Back In The USSR: The New Face Of Totalitarianism

Is the UK the new USSR?  And, if so, how far behind the parent, is its wily offspring, Uncle Sam?

Recent riots in Britain were officially labeled criminal acts of retaliation for the police shooting of a young black man in Tottenham, a poorer area of London.  But such a dramatic, countrywide response across numerous cities in England and Wales (made viral by the Internet) with participants from various social classes involved, was most certainly triggered not by that isolated event, but by growing social and economic inequities fueled further by the initiation of austerity measures  (specifically, education cuts) that had already incited student and union protests from Oxford to London in the later months of 2010. On the heels of these latest riots, the UK Interior Minister met with social networking portal executives to consider measures to forestall future network-enabled ‘criminal’ acts.  No sooner did the minister’s office make its recommendations in Parliament to block access to social networking sites by “perpetrators of disorder or other criminal actions,” than England received congratulations from both China and Iran, two global poster children for freedom of speech and assembly.

Back in April of this year, I referenced Chris Hedges’ use of the concept of “inverted totalitarianism” as a way of understanding the heavy but nearly invisible hand of imperial, neo-liberal democracies working quietly through a gentler language of high minded ideals, slogans, and other forms of propaganda and subtle coercion in order to still the voices of potential revolt, until (of course) it becomes necessary to act more directly, more forcefully.  Then, the gloves come off, and the gentle empire will show its ugly fangs, forcibly taking control in order to maintain its hegemony (code word: “civil order”).  Are we not already seeing indications of this in both the UK and the US, those models of neo-liberal democracy – the ‘once’ and the ‘current’ empire – (although Britain still sports its monarchy for effect)?

Indeed, the Obama administration, along with its policy strategist in this domain, has already signaled its first move toward Internet censorship.  As I discussed in my book, Apocalypse Of The Barbarians: Inquisitions On Empire, Cass Sunstein (a.k.a. Dr. Sunny or Papa Cass), Obama’s Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has already suggested infiltration and covert federal monitoring of social networking sites and other blogs that seem to present a problem, or run counter to the official, State-sponsored narrative.  Sunstein dismissively calls them (or is it us) “conspiracy theorists,” as if those of us who have an alternative view of current policies as well as their prospective and most likely imminent effects – politically, economically, and ecologically – are somehow dangerously nutty kooks who need to be silenced before we can infect or incite the rest of the population. I have got news for Dr. Sunny; we are not the dangerous ones.

But, I guess we now know what Papa Cass’ “regulatory policies” are meant to regulate and police – our speech.  It seems in a capitalist system, where money also is speech, it alone has the privilege of being unregulated as we recently found out. In any event, Dr. Sunny’s regulatory recommendations are not unlike the Bush policy of a “preemptive strike” against an apparent enemy (read: terrorist).  These new policies represent nothing less than a preemptive strike against freedom of speech in the Homeland, practices ratcheted up a notch from the more traditional ploys – the gentler nationalistic propaganda and marketing narratives about American exceptionalism, “land of the free, home of the brave.” And what are the core tools of a totalitarian regime? They are propaganda, censorship and terror.  Well, ok!  Maybe we haven’t got to terror yet.  But perhaps we can speak of the propaganda of terrorism, and the terror of censorship!

As the wheels continue to come off the space-shuttle of Western civilization, a.k.a. neo-liberal democratic, industrial-strength, rocket-fuel capitalism, with significant pieces of the European Union, England, and even Israel, now showing signs of falling behind in extreme discomfort and unrest, if not with early indications of social and political disintegration; and if we view these events in the light cast by revolutions and the overthrow of dictators across the Middle East and Northern Africa who have been propped up by the Western hegemony for decades, we no doubt will begin to better understand the actions we saw earlier this year in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Homeland. And it was the students and labor unions who were again on the front lines there.  Look, as well, at the arrests in DC last week over a peaceable – almost Gandhian – assembly in front of the White House, protesting an ecological nightmare, the tar-sands pipeline from Alberta Canada to Texas. Over seventy people arrested on the first day of the non-violent sit-in clearly represents a ratcheting up of control to silence and suppress free speech and assembly of the people. We will most likely see more protests and arrests in this country in the coming year, and stronger police tactics as well, particularly against our young and our restless.  After all, it is they who have seen the underbelly of the beast — this enlightened worldview of ours.  And it is not pretty.

Even our newly democratized neighbors to the south in Chile have been out in the streets for months now with reform demands.  And less than two years into his administration, the Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera, (himself a billionaire businessman) agreed Friday to negotiate on more state funding for education and profound changes in his government. Even high school students had been making demands there as early as 2006 with the former President.  When will we in the Homeland step up to the plate?

Meanwhile, what is the HuffPo talking about?  Of course, they are discussing Michele Bachmann’s makeup and wardrobe. Is this what’s important to the body politic here, the appearance of things and not their substance?  That is how we got stuck with Barack Obama; and that is why many, if not most here in the Homeland, continue to swallow the marketing propaganda and other lofty sounding phrases about our greatness, our Manifest Destiny, as if they meant something.  It is why we continue to believe that our engineers, our bankers, and our politicians are working diligently to keep the American Dream alive, guaranteeing our future and our legacy.

Windmill farms, solar panels, clean coal, bio-fuels, deep-water drilling, nuclear, and fracking the life out of mother earth will only serve to extend the trajectory of our demise, ensuring further degradation of the planet and its natural resources in the process. But the silencing of dissent regarding the trajectory of this empire will work only if the stories are still believable by the masses.  And believing that a new boss will be different than the old boss, is an ancient fairy tale that we should have overcome back in the early 70’s, if I remember correctly. The politician is not the real problem.  It is the worldview and the  institutions which represent its curriculum that are the problem; the legislator or President is just a symptom of its systemic disease.   What an ironic joke is being played on us, folks! Good morning America.  Wake up! I don’t think there is a silver lining to this cloud.

99 Responses to Back In The USSR: The New Face Of Totalitarianism

  1. Dave Jones says:

    I just wonder if arresting and soon releasing non-violent protesters for civil disobedience is an example of totalitarian oppression or a representation of a much, much more subtle model of repression? In following/not following “the law”,the protesters state their acquiescence and belief in the system of “democratic” capitalism more generally. (LOOK, the process WORKS! say the ruling classes)
    The moment Bill McKibben says capitalism itself ( not specific laws, politicians, policies, institutions etc) is the culprit you will see those gloves come off.

    DJ (aka Troutsky)

    • kulturcritic says:

      I am in agreement Trout… It is a more subtle form of repression, but certainly it is repression, less subtle and more robust than simply singing yankee doodle dandy to the folks and telling them they are heirs to the future. As you can see from the post, I am still disappointed in the directness and clarity of US protests. And the gloves will come off, with increasing poignancy of the protestation. Glad to see you back here, Dave!!

  2. Disaffected says:

    Great post and title this week kC (Great song back in the day as well. I remember the adults back then just going haywire when they heard that lyric.). I’d say Vladimir Putin has to be feeling pretty smug these days as he watches the collapse of the so-called first-world west into social and political anarchy and their resulting total embrace of totalitarian measures pioneered in Russia. It’s always a Kodak moment (won’t be long now before that phrase is meaningless, will it?) when the neo-liberal freedom spouters have to eat their words and admit what everyone should have known all along: political power’s first and overriding priority is to perpetuate itself BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY!

    That’s certainly a traumatic moment for most here in the US, propagandized as we have been since the day of our birth in the belief in freedom, equality, and democracy (baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet), conveniently leaving out the addendum “at the point of a gun if necessary.” That was always an easy sale to make when the enemy (usually of color or some other easily identifiable characteristic) was conveniently someone else, more often than not located a continent away. Nowadays, the enemy is certainly among us (in the case of the Mexicans and other immigrants who have the unmitigated gall to come here and perform the jobs we won’t do anyway at any price), but increasingly, it’s dawning on everyone that the enemy potentially is us as well. Certainly if you openly profess skepticism at the twin pillars of American fundamentalism – Christianity and the Global War on Terror – you have pretty much marked yourself as a potential terror suspect to both Government Officials and everyday citizen acquaintances alike.

    With all that in mind, our eventual fall and disintegration is going to be much worse than the USSR’s. While the Russian people had long been openly skeptical, if not downright contemptuous of their inept and openly corrupt government, Americans still remain surprisingly compliant and supportive of their’s, even though the evidence of our own government’s total corruption is now no less incontrovertible. Credit great marketing/propaganda and a compliant and all-encompassing media primarily for that I guess.

    But of course it goes much farther than that, doesn’t it? Western capitalists, unlike the more naively idealistic Communist ideologues, have wedded rather than rejected the power of religion as a unifying force for the masses. It’s not for nothing that capitalism’s blatantly hedonistic winner take all philosophy aligns perfectly with the Christian ideal of winning the game of life by currying favor with some imaginary wrathful creator, who will then reward those of his choosing (the righteous, the winners) with eternal life, while likewise condemning those who reject him (the sinners, the losers) to eternal damnation. And it’s all self determined! Really now, if your highest conception of good in the universe is so unapologetically capricious, how much less should we expect of ourselves and our leaders down here in our admittedly “broken” world below.

    And of course we here in the west have thus far been bribed into tacit compliance as well with the fruits of global crony capitalism, although we have also conveniently ignored the fact that all of that bounty came at the expense of the rest of the world, all enforced by US voter approved and sanctioned economic and/or militaristic “coercion,” aka terrorism. Our fall will thus be truly and awfully traumatic, coming as it does from the dizzying heights of US cultural hegemonic abundance. We’re currently still stubbornly clinging to the myth of American exceptionalism itself, even as the economic and political facts on the ground tell us that it’s all been a lie and will soon all be over, relegated to the historical dustbin of failed empires. Rest assured that when that myth is finally widely discredited among the faithful that the free fall will once and truly begin. And like everything else we do, it will be bigger and more spectacular than anywhere else. Hey, we’re Americans! Who would expect anything less?

    • Anarchrist says:

      True enough, it’s a historically unprecedented height from which to fall back to the basics of ‘real life’ as the rest of the world experiences it, and with truly no time to adjust (the Soviets were used to being piss poor, cold and hungry) because the relative excess, comfort and bullshit of ‘the dream’ being the very thing that keeps a majority locked in apathy, the chains of silver, of course there are still plenty of iron shackles left should you buck the trend and start behaving ‘unnacceptably’. As Bill Hicks had it: “You are free to do what we tell you”.

  3. John Bollig says:

    DA,

    When I twas a small child, I read Alvin Toffler’s works and the works of futurists. In many ways I was hopeful of the future. But that came crashing down in the rolling recession of the 1980’s as massive holes were being carved in the economy. Still, if you were a college graduate, you had a chance to get a decent job. Now, I see friends of mine with multiple degrees who can’t find any work whatsoever. I think that the dustbin is the great western civilization. The London riots are just an attempt to shift the bounds back to the working class and poor. Now that the truth is out of the bag, Truth be told : The greedy multinationals have finally been unmasked. Mitt Romney be dammed, Companies are not people, they don’t have a soul or a right to screw us over. The simple fact is that the system is collapsing and won’t be around in about 3 – 5 years max. Mother Earth News has an article that everyone should plan to take to heart, on how to live on a one acre plot.

    • kulturcritic says:

      John, I think DA has hit the nail on the head here. The majority look at us as kooks or worse, terrorists, because of our cynical and pessimistic view. So they just hold on to the dream and excuse our pessimism as ungrateful excess. Remember, America is not just the land of the free, home of the brave. It is also the place of eternal fairytale optimism, plasticine smiles, have a nice day, and the glass is half full. And, besides, “the experts will fix any problems; we just need to learn to compete better in a global economy.” This is the sort of nonsensical, starry-eyed optimism that I constantly see, and its nauseating. But, surprisingly I see attitudes beginning to change there, reluctantly.

      • StrayCat says:

        Yes, the attitudes are changing slowly. I believe that if we had a draft. then these stupid, horrible wars would be over by now. Human animals are just like the rest of Mammalia. They respond to pain and pleasure at root. The pain is coming for more and more, and it is becoming impossible for the members of the diminishing middle class to continue to assign the label of “other” to the neighbors, colleagues and relatives that have been left standing when the music stopped each week over the last three years. That set of events has forced a truly reluctant, hesitant and from their point of view, very scary, reappraisal of the facts on the ground. Of course the thought of doing anything active about the situation is not yet in the minds of the middle class, and there are so many options for action, that there will be many factions. The religious right has a jump on the rest of us because of their apocalyptic foundation for their mindset, and their early reject5ion of the empire. But, as we see, the empire has coopted those people through the tea party and through joining the Calvinistic beliefs with the capitalistic notion of earned grace through power and money. Can people in general accept that the greatest power they and we have is to just sit down and do nothing for a month? Don’t work, don’t pay the mortgage and don’t drive your car. Plant flowers, take a walk, sit and hold hands on the front or back porch. Join with your neighbors to pool food and necessaries. Lincoln was right that all capital is the product of labor, and without our labor, they will run out of capital faster than we will run out of food. In such a revolution there need be no blood, no ideology, and no new order.

  4. Disaffected says:

    JB,

    Great stuff. I read Toffler’s stuff in high school as part of a liberal arts elective class. One of the few topics that interested me at all back then (I was a near drop out in high school, finishing only by taking night school after getting expelled my senior year). He and his wife definitely had the future pegged accurately all right, although I don’t remember him correctly assessing and/or emphasizing the tremendous downsides to such a system.

    I’m watching Inside Job on StarzHD as we speak, a documentary narrated by Matt Damon, detailing the financial industry’s responsibility for the 2008 crisis and, of course, the current and ongoing second great crash. All of the stuff we’re currently experiencing can and is being accurately predicted by those who are simply wide awake enough to pay attention. Trouble is, most of us either feel we’re powerless to prevent it (which may in fact actually be true), or, we’re still holding out the illusion that we might yet become one of the great exceptions to the rule; an actual winner in global capitalism’s winner take all sweepstakes.

    That last illusion has yet to die on a wide enough scale to kill off the current system. When it does – and that day is coming VERY, VERY soon – it will be the final nail in the coffin for global capitalism, which, unfortunately, will also signal the beginning of the end game for those interests who are benefiting the most from the current system (who also realize that there’s no widely accepted genuine political/economic alternative in the works for people to latch onto either). Being the habitual “winners” that they are, they’re simply not going to accept such an event passively without a fight. And thanks to monumental military expenditures enabled by their infiltration and co-opting of the US Government over the past 30 years in particular (their talk of the evils of “big government” is ALWAYS just a plea for more government benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the poor), they have quite an arsenal at their beck and call to enforce their claims. All of which they will continue to employ without compunction.

    It all promises to be quite a wild ride on the way down. Interesting times indeed!

    • kulturcritic says:

      A wild one, indeed, DA

    • StrayCat says:

      DA, it may be a wild ride, but that assumes a two or three sided battle between the haves and have nots. But the system is very fragile right now, and I submit that a withdrawal of effort, money and resources by the middle and working (or not) classes will be a quiet, unassailable blow to the global blood sucking squid so beautifully described by Matt Taibbi. If we protest in the streets, we will be beaten, arrested and made into radical revolutionaries. If we just stay home, the the videos of storm troopers going door to door trying to get people back t5o work will end the charade quickly, but violently. But we no longer live in barracks or mill housing. We are spread out in suburbs, outer city rings and elsewhere. There are not nearly enough resources, and probably not the will to try to force people back into the workshop. Food for a month or more is fairly easy to store. Preparations for local medical care, and other needs can be made, and health care and other essential workers may have to go to work, but the retail, manufacturing, and gegaw distribution people should stay home. If we shut it down, then we can regain our freedom. I see that the production and distribution parts of the economy are finely balanced. It will come off the tracks early on, and we can then demand an end to wars, the security state. Having demonstrated resolve, the people can then take back their own lives, and a success will give the broad middle class a sense of power that has been stripped from them since WWII. Just a few thoughts that have been rattling around my skull over the past ten years.

      • StrayCat says:

        A point I forgot, is that if we protest at the focal points of government or corporate power, we are implicitly recognizing their claim to legitimacy. If we stay home and shun the centers of power, we demonstrate the emptiness and lack of essential authority in those institutions.

      • kulturcritic says:

        A serious and worthy recommendation, SC. But, could you ever expect to get that much compliance. Especially with unemployment so high, those without work might cave in and fill the gaps. But, in any event, it is something certainly worth trying.

  5. Anarchrist says:

    Great piece KC, good overview, loved the title too. Indeed here in GB there is some blusterous talk of social networking (as a tool of chaos and evil) being censored and/or blocked entirely ‘where necessary’, meanwhile some withering sentences have been recently meted out:

    http://www.euronews.net/2011/08/17/facebook-users-jailed-for-inciting-riots/

    Mayor of London and notorious buffoon, Boris Johnson (full name Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, I kid you not…) has openly suggested leaving Facebook et al unmolested so as to better enable law enforcement to covertly gather intelligence on evildoers. Of course he has a point; how can you publicly hang these naive shmucks out to dry if you don’t first afford them the means to place their own boot into their mouths? I daresay there is certainly some parallel evolution of ‘civil order’ contingencies going between the old world and the new, not to mention a fair bit of mutual consultation. I’m sure Cass Sunstein (along with China and Iran) approves as the UK – historical precursor to the United States and current day shirttail-hanger – formulates plans to police the internet.

    It’s worrying. We already have an awful lot of CCTV cameras here in the UK, a uniquely British deference to authority rendered this constant oversight acceptable by most here in ‘peacetime’, and by now being watched is something to which the average Brit is so accustomed that it has slipped beneath our active consciousness. Here, in the spiritual home of Big Brother (I mean Orwell’s, although the TV show has in the past been ludicrously popular here) it seems our elders and betters were happy to make whatever compromises they saw fit in the name of preserving order and decency. The under-educated youth are rather less aware of the growth and unprecedented power of these systems however, particularly so having grown up during their expansion, and these boys and girls are apt to get well chewed by the wheels of ‘justice’ should they make a rash or misinformed step in an ‘unapproved’ direction. Of course in trying times the expansion continues apace, and where we go from here is the subject of much debate. Happily, massive budget cuts put paid to the proposed national ID database here, though I understand the project lives on in some diminished (and less public) capacity – http://www.no2id.net/ – Sadly, it was never dealt a killing blow on grounds of civil liberty or ethical impropriety, it just became too expensive. I really don’t know what the future holds, but perhaps there are some aspects of the financial crisis for which we can all be grateful?

    • kulturcritic says:

      AC – Of course, as the world continues to approach complete collapse, the First World dictators (democratic-capitalists, among others) will continue to enhance monitoring, surveillance and other control mechanisms in order to achieve collapse in a manner most advantageous to the leaders and the money.

  6. Disaffected says:

    More good TV on here today. The Tillman Story on Showtime documents the Pat Tillman fratricide and subsequent coverup, all in the name of putting a continued good spin on the US Global War on Terror, more aptly known as the US Global War of Terror. Among other facts that I hadn’t known previously, Pat Tillman and his family were and are atheists, of whom the Army’s initial investigative officer for the incident thought it would likely be “hard for them to let this go,” as they had no religious beliefs to fall back on.

    Yes indeed, religious based fantasy is more often than not cold-comfort in our hour of need, all the more so when our own government officials are lying to our faces blatantly and without shame, all for “the common good” of course, especially when THAT is a politically motivated and carefully crafted fantasy as well (Subsequent investigations suggested that the coverup went at least as high as the Joint Chiefs, who almost certainly took their cues from the White House staff itself.). That great McCarthy era question, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”, is one apparently still very much in need of asking. And the answers to it have apparently not changed one whit in the interim.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA – It is sad how America’s selective memory and our propensity for historical reconstruction of facts to fit the fantasy, is the hallmark of a very profound sickness; almost as sad as the lack of our sense of decency. Nationally we are willing to turn our backs on any inconvenient truths.

  7. kulturcritic says:

    Well folks! Looks like something is brewing amidst a certain cross-section of the American populace that may look very much like the resistance movements we have recently witnessed in Greece, Spain, England and across MENA. Not that it will turn the course of industrial civilization, but it should be interesting and perhaps provide some guidance for a post-collapse future. And they are calling it an OCCUPATION of Washington DC, until there is change.

    http://october2011.org/welcome

  8. Disaffected says:

    kC,

    This might be mildly interesting. However, I think just like the general thrust of your blog, it’s going to take something decidedly less hierarchical organized and driven to get through to the powers that be. Probably something a lot more violent and certainly a lot more disruptive. Something that threatens profit margins and power structures over a longer term. Refusal to participate in or even actively disrupting the political process might be a start. Mass refusal to pay income taxes might be another. Mass withdrawal of funds from the corporate banking complex (“starve the beast”) another. Certainly refusal to serve the military industrial complex in any way whatsoever at least. Reneging on questionable mortgage payments (this is a big one over at Naked Capitalism) yet another.

    I’ve just never been a fan of organized protests myself. They’re easily co-opted by nefarious interests (including government infiltrators) and easily targeted and neutralized by law enforcement. That’s what scares the shit out of ’em about the flash mob phenomenon. It’s something brand new and poorly understood, and in some cases at least, may be truly anarchic, and thus, truly liberating in the highest sense of the word. And power just deplores anarchy, doesn’t it? Makes those prized profit margins much too uncertain for those depending on them. AND, they send a very unfortunate message as well: that the protesters actually put enough faith in TPTB to think that they’ll even listen, never mind respond, OR that the protesters actually give a shit what TPTB think or do anyway. Only when TPTB realize once and for all that a significant part of the populace has lost ALL faith and confidence whatsoever in the current power structure will they sit up and take notice!

    If electing that shameless sellout NoBama taught us anything at all, it’s that making incremental (or even radical for that matter!) changes to the current power structure will only result in more of the same. The same cancer that infected the old bosses will more than likely infect the new bosses even before we can get them seated. The system itself is now terminally malignant, and the best prescription at this point – unsavory though it may be – is for pain relief only, in the hope of a rapid and certain death. Total system death and rebirth is our only hope at this point, and any ameliorative measures to keep it alive applied in the interim will only prolong and intensify the agony.

    That’s the beauty of peak oil and global climate change (and possibly the earthquakes in unusual places, which are increasingly being linked to “fracking” for natural gas). It’s almost as if some mythical universal force was observing our current predicament and putting roadblocks in our way to aid our understanding. Not that it’s doing a whole lot of good so far.

    DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      I am in complete agreement DA. As you saw; I said it might be interesting, that is all. And yes, mother earth is telling us something with the natural disasters of late. And in the Gulf of Mexico last year she said, “So, you want oil, here I’ll give you some fucking oil.”

      • Disaffected says:

        Yes, it will be interesting to see if that protest amounts to anything turnout wise, what effect, if any, it has on actual policy, and what sort of spin the media puts on it. For one thing, I don’t think that their actual objectives are clarified well enough yet to be effective. It’s one thing to be against industrial civilization in general, but what exactly are they for (dissolving the Fed and ending the current debt-based money system for example, an initiative that is guaranteed to go absolutely nowhere under the current power structure)? That’s one major impediment to current would-be protest movements, and one that likely won’t be answered until the current system is at least partially collapsed. We need to clear away some of the current legacy baggage before we can even begin to conceptualize what’s gonna be next. The level of desperation for “change we can actually believe in” is just not there yet. One thing’s for sure: the current PTB don’t know and don’t care, and will use all the considerable power currently at their disposal to make sure that no one else gives it any serious thought either.

    • Disaffected says:

      Let me clarify that second to last sentence, lest anyone unduly accuse of being either covertly religiously inclined or overly harsh on those who profess faith in the unknown:

      If I were so inclined, I’d almost believe that some mythical universal force was observing our current predicament and putting roadblocks in our way to aid our understanding, although that universal force must certainly be acting just as it always has, through the natural law it imposed at the beginning of our current “drama” and which remains in effect today, in spite of all claims to the contrary.

    • StrayCat says:

      Right on, DA. We withdraw our stamp of approval, or effort, our capital, our every input to the system and just stay home, as I said above. While I applaud the October 11 movement, if it is a movement, the quiet standing in Tarir square, without any real hoopla, and the walks of the indignants in Spain were very powerful and non hierarchical in general. A lot of spontaneous action.Taking all of our money and putting it into Credit Unions is a big step. First, without depositors, Bank of America or Citibank cannot be banks. Second, when you join a credit union, you become a shareholder, and can directly influence policy at the union. Finally, Americans are hesitant to go to the streets based on a series of historical instances that have left a distaste for protest in the minds of the middle class, where withdrawal of support is something not seen as radical.

  9. Disaffected says:

    Another thing I find particularly ironic in modern day America, not coincidentally especially since 9-11, our constant and continuing fascination with “heroes”:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/08/28/national/main20098490.shtml

    Oh hell yes! Everyone’s now a super action hero starring in their own little drama, no matter how great or how small. Doesn’t THAT perhaps make us all feel better about the ass-fucking we’re taking in the mean time by the forces who control us and are too large to even conceptualize?

    Yep! I know that I FOR ONE AT LEAST, feel a whole lot better about our current predicament knowing that a few brave but unfortunate souls among us have been singled out to carry the “rich man’s burden” forward at great personal expense.

    DA

    • StrayCat says:

      I’ve had the same thoughts on this hero stuff. It is probably designed to stifle any dissent by making disagreement with the heros and their creators an act of ingratitude. Hero status reenforces the drama and the preferred story line, while making any factual dispute seem petty.

  10. Disaffected says:

    FUCK! Thank GOD the markets were spared at least!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903352704576536822416563928.html

    I know I, for one, would have stayed up all night worrying about this.

    DA

  11. John Bollig says:

    Just got back from a meeting with a few interesting people… Farmers of all people are actually willing to help us get started on our land. We can have a few acres of land for ourselves and then let our friends and family rent the rest for a share of veggies and beans. We fully intend on growing more of our food and we are going to rely on solar and wind power for some electric power. The creek that runs by the property is fed by a lake so we do have some hydro potential.

    • kulturcritic says:

      John – when are you moving to the property?

    • Anarchrist says:

      Hey John, hydro power if you have sufficient hydrostatic head/flow rate (one or the other, better still both) makes for an excellent base load. A decent wind spec PMA repurposed appropriately will geneterate good amps even at fairly low rpm, and in theory can run 24/7, all at low(ish) installation cost. Just piping up here ‘cuz it’s a subject close to my heart. Also, though you’re talking about beans and whatnot, are you thinking about livestock at all? I’m getting around to aquiring a couple of hogs myself because of how well the turn over old ground/crops, and they’ll eat most anything (leftovers, kitchen scraps). Best of luck with everything anyway, I’ll shut up now, just wanted to offer some encouragement.

    • StrayCat says:

      Good work. I can’t wait until you find out that you real electrical needs are so modest that wind and solar will easily meet them. We rely on such on our boat for months at a time on occasion. By the way, hand tilling small plots is hard but rewarding work, and keeps the mind and muscles toned.

  12. John Bollig says:

    when the title issue can be fixed march 2012

  13. Anarchrist says:

    Sandy, I too think that movement is an interesting one, regardless of ultimate outcome. Partly because it demonstrates a genuine appetite for radical change (no-one is representing such views in the house of representitives after all), and also because the world is full of people who feel that something is wrong, but can’t quite put their finger on why they feel that way or what best to do about it. As is often repeated here propaganda is rotting people’s brains into apathy, if nothing else this October movement (however small) could serve to represent an alternative world view in a way that is tangible and visible, as well as to push information that may open a few eyes and expand a few minds, even if it touches only a handful of people it’s got to be worth the effort.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I would agree AC!! But, I would also note that, noting DA’s skeptical position, it might just continue to bolster the illusion that the system is capable of being fixed. That, I think, would be the wrong take away for participants or observers. But, let us watch as it unfolds. P.S. Do you or anyone you know intend on participating?

    • StrayCat says:

      I agree with you, and the larger the turnout, the better chance of more people seeing that they have an opportunity to force change. Even small movement increases over time to larger, more directed movement. Larger movement means more torque.

  14. kulturcritic says:

    I told you all we are living through the disclosure of our totalitarian tendencies. Not only a waste of money, but a clear indication of the police state we are living in.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-911-homeland-money-20110828,0,162046.story?igoogle=1

  15. Dave Jones says:

    I have been critical of Mc Kibben for his approach to Copenhagen Climate Summit , Obama election, pandering in general.. but I think he is slowly being radicalized. Civil disobedience is just another step to some painful realizations….Oh wait …you are talking about Wall Street occupation! My bad. Now if Mc Kibben and Naomi Klien showed up for that!

    I haven’t given up on organizing (as well as becoming more self-sufficient) and will do something anti-capitalist here in Mt. in conjunction. Y’all should do the same.
    Troutsky

    • kulturcritic says:

      Dave – there is supposed to be a Washington DC occupation beginning in October and continuing throughout the year(s) until these folks get changes they are seeking from their govt.

  16. Neon Vincent says:

    Over at Kunstler’s blog, you wrote:

    “However there is another type of storm brewing and threatening for October. It seems that some portion of the body politic is tired of the increasingly Totalitarian predilections of our imperial regime, and they are threatening to occupy DC and close it down until things change.”

    Do you mean the “Enough is Enough” March, scheduled for October 29th? If so, keep talking about it. It could use the free publicity. Also, ask me about it. I might know something.

    http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/EnoughMarch

    • kulturcritic says:

      Neon Vincent:

      This is what I was referring to at CFN. It is not a march, but rather calls itself an Occupation. I suppose much like the US occupation of Afghanistan, they will stay until their mission is accomplished. Perhaps your “Wake Up and Stand Up March will dove-tail with the Occupation nicely. Personally, I do not subscribe to demonstrations, occupations, political rallys, etc., because I believe politics is a rigged game from the beginning. New bosses, new policies, new politics cannot deliver the changes that are required. Only a collapse of the entire system of industrial civilization and its engine of global capitalism will sufice in clearing away the legacy garbage, and laying a foundation for something else. Thanks for stopping by. sandy

      http://october2011.org/welcome

      • kulturcritic says:

        I told you folks. Over 500 arrested in Tar Sands protest already. More and more arrests will be coming until violence breaks, when the dictatorship shows its ugly fangs. There is no freedom in this “democracy.” There is only subservience to the will of the hegemon, his financiers and his henchmen!

        http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=7236

        Yet, it is also the case that in all of these instances the goal of the protesters is also wanting. What they seek are more sustainable solutions to keep the current party/system going. They do not yet believe (as a movement) that the current trajectory of growth, consumption is problematic. They still don’t see to what degree they have been strapped to this beast with no way out. IMHO

        • Brutus says:

          There have been a few exceptions where public sentiment succeeded or at least gave the impression that it moved policy. The civil rights movement springs to mind as an example, which was a sustained perturbation to business as usual. But on the whole, unless one gets really busy (at which point one is branded a radical, criminal, and/or terrorist), then dissent is ultimately absorbed and commodified. This is what happened to environmentalism, which has accomplished very little beyond consciousness raising and providing to exploiters and polluters of nature new greenwashing propaganda campaigns to quell the public.

        • Neon Vincent says:

          You remind me of the late Joe Bageant. He had the same perspective on how corrupt the system had become and how nearly impossible it would be to break free. That perspective is part of why I call my blog Crazy Eddie’s Motie News. Crazy Eddie is a mythical character from the Motie books by Niven and Pournelle who believes that there is a way for Moties to prevent the inevitable collapse of their civilizations from overpopulation and war over resources. So far, all such attempts have been futile. That doesn’t stop the Crazy Eddies from trying.

      • Neon Vincent says:

        Thanks for welcoming me to your blog and posting that link. My friends in the Coffee Party and I will be watching that closely, as what we’re planning will happen at the end of October, not the beginning when this event will start. We’ll have plenty of time to observe the official reaction.

  17. kulturcritic says:

    Greg posted some comments here that were not relevant to this discussion. I have deleted them and requested that he repost them in the appropriate commentary from July 30. sandy

  18. Disaffected says:

    For no reason at all (apologies for the ads), other than ther’re good:

    DA

  19. kulturcritic says:

    Dear readers, commenters and friends – I have changed the layout of the comment section on my posts, so that they are now chronological, and not threaded/nested. I have had several requests to make this adjustment. Let me know if this is better or worse. I prefer nested/threaded. But, I am flexible (on some issues….LOL)!! sandy

  20. John Bollig says:

    Sandy,

    We had a guy in our college that was really radical and tried to explain the world as life sucks, you pay taxes then you die. Crazy George is still around and nobody quite understands him. I last heard him saying to go rural and form communes.

    John Bolllig

  21. kulturcritic says:

    DA – good solid Emo-rock!! no?

  22. kulturcritic says:

    John – sounds like crazy George is still alive!!

  23. kulturcritic says:

    Thanks Vincent – but I don’t think I am nearly as articulate as Bageant was. Good luck with your protest, and keep up the good work on Eddie’s blog!!

  24. rg the lg says:

    As a former library guy, and now teaching night school (euphemistically called ‘Alternative School’) to the so-called losers, it occurs to me that these kids from the underbelly of the beasts underbelly are onto something. See, here’s the deal … these kids skip school, but they are bored out of their skulls due to what can only be called a mendacious curriculum … they are very bright. The curriculum for night school is actually built from the state standards … which aren’t bad except that the old curriculum is still there in most classes with the veneer of standards. Same old shit with links to the standards. In night school, reading, and writing are in math … math is part of the so-called English classes … science is not creationism … social studies is not based on the idea that the US is gawd’s gift to the righteous (erm, is that right-wing) UhMuriKanz … . So, the average grade? In the 80’s … and it isn’t easy stuff. It isn’t truly hard, but it is far more demanding than the crap in day school. Besides, there are no assemblies to glorify the local warriors (in helmets and all) as they go off to decimate the warriors from the other tribe. (Ever walk through a hallway in an High School on game day, especially football, and read with sensitivity the violence? All in fun? Huh … )

    And these kids are angry … but they are coming around … they still think in terms of a society out to get them … but they are beginning to realize that there is a way to understand the fact they are expected to fail … and to resist it. A minor revolution is in the offing … disaffected, but intelligent and somewhat educated … a danger to the beast and its mindless minions.

    I wish I was younger … I’d join ’em. Aw hell, who am I kidding … I already have!

    • kulturcritic says:

      > And these kids are angry … but they are coming around …

      Of course they are angry, they should be. School is just a series of boxes that constrain kids. Even in HS they need more time outside, exploring nature more. But most never learned how to do that when they were younger. Even the play things we give to our toddlers come in boxes.

      • javacat says:

        Yes, there are boxes and boxes within boxes, nesting so many layers from without and within that we can’t recognize daylight anymore. And as to boxes for toddlers…a local park has put up signs along the walkways, giving parents advice: “Let your child hop, jump and skip.” “Ask children to see, touch, and smell the flowers.” I was astounded, & wondered, “Who thought this was a good idea?” then, “Maybe we’re so disconnected that parents don’t know how to help their children explore their worlds.”
        As a high-school teacher, I’m a tad sensitive these days to criticisms of schools because it usually comes down to teacher-bashing, blaming, and regulating–though this isn’t what you’re doing. Schools are, in the biological sense, strongly conservative entities: structurally, organizationally, socially, hierarchically, politically. Public schools, at least, are the products of the culture at large, flavored with local imprint.
        Part of my work as an educator is to try to lead outside the boxes and between the frames. Most of the students aren’t angry; they’re passive. They’re wrapped in an adolescence that in some ways seems to pre-date my own with pep rallies, an increasing value placed on sports (and by extension their teacher-coaches), and getting by with a minimum. Like the rest of American, indeed Western culture, our lives are infused with many distractions that pass for meaning.
        The structure of public school, as with the larger society, can force people into a kind of schizophrenic state of ‘passing’ within the system to accomplish larger change. Or the question of how do I do good work–however you define that–even as I recognize the boxiness of the system?

        • kulturcritic says:

          It does sound tricky to navigate, javacat. I applaud your effort. Recently, I had trouble enough just trying to do one course as a visiting professor in my alma mater. I cannot even imagine the obstacles in high school now: the kids, the regs, the violence, the confusion, distractions, the system and its subsystems… wow! Schizophrenia is definitely an appropriate label for that state of being – a state of being in betwixt and in between.

    • javacat says:

      Sounds as if we may see a lot of the same kids, though I’m still the day-teacher, working withing 40-minutes classes, clanging bells and endless announcements. A lot of the students who opt for alt ed that I see don’t fit within the box. They’re smart, learn on their own, see through the crap and say, ‘no, thanks’ in many different ways, and don’t want to join the game. They see through the facade, and even if they can’t articulate it fully, they feel it. They know they are being pushed along a path to conform and see that even when ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking is promoted, only certain kinds are accepted. They speak their minds more, get in trouble more, leave more. They get the message that they are worth less, and that there is some larger value to some larger power if they fail. I’ve been challenged by these kids in class, and honestly, most of the time, they’re right or pretty close to. If there are many within a school, their presence and energy can threaten the standard order. Dispersed into other venues, the center can hold awhile longer.

  25. John Bollig says:

    I have faint memories of HS. My years were filled with being scared and just trying to avoid the various bullies and pot was plentiful. I didn’t do pot so I was a dweeb. Anger was still awhile away. As for today’s kids, they are screwed. In a few years we won’t be able to afford gas to run those trucks that kids around here drive up and down main street.

  26. Disaffected says:

    John,
    Sounds like your HS experience was similar to mine. I DID do pot, but it wasn’t really cool to do it. Today’s youngn’s? They’re better off dropping out and learning a skill if you ask me. “Higher” education is now merely a profit making scam delivering credentials (a signaling device, indicating that the holder has proven himself willingly compliant enough to the system to go through the motions of attainment) to would-be system functionaries. The collapse of the whole ponzi scheme edifice of exponential growth debt-based global capitalism is about to sweep away the old order. Rest assured, they’re not teaching THAT in any university I know of these days. Radical change agents and the visionary engineers of tomorrow’s radically different society are what we need now. And a radically different educational system that will stimulate the kind of thinking that will provide them. One way or another, that’s where we’re headed, but I’m guessing from the trend of current events that it will be the exceedingly hard road that we’ll be taking on this journey. Oh well, monumental change more often than not requires monumental effort. I guess we’ll see shortly if we’re up to the task. If I were a betting man…
    DA

    • StrayCat says:

      While I agree with you about high , as I dropped out after my second time through 10th grade and joined the Navy, I think that at least for me, the education at the University of Massachusetts that I passed through from 1963 to 1968 was excellent in almost every respect. Though I was no great scholar, I absorbed a lot, despite myself, and learned to read Camus and St.Expery (sp.) in French, which opened my eyes a little. Maybe because it was the sixties, but the campus was alive with competing ideas, theories and was quite stimulating. I don’t know how it is today, alt5hough I notice that journalists cannot write English, have no sense of the history and meaning of the literary references they use3, and generally mix metaphors so badly they become sadly comical. I guess I was just plain lucky to have been in that place at that time.

      • kulturcritic says:

        I had similarly good experiences at my schools as well, SC. I was a bit later than you, but the 70’s were very energetic in terms of challenging accepted methods and vocabularies.

        • StrayCat says:

          Yes. Though I know that this is an age old complaint, but it all seems to have gone downhill after Ronnie the Chimpanzee. And elementary and high school were bad enough before that.

  27. Brutus says:

    Disaffected sez:

    “Higher” education is now merely a profit making scam delivering credentials (a signaling device, indicating that the holder has proven himself willingly compliant enough to the system to go through the motions of attainment) to would-be system functionaries. The collapse of the whole ponzi scheme edifice of exponential growth debt-based global capitalism is about to sweep away the old order. Rest assured, they’re not teaching THAT in any university I know of these days.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss higher education as “merely” anything. Undoubtedly it’s out of touch with the times, but as a collection of slowly evolving institutions bound up in tradition and the status quo, that’s to be expected. Tradition is obviously unprepared for radical discontinuity, which is precisely what we’re now facing.

    In addition, as the holder of more than one of those signaling credentials, I absolutely value what I’ve learned and experienced (though they haven’t exactly proven remunerative), and I am hardly the compliant sort. That’s partly because, unlike most others, I’ve continue to augment my education as an auto-didact. So I agree that many of our cherished institutions are just idols based on Ponzi systems, which work until … they don’t work anymore. That’s a tough nut to crack, though, as the rewards for playing along benefit the players handsomely until, again, they don’t anymore.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Brutus, you would agree would you not, that it has become much a credentialing activity these days. In addition, HE seems to me even in its establishment to have been concerned more with creating specialist-citizens, even in its earlier “liberal education” guise. IMHO, sandy

  28. Rg the Lg says:

    I have a slightly different take on the situation. I agree, for the most part, with the tone of the original article … but the question still remains, who should be the leaders in leadersville? As a redneck with leftist tendencies, there are times when I see issues that are a little cock-eyed. (I know that, so if you want to attack, attack on substance!) The problem seems to be a form of inertia … we are unwilling to do what we can do because we are waiting for the system (define that as you will) to come up with a fix.
    Ain’t gonna happen. The system has mesmerized us with the concept of BIG is GOOD therefore small is bad. So as individuals we don’t take action. We wait for the solution to be available to purchase.
    An example of contrary behavior is my approach to small … and an off the grid solution. What I have done, and gotten away with, is the installation of a wind mill … one of those prosaic looking do-dads often seen in drawings, [pictures, etc.,] of ranches in the American west. It doesn’t pump water … it pumps electrons into a twelve volt system with a bunch of car batteries attached for those times when the wind doesn’t blow. I also use skylights both for light (reducing electrical demand) and heat gain in the winter. And, I wear t-shirts in the summer, and sweaters in the winter. My system isn’t fancy … but my dependance on the ‘grid’ in minimal. Small 12 volt fans move still air around … and I forgo an air conditioner even though summer temperatures reach the 100’s.
    Should other people do what I have done … no. But, and this is significant, there are solutions to fit the need. It is up to the citizen/individual and not to the corporation to figure them out. I see government in much the same way … we need it something like a headache … and I avoid it whenever possible. Water from the small city where I live, I am dependent upon. I pay taxes, but precious few user fees.
    So, I suspect there is a solution … big is NOT better than small. But small takes effort, and therein lay the problem.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Rg-Lg

      I like how you dissect the big-small dichotomy. I think it speaks directly to our habitually frozen position. I also believe that HG tribes had it about right in terms of relative social grouping sizes (with a band size of about 30-50 members). The only thing that sound like your short on in H2O if the spicket is turned off. And of course cooking will become a chore for everyone when the lights and gas go out.

    • StrayCat says:

      Exactly, small is better also, too, because whatever effort is required is fruitful in and of itself. The effort provides exercise, expands judgement, and give one a more complete sense of control of your space and resources without having to exercise control over other beings. In our community organic garden in North Port, FL, the open handed cooperation and helpfulness is rampant, yet the respect for individual ways of raising vegetables is present also. It’s as good for us as the tomatoes are.

  29. Disaffected says:

    Well then, maybe my comments are better directed at the Business School racket in particular, which, as the holder of a couple pieces of paper myself, I WOULD say are nearly worthless. The hard sciences, yes, that’s a real education. Although, a six year Masters degree could certainly be accomplished in four or less without all the worthless liberal arts filler added to pad the tuition coffers. If you haven’t mastered the reading and writing part coming out of high school, then chances are you never will.
    Other than that, education’s most highly cherished goal is still compliance, and that’s a problem if it’s true “out of the box thinking” (there’s a B-School term that’s came and went already) you’re trying to stimulate. Never mind ethics, which apparently only applies to others in the capitalist world. I actually admired Bernie Madoff, in that he was the one “true” capitalist who recognized the shell game for what it was and decided to take it to the next level. And it all would still be working today had not the underlying system (itself merely an even more complex quasi “legal” ponzi scheme, but a ponzi scheme nonetheless) ran ashore first and exposed his. And man were the masters of finance pissed! Here was this little conniving piss-ant beating them at their own game right out in the open for all to see, and the only way he got caught was when their little racket went bust first and exposed him. Much, much, much too close for comfort!

  30. Brutus says:

    Dissaffected sez:

    a six year Masters degree could certainly be accomplished in four or less without all the worthless liberal arts filler added to pad the tuition coffers. If you haven’t mastered the reading and writing part coming out of high school, then chances are you never will.

    I must again take issue with you. The liberal arts are not merely filler and padding. The American university is modeled on the German university, which involves the ideal of pure learning, disinterested pursuit of truth, and knowledge for its own sake. Not until recently did American institutions of higher learning become moneymaking rackets — degree mills. If you are familiar with the notion of a liberal education (read: liberal arts education), you must realize that the end product was intended to be a rounded, comprehensively educated individual.

    In contrast, the hard sciences and professional schools tend to produce those with applied skills, who then see the world in terms of instrumental reality: something to be acted on and manipulated but not understood within any context beyond one’s professional expertise. The scientists who populate the labs at Monsanto are probably good examples; the effects of their work are global and deleterious.

    Lastly, I didn’t learn to write well until my 30s. I was never particularly attuned to writing in high school or undergraduate college. It also takes the creation of quite a lot of work-product to become facile at writing, hence a long developmental period for most. Unlike many other skills, I don’t agree that the developmental window for good writing closes in late adolescence.

    There are lots of logical targets for criticism and condemnation upon which we can agree. But if you persist in throwing the baby out with the bath water, I’ll object. It’s not even that my particular ox is being gored here, as I have my share of frustrations with the way education is currently approached.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA I have to give kudos to Brutus here. I think he makes a sound defense of the liberal education in terms of the well rounded citizen. But that raises the further issue, Brutus. The goal always was to have well-rounded (fill in the blank) Americans, Germans, Englishmen, etc. In short an educated body politic. Why? Because the State cares about the individual, hardly. The State thinks of its own survival and its expansion. That is why there are public universities and community colleges. OK, you could argue that private schools had another agenda; but I would bet my bottom dollar a primary motive was money-making and getting some skin in the game and crafting the leaders of tomorrow. Generally, I have come to distrust all education and educators (with exceptions of course). If I look at my own undergrad alma mater, Hobart College in Geneva NY, the focus is primarily on bringing in the bucks, the donations from alums, wealthy parents of coeds, etc., the rest be damned. If the student can pay, they can play… receive a degree with honors, no education required.

    • StrayCat says:

      I too take issue with you position on the liberal arts. As a major in Philosophy, my fifth change of major in five years, I can say the the science, anthropology, geology, english and other courses were critical to my understanding of the courses in my major. Without a grounding in History, much education is relatively worthless. Scientists are mere technicians without a grasp of the history of science, especially of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. A course in Nineteenth century intellectual history was as important to my, however limited, grasp of the senior seminar in Ethics as were the prior courses in Philosophy.

  31. Disaffected says:

    I’ll guess you’ll just have to continue objecting then Brutus, cause I’m not changing my tune any time soon. Maybe what we can possibly agree on is that there’s a whole lot of people being shoved through the industrial education system, just like so much toxic sludge, that shouldn’t be there at all. Having just come out the University system late in life myself (Undergrad at 46, MBA at 49) I laughed at the ease of it all. Now granted, I’m smarter than the average bear (165 IQ or thereabouts last time I tested), but I was a world class! shitty student in HS (got expelled senior year, took night school to graduate, smoked pot, drank beer, drove fast cars, chased fast women), and I absolutely COASTED through what passes for “college” these days (I rarely if ever studied, did all my papers at the last minute, did it ALL while pickling my liver in alcohol, and still pulled off a 3.86 GPA while accumulating over 260 CHs [220 needed to graduate]). For every group project I had I told everyone else to take it easy (actually, I asked, but as word got around, everyone knew well enough to take me up on it) and I’d do the whole thing for them if they were willing to accept the grade I got them. Most of the kids I was in class with (even at the MBA level, where the class was made up mostly of adult professionals) could not even string together coherent sentences, never mind punctuate them correctly, never mind string several of them together to create cogent arguments. I had an MBA instructor that got so disgusted with class members calling him at his office that he told the whole class just to talk to me first.

    I actually viewed the whole “educational experience” as rather demeaning, and actually think it set me back a little in the immediate aftermath, in that I had lost a lot of my “can do” mojo that I had gained as a supervisor the USAF. Adding the letters MBA behind your name is really all about learning how to take everyday normal “problems” and turn them into full-blown corporate “projects,” requiring teams of people, weeks or months of time, and boatloads of funding to “solve,” ALL for the primary purpose of padding people’s resumes; all while more often than not, STILL not solving the initial problem the project first set out to solve, although ideally, obfuscating the whole thing in a smoke screen of statistics and professional sounding jargon so that nobody can really tell either way. I could go MUCH, MUCH further on that subject, but I’ll save it for another day. If I owned a small business myself, I’d actually consider having an MBA a negative screening factor in the hiring process.

      • StrayCat says:

        I agree with you on the MBA bullshit, and especially the creation of expensive teams to solve “problems” that are resolvable with a half hour of thought and a half page memo. And yes, the paper credentialing is a truly horrific process that allows the unthinking to lead the numb into a morass of rules that preclude any progress. This is especially true in areas like child welfare.

  32. Brutus says:

    Yes, we can agree about a lot of people being run through the degree mill like automatons. However, your experience, due in no small measure to your high IQ, is not like those of others, and you tar the entire educational edifice with one gigantic brushstroke. Your condemnation fits especially well applied to MBA programs. My point is that this is not the only sort of higher educational experience one can have — even if it’s commonplace.

    I recognize the underlying truth behind your personal anecdote, of course, and it’s one reason I abandoned education as a career path before I ever got started.

  33. Disaffected says:

    Brutus,

    Glad we can agree on something at least, although in truth, I doubt we actually agree on much. I’m pretty much the definition of your “out of the box” thinker, so much so that I hated that term the very first time I heard it, representing as it does the idea that that type of thinking is somehow “out of the box” in the first place. TRADITIONAL thinking is what we’re talking about here, and it’s TRADITIONAL thinking that’s in dire need of overturning right now. Let me put it this way: the 1960’s represents the first wave of the anarchist thinking I’m proposing. Obviously, it failed; miserably, I might add. Fat, pig, money grubbing whore baby-boomers and all that shit gave it an initial shot, failed, but taught us all a lot in the process. The entire interim up to this point has been spent accruing the pent up forces due to the acquiescence of that movement, much like the actual physical tectonic forces soon to be unleashed on the US’ west coast. When the next major tectonic release of anarchic thinking takes place, as I believe it’s about to, it’s going to release a pent up HISTORIC TSUNAMI of like-minded thinking that’s gonna sweep away EVERYTHING that lies in its wake, LOCK, STOCK, AND BARREL.

    SYMMETRY! As in spirit, likewise in mind, in design, in practice, and in experience. The new spirit ain’t gonna be ANYTHING like the old one (and rest assured, we be won’t be long as a species if it isn’t), although at this point, it may STILL not be enough. THAT is probably the only (and crucial) question any of us are left to argue these days. Are we gonna pull our collective head out of our ass in time to make the collective change (the “New Agers” call it a consciousness shift) in time for it to actually matter? Suffice it to say, you KNOW my position without even asking. Likewise, I might add, defense of “traditional education” is CERTAINLY not serving our cause in any shape, manner, or form IMO.

    Back at you, ya’ Brute!

    Oh, by the way, get ready for the whole “American Hero 9-11 hysteria ad-nauseum until you wanna puke and beg to die” bullshit coming up. A bunch of more self-entrapped compliant sheep for the slaughter I cannot imagine. AND YET!, every newly awakened day reveals EVEN MORE stories of newly compliant grossly subservient stories of faux “patriotism,” almost always in the misguided service of the very global capitalist interests that fucked them in the first place. Imagine that?

    Indeed! With “citizens” like these, who needs mere “subjects?”

    Sincerely!,

    DA

  34. Disaffected says:

    A NEW Pledge of Allegiance (from the cuff):

    I pledge allegiance
    To the world
    Of which I am a part
    And to the “earthly” mother
    And to the “heavenly” father
    To whom I owe my existence
    One consciousness
    Indivisible
    With TRUE liberty and justice
    For ALL
    AMEN!

    DA

  35. Disaffected says:

    Better:

    I pledge allegiance
    To the world
    Of which I am a part

    And to the “earthly” mother
    And to the “heavenly” father
    To whom I owe my part

    One consciousness
    Indivisible
    With TRUE liberty and justice

    For ALL

    AMEN!

  36. John Bollig says:

    DA, brutus and sandy,

    Da is an exceptional to the rule and his perspective is truly heartbreaking and cynical but realistic and truthful. I wish I could disagree with him in emasse but his arguements are particularly well done.

    Here are my viewpoints of the education system from a special education perspective.

    1. There are three systems in the current primary education system as we speak in our society.
    A, there is a elite system of education, shortly after the student starts school , they are tested and those with wealth, and ability are segregated from the masses.
    B, The second system is a worker/ slave system, this is the brainwashed system of history.
    C. This is the bottom of the barrel system where disabled, minorities and the poor are dumped.
    This is the system that prepares people for the welfare state, the system of dependency that surrounds the disability industrial complex. .

    2.The system only benefits the powers that be.
    A. The level of education given to minorities and disabled only benefits the system and makes them pliable.

    B. The dumbing down of american education is accelerating.

    PART 2 later….

  37. Brutus says:

    I’m in the unfortunate position of rising to defend something that is admittedly deeply flawed and currently the subject of popular attack (blame the teachers, ’cause our little snowflakes are innocent victims). In case it’s not clear, I share many of the scornful opinions being expressed. Where I differ is in condemning the entirety as one moiling, rotting, stinking mess, as if that’s all it ever was or will be, or that its real, true, secret, conspiratorial purpose was always to benefit the elites, that it by definition destroys the soul, yadda, yadda, yadda. Those are hysterical claims. Have any of you had a good educational experience? Ever? I have, but I have also been betrayed and victimized repeatedly by teachers and administrators. The whole endeavor is pretty unbalanced, but it’s not all black.

    Let’s not take Disaffected’s personal story and generalize from there. He’s a true outlier, whereas educational institutions are aimed at the masses. I was not especially well served, either. I tend toward iconoclasm (a better term than “out of the box thinking”) and have a heightened sense of social injustice. So I often respond to what I experience by seeking incremental reform — not the proper attitude of a student from the perspective of college faculties and administrators. But I received instruction and encouragement nonetheless. I learned and appreciate what I learned. In fact, I learned an awful lot from my fellow students, which I couldn’t have done holed away somewhere with a book, the way I continue to learn now.

    In contrast, the shrieking I’m reading comes from the equivalent of someone who has never experienced, say, a mother’s love and so condemns all families. Well, all families are dysfunctional, agreed? But the alternatives are even worse. The alternatives to traditional general education these days are home schooling and unschooling, and in the case of higher education, the alternative is simply not going, which probably means remaining in the dark about the world as a result, but not necessarily. I dare say more and more are choosing the alternatives. This is true even if they actually attend school because, as has been argued, schools are really not about education anymore. They’re about babysitting, socialization, self-esteem building, empty credentialing, and especially training up the masses as thoughtless, compliant consumers. (They hardly need to be units of labor anymore since jobs are scarce and money has taken on a life of its own independent from the production of any actual value). I get how awful a typical classroom is, but still, once in a while, a flower may grow through the cracks in the suffocating concrete.

    I haven’t responded in detail to John Bolling because he promises part 2 of his educational jeremiad. As stated above, I agree with a lot of it so far. But what is the proposal exactly? Should education be dismantled? Should we turn students out onto the street or suck them into nonexistent factories to perform cheap labor? What’s the point of levying all these attacks if there is no desire to reform anything? This part I really don’t get. And I’ll admit that the larger issues we discuss here are well beyond amelioration or reform, which may drag us all into the abyss rather sooner than later. But in the meantime, is there more than the cackling of dead men walking?

    • kulturcritic says:

      “What’s the point of levying all these attacks if there is no desire to reform anything?”

      Brutus – you may be asking people to bail water with buckets on the deck of the Titanic while the enormous hole in the ship is taking this sucker down, like it or not. Not that there wasn’t a point to reforming the system, but the nature of the reformation needed at this late date is highly unlikely, and given the advanced state of our disease might be hopeless to apply on a large enough audience. However, I do believe that individual teachers can make a difference for individual students in the right circumstances. But, even then, you only have a brief window of opportunity with them, and then the flood gates of survival in this chaotic man-made world open, and the learner must refocus on how to survive. As a former and recent professor, I have seen this time and again. I think its called the “reality principle,” the reality of what this culture is demanding of our students.

      • Brutus says:

        I already gestured toward your Titanic metaphor, so you’ll appreciate my basic agreement. Given the sucker’s goin’ down (though who knows quite when or how?), one might ask how to best spend our last years/days/hours. Running up and down the decks yelling at everyone “We’re all gonna die!!” is worse though no less futile than rearranging the deck chairs. Put another way, will we meet our deaths bravely and honorably, roll over and die quietly, or scream and kick as we labor for each failing breath? The brave and honorable thing, IMO and considering so few are prepared to face god’s honest truth of our collective predicament, is to figger something worthwhile to do in the waning days of empire and abundance. Our discussions here go a long way in brainstorming not for solutions but at least reasonable responses. Some hand-wringing and nihilism is understandable, no doubt, but I’d rather do something practical if possible. Jamming on the utter, abject pointlessness of education as currently practiced seems to me heedless.

        • kulturcritic says:

          In my case, our discussions here are my way of doing something worthwhile in the waning days of empire and shrinking abundance. And I am glad to have you and others here to help me through it. thanks, sandy

        • javacat says:

          At some point, talk becomes pointless and derails action. I see no profit from hammered condemnation. As a teacher, I see and live with the many deep flaws in not only the educational system but larger political and social systems from which it stems. But I also see value is some of its achievements. Like DA, I’ve a pretty good IQ, though I don’t remember the number and don’t much care, for those measures are part of a flawed system as well. Unlike DA, my educational experience is what saved me and I made the most of it. Like you, I feel a deep need to act, to make some change on a smaller scale because that’s the only one I can affect. FWIW.

          • kulturcritic says:

            javaCat – MB, it would seem you agree that collective large scale action would be futile, perhaps just exchanging one set of evil clowns for another, perhaps more or less evil. So you also recommend smaller scale, personal/clan/band type solutions, yes? But, I am curious, what achievements are you speaking of, those in the educational system, or the social-political systems?

    • Ron Greenstein says:

      I’m learning things as I read these excellent comments from many of the writers on this blog. How fortunate I am. Please keep up the good work.
      On this subject of education, I will offer a favorite quote from a great book on spirituality in education, titled The Heart of Learning.
      from a novel by T.H. White, The Once and Future King”
      Merlin speaking:
      The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may lie awake listening to the disorder of your veins. You may miss your only love. You may see the world around you devestated by evil lunatics or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it: to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Ron – thanks for joining the discussion and for the compliments to the group.

        White’s Merlin was always one of my favorite characters; not simply a necromancer, but a shaman in his own right. I read it in college on the recommendation of my history professor Marvin Bram. Of course, as we know Merlin was training the young Arthur to be king. A noble task?

        best, sandy

  38. kulturcritic says:

    Folks – as you all can see, I have switched back to a threaded (nested) comment format, based on feedback received. sandy

  39. John Bollig says:

    Part 2.

    Solving the problems that are unsolvable.

    1. With the educational system at the brink of a teetering loss, The following ideas are suggested in the hope that at least a kernel of a new system can be developed.

    The first is educational rationing, before you jump all over me for suggesting a quota system or a cut back of educational programs. it will happen anyway as the economic system collapses. My thinking on this is to preseve as much pure information as possible in various place. These repositories, such as salt mines and natural caverns will serve as a backup to the main computer system that we should be developing. Low power networks could provide any number of options to serve and dispense information.

    Expand private collections of information

    Let’s face it, the internet is going to be one of the first things to go when the power grid starts to collapse. The public library system is going to be dead also. So, private collections are going to have to expand and take a monastic feel to them. My library is around 3000 books and with other media I can get my hands on, it could be around 7000 books in short order. What I mean by books are not paperbacks. I mean hardback books that will last, with luck many generations. I am also collecting survival books and farming and livestock books. Another thing that some of my more surivialist friends are interested in is low power radio stations. Low power radio stations are going to have to fill the gap in information. Perhaps a chain of shortwave radio stations can be formed to disperse weather informaion and farming info.

    Develop a missionary system of teachers, educational survivalists frontier medical specialists etc. to educate and preserve the national heath system.

    The next idea is something that I feel strongly about because it will at least preserve the food distribution system and some trade. Rail lines must be preserved and maintained. The current highway network is not going last. So, whatever money is left for transportation must be diverted to a national rail network revitalization. The system will be supplemented by light rail and bus systems.

  40. StrayCat says:

    The discussion of education here is disheartening. While I agree that the institutions that claim to be educational are often not, the teachers are not all unthinking robots. Teaching to the test, watered down curricula and assuming that minorities are not ready for prime time have existed for thousands of years. Scholarly conservatism and turf protection are human traits that will always be with us. However, real education is personal, an ongoing process that needs guidance early on, but needs only like minded people gathering together with serious purpose post 11th grade. The thing is, all the tools, experiences and thoughts of humans from ages past up to the present are there, presently available. Yes, we all got verbally smacked when we drew inferences that were not approved ones, refused to allow one set of adjectives to distinguish US conduct from that of the USSR, for example by the use of different adjectives when the conduct was diplomatically and morality identical or so similar as to rate the same judgement. So what. We also got verbally reminded, and sometimes smacked around by fellow students for sloppy, wishful thinking, and inconsistent sets of ideas and anhistorical analysis. It goes with the territory. I submit that our real complaint with education is that it is a system, and thus, at root, hypocritical and demeaning. And I think that reform, by replacement is of the utmost importance unless the coming unravelling is an end point to any society. The fact is, all educated people are autodidacts, and those not lead out of the darkness by themselves, with a little help from their friends, will never be educated no matter how well trained they are. But I think that this is OK, as I know many well trained professional who wish to be just that, and have no wish to be educated in the way we speak of it. But another problem with education is that many learn the math, but cannot figure out how to get a bridge across the river, and many know spherical geometry, but could not navigate by sextant. In many ways, the educational “system” teaches things in a vacuum, whether history by date or math by theorem without any connecting tissue. Thus, learning facts and ingesting data without thought. It shows in the writing of recent graduates of all schools. You can’t write if you can’t think, and you can’t think clearly unless you have a clear, connected vocabulary. Have at me, people, I revel in this.

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