Radicalisation and a kiss

Happy 2015! What a jolly time of it the powers that be are having – Obama and Cameron posturing like ancient philosophers on the problem of radicalisation and how to combat (combat?) hardline ideologies. LMAO – Mirror mirror on the wall…

Islamic fundamentalism grows in catch up with Christian fundamentalism and neoconservative/neoliberal fundamentalism.

There, I’ve answered it for you in a nutshell. But let me explain, in case you don’t get it yet Mr O and Mr C, (although I’m certain you get it very very well):

In a reality of linear and concrete thinking, where in Scripture this and that is taken to be literally true, fundamentalism will always beget fundamentalism.

Meanwhile hardline neoliberal policies of post GFC austerity beget a downtrodden populace, a populace with a dim yet tangible sense that they’ve been conned. (You will have heard the term bankster Mr O and Mr C?)

As ever, the two extremes, Christian and Islamic, foment each other, and as the pot is stirred by Western Supremacism (your way or the highway, eh), the utterly disaffected become so pissed off they’ll take up a bomb or a gun. It’s an obvious response. Happy days, say the Crusaders.

Radicalisation exists because we have a word for it, our gluttonous media slavering over every ounce of it. Hat’s off to the think tanks for this latest bit of spin in this new wave of propaganda. My, how adept you must think you are! Adept at creating thought wars, the battleground a dense fog, a miasma. Must be a fun job that.

Woo hoo say the corporations, circling vultures, waiting to swoop and eat their fill as cities fall and people flee. There’s the arms trade, there are the government contracts, there’s the private militia/security business, there’s the reconstruction, and there are the billions of dollars of profit to be made out of asylum seeker detention centres. It’s a bonanza.

Yet two women kiss and canoodle and are thrown out of a cafe in Vienna, and the owner is forced to apologise after over a thousand people take to the street outside in protest. If humanity is capable of mass action in the face of a cafe kiss, then little wonder you are afraid of us, so afraid you stamp us down with anti-protest laws and beefed up surveillance and security.

Let the woman in the hijab be. Let Islam, a religion of peace and grace, be. Let fundamentalism slip away on the wings of an open heart free of fear and hatred. And let neoliberalism fall, as all empires fall, and we can say farewell Mr O and Mr C, and welcome in a new and better age of fairness and goodwill.

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Reality Check

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I was troubled this morning to read of the 10,000 people who lost their lives in the UK in 2013 as a result of fuel poverty. Fuel Poverty Action is taking action. ”They’re targeting Energy UK, the lobbyists for the tax dodging, huge profit making, Big Six energy companies.” http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/guest-blog-no-more-deaths-from-fuel-poverty/ And  I was troubled for a second time in the face of the injustice that has caused citizens to take to the streets of Ferguson; in a nation where the police are in service of corporations and not the citizenry. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=482387718569407 And at risk of bathos, here in Australia, our government has just axed the budget of our much loved and non-commercial ABC and it’s sister television station SBS, both known for their cutting edge news and documentaries, their efforts to present balanced and alternative views, and their coverage of serious issues.

All this news caused me to pause. I knew instinctively that all three dreadful bits of news were connected. I needed to do a reality check. I had to remind myself of why these things are happening and happening in Western democracies. I thought again of that fabulous book Democracy Inc by Sheldon S Wolin. I share with Chris Hedges a passion for Democracy Inc. for it explains what is happening to democracy and why. It isn’t a light read. But sometimes things are too damn important to treat lightly. The more of us who take the trouble to give the book a go the better, for it does more than offer an explanation. The book occupies the ground otherwise too easily labelled conspiracy theory and what is going on behind the scenes is in fact a conspiracy and not theoretical at all!!

Here’s the way I see the con.

Reality check:

1/ The Sting. The GFC was caused by the banks who were then bailed out by governments with tax payers’ money. Government is now in debt to the banks. Citizens pay the banks (again) via austerity measures. Bankers are laughing all the way to their own front doors. Read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia for a punchy and entertaining portrayal of what went on.

2/ The Second Sting. Behind the veil of budget deficit every small fragment of social democracy that can be privatised is being privatised. Once privatised the operating systems will be corporatised (asset stripped and so on) and services rendered both expensive and inadequate. The minimum will be provided, for the maximum profit. For an insight into how corporations operate as vulture capitalists read Antony Loewenstein’s Profits of Doom.

In the corporatised scenario citizens often pay for services that used to be provided for by government. Citizens also pay for the same services through their taxes, which go into the government outsourcing coffers to pay the new corporate service providers. So we pay for the same service twice. And the corporations are dizzy with delight.

3/ The Third Sting is the corporatisation of government itself. Imagine that our elected representatives are not representing us at all. They have been swallowed by the corporate sector. They have been bought, groomed, placed or otherwise corrupted to serve the interests of Capital and not the people. They wear false cloaks and false smiles. They hold our babies and steal our wallets. The best encapsulation of this sting is the revolving door, where individuals move back and forth from plum jobs in government to plum jobs in the corporate sector.

Studies have shown that the Corporation is psychopathic The hallmark of a psychopath is a distinct lack of empathy. As an entity a corporation is also a breeding ground for psychopaths. For people who lie, who deceive, who con, who cheat; heartless bastards whose capacity for cruelty is vast, whose capacity for blithe indifference equally vast.

It’s been six years since the GFC turned the screws on social democracy and created this latest horror show. Dystopia is upon us and many are accusing their governments of blatant fascism. We can and we must fight this beast. Not by following the ruthless cruelty of organisations like Islamic State, which are both corporate democracy’s nemesis and mirror, ( in effect a Fourth Sting fomented by corporate democracy to engender widespread fear and tighten security and surveillance laws). Instead, we must protest and campaign and educate and keep on shining a spotlight on reality. To that end I will from time to time hold up my own thin candle and shout.

Calling on the sickle to save us

Sickle-icon In Ancient Greek mythology it was the Titan Cronus who overthrew Uranus by castrating him with a sickle. A sickle given him by his mother Gaia to rescue his youngest brothers who had been kept in darkness. Cronus then ruled the world instead, his reign the so-called Golden Age. Nevertheless it was an age of dictatorship, of total rule, one reflected today in the emergence of an insidious totalitarianism at root in corporate globalisation, in which democracies are managed by power elites with corporate interests at heart. Where far-right religions, corporations and governments merge to form a single power elite. Where all social and welfare services are run by private enterprise, from debt collecting, prisons, probation services, detention centres, care homes, counselling services, schools, utilities, transport services – just about everything you can think of run for profit not for us. The taxpayer no longer pays for government to provide all the elements of social democracy. Instead the tax payer lines the corporate purse. To prevent dissent this elite makes every effort to opiatise the people by any means, from anti-depressants, through the use of media to spin propaganda, to the atomising of lives through ideological manipulations so that all that  matters to us is the small world we live in, our family, our work, our neighbourhood.  Then through education to the inculcation of false beliefs as absolute truths, such as the notion of the selfish gene. And through the glamour of celebrity and promotion of narcissism at every turn. As well we are enslaved by high mortgage debt and lowering wages as we watch our rights to complain erode. Trapped and powerless, we acquiesce. Failing that, and for those free thinkers among us, the security and surveillance measures are there to the ready. It seems the power elite have things all figured out.

To save those compassionate souls among us from complete meltdown, this dystopia is assuaged by a veneer of humanitarianism. The charitable impulse most of us feel is hijacked by quasi-corporate ngos, providing us with a sense of doing small things to make a difference, giving us feelings of well-being and goodness, and an illusory sense of power and influence. We can donate, sponsor a child, watch the awesome efforts of Save the Children or the Red Cross with our credit card in hand. We can accentuate the positive, focus on the rhetoric of the United Nations and feel ennobled to be part of a world that truly cares, never seeing the complicity, inevitable and sad, of the corporations and the humanitarian organisations, some (but not all) natural disasters aside,  often responding to situations created either through structure or agency by the machinations of the military-industrial complex. Sometimes a corporation itself will make an overt humanitarian move, such as Gucci with its Chime For Change campaign to empower women around the world. Not to mention the philanthropy and generous donations and funding of worthy causes, such as displayed by the Bill Gates Foundation.

Adopting a simple theosophical view, for all the technological advances of our times, the present globalised world seems to me the consequence and the cause of a devolution of consciousness, a wrong orientation, as if humanity is in retrograde motion, the bulk of us concerned primarily with material achievements and narrow selfish satisfactions.

Whether or not the word totalitarianism is used, there exist many across the world responding to its reach, resisting its impositions, struggling to wrest free. There are two distinct means by which people seek autonomy, one cold-hearted and destructive and on the devolution fast track, the other aware, warm-hearted and constructive and both constrained by the resistant pull of devolution and doomed therefore to struggle and suffer. Both approaches make use of the sickle, that communist symbol of the peasantry.

The destructive response to globalisation is a sickle-abusing power grab. Here disenfranchised factional or nationalist groups arm themselves with ideological and military weaponry and go on the rampage. Their resistance is instinctive, their sense of injustice whipping up rage and desires for revenge that are both delusional and psychotic, laying waste to city upon city, community upon community, destroying that which if they stopped and thought rationally for long enough they would realise they are seeking to protect. Destructive groups play into the hands of the corporate totalitarians. While groups such as IS may believe they are taking back power rightfully theirs, they are unwittingly serving the agenda of the power elite, a power elite that sets about fostering these very factional nationalistic groups for its own purposes. It is ironic that extreme outraged calls for some sort of justice are simply doing the work of the totalitarians, providing failed state upon failed state whilst justifying increases in security and surveillance measures in the so-called free democratic west. These wanton destroyers are unwittingly complicit in the agenda of the War on Terror, a mob of blood-lusting brutes sent forth on a killing frenzy, creating more carnage than all the Hollywood blockbusters combined.

While apparently lacking in the drama, almost the heroism of the destructive response, I believe there is only one constructive solution available to us and one we must pursue with vigour. It is the path of the people’s collective.  It involves cooperation, goodwill, egalitarianism and a will to transcend personality differences for the good of the whole. Yet also a need for courage, resilience and perseverance. Constructive acts that seek to demonstrate to the super rich and powerful, that we are not taking their shit any more. That we will fight, we will campaign, we will protest Occupy style, and we too, will carry a sickle in our hands.

The sickle is a tool for harvest, for the constructive response to our times must be one aligned with the land and must be focused on local economies. Whether it be the Permaculture inspired Transition Towns, the creation in Bristol of the Bristol Pound, or the people’s collective of Marinaleda, we need to celebrate each move in the direction of constructive responses to global power that seek change outside the corporate-city walls. Snip the ties that bind us at every turn to the global corporate machine. Reclaim what is rightfully ours – our autonomy. The sickle will save us, if we use it as a tool to empower and not destroy. And perhaps in pushing against the wheel as it turns in retrograde, at least apply a brake.

Order in a New World

 

CEOIf I ruled the country the first thing I would do is sack every CEO, deny them access to their wealth and property and make them work for the dole while applying for 40 jobs a week outside of the corporate and public service sectors. With no rental history they would be couch surfing (if they find themselves with any remaining friends). And for the first six months, with no welfare at all, they would be relying on charities for handouts.

Then, when they are caught stealing or dumpster diving, I would send them to jail for a mandatory term, where they would be required to work full-time for nothing and following the example of my American counterparts, if they complain their sentence would increase.

If the CEOs happen to be of middle eastern descent and they are caught doing anything suspicious (such as praying in a Mosque) then they would have their Australian citizenship revoked and they would be put in detention for an indefinite period.

Of course my counterparts would be hard at work implementing the same policies and our shores would be inundated with CEO boat arrivals. These CEOs would be immediately dispatched to Nauru and promptly forgotten.

No, I wouldn’t do any of it. I would be a despot if I did.

Totalitarianism is wearing a new coat.

togetherIt might seem extreme to talk of totalitarianism in the same breath as America. Totalitarianism belongs to the twentieth century, to Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler. It smacks of despots wielding absolute power through state control. America is nothing of the sort. America is a democracy. Or is it?

When I think of what occurs in the world today, what has gone down since 9/11 2001, that pivotal day that changed America, I begin to wonder. The aftermath of 9/11 saw the formation of the Patriot Act (an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), and Homeland Security. It was used to justify a war on terror of epic proportions.  It justified war in Afghanistan and the preemptive war in Iraq.  Consequently it has led to the starvation of the welfare state, funds siphoned into a ballooning defence budget instead (and this prior to the GFC). And now, under the reign of Barack I, sees the foisting of Free Trade Partnerships upon other nations left and right, effectively diminishing their own democratic autonomy.

In the light of these actions, that America is a Superpower seems undeniable. That its power elite regard it as the one and only Superpower sanctified by a right-wing Christian god ought to be of grave concern. That its power elite consists not of a government democratically elected and held in check by a supreme court and a constitution, but of self-appointed corporate leaders managing democracy in order to further their economic interests, the door between politics and the economy perpetually revolving. In Democracy Inc, Sheldon S. Wolin goes further. ”Stated more strongly, the condition for the ascendance of Superpower is the weakening or irrelevance of democracy and constitutionalism – except as mystifications enabling Superpower to fake a lineage that gives it legitimacy.” (Princeton University Press 2010, p101). One example of the corruption of democracy is the manipulation of votes in Florida that brought George II to the Presidency in 2000.

Wolin argues the case for inverted totalitarianism as a way to describe the American Superpower of today. A totalitarianism that, unlike its forbears, functions behind the scenes, exploits authority and resources of the state and ”gains its dynamic by combining with other forms of power [such as evangelical religions], and most notably by encouraging a symbiotic relationship between traditional government and the system of private governance represented by the modern business corporation.” ibid, xxi

America is now under inverted totalitarian rule. Why inverted? Because as Wolin states, inversion is present when a system, such as a democracy, ”produces a number of significant actions ordinarily associated with its antithesis.” (ibid, p 46). In other words, democracy has become its own other, the very system it opposes, totalitarianism. A system where economics, not politics is supreme (ibid, p 58).

As if that were not bad enough – awful for many Americans – the managed democracy template of this newly emerging Superpower form of governance is being imposed on nations around the world in the guise of a neoliberalist (aka neoconservative) ideology. Hence in Australia we now have an utterly arbitrary emasculation of our welfare state. We are busy signing off on free trade agreements. Our governments are enhancing our surveillance laws, restricting the freedoms of our citizenry, instituting change upon change that benefits the corporations alone while making every effort to maintain a acquiescent citizenry through creating a culture of fear (from bikies to homegrown terror suspects radicalised post-Syria) and especially through the demonising of asylum seekers who come to our shores by boat, thus justifying incarcerating them in concentration camps offshore while fostering xenophobia and racial hatred in the rest of us.

Superpower has the whole world in its sights. It is driven by a lust for a fully expanded empire. Hence post-Iraq we now have a thoroughly destabilised Middle East, with absolute chaos in Libya, bloodshed and despair in Syria, in Iraq, in Palestine and now also in Ukraine, anywhere and everywhere that poses a threat to the economic interests of the new Godhead Superpower, or can be construed a source of terrorist threat, this latter set up to scare the citizenry into submission while furthering yet more economic interests.

That a power elite has emerged on the world stage with such overwhelming reach, that can control the workings of its host government of America, is not lost on vast numbers of us. Books are written, banners waived, petitions signed, memes created and facebook pages accrue thousands of Likes. But what will it take to counter such power as exists in the inverted totalitarian state of America? Can it be transformed or must it be destroyed? Will it self-destruct? If so, will it bring the rest of us down with it? Or can those at the helm be swayed before it is all too late?

Perhaps what is needed in America are a thousand Martin Luther Kings, but no doubt they are all locked in jail along with their African-American comrades. What is needed are a million grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a hundred million Indignados,  a billion Occupiers.  This is what we need. We do have power. But only if we use it.

Hard Attitudes for Hard Times

 

DickensDespite the grandiose speeches and the spin, across western democracies post-GFC austerity seems to have little to do with reducing government debt and everything to do with controlling populations largely through the expansion and oppression of the underclass – the dalits of western civilisation – the guts sucked from the welfare system leaving a wizened carcass of a once plump beast. Welfare services are corporatised, sold off to the lowest bidder whose sole concern is profit. Corporations or quasi-corporate ngos with minimal or no expertise are given tenders for aged care, counselling, women’s refuges and so on. While Australia’s Abbott government’s Benefit reforms will render destitute millions of Australia’s most vulnerable.

All the while the politico-media complex tells the noble-washed of the middle and still-working classes that the underclass are slobbering wretches with unworthy motives, scammers, scoundrels, cheats and the bone idle, pathetic wretches of Dickensian proportions whose begging hands should be promptly severed. After all, why would a decent voter wish to carry such a burden? Best to lock the worst of them up in the newly revamped and much expanded prison service, run naturally by corporations with a now established if troubled history in the industry. Once incarcerated inmates can then work for a pittance or no renumeration at all, and while the noble tax payer pays the government to pay the corporation, the corporation extracts profits from its prisoners’ labour. A perfect solution and a perfect deterrent should any other member of the underclass wish to question the system.

We are I think witnessing the rapid expansion of an underworld within an overworld, and those either unaffected, affected in beneficial ways, or who respond fatalistically and passively to avoid falling into the underworld, will support the new status quo, happy to buy the spin,  happy to scapegoat the the marginalised, the outcasts, the poor. In case the noble-washed should ever waver, a back-up plan is already in place – the cruel treatment of asylum seekers and the attendant carefully crafted propaganda. Every ideological campaign needs a scapegoat through which to harden attitudes that can then be manipulated and directed towards other groups. That the nationalistic ideology is a complete lie invoked to mask the fundamentally globalist agenda unfolding in every country the world over is of great concern. Nationalism is contagious, and in its worst and most fragmented and divisive forms leads to war. War that inevitably creates an exodus of asylum seekers in its wake. A perfect situation perhaps for the structural changes essential for the globalist project to succeed.

Nationalism has the added benefit of parochialising the vision of the masses so they are incapable of reaching any sort of understanding of matters global.

As for the those with just hearts, our governments have plans for us too. Currently in Australia Attorney General, George Brandis has plans afoot to further strengthen surveillance and terror laws on the pretext of protecting citizens from radically infused returnees from Syria – born-again jihadists with malicious intentions. While it may be true that one or two do pose a threat to Australian society, surely ASIO and the AFP can handle them? Isn’t that what they are trained and paid to do? I believe something much more sinister is at work, exemplified by Josh Allen’s piece in the New Internationalist, ‘Anti-extremism’ government programme targets student activist. Allen highlights yet again how anti-terror legislation is used to monitor and harrass activists of all stripes.

As Arundhati Roy states in many of her essays concerning big dams in India, the primary targets of the neoliberalism are always the poor and activists. Terrorism while real, is thus used as a weapon by the politico-media complex against its own people. Australia treads the same path.

I fear that under austerity the underclass are fast becoming ”asylum seekers” in their own nation, activists that seek to support them and hold corporations and their puppet governments to account are rapidly gagged, while the noble-washed conduct their affairs unaware that an even greater harm has befallen them, their hearts, perhaps once soft and kind, now sinewy and beating a callous pulse.

Dystopia is here in all but name.

dystopiaThere was a time when I believed wholeheartedly in the possibility that humanity would transcend its divisions and polarities, with all the attendant hatreds and racism and sexism; that consciousness would expand collectively and that we would embrace unity in diversity and be good neighbours within and across borders. That, I suppose, was my utopian phase. Now I consider it delusional. For there can be no disillusionment without a pre-existing illusion and this is precisely how I now feel. That while the narrative of a bright new age of alternative possibilities and ways of living was advanced in certain circles and within universities (Social Ecology, Permaculture just two examples),  and seekers of spiritual growth were out with their shopping baskets shoring up their own egos (authentic spirituality a noble and exceptionally difficult quest along a potholed road – see Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism), a different sort of new age was already drawing a blanket of darkness over the slumbering masses – dystopia.

One aspect of our dystopian reality is war.

It can’t be stated often enough – the  US Empire’s war strategy is to fund some separatist group (foster, create, invigorate, train) to stoke civil war. It is not a new technique. They were doing it in Afghanistan in the 70s and of course further back in Central and South America. I would say that since the end of WWII the US power elite has forged ahead with its own devious expansionist tactics designed to impose its own corporatist agenda (it might even be said that neoliberalism itself is an economic model and an ideology duly harnessed for the same purposes).

Today I rely on an article, written by Bill van Auken for the World Socialist Web Site. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/23/pers-j23.html It was the following quote that prompted today’s blog piece.

”More to the point, the political substance of the charge against Putin—that he is responsible for the disaster [MH17] because he failed to quell the uprising in eastern Ukraine—is far more relevant to the actions of Washington itself. After all, the Obama administration has politically supported, funded and armed Islamist insurgents in Syria, stoking a civil war that has produced human tragedy on a far wider scale, with over 100,000 Syrians dead and an entire country in ruins. It pursued a similar war for regime-change in Libya, backed by NATO bombings, that killed 50,000 Libyans and has yielded similarly catastrophic consequences.
Nor is the same moral standard applied to the US, which supplies Israel with billions of dollars in military aid every year, when it comes to Israel’s mass killing of Palestinians.”

There are no moral standards in dystopia, except when imposed upon outsiders to serve some purpose of the power elite. Which of course leads to blatant hypocrisies such as depicted above.

There are times I wish I could slip on the veil of make believe and exist in a la la land of my own construction. Or turn my back on reality, shrink my awareness until all I see are the simple day to day circumstances of my own life, but I can’t. I can’t focus my awareness solely on fostering positive life-giving alternatives even as I do strive to live an ethical, small footprint life. Instead, I shall continue to go about naming spades. Why? – Because someone has to.