Category Archives: Sacred Cows

 

Exceptionalism is not just an American sickness, it’s a collective madness rising as a world destroying tsunami. More and more groups vying with others to make their voices and concerns heard and the louder they get, the more chaos ensues. Hyperbole? Observation says no. It is a fact of “tidal waves” of people sensing the serious unease of the times and honestly having no idea on how to deal with it except by regurgitating old concepts, the favorite remaining war and it doesn’t matter much against whom, or what just as long as there is fighting going on.

Earth has a major problem and it’s called mankind, the pseudo-intellectual species that chose, as a collective, to re-make Earth and its environment into its own image. It’s that simple and that devastating because the only way it could have worked is in the exact opposite direction: man should have known, when a much younger species, to adapt itself to its world. Its intellectual hubris drove it to chose exploitation and oppression over cooperation. The big “Wrong Way: Do Not Enter” sign was torn down and used to make crosses and scaffolds for those who insisted on teaching a better way.

Man chose wrong. A long time ago. The choice, once made, could never be countered because the creature’s body over time kept adapting to non-natural ways of engaging nature, i.e., life. The choice was irrevocable and would begin a string of horrible consequences a few are just beginning to recognize and admit to. The final consequence: the destruction of the planet insofar as the life-sustaining aspects of it goes.

As an environmentalist, as an activist, as an elder, as an observer and as a self empowered individual without any agenda, not even of personal survival because I don’t need that kind of pretend comfort, I’m going to state this as clearly as I can.

I know there is no survival, that all are born to die and that the only thing that matters, if anything does, is what one does in between that beginning and that end. To that I can add with certainty that “man” will continue to run from the stick and after the carrot: there is no longer any choice; there never was any choice once the wrong turn was chosen. Those who thought they could return to nature and choose a different path have been all but eliminated as genocidal fuel for civilization.

As a species man is done for. There is no possibility of turning back the tide of exploitation and oppression because that is the very thing that fuels his civilization. That is what must be understood and admitted to: that oppression, in particular, is the fuel that feeds civilization. Therefore, as should have been obvious since inception, this civilization (as were all preceding civilizations) is an unsustainable concept.

Therefore it should be obvious that any proposed solution based on tried and failed concepts are the re-running of old black and white movies: when you walk out of the theater, nothing has changed: your world did not change into a black and white Pleasantville.

As an intelligent and quite able to reason species, man should have never gotten upon this road but the temptation was just too great to resist. Man adapted itself to pillaging, raping, destroying and killing, all the while thinking it was building ever-after empires.

Man built his cities, his monuments to pride, exploitation, control and the resultant smog (literally, morally and spiritually) spreads over the planet like the fumes that poured out of Mount Doom… but there are no mighty men, no dwarves, no elves, no Hobbits, no wizards and no Ents to extinguish this volcano.

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(Vancouver, May 12, 2019 – from 2000 feet – photo by Sha’Tara)

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

What is the Cost of Maintaining a God?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Quote: “God, help us all to wake up and learn to love as community and not organization.”

This I’ve learned and this I’ll take with me to my next level of understanding: God (or whatever lives beyond the reach of mere Earthians and parades as creator) will not help “us”. Quite the contrary. The people who believe in God are often the worst kind to have around. And that is as it must be. “God” is, if one bothers to study Earth history, a monster. He is a hater of the feminine principle and destroyer of life, mostly of innocent life.

It is because Earthians have been programmed to “wait upon the Lord” that they cannot, will not help themselves, or one-another openly and freely; cannot break free once and for all from their slavery to “trusted” systems that have now supplanted religion, in particular monetary schemes.

“Man” is what God made him; “woman” less so, for she in truth, rebelled against the original programming. Some say that God is what man made it… if that is true, that only makes man worse for that makes God the scapegoat for all the man-perpetrated evil done in God’s name since the beginning of civilization.

It is said that God is also the author of love and what is that but a chameleonic emotion? A powerless concept, except within collectives where it can be practiced in the most exclusive and selfish ways? People should remember that it was the God of love who instructed His people to go throughout the (known) earth and kill all those who refused to worship Him – man, woman and child. Who instructed his fanatic followers to rip open pregnant women and kill their unborn children before their very eyes. To plunder, enslave, rape, torture and murder — all in the name of His love.

It is the same God, make no mistake, who directs the ways of the New World Order or call it predatory capitalism, the “new” religion of greed that incorporates the old patriarchal “values” based on exploitation, suppression, enslavement, plunder and general destruction of the planet and its life.

It is said that “man” would never know the ways of the Lord God. True. Few men have demonstrated an evil so utterly depraved as to rival God’s though many have tried. Hitler was one of those, a name to remember on the anniversary of the freeing of Auchwitz by the Soviet forces in 1945.

The awakened INDIVIDUAL does not need to know such ways. The awakened looks into the cosmos and knows life. The awakened is free to look in the face of evil and call a spade a spade. Such a one has no soul to worry about, or to feed with emotions and passions. The awakened knows logic and common sense, though not devoid of feelings. Conversely the soul-being is prey to endless roiling of passions and emotions that fight against one-another, for the soul, that precious gift of God, is the container for Earthian madness.

Few can accept this. To most, God is a sacred concept. To know God is to know love. To possess a soul is the mark of life, of belonging. But what is the historical evidence from maintaining such a belief?

If you look at history, you will find that all efforts, bar none, to find “love” – sharing, community, acceptance, freedom, peace, etc., have failed. Even in the tiny groups that survive as “Christian” (or other kinds) in “communities of brethren” have failed to spread and are now rife with dissension and pointlessness. Think of the Quakers, the Amish, the Hutterites, the Mennonites – and many others… they are dying anachronisms in this society. Few are attracted to their ways because they make no sense and their interactions with the modern world are full of contradictions.

What would make sense, then, in today’s world? Only an individual can find that answer, test it, and choose to walk in such a “sensible” way. Only the one who has learned NEVER to cry out: “Help me!” Only the one who has seen beyond hope; who has exposed the mockery of faith; who knows that love is a chimera. Only the one who’s quest for more of life is untrammeled by belief systems, whether such are based on God, Money or raw Power.

Of Rules and Rulers

[Thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

“Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here.”  (Attributed to captain Jim Kirk of Star Trek – a line presumably invented as a joke, never actually used in the series.)

There is a kind of madness that began by a seeping in, then turned into a flood pouring out of the entire echelon of non-productive bureaucratic hierarchical groupings in every mega-institution on planet Earth, be it church, government, military, banking or corporate.

These non-productive types of exponential inferior intelligence (the truth of this easily determined by their performance) keep themselves as controllers and in power, not by coming up with useful ideas but by browbeating the generally smarter but brain-lazy makers and doers.  The controllers know they are too stupid to rise above what they are and too lazy, incompetent and incapable to perform any sort of useful labour so they must control the work force (or the followers of some religion or the patriots or the investors or the fans) to keep them from discovering they are more intelligent and certainly more useful than their superiors.  If you cannot rise above the level of your own incompetence you must keep everybody else below yours — by whatever means.

Here’s a classic way they have always used to control others.  They invent rules and by using these rules they can implement endless changes to systems, not to improve the systems, anybody can see that is not happening, but to force everybody else to remain on a level below theirs.  There has probably never been a time when this was more obvious that the present moment.

Let me describe how the bureaucrats go about creating new rules.  Since they are incapable of coming up with anything new, their “new” will always be based on something old, re-packaged and re-marketed to seem original.  Another “trade” deal; a different kind of Monopoly money; a change in interest rates; how about a carbon tax? A green fee?

At the corporation where I worked I called their creations “the thirteen and a half inch ruler.”  Like everybody else they were operating under the standard twelve inch ruler.  But why be the same as everybody else when you can be longer?  So they put their mini brains together and came up with a real winner: a thirteen and a half inch ruler.  A ruler a whole inch and a half longer than anyone else’s.  Fantastic.  Now each time their employees go out to measure, they are automatically ahead of the competition by 1-1/2 inches.

Of course we (that would be those of us who do the actual measuring) immediately encountered a problem with the new rule:  Was it now a thirteen and a half inch ruler, so marked?  Or was it a twelve inch ruler with the inches stretched out one and one half inch over the length of the new ruler? 

We asked for clarifications.  As to be expected they had no answer except for the usual: we’ll get back to you on that, carry on.  The “carry on” part was not debatable.

The above should be hilarious.  But when one realizes how true that is, it sobers one very quickly.  Think: the thirteen and a half inch ruler brains are the rulers of this planet.  They are the mushroom cloud; we’re at ground zero.  That is why all of us numb-nuts believe ourselves indebted to the thirteen and a half inch ruler brains to the tune of $184,000,000,000,000 or broken down, $86,000 for every man, woman and child on this world.

At this point though I’d have to say that the 13-1/2″ ruler brains are actually the smart ones. A tiny minority of ignorant pea-brains holds an entire world in hock to themselves just by claiming their right to an incestuously exponential lion’s share of everything.  For this inanely and insanely illegitimate claim the rest of the regular (12″) ruler brains are willing to kill other people’s children, or watch their own starve to death while debating which 13-1/2″ ruler brain should be their next leader.  

“Beam me up Scotty, you dropped me on the wrong planet!”

 

Biological Annihilation-a Planet in Loss Mode

 How to introduce such an article? I copied it verbatim from TomDispatch (http://www.tomdispatch.com/) and although I am certainly aware of the devastations being caused by “climate change” I am most certainly not ascribing most of it to climate change.  Rather it is obvious that our standing on the cusp of  an “extinction protocol” has mostly to do with Earthians consistently refusing to consider changing their lifestyles, their obsolete traditions and their belief systems – all of which are guaranteeing the end of civilization.  I therefore must introduce it with these hated words: How about “you” taking responsibility for the state of the world? You will say, “How?” and I can tell you that there is an endless list of effective “hows” by which you can make a difference. But not one of these efforts will mean anything if you don’t become the change you wish to engender.  That’s right: the only way to make change is to become the change.  It begins by caring as if your life and the lives of your loved ones, depended on it.  *By the way, it does*

Obvious question here: How long can we condemn all other sentient life on this planet to massive dieback and not bring it upon ourselves? When does the “bad predator” realize that the prey he killed off was essential to his own survival?   ~burning woman~

Biological Annihilation
A Planet in Loss Mode
By Subhankar Banerjee

If you’ve been paying attention to what’s happening to the nonhuman life forms with which we share this planet, you’ve likely heard the term “the Sixth Extinction.” If not, look it up.  After all, a superb environmental reporter, Elizabeth Kolbert, has already gotten a Pulitzer Prize for writing a book with that title.

Whether the sixth mass species extinction of Earth’s history is already (or not quite yet) underway may still be debatable, but it’s clear enough that something’s going on, something that may prove even more devastating than a mass of species extinctions: the full-scale winnowing of vast populations of the planet’s invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants.  Think of it, to introduce an even broader term, as a wave of “biological annihilation” that includes possible species extinctions on a mass scale, but also massive species die-offs and various kinds of massacres.

Someday, such a planetary winnowing may prove to be the most tragic of all the grim stories of human history now playing out on this planet, even if to date it’s gotten far less attention than the dangers of climate change.  In the end, it may prove more difficult to mitigate than global warming.  Decarbonizing the global economy, however hard, won’t be harder or more improbable than the kind of wholesale restructuring of modern life and institutions that would prevent species annihilation from continuing.   

With that in mind, come along with me on a topsy-turvy journey through the animal and plant kingdoms to learn a bit more about the most consequential global challenge of our time.

Insects Are Vanishing

When most of us think of animals that should be saved from annihilation, near the top of any list are likely to be the stars of the animal world: tigers and polar bears, orcas and orangutans, elephants and rhinos, and other similarly charismatic creatures.

Few express similar concern or are likely to be willing to offer financial support to “save” insects. The few that are in our visible space and cause us nuisance, we regularly swat, squash, crush, or take out en masse with Roundup.

As it happens, though, of the nearly two million known species on this planet about 70% of them are insects. And many of them are as foundational to the food chain for land animals as plankton are for marine life. Harvard entomologist (and ant specialist) E.O. Wilson once observed that “if insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

In fact, insects are vanishing.

Almost exactly a year ago, the first long-term study of the decline of insect populations was reported, sparking concern (though only in professional circles) about a possible “ecological Armageddon.” Based on data collected by dozens of amateur entomologists in 63 nature reserves across Germany, a team of scientists concluded that the flying insect population had dropped by a staggering 76% over a 27-year period. At the same time, other studies began to highlight dramatic plunges across Europe in the populations of individual species of bugs, bees, and moths.

What could be contributing to such a collapse? It certainly is human-caused, but the factors involved are many and hard to sort out, including habitat degradation and loss, the use of pesticides in farming, industrial agriculture, pollution, climate change, and even, insidiously enough, “light pollution that leads nocturnal insects astray and interrupts their mating.”

This past October, yet more troubling news arrived.

When American entomologist Bradford Lister first visited El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico in 1976, little did he know that a long-term study he was about to embark on would, 40 years later, reveal a “hyperalarming” new reality. In those decades, populations of arthropods, including insects and creepy crawlies like spiders and centipedes, had plunged by an almost unimaginable 98% in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest within the U.S. National Forest System. Unsurprisingly, insectivores (populations of animals that feed on insects), including birds, lizards, and toads, had experienced similarly dramatic plunges, with some species vanishing entirely from that rainforest. And all of that happened before Hurricane Maria battered El Yunque in the fall of 2017.

What had caused such devastation? After eliminating habitat degradation or loss — after all, it was a protected national forest — and pesticide use (which, in Puerto Rico, had fallen by more than 80% since 1969), Lister and his Mexican colleague Andres Garcia came to believe that climate change was the culprit, in part because the average maximum temperature in that rainforest has increased by four degrees Fahrenheit over those same four decades.

Even though both scientific studies and anecdotal stories about what might be thought of as a kind of insectocide have, at this point, come only from Europe and North America, many entomologists are convinced that the collapse of insect populations is a worldwide phenomenon.

As extreme weather events — fires, floods, hurricanes — begin to occur more frequently globally, “connecting the dots” across the planet has become a staple of climate-change communication to “help the public understand how individual events are part of a larger trend.”

Now, such thinking has to be transferred to the world of the living so, as in the case of plummeting insect populations and the creatures that feed on them, biological annihilation sinks in. At the same time, what’s driving such death spirals in any given place — from pesticides to climate change to habitat loss — may differ, making biological annihilation an even more complex phenomenon than climate change.

The Edge of the Sea

The animal kingdom is composed of two groups: invertebrates, or animals without backbones, and vertebrates, which have them. Insects are invertebrates, as are starfish, anemones, corals, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, and many more species. In fact, invertebrates make up 97% of the known animal kingdom.

In 1955, environmentalist Rachel Carson’s book The Edge of the Sea was published, bringing attention for the first time to the extraordinary diversity and density of the invertebrate life that occupies the intertidal zone.  Even now, more than half a century later, you’ve probably never considered that environment — which might be thought of as the edge of the sea (or actually the ocean) — as a forest. And neither did I, not until I read nature writer Tim McNulty’s book Olympic National Park: A Natural History some years ago. As he pointed out: “The plant associations of the low tide zone are commonly arranged in multistoried communities, not unlike the layers of an old-growth forest.” And in that old-growth forest, the starfish (or sea star) rules as the top predator of the nearshore.

In 2013, a starfish die-off — from a “sea-star wasting disease” caused by a virus — was first observed in Washington’s Olympic National Park, though it was hardly confined to that nature preserve. By the end of 2014, as Lynda Mapes reported in the Seattle Times, “more than 20 species of starfish from Alaska to Mexico” had been devastated. At the time, I was living on the Olympic Peninsula and so started writing about and, as a photographer, documenting that die-off (a painful experience after having read Carson’s exuberant account of that beautiful creature).

The following summer, though, something magical happened. I suddenly saw baby starfish everywhere. Their abundance sparked hope among park employees I spoke with that, if they survived, most of the species would bounce back. Unfortunately, that did not happen. “While younger sea stars took longer to show symptoms, once they did, they died right away,” Mapes reported. That die-off was so widespread along the Pacific coast (in many sites, more than 99% of them) that scientists considered it “unprecedented in geographic scale.”
Baby Starfish, Olympic National Park. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2015.

The cause? Consider it the starfish version of a one-two punch: the climate-change-induced warming of the Pacific Ocean put stress on the animals while it made the virus that attacked them more virulent.  Think of it as a perfect storm for unleashing such a die-off.

It will take years to figure out the true scope of the aftermath, since starfish occupy the top of the food chain at the edge of the ocean and their disappearance will undoubtedly have cascading impacts, not unlike the vanishing of the insects that form the base of the food chain on land.

Concurrent with the disappearance of the starfish, another “unprecedented” die-off was happening at the edge of the same waters, along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada.  It seemed to be “one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded,” Craig Welch wrote in National Geographic in 2015. And many more have been dying ever since, including Cassin’s auklets, thick-billed murres, common murres, fork-tailed petrels, short-tailed shearwaters, black-legged kittiwakes, and northern fulmars. That tragedy is still ongoing and its nature is caught in the title of a September article in Audubon magazine: “In Alaska, Starving Seabirds and Empty Colonies Signal a Broken Ecosystem.”

To fully understand all of this, the dots will again have to be connected across places and species, as well as over time, but the great starfish die-off is an indication that biological annihilation is now an essential part of life at the edge of the sea.

The Annihilation of Vertebrates

The remaining 3% of the kingdom Animalia is made up of vertebrates. The 62,839 known vertebrate species include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The term “biological annihilation” was introduced in 2017 in a seminal paper by scientists Geraldo Ceballos, Paul Ehrlich, and Rodolpho Dirzo, whose research focused on the population declines, as well as extinctions, of vertebrate species. “Our data,” they wrote then, “indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations.”

If anything, the 148-page Living Planet Report published this October by the World Wildlife Fund International and the Zoological Society of London only intensified the sense of urgency in their paper. As a comprehensive survey of the health of our planet and the impact of human activity on other species, its key message was grim indeed: between 1970 and 2014, it found, monitored populations of vertebrates had declined in abundance by an average of 60% globally, with particularly pronounced losses in the tropics and in freshwater systems. South and Central America suffered a dramatic loss of 89% of such vertebrates, while freshwater populations of vertebrates declined by a lesser but still staggering 83% worldwide. The results were based on 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species, which meant that the study was not claiming a comprehensive census of all vertebrate populations.  It should instead be treated as a barometer of trends in monitored populations of them.

What could be driving such an annihilatory wave to almost unimaginable levels? The report states that the main causes are “overexploitation of species, agriculture, and land conversion — all driven by runaway human consumption.” It does, however, acknowledge that climate change, too, is a “growing threat.”

When it comes to North America, the report shows that the decline is only 23%. Not so bad, right? Such a statistic could mislead the public into thinking that the U.S. and Canada are in little trouble and yet, in reality, insects and other animals, as well as plants, are dying across North America in surprisingly large numbers.

From My Doorstep to the World Across Time

My own involvement with biological annihilation started at my doorstep. In March 2006, a couple of days after moving into a rented house in northern New Mexico, I found a dead male house finch, a small songbird, on the porch. It had smashed into one of the building’s large glass windows and died. At the same time, I began to note startling numbers of dead piñon, New Mexico’s state tree, everywhere in the area. Finding that dead bird and noting those dead trees sparked a desire in me to know what was happening in this new landscape of mine.

When you think of an old-growth forest — and here I don’t mean the underwater version of one but the real thing — what comes to your mind? Certainly not the desert southwest, right? The trees here don’t even grow tall enough for that.  An 800-year-old piñon may reach a height of 24 feet, not the 240-feet of a giant Sitka spruce of similar age in the Pacific Northwest. In the last decade, however, scientists have begun to see the piñon-juniper woodlands here as exactly that.

I first learned this from a book, Ancient Piñon-Juniper Woodlands: A Natural History of Mesa Verde Country. It turns out that this low-canopy, sparsely vegetated woodland ecosystem supports an incredible diversity of wildlife. In fact, as a state, New Mexico has among the greatest diversity of species in the country.  It’s second in diversity of native mammals, third in birds, and fourth in overall biodiversity. Take birds.  Trailing only California and Arizona, the state harbors 544 species, nearly half of the 1,114 species in the U.S. And consider this not praise for my adopted home, but a preface to a tragedy.

Before I could even develop a full appreciation of the piñon-juniper woodland, I came to realize that most of the mature piñon in northern New Mexico had already died. Between 2001 and 2005, a tiny bark beetle known by the name of Ips confusus had killed more than 50 million of them, about 90% of the mature ones in northern New Mexico. This happened thanks to a combination of severe drought and rapid warming, which stressed the trees, while providing a superb environment for beetle populations to explode.
Dead finch on my porch. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2006.

And this, it turned out, wasn’t in any way an isolated event. Multiple species of bark beetles were by then ravaging forests across the North American West. The black spruce, the white spruce, the ponderosa pine, the lodgepole pine, the whitebark pine, and the piñon were all dying.

In fact, trees are dying all over the world. In 2010, scientists from a number of countries published a study in Forest Ecology and Management that highlights global climate-change-induced forest mortality with data recorded since 1970. In countries ranging from Argentina and Australia to Switzerland and Zimbabwe, Canada and China to South Korea and Sri Lanka, the damage to trees has been significant.

In 2010, trying to absorb the larger ecological loss, I wrote: “Hundreds of millions of trees have recently died and many more hundreds of millions will soon be dying. Now think of all the other lives, including birds and animals, that depended on those trees. What happened to them and how do we talk about that which we can’t see and will never know?”

In fact, in New Mexico, we are finally beginning to find out something about the size and nature of that larger loss.

Earlier this year, Los Alamos National Laboratory ornithologist Jeanne Fair and her colleagues released the results of a 10-year bird study on the Pajarito Plateau of New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, where some of the worst piñon die-offs have occurred. The study shows that, between 2003 and 2013, the diversity of birds declined by 45% and bird populations, on average, decreased by a staggering 73%. Consider the irony of that on a plateau whose Spanish name, Pajarito, means “little bird.”

The piñon die-off that led to the die-off of birds is an example of connecting the dots across species and over time in one place. It’s also an example of what writer Rob Nixon calls “slow violence.” That “slowness” (even if it’s speedy indeed on the grand calendar of biological time) and the need to grasp the annihilatory dangers in our world will mean staying engaged way beyond any normal set of news cycles.  It will involve what I think of as long environmentalism.

Let’s return, then, to that dead finch on my porch. A study published in 2014 pointed out that as many as 988 million birds die each year in the U.S. by crashing into glass windows. Even worse, domestic and feral cats kill up to 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals annually in this country. In Australia and Canada, two other places where such feline slaughters of birds have been studied, the estimated numbers are 365 million and 200 million respectively — another case of connecting the dots across places and species when it comes to the various forms of biological annihilation underway on this planet.
Dead piñon where birds gather in autumn, northern New Mexico. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2009.

Those avian massacres, one the result of modern architecture and our desire to see the outside from the inside, the other stemming from our urge for non-human companionship, indicate that climate change is but one cause of a planet-wide trend toward biological annihilation.  And this is hardly a contemporary story.  It has a long history, including for instance the mass killing of Arctic whales in the seventeenth century, which generated so much wealth that it helped make the Netherlands into one of the richest nations of that time. In other words, Arctic whaling proved to be an enabler of the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, the era when Rembrandt and Vermeer made paintings still appreciated today.

The large-scale massacre and near extinction of the American bison (or buffalo) in the nineteenth century, to offer a more modern example, paved the way for white settler colonial expansion into the American West, while destroying Native American food security and a way of life. As a U.S. Army colonel put it then, “Kill every buffalo you can! Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”

Today, such examples have not only multiplied drastically but are increasingly woven into human life and life on this planet in ways we still hardly notice.  These, in turn, are being exacerbated by climate change, the human-induced warming of the world. To mitigate the crisis, to save life itself, would require not merely the replacement of carbon-dirty fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy, but a genuine reevaluation of modern life and its institutions. In other words, to save the starfish, the piñon, the birds, and the insects, and us in the process, has become the most challenging and significant ethical obligation of our increasingly precarious time.

Subhankar Banerjee, a TomDispatch regular, is an activist, artist, and public scholar. A professor of art and ecology, he holds the Lannan Chair at the University of New Mexico. He is currently writing a book on biological annihilation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Subhankar Banerjee

 

On Communication and Patriotism

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I’ve been “blogging” for a few years now, sometimes intensely, sometimes lackadaisically, but always as I see in retrospect, with intent to both, learn from others and express ideas they seem unaware of.  Some would call that teaching, but I am no teacher nor do I aspire to such a task. I’ve also been called a “contrarian” and in all honesty, that label, given to me by Frank Parker (https://franklparker.com/ – have a peek, there’s some cool stuff there!) does carry validity.  I’m not rejecting it even if often what is thought of as merely contradictory is juxtapositions of ideas to create “food for thought” for those too comfortable in their traditional niche of clubbish patting on back.

Blogging is all about communication. For the most part people share blogs between comfort zones having discovered that attempting to communicate across storm-tossed seas of divergent ideas is difficult and, without a great deal of skill in diplomacy, basically impossible.  When I engaged in social media like Facebook I encountered too many “Donald Trump” type Tweetering.  Ignorant comments by ignorant people. I gave that medium up on short order.

WordPress has a different quality of correspondents. Here you can express your own thoughts and even if they stand at odds with those of another blogger there is space to express, allowance for different opinions, at least most of the time. I, who carry a heavy baggage of non-conformist ideas, certainly do appreciate this rubber-matted sparring room.

That said, I had an unfortunate dialogue with a blogger recently that got me labeled as an “attacker” of another person.  Language problem? Perhaps, but I saw it differently. The issue was political and as with religion, most people exist on the cusp here, holding it together with barely restrained emotions.  I try to approach it from a wider pathway but current political events are carried emotionally and very personally. Political people seem to take any and all non-agreeing discussions as personal attacks even when obviously stated as facts used to clarify an issue, i.e., obviously totally non-personal.  The fact is, I’m not at all interested in personal aspects of individuals, at least not until they stand in my face and claim to be my leader or my master. Then I get very interested, very fast.

OK, let’s get down and dirty.  Most political discussions in this neck of the woods will be about America, Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin, with peripherals of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Israel and the sleeping dragon, China and Xi Jinping. Americans have their own personal understanding and misunderstanding of these things, based on which “fake news” media or social media they get their information from.  Few social medianites actually put their own boots on the ground to garner up-close personal information about the events they spout on about. In fact most of their “reporters” don’t either so in many cases the buffoon is right about his claims of fake news.

One thing for sure, with fresh air exceptions, is that “America” is declared a good place being vilified by crooked, dirty dealing bad hombres, particularly the current Satanic arch-enemy bogey man Putin.  Putin’s crimes have reached to the very gates of heaven.  But what has he done?  Oh, he has dared intervene with force to stop American-backed regime change in Syria and has put enough fear in the hearts of Zionists and Sunni Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia to prevent the planned invasion of Iran as proxies for the USA war machine and oil lobby.

That however isn’t Putin’s worst crime. His worst crime is that he is accused of interfering in US elections.  True or false? What difference can that make when the USA interferes in elections of sovereign countries all over the planet as a matter of course and when the die still won’t go their way, they concoct a reason for an invasion, or a regime change civil war.  History, folks, repeating and repeating history.

But Americans, like all good patriots, need to deflect the sins of their nation, military, international banking and corporate crimes and impute them on others. They need enemies, preferably of course poorly armed and less technologically advanced so as to suffer the least amount of casualties while inflicting the maximum amount.  Anyone remember the invasion of Grenada under Clown Reagan? Anyone know how big a country Grenada is? Anyone know what Grenada’s military strength consisted of?  Imagine a pack of wolves, say about twenty adults in the pack, planning an attack upon a field mouse’s nest. Surprise, the wolf pack won that “war” and the win filled its newspapers with glowing headlines.  Such heroism, it did them proud, that.

They also need a scapegoat for that imputation to work. Vladimir Putin, the front man responsible to “make Russia great again” in actual fact while the buffoon who claimed same for Amerikkka caused it to go in the opposite direction, just happens to be the right kind of guy to demonize. The propaganda has been rolling off the press full bore now for a couple of years at least and by now I’m sure if we looked closely, Putin has red skin, horns growing out of his forehead and a tail with a spearhead on the end. No? Put on your American Patriot Glasses or “APG’s issued by Homeland Security, then you’ll see it too. Don’t be of those left out of Amerikkka’s Vision.

What’s either sad, funny or amazing, is that most Americans are quite unaware they are participating in this war-mongering scenario, just as the German people were quite unaware at first that supporting Hitler would mean millions of them would die, after they slaughtered tens of millions of others, and all for naught.  Well, not exactly, their elites, just as US-based elites are currently doing, would make zillions from the various killing fronts, hiding and laundering those massive profits which they would then use to create ‘the new world order’ under the American Hegemon.  The German people didn’t know this, and neither do their current imitators, the American people. Why not? Because they prefer propaganda over history, that’s why not.

So I was attempting to explain this to a blogger who, I suspected, was aware of these things. But this person chose to ignore the big picture and focus on lambasting the White House buffoon and his family (deservedly so) and say nary a word about the 50% of total government income handed to the military to do with as it sees fit; to ignore the massive war crimes being committed with US weaponry and tactical aid against Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Lybia (yes, that’s still going on!), Iraq (yes, that too is still going on), in northern Africa (you name it, special forces will be in there destabilizing, creating chaos, blazing a path for multinational exploitation of remaining natural resources and enslavement of the work force), and of course Afghanistan (how old is that endless war again? Is it a war on terror, or on protecting the poppy fields? Hah!) I’m sure US military thought is looking at Pakistan also, and perhaps India… but these have nukes… Oh-oh… owie!

One could laugh at such military ineptness from the world’s most powerful military nation with the world’s greatest export of military arsenal, and the equal ineptness of its sidekicks in war crimes: Britain, France, Canada, and probably dribs and drabs of other benighted and equally stupid European Union members of the NATO coalition.  War is always good business, win or lose, for those who ‘fund’ them and provide the guns and who really rules Western “democracies” huh?

This is where it’s at. So I call that blogger a hypocrite for deliberately ignoring the facts of the matter and choosing instead to demonize Vladimir Putin and turn it all around, making it look as if it’s Putin who is fighting all those wars and the honourable peace-maker in all of this is the USA.  But before I made the call, this person had admitted to knowing these facts as well or better than I do.  I then felt justified in calling a spade a spade.  If you are stuffing your face with apple pie and I say that you are eating apple pie, I’m not attacking you, am I?

But I did not reckon with that mind-blinding sickness called patriotism.  ‘My country, may she be always right, but my country right or wrong.’  Indeed, that is the last cry of the patriot.  Truth, facts, reality, these must play second fiddle to my country’s right to be always “right” and all others who disagree, to be always wrong.  And woe to them if I decide they are wrong: I have the might to punish such temerity and the propaganda machine to make it all seem so legitimate.

Communication, then, must bow to the superior patriotic mind.

The pen is not mightier than the sword at all.  All the pen is allowed to do is promote and extol the sword or stick to making shopping lists.

 

Burn your Nikes? No, Boycott Nike

This timely article speaks loudly and clearly for itself.  I received it compliments of CounterPunch at  https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/07/burn-your-nikes-how-about-boycott-them-instead/

My introduction:  Since there are no WordPress buttons on Counter Punch, I contacted the writer for permission to cut and paste his article here, in my blog. He replied with an enthusiastic “yes.”

I’ve always known about Nike, and I make no apologies when I say that anyone, including the sudden American “black” hero Kaepernick, who endorses Nike is also endorsing Nike’s slaver conditions in all of their sweat shops; their criminal anti-human rights stance.  Nike is a vile capitalist exploiter and predator, make no mistake and make no mistake that Kaepernick is fully aware of this – no one can be that ignorant when they take huge piles of money from their handlers.  The money Kaepernick is receiving is slave labour money and I find that deceptive and his “take the knee” performance now a hypocritical travesty of protest that turns out very remunerative and convenient for himself.

The other thing I have to say is about a society that buys into the whole fashion industry.  I like to walk barefoot as I know it to be a very healthy way to go which a lifetime has taught me.  However society has a way to shame you, or force you, to wear shoes and few stop to wonder why? Simple to understand when you read this article.  Shoes are very big money and if more people went barefoot and more people cared about keeping their environment clean and safe for bare feet, some of those money piles would dwindle, would they not, even if only in losses of incremental sales.  Greedy corporations like Nike are astute manipulators of psychology and always creating auras of acceptance for their products.  Parts of society are harnessed to produce useless garments and parts of society are cajoled, conned, pushed and forced into wearing compliance.

No shirt, no shoes, no service.

Quote: “The United States alone bought nearly seven pairs of shoes a person in 2016. What a ridiculous society we live in! We buy our way into extinction, keeping our fellow humans in slavery through the process.”
Burn Your Nikes?

Nick Pemberton says don’t burn your Nikes, boycott them instead.

Burn Your Nikes? How About Boycott Them Instead

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“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country”

— Donald Trump

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt”

— Colin Kaepernick

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

— Malcolm X

Nike’s catchphrase “Just Do It” was inspired by murderer Gary Gilmore’s famous last words. Nike has been a bloodbath ever since. In the 1990s, there was real pressure on Nike to change their nightmarish working conditions. Those were the days when we cared about slavery.  Nike cleaned up its image and not much else. Since then they have been peddling apparel without consequence, save a few brave protestors.

Nike appeared to have changed its course to some degree, but recent findings tell a different story. in 2016 Nike denied the Worker Rights Consortium access to 690 supplier factories says labornotes.org. The 2018 documentary Behind The Swoosh details the sickening conditions. Piled together in cement boxes infested with rats, surrounded by sewers, workers tried to survive on 1.25$ a day. Jim Keady, former coach of St. John’s soccer, says he lost 25 pounds working in Indonesia on Nike’s wages.

Workers end up working overtime to compensate, never seeing their children. These children soon go into sweatshops at a young age themselves. The full cycle hits in Behind The Swoosh when we see the piles of Nike shoes brought from overseas and dumped for burning. The toxins burned in these shoes give the children cancer.

Resistance (I hesitate to even use that word anymore) to Nike is handled by the mafia bosses, according to the documentary. When Keady and Leslie Kretzu tried to get near a Nike factory they were surrounded by security. They then were followed by factory security, who were highly linked to the local mafia. Keady and Kretzu met with a local organizer Dita Sari who was put in prison and tortured for her union organizing.

There is no way to describe Nike’s working conditions other than modern day slavery.Workers work all day, breaking their backs and numbing their fingers. Some figures estimates that 250 million children under 15 work in sweatshops today. If one tries to organize, they are silenced with force. One has to wonder what is greater, the hunger or the hopelessness?

In the age of climate change, water evaporates and heat is extreme. Workers in sweatshops can work for 100 hours a week. Sometimes one can’t sleep for days. This never makes the news. Meanwhile Americans buy and buy. Materialism is the undiagnosed disease that uproots our souls and replaces them with possessions. Achieving material gains and rising in social status eclipses any capacity for empathy we have for the unseen.

Nike is not alone. The clothing, shoes and retail industry is amongst the most brutal in the world. They primarily target poor girls to do their bidding. Workers face tremendous amounts of abuse and wage theft and have little power to stop it. These industries are amongst the most environmentally heinous as well. From animal skin to fossil fuel to coal to waste to dangerous chemicals, the shoe industry wreaks havoc.  The United States alone bought nearly seven pairs of shoes a person in 2016. What a ridiculous society we live in! We buy our way into extinction, keeping our fellow humans in slavery through the process.

Like war, slavery has become so normalized it is barely a story anymore. We (this author sadly included) are most likely to think of slavery when it intersects when one of our rich and famous household names in the endless petty culture wars that postures as American politics. Colin Kaepernick may be my second favorite spokesperson for Nike (after the greatest athlete of all time, Serena Williams). Yet one has to be disappointed in Kaepernick’s latest ad campaign for Nike.

While Nike workers make a dollar a day, Kaepernick is raking in millions for his endorsement deal.  Kaepernick has exposed police violence at home but the war on the working class remains invisible. As soon as supporting the man became trendy, the slaveholder Nike touted him as inspirational. The brand became taking a stand (or a knee). But who will take a stand against the liberal slavery industrial complex?

It is possible to have a left critique of Black Lives Matter, a movement Kaepernick is often linked with. Bruce Dixon writes it better than I can here.  I’ll just say it is hard to imagine Malcolm X appearing in a Nike ad. Malcolm X would surely link police violence at home with slave labor and imperialist violence abroad. Above all, Malcolm was a curious and open-minded internationalist. In the age of Trump an uncompromising working class figure like Malcolm has never been more necessary. A giant like Malcolm reminds us that there was a time when souls mattered more than soles.

The liberal resistance was once again blind to real world politics in the age of Trump-like sensationalism. How many fools pledged their support for this organization that has more buried more harassments than #MeToo has even brought to light? How many suckers concerned about Barack Obama’s legacy turned away from brown children who are starving, enslaved and infested with cancer? How many people complaining about ignorant climate deniers went ahead and endorsed an environmental disgrace? The outpouring of support for Nike was just as sick as the John McCain procession just a week earlier. Could no one see through the liberal propaganda that offered trendy symbolism with one hand and slave labor on the other?

Heroes are hard to come by in the age of Trump, and one can see why people are tempted to tip their caps to Kap. The paranoia that the ex-NFL star inspires in Mr. Trump and his rabid supporters is impressive. They hilariously began burning their Nikes after Kaepernick appeared in a commercial for Nike. Note that Nike’s slave labor and environmental destruction did not move these people an inch.

Now what exactly will these Trump supporters be thinking of Nike? Are they just another globalist institution pedaling transgenderism, science and vaccines for all? Is Nike on the wrong side of the Qanon wars? Perhaps they were upset by the fact that Nike’s sweatshops contained more female workers than male workers, surely believing that the abuse by their bosses was consensual, their courage to stand up to them a witch hunt, and the lack of male workers a serious plot in the campaign to castrate all men vis-a-vis the lasers on Hillary’s pantsuit? Or perhaps it was the multiculturalism poured into each shoe by this equal opportunity employer who mysteriously ran most of its shady business out of black and brown countries? Why do they make you take off your shoes at airport security anyways? Is it because the shoes are Muslim?

Where does one start with the layers of contradiction? The anger against products made in China only comes when a “veteran-killing terrorist”a.k.a. an educated black man is endorsed by Nike. Does burning the Nike shoe, made in China, constitute less of a crime than burning an American flag, made in China? How about burning a MAGA hat, made in China? What kind of snob are you if you don’t give a hoot about child slavery and only become concerned with “elitism” after your least favorite football player appears in a commercial? Who burns their 120$ shoes as a protest against elitism anyways? Across the world, burning these shoes isn’t cool, it’s cancer inducing.

Those looking to explain away Trumpism through a backlash against globalism, elitism, liberalism, etc. may be on to something. But when Trump targets globalism he targets diversity, not slave labor. When Trump targets elitism he targets education and free thinking, not the 1%. When Trump targets liberalism, he is not taking on the Democrats from the left, he is challenging the notion of a pluralistic multiethnic society with women as equal citizens.

Perhaps once and for all Trumpism can be exposed for what is truly is. A movement whose only depth is the return of the white male ethos and whose only breadth is a coalition amongst the most angry, privileged and reactionary characters in today’s grim political landscape.

Trump and his fans once again whine about something legitimate, but for all the wrong reasons. They stumble upon the reality of the world only when it touches their fragile egos. They remain too ignorant and self-absorbed to know about anything else. Then again we all allow and endorse slavery from companies like Nike everyday, no matter who is in power.

For a moment let us dwell on the fact that a real, devastating, and hopeless pain is upon our sisters and brothers in sweatshops across the world. Are we this numb to the world’s most cruel condition of slave labor? The left may want to blame this all on capitalism, the liberals may want to blame this all on fascism and the Trumpettes may want to blame this all on liberalism. Above all we should agree that slavery in all forms is a cruel and unnecessary condition and that stopping it is urgent. So the next time one buys their shoes, just avoid a sweatshop. It’s not that hard. Here are some options to start. Many more options are available online or locally.

Boycott Nike. Just Do It.

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It’s a Wonderful World (isn’t it?)

“I see trees of green – Red roses too – I see em bloom – For me and for you
And I think to myself…. What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue – Clouds of white – Bright blessed days – Dark sacred nights
And I think to myself….. What a wonderful world.

The colors of a rainbow – So pretty – In the sky – Are also on the faces – Of people – Going by – I see friends shaking hands – Sayin – How do you do – They’re really sayin – I love you.

I hear babies cry – I watch them grow – They’ll learn much more – Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself – What a wonderful world…”

… and I think to myself… what have you been snorting, or sniffing?

I just finished my day’s work, and scanning through a hundred emails, you know, looking for  whatever might stir my imagination. Well, imagine my surprise to find messages about Donald Trump, anthropological climate change, Canada sending “training” troops to Iraq; Venezuela on the verge of being invaded by the US for daring to choose a national path rather than one dictated by Washington… then stuff on Brexit and more trade wars. All in all, it’s a Wonderful World, isn’t it?

“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” – yeah, heard that one a time or two. And if that’s the case, we’re about to see a lot of light coming through in the coming years.

I’m relaxing with a glass of white wine and some munchies, watching the movie, “Last Love”. The complaint about that movie was, it’s too dragged out; too slow, but I don’t find it so. Does everything have to happen in a panic? Do we always have to be speeding down that road to arrive nowhere? What’s the rush?

I’m thinking, not that it’s such a wonderful world, but that we, as a species, collectively and subconsciously, are facing a mass extinction event and perhaps, also subconsciously, because of one, huge, unavoidable and massive collective sense of guilt, just want to get it over with. Maybe we don’t want to see our grand children, and great grand children, die in horrible circumstances, in conditions that never need to have come about had we chosen not to listen to demagogues of bullshit; had we chosen not to feed our Earthian hubris, greed, sense of entitlement, opportunism, bigotry, and the standard stance I’d label as rank stupidity. So, instead of doing something really “real” to change the direction this society is tumbling in, let’s just take that fast lane to nowhere so as not to have time to think about real and serious alternatives.

It should come as no surprise if I wrote here that having a nice house, a hot tub, a barbecue, is really more important to most people than the future of their progeny. “Après moi, le déluge!” To hell with the future, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow, we die.

I’ve been observing the people who talk a good game about climate change and other possibly catastrophic developments for the planet, and guess what? Sure people talk a good game but how many seriously change their lifestyle, their expectations, to show how legitimate their concerns are? How many change the way they think about a corrupt and dying system? What I see is people desperate to hang on to the bit of pretend stability this bloody system is giving them.

How would one honestly answer those charges? An important question because ultimately, you realize, it won’t be the Trumps of this world who will make the real difference when it comes crashing down, it will be the, let’s see what could one call them, that silent uncaring majority of sheeple, of unwashed masses, of deplorables, the 99% who insist on blaming “the rich” and “the elites” for the sad state of the planet while going on emulating them in every possible little ugly way.

Let me reiterate this: if blame is to be attached to one group of people for the sad state of this world, let it be put on the shoulders of those who deserve it: all, except the leaders, elites, rich, bosses, rulers or whatever. They don’t matter; they don’t make the final decisions; they aren’t the ones condemning your grand children to poverty, famine and early death from wars and a collapsing ecosystem. They don’t fight the wars, remember? You do! They don’t even make shit and they don’t consume it, you do. They make laws and don’t live by them, you do. Pathetic, isn’t it? 99% of a population of intelligent sentience lets itself be destroyed by an ignorant, subhuman one percentile clique. Indeed, how pathetic is that?

“About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship had sunk, and she murmured, dreamily, half asleep, how we perished, each alone. — Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.”