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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Of Tyrants and Trees

In Random Life and Random Death on February 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

There is a persistent, blustery wind here today, reminding many of us of the powerful micro-burst of  August 5, 2010 that brought hundreds of trees toppling onto houses and cars within a stunningly short 2-3 minute time frame, in an area about 2 miles squared.

There is an inevitability felt in the visceral impulse to look up at the swaying trees to make sure a stray branch, or the whole tree itself, is not heading in your direction.

Here in the house, we are surrounded in every direction by trees… and a particularly mammoth, illustrious Tulip Poplar in the courtyard, by whose girth I would estimate it to be at least 150 years old.  It is about 50 feet from our front door, leaning in our direction, so that its flight path would appear to slice our unit deftly in two, were it so propelled.

My daughter wants to cut down this tree to preserve her sense of sanity and safety.  But the tree has already been living much longer than us, and barring unforeseen winds or ice or disease, it will continue to live much longer than us.

Aside from the fact that condo and historic preservation rules both bar the removal of trees here even if anyone should wish,  the best course seems to simply accept that the tree deserves to live as is, and we will live with risk, perceived or real.   Because I love trees more than our house and all its objects, and all the made objects of the human world we inhabit.  And of all the things that could unexpectedly shorten our lives–car wrecks, slow death from lifetime accumulation of  insalubrious food ingredients,  any number of diseases, momentary inattention at a crucial moment, or countless filaments of the imagination–dying because of a tree seems the most random, innocent, accidental, and in tune with nature’s permanent impermanence in the cycle of life.

It is the very preposterousness of such a random event happening to anyone that struck me as I walked under the trees this afternoon…and to think that such a random, unpredictable act could strike someone like Muammar el-Qaddafi as equally as me or anyone else, momentarily illuminated our insignificance in the universe…so many people are threatening, or using, weapons against each other in the ache to be “free,” while both sides, and no sides, are all equally susceptible to fluke forces of nature immensely larger than all of us and all our weapons.

All of the headlines and standoffs and bloodshed and fear of bloodshed could be instantly eradicated in the plunk of a tree larger than us any one us.  Except that those surviving would analyze and react and create the next sets of headlines, and so on goes the world.  The only point being that the violence did nothing to help, not even the struggle for freedom….only the non-violence, love, and uniting helped.

Only the peaceful cooperation and sudden melting away of ordinary fear of hundreds of thousands uniting in the streets is what is inspiring, and makes the previously impossible seem possible.  And we all have that power–as John and Yoko convey so beautifully in this video–the power always has been with us, it is simply up to us to realize it, and use it.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbKsgaXQy2k&feature=player_embedded)

Freedom is waiting as patiently as an unopened book.  But many people around the world are opening it, and starting to turn its pages, beautifully.

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Without Objection, So Ordered

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

To think it all started with a fruit vendor denied a permit.  Or, perhaps, Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi was the cosmic inheritance of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the journalist who hurled his shoe at former President Bush, singing, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog…This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_shoe_throwing_incident

Bush’s response was, sadly, but unsurprisingly, quintessentially representative of the cluelessness of America’s professed democracy, unaware of the hypocrisy of its oligarchic underpinnings: “I don’t know what the guy’s cause was. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it. ”

“I don’t think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq…” said press secretary Perino.

Somehow, killing done in a “war on terror” by U.S. forces doesn’t compute as “violence.” It’s only violence when a lone gunman goes crazy in the U.S…. and we are slow to recognize it as such when foreign dictators, allies or not, shoot at their citizens.

Thus, how do you think people in the U.S., and later the world, would respond if an unemployed person decided to immolate him or herself  in front of  the White House?

The people themselves, not the White House, would declare their fellow citizen “a lone psychopath,” without a subsequent rallying in rousing personal identification with the perceived oppression of that person.  Yet it was precisely the term “lone psychopath”  that Asmaa Mahfouz used to rouse hundreds of thousands of fellow Eygptians to join her in the now fateful January 25 protest that led to the downfall of Mubarak, and, we hope, eventually, all vestiges of the military rule of the country.

Pause to watch her extraordinary address here:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/8/asmaa_mahfouz_the_youtube_video_that

“Four Egyptians have set themselves of fire, to protest humiliation, hunger, poverty, and degradation, they had to live with for 30 years.  Four Egyptians have set themselves on fire, thinking, maybe we can have a revolution like Tunisia, maybe we can have freedom, justice, honor, dignity…They said: ‘Enough, these guys who burned themselves were psychopaths! ‘ Of course, on all national media, whoever dies in protest is a psychopath.’  If they were psychopaths, why did they burn themselves at the Parliament building?”

Indeed, comparisons between Wisconsin and Egypt are preposterously overblown…the level of violence, severe repression, jailings and torture for dissent, for writing and blogging, that the founders of these liberation movements across the Arab world had to endure for years,  has no equivalent in the current U.S.  The crackdown in Libya and the subsequent media freeze is an even more sobering reminder that these paths to freedom have been years in the making, and took many smaller, unsuccessful, unpublicized attempts before the wildfire of revolution truly swept vast swaths of the population.  And still, the struggle is long and profound in Tunisia and Egypt, even as Libya and Bahrain take headlines…it is only the ongoing strikes for fair wages, and insistence on removing all the old cabinet members, and time to form meaningful party groups for genuine elections, that will declare true victory.

Lacking severe repression of a dictator, and having a supposedly functioning democracy leaves us “free” to fight with each other, and scapegoat the opposing political parties, while even disagreeing about whether or not “the system” is broke or working.   Look at  “Outraged in Oakland” descrying that it is unions who “need to be dragged into the same pot as the rest of us.”

http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/opinion/23wed1.html?permid=1#comment1

In other words, rather than face the gargantuan task of re-claiming a broad middle class, let’s take the last 7% of people with decent rights down with us.  I quote from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/us/23ohio.html?ref=us:

“Unionized workers represented just 6.9 percent of all workers in the private sector in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics down from about 36 percent in 1955. The number of unionized workers in the public sector has held steady at about 35 percent since the late ’70s.

“Seven percent in the United States makes them a very rare breed,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard. “I don’t think there’s a high probability that this will be an explosive event where the average American says, ‘Wait, this is what’s left of the middle class — what are you doing?’ ”

Republicans in state houses across the U.S. are betting that union membership is scarce enough that the public unions can be abolished because of lack of private sector equivalents…creating a perceived divide between sacrificing private employees who don’t want to subsidize public employees who get benefits their own employers don’t supply….

This short-sighted despair, pitting temporary, contracted, low-paid, non-unionized private employees against unionized public ones is exactly the type of  “class warfare” Republicans, especially, love, but Democrats benefit from too….because it keeps everyone’s eyes off the fact that both parties are generously funded by Wall St.   The continuous revolving door between government and banks ensures that our Democracy will still promote a disparity of wealth rivaling any Arab despot’s kingdom.  After all, 2/3 of Congress are millionaires, so do you think they really want the wealthy to pay more taxes? (see http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/07/am-how-many-millionaires-are-in-congress/)

So Republicans are far Right, and  wealthy-tax-cuts-for-unemployment-crumbs Democrats are mainstream Right, never forcing the Republicans’ hand in their constant hostage-taking of the middle class…because they are just as guilty of big-money politics, but want to look virtuous….and they succeed, for just enough voters to keep people effectively divided: Republicans, Democrats who believe in giving President Obama “more time,” Disillusioned Democrats looking towards a Feingold or Sanders challenger, and thoroughly disillusioned people who no longer believe in a two-party, or any-party system as it currently stands–particularly since a third party only ineffectively splits one of the two main parties.

So Wall St. is not in jail, and people think small change is what is really causing crippling deficits (not tax-cuts for the wealthy and wars on credit cards), always hating unions and liberals and  immigrants (who mostly pay a lot of taxes and never get the benefits) and anyone else the Koch brothers want them to hate, never seeing the despotism of a 2-party system that is a corporations-take-all, people-take-none-and-never-unite system….no, in fact, they love their righteous rage against all the wrong targets.   As Matt Taibi concludes in his must-read indictment of Wall St. crimes  (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216?page=1):

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.

It’s enough to make me want to flee to Egypt….watch out, I might fling my shoes at the president, a member of congress, or supreme court, and maybe a Wall St. banker, too, as I leave…I know they wouldn’t have a clue as to why, which is why I wouldn’t choose to burn myself in protest, either.   Which is why if Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and others experiment with systems that avoid the corruption and cronyism of  autocracies, communism, and corporate-cronyism democracies, then perhaps they will newly define a broad, prospering middle class full of opportunity, optimism, education and community that does not repeat our mistake of defining prosperity in terms of consumerism…while also finding sustainable ways of living that do not rely on as much oil (and fossil fuels) as we all currently consume.  Currently, we each do what we can in our parcel of the world, but it is good to have the opportunity of big dreams that all the uprisings in the mid-east are bringing us.

Bahrain: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/middleeast/23bahrain.html?scp=2&sq=bahrain&st=cse

Update: al-Zaidi was presumably in jail during today’s protests….may he be released soon.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/24/iraqi_shoe_thrower_re_arrested

Vacuuming Sand

In Freedom!, Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Nature abhors a vacuum, but apparently one cannot be maintained in sand.  Our (U.S.) democracy has buried its head so deep in a sand-less country that it has at last popped its head out on the other side, proving you cannot dig a hole to China, but if Democracy is ever to be made whole–that is, wholly run, owned, and operated by people, as opposed to despots– it may happen in the Arab region.

Maybe it is finally time to thank Goldman Sachs and all the other major and minor players for accidentally (?) heralding a flourishing of massive, unstoppable, profound people power across at least a third of the planet.
Only to the extent that the shadow international banking cabal continue their private market machinations unchecked, forcing western governments across the globe to enact draconian austerity cuts in continued effects from the 2008 meltdown, effectively socializing Wall St.’s losses while keeping their “private” gains, does the hypocrisy of the west’s professed love of democracy literally collapse…

Nothing so clearly reveals the profound oligarchic nature of western “democracies” than the refusal to investigate, prosecute, regulate, reign in, or jail obviously criminal fraud, money-laundering, and mob cronyism (propelling a “shadow” derivatives market of trillions in a non-public, non-regulated market, whose net worth may actually dwarf the known public GDPs of many economies around the world).

Obviously, doing so is  impossible, because the bankers have effectively purchased western governments around the world. (See movie, _Inside Job_, for blunt summary).   And it would indeed be like trying to put Humpty back together again to extricate all these shadow transactions from our real money we have deposited in terms of our savings, mortgages, and pensions.  But the western governments currently work for the bankers,  not people,  giving them our public monies both directly with bailouts, and indirectly with tax codes.

We remember the exquisitely simple wisdom of the Glass-Steagall act–separate people’s deposits in banks from speculative investment activities in two separate systems: depository, and commercial investment banks.  The commercial banks (Wall St.) then had to play with their own money, or anyone they could attract to their casino.  Since the repeal of Glass-Steagall (1999), they get to play with everyone’s money (our mortgages, our pensions, public and private) while putting none of their own skin in the game….just extracting fees for setting up the casino (being a “market maker”).

But as Boehner and crew whine on about the “mandate” from the American people to gouge out their own eyeballs today in order to see more clearly in the future, the East is busy making markets whose collateral is their earnestness, their long-suffering, and whose righteous vindication is a deposit that effectively topples the ruses of western wealth and power as being measured only in dollars and guns.

It is as if any revolutionary fervor that once created such fire in our bellies as to declare, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal….,” and to then purify that mission in abolishing slavery after a bloody civil war, and then in making sure EVERYONE got the vote, is being directly slurped right from the vacuum of collapsing western democracies, into emboldened people declaring the vividness, strength, and vitality of eastern democracies.

They are doing so with remarkable discipline and resolve: especially in the wisdom of adhering strictly to non-violence as the absolute subversion of a state who measures power by force. The “shy intellectual” Gene Sharp (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html?scp=1&sq=shy%20intellectual&st=cse) distills the wisdom of undermining autocracies by surprise by refusing to play by the established rules/norms of guns and money…made more powerful by remaining peaceful even as they are brutally attacked, as is happening now in Bahrain.

The continued strikes and protests from Egpyt to Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Bahrain demonstrate an absolute determination not to return to business as usual: no longer will a few at the top keep the wealth while everyone else quietly slaves and suffers.

It is as if they are writing the playbook for what might happen decades ( ? or less?) from now in the U.S., when the staggering debt of generations of college students who can’t find jobs implodes, foreclosures continue to throw millions to the streets while exorbitant home prices effectively keep people saddled in a lifetime of debt, seniors don’t receive the social security and medicare they paid their whole lives into, job loss is accelerated by massive government layoffs and public sector union busting (further demolishing tax revenue sources)(Go Wisconsin!), and starvation accelerates,  in an economy that sold its manufacturing foundation and national identity to globalization.

The protesters in the middle east win with sheer numbers, non-violence, and determination what can’t be won with repression and violence. When things get bad enough, for every Joe Hill that is brutally murdered, a hundred more come singing peacefully, and more determined, behind him. It is this unstoppable force of freedom that strengthens day by day in the East, made stronger the more attempts made at repressing it.

Spin has a way of floating into irrelevancy when enough people have lived under hypocrisy and hunger long enough. Right now, the hypocrisy of our democracy has just enough spin to stay in orbit…and the East is showing us how quickly hypocrisy can be toppled for an authenticity that is palpable all over the world, when people see their common dreams obliterate perceived differences.
All the people who have lost their lives, or will lose their lives, in this massive struggle for freedom right now have not, and will not die in vain. We in the West owe an immense debt to them for leading the way further from our own imperfect struggles for freedom, towards actual democracy, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and real hope.

inspiring reading at http://www.aeinstein.org/

Bring Da Noise!

In Flavor'Flav on February 8, 2011 at 5:46 am

Egypt is now Public Enemy number one, bringing the noise of freedom, letting the world know what time it is…for revolution…making dictators shake in their shoes, time is theirs to lose now that the thirty year “emergency” is up for real now…that egg can sit on the track till the train comes back…how low can you go?  do you really want to know?

Chuck D and Flavor Flav, cultural warriors, were saluting Mohamed Bouaziz (Tunisan revolutionary) and Khaled Said (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/world/middleeast/06face.html?ref=middleeast) since 1982, waiting for Egypt and the rest of the world to stop believing the hype to catch up in time and go back to their rhymes….

We are traveling where the only passport we need is our mortality, those of us stateside who see the commentary chasing their tales like a kitten who just can’t be free…

“our freedom of speech is speech or death, we got to fight the powers that be…

We got to pump the stuff to make us tough

From the heart

It’s a start, a work of art

To revolutionize make a change, nothin’s strange

What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless”

(Public Enemy, “Fight the Power!”)

The people of Egypt “pump the lyrical, make a miracle” (Public Enemy) while we pay to get played, and Harriet Tubman is singing in her grave, “tell old Pharoah, Let my people go…”  as low as she can go.

My 7-year-old daughter said to me tonight, “If God was peaceful, he would make us magical.  He would let us heal ourselves.”

“Is there clockin? Is there rockin?” (PublicEnemy)

From NYTimes article,  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/weekinreview/06held.html?ref=middleeast:

“Where am I? What is happening to me? Answer me. Answer me.”

“Where are we?” The interrogator answered, “You are nowhere.”

~~~~~

Mubarak, et al, being unable to shred their current Constitution as surely as our own U.S. leaders have long ago burned ours in front of a public with no noses, hangs on the slender thread that says they have to wait…just like our CEOs said they could take the bailouts, but they couldn’t give up a dime, because that would break their contracts (cracking on their heads that don’t have a heart)…

“Turn it up! Bring the noise! Hear the drummer  get wicked!” (Public Enemy)

The people of Egypt are an incredible “rhyme animal” whose “soul on a roll” is  a def jam to a no-longer-as-deaf world…to people anywhere who live like mud puppies, who have lungs that seem redundant…don’t know why they are there because they’ve never used them, until, at last, they emerge onto land and take their first breath…

Tar baby was left in the dust by these revolutionaries, they bring the power, and they aren’t giving it up to anyone…they write their own memos, this ain’t no demo, it’s a demonstration giving all the world leaders earned remonstration….

Let’s NOT play Follow the Leader

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2011 at 6:21 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/world/middleeast/04opposition.html?src=tptw

From the above linked NYTimes article:

A dentist from Aswan, Mohamed Mustafa, traveled 600 miles to be at the antigovernment protest. “I was expecting to find the Wafd were the leaders, or the Brotherhood were the leaders,” he said, speaking of two of Egypt’s best-known opposition movements. But what he found was far better, he said.

“There are no leaders at all.”

~~~~~~~~~~

An anarchist’s dream come true:  no leaders, but peaceful efficiency and community…that is, until the thugs arrived…. yet even still, remaining determinedly leaderless, but engaging in sustained resistance with rocks, warning systems, and sheer numbers….

Even, a libertarian’s dream come true: utterly no government, just people.

I was watching a documentary called “Berkeley in the ’60s” recently, and the most striking part of the film was that a free speech movement initially sprang up from a coalition of student groups from all over the political spectrum…it was that unity that led to the near unraveling of the university for a while…

Ronnie Reagan’s  (then governor of CA) distortions of the protesters as a bunch of  “out of state” rabblerousers became a very effective means of marginalizing them, and securing his political future….Never mind that student groups in other states should rightfully feel every bit as indignant at a double standard for free speech, and that state lines were hardly the point for people attempting to experience the highest manifestation of unadulterated freedom possible…attempting to purge the hypocrisy of only promoting speech the university approved of,  these students passionately wrought for themselves a world where ALL speech was as “free” as the birds on the wind…

Witnessing even mere snippets from Tahrir square, all of them are powerful.  (http://video.nytimes.com/?src=vidm)

To hear Egyptians say they have not lived for 30 years, and that they are just now alive…that this event is THEM, not any group, whose very nature would be limiting, stifling, and never comprehensive enough to encompass something as fundamental and expansive as sheer humanity, and the ache for freedom….stirs, too, a deep ache for freedom in me.

There is an idealism and inspiration that seems bound across centuries, cultures, movements….it is at core so human, too fundamental to need to express: it is as obvious as the sky and water, but it is a moment when the common becomes extraordinary because a spiritual shackle is suddenly lifted….

…water suddenly tastes like you have been walking across a desert for centuries when you start to carry it not merely to your own lips, but also to the bleeding wounds and parched lips of dear countrymen who only yesterday were pure strangers,  and whom you very well may have snubbed out of the common discourtesy that the conceits of large cities and police states fester.

…food that nourishes not merely the selfish accomplishments of the private family, but cheers and esteems the stomachs of those thousands who all join to raise their voices together as loudly as possible…going hoarse together, and feeling jubilant that bravery is not one person sticking his neck out, but hundreds of thousands manifesting a collective ache for freedom that soars beyond the reaches of bravery’s scope…

It is this assured, confident peacefulness whose very resourcefulness is the definition of freedom… freedom by nature does not seek power, but simply wants to exult in humanity stripped to our essence…a mutual, multifarious recognition of  freedom soaring so high and waving so deep it depends on nothing but itself, and cannot be diminished or tampered with by surrounding hierarchies.

re: Kristof, “Exhilirated by the Hope in Cairo,” January 31, 2011

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Who here in the U.S. has awoken from his or her corporatized stupor to even contemplate meaningful freedom, in so long?

We can’t participate in revolutions, we have to get to work tomorrow!

What would our boss say, at the tear gas shell factory? He doesn’t want our opinion any more than he wants our dreams of democracy or freedom. If you’re late, you’re fired, and there’s a hundred more waiting in line to take your job…because NOTHING much is made here anymore…except the weapons launched against people half way around the world who had the gall to dream larger than us!

It seems nothing short of miraculous that so many people in Egypt have enough affinity to actually join together and shout in unison in the streets–you can’t get two people on the train in the U.S. to take the earbuds out from their ipods, or a person to stop texting long enough while driving to not almost kill a pedestrian crossing a parking lot…

No, the largest crowds you ever see in the U.S. anymore are at job fairs, where no one dare raise his voice, and everyone is so busy being individually on their “best behavior,” that it betrays a society’s worst instincts…

We have lost the power of democracy to rouse a sense of injustice from the inequities that daily drown us….

re: Brooks, “The Quest for Dignity,” January 31, 2011

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Wow. On this we can agree–your eloquent exaltation of democratic uprisings around the world over the last 50 years erases any petty differences between good “conservative,” versus good “liberal,” values we like to spar about on these pages…

Yet the tide of dignity and responsiveness you speak of is one I have only dimly felt here and there in my life, at a few Pete Seeger “Marches on Washington for Jobs, Peace and Justice…” when I was a teen, in the 1980s–certainly not at the pathetically under-attended protests against Guantanamo or against the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan….

So I look at Tunisia and Egypt with such a wistfulness, and am glad that they are experiencing the “romanticism” of revolution, as noted in other reporting from the NYTimes…

Because here (in the U.S.) we seem doomed in a stranglehold of corporate ownership and a dwarfing of government in the imagination of our people…we can’t discuss politics openly at work, and it is risky to at times trust people you later discover you shouldn’t have…because while we may technically be a “free country,” there is absolutely nothing free about the restrictions of “professional behavior” which keep us in a straight-jacket from our political selves at work, and for which private companies have every right to fire us for not complying with their mandates of corporate culture…

…jobs where we spend ever longer hours for ever lower wages…and though working may consume 70% or more of our waking hours, and provide a bulk of our social contact, while there, small talk is relegated to the 500 other channels of fluff on t.v., not to Al Jazeera English, or latest world events….

China has to censor its internet coverage of Egypt because government actually makes a difference in their lives!

Whereas even a vice-presidential candidate in the U.S. tried to turn the fact that she has not spent a majority of her life pouring over the pages of the New York Times into a badge of honor…we can’t get a critical enough mass of our population to read the newspaper, even were it free…let alone to care…for there has been evidence enough in the NYTimes alone to seed a revolution or two here in the U.S., if only enough people would read and connect the dots…

Because only a critical mass of people believing that a government exists and has real power can lead a massive uprising…if people believe their employers hold the crux of power in society, and that if they were unemployed, there was little to nothing their society or government could do…then you have the massive apathy you see here, and a degeneration of knowledge from hard facts and “real news” into “infotainment,” fluff, and propaganda…

…leading desolate people astray into private hells of financial ruin and suicide, rather than inspiring collective action and unifying revolution…

Sadly, freedom doesn’t seem as exhiliratingly free when you cannot get ANY protection from the government–be it for our bountiful oceans from unsafe drilling, to wipe-out-the-farm home loans, to let’s-cut-social-security-into-a million-pieces-and-see-if-Wall-St.-can-sew-it-back-together-again–protections which can’t be justified because advocating too much for regular people interferes with that marvelous “free market,” whose corporations are every bit as much people as we, didn’t you know?

I hope Egyptians really do achieve democracy “just of people,” –and don’t find their freedom smothered by the tyranny of a global dictatorship of a “free-market” economy.

re: Maureen Dowd, “No Axe to Grind,” January 29, 2011

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Our democracy apparently will never be under threat like the autocracies of Tunisia and Egypt because branding is so slick, so supple, so appealing…

The man with the brand can run a magic hand over our t.v.s and ipads and make us forget it all for a moment: the fear of using our real names while we vent our true feelings on blogs and the Times website, lest our employers or even neighbors discover the closet radical and cloaked despair; the marvel that other nation’s bankers and lawyers and teacher and accountants could actually be so angry with \”the system\” as to go out in the streets, and not only burn tires, but not leave until their leader is ousted!; the feeling that our problems must just be our own, and if we aren’t absolutely convinced we are so much better than most other countries, something must be wrong with us…

So, clasp your Blackberry and drink another dose of \”exceptionalism\” from Ax and Barry, but bury the axe of your nihilism about the capacity to ever truly mobilize the brunt of our individual despair collectively on our leaders…
…because there is ONE credit card on which there are no limits: the faith that a brand is better than a generic. Republicans and Democrats have made packages so slick and shiny, people cannot resist opening them again and again, even though mountains of empty boxes pile up.

Brands help us believe we are simple, like a jingle jangle slogan.  Next thing you know, people are lining themselves up like cars to submit to the \”healthcare industry.\” Makes it easier to submit to everything and complain about nothing, because we ascribe to the alluring political party brand that conjures visions of justice while we pay and pay and pay to the private corporations who have taken over every arena of our lives where the government can no longer protect.
Only sloppy, sheer, dogged determination and persistence of tens or hundreds of thousands of us at a time is ever going to change anything, united only by our humanity, and not depending on brands or marketing…like the Bonus Marchers who were rebuffed by Hoover and even initially by FDR, camping in D.C. for years, before they not only got their bonus money for fighting in WWI, but the GI Bill of Rights.
I conclude by quoting from a handbill from December 5, 1932, urging \”Negro\” and \”White\” alike to descend on the opening of Congress to demand \”Cash Payment of Bonus.\”

A Winter of Hunger Faces the Veterans
Cold, brutal winter is now on us. Over a million and a half unemployed veterans are hungry; hundreds of thousands of us have no shelter; Those of us who still have some work have suffered wage cuts, and the stagger plan, and face more wage cuts.
The Enemies of the Bonus Are United Against Us
The Republican, Democratic, and Socialist Parties are all united in the fight against the payment of the balance due the veterans on the Bonus. They get the full support of the boss press, and the liberal writing, too.
Heroes in 1917; They Call Us \”Criminals\” Now
Billions went to the billionaires who in 1917 made huge profits from the war, and today the billions go to the same crowd. The congress that refused to give the starving veterans the bonus gave through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation four and a half billion dollars for the bankers, the railroads, and other big corporations.
We got the bullets and the gas in 1917. Many of us were maimed and crippled for life. IN 1932 we get the bullets and gas of the police, as we did in Washington, and of the troops, which Hoover called out against us.

~~~~That’s not about brand.

That’s a hell-raising insistence on humanity, and a refusal to leave until it is recognized.
It is happening elsewhere, and it has happened here in the past. But both parties are working furiously to sell their brand of the future, to make sure they keep on \”winning\” the dollars from our pockets, because they sure don’t want us to win a brand-less future that is solely ours.