An introduction to the Frankfurt School (Philosophize This!)

Don’t expect any mention of Erich Fromm in this podcast though, unfortunately. Fromm being the Frankfurt School author I’m most familiar with. But it’s still an interesting podcast to listen to, especially recommended for those who have a knee-jerk reaction against anything relating to the Frankfurt School.

Part 1, “Introduction”:

Part 2, “The Enlightenment”:

Part 3, “The Culture Industry”:

Part 4, “Eros”:

Part 5, “Civilization”:

Part 6, “Art As A Tool For Liberation”:

What is referred to therein as “monopoly capitalism” sounds to be the same as what I generally refer to as Corporatism and/or oligopolistic capitalism. The difference being that the market situation has grown and expanded through the domination of sectors by key major (and increasingly global/multinational) corporations that wind up working in tandem to shut out competition from smaller businesses and upstarts (whether via political lobbying efforts or through technological strangleholds, etc.). To me, calling it monopolistic at this point oversimplifies the reality we’re confronting, though I can understand why Marcuse would use that language in the 1970s.

Part 7, “The Great Refusal”:

Pausing at 4:55 in that last clip…yes, and it’s precisely that concern which drives my own interest in the arguments and ideas put forth by people like Dr. Jordan Peterson. Though Peterson is well-known for criticizing neo-Marxists and those he refers to as “postmodernists,” he’s still absolutely right about how one needs to “clean your own room” before attempting to engage too far in the process of attempting to overhaul society. Why? Because “cleaning one’s own room” is about more than just literally doing domestic chores — it’s about developing our own individual selves, grappling with our own limitations and shortcomings, and taking more time to study history broadly so that we can have a better handle on what all has come before and why we humans find ourselves where we’re collectively at now. These are complex matters, not simply bumbling errors brought about by idiot, racist/sexist/”traditionalist” predecessors who gave too little thought to life and living or who were all so blinded by their own destructive agendas that they gave no shits for the fate of future generations. That’s too close-minded and uncharitable of an interpretation of the unfolding of history and the motives of people in the past and the institutions they designed over time. We have to step back and really take time to think deeply about what we’re confronting here today and how it came into being incrementally over the course of the rise of civilizations. Not any easy task. Requires a great deal of personal reckoning as well, due to our own individual biases and wishful thinking and brainwashed programming delivered via mainstream sources, educators (even those who were well-intentioned in their own right), and the wider culture and the narratives it depends on in order to survive.

The further I’ve gone down this rabbit hole over the years, the deeper I recognize the rabbit hole to be. There are no simply answers here. Not even that many clear-cut enemies necessarily. Just a bunch of us humans trying to make sense of reality and to play the games according the rules we understand (or rebel against them if that’s our bag). Domination and power certainly do factor in to the lived human experience, but so does SO MUCH else. It’s not so simple of a matter as destroying hierarchies and we’ll all eventually be free to live in peaceful equality with one another. No, that’s just begging for the creation of a power vacuum which will be filled by the ambitions of other groups of people operating under their own ideologies that will very likely prove even less effective than what’s currently in place. It’s a precarious situation at present, compounded by so much idealism in the hearts of protesters who like to imagine themselves as having the magical, never-before-tried answers to what plagues humanity. And many of them are blind to the lessons of history as well, largely due to ideological obsessiveness and the narrowing of focus that commonly entails. They will not prove to be saviors either, I’m willing to bet.

That doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands in the air and accept the current status quo as the only game worth playing because all else (like communism) likely will prove even more fatal. But it does ask of us to be careful and cautious in moving forward, to pay closer attention and to not be so arrogant as to assume we ourselves and those we politically/socially identify with have discovered ultimate answers to these complex problems and issues. Humility is absolutely essential here, lest history just keep on repeating (or rhyming, rather) in a downward spiraling fashion (thanks, in part, to new and powerful technologies coupled with greater centralization than the world has ever known before). Power available today is like that of no other time in history — be heedful of that fact.

Many of us want to see change be brought about, for human societies to become healthier and less dominated by economic interests solely. Plenty of us grasp the alienating features of modern life and what that can and does do to us psychologically and socially, and how that then spills out to impact all other aspects of society. But the way to bringing about change indeed isn’t going to come through simply protesting in the streets or certain interest groups vying to dominate within academe and the corporate and political world. That’s just a recipe for more disaster, so far as I can tell. I lost all faith in that approach. It’s become more a question of individual development and social evolution, of working with what is within our direct control and making decisions that allow us as individuals (and the communities we choose to devise or partake in) to live more in alignment with the values we claim to hold dear. Not trying to force the hands of others, since that won’t work. Better to find ways around the perceived obstructions and to test our own mettle than to attempt to overthrow society as a whole, especially when no better game plan is yet afforded to all of us on a society-wide scale.

People don’t wish to hear this, because it sounds harder. Much easier to instead try to push for change in the streets or by screaming at people in lecture halls and pulling down audio equipment so as to disrupt speakers we dislike. Much easier to behave destructively, rebelliously, than to take the time to comprehend our own inner tyrants and the consequences that produces in a reverberating fashion across society and on up through history. Much easier to blame the “other,” somebody else, than to recognize our own part played in this due to the human nature we share. Doesn’t matter that we were just born into this and didn’t ask for this. Nobody originally ever asks for anything, and all were born into it. That’s no excuse for refusing to do the heavy lifting required in this life. Turns out that giving in to such destructive tendencies and acting like rebels without a clue winds up doing more harm than good oftentimes, especially to our own selves, though it’s usually years on down the road before we can recognize it for what it is.

There are no easy answers here, and there likely never will be. It’s just us and our strivings and our need to learn to communicate more effectively with one another about our conflicting points of view. And that’s okay. This is what we have to work with. There was never a rose garden back before, no ideal worth returning to necessarily. Just the movement and expansion of Life in all its complexity on up through time. Never perfect, at least not in the rational sense that we humans like to dream about, nor will it ever be. But we co-constructors of this reality, particularly in terms of our own actions and choices herein. So we start there, inside oneself, that being where we have the most control and are capable of reaping the greatest benefit in our lifetimes.

Simple, yet not easy. C’est la vie…

Getting better acquainted with postmodernism

This morning I came across this article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose titled “No, Postmodernism is Not Dead (and Other Misconceptions)” (Feb. 7, 2018). I highly encourage others to read, including those of us who once identified as feminists and/or come from social science-related educational backgrounds.

In the article she states:

The emerging intersectional feminists were guided by Crenshaw and they adopted the postmodern ideas of cultural constructivism by discourse and drew further on the moral and epistemic relativism and notions of hierarchies of power and privilege via their incorporation of aspects of postcolonial and queer theory that the multi-faceted nature of intersectionality requires. They rejected the pure deconstructive approach because it was politically unproductive, and they sought to map social realities. They developed a strong focus on identity politics which the earlier postmodernists had not, following Crenshaw and those who expanded upon her work. This form of feminism dominates the academy and activism now.

Very interesting.

This piece helps me in further clarifying an ongoing irritation I’ve had with people blaming Karl Marx and “cultural marxism” for all that is occurring in identity politics these days. What is happening now has evolved out of and away from what philosophers of old had to say, so it’s become a new beast in its own right, effectively divorced from liberal constraints that were integral to those historical social theories and ideas.

Hence why some of us also say what we’re witnessing today isn’t a liberal movement — it’s illiberal to the core. That’s the truth. Because it has become unshackled from its liberal underpinnings despite originally arising within the Political Left. It’s evolved way beyond and is barely recognizable when compared against true liberalism.

“It is very common now to encounter feminist, anti-racist, LGBT activists who espouse postmodern ideas but seem to have no idea of their genesis.”

That’s also very true.

As I’ve mentioned before many times, Social Sciences was my major (along with a minor in Criminal Justice) in college and yet I’m wholly unfamiliar with postmodern thought (outside of a little exposure to postmodern art). Never did I ever study Foucault or Derrida, though there was much talk about Karl Marx (probably why he winds up blamed for so much of this). Nor do I recall learning about Kimberlé Crenshaw, though the name definitely sounds familiar. When I get in later I will check one of my old textbooks to find out what may have been said about these persons.

Furthermore, I spent my late teens to mid 20s referring to myself as a feminist and reading feminist blogs and articles, and yet I gained no grasp on postmodernism. Heard the term but never dug deeply into what it was about, not realizing its relevance. In fact, it was Dr. Jordan Peterson’s use of the term within the last several months that has stoked my curiosity to finally learn more about it.

To be continued…

“Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege | Dr. Jordan B. Peterson | SNC 2017”

Tonight I believe I found the best speech thus far from Dr. Jordan Peterson:

“Alain de Botton: Status Anxiety”

Food for thought for the evening:

Naomi Klein on Latin America, particularly Venezuela (2007)

Today I’d like to transcribe portions from Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). The reason being that I was introduced to this book by a close friend back in 2008 during my more “radical” years which involved both feminism and my 4-year stint volunteering within the local peace community (i.e. Left-leaning political circles). Libertarian-leaning as I’ve always been, still I too was attracted to various messages advanced by the Political Left during my 20s, so here’s one example of information I was presented with back then.

Beginning on page 446:

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Despite the attempts of everyone from Pinochet to Cavallo to Berezovsky to Black to portray himself as a victim of baseless political persecution, this list, by no means complete, represents a radical departure from the neoliberal creation myth. The economic crusade managed to cling to a veneer of respectability and lawfulness as it progressed. Now that veneer was being very publicly stripped away to reveal a system of gross wealth inequalities, often opened with the aid of grotesque criminality.

Besides legal trouble, there was another cloud on the horizon. The effects of the shocks that had been so integral to creating the illusion of ideological consensus were beginning to wear off. Rodolfo Walsh, another early casualty, had regarded the Chicago School ascendancy in Argentina as a setback, not a lasting defeat. The terror tactics used by the junta had put his country into a state of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down on the streets of Buenos Aires, Walsh estimated that it would take twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic and social equity. It was in 2001, twenty-four years later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to force out five presidents in only three weeks.

I was living in Buenos Aires in that period, and people kept exclaiming, “The dictatorship just ended!” At the time I didn’t understand the meaning behind the jubilation, since the dictatorship had been over for seventeen years. Now I think I do: the state of shock had finally worn off, just as Walsh had predicted.

In the years since, that wide-awake shock resistance has spread to many other former shock labs—Chile, Bolivia, China, Lebanon. And as people shed the collective fear that was first instilled with tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy and more control over markets. These demands represent the greatest threat of all to Friedman’s legacy because they challenge his most central claim: that capitalism and freedom are part of the same indivisible project.

The Bush administration remains so committed to perpetuating this false union that, in 2002, it embedded it in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. “The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise.” This assertion, made with the full force of the U.S. military arsenal behind it, was not enough to hold back the tide of citizens using their various freedoms to reject free-market orthodoxy—even in the United States. As a headline in the Miami Herald after the 2006 midterm elections put it, “Democrats won big by opposing free-trade agreements.” A New York Times/CBS poll a few months later found that 64 percent of U.S. citizens believed the government should guarantee health care coverage to all and “showed a striking willingness . . . to make tradeoffs” to achieve that goal, including paying up to $500 a year more in taxes.

On the international stage, the staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics were winning election after election. The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, running on a platform of “21st Century Socialism,” was re-elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the vote. Despite attempts by the Bush administration to paint Venezuela as a pseudodemocracy, a poll that same year recorded that 57 percent of Venezuelans were happy with the state of their democracy, an approval rating on the continent second only to Uruguay’s, where the left-wing coalition party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and where a series of referendums had blocked major privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin American states where voting had resulted in real challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives. In stark contrast to this enthusiasm, in countries where economic policies remain largely unchanged regardless of the promises made during election campaigns, polls consistently track and eroding faith in democracy, reflected in dwindling turnout for elections, deep cynicism toward politicians and a rise in religious fundamentalism.

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Pausing there on page 448 and picking back up again on page 453:

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In December 2006, a month after Friedman’s death, Latin America’s leaders gathered for a historic summit in Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a popular uprising against water privatization had forced Bechtel out of the country several years earlier. Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close “the open veins of Latin America.” It was a reference to Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a rich continent into a poor one. The book was first published in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for daring to try to close those open veins by nationalizing his country’s copper mines. That event ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which the structures built by the continent’s developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and sold off.

Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that was brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many of the policies cropping up are familiar: nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land reform, major new investments in education, literacy and health care. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in their unapologetic vision of a government that helps reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to Friedman’s 1975 assertion to Pinochet that “the major error, in my opinion, was . . . to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.”

Though clearly drawing on a long militant history, Latin America’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks of the past—the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the U.S.-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses of the eighties and nineties. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for the left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the sixties, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chavez, and his moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grass roots and community level, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chavez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the seventies.

Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future U.S.-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. The governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)—the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Bolivia looks set to cut its ties with the school, as does Ecuador. Chavez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against the government of Evo Morales, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Rafael Correa is set to take the most radical step of all. The Ecuadorean port city of Manta currently hosts the largest U.S. military base in South America, which serves as a staging area for the “war on drugs,” largely fought in Colombia. Correa’s government has announced that when the agreement for the base expires in 2009, it will not be renewed. “Ecuador is a sovereign nation,” said the minister of foreign relations, Maria Fernanda Espinosa. “We do not need any foreign troops in our country.” If the U.S. military does not have bases or training programs, its power to inflict shocks will be greatly eroded.

The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks inflicted by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless People Movement (MST) who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” two hundred bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left. In a way, the reclamation experiments are a new kind of post-disaster reconstruction—reconstruction from the slow-motion disaster of neoliberalism. In sharp contrast to the model offered by the disaster capitalism complex in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast, the leaders of Latin America’s rebuilding efforts are the people most affected by the devastation. And unsurprisingly, their spontaneous solutions look very much like the real third way that had been so effectively shocked out of the way by the Chicago School campaign around the world—democracy in daily life.

In Venezuela, Chavez has made the co-ops a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006, there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of state infrastructure—toll booths, highway maintenance, health clinics—handed over to the communities to run. It’s a reverse of the logic of large corporations and losing democratic control, the people who use the resources are given the power to manage them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more responsive public services. Chavez’s many critics have derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton treats the U.S. government as its personal ATM for six years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its gratitude to U.S. taxpayers by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and legal benefits), Chavez’s direct subsidies to regular people look significantly less radical.

Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, the Brazil-based sociologist, describes its promise as “a perfect example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides what it is best placed to produce, in return for what it most needs, independent of global market prices.” So Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices; Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer countries and shares expertise in developing reserves; and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free health care all over the continent, while training students from other countries at its medical schools. This is a very different model from the kind of academic exchange that began at the University of Chicago in the mid-fifties, when Latin American students learned a single rigid ideology and were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is essentially a barter system, in which countries decide for themselves what any given commodity or service is worth, rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago or London set the prices for them. That makes trade far less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price fluctuations that devastated Latin American economies in the past. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin America is creating a zone of relative economic calm and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the globalization era.

When one country does face a financial shortfall, this increased integration means that it does not need to turn to the IMF or the U.S. Treasury for a bailout. That’s fortunate because the 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy makes it clear that for Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much alive: “If crises occur, the IMF’s response must reinforce each country’s responsibility for its own economic choices,” the document states. “A refocused IMF will strengthen market institutions and market discipline over financial decisions.” This kind of “market discipline” can only be enforced if governments actually go to Washington for help—as Stanley Fischer explained during the Asian financial crisis, the IMF can help only if it is asked, “but when [a country is] out of money, it hasn’t got many places to turn.” That is no longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington.

The results have been dramatic. Brazil, so long shackled to Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter into a new agreement with the IMF. Nicaragua is negotiating to quit the fund, Venezuela has withdrawn from both the IMF and the World Bank, and even Argentina, Washington’s former “model pupil,” has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Nestor Kirchner said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him,” “‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt.’ We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.'” As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the eighties and nineties, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005, Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; in 2007, the continent represented just 1 percent—a sea change in only two years. “There is life after the IMF,” Kirchner declared, “and it’s a good life.”

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Stopping on page 457.

My thoughts follow. To start off with, I continue to have mixed feelings over such material, more so now than ever before, because I do take issue with the policies of the IMF and am aware and critical of Big Corporate excesses. There remains truth in concerns over externalized costs and the ongoing pursuit of cheap labor and cheap resources extracted from nations where few alternatives are available. One could argue, as my stepdad and others do, that these examples of corporate outsourcing for production of products brings much-needed money to these communities and provides more opportunities than they otherwise would have. Yes, but what is to become of them when these plants up and leave, headed for other locations where even cheaper labor pools and/or resources can be had? Appears to leave economic devastation in their wake, which we can also see in the U.S. where communities depended on businesses that moved their operations to China or Mexico (as occurred in my own hometown down South). Sufficient alternatives don’t tend to spring up in the vacuum left behind, leading to a rise in economic and social problems in those areas, which can then turn political. I remain perplexed over what can be done about this, though I grasp that simply shrugging our shoulders and expecting people to make do with what little is left isn’t much of an answer. But neither is trying to implement a communistic/socialistic model instead since that too will prove unstable, and likely even more so.

This conundrum has left me frustrated since either way we turn it appears we’re damned. Though capitalism offers the most promise out of the modern models we’re presented with, corporatism that has arisen out of it is proving extremely alienating and inhuman. As in it forces humans to adapt to it, yet it cannot adapt to serve the needs of humans. Globalized corporatism adheres to a different set of values than do most human beings, which then stokes strife that often enough does result in political upheaval on down the road. Somehow this matter must be addressed, yet neither leaders on the political Left or Right are willing (or able) to do so. What Naomi Klein refers to as “neoliberalism” is often enough used interchangeably with the term “neoconservatism” and is embraced by both major political parties in the U.S. For whatever differences may be ascribed to these two terms, what they each fundamentally share in common is political fusion with global (multinational) corporate and banking agendas. And it’s that unto itself a lot of us out here continue to take issue with.

Now, was Naomi Klein’s book biased? Yes it was. She put her own political spin on events based on her Leftist political outlook. Certainly can’t claim her to be politically neutral, independent, or nonpartisan in her delivery there. And I understand that nowadays in a way I didn’t 10 years ago. Everybody’s got an agenda, or so it seems. So let’s look at a current news stories on how Venezuela is faring these days.

An article from The Guardian (Jan. 21, 2018) titled “‘We loot or we die of hunger’: food shortages fuel unrest in Venezuela“:

Angry about empty supermarket shelves and soaring prices, some people are breaking into warehouses, ransacking food trucks and invading outlying farms.

During the first 11 days of January the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, a Caracas rights group, recorded 107 episodes of looting and several deaths in 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

[…]

There have been previous incidents of looting but analysts fear that the current wave could linger amid the Venezuela’s economic freefall.

President Nicolás Maduro blames the country’s woes on an “economic war” against his government by rightwingers and foreign interests.

But his critics say his government has disrupted domestic food production by expropriating farms and factories. Meanwhile, price controls designed to make food more widely available to poorer people have had the opposite effect: many prices have been set below the cost of production, forcing food producers out of business.

Meanwhile the government has less cash to import food because of its mismanagement of the oil sector, where production has fallen to a 29-year low. Hyperinflation and the collapse of the currency have put the prices of foodstuffs available on the black market beyond the reach of many families.

But rather than reforming the economy, the government has resorted to handouts and far-fetched schemes.

So somewhere along the way that experiment obviously failed, and within a mere decade of when Naomi Klein’s book hit shelves. What are we to make of this? Seems to me that while relying on the IMF indeed proved problematic, so did switching over instead to a socialist scheme.

To be delved in deeper at a later date…

“Joe Rogan Experience #1070 – Jordan Peterson”

What I’m listening to tonight:

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Come to find out, Twitter can be bad for the soul. Only started checking it more regularly in recent months, previously barely caring about the platform. Didn’t have much use for it other than as a place to store articles and links. But now I check the feed typically daily and scan through all the political grandstanding. Ideologies gone wild. Some are completely in love with Trump, while others entirely despise him. Then they foam at the mouth at one another and get worked up into a tizzy. Rinse and repeat day after day.

Feels like watching a bunch of handicapped weirdos attempting to compete with one another. Which in that sense is kind of nice since it helps me to feel more “normal” by comparison.  lol

Then again, sanity is fast becoming a rare luxury — or curse, depending on how you experience it. What’s that quote about how it’s no testament of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society?

That’s the one. Krishnamurti said it.

It’s like living within a clown car, or a clown bus. Everybody’s at each other’s throats, looking for reasons to get offended or trying to get a humorous slam in. We’re going to meme ourselves to death on such platforms.

Was talking to a friend earlier today on the topic of U.S. politics and how people are losing their shit over Trump every stinking day since he took office. My friend has been tuning out the news for the most part, but he too considers Trump to be batshit insane. Okay. Well, I’m not interested in defending the man. Just strikes me as kind of funny since I can’t see how Hillary Clinton (or Bill too, for that matter) or Obama or 75% of Congress are any better. It’s one big fucking circus. And if you’re still buying into the Left/Right paradigm and believe one party or the other has your best interest at heart, you’re a naive and/or willfully blind fool. That’s my position and it has been for a long time now. Can’t shake my distrust of either side, especially knowing that each “team” received the same Big Corporate backing, meaning they’re serving the same masters.

Apparently it’s difficult for most people to accept that our politicians don’t give a damn about us. But they don’t. And once voter fraud becomes less detectable they won’t even care about winning our votes. Will just lie to us and keep the shitstorm humming right along. It’s what they’ve been doing as far back as I’ve cared to take notice and only gone off the rails more so in recent years. Like their aim nowadays is simply to entertain us and keep us divided and at each other’s necks, thinking we’re waging battles with one another that matter.

Meanwhile the richest get richer along with their politician lap dogs, and our government grows more powerful and less concerned about the will of its citizenry. Not that any two of us can barely agree on any one point. We the people are a clusterfuck of chaos jabbering at one another…just as I am doing on here tonight. Not sure if it makes more of a difference than talking to oneself. Seems not to since so many knee-jerk away from hearing or reading opinions they don’t already hold.

We will indeed wind up with the government we deserve…

Listened to my friend today lament how there should be “more compromise” between these two political parties and their adherents. Compromise? I had to laugh a bit at that notion, as if being a centrist is any kind of stance to take between those nut-job extremes. Said to him that we’re confronted with Party 1 which is pushing socialism/communism with the endgame winding up being totalitarianism vs. Party 2 which is pushing corporatism masquerading as free-market capitalism, also destined toward its own form of totalitarianism eventually. Pick your poison. Ultimately looks like a choice between different forms of slavery to me. Soul-sucking either way we turn.

In moments like that I wish the Libertarian Party were up to snuff anymore, but it hasn’t been since the days of Bob Barr. Gary Johnson, though I voted for him twice, is not a strong leader who makes enough intelligent, relevant arguments. Just keeps pining away for legalized marijuana, as if that might solve this nation’s problems. Frickin’ joke. All of it is. Which then makes me a bit more curious how the Alt Right will wind up factoring into this scheme, especially since so many claiming that political badge are associated with disgruntlement toward Jews and promoting the study of “race realism” in furtherance of their goal of racial segregation and the formation of ethno-states. Not a fan of their plan either.

No country for old men…or this middle-aged woman in the political outfield, wondering where the fundamentals of our Constitution have gone.

People talk, talk, talk, talk. Argue, argue, argue. And where is it getting us? Who are we convincing? Too many of those who come to see our duopoly politics as a big scam wind up tuning out and growing apathetic, which is understandable to a point since fighting this mammoth (along with so many people ideologically possessed on both/all extremes) looks like a losing battle. Futile. Basically like begging to go down history’s memory hole as a “lone wolf” madman framed as being against society. And in a sense we are against society, or at least what it’s becoming.

But there are no brakes on this clown bus. We’re cruising straight to where we’re headed. My bet thus far has been on the Political Left loonies winding up with the power to impose their utopian fantasies on the rest. But who am I fooling? Global corporatism is a force to be reckoned with, and they buy (or at least strongly seduce and help corrupt) most politicians of any stripe. So we’re looking at a fusion of wannabe-Communism/socialism within a corporatism context. How do you figure you’re going to get around this inevitability? The Alt Right doesn’t differentiate itself as being in favor of regulating corporatism, so that way doesn’t offer a true alternative either.

So then what? If people were going to stand up against this Machine, we’d have done it already, decades ago. The truth is that we’re too comfortable right now, too consumed in our own lives and the pleasure and curiosities new technologies bring. Many are also consumed with raising families — very energy intensive. Trying to earn money and then entertain ourselves to death, like everybody else is doing. Trying to learn life’s lessons and get our shit together. So no, most of us are in no position to do a damn thing about the trajectory we as a society are on. And as already stated, going up against this Beast, this Leviathan, would include going up against probably half the populace as well since they’re protective of this status quo (including the Progressives and so-called “radicals” who like to destroy shit). We’d all be lost without this convenient infrastructure, which would be severely damaged if enough tried going toe to toe with our current government. Would be viewed as treasonous behavior, unacceptable. Would mow you “patriots” down in the streets.

So what then? Vote? I’m so far past believing my vote matters, especially since I don’t vote two-party and most others do. Am a minority within a polarized/polarizing society.

Feels pretty pointless to keep bitching about it, but oh well. I’m going to anyway since that helps me keep my own sanity while observing what’s unfolding. This shit isn’t going to become functional — it can’t. It’s broken already, irreparably. Too corrupt — politicians, media, citizenry and all. We’re all already too dependent (no matter how independent you might like to consider yourself to be within this grid). And we’re too afraid. Rightly so, considering a true attempt at revolution would likely result in a bunch more of us locked in cages.

So what do we do? Pretending like it’s all okay isn’t an option for me. Nor is pretending that I don’t care. And don’t tell me to just go out and volunteer for some cause! Sick of that advice and already put in my time on that through the local peace community. Turned out to be a bunch of Leftist apologists for Obama, thereby not truly independent nor free from ideological obsessiveness. Hanging around with a handful of so-called “truthers” doesn’t sound too alluring either since unfortunately some of them are truly wackos.

Everybody frustrates me. This whole game irritates the hell of me. Try to tell myself not to take it too seriously, that perhaps we humans have to go through hell before we can recognize what’s truly of value. As humans before us have gone through over and over and over again. The lesson never sticks for long. Succeeding generations always wind up hell-bent on having to relearn it all the hard way, and perhaps it can be no other way. Technologies change our environments and lure us into thinking that this time if we try to play God it will work out for the best. This time we know something our predecessors didn’t know. This time around humans are more clever and innovative, talented and genius, plus connected through these amazing new digital networks. This time things will be different and we won’t all wind up victims to human fallibility and folly. This time we have precision, SCIENCE, on our side.

And this time we’re just as crazy and naive as any other time in history, albeit modern technologies allow us to take our dreams to greater heights that will lead to far greater destruction when our bubbles burst and cold, cruel reality sets in in the end.

Yeah, I’m the bringer of bad news. What optimism I reserve goes toward those speakers who do spread brushfires in the minds of many and get us dreaming outside of this box and reassessing what matters to us fundamentally. Never know what might prove to be a game-changer. Keeping an open mind for those unforeseen variables. “Nada es imposible.” So some like to say…

Feel like I keep writing this over and over again, year after year. Doesn’t change much, regardless of which political players switch positions. Just not sure what this perspective is asking of me. Seems to want to keep coming out, yet I’m no artist so I don’t know where to put it. Part of me says that what matters is the journey, not the destination. Because we may see a horrible crash up ahead is no reason to bow out of the game. If anything that should probably make us stronger, recognizing how little we have to lose in the end. But nations come and nations go. None are slated to last forever unchanged. If this is the future many of our fellow Americans want, then who am I to step in their way of having it? Don’t have any kids to leave behind in this nonsense. But it seems wrong to not resist the formation of hell on earth. Seems like that would be the ultimate calling for any of us, assuming we’re able to discern what’s what, which we tend to all disagree about. So we’re not going to be on the same teams, quite obviously, and so be it. It’s an individual endeavor anyway, regardless of what the collectivist ideologues would have you believe. Starts inside oneself.

We’re all dreamers…it can be no other way. To live and not dream is not to live. There will be no utopia in the end no matter which direction we choose to head in. Only approximations of hell, some better and some worse. Guess it’s a question of what suffering we’re willing to endure and for what, why. Because either way we’re going to suffer, you can bet on that. Most especially future generations once the public coffers dry up and more jobs are demanded to be provided by Big Government and its Big Corporate partners. In one sense this is history repeating, but in another this is a new phase with new challenges and new technologies very different from anything that came before. Greater likelihood for a far darker depth to descend into as well. In this age of manipulative psychology, global economics, and centralized power like never before seen.

It used to scare me, but I’m growing numb under its weight in recent years. Tired of being afraid of the unknown on the horizon. Also very tired of those who fancy themselves as optimists who are prone to freak out over my outlook, chastising me for viewing it this way, as if it’s simply a choice I make. Should we take pills and hide our eyes and cover our ears? Should we continue hiding in our addictions and drama and constant distractions? Is that truly the better way? Or should we learn to grow stronger in the face of these possibilities and set aside our utopian fantasy that we’re heading toward a fantastic future? Which seems like the most realistic and sane approach to you? Because you’re going to suffer either way, guaranteed.

The thought that keeps circling my mind this week is the fear of dying and the fear of living. So many of us fear both, and are thereby rendered paralyzed. So we stand idly by and watch what unfolds. Just another form of compliance since we wind up dragged along into the future whether we like it or not.

You would think such thoughts would be depressing, but I’ve been thinking along this line for so long now that they’ve actually transformed into something slightly reassuring. Perhaps because it forces me to view life in a day-by-day manner. Can’t change the past and can’t completely control the future. So we’re left with doing what we can with what we have right here and now. It boils down to how one lives his/her life. Outcomes be damned since that’s beyond our scope of power.

I do wish I had more answers than this. But apparently it comes down to one’s values, though I’d argue half the problem presently is that pet preferences have replaced values in our political arguments. Pro this and anti that is all we seem to hear anymore.

Getting tired so that’s enough journaling for one night.

The “black pill” of modern times

More and more I stumble across posts online referencing “the black pill,” which is to say acknowledging the futility of our modern crises when it comes to Leftist control over major institutions (academe, mainstream media, political duopoly party setup, etc.) and the average citizens’ seeming inability to effectively resist and fight back. And I understand the sentiments expressed and largely am of the same mind, though many tend to still cling to some idealized sense of hope that I personally have lost a grip on.

The dream being to “fight back,” to “overcome,” for “truth to win out in the end.” Sounds like something worth striving for, and indeed it probably is. BUT…with that said and accepted, I still get the strong feeling that this societal train (or global trend, to put it in greater perspective) is heading where it is whether a good many of us like it or not, regardless of how much we dig in our heels and attempt to resist and redirect its trajectory. Sound nihilistic? It does to me too, but I’m not seeing a way around this fate at present.

Of course stating that just winds up pissing everybody off, hence why I tend to keep such thoughts largely to myself or confined to this blog. My goal isn’t to come out telling people that their dreams will be dashed and that all hope is lost, because I’m not convinced that’s necessarily the case either. Instead my thinking leads me to the realization that the focus is better placed on the journey itself, the day-to-day living and unfolding, rather than the eventual outcome. Because the outcome itself needn’t negate the drive we possess within ourselves toward the formation of a more sane society (whatever that might turn out to be). The drive remains real and is rooted in our psychologies and is unable to be ignored and turned off without (further) dire consequences to us as individuals. We see evidence all around of the psychological harm being done to folks who willfully play ignorant, who allow their cognitive dissonance to go unexamined, to pursue power (via their special interest groups of choice) without concern about the likely fallout. In other words, we see the blackening of one another’s souls as we sell out and give up and try to escape into hedonistic distractions so as to avoid the reality we’re being presented with (and helping co-construct, actively or passively).

Makes it so easy to cast blame elsewhere, external to ourselves. Always this group or that groups fault, ultimately. If not for them we’d have peace on earth, right? But who grants them power? The rest of us. Even the powers-that-be on their own aren’t powerful enough to control us all without our cooperation, and we’ve given it to them. Why? Largely because we didn’t realize the game we were playing until it was too late. Misinformation is a bitch, no question about that. But we’ve opted to go along so as to get along. So as not to stand out and wind up hammered down. Forever afraid of losing what freedoms we still lay claim to…

Falsely believing that these “freedoms” can be protected at this stage in the game. Mere privileges are all they’ve become by now.

People tend to have to learn some things the hard way. The reality is that we don’t know what to do with the freedom we’ve got, so we squander it. But it seems to me that’s all this life is really about, figuring out about freedom and learning to live within it, to give it expression so as to grow and unfold and expand outward. Not necessarily to win some race in the end, to succeed (whatever “success” even means anymore). Sounds fatalistic? Well, it is, and so is life as a whole. Just the nature of the beast. Welcome to this tragic existence. Sorry you were misinformed about it and believed a rose garden lay in store someday. That’s just not the reality.

Living is suffering, and no matter how much we humans attempt to reduce suffering still it occurs. In fact, it seems we generate even more suffering in the First World despite all our fancy technologies and full bellies and warm homes. The suffering turns psychological when the physical needs are met. Such is the human condition.

People say we can’t carry on without a sense of hope. That’s probably true, but hope in what? Changing human nature? That won’t ever happen? Eradicating our species eventually? Seems that some are angling for that, probably out of loathing of what we are and how life is. Hoping to turn back the clock and return humanity to “traditional” ways of being? Good luck with that. Seems to me the genie is already out of the bottle in terms of Progress, and it won’t go back in. That’s the paradoxical nature of reality. And even if we bombed ourselves back into a stone age, I don’t doubt that humanity would work its way right back to the present conundrum in due time. Seems unavoidable, for whatever reasons.

Sometimes such thoughts do get me down. Certainly does appear to be a great time to not have children, at least from my view (the rest of you can do whatever you wish, and will obviously). But more and more it’s ceasing to depress me. Actually seems to open up possibilities and allows for the letting go of unrealistic expectations. Teaches me to stop taking life quite so seriously, despite the horror show that accompanies it.

I don’t have any answers. Just a whole lot of questions, few of which my fellow human beings are capable of answering satisfactorily.

The notion of Love appears to matter more now than ever. Agape, as well others forms. There’s a time to compete and a time to simply relate and experience.

People always talk about being afraid to speak up and out, to live authentically, worried that they’ll wind up stuck in a cage by the government or lose their jobs or wind up socially ostracized. All are understandable concerns that I too share to some extent. But the monotony of living pent-up within one’s own mind, of screaming inside while smiling on the outside to others, pretending…forever pretending and acting and putting on a show — all of that is quite alienating in its own right. What good is the job if it merely pays for a life that we’re profoundly troubled by? What’s the real difference between their cages and the one in our minds? What’s all this freedom really worth if we don’t know what to do with it and are so inclined to escape from it and the responsibility attached to it? Seems to me a lot of us are the walking dead already…

Fight, fight, fight. Resist, resist, resist. So as to do what? To keep those tyrants from tyrannizing us? Sure, okay, that’s understandable. The goal here isn’t to be so passive and tolerant that we wind up crushed by the agendas of others, since where’s the fun in that? But it seems, for all our talking…talk talk talk talk talk…that we’re too afraid or too unwilling to actually make great sacrifices for that which we claim to care about or are aiming to preserve and pass along. As if arguing alone ever resolved and defused a grab for power.

Is this really about power fundamentally? On some level, yes, it really is. Because some choose to make it that way, per their drives and aspirations and fantasies. Many of us take a self-defense position, just wishing to be left alone so as to live as we see fit so far as we’re not encroaching on others unlawfully. But then the laws change, the culture shifts, the goalposts forever move, and we lose ground to stand on. But arguing with willfully deaf people doesn’t alter anything. Some will hear and see only what they want to. Truly appears to be a form of hallucination, as Scott Adams remarked on recently. And what do you do with that? You think you can force people to see what you see? Force them to understand it as you do? Think you can reason with those whose life experiences differ so greatly and who adamantly refuse to seriously entertain anything you say or do or are?

But in fighting back, egos get wounded, which will then just fuel the resentment needed for the next generation to feel justified in striving for more power. Funny how that works…

I see no way out of that situation. So focusing on the eventual outcome seems like a moot point. Just a bunch of wishful thinking that humanity will dramatically change and come to its senses and cease these attempts at power grabs. Not going to happen. The technologies currently on the scene are indeed paving the way toward a totalitarian future, sad as that is to contemplate. Once again, I believe it’s a good time to not have children, because this is the world they will be forced to inherit, and how do you prepare them for that? I don’t know. Hard enough preparing oneself for handling this, even halfway through one’s lifespan.

So much can seem futile, but I believe that’s our egos and idealistic expectations fucking with us. Are there objective truths? There indeed seem to be, and figuring them out appears to be a better use of our time than trying to force a square peg into a round hole in perpetuity. Learning what our humans natures ARE and what they require so that psychologically we might remain sane and therefore construct and maintain sane societies seems like a worthwhile approach in this life. Because seem to grasp hardly a thing about that, important as it is. It points to the underlying reason why communism/”socialism” keeps failing and why capitalism can feel as though it’s stripping meaning from our lives. It’s the reason these power grabs go on and on, generation after generation, up through history and with no end in sight. And our ignorance in this arena is why ignorant, naive forms of idealism keep capturing the minds of so many and leading to ideological possession, especially now in the post-Religion era. Probably a good time to start exploring that realm instead of continuing bickering with one another over matters none of us individually has much direct control over. Even attacking the major institutions can’t alone resolve this matter, because others will surely fill any power vacuum created and then start paving their way to hell just as assuredly as those that came before did so, good intentions be damned.

It’s not what people want to hear probably, but it’s all I’ve got to offer at this moment. Right or wrong.

“Existentialism: Martin Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology'”

Woke up this morning at 5:30am and finished listening to the following lectures by Dr. Sadler.

Existentialism: Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”:

Part 2:

Those were very interesting to ponder on.

Then re-listened to the following lecture, though it didn’t resonate as much with me today.

Existentialism: Martin Heidegger, “What is Metaphysics?”:

My reply on the topic of the “Unnecessariat”

I was sent a link to an article titled “Unnecessariat” by a youtube commenter who has asked me on a couple of occasions to address what was written. Not sure if the commenter was the original author of that article, but I did finally get around to trying to comment on it today on that blog, but for whatever reason it did not allow my post. So, I will post my thoughts here instead:

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I was sent a link to this article and asked to comment on the condition of the unnecessariat (a designation I quite obviously belong within as well). Hmmm. What really can be said about all of this? It is true that times have changed and that nearly everybody wishes for a return to “the good ol’ days” but that it’s not going to happen (as the angry commenter above already explained). Is this a depressing reality? Sure. But must it lead us to drug abuse and alcoholism and completely giving up? NO.

Basically what you’re asking here is what’s the meaning of life, or what meaning can sustain a person through a decline with no end in sight. I guess the best place to look would be at the words of those historical figures who endured slavery and bitter poverty and the like to get an idea of what helped them to carry on. For many, it was a deepening sense of spirituality and connection with the Creator. For Stoics, it was adopting a simpler, more principled life so as to be able to appreciate the small pleasures that do exist despite the harshness of reality. That’s where I’ve been turning my attention in recent years.

I did notice the sentence in the article about “why they’re shooting drugs and not dynamiting the Google Barge” and while I can understand the anger it stems from, you have to remember that people make their own choices. Fight technology why? Fight the major corporations why? And the author also disparaged entrepreneurship, dismissing it as “self-rescue with unicorns and rainbows.” So you’re really leaving nobody any out here. I personally am self-employed and it suits me. Will such a strategy work into the indefinite future? Who knows? More importantly, why should I care? It allows me to live a simple life and get by, which is enough for now. Is the goal in writing this to incite people to blow up Google, and do you really think that will stop human progress? Do you really think that might reset everything back to times we like to romanticize about being simpler and more predictable?

The past is gone. And if ever humans manage to knock themselves back into a dark age where we effectively do reset our civilizations and have to begin building again, you can bet that eventually we’ll arrive right back at this point once again. Because that’s what humans do. It’s how we’re driven, right or wrong. Trying to fight all of this can wind up being about as useful as trying to fight the wind. Life’s not easy and there were never any promises deserving of being taken to heart that this project in living would all work out great in the end. That’s our own expectations fucking with us. Adaptation and/or utilization of the current power structures so as to effect change are our best options. Blowing the place up will only create a vacuum wherein another group of ideologues will rush in to fill the void, likely resulting in even more dire results.

Not saying that to sound apathetic, but I do believe it comes down to a question of what it is we’re really expecting in this life. To live on forever and ever in peace? That’s unrealistic. To believe we’re entitled to green pastures into the foreseeable future? That’s utopian. Sure, it’s understandable to not wish to be screwed by those who’ve grown most powerful, and we can work toward booting those people out of positions of power and figuring out how best to protect ourselves from such exploitation in the future. Won’t be ushered in via socialist utopian fantasies, though, that much I’m willing to bet. So, yes, in a real sense it is a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” scenario. Because we humans have a tendency to both strive toward power as well as become corrupted, and that doesn’t change under a socialist setup either.

My own decision was to not have kids. People love to scream about how horrible the future is bound to be, and yet they keep churning out more kids who will be forced to confront these job and resource shortages. Seems folly to me. Perhaps this is a terrific point in history to forego having kids and instead of losing ourselves in drug and alcohol abuse actually do our best to educate ourselves about what is and what all has come before. Just so we can become better oriented in this life and therefore perhaps better capable of handling whatever is in store.