2/23/2007

The dumbassification of America

By Mediagonebad

Resistance is futile, America. We have already been assimilated. Not by a foreign enemy or by random terrorists, but by our own military/industrial/media complex that drums thoughts into our heads through repetition, repetition, repetition…. In other words, through the systematic dumbing-down of America.

I don’t know who came up with the term dumbassification -- I first heard it from Chuck D of Public Enemy -- but the term seems to fit the passive response of an otherwise intelligent people who have been hoodwinked and pacified by an internal group of Americans who want unrestricted corporate domination over all aspects of American life. A corporate state where American citizens -- and, indeed, the entire world -- are subservient to this military/industrial/media complex.

The process of dumbassification begins right in our homes every time we turn on the television and are literally bombarded by commercial messages that chip away at our self-esteem by telling us we will be wallflowers without this or that personal hygiene product; that men will not be real men unless we drive this or that truck; that we will not have a love life without this or that erection medication; that our children will not be happy and content without the newest toy or gaming system. Buy, buy buy. Consume, consume, consume. Don’t think about the consequences. Don’t worry about global warming. Don’t ask under what labor conditions our products are manufactured in China and elsewhere. Just Buy! Don’t worry about genetic food. Just believe that Monsanto genetically engineered that corn to be good for you! Why make them test it and label it? Just trust them! Dumbassification!

In the schools, dumbassification is a process of social control that leads to the loss of our national identity and history. The great labor struggles, walkouts, and sit-down strikes leading to the movement for an 8-hour workday may get a page or two in a history textbook, but the meaning, the context, and the downright importance of these struggles to today‘s world are all but forgotten. Same thing is true with slavery. Ever since the first European colony was formed 400 years ago at Jamestown, Africans were kidnapped from their homeland and forced to work so that their white neo-colonial masters could make profit with cheap labor. They were given “Christian” names and robbed of their language and their identities. In order to control their behavior, they were beaten, whipped, raped, and hanged. There were white slaves as well, but they retained their given names, whereas blacks were listed on the manifest simply as “negro, negro, negro….” The term “nigger” -- the N-word -- was a derogatory word used to keep the workers down, to deny them of self-esteem and self-worth. Today, however, the term is used in the hip-hop generation almost as a term of endearment. “Wazzup, nigga?” is a term heard in high school hallways and seen in facebook postings everywhere, but what is wrong with using terms like brother, sister, friend, comrade or bro? What is wrong with using words that do not disrespect all those who died at the hands of masters and bosses? Dumbassification! The schools have helped dumb-down American citizens, who have forgotten their own national identity and history.

And, or course, in 2002, we were told over and over that we must go to war in Iraq for our own national security because Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” Through media repetition, people can be conditioned to believe anything. It’s like if one source tells you that you are growing a tail, you can simply dismiss it as an error. If two sources tell you that you have a tail, you might start to wonder about the concept. Then when three sources tell you that you have a tail, you are apt to turn around and look. This is exactly how we have become assimilated and it is why we are such pushovers when it comes to the constant media drumbeat for war. The corporate masters have taken the fight out of us by suppressing the spirit of the founding fathers who declared independence from British rule and later formulated a Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bush and Cheney tell us we are on a mission to spread democracy and to protect ourselves from terrorism. They tell us that, to do so, we must give up some of those rights and freedoms that all citizens should consider a birthright. And yet we silently comply while they abandon habeas corpus, eavesdrop on telephone conversations, read mail, and intercept the email of law abiding citizens. Dumbassification!

In spite of Bush and Cheney’s claims to the contrary, the Iraq war has been lost. L-O-S-T. There is no democratic government in Baghdad and there will not be one as long as foreign troops occupy Iraqi soil. The Bush administration -- and now the Obama administration -- cannot be trusted to end war, let alone hold unconditional regional peace talks with all parties and neighboring nations, including oil-rich Iran. They want war because the corporations they represent want war and reconstruction profits. And we let them! Dumbassification!

There is not even the pretense of democracy in Iraq today. The “blue finger” elections were nothing but a sham for the media to buy into. The Bush administration has brought militia heads to power, along with gangsters, murderers, looters and rapists of all sorts. There is no way to win this war because there is no internal process for democracy to grow. Iraqis will keep fighting and Americans will keep dying as long as our government insists on occupying Iraq. More troops will not help and will likely make matters even worse.

All Americans need to understand this. Bush claimed that our troops would stand down as Iraqis stood up. Well, they are standing up, and this is apparent each time atrocities are committed against Iraqi families, each time doors are kicked in and the men are either shot or taken to secret prisons. From the moment the tanks rolled into Baghdad and the military rushed in to secure the oil fields but did nothing to stop rampant looting of national treasures, the war was over and not winnable. And then when the pictures of abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib surfaced, any lingering respect among Iraqis for the Untied States evaporated. And the entire world, which once looked up to the United States as a civilized nation where human rights are highly regarded, saw that Abu Ghraib was not the actions of a few soldiers on the night shift, as the Bush administration contended, but was official U.S. policy regarding the treatment of prisoners and was authorized by the highest levels of government. The media spin machine sometimes refers to Abu Ghraib as “torture-lite” as if that makes forced nudity, sexual degradation, sleep depravation, stress positioning, waterboarding (simulated drowning), somehow more palatable and acceptable. We should be outraged and demand independent investigations to prosecute the government officials responsible for approving torture no matter how far up the chain of command they have to go. But we don’t. We would rather watch silly mind-numbing television “reality” shows and not think about it. Dumbassification!

Bush was a president who fancied himself as some great military leader, but his actions took the world back into the dark ages. Bush and Cheney have basically overthrown the Untied States, stacked the courts with their own judges, and rendered Congress ineffective as a balance of power. Now the Obama administration is quietly chipping away at more Constitutional rights. The National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed, allows the indefinite detention of American citizens without constitutional due process of law. Unless we become outraged and stop this process of dumbassification, we will find ourselves living in the Orwellian world of corporate fascism. No rights. No privacy. No guns. No independent media. And no hope.

What will it take to wake up the assimilated Americans? What will it take to get us to leave our television sets and occupy the National Mall or participate in a nationwide general strike? How do we overcome our passive response to a power-grabbing, corporate-controlled government beholden to the corporate dollar? By voting in staged elections financed by the richest 1%, which tries hard to limit the voting rights of the 99%? It is not in our nature or history to lie down like whipped dogs, yet that is what we are doing. Dumbassification!

2/15/2007

An ethical way to end the Iraq war

By Mediagonebad

The Network of Spiritual Progressives is proposing an “ethical way to end the Iraq war” and is now launching a major print campaign. The proposal is presented in three parts: 1) recognizing that the Iraq war is wrong and that presidential repentance is necessary; 2) calling upon the Arab league to replace U.S and British forces; and 3) rebuilding Iraq, launching a global “Marshall Plan,” and recognizing that generosity beats domination as a strategy for homeland security.

I disagree with the first part of the proposal calling upon President Bush to repent before the U.N. I believe that impeachment for lying to Congress will provide the proper measure of justice for now -- unless he is later indicted for war crimes, of course. If we allow Bush to get away with impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors and for the mass murder of tens of thousands or people, then why should anyone obey the laws of society? And what message is the Bush administration sending to kids when it refuses to sit down and talk with adversaries face-to-face? That it is OK, perhaps, to simply walk up and slap someone upside the head without provocation?

I mostly agree with the second and third parts of the proposal. Iraq should be turned over to the Arab League so U.S. and British forces can leave Iraq. “Fellow Arabs know the language, understand the culture, and especially the religion of the people of Iraq far better than do our own soldiers,” the proposal states. U.S forces are “perceived as modern-day imitators of the crusaders who once devastated Muslim countries.” The proposal wants U.S. and British forces to withdraw as Arab forces take their place. This could be a long process and I would prefer that the withdrawal be immediate, complete, and unconditional, but I could compromise on this point if a cease-fire could be achieved first.

Part three of the proposal calls for rebuilding Iraq and creating a global “Marshall Plan.” The new plan should “commit 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. each year for the next 20 years toward the goal of eliminating global (and domestic) poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care, inadequate education, and for repairing the environment.” This approach, the proposal states, could have a secondary benefit in that a policy of generosity would replace the policy of domination and control and would eventually rebuild “respect and trust in the U.S.,” which is vital to homeland security.

Although I personally do not agree with the wording of the proposal, I would endorse it because this is the kind of common sense approach that we should be discussing instead of letting the powers that be and the mass media control the terms of the debate and ignore citizen action and input. Among the original signers of the proposal are Rabbi Michael Lerner, Howard Zinn, Rev. Tony Campolo, Sister Joan Chittister, Donald Gelphi, S. J. , the Revs. John and Susan Gregory-Davis, Rabbi Stephen B. Jacobs, and Marshall Berman.

2/10/2007

Planetary SOS: It's do or die, folks

By Mediagonebad

Global warming requires immediate action by the United States -- the most wasteful, polluting country on the planet. And, sorry folks, this action will require major lifestyle adjustments that will shake up the very foundation of government as we now understand it.

Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, global climate change has been ignored, given mere lip service, or has been actively challenged and misrepresented by the highest levels of government. Politicians are beholden to their corporate benefactors -- especially corporations that produce or depend upon oil -- so politicians tend to appease these corporations and bow to their desire to discredit global warming as legitimate science.

Some may argue that the damage has already been done and that the dire effects of global warming cannot be stopped. This may well be true. But the United States has a responsibility to the world to take the lead and make the sacrifices necessary to reduce greenhouse gases as much as possible.

First, we need to understand that the interests of the planet must take precedence over the national interest and, especially, over the corporate interest. We must begin producing all-electric and vegetable-oil-based vehicles and phasing out the gas-powered combustion engine for all but vehicles that can run on biodiesel or a similar vegetable-based fuel. We must also phase out coal-fired power plants and dangerous nuclear power plants and replace them with clean solar, wind and hydroelectric power generating plants. This will require that auto manufacturers be willing to produce those vehicles for the public good rather than for their own private profit. It will also require hundreds of new factories to build commercial-grade solar panels, wind generators, blades, and so on. Gas stations will have to begin selling vegetable-based fuel and converting to battery charging stations. This must become the number one priority in the country and citizens may be inconvenienced for years.

Now, let's back up a little. None of this is going to happen without a fundamental change in the way we allow our government to operate, without an all-out war on global warming. Obstructionist, pandering politicians of any party must be booted out. The American people -- not the government -- need to claim our role as the real decision-makers in this nation. We need to understand that corporations, operating for profit under an unregulated free market, are not going to address global warming in a timely fashion and on the scale needed. Never. But we need to set goals and create a series of five-year plans right now. Tomorrow may be too late.

This war on global warming will need to divert funds from the massive military budget in order to make it happen. There will not be any outsourcing to China or anywhere else and every sector of society must be involved in one way or another. In all likelihood, the oil companies -- which are now the driving force behind the war in Iraq -- will be nationalized in the public interest to ensure that oil is available throughout this societal transformation. Prices may rise and rationing may occur at some point, so the new war on global warming will most impact those of us who are around at the beginning of this transformation.

This is a planetary emergency and nothing is going to be done about it unless the citizens of the United States take the lead and force the societal changes necessary to accomplish it. This nation has the ingenuity, the work ethic, and resources to get it done, and there is no reason why we cannot create full employment, national health care, and a living wage for all in the process. But we need a collective consciousness, not political polarization and self-interest. If we cannot achieve that, then there is no hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the rapid scale needed to offset climate change.

We need people -- like Molly Ivins said in her final column before her death -- we need people out in the streets banging pots and pans. We need tens of thousands of people living in a tent city on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, inconveniencing the normal routine of Congress. We need sit-down strikes. We may even need general strikes to disrupt business-as-usual throughout the country. This is serious, folks. It's do or die.

2/02/2007

The Oil Barons: Chasing the Dollar into the 21st Century

By Mediagonebad

"Indians chase the vision, white men chase the dollar," writes Lame Deer, a traditional Sioux medicine man. "Americans are bred like stuffed geese -- to be consumers, not human beings. The moment they stop consuming and buying, this frog-skin [dollar] world has no use for them."

In the 1800s, the Indians were nearly wiped out by the westward expansion of the American frontier. The prize then for the US was land for farming, logging, mining and railroads, and the methods used for displacing Indians were brutal and genocidal, as hundreds of thousands of buffalo -- the main food supply for many Indian tribes -- were shot and left to rot in the sun. The Indians who did not succumb to starvation were relocated and forced onto smaller and smaller parcels of land. Every Indian treaty signed by the United States was broken by the United States. The treaties provided temporary appeasement while the aggressive expansion continued unchecked.

Strike first. Eliminate the opposition's ability to resist. Use whatever means are necessary to win. Claim divine intervention to soothe the God-fearing naysayers. These tenets of the Manifest Destiny doctrine are centuries-old tactics and have been used in North America and throughout the world. Under the Manifest Destiny doctrine, the United States has the divine duty to spread its version of political, religious, and free market "truth" throughout the world, and it does so by claiming this mission to be in its "national interest." From the Indians to the Mexicans to the Koreans to the Iraqis, those who resist are conquered. Even the Moon and Mars have been conquered, if only symbolically at present.

But the 21st century prize for the United States is oil, and the strategic importance of oil to the American economy is the driving force behind today's Manifest Destiny. Bush's war on Iraq, a nation already weakened by economic sanctions and disarmed by a 1991 war and by continued United Nations weapons inspections, is a brazen -- and many would say criminal -- grab for oil that fits perfectly with the extraterritorial nature of Manifest Destiny.

The United States is purporting to support a western-style democracy in Iraq, and, of course, freedom from the tyrannical dictator known as Saddam Hussein. When we dig under the rhetoric and look at the context, however, the Iraq war is an annexation, a colonization, a hostile takeover of a sovereign nation that happens to have 10 percent of the world's remaining oil reserves. And one of the great ironies of the war on Iraq is that the Bush family business just happens to be oil and weapons, which makes the war for oil a win-win situation for the Bushes. No oil-producing nation, nor any nation with the military or ideological power to stand in the way of US Manifest Destiny, is safe from military intervention, regime change, and hostile takeover. The excuses used to justify intervention almost sound legitimate to the casual observer: The Indians needed "civilized." The Iraqis needed "freedom." But Manifest Destiny dictates that both Indians and Iraqis, as non-Europeans, are incapable of self-government.

Like the red-skinned Indians, the new enemies of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny -- the "terrorists" -- are portrayed by the mass media as brown-skinned Arabs. After a group of Saudi extremists flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/01, Bush's declaration, "you are either with us or you are with the terrorists," brought the Manifest Destiny doctrine once again to center stage. First-strike, unilateral military intervention is easier for the public to swallow in the vague context of a "war on terrorism," of "us vs. them," of "good vs. evil." In President Bush's own words, it is the destiny of the United States to "change the world," to rid the world of "evil-doers." What he means, of course, is that he will defeat all of those who oppose US imperialism's divine claim to planet Earth. In any realistic historical context, however, Bush's view of Manifest Destiny would be considered just as extremist, dangerous, and ruthless as any dictator the world has ever known.

The Republic of Cuba, however, has been a thorn in the side for US Manifest Destiny. Ever since 1959, when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, in the name of Cuba's workers and farmers, led the Cuban Revolution and overthrew the corrupt Batista regime just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, the US has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Cuba. From the Bay of Pigs invasion to exploding cigars to germ warfare to an economic blockade to blatant acts of terrorism against hotels and airplanes, the US government, in collusion with a bloc of wealthy Cuban-American exiles in Miami, has sought to destroy the Cuban Revolution. At every meeting of the UN human rights commission, the US exerts its mighty influence over voting members to ensure that Cuba -- by just one vote in 2004 -- is condemned for human rights violations. Another tactic is to list Cuba as one of seven countries that support terrorism. Is Cuba -- a sovereign nation that treats food, housing, education, and health care as human rights -- on Bush's short list for military action and "regime change"?

Perhaps now is the time to replace the doctrine of Manifest Destiny with a new humanist doctrine, a doctrine more in tune with a rapidly growing world population and a dwindling supply of natural resources. A doctrine more in tune with global warming, air pollution, and contaminated drinking water. A doctrine more in tune with the need of all human beings for food, shelter, education and health care.

"I am trying to bring the ghost dance back," writes Lame Deer, "but interpret it in a new way. I think it has been misunderstood, but after [110] years I believe that more and more people are sensing what we meant when we prayed for a new earth and that now not only the Indians but everybody has become an 'endangered species.' So let the Indians help you bring on a new earth without pollution or war. Let's roll up the world. It needs it."

Note: For more information, see my entire compilation at Manifest Destiny -- From sea to shining sea...to global domination