At a local neighborhood meeting the other day, I made a comment that someone else didn’t like – and the next thing I knew this person was yelling at me Big Time. Perhaps she thought that the sheer volume of her voice would bully me into keeping the real 411 to myself. Not gonna happen.
I’ve been bullied all my life by all kinds of expert bullies. I’ve been threatened by terrorists in Iraq, chased by North Korean border guards, issued death threats by the IDF – and, even worse, raised in a Republican town! You can’t get much more bullied than that. So now I never back down for anyone — let alone someone who merely raises his or her voice.
And so, at the meeting, I used my “outside voice” on that bully – a voice that makes even dogs and bats hide under the bed. But did that make me feel any better? No, not even close. All I’d done was just to stoop to herlevel. Not good.
Bullies are people who, when they can’t win their arguments by truth, reason or logic, then result to violence, intimidation, lies and extortion. School-yard bullies use that technique. And, on the national and international level, it is also used by the Mafia, Al Qaeda, Fox News, the IDF, the GOP, America’s new militarized police forces and our new massive highly-weaponized armies happily dreaming of world-wide “pre-emptive war” at the taxpayers’ expense.
So how do we protect ourselves against bullies? Not sure. Non-violent resistance is good — but losing one’s life in order to non-violently preserve one’s own self-respect is bad.
Strength in numbers is good (just look at what WalMart workers are achieving through their demonstrations) – but getting pepper-sprayed and shot with rubber bullets by our new militarized police forces in the process is bad.
Raising our children to believe in Truth and Justice is good. Bullying our children with spankings and other types of brutal actions of the strong against the weak is bad. ANYONE can beat up a two-year-old.
Social media freedom and WikiLeaks are good. Media distortion and censorship is bad.
And, according to Dave Lindorff, climate change is bad for most of us but might be hunky-dory for bullies.
When we decent folk stand up against bullies, no matter what it costs us, this makes us feel good about ourselves — but it also makes us feel bad because we have stooped to their level. But as Jesus, Buddha, etc. once said, “There is more good in human beings than there is bad.” And now, more than ever, it is time for the good part of our human nature to come out — and to stop kowtowing to bullies. And to stop BEING bullies as well.
But I digress.
What I really want to talk about here is the very nature of “war” — where the strong intimidate the weak and the biggest bully takes all. Unfortunately, it’s not the smartest or most creative or the kindest or the best or most hard-working person who takes it all — it’s the ones with the most weapons and the least shame.
In the last 65 years, America has become the biggest bully in the world. I’m ashamed to say that — but it is true. And all our super-macho armies and all our vainglorious wars, even the ones involving squabbling with other bullies over the same turf, don’t make us any better than what we really have become: Bullies.
We try to teach our kids not to be bullies — and then we ourselves turn around and wave flags and cheer and support all kinds of brutal bullying done by America’s vast war machine, even though we have armed and equipped these bullies ourselves; at the expense of our own jobs, homes,infrastructure, schools, lifestyles, elders and kids.
A few million years ago, dinosaurs were the ultimate bullies and mammals were the ultimate victims – in a race between the strong and the meek. But just look how things have turned out. Seen any dinosaurs around lately? I think not.
And who knows what new life-form will start evolving once our current human bullying “Masters of War” are extinct.
At the rate we are going – between the massive weapons races, the invasions and Occupations, the terrorism (state-sponsored and otherwise), the nuclear arsenals, whatever – it looks like the meek truly are going to inherit the earth. Again.
Avgi Tzenis, 76, is standing in the hall of her small brick row house on Bragg Street in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. She is dressed in a bathrobe and open-toed sandals. The hall is dark and cold. It has been dark and cold since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast a month ago. Three feet of water and raw sewage flooded and wrecked her home.
“We never had this problem before,” she says. “We never had water from the sea come down like this.”
Hurricane Sandy, if you are poor, is the Katrina of the North. It has exposed the nation’s fragile, dilapidated and shoddy infrastructure, one that crumbles under minimal stress. It has highlighted the inability of utility companies, as well as state and federal agencies, to cope with the looming environmental disasters that because of the climate crisis will soon come in wave after wave. But, most important, it illustrates the depraved mentality of an oligarchic and corporate elite that, as conditions worsen, retreats into self-contained gated communities, guts basic services and abandons the wider population.
Sheepshead Bay, along with Coney Island, the Rockaways, parts of Staten Island and long stretches of the New Jersey coast, is obliterated. Stores, their merchandise destroyed by the water, are boarded up and closed. Rows of derelict cars, with the tires and license plates removed and the windows smashed, line the streets. Food distribution centers, most of them set up by volunteers from Occupy Sandy Recovery, hastily close before dark every day because of the danger of looting and robbery. And storm victims who remain in their damaged homes, often without heat, electricity or running water, clutch knives against the threat of gangs that prowl at night through the wreckage.
This storm—amid freakish weather patterns such storms will become routine—resulted in at least $71.3 billion in property damage in New York and New Jersey. Many of the 305,000 houses in New York destroyed by Sandy will never be rebuilt. New York City says it will have to spend $800 million just to repair its roads. And that is only the start. The next hurricane season will most likely descend on the Eastern Seaboard with even greater destructive fury. A couple of more hurricanes like this one and whole sections of the coast will become uninhabitable.
This is the new America. It is an America where economic and environmental catastrophes converge to trigger systems breakdown and collapse. It is an America divided between corporate predators and their prey. It is an America that, as things unravel, increasingly sacrifices its own.
Rene Merida, 27, is standing on a street corner. His house, on Emmons Avenue, does not have electricity, running water or heat. He and his pregnant wife and two children, ages 7 and 4, huddle in the darkness inside the ruined home or at times flee to live for a few days with relatives. Merida, who recently lost his job as an ironworker, managed to reach his landlord once on the phone. That was three weeks ago. It was the only time the landlord, despite Merida’s persistent calls, answered.
“He told me it [the repair] will get done when it gets done,” he says. “The temperature inside my house is 15 degrees. I got a thermometer to check.”
Lauren Ferebee, originally from Dallas and now living in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, sits behind a table in the chilly basement of the 123-year-old St. Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded by German immigrants. On large pieces of cardboard hanging from the ceiling are the words “Occupy Sandy Relief.” The basement is filled with donated supplies including pet food, diapers, infant formula, canned goods, cereal and pasta. The church was converted two days after the storm into a food bank and distribution center for the victims of the hurricane. Hundreds of people converge daily on the church to work. Volunteers with cars or vans deliver supplies to distribution points in other parts of New York and in New Jersey.
Ferebee, a playwright, and hundreds of other volunteers instantly resurrected the Occupy movement when the tragedy hit. They built structures of support and community to endure not only the effects of the storm but prepare for the breakdown that appears to lie ahead. As we descend into a world where we can depend less and less on those who hold power, movements like this one will become vital. These movements might not be called Occupy. They might not look like Occupy. But whatever the names and forms of the self-help we create, we will have to find ways to fend for ourselves.
“We have a kitchen about 50 blocks from here where we cook and deliver hot food,” Ferebee says. “We take food along with supplies out to distribution hubs. There is a distribution hub about every 30 or 40 blocks. When I first went out I was giving water to people who had not had water for six days.”
She sits in front of a pile of paper sheets headed “Occupy Sandy Dispatch.” Various sites are listed on the sheets, including Canarsie, Coney Island, Red Hook, the Rockaways, Sheepshead Bay, Staten Island and New Jersey. She is interrupted by Roman Torres, 45, who sings on weekends in a band that plays Mexican folk music. He has pulled his van up in front of the church. He comes two days a week to transport supplies.
“Can you go anywhere?” she asks Torres.
“Yes,” he answers.
“Can you do a couple of drop-offs at the Rockaways?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says. “If someone comes with me.”
As he fixes himself a cup of coffee in the church kitchen, volunteers carry boxes from the basement to his van parked in the rain outside.
“We can’t ever get enough electric heaters, cleaning supplies, tools and baby supplies,” Ferebee says.
In a small apartment above the church Juan Carlos Ruiz, a former Roman Catholic priest who was born in Mexico, sits at a small wooden table. He is the church’s community organizer. It was his decision once the storm hit to open the doors of the church as a relief center. He did not know what to expect.
“It was Tuesday night,” he says. “We got three bags of groceries and two jars of water. It was the next morning that volunteers began to appear. By the first weekend we had over 1,300. It was organized chaos. There was all this creative energy and youth. There was an instant infrastructure and solidarity. It is mutual aid that is the most important response to the disasters we are living through. This is how we will retain our humanity. Some members of the church asked me why these [volunteers] did not come to the church service. I told them the work they were doing was church. The commitment I saw was like a conversion experience. It was transformative. It restores your faith in humanity.”
The emotional cost of the storm is often as devastating as the physical cost.
Tzenis, who was born in Cyprus and immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1956, lists the mounting bills at her Sheepshead Bay home. Since the storm the septuagenarian has paid a plumber $2,000, and that does not cover all the plumbing work that must be done. A contractor gave her an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000 for repairs, which include ripping out the walls and floors. Tzenis has received a $5,000 check from an insurance company, Allstate, and a $1,000 check from FEMA. But $6,000 won’t begin to cover the cost.
“The insurance company told me I didn’t have the water insurance,” she says. “The contractor said he has to break all the walls and floors to get the mold out. I don’t know how I am going to pay for this.”
As she speaks, Josh Ehrenberg, 21, an aspiring filmmaker, and Dave Woolner, 31, an electrician with Local 52, both volunteers with Occupy Sandy, haul ruined items out of her garage and put them in green plastic garbage bags.
“My husband had dementia,” she says. “I took care of him for six years with these two hands. For a few months the insurance gave me help. Certain medications they pay after six years. They told me once he couldn’t swallow no more there was nothing we could do. … He died at home last year.”
She begins to sob softly.
She mutters, “Oye, oye, oye.”
“I was going to hang myself in the closet,” she says, gesturing to the hall closet behind me. “I can’t take life anymore. My husband. Now this. I don’t sleep good. I jump up every hour watching the clock. I’ve been through a lot in my life. Every little thing scares me. I’m on different pills. I’ve come to the age where I ask why doesn’t God take me. I pray a lot. I don’t want to give my soul to the devil because they would not put me in a church to bury me. But you get to an age where you are only able to take so much.”
She falls silent. She begins to reminisce about the bombing of Cyprus during World War II. She says that as a girl she watched a British military airport go up in flames after it was hit by German and Italian bombs. She talks about the 1950s struggle for Cypriot independence that took place between the British and the underground National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston, known as EOKA. She says she misses strong populist leaders such as the Cypriot Archbishop Makarios III, who openly defied British authorities in the campaign for independence.
“People were hung by the British soldiers,” she says. “Women were raped. People had their fingernails pulled out. They were tortured and beaten. My cousin was beaten so badly in jail he was bleeding from his bottom.”
The horrors of the past merge with the horrors of the present.
“They say [hurricanes like] this will happen again because the snow is melting off all the mountains,” she says. “It never flooded here before. No matter how hard it rained not a drop came through the door. But now it has changed. If it happens again I don’t want to be around.”
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
If Americans will trample one another just to save a few dollars on a television, what will they do when society breaks down and the survival of their families is at stake? Once in a while an event comes along that gives us a peek into what life could be like when the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is stripped away. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey there was rampant looting and within days people were digging around in supermarket dumpsters looking for food. Sadly, “Black Friday” also gives us a look at how crazed the American people can be when given the opportunity. This year was no exception. Once again we saw large crowds of frenzied shoppers push, shove, scratch, claw, bite and trample one another just to save a few bucks on cheap foreign-made goods. And of course most retailers seem to be encouraging this type of behavior. Most of them actually want people frothing at the mouth and willing to fight one another to buy their goods. But is this kind of “me first” mentality really something that we want to foster as a society? If people are willing to riot to save money on a cell phone, what would they be willing to do to feed their families? Are the Black Friday riots a very small preview of the civil unrest that is coming when society eventually breaks down?
Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was not really a commercial holiday. It was a time to get together with family and friends, eat turkey and express thanks for the blessings that we have been given.
But in recent years Black Friday has started to become even a bigger event than Thanksgiving itself.
Millions of Americans have become convinced that it is fun to wait in long lines outside retail stores in freezing cold weather in the middle of the night to spend money that they do not have on things that they do not need.
And of course very, very few “Black Friday deals” are actually made in America. So these frenzied shoppers are actually killing American jobs and destroying the U.S. economy as well.
The absurdity of Black Friday was summed up very well recently in a statement that has already been retweeted on Twitter more than 1,000 times…
It has gotten to the point where it is now expected that there will be mini-riots all over the country early on Black Friday morning each year. The following are a few examples of the craziness that we saw this year…
Fortunately, many Americans are starting to get fed up with Black Friday. In fact, one activist named Mark Dice actually went out and heckled Black Friday shoppers this year. I found the following You Tube video to be very funny, and I think most of you will too…
In the end, it is not that big of a deal that people want to fight with one another to save 50 dollars on a cell phone.
But this kind of extreme selfishness and desperation could become a massive problem someday if society breaks down and suddenly millions of extremely selfish and desperate people are scrambling for survival.
With each passing day our economy is getting even weaker, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching. What are people going to do when the next spike in unemployment hits us and nobody can find work?
To get an idea of where things are headed, just look at Europe. In both Greece and Spain the unemployment rate is over 25 percent and civil unrest has become almost a constant problem in both of those countries.
So what kind of riots will we see in the United States when the economy gets much worse than it is now?
Already there are signs of social decay all around us, and most Americans are completely unprepared for what will happen if a major disaster or emergency does strike.
Sadly, the reality is that most Americans live on a month to month basis. Most families do not have any emergency savings to speak of, and one recent poll found that 55 percent of all Americans only have enough food in their homes to survive for three days or less.
To me, that is an absolutely insane number.
We just came through a summer of extreme drought and global food supplies have dropped to a 40 year low. Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and the global financial system could fall apart at any time. Most of us just assume that there will always be huge amounts of very cheap food available to us, but unfortunately that simply is not a safe assumption. The following is from a recent article in the Guardian…
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”
“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”
When I watch my fellow Americans trample one another to get a deal on a television or a video game, it makes me wonder what they would be willing to do if they went to the store someday and all the food was gone.
Desperate people do desperate things, and someday if there was a major economic breakdown in the United States I think the level of desperation in this country would be extremely frightening.
Source: The Economic Collapse
When the Corporate Elite tells us we need to be afraid of something, they almost always expect to make some money off our fear.
From the same people who brought us the “Ground Zero Victory Mosque,” FEMA concentration camps, and every single George Soros conspiracy theory, comes a brand new hyper-paranoid threat-to-America’s-sovereignty that, they say, should scare the hell out of all of us.
It goes by the name of Agenda 21, which just so happens to be the title of Glenn Beck’s new dystopic novel.
Billed as, “more frightening than anything Orwell could have envisioned,” Beck’s Agenda 21 paints a disturbing picture of America following the implementation of the United Nation’s Agenda 21, which is actually a real life UN initiative, though not nearly as nefarious as Beck would have us all believe.
The book’s tagline reads: “This used to be called America. Now it is just ‘the Republic.’ There is no president. No congress. No freedom.”
Over at GlennBeck.com you can watch a movie trailer made specifically for the book featuring grizzled Americans lined up on the streets in a post-Soviet winter landscape reeking of desperation, waiting for tiny morsels of food to be parceled out by “the authorities.” Reminiscent of both Nazi concentration camps and the Book of Revelation, everyone’s foreheads are tattooed with identification numbers – and in homage to Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” one scene in the trailer depicts an emaciated, scraggly-haired old man loaded on to a conveyor belt and sent into a burning furnace.
Of course, this is all fiction. Whether you like him or not, Beck has made a fortune off sensationalism – and more recently televangelism – and this book will tap into a wellspring of paranoia on the fringe Right that will undoubtedly make a lot more money for multimillionaire Mr. Beck himself.
But whether Beck really believes in his depicted Agenda 21 future for America isn’t all that important. What’s important is that a lot of other powerful people do believe in it. To them, there’s nothing fictional at all when it comes to Agenda 21.
On October 11th this year, the Georgia state Capitol building hosted a four-hour briefing for Republican state senators on the issue of…Agenda 21. It was emceed by a man named Field Searcy who, according to MotherJones, is a local Conservative activist, whose Tea Party leadership was revoked after endorsing birther and truther conspiracy theories. But on that day, Searcy had the attention of his state’s most powerful lawmakers – including the Republican Party’s Senate Majority Leader, Chip Rogers – to warn them of President Obama’s wicked plot to use Agenda 21 to hand the United States off to the United Nations.
Searcy told the Georgia Republicans, and later spoke of it on the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, that President Obama is using a mind control procedure known as the “Delphi Technique” to slowly condition Americans to submit to the control of the United Nations’ Agenda 21, which will, according to Searcy, force mass migrations of Americans out of the countryside and into the cities, while handing over control of our rural lands to an international, one-world government.
The goal of the presentation was to influence Georgia lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of Tennessee and Kentucky Republican lawmakers who’ve already passed legislation to block Agenda 21 from being implemented in their states. In fact, earlier this year Republican Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers introduced legislation in Georgia to do just that.
Also on the “Fear Agenda 21″ bandwagon is newly-elected Tea Party Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. He devoted an entire section of his website, TedCruz.org, to Agenda 21 fearmongering. Under the title, “Stop Agenda 21: The Constitution should be our only ‘Agenda,” Cruz writes:
“The originator of this grand scheme is George Soros, who candidly supports socialism and believes that global development must progress through eliminating national sovereignty and private property… Agenda 21 attempts to abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. It hopes to leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind. Everyone wants clean water and clean air, but Agenda 21 dehumanizes individuals by removing the very thing that has defined Americans since the beginning—our freedom.”
Oh no! Not the golf courses! Luckily for the golfing community, Ted Cruz is headed to the United States Senate to stop George Soros and the UN from confiscating Augusta National.
Though, hopefully, someone will notify Cruz, perhaps by removing his tinfoil hat, that the United Nations has no interest whatsoever in turning Augusta National into a sustainable bio-dome. Likewise, hopefully someone will tell Mr. Field Searcy that the UN has no interest in forcibly removing Americans from the country-side, either.
Concerns coming from the Right about American sovereignty in the face of the United Nations aren’t anything new.
It’s true that FDR pushed the idea after World War Two, and Democratic President Harry Truman signed us up for the UN in 1945, and it’s also true that in signing up for the United Nations, the United States surrendered a small amount of our sovereignty, inasmuch as we can no longer unilaterally declare war on another nation – unless they attack us first – without getting the approval of the UN. Of course, this is true of every other nation in the UN as well. The UN was created to promote world peace, an idea that doesn’t sit well with the neocons and chickenhawks.
But, here’s what Agenda 21 really is. Standing for “Agenda 21st Century,” it’s a completely non-binding UN agreement that aims to address climate change and inequality by calling on local and federal governments, NGOs, and businesses, to develop plans to create more sustainable environments in their respective nations. The UN believes that by working together, and giving financial assistance to developing nations to promote sustainable living, wealth disparities can be reduced, indigenous populations can be protected, and the deterioration of ecosystems around the globe can be reversed.
If you ask the environmentalists who are growing more and more concerned with a warming, crowded planet what they think of Agenda 21, they’ll say it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Especially after new reports by the UN about record levels of greenhouse gases and the atmosphere, and a report by the World Bank on the global economic impacts of a planet that’s 7-degrees warming by 2100 as a result of climate change.
But, as you’d expect from a plan to reduce poverty worldwide and use resources and land in more eco-friendly ways, wealthy oil barons and banksters are opposed to it. When people, governments, or organizations talk about things like sustainable energy, corporate responsibility, and educating the world’s children, billionaires like the Koch brothers get a little uneasy.
So, right-wingers have employed their best charlatans in America, people like Glenn Beck, to reinvent Agenda 21 as something completely different: a nefarious plot by communist globalists to force redistribution of wealth and confiscation of private property, and ultimate devour American sovereignty. Or, according to Glenn Beck, an Orwellian takeover to purge the nation of its sick and elderly.
And it just so happens that legislation passed in Tennessee and Kentucky to block Agenda 21 comes straight from model legislation produced by the notoriously loony, yet well-funded, John Birch Society. The Koch Brothers dad, Fred Koch, who had no problem with state-controlled economies when he made his fortune working with Joe Stalin in the Soviet Union, was one of the founding members of the Jon Birch Society back in 1958.
The UN has provided right-wing fear mongers a lot of grandstanding opportunities over the years, but the UN has never lived up to their warnings that it’s coming to destroy America. Most people think of it as a toothless international body that’s been hijacked by the United States to protect its own interests and the interests of its allies.
And while the Bircher billionaire class continues to fret over the UN, they stay silent over the actual threat to our nation’s sovereignty in the form of the World Trade Organization, which has enforced free trade agreements through international courts that have overturned laws passed by our elected Congress and signed by our elected President. For example, laws banning the importation into the United States of poisonous additives to gasoline, products made by child labor, and tuna caught at the expense of dolphins have all been overturned by the “one-world government” that is the WTO.
Yet, not a peep from the same wealthy elite who are warning us about Agenda 21. That’s because there’s a lot of money to be made in so-called Free Trade, and not so much to be made in promoting sustainable living.
The same is true of why Glenn Beck isn’t writing a book about the $67 trillion global shadow banking system, which is extremely dangerous to our sovereign economy – yet making billions of dollars for banksters.
The point is, this latest scheme by the Corporate Elite to scare the hell out of all of us with Agenda 21 is just like every other scare tactic by the Corporate Elite – it’s meant to distract us. It’s a sleight-of-hand technique to keep us focused on bogeymen, while their ranks of Texas oilmen, outsourcing CEOs, and Wall Street banksters carry out the true destruction of the United States of America: the pillaging of the Middle Class at home and the construction of a WTO-style one-world corporate government to promote unfettered capitalism and free trade everywhere on the planet.
And in the process, useful quacks like Glenn Beck and Field Searcy can make a lot of money feeding the paranoid, Fox News-watching masses their latest conspiracy theories.
Among the beautiful messages in the 1937 film Captains Courageous is one relating to thankfulness. When spoiled rich kid Harvey says to Portuguese fisherman Manuel about Manuel’s father, [H]e didn’t do much for you; I mean, he didn’t leave you anything,” it evoked quite a reaction. Manuel passionately replied in his broken English:
He leave me this hurdy-gurdy [a musical instrument] that his grandfather leave him. He teach me how to fish, how to sail a boat. He gave me arms and hands and feet, feeling good outside… and he teach me how to feel good inside. My father do all this; he have 17 other kids, beside. What else a father do, huh?
This dialogue presents two very different perspectives. One always wants more; the other knows we have already gotten more. And don’t we see both — one perhaps all too frequently — represented in our society today?
One is apparent in the violent protests around the world, in which people cause mayhem because, by their lights, they haven’t gotten what’s coming. The other is represented by people who, by a higher light, know we haven’t gotten what’s coming — and that this actually is something for which to be very, very thankful.
As to the first perspective, when we don’t get what we consider a birthright, we’re usually upset, aren’t we? “I want what’s mine!” we may think. And as we’ve seen, this can manifest itself not just with the fruits of our own hand (e.g., salary), but with handouts.
In contrast to the anger and unhappiness of this protest mentality is the “present” mentality, which was colorfully expressed by G.K. Chesterton when he said, “Goods look a lot better when wrapped as gifts.” We appreciate presents because they’re a bonus; they’re things we don’t deserve. They tend to make us, in a word, happy.
What follows from this, however, is that if we continuously received gifts, we could be consistently happy. But how can one cultivate this happiness-inducing present mentality?
While trying raise my ire many years ago, someone close to me said about my faith, “Catholicism is a religion for losers.” Yet there was a funny thing about his statement.
He was right.
Yet there was a point he missed.
We’re all losers.
And one needn’t be a believer to understand the value of the message here. In fact, given our time’s irreligious climate, I always like to point out the utilitarian aspects of authentic faith. For there is something that is not a matter of faith but of fact: man’s nature. We operate by certain psychological principles, and something is clear when taking them into consideration: faith works.
As to the aspect of Christianity relevant here, it’s one that works quite well to remedy a problem of man’s nature: that spirit of entitlement. For what do we really deserve? Christianity teaches that since we’re all sinners, we actually deserve damnation. Yet its message is also that we won’t get what we deserve because God sacrificed for our sins and is merciful. And there is that greatest gift of all He offers: salvation.
Upon accepting the above, everything does appear a gift because we realize that we, being losers who lostEden, deserve nothing. All is icing on the cake, from the air we breathe to the pencil we use. Oh, this doesn’t mean we won’t ask our boss for a raise or seek better deals when shopping; there can be legitimate reasons for doing so such as the imperative of putting food on your family’s table. It doesn’t mean we may not sometimes protest. But a wise person protests not because he deserves something, but because the Truth, the good, deserves something: to be defended. And understanding what we really deserve certainly doesn’t mean that we’re unduly beholden to the government; it is just as wrong for the sinners within it to have a spirit of entitlement — to feel they have some special hold on the citizenry — as it is for anyone outside of government.
So while someone else close to me once complained about Christianity and said “they beat you down” (with clerics’ talk of our sinfulness), she missed the point as well. It is a beat-down that builds up. It’s only when our ego shrinks that our happiness can grow; it is only when we become less that what we’re blessed with seems like more. This is why, contrary to the earlier pagan creeds, Christianity has always stressed humility. It is why one of the faith’s symbols isn’t a conquering Caesar flanked by centurions, but Jesus riding a lowly donkey. As the prophet Zechariah wrote, “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass….” It is the triumph of humility.
So now perhaps we can know why Chesterton also said, “Thanks are the highest form of thought.” When we’re thankful, we’re recognizing the reality that everything is a bonus; we’re showing the gratitude owed by one who continually receives gifts. And this is easy to understand. After all, what do we think of someone who is done a favor and won’t even say “thank you”? How lofty does his mindset appear at that moment?
We certainly don’t want to be that fellow. Yet the attitude in question here isn’t like being an optimist, either; the thankful person sees the glass as completely full because he is a realist. Our glass actually is full.
For whether God gave us arms and hands and feet and whether we feel good outside or not, He teaches us how to feel good inside. He gave us everything we have and the whole world around us, besides. What else a Father do, huh?
Teaneck,N.J. — The damage incurred by Hurricane Sandy – the largest Atlantic super-storm on record — is second only to New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina in terms of magnitude and cost. Occurring just before Halloween and dubbed “Frankenstorm,” Sandy demolished coastal communities in the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States.
One hundred-mile winds and powerful high tide waters ripped into coastal barriers and the landscape, causing an estimated $60 billion dollars in damages 1. Flooding and power outages were commonplace, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, and millions without electricity, heat and/or provisions. Others devastated by the storm included the sick, elderly, handicapped, and poor who could not get vital medicines by pharmacy or mail; those who lost life savings because the damage to their homes were not insured against certain eventualities; and those who lost their livelihoods through destruction. And although there was no gas shortage by cause of resource depletion, the lack of electricity prevented filling stations from dispensing fuel, resulting in long lines and rationing.
While the level of distress among storm casualties should not be underestimated, and many Good Samaritans rushed to the aid of the less fortunate and continue to selflessly volunteer right up until today, there were those in the Northeastern United States who were wholly unprepared to be inconvenienced by ensuing power outages. It is to “the inconvenienced” that this article is dedicated.
Following are bona fide statements made by some New Yorkers and New Jersey-ites during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
- “I couldn’t take living in a cold house, so checked into a hotel.”
- “The storm has been devastating. No Internet and TV for two days.”
- “I’m dying to wash my hair, but it’s too much work to heat the water on my stove top.”
- “It was murder waiting in line for three hours this morning for gas.”
- “How am I supposed to survive without eggs?”
Now let’s compare these to comments made by authentic casualties of the super-storm:
- “Our house got washed out into theAtlantic, but we’re glad to be alive and will make a fresh start.”
- “A tree fell on our roof and other neighborhood homes, so we’ve gathered the downed limbs and hosted an outdoor bonfire to build morale.”
- “Winds were whipping through my windows when I heard screams for help. I saw my neighbor clutching a fence as water surged around her. If I didn’t open our door and drag her in, she would have been swept out to sea.”
- “I’ve stayed behind to chainsaw down a tree that fell on our house, but the worst hasn’t happened. The important thing is that my wife and children are out of harm’s way.”
- “Floods displaced almost everyone on the block, so we hosted a Hurricane Party to offer a safe place and serve the food that was going to spoil without refrigeration.”
The latter category of commentaries demonstrate that there are many who know the meaning of life-and-death circumstances, and can even uplift others in the wake of hardship.
While surely unintentional, this natural disaster has afforded those affected by it a small taste of how countless others around the rest of the world live – and many not just during a crisis, but on a regular basis. Perhaps the most ironic here is that a great number of the deprived in less fortunate lands have been disenfranchised or “bombed back into the Stone Age” as a result ofUSforeign policy.
According to a 2009 report in Scientific American magazine, more than one quarter of the world’s population does not have electricity 2. Obviously, since that estimate was recorded three years ago, it does not include the more recent destruction, sometimes of entire infrastructures, in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, or Gaza. And a World Watch Institute report notes that the United States, with less than five percent of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s natural resources 3.
Perhaps Americans — especially younger generations who have not experienced war, shortages or poverty — are unaware of the above statistics and the privileged lifestyles that they themselves enjoy. More than 1.5 billion people around the world live in absolute poverty, with scarce access to food, shelter, water or sanitation 4. In many countries, people customarily wait on lines for the distribution of food and fuel. Kenyans, among many other nationals around the globe, boil untreated water for cooking and drinking. As Peace Corps volunteers will attest, firewood remains a primary everyday source of heat and method of cooking in many countries where reliable electricity and gas supplies are still not always available 5. Families in Armenia with the means to do so salt their meats, pickle their vegetables, and preserve their fruits to cope with the absence of refrigeration or food in winter. According to an Aleppo native who only wanted to be identified as “Takouhi,” and who, like her neighbors, roams for food while dodging indiscriminate shelling in Syria, “we eat what ever we can find at this point.” The above are where austerity lessons are to be learned.
If Hurricane Sandy has helped those inconvenienced by the storm begin to identify the however temporarily missing privileges they have taken for granted, the storm’s damage may provide a ‘teachable moment.’ But if a college-educated, foreign-born-but-local acquaintance of mine is any barometer (she was nonplussed that her grocery store stocked no bananas in the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane), let us not be surprised if cognitive dissonance persists among some who can’t or won’t gain insight from adversity. As such, I welcome the notion of a lawful requirement that every American perform volunteer humanitarian work, particularly abroad, to get a sense of how many others must live.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is among those who consider climate change “the new normal,” and calls for fresh approaches to protect the environment and public 6. As natural resources continue to deplete and pundits debate the reality of global warming and its effect on the planet, will Americans wake up to the realities and necessities of conservation? Are we prepared to survive amid hardship if and when we cannot simply retreat to the nearest hotel, restaurant or safe house? Do we know how to deal with scarcity, practice self-reliance, and band together? While municipalities are increasingly on the alert, it would be circumspect for individuals to also prepare for future environmental disasters, and interrupted or altogether eliminated conveniences down the line.
A woman slated to participate in the New York Marathon was interviewed on CBS News Radio, saying, “As soon as Mayor Bloomberg cancelled the Marathon in the face of Sandy, I donated my hotel room to someone displaced by the storm, and volunteered with relief workers to help those in need. 7” Once electrical power returned to her home in Queens, civic-minded Rocio Duque immediately joined with the “Occupy Sandy” volunteers to help the dispossessed in Staten Island 8. “We want to teach our children that while there may always be somebody more fortunate in life than they are, there will also be those who are less fortunate, too,” said Wendy Loszynski of Bergenfield, New Jersey, who, with her husband and three children, helped out at a hurricane relief center in Moonachie. “Volunteering this way can help our children better appreciate what they have in life, whether possessions or good health, instead of worrying about what they don’t have,” Loszynski continued.
Particularly as Thanksgiving approaches, may these and other examples of altruism, charity and solidarity in the face of adversity continue to emerge, inspire, and even guide us if and when disaster comes along.
Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world’s elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet’s largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.
In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial and ethnic groups are demonized. Missiles rain down on concrete hovels, mechanized units fire on unarmed villagers, gunboats pound refugee camps with heavy shells, and the dead, including children, line the corridors of hospitals that lack electricity and medicine.
The impending collapse of the international economy, the assaults on the climate, the resulting droughts, flooding, precipitous decline in crop yields and rising food prices are creating a universe where power is divided between the narrow elites, who hold in their hands sophisticated instruments of death, and the enraged masses. The crises are fostering a class war that will dwarf anything imagined by Karl Marx. They are establishing a world where most will be hungry and live in fear, while a few will gorge themselves on delicacies in protected compounds. And more and more people will have to be sacrificed to keep this imbalance in place.
Because it has the power to do so, Israel—as does the United States—flouts international law to keep a subject population in misery. The continued presence of Israeli occupation forces defies nearly a hundred U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw. The Israeli blockade of Gaza, established in June 2007, is a brutal form of collective punishment that violates Article 33 of the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, which set up rules for the “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.” The blockade has turned Gaza into a sliver of hell, an Israeli-administered ghetto where thousands have died, including the 1,400 civilians killed in the Israeli incursion of 2008. With 95 percent of factories shut down, Palestinian industry has virtually ceased functioning. The remaining 5 percent operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity. Even the fishing industry is moribund. Israel refuses to let fishermen travel more than three miles from the coastline, and within the fishing zone boats frequently come under Israeli fire. The Israeli border patrols have seized 35 percent of the agricultural land in Gaza for a buffer zone. The collapsing infrastructure and Israeli seizure of aquifers mean that in many refugee camps, such as Khan Yunis, there is no running water. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) estimates that 80 percent of all Gazans now rely on food aid. And the claim of Israeli self-defense belies the fact that it is Israel that maintains an illegal occupation and violates international law by carrying out collective punishment of Palestinians. It is Israel that chose to escalate the violence when during an incursion into Gaza earlier this month its forces fatally shot a 13-year-old boy. As the world breaks down, this becomes the new paradigm—modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons murdering whole peoples. We do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Market forces and the military mechanisms that protect these forces are the sole ideology that governs industrial states and humans’ relationship to the natural world. It is an ideology that results in millions of dead and millions more displaced from their homes in the developing world. And the awful algebra of this ideology means that these forces will eventually be unleashed on us, too. Those who cannot be of use to market forces are considered expendable. They have no rights and legitimacy. Their existence, whether in Gaza or blighted postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., is considered a drain on efficiency and progress. They are viewed as refuse. And as refuse they not only have no voice and no freedom; they can be and are extinguished or imprisoned at will. This is a world where only corporate power and profit are sacred. It is a world of barbarism.
“In disposing of man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to that tag,” Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation.” “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organization was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.”
There are 47.1 million Americans who depend on food stamps to eat. The elites are plotting to take these food stamps away, along with other “entitlement” programs that keep the poor from destitution. The slashing of trillions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, given the political impasse in Washington and the looming “fiscal cliff,” now seems certain. There are 50 million people considered to be living below the poverty line, but because the poverty line is so low—$22,350 for a family of four—this figure means nothing. Add the tens of millions of Americans who live in a category called “near poverty,” including all those families attempting to live on less than $45,000 a year, and you have at least 30 percent of the country living in poverty. Once these people figure out that there is no economic recovery, that their standard of living is going to continue to drop, that they are trapped, that hope in the future is an illusion, they will become as angry as protesters in Greece and Spain or the militants in Gaza or Afghanistan. Banks and other financial corporations, handed trillions in interest-free money from the Federal Reserve, meanwhile hoard $5 trillion, much of it looted from the U.S. Treasury. The longer this worldwide disparity and inequality is perpetuated, the more the masses will revolt and the faster we will internally replicate the Israeli model of domestic control—drones overhead, all dissent criminalized, SWAT teams busting through doors, deadly force as an acceptable form of subjugation, food used as a weapon, and constant surveillance.
In Gaza and other blighted parts of the globe we see this new configuration of power. What is happening in Gaza, like what is happening to people of color in marginal communities in the United States, is the model. The techniques of control, whether carried out by the Israelis or militarized police units in our inner-city drug wars, whether employed by military special forces or mercenaries in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, are tested first and perfected on the weak and the powerless. Our callous indifference to the plight of the Palestinians, and the hundreds of millions of poor packed into urban slums in Asia or Africa, as well as our own underclass, means that the injustices visited on them will be visited on us. In failing them we fail ourselves.
As the U.S. empire implodes, the harsher forms of violence employed on the outer reaches of empire are steadily migrating back to the homeland. At the same time, the internal systems of democratic governance have calcified. Centralized authority has devolved into the hands of an executive branch that slavishly serves global corporate interests. The press and the government’s judiciary and legislative branches have become toothless and decorative. The specter of terrorism, as in Israel, is used by the state to divert gargantuan expenditures to homeland security, the military and internal surveillance. Privacy is abolished. Dissent is treason. The military with its mantra of blind obedience and force characterizes the dark ethic of the wider culture. Beauty and truth are abolished. Culture is degraded into kitsch. The emotional and intellectual life of the citizenry is ravaged by spectacle, the tawdry and salacious, as well as by handfuls of painkillers and narcotics. Blind ambition, a lust for power and a grotesque personal vanity—exemplified by David Petraeus and his former mistress—are the engines of advancement. The concept of the common good is no longer part of the lexicon of power. This, as the novelist J.M. Coetzee writes, is “the black flower of civilization.” It is Rome under Diocletian. It is us. Empires, in the end, decay into despotic, murderous and corrupt regimes that finally consume themselves. And we, like Israel, are now coughing up blood.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
Today, we humans overrun and overwhelm this planet at 7.1 billion of us. America, at a bloviated 315 million could not exist without importing 7 out of 10 barrels of oil daily from other parts of the world. That oil will not last forever, but we will be left with a horrific population overload. In other words, we cannot sustain our civilization in 2012 without raping some other countries around the world. Just imagine what we face by adding 138 million people by 2050—a scant 38 years from now.
“The cheap oil age created an artificial bubble of plentitude for a period not much longer than a human lifetime….so I hazard to assert that as oil ceases to be cheap and the world reserves move toward depletion, we will be left with an enormous population…that the ecology of the earth will not support. The journey back toward non-oil population homeostasis will not be pretty. We will discover the hard way that population hyper growth was simply a side-effect of the oil age. It was a condition, not a problem with a solution. That is what happened and we are stuck with it.” James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency
Not only that, we overrun our water supplies to such an extent that “water” will be our next sustainability predicament. The greater our numbers, the greater our dilemma for water, irrigation and food.
Susan J. Marks’ book, Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America, will give you a sobering reality check. The book presents facts, statistics, quotes, and data from sources such as the National Weather Service, United Nations, U.S. Geological Survey, and NOAA, among many other. Marks makes a well documented case for the acute water crisis facing the world. From Florida to Alaska, North to South Poles, South America to Africa, Iceland to Australia, and not leaving out the oceans, the author tells of the lost of drinking water and changes in precipitation patterns. Shortage and source depletion is already a major cause of border fights and legal disputes as countries, big cites, and farmland spar over water rights.
Because the USA expects to add 138 million people within 38 years, our water, energy, resources and arable land cannot keep up with our exploding numbers. On top of our energy, water and resources depletion, Mother Nature continues warning us that we arrogantly explode our numbers to our own peril, i.e., Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, droughts, species extinction, climate change and acidified oceans.
In the end, Mother Nature speaks with a bigger stick than anyone can imagine. My Canadian friend Tim Murray speaks about the “Nature of Mankind” and our inability to listen to the signs being given us in 2012.
Mother Nature and Mankind: A Communication Breakdown
THE RELATIONSHIP THAT COUNTS
Tim Murray said about Mother Nature, “Perhaps you forgot about me. No wonder. Your history books seem to dwell on tyrants and dictators and megalomaniacs and the terrible things they do. Yet I can do terrible things too. Especially when I am taken for granted or abused. I know. I never commanded an army or ruled a nation.
“I never firebombed Hamburg, Dresden or Tokyo, nor dropped two atomic bombs. I never raped Nanking or slaughtered a third of Cambodia’s population. I never conducted a war of ethnic cleansing nor destroyed a culture and enslaved the survivors. I never committed any of these atrocities. Yet I am the most merciless and indifferent mass murderer in history.”
I am Mother Nature. And I really think we need to talk about our relationship.
“Not the relationship you have with other people,” said Mother Nature. “Not about whether people treat each other with enough respect or fairness or empathy. Not about whether they distribute the wealth equitably. No, this is about our relationship, the relationship between you and me, nature and humankind.
“You speak of coercion. Of “coercive” birth control measures, forced abortions, punitive laws, of mass imprisonment and the violation of reproductive freedom. Of force, compulsion, duress, oppression, harassment, intimidation, threats, arm-twisting and pressure by people against people.
“But none of this matches my power of persuasion. I am talking about environmental coercion.
“You can be constrained by many things in life. You can be constrained by arthritic pain, and prevented from training for a marathon. Or constrained by your budget from doing a lot of travelling or eating out. Or constrained by your girth from fitting into the suit you wore to the prom.”
Environmental coercion: the most brutal of all
“But environmental constraints brought on by overpopulation can be more confining than anything else,” said Mother Nature. “They can confine you to a small urban apartment because overpopulation has driven up the cost of shelter. They can force you remain indoors because of smog alerts. They can restrict your movement and your options because overpopulation has created a labor glut and your wages have been driven down by competition. . They can reduce your per capita share of vital resources like clean water and affordable food. Environmental coercion can make your life miserable. More miserable than the most autocratic and unjust of governments.
“You may think that “austerity” is a hoax. A conspiracy of bankers and CEOs and neo-liberals to rob of us our rightful entitlements. But you obviously haven’t heard the news. This is not the 1930s. This austerity is not contrived. This austerity is for real. This austerity is geologically, not ideologically rooted. There is not enough real wealth to go around.
“Go ahead and change the tax code, reform the monetary system and let the big banks fail. Make the rich pay their share. But do you think your Occupy movement can persuade me to yield more how-hanging fruit? Do you think that “justice”, “fairness”, and “equity” will suffice to make up for our non-renewable resource short falls?
“In just 13 years, Canadian governments will have to find $93 billion just to fund their unfunded liabilities—the promises they have made to Canadian citizens to pay out their pensions and satisfy their health care needs. All of this in addition to running other government programs and finding money to repair the infrastructure that is crumbling all around us. Newsflash: the money can’t be found by “taxing the rich”. Corporate taxes would need to double and even then, even if there was no capital flight to kinder tax climates, even if total tax revenue increased, it would be a temporary fix. In the United States, for example, if the income of every citizen making over $200,000 per year was confiscated, it would provide only enough revenue to run the federal government for just 193 days.”
CONTINUING ECONOMIC GROWTH—NECESSARY, BUT NOT POSSIBLE
“The only way out is continued economic growth,” said Mother Nature. “Growth at robust rates. It is only through continued economic growth that your social safety net can be maintained and your cities and bridges and physical assets can be replaced or repaired. One problem. I haven’t got enough affordably accessible natural non-renewable resources to fuel this growth. Especially when emerging economies like China and India are demanding more and more from me. Something must give. Commodity prices will skyrocket. Economic recoveries will be killed in their tracks. Conflict will ensue. Please don’t unleash a nuclear, chemical and/or biological war upon me. I have taken enough abuse already.
“Surely you can see this all coming. Surely you can see that the numbers don’t add up. I can’t continue to meet your growing demands. More efficient technology will not bail you out. Just ask Mr. Jevons. And be honest— renewable energy alternatives cannot be scaled up anywhere near the level you require. All you need is a calculator and an enema for your delusional optimism.
“But you won’t do the math. And you think your agenda trumps mine. Sorry, but didn’t you know, I own you. You are on a leash. You and your short-lived economic infidelities. Do you think I didn’t know? Do you think I didn’t notice that your mind was not on me and my needs?
I GAVE YOU SPACE AND NOW YOU NEED MORE?
“You tell me you need “space”. But I gave you a world of space, and what did you do with it? You filled it up with 7 billion people—- 5 billion of whom are determined to live like the other two billion do!
‘You tell me that universal and free access to health care, a decent pension and education is your right.
“But as Isaac Asimov observed, if you have 20 people sharing an apartment with two bathrooms, your “right” to guaranteed and timely access to a bathroom is necessarily limited. You can make all the speeches you want. You can run for the Democrats and make it a campaign platform if you like, or make “Freedom of the Bathroom” a Constitutional right, but without more bathrooms or fewer people in the apartment, that right is meaningless. As meaningless as the promise of sustainable Obamacare.
“I suggest that you seek counseling. Since I won’t provide you with the means to add more bathrooms, I suggest that you try reducing the number of people who share the apartment. Things can’t go on like this. I am calling a taxi and packing my bags. You just won’t listen, and never have. I am tired of your roving eye, your insatiable appetite and lust for more, and your lack of attentiveness. I deserve better than this—and I know that I can go it alone. You need me, but I don’t need you.
“I think you fundamentally misunderstand our relationship. You have the roles reversed. I am not your servant. I have only so much to give, and you’ve already blown half the dowry. So don’t come crying to me for more. And frankly dear, I really don’t give a damn about your “rights.”
Sincerely, Mother Nature
To the next president of the United States, you face a living nightmare of a financial Katrina combined with Sandy. Our country stands $16 trillion in debt while we wade further into deeper waters at $1 trillion more annually. It’s a debt so deep and so wide, it can only be solved with a miracle if we expect to avoid collapse.
Our second president, John Adams said, “There are two ways to defeat a country: by the sword or by debt.”
While Obama inherited Bush’s incompetence, he passes the same debt and unemployment on to either himself or Romney. As Einstein said, “Our problems are so great that they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them.”
On December 31, 2012, the U.S. government races toward a fiscal cliff. It must tax the rapidly vanishing Middle Class while it rages further into a majority welfare state.
Congress must raise the debt ceiling past the moon or the next president will be the first in history to default on Treasury bonds. Either way, we all face a Faustian Bargain.
Secondly, today one in seven American workers suffers unemployment. A mind numbing 47 million Americans subsist on food stamps. A full 23 percent of prime working-age men or 14 million lack full time jobs. Another 7 million work at 20 hour per week low paying jobs.
For 20 years, Congress outsourced, insourced and offshored jobs to third world countries. China, India and Bangladesh gladly employed their billions at slave wages and sold us goods that none of our factories could make as such prices. Every product we buy from China kills an American job.
While countless million of Americans lost their jobs for the past 20 years, our Congress imported 20 million green card holding immigrants and continues this practice (1 million immigrants imported annually) in 2012. No one connects the dots. No one points it out. The Main Stream Media censors any discussion of this predicament.
Thirdly, we must look at 80 million baby boomers retiring. Medicare and Social security cannot survive those numbers. Most of the boomers did not prepare themselves for retirement. The next president inherits a growing old age poverty class.
At some point, the Congress must raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits. At some juncture, Americans must take care of their health better throughout their lives, i.e., over 60 percent of them suffer obesity, which they pay a severe price in old age.
Fourth, the debt transcends anyone’s imagination. Consumer debt runs into the billions. Credit card debt runs at over $9,600.00 per credit card. Our Congress keeps borrowing $1 trillion annually. If lenders raise their interest rates, we cannot survive the consequences. We find ourselves limited to Hobson’s Choice. Not pretty on any level.
Fifth, and again, our Congress fails to deal with the China equation. Their 1.3 billion workers make mince-meat out of our measly 300 million citizens. They own $1.3 trillion of our Treasure bills. We cannot compete in “Free Trade” so we hobble toward our destiny like the “Old Woman in the Shoe.”
While we may continue our military exploits around the world, we cannot pay for endless military expenses. We must lean-up our military and must stop participating in foreign wars.
According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s output in 2017 will exceed $20 trillion. They will bury us unless we demand “Fair Trade” instead of debt-laden “Free Trade.”
Finally, while journalists and politicians eschew in-depth discussion about this subject, but it commands our attention. Christopher O. Clugston, author of Scarcity: Humanity’s Final Chapter, addresses the fact that humanity depletes the non-renewable resources on this finite planet at an ever accelerating rate of speed. We add 1 billion humans every 12 years. The USA races on course to add 100 million by 2035 and 138 million by 2050. So much so, the costs of energy, water, food and resources will continue to climb. He says, “Because the natural resource utilization behavior that enables our current “success”—our industrialized way of life—and that is essential to perpetuating our success—is simultaneously undermining our very existence. Neither our natural resource utilization behavior nor our industrial lifestyle paradigm is sustainable. This is our predicament.”
One last thought: Hurricane Katrina wrought catastrophic mayhem. Hurricane Sandy ripped up the East Coast. If we, as a species, continue cooking up the planet with our fossil fuel burning, along with accelerating overpopulation—we face Mother Nature’s growing wrath as to climate destabilization. She always bats last and could care less who cheers or who lives in her path.
Good luck to the next president. You’re going to need it if our civilization is to survive what’s coming.
It’s true that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have many political differences. But they also agree on many essential policies; enough to make the next four years easily predictable, no matter who wins. Here are five predictions based on the most important shared beliefs of the two candidates:
1) The war on unions will continue. The Republicans are explicitly anti-union, while the Democrats are pro-union in words, but anti-union in practice. Obama’s much touted Race to the Top national education policy directly targets the heart of the teacher’s unions — the most powerful union in the country — by attacking seniority rights and restricting wages and benefits.
Also, Democratic and Republican governors on a state by state basis aim to either carve giant concessions from public employees, or take away their rights as unionists altogether — the lesser evil policy of demanding concessions (Democrats) is but one step from ending collective bargaining (Republicans).
As the recession grinds on, this bi-partisan anti-union policy will intensify, no matter who is president. The aim of this anti-union policy is to lower wages for all workers, since unions artificially skew the labor market to the benefit of workers in general; attacking the unions is thus an attack on all workers, organized or not, so that corporations can regain “profitability” by having their labor costs lowered.
2) The war on the environment will continue. Both parties treat the environment like they do organized labor. The Republicans openly degrade it and the Democrats make pro-environment statements while practicing the opposite. Whoever wins will continue to pander to Big Coal, and they will continue to advocate for dangerous arctic and Gulf oil drilling, wreak havoc by shale “natural gas” drilling, build the cross continental Keystone pipeline, while continuing to do little or nothing to build the absolutely necessary alternative energy infrastructure that would provide jobs and hope for humanity against climate change. Obama and Romney refuse to take the necessary actions to address the climate crisis because doing so would harm the profits of the big corporate polluters. Neither presidential candidates will do so much as begin an honest public discussion about the problem, ensuring that other countries will follow suit, to the peril of all of us.
3) Wall Street will reign supreme. During the debates it was made clear that no further action against Wall Street was necessary. But the banks are bigger under Obama than they were under Bush, which means they are still “too big to fail,” ensuring future bailouts paid by taxpayers. Federal Reserve policy is not controversial for either Republicans or Democrats: historic low interest rates combined with printing massive amounts of additional money — called “quantitative easing” — have both served the profits of Wall Street banks quite well, while everyone else sees their wages and benefits cut. Loans to working people are no easier to come by, while the banks and corporations are literally sitting on trillions of dollars of reserves in cash.
4) Post election national austerity cuts. The national deficit is the result of bank bailouts, foreign wars, and decades of continually lowering taxes for the rich and corporations. Obama and Romney both ignore these facts, and favor “trigger cuts” — massive cuts in jobs and social programs that would go into effect if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on how many trillions of dollars of cuts to make (Obama’s proposed deficit cutting plan would make 4 $trillion in cuts; Paul Ryan wants 6 $trillion.)
And while Obama has made quite a bit of noise about “taxing the rich” to help fill the deficit gap, the same promises were made last election and amounted to naught when he extended Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Taxing the rich is the only alternative to making cuts, since working people have so little left to tax. Instead, Obama is using the deficit to justify massive cuts to Medicare, public education, unemployment insurance, and likely Social Security and other programs. The Obama/Romney “rift” over the deficit is, in reality, a polite discussion of how best to slash and burn social programs, while differences are exaggerated for the sake of their election campaigns.
5) Foreign wars will continue. Listening to Obama and Romney debate foreign war was very much a Pepsi/Coke style debate. Both candidates love Israel, hate Iran and Syria, lie about a “time table” for Afghanistan (no serious foreign policy pundit believes the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan in 2014). Both are for continued drone bombings of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia which are obvious war crimes, while both candidates hypocritically accuse Syria of “human rights violations.” In short, both candidates argue over how best to push the Middle East and North Africa to the brink of regional war, without being blamed for it.
Ultimately, there do exist differences in social policy between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The above policies, however, will deeply affect all working people in the United States. The country is not in a typical recession. Most economists agree that, at best, the U.S. economy can expect a “lost decade” of economic stagnation — at worst, a double dip recession/depression.
The above policies are shaped with this worst case scenario in mind, with the understanding that for capitalism to re-stabilize itself, a “new normal” is needed that shifts the power in the U.S. even more towards the banks and corporations, who must be completely unrestrained by labor, environmental and other regulations to ruthlessly chase profit, to the detriment of us all.
Thus, the Democrats and Republicans have the same “big picture” agenda that all working people should find abhorrent, since corporate gains will come at our expense. Once workers feel compelled to organize themselves to put up a fight, as the Chicago teachers did, all illusions in the Democrats will begin to fade, as people see with their own eyes the Democrats not only refusing to help them but actively opposing them, just as they did to the teachers in Chicago. Developments like this will allow a real movement to emerge that can challenge the two-party corporate dominated agenda. Until labor and community groups can unite on a widespread basis in independent action against the above bi-partisan agenda, we’ll be forever dragged into rooting for one of two candidates, neither of who have our basic interests in mind.
The same can be applied to an obese 450 pound person. The fatter he or she becomes, the sooner he or she dies. Over 1.5 million heart attacks annually attest to that reality in America.
Each week, we watch the declining or stagnant Dow Jones stock figures. We wonder why we haven’t jumped out of our recession. We feel confused that the great American economic engine hasn’t brought us back to full employment and endless financial wealth.
As will be discovered in the months and years ahead, we have hit the zenith, the peak, the top—and it’s all a degree of downhill from now on out. As Boulding said, the more people we must feed, the more we must house, the more we must water and the more we must transport—the faster our decline.
It’s astounding to me, an average citizen, that our leaders cannot understand our predicament. It’s shocking that we fail to put two and two together. With 14 million unemployed, we import 125,000 workers every 30 days to offset any gains in employment. That faulty path leads to a deeper problem.
“Our solution is our problem,” said Richard Heinberg, the author of “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality,” . “Its name is growth. But growth has become uneconomic. We are worse off because of growth. To achieve growth now means mounting debt, more pollution, an accelerated loss of biodiversity and the continued destabilization of the climate. But we are addicted to growth. If there is no growth there are insufficient tax revenues and jobs. If there is no growth existing debt levels become unsustainable. The elites see the current economic crisis as a temporary impediment. They are desperately trying to fix it. But this crisis signals an irreversible change for civilization itself. We cannot prevent it. We can only decide whether we will adapt to it or not.”
In other words, we must change our economic system. We need to move toward a stable population and steady state economics. (www.SteadyState.org)
In this five video, you will see HOW much financial trouble we face:
As you can see, essentially, our collision course is set and our paralyzed Congress cannot grasp or take action to solve it. It is now only a matter of time and our personal response.
“It could implode in a few weeks, in a few months or maybe in a few years,” Heinberg said, “but unless radical steps are taken to restructure the economy, it will implode. And when it does the financial system will seize up far more dramatically than in 2008. You will go to the bank or the ATM and there will be no money. Food will be scarce and expensive. Unemployment will be rampant. And government services will break down. Living standards will plummet. ‘Austerity’ programs will become more draconian. Economic inequality will widen to create massive gaps between a tiny, oligarchic global elite and the masses. The collapse will also inevitably trigger the kind of instability and unrest, including riots, that we have seen in countries such as Greece. The elites, who understand and deeply fear the possibility of an unraveling, have been pillaging state resources to save their corrupt, insolvent banks, militarize their police forces and rewrite legal codes to criminalize dissent.”
In the coming months, Romney and Obama need to get down to brass tacks. Right now, both of them fool themselves and us. They need to come up with a plan to act on our $16 trillion debt. If they don’t, Greece’s example at less than 30 million citizens will be multiplied times 300 million Americans.
Albert Einstein said, “The problems in the world today are so enormous that they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them.”
Therein lies our predicament. The people who got us into this nightmare keep thinking they can get us out with the same kind of thinking that got us into it. Instead, they transform a nightmare into a living nightmare.
In other words, sooner or later, by working with the old economic concepts, we can only face collapse. Whether we like it or not, we need to raise taxes, cut benefits, stop deficit spending on military, trade and welfare, stop growing our population by 3.1 million annually and pay down our debt.
As our second president John Adams said in 1826, ”There are two ways to conquer & enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
Geographically: Now that the world’s ocean levels have started rising much faster than predicted, America’s coastal cities may become submerged far sooner than we thought. And, sooner rather than later, Manhattan stands a very good chance of becoming the next lost Atlantis.
Here’s a cute little video from NASA that describes what’s been happening to our planet’s climate over the last 131 years. Check it out: http://www.climatecentral.org/
But enough said about that. I just hope that you don’t own a condo down in SoHo or beach-front property in Honolulu. You do? You’re screwed.
And then there’s Burning Man. This year Black Rock City was completely engulfed in air-born dust particles and white-out sand storms almost 24/7. If this drought doesn’t let up, perhaps they ought to change its name to Dust Bowl City.
And also, for the first time in memory, we have gotten a hecka lot of Canada geese hanging around Berkeley this summer instead of just passing by in the spring and the fall. Guess they don’t have to fly so far south to get warm any more. No winter vacation in Cancun for them! And we humans don’t need to fly south to Puerto Vallarta during the winter months any more either. Last year was the warmest winter in NorCal that I can remember (but I still love Puerto Vallarta).
Morally: The Republican party (and the huge corporations that now own it) are completely using and abusing their only staunch allies — the older white American males and blind-faith Christians who support them — in order to enact laws and make policies that not only undermine these staunch allies’ beliefs but also their very existence.
Jobs, Social Security, homes, families, medical care, infrastructure, water supplies, energy sources, the very teachings of Christ Himself, you name it — all have been put in grave danger by the very corporate interests that naive older white Americans and gullible Christians have blindly trusted and supported all these years. It’s just sad to watch these trusting staunch allies of the GOP constantly getting knifed in the back.
Then there are the famous Fetus Wars. Jesus is being called upon to testify against Planned Parenthood — and yet Jesus isn’t even allowed on the premises when multiple brutal vicious and bloody wars have been declared against millions of innocent children all around the world. You wanna call yourself a Christian? Then you gotta act Christ-like! Duh.
And Repubs are now actually saying that Ted Kennedy originated the War on Women. Chappaquiddick was a tragic accident. That’s not the same thing. But a true war on women appears to be the GOP’s latest favorite game plan — as Repubs happily head down the same path that other “Christians” took back in the European Middle Ages when an estimated nine million women who dared to speak up for themselves, tried to get an education or attempted to practice medicine were burned alive at the stake.
Economically: Since outsourcing and deregulation has hit America like a category-5 hurricane, our economy has become a disaster area — literally. So many jobs have fled overseas and so much wealth has fled to the Caymans that many parts of the USA look almost like New Orleans after Katrina.
All the things that we used to make here? We don’t even know how to make them any more. And all that knowledge of how to make them has been lost too.
Sometimes I wish that the UN or NATO or whoever — perhaps the war-criminal-trial folks over at the Hague — would sanction America like they are now sanctioning Iran. Then we would be FORCED to become economically independent again.
Republicans have deliberately created a vast pool of unemployed Americans so that they won’t have to pay us high wages. Hence the GOP’s refusal to endorse a job program. Why would they want to do that!
In their haste to make more and more money, large corporations are polluting our water and air and elevating our risk of cancer of course. But they are also killing off billions of bees. Good luck with getting our crops in when there is no pollination. And bye-bye flowers too. We don’t even have to wait until water drowns out the new American Atlantis to miss our fruit trees and flowers. Monsanto has already taken care of that.
Politically: Anyone can buy a seat in Congress these days — or even buy the White House itself or the Supreme Court (especially the Supreme Court). Who would have ever thought that it would be that way here in the former Land of the Free. Not since Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall have our public offices been so “For Sale”. Shame on us for letting this happen.
And remember back in 1999 when we all thought that YK2 was going to be an international disaster? Well all the computers didn’t crash, but YK2 turned out to be an incredible disaster anyway — when George W. Bush stole the 2000 election and almost NOBODY in America objected or even noticed. Then Bush allowed 9-11 to happen, followed by the disastrous Afghanistan invasion, the incredibly expensive Iraq invasion and the 2008 economic crash.
Yes, YK2 really was a disaster.
More political immorality: Who has been a very important ally of corporate-owned Washington in places like Afghanistan, Syria and Libya? Wait for it. “Al Qaeda!” Arming and encouraging the people behind 9-11? Isn’t that about as politically immoral as you can get? But Americans seem to accept this hypocrisy without batting an eye. Go figure.
And what can our bought-and-paid-for politicians possibly be thinking when they systematically alienate huge countries like Russia and China while kissing the booties of their corporate neo-con counterparts in teeny-tiny Israel. Israel? The size of New Jersey? Israel’s neo-con corporatists are gonna save us from the wrath of Russia, China, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and all the other places and countries that our corporate-owned government has thoroughly screwed over the years? Huh?
And then there’s that cruel joke that used to be America’s legendary and heroic Supreme Court. No justice at all to be had there these days — if you are merely working class. Those guys in black robes take their reverse-Robin-Hood roles very seriously.
“Take from the worker bees and give to the drones” should be carved in marble over our corporate-owned government buildings in Washington — just before America, the next lost Atlantis, slowly sinks into the sea.
But you had better get to carving it soon — because there is something in the air in America these days, a sense that nasty undercurrents are moving stealthily toward us from somewhere very deep, somewhere that the average voter isn’t in touch with — except in our guts.
And our guts seem to be telling us that America is now sinking fast. And that “We the People” have absolutely no life jackets — but that the billionaires who now own our government are already provisioning their yachtshttp://www.smirkingchimp.com/
To paraphrase Plato, “…once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot” — and then their city of Atlantis got all drowned out.
And to paraphrase Ray Bradbury, “Something wicked is definitely coming our way”.
It’s once again time for my annual survival list column. One does not have to be a prophet to know that we are on the precipice of some potentially catastrophic–or at the very least, challenging–days. In fact, most of us are already in challenging days, and some are already enduring catastrophic events. That is, if one would call being out of work, losing one’s home, facing life-threatening medical conditions without any prospect of medical insurance, several families being forced to live in one house due to homes being foreclosed, etc., catastrophic.
The potential for an escalation of cataclysmic events, however, is very real. Only a “blooming idiot” would call someone who attempts to prepare for “the day of adversity” a Chicken Little now. Anyone who does not see the storm clouds on the horizon isn’t paying attention.
For example, can one imagine what would happen if Russia or China launched a nuclear attack against the United States? (Once again, I encourage readers to watch the CBS TV series “Jericho” to get an idea of how quickly life, and even civilization, could change.) Imagine if there was another 9/11-type event. What would happen if some form of Zimbabwe-style inflation hit the US? What would happen if anything disrupted the distribution of Welfare checks, or food to local grocers? Imagine a Hurricane Katrina-style natural disaster in your town. I think people everywhere are beginning to awaken to just how vulnerable we all really are.
As a result, people from virtually every walk of life have asked my thoughts on how they should prepare. Therefore, I will, again, attempt to share with my readers some of the counsel I have given these folks.
First, a disclaimer. I am not an economist; I am not a survival expert; I am not a firearms expert; I am not an attorney; I am not a physician. In fact, I am not an expert in anything! For several years, however, I have tried to learn from others. I am an avid reader. My work has allowed me to travel extensively. In fact, I have logged over 150,000 miles crisscrossing this great country over the last few years. I have had the privilege of sitting at the feet of–and learning from–many of America’s most learned, most trained, and most qualified “experts” in a variety of fields. What I write today, I have learned from others. I’ve formed my own opinions and priorities, of course, but everything I’m sharing has been said, or written about, before. But if I can share something in today’s column that will help someone be better prepared for the days to come, then my goal will have been achieved.
Analyze your living conditions. Where do you live? Do you live in an urban or rural environment? Is it a big city or small town? Do you live in an apartment or condominium? How close are your neighbors? Do you even know your neighbors? Would you trust them if the electricity was off and they were hungry? Could you grow your own food if you had to? How easily could you secure your home? If you live in a cold weather environment, how long could you stay warm without electricity? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself now.
Over the past several decades, masses of people have migrated into large metropolitan areas. More people currently live in urban areas than at any time in American history. While this may be well and good for times of prosperity, it is an absolute nightmare during any kind of disaster. Does anyone remember what New Orleans looked like after Hurricane Katrina came through? Can anyone recall what happened in downtown Los Angeles during the 1992 riots? Needless to say, any inner-city environment could become a powder keg almost instantaneously, given the right (or wrong) circumstances. And the bigger the city, the bigger the potential problems.
If you live in the inner city, I suggest you consider moving to a more rural location. Obviously, now is a very good time to buy property (especially rural property), but the downside is, selling property is not as favorable. If you can afford it, now is a great time to buy a “safe house” outside the city. If you are fortunate enough to have family or some true friends nearby, you may want to put your heads–and some resources–together in preparation for serious upheaval. Obviously, a team of prepared people is much better than being alone.
If you must stay in your urban location, have some common sense plans in hand in the event of a major disaster. Get to know your neighbors: find out whom you can trust and whom you can’t. Keep some extra gasoline on hand, in case you need to get in your car quickly and leave. Have several exit routes planned ahead of time, in case roads are blocked. Have a “bug-out” bag containing essential ingredients to live on for three to four days. If leaving is not an option, have a plan to secure your home as best you can. You’ll need to think about things such as food, water, medicine, warmth, self-defense, etc. But at this point, to do nothing is absolute lunacy!
Most readers probably know that my entire family and I made the decision two years ago to move 2,600 miles from our home of 35 years in the Florida panhandle to the Flathead Valley of Montana, which is located about 75 miles south of the Canadian border in the Rocky Mountains. I can tell readers without equivocation or hesitation that we are so glad we made this move. We absolutely love it here–all the difficulties and trials associated with such a life-changing move notwithstanding. In fact, I’ve never lived in a place I love so much!
If readers want to learn more about what prompted our move to Montana, please peruse the information on this web page:
During a major disaster, food will quickly disappear. Living for over three decades on the Gulf Coast, I can tell you with absolute certainty that whenever disaster strikes (usually an approaching hurricane, for those folks), food and provisions at the store sell completely out in a matter of a few hours. People panic, and within hours, you cannot find food, bottled water, ice, generators, batteries, candles, etc. In a matter of hours, every gas station in the area will be completely out of gas. Not days. Hours!
Furthermore, almost all disasters include a complete loss of electricity. The water supply is compromised. Bottled water becomes more valuable than bank accounts. Dehydration becomes a very real and present danger. I remember witnessing a man offer an ice vendor $100 for an extra bag of ice during Hurricane Ivan. My wife and I went two weeks (14 days) without electricity in the aftermath of that hurricane. Believe me, I got a taste of just how precious bottled water, ice, batteries, generators, fuel, etc., can become.
I suggest you have a supply of food and water to last at least a month. Many survival experts insist that a six-month supply is the minimum. Personally, I can live a long time on tuna fish or peanut butter. You can purchase MREs from a variety of sources, as well as “camp-style” packaged food from many sporting goods stores. Of course, bottled water is available everywhere during normal times. Stock up! Distilled water will store longer than spring water. Plus, I suggest you have some water purification tablets or a Katadyn water filter on hand. And, if you are able, prepare to grow your own food. In cold weather climates such as we have here in Montana, people quickly learn how to construct and utilize greenhouses in which to grow food. Canning food is another very helpful hedge against deprivation. If your parents and grandparents were like mine, this was standard operating procedure.
Get a generator. Keep a supply of fuel on hand. Stay stocked up on batteries, candles, portable lights, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items–especially toilet paper. Trust me, during times of intense and prolonged disaster, toilet paper could become more valuable than money. I also suggest you never run out of lighters or matches. You never know when you’ll need to build a fire–and during a prolonged survival situation, fire could save your life. If you live in a cold weather climate, you probably already have some sort of wood stove or fireplace. And don’t overlook the necessity of a good knife.
Obviously, you need to take stock of your clothing. Do you have clothes suitable for extended outdoor activity? What about boots? During a disaster, you would trade your best suit from Neiman Marcus for a good pair of boots. Do you have gloves? Insulated underwear? What about camouflage clothing? These could become essential outerwear in the right conditions. Plus, any “bug-out” bag will need to include spare clothing. And as most folks here in Montana know, “cotton kills.” For extended outdoor wear in cold weather, wool is the only way to go!
Communication and medical provisions are also a high priority in any kind of emergency. How will you communicate with your loved ones when the phones (including cell phones) go down? Portable ham radios are a very valuable resource. But the time to buy (and train to use) one is NOW! A preordained rally point (or safe house) might be something to think about. And what about medical supplies? Do you have enough to take care of routine (and not-so-routine) emergencies? What about your prescription drugs? How long could you function if you were cut off from your pharmacist for any length of time? Also, seriously consider learning about natural, herbal medicines. Those plants growing in your “back forty” might just cure a headache, stop bleeding, or even save your life. Think about it now.
And one more suggestion, while we’re on this subject: the best resources in the world are of little use if one is physically incapable of making good use of them. In other words, GET IN SHAPE. During any kind of emergency situation, physical exertion and stamina become immensely important.
I suggest you have at least some cash on hand. Just about any and all disasters will result in banks being closed for extended periods of time. That also means credit card purchases being suspended. You need to have enough cash to be able to purchase essential goods (if they are even available) for an undetermined amount of time.
Of course, some survival gurus insist that during any cataclysmic climate, precious metals will become the only reliable currency. A little gold and silver could go a long way in a prolonged emergency. For that matter, with the way our fiat money system is coming unraveled, you may want to seriously consider moving your IRA accounts into precious metals, if for no other reason than to better protect your savings. Ask yourself, how much money have I already lost at the hands of these banksters in the Federal Reserve and their toadies in the stock market?
In fact, in a disaster, what is considered a valuable commodity can change rather quickly, as the barter system takes a life of its own. What is valuable is determined by what you need and how badly you need it. In a prolonged disaster, simple things such as toilet paper, canned goods, ammunition, and clothing could become extremely valuable; while cars, video games, televisions, etc., could be reduced to junk status. In antiquity, wars were fought over things such as salt. You might be surprised to learn that there are already active barter groups in your area. I suggest you establish a relationship with these people now!
Speaking of cars, remember that during a prolonged “national emergency” that might involve some sort of nuclear attack or widespread civil unrest, an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) might be employed; in which case, most every late model vehicle would be completely inoperable. Accordingly, if one can keep an older, pre-computer-age vehicle in good working order, he or she might be driving the only non-government vehicle capable of going anywhere. Of course, you might not want to drive it to town!
Needless to say, during any kind of disaster, your safety and protection will be completely up to you. If you really think that the police are going to be able to protect you during an upheaval, you are living in a dream world.
In both the New Orleans and Los Angeles disasters, police protection was non-existent. Lawless gangs quickly took control of the streets, and people were left to either defend themselves or swiftly become the helpless prey of violent marauders. In fact, in New Orleans, some of the policemen actually abandoned their oaths to uphold the law and joined with the criminals, turning their weapons upon the public.
Face it, folks: in any kind of disaster, you must be able to defend yourself, or you and your family will be meat for these animals of society that will quickly descend without mercy upon the unprepared, unsuspecting souls around them. This requires that you be armed! It also requires that you be skilled enough to be able to efficiently use your arms. Therefore, I strongly suggest that you purchase firearms sufficient to keep you and your family safe, and also that you practice sufficiently to know how to use them.
Now, when it comes to a discussion of which firearms are preferable for self-defense, the suggestions are as varied as the people who proffer them. These are my suggestions:
I believe every man (along with his wife and children of adequate age) should be proficient with the following weapons: a handgun in .38 caliber or above, a .22 rifle, a center-fire bolt-action hunting rifle, a semi-automatic battle rifle, and a shotgun.
My personal preference for a self-defense handgun is either a .45 ACP 1911 (either Colt or Kimber), a Glock .45, or a .40 S&W. In the .40 caliber, my favorite is a Glock 22 or 23. In the 1911, I like the Commander size configuration. I prefer either the Model 21 or the Model 30 in the Glock .45. And I will also admit to sometimes carrying a 9mm Glock 19 or a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver. My two favorites in this caliber are the Model 66 with a 2 ½-inch barrel and the Model 586 with a 4-inch barrel. My wife prefers to carry a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver in the snub-nose, J-frame configuration. But this is primarily due to the reduced weight of these weapons for carry purposes. If needed, she could make a good accounting of herself with the Glock 19. If you are someone who has never owned and seldom fired a handgun, I recommend you buy a Glock. They are as simple as revolvers to operate, reliable, and almost indestructible. Plus, they provide increased magazine capacity, and are safe. They are also very easy to disassemble and clean. Of course, in dangerous game territory, you will need the power of a 10mm (the Glock 20 shines here), .45 Long Colt, .44 Magnum, or even a .454 Casull. These calibers are not for the limp-wristed, but when one is facing a brown bear or mountain lion, it is what one will need to survive. Plus, when your life is on the line, you’ll never feel the recoil.
For a .22 rifle, I really like the Ruger 10/22. A Marlin tube-fed .22 is also very effective. The CZ bolt-action .22 just might be the most accurate .22 on the market. For a hunting rifle, my suggestion is either a .270 or .30-06 caliber bolt-action rifle. I prefer the Remington Model 700 BDL or Browning X-Bolt, but there are several fine weapons in this configuration and caliber by numerous manufacturers. In dangerous game territory, a Marlin .45-70 could be a lifesaver. For a battle rifle, I suggest an AR-15-style weapon in .223 caliber or a .308 Springfield M1A. For a shotgun, I suggest a 12-gauge pump. Here I prefer a Winchester Model 1300, which is not made anymore. So, you’ll probably have to choose between Mossberg and Remington. For ladies, however, a 20-gauge shotgun is probably a better choice, and at “bad breath” range (where a shotgun shines, anyway), it is just as lethal.
Whatever you choose, practice with it to the point that you are able to use it proficiently. And be sure you stock up on ammunition. A gun without ammo is reduced to being either an expensive club or a cumbersome paperweight.
Go to your local independent sporting goods store (I don’t recommend the large national chain stores to do your firearms shopping.) and get to know your hometown firearms dealer. Most of these people are kind and helpful folks who will be more than happy to assist you in finding exactly what type of firearm is suitable for you and your family.
I firmly believe that man is created to have fellowship with his Creator-God. I really don’t know how people can face the uncertain future that we currently face without the spiritual knowledge, wisdom, comfort, and power that is made available through Jesus Christ. I believe the maxim is true: “Wise men still seek Him.” I strongly suggest that you seek to possess a personal relationship with God’s only begotten Son. In truth, spiritual preparation is far and away the most important preparation of all. Accordingly, be sure to pack a copy of God’s Word in your survival gear.
And if you have not been able to find a local church where the pastor isn’t afraid to deal with the kind of issues like I am dealing with in this column, I invite you to worship online with us at Liberty Fellowship. People all over America who are tired of these 501c3, establishment churches–who have no clue as to what is going on and who wouldn’t take a stand if they did–are tuning in to hear my messages at Liberty Fellowship every Sunday afternoon. To tune in this Sunday, go to:
That we are facing challenging days is a certainty. Exactly what that means is yet to be determined. I trust that some of my suggestions will help you be better prepared for what lies before us. Plus, here is an excellent online Survival Blog chock-full of great suggestions and resources for all things survival. Check it out:
And if you are considering relocation, please check out Joel Skousen’s web site at:
And if you think you may want to relocate to the Flathead Valley of Montana, George Hudson, a man at Liberty Fellowship who “escaped” from California to locate here–and who is now helping scores of people from all over the country to resettle in our beautiful valley–may be contacted at:
Please give him a few days to email you back, but he will be happy to try to answer any questions you have about moving here.
I am sure that I have left out several items that others more qualified than me would include. I welcome their suggestions, as I am always desirous to learn from those who are wiser and more experienced. In the meantime, remember your Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”
When it comes to proactive action as to feeding, watering and housing America’s burgeoning population, most of America’s leaders fell asleep at the wheel and continue their slumber into 2012. Not one single, solitary senator, House member or the United States of America’s president will connect carbon footprint, overpopulation or our enormous burning of 22 million barrels of oil daily—with global climate destabilization. Globally, humans burn 84 million barrels of oil and billions of tons of coal daily.
Our carbon footprint grows beyond comprehension. It heats up the atmosphere. It acidifies our oceans. It creates an imbalance for all living creatures on Earth.
No matter how much drought, heat waves and tornadoes scorch and destroy areas around the United States; everyone stands like deer in the headlights in denial of the oncoming train. It’s fascinating to watch mass denial, collective myopic behavior and vacant leadership.
The United States is horrifically overpopulated and unsustainable
Publisher Marilyn Hempel of the Population Press, www.populationpress.org , encourages top leaders to educate Americans to what we all face in the future if we continue down our endless growth path.
In this piece, imminent environmental leader and author of Plan B, 4.0, Saving Civilization, Lester Brown speaks about our rising temperatures.
“Over the last two months, the price of corn has been climbing,” said Brown. “On July 19th, it exceeded $8 per bushel for the first time, taking the world into a new food price terrain. With heat and drought still smothering the Corn Belt, we may well see more all-time highs in coming weeks as the extent of crop damage becomes clearer. This is not the way it was supposed to be. This spring farmers planted a record 96 million acres of corn. An early spring got the crop off to a great start, leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to project the largest corn harvest in history.
“On June 12th, the USDA projected the U.S. harvest would hit a record 376 million tons. But the drought conditions that had initially been confined to the country’s southwest began to spread and intensify. In its next monthly report on July 11th, the USDA reduced its projection to 329 million tons of corn, down by 12 percent or 47 million tons. This was a huge drop in only one month. Yet in the end the actual decline may be closer to 30 percent, or roughly 100 million tons—double the USDA estimated drop.”
Why is this happening? Answer: the crops are being cooked in the soil via heat and no rain. Has that prompted humans to lower their fossil fuel burning? On the contrary, humans burn more and more each day as they add a 250,000 more members to the human heard and 80 million net gain annually.
“There are several reasons for the large reduction in the harvest estimate. One is record high temperatures,” said Brown. “Nationwide, the first half of this year was the hottest on record. Thousands of record daily temperature highs were set locally. In St. Louis, Missouri, which is in the southern part of the U.S. Corn Belt, in late June and early July there were 10 consecutive days with temperatures of 100–108 degrees.
“Intense heat also disrupts pollination. Corn is particularly vulnerable because of its complex pollination system. The tassel at the top of a corn plant releases pollen, which must fall on each strand of silk coming out of the ear of corn and travel to the kernel site, where fertilization occurs. If it is too hot, the silk will turn brown and dry out, leaving the pollen with no chance of reaching its destination.”
Brown continued, “What happens to the U.S. corn crop, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global harvest, concerns the entire world. Of the big three grains—corn, wheat, and rice—the corn harvest is now by far the largest, totaling near 900 million tons compared with less than 700 million tons for wheat and 460 million tons for rice. Wheat and rice are the world’s food staples, while corn is the feedgrain for livestock and poultry.
“We are looking at a future of rising food prices driven by rising temperatures. Heat waves and droughts like that of 2012 in the United States are projected to become more frequent as the planet heats up. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas, have increased 20 percent since 1970 and are continuing to rise.”
Humanity faces growing food shortages as its numbers grow by 80 million annually and 1 billion added every 12 years
“A report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that if atmospheric CO2 climbs from the current level of 391 parts per million (ppm) to above 450 ppm, the world will face irreversible rainfall reductions in several regions,” said Brown. “The study likened the conditions that will develop to those of the U.S. Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Already the world’s drought-afflicted area has expanded from below 20 percent of total land area a half century ago to closer to 25 percent in recent years. Future food security may depend more on new energy and population policies than on any agricultural policy we can conceive.”
Brown says that we don’t know the unchartered territory that we blindly and at our own folly continue speeding toward. The human race expects to add three billion more people to the planet within 38 years, but doesn’t have a clue as to how to feed that enormous human herd. Americans need to rethink immigration, population, water, food and resources before they find themselves in the same boat as current day India, Mexico, China and Indochina. The United States needs to boldly, methodically and intelligently move toward a mandated “national stabilized population policy” in order to give future generations a chance at a reasonable life of food, resources, water and energy.
How will the United States feed, water, warm and house its own additions of 138 million people in the face of prolonged droughts? Answer: we won’t. That’s why we need to change course.
An aerial view of drought affected Colorado farm lands, 74 miles east of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 21, 2012 [Photo: USDA]
Severe drought spread rapidly across the central US this week, further damaging staple crops and heightening the risk of a global food crisis. The Midwest, where roughly one-third of the world’s staple grains are produced, is experiencing the deepest dry spell in over half a century.
The National Drought Mitigation Center in a statement Thursday reported “tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week.” Almost 30 percent of the Midwest is under extreme drought, triple that of the previous week.
Every state in the country had some counties under abnormally dry or drought conditions, making the disaster the most widespread US drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared 1,369 counties across 31 states disaster areas—officially the largest US disaster on record.
“It’s getting to the point where some of the damage is not reversible,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the center. “The damage is done, and even with rain, you’re not going to reverse some of these problems, at least not this growing season.”
With temperatures remaining in the triple digits across the Midwest, scattered rainstorms did little to restore moisture to topsoil. Iowa State University agronomist Roger Elmore said that over the week, “most of the state got a quarter- to half-inch of rain. We lose the equivalent of a quarter-inch of moisture every warm, sunny day.”
Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center have warned that the high heat and dry spell could extend through October. Through June, the year has been the hottest ever recorded for the US. Globally, land temperatures likewise broke all previous records last month. The extreme weather corresponds to projections issued by climatologists over the past three decades, indicating the worsening impact of global warming.
“This year is very emblematic of the type of thing we worry about with climate change,” David Lobell of global warming monitor Climate Central told ABC News. “The new normal for agriculture is going to be frequent episodes of very high temperatures. Temperatures at which pretty much any crop does not do very well.”
For the seventh consecutive week, the USDA on Monday downgraded its assessment of corn and soybean crops. For the week ending July 22, the portion of the corn crop rated in “poor” and “very poor” condition rose to 45 percent. Thirty-five percent of soybean acreage was rated poor to very poor. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt told the World Socialist Web Site in a recent interview that a rating of “very poor” likely meant such crops were “approaching no yield.”
Since June 3, the portion of corn rated in “good” to “excellent” condition plummeted from 72 to 26 percent. Seven of the largest corn-exporting states now have only one percent or less of corn acreage assessed as “excellent.” A similar plunge was recorded in soybean acreage (65 to 31 percent).
The assessment is the worst since the drought of 1988, when small farmers went out of business en masse after a decade-long rural economic crisis.
The impact of the agricultural disaster on the global food supply is compounded by a speculative frenzy on grain futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. Last week corn futures surpassed all-time records at $8.2875 a bushel, before falling back on news of rain. As of Friday, corn for September delivery was trading at $7.9375 a bushel. Some analysts have suggested that corn futures for December delivery could fetch $9 or more per bushel in August if climate predictions prove correct.
With pastures in ruin and feed prices driven up in trading, smaller US livestock producers are facing the prospect of liquidating their herds. As a result, supermarket prices for beef, pork, and other meats are likely to surge in the coming year, after the initial influx of slaughtered herds. Prices for quick-to-market meats such as chicken and eggs, as well as dairy products, will likely rise more swiftly.
The USDA on Wednesday announced that supermarket prices would rise in coming months. Currently it projects beef prices will rise 4 to 5 percent, and dairy products 3.5 to 4.5 percent.
However, large meat producers are warning that cheaper meats such as pork and chicken will become “luxuries” if Washington does not suspend a program enabling the energy industry to secure up to 40 percent of the US corn crop for ethanol production.
“I’ll use the word catastrophe—that’s my definition,” Larry Pope, head of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, told the Financial Times. In June, Smithfield moved to lock in feed costs on the futures markets before corn broke $8 a bushel. “I thought that $6 corn was the end of the world,” he said. “I never could have realized that I would be thankful to be buying it at $7.”
“Beef is simply going to be too expensive to eat,” Pope said. “Pork is not going to be too far behind. Chicken is catching up fast… Are we going to really take protein away from Americans?” He said US meat prices would rise by “significant double digits” per year.
Even a less drastic price increase in protein food sources would compell millions of low-income Americans to choose what they can afford to buy over the nutritional value provided.
The disaster bears brutal consequences for the populations of import-dependent countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. In 2008, riots erupted in more than 30 countries after a similar confluence of severe weather and speculation drove up staple food prices. Among the billions of people living on $2 a day or less, the cost of food consumes as much as three-quarters of a family’s income.
Grain suppliers are beginning to default on deals with importers in Egypt, Libya, and Iraq. Egypt, the world’s largest consumer of wheat, is turning to Russia as the US drought deepens. However, Russia has also cut its wheat outlook by 3 million tons.
The US corn outlook negatively impacts wheat exports, as a poor corn harvest tends to mean wheat is held more tightly for domestic use. Because Egypt imports half of its wheat, and a quarter of its wheat imports originate in the US, any fluctuation in the grain’s price or supply sharply impacts living conditions in the country. Forty percent of the Egyptian population subsists on $2 a day or less.
The world’s population is subjected to the irrationality of the market, and the disjointed global food system. Barges loaded with Southeast Asia-bound grain have clogged Indian ports, creating delays of up to 25 days. Spotty rains in Asian growing regions may further compound food shortfalls and inflation.
“The deficit in rainfall will definitely cause food inflation to go up,” Dun & Bradstreet economist Arun Singh told Reuters. “The extent of the impact will be known only after the monsoon is over.” With monsoon season half over, some agricultural areas of the country have seen rainfall 68 percent lower than average. Food inflation in India is already 10.81 percent, significantly higher than general inflation; on lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, and other staples, the rise is far higher.
Source: Naomi Spencer | wsws.org
The U.S. heat wave is slowly shaking the foundations of American politics. It may take years for the deep rumble to evolve into an above ground, institution-shattering earthquake, but U.S. society has changed for good.
The heat wave has helped convince tens of millions of Americans that climate change is real, overpowering the fake science and right-wing media – funded by corporate cash – to convince Americans otherwise.
Republicans and Democrats alike also erect roadblocks to understanding climate change. By the politicians’ complete lack of action towards addressing the issue, the “climate change is fake” movement was strengthened, since Americans presumed that any sane government would be actively trying to address an issue that had the potential to destroy civilization.
But working people have finally made up their mind. A recent poll showed that70 percent of Americans now believe that climate change is real, up from 52 percent in 2010. And a growing number of people are recognizing that the warming of the planet is caused by human activity.
Business Week explains: “A record heat wave, drought and catastrophic wildfires are accomplishing what climate scientists could not: convincing a wide swath of Americans that global temperatures are rising.”
This means that working class families throughout the Midwest and southern states simply don’t believe what their media and politicians are telling them.
It also implies that these millions of Americans are being further politicized in a deeper sense.
Believing that climate change exists implies that you are somewhat aware about the massive consequences to humanity if the global economy doesn’t drastically change, and fast.
This awareness has revolutionary implications. As millions of Americans watch the environment destroyed – for their grandchildren or themselves – while politicians do absolutely nothing in response, or make tiny token gestures – a growing number of Americans will demand political alternatives, and fight to see them created. The American political system as it exists today cannot cope with this inevitable happening.
The New York Times explains why: “…the American political system is not ready to agree to a [climate] treaty that would force the United States, over time, to accept profound changes in its energy [coal, oil], transport [trucking and airline industry] and manufacturing [corporate] sectors.”
In short, the U.S. government will not force corporations to make less profit by behaving more eco-friendly. This is the essence of the problem.
In order for humanity to survive climate change, the economy must be radically transformed; massive investments must be made in renewable energy, public transportation, and recycling, while dirty energy sources must be quickly swept into the dustbin of history.
But the economy is currently owned by giant, privately run corporations, that will continue destroying the earth if it earns them huge profits, and they make massive “contributions” to political parties to ensure this remains so. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that government inaction on climate change is directly linked to the “special interests” of corporations that dominate these governments.
This fact of U.S. politics is present in every other capitalist country as well, which means that international agreements on reducing greenhouse gasses will remain impossible, as each country’s corporations vie for market domination, reducing pollution simply puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
This dynamic has already caused massive delays in the UN’s already inadequate efforts at addressing climate change. The Kyoto climate agreement was the by-product of years of cooperation and planning between many nations that included legally binding agreements to reduce greenhouse gasses. The Bush and Obama administrations helped destroy these efforts.
For example, Instead of building upon the foundation of the Kyoto Protocol, the Obama administration demanded a whole new structure, something that would take years to achieve. The Kyoto framework (itself insufficient) was abandoned because it included legally binding agreements, and was based on multilateral, agreed-upon reductions of greenhouse gasses.
In an article by the Guardian entitled “US Planning to Weaken Copenhagen Climate Deal,” the Obama administration’s UN position is exposed, as he dismisses the Kyoto Protocol by proposing that “…each country set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target.”
Obama’s proposal came straight from the mouth of U.S. corporations, who wanted to ensure that there was zero accountability, zero oversight, zero climate progress, and therefore no dent to their profits. Instead of using its massive international leverage for climate justice, the U.S. has used it to promote divisiveness and inaction, to the potential detriment of billions of people globally.
The stakes are too high to hold out any hope that governments will act boldly. The Business Week article below explains the profound changes happening to the climate:
“The average temperature for the U.S. during June was 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit (21.7 Celsius), which is 2 degrees higher than the average for the 20th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The June temperatures made the preceding 12 months the warmest since record-keeping began in 1895, the government agency said.”
Activists who are radicalized by this global problem face a crisis of what to do about it. It is difficult to put forth a positive climate change demand, since the problem is global. Demanding that governments “act boldly” to address climate change hasn’t worked, and lesser demands seem inadequate.
The environmental rights movement continues to go through a variety of phases: individual and small group eco-”terrorism,” causing property damage to environmentally damaging companies; corporate campaigns that target especially bad polluters with high-profile direct action; and massive education programs that have been highly successful, but fall short when it comes to winning change.
Ultimately, climate activists must come face to face with political and corporate power. Corporate-owned governments are the ones with the power to adequately address the climate change issue, and they will not be swayed by good science, common sense, basic decency, or even a torched planet.
Those in power only respond to power, and the only power capable of displacing corporate power is when people unite and act collectively, as was done in Egypt, Tunisia, and is still developing throughout Europe.
Climate groups cannot view their issue as separate from other groups that are organizing against corporate power. The social movements that have emerged to battle austerity measures are natural allies, as are anti-war and labor activists. The climate solution will inevitably require revolutionary measures, which first requires that alliances and demands are put forward that unite Labor, working people in general, community, and student groups towards collective action.
One possible immediate demand is for environmental activists to unite with Labor groups over a federal jobs program, paid for by taxing the rich, that makes massive investments in jobs that are climate related, such as solar panel production, transportation, building recycling centers, home retro-fitting, etc.
Another demand could be to insist that the government convene the most knowledgeable scientists in the area of clean energy. These scientists should be given all the resources they need in order to collectively create alternative sources of clean energy that would allow for a realistic alternative to the current polluting and toxic sources of energy.
However, any type of immediate demand will meet giant corporate resistance from both political parties. Fighting for a uniting demand will thus strengthen the movement, and for this reason it is important to link climate solutions to the creation of jobs, which are the number one concern of most Americans. This unity will in turn lead allies toward a deeper understanding of the problem, and therefore deeper solutions will emerge that challenge the whole economic structure that is deaf to the needs of humans and the climate and sacrifices everything to the private profit of a few.