Archive for February, 2015

Ripples Into Riptides

John Adams once wrote – “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.” The unrelenting war on all forms and manifestations of a democratic social contract has led to bloody revolutions in every era, on every continent, and in virtually every culture. They all begin as slight disturbances, ripples on the surface of daily events, minor perturbations in the status quo that eventually take on a destructive life of their own not unlike the early gentle rumblings of an earthquake.

History clearly demonstrates political Democracy and Capitalism are not compatible ideologies, they are contentious and contradictory belief systems. Capitalism has, at bottom, become a quasi-religion as much as an economic system. Whereas Capitalism is amoral imposing no limits on wealth extracted from the commons, Democracy, on the other hand, requires morality of community, civility, and commitment to the common welfare, in a word, “sharing”. Sharing is anathema to Capitalism because there is no monetary profit and so is vilified by calling it “socialism” or worse. Controlling the vocabulary of debate is an old and useful tactic.

When any kind of amorality becomes pervasive, it desensitizes a society with a form of instrumentalism that justifies other amoral behaviors creating a destructive pathology of civil decline. One need only recall the rise of Nazis and their vilification of Jews in pre-war Germany to understand how this dynamic works. For a recent example, how can a society justify killing someone for selling a loose cigarette while lionizing and bailing out with taxpayer money, bankers who impoverished millions with their greed? In the US today 49.7 million people qualify as poor, 80% of the total population is in or near poverty.  In the face of this calamity politicians are proposing cuts in the Food Stamp programs, Social Security, and health care. To what end are we again, it seems, being driven to the intersection of civilization vs barbarism, a society committing suicide.

When a country acts immorally it diminishes its moral authority across the board. When a government offers “facts” contrary to the truth people who are actually living it it relinquishes its moral authority, authenticity, and agency. The innocent adults and children killed by our drone strikes is a truth not ameliorated by the fact that there is always collateral damage during war. Collateral damage is a morally reprehensible argument against justice, a false use of truth invalidating claims of moral superiority over the enemy. Sadly this behavior also speaks in the names of all of citizens of the state causing the harm and that includes you and me. The US is a country in which thousands tout their Christianity and at the same time accept criminalizing feeding the hungry and homelessness. Everything is related to everything else in one way or another.

In Cleveland, police summarily executed a 12 year old boy at a playground. The boy was holding a bb gun. The same cops also threw the kid’s sister to the ground and handcuffed her for wanting to reach her dying brother. The boy died, the cops offered no first aid or care. In a news interview Police Union Chief, Jeffrey Follmer, placed absolutely no value on the 12 year old’s life – none! His callous  response? “How about this: Listen to police officers’ commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop … that eliminates a lot of problems.” He added, “I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it.” Listen up, Nation, Jeffrey Follmer has spoken a fact which is truth for many Americans, you live in a police state – do what you’re told – or else we’ll kill you even for selling a lose cigarette. Is this American Exceptionalism? Is it justice? What kind of society have we become? What are we becoming?  We have the facts but are we ready to face truth?

There are many more examples but the foregoing seem to encapsulate a version of the social contract that is in opposition to what we believe to be normal – they portray a new normal in which truth has no moral function and human life has no value. The facts are, do what you’re told and everything will be alright, but the truth is something else. The truth is we cannot be parties to torture abroad or unwarranted killing at home unless we accept our own complicity. It is valuable to note that the most outspoken critic of CIA torture was a Congressman who himself, as a prisoner of war, was tortured by North Vietnam. Is that what it takes for people to understand that inhumanity – to be tortured themselves?

  In all of this, it is essential to understand that facts and truth are not, in fact, the same thing. Facts are devoid of morality, they simply describe and nothing more. Truths, on the other hand, are an integral aspect of moral thought and behavior, truths give facts meaning. Facts exist in a moral void and truths are a moral context. I have personally witnessed many instances of individuals spewing facts and not describing the truth, using facts to obscure the truth, to create cognitive dissonance. Lawyers and politicians do this routinely. It’s a shuck and jive the end result being that an audience or a jury never understands the truth and so defaults to the better liar.

We are, in the 21st Century, engaged in a new round of Democracy vs Capitalism. We must question. We must challenge – each of us. Time is running out on what’s left of this Democracy and what is left of a civil society because we are avoiding truth. We must tell truth to power and demand truth from them lest the ripples turn into waves and the waves into riptides of destruction. Truth is a virtue not an inconvenience, there can be no justice without it.

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More is More

ec      When immigrants and refugees from Eastern and Southern Europe immigrated to the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s found work and could provide for a family the education of their children became the first priority. These people knew the value of education from experience and provided it sometimes at great sacrifice. In fact, they demanded it and insured that their children understood its importance. All of these people had felt the inequality imposed by inherited wealth and property. The social capital of the ruling classes in Europe was an intolerable burden for the rest of society to bear and that’s why my grandparents and millions of other American’s grandparents and great-grandparents fled Italy, Poland, Ireland and nearly every other European country. For these immigrants education was liberation, it was freedom, it was dignity, a path to a life as middle-class families. Enormous sacrifices were made to put kids through college and university where they became professionals in medicine, law, education, and science. It was the “New World” indeed. It was the embodiment of the “American Dream”.

Here we are a century and a half later facing a relentless political battle to deny that dream, to denigrate public schools, to destroy the education system that made attaining the dream possible. Empty arguments like third grade retention are employed to mask the real intent of the so-called reformers. Their arguments sound like they know what they are talking about but, in fact, they are  meaningless. They want total control over school budgets to use as carrots on a stick to force compliance with their dictates. The ultimate mission of these foot soldiers for the ultra-wealthy is to destroy and privatize the strongest most important force in a democracy – education. Those being served by these soldiers want social control and there is no better way to achieve that than to determine how the society is educated.  How better to control people as adults than by controlling their childhood education? This is why totalitarian regimes throughout history have always taken control of education from madrasas to universities. To obtain the finished product you desire you have to control the production line from start to finish. You must control to achieve control.

Control and destruction of public education is a large factor in right-wing thinking at all levels. The Kochs “give” money to hundreds of colleges and universities. The Kochs even have their own guy at the University of Kansas who previously worked directly for them who is now Chairman of their endowed, “Center for Applied Economics”. This guy conducts seminars and conferences and publishes “helpful” articles – he’s their boy. The Kochs are also helping him pay his legal bills as he tries to shield himself from disclosure of the extent of their support. Is education important to these people? You bet it is, they want to control it and they would rather you not know the extent of their influence over State legislatures who are deeply influenced (and controlled) by campaign contributions and promises of placement on the national stage. How about a steak dinner and free drinks? Or even better, an all expenses trip to a ALEC seminar for you and your spouse being held at a lovely island resort? Whatever it takes.

If aliens from outer space flew in, took over Washington DC, and began to dismantle government we would be outraged. We would be engaged in a counter revolution within hours. The same is happening except the aliens aren’t from outer space they are home grown, an ideological ISIS in three piece suits. Sadly the threat is being met by the public with passivity because they don’t know what’s at stake. It’s time to wake people up and have them smell the influence and the consequences. The “reformers” are relentless in their quest for “more” of everything including your schools. The motto is: “Only More Is More!”


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