“Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts …”

Back to heaviness…

A song I’ve long adored, “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones (set to footage from the Vietnam war):

The song’s lyrics:

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love both never to come back

I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a new born baby it just happens every day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door, I must have it painted black

Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facin’ up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you

If I look hard enough into the settin’ sun
My love will laugh with me before the mornin’ comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I wanna see your face, painted black
Black as night, black as coal

I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black

The depths of our human inclination toward destructiveness appears to be bottomless. For these reasons I consider us all to be living in “end times” (for all intents and purposes), whether we care to grasp the severity of the Situation or not. It doesn’t please me, but it is what it is, apparently so. Been coming a long time, and now technologies enable us to kick it into hyper-drive, and so we have. Think we’re going to slow down? Think we’re collectively going to expand our minds and learn to pause and think more carefully before advancing? Think again.

I won’t rule out the possibility entirely though…

Almost seems like the more we drive toward strict rationality, the more irrational we become.

Does the soul not wither, bit by bit, day by day, as we live and confront what’s become of us and how we’ve impacted the rest of life on Earth? We didn’t necessarily mean to — it happens. We’re prideful apes-of-sorts who take actions that throughout time lead to a narrowing of possibilities going forward.

What meaningful action is possible and could prove effective without tons of consequences of its own? There are so many of us, too many — competition rules the day. People awaken to this and can choose to do what? Passively resist like I do by opting to remain relatively poor? Continuing to learn what I can, piping up about what I see as I go, but in the big picture it’s a small drop in the bucket. I don’t shop much anymore (aside from groceries). Feels like the right choice to at least not feed the beasts much more than what’s already being finagled out of me.

But eventually I’ll pass on, leaving no offspring behind, and other people will continue doing what they think they ought to be doing, whatever which ways that shakes out. It’s the trajectory, and I don’t see it changing unless people want to start making a lot of sacrifices, which I am pretty certain they’re not hearin’.

Actively resist with street protests? Sure, I’m down with that, though an arrest could screw up my job. Probably true for most folks. Plus, getting tased or smacked with a nightstick leads to medical bills and lost time at work (in what I do, I don’t get sick days — gotta fulfill my obligations regardless). But we don’t even have big street activism taking place here.

So what then?

(I’d personally love to impeach the president [that goes for any president we’ve had in the last 25 years, at minimum] and at least 75% of Congress and start anew, but the vast majority of my fellow Americans say nay and continue supporting duopoly politics, having convinced themselves that they must select a “winning team” or else they’ve wasted their votes. Just a pipe dream by this point…)

Modern life is all we know. We grew up in this and most of us can’t even begin to get back to basics. And even if we did, up flies the legal red tape to impose property taxes and whatever else to find a way to force people to continue trading in U.S. currency. Which means you have to earn it their way. Which forces you to be somehow tied into the System by some means. How do you sidestep that? Create a group and call yourselves a “religious organization” so as to qualify for tax breaks on property purchased — sounds great, but indoor plumbing still keeps you tied into supporting the System since you gotta pay for that somehow. Same with phones and internet and electricity. Generators require fuel (and most states continue to ban hemp which could be processed into a bio-fuel source).

Though I admire those who do step away from the bullshit as much as possible and produce for themselves.

But even so: Welcome to The Grid. Have fun trying to escape this maze.

‘Round and ’round I go on these topics, and these thoughts are just where I keep winding up at…

Utopian dreams don’t determine actual outcomes.

We’re going on this hand-basket ride whether we like it or not. No one asked our consent, and we’re not required to grant it. But so long as we remain alive in the U.S., we’re going to continue witnessing it all unfold. I can’t see a way around that. Sorry folks.

Also, as relates to the future of humanity… Sincerely wish people would cease producing so many kids. Greater numbers are proving to be a burden on us all. Please have a lot of love in your heart before bringing any child into this world. PLEASE. It’s better for all involved. Beyond that, with too great of numbers comes a consequent reduction in value (as perceived by Society) of each individual. We become too replaceable, too interchangeable. And we know this. We see evidence of this all the time nowadays. That happening in itself leads to a declination in one’s power, and this is observable in the amount of depression and anxiety so many people today report experiencing. We tend to comprehend it on a visceral level prior to exploring the causes.

“Active and Passive Nihilism” & “Overcoming Nihilism”

Exploring ideas put forth by Nietzsche — “Active and Passive Nihilism”:

“Overcoming Nihilism”:

Those are the 5th and 6th lectures in a series that can be found on the academyofideas’ channel.

“Happiness, Meaningfulness, Complacency & Social Change”

Switching gears, I’d like to share a video from Professor Corey Anton:

Lots of important concerns framed there to spark questions in ourselves to carry forward. What does a purposeful life entail? What would be truly socially beneficial at this point in time, and how might we as individuals (and collectives) strive toward bringing these things about? What is one’s role in driving life toward somewhere worth being,  for ourselves and/or future generations? What might one’s own “hero’s journey” consist of (each cannot help but be unique)? What is a productive response in a society fast turning into a full-blown “idiocracy,” especially as we face obstruction from those seemingly content with the status quo and worshiping technological advancements?

Lots of ponder on here.

Dinner and a lecture on Marcuse

Another thought-provoking lecture (circa 1993) from Duke Professor Rick Roderick on the writings (“One-Dimensional Man”; 1964) and attitudes expressed by German philosopher Herbert Marcuse:

Didn’t know a thing about Marcuse before today, so far as I can recollect.

Alienation. Rationalization. Banalization. I’d say those three pretty much hit on the head what we’ve been confronting so long as I’ve been alive.

On the menu this evening were sauteed beer brats, steamed green beans, and microwaved easy mac. And now I’m off to work once again for about an hour.

Chris Hedges’ book “Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle”

Having read a number of Chris Hedges’ books, including American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Losing Moses on the Freeway, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, his 2010 book titled Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is another I’d like to offer up to others, though I wouldn’t recommend beginning with reading this one, this book being more of a summary and broad treatment of a collection of problems facing society. Hedges hits several major points, from our tantalization with Jerry Springer-esque forms of entertainment to the personal and societal destructiveness of hardcore pornography; from the dangers of corporatism and the realities and consequences we face today, as a nation and a people, politically, socially, and economically, to the power of love. This man does a great job of telling it like it is!

I’ll include some excerpts below, beginning on pages 14-15:

In The Republic, Plato imagines human beings chained for the duration of their lives in an underground cave, knowing nothing but darkness. Their gaze is confined to the cave wall, upon which shadows of the world above are thrown. They believe these flickering shadows are reality. If, Plato writes, one of these prisoners is freed and brought into the sunlight, he will suffer great pain. Blinded by the glare, he is unable to see anything and longs for the familiar darkness. But eventually his eyes adjust to the light. The illusion of the tiny shadows is obliterated. He confronts the immensity, chaos, and confusion of reality. The world is no longer drawn in simple silhouettes. But he is despised when he returns to the cave. He is unable to see in the dark as he used to. Those who never left the cave ridicule him and swear never to go into the light lest they be blinded as well.

Plato feared the power of entertainment, the power of the sense to overthrow the mind, the power of emotion to obliterate reason. No admirer of popular democracy, Plato said that the enlightened or elite had a duty to educate those bewitched by the shadows on the cave wall, a position that led Socrates to quip: “As for the man who tried to free them and lead them upward, if they could somehow lay their hands on him and kill him, they would do so.”

We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staples of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.

On porn and profits, page 58:

There are some 13,000 porn films made every year in the United States, most in the San Fernando Valley in California. According to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs, and the ever-expanding e-sex world, topped $97 billion in 2006. That is more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix, and Earthlink combined. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $10 billion or higher. There is no precise monitoring of the porn industry. And porn is very lucrative to some of the nation’s largest corporations. General Motors owns DIRECTV, which distributes more than 40 million streams of porn into American homes every month. AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable are currently the biggest American companies accommodating porn users with the Hot Network, Adult Pay Per View, and similarly themed services. AT&T and GM rake in approximately 80 percent of all porn dollars spent by consumers.

[Bold emphasis mine.]

Broaching the topic of the fall of the United States of America on page 142:

The country I live in today uses the same civic, patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return.

The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.

Chris Hedges includes substantiating literature on the topics discussed, listed in the bibliography, with a few titles and authors specifically mentioned on page 146:

There were some who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul, and Andrew Bacevich, writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten, and Naomi Klein, and activists such as Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and Ralph Nader warned us about our march of folly. In the immediate years after the Second World War, a previous generation of social critics recognized the destructive potential of the rising corporate state. Books such as David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, C. Wright Mills’s The Power Elite, William H. White’s The Organization Man, Seymour Mellman’s The Permanent War Economy: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, and Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History have proved to be prophetic. This generation of writers remembered what had been lost. They saw the intrinsic values that were being dismantled. The culture they sought to protect has largely been obliterated. During the descent, our media and universities, extensions of corporate and mass culture, proved intellectually and morally useless. They did not thwart the decay. We failed to heed the wisdom of these critics, embracing instead the idea that all change was a form of progress.

In his book Democracy Incorporated, Wolin, who taught political philosophy at Berkeley and at Princeton, uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but candidates must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who author the legislation and get the legislators to pass it. Corporate media control nearly everything we read, watch, or hear. It imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. It diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarianism regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

[Italicized emphasis his. Bold emphasis mine.]

Excerpts don’t do this book justice. I agree so much with this author. The man makes a great deal of sense, especially when I read this book in conjunction with other books like Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Richard L. Rubenstein’s The Cunning of History: Mass Death and the American Future, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, as well as Ron Paul’s End the Fed (not that I personally share Ron Paul’s exuberance for returning to a gold standard).

Here is a review of Empire of Illusion in The Cleveland Leader. I don’t share the reviewer’s disappointment with the ending, lamenting that “Hedges didn’t conclude his work with some small glimmers of hope.” Au contraire. Mr. Hedges ended on the most hopeful message one can offer: that we learn to love one another and make the necessary sacrifices to pull through. Love is no small matter. It may be all we really have…all that will ever set things right.

Below is an interview of Chris Hedges on GRITtv (July 2009):