Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Precarious Persuasion

"I cannot describe the color green to someone who is blind, and who even moreso insists that green does not exist, could never exist; as well as to someone who knows that philosophers from Aristotle to Descartes to Dawkins have conclusively shown that green does not exist, could not exist, has never existed, and will never exist; or to someone who is under the thrall of economic and legal systems (insofar as there is a meaningful difference, since the primary function of this culture’s legal systems is to protect—through laws, police, courts, and prisons—the exploitative activities of the already-wealthy) based so profoundly on green not existing; who cannot acknowledge that this culture would collapse if its members individually and/or collectively perceived this green that cannot be allowed to exist. If I could describe the color green to you, I would do it."

- Derrick Jensen

Aspartame = AminoSweet

"In response to growing awareness about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, what does the manufacturer of one of the world's most notable artificial sweeteners do? Why, rename it and begin marketing it as natural, of course. This is precisely the strategy of Ajinomoto, maker of aspartame, which hopes to pull the wool over the eyes of the public with its rebranded version of aspartame, called "AminoSweet".

Over 25 years ago, aspartame was first introduced into the European food supply. Today, it is an everyday component of most diet beverages, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gums in countries worldwide. But the tides have been turning as the general public is waking up to the truth about artificial sweeteners like aspartame and the harm they cause to health. The latest aspartame marketing scheme is a desperate effort to indoctrinate the public into accepting the chemical sweetener as natural and safe, despite evidence to the contrary."

Chris Hedges on Inverted Totalitarianism

"Our democratic system has been transformed into what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin labels inverted totalitarianism. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, a free press, parliamentary systems and constitutions while manipulating and corrupting internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens but are ruled by armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington, Ottawa or other state capitals who author the legislation and get the legislators to pass it. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. Mass culture, owned and disseminated by corporations, diverts us with trivia, spectacles and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. 'Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,' Wolin writes. 'Economics dominates politics – and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.'

Inverted totalitarianism wields total power without resorting to cruder forms of control such as gulags, concentration camps or mass terror. It harnesses science and technology for its dark ends. It enforces ideological uniformity by using mass communication systems to instill profligate consumption as an inner compulsion and to substitute our illusions of ourselves for reality. It does not forcibly suppress dissidents, as long as those dissidents remain ineffectual. And as it diverts us it dismantles manufacturing bases, devastates communities, unleashes waves of human misery and ships jobs to countries where fascists and communists know how to keep workers in line. It does all this while waving the flag and mouthing patriotic slogans. 'The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed,' Wolin writes."

- Chris Hedges,

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lierre Keith, Acting Beyond Personal Change

"Understand this: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible--it's to dismantle those systems. Neither of these approaches--personal psychological change or personal lifestyle choices--is going to disrupt the global arrangements of power. They're both ultimately liberal approaches to injustice, rerouting the goal from political change to personal change. This is easier, much easier, because it makes no demands on us. It requires no courage or sacrifice, no persistence or honor, which is what direct confrontations with power must require. But personal purity only asks for shopping and smugness. The mainstream version involves hybrid cars, soy milk, soy burgers, and soy babies, and checking off the 'green power' option on your electric bill. On the very fringe, there is a more extreme version which offers a semi-nomadic life of essentially mooching off the employed. To point out the obvious: power doesn't care. Power doesn't notice the existence of anarchist freegans and it certainly doesn't care if they eat out of dumpsters. Power will only care when you build a strategic movement against it. Individual action will never be effective. Rosa Parks on her own ended up in jail. Rosa Parks plus the courage, sacrifice, and political will of the whole Black community of Montgomery, Alabama ended segregation on the public transportation system."

- Lierre Keith, The Vegetarian Myth

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Tragedy of the Usai Nation: A Political Allegory

A long time ago, well before the age of kings and queens, there was an exotic tribe of humans known as the Usai. What follows, is their tragic, politically induced tale.

In the beginning, the Usai were very cunning and persistent. They subsisted for many seasons, and rarely suffered debilitating hardships, even when others nearby did.

One of the keys to survival for the Usai was their mystifying system of governance, known as “Tauk”. The Usai loved to Tauk, and held Tauking ceremonies once every sixteen seasons.

When the time came, the tribesmen, tribeswomen, and the tribal animals gathered together for the Tauk ritual during which a new leader was chosen.

Throughout the Tauking ceremony, the Usai Nation divided themselves into two groups. One of the groups dressed themselves in red-colored war paint, while the other group wore blue. The Usai people chose which group to join based largely on whichever group their family elders were a part of, and also how much tribal wealth they had acquired. The differences between the groups were trivial, at best, but still, it made for a stirring event.

Once divided, the two groups began a special ritual. During this ritual, each group amassed as much animal dung as they could afford. They next smeared the dung all over the opposing group. Whichever group smeared the most dung got to consign their wealthiest member as the next chief of the Usai Nation.

Throughout the existence of Usai Nation, the tribespeople often looked up to their chief. He (the chief was never a woman) was whom they depended on in times of strife.

As the seasons went on, the living conditions slowly deteriorated. During one of the Tauking ceremonies, the tribe reached their breaking point. After the countless number of Tauking ceremonies, the Usai landscape had become deeply entrenched in dung.

Everything was so profoundly covered in dung that nothing could be accomplished. And worse yet, the dung was not even biodegradable—it was synthetically devised to give each rivaling group an advantage for the Tauks. In result, the crops were no longer growing healthily, the animals were full of disease, and the Usai people were covered in thousands of seasons’ worth of poop, and toxic chemicals that mimic poop.

During this horrific event, the Usai people pleaded for their chief, Boh’rk to save them all. Energetically, Boh’rk did all he could. The man spoke of change and offered hope to all. He helped keep, what he thought to be, several key components of the tribe afloat during this time of strife. Nonetheless, with each effort, more and more dung covered the tribe. Boh’rk and his tribe were in trouble.

With each coming sunrise, the synthetic dung increasingly began to take on a life of its own. Astonishingly, the now-mentally disturbed tribespeople started treating the blobs as equals. Hanging around with poo for so long takes its toll, and at some point one begins to view the crap as human. The name the Usai gave to this poo-human mimic was “Korp’Rahshn.”

Soon after, in a fatal turn of events, the Usai Nation could endure no more. The Korp’Rashns overcame their creators, and sucked the life out of every organism throughout the land.

The blobs essentially took advantage of a smear-based tribal-political system, which forced the Usai Nation to share their human rights with them, whether the humans themselves wanted to or not. In result, the tribe fell apart, and the residents waned in pain, helpless and confused, spurned by the very laws they created.

Though this tale is tragic, it serves a meaningful purpose. There is no messiah who can save an entire country that has been abused for generation after generation. A nation built upon a foundation of smears, intentionally or unintentionally, needs a massive overhaul. We will never achieve this through a trifling, two party, political system that treats heartless corporations as human equals.

- Teddy Grahams