Bageant: Waltzing at the doomsday ball

Joe Bageant’s at it again.  This guy hits more nails squarely on their heads than Norm freaking Abram ever did on his best day.  The entire article is worthy of being excerpted, but that kind of defeats the purpose of excerpting, so here’s a small sample to suck you in, followed by the entire piece.

It ain’t robbery, it’s a business cycle

Capitalism is about one thing: aggregating the surplus productive value of the public for private interests. As we have said, it is about creating state sanctioned “investments” for the workers who produce the real wealth. Things like home “ownership” and mortgages, or stock investments and funds to absorb their retirement savings. That crushing 30-year mortgage with two refis is an investment. So is that 401K melting like a snow cone the beach.

As the people’s wealth accumulates, it is steadily siphoned off by government and elite private forces. From time to time, it is openly plundered for their benefit by way of various bubbles, depressions or recessions and other forms of theft passed off as unavoidable acts of nature/god. These periodic raids and draw downs of the people’s wealth are attributed to “business cycles.” Past periodic raids and thefts are heralded as being proof of the rationale. “See folks, it comes and goes, so it’s a cycle!” Economic raids and busts become “market adjustments.” Public blackmail and plundering through bailouts become a “necessary rescue packages.” Giveaways to corporations under the guise of public works and creating employment become “stimulus.” The chief responsibility of economists is to name things in accordance with government and corporate interests. The function of the public is to acquire debt and maintain “consumer confidence.” When the public staggers to its feet again and manages to carry more debt, buy more poker chips on credit to play again, it’s called a recovery. They are back in the game.

Waltzing at the doomsday ball

Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse
By Joe Bageant

As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo’s hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It’s the world’s cheap labor guys like you — the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts — who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We’ve got predator drones.

After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces — forever.

We’ve had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn’t been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.

Such is the triumph of the money economy that nothing can be valued by any other measure, despite that nobody knows what money is worth at all these days. This is due in part to the international finance jerk-off, in which the world’s governments print truckloads of worthless money, so they can loan it out. The idea here is that incoming repayment in some other, more valuable, currency will cover their own bad paper. In turn, the debtor nations print their own bogus money to repay the loans. So you have institutions loaning money they do not have to institutions unable to repay the loans. All this is based on the bullshit theory that tangible wealth is being created by the world’s financial institutions, through interest on the debt. Money making money.

As my friend, physicist and political activist George Salzman writes,

“Everyone in these ‘professional’ institutions dealing in money lives a fundamentally dishonest life. Never mind ‘regulating’ interest rates,” he says. “We must do away with interest, with the very idea of ‘money making money’. We must recognize that what is termed ‘Western Civilization’ is in fact an anti-civilization, a global social structure of death and destruction. However, the charade of ever-increasing debt can be kept up only as long as the public remains ignorant. Once ecological limits have been reached the capitalist political game is up.”

You can see why I love this guy.

Boomers and Doomers and XXL bloomers

Capitalism wouldn’t be around today, at least not in its current pathogenic form, if it had not caught a couple of lucky breaks. The first of course, was the expansion of bloodsucking colonialism to give it transfusions of unearned wealth, enabling “investors” to profit by artificial means (death, oppression and slavery). But the biggest break was being driven to stratospheric heights by inordinate quantities of available hydrocarbon energy. Inordinate, but never the less finite. Consequently, the 100-year-long oil suckdown that put industrial countries in the tall cotton, now threatens to take back from subsequent beneficiary generation everything it gave. The Hummers, the golf courses, the big box stores, cruising at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic — everything.

You’d never know that, to look around at Americans or Canadians, who have not the slightest qualms about living in that 3,500 square foot vinyl sided fuck box, if they can manage to make the mortgage nut, or unashamedly buying a quadruple X large Raiders Jersey because, hey, a guy’s gotta eat, right? Why don’t I deserve a nice ride, a swimming pool and a flat screen? I worked for it (sure you did buddy, your $12,000 Visa/MasterCard tab is proof of that).

The doomers and the peak oilers gag, and they call it American denial. Personally, I think it is somewhat unfair to say that most Americans and Canadians are in denial. They simply don’t have a fucking clue about what is really happening to them and their world. Everything they have been taught about working, money and “quality of life” constitutes the planet’s greatest problem — overshoot. Understanding this trashes our most basic assumptions, and requires a complete reversal in contemporary thought and practice about how we live in the world. When was the last time you saw any individual, much less an entire nation, do that?

Compounding our ignorance and naiveté are the officials and experts, politicians, media elites, and especially economists, who interpret the world for us and govern the course of things. The go-to guys. They don’t know either. But they’ve got the lingo down.

Somehow or other, it all has to do with the economy, which none of us understands, despite round the clock media jabbering on the subject. Somehow it has to do with this great big spring on Wall Street called “the market” that’s gotta be kept wound up, and interest rates at something called The Fed, which have got to be kept smunched down. The industry of crystal gazing and hairball rubbing surrounding these entities is called economics.

In heaven, there are no jobs

The following may be old news to some who studied economics in college. However, I did not. And, for me at least, this gets at the heart of our dilemma (if dilemma is the right word for economic, environmental and species collapse). Here goes:

The human economy is made up of three parts: nature, work and money. But since nobody would pay people like Allen Greenspan or Milton Friedman millions of dollars if they talked just like the rest of us, economists and academics refer to these three parts as the primary, secondary and tertiary economies.

Of these, nature — the world’s ecosystems and natural capital — is by far the most important. It comprises about three quarters of the total value of economic activity (Richard Costanza et al. 1997). To western world economists, nature — when it is even give nature a thought — is considered to be limitless.

The second part, work, is the labor required to produce goods and services from natural resources. Work creates real value through efficient use of both human and natural resource energy. A potato is just a potato until people sweating over belt lines and giant fryers turn it into Tater Tots.

The third economy, the tertiary economy, is the production and exchange of money. This includes anything that can be exchanged for money, whether it is gold, or mortgages bundled as securities, or derivatives. In short, any paperwork device that can be rigged up in such a fashion that money will stick to it. Feel free to take a wild-assed guess which of the three economies causes the most grief in this world.

To an economist, work — the stuff that eats up at least a third of our earthly lives, is merely a “factor” called labor. Work is considered an unfortunate cost in creating added value. Added value, along with nature’s resources, is the basis for all real world profits. Without labor, the money economy could not gin up on-paper wealth in its virtual economy. Somewhere, somebody’s gotta do some real-world work, before bankers and investment brokers can go into their offices and pretend to work at “creating and managing wealth.”

Paying the workers in society to produce real wealth costs money. Capitalists hate any sort of cost. It represents money that has somehow escaped their coffers. So when any behemoth corporation hands out thousands of pink slips on a Friday, Wall Street cheers and “the market” goes up. No ordinary mortal has ever seen “the market.” But traders on the floor of 11 Wall Street, people who’ve deemed themselves more than mortal by virtue of their $110 Vanitas silk undershorts, assure us the market does exist. No tours of the New York Stock exchange are permitted, so we have to take their word for it.

In any case, in the money economy, eliminating costs, even if those costs happen to be feeding human beings, citizens of the empire, is sublime. That is why economists in the tertiary economy can declare a “jobless recovery” with a straight face. By their lights, the perfect recovery would necessarily be 100% jobless. Human costs of generating profit would be entirely eliminated.

Say what you will about the tertiary “money economy,” but one thing is certain. It’s virulent. Right now finance makes up 42% of GDP, and is rising. Traditionally that figure has been around 9%. Fifty eight percent of the economy is “services.” When it comes to the service economy, most people think of fried chicken buckets and “customer service,” call centers harassing debtors or selling credit cards. However, much of the so-called service economy consists of “services” sub-corporations and entities owned and operated by monopolies in communications, electronic access and energy. They are designed for the sole purpose of robbing the people incrementally. Borrow a microscope and read the back side your cable and electric bill. Billing you is a “service” for which you pay. So is the guy who cuts off your lights if you don’t.

And manufacturing? Ten percent. Mostly big ticket items such as salad shooters, as near as I can tell.

What nature?

Still though, the foundation of the world, including our entire economic structure, is nature. This is clear to anyone who has ever, planted a garden, hiked in the woods, gone fishing or been gnawed on by chiggers. In vis est exordium quod terminus.

Yet, not one in a thousand economists takes nature into account. Nature has no place in contemporary economics, or the economic policy of today’s industrial nations. Again, like the general American public, these economists are not in denial. They simply don’t know it’s there. Historically, nature has never been considered even momentarily because economists, like the public, never figured they would run out of it. With the Gulf oil “spill” at full throttle, the terrible destruction of nature is becoming obvious. But no economist who values his or her career wants to start figuring the cost of ecocide into pricing analysis. For god sake man, it’s a cost!

With industrial society chewing the ass out of Mama Nature for three centuries, something had to give, and it has. Capitalists, however, remain unimpressed by global warming, or melting polar ice caps, or Southwestern desert armadillos showing up in Canada, or hurricanes getting bigger and more numerous every year. They are impressed by the potential dough in the so-called green economy. In fact, last night I watched an economist on CNN say that if the government had let the free market take care of the BP gulf catastrophe, it would not be the clusterfuck it is now. Now THAT might qualify as denial. In the mean time, anthropogenic ecocide and resource depletion, coupled with the pressures of six billion mouths and asses across the globe, have started to produce — surprise surprise, Sheriff Taylor! — very real effects on world economies. (How could they not?) So far though, in the simplistic see-spot-run American mind, it’s all about dead pelicans and oiled up hotel beaches.

Monkey with the paper

When the U.S., and then the world’s money economy started to crumble, the first thing capitalist economists could think of to do was to monkey with the paper. That’s all they knew how to do. It was unthinkable that the tertiary virtual economy, that great backroom fraud of debt manipulation and fiat money, might have finally reached the limits of the material earth to support. That the money economy’s gaming of workers and Mother Nature might itself might be the problem never occurred to the world’s economic movers and shakers. It still hasn’t. (Except for Chavez, Morales, Castro and Lula). Jobs disappeared, homes went to foreclosure, and personal debt was at staggering all time highs. America’s working folks were taking it square in the face. Not that economists or financial kingpins cared much one way or the other. In the capitalist financial world, everything is an opportunity. Cancer? Build cancer hospital chains. Pollution? Sell pollution credits. The country gone bankrupt?

“Nothing to do,” cried the mad hatters of finance, “but print more money, and give gobs of cash to the banks! Yes, yes, yes! Borrow astronomical amounts of the stuff and bribe every fat cat financial corporation up and down The Street!” All of which came down to creating more debt for the common people to work off. They seem willing enough to do it too — if only they had jobs.

Along with the EU, Japan and the rest of the industrial world, the US continues to flood the market with cheap credit. That would be hunky dory, if was actually wealth for anybody but a banker. The real problems are debt and fraud, and tripling the debt in order to cover up the fraud. And pretending there no natural costs of our actions, that we do not have to rob the natural world to crank up the money world through debt.

No matter what economists tell us abut getting the credit industry moving again, papering over debt with more debt will not pollinate our food crops when the last honeybee is dead. I suggest that we put the economists out there in the fields, hand-pollinating crops like they do in China. They seem to know all about the subject, and have placed a monetary value of $12 billion on the pollination accomplished by bees in the US. Can you imagine the fucking arrogance? All bees do is make our fruit and vegetable supply possible. Anyway, if we cannot use the economists for pollinators (odds are they are too damned whacked to do that job), we could also stuff them down the blowhole of the Deepwater Horizon spill. For the first time in history, economists would be visibly useful.

Speaking of China: Since there is no way to pick up the turd of American capitalism by the clean end, much less polish it, American economists have pointed east, and set up a yow-yow about China as “the emerging giant.” The “next global industrial superpower.” Many Chinese are willing to ride their bicycles 10 miles to work through poisonous yellow-green air, and others in the “emerging middle class” are willing to wade into debt up to their nipples; this is offered as evidence of the viability of industrial capitalism. All it proves is that governments and economists never learn. In the quest of getting something for nothing, China follows the previous fools right into the smog and off the cliff.

Sumthin’ fer nuthin’

The main feature of capitalism is the seductive assertion that you can get something for nothing in this world. That you can manufacture wealth through money manipulation, and that it is OK to steal and hold captive the people’s medium of exchange, then charge them out the ass for access. That you can do so with a clear conscience. Which you can, if you are the kind of sleazy prick who has inherited or stolen enough wealth to get into the game.

Even so, to keep a rigged game going, you must keep the suckers believing they can, and eventually will, benefit from the game. Also, that it is the only game in town. Legitimizing public theft means indoctrinating the public with all sorts of market mystique and hocus-pocus. They must be convinced there is is such a thing as an “investment” for the average schmuck drawing a paycheck (and there is, sort of, between the crashes and the bubbles). It requires a unified economic rationale for government and industry policies, and it is the economist’s job to pump out this rationale. Historically, they have seldom hesitated to get down on their knees and do so.

It ain’t robbery, it’s a business cycle

Capitalism is about one thing: aggregating the surplus productive value of the public for private interests. As we have said, it is about creating state sanctioned “investments” for the workers who produce the real wealth. Things like home “ownership” and mortgages, or stock investments and funds to absorb their retirement savings. That crushing 30-year mortgage with two refis is an investment. So is that 401K melting like a snow cone the beach.

As the people’s wealth accumulates, it is steadily siphoned off by government and elite private forces. From time to time, it is openly plundered for their benefit by way of various bubbles, depressions or recessions and other forms of theft passed off as unavoidable acts of nature/god. These periodic raids and draw downs of the people’s wealth are attributed to “business cycles.” Past periodic raids and thefts are heralded as being proof of the rationale. “See folks, it comes and goes, so it’s a cycle!” Economic raids and busts become “market adjustments.” Public blackmail and plundering through bailouts become a “necessary rescue packages.” Giveaways to corporations under the guise of public works and creating employment become “stimulus.” The chief responsibility of economists is to name things in accordance with government and corporate interests. The function of the public is to acquire debt and maintain “consumer confidence.” When the public staggers to its feet again and manages to carry more debt, buy more poker chips on credit to play again, it’s called a recovery. They are back in the game.

Dealer, hit me with two more cards,. I feel lucky.

Does it hurt yet?

To anyone who is paying attention, things look doomed. Fortunately for American capitalism, nobody is paying attention. They never have. Even given the unemployment numbers, foreclosures and bankruptcies, most Americans are still not feeling enough pain yet to demand change. Not that they will. Demand change, I mean. We haven’t the slightest idea of any other options, outside those provided by the corporate managed state. So in a chorus well-schooled by the media the public demands “reform,” of the present system, the systemic pathogenic system based on exploitation of the many by the few, the one presently eating our society from the inside out. How do you reform that?

We are clueless, and the state sees to it that we stay that way. Take the price of gas, about which Americans are obsessive. In one way or another, petroleum is the subject of much news coverage, nearly as much as pissing matches between egomaniacs in Hollywood or o Capitol Hill. So one might think that by now Americans would have a realistic grasp of the petroleum business and things like oil and gasoline prices.

Hah, think again! This is America, this is Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real and the skies are not cloudy all day. We’re stewed in a consumer hallucination called the American Dream and riding a digital virtual money economy nobody can even prove exists.

Is there an economy out there or not?

If we decide to believe the money economy still exists, and that debt is indeed wealth, then we damned sure know where to go looking for the wealth. Globally, forty percent of it is in the paws of the wealthiest one percent. Nearly all of that one percent are connected to the largest and richest corporations. Just before the economy blew out, these elites held slightly less than $80 trillion. After the blowout/bailout, their combined investment wealth was estimated at a little over $83 trillion. To give some idea, this is four years of the gross output of all the human beings on earth. It is only logical that these elites say the only way to revive the economy, which to them consists entirely of the money economy, is to continue to borrow money from them.

However, the unasked question still hangs in the air: Does the money economy even exist anymore? Is it still there? (was it ever?) Or are we all blindly going through the motions because:

A: we do not understand that, for all practical historical purposes, it’s over;

B: we do not know how to do anything else so we keep dancing with the corpse of the hyper-capitalist economy;

C: the right calamity has not come down the pike to knock us loose from the spell of the dance,

or D: we’re so friggin brain dead, commodities engorged and internally colonized by capitalist industrialism that nobody cares, and therefore it no longer matters.

This is multiple choice, and it counts ten points toward survival, come the collapse.

If there is no economy left, what the hell are we all participating in? A mirage? The zombie ball? The short answer is: Because the economy is a belief system, you are participating in whatever you believe you are. Personally, I believe we are participating in a modern extension of the feudal system, with bankers as the new feudal barons and credit demographics as their turf. But then, I drink and take drugs. Whatever it is, the money economy is the only game in town until the collapse, after which chickens and firewood may become the national currency. The Masai use cattle don’t they?

At the same time, even dumb people are starting to feel an undefined fear in their bones. When I was back in the States last month, an old high school chum, a sluggard who seldom has forward thought beyond the next beer and Lotto scratch ticket, confides in me:

“Joey, I can’t shake the feeling that something big and awful is going to happen. And by awful I mean awful.”

“Happen to what?”

“Money, work, our country. Shit, I dunno.”

“Probably all three,” I opined. “Plus the environment.”

“Cheerful fuck, ain’t ya?”

“That’s what they pay me for, Bubba.”

Some in the herd are starting to feel a big chill in the air, the first winds of the approaching storm. Yes, something is happening, and you don’t know what it is, dooooo yew, Mistah Jones?

However, the most adept economists and other court sorcerers are going along as if nothing too unusual is happening — calling it a recession, or more recently a double-dip recession (don’t you love these turd-balls, making it sound as harmless as an ice cream cone — gimme a double dip please!) or even a depression. But no matter what it is, they smugly assure us, there is nothing happening that the world has never seen before. Including the insider scams that ignited the catastrophe. It’s just a matter of size. Extent.

OK, it’s a matter of scale. Like the Gulf oil spill. We’ve seen spills before, just not this big. But over the next couple of years as the poison crud circulates the world’s oceans, the Deep Horizon spill will prove to be a global game changer, whether economists and court wizards acknowledge it or don’t. Anything of global scale, whether it is in finance, energy, foreign aid, world health or war contracting, is accompanied by unimaginable complexity. That makes it perfect cover for criminal activity. Particularly finance, where you are always close to the money.

Jim Kunstler, never at a loss to describe a ludicrous situation, sums up the paper economy’s engineering of our collapse nicely:

“Wall Street — in particular the biggest ‘banks’ — packaged up and sold enough swindles to unwind 2500 years of western civilization. You simply cannot imagine the amount of bad financial paper out there right now in every vault and portfolio on the planet … the people fabricating things like synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) had no idea what the fuck they were doing — besides deliberately creating documents that nobody would ever understand, that would never be unraveled by teams of law clerks … and were guaranteed to place in jeopardy every operation of the world economy above the barter level.”

Phew!

So, for $5,000 and an all expense paid trip to Rio: What does a good capitalist do after having stolen all there is to steal from the living, then stolen the nation’s future wealth from the unborn through debt both public and private?

Tick tock, tick tock. The wheel spins.

Blaaaaaamp!

“Your answer please.”

“A good capitalist would ‘invest’ his haul in some other racket, some other scam in the money economy.”

“Vanna, a pie in the kisser for this guy, please.”

The problem with the answer is that economy is now toxed out. Radioactive. Crawling with paper vermin and all manner of vermin, especially toxic derivatives — about $1.4 quadrillion worth (even as we are still trying to get used to hearing the term trillions), according to the Bank of National Settlements. That is 1,000 trillion, or $190,000 for every human being on the planet. There is not now, and never will be, enough wealth to cover that puppy — because there is not enough natural world under the puppy to create it. Not the way capitalism creates wealth.

Defenders of capitalism who say it can and must be saved must also admit that there is not enough money left to work with, to invest. There is only debt. Oh, yeah, we forgot; debt is wealth to a banker. Well then, all we gotta do is collect $190,000 per head from people in Sudan and Haiti and the rest of the planet.

Naw, that’s too hard. Elite capital’s best bet is a good old fashioned money raid on the serfs; create another bubble that will buy enough time before it pops to make the already rich a few billion richer. To that end, the G-8 is blowing one last bounder out there in the hyperspace where the economy s alleged to be surviving. Naturally, they are doing it in order to “save the world economy.” The tough part is figuring out what to base the next bubble on.

May I suggest Soylent Green?

Under God, with fees and compound interest for all

From the outset, capitalism was always about the theft of the people’s sustenance. It was bound to lead to the ultimate theft — the final looting of the source of their sustenance — nature. Now that capitalism has eaten its own seed corn, the show is just about over, with the nastiest scenes yet to play out around water, carbon energy (or anything that expends energy), soil and oxygen. For the near future however, it will continue to play out around money.

As the economy slowly implodes, money will become more volatile stuff than it already is. The value and availability of money is sure to fluctuate wildly. Most people don’t have the luxury of escaping the money economy, so they will be held hostage and milked hard again by the same people who just drained them in the bailouts. As usual, the government will be right there to see that everybody plays by the rules. Those who have always benefited by capitalism’s rules will benefit more. That cadre of “money professionals” which holds captive the nation’s money supply, and runs things according to the rules of money, can never lose money. It writes the rules. And rewrites them when it suits the money elite’s interests. Capitalism, the Christian god, democracy, the Constitution.

It’s all one ball of wax, one set of rules in the American national psyche. Thus, the money masters behind the curtain will write The New Rules, the new tablets of supreme law, and call them Reform. There will be rejoicing that “the will of the people” has once again moved upon the land, and that the democracy’s scripture has once again been delivered by the unseen hand of God.

—————

Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. His newest book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, deals with America’s permanent white underclass, and how it was intentionally created. To be released in September in Australia and October in the United Kingdom. Rainbow Pie is available for preorder from Amazon-UK and Amazon-Canada. In Australia, the book can be pre-ordered at Scribe Publications.

Bageant: America’s totalitarian democracy and the politics of plunder

My real job has been a pain in the ass lately.  More so than even usual.  I’ll try to produce an original piece by tomorrow, but in the meantime, Joe Bageant just published another terrific essay that I think everybody needs to read.


Live from Planet Norte
America’s totalitarian democracy and the politics of plunder, or, life is a titty tuck and a Dodge truck

By Joe Bageant

Winchester, Virginia

Starting with the Homeland Security probe at Washington’s Reagan Airport, arrival back in the United States resembles an alien abduction to a planet of bright lights, strange beings and incomprehensible behavior. The featureless mysophobic landscape of DC’s Virginia suburbs seems to indicate that homogeneity and sterility are the native religions. Especially after spending eight months in Mexico’s pungent atmosphere of funky, sensual open air markets, rotting vegetation, smoking street food grills, sweat, agave nectar and ghost orchids.

The uniformity on Planet Norte is striking. Each person is a unit, installed in life support boxes in the suburbs and cities; all are fed, clothed by the same closed-loop corporate industrial system. Everywhere you look, inhabitants are plugged in at the brainstem to screens downloading their state approved daily consciousness updates. iPods, Blackberries, notebook computers, monitors in cubicles, and the ubiquitous TV screens in lobbies, bars, waiting rooms, even in taxicabs, mentally knead the public brain and condition its reactions to non-Americaness. Which may be defined as anything that does not come from of Washington, DC, Microsoft or Wal-Mart.

For such a big country, the “American experience” is extremely narrow and provincial, leaving its people with approximately the same comprehension of the outside world as an oyster bed. Yet there is that relentless busyness of Nortenians. That sort of constant movement that indicates all parties are busy-busy-busy, but offers no clue as to just what they are busy at.

We can be sure however, that it has to do with consuming. Everything in America has to do with consuming. So much so that we find not the slightest embarrassment in calling ourselves “the consumer society.” Which is probably just as well, since calling ourselves something such as “the just society” might have been aiming a bit too high? Especially for a nation that never did find enough popular support to pass any of the 200 anti-lynching bills brought before its Congress (even Franklin Roosevelt refused to back them).

On the other hand, there is no disputing that we do reduce all things to consumption. Or acquiring money for consumption. Or paying on the debt for past consumption. It keeps things simple, and stamps them as authentically American.

For example, now faced with what may be the biggest ecological disaster in human history, I’m hearing average Americans up here talk of the Gulf oil “spill” (when they speak of it at all — TV gives the illusion those outside the Gulf region give a shit), in terms of its effect on: (A) the price of seafood; and (B) jobs in tourism and fishing. Only trolls stunted by generations of inbred American style capitalism could do such a thing: reduce a massive ocean dead zone to the cost of a shrimp cocktail or a car payment.

Meanwhile, even as capitalism shows every sign of collapsing upon them under the weight of its sheer non-sustainability, Norteamericanos wait like patient, not-too-bright children for its “recovery.” Recovery, of course, is that time when they can once again run through the malls and outlet stores, the car lots and the fried chicken palaces eating, grabbing and consuming. No doubt, something resembling a recovery will be staged for their benefit, thereby goosing their pocketbooks at least one more time before the rest of the world forecloses on the country.

Let ‘er rip! There’s plenty more where that came from

On Planet Norte nothing is finite. Not even money, which, under the flag of the consumer society, you can keep borrowing forever. Equally limitless is oil, infinite quantities of which are being hidden from us by a consortium of energy companies. Several people here in the States have told me that the size of the Gulf oil spill is proof that there is plenty of oil in still in the ground, and that this “peak oil stuff” is a scare tactic, an excuse to keep the price up. They were dead serious.

Considering the inexhaustibility of Planet Norte, it’s no surprise its inhabitants have never doubted the “American Dream,” the promise that every generation of Americans can be fatter, richer and burn up more resources than the previous one, ad infinitum.

All of which makes folks like me, and probably you too, want to run pulling out our hair and screaming, “What the fuck has happened to these people? From the start, it was clear that Americans were never going to win any prizes for insight. But this is ridiculous. Is it the hormones in the meat? Pollution? A brain eating fungus? How on God’s (once) green earth can a nation so frigging ‘out of it’ manage to survive each day — much less constitute an ongoing threat to the rest of the world?”

However, you must hand it to us that, so far, we have managed to sustain this culture of “I want it all, everything, the whole shebang, and I want it right now!” Except for the liberal and leftie websites and organizations, few seriously question it. When your designated role as a citizen is to live out a round-the-clock materialistic wet dream, why would anybody want to question it? Besides, seeing is believing. So reality is a titty tuck or a Dodge truck, and Ruby Tuesday delivering “falling off the bone tender” manna 24/7. Thank God It’s Friday and go ahead, do it, put another trip to Cancun on the plastic. It’s a limitless world, baby!

In my little casita back in Mexico, limits are very real. Because price per unit escalates with increased usage, we have to pay serious attention to electricity. So does government. Our municipality is so conscious of every kilowatt that traffic lights have no green or orange phase — which saves on expensive bulbs too — and it seems to work out just fine. You get one streetlight per block. Water is available to our village’s neighborhoods only every other day, so it has to be stored in rooftop tanks. Once in the tank, gravity eliminates the need for further electric pumps. Every single plastic bag, large or small, is used for household trash, then hung on the front gate to be collected. You accept limits every day in Mexico and live within them.

But for that twenty percent or so of the planet living in the (over) developed western nations — thanks to colonial plundering for resources, and later, world banking scams — the limits of the natural world have never sunk in. Not really. Oh, ecological limits can be intellectually real to us, and we can have discussions about them. And being comparatively rich, we can build wind turbines and solar panels, and tell ourselves smug lies about “sustainable energy” and “green solutions.” However, in our daily world, the affective one that governs our behavior, the one that tells us what we honestly need to deal with and what we do not, there are no apparent limits or potential end of anything. For example, if you wanted a glass of ice water right now, you could walk over to a refrigerator and get it. Most of the world cannot.

We assume much. We assume that when we get up every morning the coffee maker will come on and the car will start. We assume that everything imaginable is available for a price, even if we cannot come up with that price. But we never really worry about having food or clothing, other than its style and type. Our biggest concerns turn on such things as who will win the World Cup or be eliminated from American Idol. The social and political environment assures us to believe we can afford to be consumed by these trivialities. The world of Americans has been like that for generations. So how could it possibly come to an end? Lest one have doubts, every voice of authority tells us that no matter how bad things may seem at times, they always “return to normal.”

This theme of engorgement and spectacle endures, thrives really, year after year, despite even the slowly unfolding world economic collapse. But it is Americans in particular who become stupider by any historical measure of intelligence. Millions pay money to visit Branson, Missouri. Or Holy Land Christian Theme Park, in Orlando, where you can have the improbable experience of “fun with the world’s most popular Biblical characters” (Hmmmm, maybe Mary Magdalene) and watch Jesus get crucified daily. And just when you think you’ve seen every possible insult to the democratic process a degraded society can vomit up, some new one comes hurtling in your direction. Like those fat women in pink sweatpants leering from our TV screens, dangling teabags and vowing revenge for they know not what.

For a thinking person, a low-grade depression settles in, alongside an unspoken fatalism about the future of the human race, particularly the American portion. That’s the point I reached a year or so ago. I would probably be ashamed to admit it, if I did not receive hundreds of emails from readers who feel the same way.

If nothing else though, in the process of building our own gilded rat cage, we have proven that old saw about democracy eventually leading to mediocrity to be true. Especially if you keep dumbing down all the rats. After all, Dan Quayle, Donald Trump and George W. Bush hold advanced degrees from top universities in law, finance and business. The head rats, our “leaders,” (if it is even possible to lead anybody anywhere inside a cage), have proven to be as mediocre and clueless as anyone else. Which is sort of proof we are a democracy, if we want to look at it that way. While it is a myth that virtually anybody can grow up to be president, we have demonstrated that nitwits have more than a fighting chance. During my 40 years writing media ass-wipe for the public, I have interviewed many of “The best of my generation”, and believe me; most of them were not much.

Naturally, they believe they are far superior by virtue of having made it to an elevated point in the gilded cage, closer to the feed, water and sex. Because they believe it, and the media echoes their belief, hovering and quoting them, discussing their every brain fart, we tend to believe it too. Nothing shakes our belief, not even staring directly into the face of a congenital liar and nitwit like Sarah Palin, or a careening set of brainless balls like Donald Trump or a retarded jackal like George W. Bush. Americans are unable to explain why such people “rise to the top” in our country. We just accept that they do, and assume that America’s process of natural selection — survival of the wealthiest — is at work. These people are rich; therefore, they should run the country. God said so. It’s a uniquely American principal of governance, which in itself, makes the case for our stupidity.

If it’s control you want

Yet, despite such intellectual and moral torpor, some of the numbest bozos are beginning to suspect that the wheels are coming off their “have everything” society. One clue is that every time they check, they have less than before. “There’s other signs too,” concludes our bozo. “You gotcher radical Muslims blowing shit up, or plotting to. China holds the mortgage on our asses. Who wuudda ever thunk it? The bodies of our fallen heroes are being tossed out of the revered Arlington Cemetery into the landfill. You got yer freshwater fish with three eyes, obese high school kids droppin dead of heart attacks, meth epidemics out in the boondocks and wild coyotes moving into big cities. It’s all just too godamned much!” And so, right in the middle of the morning commute, our bozo pulls over onto the roadside berm, puts his hands up against the windshield and screams. “AAAAAAAGH! Is anybody in control here, for Christ sake?”

Control huh? Nothing could be easier to obtain. Just sit back allow those who want total control of the government to have it. The GOP is sure to come up a candidate willing to pistol whip this country into shape. And that solution looks more attractive by the day. As violent competition for survival increases and resources diminish, the public demands more government control. Control of borders, drug lords with entire armies of their own, pillaging by banks. Who else but the government is capable of beating all those sociopathic freaks out there into submission?

No less a personage than Thomas Jefferson pointed out that, whether for good or evil, controlling the people is the main thing all governments do best. Both Jefferson and Stalin understood this. They also understood that government control is a one-way street — it never voluntarily contracts, never shrinks. Government grows incrementally in the best of times, and balloons exponentially during the worst. When the people are anxious or fearful, when the have-nots are coming out of the woodwork for their share and there is genuine risk of losing something, the citizens always demand more government control. Given enough time, all government control, regardless of type or stripe, metastasizes — whether it be into the religious control of a theocratic state, or the democratic totalitarianism of the United States.

Although totalitarian democracy is well solidified in the U.S., it is difficult, if not impossible, for its citizens or the outside world to name the beast, due to the outward appearance of freedom. Petty liberties are left intact. The process of orderly elections is maintained, thus retaining the world’s general respect as a free country. After all, the people do “exercise their will” by voting.

Beyond that, the people have no further participation in, or effect upon the government’s decision-making process regarding the public’s will. From that point onward, an economic, political, and military élite interpret the general will as what best fits their own interests. A media elite then sells their decisions, such as war or destruction of the social safety net as the people’s choice. Wars are packaged and marketed as “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” fought by “our heroes.” Policies kicking the slats from under the old, the poor and the weak are sold as “eliminating wasteful, unfair entitlements,” such as elder care and child nutrition. Everybody knows that words such as entitlements, elder care and child nutrition are code words in capitalism speak. Elder care wastes money on worn-out old fuckers who can no longer work and pay their own way. Child nutrition is just a nigger/wetback feeding program that causes them to multiply even more, draining off valuable funds the already rich could have put to better use.

Liberty nonetheless abounds in a totalitarian democracy. Open elections verify majority rule. The slaves are free to elect their masters, and that is enough to satisfy most folks in the land of the free. That, along with 100-plus cable channels to keep us entertained inside the cage. We know we are powerless, but better the devil you know than evil socialism, where you are not allowed to take out a second mortgage on your cage.

What’s a little totalitarian oppression, anyway?

In the big picture however, the hardening of our totalitarian state is a piffle, compared to what drives the people to accept such a state. That driver is the escalating social pressures of six billion humans, and the ecocide caused by our disastrous hydrocarbon culture. Would that the state and its media allow the public enough information to make the connection between things like global warming, peak oil, desertification and the state’s wars we pay for and die in.

From the dawn of agriculture, human civilization has been a net subtraction from the environment on which we depend for life. Consider what once existed, and what little of it is left. Consider the burgeoning hordes everywhere burning, smelting, polluting, and generally devouring what remains. Where is that leading us?

You don’t need to call the Harvard’s environmental science department for the answer (even though the profs and scientists there maintain the charade that we do, to protect their rackets). Despite the rule of scientism and the fashionable modern disdain for human intuition, common sense is still a viable option. Does common sense and experience tell you that all six billion of us are suddenly going to come to Jesus and save the planet? Suddenly be seized by the spirit of universal cooperation and pagan love for Gaia? Are those billions going to quit doing what our species has done for 15,000 years — attacking nature first with the stone axe, then the plow, and later with atomic energy?

Call me a grim old fatalist, but I just do not see the human race turning things around. Not because humans are inherently evil (although pimping Gaia to death comes close), but because we are what we are. In any case, we are not going to stop eating, shitting, burning up stuff to stay warm, or following the genetic imperative to breed. How can we solve the problem when we are the problem, other than by self-extinction?

So here it is, top of the ninth round, and Gaia is on the ropes with cuts over both eyes, and no referee on the mat. Homo sapiens are moving in for the killer punch. It’s been an ugly fight. But the truth is that there will be no winner. Certainly not man, considering that his triumph results in the specter of human self-extinction, dieback or die-off, or at least by massive die-back.

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream

Informed and globally conscious people are sickened, heartbroken by the spectral truth. But to use the same Neal Cassady quote for the second time this year: “To have seen a specter is not everything.”

In fact, it even has a good side. Transformation. Once you honestly accept what you have seen, you are changed, released from the previous stress and fear. Like so many feared experiences, it is its own psychodynamic, and is about “coming out the other side” of the experience. Accepting such a truth — especially for pathologically optimistic, cheer stressed Americans — shatters many painfully held illusions. The chief one is that we are the animating force behind all significant change, and that the massive damage we do is “progress”). In their place grows a new inner awareness. Although it does not conform to any popular definition as such, the easiest way to describe it is “spiritual,” Who in these times, you may ask, believes in the spirit as an animating force of mankind? My answer is: Those who can be still enough to see that spirit moving.

With it comes the awareness and acceptance of forces far more powerful than our puny anthropocentric illusions of planetary authority. We can arrive at this understanding by way of thinking, logic and reason. The mind is a cumbersome and inefficient way to go about escaping traps you build with your mind, but yes, it can be done. Most educated people in this science worshipping age prefer the convoluted path of logic and rational exercise, over calmly opening one’s eyes and heart to the world before us, as wiser men have done for thousands of years.

I can see why. Pay the money and put in enough university time, and it’s relatively easy to end up certified, acceptable, and equipped with the professional jargon necessary to impress yourself and others that you are an expert of some sort. One of society’s answer guys, the kind universities and corporations pay good money to own. But it’s downright hard to be calm, to maintain inner stillness. Beyond that, inner stillness does not much impress or frighten others in the rat fight for a good spot at the feeder. Worse yet, it’s free. No money it.

But stillness of mind opens onto the fathomless void, where we are dwarfed into utter insignificance. It makes clear how little we comprehend — how much we do not know and never will, and that the greater the fire we build, the more darkness is revealed.

Edwin Arnold reminds us that when it comes to sinking the string of thought into that fathomless void, “Who asks doth err, Who answers, errs more,” because, as any searcher by way of mortal mind discovers:

Veil after veil will lift — but there must be
Veil upon veil behind.

Either way, there never was any guarantee that we would like the universal truth. And the truth is that the universe is busy enough hurling toward its destiny, and does not give a rat’s ass what we do or do not like. Or whether a smear of biology on a speck of cosmic dust manages to poison itself to death.

So stay strong. Transcend. Find reasons to love.

Nobody ever gets out of this world alive, anyway.

—————

Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. His newest book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, deals with America’s permanent white underclass, and how it was intentionally created. To be released in September in Australia and October in the United Kingdom. Rainbow Pie is available for preorder from Amazon-UK and Amazon-Canada. In Australia, the book may be pre-ordered at Scribe Publications.

Bageant: Fighting for the last noodle

“The system has just begun its crash, and already we are seeing an armed infantilized nation wail, hurl blame and do horrific things, the worst of which we do to one another (excluding sending predator drones after Middle Eastern school kids). Surveillance, witch hunts, destruction of civil liberties, and the government inching toward star chamber trials for those who do not display correct traits. Citizens embracing totalitarianism as stability in the face of the ultimate instability — the death of the planet.

The political regime or philosophy does not exist which can turn this scenario around. Slow it down, maybe, but put things in reverse, nope. Not when six billion mouths are munching at one end of the last noodle, and at the other end a fraction of a billion well armed technological people want the entire noodle. Not when life is already so damned cheap you can buy a girl slave in Haiti for twelve bucks, or 50 child slaves for your Asian sweatshop for less than the cost of a new car. Or an American working man for half of what it takes to support a family, then throw his ass over the company fence when he’s no longer needed.”

~Joe Bageant

This is the situation we find ourselves in after hitching our collective wagon to a system that commodifies everything, including human lives, and is driven by profit for the few, as opposed to the general welfare of the many.  There’s really nothing else to say that Bageant hasn’t already said, so here’s his most recent piece.

Big Brother’s got that ju-ju, Gaia’s got the blues — hologram, carry me home

By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Mexico

5/11/10

I’ve spent most of this week watching American television and movies. I leave the TV on all night long. I toss and turn with my bad back, and bad lungs, catch a rerun episode of Two and a Half Men, or CSI, and conk out again. Then I awaken to the U.S. morning talk shows. It’s a grueling regimen, only for the strong. Or the lonely. For periodic relief, I switch to Mexican television (be patient, I really am going somewhere with this). Mexican TV is not one iota better than US television, but is veeerrry heavy on the booty. More than heavy. Astronomical. Think all-but-bare tits and ass close-ups every fifteen seconds, straight through commercials, dramas, comedy shows, history shows, and even the news where possible.  Every show but the bullfights and that old nun who comes on at ten PM, who invariably drives me back to the U.S. channels.

Ahhhh … Safely in the American national illusion, where all the world’s a shopping expedition. Or a terrorist threat. No matter, as long as it is colorful and wiggles on the theater state’s 400 million screens. Plug in and be lit up by the American Hologram.

This great loom of media images, and images of images, is so many layers deep that it has replaced reality. No one can remember the original imprint. If there was one. The hologram is a hermetic snow globe, a self-referential circuitry of images, and a Möbius loop from which there is no logical escape. Logic has zilch to do with what is going on. The smallest part holographically recapitulates the whole, and vice versa. No thinking required, we just cycle and recycle through an aural dimension. Not all that bad, I guess, if it were not generated by forces out to fuck every last pair of eyeballs and mind plugged into it.

The investing class has put thousands of billions into movies, TV and other media to keep the hologram lit up over the past six decades. Which is to say, keep the public in an entertained stupor, awed, mislead, and most importantly, distracted. But the payoff probably runs in the trillions.

For the clear-eyed citizen, there is a growing inner horror and despair in all this, with nowhere to turn but the Internet. The Net is a cyber reality, no more real than the hologram, and indeed a part of the hologram, though not quite yet absorbed and co-opted by capitalism. We take what relief we can find.

However, for the unquestioning rest, the hologram, taken in its entirety, constitutes the American collective consciousness. Awareness. It enshrouds every citizen, defining through its permeation the daily world in which we all operate. Whether we love or hate it, there is no escape. Go live in a shack in the woods. Call that escape. But everything in the outside world continues to run in accordance with the humming energy of the hologram. There is no cutting our umbilical link to the womb of this illusion, this mass hallucination. There is only getting a longer umbilical cord, closing your eyes, and pretending that what the rest of the nation does has no effect on you. We were all born and raised in that womb. We can no more divorce the neurochemistry and consciousness it shaped in us, than we can deny that we had an earthly mother and are of her tissue. Our consciousness is born of the hologram’s connective neural and electrical tissue.

That common womb of American consciousness is dying. Slowly or rapidly, depending on how you assess the global ecocide and peak everything, it is dying. There will be resuscitations along the way, more massive infusions of money, fear and the rawest sort of fantasy fed to a mood and commodity drugged public. Still, its condition is terminal, because the hyperdrive consumer culture it was built to sustain, is itself unsustainable. Its appetite ate the world. In fact, so voracious is its appetite that even if our “consumer economy,” (legalized feudal theft) sees a recovery, and resumes the level of growth required just to keep capitalism alive, it will die just that much faster. It is not in capitalism’s DNA to care about the death of the earth. Nor is it in the brain chemistry of an American satiated on prime beef and sailing across the landscape at 70 miles per hour in a $40,000, steel exoskeleton from General Motors, to care. Hominid gratification is what it is — hard wired — and there is no circumventing it.

The system has just begun its crash, and already we are seeing an armed infantilized nation wail, hurl blame and do horrific things, the worst of which we do to one another (excluding sending predator drones after Middle Eastern school kids). Surveillance, witch hunts, destruction of civil liberties, and the government inching toward star chamber trials for those who do not display correct traits. Citizens embracing totalitarianism as stability in the face of the ultimate instability — the death of the planet.

The political regime or philosophy does not exist which can turn this scenario around. Slow it down, maybe, but put things in reverse, nope. Not when six billion mouths are munching at one end of the last noodle, and at the other end a fraction of a billion well armed technological people want the entire noodle. Not when life is already so damned cheap you can buy a girl slave in Haiti for twelve bucks, or 50 child slaves for your Asian sweatshop for less than the cost of a new car. Or an American working man for half of what it takes to support a family, then throw his ass over the company fence when he’s no longer needed. Or bury him in mines as he cries out in Jesus’ name, blow him up in Iraq, and Stelazine his kids minds and souls under the hot lights of the hologram, readying them for “the labor market.” Schenectady or Soweto, life is dirt-cheap and getting cheaper everywhere on the planet.

Meanwhile, gangster capitalism needs that hologram to maintain the illusion that life is not cheap, and that Jennifer Anniston’s ass can be yours in mind and dream (Personally, I’m a Julianna Margulies fan — The Good Wife”). And most of all, “The Gram” is required to keep its captives deluded and sated enough to remain productive and consuming — not to mention hating the right people — right up to the last moment before total collapse, and they are no longer needed. The higher owning/investing class is safe, no matter what happens. Oh sure, as Edward Bellamy wrote, a few of them topple from their high perch on humanity’s coach during the hell bent journey, but their class remains.

What happens to the rest of us in that great, sweating, moaning throng who have drawn the coach these centuries? What will remain for us on ruined plains of collapse?

Here is what I believe will remain. Reality and the truth, and the opportunity for spiritual evolution, which, in the end, I think will include most people. And much suffering. The reality of the world has always involved suffering. Despite the ballyhoo of modern science and technology, just as much suffering remains, more actually, given our increased numbers on the planet. Suffering happens to individual human beings and there are far more of those now. Of course, fat cat NGOs and governments deal in percentages and rates, so they will not have to account for the increased millions of miserable beings. We have more humans suffering — and not just from poverty either, think of depleted uranium, toxic waste, sweatshop slavery — than we had humans on earth a couple hundred years ago.

The hologram has, and still does, prevent Americans from grasping any of this. Instead, the hologram allows us to believe that life can exist without suffering. We actually achieved that state for a while, too, by forcing the suffering on unseen people elsewhere. We accepted the hologram’s one voice to the many as truth (not that we had much choice, The ‘Gram was all we knew), then let our souls and national character necrotize in the warm bath of self-gratification and statist hubris.

Nasty picture ain’t it? One surely painted by a bitter, sick old man who hates America. Years ago, my fellow countrymen used to ask if I hated America. They finally quit asking me when I started answering, “Hell fucking yes!” But I don’t hate Americans. In fact, while I do not believe in “hope” — that superstitious, childish wishing upon a star — I do believe America is once again, for all the wrong reasons, the last best hope of the world. If we do not succeed in destroying it first.

Clearly, we have taken an unimaginably disastrous course, and intend to take everyone else out with us. Yet we have only done what most of the world’s nations would have done, given such brute power and wealth for such a time. Perhaps more accurately, done what most of the world’s governments and leadership would have. So long as nations have hierarchical leadership, they will have escalating hierarchical greed, power hunger and destructive folly — and therefore, eventually approach hierarchical evil at some point. It may be an old saw, but power does corrupt.

Study us. See how an essentially good people (although the Native Americans would never agree) went wrong. After all, we were born the same unblemished child as everywhere else on the planet. And even now, given what has happened, one cannot fully indict all the “little people,” past or present. My granddad was a decent guy until the day he died. So were my dad and mom. And I try to be. But all of us can be rendered blind by faceless machines not entirely of our own creation, and then made submissive beasts to the coarsest among us. Ask any German. Or Hutu. We can be manipulated to believe that the rules do not apply to us, as in the cult of American exceptionalism. Arrogance is experiential and environmental in cause. I’ve been there and back several times in my life, and I am sure of that. Human experience can make and unmake arrogance. Ours is about to get unmade.

Inside most Americans is a globally brattish child. Thanks to our endowed natural resources (since squandered) and to armed national theft abroad, the American has not suffered enough to become a responsible adult on the planet. I suggest that others learn from our example and do differently while they still have the chance. Take heart that they may yet live in a country where capitalism’s nihilistic dynamo has not built up such a head of steam. There are still some left, but as near as I can tell — and mind you, I don’t know shit — their leadership is caught up in the same elite games and traps. National leadership is its own moral and spiritual trap.

Who am I to give advice? Nobody. But this is the Internet, and any dick brain with a keyboard may do so.

My advice is to resist pride in anything said to be national, whether it be prosperity, healthcare, culture, competence, social cohesion and identity, or whatever. Pride and courage do not live in the same house. Courage, which has little to do with blood and guts, but everything to do with sacrifice, chooses to dwell alongside humility.

Again, what will be left after the big collapse? Perhaps after a period of terror, violence and chaos, when the undeniable on-the-ground truth becomes apparent, through ecological disaster, war and other events, a more positive national cathexis will occur. If it does, it probably will not resemble anything we can conceive of in these times. If we can get past the terror involved from our present apprehensive vantage point, it is easy to see why positive national, even global cathexis may be unavoidable.

Cause for well-reasoned optimism exists. Its way the fuck out there, but it’s there. Not that it is something to cling to, or even pursue. Clinging and desire are the cause of all suffering in the first place. Doing so only prolongs suffering, personal, national or planetary. The Buddhists are right about that one. So are the Baptists when they say “The world gets right when the people get right.”

The big problem at the moment though, for us as sentient beings, is:

What to do when I get out of bed each day? Give money to the Democrats? Move out of the country? Stay and fight the bastards?

Throwing money at frauds and fools doesn’t work. Moving to Mexico or Canada takes money in a time when money and jobs are scarce everywhere. As for staying and fighting, really fighting, there is not one person reading this who is going to go strangle the sleazy fucks having martinis on Wall Street with their pet Senator. Nobody reading this is going to instill genuine physical fear, which is the only thing such lizards might respond to. We are left to work within the system, as per the hologram’s directive. Their system. Ha!

The answer, to me at least, is to do the most obvious thing first. And I do mean obvious in the most mundane sense. Like fixing breakfast with all the contemplative awareness possible. Seriously. The tiniest right action, the action in complete unself-conscious natural awareness, connects to all the rightness in the universe. And the universe is always right. Because it owns all of our asses, plus black holes, and those teensy pinholes in time that physicist say make you an immediate neighbor of Shakespeare and mastodons — only you don’t know it. It owns the molecules of the ages. Everything.

This proposition is unappealing to Americans and just about everyone else in the western world. To be perfectly honest, a big screen TV, the Internet, and tickets to a Rams game are more accessible and immediately gratifying. Right action in the moment does not light up your neural pleasure centers like cheap sex or jalapeno Doritos. However, I am trying to do it anyway, at least until the opportunity for cheap sex presents itself. When it does, it will most likely be the right action for that moment. Funny how things work.

In any case, by the mundane right action of breakfast, I mean fixing breakfast to locate one’s heart in that particular day. Then proceeding toward the least harm one can discern to do, with full knowledge that we always do harm, whether we intend to or not (the world is full of subtle unintended violence). Eliminate whatever suffering in sentient beings one encounters, whether it be in bums, dogs, kids, plants, or the rich fucker next door moaning over his enormous tax bill. To him that is suffering. There’s no sliding scale about this shit. I once worked for a guy who bawled when some kid keyed his Porsche. Misery is relative.  Compassion is sublime.

Besides, this is what the heart is designed for — to serve as a compass for the spirit, regardless of how one defines spirit or denies its existence. What the hell, we gotta call the best in ourselves and in our species something, so we can connect with it. The mind has some terrible limitations in doing that sort of thing. As in, it cannot. Necessary as rationalization is for survival, reason ain’t everything. In the big picture, it is a small ingredient. Merely an asset, a monkey tool.
Even thinking seems ultimately to lead to the value of non-thinking, which is to say, pure human existence and consciousness. Pure unadulterated duration. This is the most fearless plain, the one on which all things are manifest as they really are, in their purest form, before social and personal hallucinations settle over them like a shroud.

In such times as these, that hard bright plain is bitch to find, much less travel. For sure it starts with the moment called now.

And right now, good god, it’s two AM! Time for the nightly Law and Order rerun on Mexican TV.

Hologram take me home.

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