Follow the Soapbox
 
Picture
Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

June 19, 2015

“Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.” (Bukowski)

You know those despicable and “agreed-upon” societal standards of “beauty”? Yeah, those. Well, imagine a woman who embodies what’s widely and sadly accepted as the “ugly” range of that specious spectrum. “Ugly as sin,” as the hateful saying goes.

Now imagine this woman came of age in 1950s America and during that time she wore her love of liquor like a badge; couldn’t hold a job; barely, if ever, paid the rent on any of her filthy flophouse apartments; regularly engaged in drunken brawls that ended with her either in an ambulance or handcuffed in the backseat of an LAPD cruiser; and unashamedly neglected her only child.

Let’s also imagine this woman fancied herself a writer -- a street poet, if you will. Her work was sometimes profound but just as often, was rife with images -- sometimes violent images -- of homophobia, anti-semitism, racism, misogyny, and a general vibe of misanthropy.  

Do any of you believe a woman such as this could’ve ever attained underground credibility as a poet by the 1960s, credibility which would ultimately -- after she’d passed the age of 50 -- result in a literary press offering her a monthly stipend so she could concentrate solely on her craft?

Do any of you think her words would end up being published across the globe, translated into dozens of languages, and inspire a handful of films?

For Charles Bukowski, the description above not only added to his "mystique" but was virtually indistinguishable from his art. More than two decades after his death, he remains a revered and widely-read literary legend -- known as much for his lifestyle choices as his poetry.

So, to those who wonder: How does one become one of those cool, edgy, infamous, underground writers like Buk?

A. While talent and luck and good networking skills and being based in the U.S. all have something to do with it, of course, here’s the first and most important step: do not be a woman.

In our next episode of The Power of Privilege: How to be a cool, edgy, infamous underground writer like Hunter S. Thompson (hint: be white).

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.


 
 
Picture
World Trust News/SPN
Mickey Z. Author
06/04/201


And God said, Let there be light: and there was light./And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-5)

“Hello darkness, my old friend.” (Simon and Garfunkel)

Every now and then, I’m asked some variation of this question: When were you most awed by nature? Like most of you, I have a handful of examples to choose from… but the answer I usually settle on involves gazing at the night sky in a very rural Vermont town. 

I had never witnessed that many visible stars in my life and -- being a heavily conditioned modern urban dweller -- I promptly bellowed something like: “Wow, it looks like the Hayden Planetarium!”

(insert sad trombone here

A far more dramatic version of this modern malady took form in Los Angeles -- a city with a sky glow visible from an airplane 200 miles away. After an earthquake knocked out electrical power in 1994, it seems “many anxious residents called local emergency centers to report seeing a strange "giant, silvery cloud" in the dark sky. What they were really seeing -- for the first time -- was the Milky Way, long obliterated by the urban sky glow.”

(insert sad trombone here)

While perhaps some of you are well-versed in the concept and consequences of light pollution, since I’ve recently been learning and musing upon this topic, I thought I’d share some miscellaneous facts and contemplations -- with the intention of provoking further thought and conversation.

For starters, check this out: Light pollution map.

Light pollution comes in many forms, including sky glow, light trespass, glare, light clutter, and over illumination. Whichever version you encounter, make no mistake, it’s working against billions of years of light-dark regularity. Here’s how the folks at the Florida Atlantic University Astronomical Observatory describe it:

“This regularity is ingrained into the DNA of species up and down our evolutionary tree to our biological advantage. Natural light ‘entrains’ or regularizes basic and fundamental biological activities across species from plants to humans … The effects of light pollution on plants and animals in the environment are numerous and are becoming more known over time … For approximately half of all life, those crepuscular and nocturnal species that begin their daily activities at sundown, our artificial lights at night seriously constrain their lives, exposing them to predators and reducing the time they have to find food, shelter, or mates and reproduce.”

Frighteningly, the examples of such disruptions are far too numerous to detail in a short article so please allow me to highlight just one: “Nesting sea turtles, which show a natural predisposition for dark beaches, find fewer and fewer of them to nest on,” writes Verlyn Klinkenborg in National Geographic. “Their hatchlings, which gravitate toward the brighter, more reflective sea horizon, find themselves confused by artificial lighting behind the beach. In Florida alone, hatchling losses number in the hundreds of thousands every year.”

As with most contemporary “problems,” we are taught that the solution is to be found by slightly modifying our own behavior while simultaneously trusting the experts (sic) to keep things moving forward into, um… progress?

Wanna reduce light pollution? Simple: just buy blackout curtains or use outdoor lights that operate via sensors or lower the wattage of your bulbs, blah, blah, blah. 

Reminder #4,411: Personal lifestyle choices are not game changers. 

Light pollution is not an anomaly or a glitch in an otherwise efficient system. Light pollution and its myriad deleterious impacts are the predictable outcome of a dominant culture that is, by definition, in perpetual conflict with the natural world. Capitalism cannot be tenderly reformed into sustainability and its consequences will never be properly confronted if we don’t stop demonizing and fearing the dark

“Civilization has fallen out of touch with night,” wrote Henry Beston in 1928. “With lights, we drive the holiness and the beauty of night back to the forests and the seas; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of the night? Do they fear the vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars?”

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.


 
 
Picture
Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
May 29, 2015

Recently, while perusing a book I dumpster-dived, I learned of Titanis walleri: a huge, flightless, carnivorous bird that lived approximately 5-2 million years ago (early Pliocene to early Pleistocene) in North America. This badass being reached up to 10 feet in height, weighed over 300 pounds, and could run faster than 40 MPH. 

I was basking in the mental image of such an amazing earthling until I also learned that Titanis was part of a group of such giants which have been nicknamed “terror birds.”

To those who’d use such a moniker, I ask: In all the millions of years these birds roamed the planet, did any of them ever feel the need to invent nuclear weapons? 

Even today’s “terrors” are infinitely less harmful than we humans. No great white shark created mountain-top mining, napalm, or the internal combustion engine; you can’t blame land mines, GMOs, hydroelectric dams, or patriarchy on a pit bull; and rest assured no non-human conjured up zoos, circuses, puppy mills, or vivisection.

Terror bird? Thanks to the dominant human culture, 80 million birds are killed each year when they collide with plate glass windows in tall buildings and another 60 to 80 million birds are killed by motor vehicles. Roughly 200 million birds collide fatally with radio-transmission towers per year (add in cell phone towers and that number approaches a half-billion) and 120 million more are slaughtered annually by hunters.

Yet Titanis is the one burdened with the word “terror” in its nickname?

Terror bird? Tell that to the 23 million chickens killed in the United States for food (sic) every single day. That's 269 dead chickens per second -- brutally slaughtered after a short, nightmarish life imposed upon them by a taxpayer subsidized industry responsible for systematically destroying our landbase and threatening all life on earth.

To the vast majority of inhabitants of this planet, we are terror beings.

Solace
There’s something else I learned in my reading about Titanis: From circumstantial evidence (i.e., bone fractures), it “has been suggested that the species did not become extinct until 15,000 years ago,” but “more precise dating refutes such a late date; all known Titanis fossils appear to be at least 2 million years old.”

“All known” fossils “appear to be”? Sounds like another prime example of modern science at its presumptuous best.

If a bunch of “educated” humans choose to believe that Titanis walleri is a terror bird, I’m free to believe that this magnificent being still exists and thrives. After all, since experts (sic) can’t agree on an extinction date that ranges in the millions of years, is it any less “scientific” of me to question a 15,000-year gap?

Here’s my thesis, and I’m sticking to it: Titanis has outsmarted the best of human minds, is still around, and is mighty pissed about this anti-bird culture we’ve created.

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.


 
 
Picture
Mickey Z.
World News Trust
May 19, 2015

“I understand people who think the death penalty just continues the cycle of violence,” wrote Ann O’Neill of CNN after covering the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “But I have no idea how I'd feel if somebody killed someone I love. I suspect I'd want to execute him or her with my own hands. If you saw the trial I saw, it's not difficult to understand how, if we're going to have the death penalty, this is the type of crime it is intended to punish.”

Such textbook corporate media propaganda, of course, is designed to obscure the real motivations behind capital punishment.

Prison Nation
Of the roughly 3,100 human beings currently languishing on death row all across the Land of the Free™, some are guilty, some innocent -- but all await a grisly, taxpayer-subsidized demise. Welcome to the prison-industrial complex.

Mumia abu-Jamal sez: "The ruling, wealthy class built prisons and courts to protect them and their wealth from the masses. They also built the ideological illusion of classlessness, which is maintained through their media. They brayed about freedom, while erecting the most massive prison complex this earth has ever seen. They built Prison Nation."

The death penalty stands as a particularly malicious example of how the 1% attempts to maintain control. This sadistic and racist institution remains in effect in 34 states -- plus the U.S. government and military. California has the highest number of death row inmates, but the state that's executed the most prisoners since 1976 is (wait for it…) Texas.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

Deterrence
The most common justification for capital punishment is deterrence. The 1% tells us that fear of losing one's life will deter humans from taking another's life.

Nancy Reagan sez: "I think people would be alive today if there were a death penalty."

Contrary to Ms. Reagan's sage analysis, there is no conclusive evidence that even an electric chair that burns a prisoner alive serves as a deterrent. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC):

"Consistent with previous years, the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80 percent of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1 percent of all executions, tied with the West for the lowest murder rate."

“Deterrence?” asks Abu-Jamal in his book, Live from Death Row. “The March 1988 execution of Willie Darden in Florida, exceedingly well-publicized here and abroad, should have had enormous deterrent effect, according to capital theories. But less than 11 hours after 2,000 volts coursed through Darden’s manacled flesh, a Florida corrections officer, well positioned to absorb and understand the lessons of the state ritual, erupted in a jealous rage and murdered a man in the maternity wing of a hospital. Seems like a lesson well learned to me.”

And for whom is this “lesson” usually geared? More from the DPIC: "Over 75 percent of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally only 50 percent of murder victims generally are white."

Let's break it down further: 44 percent of the U.S. death row population is African-American, an ethnic group that constitutes a mere 12.6 percent of the nation’s people as a whole. From this statistic, we can draw only one of two conclusions:

  1. Blacks are genetically predisposed towards homicide.
  2. The U.S. justice system is inherently racist.
Ralph Nader sez: "Since I was a law student, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since they’re given no competent legal counsel defense in many cases. It’s a system that has to be perfect. You cannot execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for those of you who are interested in the economics it, it costs more to pursue a capital case toward execution than it does to have full life imprisonment without parole."

(None of this, of course, even begins to address the growing wave of law enforcement officials acting and judge, jury, and executioner on the streets of god’s country.)

Cost
A second rationale for state-sponsored murder -- one that could only exist in a society indoctrinated to accept predatory capitalism as a viable option -- is cost. In purely dispassionate financial terms, supporters claim that an execution is cheaper than long-term incarceration.

Study after study has proven this to be a convenient myth. For example, in 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California death penalty system -- the largest in the nation -- costs taxpayers "$114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life. Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state’s executions."

Other sources have reported similar findings in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland. Hence, even if some insist on putting a price tag on life itself, it still falls short as a justification for capital punishment.

Noam Chomsky sez: "The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill."

Retribution
“An eye for an eye” is yet another justification -- parroting the best homicidal traditions of The Bible.

But we do not rape the rapist nor do we burn down the house of the arsonist. Why then do we murder the man or woman charged with taking a life?

“Let the punishment fit the crime,” comes the rallying cry. Which brings us back to O’Neill’s words at the top of this article: “If we're going to have the death penalty, this is the type of crime it is intended to punish.”

If this is truly our idea of justice, we are obviously living in a society that is not held to a higher standard than that of its “worst” criminals -- a State that is no better than the murderers it chooses to punish (nor the murderers it opts to ignore).

Innocent till proven…
As Ralph Nader stated above, we “cannot execute one innocent person."

But as the DPIC explains: "Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. From 1973-1999, there was an average of 3.1 exonerations per year. From 2000-2007, there has been an average of 5 exonerations per year."

Amnesty International has listed some of the many actors leading to wrongful convictions:

  • Inadequate legal representation.
  • Police and prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony.
  • Racial prejudice.
  • Jailhouse "snitch" testimony.
  • Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence.
  • Community/political pressure to solve a case.
Justice
Desmond Tutu sez: "To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice."

#shifthappens

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.




 
 
Picture
Mickey Z.
World News Trust/SPN
May 11, 2015

As the predictable cycle of presidential election denial settles in, its initial focus appears to be primarily on one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Thus, I thought I’d dust off some time-worn -- and frighteningly ignored -- info on what it was like to have a Clinton, um, occupying the White House.

To begin, let’s all reflect back upon the years 1993 and 1994 -- when President William Jefferson Clinton was enjoying the "advantage" of a Democratically-controlled Congress. 

In just two years, the liberal hero abandoned his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees, backed away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care, and reneged on his promise to "take a firm stand" against the armed forces' LGBTQ ban. 

In 1993-94, Clinton signed a little something called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), presided over the invasion of Somalia, increased the Pentagon budget by $25 billion, forced Jocelyn Elders to resign, dumped Lani Guinier, ordered the bombing of Iraq and the Balkans, renewed the sanctions on Iraq, and passed a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death. 

All this came before Newt Gingrich and much-hyped Republican "revolution" in 1994… and I haven’t even gotten to the environment. 

In the first three years of the Clinton-Gore regime -- two of which, I remind you, involved a Democratic House and Senate -- Bubba and his little green buddy gave us fun stuff like: The passage of the salvage logging rider, the continuation of the use of methyl bromide, the weakening of the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, the lowering of grazing fees on land, the subsidizing of Florida's sugar industry, the reversing of the ban on the production and importation of PCBs, and allowing the export of Alaskan oil.

When Clinton ran for re-election in 1996, David Brower, former president of the Sierra Club, wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times called "Why I Won't Vote for Clinton." In this piece, Brower declared that Clinton and Gore had "done more harm to the environment in three years than Presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years." (That’s Bush the Elder, not Bush the Lesser… for those of you scoring at home.)

I could go on and on about the rest of Clinton’s reign, like the repeal of welfare, a telecommunications bill that further narrowed the already laughable parameters of public debate, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the fact that after eight years in office with no political price to pay, he still did not pardon Leonard Peltier. But I’ll just focus on one more liberal gem: The Anti-Terrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act, signed into law on April 24, 1996. 

This USA PATRIOT Act prequel contained provisions that Clinton himself admitted "make a number of ill-advised changes in our immigration laws, having nothing to do with fighting terrorism." This unconstitutional salvo severely restricted habeas corpus and expanded the number of federal capital crimes -- and the notorious PATRIOT Act is mostly an extension its legal foundations. 

For a little more two-party context, consider that John Kerry -- Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 -- voted for the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996 and wrote parts of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, Hillary voted for the PATRIOT Act in 2001, and both she and Obama voted to reauthorize it in 2005. Hooray Democrats!

With all the public outcry that ensued for Dubya and his gang, I wonder: Where was all the outrage for Clinton? Where was the anti-war crowd when he ordered 78 days of bombing over Yugoslavia in 1999, including the use of depleted uranium? (At the time, his Secretary of State Albright asked: “What’s the point of having this magnificent military if we never use it?”)

Where were the simplistic Nazi references when Clinton blew up a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant to distract us from Monica Lewinsky?

Where were the Hitler mustaches when Clinton bombed Iraq in response to an alleged plot to assassinate Bush the Elder and ended up killing Layla Al-Attar, that country’s best-known female artist?

“I think it is dangerous to confuse the idea of democracy with elections. Just because you have elections doesn’t mean you’re a democratic country.” Arundhati Roy said that.

“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.” Emma Goldman said that.

“The next time someone tells you America has a two-party system, I suggest you demand a recount.” I said that.

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

 
 
Picture
Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
April 5, 2015















Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.


 
 
Picture
Mickey Z.
World News Trust/SPN
April 27, 2015

While the Society of the Spectacle gears up for the “biggest fight of all time,” featuring renowned domestic abuser and misogynist, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, I’d like to remind folks of a truly important boxing match that took place on July 4, 1910. It featured black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and white former champ, Jim Jeffries.

No one left to fight…
Jack Johnson was the greatest boxer of his era and one of the most powerful counter-punchers ever to put on a pair of gloves, thus, working his way up the ranks of contenders was the easy part. The real challenge was getting white champions to work up the nerve to fight him. 

Jeffries retired without even giving Johnson a chance. This merely fueled Johnson’s mission as he demolished all comers until there was no one else left to fight except Jeffries’ white successor, Tommy Burns.

Burns finally agreed when he was guaranteed $30,000 to fight Johnson on Dec. 26, 1908, but the champ was no match for the challenger. Referee Hugh McIntosh stepped in to stop the bout in the 14th round before the world could witness a black man sending a white champion to the canvas. 

Thirty-nine years before Jackie Robinson donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, Jack Johnson became the first black man to hold the world heavyweight championship.

Johnson reigned as a proud and outspoken champion -- unafraid to make his mark in an openly racist society. He possessed what W.E.B. DuBois called an “unforgivable blackness.” In fact, it was Johnson’s public image and “defiant” nature that finally lured Jeffries out of retirement. The former champ said, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.”

More than 22,000 fans came to Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910, to witness what they hoped would be redemption.

Great White Hope
“At stake was more than prize money,” writes John Wight at Counterpunch. “At stake was racial pride in an age when blacks in America were being lynched on a regular basis in the South and in the North were regarded as second-class citizens.”

Jeffries was labeled the “Great White Hope” by alleged socialist, Jack London, and during the pre-fight hype, “racism flowed like a river of sewage,” say Wight. None of this could slow Johnson as he pummeled the white fighter for 15 rounds before knocking him out.

“Johnson was faster, stronger and smarter than Jeffries, knocking him out with ease,” says radical sportswriter Dave Zirin. After the fight, Jeffries admitted, “I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. I couldn’t have hit him. No, I couldn’t have reached him in 1,000 years.”

Jeffries’ honesty aside, the image of a white hero being humiliated by a superior black athlete was more than 1910 America would tolerate. “After Johnson’s victory, there were race riots around the country -- in Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and Washington, D.C.,” adds Zirin. “Most of the riots consisted of white lynch mobs attempting to enter black neighborhoods, and blacks fighting back.”

By the time the riots and racial attacks had stopped, 151 African Americans were dead.

Black Lives Matter
If Johnson could not be defeated in the ring, the powers-that-be had to devise another method. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the future commissioner of baseball, charged Johnson with taking his white girlfriend, Lucy Cameron, across state lines for purported “immoral purposes,” a violation of the Mann white slavery act. 

The champ was convicted, jumped bail, and spent seven years in exile. He eventually surrendered to federal authorities in 1920 and remained in prison until July 9, 1921. Johnson did continue fighting after his release and retired with a record of 79-8 with 46 knockouts, 12 draws and 14 no-decisions. 

Jack Johnson would go on to become a charter member of the Boxing Hall of Fame but more importantly, he inspired future generations to raise their fists and fight back.


Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

 
 
Picture
Mickey Z.
World News Trust/SPN
April 23, 2015

“The first step in the revolution is eye contact.”
- Alicen Grey

Every now and then, we get a reminder of just how far we have to go… of just how much work lies ahead of us. I recently had such a moment when, while perusing a fitness journal, I came across some research being done at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE)

The first reality check was that we need a “center” to focus on compassion and altruism. From there, I read about work being done by two M.D.’s, Lloyd Dean and James Doty, which showed that “when patients are treated with kindness -- when there is an effort made to get to know them, empathize with them, communicate with them, listen to them and respond to their needs” -- it can lead to the following outcomes:

  • faster healing of wounds
  • reduced pain
  • reduced anxiety
  • reduced blood pressure
  • shorter hospital stays
Dean and Doty also found that the doctors, nurses, and caregivers who provide the kind treatment benefit as well. “A kinder work environment helps employees feel more engaged and less exhausted, which is incredibly important to caregivers who often work long and unpredictable hours in high-pressure jobs,” they explain.

This is usually the cue for someone (like me) to rant on the myriad factors (from capitalism to religion to technology and beyond) behind a culture so warped that the value of fundamental social skills is breaking news. Next, I’d smoothly segue into a plea for more activism. After all, who better than activists to lead the way when it comes to empathy and compassion and altruism and the all-important community?

Right?

(insert sad trombone here)

Predators in our midst
As I recently wrote, the issues and factors that splinter communities in the general population -- privilege, propaganda, ego, fear, and so on -- very much exist within the activist world. Radical circles are infested with humans ready to pontificate about justice in the abstract but unready to occupy even the most rudimentary of social skills. This alleged community is devoid of manners, sensitivity, even eye contact. But hey, why bother with basic niceties when there are Instagram likes to be counted?

Thanks to social media and smart phones, our every radical move is being documented in real time and damn, it’s intoxicating. A whole new breed of virtual hero has been spawned -- measured by Facebook shares, Twitter re-tweets, and donation page tallies.

This ego-fueled climate has turned the status of “activist” into the upper rung of yet another human hierarchy. If you need a reminder of how smoothly those on the top justify their actions based on their dominant position, please contemplate the endless examples of devious and despicable sexual predators -- and their enablers and apologists -- in our midst.

If you also need a reminder of how all this dysfunction kills any chance of social change, take a good, honest look around. While we bask in the glow of our “fans” regularly tuning in to our livestreams or sharing our photos or quoting our statuses, every form of life on earth is under assault with no hint of imminent reversal.

Let’s re-cap
We dwell within a culture so distorted and twisted it requires a study to recognize that compassion, altruism, empathy, and communication might be good ideas.

Within this same culture, those we look to as defenders of justice -- activists -- are choosing ego over solidarity and thus replicating the paradigm they claim to be challenging.

What can we do about this in the face of looming ecocide? As I also recently wrote, a good start is accepting that we’ve gotten it all wrong. For activists, this means admitting that the tactics and methods we so passionately cling to and defend don’t work and some have never worked.

How do we discover and implement new tactics and methods? 

Perhaps we go back to basics like, um… compassion, altruism, empathy, and communication. 

Perhaps we learn to listen to and heed the voices most often drowned out by the din of privilege. 

Perhaps we do the work to cultivate authenthic communities in which everyone is held accountable for their behavior. 

Perhaps we start refining and honing our own face-to-face social skills.

Perhaps we challenge ourselves to make eye contact… 

Any other ideas?

***

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.


Kindness, Activism, Ego, and Social Skills by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://worldnewstrust.com/kindness-activism-ego-and-social-skills-mickey-z.


 
 
Picture
Mickey Z.
World News Trust/SPN
April 12, 2015

The federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, for the first time, has recommended avoiding meat and dairy products which, as reported by Wall Street OTC, “are considered to lead to illness and obesity in America.”

The preliminary report goes on to state that a diet “rich in plants and which contains fewer animal-based foods is healthier for the organism and is also good for the environment.”

Understandably, my vegan comrades lit up social media with this news along with a wide array of statistics (some reliable, some not) on how animal agriculture is killing the eco-system. “Go vegan,” was the general gist, “and the planet will be saved.”

Before I address this common claim, let me firmly state, for the record: Yes, of course, it would be an amazing step in the right direction for all species if every human who was logistically able to do so, went vegan. 

Let me also state: Such a seismic shift would not end our march towards ecocide.

Yes, animal agriculture is a plague upon our shared landbase, but… it’s still a symptom. To “save” the planet, the disease we must address and eradicate is capitalism in all its deceptive and myriad incarnations.

But even most activists willingly and counterproductively genuflect at the altar of profit margins. Just like mainstream folks they deride, many if not most radicals parrot homilies passed down to them by their corporate commissars. Capitalism, we’re conditioned to believe, may need the occasional tweak and sometimes an overhaul, but hey, it’s better than anything else out there!

Prices may be controlled, wages can be raised, products might be made to last longer, etc. etc. etc. -- but what all this ignores is that capitalism = ecocide. 

Until There’s Nothing Left
Understanding capitalism and explaining its inherent harmfulness to others does not require an advanced degree or superior insight. This isn't about vague, inapplicable concepts like "good" or "evil” and it certainly has nothing to do with the fantasies bandied about by economics professors. 

It's all about design.

Capitalism is an economic system based on perpetual growth and the relentless exploitation of what we've come to call "natural resources." By definition, such an approach is unsustainable, cannot be reformed, and is thus, anti-life.

To gain access to and control of resources, capitalism requires brutal, sustained military interventions (or the threat thereof). The U.S. Department of Defense, for example, is the world’s largest, most dangerous military power and the planet's worst polluter and eats up about half of all U.S. federal tax dollars. 

Military interventions (or the threat thereof) lead to wars, war crimes, the propping up of authoritarian regimes, poverty and repression, environmental devastation, and eventually… corporate dominion over resources.

Capitalism -- in its predatory pursuit of profit -- requires humans to dominate humans and humans to dominate non-humans and humans to dominate the landscape… until there's nothing left.

Resources are finite. They cannot/will not be replicated in a laboratory. Exploiting, poisoning, and consuming the ecosystem alters the delicate and symbiotic balance of the natural world -- which only leads to further devastation. 

Capitalism requires constant consumption. Hence, humans are re-programmed into compliant, ill-informed consumers. Pervasive propaganda/public relations keep consumers consuming, workers working, and repressors repressing (explaining why middle class cops pepper spray activists instead of joining up with them).

While other economic systems may address some of the vast human inequalities inherent in a capitalist society, unless such a system is designed in synchronicity with our shared ecosystem, it will do nothing to prevent the looming economic/social/environmental collapse.

So again: Should all those in a position to do so go vegan? Of course. Yesterday

Is this enough? Not even close. To have any chance of securing a future, we must become dedicated and united anti-capitalistas.

Which Side Are You On?
To be anti-capitalist is to look beyond the next fiscal quarter, beyond national boundaries, and beyond the corporate propaganda. 

To be capitalist is to ignore reality. To be capitalist is to pretend that technology is neutral, humans can "control" nature, and the playing field is even. 

To be anti-capitalist is to surrender privilege and choose solidarity over ego and fear.

To be capitalist is to prize shareholders over sharing, commodities over communities. 

To be an anti-capitalista is to comprehend that a system based on growth at all costs is anti-life. To be anti-capitalist is to be anti-ecocide.

To be capitalist is to voice support for a toxic, poisoned, clear-cut landbase ravaged by unremitting war, disease, inequality, repression, incarceration, and discrimination.

To be anti-capitalist is to bravely see past the façade, recognize the myriad global crises, and have a bold new vision for the future -- a future that extends well beyond today's closing bell on Wall Street.

To be anti-capitalist is to recognize the urgent need to begin the process of creating a new system -- a system not for sale to the highest bidder; not based on celebrity, material consumption, physical beauty, or military conquest; a system that promotes unity and collective action while maintaining individuality and independence; a system that challenges us to think for ourselves and about others; a system that understands the connection between human behavior and non-human life.

To be a capitalista is to behave as if we are the last generation of humans.

To be an anti-capitalista is to appreciate the need to do much more than change our own lifestyle; it is to re-imagine our relationship with the natural world.

Which side are you on, comrades? The future is waiting on your decision.

***

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

 
 
Picture
Mickey Z. -- World News Trust/SPN
April 5, 2015

“The hands that build can also pull down…” (Jeremiah 1:10)

Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for implementing a new paradigm, their opinion is worthless.

This reaction ignores the essential role critical analysis plays in a society where problems --- and their causes -- are so cleverly disguised. When discussing the future, the first step is often an identification and demystification of the past and present.

I’ve written and spoken words like this many, many times. The audience I’ve aimed for was made up of those yet to embrace any form of protest. I was coaxing, pleading, cajoling anyone within earshot to stop seeking excuses to avoid joining the struggle. I still am.

However, more and more, I find myself directing such sentiments towards my fellow activists. Mired in archaic tactics, counterproductive single-issueism, fear-driven stagnancy, and ego-driven inertia, the realm of dissent is a minefield for anyone seeking or suggesting new ideas, fresh perspectives, broader coalitions.

No one fears change more, it seems, than those ostensibly struggling for change. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and try getting the activists you know to consider a new approach.

To question tactics is reflexively perceived as a counterproductive attack. To introduce the idea of solidarity with other groups and issues is to invite an accusation of co-optation. To suggest a re-evaluation of any kind is deemed an unforgivable betrayal.

To point out the very obvious fact that we -- as activists and as earthlings -- are losing, with no hint of imminent reversal, is to exile oneself from one’s activism circle.

Reality check: The issues and factors that splinter communities in the general population -- privilege, propaganda, ego, fear, and so on -- very much exist within the activist world.

These factors lead us to stalemates, in-fighting, schisms, and thus: failure. Unless we accept the challenge to completely re-imagine our modes of dissent, we’ll remain on the same path. We’ll remain, hurtling at warp speed, towards economic, social, and environmental collapse.

What should we be doing? Outside of encouraging broader and broader intersectionality and coalitions, I don’t know.

What I do know is this: What we are doing -- the tactics and methods we so passionately cling to and defend -- don’t work and some have never worked.

Everyone knows we’re sincere, we’re dedicated, we’re “hardcore.” It’s time now for everyone to accept that we’re also largely and tragically ineffective.

There’s no shame in admitting we could’ve done better… much better. But even if there is shame, why must we let it outweigh the task at hand?

If we truly want drastic and sustainable social change, all the protest sign wavers, social media warriors, arrest compilers, obsessive meeting holders, under- and over-organized organizers, and relentless spotlight seekers must join together to destroy the old blueprint.

Step 1: Smash the activism archetype, including its foundation.
Step 2: Rebuild a flexible structure under the guidance of new architects and artisans.

#shifthappens

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here and here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

©WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.