Open Thread

Here is the basic idea of an open thread. This is where a comment, idea, link, or whatever can be posted when it doesn’t necessarily fit the subject matter of any available post. This also can be where people can lodge their complaints or make suggestions, including possibilities for future posts.

Plus, this would be a good place for rants, as I’ll be less discerning in my moderation of comments here. I encourage open discussion. But there are limits. If your comment creates a negative atmosphere or simply lessens my happiness, then it will not be approved. I will use my discretion. Make sure your comment is worthy of your time and my own.

10,819 thoughts on “Open Thread

    • I don’t doubt there are many factors, including opioids. But as far as I know, there isn’t a higher than average of opioid use among the younger generations that are showing greater mortality. If anything, their drug addiction rates were lower, at least in the past. Something else is going on. And you know from my writing, that I’d suggest diet.

      Over this past century, there has been a steady increase of starchy carbs, added sugar, and omega-6s (margarine, shortening, seed oils). This was at the same time as the increase of highly processed foods with additives and tainted with farm chemicals, toxins, hormone mimics/disruptors, etc.

      Worse still, the data shows that foods are less nutritious than in the past because the soil itself is nutrient deficient. The chemical-laden mono-crop big ag is not helping. In Iowa, we’ve already lost more than half of our top soil and that mostly happened over the same past century.

      It is interesting that this change isn’t limited to middle age and rural whites. That it is hitting the young is worrisome. But the fact that it also is harming non-whites proves that we can’t blame everything on whites. Trump wasn’t elected because some whites are dying more, considering some non-whites are also dying more.

    • One of the side effects of this kind of community intervention in parenting is that, over time as enough of the population was influenced, the societal tendency toward authoritarianism would decrease. That is the problem in trying to get this put into practice on a large scale. The authoritarians and the social dominators who manipulate them would sense that this is a threat to their worldview and the social order their trying to enforce. They need traumatized people to be successful in their aspirations of social control

  1. So now they are posting that generation Y is even more screwed.

    Millennials are worth less on paper than members of older generations are, and are worth less on paper than members of older generations were at the same point in their lives. The net worth of your average Millennial household is 40 percent lower than for Gen X households in 2001 and 20 percent lower than for Baby Boomers’ households at the end of the 1980s.

    Yeah this is getting worse.

  2. How is it possible that the liberals seem to be the pro war, pro authoritarian party in todays world? Most of the older gernaetion, the ones taht support someone like Joe Biden. Aren’t these the same people that were part of the counter culture back int eh 60s? It boggles my mind.

    • I often write about that. I have many posts where I try to make sense of what makes liberals tick.

      It’s kind of personal to me since liberalism is the world I’ve spent most of my life. I’m surrounded by liberals. On an individual basis, I like most liberals. And I enjoy living in a liberal community where arts and literature are highly appreciated.

      But there are other aspects of liberalism that boggles my mind and plain hurts my soul. Liberals too often fail by their own liberal standards.

      I’ve sort of come to terms with the liberal phenomenon. I feel like I have a kind of understanding at this point. In studying history and social science, one begins to see the pattern. Liberals have always been this way.

      • Apparently, a lot of the “counter culture” youth of the 1960’s became educated professionals later on – becoming the Reagan Democrats of the 80’s and DLC-Clinton Democrats of the 90’s. Once people get older and become part of the establishment, they take on the values of the establishment. That’s my best guess.

        • There was some of that. But that isn’t all of it. There were plenty of Americans who remained well on the left. The thing is leftist organizing and movements, once able to influence public debate and Democratic policy (even pushing Nixon left), was smashed and neutered and silenced by the COINTELPRO of the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

          The 1960s was the last flash in the pan of radical politics, following a long period of oppression that began generations earlier. If you really want to see when the left was strong, look to the Populist and Progressive eras. Once the counter-culture youth came around, the authoritarian forces such as the FBI had become extremely powerful and invasive.

          Most Americans simply gave up on trying to change the system. There had been a struggle over whether America would become a genuine democracy or continue on the path toward empire. Well, the imperialists won. And in defeat, the American public was defeated and, for the most part, became apathetic and cynical.

          • Yeah, the FBI continues to crush political dissent.

            Can you think if any possible way to defeat the system? I remember right before MLK died, he was going to organize a protest at Washington DC and not leave until there demands were met. Do you think this would work in todays world? Are Americans to apathetic to care?

            I read this article from Caitalin Johnstone about psychopaths and how they rise to power I’m sure the US system is full of psychopaths at the top of the system.

            She also wrote on how to beat the US empire

            But I’m reminded of Malcom X’s quote: ““The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.””
            —Malcolm X

            How would you take down the system if you don’t mind me asking?

          • By the way, MLK definitely was one of those visionaries aspiring toward radical imagination. He didn’t merely help lead a movement and organize protests. He articulated what it meant and where it could lead. He inspired a sense of possibility and put moral force behind it.

            When I look at most political activism, what I see is failed imagination. These are tough times that demand our greatest potential. If the powers that be aren’t so threatened that they’re violently oppressing and silencing large numbers of people fighting for change, then we need to up our game toward radical imagination.

            That is what happened with the Black Panthers in the 1960s-70s when the FBI came down hard on them. They were seeking alliances with feminists, Native Americans, and even poor whites. That is what Amy Sonnie and James Tracy talk about in Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power.

            As in those times, nothing is guaranteed. The only way we can know we are having an impact is when those in power try to harm us and destroy us. The fact of the matter is they have the power and the resources, and for the time being they have the advantage. But that might quickly change as all of society destabilizes.

            Maybe we don’t really need to do anything different than what Americans fighting for freedom have been doing for centuries. We will keep losing battle after battle. But we need to keep our focus on the war that extends beyond any given generation.

            The powers that be will eventually lose and maybe sooner than later. All that is required, besides radical imagination, is courage and persistence. We will keep losing, until we win. That is because, in the end, the ruling elite are small in number and their power was doomed from the start.

          • I don’t think anyone is going to take down the system. The system will take itself down, eventually.

            It’s simply not sustainable. And stressors, from refugee crises to resource competition (much of it caused by climate change), will cause instability and violence possibly leading to riots and revolution, civil war and world war. Or else there will be decline leading to collapse.

            This will create opportunity for those seeking change, both toward democracy and authoritarianism. In the short term, it almost certainly will get worse. Beyond that, it’s a crap shoot. But I’m rooting for humanity to survive.

          • I subscribe to the philosophy that these are interesting times about to get far more interesting. That will mean the bad things will get worse. But it also potentially means certain good things might get better. As I said, in crisis, there is opportunity. And we are going to have a fuckload of opportunity coming our way. The only certainty is change with the probability being change that will be massive and traumatic, jolting humanity into the next phase of civilization… hopefully, not the last era of humanity as we know it.

            In response to crisis, the innovative side of humanity will more fully manifest. Then again, innovation is a two-edged sword. Even as it’s true it could be an age of technological wonders, the authoritarian powers will become ever more advanced as well. It will be an arms race between those seeking freedom and those enforcing oppression. I don’t think anyone will be able to predict, much less control, how it all ends. There are too many factors and moving parts, too many players involved with various agendas.

            To give you a basic idea of where my thoughts tend toward, my envisioning of the coming century or so is somewhat along the lines of Star Trek future history. The Bell Riots are supposed to happen in 2024. So, we are now entering into those speculative dark times (we’ve already passed through the predictions of other sci-fi shows, movies, and novels; e.g., Back to the Future II).

            In general, I consider imagination to be powerful. We do create to some extent what we imagine or rather what we are capable of imagining. But at the same time the world that has been created constrains our individual minds and collective psyche creating a vicious or virtuous cycle of moral imagination. The greatest task we have, as the era of crisis rolls in, is to shift consciousness to make possible new ways of perception and thought, behavior and relationship.

            That is why I study the likes of Julian Jaynes, Iain McGilchrist, Lewis Hyde, Jean Gebser, Michel Foucault, etc. I aspire to be one of those people who plants seeds that just might take root and come to fruition, even if it happens long after I’m gone. I assume that present generations will have to take actions and make sacrifices for which we will likely never see the benefit. And I’m fine with that. The only moral responsibility I accept is to scatter new and improved mind viruses that will spread. My sense of obligation does not extend beyond that. I’ll leave the details for future generations to sort out.

            Radical imagination is all we should concern ourselves with at the moment. If we can’t imagine something entirely different, we are doomed. This is the one and only thing that we cannot allow ourselves to fail at. Everything rides on it.

    • Ben, if I may ask you, how would you go about trying to take down the system? You say radical imagination will help. How would you personally go about trying to take down this system? You’re well-read and you write about the American Empire a lot. I’m sure this question has crossed your mind before. The FBI and CIA are professionals. THe FBI was successful at stopping and destroying occupy wall-street. I wonder if it would be easier for Latin American countries to liberate themselves from neo-colonialism than it would be in the US. The US is the center of the empire. I’m sure the elites have a heavy interest in keeping the central empire in tact than they would Latin American countries, or elsewhere.

      • Yep, that is a good speech by Snowden. He was talking about moral courage on its most basic and direct level. And moral courage goes hand in hand with moral imagination. The implication was about making moral imagination into radical imagination by taking action, in transforming one’s perspective from feeling isolated to being part of something greater. Even the simplest of acts are radical. Also, like me, he was suggesting that it is about transcending mere self-interest, to do what’s right because one could not imagine doing otherwise, doing what’s right because it is what has to be done. Just put that next brick in place, as others do the same, even though you might never see what all those bricks form into, what is being built. Glorified heroes are not required. No one ever fully knows the part one is playing toward what kind of change.

        Now about your question. You are being fair in asking it so bluntly, but I’m feeling evasive for various reasons. Partly, there is a split in my sense of self and the world. I’d rather live in a world where the ruling elite weren’t violent and where the ruling elite could be eliminated without violence. Sadly, that isn’t the world we live in. That isn’t to say there are never nonviolent revolutions, such as Portugal’s Carnation Revolution — yet even that was a military coup with a very real threat of violence by having the army occupy the capital. Still, violence or its threat is not the most direct cause of mass societal change. It’s a result of what happens when those with power violently resist peaceful change. And there are few examples where a ruling elite willingly and peacefully steps down from power. The only example I can think of is the Quaker government of the Pennsylvanian colony, although that was a situation where the Quakers didn’t really have much power in the first place and didn’t have the capacity to wield it, even if they had wanted to.

        It is irrelevant about who wants violence and who wants to avoid it. Violence simply happens when all alternatives to violence are made impossible. It’s not a choice to be made. When things get bad enough, violence will be inevitable. And that will open up society to change, whether democratic reform or authoritarian takeover. The best we can do is to prepare ourselves for when that moment comes. When violence erupted in the American colonies, there were those like Paine to narratize what it meant and where it was heading. He created a moral frame in helping colonists to imagine what American society would be like without British oppression. Here is the thing. Paine did not come out of no where. The ideas he was working with had precedence. Even overthrowing monarchy had roots in the British imagination, going back to the English Civil War. Plus, even Norman-descended aristocrats like Thomas Jefferson invoked the public memory of the Anglo-Saxons having fought against the Norman invasion that established the original monarchical imperialism.

        Radical ideas had been percolating in the English psyche for centuries. But even then, conditions had to be perfect. Paine tried to foment revolt in England, the place of his birth. It was as an adult in a town famous for religious dissent during the English Civil War that Paine learned to use political rhetoric in a debating club and it was there that he took his first overtly political action in hand delivering a petition to Parliament. Nonetheless, the English in England weren’t ready for these ideas, as they had never known the freedom the American colonists had experienced nor did they face the starvation the French peasants struggled against. The English in England were too comfortable and too lacking in what makes radical imagination possible, and so they weren’t willing to risk the known for a hope.

        This is where your thought comes in. We Americans at the center of the American Empire are like those Englanders. Empires always will invest resources toward social control of the immediate imperial subjects that potentially pose the greatest threat. As such, we Americans are lost in bread and circus… yes, feeling desperate but in a quiet desperation kind of way. The welfare system in this country barely works, but it keeps people treading water and for most they aren’t immediately drowning. Even this little bit of security is too much to sacrifice, especially as the public is distracted with cheap entertainment and gadgets. We are like the natives plied with plastic beads and alcohol, as we sign away our freedom without understanding what we’re losing.

        As I said, under the present circumstances I find myself in, I wouldn’t attempt to take down the empire. That would be wasted effort ending in either frustration at best and death at worst, not that there is anything wrong with noble sacrifice just to keep the ruling elite on their toes. It’s just that isn’t how I see change happening. The American Empire is overextended and that means it can no longer maintain the global control it asserted after the decimation of WWII. This relates to what L. S. Stavrianos, writing in 1976, calls the “Law of the Retarded Lead.” This is about how old powers that become too entrenched in maintaining the status quo lose the flexibility to deal with new challenges. But in the late Cold War, he was being too optimistic about the fate of the West. The decline of the West might be greater than some have expected.

        “As Prof. Stavrianos contemplates our world with its overpopulation, pollution, asymmetric wealth, dominated by multi-national corporations, its security threatened by headlong rivalry and an arms race between a fossilised Soviet Union, and the United States that has lost faith in its own mythology; he offers a vision of hope: the immediate future will see a reduction in the hegemony of the West which will suffer, from what he calls the “Law of the Retarded Lead”. The “Law of the Retarded Lead” implies that societies that have invested in a particular form of technology and political organization may be overtaken by societies free to embrace newer developments. The consequence of this process, is that both power and economic progress are affected by a kind of leap frog, in which societies that are poor at one moment in history may surpass those who were richer, but which are bound to outmoded technologies and patterns of social organization. For example, China was in most ways technologically superior to Europe up to the time of the Renaissance, but the growth of capitalism with its mythology of progress, individual liberty and new learning allowed Europe to overtake China. Stavrianos sees similar processes going on at present, although, as, he indicates, it is most unlikely at this moment that one part of the world could fall into the kind of despair and lethargy that overtook China when European power assumed control of much of the world: the global economy is now too interdependent; the world has become a single market place, and while there will be massive changes and redistributions this will probably not result in the stagnation of the Western world.”

        As a last thought, I’ll emphasize the point you made. It was the British Empire being distracted by the French Empire that allowed American colonists to have the influence they had. Otherwise, the American colonists would have been crushed. Likewise, some unimpressive population in the present world might find itself in the same role and taking advantage of the same opportunity. So look elsewhere for the what is coming next. Still, maybe it is telling that Paine’s early life (until middle age) was shaped at the center of the British Empire. And don’t forget that Osama bin Laden was educated in the West among the Western ruling elite. Familiarity with the empire is helpful in fighting empire or in helping those outside of the empire to understand what they are fighting and why.

      • Snowden is a great example of a central point I was making. He was born, raised, educated, and employed in the American Empire. He can speak about it from personal experience. But it helped that he now speaks from a vantage point outside of the American Empire where he now is a global voice. Paine was similarly for a time employed within the British Empire, albeit in a less impressive role and more despised position as tax collector. As Snowden was incapable of making change within the system, Paine too was forced to go elsewhere to find the leverage to shift the world.

        In a less direct way, that also happened for bin Laden. His family was part of the global plutocracy aligned with Western imperialism and so he knew Western power from the inside. I remember being shocked and impressed by bin Laden’s vast knowledge and insight about Western history, a much more vast understanding than is typically found in the West, in particular the US. He knew what he was fighting against and that is why he inspired so many people to join that fight. Osama bin Laden wasn’t a terrorist in his own mind, as is true of anyone fighting against what they perceive as injustice. Rather, he saw himself as an anti-imperialist and indeed the US has become a brutal empire. Even in disagreeing with his violent strategy, no one could honestly argue against his assessment of the larger problems that drove him to those actions.

        That leads me to a thought. You asked what can be done. Well, if I was serious about taking down the system, it’s possible the only way to accomplish that is to gain some distance from the system I’d want to take down. The further question is this: Out here in the far reaches of the Midwest, do I have enough distance to make a meaningful stand against the immorality and corruption at the very heart of oppressive power? What is the equivalent of heading to the colonies as in Paine’s day? And where is the population that is in the position to fight a revolution against empire and win? That is the population that needs to hear the message of freedom, to enact radical imagination and take it to the next level.

    • Polls, at times, can be hard to interpret. But here is one possibility. Right now, most Americans don’t trust Trump. And Trump has been attacking the intelligence agencies. So, most Americans trust the FBI and CIA more than they do Trump. The president has never had strong approval ratings and now the majority supports his being impeached. Trump has become an embarrassment. It’s not only Trump, though. The majority also don’t have trust in Congress and the news media, two supposed pillars of American democracy. It’s specifically a functioning free society that the public has lost faith in. The mistrust of major sectors of government isn’t a new situation for it has been going on for years, whereas in decades past trust was higher.

      Still, even the FBI, CIA, and Supreme Court only get about a quarter of the population to state having “a great deal” of confidence. That is about the same proportion that agrees to the option of having “not much” confidence, ignoring those who went with “none at all” and “don’t know”. The largest percentage are those who say they have “some” confidence, a rather tepid response at best. It’s not clear what trust and confidence means in this context. The average American doesn’t feel much hope for American democracy. And they’ve concluded that the president is corrupt, dangerous, and should be removed. That happening pivots on the intelligence agencies. The public might simply be saying that they think the intelligence agencies, in their investigative role, will help accomplish impeachment.

      It doesn’t necessarily imply any greater sense of faith in these institutions. I don’t know. Without further and better data, it’s hard to say. But I would point out that public opinion can be fickle and easily manipulated. Most Americans were against the Iraq War, until the propaganda machine went into operation and the corporate media began beating the war drum. Despite the largest anti-war movement in world history, public opinion quickly shifted to supporting war that never had any legal, constitutional, or moral justification. Yet shifts can and sometimes do go in the other direction as well. Most American colonists seem to have identified as subjects of the Crown and citizens of the British Empire, until events transpired to change their sense of identity. Such changes are nearly unpredictable, as humans are not particularly rational and ideological in motivation, much less principled and consistent.

      By the way, I do concede to the general doubt you are expressing. That is in line with my own point, considering the precarious balance could just as easily tip toward authoritarianism. As Americans, at least for the moment, trust the FBI and CIA, they also trust the military. With the democratic institutions of government having been dragged through the mud and Trump shaming the public before the entire world, we are ripe for populist demagoguery and and right-wing dictatorship or else a totalitarian system like The Handmaid’s Tale. Just throw in some anxiety caused by chaos and violence (whether foreign terrorism or a false flag operation), and then the public could so easily be forced into line. High inequality creates the perfect conditions for the reactionary impulse toward authoritarianism, but it also destabilizes the entire present order.

      If someone like Thomas Paine comes along to inspire the public, revolution could blow apart society in an instant and few would see it coming. The polling would give no hint to what followed. There are many potential wild cards. Repeated climate crises that devastate societies, for example, could help bankrupt and paralyze the federal government. The public might suddenly have to turn to their own devices to take care of their own problems and that might lead to a demand for self-governance and a mood for secession. It was the self-governance that developed in the American colonies, combined with the British government having been preoccupied with imperial war, that made possible revolution. With the American empire likewise overextended, we might be close to a similar situation. Or not. One way or another, something has to give.

  3. Thanks for responding to my questions.

    Earlier you stated this “That is what happened with the Black Panthers in the 1960s-70s when the FBI came down hard on them. They were seeking alliances with feminists, Native Americans, and even poor whites. That is what Amy Sonnie and James Tracy talk about in Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power.“”

    I’ll check that book out. Do you by chance have any other online links (articles/etc) that talk about the black panthers forming alliances with feminists, native americans and poor whites? Thanks.

    • When I wrote that post, I did do some web searches to learn a bit about what was going on. But most of what I know about alliances sought by Black Panthers comes from the book I mentioned. I also have some general knowledge about the Black Panthers of that period. Beyond that, I have nothing specific to offer. If I come across something, I’ll bring it to your attention.

      • You state that the radical imagination can get us through these times. I’m sure you’ve read about how AI is advancing. I’ve heard that Intelligence Agencies may use AI in the future to benefit the ruling class. I wonder if AI will become so advance that radical imagination will be successfully countered by AI used by the elites?

        Caitlin Johnsone talks about this here
        To quote from this article: “The more advanced artificial intelligence becomes, the more adept these power structures will become at manipulating us. Time to start paying very close attention to this.”

        • I guess radical imagination might get us through these times. But that might not be the best to think of it. Radical imagination, as I see it, is part of our human nature. It can be temporarily suppressed and, of course, it can be distorted. Even so, the radical quality within imagination can never be entirely eliminated.

          The elites don’t and never will have as much control as they think they have. The manipulators fall prey to their own manipulations. The con man first has to con himself, as Jack Black observed. And inspired by Black, William S. Burroughs wisely pontificated that Control is controlled by its need to control.

          The more complex systems of control become the more complex systems of freedom become in response. Anti-authoritarian radicals and revolutionaries will simultaneously be developing other forms of technology and media. Who will win this battle is anyone’s guess. My suspicion is that control is going to get harder to maintain the more that the world goes out of control.

        • Well, I’ve given you my view of things. What do you think? I can’t say I have ‘faith’ in much of anything, other than humans continuing to be as they are. Having learned from the social sciences and history, humans are filled with immense and sometimes strange potentials. And change is inevitable.

          Still, my opinion on such matters isn’t necessarily worth more than anyone else’s. I’m sure you have your own thoughts on such things. I’d be curious about your response to the possibilities of radical imagination or just imagination in general. As I see it, radical imagination favored by leftists is simply the other side of the moral imagination espoused by Burkean conservatives.

          • Well, one of the things that I feel is holding so many back is identity politics. Just about everyone loves Identity politics. Liberals, Conservatives, centrist, anarchist, racist, feminist; corporatist, etc.

            I think this quote by CJ Hopkins sums it up for me pretty well:

            “Who doesn’t love identity politics? Liberals love identity politics. Conservatives love identity politics. Political parties love identity politics. Corporations love identity politics. Advertisers, anarchists, white supremacists, Wall Street bankers, Hollywood producers, Twitter celebrities, the media, academia … everybody loves identity politics. The ruling classes love identity politics because they keep the working classes focused on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on, and not on the fact that they (i.e., the working classes) are, essentially, glorified indentured servants, who will spend the majority of their sentient existences laboring to benefit a ruling elite that would gladly butcher their entire families and sell their livers to hepatitic Saudi princes if they could get away with it. The corporate media, academia, Hollywood, and the other components of the culture industry are similarly invested in keeping the vast majority of people ignorant and confused. The folks who populate this culture industry, in addition to predicating their sense of self-worth on their superiority to the unwashed masses, enjoy spending time with the ruling classes, and reaping the many benefits of serving them. The fake Left loves identity politics because it allows them to pretend to be “revolutionary” and spout all manner of “militant” gibberish while posing absolutely zero threat to the ruling classes they claim to be fighting.


            I was born in the late 80s. To you, has identity politics been as bad in the past as it is now?

          • I was born in the 1970s. But that is approximately the same period as the 1980s. With 1975 as my birth year, most of my childhood memories were from the latter decade and all of my high school was in the 1990s. From the last wave of GenXers to the first wave of Millennials, some call that the MTV Generation. It was a distinct time to grow up, a transitional period for our society.

            It was the late Cold War era when Progressivism was clearly over and something genuinely different was in the air. The Cold War was thawing, the USSR wasn’t to last much longer, the neoliberals and neocons were ready to declare history as being over, and the US military was turning toward entanglements in the Middle East. Capitalist consumerism didn’t only defeat communism but also defeated American society. The American people had finally and fully become consumer-citizens, as the world was saturated with corporate media to an even greater degree, from cable tv to 24/7 news, and then soon following that came Fox News and rabid right-wing radio.

            Maybe that is why identity politics came to dominance. The last remnants of anything else had been largely eliminated or made weak and irrelevant. It was the neutralization and assimilation of everything that had been different, most of what once could’ve posed an alternative and a challenge. The majority of Americans, specifically whites, were urbanized around the early 1900s (although most blacks didn’t follow suit until the ’60s-70s). The living memory of functioning communities was mostly gone by the time you and I were born. Even the small-scale urbanization of close-knit small towns and ethnic enclaves, as my dad knew in his childhood of the ’40s-50s, was decimated by the time our childhoods came around.

            When natural forms of social identity are destroyed and what left is made impotent, that is when identity politics steps in. Of course, that was a process that had been developing over the entirety of American history. Traditional social order had never been strongly rooted in American culture, not even in the colonial era. This particularly became clear in the early 1800s, as demonstrated by European travelers who observed how Americans were constantly moving (sometimes before they had finished putting the roof on the house they just built). Anyway, what began centuries before was completed in our childhoods. Capitalist realism came to dominate all aspects of American life. And within capitalism, identity is just another commodity with politics being how it is advertised and sold.

            I’m not satisfied at leaving it at that, though. I can’t help myself in, as always, connecting modernity back to the past. The post-Enlightenment world, to my mind, is simply the fruition of the Axial Age… the penultimate aftershock and aftermath of the Bronze Age collapse. Modernity is late stage Axial Age. And within modernity, we now find ourselves washed ashore in late stage capitalism. I think the “end of history” ideologues maybe were intuitively onto something, even if their ideological rationalizations were a sad joke. We are coming to the end point of something, whatever this has been. So, whatever comes next will be a foreign land. It’s hard to imagine the world as we know it not being tragically transformed by the climate crisis (probably a series of climate crises, maybe not unlike what brought down the Bronze Age empires).

            Our civilization might be a lot more precarious than we realize. Identity politics is more of a symptom than a cause during these troubled times. We are seeking something, anything to cling to in the hopes of finding meaning in a world that seems so uncertain. No doubt we are drowning in an era of mass anxiety, what I discuss in my post about the crisis of identity that I see as having gone into full gear during the 19th century, going hand in hand with the precipitous rise of the diseases of civilization, including the plague of mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia. So, yes, things have been bad for a long time. But, no, not as bad as they’ve become. Nor as bad as they surely will become. Identity politics is one of those signs presaging mass conflict, possibly revolution or civil war but more likely world war.

            That is where my thoughts are these days, for whatever it is worth. I guess we can hope that I’m entirely wrong. In any case, no one can doubt how identity politics has taken on a powerful role in our society, whether or not it is a sign of greater significance, of something coming around the bend. We very well might find out in the lifetime of living generations. Part of me wouldn’t mind lasting long enough to see the beginnings of what is coming next.

  4. FBI surveillance since 2010
    Defending Rights & Dissent, a civil liberties group, cataloged known instances of First Amendment abuses and political surveillance by the FBI since 2010. The organization found that the feds devoted disproportionate resources to spy on peaceful left-leaning civil society groups, including Occupy Wall Street, Abolish ICE, and various anti-war movements.

    You should check this pdf file out here when you get the chance.

    • The entirety of American history has been a steady increase of intrusive and oppressive authoritarianism. But it’s the slowly boiling frog effect and so few Americans notice it. It largely happens in covert ways and the corporate media don’t report on it. You have to be really looking for the info or else be well connected to come across documents like the one you linked. It’s not common knowledge and it isn’t as if they’re going to teach this in public schools or, for at matter, even private schools. It is sad.

      Completely nonviolent activist groups, such as ELF and ALF, have been labeled by the FBI as terrorist organizations, even though they have never harmed a human life nor attempted to do so. When I was part of the anti-war protest movement in opposing the Iraq War, it was later found out that the FBI had infiltrated the group and so my name presumably is now on a FBI list. But why is the FBI targeting as dangerous groups that are openly advocating nonviolence? Isn’t it interesting that a message of peace is considered a threat by the US government, which says a lot.

      When you look at terrorism in the US going back a half century and longer, it has almost entirely been from the political right. Even the Weather Underground only ever targeted buildings, not people, and planned all attacks to avoid harming anyone. The last time there was much left-wing terrorism here was in the early 1900s with mass labor organizing and the anarchist attacks. If anything, the FBI acting in an authoritarian manner will promote terrorism, rather than lessen it. Maybe that is the purpose, to cause so much oppressive misery that violence will be provoked and that will then be used as a rationalization for further state terrorism against the American people.

      Even the FBI, under the previous Republican administration, acknowledged the fact that it is the right-wing to be taken most seriously as the primary sources of terrorism. But in many ways, the FBI is less concerned about overt violence as compared to left-wing challenges to authoritarianism itself since, as an authoritarian agency, the FBI’s main purpose is to defend authoritarianism. More dangerous than terrorism is nonviolence and peace. The FBI would prefer a violent left-wing, as it would be less threatening to their power. That puts the political left in an impossible situation. By being nonviolent, they guarantee that they will be targeted by the FBI.

  5. I was reading Caitlin new article here titled “Propaganda Narratives Are Custom-Made For Each Ideological Echo Chamber”

    The article states that back in 2016, Bernie fans, Trump fans, Liberals, greens, anarchist, etc really liked Julain Assange. I remember this. Now, after media disinformation, just about all these groups hate him. And it worked. This was just 3 years ago. Assange is in jail with so many against him now. The elites won! This gives me a really sickening feeling in my stomach. With this success, could it be nearly impossible in the modern propaganda age to do anything whatsoever to dent the system? When I think about the 00’s, many people were very anti-war. Now, it seems the media has done such a fantastic job protoming this disinformation that even liberals are pro-war. I mean, how can you not look at this and be at awe with what this disinformation has done? Has propaganda become more advance? Are the narrative managers much better at this type of thing compared to the 80s?

    Do you see any hope whatsoever?

    • Most of us do underestimate propaganda. We like to think propaganda is what happens to other people in other places and at other times, not something that applies to us. We are too smart and clever, too sophisticated and world-wise to be so gullible. But that is precisely why propaganda works because people rationalize away the power it has over them. And those in power understand this. The propaganda/advertising sector has become very effective, as it is built on probably trillions of dollars of social science research. Modern propaganda is highly advanced and they are constantly improving their techniques. Even if the public wanted to, how would we keep up?

      This relates to the reactionary mind. I see plenty of reactionary style of thought and behavior from people who would never think of themselves as reactionaries, including many liberals and left-wingers. The thing is we live in a reactionary society and these are reactionary times. Propaganda and the reactionary go hand in hand. That is how authoritarianism works. And few want to admit that we are living in authoritarianism, that we are tolerating and hence complicit in that authoritarianism.

      I constantly repeat the fact that the Nazis never would have risen to power, if they hadn’t been invited to the table by German liberals and if many German left-wingers hadn’t joined their ranks. Hitler said all the right things and hid his true intentions, until it was too late, but there were those who saw it coming. Self-imposed ignorance and blindness is no excuse. People know more than they admit they know. Or rather people have minds that are splintered, as all of society is schizoid. If you want to understand the power of dissociation, read the early work of Derrick Jensen.

      I don’t really know who is for or against Assange at this point. Mostly, it seems like he has become forgotten. I read about him from some far outside the norm alternative voices, but he simply isn’t in much of the media, not even the popular alternative media for the most part. He was the sacrificial scapegoat and, now that he has served that purpose for the collective conscience, his existence is treated as if it no longer matters. In the public mind, it’s as if he is already dead. And, yes, it is sickening.

      The anti-war movement was another great example. It’s mostly forgotten at this point, but I haven’t forgotten it. The Vietnam War protests have been mythologized because they are safely in the distant past. Yet that wasn’t comparable to the Iraq War. The large protests in the 1960s didn’t emerge until many years after the war had been going on. It was unpopular not because it was morally wrong so much as because it was a political failure and quagmire. Even many of the ruling elite were turning against that particular war. The Iraq War, however, was unpopular before it started.

      Most Americans didn’t want us to attack and invade Iraq. Before the war had begun, the protest movement had already grown to be the largest in US and world history. Yet after a few years of government propaganda and corporate media beating the war drums, the public was fully on board with war even though nothing had changed. It was illegal war, according to US and international law, and the lack of justification was no secret. I remember reading about foreign intelligence agencies openly stating that the US government was lying about WMDs and, on some level, I’m sure the average American knew it was a lie.

      That is the thing about propaganda. It doesn’t have to be true. Nor does it even have to be convincing. Most propaganda is obvious bullshit (see Joseph Goebbels on the Big Lie). But people just want to be told a good story that justifies the social order, so that they can shut down their minds and go back to their lives (George Carlin: “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”). Few people want to think or be aware, especially in a world ruled by the Dark Triad (authoritarianism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism). It is sickening to think about and so most people prefer not to think about it.

      I do have some semblance of hope. The ruling elite don’t have as much control as they believe they have. Most of their power comes from deceiving the public about their illusion of power. They take credit for what they don’t deserve and they blame others for what was their own fault. Power itself is a narrative, i.e., propaganda. At any moment, that illusion can collapse. It’s a precarious system and eventually it will collapse under the weight of its own lies. We might be close to such a time of transformation which, one way or another, will be revolutionary in the broad sense. The system can’t reform itself and, even if it attempted to reform itself, that would have revolutionary implications. I talk about this in my recent post on California as a key location of American corporatism and empire.

      This is more than a mere possible threat of to the system of wealth and power, of impending changes that will force an existential threat and a totalizing state of crisis. It goes to the heart of the modern mind itself that was built on a particular kind of hierarchcial authority, Jaynesian authorization, and right-wing authoritarianism. It’s a whole package. No part of it can be altered or shifted without shaking loose the foundations of the entire structure. That is the closest to hope that I can offer. We will be forced to become something different in how we exist in the world. Eventually, if not in our lifetime then sometime in the coming generations, humanity’s sense of identity and reality will be transformed. But before that happens, there will be mass violence and death… and maybe a collapse of civilization as we know it.

      So, there is a slight downside. Optimism requires taking a long view of events. As for the personal level, I expect nothing but horrible things over the coming decades and, as a GenXer, I accept suffering and deprivation as my lot in life. Then again, if I’m lucky and live long enough, I might see the beginnings of the world emerging from this worsening nightmare, though it might be luckier to not live too long. I try not to worry about it. What will come will come. It matters little what I do, other than how each of us can influence the world that is emerging from public imagination. That is why I spend my time planting mind viruses and radical visions like a rogue Johnny Apple Seed. If nothing else, it keeps me preoccupied and entertained.

    • I don’t know what are Chomsky’s intentions. Rather than meaning to deceive and manipulate, my sense is he simply lacks awareness, specifically about how his own analysis of power and propaganda applies to influential figures like himself. It somehow never occurs to him that he is one of the most widely and regularly heard voices in all of corporate media. If he ever was an alternative voice, he no longer is and hasn’t been one in a long time. But it’s highly questionable that he ever was. Chomsky’s entire career was spent at the center of the military-industrial complex, as both he and his wife received Pentagon funding for their work. Even his criticisms of the Vietnam War came late after the protest movement was already on the way and when many other elites had also turned against it. At no point in his life has Chomsky been a moral leader equivalent to the likes of MLK or Howard Zinn. Closer to being a revolutionary is Bernie Sanders, as compared to Chomsky.

      He is someone who has been enmeshed in the system of power. In some ways, this gives the insights only an insider could have. He knows it from the inside out and his writings can be great sources of info. But he offers no useful advice or inspiring leadership. His career has been dependent on him being no real threat to those in power. That is why, in every recent election, Chomsky always ends up telling Americans to vote for the most mainstream corporatist Democrat. His brand of lesser evilism is identical to that of the Clinton Democrats. Whatever purpose he believes he is serving, the actual results of his actions end up serving the interests of organized power. He effectively rounds up the sheep, as one would expect of a sheepdog. If it barks like a sheepdog and trots like a sheepdog, then…

      Offhand, I don’t know what notable sources could be used to support that claim. But I’ve seen many pieces over the years that make this observation. It shouldn’t be hard to find articles, maybe even in ‘mainstream’ media such as NYT or WaPo, where is mentioned the allegation of Chomsky as sheepdog. If you do some basic web searches, I bet it wouldn’t take long to dredge up some references that could be cited in Chomsky’s Wikpiedia page. But keep in mind that there are plenty of people out there to defend Chomsky’s reputation. Trying to change the page would likely lead to a wiki-war. It might be more effort than it would be worth, even if you could make the change stick which is unlikely. Wikipedia isn’t exactly a well-functioning democratic organization, as it seems to be largely ruled by agenda-driven cliques and paid trolls. It’s not something I want to be involved in. Good luck with that!

    • I never heard of BIA. But it’s not surprising. Assimilation has been US policy for a long time. That is how German-American culture disappeared, despite it having once been one of the largest and most influential cultures in American history going back to the colonial era. It was systematically destroyed. That has happened to many populations, especially those that were never as large as German-Americans.

    • The sad part is that quite likely not that long ago the ancestors of this bus driver were treated the same way. This part of the country is not old and the immigrant waves that filled these rural farm states happened mostly this past century. Until the world war era, many of these populations were still not speaking English as their primary language. Their grandparents and great grandparents were attacked as not being real Americans. Now they do the same to new generations of immigrants. Historical amnesia causes people to never learn from the mistakes of the past.

    • The only healthy response to addiction is human connection and social support. That is what Johann Hari argues and it makes sense to me. This is demonstrated in tribes that maintain their traditional practices having low rates of addiction, alcoholism, suicide, etc.

    • In general, if you’re not part of the privileged, no one gives a shit about you and no one looks our for you, not even the police whose job theoretically is to protect the public. That is simply the reality of our sick society.

    • I suspect it is both simpler and more complex. A sense of meaning is is part of one’s total life experience and social environment. There is no strong sense of meaning without family, community, culture of trust, low inequality, etc.

    • Some argue that continuing low-grade trauma is far worse than single events of major trauma. And poverty is essentially non-stop trauma with overwhelming stress and anxiety punctuated by intense periods of fear and despair. It slowly grinds people down. Then economically comfortable assholes wonder why the poor are dysfunctional. I wish that I could make every judgmental fucktard suffer what the poor suffer on a daily basis, so that they would understand and have compassion.

    • That is what people don’t understand. There is no contradiction between Trump winning the election while losing the popular vote, no contradiction between right-winger reactionaries and authoritarians ruling society while the majority of Americans increasingly moving left in public opinion about nearly every major issue and policy. The example I like to use is gay marriage which had majority support among Americans years before leading Democrats (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) came out in support of it.

    • That was my first thought. There was no other way to take it other than a declaration of war. It was also an international war crime, in that it was a blatant assassination. Declaring a war through assassination is asking for trouble. For this and other reasons, the instability of our era is far from dissimilar from the instability of period building up into WWI. The world is on edge. A single wrong action might easily trigger WWIII.

    • I don’t find it surprising. The reactionary mind isn’t as blatant and bigoted in the political left, but there is plenty of reactionary style thinking across the political ‘spectrum’. It’s not the same and I wouldn’t entirely equate them. Still, there is a common thread running through all of it.

      I see all of modernity as reactionary, related to why I also see all of modernity as liberal. So, leftists are just another variety of reactionaries and right-wingers are just another variety of liberal. It’s all the same overarching ideological paradigm ruling the modern mind, two sides of the same coin, light and shadow.

      I’d suggest it’s built into consciousness itself, in the Jaynesian sense. The reactionary persuasion was showing itself back in the Axial Age (e.g., Plato). Too many people involved in politics, community organizing, labor activism, etc lack much knowledge and insight about the social sciences.

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