Archive for Gordon Solberg

No compromise with their separate reality

By Gordon Solberg

The “Obama Renaissance” of the Democratic Party didn’t last long, did it? Dozens of interlocking factors contributed to the recent Republican resurgence. Here are a few of them:

• The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision which allows the billionaires and their corporations to buy any and all elections. Democracy as we once knew it is over unless this is changed.

• The corporate media, owned by billionaires, which ignores whatever it wants to ignore, and supports whatever enhances the power of the ruling class.

• A totally obstructionist Republican Party, which prevented an economic recovery solely to enhance their own political power.

• A timid and collaborationist president and his Conserva-Dem allies, who would prefer working with Republicans than liberals.

• The Republicans have always had a far superior propaganda machine. For one thing, they actually have a message to promote (bullshit though it may be), while the Dems, as usual, depend on the corporate media to get their message out, and are unable to effectively articulate their side of the argument – probably because most Dems, starting with Obama, are actually stealth Republicans.

• Hate, hate, hate! Fear, fear, fear! Fox News and the hate jocks: Beck, Limbaugh, and all the rest. Every Podunk little town with a radio station has its own personal hate jock. The strategy here is to poison the discourse. Keep people confused, distracted, and fearful. Eliminate any possibility of idealism. Destroy whatever remains of the civilization we once knew.

What I find most fascinating is the “separate reality” the right-wing manipulators have created for their followers. Within this reality facts are optional, the cerebral cortex is short-circuited, and the lizard brain takes control. Liberals seem incapable of creating messages that speak directly to the brain stem the way that conservatives do. Our intellectual policy wonk discussions cause conservative eyes to glaze over.

The basis for the conservative philosophy, as exemplified by the teabaggers and bankrolled by the billionaires, is fundamentalist Christianity. This curious religion, with its peculiarly Old Testament emphasis, is a faith-based worldview. Faith means “belief without evidence.” There’s no need for logic, facts, or evidence within this worldview. Circular reasoning, or no reasoning at all, is typical. Christians know the truth, and there’s no need for further discussion. “You’re either with us or against us.” It’s a self-contained system that brooks no compromise.

This faith-based worldview supplants science, as the new Republican majority in Congress is about to show us. Take climate catastrophe, for example. In essence, the conservatives are saying, “We don’t believe in global warming. Therefore, global warming doesn’t exist.” Talk about circular reasoning! Pretty slick, eh? But unfortunately, global warming does exist, like it or not, and is rapidly getting worse. The conservative attitude is unspeakably arrogant, and will create tragic consequences for us all.

You can’t reason with people like this, because facts and reason play no role in their thought processes. Compromise is useless. All we can do is put all our energies into building up our side, and hope that our side prevails.

But is there really an “our side”? It looks to me that liberalism represents more a style of consumerism than a sustainable culture. Perhaps on a mental level we share similar ideologies, but in actuality, we’re just a bunch of consumers, pitifully unorganized for the most part, living our isolated lives and guarding, as best we can, our small share of the loot. I first noticed this phenomenon several decades ago, when there was a lot of talk about “community.” I realized that mouthing the words didn’t change anything: I was still totally on my own, and it was up to me to create whatever life I was capable of creating. I couldn’t depend on anybody else.

Perhaps this is why I have never taken liberals as individuals, or liberalism in general, as seriously as I might have preferred. I think liberals, by and large, are intelligent enough to create a measure of health, wealth and happiness for themselves; more power to them. They have achieved a certain level of satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong with this, but liberals, like all successful people, have a lot to lose, and are understandably cautious. They aren’t nearly desperate enough to actually risk anything, and thus the status quo continues.

Not surprisingly, a timid electorate elected a timid president. Those of us who knowingly voted for “the lesser of two evils” sure got our comeuppance, didn’t we? Even though we knew that we’d get screwed either way, Obama’s lack of leadership is more than most of us had expected. Sometimes we’ve got to fight for what we believe in, but Obama doesn’t seem to believe in much, except for protecting the ruling class. If we don’t fight for our own interests, we will soon end up with “shared sacrifice” being imposed on everybody but the wealthy. And let’s not forget the three-step process the ruling class has in store for us: fascism, serfdom, dieoff. We’ve already got fascism, and they’re busily working on the serfdom part. Dieoff will take care of itself. The Republicans and their billionaire overlords are not our friends, and there can be no compromise with them. And we can no longer support the compromisers – which means you, Dems.

The church-going fundamentalists have the advantage of a cohesive shared worldview that is reinforced every week when they go to church, and at all other times by their secular prophets such as Beck and Limbaugh. Liberals, in their diversity, tend to have a live-and-let-live attitude, which often translates into “whatever.”  But you can’t do much with such vagueness. Except, perhaps, to elect tepid politicians who will betray us at every turn.

Turning the fundamentalists into a disciplined political fighting machine was a brilliant strategy on the part of the ruling class. This isn’t surprising, because the billionaires can hire the best minds that money can buy to map out the most effective strategy for them. (The Democratic Party, on the other hand, systematically ignores the excellent advice that is constantly being offered to them for free on the Internet.)

We are now suffering from an unholy alliance between the fundamentalists, who will believe anything their authority figures tell them to believe, and the billionaires, who have unlimited resources which they have already used to purchase Congress, government policy, the news media, and every other lever of power that can be bought. The fundies and the billionaires have one goal in common: total dominion. “Enough” is not part of their vocabulary. At the point where we would expect sane people to say “enough is enough,” they cry, “More, more, more!”

In other words, they want it all, and they won’t stop until they get it. Unless they’re stopped, that is. The billionaires and their enablers are the most formidable adversary we have ever faced, but at least the fundamentalist philosophy contains the seeds of its own repudiation. Fundamentalism, at its core, is a harsh philosophy based on fear: fear of a supposedly all-loving, all-merciful Jehovah God who, in his compassionate vengeance, will send you straight to everlasting damnation and torment in Hell if you don’t profess the right ideology. This destructive, ancient belief system is already being slowly expunged from our culture. The demographics aren’t in their favor, which is why they are trying so desperately to take over while they still can. We can never compromise with such madness.

You will notice a theme developing here: No Compromise. Some of us actually feel the need to stand for something, starting with No Compromise. This is the opposite of Obama’s habit of collaborating with the enemy behind closed doors.  Many progressives have already repudiated Obama and the Dems, but the time isn’t quite ripe for this to go viral. Dem voters won’t really start to wake up until after the lame duck session is over and they see what the Dems did about Social Security and tax cuts for the wealthy and the Catfood Commission recommendations. The Dems will almost certainly continue their flagrant sellout as they squander the last days of their so-called majority. It will be a relief to them not being in the driver’s seat anymore. (Although the billionaires have been calling the shots all along.)

I read widely on the Internet. I read hundreds of articles for every article I write myself. I’m curious to see what other progressive-types are thinking. I’m assuming that if anybody figures out what to do – something that will really work – the strategy will quickly spread. I’m seeing mostly the same old stuff: “Elect more and better Dems.” “Vote Third Party.” “Start community gardens.” “Organize!” But recently I’ve been noticing an uptick in the outrage level. A certain percentage of Dem voters are tired of being betrayed by their so-called representatives. They’re getting pissed. They’re starting to revolt. And in their cautious American way, they’re revolting by doing nothing, which means not voting. This revolution has already started, and just wait till 2012.

Here’s one thing we can count on: The worse the objective situation, the worse the delusion level will become. We will be seeing some amazing new outbreaks of mass insanity as this situation grinds along. Let’s not overestimate the intelligence of the American people in the face of our challenging new reality: More Americans believe in angels than in evolution. As the tectonic plate of superstition (which held the world in darkness for millennia) collides with the tectonic plate of reason (which makes civilization possible), there will be many surprises in store. This will keep things very interesting for the remainder of our sojourn on this planet.

(My blog has a new address: http://newearthtimes2.blogspot.com )

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Life in the Undergrowth


By Gordon Solberg

Laura and I have been fans of the BBC nature documentaries ever since we watched the “Planet Earth” series a couple of years ago.  The BBC is spending big bucks sending film crews across the planet, evidently with the philosophy of documenting pre-dieoff Nature before it dies off.  The BBC film artists use the latest high-tech techniques, such as aerial photography with motion-canceling hardware to prevent vibration, or time-lapse photography to reveal slow-moving animal and plant behavior.  The camera people are famous for sitting in an uncomfortable blind for a month until they get that shot of the rare snow leopard or whatever.  The BBC has definitely taken the art of nature photography to the next level.

The “Life in the Undergrowth” series — narrated by everybody’s favorite dotty old uncle, David Attenborough — utilizes colonoscopy-type hardware to penetrate the mysteries of insect life underground.  Inserting miniature cameras with fiber-optic cables into the insects’ burrows, they have uncovered some astounding aspects of insect behavior, and I have the sense that there’s an infinite amount yet to be discovered.  I’m impressed by the naturalists who have patiently watched these insects long enough, and consistently enough, to figure out what they’re really doing.

What the naturalists have discovered is a miniature world of amazing complexity and elegance.  I can’t help feeling that there’s some kind of INTENT behind it all, that mere chance can’t explain how all this came to be.  Many times while watching the series I would blurt out, “How’d they come up with THAT behavior?” or “Who invented THAT?”

Here’s a favorite example:  There’s a type of blister beetle that lives in the desert.  When the babies hatch out of their eggs and leave the nest, there’s nothing for them to eat.  What are they supposed to do?  Well, hundreds of them climb together to the top of a plant stalk and form a tight cluster.  Then they emit the smell of a female bumblebee.  At first glance, the cluster of blister beetles looks and smells like a female bee.  A male bumblebee bumbles along, finds the ball of tiny blister beetles, and attempts to mate with it.  Hah, fooled you!  Many of the blister beetles manage to climb onto the male bee as he attempts to mate.  When he finally finds a real female bee to mate with, the blister beetles climb onto her, and are transported to her nest, which is full of pollen and bumblebee larvae.  Snug in their new home, the baby blister beetles eat all the pollen, and then the bee larvae as well.  Finally, fully grown, they emerge onto the surface yet again, to mate with each other and perpetuate their species.

When you consider that there must be thousands of examples of insect behavior every bit as  cunning as that, it gives one pause.  Clearly, human consciousness has a narrow, survival-focused orientation, and has trouble comprehending anything other than the most superficial aspects of the animal world (or the rest of reality, for that matter).  Oftentimes throughout the various BBC documentaries I’ve watched, the narrator reveals an anthropomorphism that is irrelevant and doesn’t actually exist except within his own imagination.  For example, predators aren’t the “enemies” of the prey.  There’s no “desperate search for survival” going on.  The natural world exists within a serenity (no matter how violent it may seem) that most humans have simply lost touch with.  Actually, we humans should drop all concepts including “serenity” and realize that there is an amazing elegance to it-all that should perhaps inspire us to shut up and let the awe take over.  A little awe never hurt anybody.

Part of the human problem is that our senses, and therefore our understanding, are more limited than we realize.  We are mere apes with a brain mutation, and are overwhelmed by the noise of our out-of-control mentalizing.  Traditionally, humans have postulated a God “out there” who waves his magic wand and makes it all happen.  More recently, some humans, whom we call scientists, have postulated the theory of evolution, which is true enough as a mechanism, but comes up short in the “how could this possibly be” department.

The situation seems clear enough:  Our human senses, and our physical instruments, are simply incapable of perceiving the vast majority of existence.  We are nearly blind and don’t know it.  We have fought our way to the top of the food chain and there’s nothing left to stop us.  We lay waste to whatever we touch.  We consider ourselves to be outside of Nature, superior to Nature.  Such delusions cannot stand, not in the long run, as the imminent destruction of the biosphere is about to reveal.  Some of us realize what is happening, in our vague human way, yet our understanding remains locked within the intellect, and our behavior doesn’t change.  I don’t see any solution to our predicament, and I don’t think anybody else does, either.

In the meantime, these BBC documentaries will allow future generations, if any, to witness the natural world as it once was.  This is such an amazing world of interlocking elegance, it’s a pity we’re so busy destroying it.  But there I go, anthropomorphising again.

Gordon Solberg’s new, improved New Earth Times blog has a new address: http://newearthtimes2.blogspot.com .  He also has a southwestern-oriented blog, Dry Country News:  http://realdrycountrynews.blogspot.com .

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Coping With Copenhagen

By Gordon Solberg

As expected, the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)

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Serving two masters turns Democrats into confusion-mongers

By Gordon Solberg

I’ve been an observer of politics since junior high school. (Does anybody remember Jack Redman’s run for Congress in 1962?) To me, politics has been the ultimate spectator sport. Like sports, there are winners and losers, with the added thrill that the winners get power in the real world. It’s a compelling spectacle, but lately it’s started to pall for me. I get tired of watching the idiots on Mount Olympus screwing things up. It’s like watching a really bad reality TV series. When you already know how the series is going to turn out, why bother watching?

The Bush era was easy to scope out. The plot line was simple. The Republicans are always cartoonish in their venality, so we always know exactly what to expect from them. When they’re in power, they’ll cram their agenda right down our collective throat, no nonsense. And the Dems will whimper and ask for more. Makes me glad I’m not a Democrat.

Now that the Democrats are supposedly in power, the situation is far more complex. Anything the Dems do is pre-compromised and so convoluted that only a policy wonk can follow the ever-changing twists and turns of a piece of legislation as it makes its tortuous way through the legislative meat grinder. The Dems will jab and feint and dither and flip and flop until you’re totally confused. What do they stand for, again? Oh right, they’re trying to serve two masters: the people who elected them, and the corporations that fund them. Hmmm, they must ask, how to serve the corporations while keeping the people as confused as possible? Maybe incomprehensible legislation will put people to sleep? Maybe sending diametrically opposite messages will keep people confused? And, how about convincing people that instead of insisting on half a loaf, they should just sit back and enjoy the smell of baking bread instead? There are so many options for the clever confusion-monger!

It doesn’t matter what the issue is – health care “reform,” financial system “reform,” climate change legislation, whatever. The end product is a 1000-page piece of legalese that, when you read it under a microscope to parse its true meaning, turns out to actually make things worse. Our 233-year-old experiment in representative government hasn’t turned out very well.

***

The Internet is full of fabulous writers, and just look at the impact they’re having out there in the larger world! (Which just goes to show that if you want to be a major player, you’ve got to get on national TV. Writing is so 18th century.) At any rate, here are a few of my favorites:

Matt Taibbi. Writes for Rolling Stone and has a blog. I appreciate his insight and take-no-prisoners writing style. http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi

Digby. She posts several times a day on her blog. Her insights into Congress, the press, and all kinds of sociodynamics are unparalleled. http://digbysblog.blogspot.com

Joe Bageant. Born a redneck, and offers a lot of insights into redneck culture and why rednecks vote Republican. http://joebageant.com

James Howard Kunstler. I look forward to his weekly dose of doom-and-gloom every Monday morning. He’s a very entertaining writer, considering his subject matter. http://kunstler.com

Ilargi and Stoneleigh put out a financial blog, The Automatic Earth. They post more financial information than I can assimilate, but I always enjoy Ilargi’s commentary. If you ever find yourself believing the good news propaganda about the economy, try this blog for an antidote. http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com

And of course my own blog. I try to go easy on the political and doom-and-gloom stuff, but sometimes I have no choice. I prefer to post pretty pictures, homestead happenings, signs of the seasons, and other positive reflections of life. It’s still a good life, despite the catastrophes on their way. http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com

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White Guys in Suits

By Gordon Solberg
I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately. I’ve never been one to live in the past, which is why I always have my projects to carry me forward. But lately there’s been this NMSU grad student who’s doing his master’s thesis on the 60s “unrest” at NMSU, of which I was a key player. So he’s been asking me questions, and my brain has been stimulated to think about that era and its aftermath.

You know me: I like to immediately jump to whatever conclusion I’m capable of jumping to. In this case, the conclusion is this: the white guys in suits won. The 60s were just an asterisk, if that. We’re about to enter a time in which the 60s will be forgotten. I’m sorry if I’m disabusing anybody from their final shred of hope here, but facts are facts. There was never any doubt all along about who would win.

Americans have always been so easy, thinking they’re free and all. They are so easy to control. All one has to do is muddy the waters, keep the fear level up, divide and conquer, and Americans (for the most part) will believe whatever they’re told by their authority figures. Who just happen to be – surprise! – white guys in suits. As for the ones who see through the lies? So what? Exactly what are they going to do about it? Rise up or something? Don’t make me laugh.

Or, make me laugh! Why not? Ha ha!

As you may have noticed, the white guys in suits have been consolidating their power during the past 30 years. It began with Reagan, who cut taxes on the wealthy (who happen to be white guys in suits), and got rid of those pesky regulations on corporations (which are run by white guys in suits). As you also may have noticed, that really was a coup d’etat in 2000. The aftermath from that one will probably last forever. The Bush Administration’s parting gift was the “financial crisis of 2008” which allowed them to use the shock doctrine to start draining the remaining loot from the Treasury. (This will take awhile because the Federal Reserve (which runs the Treasury Dept.) can always create an unlimited supply of new money, as if by magic!) I use ironic quotes around “financial crisis” because, seriously, who told us that the economy was only microseconds from collapse unless heroic measures were taken? Oh, that’s right: white guys in suits!

Now, we have definitive information that the global climate is mere decades away from an irreversible tipping point. (Actually, we are already beyond the tipping point, but we’re still within the final days of the “era of stability” in which our species evolved.) What are now trends will soon become the new reality, and we will find that our species programming is even more pitifully inadequate than it already is. And who was it who sowed doubt and confusion about global warming during the critical 70s and 80s and 90s, and who are still doing it today? You know who!

What if we had won, and not the white guys in suits? What if? It never hurts to fantasize, does it? What if we had actually created a counterculture strong enough to withstand the insane mainstream culture? For one thing, “sustainability” would now be more than a punchline. Energy use would be much less. Pollution would be much less. Recycling would be the rule. Landfills would be much smaller. People would sing and dance a lot more. Let me dig into the archives and find just the right quote from myself:

“This country needs a radically new commitment to the concept of wise government. Our corrupt, winner-take-all, lowest-common-denominator political system is simply not working, and needs to be replaced. We desperately need some wisdom from our “leaders,” not more sleaze. A few starter programs for a wise government would include a new emphasis on alternative energy production, energy conservation, population control, and holistic health care. These programs would save billions of dollars every year in the long run, and in the short run they could be subsidized by diverting funds from the more ridiculous military weapons programs and other forms of corporate welfare.

“On an individual level, we need more gardens and orchards, a more natural diet (that’s what gardens and orchards are for!), more exercise, less television, more fresh air, less toxic exhaust fumes, more bird songs, less traffic, more bicycle paths, more solar energy, more stars, more silence, more time to recollect ourselves, and more interpersonal sharing that goes beyond the bright superficial chatter typical of today’s shallow mega-culture. We need less manufactured soul-shriveling “entertainment” and more of the primal community-building boogie that is our sacred God-given birthright — making music, singing, dancing, drumming. Making a joyful noise. Shelling peas together. Digging dirt. Smelling roses. Walking in the forest or the desert. Picking apples. Pulling weeds. Fulfilling our true needs.”

I wrote that in 1997. How did it turn out? Is 12 years enough to tell? Do we need more time to make a final determination? As you can see, this country – as always – has been running at full speed in exactly the wrong direction all these years. Why? Because the white guys in suits determine the trajectory, not idealistic bloggers sitting at their keyboards in the predawn hours.

Dawn! There’s that word again! The word that triggers what’s now known as “the final paragraph” when I slowly insert myself back into the workaday world!

I find it useful to face up to reality and dispense with false hope. There’s something to be learned from all this. Something about death, and acceptance. Something that ties in to Matthew 6:19-21: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” “Heaven” is right here, right now, not in some imagined “place” you “go to” after you die.

Yes, I want to write my opus, which will probably be 100 words long, and sum it all up: birth, death, meaning, chaos, whatever. Till then, I’ll just meander along here, like a slug in a garden, leaving a slime trail for you to follow.

Read all of Gordon Solberg’s blogs at www.newearthtimes.blogspot.com

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The stranglehold of the status quo: The breakdown begins


By Gordon Solberg

I haven’t said anything about Barack Obama in these pages [GP print edition] since the January-February issue, when I said: “Obama is an agent of the Empire; otherwise he would never have gotten this far. He’ll be bold, but only up to a point… His ‘bipartisan’ strategy is guaranteed to limit meaningful change; the Dems seem to have spinelessness embedded into their DNA; and the Republicans are always master obstructionists. It will be a fascinating spectacle to watch, that’s for sure.”

Speaking of fascinating spectacles, this past summer was really something, wasn’t it? The sour smell of revolution is in the air; you can almost taste the madness. Sales of guns and ammo are at an all-time high. The lunatic fringe gets all the TV time it wants, while progressives and other members of the sober-minded demographic are routinely ignored by the corporate media. Unruly mobs shout down the “libruls” at town hall meetings. Assault rifles are flaunted outside presidential gatherings. Ridiculous lies, spread by hate radio and TV, go unanswered. Liberal socialist fascist communist Obama, manifestation of all things black and evil, receives 30 death threats every day. Our country has always featured a healthy helping of craziness, but this past summer the mentally and morally deficient, with the amplification of the corporate media, have managed to set the tone for the entire country. Such a delicious, sick-to-the-stomach irony this all is – the entire planet is literally dying as we speak, yet the only response seems to be idiocy compounded upon idiocy. And we can rest assured that this is only the beginning.

In response, Obama and the Dems have been playing to lose. (The technical term for their behavior is “lame-ass.”) Is this intentional? Or even worse, are they really so clueless that they don’t know how to respond to the bullshit being pumped down on us from on high? They remind me of a basketball team that’s been bribed to blow the big game. When they should be going in for the kill, they inexplicably hold back. They miss the critical free throws. They flub the easy layups. They make stupid turnovers. The crowd grows silent as time expires. How could a team that was leading by 30 points at the half end up losing the game?

But that’s what happens when we’re reduced to always voting for the lesser of two evils. And make no mistake: if there was ever a lesser of two evils, it’s Barack Obama. He’s cautious, conciliatory, and utterly conventional – which is to say, uncreative. Our dire situation cries out for creative solutions, but all Obama provides are the same tired old tricks that only make things worse. Under Obama, we’ve got Wall Street running the Treasury Department, deficits even more astronomical than those Bush created, a quagmire in Afghanistan, and no meaningful action on the energy shortages and climate catastrophes that will be destroying our civilization before long. And this is just the short list. Obama simply isn’t up to the task. He’s just a standard-brand politician, whose only selling point was his electability. I do like his family, their garden and beehives. They’re way cool people, but so what? At the end of the day, Obama is just a figurehead, like any other President, and the Congress he has to work with has already been bought and paid for. Once again, we’ve been sold a dog and pony show instead of the change we thought we could believe in.

It all goes to show you: when we vote for the lesser of two evils, we still get screwed. Maybe not screwed quite as bad, but we’re still screwed. And on the national level, voting for the lesser of two evils is all that’s allowed by the powers-that-be. They win either way. Isn’t American-style “democracy” wonderful? I can hardly wait to make my next campaign contribution!

The important thing to remember about the health care “debate” is that our most important bargaining chip – single payer – was never allowed on the table. Single payer is an elegant solution because it would remove the parasitical insurance industry from the equation, resulting in enormous cost savings and liberation from one of the most oppressive institutions in our country. (The private insurance industry is far more oppressive than the government.) But doing away with the insurance industry would be a revolutionary act – far more revolutionary than the attack of any wingnut assault rifle brigade – and as such is simply not allowed by our oligarchy. “Too bad about single payer, kids,” they say, patting us condescendingly on the head, “but we have this bright shiny new public option that maybe… just maybe… we can bestow upon you if you work hard enough.”

The trouble is, the “public option” we’ve been working for all these months is just a shadow of what we think it is. It’s too small and feeble to be any kind of replacement for single payer. We’ve been baited and switched yet again. The only sure thing is the mandate, which will at long last force healthy young Americans to buy health insurance they don’t really need. What a financial bonanza for the insurance companies! Our politicians are nothing if not slick. They advise us to accept “half a loaf,” but we’ll end up with just a slice, or maybe a crust. But the situation is still in flux, Obama can give a great speech, and it remains to be seen how all this turns out.

Americans are such a credulous lot for the most part. So many Americans will believe anything that’s marketed slickly enough. I need to write a column outlining the origins of American credulity: Christianity, American exceptionalism, Hollywood fantasy, the commodification of information, corporate-based “news” as entertainment… there are many factors which contribute to America’s la-la orientation.

There’s the old saying, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.” Evidently, a critical mass of Americans aren’t capable of making the deduction that a duck is really a duck. To give a real-world example: an emergency (pick any from the long list available) is really an emergency, not an “opportunity” that we can ignore until a more politically expedient time.

For the most part, Americans insist that a duck is really a golden unicorn, or maybe a bag of tater tots. They insist on viewing reality through a set of pre-programmed fantasy filters. For example, a majority of Americans believe that global warming is no big deal. They also believe that the economy is going to recover! Imagine that! No doubt pigs will be flying soon.

With such a deluded population, it’s no wonder that representative government is failing us. The entire 18th Century paradigm of making intelligent decisions based on Reason is breaking down. In earlier, simpler times representative government worked well enough (though just barely), but now it’s proving unable to even address our problems, much less attempt to actually solve them. Papering things over in a politically realistic way simply doesn’t cut it on a planet whose life-support system is rapidly failing. Barack Obama will be known as the last president of the post-World War II era of prosperity, stability and Earth murder. As for what is to come, we can only see through a glass darkly. The details are murky, but the overall trend is obvious: Big Shit a-coming.

The breakdown has now begun in earnest. The fraying around the edges is cutting closer to the heart. The Republicans are like children playing with hand grenades. The Democrats are fatally compromised by their corporate connections and their inherent conventionality and timidity. The Green Party, which at one time might have provided a measure of intelligence to the proceedings, barely exists anymore. The corporate media –  the de facto propaganda organ for the Empire – successfully keeps the populace pitifully ill-informed. Only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution, and at least 30 percent have lost their grip on reality altogether. The coming crisis will involve far more than the contradictions of the funny-money economy. It will be a perfect storm of overpopulation, resource depletion, economic chaos, pollution, energy scarcity, and climate catastrophe.

I’m inclined to take everything at face value at this point. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A duck is a duck is a duck.” I’m inclined to believe that there’s no particular solution to the “human situation.” The status quo has us all in a death grip. We’re trapped on the same planet together – rich and poor, ants and grasshoppers alike. There are far too many of us, and we’ve created far too much damage to expect to escape lightly. Karma bites. What goes around comes around, and boy howdy will it ever.

(Have a nice day! My blog is still low-key for the most part, with pretty pictures, whimsical captions, homestead happenings, and signs of the seasons. http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com )

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Predicting the Future

By Gordon Solberg

I want to talk briefly about the accurate predictions I made back in 1998.  Making predictions at that point in time was really quite easy.  I was merely using the basic principles of science:  1) Make accurate observations, and 2) draw the logical conclusions from these observations.

In 1998, I felt that I (unlike most Americans) had an accurate understanding of what was really going on, and concluded that nothing fundamental was going to change anytime soon.  Things would get more extreme, to be sure, but the overall dynamic wouldn’t change.  So making predictions back in 1998 was simple:  “More of the same, only worse.”

Things are different now.  The next ten years or so are more difficult to predict.  The powers-that-be might manage to paper things over for awhile, but inevitably we will start experiencing some major discontinuities.  It’s impossible to say exactly what these discontinuities will be, but we can guess that they would probably involve any combination of:  climate catastrophe, total financial breakdown, energy shortages, food shortages, water shortages, terrorist attacks, war, insurrection (probably from right-wing yahoos with machine guns), you name it.  The actual form the discontinuities take isn’t as important as the fact that they will occur at all.  The future from here on out is murky, because it’s difficult or impossible, from our vantage point, to see beyond the discontinuities.

I’m reminded of a black hole.  The surface of a black hole is called an “event horizon,” from which no light, and in fact no information of any kind, can escape.  So… looking into the future, what we see is fuzzy and foggy because of the event horizon(s) in the way.  All we can say is, “whoa baby, big shit gonna happen!”

I’m struck by the utter helplessness of the American people at this point, and how easy it will be to manipulate them when the “big shit” finally hits the fan.  (What we’ve experienced so far is merely the warmup.)  Unlike the Great Depression, when people were still capable of “making do,” modern Americans, living their totally programmed soft lives, have no Plan B.  Everybody, from Obama on down, is waiting for all this to blow over, so that they can return to the artificial prosperity and easy comfort they think they’re entitled to.  After the discontinuities begin,  this attitude will surely change.

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As Usual, They’re Ignoring the Important News

By Gordon Solberg

All we’re hearing about these days is “The Stimulus.”  Speaking of which – our beloved masters of hypocrisy, the Republicans, are now taking credit for the stimulus “pork” that will be flowing into their districts, even though they opposed the stimulus en masse.  You’ve really got to hand it to them:  their chutzpah knows no limits.

But the big news got ignored, as it always does.  This is from Reuters, on Sunday:

Global Warming Seen Worse Than Predicted

The climate is heating up far faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries like China and India, a top climate scientist said on Saturday.

“The consequence of that is we are basically looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we’ve considered seriously,” Chris Field, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Field said “the actual trajectory of climate change is more serious” than any of the climate predictions in the IPCC’s fourth assessment report called “Climate Change 2007.” He said recent climate studies suggested the continued warming of the planet from greenhouse gas emissions could touch off large, destructive wildfires in tropical rain forests and melt permafrost in the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gasses that could raise global temperatures even more.

“There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years,” Field, of Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science, said in a statement.

***

In other words, the runaway greenhouse effect.  I warned about this in the April/May 2007  issue of Grassroots Press:  “When temperatures increase a bit more, and the permafrost starts to melt in a serious way, enormous quantities of CO2 and methane will be released, which will double the percentage of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.  This will cause temperatures to rise even faster, which will release even more greenhouse gases, and so on.  Needless to say, the climatologists are keeping a close eye on this situation.”

So now we have respected climate scientists warning about the runaway greenhouse effect, but the average American is just as likely to believe the lies of the global warming denialists.   As long as the Republicans retain their power to obstruct, and the Dems remained locked within their status quo mindset, the prognosis for effective action remains bleak.  Obama’s stimulus package contains some worthy environmental initiatives, but they don’t go nearly far enough.  If this is the best we can do, then we can kiss our collective ass goodbye.

My blog now has daily eye candy!  http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com

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Stimulus: Geh

By Gordon Solberg

I’m finding myself curiously unengaged with the stimulus drama unfolding in Washington.  I feel like an anthropologist observing tribal behavior on an alien planet.

Several questions come to mind:

Was Obama really so naive as to seriously believe that Republicans would support him in any way?  Or did he have some other agenda?  Will he persist in his “bipartisanship” nonsense, or has he finally learned what we amateurs out here in the sticks already knew?

I finally came up with the correct terminology.  I’ve been experimenting with “aristocracy,” “ruling class,” and “Lords of Finance,” but none of these terms really caught the essence of what I’ve been trying to say.  So from now on (at least for now) I’ll be calling them what they really are:  PARASITES.

A couple of weeks ago I proposed a simple litmus test to help us determine if fundamental, significant change was really happening.  The litmus test is:  Will taxes be raised on the Parasites?  If so, then perhaps there is really hope.  The answer is now in; that didn’t take long!  As expected, the Parasites remain in total control.  They are STILL getting tax cuts!  I’m amazed that they still have any taxes left to cut.

The whole reason for cutting taxes on the Parasites is… I hope you’re ready for this… cutting taxes on the Parasites!  Reducing their tax burden!  Transferring the tax burden from the Parasites onto the rabble!  Nothing more!  All this so-called “stimulus effect,” or, as they used to call it, “trickle-down prosperity,” is mere voodoo, mumbo jumbo, meaningless bullshit.  There is no “trickle-down stimulus effect,” never has been.  “Tax cut” is such a simple slogan; two three-letter words which, through constant repetition, have achieved a religious significance, like saying “Jesus saves” over and over again.  Tax cuts are sacred.

As taxes on the Parasites continue to be cut, we will now be hearing a steady drumbeat of “entitlement reform.”  Which is code for, “screw the rabble.”  There will be (literally) uncounted trillions of dollars for the Parasites, but basic services for the rabble will have to be cut, wouldn’t you know.  Fucking greedy rabble; who the hell do they think they are, anyhow?

Geh.  It’s not a particularly inspiring spectacle.  It makes me weary writing about it.  Personally, I would bleed the Parasites until they weren’t so bloated anymore — pop them like engorged ticks — but that’s not going to happen.

(I’m still plugging away on my blog:  http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com )

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Obama, Hope, and Finding Our Way Out of This Mess

By Gordon Solberg

What a relief! The election was best-case scenario at every level. This was a pleasant change of pace for us shell-shocked veterans of recent electoral wars. Nationally, Obama won a substantial victory – in other words, too substantial to steal. Statewide, New Mexico has become a delightful shade of blue – both of our senators and all three representatives are now Democrats. And in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County, Democrats swept every contested race. Now the real work begins – ensuring that the Dems don’t resume their usual spineless capitulator routine. Unfortunately, some would say they’ve already started caving. Yo Dems, we voted for CHANGE, not more of the same!

I wonder what the white racists think while they’re standing in line at Wal-Mart, surrounded by the smiling, happy faces of the Obama family on every magazine and tabloid cover. The older racists will never change, but their children and grandchildren are now growing up in a world filled with black role models. The demographic wind is at our backs – this is becoming an increasingly nonwhite country, and young people voted for Obama 2-1. It’s just a matter of time till the balance of power shifts permanently. But I wonder if there’ll be anything left by the time the old white men in suits finally lose their grip on power.

I hope there’s more to Obama’s “hope” routine than mere rhetoric. Obama is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime transformational figure, and as such – to phrase it delicately – won’t be with us forever. We don’t want to depend on the charisma of a single individual. I wonder what we, out here in the cheap seats, can do to create a positive vibe to replace the paralysis that has gripped our country for far too long. I find myself asking a lot of questions these days because the answers aren’t obvious yet. Everything is still preliminary and unformed, although it looks like the Obama administration will be “status quo lite.” At least the president will be able to speak his nuanced policy positions in complete sentences.

Obama probably ran the most intelligent, tightly-managed campaign in American history. After eight years of a corrupt dumbass president, a majority of Americans were eager for change, donating unprecedented amounts of money and countless volunteer hours getting out the vote. Barack, Michelle and their two girls are obvious incarnations of higher consciousness – which is to say, they are positive, intelligent people. Obama possessed an astounding equanimity throughout the campaign. He was unflappable, a veritable Rock of Gibraltar, and earned the nickname, “No Drama Obama.”

McCain and Palin, by contrast… my fingers grow numb at the thought, and recoil from typing about them; I’ll have to use my teeth: McCain and Palin ran the lamest, most incompetent, lying-est, nastiest, sleaziest, flip-flopping-est campaign of our lifetime. They were the successors to the most unpopular president in American history (who also happened to be a Republican), who got us into a needless travesty of a war, who wrecked the economy, who condoned torture, who trashed the Constitution, who turned his country into an embarrassment for anybody more intelligent than a loaf of bread… and after all was said and done, despite everything, McCain still captured 46 percent of the popular vote. Which in my mind is almost half. Nearly half of the electorate quite specifically rejected Obama’s message of conciliation and hope. Obviously, there’s something terribly wrong with this country, but we already knew that. This election merely sharpened the focus to an excruciating level of detail.

Fundamentalist Christians have a series of novels, the “Left Behind” series, in which the True Believers are Raptured into Heaven, while the rest of us – secular humanists, goddess worshippers, atheists, Wiccans, Druids, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, animists, shamans, sexaholics, freeform meditators, latte liberals, homosexuals of all flavors, unchurched mountain bikers, Earth pagans, mystical beekeepers, tree huggers, anarchists, Zen mamas, rock & rollers, freethinking feminists, agnostic punks, serious spiritual seekers, alternative newspaper editors, and the whole Motley Crue – will be “left behind” to suffer the consequences of our disbelief. (Imagine a world in which the fundies have all disappeared… this seems like an intriguing prospect to me, and gets my vote! Bring it on, God!)

At any rate, here’s the actuality: American Civilization (or at least, what passes for civilization in this country) has been evolving for a good long while. Compared to our ancestors, many of us are better educated, more tolerant, much more self-actualized, and more likely to depend on our own unfiltered experience rather than religious dogma for whatever conclusions we may wish to draw from our sojourn on this plane of existence. But there remains, in this country, a distressingly large percentage of the population that is still effectively living in the Dark Ages, living lives of ignorance, intolerance, superstition and fear. Their sophisticated leaders very successfully spread their retrograde message by every high-tech channel available. The rank-and-file have truly been left behind… and as such are very dangerous, being easily manipulated by whoever cares to push their buttons — like Limbaugh, Rove, and the multitude of megachurch preachers. These people will fight us in every way possible, because they feel they have the divine right, the divine commandment, to TAKE OVER. They will never give up, and changing them in any way will be well-nigh impossible. Making progress under these circumstances is like trying to run a 100-yard dash with a cinderblock tied to your foot. Evidently we need to learn to levitate.

A worthwhile research project would be to send a team of outgoing, personable people to interview thousands of conservatives across the country. The team would ask – openly, honestly, and respectfully – what the conservatives believe, and why. After the team accumulates enough information, they might be able to formulate a strategy to effectively influence people who don’t think in the same way we do. I’m not talking about people who merely have different opinions, but people whose thought processes are fundamentally different. This work has doubtless been done to some extent by campaign pollsters, but not in the relentlessly methodical way that is needed.

The bottom line is, we’ve got over 58 million people in this country who not only couldn’t see how stupid and mean-spirited McCain/Palin were, but actually thought they were the better choice. You can’t reason with these people, because verbal arguments don’t work. With them, the cerebral cortex doesn’t work in the expected way. We’ve got to work with the lizard brain, or maybe the spinal column itself. Until we figure out a way to get some semblance of unanimity going in this country, we’ll be fighting the same battles over and over while the fundamental problems remain unaddressed. The “long emergency” we are now entering requires that we finally take politics and public opinion seriously rather than leaving them in the none-too-capable hands of media hacks and political consultants.

Ultimately we’re all culpable. We are all contributing to the destruction of the planet.  We’re all part of the human condition; we’re all enmeshed in the same human reality, which looks like this: At the individual level, most people identify with – consider themselves to be – the nattering, chattering, sense of self apart from everything else, known as “ego.” The ego is constantly churning out thoughts – thoughts about the past, thoughts about the future, thoughts about hypothetical situations – that prevent us from living fully in the present moment. We live trapped within a never-ending web of thought-patterns –which is a trivial way to live. Such triviality leads to the semi-civilization we now have (there is no true civilization anywhere on the planet): a chaotic mish-mash of truth and lies, science and superstition, with no standard of truth, only competing systems of propaganda.

Einstein said that you can’t solve a problem on the level of the problem. We need to go to a meta-level to solve the problem. The meta-level we need has traditionally been called “spirituality” – which is a misnomer, because it implies that there is some “other,” “better,” “more spiritual” reality or state of consciousness. In truth, the answer has always been right here, right now — at the center of our very being – but has been obscured by the multitude of distractions and false beliefs that cloud our clear perception of reality.

I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, which is perfectly suited for TV-addled American consumers, frantically going nowhere at half the speed of light. The book is very basic but most importantly, Tolle’s techniques really work. Tolle recommends that people focus on becoming consciously present at all times –  “waking up” as it were. This has got to be the ultimate mental discipline. It seems like such a simple thing, almost trivial. But most people will find themselves constantly forgetting to be consciously present. They’ll constantly drift back into uncontrolled thinking. Those who persist will find that ultimately the distractions start to fade more into the background, and life takes on a new and more vibrant quality. And this is only the beginning. As the Good Book says, “For now we see through a glass darkly, but later we will see more clearly.” I can’t think of a better way to achieve the fundamental transformation we so desperately need.

If you enjoy my Grassroots Press column, you’ll probably enjoy my blog as well. I tackle politics, the economic crash, conscious living, grocery shopping, Georgia O’Keeffe, monsoons, dechaosification, Christianity, alfalfa hay, parallel conversations, intentional neighborhood, and many other topics. You never know what to expect; neither do I. Check it out: http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com.

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