Get on board or get out of the way!

How is the American population controlled? The main way is by controlling how the public perceives others in their society and hence how they experience their place in relation to others. It doesn’t matter what people think in their own minds, what beliefs they hold privately, as long as it is kept out of what is allowed to seen and heard in the public sphere. In fact, the more there is a sense of disconnect the more isolated and powerless the individual feels, and this is makes the public all the more easy to manipulate and manage.

Washington Post put out a two-part series about the real moral majority (The Democratic Party has moved left — but so has the U.S. This explains how and why.; & The nation’s liberal shift is likely to continue. Here’s why.). They were brought to my attention by Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and the author of the WaPo pieces. “The shift,” he wrote in his blog, “is long-run, unsurprising, and likely to continue.” I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been saying this for many years, such as a major post I put together about a decade ago (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism), along with many posts written since then (Political Elites Disconnected From General Public, American People Keep Going Further Left, Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism, The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1 & Part 2, Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America, ). It’s amazing to finally see the corporate media come around to acknowledging this fact. I wonder what caused the WaPo to point out the obvious all this time later. Since this has been going on for decades, why haven’t they been hammering home this simple observation? That is a rhetorical question. I’m sure the media elite knew this info all along, as the polling data is from respectable mainstream sources and has been often reported on, despite rarely having been put into a larger context or depth of analysis. My cynical suspicion is that it’s precisely because they knew the American public was going left that they kept talk about it as limitedly and as unclearly as possible.

The corporate media and political elite, instead of causing Donald Trump’s election could have prevented it, assuming they were genuinely worried about it, but that would be a false assumption. Even a crazy plutocrat gaining power within the plutocratic establishment is not a great concern to the plutocratic-owned-and-operated press and bipartisan political machine. Trump was one of their own, a product of wealth and a creature of corporate media. By the way, the main reason Trump won or rather Hilary Clinton lost is because, among those two options, he spoke with stronger progressive rhetoric (Old School Progressivism) — from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primary race in 2016 owed partly to the fact that he was, as he tweeted in May 2015, “the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.” When President Trump abandoned this pledge and joined congressional Republicans in trying to pare back Medicaid coverage, it was the least popular major legislative proposal since 1990.” Have the Democrats finally learned from this harsh lesson that publicly shamed them on the world stage? Do they even care or have a capacity to be shamed into better behavior? Maybe. Time will tell. We are seeing major push back in the Democratic Party and even the DNC preferred picks (Biden, Warren, and Bloomberg) are embracing more progressive rhetoric, even if its empty words and false promises.

The push back will continue until there is eventually reform within the system or, failing that, riots and revolt that forces change. Until then, the shift will keep going further left and the pressure will keep on building. Already at this point on many major issues, the average American is surprisingly far to the left. Within corporate news reporting that has pushed the Overton window into the reactionary right, majority public opinion is too radically far left to be part of allowable ‘mainstream’ debate. Most Americans are well to the left of the DNC elite not only on economic issues but also ahead of the curve on cultural issues like same-sex marriage. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn’t support same-sex marriage until many years after it had already become majority opinion. I bet the same thing is seen in comparing the average news reader and the media elite. Many, maybe most, WaPo readers surely already knew on some level that this was true without a WaPo article telling them it was so. Corporate media has primarily served the purpose of not only protecting corporate interests but also representing the ruling elite of the two-party system. Now will the WaPo write a series of articles showing how the actual substance of campaign promises of the likes of Warren, Biden, and Bloomberg are to the right of the American voter?

To put it in historical perspective, the two Roosevelts, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and even Nixon were in many ways far to the left (economically, at least) of the present DNC elite, which leaves the GOP on the distant right-wing fringe about ready to tip over the ledge into outright fascism. Neoliberal and war-friendly politicians like the Clintons and Obama are essentially Reagan Democrats. The entire political elite, in both parties, shifted hard right. It’s not that Democrats (or rather the DNC elite) were dragged right. They went in that direction of their own free will. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were Blue Dogs in opposing leftist reform and more direct democracy, labor unions and fiscal liberalism, a strong safety net and social democracy, etc. As presidents, that was their political ideology and identity. Look at how Bill Clinton used racist dog whistle politics, such as creating a photo op while standing in front of chained black prisoners with the most infamous KKK memorial in the background when introducing his racist crime bill to the public. And Carter, of course, was president before Reagan. His financial adviser instituted much of what later would be called the “Reagan Revolution”. Reagan inherited this adviser and so it’s somewhat a misnomer to call it Reaganomics, although Reagan did add his own special twist to it (Starve the Beast and Two Santa Claus Theory; National Debt, Starve the Beast, & Wealth Disparity).

That the two corporate parties shifted right doesn’t lessen the author’s point that simultaneously the American public shifted toward what the ‘mainstream’ media hacks and political elite have portrayed as the extreme left-wing. That is the sad part. The divide isn’t a split in the general population. Rather, it’s a class war between the powerful rich and everyone else. In starting this war, the plutocracy sought the support of the shrinking and increasingly reactionary middle class in keeping a solidarity of the majority from forming. The elite have become quite talented and successful in their strategy of divide and conquer. One of their best tactics is lesser evilism, not that they’re limited to this (Inequality Means No Center to Moderate Toward; Political Elites Disconnected From General Public; Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism; & The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1). No matter how far right both parties go, the DNC elite always argue that we have no choice but to vote for the DNC candidate who is slightly less right-wing ‘evil’ than the other right-wing of the one-party state. And so the duopolistic stranglehold is maintained. Meanwhile, the corporate media works closely with the two-party system to silence third parties and independents who are in line with majority opinion (The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties; NPR: Liberal Bias?; Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media; Black and White and Re(a)d All Over; & Funhouse Mirrors of Corporate Media).

All of this is brilliant in its Machiavellian evil genius. You have to give them credit. It is highly effective for propaganda campaigns, perception management, social engineering, and social control. The majority of Americans, the real moral majority, have been kept in the dark about the fact that they are the majority. Instead, we Americans have been made to feel isolated and powerless in not realizing most other Americans agree with us. But we the majority aren’t without influence. The DNC party platforms have been slowly and reluctantly drifting leftward in following the lead of Democratic voters, although the DNC elite is still trailing behind in this trend. Even conservatives haven’t gone further right and, in some cases, have also gone left, including on social programs — again from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “As political scientist Matt Grossman has documented, most conservative states in recent decades have either offered slow increases or no change, rather than reductions. In a few instances, such as universal preschool for 4-year-olds in Oklahoma and Georgia and free community college in Tennessee, these states have led in expanding social policy.” Of course, party elites remain right-wing corporatists, but pressure from below is forcing them to moderate their authoritarian tendencies or at least to hide them better. They are talking the talk, if not yet exactly walking the walk (e.g., Obamacare’s corporate-friendly insurance ‘reform’). But they are coming around on certain issues, such as how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama finally came out in support of same sex marriage years after it had developed into a majority position. On economic issues, the shift has been slower, though one can feel the ground moving beneath one’s feet.

A right-wing reactionary like Trump having used progressive rhetoric to steal enough votes from the political left and cobble together a narrow victory was a game-changer. Now every candidate has to use progressive rhetoric. This is populism and progressivism returning to its non-partisan roots, as seen in the movements from earlier last century. These kinds of social movements that seize the entire population are never constrained by party politics or else, when they do take partisan forms, it is most often in the shape of third parties, independents, and local politics. That is until it becomes an undeniable force that reshapes even the main parties, maybe as we are seeing now. It is a groundswell of change that sweeps up from below, a seismic shift that reorients all of society. That is what we are in the middle of, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Anyone with their eyes open these past decades saw this coming.

I might add this shift would have happened much more quickly and dramatically if the public hadn’t intentionally been kept ignorant by the media and education system. Polling has shown that the American public has zero tolerance for high inequality. So, why do we have such high inequality without any populist revolt to threaten the plutocracy? It’s because the American public has been lied to with corporatocratic propaganda. Most of the citizenry simply does not know how bad it has gotten, just as most don’t know they are part of a majority. Everything that the public is told is carefully framed and all debate is tightly controlled. The specific lie in this case is the claim that inequality is small when it is actually large (Christopher Ingraham, Wealth concentration returning to ‘levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,’ according to new research; ). In fact, it is immensely larger than public polling shows most Americans think should be allowed (Dan Ariely, Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It); & Chuck Collins interviewed, U.S. Public Opinion Favors Bold Action to Address Rising Economic Inequality). Why is it that the elites of both parties and all of the corporate media conveniently forget to tell the public this inconvenient truth? That is another rhetorical question.

Despite being trapped in this black iron prison of managed perception, many see through the spectacle and illusion while still others sense, if unclearly, that something is wrong, that there must be something else than what is being shown. Even in not fully grasping how bad it is, the vast majority nonetheless support more regulations on corporations and more taxes on the rich. Americans are strongly in favor of better social programs and a stronger social safety net. There is split opinion about how to pay for it, but that brings us to the next part of how social control is maintained. Our demiurgic overlords in their paternalistic concern explain so kindly that we can’t afford it, as if chastising a child asking for cake for breakfast. Money doesn’t grow on trees. All that wealth belongs to others and it would be wrong to take it. Naughty children! The intellectual elite over at Reason Magazine, the propaganda rag for the Koch Robber Barons with numerous corporate front groups as the funding sources (SourceWatch, Reason Foundation), want to help us understand the error of our ways: “Tens of trillions of dollars in new taxes are likely to prove a bit of a hurdle for Americans who want lots of new goodies from the government only if they’re entirely free” (J. D. Tuccille, More Americans Want Bigger Government—If It’s Free).

Trillions? Such a big scary number. Really, asshole? I think I’ve seen where the trillions go. We can’t afford ‘socialism’, you say. Well, I suspect most Americans would agree with me in thinking that we can’t afford kleptocracy, socialism for the rich (Americans Can’t Afford Kleptocracy). Just look at one small part of one industry over a single year, and it still would be an underestimation because most of the wealth, resources, and other benefits given away goes uncounted: “fossil fuels enjoy $5 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies” (Brian Kahn, Building All the Fossil Fuel Projects Already in the Pipeline Would Wreck the Climate). Multiply that by the other areas of big energy such as nuclear and coal. Then multiply that by the numerous other industries that suck at the government teat: big tech, big ag, etc. And finally multiply that over the many decades that have bled the American public dry. Just over the past decade alone, we could be talking about the equivalent of hundreds of trillions of dollars of public wealth being stolen and stuffed into the pockets of the already rich. Now think about the incomprehensible amount of wealth that has disappeared into the private sector over our lifetimes, most of it probably having been diverted into foreign investments and secret bank accounts or wasted in financial gambling and conspicuous consumption.

All that money stolen and wasted, not to mention externalized costs on top of that. According to a study sponsored by the United Nations, “The report found that when you took the externalized costs into effect, essentially NONE of the industries was actually making a profit. The huge profit margins being made by the world’s most profitable industries (oil, meat, tobacco, mining, electronics) is being paid for against the future: we are trading long term sustainability for the benefit of shareholders. Sometimes the environmental costs vastly outweighed revenue, meaning that these industries would be constantly losing money had they actually been paying for the ecological damage and strain they were causing” (Michael Thomas, New UN report finds almost no industry profitable if environmental costs were included; also see An Invisible Debt Made Visible). So, not only are industries like that of big energy taking trillions of dollars of corporate welfare as part of plutocratic socialism for they are simultaneously, on the other side of the equation, offloading trillions of dollars of costs onto the public. And we have no way to measure the further costs externalized through pollution and ecological destruction. It is an incomprehensibly large net loss for all of society, in the United States and across the world.

We are told that we can’t afford a few trillion to ensure most Americans don’t suffer and die from preventable and treatable health concerns, some of it caused by the very costs of pollution externalized on the public, especially the poor who are more likely to live in industrial toxic zones. That is psychopathic to a degree that is truly evil, not lesser evil, just plain evil. If the public ever figures this out, it will be game over for the plutocracy. And the plutocracy knows it. This is why they spend so much of their wealth in keeping the American public ignorant, confused, and divided. It is an investment in maintaining plutocracy itself. Yet, for all this effort of manipulation and deception, the entire population continually and steadily heads further left, in an instinctive reaction to such grotesque corruption as the public runs away from the stench. Americans, in being kept in the dark for so long, don’t know where they are heading in embracing a progressive sensibility, but they understand that there is no other moral choice than to seek something different by leaning forward into new possibilities. That is the first step toward radical imagination and political will, wherever it might end up.

The self-appointed ruling class will either get out of the way and follow the public’s lead or they will be find themselves trampled under foot. As we face global crises of a scale never before seen, old school authoritarianism won’t work in the way it did in the past. Such authoritarianism could only make things worse, for poor and rich alike. I don’t know that, if given a chance, progressivism will succeed, but nothing is going to stop the masses from trying. With climate crisis and global catastrophe on its way, the sense of urgency will only increase and with it public demand for justice and fairness. Either we will find a way to create a better society or we will go crashing into mass conflict, quite possibly not just world war but total war. We would be lucky if such mass conflict merely ended in revolution.

This isn’t about one ideology defeating some other ideology. What is at stake is the survival of civilization as we know it. This is why most people, not only in the United States but in many other countries as well, are looking toward egalitarianism. Amidst the threats of disaster, we humans somehow hold onto a sense of hope, that maybe, just maybe we will pull out of this tailspin at the last moment before smashing into the ground. Is that sense of hope realistic? If nothing else, it is far more realistic than what the kleptocratic kakocracy is offering with more of the same and worse in wringing every last drop of wealth out of society. Instead of cynicism, maybe its time to try something else. Let’s choose hope and see where it takes us. But if so, that would mean choosing egalitarianism as the first step before anything else would be possible.

A highly unequal society is inherently unstable and conflict-ridden. And as Walter Scheidel argues in The Great Leveler, there has been no society in human existence, from hunter-gatherers to empires, where wide disparities of wealth did not end in violence — if not revolution or war, then catastrophe and collapse. Put that in the context that the inequality in the present United States is higher than anywhere in the world and higher than any other society in all of history and prehistory, and it’s getting worse (Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place; Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects; Inequality in the Anthropocene; On Conflict and Stupidity; Class Anxiety of Privilege Denied; The Coming Collapse; & “Not with a bang but with a whimper.”). So, willingly or unwillingly, this age of concentrated wealth and desperate poverty will end. How it ends is our only freedom of choice. Knowing that this oppressive and unjust social order is doomed, we could choose to soften the crash landing by overhauling society as quickly as possible with mass reforms. Peaceful resolution is always a possibility, if we so choose, but that would require us to envision it as a real and desirable possibility. I’m not sure we have the wisdom and foresight to take this course of action, as history shows that humans and especially Americans tend to react to vast problems only after it’s too late to correct them. Have we learned from such mistakes and will we avoid repeating them?

I could end there, but let me shift gears. This kind of discussion can feel abstract, in speaking about a ‘majority’ and ‘inequality’. Looking at data, whether polling data or economic figures, can create a psychological distance from lived human experience. The reality on the ground is that ordinary people are involved, people who are suffering and struggling as individuals, families, and entire communities. An increasing number of Americans are trapped and isolated in poverty and this has stark consequences (Keith Payne, The Broken Ladder; Kate Pickett & Richard G. Wilkinson, The Spirit Level).

In speaking of the upper, upper (self-identified) ‘middle class’, what is in fact the top 9.9% that is only below the 0.1% ruling elite, Matthew Stewart offers the kind of class critique that is almost shocking to find published in the corporate media (The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy). This 9.9% is the right hand of the powerful, whereas it is the 0.1% that owns the media, buys elections, controls society, and such, the puppet masters behind the scenes (we wouldn’t know about the puppet masters at all if not for investigative journalism that has dug up their covert actions, dark money, and webs of influence: Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, the Buzzfeed expose, a WaPo investigation, etc). The new aristocracy of inherited wealth and privilege are the henchmen who carry out the orders of the ruling elite or else act as a buffer between the ruling elite and the dirty masses — they are the upper class professionals: politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, CEOs, corporate board members, think tank operatives, talk show hosts, movie producers, etc. Together, the top 10% maintain the rigid hierarchy of inequality and the social control that protects and enforces it.

Matthew Stewart writes that, “The sociological data are not remotely ambiguous on any aspect of this growing divide. We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids. These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.” This is how the immense gulf between wealth and poverty has been hidden. It’s not only hidden from the poor and the dirty masses, including those directly below them, the genuine middle class. More importantly, the reality of their privilege is hidden from their own awareness, a total dissociation. They are playing make-believe because the reality of inequality would cause them to feel uncomfortable and one of the most cherished advantages to higher class status is the ability to maintain a sense of comfortable numbness to the suffering of others, but this requires also maintaining the inequality that keeps the rest of humanity separate for if the 9.9% ever saw how most others lived their illusion would be shattered.

Pretending to be middle class is necessary for plausible deniability about class war. Rather than flaunting their status, the upper classes have flown under the radar. The 9.9% present themselves as ordinary Americans, as “middle class.” And the 0.1%, for the most part, don’t present themselves at all. Consider how disheveled and unimpressive Steve Bannon appears, and I have to wonder if that is an intentional disguise. In reality, he is one of those 9.9% working on behalf of the ruling elite. Bannon had a successful career in Wall Street banking and Hollywood movies, but he wasn’t part of the highest echelon of the capitalist class. He was one of those henchmen who, even if he aspired to be part of the ruling elite, was used and funded by those far more powerful than he is (the Mercer, Koch, and Trump families). He was used and, when no longer useful, he was discarded. Yet he remains influential within his lesser sphere and will be comfortable for the rest of his life. He will go on playing his games of power and privilege, and he will go on trying to scramble further up the socioeconomic ladder while kicking down at those behind him.

This is the world we find ourselves in and one of the results is disparity of not only wealth but also of health. To be rich means to live well and to live long while poverty is a sentence of life-long suffering and dying young. Socioeconomic status is built into our lives and bodies. This is to be comfortable in a visceral and concrete way, to experience full physical development and expression, to ensure optimal health — as explained by Stewart: “This divergence of families by class is just one part of a process that is creating two distinct forms of life in our society. Stop in at your local yoga studio or SoulCycle class, and you’ll notice that the same process is now inscribing itself in our own bodies. In 19th-century England, the rich really were different. They didn’t just have more money; they were taller—a lot taller. According to a study colorfully titled “On English Pygmies and Giants,” 16-year-old boys from the upper classes towered a remarkable 8.6 inches, on average, over their undernourished, lower-class countrymen. We are reproducing the same kind of division via a different set of dimensions. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease are all two to three times more common in individuals who have a family income of less than $35,000 than in those who have a family income greater than $100,000. Among low-educated, middle-aged whites, the death rate in the United States—alone in the developed world—increased in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Driving the trend is the rapid growth in what the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair”—suicides and alcohol- and drug-related deaths.”

We are seeing a decline in the health of Americans (Health From Generation To Generation; Dietary Health Across Generations; A Century of Dietary and Nutritional Trends; & Malnourished Americans), but it isn’t not affecting everyone equally. The wealthy, of course, are doing well. And the older generations, having grown up at a time of greater wealth in the general population, are also doing better than the younger generations with increasing poverty. Many of the 9.9% (or their parents or grandparents) were able to enter the new aristocracy at a time when there was much greater and easier upward mobility that created a once growing middle class that, for many, served as a step ladder into the upper classes. If you look at wealth, it is also disproportionately tilted toward the older generations. On average, those in the Boomer and Silent generations were never as poor when younger and started off with many advantages; cheap education and housing, unionized jobs with large pensions, a booming economy that grew their stock market investments, etc. The class divide is magnified and further hidden within a generational divide, not unlike how class gets obscured by race. Instead of talking about class, we use demographic and social proxies that are tied into economic realities.

Health is another one of those proxies. Since data began to be kept, American longevity has been continually increasing, that is until the past three years. It’s not for a lack of healthcare funding, as the money going into the healthcare industry is increasing, but we are getting less bang for our buck, in spite of spending way more than other developed countries that get better health results, including longevity rates that continue to rise. It is hitting the young the hardest — Joel Achenbach writes that, “By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people age 25 to 34” (‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates). That is not a positive sign, considering the young represent the future. It is already fueling social and political unrest: “About a third of the estimated 33,000 “excess deaths” that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state.” And it is cutting across racial demographics: “Increasing midlife mortality began among whites in 2010, Hispanics in 2011 and African Americans in 2014, the study states.” So, we’re not only talking about the resentment politics of poor whites. The anger and anxiety did help Trump in his victory, but keep in mind that Trump also gained strong support from older Hispanics in the rural Southwest, Haitians and Cubans in Florida, etc. The sense of social fracture doesn’t always follow simplistic media narratives and political rhetoric.

Much of the health problems, by the way, are tied into metabolic syndrome which is primarily caused by diet — Achenbach continues: “Obesity is a significant part of the story. The average woman in the United States today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more. Most people in the United States are overweight — an estimated 71.6 percent of the population age 20 and older, according to the CDC. That figure includes the 39.8 percent who are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher in adults (18.5 to 25 is the normal range). Obesity is also rising in children; nearly 19 percent of the population age 2 to 19 is obese. “These kids are acquiring obesity in their early teen years, sometimes under the age of 10,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When they get up into their 20s, 30s and 40s, they’re carrying the risk factors of obesity that were acquired when they were children. We didn’t see that in previous generations.” “This isn’t a one-time phenomenon,” he added. “It’s going to echo through time.”” The quotes directly above come from one of the articles linked by Chuck Pezeshki in his recent post with a long descriptive title, More Societal Implications of the Obesity Epidemic — Insulin Resistance, Epigenetic Preloading and Obesity Showing Up in Mortality Stats.

Pezeshki takes a systems approach to understanding humanity and often focuses on health with a rare understanding of diet as part of a food system, specifically the problems of a high-carb diet in being the main contributing factor to metabolic syndrome. He has had a prediction, one that I agree with: “That prediction is that our awful diet that excludes saturated fats, and gives a pass to sugar and refined carbs, is combining with epigenetic preloading of insulin resistance and driving obesity in our young people. This earlier expression of insulin resistance, leads to earlier onset of Type II diabetes, and the incumbent Western diseases that flow from that. And that will lead to an increase in All-Cause mortality at younger and younger ages, leading to an enormous public health crisis.” But it’s coming quicker than he predicted: “I thought that it would take until the 2030s to really see some effect. As the data shows, I was wrong. The bell is tolling now.” And  it may result in “a compounding civilization-altering event.” Also shared, he has an even better piece, linking diet and a growth in authoritarianism (which was used as a jumping-off point for one of my own writings, Diets and Systems). Like some others, he points out that, “The states most affected are swing states looking for reversals of their fortunes, because their people are suffering.”

Similar to my own perspective, he links a high-carb diet to a particular mentality and way of being in the world, from addiction to authoritarianism. But more fundamentally is the most immediate and undeniable impact on the body: “What’s really wild is the documentation, through photos, of the obesity and incumbent diabetes crisis. Though obesity is not even discussed, almost all the photos included in the article show people who are morbidly obese. The kicker is the one healthy person in the story resisted his doctor’s advice and put himself on a de facto ketogenic diet.” A ketogenic diet, in case you didn’t know, is one that is extremely restrictive of starches and sugar; and a diet, I’d add, that probably was the norm of human society and evolution prior to modern agriculture. The shift to a high-carb diet was dramatic and traumatic and, since then, has become systemic with immense consequences in altering how the body functions.

“Even the basic concept of diet as a metabolic destabilizer — the real phenomenon going on here — is not understood. It’s not surprising. We still count food in terms of meaningless calories, instead of the most powerful medicine we ingest regularly into our systems. The problem with the whole issue of metabolic destabilization is that it drives diseases that are well-recognized, like cancer, with their own pathologies and entire industries set up to treat. Few scientists or physicians are talking about how to prevent cancer in the first place. It’s not that these people are evil — with rare exception (like cigarette smoking) the causal thought just doesn’t occur to them. Like the AIDS virus that destabilized its victims’ immune systems, leading to contracting all sorts of diseases one normally has resistance to, metabolic destabilization runs under the surface of the epidemic. Out of sight, out of mind. And that, dear readers, is a function of the social structure that is investigating the problem. Medical and dietary research organizations are just not set up to investigate root cause.”

This goes back to inequality, not a topic Pezeshki talks much about. Structures and institutions calcify as hierarchies form and become entrenched. This is why systems lose the capacity to cause change from within. And when reform fails, the only option is revolution or some violently disruptive equivalent, whether from internal factors (e.g., economic collapse) or external factors (e.g., plague), as Walter Scheidel describes in his history of inequality. Demagogues, sociopaths, and social dominators like Ancel Keys become increasingly common as the system rigidifies, since it becomes prone to authoritarian control. All Keys needed was to co-opt the American Heart Association and draw in some political allies, and from there he was able to command a total transformation of the US nutrition studies, food system, government recommendations, and medical practice that enforced a dietary pattern onto the entire population. That society-wide change is still with us more than a half century later. It is unsurprising that, during that same period, inequality kept growing greater and greater. Going back many centuries, it was understood that dietary ideology was important for social control, based on an explicit understanding that food alters not only health but thought, mood, and behavior (Diets and Systems), and I argue that the high-carb diet not only has to do with addiction and authoritarianism but also the fracturing and isolation of a hyper-individualistic worldview.

Let me use the example of doctors to make an important point. To return to the topic of the 9.9%, Matthew Stewart asks a key question and offers an explanation: “Why do America’s doctors make twice as much as those of other wealthy countries? Given that the United States has placed dead last five times running in the Commonwealth Fund’s ranking of health-care systems in high-income countries, it’s hard to argue that they are twice as gifted at saving lives. Dean Baker, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has a more plausible suggestion: “When economists like me look at medicine in America—whether we lean left or right politically—we see something that looks an awful lot like a cartel.” Through their influence on the number of slots at medical schools, the availability of residencies, the licensing of foreign-trained doctors, and the role of nurse practitioners, physicians’ organizations can effectively limit the competition their own members face—and that is exactly what they do.” Yes, a cartel. That is another way to say a hierarchical and authoritarian system, which is to say an expression of the mentality of control.

As part of the 9.9%, doctors play a pivotal role in moderating the harm and decline of our society. It fits a high inequality society that medical practice has come to primarily focus on treating symptoms rather than preventing, reversing, and curing disease. The authority of doctors helps shift the blame of societal problems onto individuals and so scapegoat the patient who is supposedly suffering the wages of their own sin because of gluttony (eating too many calories, fat, etc) and sloth (not exercising enough). But the reality is that most doctors are as ignorant as the rest of us since, in never having been educated on the topic, they know little about the science of diet and nutrition (Most Mainstream Doctors Would Fail Nutrition; & “Simply, we were dumb.”). The problem is, as authority figures, few of them will admit their ignorance. And the fact of the matter, most doctors at this point have become simply one more cog in the machine. Most doctors today are employees of large hospitals and clinics, not independent practitioners, and so they aren’t free to do what they want. If they don’t toe the line, they can have their license removed. Doctors, in being key to the system of social control, are also under the thumb of those above them. That is the plight of the 9.9%. Even among the wealthiest Americans, there is an underlying sense of being trapped within the dominant paradigm, though rarely acknowledged, and ideological realism makes it seem inescapable. So, most people just go along to get along.

What this does, though, is make all the problems worse in the long run. It doesn’t only shut down the ability to change but also shuts down the awareness of the need for change, in the way that the 9.9% refuse to acknowledge that they are on the top of a vast hierarchy that leaves most people impoverished, powerless, and disenfranchised. They might be the 9.9% in the United States, but still they are among the tiny fraction of a percentage in terms of global inequality. These are among the richest people in the world, but all they see is the super-rich far above them. It’s hard for this new aristocracy to realize what they are and the role they play. The drugs they overprescribe and the diet they tell their patients to follow, these are integral parts to a system of corporate profit. To challenge that oppressive and harmful system would mean, instead of being a beneficiary of power, making oneself a target of that power (as happened to Tim Noakes, Gary Fettke, Shawn Baker, etc). If only unconsciously, the 9.9% know they are disposable and replaceable.

If that is how the 9.9% is feeling, imagine the impossible situation for the rest of the population. Underemployment has become rampant, affecting nearly half of Americans and, as with so much else, that is probably an undercount because of who is excluded from the data (Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, report says). This means that these people and their families are barely making ends meet or, without welfare, they aren’t even able to pay the bills and are forced to skip meals. Consider that the majority of welfare recipients are employed, but minimum wage no longer pays enough to live on in many places, much less enough to try to raise a family with. No one actually knows how many unemployed and homeless there are, as an official full count has never been done. The permanently unemployed, imprisoned, and institutionalized are purposely kept out of the unemployment records. As jobs have become more scarce, teenage employment has gone down as well, but the government doesn’t count that either as part of total unemployment (Teen Unemployment). Combine all forms of unemployment and underemployment, throw in welfare and disability and so much else, and we are talking about the vast majority of the population is largely or entirely out of commission, what some would call “useless eaters” (Alt-Facts of Employment; Worthless Non-Workers; Whose Work Counts? Who Gets Counted?; Conservative Moral Order & the Lazy Unemployed; Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration, Race, & Data; Invisible Problems of Invisible People; On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc; When Will the Inevitable Come?; & A Sense of Urgency).

At least a third of the population and growing is now a permanent underclass, in that they inherit poverty as the upper classes inherit their wealth (the data shows that most wealth in the US is inherited, not earned), that is to say we’ve become a caste system. Most of the lower classes, of course, are without higher education (70+% of the population) and, unlike other developed countries, little is being offered in way of job retraining or any other form of useful assistance to better their lives. They are simply being left behind, abandoned by the economy and government — surely, that is how it feels to these people and the injustice of it burns, but more than anything they’ve given up trying or hoping for anything else. This is why we are seeing the return of multi-generational households, for purposes of survival.

Along with the wealth gap, we are falling into another kind of inequality, that of work. There are those who have little, if any, employment and, on the other side, there are those working multiple jobs and long hours. Those doctors, for example, in order to keep their jobs have to be willing to work 16 hour days and 60-80 hour work weeks. That is why there is much drug abuse. It’s just that doctors and other white collar professionals use prescription uppers, instead of meth, but it’s the same difference. The safer and more reliable sources of drugs along with better access to healthcare and drug rehabilitation programs, though, for these wealthier folk means they are less likely to die, as happens in poor communities, from drug overdose and poisoning. A large part of the rising death toll among in certain demographics is partly due to untreated drug use. Poor people are forced to turn to the unregulated black market for their drugs and that is not conducive to health and long life. Whether uppers to help work long hours and hard work or downers to deaden the despair of poverty and hopelessness, the entire American population is turning to ever greater drug use.

Both conditions create stress and failing health, the drug use merely being one of many symptoms of an ailing society (Stress and Shittiness; & The World Around Us). On top of that, quality healthcare is increasingly out of reach for most Americans, that is when they can afford healthcare insurance at all, and without healthcare insurance people simply don’t go to the doctor. Even when it’s a life or death situation, many people won’t call an ambulance because they know that ambulance ride alone will put them into permanent debt that they might never escape: “Not long ago a young boy came into the emergency room at Pemiscot Memorial with a severe asthma attack. His mother didn’t know how to use the inhaler properly. She hesitated before seeking help, and she drove him to the hospital herself rather than pay for an ambulance. The boy died. “To have a kid die of asthma,” Dr. Arshad says, “who’d have thought that could happen in 2017?”” (Sarah Brown & Karin Fischer, A Dying Town). They can’t afford to go on living, and in some cases dying can be more cost than families are able to pay. So, people die at home from preventable health conditions, often dying alone, to save on costs.

Beyond lack of healthcare, the poorest communities also lack clean air and water, with heavy metal toxins in their water pipes, not to mention the paint chipping away in their aging houses and schools, and on top of that it is in these communities that old industrial zones and toxic dumps are located. In areas of the South, the living conditions are equivalent to what used to be called “third world” with open sewage that causes high parasite load, which like lead toxicity contributes to developmental and neurocognitive issues (Lead Toxicity is a Hyperobject). That contributes to even more need for the very healthcare they don’t have. To deal with the worst problems, local and federal government is being forced to pick up the costs in treating the most basic of preventable diseases. In the US, we spend more on healthcare and get less for it, as compared to other Western countries. It’s not only the costs of healthcare but also the costs of increased number of people taking sick days, on disability, and spending their time taking care of sick family members. Furthermore, such things as lead toxicity stunts impulse control and increases aggressive behavior, which translates as higher rates of abuse, bullying, violence, crime, policing, and incarceration (Connecting the Dots of Violence). The diseases of civilization keep on rising and soon will be so costly as to bankrupt our society. Add that to the costs of an entire planet become sick from destroyed ecosystems, housing burned down from wildfires, storms devastating entire coastal areas, people starving and dislocated from droughts and plagues, political unrest, wars over limited resources, and wave after wave of refugees.

The world seems out of control. Sadly, it is the modern ideological system of control that has created the very problem of being out of control and then offers to solve the problem it caused. It just so happens that the rich get richer in selling us their solutions or in being funded by the government to do so. The whole paradigm of control is the problem itself, not the solution. But the system of control keeps us from seeing outside to any other possibility, as it keeps us from seeing how bad inequality, public health, etc has become. We are trapped in Fantasyland mediated by corporate media. We are a well managed population, but disease and climate change doesn’t give a fuck about human ideologies of control. Our ignorance and obliviousness of our situation is not helping us, and in the big scheme of things it isn’t even helping the rich and powerful. But we are addicted to control because the two are inseparable, such that control serves no purpose other than furthering the desire for control or, as William S. Burroughs put it, control is controlled by its need for control. Basically, a system of control is a self-contained reality tunnel. As it gets worse, the imposing of authoritarian control becomes greater. And the more control is asserted, it gets worse still as we spiral out of control.

The data does tell us much: shifting public opinion, rising inequality, declining public health, worsening climate change, and on and on. It offers a dark view of where we are and where we are heading. But all the data in the world can’t really explain anything, can’t offer any deeper insight nor any meaningful response. We didn’t get to this point out of no where, as the cultural underpinnings were put into place over centuries and maybe even millennia. I look at something like the EAT-Lancet report and what stands out is the narrative being told, the framing of perceived reality (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet). This is part of what I’ve called corporate veganism. The argument goes that human health, moral order, the environment, etc are out of control and so need to be put back under control. According to the EAT-Lancet report, the ruling elite need to enforce a different diet and food system onto the global population by way of food regulations, taxes, and bans. The public itself needs to be controlled because they are acting badly in eating too much meat that, as claimed, is harming humanity and destroying the world.

This is a particular way of seeing the world. There is a reason why diet has long been understood to be central to culture and social control, since food influences thought and behavior, and so public health has played a key role in moral panic and culture wars, public policy and political action (The Agricultural Mind; “Yes, tea banished the fairies.”; Autism and the Upper Crust; To Be Fat And Have Bread; Diets and Systems; Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration; The Crisis of Identity; The Disease of Nostalgia; & Old Debates Forgotten). Maybe this relates as well to the inequality we see in who gets access to quality healthcare, food, and nutrition. There historically has been a caste or class separation in what people eat and are allowed to eat. Slaves, serfs, and indentured servants typically subsisted on a high-carb diet of cheap grains and root vegetables. Based on Belinda Fettke’s research, I’ve noted that modern “plant-based” rhetoric originates in the Seventh Day Adventist’s agenda to control the sinful nature of humanity, such as advocating high-fiber grains (e.g., cereal) to suppress libido and so lessen the attraction to moral wrongdoing and sexual deviancy such as masturbation that endangers the mortal soul. So, eat your veggies! The Seventh Day Adventists seem to have inherited this dietary ideology from the older cultural strain of thought of Galenic theory of humors that was revived, popularized, and Christianized during the Middle Ages. Social control was essential to maintaining the feudal order and, as red meat was considered invigorating, it was often banned, although fish allowed (maybe explaining the cultural bias of why vegetarians and vegans will sometimes make exception for inclusion of fish in their diets).

Why has Western society been so obsessed with control? This goes back quite far and so is obviously significant. Control is definitely more important as inequality goes up and the social order destabilizes. As a contrast, consider the Mongols contemporaneous with European feudalism. Mongols had low inequality, lacked rigid hierarchy, and apparently required no oppressive social control. Even in organizing a large military, they operated in an organic manner that allowed them to be extremely adaptable to changing conditions on the battlefield without requirement of a strict chain-of-command to tell them what to do in every moment. Europeans, in their rigid minds and rigid social order, couldn’t respond quickly enough and were overwhelmed.

That is an old conflict, farmers vs herders, Cain vs Abel; and this was made part of the American mythos with the Wild West narrative where clod-hoppers and businessmen clashed with open-range ranchers and cowboys. This same basic contest of ideological and cultural worldviews echoes in the present public debate over a plant-based diets and animal-based diets where one side must win and dominate, but interestingly it is primarily the plant-based advocates who are interested in this public debate and so it’s a bit one-sided. Meat-eaters don’t tend to be opposed to plant foods in the way that vegetarians and vegans hold such strong opinions about meat. And so the meat-eaters are less interested in enforcing dietary control on the other side. Maybe there is something about the two diets that feeds into different mentalities and attitudes about control. Related to this, maybe this explains the coinciding rise of inequality and the high-carb, plant-based diet based on the big ag and big food. Industrial agriculture and the modern food system is all about enforcing control on nature to ensure high yields in order to make cheap, shelf-stable, and highly profitable food products. This has brought inequality into farming itself where the small family farm and small farming community has almost entirely disappeared.

Yet it is this modern economy of industrialization and neoliberalism, plutocracy and inequality that has caused so many of the problems. We wouldn’t need to control nature, from big ag to climate change measures, if we hadn’t done so much damage to the environment in the first place, if we hadn’t gotten so far out of balance in creating an unsustainable society. Everything feels precarious because we’ve collectively taken actions that create instability, something that in the past was openly and proudly embraced as creative destruction. But now everything feels out of control with creative destruction threatening to become plain destruction. Climate change causes catastrophes and that sends waves of refugees around the world. Those refugees are dangerous and so must be controlled. Whether it’s building a wall to keep people out or enforcing a vegan diet to keep people in line, it’s the same desperate demand for control. And the demand for control comes from up high with the dirty masses, foreign and domestic, as the target of control. But the only way the ruling elite can control society is by controlling the public mind. And likewise any revolution of society would mean revolution of the mind, the ultimate threat to a system of control. That is what some of the American founders understood. The revolution of the mind came first and prepared the way. I’d add that it came from the bottom up. Decades of social unrest, populist riots, and organized revolts preceded the American Revolution. To go further back, there had been uprisings since the early colonial period in the British colonies.

Here is the issue. We know changes were happening in the colonies. But why were they happening? And despite Thomas Paine’s attempts to inspire his fellow Englishmen, why did revolution fail to take hold back in England? Maybe that is where diet and food systems come in. What changed before both society and mind was a change in diet. In the colonies, some of the most common foods were fish, meat, lard, and butter (Nina Teicholz points this out, as quoted in Malnourished Americans); whereas back in England, the poor, when they weren’t starving, were eating an impoverished and urbanized version of a peasant’s diet with few nutrient-dense animal foods. It’s a rather simple dynamic. Unlike the English poor, the colonists were healthy, tall, and strong. Also, their food system was independent as they were surrounded by an abundance of wild game. From a Galenic viewpoint, it’s maybe relevant that the colonists were eating a lot of red meat, the very thing the old order of the ancien regime feared. Red meat was sometimes specifically banned before Carnival for fear that riots might develop into revolts. They genuinely thought red meat had this power over collective behavior and maybe they were right. As long as we modern Americans remain under the control of a high-carb, plant-based diet, we might never be able to achieve a revolution of mind and so no any other kind of revolution could follow from it. If we are hoping for radical change toward a free society, we’ll first have to have a dietary revolution and regain autonomy of our own food sources. As with the American Revolution, this will be a fight against the imperialism that has colonized our minds and lives and the transnational corporations that seek to dominate our society.

The American Revolutionaries had to create a new identity as a public. We’ll have to do something similar in coming to realize we the public are a moral majority, a progressive majority. That means changing the most basic structures of our lives that shape and influence who we are. Political change will be an effect of that, not a cause. There are many possible leverages, but maybe we’ve been overlooking one of the most powerful, that of diet and food systems. A nutrient-dense(and bioavailable), animal-based, and largely ketogenic diet sourced in local regenerative farming could be revolutionary with repercussions we cannot as yet imagine. Once there has been a shift in neurocognition and consciousness, then and only then can we begin to open up some space for radical imagination. Following that, we can do the hard work of working out the details, the same challenge the American colonists were faced with once their own mentality had started to shift in a new direction. But first things first. Changing diet is a far easier thing to accomplish and will make all the rest easier as well. Until we regain our birthright of physical and mental health, we will go on struggling as a society and find ourselves without the strength to fight back with determination. To have a revolution of the mind, we will have to nourish our brains and bodies. In the coming era of crises, we are going to need all of our human potential out on the table.

11 thoughts on “Get on board or get out of the way!

  1. Here’s a question: earlier on in this blog you posted an autobiographical entry called “A Fun Experiment”, which is really inspiring and fortunate, about how your entire life and health changed greatly for the better as a result of successful dietary changes.

    Who did you oppress to make that happen? I ask with sincerity. Who did you oppress?

    I ask this because there’s this pervasive attitude on the left that anyone who’s happy, successful, fulfilled in life, etc. never got that way through effort, merit, ability or talent, but merely by oppressing others cruelly, or through simply being lucky. So if you read the question and thought: “that doesn’t make any sense, I didn’t oppress anyone”, exactly you’re proving my point! But people can’t have it both ways, they can either admit that sometimes the strong happy and successful are fully deserving of what they have, or they’d have to say that you improved your health by oppressing others. We know that’s not the case. Just something to think about.

    • Oppression is baked into the entire social order. We could argue about degrees of oppression. We could quibble over who is directly and indirectly responsible, who is complicit in the oppression. But nonetheless, the oppression is undeniable. Our entire society was built on and has ever since been maintained through oppression, often violent.

      Millions upon millions of people have suffered, been crippled, been impoverished, made homeless, and killed by US actions around the world in wars of aggression and economic sanctions to enforce US hegemony over the global trade system and in maintaining access to exploiting cheap labor and natural resources in foreign lands. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used US influence to suppress wages in Haiti in order to increase the profit of US corporations that operated factories there. We attacked Iraq to ensure we had access to oil in the Middle East.

      This is nothing new. The US economy was built on slavery and genocide. Read General Smedley Butler’s expose, War is a Racket, of American military imperialism in the service of big biz. Like every other American, I benefited from this long history of oppression. Of course, not everyone benefits equally. I benefited more than some and less than others, but on average I gained numerous undeserved advantages, resources, and opportunities. If I don’t seek to escape this system of exploitation and oppression, I remain complicit in being a part of it.

      It’s sort of like someone living in Nazi Germany. They could escape or become a freedom fighter, but otherwise they would remain part of the Nazi regime, as they watched their neighbors be killed or taken away. Everyone knew what was going on and every German who wasn’t oppressed gained from what others lost. That was true even for Germans who weren’t directly involved in the Nazi military. The stolen property and wealth from those eliminated flowed through the German economy. The goods bought at the store were made by slaves being worked to death.

      That is basically the world we still live in. The only difference is those experiencing the violence mostly live in foreign countries. We don’t have to see their suffering and struggle, their desperation and deaths. But I try my best to remove myself from this system of power and control as much as possible. This is why I live simply and buy locally. American neoliberalism and neoconservatism are truly evil. They pervade all of American society. Still, I can lessen the harm that is done, such as avoiding Amazon and Walmart. Eventually, though, only violence in some form (collapse, revolution, or whatever) will end this oppression.

    • There are more slaves in the world today than at the height of legal slavery before the American Civil War. The neoliberal economy is inseparable from it, as there are few laws and regulations enforced in global trade. You are guaranteed on a regular basis to be buying products that involved slavery somewhere along the way. We know this and we do nothing about this. We live in a fantasy of innocence. Besides direct slavery, large parts of the world’s population works in slave-like conditions, such as Chinese workers whose only choice is to be locked up in factories or starve to death. It is their suffering and oppression that pays for the cheap products at Walmart, Amazon, etc. Knowing this, you are complicit. And there is no way you could not know this. The only question is: Do you care? How could you not care?

      That is on top of how the US and other Western governments use wars of aggression and covert operations to attack innocent countries, arm paramilitaries, overthrow democratic governments. They do so to control regions and trade routes, to maintain access to oil, coal, rare earth metals, etc… or else to keep certain other countries from having access. Even ignoring the millions killed in illegal and immoral wars such as in Iraq, millions more innocents die in economic sanctions. This kind of activity is done to protect and enforce American and Western hegemony. Those are actual lives, not just abstract numbers. This is what evil looks like in the real world, mostly not what we directly do but what is done on our behalf and what we don’t do to stop it. If you have the power to stop suffering and don’t, especially when you personally benefit from that suffering, you are responsible for it. The fact of the matter is we collectively could stop this suffering, if we chose.

      It’s a similar dilemma that the vegan faces. Their diet is inseparable from industrial agriculture and the global economy. They are forced to eat out-of-season produce that is shipped from around the world and requires chemical-drenched monocrops. There is no other way to do a vegan diet. This industrial agriculture is destructive to the environment, but it goes beyond a general unsustainability. Every time a farmer destroys an ecosystem to create farmland, sprays chemicals on their fields and harvests their crops, hundreds or thousands of creatures (mice, rabbits, lizards, insects, spiders, slugs, etc) are killed for every acre of land. This is a direct consequence of the vegan diet. The vegan can’t honestly claim to not know this, can’t honestly pretend they’re not complicit in this system and not responsible for the consequences of their own actions. They are choosing that diet when they could choose another diet that does not commit this harm, but that would require them to give up veganism and so give up on their pretense of innocence.

      I’ve long wondered about this kind of thing (Derrick Jensen has written some brilliant books about it). We humans are good at rationalizing the world we live in, the society we are part of. We don’t only rationalize but dissociate ourselves from uncomfortable truths and inconvenient facts. We psychologically disconnect ourselves from the suffering of others, even when or especially when we benefit from it. On some level, we know all of this. Yet we simultaneously know and don’t know. This is how so many Americans can deny the obvious racism in American society. They aren’t as stupid and ignorant as they pretend to be, but to acknowledge the suffering all around them is more than they can handle. The same goes for poverty, including poor whites. We have a hard time consciously appreciating the injustices in the world. To think about them makes us feel bad, and our society is designed to make us feel helpless. It’s someone else’s problem, someone else’s fault, if we acknowledge it at all.

      Put that in the context of this post. In your lifetime, it wasn’t only that those who didn’t deserve it were made to suffer and struggle. On the other side, we have an entire system of immense privileges for segments of the population. The socialism for the rich includes at least hundreds of trillions of dollars of public wealth and resources given away in your lifetime. Doesn’t the injustice and wastefulness bother you? That was stolen from you. When natural resources on public lands (i.e., the commons) are given away to corporations at below market prices, that might add up to millions of dollars per citizen lost as potential wealth. In Iceland, they sell public resources like oil at market prices and, because of this, they have a national surplus instead of a national debt. That surplus is guaranteed by law to only be used for the public good and does equate to millions of dollars for every citizen.

      Counter-examples like that demonstrate how we could choose a different kind of society. But to choose justice, fairness and compassion would first require us to look directly at the ugliness of our society. Until we actively make another choice, we will unconsciously continue down this path of death and destruction, the wages of our sin. Yet in recognizing we made choices in creating this kind of society, that is a recognition that we are empowered to choose differently, to choose once again. If we wish to live up to our dreams of a free society, we should act as if we are free. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

    • This is not a conservative vs liberal issue. It should not be treated that way. The political left does not have a monopoly on liberty and freedom, justice and fairness, compassion and kindness. These are human values, human concerns. I hope we all share them.

    • Let me clarify something. You write that, “But people can’t have it both ways, they can either admit that sometimes the strong happy and successful are fully deserving of what they have, or they’d have to say that you improved your health by oppressing others.” That is a false dichotomy. Myself and most others on the political left would never deny that there are some people who deserve what they have or at least don’t deserve to be blamed for harming others in getting what they have. It does no good to portray the political left as a caricature, any more than it is helpful or kind to do the same for the political right. You’ll notice that, in my blog, I try to be evenhanded in my treatment of the left and right.

      The political left perspective has far more nuance than you allowed for in your statement. It’s not necessarily that any given action is responsible for oppressing others. The political left tends to see the world in terms of relationships and connections, systems structures, environmental conditions and social factors. It’s more about what we are part of, what has shaped us and what we choose to be complicit in or else what we accept as default. Of course, we are individuals who are responsible for our choices, actions, and behaviors. But we are so much more than individuals. We belong to families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and communities; cities, states, countries, empires, and political alliances; cultures, ethnicities, racial constructs, socioeconomic classes, economic systems, and trade networks; et cetera. We contribute and benefit, we do harm and good as part of the world we are born into and choose to belong to.

      It’s a mixed bag, but we do the best we can, however imperfect that is. Still, we can and should always strive to do better. It’s our moral responsibility to ourselves, to others, and to God or whatever higher principle to which we devote ourselves. This is a visceral sense of reality that we are immersed in. It has been variously called the Body Politic, the Body of Christ, and such because it is how we are embodied in the world. It is part of who we are or rather we are part of it. We aren’t isolated individuals. We affect others, as others affect us. Everything we do has consequences, for good or ill. And we benefit or are harmed based on what others have done. Think of all the millions of inventions and infrastructure, knowledge and social capital, wealth and resources, genetic and epigenetic good fortune, and on and on that has shaped you and created the entire world you inherited as your birthright. You earned none of it and yet you were given it all freely.

      Others were less lucky than you or me. Even the poorest people in the US generally are better off than the majority of people outside of Western society. It’s all relative. But the fact remains that we benefit to varying degrees from much that we don’t deserve by any rational and moral accounting of individual hard work, talent, and merit. Just as it is also true that most people who are so much more worse off don’t usually deserve what they get either. We don’t live in a fair society. And because our society is ruled by sociopaths who play zero-sum games and enforce social Darwinism, too often the benefit of one group inevitably comes at a cost to another. When we attack a foreign country and steal their resources, when racial privilege gets one person into college and racial prejudice gets another into prison, that is systemic injustice that is not merely an issue of what individuals do or don’t do. We are caught up in systems and institutions, whether or not we recognize and acknowledge this state of affairs.

      I’d have to be heartless fool to deny the privileges I was given by birth, all the opportunities and second chances I got for no good reason. I was born an upper middle class white male in the richest country in world history. I had resources and opportunities most people don’t have. An innocent black guy would get stopped by police on a regular basis, but in my 40+ years on earth I’ve only been stopped once. Whites carry and use drugs at a higher rate than blacks, and yet blacks are arrested and convicted of drug crimes at a higher rate. I was one of those whites who carried and used drugs, and I got away with it because I was white and it also helped that I live in this middle class white liberal city. It was my undeserved privilege to be able to freely break the law and go unpunished. On the other hand, I had some disadvantages, such as having depression from a young age — surely related to the diet I was raised on and the food system that dominates the society around me but also likely to involve such things as the higher rate of lead toxicity that my generation (GenX) was exposed to from air pollution before environmental regulations were put into place. I’d point out that poor people in America and other countries are still disproportionately exposed to heavy metal toxins with undeserved consequences of permanent brain damage, stunted neurocognitive development, lowered IQ, learning disabilities, impaired impulse control, etc.

      Living in this middle class liberal city, I have access to much that most people lack access to. For example, the local economy has a lot of wealth flowing through it that supports farmers using what would otherwise be less profitable pasture-raised practices. Unlike so many poor Americans, I don’t live in a food desert. I have easy and relatively cheap access to local food sources, including a farmers market within walking distance of my home. I also had a good job with benefits, unlike most Americans, that allows me to buy high quality foods for optimal health. I didn’t earn any of this. I’m simply fortunate for reasons entirely beyond my control. Yes, I get some brownie points for having enough sense to take advantage of this good fortune to the best of my ability, but I must admit that most of my life has involved a wasting of such inherited privileges, opportunities, and resources. Not that it was entirely my fault, as that is the nature of the depression that hit me at such a young age. Still, imagine how much worse it would have been if I had been depressed while being a poor minority poisoned by heavy metal toxins and living in a food desert while constantly being accosted by cops who at any moment might beat the shit out of me for no good reason, which wouldn’t exactly lessen one’s depression. My past drug use, if I had been poor and/or black, likely would have landed me in prison and the permanent criminal record would have haunted me for the rest of my life.

      It takes a complete and utter fool to think we live in a fair and just society. This is what is called the Just World fallacy/hypothesis/theory. And it is one of the saddest traps of the human mind. It deadens the soul and cheapens human life. We can and should be better than that.

    • I’m reminded of a particular period of my life. Even as I’ve had significant privilege and good fortune, I’ve also had hard times. As I said, depression has been with me for a long time, going back at least to 7th grade and probably first emerging in elementary school. But I wasn’t diagnosed until after a suicide attempt a couple of years following high school graduation. The years of late teens and into my 20s were rough. I was a lost soul and nearly lost my life. I was living below the poverty line for many years. Still, I had plenty to catch me from falling through the cracks. My parents are upper middle class and they were the ones who hospitalized me after the suicide attempt and paid for my healthcare. After moving around, it was one of my brothers who allowed me to live with him when I had no money.

      I had plenty of social support around me, not merely social either since if anything really bad happened someone could have financially helped me out. I was surrounded by friends and family. Plus, as I mentioned, I was surrounded by wealth and resources in the community I lived. The local university is a medical research center and the free medical clinic is staffed with some of the best doctors in the country, not something poor people have access to. Also, social services around here, including a mental health clinic, are well-funded. Also, the economy is stable and jobs plentiful. Even during the recession and housing bust, the Iowa economy remained strong and in this town houses continued to be built. Between local government, hospitals and university, there are a ton of opportunities for employment with good wages and good benefits. So, though I dropped out of college because of depression combined with learning disability, even a loser like me had the immense privilege of finding a great unionized government job that required no qualifications.

      That goes back to social conditions, especially the racial issue. Research shows that poor whites, as I once was, are more likely to live in wealthier communities. But because of a history of racial segregation (sundown towns, redlining, etc), blacks and other minorities are disproportionately tapped in the most impoverished places. And if a poor black did move into a wealthier white community such as this town, they would be targeted by the police as the official data shows (this county has one of the highest racial disparities in drug arrests in the country, despite almost all the drug use and drug dealing involves whites). So, being poor and depressed can mean vastly different things depending on social conditions. I was surrounded by support, opportunities, and resources that helped me to escape my situation. That is not true for everyone. In a different situation, I’d still be trapped and probably homeless, institutionalized or dead at this point. I’m one of the lucky few. There were so many advantages I had in being able to so easily experiment with my diet in the manner I did. And it helped that my upper middle class parents moved back into town, as I began eating meals with them and we all shifted toward a lower-carb diet.

      Even though I forget sometimes, I try to remember to count my blessings or rather my good luck, as I don’t think I’m blessed. I’m simply privileged, though not as privileged as the upper classes or even many of the people I see in this town. But in the larger picture, I’ve been freely given so much that I never earned. It would be cruel of me then to look down on the less fortunate because they failed to escape the often impossible odds set against them. The playing field is heavily tilted. If nothing else, we should be aware of this and be humbled by it. Better yet, we should fight to change it, to make the world more fair and just, to treat our fellow humans with a sense of care as we would wish others to treat us. I really hope communicating in a way that helps you understand. None of us is born with such insight. If I’ve earned anything in life, it is this knowledge about how the world is. I put immense effort into learning, into undoing my own ignorance and unawareness, but it is a neverending struggle.

      Our egos tell us we are better than others. That is not true. The moral wrongdoing and systemic injustice in our society is horrific and plain sad. Trying to make excuses for it is not something I want to be part of. And talking about who deserves what is pointless. This is a shared society and we are all responsible to each other. I really hope that makes sense to you, that you can feel it in your bones or in your soul. What I offer is not a mere rational analysis. We will feel compassion, we will care for others when their suffering is personally and viscerally real to us, when we feel it as if it were our own or as it were the suffering of a loved one. You either feel it or you don’t, but to not feel it would mean some part of your soul is deadened and numbed, an unhappy fate. To be human is to belong to our shared humanity. That is the only inheritance that matters.

    • One thing to recognize is that we are strangers, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. So, we don’t know each other’s lives, our struggles and successes. Maybe you’ve had a much harder life than I had with far fewer advantages. Maybe you have a stronger sense of having worked hard and having earned what you got. I won’t judge you personally, since judgment would be based on ignorance. I can only speak of generalities about our society, but these generalities point toward real lives of others, lives that neither you nor I can appreciate fully. None of us knows what others go through.

      I’m just not one to look down on others for not escaping what was lucky enough to escape. Instead, I’d rather focus my energies on helping others escape or, failing that, to describe the prison that traps them such that others might learn how to escape it. One day, maybe we will dismantle or demolish the prison altogether and escape will become moot. It’s better not to trap people in the first place than to argue about who does or does not deserve to remain trapped. Though I was raised upper middle class, having fallen down the ladder since, my parents were not raised that way. They both grew up in working class towns. My mother’s family in particular escaped the poverty of Kentucky and southern Indiana in finding often unionized and high-paying jobs with lifetime job security in the factories and railyards of central Indiana.

      My family was lucky. The early to mid 20th century was a booming economy. Wages only began stagnating and dropping for most Americans starting in 1974, the year before I was born. But my low-IQ and uneducated (without any high school education) was hired in a factory and worked his way up to a position as supervisor. He earned good money that allowed him to own a house, buy a new car on a regular basis, go on multiple vacations every year, and then end up with a huge retirement savings and pension that supported both himself and my grandmother until their deaths. Then massive government funding made education and housing even cheaper for my parents who went to state colleges at almost no cost, as the taxpayer picked up most of the bill. The economy was booming and jobs were plentiful. They easily moved up in the world. And even when my dad became stressed out with anxiety attacks as a mid-level factory manager, he was able to afford quitting his job, taking his young family to a new town, and going back to school to get a PhD.

      I’ve recently visited my father’s hometown where my uncle still lives. A once thriving small community and economy (literally called “Small Town USA during WWII as part of a propaganda campaign), it used to have numerous small factories and was surrounded by small family farms. Now it has fallen into poverty. Unsurprisingly, as a former union stronghold, the population used to vote Democratic, but with loss of hope the county went to Trump. I don’t blame people who grew up there for not escaping. It was a nice town and it is their home. Maybe they didn’t want to escape because they didn’t want to leave behind their extended families and churches, their neighbors and community. It’s not their fault that the whole world came crashing around them, that most of the farmers were forced into bankruptcy, the factories closed down, and the downtown died. It was a good place and the people who remain are still good people.

      Their lives suck in many ways, as is the case with poverty. Their diets are bad and they don’t have the knowledge to even know what is a good diet, largely because their doctors and government officials lie to them about diet and nutrition. The grocery stores disappeared and mostly what is left are gas stations and diners, maybe with a Walmart some hours away. I doubt they have a farmers’ market, much less affordable high quality food such as pasture-raised animal foods. Like many others, they live in a food desert and so they make do with what they have available. Unsurprisingly, there are high rates of the predictable diseases of metabolic syndrome caused by a crappy diet. These people are far from unique. If anything, they are closer to the norm for the average American. Most people are being left behind in this new economy of a growing gulf between an elite minority of vast wealth and the dirty masses trapped in poverty. That I escaped and that my family, or at least part of my family, escaped the worst fate of so many other Americans does not comfort me.

      Most people are struggling just to get by, to pay the bills and have some money left over to be able to eat at all. A surprisingly large part of the population regularly skips meals to save money or simply because they run out of money. Then there are the homeless, the imprisoned and institutionalized, and the permanently unemployed who are mostly left out of the data and so no one knows how bad it has gotten. Much of the homeless population, by the way, isn’t even unemployed, but they simply don’t make enough money to afford housing. This is why most people on welfare are also employed. Minimum wage no longer is enough to pay rent and bills in many parts of the country. Walmart and Amazon employees are the single largest sector of welfare recipients.

      Are these people really going to afford a low-carb diet based on high-quality animal foods? Probably not. It’s hard to compete against how cheap grain-based processed foods are, since subsidies keep them artificially inexpensive. People eat a crappy diet because they are being lied to about what is healthy but also because it is all they can afford. Besides, working long hours at multiple jobs doesn’t leave much time left over for gardening, cooking, etc. They are overworked, tired, and stressed, and so they eat according to convenience. It would be rubbing salt into their wounds for me to act superior to them because I have greater wealth, resources, and privilege in being able to more easily change my diet. If I did that, I’d simply be an asshole.

      By the way, its not only being able to afford a better diet. As I said, there is the time it requires to experiment with diet, such as the hours I’ve spent daily reading, researching, and cooking. Preoccupying oneself with fancy diets is, as they say, a first world concern. Sadly, many Americans live under socioeconomic conditions that are closer to third world. This is shown in the health data with higher rates of suicide, greater parasite load, lower life expectancy, etc. For example, infant and maternal mortality rates for poor Americans are the same as many of the more impoverished countries in the world. Even if these people had the time and energy, are these people really going to prioritize diet over all their other problems? If they’re able to scrounge up enough money to put regular meals on the table for their families, they consider themselves lucky.

      The wealthier, specifically those wealthier than me, can afford high quality food, the best healthcare, gym memberships, massages, meditation retreats, vacations to de-stress, psychotherapists, nutritional supplements, etc. Well, they are extremely fortunate, unlike the majority of Americans and other people in the world. Most of those in the upper classes did little, if anything, to do deserve it all. If they feel superior about it, then fuck them. They are part of the problem. That isn’t to dismiss the few people who genuinely struggled and improved their lives without help from privilege, but keep in mind that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who struggled more than they did, that deserve a better life more than they do, and yet have little to show for it. We do not live in a meritocracy.

  2. I really don’t get it. Why is the most important info so often also the most ignored? I just reread this post. Damn! It is a thorough critique of diverse fundamental problems inseparably bound up in an existential crisis that could cripple or collapse our society.

    In some ways, it’s one of my more potent analyses of the modern dilemma of capitalist realism and such. Yet this post didn’t receive even a single like and the only comment was obtuse in being irrelevant to the the actual topic at hand.

    Whether my fault or not, there was a failure of communication or maybe a failure to even reach an audience. Of course, a blogger has little control over much of that. Readers are sent to one’s blog according to secret and mysterious algorithms used by WordPress itself and the search engines.

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