Narcissistic Consumerism and Self-Destruction…


From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
of tw0 minds

The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism now include narcissistic consumerism and definancialization…

Today I’m going to tie together the major themes I have been discussing in the context of Japan being the bellwether of economic stagnation and social recession.The basic idea is that Japan offers a limited but still insightful experiment in what happens to advanced consumer-driven economies as definancialization hollows out the economy.What happens is that economic malaise leads to profound social recession that affects society, workplaces, families, individuals that then feeds back into the economic stagnation.

Definancialization is the process in which excessive speculation, debt, leverage reverse, crushing the economy with malinvestment and legacy debt while the crony-capitalist Central State attempts to stem the resulting deflation with massive, sustained Keynesian stimulus (fiscal deficits).

What we’re seeing in Japan is the confluence of three dynamics: definancialization, the demise of growth-positive demographics and the devolution of the consumerist model of endless “demand” and “growth.”

Japan is the leading-edge of the crumbling model of advanced neoliberal capitalism: that consumerist excess creates wealth, prosperity and happiness.

What consumerist excess actually creates is alienation, social atomization, narcissism, and a profound contradiction at the heart of the consumerist-dependent model of “growth”: the narcissism that powers consumerist lust and identity is at odds with the demands of the workplace that generates the income needed to consume.

One theme that weaves together this week’s essays on Japan is the cultural/economic shift that is eroding the traditional Japanese corporate workplace.

McGovern Never Sold His Soul…


From CHRIS HEDGES

In the summer of 1972, when I was 15, I persuaded my parents to let me ride my bike down to the local George McGovern headquarters every morning to work on his campaign. McGovern, who died early Sunday morning in South Dakota at the age of 90, embodied the core values I had been taught to cherish. My father, a World War II veteran like McGovern, had taken my younger sister and me to protests in support of the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War. He taught us to stand up for human decency and honesty, no matter the cost. He told us that the definitions of business and politics, the categories of winners and losers, of the powerful and the powerless, of the rich and the poor, are meaningless if the price for admission requires that you sell your soul. And he told us something that the whole country, many years later, now knows: that George McGovern was a good man.

McGovern, even before he ran for president, held heroic stature for us. In 1970 he attached to a military procurement bill the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have required, through a cutoff of funding, a withdrawal of all American forces from Indochina. The amendment did not pass, although the majority of Americans supported it. McGovern denounced on the Senate floor the politicians who, by refusing to support the amendment, prolonged the war. We instantly understood the words he spoke. They were the words of a preacher.

“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave,” he said. “This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval [hospitals] and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many

William Edelen: The American Indian


From WILLIAM EDELEN
Special to The Desert Sun

As one who has studied the Plains Indians at the Graduate level at the University of Colorado, and as one who is ordained in the United Church of Christ (Congregational) the farce of Friday nights “debate” combined with the ignorance of one of the participants sent my blood pressure to a new level.

The bigotry and obscenities inflicted upon the American Indians by Christian missionaries constitute one of the most repugnant periods of American history.  But among the more enlightened elements of the Christian church there have been signs of maturing spirituality. I refer to the recent requests for forgiveness to the Native American people. The warm and touching apology from Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders of the Pacific Northwest reads as follows:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters: This is a formal apology on behalf of our churches for the destruction of Native American spiritual practices. Your spiritual power can be a great gift to us. We ask for  your forgiveness and blessing.”

This was signed by the senior Bishops, or Executives, of the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Congregational churches.

The United Church of Christ (Congregational), the church of my ordination issued another apology of their own:

“We bear a heavy burden of responsibility for the ongoing injustice and religious imperialism that have been so disruptive of the spiritual values of Indian life and culture. The effect of the Christian missionary legacy, and the Christian influence has been the disparagement and undermining of the Indian culture and a spiritual impoverishment. The missionaries were blinded by a religious ethnocentrism. The depth of this tragedy is now being realized. We take full responsibility for our part in the ongoing atrocity, and we express to you, our brothers and sisters, a deeply felt sorrow and penitent spirit.”

Will Parrish: The Struggles Of Local Sacred Sites…


From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

It was 520 years ago this week that a lost Italian seaman flying the Spanish flag washed ashore on the Bahama Islands, three-quarters of a world away from where he thought he was, and became known as one of history’s greatest navigators. When Christopher Columbus and the other crewmembers of the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria arrived in the Western Hemisphere, roughly 100 million people lived here, dwelling on landbases from the tip of Alaska to the tip of South America. Their cultures were as staggeringly diverse as the lands they inhabited.

Thanks in no small part to Columbus, that diversity — and the tens of millions of people whose individual lives embodied it — were devoured in the centuries that followed by the insatiable maw of European capitalism, which ate Indian flesh to feed its global expansion.

According to the conservative estimates of Spanish surveys, an estimated eight million people lived in the places where the Colombus’ crews feverishly sought new sources of gold, silks, and slaves: the Caribbean Islands and the eastern shores of parts of mainland South America. During Columbus’ tenure as “viceroy and governor” of the region from 1493 until 1500, he instituted policies of slavery (encomienda) and the systematic murder and rape of the Taino population. Dominican priest Bartolome de Las Casas was the first European historian in the Americas. In a 1496 survey, he estimated that over five million people had been exterminated within the first three years of the Columbus’ rule.

In addition to inflicting a nearly unfathomable scale of death on indigenous peoples, Columbus was perhaps the premier slave trader of his time. Before he sailed the Atlantic, he was a slave trader for the Portuguese, transporting West African people to Portugal to be sold as slaves.

Todd Walton: Inventing Ourselves


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.” John Ciardi

My last few trips to the village of Mendocino have coincided with the lunchtime release of the children from the high school on the hill—dozens of young ones wandering singly and in groups down into the miniature commercial district to buy food and drink and to escape the air of confinement and regimentation that is so antithetical to the spirit of the young.

Some of the kids wander as far as Big River Beach to smoke pot or sunbathe or commingle with scruffy older boys and girls, some of whom are homeless, some simply at loose ends as they haunt the beach and headlands, waiting for Godot. But most of the high school kids go straight to their chosen food sources—Mendocino Market & Deli (across the street from the post office), Harvest Market, Frankie’s, the bakery, Moody’s, Mendo Burgers—purchase their goodies and boomerang back to campus where they scarf their food and socialize until the bell tolls for them to resume what we hope is meaningful education but fear is mind-numbing incarceration.

Watching this lunchtime parade of teens often puts me in mind of my own time in high school (1963-1967), a death-defying adventure in communal insanity, the insanity of puberty in America and the desperate search for a workable way to survive the frightening world of our parents and their fellow adult imbeciles who seemed hell bent on destroying the planet before we had a chance to write a good song or get laid.

I think it must be the costumes the Mendocino teens are trying on these days that most remind me of my own high school experience—that search for the perfect apparel to capture the essence of who we hope to be. Look! Here are three lovely young women walking shoulder to shoulder, each clutching a cell phone—a full-blown hippy, a quintessential geek, a scantily clad prostitute.

Daniel Ellsberg Urges Activists in Swing States to Vote For Obama…


From DANIEL ELLSBERG
Truthdig

The following statement written by Daniel Ellsberg was originally released by RootsAction.org.

It is urgently important to prevent a Republican administration under Romney/Ryan from taking office in January 2013.

The election is now just weeks away, and I want to urge those whose values are generally in line with mine — progressives, especially activists — to make this goal one of your priorities during this period.

An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.”

I was startled, and took offense. “Supporting Obama? Me?!”

“I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?

My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him!  How could you say that? I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.”

My answer was: a Romney/Ryan administration would be no better — no different — on any of the serious offenses I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment.

Scapegoat-in-Chief: The Race for the Oval Office…



From RICHARD HEINBERG
Post Carbon Institute

The first two U.S. presidential debates have been painful to watch. Both candidates are running on platforms constructed from verbal hallucinations about the nation’s past, present, and future. And the American people are being asked to choose between those hallucinations in order to select the best available scapegoat for the next four years of national economic decline. The race is burning up billions of dollars in advertising money, yet few citizens seem genuinely excited about either candidate, with households evidently viewing the proceedings as a prime-time ritual combat in which it is the winner, rather than the loser, who will ultimately receive the fatal thumbs-down.

Most of the delusions and fantasies that pervade the debates can be grouped into three baskets:

Energy. In the second debate, a questioner from the audience asked president Obama if there is something the latter can do to lower gasoline prices. The ensuing fiction-laced candidate dialogue featured assertions like the following:

· America has a century’s worth of cheap natural gas. (It doesn’t, and production levels will probably begin declining within the next couple of years.)

· Oil drilling in North Dakota will soon free the U.S. of the need to import oil. (It won’t, and production there will similarly peak and start to wane in the next 2-5 years.)

· The president of the United States should be held accountable for high gasoline prices. (In fact, aside from temporary gestures like opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, there’s almost nothing a president can do to reduce gas prices, which mostly track the global price of crude oil.)

The reality is that America faces profound energy challenges. The “Beverly Hillbillies” era of cheap oil is over, and with it the decades-long spate of economic expansion that both candidates appear to believe is the birthright of all citizens. Oil production costs have skyrocketed

Fruits of Labor: Adventures in Pomeography…


A cross between Golden Russet and Cox’s Orange Pippin.  It’s pretty, but still under evaluation before I can recommend it, or not.

From STEVEN EDHOLM
Turkeysong Blog
Mendocino County

“Annual vegetables are like getting a goldfish.  Trees are like getting a tortoise that might outlive us.”

When we moved here to Turkeysong six and a half years ago, it was a very rainy December.  We moved into a tiny trailer with just a propane oven for heat.  I was rather unhealthy that winter with long continuing complications from Lyme disease, so my physical resources were limited.  But it was an exciting time and full of promise as we embarked on a long held dream.  Bathing was accomplished at the nearby hot springs most of the winter until I built a wood fired bathtub which worked passably well.  Parking was a mile walk down the 4 wheel drive only road, and the winter was so wet that only two trips were made driving in the 1/2 mile driveway before late spring arrived.  I carried office chairs, a desk and sheets of plywood down the half mile drive.   I remember many times walking in at night after bathing at the springs, exhausted, sick, dizzy and weak.  Most days I spent laying down alone in the damp cold miserable trailer feeling ill and tapped out.  The Accommodations were very uncomfortable, but frugality ruled the day and I still knew where my priorities lay.  Rather than move toward better shelter, showers, making the driveway passable or other creature comforts, I started preparing to plant trees and put in a garden.

The first year’s nursery row of apples, peaches, pears and cherries

Holly Cratty Memorial


From SCOTT CRATTY

This is devoted to the memory of the Westside Renaissance Market’s co-owner, and my wife, Holly Cratty, who passed away last Saturday evening, October 13.

I hope you had the opportunity to meet her and to know her at least a little. I know that those who did were blessed. In case you are one who did not, I wanted to share a small bit about this profoundly fine person.

Holly was a person of fierce integrity, wide knowledge, deep feeling and resolute moral courage and convictions. She believed, and acted on the belief, that we are obligated to do the right thing, not just talk about it (and never to take credit for it.) Her life was thus devoted to trying to help uplift others, to creating beauty and to doing what she could to help preserve the natural world – while also staying out of the spotlight.

She was a fully engaged person, in addition to helping run the Westside Renaissance Market and being vocationally and at heart an artist (although, if being a full time student was a vocation, she might have done that instead) she was also a philosopher, poet, scholar (in many fields), photographer, deeply contemplative person of spirit and faith, nature lover, animal champion, activist, humanitarian and relentless self-examiner.

She had a great thirst for both knowledge and understanding and was well versed in more subjects than anyone else I have known. She was keenly interested and informed about both things global and local. Holly added the “Renaissance” to the Westside Market and was a Renaissance woman.

Holly was also a gentle soul who vastly preferred home to a crowd and one-to-one conversation to a party. However, when in public behaving rightly toward others (i.e., following the Golden Rule) was always her first concern.

She was a devoted practitioner of kindness and humility.   As one example, countless times (biting my tongue the whole while) I have watched her patiently praise, encourage and draw out someone who was lecturing her

Transition: We’re In a Slow Motion Collapse… Take Advantage of the Time Available…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

Our economic and political system is in collapse and there’s no way to fix it from inside the system.

It’s a systemic crisis. The systems we rely upon aren’t viable.

They haven’t been for a long time. Every year we are worse off than the year before.

A political fix, switch, or reform isn’t going to do the job.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we didn’t see a wholesale collapse in 2008. When people lost faith in the financial sector. What prevented it?  At first, it was the US government’s ongoing bailout of the financial sector’s gambling debts.

Since then, it has been the ability of the US government to spend enough to keep 41% of the economy afloat.

As long as the US government continues to borrow at those levels, we’ll avoid a sudden economic collapse like Greece and Spain.

However, this spending won’t fix the system.  Far from it.  We’ll still be in a slow and steady collapse.

Why do I think this is good news?  Two reasons.

Firstly, many people are finally waking up to the fact that the old system isn’t viable anymore, and we need to create a new one.  A system that actually

In Praise of Anarchy Part III




From DMITRI ORLOV
Club Orlov

Parts I & II

Kropotkin worked within the framework of 19th century natural science, but his results are just as relevant today as they were then. Moreover, the accuracy of his insights is vindicated by the latest research into complexity theory. Geoffrey West, who was a practicing particle physicist for forty years and is now distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute, has achieved some stunning breakthroughs in complexity theory and the mathematical characterization of scaling of biological systems. Looking at animals big and small, from the tiny shrew to the gigantic blue whale, he and his collaborators were able to determine

How Psychologists Subvert Democratic Movements…


From BRUCE E. LEVINE
ZCommunications

By the 1980s, as a clinical psychology graduate student, it had become apparent to me that the psychology profession was increasingly about meeting the needs of the “power structure” to maintain the status quo so as to gain social position, prestige, and other rewards for psychologists.

Academic psychology in the 1970s was by no means perfect. There was a dominating force of manipulative, control-freak behaviorists who appeared to get their rocks off conditioning people as if they were rats in a maze. However, there was also a significant force of people such as Erich Fromm who believed that an authoritarian and undemocratic society results in alienation and that this was a source of emotional problems. Fromm was concerned about mental health professionals helping people to adjust to a society with no thought to how dehumanizing that society had become. Back then, Fromm was not a marginalized figure; his ideas were taken seriously. He had bestsellers and had appeared on national television.

However, by the time I received my PhD in 1985—from an American Psychological Association-approved clinical psychology program—people with ideas such as Fromm’s were at the far margins. By then, the focus was on the competition as to what treatment could get patients back on the assembly line quickest. The competition winners that emerged—owing much more to public relations than science—were cognitive-behavioral therapy in psychology and biochemical psychiatry. By the mid-1980s, psychiatry was beginning to become annexed by pharmaceutical companies and forming

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent…


From NYT

In the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.

William Edelen: Ancient Prophecy — Modern Ignorance



From WILLIAM EDELEN
Toward the Mystery

Well, here we go again. We lived through the superstition of the Millennium and Armageddon, staggered by the onslaught of superstition and ignorance, masquerading under the phony and scary heading of “prophecy.” This virus of illiteracy even affected the Oval office. Then President Reagan’s weird and stupid speculations about an “imminent arrival of Amageddon in the Middle East” left intelligent people gasping.

Today we are playing that tape again with the gullibility of the American public. We are being smothered by radio, books, television and movies by those out to make a buck, about the disaster and world destruction waiting for us on Dec 21, 2012, when the Mayan calendar predicts an apocalypse for the end of the year, end of the world (they say). It will be open season on reason, rationality, normal intelligence and religious literacy. “Survival kits” are now being sold by the con men and fast buck operators. Sandra Noble, the Executive director of Mesoamerican Research Foundation, says: “portrayal of that date as doomsday is a total fabrication and a chance for a lot of slick people to cash in.”

But to refresh your memory about the “millenniumn, armageddon” circus for the gullible clowns that set the stage for the circus being replayed today under a different heading, what seemed to be missing from the brain/mind (I use the words loosely) is the fact that time is fiction. Time is man-made. A history of man-made calendars would enlighten many.

Bill Maher Slams Focus On The Family: ‘If you’re doing God’s work, and God is perfect, how come you’re always wrong?’…


I don’t expect the far right christian group Focus on the Family to agree with me on everything… or even anything. But they do have to answer one question: If you’re doing God’s work, and God is perfect, how come you’re always wrong? Is the problem you can’t follow instructions, or is Jesus just dicking you around?

I bring this up because in 2008 Focus on the Family tried to frighten their vast mailing list of snake-handlers and early onset dementia patients by sending out a letter with a set of predictions about what our great nation would look like if we elected that evil Count Chockula as our President. And of the 34 predictions they made, they got right exactly NONE… 0 for 34.

So I’m just saying they claim to work for God but for some reason they’re always wrong, and it’s always a disaster. It’s like if every time you tried to put together some bunk beds from Ikea, you died and woke up in hell blowing a guy named Sven.

So if I may let me relay some predictions Focus on the Family made about what would happen if Obama became President: The Pledge of Allegiance, gone. The Boy Scouts of America, gone. Private guns, seized. Abortion, free on demand. And, worse of all… pornagraphy is available at gas stations. Tittie magazines available at the Arco…

They almost gone one right when they predicted the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” but then they went on to say it would lead to turning the Navy into a fire island booze cruise sponsored by Lube. Oh, and I almost forgot America would have single-payer health care…

In Praise of Anarchy…


From DMITRI ORLOV
Club Orlov
Parts 1 and 2 of 3

Once upon a time there lived a prince. Not a fairytale prince, but a real one, his bloodline extending back to the founder of Russia’s first dynasty. It was his bad luck that his mother died when he was young and his father, a military officer who paid little attention to his children, remarried a woman who also took no interest in him or his brother. And so our prince was brought up by the peasants attached to his father’s estate (he was born 20 years before Russia abolished serfdom). The peasants were the only ones who took an interest in him or showed him affection, and so he bonded with them as with his family. And so our prince became a traitor to his own class. Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin is our prince’s name, and he eventually became a renowned scientist who advanced the understanding of the history of glaciers, an historian of revolutionary movements, foremost theoretician of anarchism, and, because of his lifelong burning desire to do something to help the plight of the common man, something of a revolutionary himself. His memory has not fared well over the 90 years that have passed since his death. On the one hand, he suffered from being associated with the Bolsheviks, although he never spoke out in favor of state communism or dictatorship of the proletariat. On the other hand, a major effort has been made by Western capitalist régimes to denigrate anarchism and equate it with terrorism.

Todd Walton: City-States


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

My brother, a successful Internet Technology person living in San Mateo, recently wrote, “I know the Bay Area is back because for about three years no one was going out to dinner and a concert, so almost no one was playing at Yoshi’s; it was almost all spillover comedy acts. Now, all the ancient jazz/funk/smooth jazz/new age artists are performing at Yoshi’s again, and come to think of it, we just saw Liz Story there a few months back. The aging Yuppies, or as I like to call us, the sachems of the lower-reaches of the 1% are back in the tall cotton. Unfortunately it’s still not very recovered at all for the other 99%.”

My brother’s observation of those important economic indicators—going out to dinner and a concert—reminded me of something else he hipped me to a few years ago: the Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index, a remarkable and telling project funded by MasterCard. This fascinating study culminated in a multi-dimensional ranking of the top seventy-five city-states in the world, and has not, as far as I know, been updated since 2008. Nevertheless, if you are interested in how the giant multinational corporations develop their global game plans, I highly recommend you hop on a fast computer and check out the Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index. The revelatory information in the study confirms everything Buckminster Fuller wrote about how the supranational powers operate on spaceship earth.

Long before the rise of large and powerful nations came the rise of powerful city-states. Venice, for instance, known for several centuries as the Republic of Venice, was one of the most powerful city-states

Will Parrish: Greenwashing Forest Destruction by Forest Stewardship Council…



Forest Stewardship (sic) Council certified monocultures and clearcuts – Sappi, Swaziland


Visible from space: FSC-certified clear-cuts, Savoy state forest, Massachusetts, USA (courtesy of Clearcutting Massachusetts’ Public Forests)

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The forests of the world are in deep trouble. One especially sobering illustration is as follows. 1970 is commonly cited (erroneously) as the year environmental movement was born. Yet, according to the World Wildlife Fund, close to half of the world’s remaining so-called “virgin” forests have been cut since. Although there has been a great diversity of campaigns throughout the world to protect what remains of the world’s forest, which have doubtless slowed the rate of destruction, those campaigns have nevertheless been woefully inadequate.

Meanwhile, according to an estimate by the Rainforest Action Network, two and a half acres of forest are cut every second: equivalent to two and a half football fields. That’s 214,000 acres per day, an area larger than New York City. Each year, 78 million acres are deforested: an area larger than England and Wales combined.

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