13 American Truths

13 American Truths:

Ignorance is Strength.
War is Peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Capitalism is Theft.
God is Murder.
Property is Racism.
Suburbia is Segregation.
Vanity is Greed.
Greed is Sacred.
Love is Weakness.
Hate is Power.
Power is Justice.
Conversation is Dead.

Voting in 2016: Compassionate Pragmatism Versus Ideology

The following is a modified version of comments I posted on Louis Proyect’s website (blog), “The Unrepentant Marxist,” where I was arguing against the Marxists’ idea of: not voting for Bernie Sanders (or anybody), on the principle of not supporting the capitalist electoral system because doing so would drain away activist energy that should instead go into forming an “authentic” socialist revolutionary movement. Proyect himself is a lively intellect, an amazing researcher and scholar, and a prolific author who frequently publishes penetrating insights about politics and culture. We both used to write essays for Swans.com (between 2003 to 2013, for me). Here are those comments (from 18 April 2016):

I had the unfortunate experience in 1968 of being called by the draft for induction into the US military during the height of the Tet Offensive (Vietnam War). My initial draft deferment was soon revoked because I was confused with some other New York Puerto Rican, who had flunked out of school (I was on the Dean’s list). This error could not be changed because “once we start the process we just keep going” (how the Draft Board explained it to me on the phone).

I was 1A (classified as ready for immediate use), holding out on month-to-month appeals (you were allowed a hearing, and there was a big backlog!) until the draft lottery of December 1969 gifted me with a very high number (they drafted people whose birthdays fell into the first 200+ picked out of a big jug, as in bingo; my birthday was in the 360s). And so, like a small-fry catch-and-release trout, I was tossed back into the wild.

I have never had illusions about Democrats or Republicans or anyone else. My point about voting (one way or the other, or even not at all) is very simple: I believe in pragmatic action, “people over ideas,” especially given unusually favorable opportunities like the wildly popular Bernie Sanders campaign (a rarity). I believe in being pragmatic instead of hewing to an inflexible ideology, which is basically a fundamentalist religion, “ideas over people.”

Here is one example of what I mean. When Louis Proyect — the “Unrepentant Marxist” — allowed himself to be moved by his heart, instead of his supposedly rigid anti-US-imperialism Western-leftist comfort-zone isolationist “intellect,” and “ideology,” over the imminent (and subsequently thwarted at the last minute by NATO intervention) Benghazi massacre by Gaddafi (in March 2011 during the Libyan Civil War), and also over the continuing war and atrocities by Assad against the majority of Syrians who don’t want Assad as their dictator, he (Louis) was pilloried by many of his Marxist colleagues because he broke ranks with the ideology (anti-interventionism regardless of circumstances). He had blasphemed against the word-as-law, really “the word” as secular god. I have unbounded admiration for Louis because of this display of compassion, which causes him now to have so many rhetorical and semantic difficulties (on his blog) in doing the verbal origami necessary to fashion a “logical” argument for these stands being correct and direct conclusions based on the ideology supposedly shared by the Marxist (argumentative and disunited) community he has been a lifelong activist and author in.

By the way, the argument I am giving here is the central moral principle of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn (“a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision, and conscience suffers defeat”). So, if you can view voting as a tactic (even if perhaps often trivial) rather than a Holy Sacrament or a potential Mortal Sin, and you can feel solidarity with most of the people (the actual people, even though I personally don’t like most people) who have awakened to Bernie Sanders’ message, then given a sound heart you easily chuck “the word” and vote to help make this magnificent (and never-to-be perfect) revolution succeed, because it is both a once-in-a(my)-lifetime opportunity, and it is BIG and REAL.

Are you really going to suffer by “going against your principles” in this situation? Is the question of voting “all about me” regardless, even over participating in a genuine popular movement to overturn much of the enslavement and corruption imposed on us today? Do you realize what a real revolution $15/hour nationally, and Medicare-for-all, and socialized public college would be for perhaps 100,000,000 Americans today?

Instead of waiting for the perfect revolution to drop into you laps sometime in the future (never, basically), don’t you think you would have much more influence in organizing for that grander revolution from within the movement that has captured popular enthusiasm today: the Sanders revolution? And we all know that Bernie is just the current flag-bearer of this revolution, we may need to find new personifications of it after July, or November. It is clear Bernie knows this too.

What makes Bernie run?: he has 7 grandchildren, he cares about their futures, which is NOW. What makes me spend this time writing to you?, I have three children and am far more concerned about their futures (which is NOW) than about the purity of my ideological allegiances and cohesiveness of my intellectual constructs: people over ideas.

The ideas (and “faiths”) are useful to give you a sense of direction, and sharpen your awareness and remind you of compassion, but the realities of your life and the currents and incidents of the history (and chaos) you live through should be the actual forces you dance with to produce your actions. It’s all very simple: is it about me, or is it about us? “I rebel, therefore we exist.”

Democratic Party Unity Without Bernie?

MG,Jr. response to Robert Reich

Robert Reich (2 posts on his Facebook web-page, 15 April 2016):

(#1) Bernie Sanders’s candidacy is not really about Bernie. It’s about a movement to reclaim our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests that have a choke hold on it. Bernie is the voice of that movement — which gives his candidacy purpose and urgency. Hillary Clinton’s fundamental handicap is that her candidacy is about her. She is not leading a movement. Which leaves her candidacy with only one real purpose — to elect her. And in many people’s minds, at least at this point, that purpose doesn’t feel particularly urgent. What do you think?

(#2) I thought tonight’s debate (14 April 2016, NYC) between Bernie and Hillary Clinton was too belligerent on both sides. It’s understandable that both candidates would feel pressure to be more combative, but I worry that if this keeps up it will be harder for either’s supporters to enthusiastically unite behind the opponent as nominee just 90 days from now — when unity and enthusiasm will be essential in order to overcome a far greater Republican menace. What do you think?

MG,Jr. (a combined response, posted to #2):

Bernie or Bust. I’m done with being lesser-evilled into voting for corporate corruption as government.

HRC is a Republican to the right of Eisenhower disguised as a Democrat, and the DNC-controlled Democratic Party is just a name brand that long ago abandoned its once-core FDR principles. I haven’t.

As to DNC’s bogeyman of the “Republican menace,” let the DNC reap what it sowed for sabotaging Bernie every step of the way. They don’t care about the country, only about maintaining their positions getting slopped by the Big Money, and that would continue under President Trump (or Cruz, or Kasich) but not under President Bernie.

To HRC cultists, your denial of reality is purely selfish halo-polishing: if HRC is elected you will never notice (and take responsibility for) the damage she does, just as GWBush voters have never noticed his.

If the DNC & HRC cultists succeed in stopping our revolution with Bernie (this time), and demand we choose HRC’s smooth management of continuing corruption over Trump (or whoever’s) unleashing of chaos, then I abstain, and I accept that chaos may be what the country needs before it can wake up to reform and renewal. I will vote for any Democrat on my ballot only if they endorsed Bernie.

“I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want and get it.”


Iraq War protest SF 2003

Iraq War Protest SF

On February 16, 2003, my wife and I took our young daughter (and her stroller) to the Iraq War protest in San Francisco, CA. It was a beautiful Sunday, and millions of people around the world turned out (during that weekend) to protest the thrust toward war by the G. W. Bush Administration. That war was launched, regardless, on March 20, 2003.

Most of that weekend’s protests were held on Saturday, the 15th, but the protest in San Francisco was delayed one day so as not to disrupt the Chinese New Year parade on the 15th. The crowd in San Francisco amounted to between 60,000 to 200,000, depending on time of day, and how the count was estimated. I can verify that there were people EVERYWHERE, and we were channelled along Grove Street, from Market Street to Civic Center, where the crowd pooled on the Green, and speeches were made, and children played on the swing set.

The most important thing about the event was the feeling of solidarity – for truth without war – with so much of American and foreign humanity. It was so obvious to so many that great injustices and grave war crimes were to be unleashed (as proved to be the case for the next 8 years), and we were making our moral outrage bodily present in the hopes of shaming the Bush Administration (and the Blair government in the UK) to refrain from committing the ultimate crime.

EVERYONE in the U.S. government at that time, who pushed for or acquiesced to the perpetration of that war is a war criminal. Hillary Clinton is one of the more prominent of these criminals, and the fact that so many today consider this war criminal a viable candidate for US president is an insult of any concept of national honor.

This experience can be summed up by Albert Camus’s epigram: “I rebel, therefore we exist.” Here is my photo of that day.

Why Vote for Hillary?

What motivates people to vote for Hillary Clinton? I think such voters are seeking one or several of the following:

1, financial advantage,

2, aggrandizement of one’s self-image (of personal character),

3, power by association to counter a sense of weakness,

4, validation by association to justify a sense of entitlement.

Financial Advantage

The Wall Street financiers and other Big Money capitalists who are funding Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and pumping money into the Clinton Family Foundation, are making the very logical choice to vote for her because she is their best hope for a continuation of the present corrupt system of payoffs to American politicians (Citizens United style “campaign financing”).

That system, of Big Business control and ownership of the U.S. Government, ensures Big Money’s freedom to continue stealing from the public by:

– manipulating the national economy (evading regulatory oversight and taxes, getting “too big to fail” public bailouts for gambling losses),

– grossly exploiting workers (domestic and foreign),

– violating Earth’s climate and environment (with extractive industries and chemical-GMO agri-monocultures),

– and subverting foreign governments and launching wars (to “open markets”).

Financial advantage is the only logically justifiable reason to vote for Hillary Clinton, and also the only essentially criminal one (“Behind every great fortune is a great crime” – Balzac). Most of Hillary’s voters do not have the financial wherewithal to justify their support with this clear-eyed logic, theirs are emotional choices, as follows.

Aggrandizement of One’s Self-Image

Many of Hillary’s voters are entranced with their self-image of rising to the occasion of helping to make a historic advance by voting for the first American woman elected to the US presidency. The bragging rights and emotional uplift to be gained from this supersedes any other consideration, Hitler-in-skirts could get elected by these people. It is useless to talk logic and facts with such cultists, theirs is an ecstatic blindness to all of Hillary’s failings and the negative potentialities if she gains power.

The more rational among this segment of Hillary’s voters can be lower-level functionaries in the Democratic Party and organizations allied with it, who seek promotion within their organizational and corporate structures. These are “company men” and “company women” who want to feel good about their subservient ambitions, timid joiners who value their acceptance by the DNC-Tammany Hall herd, and need to go along to get along and maybe get ahead.

Power by Association, to Counter a Sense of Weakness

Many women who have been wronged by faithless men feel an instinctive bond with Hillary Clinton (Bill Clinton is a masher). They want to see a reflection of themselves raised to a position of great power, and their vote for Hillary is a subconscious act of vengeance on their male persecutors.

These are votes motivated by a sense of weakness seeking power, and respect, by association. Such women are viewing the election through the lens of their own wounded emotions, and fearfulness, and this exclusive self-focus blinds them to any logical consideration of the benefits to their own children’s futures with a Bernie Sanders presidency.

Validation by Association, to Justify a Sense of Entitlement

There are many happily situated American women who are enthused to vote for Hillary Clinton because they also want a reflection of themselves raised to a position of great power. In this case the reflection is of spoiled brats with an overweening sense of entitlement. Hillary’s ascension to the presidency would give such women validation-by-association that their social and economic privileges are “deserved.”

“It’s all about me.”

The unifying principle between the four archetypes of Hillary Clinton voter described here is this: “It’s all about me.” Hillary Clinton is clearly a paragon of this principle, and it is easy to see why others who share it — whether cynically avaricious, pathetically halo-polishing, pitifully acting out, or vainly self-absorbed — would gravitate into her black hole of political careerism.

Variation of Parameters

My beautiful picture

Perhaps it was a change in the weather
that caused things to happen.
I remember warm winds
blowing up from the south in early spring,
and yellow moons in blue glazed nights.
The melting of the cell phones was first.
they were just frozen puddles of plastic and metal,
nothing seen, no heat felt,
just stone-cold carbonized slag heaps
in their hundred millions.
None have been made since –
they all dissolve –
as if the very form, even the concept
had been banished by some capricious god.
Soon after, every fifth spark plug failed,
crankshafts and turbine blades
inexplicably disintegrate.
No cause can be found, no process observed,
large gasoline motors rarely run, now,
there was much fearful whispering about gremlins.
Still, we all adjusted reasonably soon,
and then the great shock arrived –
all the money disappeared.
One morning,
no account could be found with a balance,
all bills showed zero totals,
all currency had vanished.
Everyone is penniless and free of debt,
work has no pay, selling has no buyers –
no obligations, no inducements.
At first, there was chaos, riots, death,
many went insane or took their lives,
“He’s gone back to look for his money,”
we say now –
our phrase for the departed.
Yet, soon enough, most people found occupations,
either from habit, inclination,
or simply to shake off boredom,
like a group of children
picking through a pile of costumes
to take on roles in a game.
In this game, we trade
for food, for our chores, for our entertainment.
With so much use of time,
and no easy accounting,
no one can accumulate
beyond the stores for a winter.
Our leaders bemoan the fall of civilization,
and, as they are ignored,
it must be so.
Our evangelicals howl in ecstasy,
dancing naked around bonfires through the night.
The children are delighted,
now, with so many schools close by,
and always elders, and relatives in attendance
along with their teachers,
so joyous, compared to what now seems imprisonment
in the old moneyed days.
I think it is the learning joy of children everywhere
that makes one feel as if always walking in a village,
even as it stretches between the oceans.
The young easily try on any role,
experimenting with great fervor,
adding such sparkle to the daily routines,
and reminding us to keep our perspective,
for they can leave without notice
for vacations of unknown length,
to satisfy the needs of the spirit.
Yet, in this ebb and flow,
all social needs are filled,
like the hollows children dig out at the beach;
our social lives are smoothed
by the washing of tides from an unseen ocean.
While the fortunes of many have tumbled,
most have tasted liberation, by now,
and those who have lost are left to their own devices.
Shortly after the money left,
the wars erupted – somebody had to pay.
By two years the shooting sputtered to a halt,
all the bullets were turning out to be duds –
plutonium turned to salt, rockets crumbled to powder –
and so they remain.
No explanations.
Our armies are helpless, vulnerable,
unable to attack, and unassailable.
The great migrations began when the guns died,
but soon quelled
when gold was found dissolved in the oceans,
and laced through the sand underfoot.
It is so common, now, it is worthless,
though most beautiful,
and a warm metal to replace broken teeth.
And so, we live under a mysterious power
we cannot explain.
We are people with a broken history
and a continuously randomized future,
liberated from our parallel lives of isolation,
and the apprehension of survival.
Around here, we each hoe our gardens
while spending long afternoons watching clouds curl,
or walking into town to carry home a gallon of milk.
Just this afternoon,
I heard the pub switched from sports on TV to poetry –
for a change.
Maybe I’ll go down and have a few, tonight.

17 February 2003