The Mall of American Progress

a-grand-canyon-strip-mall

By Scott Beauchamp

Source: The Baffler

Malls may not be an American monopoly, but America’s not really thinkable without them. They’re where we come together, octogenarian mall walkers and teen Goths alike, as we aim for that perfect, elusive balance between over- and under-stimulation. They’re our own controlled-climate variation on the outdoor European arcade; only in the multipurposed American mallspace, you don’t simply exchange money for goods: you exercise, see movies, attend concerts, go to school, and worship God. They’re our culture’s vapid response to the depletion of the commons. And their increasingly empty and abandoned carapaces mottle the American landscape like munition-citadels in the war between consumerism and community.

If the war metaphor seems too dramatic, consider the name of latest big American mall project to announce itself: The Grand Canyon Escalade Project. An “escalade” is a form of military attack that uses ladders to scale a wall.  (Though civilian American consumers probably know the word as a synonym for “gargantuan Cadillac SUV.”) And the Grand Canyon is, well, the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Escalade Project is a proposal to build a mall on the eastern rim of the world’s largest canyon. It’s also a handy metaphor for everything debauched, short-sighted, and self-infatuated about our consumer culture: a belligerent outpost of gaudy merchandise, perched on the very cusp of the void. It doesn’t make much economic sense, it doesn’t make much environmental sense, and it’s an exercise in rapaciousness that represents the worst of American attitudes about unbridled growth.

The Escalade Project has been in the works for some time. The moneymen behind the project call themselves the Confluence Group, LLC, after the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, where the mall will be built. According to James Joiner’s dispatch on the development in the Daily Beast, the mall will occupy 420 acres “of remote land” and offer a wide array of “retail shops, restaurants, and hotels on the upper rim.” The lowest level of the project would continue to tickle the shopping and appetites of mall visitors, while also offering “stadium seating to take in the views, a museum, visitors center, and elevated river walk.” An IMAX theater will wow moviegoers for whom the splendors of erosion across the millennia may not sufficiently diverting. Meanwhile, the stubborn holdouts who still want to experience the canyon floor beneath their feet will at least be able to do so in the comfort of a people-moving tram. Hiking and donkey-packs are, like nature itself, just a series of needless trials for the single-minded shopper.

The Confluence Group isn’t the only significant regional backer of the Escalade Project. Another key player is the Navajo Nation, which, much to the consternation of some of its members, is promoting the as a claiming it will provide thousands of jobs. Others aren’t so convinced. A group of people opposing the project, calling themselves Save the Confluence, stress that the river confluence is a sacred site to 18 American Indian tribes. Renae Yellowhorse, who has lived on Navajo land her entire life, recently led a New York Times reporter to the precipice of the canyon and surveyed the land below, saying, “This is where the tram would go. This is the heart of our Mother Earth. This is a sacred area. This is going to be true destruction.”

And pace the advocates of commercial development everywhere, at all costs, this doesn’t necessarily promise to be creative (or even merely profitable) destruction. Malls are not guaranteed moneymakers. Crestwood Court Mall, the local mall in my suburban St. Louis hometown, where I would go as a teenager to eat Panda Express and buy discount CD’s as all the music stores slowly closed, is now a “ghost mall,”—a mordant coinage that’s become distressingly common along the American interior. Indeed, the desiccated caverns of Crestwood Court are something of a Grand Canyon unto itself. Crestwood was the first mall to open in the St. Louis area in 1957; now it’s an eerie one million square feet of shopping space, completely devoid of shoppers, stores, and products. It is, fittingly enough, now part of an art project called “Contemporary Ruins.”

The empty, dead mall has become a ubiquitous part of pop culture. Movies like Gone Girl and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie have employed ghost malls as spooky and/or comic backdrops. There’s even a website devoted to the exploration of ghost malls.

And the retail decline evoked in all this ominous imagery is real enough. According to numbers reported by the New York Times, 94 percent of American malls were still economically viable in 2006; today, that rate is down to something just shy of 80 percent. They’re being carved out from the inside, with almost 20 percent of malls being at least 10 percent vacant. The trend continues unabated, in what D.J. Busch, a senior analyst at Green Street, calls a “death spiral.” Filling a million square feet or more of retail space, and keeping it filled, while even more big box stores and malls are built just neighborhoods away is quite a tall order.

Still, boosters of the Escalade Project insist that they enjoy the time-honored commercial advantages conferred by a prime location: it’s on the edge of a national park in the middle of a relatively undeveloped landscape. But in broader environmental terms, that means that things might be even worse if the mall does survive. Saying that it’s going to be “bad for the environment” is a bit like saying that being shot in the head would “impair thinking.” The pressure that the influx of visitors and the population boom of permanent residence would put on the already scant water supply could be catastrophic. The rivers are already strained and dirty from overuse. The group American Rivers recently named the Colorado River, which already serves 35 million people, the most endangered river in the United States. As Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, recently told the New York Times, “Building this suburban development there would have an impact on the lifeblood of the national park. It’s a threat to the groundwater supply of the Colorado River.”

On top of the project’s all-but certain disastrous impact on the region’s severe water strain and waste issues, there’s also the pending repeal of twenty-year ban on uranium mining near the proposed building site. Where’s J.G. Ballard when you need him?

The Escalade Project embodies and amplifies the worst aspects of the American myth of progress. It’s cheap, of course—and stunningly heedless of the sacred meaning of the site to the region’s original inhabitants. But it’s also disrespectful to our own humanity. The Grand Canyon isn’t just “beautiful” in the sense that a travel brochure or IMAX exhibition might glibly characterize it. It’s sublime, in the way that Edmund Burke famously defined the notion as an otherworldly compound of astonishment and terror. As Burke argued, the full impact of the sublime should overwhelm our minds, and lift us out of the stupor of everyday life: it is, he wrote, “productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.”

As the callow progress of the Escalade Project has made all too clear, we’ve all but lost our ability to recognize, and properly revere, the sublime. Instead, we’ve traded it for food courts, tram-conducted group tours, and emojis. In his introduction to Oakley Hall’s magisterial novel of the myth of the American West, Warlock, Thomas Pynchon observes that “we are a nation that can, many of us, toss with all aplomb our candy wrapper into the Grand Canyon itself, snap a color shot, and drive away; and we need voices . . . to remind us how far that piece of paper, still fluttering brightly behind us, has to fall.

 

Scott Beauchamp is a veteran and writer. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Deadspin, among other places.

Posted in Economics, culture, society, Environment, Consumerism, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Top 5 Moves That the 1% Uses to Maintain Dominance

By George Lakey

Source: Waking Times

How Do You Beat the 1 Percent? Start by Learning Their Favorite Moves… 

Gandhi confronted a number of adversaries in his day, including a world empire. He sometimes called them “a worthy opponent” — one that used shrewd strategy to try to defeat his movement. Even though Gandhi was deeply concerned with ethical issues, he didn’t think that taking a moral stand excused him from the need to strategize. That meant paying attention to the moves coming at him.

In keeping with my last two columns on this subject (see part one and part two), here are five more of the economic elite’s favorite moves, as it seeks to maintain dominance in the United States and elsewhere.

Create a lesser-of-two-evils choice

When the nonviolent campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline upset the “done deal” between Canada and the United States, a flurry of discussion took place among environmentalists. A prominent expert took to the airwaves to argue that, since the Alberta tar sands oil was going to be extracted anyway, wouldn’t it be better to have it transported by pipeline rather than dangerous railcars?

Many liberals bought her argument, overlooking the assumption beneath it: “the Alberta tar sands oil is going to be extracted anyway.” They (and the environmental expert) fell into the trap; they failed to notice that the very framing of choices supported the elite’s goal and created an environmental disaster.

The current energy debate in Philadelphia is over whether to accept a new vision of the region as a fossil fuel “energy hub,” enlarging pipelines for Marcellus Shale natural gas and North Dakota fracked oil, gearing up Philadelphia’s refineries and tanker shipping, and stimulating petrochemical manufacturing. Here the framing is: Would you rather create new jobs and expand our tax base to support our schools through this exciting vision, or stick with the status quo left by past deindustrialization?

At the moment, the Philadelphia climate justice campaign fights for traction because the choice appears to be between the lesser of two evils. There’s not a vivid climate-friendly vision for economic development with an abundance of green jobs. U.S. political culture habituates the public to “lesser-of-two-evils” choices, and overlooks the question: who sets up this framing? If we follow the money the answer is obvious, and raises the next question: Why leave vision work to the 1 percent?

For a long time the 1 percent has supported a division of labor for the two major political parties. The Republicans focus on meanness and repression, while the Democrats focus on compromise with progressive movements and co-optation. This division of labor works well for the economic elite, because they win no matter what party is in power. The track record of the Democrats, even when they control both houses of Congress and the White House, supports the ever-increasing wealth and control of the elite, while distracting movements from more effective options for exerting grassroots power.

Interestingly, the division of labor between the parties grows sharper as the 1 percent faces the potential political dynamite of a growing wealth gap. At times when income distribution in the United States is a bit closer to equality, bipartisanship in Congress is frequent. When income inequality becomes more extreme, the parties distance themselves from each other. Partisan polarization generates drama, as we saw during the health reform days early in the Obama administration. The healthcare reform coalition carefully avoided drama, disregarding the lessons of the civil rights movement on what actually works to bring about major change. The vacuum was filled by Tea Party Republicans, whose drama of course upstaged the reformers and resulted in the loss of a public option in the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of Americans still have no health insurance, while the private health care industry reaps additional profits paid by taxpayers.

The emotion of drama comes from somewhere. The Republicans give voice to the growing fear and anger of millions who feel, and are, oppressed. While it’s odd to hear millionaire white male Republicans speechify about how pushed around and marginalized they are, the narrative plays well among white, middle class older men who now recognize their relative powerlessness.

Extreme and outrageous behavior among Republican office-holders is helpful to the Democrats, who look ever more rational and “grown-up” even while failing to deliver major gains for labor, women and environmentalists.

On the ground, this means that any progressive grassroots campaign that looks as though it has legs can expect overtures from Democratic Party operatives to “help.” It feels great, especially for people who have been marginalized, to “have a seat at the table.”

Results are something else. In Wisconsin, a powerful grassroots direct action campaign resisting the 1 percent’s attack on labor was co-opted a few years ago by the Democratic Party, and went down to defeat. On the macro level, anyone can spend 20 minutes on the Internet comparing the United States with the Nordic countries to see how allowing ourselves to be co-opted has worked out for us.

Make it vertical, then lop off the bottom rungs

This move beguiles middle class groups committed to measurement and the rational use of scarce resources. In Pennsylvania, a historic system of 14 state universities exists separate from the better-known Pennsylvania State University. One of the 14, for a variety of reasons, is booming, giving the opportunity for the elite to apply its verticalizing strategy: first “reward” the prospering one by loosening its link to the other 14. This step encourages a couple of others to seek the same status, over time supporting the urge to rank the 14 from “best to worst.” It then becomes easier to abandon the “worst-performing” schools. Fitting into the racist narrative is that the oldest historically black college in the country, Cheyney State University, will be on the chopping block. (Full disclosure: I’m a graduate of Cheyney.)

Verticalizing not only enhances competition and back-stabbing, usually a good thing in the eyes of the 1 percent, but produces an attractive (to them) bottom line: less overall public funding going to the schools that are left standing.

Set up a study commission

This move has enormous appeal as long as we forget about the reality of power. The governmentally-sponsored study commission is a graveyard for good ideas that threaten the economic elite. It also drains off the talent and brains of progressive intellectuals who could instead be working for a people’s movement, generating the vision that such movements too often lack.

Discredit the truth-tellers

Like the other strategy tools employed by the 1 percent, this move does not always work. The failure of this move in the case of Edward Snowden is instructive. Enough people stood up to defend Snowden as a whistle-blower such that the combined machinery of media and the White House didn’t fully work. This shows why activists should be careful not to exaggerate the power of the economic elite. When a radical voice is attacked, activists need to be ready to go on the offensive. At the height of the anti-Communist hysteria in the 1950s, for instance, U.S. civil libertarians in Philadelphia rented the Academy of Music and filled its 3,000 seats for a speech by a U.S. Communist Party leader who had been indicted as a criminal for violating the Smith Act.

There are many ways to counter the economic elite, depending on the specifics of the situation, but all are enhanced by preparation and going on the offensive. Not everyone who cares about justice loves strategy, but those who have a knack for it can join progressive movements and lend a hand.

 

About the Author

George Lakey co-founded Earth Quaker Action Group which just won its five-year campaign to force a major U.S. bank to give up financing mountaintop removal coal mining. Along with college teaching he has led 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national, and international levels. Among many other books and articles, he is author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” in David Solnit’s book Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004). His first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and most recent was with Earth Quaker Action Team while protesting mountain top removal coal mining.

 

Posted in Activism, civil liberties, conditioning, Corporate Crime, culture, divide and conquer, Empire, History, police state, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, society, State Crime, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two for Tuesday

Ab-Soul

Posted in Art, culture, Music Video, Two for Tuesday, Video | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fuck the Mainstream

Act-Out

A great episode of Act Out!, a videocast produced by Occupy.com, takes on mainstream media lies of omission. I prefer to use the term corporate media because views and opinions they propagate are in many cases not representative of the mainstream (though they’d like us to believe they are). Other than that, I wholeheartedly agree with host Eleanor Goldfield’s cathartic and on-point rant.

For more, check out their video page at http://www.occupy.com/categories/act-out or YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKFyxRML4e78QPlFxOEYOIg

Posted in Activism, corporate news, culture, media, news, propaganda, Social Control, society, Video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Out of the Invisible Prison: The Ten-Point Global Paradigm Revolution

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By Prof. John McMurtry

Source: GlobalResearch.ca

As we enter 2015, the global corporate system deepens and spreads in its eco-genocidal effects. But the dots are not joined in their common cause across domains. Money-value coordinates like gross domestic product (GDP), commodity productivity and stock market indexes are still adopted as the measures of “economic performance” rather than life capital development which is systemically depredated.

More than any prior stage of history, we know not what we are doing at the macro level of life organization, nor why no uptick of American sales can remotely solve the problem of collapsing social and natural life support systems. Greece – the world’s emblem of the sacrifice of society to bank debt servicing – is now 45 per cent more in debt than it was before the “austerity” programs started. Global social and ecological collapse proceed in lock-step with predatory corporate and bank globalization, but the connection is taboo to examine.

Fatal mind blocks now rule that no economists see from within received models of understanding, and that no cognitive science lays bare. Unconnected spectacles of crisis are alone reported. Obviously, no recovery from the most wasteful and destructive economic disorder in history is possible so long as it is unseen. This is why we continue over the long cliff of catastrophe without an evident clue of what is happening at the macro level. As another new year opens with all degenerate trends deepening, a point-by-point resetting of our economic parameters to life reality is more than ever demanded. The fatally absurd economic box within which we have been conditioned to conform at a preconscious level remains life-blind at every step without knowledge of it.

Every one of the 10 points of re-framing the economy to life coherence is self-evident once seen. But every step is also revolutionary in paradigm shift from money-capital sequence to life-capital sequence as primary system decider. Once our thought is freed from the bars of the eco-genocidal disorder that now misrules, no step can be reasonably denied.

1. The One-Way Eco-Genocidal Trends

The evidence is now overwhelming that life on earth is in systematic decline toward collapse on all levels. But the meaning is nowhere recognized by any economic model. We have come to know that the climates destabilize to ever greater extremes, but do not connect this long denied reality to the deeper macro facts that the air, soil, forests and water sources are all cumulatively despoiled across the planet as the oceans themselves die back. Vertebrate species simultaneously become extinct at a spasm rate across cultures and continents, but no macro policy arrests their one-way collapse from song birds to coral reefs to pollinators to large animals all at once. Pollution cycles and volumes increase to endanger life systems at all levels, but no global system reduction has been made since the Ozone protocol over 25 years ago.

All the while, public sectors, services and regulators are defunded and dismantled to leave ever more tens of millions of people dispossessed, but tax evasion by the rich multiplies at the same time in one-way disastrous trend. The global food system produces more disabling and contaminated junk than it does food with nutritional value, while man-made non-contagious diseases from obesity to cancer escalate into the world’s biggest killer. Corporate state wars for the resources of the majority world never stop under false pretexts, while transnational corporate-rights treaties to the life capital (means of life that can produce more means of life without loss and cumulative gain) of all societies multiply at the same time. At the core of the system, the global financial system ceases to function for productive investment in life goods, while the future of the next generations collapses toward 25-50 per cent real unemployment, and a world where no birds sing. Yet nowhere is the common cause investigated or even conceived in the business press, education or high theory.

2. The Moral DNA of the Cancer Stage of Capitalism

In fact, the underlying value code driving every degenerate trend is never defined. It is, rather, assumed without question or examination and set into mathematical disconnect as the sole meaning of economic inquiry. Bertrand Russell’s warning here is apposite. “Mathematics may be defined as the subject where we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we say is true.” The co-author of Principia Mathemtica thus nailed “neo-classical economics” over a century ago. Yet no-one knew what it would come to mean. An academically coded corporate rule in a completely life-blind “Economics” was instituted with its assumption drivers hidden in symbols and closed to disconfirmation by facts. Behind all the self-referential hocus-pocus incapable of predicting its predictable disasters, a ruling value code crystallized to drive the world to ruin with no-one knowing why. This moral DNA of globalization regulates beneath consciousness by four absolute equations assumed in every moment of what is now still masked as “the neoliberal turn.”

Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice
= Always More Money-Value for Self is Good
= Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top Under 1%
= the Ruling Growth System with No Committed Life Functions
= All Else is Disposable Means to this Multiplying Pathogenic Growth

One can test this ruling moral meta program on every degenerate trend. But because it is not seen, the greatest of all fatal confusions comes to be built into societies’ ruling meaning: that money-sequence growth = life value growth. No more malignant mutation of value and meaning has ever occurred. As on the micro level where the surrounding cell community does not recognise the multiplying gross cells eating the life-host alive, so too on the macro social level. Leading the mutant tides of hollowing-out dispossession and ruin of social and ecological life hosts is a private bank system creating tidal notes of bets, credit and debt without legal tender, and partnering with transnational corporations in predation of local economies across the world. It loots life and life bases as ‘necessary reforms’ everywhere it is allowed to move.

This is why there is not inflation while trillions of new dollars are printed for private banking operations with no life productive function. Endless slashing of life goods in wages, benefits, social security and environmental security take corresponding tides of money demand away from people’s lives and life support systems as money-demand powers multiply to the non-producing top. One can track back every step to the ruling value code at work that is taboo to see.

3. Contemporary Economics is a Pseudo-Science

None of this can be seen by ‘Economics’ because it is a pseudo-science. Its ruling categories are disconnected from reality with no life coordinates, and its defining postulates are unfalsifiable by any facts of the world. All organic, social and ecological life requirements are assumed away a-priori. Infinite demand on finite resources is presupposed as sustainable. Reversibility of all processes is taken for granted in a nineteenth-century liquid mechanics model. Consequences follow in the long run that are predictably fatal to human and planetary life organization.

Yet whatever does not fit this a-priori life-blind construction is heretical in graduate schools supplying economic advisers to governments and corporations, and taboo in the corporate press and media to the extent of its contradiction. It is not only a mechanical model, but is absurdly “freedom” and “well-being” at the same time. Whatever deviates from it, conversely, is “irrational” or “despotic.” At the system-wide level of ruling story, the plot is universal for all societies. Purely self-maximizing atomic selves in the market are believed to necessitate the best of possible worlds by an invisible hand of competition ensuring lowest money costs. Life costs do not compute, and “economic growth” is consistent with destroying all life support systems.

We find here, in fact, the underlying form of a fanatic religion. Supra-human laws dictate commands across peoples, and no deadly consequences diminish certitude in its production of the optimal state for all by the perfect design of the system. With the supreme conceit of a just-so story of dyadic market exchange producing the best of possible worlds multiplied to infinity with no possibility of being wrong, we find the inner logic of the global disorder. It rules as a totalitarian creed blind to all but its own growth free of any life value, standard or regulator.

4. Knowledge Wins in the End, but Not Until It is Known

Societies have thus been everywhere ‘restructured’ as subordinate functions to the inexorable transformation of humanity and the world into ever more private commodities and profits. This mutant value system is malignant to the marrow with no consciousness of its derangement or ill consequences. It is taboo to recognize what is everywhere confirmed – deregulated borderless money sequences multiplying themselves by life-blind models, treaties and wars through all that exists on earth whatever their destruction of human and ecological life systems.

Alarm at the growing deadly symptoms increases across thoughtful people, but without decoding connection. Top-down embargo on any other economic view or reality – including by NATO wars – suppresses alternative at every level. Policies of ‘solution’ only extend the pathogenic system further. Even as the reversal of life evolution on earth becomes undeniable under the global rule of private money-sequence multiplication, life-coherent restructuring is anathema and prohibited a-priori by the unexamined value system. It all seems hopeless, but knowledge wins in the end if not suffocated. Behind every step of degeneration lie failures of social knowledge:

(1) failure to diagnose the regulating value mechanism at work;

(2) failure to connect across the domains of life despoliation as predictable from the system’s blind money-demand multiplications;

(3) failure to define or demand any public policies against its despoiling and devouring life support systems with the public increasingly financing the out-of-control feeding cycles;

(4) failure to recognise any life-value principle or ground of the real economy itself.

5. Re-Grounding in Real Capital and Goods, True Supply and Demand

The failure to recognise the life ground and processes of “the economy” is built into the ruling paradigm in principle. As in the prior ruling religion, disconnection of categories and system from empirical reality and life needs rules out disbelief. But disconnect is in the name of “science” and “the invisible hand” rather than “God’s commands” and “divine design.” Adam Smith the founder of modern economics was a Deist, but doctrinal abdication of life ground and reality became totalized in so-called “neo-classical economics” which displaces the class divisions of classical economics and the possibility of any alternative social order.

Thus an absurd metaphysics comes to rule which cannot be decoded because its first principles and axioms are a-priori dictates not subject to critical examination. The first principle of this life-blind economics begins by disconnection from all life requirements, grounds and needs – thus mutating the economy’s provision of otherwise scarce material life goods into an opposite meaning where life goods and life capital do not exist. Capital is assumed as private money-sequences multiplying themselves with life capital blinkered out. Private commodities are assumed to be ‘goods’ although they are in fact increasingly bads for organic, social and ecological life hosts.

The ‘laws of supply and demand’ are simultaneously reduced to self-maximizing private money exchanges indifferent to the real economy of providing life goods otherwise in short supply. Demand is not need or necessity as in any real economy. It is money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back over 97 per cent of it: which is ever more unequally held by those serving no productive function, and which nowhere today stands for any life need whatever. The fatal metaphysic built into first principles does not end here. ‘Supply’ is not the life goods people need to survive and flourish, but increasingly the opposite – ever more priced commodities for profit now promoting ever more human and ecological ill-being across the world. Capital is not life wealth that can produce more life wealth without loss, but increasing transnational private money sequences hollowing out life capital on every plane.

6. Knowing Good from Bad as the Baseline of Life-Coherent Economics

At the normative level of this doctrine, a ludicrous and fatal doctrine of freedom rules the war and peace of nations beneath consciousness of it. Freedom = freedom for private money demand only = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.

Sane people, in contrast, recognise that life value matters more, the more coherently inclusive in self and world the better. But this ultimately self-evident value ground has been reversed without recognition. People called ‘pro-life’ usurp women’s choice of how they live. Nations assume that ‘standard of living’ is measured by private money spent. ‘Life sciences’ sacrifice billions of animal lives a year for the private money-sequence gains of big corporations. Animal rights theory itself has no criterion to tell the life value of a slug from a person. ‘New and better technology’ is the ruling panacea, but no life-value standard exists to decide better from worse.

What then are we to ground in as life value that the real economy must provide? The objective standard and measure can be stated in three incisive steps:

    1. all value whatever is life value,
    2. good versus bad equals the extent to which life is more coherently enabled versus disabled, by
    3. greater/lesser ranges or capacities of thought, felt being and action through time.

This criterion of life value is no more a matter of opinion than people’s life necessities are. But what are these life needs that no economic paradigm – orthodox or revolutionary – defines? They are in every case that without which life capacities are reduced. Life capital, in turn, is that which produces and reproduces these life goods – from literacy and extending knowledge to the soil we grow in and air we breathe. The ruling value mechanism miscalled ‘the global economy’ is the opposite. It attacks life goods and capital everywhere as ‘externalities’ to its self-multiplying money-sequence and commodity cycles. But because such growth is assumed to be growing life value, the greatest value reversal in history is unseen.

7. Life Capital Base and Growth as the Real Economy Across Cultures

The moving line of the war of liberation begins with what we are able to control, our own lives. Here we can recognise that every value we enjoy, lose or gain has a bottom line – its life capital, that is, the life wealth that produces more life wealth without loss and with cumulative gain. We defend it by life goods to ensure our life capacities are not reduced but grow through time. Most are unpriced – the sun and air, the learning, the home environment, the delight in nature, the play, the love, the raising of children, the fellow arts, and so on. On the social level, the same holds and any well-governed society provides for them in many ways. All may recognise the principle of life capital in their own lives as self-evident, and that all which lasts through time that is worthwhile is life capital. But life capital does not exist as a concept in received economics. It is ruled out a-priori by money capital, the social instrument made the lord without life function.

Addictive internalization is how the system disorder grows on. Knowledge of life goods and bads is how it is rooted out, the unrecognised through-line of human evolution. That is why we find we live far better without corporate-ad television, regular private gas-vehicle use, any junk food or beverage, any throwaway item, any new fashion or commodity not more life enabling than the old, any business with big private banks. The organizing principle is as old as the good life, but is forgotten. The life-capital code is not stated, but becomes ever clearer in our time: minimize market demand that disables life capacities to enable life capital to grow and flourish. This principle is unthinkable within the ruling thought system, but defines transformation to true economy and life emancipation on earth. It liberates life wherever it moves.

The underlying turning point is as old as human evolution itself. Every human advance is by knowing what enables life through time from what does not. Collective life advance is transmitting this life-and-death knowledge across selves and generations. The life capital code holds across cultures. Life goods are always that without which life capacities decline and die. All real needs, all real demand, all real supply, and all real economics are known by this criterion. The lost line between good and evil is found in this principle, and so too human freedom and well-being.

We can define the meaning more concretely as follows Every human life suffers and degenerates toward disease and death without breathable and unpolluted air, clean water and waste cycles, nourishing food and drink, protective living space, supportive love, healthcare when needed, a life-coherent environment, symbolic interaction, and meaningful work to perform. All are measurable in sufficiency across cases. All are now degraded, polluted or perverted by the self-multiplying money-capital system defined above.

8. Collective Life Capital the Missing Link across Divisions

Collective life capital is the long-missing principle of the common interest and collective agency. The life capital code goes deeper than gender, culture or individual differences, and includes past as well as future generations by definition. It is objective, impartial, and universally applicable. It is the ultimate regulator of the economic principles of efficiency, productivity and development. It grounds political legitimacy and supersedes ruinous man-nature, economy-environment splits and individual-social conflicts of interest. By its regulation, freedom is made responsible to its own conditions of possibility. Life capital defines an inner logic of life value which cannot in principle go wrong within or beyond economics.

Collective life capital is the missing common ground and measure across the lines of death itself. It is the this-worldly bridging concept across the impasse of global culture wars, economy-versus – environment thinking, present-versus-future interests, male versus female conflicts, and all other warring dichotomies wrenching us from our shared life ground beneath property lines and the mors immortalis of reality on earth.

The difference from received ultimate principles of value across time and theories is in the objective precision of meaning and direction when value judgement and decision are governed by its laws of:

    1. life value regulator from start to finish,
    2. production of more life value capacity through generational time,
    3. life-value measure to tell greater from lesser in any domain by margins of capacity loss or gain,
    4. cumulative life gain as the organizing goal of the process throughout, and
    5. the meta principle: the more coherently inclusive any decision or action is in enabling life capacities, the better it always is for the world.

9. The Life-and-Death War of the World

In fact, the global corporate commodity and money-sequence system usurps these life capital principles with impunity across continents, while captive corporate states increasingly subsidize, de-regulate, privatize and militarily enforce this life-blind rule over all ecological and human requirements and rights.But who sees the moving lines of the global life-and-death war?

Obviously a real economy would regulate for life capital conservation and advance with money sequences only as means – as is already is the case in a human way of life. Societies and individuals would transform to better lives if the paradigm revolution was enacted in their spheres of choice. Victory or loss in the war of the world lies as always in how we live. Knowledge of bads versus goods is always the inner logic of human evolution at individual and collective levels of action. It is the mark of being human, and begins in what we do not demand – for example, any new fashion or commodity not more life enabling than the old or the used.

The organizing principle of real economy is long anticipated by China’s Tao-te Ching and the West’s autarkia of human self-realization, and many prove it in their own lives. Minimal demand on short resources to enable maximum life capacities is the war of recovery on social as well as individual levels. While every corporate state now presses for ever more energy extraction and use with no limit of public and life costs at every imaginable level, the root of economic rationality – ration to need – is effectively taboo in official culture.

Once the life-capital system decider kicks in, the rules of selection for what compossibly enables rather than disables human and fellow life on earth become evident to reason and learning from mistakes – the ultimate incapacity of the now ruling global system. This is the transformation to true economy and life emancipation, and it can only proceed in accord with the life capital principle that holds across individual, social and environmental life hosts.

10. The Ultimate Choice Space of Humanity

Collective life capital is now fatally endangered on almost every plane across generational and ecological time. The common life interest has no meaning in the ruling global system because its sole law of growth is to multiply the very private commodities and money sequences without life function that mindlessly drive the end-game world disorder.

It follows that humanity’s very provision for the universal human life necessities that have evolved over millennia are blinkered out by the life-blind value measures of what is miscalled ‘the economy.’ Everything that makes a society civilized or liveable is excluded from view – life-protective laws including sufficient minimum wages and environmental regulations, common water and sewage systems for all, free movement pathways and life spaces without cost to use, non-profit healthcare and disease-prevention by public institution, public income security from disemployment, old age and disability, primary to higher education without multiplying debts, family housing, food and life means assistance for children without sufficient parental money, and public libraries and arts facilities with accessible books, films and works of art and art creation. This is more or less a complete index of the collective life capital bases modern society has evolved, but all are dismantled by the global corporate disorder to maximally profit from.

In truth, the organizing principles of common life interest and human agency cross the lines of death itself in the life capital code of value that steers any real economy in any place through generational time. It is the system-deciding choice all societies face without knowing it. History is the record of successes and failures at what still remains unconscious in economic thought. It is nowhere defined beyond slogan even in communism, and ‘the public interest’ has no life coordinates or ground in known modern politics across the spectrum. Yet life goods and life capital denote the only true economic necessity and growth – that without which human life capacities degrade and die. ‘The economy’ is not run by natural or divine laws, as the modern paradigm assumes. It is a social construction of binding rules which directs toward how we live better by what is not otherwise there.

The ruling value code fails more momentously in world waste and destruction than all other systems in history, but beneath recognition. Its built-in contempt for all life requirements and indifference to life ruin multiplies its demands across the planet in a fanaticism beyond ISIL in attacking life capital and goods with no committed life functions. Yet no economics yet allows the recognition of its predictably rising catastrophe through time as a global economic system.

The life capital economy is opposite in its regulating value logic. It grounds in common life capital and produces more of it by life measure as its goal and moral science. Its logic of value is not utopian, but the ultimate through-line of human development since language and cooperative provision of human means of life. It lives in all the civil commons we are made human by in the life security of a free humanity. It is invaded wherever its life capital and goods are turned into more private money demand, resource depletion and waste without limits – the moral cancer of the ruling system. The ultimate choice space of humanity and society lies in this unrecognised life and death meaning. •

John McMurtry is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and his work is published and translated from Latin America to Japan. He is the author and editor of the three-volume Philosophy and World Problems published by UNESCO’s Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), and his latest book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: from Crisis to Cure.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Corruption, culture, Economics, Empire, Environment, Financial Crisis, Geopolitics, History, Philosophy, Recession, Social Control, society, State Crime, war, war on terror, wasted taxpayer dollars | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Transformer: Sabotage for Peace

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By William T. Hathaway

Source: Dissident Voice

A former student of mine works as a janitor. After graduating from college he worked as a market researcher and an advertising salesperson, but both jobs soured him on the corporate world. He hated being a junior suit, and the thought of becoming a senior suit was even worse.

He finds being a janitor a much better job. He’s left alone, it’s low pressure, and what he does improves the world rather than worsens it. The pay’s lousy but that’s standard these days. He loves music, so he loads up his MP3 and grooves to the sounds. Although the work is routine, it’s brightened by occasional bits of human interest: used condoms in executive wastebaskets, marijuana butts in the emergency stairwell, a twenty-dollar bill under a desk. His shift is from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and afterwards he hits the late-night clubs, where he can enjoy the scene with the advantage of being sober. He works for a janitorial service company, and one of their clients is a defense contractor — not secret weapons, just ordinary supplies.

The man is a pacifist. Originally he felt that rallies, petitions, marches, and picketing would help turn public opinion against the war, and when the majority of Americans opposed it, our political representatives would vote to stop it. That’s what democracy means. The first part turned out to be true. Polls showed a clear majority of Americans wanted the war ended and our troops brought home. In 2006 they elected Democratic majorities in the House and Senate who said they would do this. But rather than bringing the soldiers home, “our” representatives voted more money for the war so more soldiers could be sent to Iraq, a surge of troops for another attempt to crush the resistance there. Several months later they voted additional billions for a US troop surge to Afghanistan.

In 2008 the people elected Barack Obama on a pledge to bring peace. But the war still continues with thousands dying, despite the will of the voters to end it.

He began to realize the politicians aren’t representing us but what he calls the corpses, short for corporations. The majority of those want the war to continue. It’s the corporate majority that rules, not the citizens. That’s the democracy we have. When business leaders turn against the war, then it will end.

What would make them turn against it? When they stop making a profit from it, he concluded.

Finally feeling glad to be part of the corporate world, he decided to stage a surge for peace. He bought a 10-amp step-up transformer at an electronics flea market, the kind used to increase voltage from 110 to 220. Next time he was scheduled to work at the defense contractor and the weatherman predicted a thunder storm, he brought the transformer along in his dinner box. At the first flash of lightning, he took it to the data processing center. First he unplugged all the computers and auxiliaries from the surge protectors and zapped them with 220. Then he plugged them back in and zapped the surge protectors. A clear case of surge-protector failure: the damned things must’ve let the surge through before they shut down.

The stench of sizzled electronics gave him a headache, but other than that he felt fine. He figured the lost work and ruined equipment put a hefty dent in profits. The company will try to pass those costs on to the government, but with budget deficits and taxes already cripplingly high, congress will finally have to admit they don’t have enough money to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan.

The lost work also cuts into the military supply line. If supplies are reduced, war operations have to be reduced. Soldiers can’t fight without logistics. Both economically and tactically, destroying war supplies helps to end war.

He’s aware that direct action like this is unpopular. Many people are afraid of government repression that will make their already difficult situation even more unpleasant. But he’s convinced that their difficult situation — working long hours for low pay, living in a deteriorating society, raising children amid fear and hostility — is caused by the same forces that drove us to war. Capitalism manifests now as invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan, as privatization and impoverishment in Latin America, and as the destruction of the middle class in the industrial nations. It’s the same system operating in different environments.

Rather than sheepishly obeying in hopes of avoiding more punishment, he feels we must actively rebel and seize the power that has been usurped from us. This struggle won’t be comfortable, but it will be meaningful. By taking charge of our history, we’ll earn the gratitude of future generations. Otherwise our and their lives will be continually constricted by the rule of capital. He’s convinced the time is ripe for change, and it needs to be fundamental, not superficial.

He grew up in a small town where his family owned the local hardware store. When he was in high school, Wal-Mart moved to town. Their family store couldn’t compete with Wal-Mart and went broke. His father became a clerk in the Wal-Mart hardware department at a wage less that what he had paid his lowest employee. Soon he was joined there by the former owners of the local clothing, appliance, sporting goods, and toy stores, all of which had gone broke. Despite their expertise, none was hired as a department manager, all clerks, because they might harbor resentment. The managers were long-term Wal-Mart employees brought in from outside.

But it wasn’t just Wal-Mart that used economics of scale to destroy home-grown businesses. Many farmers in the area had to sell out to corporate agriculture. Local restaurants were replaced by cheaper chains. The real estate office was driven out by a discount franchise. And all the workers were making much less than before. The whole town, except for a few big new houses, became bleak.

His parents had enough money saved so he could go to college with the help of student loans and part-time jobs. But his younger brother and sister couldn’t. The brother went into the navy, where he wouldn’t have to actually fight, and the sister worked at Wal-Mart.

What’s happening to small businesses in the USA is happening to small countries overseas. Their economies are getting taken over, sucked into the maw of transnational corporations. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are economic weapons in this conquest. Countries that resist face other weapons, from CIA subversion to outright invasion. Feudalism has been revived and globalized. The nobility are the corporate rulers, the yeomen are their declining ranks of employees, and the serfs are the rest of us worldwide — the huge majority.

He’s certain that we’re not going to change this system without a fight, and we’d better start now while we still have some freedoms. Hoping to make basic changes through liberal reform is a delusion. We cling to that hope because we’ve been raised with the comforting myth that we live in a democracy. But behind the “we, the people” rhetoric lies entrenched power determined to maintain itself. The rulers are willing to change only in ways that make more profit, such as expanding the labor pool to include women and blacks, thus enabling them to reduce wages.

The “have a nice life” days are over in the USA. Conditions are getting inexorably worse. Americans are beginning to get the same treatment as people in the client states. As protest to this grows, the power elite will try to crush it. They’ll scapegoat the radicals, blaming them for the problems, trying to make them the target of rising populist anger. But dissidents aren’t causing these conditions, they’re resisting them. The conditions are caused by the predatory nature of capitalism.

In opposing this process, he’s a pacifist but not a passivist. He fights, but only in ways that don’t injure living creatures. Currently his transformer is stowed away, awaiting the next weather report when he can transform more war computers into peaceful scrap.

 

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. “The Transformer” is a chapter from Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the experiences of peace activists who have moved beyond protest into direct action: helping soldiers to desert, destroying computer systems, trashing recruiting offices, burning military equipment, and sabotaging defense contractors. Chapters are posted at Trineday. William T. Hathaway’s new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted here and a selection of his writing is available at his website. Read other articles by William.

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Saturday Matinee: Charly

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“Charly” (1968) is a film adaptation of Daniel Keyes’ classic novel “Flowers for Algernon” directed by Ralph Nelson and starring Cliff Robertson. Though stylistically dated at times, it remains relevant for it’s enduring philosophical issues such as the relationship between intellect and emotion, science and ethics, and the treatment of those who are cognitively different. The story arc of the film’s protagonist (depicted with heartbreaking realism by Cliff Robertson) also serves as a parable for the human condition.

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DEA Literally Steals $16,000 From 22-Year-Old for No Reason

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By Cassius Methyl

Source: Antimedia

Joseph Rivers was a 22-year-old aspiring music video producer from outside of Detroit who managed to painstakingly save $16,000 for a music venture.

He was on an Amtrak train moving to Los Angeles to pursue his dream when his life’s savings were stolen from him.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, “A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied.”

His $16,000 was in a bank envelope found by DEA agents. He tried to explain that he had problems withdrawing money from out of state banks in the past and that he was moving to Los Angeles. The feds did not believe him.

Joseph called his mother to corroborate his story. The feds didn’t believe her either.

He was charged with no crime, nothing on him was ‘suspicious’, but the DEA took his money and never gave it back.

All of the sudden Joseph Rivers’ progress in life was crushed by the state.

“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” an Albuquerque DEA agent said. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”

So far this year, DEA agents have stolen over 38 million dollars in cash and goods from people assumed to be guilty.

In 2014, they collected $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures. Only $679 million of the money and assets were deemed “criminal”.

Be careful where you take your cash. You could get robbed by some people on the street, or federal agents in an unmarked vehicle. The only difference is you can’t defend yourself from a federal agent without being killed or incarcerated.

 

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