Saturday, May 25, 2013
1. Less is More. Put everything you think you need to live onto a bicycle and start pedaling. Before you crest the first hill, you will have figured out how to get along without much of it. Possessions are burdens.
2. Anticipate the Best but Prepare for the Worst. The best way to dissolve fear is to know exactly what you would do in the worst-case scenario. Fear is not a healthy motivator, while love is.
3. Lower Your Center of Gravity. If you carry your load in a backpack, besides being sweaty and heavy, it destabilizes. On top of a rack is okay for light things, but most of the load belongs in low riding panniers, where it actually stabilizes. Use your tools to optimize stability. Stay grounded.
4. Breathe, Drink, Eat, Wash, & Sleep. You can’t do anything until you take care of the essentials, including lots of pure water, a wholesome diet, and bathing to avoid saddle sores. Long, slow, deep breaths are the most basic. Build routines around your fundamental needs.
5. Fix it Before it’s a Problem. Daily cleaning of the chain prevents wear. Properly adjusted bearings last much longer. Lubrication before rust makes more sense.
6. Stretch Regularly. After you pedal eight hours a day for a week, walking down a staircase can be excruciating, unless you do yoga too. You maintain flexibility and range of motion by regularly testing your limits in every direction.
7. The Most Experienced Rider Follows the Pack. The lead rider should know the route and set a moderate pace. The sweep rider, last in line, should have the tools and knowledge to fix any problem that happens. From the back, you can see everybody and they can hear you. Most of leadership is supporting others.
8. Hold Your Line. The safest cyclist is visible and predictable, riding steadily out from obstacles. Suddenly veering out to avoid something can get you killed. Plan a straight course by looking far enough ahead.
9. Sometimes You Take the Lane. If there’s not enough room for a car to safely pass you, the safest place to be is in the middle of the lane. You’ve got to be brave enough to assert your right to the road. Timidity can be fatal.
10. Momentum is Our Friend. The speed you gain on the downhill can help a great deal going up the next hill. Go with the flow and use the forces of nature to achieve your goals.
11. Only Stop at the Top. Everybody needs an occasional break. If you rest in a valley, you’ll have a lot tougher time getting started again than if you rest on top of the hill. Wait until you’ve accomplished something big to reward yourself. Then look for a shady spot, because you can’t cool down well in direct sun. When you finally find shade on a hilltop, you'll have earned your break.
12. Concentrate on Spin. No matter where you ride, it will be easiest if you devote your attention to the precise application of your gears, legs, ankles, and feet to turning those cranks to an uplifting song(about 100 rpms). Stay in the moment.
13. You Can. I’m just a normal guy, not some super athlete. Living car-free for 17 years has greatly improved my life, mostly because it brought me a little closer to my own ideals. Please allow yourself to live up to your brightest dreams.7
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Imagine if money could not be successfully hoarded. The longer you held onto it, the less it would be worth. You would need to spend it or lose it. Having more money than you needed to spend would not be an advantage.
Now imagine living in a world where you didn’t have to pay anybody for the basic elements of a healthy life. It would be presumed that every person deserved to survive and that each would eventually give back to the community enough to support the next generation.
Even if you wanted to improve the world, you wouldn’t be allowed to take more than you needed from the natural resources we all share without paying the community. Each time you did something that harmed the community or the environment; you would be expected to make amends immediately.
Such an economy would encourage each person to invest locally. There would be no role for people who bring in capital, exploit local resources, and then run off with the profits. There would be communication between diverse communities, each of which was basically self-sufficient.
Rather than competing to exploit, we would collaborate for the good of the whole network. We would all recognize that the good of each was dependent upon the good of all. With a permaculture approach, we would foster an ecosystem that included us and supported our needs as part of a healthy cycle.
We would no longer be focused on forever building more and bigger. Like everything in nature, our creations would go through periods of decomposition and simplification. Continuous growth would be recognized as cancer and avoided.
Our behavior would be closer to human traditions than modern culture has been. Each of us would recognize that the greatest joy comes from voluntarily serving the needs of others. We would teach each other to home our empathetic skills. Healthy human interactions would truly be at the center of all our behavior.
This is the world envisioned in Sacred Economics: money, gift & society in the age of transition by Charles Eisenstein. Besides a thorough, intellectual discussion of the vision, Eisenstein gives us tips for how to get there. There are specific steps that each of us can take.
We can get in touch with the reality of human history. People naturally share with each other because we are an interdependent species. The current dominant system is an unhealthy anomaly.
Americans now suffer from “too much stuff.” We need to learn to get by with fewer things, which are built to last and shared appropriately with our neighbors. Certain items, such as cars, televisions, and flush toilets, do more harm than good. Most people throughout time around the planet have lived without these things, and we can, too.
Humans have apparently always been challenged by the desire to live up to our own ideals. We are great rationalizers, quick to forgive ourselves and to blame others, especially those just out of our influence, for “making us” misbehave. Personal responsibility for our daily choices would go a long, long way toward improving our world. How can we best inspire each other to live by our highest ideals?
Directly and indirectly, we want our time and energy to go toward making the world better. Spending or investing money has broad impacts of which we may be unaware. It is challenging, but worthwhile, to know where the things we consume come from. How do we support systems that either harm or help others?
How can we get back to a system where each person follows the heart and voluntarily gives freely in service of the genuine needs of others? How can we express our gratitude to those who are brave enough to live this way?
We can look forward to belonging to a community that brings out the best in each of us. Every day in many small ways, we can make it happen. We can live for the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Do you feel bad? No surprise if you do. Denial if you don’t. You are part of the most destructive empire ever. The most armed, most dominant military of all time routinely kills innocents to make way for multinational corporations to engage in a race to turn more natural splendor into toxic waste. In the name of profit, prisoners cycle through a system designed to keep them down, fear mongers wage constant assault through media designed to sell you crap you don’t need, and your heavily armed neighbors roll around in suburban assault vehicles. You should feel bad.
You want to feel better? Would you like to be part of a healthy web of life in a universe ruled by eternal love? Would you enjoy compassionate collaboration with people who appreciate your unique traits?
Here are a dozen specific steps you can take right now to make the world better.
1. Kill your TV. Besides being a colossal waste of time, television is centrally controlled media completely dominated by the advertisers. The inaccurate view it portrays (99% of the violence in America is on TV) can damage your psyche and make you waste your time trying to obtain worthless junk.
2. Eat more fruits & veggies. The best nutrition comes from local, organically grown plants. Save a fortune by growing your own. Get to know area farmers. Eating well will quickly make you feel better, and, since industrial agriculture and food processing is a leading source of pollutants, it will improve the world.
3. Meet your neighbors. You should be able to rely upon those who live closest to you. The best way to secure this is to prove that they can rely upon you. It’s important to know those neighbors you trust least. You want to be sure the guy with the guns knows you’re too nice to shoot.
4. Get rid of the car. Individual automobiles are the least efficient means of transport in common use. 99% of all the people who ever walked the earth got along fine without cars. You can, too. Walk, bicycle, and take mass transit. Perhaps you’ll occasionally need to rent a motor vehicle. The money you save will turn your life around.
5. Stop doing what you don’t like to do. Nobody can force you, if you stand your ground. Follow your conscience, set your priorities, and make your own choices. No, you don’t “have to go to work.” If it is your choice, then take responsibility for the consequences.
6. Boycott bad stuff. Don’t give your time, money, or energy to those who exploit. Insist upon quality goods and services, produced willingly through healthy processes. Green washing is not good enough. Refuse to consume faster than the planet can produce resources.
7. Learn to empathize. Practice compassionate communication. When you’re sad, grieve. When you’re scared, seek reassurance. When you’re mad, set boundaries. Know that others have similar feelings and needs. Listen for clues and offer solutions. Voluntary service is the greatest joy.
8. Simplify. Less is more.
9. Breathe slowly. Some cultures teach basic breath control. When you master your own breath, you can remain calm amid calamity. You will think more clearly and act more rationally if you breathe more slowly.
10. Practice democracy. Genuine democracy is rooted in a community where every voice is important. By building consensus around your daily decisions, you can organize from the grassroots and refuse any oppression. No army can defeat Satyagraha.
11. Appreciate nature. You don’t have to escape into wilderness to find nature, although that can be a valuable experience. The awesome sky is always over your head. Weeds pushing through pavement present a microcosm of the last stand of old growth trees. Every breath of air is a result of a series of miracles that sustain our living planet, of which you are an intricate part.
12. Play. It’s how we learn, how we communicate, and how we relieve stress. Give yourself permission to laugh. It’s okay to have some fun.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The exclamations of Lady Macbeth rang in my head as I hosed the blood off the driveway. I couldn’t erase the memory of Tutu following me like an expectant puppy until, like Judas, I poured his last supper on the drive, and turned away from the pop of the butcher’s gun behind his ear. I tried not to watch his final convulsions.
I left the remains of the pig pellets, edged with red, for the deer or birds to enjoy. I had electrical fence to disassemble before I could scatter tyfon seed across the area Tutu had so thoroughly plowed. That was why I acquired the little organic rototiller eight months ago.
He wasn’t so little this morning. The butcher estimated 275 pounds as he hoisted the carcass into his specially designed trailer with the other four he had dispatched elsewhere this morning. I could no longer lift him, as I did the time he got into our house, or even drag him, like the end of his last escape to the neighbor’s rhododendrons. It was too much work to even feed him. So he’ll be feeding others.
I recognized the tug on my heartstrings from stories of friends who were in 4H. Memories flooded back from the apex of the glorious hunt, the uncomfortable reality of the death of a magnificent creature at my own hands. It is the meat eater’s eternal dilemma.
Any analysis of the natural order must acknowledge the necessity of critters eating each other. Death feeds life yet killing remains taboo. People of all cultures uphold the path of nonviolence as the way to enlightenment. Is it possible to efficiently kill other species while maintaining absolute compassion for our own? How wrong is it to slide this circle of sanctity from the species divide to the ethnic or tribal level?
I fancy that I can teach empathy and compassion. I cannot escape grieving the demise of my fellow omnivore, nor examining my complicity. Sure, modern pigs are bred to feed humans. They could not survive without us. This gelded hog could not reproduce. Nobody else wanted him alive and I’ll be lucky to recover the $2.50/lb I invested into him.
I wonder about José, the butcher’s helper. How is his soul impacted by this career of killing? How similar is the callus across his natural compassion to that of a soldier or a serial killer? Is the very act of consuming meat a denial of our highest ideals? How can we hope to dismantle the institutions that teach us not to feel empathy for others?
Clearly, this is cognitive dissonance. Will I resolve it by becoming a vegan or by redefining my opposition to violence and war? Stay tuned…
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
War is Obsolete
Some would have you believe that warfare is human nature, but I don’t buy that line. People are naturally empathic, compassionate, and collaborative. We need each other and we know it. Soldiers must be extensively trained to ignore these natural impulses. They are equipped to kill from a distance without observing the damage they do too closely. Even then, they often end up wracked with guilt.
Certainly we have evolved to be tribal. We are naturally more trusting of those who speak our language and follow our customs. Throughout history people have reached across tribal lines. Intermarriage across tribes has been necessary to avoid inbreeding. Human beings are more homogenous than most species. Compare our minor racial differentiations to those of dogs.
The nation state is a relatively new concept when seen from a global historical perspective. Nationalism has not been very helpful in promoting peaceful resolution of conflict. Increasingly, people feel a unity that crosses national boundaries and are skeptical about the political machinations of their own nation. Citizen diplomacy breaks barriers in this age of communication.
While most nations maintain some kind of military, only about 1/8th of them require compulsory service. A growing number only maintain minimal defensive forces. Some rely upon civilian militia for defense. Most African nations now only mobilize forces on foreign soil as part of the UN or AU, similar to European nations with NATO. Of course, these combined forces are not free from criticism.
While civil wars are still relatively common, most aggressive use of force on the international arena is associated with neocolonial efforts to maintain the flow of cheap resources. Such wars are growing harder to justify. The recent US invasion and occupation of Iraq stands out as an example of a broadly unpopular war of domination.
The primary solution to civil wars is an accepted system for peaceful sharing of power. More than half the nations on Earth have established multiparty democracies, while most of the rest have two party systems, which may not offer much change, but at least maintain the appearance of power sharing. Most civil wars today are rooted in meddling by global powers seeking control of resources. Divide and conquer remains a strategy or the powerful.
It appears to be growing more difficult to convince youth that the military offers a worthwhile career option. There are some mercenary forces, essentially sociopaths for hire, and there are a handful of true believers struggling to maintain the tattered image of the glorious army. And there are still masses of disempowered people caught up in the momentum of the military industrial complex, rationalizing their relatively minor roles in war as the result of decisions that were out of their hands.
The handwriting is on the wall. People are aware that we share more in common with those of other cultures than the minor variations that differentiate us. People from nearly anywhere can go into a cyber café and use translation software to communicate. We can often share photographs and video to see slices of each other’s lives.
When an attack happens, we can no longer be convinced that another nation threatens us. We are not driven to destroy an enemy culture, but to understand and contain the deviant force that justifies violence. We know that retribution is unsatisfactory, however frustrated we may be with the legal system.
Two nations once torn by civil war, South Africa and Ireland, have shown us a new approach toward justice and peace. Restorative justice relies upon a process of truth and reconciliation, where victims and perpetrators determine sentencing through a mediated process, which allows the perpetrator to make amends and seek forgiveness from his victims.
As the costs of extraction and exploitation become apparent, the old colonial system is obviously inadequate. The architecture of the fading competitive paradigm crumbles away. Major lifestyle shifts aren’t easy, but the rewards are there if we keep our eyes upon the brightening horizon.
Nobody trusts global corporations or powerful centralized governments. Even those who spend their lives employed by them are merely struggling to get what they can before the house of cards blow over. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our time is to help those caught up in exploitation to release their materialistic fears and relax into the natural state of the world.
There is an exciting trend toward radical localization. People are joining together in democratic movements to demand respect for people and the natural systems upon which we depend. Through strikes and boycotts we flex our muscles. We focus our creativity upon locally controlled efforts to use resources sustainably to meet genuine local needs. We are building the future we choose.
Our children can imagine a world that holds on to the best of our communication and understanding, while falling back upon our time tested natural relationship to the planet. We can grow our own food, pedal our own bikes, and care for our neighbors. We can be responsible citizens of the world by building functional democracy from the grassroots. By honoring the good in each person, we grow our shared desire for peace.
It’s not all rosy and happy. The world is a rough and tumbled place. We make mistakes and hurt each other too often. But we are learning to make amends. We’ve discovered the deep joy of genuine service. Together we are recovering. By focusing upon our common dreams and ideals, we are emerging.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Why do some people seem obsessed with having power over others? What are the roots of this need to control people, which seem to prevent the development of empathy and compassion? How did we get to be like this?
Babies aren’t naturally domineering, though control of others can be observed in children as young as two. Such behavior appears to be learned through experience. It seems that being dominated can teach one to dominate.
Empathy, on the other hand, appears to be an inborn trait. When an infant hears another crying, she will join in. Infants mimic the emotional expressions they observe. In fact, empathic learning appears to be the way we learn to become domineering. Ironically, to become a more effective dominator, one must shut down the natural impulse toward empathy.
This is the core of military training, which begins in our culture long before induction. Inferior beings are thrown into the category of “others, those who do not feel as I do.” It is pointless to empathize with the insects we squash, the animals we kill for dinner, or the people we oppress.
Thus, troops learn to kill Japs, or Gooks, or Ragheads, without concern for their feelings. Others of all ages and either gender are fair game. It is their fault for getting in the way of our superior society. For militaristic men, expression of dominance can supplant natural sexual urges. Thus rape, pillage, and plunder of the weak by the strong become the rules of engagement. Officers frequently rape underlings.
For too many people, dominance is just the way life is. If you don’t want to suffer more, you submit to your share of humiliation. The only way to rise above it appears to be becoming dominant yourself. Thus the boss shames the worker, who beats his wife, who disciplines the child, who kicks the dog, who gets shot for biting the boss.
Outside the military and prisons, overt domination is socially unacceptable. Civilized people are not expected to behave this way in public. Yet subtle forms of dominance pervade our society, from the hierarchical corporate organization chart to the practices of prostitutes. Expressing dominance is a cheap stimulant in which we all engage at some time.
The thrill of dominance is undermined by our natural tendency toward empathy. Soldiers and jailers suffer from the realization that they have been hurting other people. PTSD and high suicide rates are found amongst those who practice routine violence, even under the umbrella of state sanction. To shut down this natural empathy is to become a sociopath.
Many people play the line between dominance and submission, experiencing both roles. Sometimes partners engage in the interplay of role reversal, developing empathy by walking in the other’s shoes. Many search for empathic proof that voluntary servitude is not painful, but joyous.
The alternative to the world of dominance and submission is the egalitarian ideal, where the autonomy of every individual is respected. Service is always voluntary. As Marshall Rosenberg teaches “I don’t want you to do anything for me unless it brings you joy.” Enlightened people in all cultures devote themselves to service.
Gandhi & Dr. King modeled for us the power of compassion over dominance. By voluntarily choosing to submit to a jail cell while respectfully denying the authority they protested, each of these gentle men asserted their autonomy to the shame of those who relied upon violence to maintain dominance.
The big challenge is to teach by example the higher road of compassion. Rather than dominating our children, we can respectfully encourage them to find pleasure from voluntary service. We can devote ourselves to those who need to heal from the crude dominance that is too common in our world. Both victims and perpetrators need compassion, forgiveness and redirection toward a healthy, natural way of being.
Monday, October 15, 2012
As I get older I find myself explaining things I remember clearly to those who weren’t aware at the time. Today I’ve decided to pen a brief history of the political decay that has gone on in the USA during my lifetime, because it will hopefully help to inform the actions needed to dig our way out of this mess.
I’m going to begin a little before my birth, relying upon information I’ve gathered from my parents and their peers. WWII was a pivotal event and FDR and Eisenhower (who was POTUS when I was born) characterize the best memories of each of the mainstream parties.
Franklin Roosevelt was probably the most popular President this country has ever had. Born into power and married to his cousin, he championed a sort of noblesse oblige, which gave major concessions to the peasant class in order to prevent revolution. Eleanor went even farther with this concept, establishing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and daring people to dream of a world without war or poverty. FDR raised the Middle Class out of the Great Depression.
FDR mollified the war profiteers by turning them on themselves. In the course of thwarting fascism in Europe, he built the groundwork for fascism in the USA. Although an attempted fascist putsch against him was derailed by the military hero, Smedley Butler, FDR was able to move the populace from debating if communism or anarchism was preferable to building the modern military industrial complex.
The real coup came when power bosses determined who would be FDR’s last term Vice President. Edwin W. Pauley, an oil man who worked with GHW Bush & Howard Hughes, both active in the CIA, led the drive to replace the left leaning Henry Wallace with Harry Truman rather than popular Supreme Court Justice Wm O Douglas.
Harry Truman cemented the militarism of the USA, establishing the permanent peacetime army, which had been anathema to patriots prior to WWII. The product of a notoriously corrupt political machine, Harry gained national attention by exposing war profiteers. In retrospect we can see that he did more for them than any other President.
Harry dropped the bomb. Nobody else has ever purposely used nuclear weapons against people. He also started the Cold War against the USSR and organized the newly formed UN to back a hot war against North Korea. Perhaps more damaging than all that was his institutionalization of secrecy in the US government, by signing the National Security Act of 1947, creating the NSC & CIA, and unifying the Pentagon.
For many years there was another secretive power openly affecting politics in the USA. J. Edgar Hoover built up the FBI by fighting against organized crime, but slowly repurposed it to fight communism in the style of Joe McCarthy, by suppressing valid criticism of the US government. Hoover was rumored to be more powerful than any elected leader, keeping his work secret from Truman and Kennedy. He approved the assassinations of many civil rights leaders, apparently including Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dwight Eisenhower, a popular general during WWII, was elected on promises of peace, which he fulfilled by ending the Korean War in a stalemate that lasts today. Besides his poor choice of running mate, Ike is probably best remembered for his farewell speech, where he warned the public of the dangers of a peacetime military, coining the phrase “military industrial complex.” In spite of the warning, Ike didn’t find any way to use the powers of his office to unseat the corrupt.
John Kennedy symbolized a fresh new approach to politics in America, at least until we were able to look into his closet. His father, Joe, pulled his family above the middle class by running rum out of Cuba for Mafioso Sam Giancana. After a heroic stint in the US Navy, the young Senator from Massachusetts was able to parrot the popular anticommunism of his time, while appearing to rise above the old party bosses.
I don’t know who killed the Kennedys. It seems clear that Santo Trafficante, the Cuban Mafioso displaced by Castro, might have felt betrayed by a descendant of his own crime family when JFK refused to order bombing to support the Bay of Pigs. It is worth noting that this notoriously botched attempt to overthrow Castro with CIA trained Cubans was apparently directed from an oil derrick owned by GHW Bush.
It had to be salt in the wounds when Attorney General Robert Kennedy started rounding up long time Mafia leaders and prosecuting them for usury, bribery, fraud & perjury. By 1968 the prospect of another Kennedy in the White House must have terrified those who built their power with secrecy and thuggery.
While I don’t think there has ever been one grand conspiracy, I have no doubt that those people who exhibit more influence over political decisions frequently collude in secret. At least in the short term a ruthless willingness to do “whatever it takes” to remain in power is a functional strategy. Evidence of such collusion is as old as politics itself. Good people have been fighting against corruption for nearly as long.
Meanwhile, there was Nixon. Ike’s veep never had the charisma nor reputation of his boss. He had risen to power by supporting the McCarthy witch hunts and declared his candidacy at the notorious Bohemian Grove, surrounded by a racist cabal of power lords who profited from militarism and nuclear power. Ironically, a review of his beliefs shows that he was to the left of today’s Democrats.
Nixon took advantage of Johnson’s weakness among white southerners. The Texan powerbroker had made major concessions to the civil rights movement in a vain attempt to stem the criticism of his escalation of the War in Vietnam. George Wallace led a third party rebellion of racist white southerners before an assassin crippled him. Nixon began the tactic, but Ronald Reagan & George Bush, Sr. succeeded in converting these racists into Republicans.
Popular rebellion against the old Democratic machine politicians crystalized around the antiwar movement in 1968. Johnson decided not to run for reelection. Hubert Humphrey could not inspire those who had been envisioning Robert Kennedy as President, but he had enough of the old machine to beat the weak peace candidate, Gene McCarthy. Wallace’s withdrawal from the Democrats opened the door for Nixon to be elected by a small plurality.
The 1972 election was the last time I held hope for political change from the top down. A tremendous organizing effort nominated the peace candidate, George McGovern, a political reformer who had directed Food for Peace for JFK. The press was merciless in criticizing McGovern, a war hero, and refused to acknowledge the Watergate Affair until after the landslide election.
Once Nixon had served his purpose by thwarting the threat of genuine systemic reform, the powers that be hung him out to dry. After pointless negotiations, he conceded victory to the North Vietnamese and beat a retreat from the doomed-to-fail war. Shortly after, and before he could introduce any of his more progressive social ideas, he was consumed by the Watergate scandal. The American people ate it up, patting ourselves on the back for defeating the bad guys.
Jimmy Carter was a little known Governor whose friends at the Trilateral Commission bought him the advertising power of Coca Cola, based in his state of Georgia. His feel good campaign scrupulously avoided mentioning any real issues while defeating the unelected President Gerald Ford, and his single term in office accomplished remarkably little. He has, however, been a great ex-President.
When Carter took office there was lots of energy within the Democratic Party to clean up politics in America. Senator Frank Church led a special committee that looked into the misdeeds of the recently deceased J Edgar Hoover, but also explored illegal assassinations and antidemocratic coups conducted by the CIA. In a subtle display of power, the members of the committee who supported the majority report were defeated in their next election. There was a huge influx of off shore money, mostly through Joe Coors’ Committee to Defeat Liberal Congressmen.
I’ve spoken with several remorseful former CIA agents, who all insist that the CIA was never a rogue agency, like Hoover’s FBI had been. They insist that every deed of the agency was carried out under direct order of the POTUS. However, when a covert operative loses his job, he doesn’t forget his skills nor cede his contacts. This may have been the lesson we should have learned from JFK’s demise. It was driven home by Jimmy Carter’s defeat.
John Kerry’s Congressional Inquiry into the Iran-Contra Scandal laid out the facts, though they were distorted by the media and overwhelmed by evidence of White House involvement in drug smuggling. Reagan’s Campaign Director, Bill Casey, later became his CIA chief, a position rarely granted to someone with no history in the agency. He was obviously not in the employ of Carter’s CIA while running Reagan’s campaign, so we can assume he was laid off. This helps to explain how he had the connections to promise the Iranians arms shipments if they would only hold the US hostages until Reagan was elected. They were released the day of his inauguration.
I don’t know what inspired John Kerry to drop the investigation, which had revealed enough evidence to impeach the first President Bush. Senator Kerry, who as a radical organizer of Vietnam Veterans Against the War had thrown back his medals, seemed to loose enthusiasm. By the time he ran for President against the younger Bush, he seemed to be a candidate determined to fail. As Obama’s Sec of State, he’s a regular warmonger.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Reagan years were hard on progressives, as we watched reform stifled and social programs dismantled in favor of obscene military spending. Reagan had learned the lesson of Vietnam and so only invaded nations like Grenada that were too small to mount a defense. If there was a chance of meeting resistance, like Libya or Lebanon, he stuck to hit and run bombing raids.
It was interesting to observe the power struggle between Reagan and his VP, GHW Bush, the latter being a more conventional machine politician, as opposed to Reagan’s rebellious populist image. I emphasize that was only an image. Reagan was a willing tool of the powerful, having worked for years as a mouthpiece for GE. His candidacy was announced at the infamous Bohemian Grove.
Reagan’s original appointees all met with scandal or other mysterious problems and were each in turn replaced by Bush cronies. The last to go was Bill Casey in 1987. He had promised to tell Sen. Kerry’s committee everything about the Iran-Contra scandal, when he had a “cerebral accident” and was rushed to Bethesda Hospital, where most of his frontal lobe was removed. He was never again lucid.
Days after Casey’s surgery, President Reagan was scheduled to go to Bethesda for a routine colonoscopy. Just before he left to keep his appointment, Nancy Reagan had an entire surgical team, from doctor to the lowest orderly who might come near her husband, flown in from New England to replace the Bethesda team. I took this as confirmation of my paranoia about conspiracies. Perhaps it helps to explain Kerry’s conversion.
Bill Clinton came from the “if you can’t beat them, join them” camp of the Democratic Party. He led the Democratic Leadership Council with funding from the Koch Brothers in promoting “third way” politics, which apparently meant accepting bribes to do the dirty work of corrupt corporations while talking a good line about human rights. During the Reagan years, powerful sellouts rewrote the internal processes of the Democratic Party, undermining democracy with Super Delegates and other cheap tricks. Clinton repaid his investors with NAFTA.
Sen. Kerry was not the first wimpy candidate to face GW Bush. Al Gore ran a flaccid campaign in 2000 and still managed to win enough votes to take office. There was a serious question about corruption in the Florida recount. Bush’s brother was Governor of Florida at the time and Republicans were cheating openly.
The Constitution says when nobody has a majority of Electoral College votes, the House of Representatives chooses a President. The House had a strong Democratic majority at the time, but none of them raised a peep when the Supreme Court, in an unconstitutional fiat declared Bush as President. The Green Party protested louder than the Democrats.
I’m sure you all remember W, 911, and Obama. I’m sure many feel sold out by Obama. If you had bothered to read his issues statements prior to his election, you’d realize that’s exactly what he promised to do. All the hype about Obama being liberal came from Republicans. He was the most conservative nominee the Democrats have come up with in my lifetime.
And he turned out to be worse than we could have imagined, escalating Bush’s war on Afghanistan and attacking several counties, none of which had attacked us, without even consulting Congress. He has defended in the courts his authority to torture, convinced Congress to give him authority to indefinitely detain suspects without trial, and claimed the authority to assassinate anyone anywhere.
There is one thing this review of history makes clear. We aren’t going to be able to vote our way out of this mess. Both corporate parties will continue to nominate the best politicians that money can buy. The two party system locks out third party challenges by making them spoilers for the lesser of two evils. The Supreme Court is so packed with conservatives that we cannot rely upon them to stop bribery. They defend it as free speech.
I haven’t given up on the vision of fair elections. I know that transparent fair elections could be used in a multiparty system to build a government responsive to the will of the people, if we could get rid of the corrupting influence of money. Unfortunately, those who win in a corrupt system have no incentive to reform it.
To accomplish the necessary systemic changes, each of us must claim our personal power. We must recognize the forces of corruption wherever they hide and refuse to be manipulated by them, taking direct responsibility for the long-term effects of each of our own decisions.
When we each refuse to work for or buy from the corrupt corporations, the result will be general strike and broad boycotts. We can also refuse to pay taxes into governments that don’t represent us. We don’t have to pay for the bullets they aim at us, or the prisons they lock us into. Nonviolent noncompliance is the ethical high road and it can be used to win great concessions.
I began writing the ProposedConstitution for North America in the 1980s. Nobody is betting that I’ll see anything like it implemented in my lifetime. Oh, well. That is no reason to avoid sharing my ideals. I have had much more success promoting real democracy in my community.
I work with consensus driven organizations to build support for those who will live without the corporations. Local organic farmers are starting to deliver food by bicycle. Our community has discussed the possibility of rewriting our county charter to begin building a multiparty democracy. Maybe, if we work hard enough, our great grandchildren will have a planet worth living on.