Civilization is a FRAUD – What’s so civilized about it?

 

‘The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.’  —James Baldwin

POVERTY IS A TOOL

It is in this writer’s opinion poverty, poverty as we know it in the modern world and in the modern sense, does not need to exist.

It is a byproduct of lifestyles, of policies, of politics, of psychologies driven through conscious and unconscious selections. But in recent centuries, the means to abolish poverty came to mean it was possible for humanity to share the wealth among its members, producing an age where poverty did not exist. Despite the occasional protestations about the end of the world or the world’s inability to support growing populations, Humanity continued to exist and grow. And grow more unequal.

Instead of growing more equal and egalitarian, society took a subtle but unpleasant turn toward selfishness, toward personal gain, toward greed and instead of abolishing poverty, poverty was embraced and recognized as a tool by those in control.

Poverty has been weaponized in modern society.

  • Debt is the ultimate expression of power in this, our capitalist-focused pretense of a civilization;
  • Fantastic (as in imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality, definition) personal wealth has become the ultimate billy club, the ultimate expression of force, more powerful than any legal system.
  • The creation of socialized debt and poverty manufacture has become more enabling than any political power. More subtle than the quietly offered bribe and more invasive. More influential than any kind of charismatic leadership.
  • Money has become the ultimate aphrodisiac, lubricant, and problem-solver as long as the problem requires lots of money to be thrown at it, in perpetuity, with subsidies for all (who deserve them and know how to lobby to get them).

Combine the use of weaponized poverty by the fantastically rich who use their wealth to create opportunities of social imbalance:

  • Creating a “need” for education in the workforce while at the same time “providing” the resource at an exorbitant price, driving everyone into debt to participate due to the inescapable “requirement” for a degree to be had by everyone, even if you’re just serving fries across a counter in a fast-food franchise.
  • Altering a police structure from a “protect and serve” environment of civil service to a “fee collection service” managed by local government in place to offset taxes no longer collected against the wealthy and now subsidized instead by taking even more from the already cash-strapped lower-class citizens of major metropolises already struggling to just stay in the rat race.
  • Driving people to homelessness with any interaction with the civil system from a parking ticket to a speeding ticket. Any time a citizen in one of these cities meets a cop, there is a fee involved that will take away anywhere from a day to a week’s worth of pay in one interaction.
  • With most people living just a paycheck from homelessness, to meet the police may be to greet your harbinger to homelessness or even outright criminality as you are forced to choose between feeding your family or paying a fine to avoid getting a bench warrant which will eventually end in your arrest.
  • Creating a medical and health system so imbalanced that millions of people will go into debt through no fault of their own because the medical industry cannot be bothered with tracking and regulating itself so that people can find themselves in debt without even knowing it after a visit to the hospital that might have been thought to be covered by insurers.
  • Meanwhile entire food industries are enriched by the creation of food-like products from industrial food processes which create and exacerbate health problems in societies across the world, shortening lifespans, reducing quality of life and driving people into the arms of a corrupt medical-industrial complex only too happy to capitalize on the dying while making no efforts to change the systems which create these sicknesses in the first place.
  • The medical industry is little more than an accomplice in this orgy of food-product devastation across the planet.

People starve in lands of plenty, eating food that isn’t food, creating lives which end sooner, with a poorer quality of life. If the Sword of Damocles could be asked, it would be embarrassed by abundance of the damned dancing beneath it’s ominous shadow.

A PAUCITY OF JUSTICE

We have the dual justice system adding insult to injury in the lives of those not rich enough to buy JUSTICE and instead are forced to mutter beneath their breaths when the issue of the who the punitive aspects of our legal system are for.

They can reply unequivocally, “just us”.

Everyone who is worth less than a million dollars can agree, just as easily as the news media parades a multitude of cases before you, showing how the wealthy pay a fine when involved in atrocities that destroy the lives of millions and how the poor, even when they are engaged in non-violent, non-lethal crimes can find themselves arrested for upwards of three decades.

They are slaved out to corporate farms, fire-fighting teams, industrial widget builders and thralls-for-hire. Even when the murderer is clearly in the wrong for an act poorer men have hung for, somehow, an excuse, a malady real or imagined (i.e. affluenza) will excuse the wealthy from the punishments assigned to the rest of us.

Being poor in America is having a greater and greater meaning as the systems once used to bring prosperity to the masses creating a middle-class are dismantled under the guise of “de-regulation” when those regulations were put in place to protect all of us from the greed of capitalism run amok, unregulated, unconcerned with the effects of its rapacious growth on the environment, society, and ultimately upon itself as it strip-mines the people whom it needs to buy its products and services.

dog_walker

‘The man most likely to want to lead government, such as it is, the man most likely to believe government has to do more with what’s in his pocket than in is heart or head, also tends to be the least fit to do so. This delusion should be satisfied by electing such folk as dog walkers, given a collection of various animals according to their nature and ushered out to perform a civic duty they are so aptly suited for.’ —Mark Twain (he didn’t say this, but I think he would have!)

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Is the final goal of this engine of capitalism to leave nothing but the scorched earth behind it as it absorbs the fruits and the bodies of its laborers toiling in conditions just shy of legally-sanction criminality, under the guise of double-digit corporate growth?

Is the goal to leave no natural rain forest unmolested, no oil-bearing shale deposit unmined, no natural resource unexploited for the sake of the next billion-unit gadget being sold to help folks masturbate virtually?

Is the goal to say “we are so wealthy, the environment doesn’t matter, burning carbon doesn’t matter, clean oceans bereft of all life, doesn’t matter; human lives where people have dignity, respect, education, a sense of worth and belonging to viable communities, doesn’t matter?”

Is the goal to remind us that all of the things we see in the media exist to serve the capitalist agenda of selling products, moving goods and ultimately pandering to created needs using propaganda, commercials and social manipulation of memes until people are willing to go into debt for the latest iGadget, no matter how many times a year it’s upgraded.

Is the goal really to say to everyone involved in this grand experiment of humanity to say “fuck you if you weren’t born wealthy or aren’t ruthless enough to sell your fellow humans up the river for your personal benefit?”

Is this why Pope Francis pisses everyone off? Because he has the temerity to point out to everyone who uses the teachings of the church as a cover for their cultural duplicity that he, as the titular head of that church, will not sit idly by and provide cover for their reprehensible behavior?

The Pope reminds us:

  • Climate change is bad and we know it. We can lie and say “we’re not sure, but we truly already know its bad and saying anything but that is disingenuous at best.
  • Punishing the poor for being poor, throwing them in jail, pushing them out of their homes is not Christian. Hell no it’s not. Nor is bringing back debtor’s prisons or redlining, or the prison-industrial complex. Making people poor and then arresting them for being poor is criminal.
  • Hydraulic fracturing? How do you square the circle of saying we would rather have oil than water, when there are already millions around the world without enough water?
  • Aren’t there corporations with no problem risking fresh water for millions of people deeming their lives less important than the billions of dollars to be made by using that water to get access to fossil fuels we could, if we were forward thinking, be putting aside for something better, using renewable energies instead.

THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU

This part is for my Sisters and Brothers out there who I trust have figured it out by now. America’s amble bosom does not provide equal nurturing for all her citizens. “With Liberty and Justice” for those who are properly connected and doing what the established system of inequality deems is your place to be.

People say its because the dominant subculture doesn’t take People of Color seriously and that is why they ignore us in the media.

While I use the term People of Color, I realize it is more inclusive to say anyone who isn’t part of the lucky sperm club. If you weren’t born rich, you are the problem and the system does take you seriously.

You are not necessarily a problem individually. After all, you are an individual without much in the way of resources, it’s only when you are part of a larger movement do they acknowledge you. But they have figured out how to keep those movements from happening. See: Occupy.

You see, they take us quite seriously and we are a far greater threat than we realize to them. You don’t marginalize an enemy that doesn’t matter.

You ignore him.

When you systematically make an effort to undermine a particular enemy, demonize him, incarcerate him, kill him, destroy his family, take his women, undermine his way of life, this is how you get rid of an enemy you fear.

If the system is doing that to YOU or someone in the public sphere, they fear them. They fear their power, their influence, their ability to generate a viral idea which might unseat them.

Their fear is of a Black Planet. Genetically speaking we are already a Black Planet since all life started in Africa but what they fear is the visual confirmation of something that already exists and will only continue from this point forward, unless in their minds, they do something about it.

Part of this article came about because of the deaths in Nigeria and why they haven’t managed to draw the attention of the deaths of the cartoonists in France this week.

They didn’t pay attention to Black deaths because, to them, they don’t matter. They never have. Likely, if current trends remain constant, they never will.

Since the end of “chattel slavery” the dominant subculture has done everything possible to attempt to return to the days of free labor. All of its “engines of progress” are simply other ways finding new ways to reduce the cost of labor which can be 50% of all costs for a business.

In other words, how can we make people work for less?

Slavery was the most effective means of wealth-building the United States and the world has ever known. And though it isn’t talked about in polite company, know organizations around the world are trying to find new ways of exploiting a worldwide workforce, without paying for it. See: “TransPacific Partnership”.

“Respectability politics” has never meant anything to the dominant subculture. Even when People of Color were self-supporting and maintained our own separate but equal facilities, towns, places we could call our own, they were never content to leave us in peace.

The bottom line is simple and few of us want to accept it. Racism is an economic ploy, not just a social one. It has allowed entire industries to blossom on the backs of bigotry, hatred and cultural appropriation and destruction.

Note the recent police “slowdown” in New York City where with the reduced activity of the police in across the city, our people are spending less time being arrested, harassed and cited, being forced to spend our already weakened dollars on fines, fees and defenses against a city using the poorest members to fill its coffers.

Adding insult to injury a recent news article by Reuters reports that lawyers and bail bondsmen are experiencing “economic hardship” because the police were funding their “industry” with arrests from our community. (http://www.reuters.com/…/us-usa-police-arrests...) What happened to the question of whether there should be as many of these services in the first place?

What needs to be understood is this: Poverty is a weapon. When you can control what a man earns and how he spends it, you can control all aspects of his life, his future and direct it in whatever fashion you want.

If we want to be more independent of this negative cultural control, we must find a way to free ourselves from the economic hegemony being exercised on our backs. Our children need to step away from the TV and get back to the basics.

Mastery of skills, mastery of self, preparation for the future, first by being educated and second by avoiding the media engine designed to undermine self-esteem, self-worth and self-determination.

Unless we can shake off our generations of “induced poverty” and “media-mentality” we have no chance of making effective strides in this society. If you wonder why nothing appears to change, that is the reason. There’s no profit in treating you as a person, with dignity, respect and a sense of individual purpose and wealth.

You are much more valuable as a brain-damaged, suffering, emotional wreck, barely able to pay your bills, willing to get into debt across the entire span of your life. Early in your life, with college debt, with a house in your middle years (if you’re lucky) and with numerous organ transplants or cancer treatments when you’re old.

They want to make money on you from the cradle to the grave.

Would you like fries with that?

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Zen and the Art of Dying Well

Tech Prison copy

We used to say Death was Nature’s way of telling you to slow down. But no more. People have just about slowed to a crawl these days. Now we sit around avoiding life, hiding in our homes with our media systems, tablets, smartphones and social media sites. We have our food delivered, our books downloaded and we make friends online in video games. We schedule meetings and outings by text and then flake when our social anxiety from meeting actual people flares up and we stay home promising we’ll go out next time. (But we never do.)

Death. You cannot escape it. (There, I said it. Now you can’t say you weren’t told.)

I write about it in my fiction all the time. Some of my favorite pieces revolve around the Grim Reaper, his agents, his occupation, his perspective, his inexorable tread into the lives of mortal men.  Sometimes I am even obsessed with it. But not the way you might think. My obsession with Death, (and when I am speaking of the metaphysical potential, the larger than life presence of the entity of Death, I capitalize it as a way of paying respect to something larger than us all) is because I was not expected to survive my childhood.

Sickly, I struggled with allergies and asthma. Small and a bit scrawny coming up, I was the subject of humiliation and abuse both by family and enemies in the schoolyard. Living in the South Bronx during the 1970s, the lifespan of a child from those neighborhoods said 1 in 4 of us would not make it to 18. 1 in 6 of us wouldn’t make it to 25. Most of the people I grew up with are already imprisoned, on drugs or dead. More than a few of my relatives and childhood friends are already dead. My mother and stepfather died from cancer very early, relatively speaking, both were in their late 50s. Some of my close military friends have died as well.

I have a very close relationship with Death. I have seen Him up close and personal at several junctions in my life. I have fallen out of a third story window as a child and people have marveled at my survival in a terrible motorcycle accident where I broke a significant number of bones (all have healed nicely, thank you). I decided the reason I think I survived, is because I had nothing to lose. Having lost so many friends and loved ones, I was able to see myself dying and being okay with it.

But I didn’t die. And I am okay with that, too. The incident changed my view of living and dying. I accept it is the natural order of things and now I am intent on maximizing the time I have left. I intend to draw it out, too.

I intend to make Death chase me across the globe, make Him hike up mountain trails and inhabit pumas I intend to outrun, make him take on the shape of ticks with lyme disease, I plan to outfox him by wearing high socks and taping off my pants legs. I may look strange but I won’t have tick bites. I plan to go scuba diving in places with sharks and tease him with the chance to bite me.

I plan to live dangerously. Otherwise what is the point?

I could hide in my apartment with safety furniture and still slip in the bathtub. (More people die in the tub than you realize, if you don’t have a rubber safety mat and a support rail in your shower, you are taking your life in your hands, you fool! Safety experts say a slip in the bathtub is six times more likely to kill the average American than a storm…)

Death, the cessation of all things in the Universe, (sometimes called Entropy by those accursed scientists) will claim all things, all life, even that which might claim immortality because ultimately, energy is necessary for life, without energy, there is no life. (At least not as we understand it, I may write a story about a creature who attempts to live without the use of energy as a means of surviving the end of the Universe.)

Death will claim the stars, the galaxies, the quasars, the supermassive black holes hiding in the center of galaxies, invisible to the naked eye. Death and the loss of energy will eventually claim even the dark matter and dark energy, the hidden 95% of our Universe will too exhaust itself.

Then only Death and the stinking, rotting corpse of our Universe shall remain.

As Death closes the door on the Universe, will it look back at the past at all the Lives which have come into existence, thrived for a short while (from His perspective) and then faded away? Will it feel remorse at our passing? Will the energy and the essence of our having lived matter to him/her/it in any way? Or will it be a question of how well we lived before we died that mattered? Is our contribution to the Universe our ability to make profit until we can’t breathe the air, drink the water or eat the food?

I suspect Death would not weigh in on this subject since, in the job description, probably right in the top line, would be: Seeking candidate with the ability to be completely passionate about their work, but maintaining an objective perspective on the critical nature of the job. If this image moves you, you probably won’t get the job:

PussInBoots

I suspect the description might continue: Not seeking glory hounds nor shirkers; this job isn’t a good fit for the shy and retiring and the candidate has to be willing to travel 100% of the time while on duty. Perks of the job include, meeting interesting entities from all walks of life and from everywhere, (unfortunately, killing them shortly afterward) travel across the known Universe, all expenses paid travel, and deluxe accommodations. Death has to be an Every-guy or girl, no pretense, no false modesty. Able to walk with kings and still keeping the Common touch. Able to deliver bad news with aplomb, and still know how to party (many cultures celebrate the death of a friend or relative) and Death would have to be able to hold their liquor.

What’s funny to me is that as I get older, I become more like the being I am describing as Death. I am more willing to do things I once said I would never do. I have lost my shyness, speaking up on subjects I have always been passionate about, and having done my research feel good in speaking on the topics. I have learned to be completely passionate about whatever I am doing but maintain the ability to be objective. Getting closer to dying has made me prioritize things, people, ideas, and given me a new perspective on how much SHIT I am willing to put up with from anyone.

In case you were wondering, that is NONE. Zero, zilch, nada, zip! Nunca más.

Life is too short for that. I am committed to living as full and a satisfying life in the time I have left. I plan to sing in the streets, dance in the rain, yodel in the mountains, run with scissors, demand respect from my fellow citizens, participate in my society and consider the legacy I plan to leave on Earth. When I found this quote from Caitlin Moran, I was moved because it is why I don’t do religion.

I don’t need God to make me behave in a moral fashion. As far as I am concerned, if you do, if you are suggesting that the only way for a person to be moral is through religion, you are painting a picture of a lesser kind of human. True humans help their fellow man, stand up for what’s right, acknowledge when things are being done that are wrong or have wronged people and they do this because it is the right thing to do, not because a mystical force which is believed to have created the Universe says so.

It’s that simple. As far as I am concerned, you should live your life as if you only have one. And that every minute should be filled with life-altering choices of significance. You know, paper or plastic, ice cream or cake, birth control or viagra, Superman or Batman, Life or Death.

Because if it isn’t you’re not doing it right.

LIVE, INTENSELY. (Not with drama but with significance. If you are fighting over why you lock your phone to your girlfriend, that is drama, NOT significance. Get a new girlfriend or boyfriend who is not going to have that petty behavior and get back to living your life with significance. If you aren’t sure what it means to live a life of significance, then I guess we’ll have to refer you to a different essay.)

Live, so that when people die, they are affected by your passing.

Live, so that your enemies cheer your death and then quietly toast your demise recognizing they will never see your like again.

Live so that your allies mourn you and wonder what they will do without you by their side. Then they remember you prepared them for the day when you wouldn’t be.

Live, so that when you die, you can tell everyone: I did what I wanted in a fashion that made the world a better place than when I found it.

That is how I live now. I realize it has been how I have always lived.

When I die, I want it written on my tombstone: I LEFT THE WORLD BETTER THAN I FOUND IT.

I’ll insist they add in small letters: Don’t fuck it up. I know how I left things…

Enjoy the visual poetry that is Zen Pencils interpretation of Caitlin Moran’s musings.

dying for life

Art by Zen Pencils artist Gavin Aung Than, 2013

Quote by Caitlin Moran

“The real problem here is that we’re all dying. All of us. Every day the cells weaken and the fibres stretch and the heart gets closer to its last beat. The real cost of living is dying, and we’re spending days like millionaires: a week here, a month there, casually spunked until all you have left are the two pennies on your eyes.

Personally, I like the fact we’re going to die. There’s nothing more exhilarating than waking up every morning and going ‘WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS REALLY IT!’ It focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realise that, in the scheme of things, you really don’t have time to sit on the sofa in your pants watching Homes Under the Hammer.

Death is not a release, but an incentive. The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life. My traditional closing-time rant – after the one where I cry that they closed that amazing chippy on Tollington Road; the one that did the pickled eggs – is that humans still believe in an afterlife. I genuinely think it’s the biggest philosophical problem the earth faces. Even avowedly non-religious people think they’ll be meeting up with nana and their dead dog, Crackers, when they finally keel over. Everyone thinks they’re getting a harp.

But believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence. It’s like an insidious and destabilizing mental illness. Underneath every day – every action, every word – you think it doesn’t really matter if you screw up this time around because you can just sort it all out in paradise. You make it up with your parents, and become a better person and lose that final stone in heaven. And learn how to speak French. You’ll have time, after all! It’s eternity! And you’ll have wings, and it’ll be sunny! So, really, who cares what you do now? This is really just some lacklustre waiting room you’re only going to be in for 20 minutes, during which you will have no wings at all, and are forced to walk around, on your feet, like pigs do.

If we wonder why people are so apathetic and casual about every eminently avoidable horror in the world – famine, war, disease, the seas gradually turning piss-yellow and filling with ringpulls and shattered fax machines – it’s right there. Heaven. The biggest waste of our time we ever invented, outside of jigsaws.

Only when the majority of the people on this planet believe – absolutely – that they are dying, minute by minute, will we actually start behaving like fully sentient, rational and compassionate beings. For whilst the appeal of ‘being good’ is strong, the terror of hurtling, unstoppably, into unending nullity is a lot more effective. I’m really holding out for us all to get The Fear. The Fear is my Second Coming. When everyone in the world admits they’re going to die, we’ll really start getting some stuff done.”

Freeing People Since the Revolutionary War

Freeing you for our benefit

Laugh. It’s okay. I’ll wait. I thought it was darkly funny too. Then I thought deeply about what it really meant. And this is what I came up with:

America’s Imperialist Policies: “Freeing” People Since the Revolutionary War

Or so they would have you believe. When I saw this graphic, I realized much of what has bothered me about the United States military is the very existence of that military and how it has been used since the forming of this nation. The military is the ultimate expression of “cognitive dissonance” and freedom.

  • How free are we if we spend more than the next 14 nations who are our allies to maintain our military superiority?
  • How free are we if we are free to starve in the streets, while millionaires look on at the starving masses from their helicopters?
  • How free are we when we look down at the chicken we just bought from the market and have to wonder: “Is it safe to eat?”
  • How free are we when our students leave school with more debt and less to show for it than any generation in 100 years.

To have a chance at a decent job, some of them will leave school with what we once spent on a house.

You remember those. Where people who live in tent cities across America used to live, in homes. Homes they have lost due to the collapsed financial market. A market where we have finally gotten around to slapping fines out but no executives of these banks who knew they were engaged in what should have been considered illegal activities have been sent to jail yet; if ever.

If you want to see a jail cell, then protest appears to be the way to go. Executives have to be caught eating a live human baby, on camera with at least 12 reliable witnesses and even then a good lawyer gets them “time served” and a napkin.

We say our military might is about maintaining our freedom. Freedom appears pretty expensive to me.

The need for the military and its purchases certainly appears to be more important than:

  • schools – we don’t seem to value education anymore; no money? No education. We don’t plan on you making any decisions anyway so who cares if you learn anything?
  • bridges – we haven’t had enough collapse to make anyone care, yet. With over 2,000 in a dangerous state of repair, its just a waitin’ game.
  • roads – we are turning them back to gravel. FDR would be so proud.
  • updating our electricity infrastructure – parts of the nation spend more time in the dark than the Amish
  • water – no one is mentioning this number one hard to come by resource, nationwide
  • waste management – take it to the landfill, no plan after that
  • research and development – we don’t do that here, anymore
  • manufacturing – precious little of this either
  • plumbing and city-wide sewer and sanitation for every major metropolis in the US.

Thank God [sarcasm] we are still privatizing prisons. American innovation at its finest. [/sarcasm] 

Did I miss anything important? Wait:

  • industrialized food production – or how to create foods that will eventually kill us
  • genetically modified foods – no useful or specific testing before human use
  • dying bee populations likely due to pesticide overuse
  • antibiotic resistant disease management – welcome back to the age of dying-from-a-scratch. Penicillin we hardly knew ye…
  • overpopulation – no need to stop now, we can break 10 billion by 2040.
  • climate change – yes, I know, its a myth, like Creation, right?
  • fracking and its poisoned waste water – we don’t need fresh water; fracking scientists assure me, flammable water IS still drinkable.
  • oil production, oil sand extraction – moonscape anyone?
  • lack of transition to non-oil based technologies – solar panels? We don’t need no stinking solar panels, or wind farms or biogas facilities. Peak oil is a myth too.

The US maintains over 600 military bases around the world. We have more fighters and bombers than we will ever use. We have cargo planes coming off the assembly line and being scrapped in the same year. We have so much military hardware, we are selling it to the police in our local communities.

Cobb-County-APC

Just what we need, antipersonnel vehicles on Main Street.

The military is a jobs program with a $600 billion dollar price tag. Yes, I said it.

That is the American way. We starve our schools while our fighter bomber programs roam free across the countryside, ensuring powerful defense contractors continue to get their piece of our “ignorant nation” pie.

American Imperialism is dead, hear tell it. Now that there are almost no nations we can destabilize and then attack under the guise of “freedom.” We are being told that our president has no sense of foreign policy. In conservative speak: no sense of foreign policy means any policy which does not put boots on the ground and food in a defense contractors mouths.

It has been the American way for so long to deliver freedom from the barrel of a gun or the bomber bay of attack aircraft if your country needed “freedom”. Freedom meant we bombed you into freedom and then you spent twenty five years “recovering” and not being an economic threat to our hegemony.

Clever plan, eh?

I would say our experimentation with a Democratic Republic has had a rocky road and almost no one who has tried to embrace our freedom, particularly after we send them a dose of HE has been successful in its implementation.

Could it be our brand of freedom comes at too high a price?

A friend of mine had this to say about the secrets a government must keep to maintain its control:

by H Wolfgang Porter

The thing that a staggering amount of people in the US cannot comprehend is how the government works on a multi-level, multi-tiered, multifaceted framework nationally and internationally simultaneously. Few people ever get to see the ‘whole picture’ and even fewer can comprehend it when they do!

Most folks see one small aspect of what the country does and support or flip out over it based upon the limited info they get from news sources (often singular.) What the government does is crazy deep. When you get things going at such ‘depths’, there’s a lot of ‘dark’ activities going on. Rarely are those activities stuff you’d want to shine a light on.

What’s jacked though is the people of the US benefit quite a bit from those things ‘done in the dark’. For everything perceived as ‘good and above board’, an unknown (probably for the best) amount of shadowy events went down to push that ‘light event’ into being.

No one in this country wants to acknowledge or admit that the US is an Empire. You don’t get to be an empire or ‘superpower’ in the world without a lot of people getting covered in blood and dirt. It’s jacked up because we want the country to present the best face and intentions possible at all times. But, in the real world it doesn’t work that way.

At best, ‘We the People’ should be working towards keeping our government ‘honest as possible’. It will never be 100% above board because other nations aren’t playing by those rules. Plus, we’ll always have people in power who have their own agenda and those folks with the money and influence to push them along. We counteract those factors by being well informed as possible and do our individual best to not look at everything through ‘tribal filters’.

There is No Future – A cheery film talking about why we need to start changing how we do things around here. Or else.

Is this a bad time to mention we still have 20,000 nuclear weapons rusting away quietly all across this nation, ready to keep us free (or begin to quietly fail) and be unable to launch with hunks of active plutonium waiting at the maybe secure launch facility.

Nothing to worry about. What’s the worst that can happen? An explosion of Freedom…

xVmSKy0

© Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved

© H. Wolfgang Porter 2013, All Rights Reserved

Shutdown: The View from Five Feet

GY_Venezuela_Food_wg

Author: Gabriel Russell

Perspective.

Got stuck in the lone checkout line at Safeway behind a woman buying groceries with her EBT card (food stamps). She had her teenaged son with her and a huge stack of coupons. I’ve been having a frustrating week. I was wearing coat and tie and probably had a grumpy look on my face when I arrived. The woman working the register kept looking at me apologetically as time went on and the line grew.

The shopper had a coupon for almost every item. She went through that stack of coupons four times slowly because she was missing one. I think she had coupons for apples, soup, pasta, rice, beans, and bread. She was missing a 60 cent coupon for her two cartons of almond milk. She had a list and had calculated to the penny what she could buy, had $70 on her EBT card and $20 or so on a check she had written but she was $1.20 short to finalize the purchase.I was tempted to pass the woman two bucks but she was already starting to radiate with awkward embarrassment. Her son stood behind her and stared at the floor. Finally the shopper asked the register worker if there was any way she could look through the weekly flier and find the coupon she needed and the worker started paging through it for her.

My irritation dissipated the longer I stood there. Its been a long time since I agonized over $1.20 for food. I’ve never had to do it with a crowd behind me. I could see the time and care she had put into her shopping trip, calculating the cost, clipping coupons, buying cheap healthy food.

I relaxed. I smiled. The coupon was finally found and the sale made. The register worker kept thanking me for my patience. I suppose these days most folks expect a certain amount of eye-rolling and grimacing when a customer is inconvenienced for a few minutes. We’re very busy people.

By Monday the shutdown will have cost me enough from a plane ticket change fee and a lost weekend of National Guard wages that it will sting. But I won’t miss a meal, or even skimp. I won’t miss a mortgage payment. I won’t fear for my phone or electricity being shut off. I have friends that may. I’m grateful for all that America has given me. I’m glad my wife has a good-paying job.

Not everyone is so lucky. We have young National Guard soldiers here in Washington State that rely on their drill pay for food and lodging and on military tuition assistance to pay for college. They won’t be getting either due to the shutdown. Each of them volunteered to serve in their nation’s military during time of war, uncertain of the cost.

This will likely, hopefully, be resolved before my young soldiers or friends in federal service even have time to apply for food stamps or unemployment. But not, perhaps, before a few missed payments, missed meals, and sleepless nights. It bothers me to see them treated this way.

The Legislative Branch of our government has its work cut out for it. I’d like to see them take up that task with the same zeal, teamwork and selfless sense of service to nation and community I see in the young soldiers and law enforcement officers that work for me. I’d like that a great deal.

All I did. The best I did today, was to stand patiently in line behind someone less fortunate than myself and not act like a complete ass. The woman at the register seemed appreciative. Almost like she expected me to be annoyed. Is this what we’ve come to? Is this what people expect?

Patience. Compassion. Persistence. Teamwork. I expect these attributes of my most junior employees. I expect them of myself. I expect them of my government.


If you have a story of the Shutdown and how it has affected your perspective, or your life in general, please share it in the comments or if it’s longer, send it to me at ebonstorm(at)gmail.com and we can share it together.

America shouldn’t be just for big businesses, its stories should be for and about everyone.

Thank you, Gabriel Russell for sharing your story.

Cain’s Legacy

Cain’s Legacy (or why mankind has a dubious future at best)

How the world works

The source of this image is unknown to me. But the genius of the artist shouts out a truth that cannot be ignored.

“Power goes to those most willing to be and do the most heinous things to their fellow man. If you are without shame, without conscience, without moral compass, you can rise to the peak of ‘human’ achievement, such as it is, and take your place as a leader among men, a monster above those not willing to stare into the abyss that has already consumed you. This is Cain’s Legacy.”

Let me say that again for you in relationship to the modern world.

POWER, the ability to:

  • alter society at large, literally change the world through the exercise of their economic, political or social resources,
  • manipulate our environment and create catastrophic events beyond our ability to foresee the consequences of
  • make decisions which affect the nature of the world at large,
  • for good or ill, affect the lives of billions is now part of the human experience and relegated to an elite few. As few as 400 people control bulk of the world’s wealth
  • be unconcerned for the consequences of said exercises of power. To be above any legal, social or economic responsibility for the exercise of that power.

This elite few:

  • who instead of considering the conservation of nature for the greatest number
  • fail to realize that they are now responsible for the entire human species.
  • They fail to realize any decision or lack thereof can conceivably doom us all.
  • in their current role as masters of resources, wealth and social control,  prefer to drain the Earth of its resources, harvest natural bounties and exploit the labors of those not fortunate enough to be born into wealth.
  • promote the meme of meritocracy knowing they do not personally subscribe to it. There is no merit that helps you rise to the top, only the ruthlessness necessary to say and do anything to anyone.

But this is not entirely their fault. (What?) Bear with me a moment.

There is no training for becoming powerful. (Not an excuse, just an observation)

There is no class for directing the flow of wealth at the scales it is done today. All of the kings of old, their wealth, power and influence pales in comparison to that being wielded by our new corporate kings and their economic fiefdoms. Science and human nature are still learning about how compassion, humanity, and empathy are affected by our environment, our upbringing, our training, our use or lack of use of drugs which alter our mental chemistry.

WE HAVE NO COURSEWORK ON HOW TO BE HUMAN.  How to be good to each other, how to see each other as viable no matter our origins. We promote competition literally until death can be the only result.

WAR IS COMPETITION’S ULTIMATE STATE. When two groups cannot come to an agreement beneficial to both, if the groups are large enough, entrenched enough, then WAR is the result. We fight until we destroy the opposition, even if their perspective may bear more than a kernel of truth.

This is Cain’s Legacy. We kill our brothers rather than find commonality with them.

This innate blindness, this acculturated inhumanity to each other does not have to be our only path to the future.

What if we spent as much on peace and education as we did on war? 

  • Could we not make the same profits? (I think so. And then some.)
  • Could we not improve our quality of life? (Most assuredly and for more than just an elite few.)
  • Could we not find cures for dementia, cancer, AIDS? (It would be nice; we haven’t cured anything since polio…)
  • Could we effectively address the recursive problem of employment where automation removes jobs faster than we can make new ones?
  • If we were better educated, could we stop depending on superstition to make decisions about our bodies, our lives and the disposition of the world’s resources?
  • Could we finally address the most important issue in our human history, our burgeoning population that continues to explode without a means of dealing with the need for resources to maintain those new numbers?

There are more and more problems every year but we continue to spend money on the same things that keep us in the exact same place we are now; ignorant, arrogant, petulant and recalcitrant.

The same way we learned to use power and influence to manipulate the world, we could instead harness empathy and realize for us to make the world better, it will require the best EVERY PERSON CAN BE, the best every person can find within themselves, to selflessly discover new solutions to old problems.

We will need to come to the conclusion at every life, no matter how humble has the same potential as the greatest king, sitting anywhere in the world. Because until we do that, everything we do only delays the inevitable extinction of mankind. You don’t believe me.

You think I engage in hyperbole? I think not. I present exhibit 1 below, your honor. Watch the video below from beginning to end and ask me again when it is done whether I exaggerate. Realize everything you see here is happening all over the world. NO PLACE IS EXEMPT.

VICE AND VIRTUES

Watching an episode of VICE this week reminded me just how out of order our world is and how many people die every day without an understanding of a world beyond the one they are confined and limited to seeing.

Murder is a tool, hopelessness and fear, merely lieutenants in a war for the souls of men in a battle to manipulate, exploit, and control resources, in pursuit of wealth in a fruitless attempt to forestall death and personal suffering.

IT IS MADNESS to forfeit the future for the present.

IT IS MADNESS to use your children as explosives in a war that no one can win.

IT IS MADNESS to plow the forest into the ground and call it progress.

IT IS MADNESS to trap and slaughter billions of animals in conditions which breed diseases that escape into our environment and kill us and call it agriculture.

IT IS MADNESS to use oil and coal and radioactive materials whose potential consequences will be responsible for the deaths of billions when we have other choices.

IT IS MADNESS to subsidize technologies like hydraulic fracturing which use the world’s most precious resource, fresh water, to subsidize further mega-corporate wealth.

IT IS MADNESS to indenture children in diploma mills and having them toil for low pay while executives pass by them homeless in the streets at the end of the day.

IT IS MADNESS to make a government that can be bought by lobbyists who in their zeal to deregulate their industry fail to note the lack of safeguards when they do.

IT IS MADNESS to say we can’t cut military spending when there are no wars, except when YOU make them…

IT IS MADNESS to deny healthcare to millions when the politicians denying them have the very best healthcare in the world, at no cost to them.

IT IS MADNESS to deny the benefits of natural drugs like marijuana, while allowing pharmaceutical companies the option to avoid being responsible if their drugs kill people.

IT IS MADNESS to spy on your populace, tell them you aren’t spying and then punish anyone who proves the lies you have told as the lies that they are.

IT IS MADNESS to teach your people to be proud of their ignorance, to misinform them under the guise of news and use religion as a means of retarding intelligent discourse about anything.

IT IS MADNESS to create false divisions between people under the guise of race, religion, creed and to make them appear to be significant enough to kill each other over.

IT IS MADNESS to wage war, economic, social, religious, cultural or political when people starve in your streets for want of leadership and vision.

IT IS MADNESS to base your society on a mantra like “Greed is Good.”

IT IS MADNESS to mortgage the future to live well in the present.

IT IS MADNESS to fear the future enough to kill the present.

IT IS MADNESS to believe fear can ever lead to love.

IT IS MADNESS to believe lies can ever lead to truth.

SHEER MADNESS.

VICE on HBO: Episode 1 – Killer Kids

Put your phone away. Save a life.

COMMENTARY, INFOGRAPHIC, VIDEO

distracted driving

Let this picture soak in. A woman and her mother-in-law were crushed to death in the back seat by a texting, inebriated driver.

 

I hate wasting my time. So my first thousand words are that picture above. 

Telling young people anything these days is often a waste of time. They are always sure they know better than every adult around them. They are always sure they can do everything better than you can and there is nothing you can teach them.

Don’t let this be one of those times.

If this should come across your screen and you are under the age of 30, heed the messages I have included here. I believe in offering people multiple ways of learning things, so you have my personal testimonial, a documentary created which describes the lives of victims of texting and driving, an infographic bearing out in a visual format why texting and driving don’t mix, some statistics after that and a video from the mouths of young people who were involved with or affected by texting and driving.

No. You don’t have to care. Yes, you won’t make those mistakes.

Everyone of the people interviewed in these videos said the same thing. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

A Family Missive

I received a letter from a relative a few years ago about a family member who was killed in a car accident while texting and driving. She included the police report with the line “It is the officer’s opinion that cell phone usage contributed to this accident.” There was something about that sentence that has always struck me as distancing and even a bit cold. Then I did my research and realized why it seemed that way.

Officers see far more of this than they should and from their perspective, it is one of those things that is both traumatic and yet completely avoidable. I accept that we will all die one day. If you live long enough, you have time to get used to the idea. But if you live long enough, you also realize you don’t want to risk your life because you slip in the bathtub because you were too cheap to spring for a floor mat, or have your brakes go out because you couldn’t be bothered to have your vehicle serviced at the right time. You become inclined to try and live longer and part of that is better planning. You cannot plan for other people’s behavior, however.

My cousin was a good driver, smart, a college graduate, a capable person who like so many today thought he could avoid the consequences of texting and driving.

Not anymore.

I was once told, “To be a good member of society, you have to give back more than you take.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Texting and driving is one of those problems created when technology and humanity intersected in a way that produced an unexpected consequence.

Driving requires focus, concentration, attention to detail and good reflexes. Texting requires focus, concentration and attention. Combine these two things and you realize there is a problem. How much focus, concentration and attention can you give to these two mentally challenging things at the same time? Not enough.

A car moving at 60 mph will cover 88 feet per second. The average time spent looking at a phone for texting is 4 seconds. For 352 feet or the length of the average football field, a driver may as well be wearing a blindfold. It only takes 88 feet or one second to change a person’s life forever — yours and theirs.

Share this video with everyone you know. Don’t text and drive. If you can’t do it for you, or for the person you might kill, then do it because THERE ARE OTHER SELFISH PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE AWARE OF WHILE YOU DRIVE.

From One Second to the Next

Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs this film. It focuses on four accidents and the lives affected by this phenomenon. http://youtu.be/_BqFkRwdFZ0

DWI: Driving While Intexticated

intexticated-teens

Texting and Driving Statistics

Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

Texting While Driving:

1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.

Research Articles

The Workforce of The Future Could Be Tiny

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This was once the face of the Robot Apocalypse.

A terrifying unified metal organism crushing humanity under its robotic heel, exterminating the humans who once gave it life and whose robotic perfection could no longer tolerate our imperfect nature. We as humans have grown to fear this meme more than nearly any other; the machine finding humanity’s flaws a reason to remove us from the Earth. Okay, perhaps that was a fictional account of the robot apocalypse designed to play on our fears of the unknown, robots, and the ever-encroaching wave of technology swallowing up our lives.

But the robot apocalypse may look more like this: Robots coming to work, first in our factories and then later in our offices, programmed with capabilities which allow them to displace the less qualified workers engaged in tasks that can be replicated with algorithmic procedures and programming. (That may be more jobs than we are willing to admit.)

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Illustration by Roberto Parada

I predicted the future of work and the economically debilitating effects of robots, automation, and the replacement of the workforce with machines on the populace in previous articles. In Death to the Labor Class, I postulate the consideration that the culture of America and the world at large may need to re-evaluate how we deal with compensation and the nature of work in the future, as machines put laborers out of the workforce in greater and greater numbers.

I tried to remind people that automation has been taking your jobs for years, you simply still had other choices of work to get and still bring home the bacon. Now I am postulating not only will the potential for automation take your job, it will take it higher and higher along the social-economic food chain. Once only blue-color workers were affected, now the potential for algorithms can take any job which can be proceduralized and structured based on databases of stored information.

For example, there are already computerized journalists in use today. See: NYTimes: In case you’re wondering a human wrote this article. A market for such technology will continue to grow as the databases they draw from become more intelligent and sophisticated. Will they replace real journalists? For some types of articles the answer is assuredly, yes.

 See: Death to the Labor Class: http://storify.com/ebonstorm/may-13-2013-monday-s-musing-death-to-the-labor-cla.

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How the Tesla Model S is Made — Behind The Scenes

A sample of how robotics are slowly changing manufacturing from Wired Magazine and the Tesla Automotive company

gear99

The opinion of the masses: So what?

The comments I received primarily indicated those jobs needed to be replaced since robots COULD do them, they should. Mostly this would affect people with less education, blue-color workers and the disdain of the white-color workers was palpable because they thought their jobs would be unaffected by technical automation of any kind.

I mentioned the idea of algorithms or procedural decision-making based on experience. This is how experienced doctors, lawyers and other professionals decide on courses of action. What if you could write a program or algorithm to do the same thing? The program would learn from decisions made in the past and predict what possible outcomes and their potential chances for success. This could mean an entirely new class of workers, including middle managers could find themselves unemployed as intelligent agents make the same decisions they did without preferential treatment, emotional attachments, or favoritism to muddy the economic water.

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Christoper Steiner
Steiner is an engineer, a skier, an author and one of the founders at Aisle50. Before starting Aisle50, he was a senior staff writer at Forbes magazine for seven years. His book “Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World”, chronicles the march of algorithms from the very first hack of Wall Street to their current role as disruptors of the creative class in fields as varied as music, writing, law and medicine.

© Chris Steiner

Engineer Christopher Steiner has an interview in the European Magazine discussing the idea that white-color jobs that are low in innovation are indeed next on the list of people made unemployed by technology. And there are a lot more jobs at stake than in the manufacturing industry.

Here is a telling quotation from the article. It is definitely worth your time to read. The effects are worldwide and potentially socially catastrophic:

The European: We tend to think about unskilled labor as the most precarious form of labor – machines could easily do it. Yet one of the arguments you make is that algorithms threaten many mid-level, white collar jobs…

Steiner: Being an expert in a field, having worked for fifteen years in that field, usually means that you have accumulated enough expertise, seen enough cases, read enough studies, dealt with enough clients, that you develop your own pattern recognition system within your brain. In medicine, experienced doctors are valuable because they have seen and treated many patients and diseases. Experienced lawyers know very well what information they need to pursue litigation, where to find that information, and so forth. But algorithms are very well suited for pattern recognition, much more than humans. If you can feed algorithms with data about a patient’s symptoms or about a legal case, I can’t see how that would not take away many of our jobs.”

http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/christoper-steiner/7226-algorithms-and-the-future-of-work