Why and how I beat the Little Hater

September 22, 2014

http://www.illdoctrine.com/2007/12/beating_the_little_hater.html

I write and compose and play and perform for myself, to satisfy an internal need to understand what’s happening inside and around me.  I share it with others who often say that what I do resonates with or helps or provokes them.  I think the latter flows from the former.  So I try to ignore the voice that says, “you haven’t done [insert creative activity] for [insert time period], you suck, sucka!”  and listen to the voices that say, “You’ve been werkin’, keep up that good shit, using your creative processes in other ways.  Why are you pressuring yourself if you got nothing to say at the moment in this area of creativity?”   I don’t know what to call these voices, but they’re the opposite of the Little Haters.  And I try to listen to them more.

For the record, I don’t want to kill or starve off the Little Haters.  I just want to shrink their egos down in size and put them in their place, the purpose of which is to keep me accountable and help me maintain perspective.

What do we call the encouraging voices?? Also, what do we call the Little Haters when they serve the role of accountability?  And how the hell do we tell the difference?  Help wanted.


091514 ocean dream

September 22, 2014

091514

on a whim at the water’s edge where
the waves lapped the beach,
she told me she knew how to swim
“the water’s warm,” she said,
so i stripped down on a dare and
jumped in, after, only to ignore
the numb and freeze of bone and
inhale the brine of a life
no longer empty or alone
too cold to think

fantastic in the sheets, spacious
birth and functional head
split open wide, we climbed
deep inside, drawing feed
from galley mess, no protest
to hide a thing, every thought
a part in queue to confess
so i wanted to believe…
we built our ship
broke bottle against bow
left land and other loves behind
made our way out past the breakers
to move through life like one
while we watched
the world around us die.

in the midst of our journey
i found she lied like a stranger
escaping persecution, struggling
to me, about on deck, and deep inside…
the only chart she knew to read
a map she drew to replace the territory
i watched us worried, drift away
captive of her expectant gaze
toward a horizon of dreams
i believed she could navigate.

when the western winds came
and begged us set course
against the drift, unfurl the mains
the task fell to me, by age
unwisened i failed miserably
still i wanted to believe…
feeling lost but not alone
we lived and loved inside
a first mate’s fantasy, floating
for a while, we watched
the world inside us die, we fought
and held the angry water
demons at bay, on the border
of an impending storm
in an iron-clad bubble
’til it burst swiftly
tore through our embrace
and left us naked, drowning

i thought i heard her calling
in the same moment i watched
the malformed cabin disintegrate
wash and melt into the sea
like a memory, i recalled she told me
she knew how to swim, feel complete
to divine the winds, tell routes
from stars, spot land beyond the horizon
she held in her hand like sand falling from
the hourglass she wore, without seeing
the depth of meaning it bore, she said
she knew north from mars, she could feel
conveyors from currents, find the way
beneath her compass tattoo’d feet
and she wanted more…
i saw her from that moment on,
nevermore.

instead, i resurfaced in shock and
crawled my lonely way to shore
eyes open
stinging from the salt
i looked behind for some sign
of her, an effort, a struggle
a ripple on the surface
smooth as silk, with a peaceful sheen
she disappeared into the blue
like a mirage, always running
leaving me stranded
on the firm ground
of an alien island
and unfamiliar surrounds
leading tattered rags into
a future
ripped in two

through the seasons,
sun and winds of time
as i gaze back toward the same horizon
with salt-crusted eyes
on a distant ocean dream
beyond the moon’s pull of tides
i wonder lazily whether i lost myself
somewhere out there in her fantasy
and in mine.


Violence Against Women: A Man’s Issue

September 12, 2014

Yes, violence against women is a man’s issue.  It’s not only a man’s issue (obviously, violence against women affects women and children and non-human animals and, and), but it gets tiring to read all the defensive responses when someone points out that it is also a man’s issue.  This should be non-controversial. Given that

  1. societal and intimiate partner and sexual violence/abuse comes mostly from men
  2. men are most likely to be victimized by other men
  3. women who abuse tend to be taking on masculine gender roles

this is definitely a problem of masculinity that men need to address.  Since gender roles co-exist, this is a problem of patriarchy, namely, the rigid, unrealistic (for most people) gender roles patriarchy imposes on us all.  men need to participate in that conversation about ending patriarchy and replacing it with something more anarchistic — that is, lacking a rigid hierarchy, that is, allowing people to negotiate their gender roles on (inter)personal levels without culturally imposing a bunch of crappy baggage on us all.

In this way, feminism means liberation…for us all!   The only people I hear complaining about feminism are those (usually men) who seem to fear “losing control” over women, and who often seem to view women as inherently narcissistic or sociopathic (and use that as a justification for their behavior).

Ironically, these dudes are also victims of patriarchy, as well, whether its the social shame/victim blaming of being a male victim of sexual/domestic violence or child abuse (though it is high for everyone), not living up to unrealistic expectations of “what it means to be a man,” (which leads to other men/women policing their behavior, shame and overcompensation), developing unhealthy and counterproductive views of women, having to navigate the minefield of homophobia, or any number of other issues.  Feminism brings these issues up, like a societal-scale counselor, or a messenger.   Each time we raise the issue, some men try to shoot the messenger rather than address the actual issue.  Can you imagine how different the US would be today if people decided to shoot Paul Revere rather than heed his warning?  ha!

Women have been asking for men to participate in these conversations for decades.  Each year, more and more men listen to that call, and more and more men express the courage to step up and participate, for a number of reasons:  for their own sake (because they are sick of patriarchy), for the sake of their loved ones, for the sake of their relationships, and for the sake of the social fabric of our society (a fabric that domestic and sexual violence and its patriarchal underpinnings rips to shreds), and others.

James Brown’s wonderful speech is an example of that trend toward liberation.  Let’s keep on it!


A food sovereignty safety and inspection policy

March 30, 2014

Russ at Attempter Blog has written about the corporate-state’s crackdown against small producers in his series on food sovereignty.

For example, in his post, First they came for the raw milk, and I did nothing… he writes (emphasis mine)

The reason for this campaign of persecution, intimidation, and harassment is that the government food agencies are the flunkeys of industrial agriculture. That’s proven just by the complete inverted disparity between two overwhelming ratios. These are: the ratio of corporate-caused food poisoning (over 99%) to that caused by small producers; and the ratio of government enforcement, preventive as well as remedial, of these same toxic industrial producers to its enforcement actions against small producers. The ratio there is just as lopsided but on the opposite side.
So it’s clear that in the eyes of the government, the more dangerous you are, the less you warrant any preventive or punitive action, while the more innocent you are, the more you’re seen as a target. The reason for all this is obvious. Government food policy is in the hands of the same corporate thugs who push the same pro-corporate policies as we see with the banks, the insurance rackets, the weapons rackets, and in every other sector.
He concludes:
  1. The government wants to smash local, sustainable food, especially where this is a business, but not exclusively where it’s a business.
  2. The government targets small producers and distributors. It looks for a pretext for enforcement, and if it can’t find one it trumps one up. Law, science, and professional procedure are all to be freely used, abused, or discarded in this process.
  3. The food bills in Congress would increase the government’s power while imposing extreme hardships on those same small producers and distributors. The Food Tyranny bill is therefore both a direct and indirect police state assault on non-corporate food.
The evidence for these conclusions — already solid — continues to mount.  For example, my family has an apple cider pressing party every year.  We supplement apples from our very small (a few trees) family orchard with apples from local family farmers in Hood River.  One family farm from which we regularly buy apples has always offered fresh raw cider and cider tastings on their farm premises — until last year.  My mom recounts the farmer telling her experience of the government crackdown (paraphrased):
She said they were out doing their cider pressing when some government vehicle rolled up, and some young kid (probably no older than 30-something), flashed a piece of paper at them, and ordered them to cease and desist with all cider pressing activities.   The reason?  Someone may have contracted food poisoning by eating an unwashed apple from the ground of an orchard in Washington State.
The farmer read the order carefully, and responded.  “This only tells us to stop selling our cider.  You can’t stop us from giving cider away to people or doing taste testings.”  The next day, the same agent came back with another cease and desist order covering all cider pressing activities.
The farmer said the only option they would have is to upgrade all their equipment to stainless steel [ed:  as if doing so automatically prevents food poisoning...hah!], an operation that would cost thousands beyond what the farmers could afford.  Never mind that there have been no documented cases of food poisoning tied to their farm in the multiple-decade history of their operation.
In response to this, I wrote the following model Food Safety and Inspection Policy for community-supported businesses to adopt.  I am not a lawyer nor do I contend that such a policy is legal.  It is, however, farm more ethical, legitimate and just than existing food laws and food safety practices and a starting place for developing more coherent food sovereignty-oriented policy and law.  A practical Declaration of sorts.

Food Safety and Inspection Policies

Government (state and federal) discrimination against small food operations appear to be intensifying, with harassment of farmers and producers and threats to their operations from government agents becoming routine. Instead of going after the “big offenders” (who have big legal budgets) regulators in a corrupt and broken system are starting to go after smaller, vulnerable operations regardless of whether they are a problem. Some possible factors in this trend are the lack of food safety experts’ familiarity with community-supported models, the inherent inability to regulate them (since they are customer owned) and the fact that regulation is geared toward accommodating large-scale industrial operations at the expense of small-scale, local operations.

The community-supported business model offers some protection against such discrimination. [Name of Business, henceforth NB] will institute policies that leverage the full extent of those protections:

  1. [NB] maintains and strictly follows procedures to maximize the safety and quality of its operations and products throughout the entirety of the production process.

  2. [NB] may not follow any third party guidelines which impede, diminish or jeopardize the safety and quality of its operations and products.

  3. Open-door policy: Any past, current or future food share-holder may arrange a visit to the facilities for inspection of the facilities and operations therein. Share holders must notify food artisans in advance of the visit if they have appointed a third party representative to operate as their agent during the visit.

  4. All visits must occur under the supervision of the food artisan(s) who are managing the related food shares.

  5. All visits must strictly adhere to the above-mentioned safety and quality protection procedures.

  6. [NB], food artisans and other employees or owners cannot consent to any government inspection of any aspect of the operations relating to shareholders’ past, present or future food shares. Inspection includes, but is not limited to, any visual inspection, search or any other intrusion into the facilities and its operations.

  7. A government worker wishing to inspect any aspect of [NB]‘s operations must obtain and present to [NB] the legal, written consent of all current food share-holders of any operation targeted for or affected (directly or indirectly) by inspection. [NB] will provide a list of current shareholders upon request.

  8. A lack of consent to inspection from any current food share-holder – either through absence of consent or denial of consent — is equal to no legal consent for inspection or any other intrusion into the private contractually-bound property or business of past, present or future food share-holders. Food artisans are contractually and ethically bound to deny any inspection until the inspecting party can obtain and present such consent.

  9. A government employee or government agency may not purchase any food shares or represent a current shareholder with the intent or purpose of obtaining facilities access without consent outlined above.  [NB] reserves the right to deny share purchase by or on the behalf of any legal entity.

  10. [NB] and its artisans will participate to the fullest extent possible in its local Community Rights initiatives to work for and implement food sovereignty laws that protect small-scale, local food systems. [NB] will encourage its farmers and food shareholders to do likewise where necessary or appropriate.

  11. [NB] will provide a copy of these policies to all food shareholders before they purchase a food share. An up-to-date copy will be available on the company’s website.


Solidarity and plurality of liberation movements and strategies

March 23, 2014

3/29/14 Update

Russ at Attempter blog posted his thoughts on Sarah and Michael’s piece: http://attempter.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/the-community-rights-anti-corporate-movement-and-its-liberal-pro-corporate-detractors/

3/28/14 Update

Kai Huschke, an organizer working for CELDF in the Pacific Northwest, has posted a Response to CELDF critique by IOPS.  Kai also posted as a comment at ZComm.  Here’s a small excerpt:

It is very clear that nothing will develop nor evolve in regards to securing rights for people, communities, and nature, and containing corporate and economic power, if the focus is put on IOPS or CELDF or any other organization.

The fight for rights has always been about each of us liberating ourselves first and then taking that liberation on the road. From there we each can make our own decisions on what or who to associate with, or building the necessary means to fight for rights.

Clarity of what we are up against is critical to formulating the direction we go. That means taking a look in the mirror as well as the evidence around us.

The entire piece is well-crafted, well-tempered and well-worth the read.

Background

This blog post is a response to some problematic structural dynamics I have encountered in Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston’s discussion focus and engagement process. I have witnessed problems in three ways: through a mutual friend (whose enthusiasm they dismissed hurtfully and patronizingly as “naive”), through Sarah’s engagement of me in the comments section of a post on the Integral Permaculture blog (which strangely claims “community rights” as somehow a more decentralized form of “states’ rights” — perhaps a marketing problem the community rights movement should address), and finally through their own independent “analysis” of the community rights movement, also cross-posted to ZComm.

That said, I want to say that I appreciate the open and public format of Sarah’s and Michael’s discussion of movement strategies. As many concerns as I have about process and structure, it would be much worse for these discussions to happen privately and behind backs vs publicly. I think public discussion allows us to enact and embody the shared values we purport to promote. I live in the same town and city as the authors of the blog. I became involved in our county’s newly-forming community rights chapter after hearing Thomas Linzey’s inspiring keynote address at the 2012 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon. My experience with and understanding of community rights stands in stark contrast to the strange assertions and abstract critiques they and others have made.

Sarah and Michael are members of my natural community, and frankly I am at a loss to explain their behavior.   I apologize out of solidarity to my fellow Oregon Community Rights Network members and other activists nationally and internationally who bust their chops as grassroots volunteers to assert and elevate the inherent and inalienable rights of nature, natural communities and natural persons.  Your work for us all and for the earth deserves better than this!

This problem is much larger than IOPS or community rights or any individuals therein. I have witnessed and experienced the same frustrating “more radical than thou” liberal gatekeeping that a few individuals perpetrate in many liberation movements, and the problem is perhaps as old as the concept of liberation itself.  I see this issue regularly in racial, class and gender justice work, for example.  Monty Python’s Life of Brian provides hilarious commentary on this frustrating issue:

Inasmuch as Sarah and Michael serve as spokesepersons for IOPS, their misconduct strikes me as a giant red flag.

Response

I believe that public discussions are most beneficial when participants engage in good faith and with good will. Unfortunately, I have yet to see evidence of either from my interactions to-date with one of the article’s authors. Worse, I have encountered significant evidence to the contrary in my three encounters with them thus far, including name-calling, cherry-picking supporting evidence, ignoring conflicting evidence, and framing contradictory arguments on baseless assertions, stereotypes or generalizations, and complete lack of direct experience or engagement in the movement, to name a few. More recently, someone posted as “Ivan Illich” a very thoughtful comment disputing their blog post, and one author promptly accused that person of “trolling” (an accusation the commenter then engaged in an admirably gracious and good-faith manner).

Response focus:  Such unfortunate and frustrating circumstances lead me away from a focus on content and into the territory of discussion dynamics: honesty, constructive engagement, and the importance of collaboration, solidarity and plurality of movements and movement strategies.

The IOPS appears to have both strategy and goals that parallel “the (sic) community rights strategy,” noting that “the” community rights strategy does not actually exist since community rights movement is an organic grassroots revolution evolving out of fundamental and universally-shared principles valuing and asserting the inherent and inalienable rights of nature, natural communities and natural persons. The key differences seem to be that IOPS, as a two-year old experiment, appears less grounded and not yet as well-developed — which are not bad things at all. It just means that IOPS simply doesn’t have the history or experience, yet, that community rights has developed over the past 15 years. I recognize this might be splitting hairs, since with all the progress made via community rights, we all (including, but not limited to community rights) have a long road ahead of us.

More to the point, these are not, to my knowledge, competing movements, inasmuch as they both seek to liberate people, places and planet from destructive systems of oppression.   I would like to invite collaboration between IOPS and community rights in the achievement of our mutual goals in the context of their similar vision for fundamental societal transformation toward the liberation of nature, natural communities and natural persons.  The community rights movement as a whole has learned some amazing lessons, as has CELDF through its support of the movement, and I have experienced nothing but a willingness to be openly self-critical for the sake of learning and growing better, more-effective strategies. Community rights depends on collaboration and accountability, which I think contributes to my experience of movement’s tendency toward inclusion instead of exclusion as we work our way up and against the “chain of command” of society’s existing hierarchy and molt our anti-democratic skin in favor of a more perfect union existing primarily for the purpose of protecting the inherent and inalienable rights of nature, natural communities and natural persons everywhere.  I hope that IOPS has members who embody this ethic.  I would love to collaborate with them.

To be fair, I also invite collaboration with members of the NRA, for example, and for the same fundamental reasons: specifically, in this case, to ensure the continued right of the people to bear arms.  And to access clean water. And breathe unpolluted air. And acheive food sovereignty. And have shelter. The list goes on. That’s one of the beautiful things about this process of recognizing, defining, asserting and defending — at the grassroots level — the inherent rights of nature, natural communities and natural persons into law. It cuts deep — real deep. When a natural community asserts the inherent and inalienable rights of nature, natural communities and natural persons in its own little corner of the universe, it necessarily does so in solidarity with nature, natural communities and natural persons everywhere.

I challenge the invariably patronizing and critical tone that the authors strike, and ask what they hope to accomplish. The authors seem to think that they can “educate” (even “warn”) people about community rights, and do so without any direct experience or engagement with the actual communities and individuals who drive the movement (or any movement) forward.  This strikes me as an alienating, isolating and self-marginalizing approach which may undercut the stated values and goals of their own movement. Is it too much to ask that the authors speak from their own experience?  Which then begs the question: what is their actual experience (with community rights, CELDF, movement building, and radical social change? In today’s urgent climate for fundamental societal transformation, we need effective allies and action, not self-important critics!

The authors seem more concerned with poking holes in existing movements than they are with developing actual, practical experience with those movements or even developing their own movement.  Their behavior reminds me of a classic piece from Incite Blog entitled, “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants.”  The essay describes how people who attempt to engage in radical movements while failing to do the necessary work to decolonize their own thoughts and behaviors serve primarily as agents of disruption at best, and sometimes much worse.

A group exists in the very same community that the authors live, and the movement has generally addressed pretty much all of the relevant concerns they raise in its inception (e.g., the need for grassroots strategizing and solidarity and transparent evaluation metrics) — something the authors would have known had they accepted but one of several invitations to participate and learn more instead of retreating prematurely and leveling baseless and inaccurate critiques from an abstract distance.  At the very least, the authors might take a more practical position in recognition of the need to focus their limited energies on building their own, similar movement rather than tearing down others.

When they have their own movement (with wonderful goals!) to build, why do they spend so much energy creating straw men and chasing red herrings in a movement with decidedly similar goals?  Community rights, IOPS and Move to Amend, for example, are all pieces of a larger strategic puzzle moving forward.  Should community rights activists feel somehow threatened by Move to Amend’s work inasmuch as there is overlap?  Likewise, should we feel threatened by someone’s decision to work within the regulatory framework to minimize or slow down the damage the system does?   No!  That’s like asking whether we should respond to or prevent men’s violence against women.  The answer is:  Yes.  Both.  We might disagree on strategy, but we have common goals, and overlap is opportunity for collaboration and cross-pollination!

Diverse strategies are always better than monological, hegemonic strategies. My partner reminded me that hegemonic strategies accomplish little more than to divide and conquer movements that — when allied — greatly threaten the existing power structures. No single strategy or movement has all the answers, and beware any movement or person who claims or implies otherwise, or who claims that a single movement or strategy may somehow even have the capacity to accommodate perfection (i.e., “if only everyone got involved in my movement”)!

So, how do we build solidarity and collaboration amongst diverse movements with diverse strategies who express shared, overlapping or complementary values and goals?   I’ll start:  I think it takes trust, humility, accountability and honesty.   I feel fortunate that my experience with community rights thus far has strengthened my faith in the people involved in the movement.

Following are some comments directly address a few of the first assertions within the blog post-in-question.

Baseless assertion: “That changed when CELDF started promoting “community rights” here in Oregon.” (emphasis mine)

On what evidence do the authors base this assertion? The Oregon network, for example, consists of county chapters and local communities, a volunteer force. CELDF does not promote, nor has it ever promoted community rights in Oregon. I am not aware of it promoting community rights anywhere except on its website. The movement started because communities approached CELDF for support. I don’t know or understand why or how Sarah or Michael came to the opposite conclusion. The movement continues to grow via word of mouth and grassroots organizing efforts, some of which includes new communities approaching CELDF or other independent community rights activists, such as Paul Cienfuegos to help get the ball rolling. Members of communities promote community rights, and ask outsiders for technical and logistical assistance as they wish. Communities ask CELDF to teach Democracy Schools, for example, because the communities want it.  In contrast, the author paints CELDF as a bully attempting to impose itself on communities and ram something down our throats (ironically painting us as passive, helpless people who lack any agency of our own), when nothing could be further from the truth.  CELDF is just one collaborative player among many others, such as the Environmental Law Center.

Promotion of fictional “corporate rights”: “The third (Democracy School Online Part VII at ~17:00 to 23:00) was to assist communities to enact ordinances that purported to strip corporations of their constitutional rights (sic).” (emphasis mine)

1. Corporations, like states, do not have constitutional rights, let alone rights at all. We can’t strip corporations (or states) of something that they don’t possess! They have some ill-conceived and painfully contorted court decisions that attempt to claim that they have rights.

In Pennsylvania in 2013, Supreme Court Judge O’Dell-Seneca declared that “in the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.” Corporations do not and never will exist autonomously from law, and so will never have inherent, inalienable rights of natural persons. “It is axiomatic,” she asserted, “that corporations, companies, and partnerships have no ‘spiritual nature,’ ‘feelings,’ ‘intellect,’ ‘beliefs,’ ‘thoughts,’ ‘emotions,’ or ‘sensations,’ because they do not exist in the manner that humankind exists…They cannot be ‘let alone’ by government, because businesses are but grapes, ripe upon the vine of the law, that the people of this Commonwealth raise, tend, and prune at their pleasure and need.” (emphasis mine)

2. Power is inherent in nature, natural communities and natural persons. Therefore people, communities and nature itself must define and assert that power as the basis for legitimate structures of democratic law and governance. In contrast, a structure of human law and governance that undermines the actual basis of its power is, by-definition, illegitimate and non-viable. Unfortunately, we live under the thumb of such a structure today.

3. Michael and Sarah’s lawyerly and apologetic focus on “enforceability” is neither helpful nor surprising. The fact that an oppressive hierarchy will act punitively against those who attempt to liberate themselves from its grasp (e.g., through legal action) is not surprising. As “Ivan” pointed out, the abolition and women’s suffragist movements were also illegal at the time they existed, and faced legal sanctions for the work they did. We refuse to wait for the structure of human law and governance to catch up to the needs of nature, natural communities and natural persons, and will act accordingly, the same as the abolitionists, suffragists and other activists throughout history, in the interests of universal human rights, as well as the inherent rights of nature and natural communities.

Community rights (perhaps along the lines of IOPS) is a broader and more inclusive movement to rip all the cancer of oppression out of existing structure of human law and governance. Imagine a democratic union based centrally on the universal recognition and protection of the inherent and inalienable rights of all nature, natural communities and natural persons. No exceptions. No loopholes. Compare that to our current Constitution that puts commerce before the rights of persons, and had an incomplete and half-hearted Bill of Rights laundry list tacked onto it after-the-fact, and still leaves entire groups of people, communities, places and the earth in general high and dry.

There are so many more distortions in Sarah and Michael’s analysis that, had I not had direct experience with many different community rights groups, I would hesitate to associate with the movement.  Time will prove analyses such as these wrong.  In the mean time, I wanted to focus on some more fundamental dynamics of structure and process that I see and problematic and needing improvement.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for us…

Conclusion

This is an issue a much more inclusive “we” need to address.  To start, I hereby declare the need for plurality of movements and strategies to move forward in solidarity and constructive collaboration toward the liberation of natural persons, natural communities and nature itself. Honk if you do, too :) and let’s GET MOVING!  There’s no shortage of work to do, inside the regulatory system to slow the destruction, and outside of it to stop the destruction at its source.  Pick your path!

ethan


People versus the economy

December 21, 2013

A new AP story is out about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the US.  It’s exciting news.  Economists are finally recognizing that the extreme — and widening — inequality is bad:

The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals.

It’s hurting the U.S. economy.

So says a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed last week by The Associated Press.  Read more…

United for a Fair Economy has taken this story and run with it.  Big News:

On Tuesday, the Associated Press released a survey of top economists that reaches a conclusion that won’t be shocking to you and me:
The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals, it’s hurting the U.S. economy.
You see, there’s a growing consensus—among economists, politicians, a lot of us—that extreme inequality is holding all of us back.
Why is this big news all of the sudden?  Let’s read on (quotes from original AP story)…
A key source of the economists’ concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans.
Interesting…go on…
Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising.
Oh, we’re not talking about human welfare…we’re talking about economic spending.  It’s not hurting people, it’s hurting spending.  Why is this a concern?  Let’s find out:
Spending by wealthier Americans, given the weight of their dollars, does help drive the economy. But analysts say the economy would be better able to sustain its growth if the riches were more evenly dispersed.
Oh, ok.  So inequality is only bad when it hurts economic growth.  If the economy is growing and inequality is still stark, we are supposed to give a rat’s ass to how it hurts people.  Because the economy is (growing) just fine.
 
Now hold on a sec, economists aren’t just interested in growth for growth’s sake, are they (because that would be, you know…cancerous…)?  Why are they interested in economic growth so much, now?
A wide gap in pay limits the ability of poorer and middle-income Americans to improve their living standards, the economists say.
Oh, how nice.  They say they have the best interests of “poorer and middle-income Americans” at heart.  Don’t they?
 
Bullshit.  The only reason growth does anything to improve anyone’s living standards is because we live in a society that is already rife with economic inequality.  Simply put, we don’t take care of one-another very well.  That isn’t to say that we aren’t trying —  it’s just a “divide and conquer” strategy.  We’re not supposed to be working a job unless it increases our spending, which is supposed to help us all out, at some point, right?
 
Well, if we were a more equal society to begin with, we wouldn’t need any economic growth in the first place, because the “have nots” would still be above the poverty threshold and able to live with an extremely high quality of life.  Income only increases quality of life past a certain point.  After that, material wealth is just superfluous.  Like any nutrient, too much of it is toxic.
 
Why, psychologically speaking, would wealthy Americans hold onto wealth far beyond what they need to maximize their quality of life?   It’s a cultural thing:  we’re conditioned by this society to feel insecure with what we have, regardless of how much we have.  So many people are afraid — and wealthy people are included.  So they hold onto wealth even though it is toxic to them, and will continue to do so until we change the social norms around wealth.  Until we raise people’s self-esteem and address the underlying currents of fear that drive insecurity (advertising, insecurity, corporate profits, anyone??) in this toxic system.
 
Economics are supposed to be the study of “society’s household.”  Can you imagine if the parents of a single household allowed a food distribution among its children similar to how wealth is distributed amongst the US population?  It would be a disaster — one kid would have way more food than he knows what to do with, and everyone else would be starving, while a couple might be just barely getting by.  And then that kid would be receiving messages that he “earned” all that food and needs to keep most of it, even though he might feel a little guilty for doing so, even though it increases his stress and alienates him from the rest of his siblings.  At the same time, the parents keep telling the kids, “life is so much better when you have more.”
 
So there you have the logic of the system:  We need growth because we have inequality because we need growth.  Two sides of the same coin.  Even though a steady-state economy is necessary for human society to be even remotely sustainable, it is impossible unless we address the inequality-growth cycle.
 
And all the economists and politicians care about is growth, pitting the economy against people and the people against the environment.  As long as this discussion remains about economic growth, there will be no resolution for economic and social injustice, and we will continue to destroy the life support systems that we ultimately depend upon.  That our children depend upon.
 
It makes no sense.  It’s crazy.  And it’s normal.  Welcome to civilization!  Time to defect from this insanity, to refuse to play by this insane rules.  And whenever they get in the way of living a sane, healthy life (however you define it), sabotage the source of the threat.

somewhere, something went terribly wrong

July 12, 2012

I love the original, sardonic idea of this graphic. I like dark wallpapers, so I found one that had decent size and quality.

Using GIMP (free open source software!), I

  • expanded the size to 1280 x 800 pixels for my laptop
  • straightened the main image (it was crooked!)
  • corrected the text to read, “Somewhere, something went terribly wrong…” (it previously read “Something, somewhere went terribly wrong” which rubbed me the wrong way)
  • I also added a little bit of a point to the spear and broom bristles (I think it used to be a rake)
Somewhere, something went terribly wrong

Somewhere, something went terribly wrong


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