Category Archives: After the 2016 election
Rise up and dance!
When “Democracy Now” interviewed two global feminists – Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues, and Congolese activist Christine Deschryver – on 2-14-17, Ensler said that “watching Trump and the people he surrounds himself with, we’re seeing the escalation of rape culture, a predatory mindset.” She added that if so many Americans “felt OK electing a self-confessed sexual assaulter” whose principal advisor, Steve Bannon, “is known to have beaten his wife, we know we haven’t really gotten to the root of rape culture in America. That predatory mindset is affecting everything. We’re gutting regulations on air, on water, and on the earth. We’re escalating extraction. We’re seeing a disparaging of immigrants. This is all part of a predatory mindset – one person in power who does what he wants without the consent of the people around him – exactly what rape culture is. You seize people’s bodies, you take them against their will, and you do whatever you want to them. We bomb Iraqis and destroy people in countries around the world, and then refuse to give them admission and safety.”
On the possibility of Trump signing an executive order that would deregulate conflict minerals, Deschryver said such an order would bring the Democratic Republic of Congo “back 20 years, legitimating all the perpetrators and rapes, and strengthening Central African dictators who want to resume plundering Congo, along with multinational corporations.” Ensler compared this process with the “way oil companies are using state violence in Standing Rock. She then described the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration as “an unbelievable outpouring of women demanding, speaking up for, and cherishing and knowing what their rights are. What did Trump do a day later? He destroyed reproductive rights and the support of NGOs who were offering a discussion about abortion around the world. That was his cynical, violent response to 5 million women and men rising around the world. And that is rape culture. It was like, ‘Really? You think you’re going to have power? Watch what I’m going to do the next day.’ So many of these executive orders are violent acts saying in no uncertain terms, ‘I do what I want, regardless of your needs, regardless of what you want in your body or your life, and I’m going to continue to do that.’”
Deschryver said this is why “grassroots women from all over the world have to be leaders, protecting Mother Nature, because we are Her.” At Deschryver’s project, City of Joy, in Bukavu, eastern Congo, “we receive 90 young women to heal their bodies and minds, and we train them to be leaders. Most of them were raped by militias, by the police, by their partners. And they’re all survivors of atrocities. They stay there for six months, transforming their pain to power. After that, some of them go to our farm to transform pain to planting. There we live with Mother Nature and give back to Her. I think City of Joy has to be an example for the whole world, because right now I think the grassroots women are the ones who’ve paid the most for everything that’s happened. Look in Dakota. Look in Congo, everywhere.” To read more about City of Joy, go to http://drc.vday.org/about-city-of-joy/
When Amy Goodman noted that Steve Bannon had called progressive women, quote, “a bunch of dykes,” Ensler said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all. I think this entire cabal are men who are terrified of women on every level, particularly powerful women. We only have to look at the censoring of Elizabeth Warren to understand that. They’re terrified of black people. They’re terrified of immigrants. They’re terrified of indigenous people. They are terrified of anybody who isn’t a white man or a white man billionaire or white man corporate. In many ways, this is the last major gasp of the patriarchal dragon, and last gasps can be deadly. But they’re not going to move us back to the past. Women aren’t going to stand for having rights being taken away. African Americans aren’t going to stand for it. Immigrants aren’t going to stand for it. We’re too far out to go back in. So now what we’ve got to do is go much further than we’ve ever gone before.”
The women then looked at the recent silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who tried to read into the Senate record a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King, opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions when he was nominated for a federal judgeship. First, Amy Goodman noted that “Senator Warren was then prohibited from speaking for the remainder of the debate, which was hours-long. Male senators, her Democratic allies, like Senator Sanders, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Senator Merkley, were allowed to read King’s letter without rebuke. What’s also interesting is that when Coretta Scott King sent her testimony 30 years ago to the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Strom Thurmond, expecting it was going to be entered into the Congressional Record, he never entered it.”
“Right,” agreed Ensler. “The only way Coretta Scott King’s letter could be entered was through the voice of white men. I think it was really disturbing that happened, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Warren to take her seat. It was an incredibly infantilizing moment, his attempt to take a woman of such stature and voice and power and reduce her to nothing. We’re not going to take our seats. That’s not going to happen now. The attempt by this administration to reduce women, to make women feel small, to feel that they don’t exist, to embarrass and shame them, won’t work. We’re past that point. As terrible as all this is, what’s really exciting is to see what this is evoking in people all across this country and around the world. We’re not only going to persist, we are rising up. That’s what we’re seeing this year in One Billion Rising, a global campaign through dance and resistance to fight all the forms of violence, whether it be the violence of racism or climate change or economic deprivations or workers’ rights. We’re seeing more risings this year across the planet, more militant risings, more joyful risings, more fierce risings, more specific and determined risings, because what we’re all feeling is not only are we going to not give up on the rights we have, but this is an opportunity to reformulate our progressive world into a much stronger, more unified, more visionary, more prophetic movement than we’ve ever had before and to really understand that the struggle for antiracism, the struggle against the destruction of the Earth, the struggle for women, the struggle against oppression – these are all one struggle that we’re part of. I’m very encouraged, in the little towns and places all across America, to see people in Texas standing up for Muslims, to see artists doing beautiful posters. There’s more creativity, more outpouring that’s going on right now. I want to finish by saying I think the resistance is the creation. As we’re resisting, we’re beginning to not only mobilize ourselves into a unified force, we’re actually creating the vision of the world we want.” For more on One Billion Rising, go to http://www.onebillionrising.org
“After 15 years of our movement, we were able to put out a call that was an invitation for women and men to rise and dance and resist violence against women across the planet. And that call was taken up, with each community making it their own. Each community took it to the places they wanted to take it and created this global solidarity and force of energy that really made violence against women central stage. Five years ago, we put out this global invitation for women to rise and dance at the places where they wanted to see justice, where they wanted to see violence end. It was massive, and every year, it’s grown and grown. It’s now in 200 countries. Twenty-two states in India are rising, 131 cities in Germany, 90 cities in Poland. We’re seeing all kinds of people – trans women, workers, indigenous people – everyone’s beginning to use this idea of dance resistance, because dance is so powerful. People are being traumatized every day by these executive orders, by horrible statements, by hateful, aggressive reactions. And I think one of the things we have to be very careful about is that we don’t get hooked on a cycle of trauma, retrauma, trauma, retrauma. We have to also come into our bodies and dance and feel our sexuality and feel our joy and feel our energy, because that will give us the fuel to keep fighting and keep resisting and keep creating the way we want to go.”
Deschryver added, “I think Eve had the idea when she was visiting Congo, and she saw all the raped women dancing. That’s what we do in Africa. It’s a way to express our feelings. We have One Billion Rising in Congo, and we rise also for Mother Earth, because Congo is the second lung of humanity. Without the forests in Congo, I think there is no more life all over the world. And we rise also for and with the women. All over DRC they use the word ‘rising’ in English. Every time they see something they disagree with, it’s like, ‘OK, we will rise for this.’”
Ensler: “In New York, on February 14th, we’re having an Artistic Uprising for Revolutionary Love. We’ve joined forces with a wonderful woman named Valarie Kaur and Reverend Barber, who have launched this campaign called Revolutionary Love. And we’ll be rising in Washington Square Park from 6:00 to 9:00. There are 25 amazing artists, a gospel choir, drummers, singers, and poets. And we really want everyone to come, because, really, we need art more than we know. We only have to look to Melissa McCarthy, her brilliant portrayal of Sean Spicer, and see the way artists and irony are changing consciousness.”
Chomsky’s assessment of the world right now
A few days ago, Noam Chomsky, longtime political activist and social critic, was interviewed on “Democracy Now,” and asked to sum up the first few months of the Trump regime. He said that “anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people” is being “decimated, while anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force is being carried forward.” Meanwhile, the two most important issues – climate change and the threat of nuclear war – on which our survival depend are being largely ignored. The media are largely taking the bait of daily Trumpist distractions, including the question of whether the Russians interfered in the 2016 US election. “Half the world is cracking up in laughter,” Chomsky said about this, since “the United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like.” Even in Russia, the US government got “their man Yeltsin in.” Chomsky understands that “Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win. But that’s hardly a justification for allowing the Trump and right-wing Republican policies to slide by quietly, many of them not only harmful to the population, but extremely destructive, like the climate change policies.”
Chomsky finds the new hostility toward Russia disheartening, since lessening tensions with that country would be “a step forward. NATO maneuvers are taking place hundreds of yards from the Russian border, and Russian jet planes are buzzing American planes. This could get out of hand very easily. Both sides, meanwhile, are building up their military forces, and the US is establishing an anti-ballistic missile installation near the Russian border, allegedly to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian missiles, a first strike threat. These are serious issues. People like William Perry, who has a distinguished career and is a nuclear strategist and is no alarmist, are saying that this is one of the worst moments of the Cold War. And we should bear in mind it’s the Russian border. It’s not the Mexican border. There are no Warsaw Pact maneuvers going on in Mexico.”
When asked about Trump’s policies with regard to North Korea, Chomsky noted, that North Korea didn’t seriously pursue a nuclear weapons program till after George W. Bush scuttled an agreement Clinton had negotiated according to which “North Korea would terminate its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and the U.S. would reduce hostile acts. I mean, you can say it’s the worst regime in history, but they’ve been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy. And why are they developing nuclear weapons? I mean, the economy is in bad shape. They could certainly use the resources. Everyone understands that it’s a deterrent.” North Korea is still offering to stop developing nuclear weapons if the US “stops carrying out threatening military maneuvers with South Korea on its border. Not an unreasonable proposal. And it’s worth bearing in mind that North Korea was practically destroyed during the Korean War by some of the most intensive bombing in history. When there were no targets left, the US bombed dams, a war crime that wiped out crops. The North Koreans lived through that, so having nuclear-capable B-52s flying on their border is no joke. Instead of concern about whether somebody talked to the Russians, this is the kind of thing that should be pursued. That’s what anyone hoping for some form of peace and justice should be working for.”
Relations with China are also “an extremely serious issue,” Chomsky said. “China isn’t going to back down on its fundamental demands, concerning Taiwan, for example. And Trump threatening force is extraordinarily dangerous. You can’t play that game in international affairs. We’re too close to destroying ourselves. You take a look at the record through the nuclear age, of near misses. It’s almost miraculous that we’ve survived. As soon as Trump came in, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock was moved to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, both because of the nuclear threat, recognized to be serious, and the threat of environmental catastrophe, which wasn’t considered in the earlier years, but now is. These are, overwhelmingly, the most crucial issues that face us. Everything else fades into insignificance in comparison. They’re literally questions of survival.
There are now three nuclear powers that have refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: China, the United States, and Israel. If tests begin again, it would be an extremely serious danger. It was when the first tests were carried out that the Doomsday Clock went to two minutes to midnight. There’s been an inadequate, but significant, reduction in nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, and the New START Treaty is supposed to carry that forward. Russia and the United States have the overwhelming mass of the nuclear weapons. And this would cut down the number, especially of the more threatening ones. Trump has said this a ‘bad deal’ for the United States, suggesting maybe we should pull out of it, which would be a disaster.
Sooner or later, people are going to see through Trump’s con game, and at that point something will have to be done to maintain control. The obvious technique is scapegoating – blame it on immigrants or Muslims. But that can only go so far. The next step would be an alleged terrorist attack, which would be easy to construct or stage. I don’t particularly anticipate it, but it’s a possibility. And this is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It’s also the safest country in the world. It’s easy to terrify people.”
On the question of Iran, Chomsky indicated that for years the US and Israel have insisted that it’s the greatest threat to world peace, even though the US comes first in international Gallup polls. “Nobody else even close, far ahead of any other threat. Pakistan, second, much lower. Iran, hardly mentioned. Why is Iran regarded here as the greatest threat to world peace? The intelligence community provides regular assessments to Congress on the global strategic situation. It’s said for years that Iran has very low military spending, even by the standards of the region, much lower than Saudi Arabia, Israel, others. Its strategy is defensive. So, if they’re developing nuclear weapons, it would be as a deterrent. Why are the United States and Israel so concerned about a deterrent? Because they want to be free to use force.”
When asked for his thoughts “on Syria, Russia, the United States,” Chomsky said, “Syria is a horrible catastrophe. The Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.”
“Why the Russians with them?”
“Syria is their one ally in the region. Their one Mediterranean base is in Syria. But it’s kind of like the North Korean case. There have been possible opportunities to terminate the horrors. In 2012, there was an initiative from the Russians, which wasn’t pursued, so we don’t know how serious it was, but it was a proposal for a negotiated settlement, in which Assad would be phased out. The West – France, England, the United States refused to consider it, believing at the time that they could overthrow Assad. Could it have worked? You never know. But it could have been pursued. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting jihadi groups, which aren’t all that different from ISIS. So you have a horror story on all sides. The Syrian people are being decimated.”
On Israel-Palestine, Chomsky said, “There’s a systematic Israeli program that’s been going on since 1967 to try to take over every part of the West Bank that’s of any value, except for areas of Palestinian population concentration, which can rot on the vine. In 1980, the US joined the world not only in calling the settlements illegal, but in demanding that they be dismantled.”
Amy Goodman: “Now you have David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, who raised money for the settlements. And Jared Kushner in charge of the policy.”
“Yeah, it’s been step by step. Reagan and Clinton weakened it. Obama and Trump let it stand. Meanwhile, the Kushner Foundation and this new ambassador are strong supporters of the Israeli ultra-right, way to the right of Netanyahu. The Beit El, the community they’re pouring their money into, is run by an Orthodox rabbi whose position is that the army should follow the rabbi’s orders. General discussions about this are extremely misleading. What’s said on all sides is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement, in accord with the long-standing international consensus, or else one state, which would be an apartheid state, in which Palestinians wouldn’t have rights, and you could have an anti-apartheid struggle, and Israel would face what’s called the demographic problem – too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. But there’s a third option, the one that’s actually being implemented: construction of a Greater Israel, which won’t have a demographic problem, because they’re excluding the areas of dense Palestinian population and removing Palestinians from the areas they expect to take over. The United States is providing diplomatic, economic and military support for this project, which will leave the Palestinians with essentially nothing while Greater Israel won’t have to face the dread demographic problem.”
On Latin America, Chomsky agreed that after a 10-year period of enormous social progress via socially minded governments, there have been steps backward in the last few years. The popular governments, with the exception of Ecuador, have been thrown out of office, and there’s a deepening crisis in Venezuela. “The left governments failed to use the opportunity available to them to try to create sustainable, viable economies. Almost every one – Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and others – relied on the rise in commodity prices, which is a temporary phenomenon. Commodity prices rose, mainly because of the growth of China, so there was a rise in the price of oil, of soy, and so forth. But these countries didn’t try to develop a sustainable economy with manufacturing, agriculture and so on during this period. Venezuela, for example, is potentially a rich agricultural country, but they didn’t develop it – they simply relied on oil. On top of that, there was just enormous corruption. It’s painful to see the Workers’ Party in Brazil, which did carry out significant measures, but just couldn’t keep their hands out of the till. They joined the corrupt elite, which is robbing all the time, and discredited themselves. I don’t think the game is over by any means. There were real successes achieved, and I think a lot of those will be sustained. But there’s a regression. In Venezuela, the corruption, the robbery and so on, has been extreme, especially since Chávez’s death.”
On the question of whether fascism could come – or has come – to America, Chomsky said that we could be “in real danger, if a charismatic figure appears who can mobilize fears, anger, racism, a sense of loss of the future that belongs to us. We’re lucky that there never has been an honest, charismatic figure. McCarthy was too much of a thug, Nixon was too crooked, and Trump, I think, is too much of a clown. So, we’ve been lucky. But we may not be lucky forever.”
Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, was just published.
A wider lens and some good advice from Richard Heinberg
In his 3-15 article “Disengage from the spectacle,” posted at http://www.postcarbon.org, Richard Heinberg describes the beginning of the Trump administration as “Empire’s End,” TV’s latest and biggest-ever 24/7 reality show, decades in the making, “with a budget in the trillions, a cast of billions, and a hero-villain more colorful and pathetic than Tony Soprano or Walter White.” He advises that “at least some of us are better off severely limiting our consumption of American national news right now. It’s not that events in Washington won’t affect us – they will. Rather, there are even more important things to attend to, over which we have far greater agency.
First Premise: We’re at the end of the period of general economic growth that characterized the post-WWII era. I’ve written extensively about this, and there’s no need to repeat myself at length here. Suffice it to say that we humans have harvested the world’s cheap and easy-to-exploit energy resources, and the energy that’s left won’t support the kind of consumer economy we’ve built much longer. In order to keep the party roaring, we’ve built up consumer and government debt levels to unsustainable extremes. We’ve also pumped hundreds of billions of tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and oceans, putting the entire biosphere at risk. Our current economic and political systems also require further, endless growth in order to avert collapse. Almost no one wants to discuss all of this, but everyone senses a change in the air: despite jiggered statistics, workers know their wages have stagnated or fallen in recent years, and members of the younger generation generally expect to earn less that their parents. This generates a persistent low-level sense of fear and dissatisfaction, guaranteeing the type of political shift we’re seeing.
Second Premise: The new U.S. regime is adopting an essentially fascist character. When empires decline, people often turn to leaders perceived as strong, who promise to return the nation to its former glory. In extreme instances, such leaders can be characterized as fascist, using the word in a generic sense to refer to authoritarian nationalism distinguished by one-party rule, the demonization of internal and external enemies (usually tinged with some form of racism or anti-Semitism), controls on press freedoms, and social conservatism. Once a nation turns decisively toward fascism, it rarely turns back, since fascist regimes ruthlessly destroy all opposition. It usually takes a foreign invasion or a complete economic-political-social collapse to reset a national government that’s gone fascist.
Those who get the second premise but miss the first tend to conclude that, at least until the new regime neutralizes significant opposition within the government, there are still things we can do to return life to ‘normal.’ But the end of growth ensures that, beyond a certain point, there will be no more ‘normal.’ We’re headed into new territory no matter what. Taking both premises into account, what are the likely outcomes?
It’s possible that the Trump administration will succeed in rooting out or suppressing opposition not just in Congress and the media, but also in executive-branch departments, including the CIA and FBI. In that case we may see at least a few years of authoritarian national governance punctuated by worsening financial and environmental crises against a backdrop of accelerating national decline. But thanks to Premise One, short-term success won’t lead to a stable regime over the long term. Eventually, no matter how vigorously it suppresses real or perceived enemies, the U.S. federal government will collapse as a result of war, economic crisis, or the simple ongoing erosion of biophysical support systems. At that point a possible trajectory for the nation would be to break apart into smaller geographically defined political entities.
The short-term success of the current regime isn’t assured anyway. It’s still possible that establishmentarian Democratic and Republican members of Congress, working with renegade CIA and FBI mid-level officials and mainstream media outlets, could mire the new leadership in a scandal too deep to survive. Or, if Republicans lose control of Congress in 2018, articles of impeachment could be brought against Trump. This wouldn’t guarantee a return to status quo politics in Washington though. Not only does Premise One guarantee that the old status quo is no longer tenable, but on its own terms the political system is now too broken and the nation too divided. In this scenario, pro-regime and anti-regime elites might continue to escalate their attacks on one another until the whole system crashes.
In either case, there’s no national team to root for capable of restoring the status quo ante Trump for long, if that’s even desirable. Under either scenario, competent local governance might provide significantly better living conditions than the national average, but the overall picture is pretty grim. A few years from now I expect that we’ll be in very different territory socially, politically, and economically. Nevertheless, what we do in the meantime could make a big positive difference to people and planet, both over the short term and also over the long term. Here are some specific things you can do:
Disengage from the spectacle. Learn what you need to know in order to assess immediate threats and general trends, but otherwise avoid spending long periods of time ingesting online, print, radio, or televised media. It’s bad for your mental health and takes time away from other items on this list. If you haven’t already done so, make a personal and family resilience plan in case of a temporary breakdown in the basic functions of government (everyone should do this anyway in view of our vulnerability to earthquakes or weather disasters). Are you growing any of your own food? Do you have other practical skills? Do you have stored food and water? Do you have cash set aside? Work to build community resilience as well. If and when national governance breaks down, your local community’s degree of social and biophysical resilience will make all the difference for you and your family. Biophysical resilience relates to local food, water, and energy systems. A socially resilient community is one in which people are talking to and looking out for one another, and institutions for resolving disputes are trusted. Identify organizations that are building both kinds of resilience in your community and engage with them. These could be churches; government and non-profit organizations; food, energy, and health co-ops; neighborhood safety groups; local investment clubs; or Transition groups. Get involved with existing organizations or start new ones. It takes time, but friends like these are more important than money in the bank, especially in times of social and political upheaval. Direct some of your resilience-building efforts toward long-term and nature-centered concerns. – also work that proceeds best in the company of others. Take time as well for the conservation of culture – arts and skills that are their own reward. Connecting with others in your community by enjoying or playing music together, singing, dancing, or making visual art deepens relationships and gives life more dimension and meaning. Participating in protests could enable you to get to know other members of your community or further fragment your community if it’s deeply divided politically. At certain moments in history it’s necessary to take a stand one way or the other on a particular issue, and in the days ahead some issue may require you to plant your flag. This historical moment is also one in which many real heroes and heroines engage in ways that aren’t scripted by any of the elites.”
In an earlier essay, “Traditionalism” through the Lens of Cultural Ecology,” published 2-27 (also on postcarbon.org), Heinberg discusses the political philosophies now vying against each other in Washington. “The common terms liberalism and conservatism have lost their usefulness in navigating these political waters,” he says. Traditionalism is a more useful term, representing “the recent rightward ideological surge in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world, but it remains widely unfamiliar and poorly defined. In this essay, I’ll explore the significance of traditionalism using a conceptual tool I call cultural ecology: an inquiry into the ways society shapes itself in response to geography, energy resources, and other environmental factors. My understanding of cultural ecology is derived from the work of anthropologist Marvin Harris, who investigated how societies were transformed by their shifts from hunting-and-gathering to farming, and how they adapted themselves to various geographies (geographer Jared Diamond also made important contributions along these lines).
In the last couple of centuries, a shift as profound as the agricultural revolution of 10,000 years ago occurred as societies came to base their economies on the use of fossil fuels. Now, as the fossil fuel era starts to wane, wrenching changes in the social, intellectual, political, and religious foundations of modern society should be anticipated. Fossil-fueled society came to full flower during the 20th century. With unprecedented amounts of energy available, economies grew rapidly, and the expectation of further and unending growth became a core feature of economic and political theory, along with the notion that unending progress was also to be expected in social, scientific, and political realms. Capitalism – the private ownership of what Marx called the ‘means of production,’ along with mechanisms for constant reinvestment in the expansion of those means – was never so much a coherent ideology as a set of cobbled-together agreements and institutions. Since capitalism’s tendency (as Marx observed) was to produce ever greater economic inequality along with worsening boom-bust cycles, efforts were made to restrain those tendencies through redistributive taxation and social programs, along with financial, labor, and environmental regulations (which were seen by many as signs of social and political progress). Immigration and globalization served to reduce labor costs, but were also regarded as evidence of progress toward a more egalitarian, multicultural ideal. The acceptance and resettlement of refugees from political strife or natural disasters represented a national expression of humanitarianism. This was the milieu within which liberal and conservative political discourse took place; that discourse questioned relative degrees of power and benefit enjoyed by social groups (e.g., workers versus managers versus owners of capital) but seldom challenged the shared allegiance to growth. Within a growing economy, there was always more for (nearly) everyone, even though some were able to obtain a much higher percentage of the increasing overall wealth.
The fossil fuel era is now failing. Even without climate change, oil, coal, and natural gas are finite resources extracted using the low-hanging fruit principle. While large amounts of these resources remain, each further increment extracted offers declining energy returns on the energy invested in production, an instance of the law of diminishing returns. The situation with respect to oil is approaching crisis: while production rates are high, costs to producers are soaring, and the higher prices needed to cover those costs can’t be sustained because they tend to frustrate economic growth and kill demand for motor fuel. The petroleum industry is between a proverbial rock and hard place, with debt increasing and profit evaporating. Alternative energy sources will need to be introduced at eight to ten times the current rate of solar and wind build-out to avert a climate or a depletion crisis. In any case, it’s highly doubtful that renewable or nuclear energy could support the consumer economy we’ve come to rely on. Since energy is the basis for all economic activity (a fact mainstream economists have been slow to grasp), the end of the fossil fuel era effectively means the end of growth.
Just as a growing economy encouraged the development of the ideological and social constructs of the 20th century, a stagnating or contracting economy is likely to favor a different and uglier politics whose main themes are: longing (and promises) for the return of a lost condition of abundance, blaming social or political groups for the current situation, and calling for the exclusion of others deemed to be competing with ‘us’ for increasingly scarce resources. This could be a description of what would, in ordinary political discourse, be termed far-right nationalist populism.
Insight into ideological Trumpism can be gleaned from the beliefs of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. According to the website Politico, his favored readings ‘tend to have one thing in common: the view that technocrats have put Western civilization on a downward trajectory and that only a shock to the system can reverse its decline. They tend to have a dark, apocalyptic tone.’ One of Bannon’s influences is said to be blogger Curtis Yarvin, a leader of a movement called Dark Enlightenment that rejects egalitarianism and multiculturalism along with the progressive view of world history. Dark Enlightenment supports strong, centralized political leadership, libertarian economics, and socially conservative views on gender roles, race relations, and immigration. Another Bannon favorite is Nassim Taleb, author of the 2014 book Antifragile, which proposes managing systems in a way that benefits from random events, errors, and volatility.
The term traditionalism crops up in the work of Italian philosopher Julius Evola (1898-1974). A recent New York Times article explored Bannon’s fascination with Evola, ‘a leading proponent of traditionalism, a worldview popular in far-right and alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are poisonous illusions.’ Evola’s book Revolt Against the Modern World speculated that the near-universal myth of a lost Golden Age is actually a collective memory of a time when religious and temporal power were united, and society was ruled by spiritual warriors. He believed that the modern world represents a serious decline from that society.
In my first book, Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age (1989, revised edition 1995), I explained how the idea of a lost Golden Age has long been associated with various forms of millenarianism, the notion that the current world is degraded and approaching a cleansing crisis from which a revived paradisiacal condition will emerge. Millenarian movements (of which many variants of Christianity and Islam are clear examples) often spring up during times of secular decline or crisis, and typically take the form of a cult led by a charismatic visionary aiming to ‘make the world great again.’ Sometimes a benign character, the leader is more often malign — like Hitler. In my view, the myth of a Golden Age is a deep cultural memory of our shared origin in egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, when we lived embedded in nature rather than separate from and dominating it.
To summarize, cultural ecology predicts that a historical moment of change such as ours would provide the ideal growth medium for social and religious movements that glorify a largely imagined past, anticipate a cathartic renewal (which they may seek to precipitate), and promise followers a privileged position in the coming order.
Some of the basic features of traditionalism are evident in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which went through an end-of-growth crisis in the 1990s after the collapse of the USSR. In a 2013 speech at the Valdai conference in Russia, Putin warned, ‘We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They’re denying moral principles and traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual.’ In a 2014 speech at the Vatican, Steve Bannon called Putin a kleptocrat, but spoke approvingly of his philosophy: ‘We the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what Putin is talking about as far as traditionalism goes, particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.’ One of Putin’s influence is Aleksandr Dugin, a far-right Russian political philosopher and fan of Julius Evola. Dugin has asserted that, ‘Only after restoring the Greater Russia that is the Eurasian Union, can we become a credible global player.” He’s helped Putin forge alliances with nationalist movements in Europe, including Marine LePen’s National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Ataka Party in Bulgaria, and Hungary’s Jobbik Party. Putin’s friend Viktor Orbán, now prime minister of Hungary, has promised to turn his country into an ‘illiberal democracy’ modeled on Russia. He is virulently anti-Muslim, seeing Islam as a ‘rulebook for another world.’
Traditionalism demands an enemy, and the fear and loathing of Islam is a key feature of far-right populism in both Europe and the U.S. Here’s Steve Bannon on the dangers of what he calls ‘jihadist Islamic fascism’: ‘I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis. There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.’ The expectation of an ultimate cathartic clash between a traditionalist Christian West and jihadist Islam is of course shared by radical Islamist movements such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which themselves represent brands of millenarianism. (The description of the relationship between Islam and the West as a “clash of civilizations” appeared first in a 1957 speech at Johns Hopkins University by British orientalist Bernard Lewis, and Harvard professor Samuel Huntington popularized the idea.)
Societies in decline or crisis don’t always elevate far-right leaders and social movements. The medieval Joachimites and Brethren of the Free Spirit (whose followers endured plagues and wrenching poverty), and the 17th century Ranters in Britain (where small farmers were losing their land to the wealthy) promoted a radically egalitarian vision of human relations. Much more recently, a period of economic contraction and crisis in the United States produced one of the country’s most left-leaning presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, it could be argued that Barack Obama was an FDR-like figure tasked to address the global financial crisis of 2008, but that his too-tepid response (or the fact that the crisis was too deeply-rooted to yield fully to Keynesian formulae) then opened the way for far-right Trumpism.
Traditionalism therefore characterizes only one phase of the cultural and political aftermath to the end of growth. While for the foreseeable future (and in certain nations or regions) circumstances may favor strong leaders who demonize racial or religious groups and promise a restoration of forsaken values, their regimes may disappear as quickly as they arrived on the scene. Polities may fragment, with formerly united regions choosing to follow separate paths. Currently, large swathes of America (accounting for over half its total population) are proving highly resistant to the Trumpist mental virus, and much the same could be said with regard to Europe.
A far-left millenarian movement could also arise, a form of militant egalitarianism like Bolshevism or Mao’s Red Brigades that could potentially prove as dangerous as any other brand of extreme millenarianism. But our future options need not be limited to competing brands of millenarianism. Individuals and communities can focus on practical efforts to bring the greatest good to the most people (and other species) over the longest time by rethinking and redesigning production and consumption patterns in anticipation of the failure of existing consumerist institutions. The word ‘good’ in the previous sentence is of course open to definition and redefinition, but even a meager understanding of ecology and psychology would suggest that it should point to values like diversity (permitting the flourishing of many kinds of species and cultures), happiness, health, autonomy, and sustainability.” Heinberg then gives the same recommendations as in his 3-15 post. He concludes: “Millenarianism is a collective psychological expression of stress and powerlessness. The antidote is to act. In a time of division, unite. In a time of demonization, reach out.” He then recommends a new Post Carbon Institute online course called ‘Think Resilience: Preparing Communities for the Rest of the 21st Century,'” available at education.resilience.org.
Feminism for the 99%
Since today’s the day of the March 8th Women’s Strike and International Women’s Day, it makes sense to consider the thoughts of one of the strike’s organizers, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who was interviewed on 2-28-17 by Truthout’s Sarah Jaffe. As always, I’ve edited the interview for clarity and brevity.
SJ: The call to strike that you coauthored talks about building a feminism for the 99%. Can you talk a little bit about what that means?
K-YT: It’s partly a response to the idea that the last frontier for women to challenge are the glass ceilings blocking the ascension of women in electoral politics and corporate America. That isn’t the last frontier for ordinary and working class women. Feminism for the 99% is about rejecting that idea that women are only or primarily concerned with their role in the elite male world, and emphasizing that there are still basic issues such as wage differentials and access to reproductive health care. Black women make $0.63 for each dollar that white men make, for example. Which, of course, is lower than the usual barometer that people use, the $0.78 to the dollar that white women make.
In a sense almost all issues are women’s issues, as attacks on social programs, public education, and government-funded health care have a severe impact on women’s lives. There is also no publicly funded childcare. On a very basic level, we need a feminist politics that responds to these issues as the most urgent. The outpouring around the January 21st protest showed that there is actually vast support for a resurgent feminist movement on this basis. There’s also an understanding that the problems experienced by women today are rooted in an economic system that privileges the 1% over the 99%, a system that also relies on the free labor of women in the home to reproduce itself. Also, we now have as president a billionaire who’s made his money by exploiting loopholes in the system, a misogynist who’s abused women, so it’s not surprising that the first protests against his administration have been organized by women and mostly attended by women, and that women’s issues have become a focal point of the resistance movement.
SJ: You wrote a wonderful book about the Black Lives Matter movement (From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, 2016), putting it in historical context. I wonder what your thoughts are on how that movement is changing and shifting under Trump.
K-YT: I think that Trump put Black Lives Matter and the activist organizations affiliated with it in the crosshairs early on. His entire posture around law and order was created in opposition to Black Lives Matter and what he called a climate that was “anti-police.” That’s had a particular impact; for the president of the United States and his supporters to refer to political activists as terrorists, which they’ve done around Black Lives Matter, means a particular thing in the security state atmosphere of the United States. It’s put activists on the defensive and created a situation in which people internalize – look inside of their organizations to figure out how to tighten things up and politically respond to Trump. That’s understandable, but I think we’re at a moment where we need to look outward and connect with other groups of people experiencing some of the same attacks. Police abuse and violence isn’t just an issue affecting African American communities, and Trump is trying to expand the powers of the police to put other groups in the crosshairs. Attacks on the undocumented and the attempts of the Trump administration to deputize police officers in the effort to round them up, and attacks on Muslims and Arabs also call on greater powers for the state and its armed agents. These create an almost natural alliance of people to stand up against policing and police abuse. What all of this means is that we need a bigger movement to confront the police – a movement that tries to connect the issues. I think there has to be a great effort among folks from Black Lives Matter and other organizations that have been fighting these things to make connections with other groups for the sake of expanding the movement, while also preserving the space and understanding that these policies continue to have a disproportionate impact in Black communities.
Do what you will politically, but be informed
One of the things I’m trying to learn, spiritually and politically, is that thinking in either-or binaries hobbles us unnecessarily and can prevent us from reaching our goals. Case in point: I don’t think working within the current system will get us where we want to go, but I support whatever progressive political actions others believe in and take. Being as informed as possible can help us choose good strategies, and to be informed I go to sources I trust. Jeffrey St. Clair, editor-in-chief of Counterpunch (counterpunch.org) is one of them. Below are my notes on his latest book, Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes from A Failed Revolution (2016). He’s also written on environmental issues, links between the CIA and the drug trade, and Obama and “the politics of illusion,” and has a book coming out next month on climate change. Bernie and the Sandernistas covers the 2016 presidential campaign up to and including the Democratic Convention.
St. Clair believes the Clintons, “the chief architects of the neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party, stand for everything Sanders claim[ed] to be against. They push austerity programs at home and abroad, while giving Wall Street traders the keys to the treasury. They slashed banking regulations and weakened environmental and food safety laws. They’ve rammed through job-killing trade pacts, from NAFTA to GATT and the WTO. They’ve supported interventionist wars in Kosovo, Colombia, Iraq, and Libya. They gutted welfare, expanded the drug war, and institutionalized the federal death penalty. Clintonian pragmatism only runs in one direction: to the right.”
St. Clair says the so-called Sanders revolution “was over before it started, the moment Sanders decided to run in the Democratic Party primaries, instead of as an independent, where he might have proved a real menace to the neoliberal establishment. Sanders even pledged to support HRC in the general election. But he was never interested in a real revolution. He’s more Hubert Humphrey than Che Guevara: a timid reformer, an old-time liberal ranting in the antechambers of a party that’s long since made its Faustian bargain with the agents of austerity. Left and right, the sour mood of the country burns for a true political and economic revolution, and it may well happen. But look for it on the streets, not in the hollow rituals of these elections.
Both Clinton and Sanders are seasoned interventionists. Sanders supported Bill Clinton’s war on Serbia, voted for the 2001 Authorization Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which pretty much allowed Bush to wage war wherever he wanted, backed Obama’s Libyan debacle, and supports an expanded US role in the Syrian civil war. More problematic for the senator in Birkenstocks is the little-known fact that he voted twice in support of regime change in Iraq – first in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which said: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” Later that same year, Sanders backed a another similar resolution. These measures gave congressional backing for the CIA’s covert plan to overthrow Saddam, as well as the tightening of an economic sanctions regime that may have killed as many as 500,000 Iraqi children. They also gave the green light to” extensive bombing campaigns. “On the rare occasions when Sanders has been confronted about these votes, he’s casually dismissed them as being ‘almost unanimous.’ In fact, many anti-war members of Congress voted against the Iraq regime change measures. Even though Sanders markets himself as an ‘independent socialist,’ he’s rarely dissented against the Democratic Party orthodoxy, especially when it comes to military intervention.
A reformer, not a radical, Bernie’s goal is to refashion the Democratic Party from the inside. He’s been in elected office since 1981, tweaking at the gears instead of monkey-wrenching the machine. If Sanders now seems like a radical, it’s only a measure of how far to the right the Democrats have migrated since the rise of the neoliberals. Sanders may be as good as a Democrat gets (aside from Barbara Lee), but how good is that? And what will it get you?
Clinton’s top economic advisor, Alan Blinder, has publicly assured his Wall Street pals that Clinton will not under any circumstances break up the big banks and neither will she seek to reanimate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era regulatory measure whose exsanguination by her husband enabled the financial looting by firms like Goldman and Lehman Brothers that spurred the global economic collapse of 2008. The lavish fee from Goldman for Hillary’s speeches was both a gratuity for past loyalty and a down payment on future services. Goldman’s ties to the Clintons date back to 1985, when Goldman executives began pumping money into the newly formed Democratic Leadership Council, a kind of proto-SuperPac for the advancement of neoliberalism. Behind its ‘third-way’ smokescreen, the DLC was shaking down corporations and Wall Street financiers to fund the campaigns of business-friendly ‘New’ Democrats such as Al Gore and Bill Clinton. The DLC served as the political launching pad for the Clintons, boosting them out of the obscurity of the Arkansas dog-patch into the rarified orbit of the Georgetown cocktail circuit and the Wall Street money movers.”
Under the heading “The Once and Future Sandernistas,” St. Clair says Sanders’ campaign “ended the way it began, with Sanders drawing huge energetic crowds and winning few votes from blacks and Hispanics. Sanders could never connect with the most vulnerable voters in the country. That fact alone doomed his campaign. The dream campaign came to an abrupt end with Sanders’s crushing defeat in California, where demographics and the party establishment were aligned against him. He lost by more than 400,000 votes, a humiliating margin that can’t be written off to voter suppression or hacked machines.
Running as an economic revolutionary, Sanders spent most of his time in the cozy milieu of college campuses instead of in desolate urban landscapes or working-class suburbs. It’s hard to earn the trust of poor people when you don’t spend much time in their company. And, he never satisfactorily explained his vote for the Clinton Crime Bill, which launched a 20-year long war on America’s blacks and Hispanics. Of course, his anemic appeal to black Democratic voters could have liberated Sanderds to attack Obama’s and Hillary’s dismal records. His curious timidity against confronting Obama’s policies, from drone warfare to the president’s bailout of the insurance industry (AKA ObamaCare), hobbled Sanders from the starting gate. Obama and Hillary Clinton are both neoliberals, who’ve betrayed organized labor and pushed job-killing trade pacts. Both are beholden to the energy cartels, backing widespread oil drilling, fracking and nuclear power. Both are military interventionists, pursuing wars on at least 12 different fronts, from Afghanistan to Yemen. But Sanders proved singularly incapable of targeting the imperialist ideology of the Obama/Clinton era. In fact, the senator is visibly uncomfortable when forced to talk about foreign policy. Even after the assassination of Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres by thugs associated with the Honduran regime, Sanders refused to press Clinton on her backing of the Honduran coup that put Cácere’s killers into power.”
St. Clair thinks the Democrats were “gratified to have Sanders drawing attention to a dull and lifeless party that would otherwise have been totally eclipsed by the Trump media blitzkrieg. He served the valuable function of energizing and registering on the Democratic Party rolls tens of thousands of new voters, who otherwise would have been content to stay at home. The biggest threat Sanders posed to the Democratic machine was his ability to raise lots of independent money ($212 million or more) outside of the party’s control – mostly from small online donors. But most of that money went to consultants,” who, St. Clair states, later stabbed Sanders in the back. “Real political revolutions (as opposed to rhetorical ones) begin after the futility of the ballot box has been proven, and they’re driven by issues, not personalities. Sometimes you have to bust your idols for kindling to get things ignited. Your move, Sandernistas.”
Covering the Democratic Convention, St. Clair wrote, “Bernie Sanders is getting shouted down by his own delegates this morning for pushing Hillary & Kaine down their throats.” He then notes that “after a supposedly disastrous, widely ridiculed convention, Trump was up 5%. He might well be up 10 after the Democrats finish theirs. They continue to ignore working class issues and the rising public animus toward interventionist wars. Pre-convention, independents split 34% Clinton to 31% Trump, with sizable numbers behind Johnson (22%) and Stein (10%). Now, 46% say they back Trump, 28% Clinton, 15% Johnson and 4% Stein. Both of the third party candidates are drawing more votes from Clinton than from Trump.
Nancy Pelosi was booed as she addressed her own California delegation. Who wants to be the next Democratic power broker to step up to the microphone? Chuck Schumer, stop hiding behind the curtains, you’ve never been shy before! Benediction booed. Barney Frank booed. Marcia Fudge booed. Next? This convention could be fun, after all! After waiting three days to apologize to Sanders for rigging the democratic process against his campaign, Democratic leaders now urge the Sandernistas to be ‘respectful’ of the ‘democratic process’! Sanders just texted his delegates to sit back and take it in silence: ‘I ask you as a personal courtesy to me to not engage in any kind of protest on the floor.’ What a monumental failure of nerve on his part! The DNC, with the help of the hired Sanders flacks, also just pushed through the platform on a voice vote, steamrolling efforts by the Sandernistas and Labor to get a floor vote on the TPP.
Listening to Clinton’s campaign guru Robby Mook mewl about possible Russian meddling in US elections is like listening to Trump whine about income tax rates when he apparently pays nothing. Shall we recall HRC’s direct intervention in the Russian elections? Her financing of the opposition in the Venezuelan elections? Her role in the Honduran coup? That’s essentially the job description of the Secretary of State, isn’t it? What goes around comes around, Hillary. (If it proves, in fact, to be the case that the hackers were Russians.) Warren’s encomiums for Hillary on economic justice and trade fell flat, with the crowd chanting “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!”
The Sandernistas are crying as Bernie takes the stage. What a strange magnetism he has, especially his appeal to younger women, who were the backbone of his campaign. Is it a longing for the lost grandfather? The appeal is almost mystical. Patrick Flaherty suggested that it was ‘a longing for a sincere, strong, open-hearted male, which is all too rare in popular culture.’ But look where he led them: right into the arms of the Wicked Stepmother. The boos began the moment Bernie began his refrain: ‘Hillary understands…’ Bernie’s vouching for Hillary, the Secretary of Fracking, on climate change also rang pretty hollow, especially when she doubled-down with Tim ‘Offshore Drilling’ Kaine. What’s worse? Someone who dismisses the science and supports the oil, gas and coal industry or someone, like Clinton and Kaine, who understands the science and still gives the fossil fuel lobby all they want? Bernie kept repeating the withered platitude that ‘We’re stronger when we stand together.’ But together with whom? For what? Perhaps all the tears were for the ragged spectacle of Sanders humiliating himself for 50 straight minutes on behalf of a ticket which has only contempt for him and his followers. The cognitive dissonance of this convention is at its max. How else can you explain how demurely Sanders just delivered his movement to the machine that represents everything he was allegedly waging war against: bailing out the banks, destruction of Glass-Steagall, fracking on a global scale, abandonment of organized labor, trade pacts from NAFTA to WTO to TPP, the death penalty, continuation of the drug war, the gutting of welfare, interventionist wars from Iraq to Syria, fealty to Wall Street money, vindictive and racist criminal justice policies, inaction on climate change, and blind loyalty to Israel? Most of the Sandernistas walked out after Bernie transferred (without consent) their votes to Hillary and had a sit-in outside of the convention center, where nobody saw them or cared. What kind of civil disobedience is that? Why not protest inside the hall, where the cameras and the action are? A last blown opportunity to shake the establishment.
I misted up during the testimonials of the Mothers of the Murdered, especially when Travyon Martin’s mother said that she was “an unwilling participant in this movement. I would not have signed up for this. I’m here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who’s in heaven.” Too bad this heavy ceremony was diluted and demeaned by giving an hour to the Incarcerator-in-Chief, Bill Clinton, whose Crime Bill put 100,000 new cops on the streets. Since the passage of that infamous law in 1994, police have killed at least 20,460 civilians.
An odd short film tried to sell everything that Bill Clinton did for poor people, but neglected to mention his destruction of welfare…Jane Fonda. Once she went to Hanoi to stop a war. Now she’s appearing in a music video for a war criminal. Jesse Jackson, too, is a hollow shell of his former self: a hired gun for the elites. In a strange cinematic interlude, the big screen behind the stage just aired a surreal film warning that Trump couldn’t be trusted with the ‘nuclear button,’ which was partially narrated by the nuclear bomber himself, Harry Truman! Leon Panetta, the CIA’s master of drones, is now being shouted down with ‘No war, No drone!’ chants, most of them coming from the Oregon and Washington state delegations. Play on, Sandernistas! Leon Panetta sniveling about Russian hacking is the best laugh of the night. Didn’t his own hackers, working with their cohorts in Mossad, unleash the malicious Stuxnet worm on Iran? The floor managers are in crisis mode. They’ve given all of the delegates on the floor ‘Stronger America’ placards, which they’re waving with patriotic vigor as they shout ‘USA! USA!’ to drown out the anti-war protesters. Did they import these people from the Trump rally in Scranton? They cut the lights on the protesters’ section, who are using the flashlight apps on their cellphones. Right on cue, Rachel Maddow denounced what another MS-DNC hack called the ‘lunatic left’ for heckling Panetta.
Optimism is the word from the O-Man, which means things must be worse than we think. Obama: ‘There are pockets of this country that never recovered from factory closings.’ Pockets? They’re big enough to shoplift the Great Lakes. Now he’s quoting Reagan. Truman and Reagan have been quoted more frequently than any other figures at this convention. In fact, Obama’s speech is played in the key of Reagan. He’s said that he sees himself as a ‘transitional figure’ like Reagan. Obama could sell Trump Steaks to a vegan. He swears that Hillary’s the ‘most qualified person ever to run for president.’ Perhaps. But she’s qualified in all the wrong areas. Obama possesses so many scintillating skills, perhaps more skills than any other political figure of the modern era. Yet he put those gifts to such meager, timid and often brutal uses. What a waste. His is the tragedy of a squandered presidency.
This was a night dominated by the hollow men of the Democratic Party: Panetta, Kaine, Biden, and Obama. The theme was liberal virility, strength, and managerial efficiency. Missing was any empathy for the homeless and the hungry, the poor and the downtrodden. It was a frontal embrace of the neoliberal order, a demonstration that the Democrats have the competency and toughness to manage the imperial order in a time of severe internal and external stress. Bernie sat passively in the imperial box seats with Jane squirming at his side, watching it all unfold.”
St. Clair heads his coverage of day four “She Stoops to Conquer,” beginning with an apology “to the Sandernistas for any impolite things I may have written about you in the past 10 months. I especially want to apologize to those of you who rose up after your leader abandoned you and sat passively as your brave chants of ‘No More Drones!’ were drowned out by the fascist war-cry of ‘USA! USA!’ I want to apologize for doubting your resolve. You didn’t cry when Bernie betrayed you – at least, not for long. You marched right back into the Wells Fargo Center intent on spoiling the party. You made this squalid affair fun for a few precious hours. Somewhere Abbie Hoffman is cracking a smile.
Trump took to Twitter early this morning, as his hair was being plastered into place, and denounced last night’s all-star lineup at the Democratic Convention as an orgy of ‘empty rhetoric.’ He wasn’t wrong. The whole affair had the feel of one of those rock concerts featuring bands from the 1970s. The first few phrases were thrilling, then it all started to fade into a nostalgic stream of familiar hooks and licks you’ve heard a thousand times before on classic rock radio. All played very well with magnificent staging and a dazzling light show, yet utterly antiseptic.
Expect flood warnings as the tears begin to flow when the nation celebrates its own enlightenment in finally nominating a woman for president. The rest of the world will view this ‘historic moment’ as something of a participation trophy, however. Eighty-five women from 54 different nations have already been elected or appointed as heads of government, starting in 1960 with Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. Women have led governments in India, Israel, Central African Republic, UK, Portugal, Dominica, Norway, Pakistan, Lithuania, Bangladesh, France, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Burundi, Rwanda, Bulgaria, Haiti, Guyana, New Zealand, Mongolia, Northern Cyprus, Senegal, South Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Finland, Peru, Mozambique, Macedonia, Ukraine, Liberia, Bahamas, Germany, Jamaica, Moldova, Iceland, Croatia, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Slovakia, Mali, Thailand, Denmark, the Philippines, Guinea-Bissau, Slovenia, Latvia, Transnistria, Namibia, Greece, and Myanmar. Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, was asked about the tardiness of the US in relation to the rest of the world in electing a female head of state. Her response was a strange, almost misogynistic putdown of other women leaders: ‘Many of them weren’t feminists. Hillary was a born feminist. It was a harder road for her. USA! USA!
Yet another cop at the mic, a moment of silence for the fallen police and speeches from the relatives of dead officers. The Democrats have featured more cops as prime time speakers than the GOP, all of them lecturing about how ‘violence isn’t the solution’ to anything. Since January 1st of this year, 668 civilians have been killed by police. Two parties, both proto-fascist. How to choose?
Mission impossible: Chelsea trying to humanize her mother. She says her mother lost the fight for ‘universal health care.’ Not true. Her plan was for another market-oriented scheme called ‘Managed Competition,’ and she failed to get it passed because of incompetence and hubris, setting back the single-payer cause by a generation.
Hillary looks and sounds more and more like Cersei Lannister with each new speech. I’m getting a weird vibe that they might actually bring out Qaddafi’s head on a pike. She says she loves to talk about her ‘plans.’ Has she started yet? I haven’t heard one specific plan. Maybe she’s talking about her invasion plans. Oh, yes, she’s getting around to that now. Pledge fealty to Israel. Check. Defend NATO. Check. Bash Russia. Check. Destroy ISIS. Check. Praise the Generals. Check. Hail our military (and its defense contractors) as a national treasure. Check. Salute the troops. Check. America is great. Check. America is good. Check. America is not a bully. Check. Manifest Destiny. Check. God bless America. Check. Unlike Hillary’s idol Ronald Reagan, she gave no pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons, just a vow to have a more stable hand on the button than Trump. Like Harry Truman. Duck and cover.
How appropriate that it all ends with Hillary and Kaine standing before a golden (or is it Goldman?) shower raining down on America! As a final blessing, Hillary’s preacher has come out to confirm at last what we’ve long suspected: there’s a Methodism to her madness. All Sandernistas should leave the Wells Fargo Center before they lock the exits. (See Red Wedding episode of ‘Game of Thrones’). Hillary’s the authentic Queen of Chaos, and when she stoops, she stoops to conquer.