The Political Left has won the culture war

Haven’t listened to anything from Stardusk/Thinking-Ape in a long time, but come to find out his newer material very much jibes with my own thoughts at this time.

He’s right. World War II was a serious game-changer, for various reasons. Not least of which was that it promoted widespread sympathy toward Jews in particular since the Holocaust centered around them categorically being blamed for the ills of German society, leading then to a plan for their extermination. This is what our history books tell us repeatedly, however factual all of the related claims may be. It’s that historical focus that has been spread down, generation to generation, to all of us alive today, drilling into our minds how horrific of an event it was and how we must NEVER (under ANY circumstances) allow an atrocity of that nature to occur again (most especially against Jewish people). I got the message full-on and took it very seriously while growing up, as have most others. Seems like the most humane position to take.

What that message left out were the atrocities committed by communists in the Soviet Union and China. Instead of us being taught more broadly about totalitarianism we were specifically indoctrinated with information about Nazi Germany (at the comparative exclusion of all else). Was that an accident? Doesn’t appear to be now, does it? Considering school curriculum still hasn’t been updated to address this imbalance many decades later.

Why? Well, it appears the U.S. government had some sort of affinity with the Soviet Union all along, even after we publicly ceased being known as allies and entered the Cold War. So much that we are taught is slanted, intentionally distorted — lies by omission. How do you prove such a claim? I don’t know, but the evidence seems clear enough right about now in viewing what’s been unfolding across time.

Yes, the Political Left has been making incremental changes over many decades, leading them to possess the power they wield today. And yes, any attempt to lawfully shift the political tides would also take a concerted effort spanning decades. The problem is there isn’t time left for such a gradual game change. This country has already been compromised and now, partly thanks to the rise of Big Tech and the stronghold of globalizing powers, this process is guaranteed to speed up. Meaning that the Left will make more rapid moves and greater changes in the years to come, further transforming this country and culture beyond recognition. How do you stop a runaway train?

The old way lost, and if I’m honest with myself I can admit that this really began at the time of the Civil War. That defeat was the beginning of the end. Half a nation of people were successfully fought and disallowed from seceding. Tyranny forced compliance, and the South laid down and accepted those conditions in the end, and has been harshly treated by the history books ever since. So much so that people have allowed themselves to be convinced that it was a war fought over slavery, dismissing all talk of states’ rights as if that’s some sort of humorous deflection from facts and reason. That’s where it all began in this country, truly, because that’s when a part of Americans’ spirit died. The dissidents of that era were taught that resistance is futile, and they—despite their big talk ever since—did not stand by the words of the forefathers they claim to love so much and DEMAND either liberty or death. No, instead they laid down their guns and chose to live. And this is what they’ve lived for, this nation as it stands today is what they passed on to successive generations. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Decades later, Americans were united under the guise of protecting our freedom by engaging in World War I & II. Do you know what really undermined us after the Second World War? Our compassion. Noble as it is, that proved to be Americans’ undoing. Compassion toward Jews and the story of the Holocaust wound up being our shackles on down the line. I do not say this as someone who has a particular problem with Jewish people (as already explained before elsewhere on this blog) — just that I can see how that narrative weakened us in terms of convincing us that violence on that scale was wrong in all cases for Americans (at least on American soil). Nevermind the killing of others we commit in wars abroad since — that somehow proves less relevant, despite many in the Middle East considering this a Holocaust of sorts being brought against them (and quite effectively, I might add). I’m not much of a defender of Muslims and am known to be very critical of their religion, speaking out regularly against their immigration to Western nations, yet still I can see this plainly.

Our shackling to Israel has been out of a deep sense of guilt (for whatever reason) and alliance through compassion (as well as Christians being convinced by their televangelist preachers that the Jewish people must all return to that region of the world if ever Jesus is to return to the earth — crazily enough). But even now when many can see that Israel is undeserving of so much military aid, we the people can’t seem to stop it. Politics have gotten outside of our control.

Compassion undermined us. Why? Well, for one, it dulled our collective imagination and kept us from seriously reckoning with the idea that some groups within our society mean to do this nation harm and ought to either be locked up or expelled. And because we’ve been heavily steeped in propaganda about that war, along with being strongly influenced by Jewish thought through the media and Hollywood productions, we’ve come to embrace the notion of multiculturalism, not yet knowing that that would prove to be our unraveling. (Or at least it rendered us unwilling to stand up for one culture above others, setting the stage for events to come.)

Some of this appears to be due to trends not specific to or arising from American culture in the last century, such as postmodern thought imported from France. So perhaps this trend is more universal, less localized, as it now seems to be unraveling European nations as well. Has this been intentionally orchestrated? Hard to argue that it hasn’t been. Perhaps just a result of a preponderance of chicanery where opportunists seized at every point along the way what influence and power they could.

Stardusk mentioned how this likely can’t be reversed quickly, short of some sort of war breaking out perhaps, and then there’d be the risk of the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. Which to me means something akin to what arose out of Wiemar Germany. (Though, who would we fight today and how? Declare war on all who consider themselves left of center? Besides, most are far too docile to seriously consider taking matters into our own hands if it involves violence. Except maybe thugs/Antifa.) We hear people today so readily dismiss one another as “fascists” for any little deviation, anything they can label and denounce as wrongthink. That’s priming people to accept that resistance is futile, knowing you’ll be mischaracterized and roundly attacked by their fanatical army (while most of the brethren on your own side sit out the battle, preferring not to have their good names wrecked by weighing in the fray). So those willing to step into the ring and fight at this point can’t help but be outliers, and they will all find themselves harshly labeled as belonging to the “alt-right” and accused of being “nazis” and “full of hate.” Others will distance themselves from these people as a result. We might speak about them online and attempt to defend them with our words, and, as we already see underway, we will be punished accordingly (some even going so far as losing their jobs — more and more this keeps happening).

Makes a person really stop and question their morality and where they learned it from. I often have to ask myself if my beliefs are born out of a slave morality, because it seems that way when it renders me incapable of even launching an effective defense. That calls into question the role of Christianity (or at least how it’s commonly interpreted) at this point in history, though I will leave that topic for another time.

What do we owe to one another at this point? How do you contend with people who don’t give a damn about the principles you’re struggling to uphold? And what do you do if those same principles are tethering your hands and disallowing you from going toe to toe with those hell-bent on supporting tyranny? I don’t know, but I ask myself this regularly enough nowadays.

There doesn’t appear to be a future worth salvaging in this dilemma. If we opt to try to live in peace, then we’ve agreed to comply — we’ve chosen complicity. It’s anyone’s guess what this nation will be like in 30 years at the rate it’s currently going. Does their “vision for the future” truly look to you like a healthy place to raise kids? Does it appear to be the kind of society you’d like to live to old age within? Serious questions for serious times.

Some might read this and think I’m just upset about the Kavanaugh confirmation or some other current event, but no. I don’t care much about that matter aside from taking issue with how ruthless the politics at play are showing themselves to be. Have no stake in him as a person and don’t particularly care about his career either way, though it is rough watching a man get dragged through the mud if he is innocent, all because of unprovable accusations brought to light at the perfect time to do maximum damage. Just sayin’. I’m tired of seeing this gender war devolve into woman screaming that they deserve to be believed no matter what, evidence be damned. This idea that people can ruin our lives with their words and we’re left with no recourse. All because of politics unchained. Been coming to this for a looong time, and now it’s threatening to upend so much that’s fundamental in our society, including a right to due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But, if we’re honest to ourselves, we’ve been here before during the Jim Crow era when an accusation was all that was needed to determine a man’s fate. So perhaps this nation’s foundational principles haven’t been shit for over a century already. Perhaps we’ve been fooling ourselves to imagine otherwise.

So then I get to wondering what it is we’re supposed to be fighting for here? A revival of America? How is that even possible? We’re far too divided and have been for so long. Probably irreparably so by now. We like to think Leftist were supposed to be the compassionate ones, the “bleeding hearts” among us, and yet look at what’s been happening all around. Do you see compassion there? Yet so-called conservatives keep pandering to them, as if that’s the way this game must be played.

You know what I think? I think this is a bit of an indictment of capitalism, at least in this most-modern era, because it allowed people to branch off in pursuit of our own individual goals and dreams, relinquishing loyalty to our communities in the process. Chasing money has corrupted us to where we now stand divided. We don’t know one another barely anymore and have little reason to trust one another. We don’t share a common faith any longer. Our values are selected at will. Many don’t even vote, especially not locally, thereby dropping the reins even on what little political power they may have possessed. All because we were busy celebrating our individuality and trying to get ahead in the economy. Well, now we’re up against a united front of ideologues who are possessed by a drive toward power. What can be done about that? Certainly not an issue to be rectified by voting this late in the game.

So then what? Shall we drown our sorrows in nihilistic hedonism and await a societal collapse, as some are fond of talking about these days? Should we risk speaking out and having our livelihoods destroyed while others go about their regularly scheduled routines and ignore us? Should we call upon a higher power to direct us, even if that means undertaking unpopular action on our own? That’ll get you locked up for even trying to talk about it. Shall we just continue watching this crazy saga unfold like we always have, chomping neurotically at the bit like we usually do? Shall we try to brainwash ourselves with positive thinking in an effort to find peace within this storm?

I don’t know the way forward from here on out. Mostly I’m plagued with a bunch of questions. A gradual shift in another direction won’t be coming though, that much I’m willing to bank on. And I’m not sure how tolerant we can expect to remain while our rights are stripped from us.

It’s a hell of a conundrum we find ourselves in nowadays. But, as always remains true: nobody promised us a rose garden. C’est la vie.

Harari on our lack of freedom & Free Will (my thoughts)

This afternoon I came across an article in The Guardian titled “Yuval Noah Harari: the myth of freedom” (Sept. 14, 2018).

A few notable excerpts from the article:

Unfortunately, “free will” isn’t a scientific reality. It is a myth inherited from Christian theology. Theologians developed the idea of “free will” to explain why God is right to punish sinners for their bad choices and reward saints for their good choices.

[…]

Though “free will” was always a myth, in previous centuries […]

But now the belief in “free will” suddenly becomes dangerous. If governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in free will.

[…]

In recent years some of the smartest people in the world have worked on hacking the human brain in order to make you click on ads and sell you stuff. Now these methods are being used to sell you politicians and ideologies, too.

[…]

Liberalism has developed an impressive arsenal of arguments and institutions to defend individual freedoms against external attacks from oppressive governments and bigoted religions, but it is unprepared for a situation when individual freedom is subverted from within, and when the very concepts of “individual” and “freedom” no longer make much sense.

[…]

The very same technologies that we have invented to help individuals pursue their dreams also make it possible to re-engineer those dreams. So how can I trust any of my dreams?

[…]

There is nothing new about doubting free will or about exploring the true nature of humanity. We humans have had this discussion a thousand times before. But we never had the technology before. And the technology changes everything.

My initial reaction after reading that article:

Having now read it through a 2nd time, I’d like to elaborate a bit further.

First off, I listened to the audio version of Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens a couple years back and generally appreciated it. Though I haven’t kept up with the author since then and was unaware of his shifting views. Now, the reason I reacted as I did to his latest article is based on a number of reservations and concerns.

1.) The notion of Free Will being a “myth” approaches sacrilege among average Western minds. Our entire history up until this point is predicated on the idea of individual rights and freedoms, as Harari acknowledges. But I’m not aware of anyone who would claim that Free Will can be defined as 100% freedom over oneself with no regard whatsoever for our human, environmental or cultural limitations. Scientific exploration indeed has taught us much about the role genetics play in directing our desires and weaknesses, but are we mere animals bound to deterministic cause and effect? There is plenty of evidence to the contrary in that area as well. We humans are a mixed lot, existing within and impacted by the material realm while also possessing potential to transcend what’s given to us to an extent, at least psychologically. In short, we are both directed by forces beyond our control as well as directors of our own lives, simultaneously.

2.) Blaming Free Will off onto Christianity (though it’d be more apt to include Judaism in this as well) seems to imply that this religion somehow did humans a disservice in this regard, that it lied to us about Reality and our role within it. Furthermore, it appears Harari assumes that individualism didn’t arise organically on its own — that is to say, is a natural part of the evolution of our species. Instead he seems to be arguing that such a notion was born strictly out of this monotheistic religion, which is confusing since which came first, humanity’s trending toward individualism or the idea of individualism being encapsulated within a religious context?

3.) Harari’s argument appears to be that while individualism and the notion of Free Will proved useful previously, it’s no longer of much (if any) value moving forward. Why? Because we have failed at the calling to Know Thyself and therefore are being rendered at the mercy of other humans and the technologies they employ to sway, deceive, control and make money off of us, all while convincing us that we’re actually acting as free agents. Okay, that much I can agree with. We, collectively speaking, have dropped the ball in taking seriously the navigation of our own individual lives, preferring instead to flow with the mainstream channels provided to all of us. But still, recognition of this does not negate the existence of Free Will. Rather, it points to our option to not embrace it (that being an important part of the concept of Free Will). We’re not required to strive to understand it and act upon it, though arguably we should. Because people often prove weak and fail at this task still doesn’t negate the Free Will option (again, despite it not being about 100% freedom since that’s an impossibility; we human beings not being gods in our own right).

4.) It seems that Harari is suggesting that artificial intelligence is coming on the scene, whether any of us like it or not, and that it will necessarily prove dominant over all of us. Okay, that might happen. But is Harari fine with that outcome? Is he suggesting that we should bow down and accept that fate as the “hackable animals” that we apparently are? Is it his opinion that resistance is futile? Because that’s the way it sounds, and that comes across as extremely deterministic, which then causes someone like me to feel pangs in my soul at such a thought.

5.) Harari’s position also seems to leave out consideration over whether this AI-dominated future that’s unfurling will be psychologically compatible with us as human beings. I personally don’t believe it will. Already a good many of us are disturbed by the effects of modern life and are exhibiting chronic symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result. Plus there are the falling birth rates (perhaps due to our “captivity” conditions) and the rising suicide rates among Westerners. It’s possible that we’re heading in a direction that will wind up pushing more of us to the margins of society, if not off a cliff entirely. (Though, some then might argue that’s evidence that we who can’t or won’t adapt are not strong enough in this game for survival, so adios.)

6.) The idea that if we give up our notion of individuality and Free Will we’ll then be free to listen more to others and become more actively engaged in protecting the environment sounds absurd. If anything, this trend would lead to more nihilism which may lead to more violent backlashes and reactionary inclinations to attempt to dismantle society itself. Just sayin’. (Perhaps he would argue that the anarchistic spirit within some is just another genetically-determined drive and/or a manipulated reaction stoked by those with a hidden agenda? *shrugs*) Anyway, why would a person care about a future world where humans aren’t free to be human, where life’s meaning has become trivialized, where our choices and options are supposedly pre-determined, and where Big Brother dominates us all whether we like it or not? Sounds like hell on earth, not a place I’d care about trying to save.

7.) Because science has not (or perhaps cannot) explain a phenomenon doesn’t automatically mean it’s not real. As others have suggested, scientists have barely scratched the surface in trying to make sense of consciousness — and yet, here it remains. What is it? We don’t know. Where did it originate from? We’re not certain. What is its purpose? That remains to be seen. Should we deny it outright and treat it dismissively because scientists can’t explain it? No. We continue studying and pondering on the topic, all while utilizing the very thing we’re unable to understand. Life is paradoxical like that. So much remains a mystery. Yet some place so much faith in human accomplishments and ingenuity that anything that falls outside of that which our sciences can readily explain winds up being treated as if inconsequential. To our detriment, I’ll argue.

8.) Harari speaks disdainfully of those who retreat away from this AI-dominated future vision, preferring instead to turn back toward traditional ways of life and the religions of old. He sees this trend as problematic, refusing to acknowledge that perhaps this too is a perfectly natural response for humans confronting a future that may very well spell our demise. Instead of having compassion for that reaction, he labels it as a threat. Which then gives me the impression that he’s actually in favor of this new world order he speaks of. (New world order = totalitarian in nature, tech-dominated, highly centralized, surveillance-infested, socially-engineered so much as possible, with the emphasis placed on our unity as persons on this globe, no longer citizens of nations.) Much as he seems to be warning us about it, he also appears to be pushing for it, hence why he chastises those who wish to break rank and seek a way to escape or fight back against it. That’s not too cool. Doesn’t sound like someone’s advice I’d care to follow.

So, those are my points of contention with what Harari wrote in the article, as well as what I listened to thus far from the podcast he went on with Sam Harris (uploaded yesterday):

Happened to be cleaning my guns while tuning in, which turned out to be a fine task while concentrating on a conversation of that nature. Then the phone rang and I’ve been distracted ever since. Decided to post this up before resuming listening.

If nothing else is certain to be true, I can safely say it’s a hell of a time to be alive.

______________________________________________________

The next day: I have now listened to the following talk from Harari (uploaded a month ago):

The sane road home

Dr. Jordan Peterson is absolutely correct on his views about freedom of speech and how we need to remain free to honestly think out loud. Not simply because we may want to, but because psychologically this is how we process life and living. We think, we talk, we interact, we dispute and debate and ponder and have our thoughts challenged externally and then hopefully internally as we continue onward in processing and attempting to make sense out of life and living. This is an integral process that is non-negotiable for our individual and collective well-being.

This is precisely why our forefathers encapsulated freedom of speech (and to assemble and to disseminate information via a free press) in the very first amendment of our U.S. Constitution, clearly establishing their recognition of this as a primary natural (inalienable) right extended to us from God (meaning extended from outside of mere human jurisdiction), essentially stating that no government should be tolerated to trespass against us in a manner that interrupts/disrupts our freedom to SPEAK and exchange ideas and associate with one another. They did not conjure up this notion out of their own baseless wishful thinking — they discovered this to be an incontrovertible Truth (as likely others who came before them had as well).

This is where we run into the concept of Objective Truth — that which (inescapably) constitutes the substratum for Reality. Meaning it is elemental, uncompromising, and thereby independent of any predilections or social constructionism convictions we might like to overlay and toy around with. All that we humans are capable of perceiving and experiencing rests upon a primordial foundation of such Objective Truths (however many there may prove to be); and consequently, all human endeavors rejecting this prerequisite understanding are destined to fall apart and turn wickedly insane (i.e. non-life-affirming for our species).

(Skeptics and naysayers obviously remain free to investigate such claims about renouncing Objective Truth/Reality and to discover the fruit borne as a result, as untold numbers of people already have and assuredly forever will — it being in our natures as human beings to relentlessly test boundaries.)

Whatever else may appear true down here on the ground among us squabbling humans remains more of a mystery and is partially determined through our clashes against one another and within ourselves, also partially uncovered as Life perpetually reveals itself and shows us the way (most often via demonstrations of what won’t/can’t work, what leads into dead-end abysses from which we can’t escape, what generates tremendous pain and misfortune with little or no subsequent benefit to humankind, etc.). Articulation of thoughts and ideas is an indispensable means through which we parse what we consider to be reality, disregarding what the conversation or argument in question at any given moment between us might be.

The reason we in the United States of America historically place so much emphasis on the First and Second Amendments of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights is precisely BECAUSE such incontrovertible Truths are necessary to accept if any nation is to remain functional (or, for that matter, if any group of people wish to remain intact anywhere at any point in time). Meaning it’s not a choice for us human beings. Rather, it’s a Fact of Life. We must remain free to speak and assemble and share information BECAUSE this is what it means to be human. Remove that capability and watch horrific chaos ensue. Such leads to finding out about ushering in hell on earth by way of distorting our understanding of Reality, disconnecting us from It as well as from one another, twisting our psychologies against our inborn Free Will and any alignment that may prove possible between ourselves and that which we call God.

One only has to look at fairly recent history to find numerous examples where humans’ ambitions led them to create hell on earth: a primary case being the totalitarian Soviet Union of the 20th century (as Dr. Peterson has brought to many of our attention). Also Mao’s China (heck, to an extent even China of today). These systems weren’t bad simply because they were communistic (as many harp on about); they were dangerous because they required control over people’s speech, thoughts, organizational pursuits and media in order to maintain and expand power. ANY SYSTEM that attempts to do the same, regardless of ideological underpinnings, will suffer a similar fate. Doesn’t matter if it purports to be capitalistic or socialistic or theologically-driven. Same difference.

The importance of our 2nd Amendment was to maintain power in the hands of ordinary PEOPLE so as to check our government if ever it turned tyrannical, specifically in regards to tampering with the 1st Amendment which all else in a civil society depends upon. Some like to pretend to not comprehend this concept or dismiss it as archaic and of little or no modern value, yet these people are fools who willfully abdicate their own power under the mistaken belief that those who do rise in the ranks within our System will sustain dedicated interest in the general well-being of the citizenry and upholding our Constitutionally-protected rights, despite repeated evidence to the contrary.

The willfully blind and ignorant seek to place newly-minted legal restrictions—effectively handicaps—on their fellow humans in an effort to bolster the power of the State that so many have grown thoroughly dependent on. This is by design a trap that we humans orchestrate against one another time and time again, learning only when it’s too late what it is we’ve sacrificed and what such folly truly served in the end. That points back to a character “defect” within us born out of fear of embracing personal responsibility — essentially a “failure to launch” in terms of actively engaging one’s own individuation process while struggling within the context of broadly collectivistic (and evermore complex) social dynamics, further complicated by witnessing (and feeling complicit in albeit rendered unable to effectively resist) modern experiments with empire-building and the emergence of globalized centralization projects.

Today so much is commonly framed in a LEGAL context, as if only that which is made lawful is of any real relevance in modern times. Laws are mere codification of that which is deemed customary and necessary in a functioning society. But where do the content of laws spring from? Some from exercises in dispute resolution and imparting justice, but others are not of our direct making, as discussed above. Higher Truths matter regardless of what any law might say. They exist beyond, and cannot be constrained by, any legal code devised by man. We are wise to take into consideration these Truths and to incorporate them into any system (legal or otherwise) we might wish to preserve as functional. Though, unfortunately, laws have a way of becoming jumbled in the minds of people over time, causing difficulty for us to discern between them in terms of status and inevitability. Over time, one law comes to be viewed as equal to any other law, meaning just as modifiable, overturnable and discardable. This is where we go wrong, and soon enough we’ll be shown why.

Turns into an unavoidable lesson on separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. It appears we humans are destined to contend with these vital lessons again and again and again, immemorially. Then, this goal is further frustrated by never quite figuring out how to impress the significance of these revelations on the minds of successive generations. So each generation winds up fated with facing the challenge of re-learning what was lost before.

Here we are yet again. Confronting this age-old problem once more, this time in the 21st century. Surrounded by dazzling technologies, connected to people from all over the world online, debating and discussing an infinite number of topics with one another, all while centralizing political and economic schemes unfold across the world in the backdrop. It’s a surreal time to be alive. Also troubling due to countless distractions and information overload accompanied by a deluge of sophisticated (and academically aggregated) thought exercises. A sea of theories and ideas swirl around us. Some better than others, but all requiring our mental energy to suss them out and to try to make sense of their potential relevance. So much is being taught to us, both by teachers and popular personalities broadcasted across societies. Is it any wonder that while living within such bustling, busy times we so often lose track of what’s fundamental?

All comes to appear as little more than just another thought experiment. Politics, legality, ideology, religion, culture, individuality, philosophy, science, psychology, sociality, technology. We rank each according to our personal priorities, regarding such assessments as relative. Most are. Yet fundamentals still remain.

At some point, a society is destined to turn on itself and to lose sight of whatever it was intended to be and originally founded upon. We the people grow too distracted, too casual in our valuations, too soft thanks to comfortable living, to where we no longer can properly discern what is truly fundamental, unable to tease it away from the rest of our preferences and wishful thinking. Progress leads us to thinking that whatever we might dream up can (and should) be somehow brought to fruition. If only we press hard enough, if we “educate” others to see things our way, if we pressure laws to be changed to suit our ideological leanings and visions for the future. We begin looking at ourselves and one another as belonging to teams, political or otherwise, and resort to competing over the most banal matters.

Eventually, we get lost.

Tyranny depends on a confused and disoriented populace. Hence why it sows divisions among us. All serves to distract and keep us busy so that we don’t react against the powers-that-be. Those powers shift and change over the Ages, but always they play a similar game. Who are they? Mere humans. What do they strive for? Power, control, wealth, and a God-like stature that enables them to usher in their particular vision for humanity. Why? Because that’s how human nature works when ambition and greed is allowed to run amok for too long unchecked. What do we do about? Very little considering how tasked we are by our day-to-day obligations and triflings, compounded by our various disputes of however much substance that undermine our ability to unite with one another to launch an effective response (as would be needed to go up against the scope and ferocity of powers at play today). Often we talk about what is wrong with the world and what we ought to do about it. Yet, here we are: watching, listening, waiting, wondering. Feeling pressed. Wishing to stave off conflicts that appear more inevitable with each passing year, hoping our luck will hold out, nevermind future generations likely being left to contend with it on their own (despite their utter lack of preparation to do so).

I get bogged down by these considerations on a regular basis. What is one to do with an outlook such as this? How does one defend against a Leviathan that’s been allowed to grow this massive and powerful? How does one form bonds with their fellows when we’re all so divided and seemingly incapable of coming back together anytime soon? What is one’s individual role in response to this then?

Lots of questions arise, begging for answers I do not know. What we do know is that we must remain free to think and speak honestly if ever there will be a chance of sorting any of this out.

The pondering rolls onward…

Pondering on transhumanism, esotericism & the future of humanity

Something that’s been on my mind lately as I’ve been delving into learning about the so-called “esoteric arts” and whatnot is this question of hate. This is a term popularly tossed around in political discourse these days and is intended to denote a sense of self-righteousness, superiority, vulgar mistreatment of others, etc. Though it’s now commonly being tossed around so haphazardly in response to differing opinions that it’s losing its meaning and is regarded by many of us as merely a dismissive gesture toward opinions one doesn’t care to wrestle with or take seriously.

But the notion of hate runs much deeper than that. It used to be said that hate counters love, but over time it makes better sense to me to see hate and love as passions that are countered by indifference (apathy) at the opposite extreme.

When it comes to the esoteric traditions, however, the word hate takes on a different meaning altogether. Not sure how deep I care to get into my thoughts on this subject today, but I’d like to at least touch on the topic for a while here, because it’s troubling me and thereby forcing me to continue conducting research so as to gain a better understanding of the traditions of old and to question my own social conditioning and how that actually might be misleading me (and others in society).

There’s a theology of sorts referred to as Luciferianism. I won’t claim to be terribly familiar with it yet, but Lucifer (the fallen angel, also associated with the Devil) is historically understood to be the “light bringer.” Now, if we back up and consider biblical scriptures of the Old Testament, we are aware that the story of Adam and Eve centered around them eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, presented to them by the serpent. Knowledge — that being the key point there. Expanding human awareness.

Another biblical story that keeps returning to mind lately is that of the Tower of Babel, in which humans somehow united to where they shared a common language as well as technologies available at the time which they then used to construct (presumably metaphorically) a tower that reached to the heavens. In essence, this appears to be about human ingenuity reaching toward God-like status. And this was achieved through the unification of various peoples throughout the land, hence why their punishment (again, best understood metaphorically) was that they were all scattered and given different languages and essentially knocked back into dark ages, effectively destroying their chances of attempting such a feat again anytime soon. Literal interpretations of this story tend to obscure the real danger being pointed to here: the great proclivity within human beings to strive to come together and to create societies and/or institutions and/or technologies that might rival that which we call God.

So often we hear people speak almost childishly about such stories, proclaiming them to be mere testaments of how jealous the Christian God of the bible is. But that’s a distracting way to look at it, in my opinion. Because I see us now striving to create just that same sort of “tower to heaven” once again. And we’re being instructed to unite and to love one another and to see past our differences, all of which sounds appealing on the surface. But what if we’re actually being encouraged to go against our natures in a way that isn’t ultimately beneficial in the ways we might dream it could be? What if, perhaps, we’re actually serving an ideology that has trans-humanist ambitions that would wind up eradicating all that we value in human life?

Probably sounds like a stretch, and I would’ve thought so too not that long ago.

Food for thought (exhibit A):

The topic of tribalism keeps returning to my mind also these days. Partly because of racial/cultural conflicts here and abroad. Partly because of events in my own life that have been forcing me to reckon with the very real need for us as humans to identify with and belong to some sort of tribe (though not necessarily in accordance with racial divisions – in fact, I believe it’s distinctly ideological/cultural). This does not appear to be a proclivity we can overcome nor that it will likely prove beneficial for us to attempt to do so beyond a reasonable extent. Why? Because this is how we as humans function psychologically and socially and it’s where meaning is derived in our lives. We function best when trying to solve problems and overcome obstacles and while preserving and protecting what we deem sacred.

Everything melding into everything else is the opposite of that. When lines and boundaries become indistinct and relativity undermines all morality and cultural differences, we cannot help but lose our sense of self.

But, new-age movement people might say, that is healthy for us since we should be striving at this point in history to overcome our ego identification and instead to see ourselves as part of a greater unity. Yes and no. There’s value in examining both sides of that duality, but we humans indeed must live with duality. The oneness some are placing on a high pedestal these days isn’t a place where humans can live, thrive and continue to function day to day as what we are. Hence why this proposed “upgrade” requires us to be biologically and technologically enhanced so as to accept it. Lest we simply go mad in the chaos it cannot help but usher in when all values are destroyed.

Why do we strive toward such an idea? Why has it become so tempting? One reason is because it has been sold to us as the pathway toward peace. BUT, considering that such a transition is trans-humanistic to the core, it’s essentially calling for our destruction as human beings. We must cease to be what we are in order to move forward into this vision for the future. And in this vision that some are celebrating (see the video above), artificial intelligence and other man-made technologies are what become idolized. Are these not false prophets and idols? Not because a jealous God might proclaim them to be, but because our faith in our own ingenuity can’t guarantee this game will play out as hoped. I am willing to bet everything that it will not lead us to the paradise we seek. Unless by paradise we simply mean death, and yes, in death there may indeed be peace. Perhaps.

I get conflicted on this subject, wondering if maybe this is truly the next frontier that we humans will be forced to reckon with, whether we want to or not. That maybe this is some sort of “natural” trajectory, if only because our species is prone to fall in love with its own creations and discoveries (albeit while demonstrating repeatedly a severe shortcoming in terms of long-term foresight). We are dreamers, and this is the new dream for some among us. They wish for us to believe a more centralized world where virtual reality can replace the hardships of actual reality will be a worthwhile escape for our species.

In this I see extinction. I see death. I see arrogance and pride and greed. I see an unwillingness to grasp the blessings we have already, even if they must be hard-won through suffering and introspection and pain. The dream to transcend this reality strikes me as a foolish nightmare where I cannot follow. But perhaps enough others do wish for such possibilities to come into being, and who am I to try to stop them? Wouldn’t do any good if I tried, most likely.

Still, I look back on what historical records we do have access to and see this is not entirely a new trend. Human folly has a way of circling back around and renewing itself over time, that much is a given. Interesting to learn about though. Probably the key takeaway in all of this pertains to the need to work on and save oneself. Might not be able to ever change the minds of others, and certainly we can’t draw others nearer to us and our worldview without showing them that this reality and humanity as a whole isn’t so terrible, that attempting to transcend it isn’t really the better option. But how do you show that in this day and age when so much indeed is terrible? When politicians on all sides are woefully corrupt, when major businesses invade our privacy and mold our thinking, when there are so many divisions that have been sown and we drive one another nuts on a daily basis?

I don’t know. Am thinking there’s no real way out of this conundrum since I’m pretty damn sure humanity is heading in the trans-humanist direction because they believe that dream might prove better. So there’s your apocalypse on the horizon. Artificial intelligence embraced worldwide appears to be what the bible refers to as the Anti-Christ. The reason it is Anti-Christ is because it is anti-human. Christ was first and foremost our Brother, and this new era seeks to transcend Him and us and all that we ever were or otherwise could be.

Not speaking as a Christian here, but I do have an admitted fondness for Jesus. His story confuses me at times too, though, seeing as how he encouraged us to love one another, yet it’s not terribly clear where we should draw lines. Make a scene in the temple and disrupt the usurers, yes — but now we live in the land of usury. Love all as if our neighbors and kin, sounds good — but also we’re instructed to hate the sin. The bible is a very confusing and complicated text that seems to contradict itself throughout. What does it mean to love in the way Jesus intended? To show mercy, yes, but what about justice? Why has justice been downplayed? So that those currently in power can get away with their crimes, of course. Why were we humans instructed in the bible to behave as lambs? Are we to understand that to mean we should be so docile that we become prey? Are we to be pacifists? How human is that?

Back to the notion of light and knowledge — what is it we’re trying to illuminate here? Humanity’s capacity for good and evil? Surely we will get to see plenty more of that. Why is Lucifer, the bringer of light, considered the bad guy of the bible, the Devil? Are we to take that to mean we’re better off ignorant? Or is it simply pointing to the reality that knowledge is a double-edged sword? That seems to be it. Is it possible that the greater the dream, accompanied by the technologies capable of possibly manifesting such a dream, then the greater the consequent fall? I think that sounds about right also.

Perhaps we’re incapable of turning away from such dreams once they’ve sprouted in our collective imaginations. The desire to know where a path leads overpowers us, engages our curiosity and tempts us into believing we can resolve our worldly problems. Nevermind that there are very powerful people behind the scenes pushing this agenda. How might they plan to benefit? Is what they’re selling to us the full story? Do you really think those who’ve grown most powerful across the world are looking out for all of humanity’s best interest? Do you believe this to be an altruistic ambition on their part? When always before they have acted in ways that lead to them accruing greater power, wealth and control, always greater gains for themselves regardless of how much blood must be spilled in that pursuit.

Seems to me, whatever those belonging to old, wealthy, powerful families and institutions are pushing for, we’d be wise to go the opposite way.

When have they ever led us somewhere truly beneficial that hasn’t come with great pain and a high price to pay in exchange? But perhaps that’s just the way of people and of life and maybe it cannot be helped.

I get to thinking lately that being knocked back into a stone age might actually be a better place to wind up than to allow ourselves to be permanently genetically, biologically, and perhaps even technologically transfigured. Though contaminants in our environment are already altering us hormonally and likely genetically, so I guess the process is underway whether we like it or not. That’s a cost of living in the type of world we have right now, leaving aside for a moment whatever the future may hold in store.

Crazy times. So much to ponder on. But this Luciferian thing, and its rise in popularity that even celebrities appear to be embracing (at least symbolically), is a very strange trend.

More food for thought (exhibit B): The Lucis Trust.

Light, love, unity, and the future. I don’t know what to make of all of this yet. Basic speculation on my part, and I don’t have an extremely firm position on any of this one way or the other.

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…