Category Archives: Citizenship

The Crash Course

Want to know more about the current economic situation and coming Depression? Check out the Crash Course by Chirs Martenson. This is a fantastic series of flash video/slide presentations that explains money, inflation, and the economy. Watch it and share it. This guy does a really excellent job of presenting the history and the current situation… everyone should watch this at least once. It is… STUNNING.

Pass it on.

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Growing into tomorrow

Over the years I’ve spent countless hours reading, learning and speculating about the future of humanity and the planet we call earth. In my first years of college in 1988-1990 I first started learning about the human rights movement, alternative agriculture, and the budding american Green movement. I founded a Green local in my college town, Kirksville, MO and I began to identify myself as an activist. Between my time away from family as well as this fundamental shift in my identity I began to notice a crack which became a gulf in how I related to my fellow humans and they to me.

Looking back I’ve come to realize that the “activist” is actually a strange phenomena. In a participatory democracy, there would not be a need for “activists” which are really just citizens which are involved in the community process of self-government. In a participatory democracy all citizens are active. The republic that we have today is, of course, a far, far cry from a real democracy. To suggest that it is democratic is to twist and pervert the word to such a degree that it no longer resembles its original meaning. (It was never a participatory democracy at all, but a republic that was supposedly controlled by citizens via representatives via “democratic” elections. But really, the differences, while important, are another topic for another time.)

Over the years (most notably beginning after WWII and the rise of suburbia) the people of United States have been taught that life is about the American Dream. It is about being happy which comes with certain material possessions as well as a neatly defined nuclear family of husband, wife, and kids. Of course the American Dream is open-ended and the list of material possessions grows and grows and is never completed. In accepting the American Dream as our way of life we gave up citizenship and became consumers who were no longer concerned with the serious responsibilities of being involved in government. In allowing ourselves be redefined we gave up power to those who did the redefining: the wealthy upper-class which controlled corporate capitalism and the state.

The role of “activist” came about because there are still citizens that strive to be actively engaged. I’ve come to realize that the disdain and outright hostility that I’ve faced as an activist is a fairly common experience and is related, at least in part, to the psychological and life investments made by the majority of people in the U.S. People went along for the ride. They were offered a way of life and they took it. They may not have even realized what was happening. My parents are a good example. They were a product of their socialization and they accepted what was put before them as the normal way of life. The development of suburbia and a shift to consumerism were the next steps to be taken after the Great Depression and the emergence of the U.S. as a world power after WWII. My parents got their jobs, bought their car and home then started having children. They moved, kept their jobs, bought another car and continued to raise their kids. They invested their lifetimes in this way of life. They believed in this way of life. My two siblings followed suit with their own families, jobs, homes, cars, pools and kids.

Imagine the emotional response of having that way of life criticized. By definition an activist (active citizen) is critical and vocal. The role of the citizen is to strive towards informed and ethical decision making for the community good. It is an unfortunate fact that to be an active citizen in our society often leads to separation from the majority in thought and behavior in part because we are often considered to be “judgmental” which, of course, we are. We do “judge” in the sense that we form opinions and conclusions regarding the everyday life around us. Being an active citizen is a never ending process of responsibility which leaves no stone unturned. It means looking at how we get things done: transport, growing of food, production of material goods, etc. and making determinations of how those actions and systems are working or not working.

In the 20 or so years that I’ve considered myself an active citizen I have consistently been met with resistance. Most people are not open to the idea that their way of life requires the suffering of others. It’s not comfortable or convenient because it implies a sense of guilt about both the system and the people who are a part of it. If a way of life is implicitly unfair and unsustainable and we willingly participate in it what does that say about us?

With the arrival of peak oil, climate change, and serious economic crisis all at the same time, many people are seeing the cracks in the way of life that they have taken as a given. As the cracks begin to expand and the system crumbles the whole gamut of emotional and mental states will run its course through the “consumers” of this nation. I suspect that anger, fear and confusion will dominate. The process is already well under way and if we’re lucky it will continue to unwind slowly. If that is the case then perhaps panic and violence will give way to community-based movements of cooperation. I don’t hold out much hope for this. The shift in our way of life is going to be monumental. Every aspect of how we live is about to change as the cultural, political and ecological repercussions of the past 60+ years step onto the stage. Perhaps the two most significant differences between the Great Depression of the last century and this “Long Emergency” (as James Kunstler refers to it) are the planet’s population of 6.5 billion people and dwindling fossil fuel resources.

Eleutheros of the excellent blog How Many Miles from Babylon describes it as a
shift in paradigm :

Facing the realities of our immediate future calls for a shift in the paradigm, a shift in thinking, a shift in the mindset.


We are mentally conditioned to think that we would be happier, more comfortable, in a larger over heated and over cooled house. We think prepackaged food is vastly easier to prepare. We think a food processor is a hundred times easier than a knife. Of course this farmstead is on the lunatic fringe. We have experimented with cutting all the firewood we need for heating and cooling with hand tools. It’s some more work, to be sure, but not much. Yet in the imagination of the uninitiated, a chainsaw is many hundreds of times less work.

On this farmstead 85% of our food involves zero food-miles and almost all the rest is bought bulk, we use very little electricity and no commercial gas or other fuels. We wear used clothing. We drive bottom feeder vehicles and those only very rarely. Yet how much do we impact global energy and resource use? None, negligible at any rate. The random motion of molecules accounts for more fuel savings that we do in the scheme of things. What we represent is not some quantified amount of energy and resources saved, but rather a complete paradigm shift from the consumerist world.

I’ve said many times before that I think it is far too late to stop what is coming. It is a done deal. The question is how will we handle ourselves as this amazing shift in our way of life occurs. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we learn and share the skills necessary for survival? Will we step out of our air-conditioned lives and do the work that is now required? Billions of people on planet earth deal directly with survival issues every single day. They know hunger, thirst, extreme cold and heat… for them, survival is not a reality television show but a fact of everyday life.

When fossil fuel based agriculture fails and the shelves remain empty will we eat the drywall of our over-sized homes or will we learn to grow and preserve food the way our ancestors did? I wonder how many people have a basic understanding of how to garden and preserve food? How many have actually tried it and thus have an awareness of how much can actually be grown on any given amount of land or how much time is required? What about growing from seeds and saving seeds for the next season? Will they have access to gasoline and a tiller to prepare the soil or will they double dig by hand or sheet mulch with cardboard? Do they know about squash bugs or japanese beetles? What will they do about water during times of drought? Will a nation of people used to consuming fast food and microwaveable box dinners even know what to do with the vegetables that they’ve grown? How long will it take them to learn to enjoy real, whole and healthy food?

As individual people we have a lot of growing to do. As individuals that inhabit rural roads or streets in towns and cities, we’ll need to develop better relationships with neighbors which can then be grown into communities.

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FISA Amendments Act Legalizes Lawlessness

The folks at Irregular Times have done a fantastic job covering the FISA Amendments Act: FISA Amendments Act Legalizes Lawlessness:

“We’ve written a lot about the FISA Amendments Act this year. There’s quite a bit to learn if you really want to understand the law, and what makes it such a danger to the survival of democracy and liberty in the United States. The issues can seem overwhelming.

That’s just what the supporters of the FISA Amendments Act are counting on, though. They’ve tried to make the law so complex that Americans become deterred from even trying to understand it.

Don’t fall for that trick. At its core, understanding the FISA Amendments Act is quite simple. All you need to know about the FISA Amendments Act in order to understand its essential nature is one thing:

The FISA Amendments Act allows the White House to break the law on spying.”

I strongly suggest reading the rest of the post.

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Stolen Elections and Empire

Juan Cole has an interesting post on How the Republicans are Stealing the November Elections:

Or, Bushes and Bonapartes

On November 7, the American people delivered a stiff rebuke to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party over its far-right policies. They were especially worried about the Iraq fiasco, and upset over the mounting US and Iraqi casualties. But they also worried about Bush’s coddling of the Religious Right and the erosion of the separation of religion and state, along with the assault on civil liberties.


You see, we do not have a democracy, with the Bush administration in power. We have an elective dictatorship. The elections are like lotteries. Many of them don’t even reflect the popular vote or the general will. The Rehnquist Coup of 2000 was not intrinsically different from the Rounds Coup (if it happens) of 2006. Nor would the techniques whereby elections are “won” bear much scrutiny. Ask Tom Delay, through the penitentiary window. And the incumbents feel they owe nothing to the electorate, nothing whatsoever. They have the Power. They act as they please. The rest of us are just onlookers.

So Bush’s response to the clear public demand for a change of course and a disengagement? It is to run to Henry Kissinger’s apron strings. And what does the Butcher of Chile and Indonesia urge? That Bush should put another 40,000 US troops into Iraq!

The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals. And, apparently, they would be sicced on the Shiite Mahdi Army in hopes of permanently crippling the Sadr Movement headed (in part) by Muqtada al-Sadr. And maybe they’d be used in a new offensive against the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

Let me explain why it won’t work. It won’t work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad. The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology.

Attempts to crush popular movements once they have mobilized have most often failed. No attempts at counter-revolution in France in the 1790s were successful. Even powerful empires like Austria were helpless before the mobilized French infantry (who for the first time used large numbers of conscripts).


I am not saying that popular protests cannot be crushed. They can and have been. I am saying that when you have a whole country that is politically mobilized and has substantial resources, a crack-down is likely doomed unless it is almost genocidal (Saddam’s use of chemical weapons in 1988 and of helicopter gunships against civilians in 1991 are examples, as is Truman’s use of the atomic bomb against Japan).

The US is not going to commit the half a million troops it would take to have a chance of winning in Iraq. Nor is it going to use genocidal methods to strike absolute terror into the hearts of the Iraqi people.


Bush is the Napoleon of our age, trampling on whole peoples, a Jacobin Emperor mouthing the slogans of liberty and popular sovereignty while crushing and looting those he “liberated.” And Kagan and Kristol (playing Talleyrand 1798) and Emperor Bush are readying a further slaughter of our US troops, 24,000 of whom have been killed or wounded, and of innocent Iraqis, 600,000 of whom have been killed by criminal and political violence since spring of 2003.

And you thought a mere election would make a difference. No one had to elect the American Enterprise Institute. No one needs to crown the emperor, he can do it himself. Welcome to Year 1 of the Empire.

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American Stupidity and Willful Ignorance

The Martian Anthropologist, in discussing Keith Olbermann’s recent ‘How Dare You, Mr. President,’ has this this to say about his fellow Americans:

I’d like to add that it is not only the President who is to blame; it is the majority of Americans. The older I get, the more I realize how stupid U.S. citizens really are. They are beyond moronic. Instead of taking an interest in their country, they watch Nascar and reality TV. They can endlessly quote football statistics, but almost half of them still believe there is a connection between Iraq and the September 11 attacks. They have more channels on their TV than they have books in their home.

When Bush and Cheney decided to attack Iraq, they supported them blindly like the sheep that they are. When the President told them that they were attacked because “they hate our freedoms”, they applauded loudly — and then uttered not a word of protest as he took their freedoms away. When their President squandered the surplus left by the previous administration, they barely noticed — and then hired him again in 2004.

I could not agree more. And to prove the point made by the Martian we get this comment by “Ottman” who faithfully repeats what he’s heard via the corporate media, probably FOX given the flavor of it:

Funny how you go against the president but fail to mention how the Iraqi’s and Arabs danced in the streets on 9/11 after innocent people fell from skyscrapers attacked by Islamic terrorists’.

Who’s freedoms were taken away? Like Joe Wilson, you’re blowing smoke for the anti-American leftist fanatics who side the enemy.

Whether it’s stupidity, willful ignorance, media distraction or some combination of those, the citizenry of the New America has lost control and given up responsibility.

Now seriously, enough talk about the responsibilities of citizenship, let’s get on to more important news. Have you heard about this deadly spinach, tainted by E.coli?? You could be at risk! Even more urgent, have you heard about Anna Nicole Smith’s son? CNN is reporting that there may be a second autopsy. Thank you CNN for keeping me up to date on the news that really matters.

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