affected negatively and more economic value was destroyed than any other financial event in the history of the world, including the Great Depression.

The Red Wedding was a mercy killing by comparison.

I wanted to let you know that as terrible as the Economic crisis of 2008 and its effects continue, there are still a multitude of things taking place out there we are still in denial about and television and its masters ensure we stay divided, broken, unfocused, and unable to marshal the will to make a difference.

  • Instead of a Clean Energy Age we are doubling down on the Remnant Fossil Fuel program, where we poison our environment draining the last of the fossil fuels from every last crevice in the ground to make as much money as possible while killing as many people now and in the future as possible.
  • We lose one Rhino and five lions a day. We also lose one Elephant an hour due to poaching. 15000 species which go into extinction every year while we increase the temperature of the Earth, poison and overfish the seas, and generally make a mad dash to convert the Commons into wealth for an elite few individuals.
  • I acknowledge my share of responsibility because while I am not wealthy, I do benefit tangentially from that wealth being generated by living in the US, a nation of vast and unequal wealth, though I enjoy none of it specifically.

Instead, I am going to let you watch this video which says what I would like to say to everyone. Instead of watching the fake Game of Thrones or Scandal or Law and Order SVU, you instead turn off your entertainment and watch more responsible news. See the events unfolding in your life, sure to affect you, your children and their children. Be the hero of your own story and fight for those unborn billions who WILL inherit a broken planet, displaced millions, and an economic system which will promote the very idea, if you aren’t already rich, you don’t matter. That if your ancestors did not find a way to exploit someone less capable, less rich, less intelligent, less educated, more ethical than they were, then they deserve the spot on the ladder Darwin made for them.

Know such thinking is a lie. Your value cannot and should not be determined by someone who is willing to burn you like a hunk of coal for their personal wealth.

You must value you and your potential contribution to the world. Your value isn’t solely determined by your physical beauty, your physical acumen in sports, or your intellectual capacity. It is determined by your humanity and your willingness to put yourself out for someone who has nothing to offer you but their thanks.

And in a perfect world, their thanks would be all that you would need to get on your way to the next person who needed your assistance.

Life is mean, brutish and short is the message of Game of Thrones. Our world replicates that quite nicely.

But the idea that it could be more is always there in all of our minds. That fairness is a possibility, helping your fellow man does NOT take food out of your mouth, being aware of where your food comes from does not make you less of a cool person. That saving animals, trees and our environment in general does not make you a tree-hugging liberal.

It makes you a decent person to think about what we do now affecting the future.

Stop listening to the lies. Trust the voice deep inside you buried under all of the failed aphorisms of television, of Darwin, of a dog-eat-dog world and know WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

But we have to stop listening to the lies being propagated to keep us poor, divided and uninformed. Kill your TV. Take your mind back. Change the world, one smile, one hand, one heart at a time. Game of Thrones can’t even compare to the feeling you get when you do.

The Great Global Distraction

Published by A Film for Action

Words by A. Person

Music, edits and talking by Jordan B.

Mashed footage used from various sources with credits to respective creators.

Connected with: You Get What You Pay For

Dystopia or Utopia – What’s your poison?

dystopia_by_shadow9020

I wrote an article a few months ago talking about using science fiction for social change and activism, Science Fiction and Social Awareness

Since then I have been reading a number of discussions talking about writers preferring to write dystopias rather than utopias.

David Brin would like to see more positive representations of the future and thinks Utopias need to make a comeback. He is not alone. A number of other famous scientists and science fiction writers are also in agreement about the idea of writing new books where utopias, positive futures where mankind is not only still around but thriving in positive ways as a necessary force to change the future. See: Project Hieroglyph

I know they are necessary but they are difficult to write and I suspect only the most gifted and optimistic writers should try. Here’s my reasoning:

Dystopia and Utopia have the same problem. They are talking about a period where what we know has evolved into what is now the order of things. Why is one more difficult to write than the other?

Utopia: a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions

The term Utopia was invented by Thomas More as the title of his Latin book De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia (circa 1516), known more commonly as Utopia. He created the word “utopia” to suggest two Greek neologisms simultaneously: outopia (no place) and eutopia (good place). More depicts a rationally organised society, through the narration of an explorer who discovers it — Raphael Hythlodaeus. Utopia is a republic where all property is held in common. In addition, it has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbours.

Generally speaking, utopias are generally societies whose author believes either perfect, or as perfect as can be attainable. Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia is a contemporary example. This can cause some confusion, in that some works generally recognized as “utopian”, such as Plato’s Republic, can come across as much less than ideal to a modern reader. They are one of the smaller subsets of political science fiction, possibly because it is difficult to create dramatic tension in a world the author believes is perfect. –Wikipedia, Political ideas in science fiction

nausicaa_by_syntetyc-d582s57

My favorite eco-dystopia: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Dystopia: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

Dystopias are societies where the author illustrates the worst that can happen. Usually this encompasses extrapolating trends the author sees as dangerous. During the 20th century many examples were written in reaction to the rise of NazismCommunism and Religious Fundamentalism:

  • Double Helix Fall (1990) by Neil Ferguson portrays an America where a person’s social status is determined by their movements in the womb, an extension of the concept of original sin.

It is important to keep in mind that scenarios which some would describe as dystopic, others would describe as utopian. Norman Spinrad’s novel The Iron Dream was generally recognised to be a dystopian novel, but lauded by neo-Nazis as a utopia. –Wikipedia, Political ideas in science fiction

Janus-dimon21Janus-topia: A utopian society which is actually engaged in abusing and dehumanizing its citizens using social manipulations of one sort or another. (No, its not real, I just made it up to prove a point.) Janus was a two faced deity, looking forward and backward at the same time. I liken a Janus-topia to the idea that a society might be forward-thinking but using repressive, deviant or oppressive means to accomplish its goals rather than the forward sound ideals it may espouse in its public face.

Given these two simplified definitions, it is easy to see why Dystopias outnumber Utopias 10-to-1. Most readers (editors and agents) want stories where the conflict is easy to recognize, can be filled with intrepid adventurers who die at just the appropriate moment to tug at our heartstrings and make us believe we are experiencing a transformative event.

The problem of addressing a Utopia is by definition, it is already a perfect place, where we have to be willing to be patient, walk with the protagonists while they show you the dirty, hidden underbelly of the Utopia, where all is not what it seems. This is by far the harder row-to-hoe because writers are under fire to “show, don’t tell” or my other favorite “exposition is dead/death” so you must find a way to expose people to your Utopia without actually describing it in any detail that might bore our attention-addled readership.

Given these two conditions, there is not a question in my mind why we see Dystopias outnumbering Utopias. The curve to creation isn’t that difficult. Look at modern society, allow it to continue unabated and poof, Dystopia.

Welcome_To_Dystopia_by_crystalRyu

Try that with creating a Utopia, and you have to, by most reader’s perspectives alter the fabric of space-time to reach a place where Humanity, especially as we see it now, doing anything such as curing disease (do we do that anymore? Polio was the last one I can think of) getting rid of hunger worldwide, reversing our position on global climate change, reducing corporate power (is that even possible?) enhancing educational opportunities for everyone, ensuring any form of social parity, correcting enough social ills you would deign to call your world a Utopia.

As far as I can tell, no Utopia has ever survived for the same reason most Dystopias eventually get replaced by something else. Human nature is fickle. If society is actually working, we distrust it, and assume something must be rotten somewhere. If society is failing, human nature dictates at some point we fight back or get ground into the dust.

So the real question is, why aren’t we writing more books about correcting the reason we can’t have Utopias in the first place; the moral, social, mental, cultural, religious, failings of the Human race? If we could fix that, maybe people might believe Utopias, corrupted or otherwise, might be possible enough to write about and worthy enough to read through to see the underlying messages for what they are.

Messages about us and our relationships to each other and the Universe at large. This is where Janus-topias come in. So many of our works that describe utopian societies are actually Janus-topias, two faced worlds where we believe we are living well to find out we are not. Most of our works which postulate a possible Utopia are really Janus-topias.

Utopia is not a place where stories are easily written, by definition, if you made a real Utopia, where would the conflict arise? What we are really hoping for are clever Janus-topias which hide their flaws well, are interesting enough to pay attention to, and when their flaws are revealed, we learn something about ourselves in the process.

Death to Utopia! Not enough happens there.

But the route to Utopia is rife with storytelling possibilities…

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Wealth Inequality: Why it will get worse before it gets better

Wealth Inequality in the United States

Wealth inequality will only grow worse in the coming decade. (Robert Reich: The Widening Wealth Divide, Huffington Post) Most economists already know this but are reluctant to inform the general populace. The reason is built right into the above video. Most Americans already show a remarkable lack of awareness regarding the economic and class structures in place in the United States. The true state of affairs is simply beyond most people to truly understand either the scope or the effect of our political policy on this landscape. The economic elite have both the money and power to alter the behavior of businesses, governments, both local and federal and the media systems which provide information to the public ensuring their continued hegemony.

Just a few of the controls used by corporations to further their growth at the expense of everyone else:

  • Avoiding taxation: Yes, large corporations and the very rich are shouldering the burden for the nation’s taxes but since they own 80% of the nations wealth, it makes sense, they should also pay 50% of its tax burden. But with that said, many large corporations pay almost no taxes by using offshore companies, keeping money in foreign banks or utilizing tax havens/loopholes allowing them to reduce their tax obligation.
  • Stagnation of wages: Reducing the value of the work done by actual workers while increasing the value of the work done by managers and executives allows firms to force workers to work for less and fight for jobs while wages are systematically reduced. With politicians reducing options for unions, making states ‘right to work’, off-shoring, out-sourcing and other such tactics erodes the worker’s value while still increasing the profitability of corporations at their workers expense.
  • Leveraging the value of money: Currently the dollar can be borrowed at fantastic rates, allowing companies to purchase smaller firms (thus our recent merger-mania) in order to gain further economic advantage by absorbing intellectual properties from smaller companies. While this is normally encouraged, during difficult economic times, it gives a greater advantage to companies which already have the capital to invest without risk.
  • Control of media: The media is a powerful tool when dealing with the expectations of the public. Control of media agencies gives corporations (and often the politicians they lease) the ability to tailor messages to make themselves appear in a positive light even while they are convincing the people to vote against their own interests, either by making the information too difficult to absorb (i.e. the debt ceiling debate) or wearing people out with the constant bombardment of news coverage until people tune out and are unable to make informed decisions. Media saturation or complete blackouts are both effective ways of allowing corporations to manipulate the mindset of the public.

Here is a twitter-stream and associated documents which expand on this video further in my Storify collection: Wealth Inequality in America

Here are a few of the highlights

Racism in America: The Scarlet Letter of a Nation

Racism in America

The_Scarlet_Letter_by_abandoned_echoes

Let me tell you a secret. White America’s issue with minorities is a simple one. Blacks in the US are the Scarlet Letter (look it up) on the face of what appears to be a prosperous and significant nation. A high-quality lie to the rest of the world that hard work leads to prosperity and America is prosperous because it works hard. This is a disingenuous truth.

When White America sees a minority face and most importantly a Black face, it is reminded that the wealth of this nation, the invisible labor (yes, the word no one can say) labor, not capital, is what made this country rich. The ability to, for four hundred years, give or take, burn human beings lives like kindling in the forge of what is now a great nation, is what America is built on.

White America is a very poor winner. They want to own the spoils of a war (the complete and total annihilation of an enemy, see: Native Americans) and pretend there were no wrong-doings committed. No smallpox blankets, no extermination orders, no routing of the natives, no Trail of Tears. America just spread its legs and said “come on in” we were waiting for your Manifest Destiny.

We are constantly reminded that Blacks sold other Blacks into slavery. We never question who was buying those slaves, what would happen to those slaves, how many of those slaves would become diseased by being carried like wood, how many of those slaves would die in the greatest human disaster ever (the Middle Passage) and would become part of the most monstrous human engine of progress and destruction called “The North America Project” started in 1492.

Blacks are the Scarlet Letter that says to every country, everywhere: America will eventually fuck you. Yes, we will promise you nice stuff in the beginning, (See: Black Slavers, Native Americans) but in the end, we will take everything you own, everything you believe in and replace it with our religion, everything you dream of, everything you ever held dear, we will grind it into the dust, turn you into labor and then pretend you are capital until we have taken every bit of value from you. Then and only then will we let you die, an ignoble death, bereft of any meaning, any cultural value, reduced to a cypher, reduced to a numerical statistical element, only fit for a ledger. You won’t even get a tombstone. It costs too much.

So when you hear the ranting of Conservative Party X or the mouth-breathings of Tea Bag on the Forehead member Y, you know now what this is really about. The truth of their rantings is found in their own discomfort with what they know to be truth. Their ancestors were not the stuff of heroic legend. Not at all. They were small men and women who despite writing history could not erase the far greater men and women who were destroyed so this nation could exist as a paragon of faux virtue to a world who holds them in high enough esteem to destroy itself trying to be them.

America is a land of wastrels, destroying its populace with mindless entertainment, pathetic blandishments of eternal beauty, sex past eighty, a mechanized fetishism bereft of satisfaction, little more than digital masturbation. Stroking, rubbing, playing with toys keeps the masses calm and quiet while the true monsters continue to promote left is right, right is wrong and freedom is not slavery, guns protect everyone, children should be armed, wealth is only for the rich, unions impoverish the poor, autism isn’t caused by environment, violence is caused by video games, global warming doesn’t exist and America is your friend.

Look through history and find America’s friends. None of them survived the experience. Ask yourself this question: Would White America be so unkind if just once they could imagine themselves in the roles of the victims they have destroyed over the centuries (yes, this means you Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and any other country which participated in the slave trade).

Spare me the cultural relativism too, while you are at it. Every culture has had slavery in history. We are not talking about those cultures or those histories. We are talking about this history, this culture, this America where minorities, people of color, Blacks are still treated as second class citizens, not as part of a terrible wrong which could have been a right. If White America hadn’t spent and still spends so much of its time pretending didn’t happen, so much time trying to sanitize their evil from the pages of history (See: Kentucky, Slave Triangle). What if they had said: We have done a great wrong to the Natives, let’s make it right, truly right. Find a way to return their some of their land to them, give them sovereignty in this nation, show some measure of contriteness for our atrocities perpetrated by less civilized men. Let’s treat new members of our land with more deference than we had treated the natives who once lived here on land we have stolen from them.

No. That will never happen. Nor will any effort be made to assist the countries, the peoples, the nations, the histories of people destroyed by the social engine of Capitalism, promoted by White people as the ultimate expression of human development no matter how many people it grinds into the dust in the name of progress. Capitalism is the engine, humanity is the grain. Widgets are the bread.

Let those who survive the engine of capitalism, poor, huddled masses, quivering in the smoky darkness, awaiting the next dawn with dread and trepidation, waiting outside what was once their home, hoping for the kindness of a stranger but expecting the baton of the police or military, let those masses of tired, hungry and disfranchised masses remember, there are no other shores to go to. There are no other places where you can start over. There is nothing left out there which is not already owned by capitalists who have already tried to claim your water and will soon claim your very breath as their property. You now have no place on Earth where they cannot reach and do not want dominion over.

What will it take for you to fight back against the people who oppress you with their rhetoric of “too big to fail” and use your last dollars, your retirement, your opportunities to power their very wasteful existence. Or will you go quietly to the grave cursing your enemies while playing with your electronic toys, blissfully ignorant of your role in the Great Machine, not as the cog you were promised and the opportunity to exceed your humble station, but as the grist itself.

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“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.” — W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks

Robert Jensen: “The Color of the Race Problem is White”

Author of “The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege”

A video from a class held at the University of Texas at Austin.

http://youtu.be/8aH-WSqanyQ

“If you look at the data right from the immediate aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, the late Sixties the early Seventies, look at that racialized gap between White and Black America then, and compare it to the gap today and what you will find on some of those measures on wealth and well-being, you find the gap is as wide today as it was forty years ago. On the measures where that gap is narrowing, it is narrowing at such a glacial pace that it will be decades or in some cases, even centuries before the gap is closed. Before we achieve parity, before we achieve a rough equality in this society.”

“The United States is the most affluent society in the history of the world. There has never been a society in the history of this planet that is as affluent and as wealthy as the United States.”

“If the United States wanted to close the racialized gap between White and Non-White Americans, could it do it? it certainly has the resources. It certainly has the belief in its ability to accomplish such things, yet it hasn’t closed that gap. What does that tell you? What it tells me is that it is still appropriate to call America a White Supremacist society in material terms.”

Legitimate Rape Shall Rise Again

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Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said he doesn’t “find anything so horrible” about making the distinction between “legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape”

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican of Georgia, knows that comments about rape have cost fellow Republicans their seats in Congress. But that didn’t stop him from wading deep into controversial territory during a breakfast meeting in his home state, reports the Marietta Daily Journal.  The lawmaker talked mostly about gun control but then opened the floor up for questions and was asked about abortion. And that’s when Gingrey, who made sure to point out he has been an OB-GYN since 1975, mentioned controversial comments about rape and pregnancy made by former Reps. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, that many say contributed to their electoral losses last year. This is the Journal’s account of what Gingrey said next:

“In Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”…

“And I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.”

Posted Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, at 10:59 AM PT

I tried to post my letter in response on their board but I suspect the censors were displeased with my answer:

Dear Republicans,

Have you learned nothing from Todd Akin? Have you failed to understand no matter what stupid ideas you present, the only person you are hurting is yourselves (and by proxy, your constituents)? To be fair, you are either, not representing them well at all, or worse you are, and this is a statement as to the capabilities of the folk in your districts. But I choose to believe you hid your ignorance well, under a fine suit, with honeyed words, with promises of pork-barrel largess if you were elected. Who knew beneath all of that refinement and Southern charm, lurked the heart of an ignorant, barely-civilized, misogynistic bigot. Now I don’t mean you, I mean your behavior, is that of a bigot. You may be a fine upstanding citizen who only sounds like a bigot.

All things considered I want to say, perhaps Mr. Gingrey, you simply don’t know of what you speak. You are, after all, a product of the American education system, not currently known for its excellence. You may have gotten a degree from a university which may have cut science and human biology which may explain your inexcusable ignorance of the human condition regarding sexuality AND rape. Since you are not a woman, I will even try to excuse your lack of understanding of female physiology because let’s face it, even women have difficulties understanding their bodies at times. Oh wait, you were supposedly involved in the medical industry at some point. An OB/GYN? That might make you the worst practitioner ever. I pity your former clients.

What I cannot excuse is your inability to, when in the presence of the media, speak on things you know absolutely nothing about? I thought you were supposed to be a politician, a person who is supposed to be leading and guiding the nation into making good decisions around issues of the PUBLIC good. If you are going to be a rape advocate, meaning you are going to tell women they should understand “rape happens” and if it happens “they won’t get pregnant” because their mystical vaginal powers of “seminal extermination” will resolve the issue, then, sir, you have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, of both your ignorance of the human condition, of which you are supposed to be advocating for, the state of women in this nation and across the world who are raped, sold into sexual slavery, abused, and murdered for the sake of men with minds similar to yours.

You are a disgrace to the idea of Republican ideals (not the current madness, the Neo-Republicans are espousing, another totally different can of worms) of decency, personal fortitude, and social responsibility. Your beliefs (which should not be part of how you are supposed to govern) are Medieval and parochial, at best, and would be quite at home in the 12th Century. But this is the 21st Century and you have an obligation to represent your constituents with intelligence, compassion, a concern for their lives, especially if they are different than your own.

Perhaps we should define this condition of yours and Mr. Todd Akin as its own particular brand of psychological instability. If we called it “Akin-Gingrey Syndrome” we might have to help people recognize it’s symptoms:

1. A complete lack of scientific understanding regarding human anatomy and physiology even if you went to school to study it.

2. Further ignorance of female reproduction and biological operation (even if you practiced medicine on women)

3. An inability to recognize women as human beings deserving of respect

4. An inability to recognize the statistics revolving around rape and pregnancy in the US. (32,000 rape victims per year become pregnant, not so rare)

5. A pathological inability to not seek out media attention to espouse such ridiculous ideas whenever possible.

6. An inescapable need to run for office to show as many people as possible just how ignorant you can be, in public.

7. The overwhelming urge to embarrass as many actual good Christians who don’t believe your particular brand of madness as possible.

8. A complete inability to know when to shut the fuck up and retire to one’s personal lair of insanity.

It is in my non-medical opinion, which so far is as good as your medical one, you suffer from ‘Akin-Gingrey Syndrome’ and from what I understand about the condition, there is no cure. Perhaps you should retire to your plantation in Georgia, drink tall frosty drinks, discuss your days in office with fondness, and never bother respectable folk again with your brand of complete ignorance and barely-contained sociopathic behavior.

Yours in disgust,

Thaddeus Howze @ebonstorm – (Acting MD, for the purposes of this article only)