Article 43

 

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Welcome

Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America.  It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.

This sticky post was written the day we appeared on the internet in 2004.

In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE.  Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.

Everything here can be viewed anonymously.  Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.

There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff.  The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here.  Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance.  Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers.  Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.

If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.

Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author.  If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity.  Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY

Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.

Information on the Pension Class Action Lawsuit against AT&T is HERE.  More pension-related articles are HERE.

Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.

Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.

If you’re looking for telco nostalgia, you won’t find it here.  Check out THE CENTRAL OFFICE, BELL SYSTEM MEMORIAL, MUSEUM OF COMMUNICATIONS, TELEPHONE TRIBUTE, and THE READING WORKS websites instead.

This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.

Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.

...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy

Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
- Aquinas

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

Update 8/11/07 - As we head into the next depression, fueled by selfish corporate greed, and a corrupt, SOCIOPATHIC US government, MIKE WHITNEY has a solution that makes a lot of sense to me:

The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.

Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous sufbsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.

The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.

Posted by Admin on 09/05/04 •

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Death Star Grows

image: att

America won’t see any kind of economic revival until it breaks up big companies that control just about everything, and bring back competition.

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U.S. appeals court OKs $81 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner

CBS News
February 27, 2019

A federal appeals court has blessed AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner, defeating the Trump administration by affirming that the $81 billion merger won’t harm consumers or competition in the booming pay-TV market.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington came Tuesday in the high-stakes competition case, approving one of the biggest media marriages ever.

It was already completed last spring soon after a federal trial judge approved it, as phone and pay TV giant AT&T absorbed Time Warner, the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, “Game of Thrones,” coveted sports programming and other “must-see” shows.

Many observers had expected the decision favorable to AT&T from the three-judge appeals court panel. The decision was unanimous to uphold the trial judge’s June ruling. Opposing the merger forced the Justice Department to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors mergers among companies that don’t compete directly with each other, what’s known as a vertical merger.

The U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Dallas-based AT&T marked the first time in decades that the government has challenged that doctrine by suing to block a vertical merger.

The appeals court judges said U.S. District Judge Richard Leon was correct to dismiss the government’s argument that AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner would hurt competition, limit choices and jack up prices for consumers to watch TV and movies.

“The government failed to meet its burden of proof” for its theory that costs for Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting content would increase after the merger, mainly through threats of programming “blackouts,” the judges wrote. The Turner networks include CNN.

The Justice Department antitrust attorneys had asserted that Leon misunderstood the complexities of the TV industry and the nature of AT&T’s competitors.

The idea behind the merger was to help AT&T which claims about 25 million of the 90 million U.S. households that are pay TV customers - compete better with online rivals like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu.

AT&T already had a streaming service, DirecTV Now, but it launched a cheaper offering called WatchTV soon after the deal closed. It’s planning another streaming service, “WarnerMedia,” for later this year.

“The merger of these innovative companies has already yielded significant consumer benefits, and it will continue to do so for years to come,” AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement. “While we respect the important role that the U.S. Department of Justice plays in the merger review process, we trust that today’s [decision] will end this litigation.”

The ruling dealt a major setback to the Trump Justice Department. If the government decided to appeal the ruling, the next step likely would be the Supreme Court, and it wasn’t clear whether Justice planned to do so.

There’s about a 50 percent chance of the government taking it to the high court and scant prospects of it winning there, said Matthew Cantor, an attorney focusing on telecom antitrust matters at Constantine Cannon in New York.

The Justice Department appears committed to pursuing the long-shot bid against the merger, rather than considering conditions that could have been imposed on AT&T by the trial court to make the deal more acceptable. The head of Justice’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, doesn’t like merger conditions requiring regulators to keep an eye on the combined company’s conduct for years after.

But politics and presidential influence also could be a factor, Cantor suggested. When the deal was first made public in October 2016, it drew fire from then-candidate Donald Trump, who promised to kill it “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Trump as president has publicly feuded with Time Warner’s CNN, calling it “failing” and a purveyor of “fake news,” and suspending one of its correspondents from the White House.

“It seems to me that political considerations played into this,” Cantor said. “It’s odd that the Justice Department has gone after this merger as its principal merger case. ... This was a very tough case. It’s very hard to challenge a vertical merger.”

The case could affect future antitrust regulation. It underscores that the government should look at vertical mergers more critically, particularly when the companies combining are already in industries that have few competitors, said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute.

There has been a rush of deal-making in the cable, entertainment and telecom industries over the last few years, and Leon’s ruling opened the doors for more efforts.

Just a day after his decision, Comcast jumped back into a bidding war with Disney for most of 21st Century Fox’s TV and movie businesses. Disney eventually won, and Comcast bought British broadcaster Sky instead.

In other deal activity, wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile also are attempting to combine. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission are still reviewing that deal, which is not a vertical merger. Sprint and T-Mobile are direct competitors.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/28/19 •
Section Dying America
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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bahavioral Interview Questions

image: interview questions

Behavioral Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

By Robert Half
February 7, 2019

Your job search is starting to pay off, and you scored an interview. As you prepare for inquiries related to your skills and experience, you realize you’re comfortable answering those questions. But you’re not so sure about behavioral interview questions. Here’s what to do.

What are behavioral interview questions? They are the unpredictable queries that employers ask during job interviews. They help hiring managers take a deeper dive and find out more about how you think and what you’ve done - or would do in certain circumstances.

The idea is that your answers will provide insight into your problem-solving skills and personal attributes. Managers are looking for people who are competent and a good fit for their organization, and they can get at that by asking these behavioral interview questions.

So, whatגs the best advice to help you prepare?

Recall your experiences, develop your stories

Some questions will require you to recall a situation youve likely experienced. Prior to your interview, think of different circumstances you’ve encountered on the job where you took a specific action, and make a list of them. That way the memories can be top of mind when you need them.

Let’s say the hiring manager asks you, “When youve strongly disagreed with members of your team, how did you communicate those feelings?”

In all likelihood, you’ve had a disagreement with a coworker, so to answer this, find an example you can frame in a positive light. Perhaps the difference of opinion identified a problem you were able to solve or revealed an insight that led to improved productivity. Tell your story, but keep yourself from naming names or giving specifics that shouldn’t be shared outside the company.

As you think about issues you’ve tackled in the workplace, try to compose several short stories you can share in a minute or two. Come up with examples of times when you were able to overcome stress, deal with a crisis or help fuel a successful workplace collaboration. Think about how open you are to new ideas, how good you are at finding common ground and what experiences you might draw upon to think through a problem.

Explore different topics

Hiring managers want to learn about your real-life work experiences, but they’re also looking for how those experiences will predict how you’ll behave in the future.

A typical question would be something like this, “Tell me about a time when you set a goal and met your objectives.”

Discuss a workplace goal that was specific, measurable and time bound. Discuss the action you took and the method you used to achieve the results. Did you develop proficiency in a new tool or technology? Did you complete a project in record time, increase customer satisfaction in specific ways, cut costs in your department, or achieve ambitious sales goals? Whenever possible, use numbers to quantify your success.

On the other side, you might get this behavioral interview question: “Can you describe a time when you failed to achieve a goal?”

Nobody is perfect, and this is an opportunity for you to describe a mistake that you made on the job that may have taught you a lesson. Rather than mentioning a huge failure, highlight a challenging event where things didnt go as planned, and you weren’t completely successful. The main part of your answer will be what you would have done in hindsight or what you’ll do going forward as a result.

Some other common behavioral interview questions include:

Describe a scenario when you were persuaded to change your mind about something?

Have you ever convinced a manager to change their mind about something?

Describe a situation where you found yourself outside your comfort zone.

What were the best things about your very first job?

Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something complex to a client or coworker.

How have you saved your company money in the past?

How have you interacted with a difficult boss?

Describe an example of when you ran out of time before you got something done.

When have you gotten a special thank you for something you did on the job?

Prepare to think on your feet, hypothetically

Other behavioral interview questions address circumstances you could encounter. They are “what if” scenarios, in which you have no past experience to call on and have to use your imagination.

Sometimes called situational interview questions, these can be difficult if youve never considered the question. If that’s the case, they will definitely require you to go off scriptand think quickly on your feet. As you describe your hypothetical actions, think problem, solution, benefit.

Here is a sample situational interview question: How would you respond to a client who insisted you made an error?Ӕ

Whether you made a mistake or not, the key is to focus on the resolution. The interviewer wants to know how you would handle complications. Instead of pointing the finger at others, discuss how you would address the complaint, outlining the steps you’d take to diffuse the situation.

Another question might be: “How would you cope with being assigned a project for which you lacked the skills or knowledge to complete?”

An effective answer is one where you spotlight your initiative, resourcefulness and the drive to succeed. That could involve asking for company training, finding a knowledgeable colleague or gathering the information needed to complete the assignment. The key is to convey a positive, innovative approach.

Practice answering situational interview questions

Here are some sample questions to consider. Even if you’re not asked these specific ones, you’ll train your brain to formulate responses to situational queries.

What would you do if you were asked to collaborate with a coworker you didn’t feel you could work with or who was unproductive?

How would you handle working at a job where you knew your boss was wrong about something that was affecting the company?

If you had to undertake multiple projects with tight deadlines, how would you stay on track?

How would you persuade a coworker to see things your way at work?

What would you do if you were expected to conform to a company policy with which you had a strong disagreement?

If you werent satisfied with the work you turned in, what would you do about it?

How would you prioritize your work if you had multiple assignments from different managers?

Final words of advice before the interview

Don’t memorize your lines, but try to have a general strategy for approaching topics, using compelling anecdotes and details. Rehearse your stories out loud. You might even record them. Find a friend or family member to listen and coach you.

One technique for answering interview questions is called the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Results. That helps you break down your answers into the when, where, what and how, and articulate your specific results without rambling.

Even if you’re thrown a curveball, behavioral interview questions give you the opportunity to illustrate your insight or experience as an indicator of future success.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/16/19 •
Section Job Hunt
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Friday, February 08, 2019

Energy

image: aura

The Great Thread of Being
The Raw Stuff Were Made Of, And Why it Matters

By Umair Hague
Eudaimonia
February 7, 2019

“The energy you put out into the world is your responsibility!” I couldn’t help but be struck by how funny the tweet was, whereupon someone told me it was from some guru type. Is it true? Lets talk about “energy” and being and you and me for a moment. I don’t writeoften enough about this kind of stuff these days, though its my favourite thing to writeabout, because, well, the world has more pressing issues. What are we? Why are we here? Who are we, really?

This kind of sentiment “the energy you put out is your responsibility” - which you and I both hear expressed ubiquitously - is a kind of convenient mishmash of East meets West. It takes the formative philosophical idea of the East - that there’s “energy,: which is to say Qi, or prana, or so fort - but then combines it with the formative idea of the modern West, which is rational individualism: its yours, like a car or house or money. Feels a little off already, doesn’t it?

I think that any of us who have been close to the edge of ourselves recognizes there’s indeed such a thing as “energy.” Deep down, when you go beyond the narrow limits of the ego, there’s something that the old philosophers of the East described beautifully, because its so accurate to anyone who’s had the experience. A kind of luminous coiling presence, the “snake” of Kundalini, a force that’s pure in intensity as it is impossible to put into words. If you want me to describe it in words, when I was close to death, I’d experience it just that way - as a kind of coil of light, in a place of pure being, stretching into an endless expanse of stars, dust, time beyond, space beyond space.

But that coil of light wasn’t “in” me. Its more accurate to say that it was something that poured “through” me. But even that’s inaccurate. Its more accurate to say that it was something that was released, or experienced, or encountered, as “I started to die. That coil of light that existed in space beyond space, in time beyond time - what was it?”

Let’s think about it a little more. It wasn’t pure being - because it was in the “ground” or the “field” of pure being. Yet nor was it “me” - because, as the ancient philosopher who discovered this energy, this “Qi” or “Kundalini” and so forth rightly pointed out - it’s found where you, the little you of appetite and desire and money and clothes and so on ends. For the same reason, you feel connected when you stand on a beach - there’s nothing of you left suddenly, and somehow everything feels right, not wrong. You’re naked - “o now what are you?”

Immediately, a few things should be crystal clear already. This energy doesnt “belong” to “me” or “you.” because it only comes into focus when “you” and “I” and are fading. Therefore, it isn]t something that can “belong” to us at all, in an individualistic sense. To say that we must take “responsibility” for the energy of being is as wrong as saying that the summer must take responsibility for the sun. It is a thing that belongs to none of us.

This energy is there to teach us a lesson. A great and mighty lesson about the truth of us. A lesson thats as difficult to learn as it is to teach, one thatʒs as impossible as it is beautiful, as awesome as it is tiny.

So we struggle our whole lives long with all this. Western psychology tries to treat this energy in us in a hyperrational way - with therapy and so on. Eastern thought tries to treat it in a silent, contemplative way - with meditation and Tai Chi and yoga whatnot. Its hard to say if the Western approach has been any more successful - just witness how depressed and anxious and angry people are these days.

When it comes to “energy,” the Western approach tries to contain it - which is what so much psychotherapy is about, calling it “libido” and “eros.” The Eastern approach, on the other hand, tries to “channel” it, for example in yoga. And yet that approach, while I think can work better, often fails, too. Why do both these approaches fail? Because neither one brings us, first, closer to encountering this “energy” in its pure form - to really experiencing it, knowing it, bonding with it, developing a kind of intimacy with it.

So what happens? It roars through us, tears at us, wails like a banshee. It is saying: Know me. See me. Feel me. What am I? I am you. Don’t you want to know yourself? Of course we do. But we’re diehard rationalists - we’re taught to ignore these whispers and screams, which we can so obviously hear - and they only get louder the more they’re ignored.

Now, here’s the funny thing. Nobody doesn’t feel this energy - just stand on a beach for a moment, or stare into a sunset, bang! There it is, coursing through you - we just don’t know what to call it, where to put it, what the hell to do with it. How would we? Nobody teaches us. Nobody much even really acknowledges its reality. We walk around all pretending away the deepest parts of us.

Soon enough, by about midlife or so, most of us are wrecks. Our lives feel strangely disconnected. We feel lonely, even when we’re with our kids and families. Our work seems meaningless. We don’t seem to know our place in this universe at all. We struggle to contain this energy that’s screaming and whistling and exploding through us by now. Maybe we have affairs, maybe we blow up our careers, maybe we throw our life savings away. What are we really searching for? We are desperate by this point - truly desperate - to know who we are. Why we are here. What we are made of.

But we’re still not ready to go inside and face this energy of being itself - really just experience the truth of it for ourselves. Its funny, isn’t it? We know we are not just bags of chemicals. We feel there is a “soul” or a “presence” in us. But we can’t quite seem to connect with it. Bang! The energy overwhelms us - and that leaves us weary, exhausted, drained, as we try to fight it, repress it, ignore it. Isn’t that how you feel sometimes? I know I used to feel drained every day, even though I was bursting with energy - until I was in something like a walking coma, numb and frozen.

So what should we do about it? What can we do? We can go towards the energy. Really go towards it. Just try to see it, and be seen by it. Just experience it. By “experience” it I don’t mean imagining coils of light in your mind’s eye (which is comforting and relaxing, but.) I mean experiencing it, feeling it, so there is nothing left but that energy. So it is you, and you are it - and that is just the beginning. Just sit there for a while if you want to do it - there’s no great secret, you’re just overloaded from modern life.

As you look “along” the light, or “into” it, depending on your perspective, you will see that this “coil” is something as magnificent and remarkable as beautiful and impossible. “Look” here means sense, in the way that we look with the third eye, with the witness, with the observer - not with the physical eyes, of course. So what is this coil?

It is the thread that links all selves. It has no ending and no beginning. It just spirals and stretches and twists and dances endlessly in this space beyond space and this time beyond time. Along it lie all selves who ever were or have been. From the tiniest insect to you and me. Selves are just artificial separations in this consciousness, which is the raw material of existence itself, as quantum physics is starting to understand. No “selves” - no object “reality” just pure energy.

When we say two people are in love, it means something like their place along this coil has intersected , touched, and a little explosion has happened. When we say that people die, it means they are letting their “selves” go, and returning to the ground, or the field which this coil lingers in. (You can think of this thread as alaya if you like, if you’re versed in Buddhism, all the karma in all the worlds, flowing like a great river, from self to self, conditioning them into existence.)

Imm sure by now some of you are amused or horrified or just plain bewildered. What the hell is this guy talking about? LOL that’s OK. Before I died I would have been the first to laugh off stuff like this - pretty viciously, too. But I was desperately unhappy, too. So let’s go a little further still, if you really want to delve into a few untold secrets of being.

Energy, Qi, Kundalini, etcetera, is the thread of selfhood which we are all traveling along. It is always flowing through us because we are all just traveling along it. In that sense, it is the cycle of life, too, that the ancients spoke about. One self goes - bang! The next one is found, had, lived. That doesn’t mean there’s a sequence, really, because we are not in a linear space. We are trying to use words to explain an impossible reality, the idea that consciousness, not matter, is what is fundamental, and therefore, there is a place where all consciousness exists in its raw form, too , undivided, unseparated, one, whole. That place is the thread of being, which we sense, but which our eyes can never see, because our eyes, just like mountains, rivers, or stars, are made of it to begin with.

Now let me try to distill a few practical, simple lessons from all this. The energy you feel coursing through you is not your own. Because consciousness is fundamental, it is the truest thing in you. It is the raw stuff of existence itself. That is why it is always crying out to you to know it.

It doesn’t belong to you any more than the sunlight or the ocean does. The most that you can do is try to honor it, in a way, to do justice to it. That means letting this great thread of life unfurl through you, and that means lifting up and nourishing and nurturing every life that you touch, because from the threads point of view, there is no difference between you whatsoever.

To do that, though, you must have the courage and wisdom to gain some intimacy with this “energy,” this great thread of being - which is just primal consciousness, roaring through you. You have to stop the futile work of trying to ignore its pleas and cries. You have to stop pretending its not there, while all the time you feel unhappy and lonely for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on. You must understand your exhaustion and weariness come as much from this existential battle you are waging with your true self as they do from capitalism and supremacy and so on. You must go into it, towards it, and really know it, not just as part of you, but you, yourself, as just a tiny, evanescent part of it.

The starting point is to no longer be afraid of the idea that you are only what you’re told you are - just a consumer, a material object, a worker, in short, a brain-body piling up money and stuff - but that you might just be something much greater and truer and wholer. You are this whole thread of being, and this whole thread of being is you. In the end, you learn that - whether it is in the moments before you die, or in the moments long before them. The question is only when. So there’s no need to worry - only to laugh.

I think if you learn this early on, though, a lot of things become a lot clearer. There’s a sense of happiness, a sense of belonging, a sense of peace. That makes love truer, relationships deeper, intimacy warmer, moments more intense. It makes life something a little more mysterious, vast, impossible, tiny, beautiful. You have a higher sense of consciousness - but it’s better to just say a deeper, simpler, rawer, truer one.

Or maybe the rationalists are right - it’s all just an illusion, a fairy tale fools like me tell. I guess there’s only one way for you to find out.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 02/08/19 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking To 2019

image: dying america

We Need a More Humane Economic System
Not One That Only Benefits the Rich

By Richard D. Wolff
December 27, 2018

Prof. Wolff joins Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now to discuss the current economic crisis, from the stock market fluctuations to the partial federal government shutdown.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government is entering its fifth day after a political impasse over President Donald Trumpגs contentious demand for border wall funding. Funding for about a quarter of all federal programs expired at midnight on Friday, including the departments of Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security. On Christmas Day, Trump said the shutdown will last until Democrats agree to fund his $5 billion U.S.-Mexico border wall, despite previously repeatedly claiming Mexico would pay for the wall. The shutdown is occurring as concern grows over the U.S. economy. U.S. stock markets are on pace to suffer their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression. In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an emergency meeting with top financial regulators and also convened a separate call with top executives of six major banks.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! Im Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government is entering its fifth day after a political impasse with Congress over President Donald Trumps contentious demand for border wall funding. Funding for about a quarter of all federal programs expired at midnight on Friday, including the departments of Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security. On Christmas Day, Trump said the shutdown will last until Democrats agree to fund his $5 billion U.S.-Mexico border wall, despite his previously repeated claims that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The shutdown is occurring as concern grows over the U.S. economy. U.S. stock markets are on pace to suffer their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression. In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an emergency meeting with top financial regulators and also convened a separate call with top executives of six major banks.

AMY GOODMAN: This came as President Trump renewed his attack on the Federal Reserve, openly criticized its chairman, Jerome Powell, whom he appointed. On Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted, ғThe only problem our economy has is the Fed.

Well, for more, weԒre joined now by Richard Wolff, emeritus professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst, visiting professor at The New School, founder of Democracy at Work, hosts a weekly national television and radio program called Economic Update, author of many books, including Capitalisms Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown.

Richard Wolff, welcome to Democracy Now!

RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’ve got, before this, the capital gains tax break, the break for the richest Americans, and President Trump says hes improving the economy, and now the stock market has plummeted back to the Depression times. Explain.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, we’ve had an economy that never really escaped the crash of 2008. In a way, the last 10 years have been an economy on life support: vast amounts of money pumped into the economy; record drops in interest rates, inviting everybody - business, individuals, governmentsחto borrow moneya debt-sustained situation. And after a while, you canגt mount up the debt on the basis of an economy that hasnt really gotten going. And we’re seeing the eventual break.

You know, the capitalist system has a downturn every four to seven years. Its had that for centuries. And the last big downturn was 2008 and ‘09. So, if you do four and seven, and you add it to nine, we’re due for one. And every major stock market observer, bank and so on predicts that we’re having a downturn. So its really only a question of exactly when. And the stock market anticipates this. And so we’re having, in a way, economic chickens coming home to roost. And the notion that its just the FedҒs policy that explains this is really the kind of remark that would get a student a very low grade in any economics course.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Richard, why - if over the last 10 years the Federal Reserve kept interest rates so low and provided so much cheap money, why hasn’t inflation increased dramatically in the U.S. over this period of time?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, the irony is, it’s one of the bizarre ways an economy works. There was no incentive to take all that money and go in and produce things that might have driven up prices and so on, because the people in America can’t afford to buy it. Our wages have been stagnant. The debts have been so big that people are afraid to borrow the way they once did, even though they still do, but not at the growing scale as before.

So, all that extra money kind of went into the stock market to make itself make quick money by buying shares, hoping that they would go up. And if all the rich people who get it into their hands do that kind of thing, you see the stock market go up, but the underlying economy doesn’t go anywhere. And again, after a while, that’s not a sustainable arrangement.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the other thing that happened, though, after the Trump tax cuts, there was all of these companies buying up their own shares, seeking to drive up their prices, right?

RICHARD WOLFF: Exactly.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now all that money has been lost?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, basically, yes, because it was funny money to begin with. It was money that was not used to hire people, was not used to raise people’s wages. All of those promises were never delivered on. Instead, it rushed into the stock market or buying back shares, which is another way of playing the market. So the market prices went up. The mainstream media tended to say, See, the economy is in good shape. It’s strong, because the market went up.

But the underlying reality of most people, which is reflected in our politics, is one of bitterness and anger and resentment that they are not participating in this so-called recovery. And now the rich are also facing the falling apart of this house of cards as the market tumbles down. And poor Mr. Trump, having staked his reputation on a rising market, is now confronted with a declining one and is looking for a scapegoat, which Mr. Powell, his own appointee, is providing to him.

AMY GOODMAN: Who I always thought wrote that op-ed piece for the Times. But I do want to ask about this Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s secret meeting - emergency meeting, I should say - with top U.S. financial regulators, after hosting a call with executives from six major banks on Sunday. You have him meeting with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of Americas Brian Moynihan, Goldman SachsҒ David Solomon, Morgan Stanleys James Gorman, Tim Sloan of Wells Fargo, Michael Corbat of Citigroup. What message did he convey to them? And what about the meeting with the regulators?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think the basic plan here, no one knows the details, but most of us think this was not a leak. This was a letting us know that the government is busy fixing all of this. The hope is that by promising everybody’s on board to fix it, that the market will somehow come back. Its the easiest, simplest first step.

But the irony is, it didn’t play out very well, because the mass of people saw it for what it was: a ploy, an effort to verbally shore things up - which makes you wonder about how bad it really is, having pretended there was no problem, having pretended we have a strong economy. We don’t have one, so now you have to kind of talk it up.

My guess is, it wont make a big difference. We have a long-term instability built into this economic system, and we look to be on the verge of doing just that kind of downturn that history suggests we ought to expect.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is Trump so angry at Mnuchin right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Basically, he’s looking for scapegoats. I think if he can’t use Mr. Powell - there’s some evidence he tried to figure out whether he can fire him. He was told, apparently, he cannot. OK, he can fire Mr. Mnuchin. That’s for sure. So maybe he has to shift his focus of whose the bad guy here, against = so he isnt the bad guy, so the system is never questioned. He’ll find somebody who he can fire to do the theater that he seems to like to do to solve problems by pointing to a scapegoat.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: And to what degree does TrumpRs continuing trade war battles with China have an impact on the U.S. economy and where people think its heading, not where it is right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Mostly, at this point, it’s terribly uncertain. Companies around the world cannot make plans, cannot make investments, cannot make assumptions about whats going to happen, because we don’t know what hes going to do, we don’t know what the Chinese are going to do.

But, you know, theres a more deep historical problem here. And itҒs really American history. When we became an independent nation, it was partly because we were held backtea party, remember?חby the British. They had a rule: They wanted the colony to be subordinate. We didnt want to do that as Americans, and we ended up pushing back against the control, the effort to hold back American development. We went to two wars: the Revolutionary War and, again, the War of 1812.

The history records are not good about trying to squelch an upcoming economic power. China is todayҒs upcoming economic power. The effort to squelch and stop it is both likely to fail and extremely dangerous, because these trade wars have a nasty habit of becoming military.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about this government shutdown and who it hurts? I couldnt help thinking about the fact that so many hundreds of thousands of workers will not be paid. Of course, itҒs particularly painful through the holidays. Many other hundreds of thousands are being furloughed. You have those in the private sector who rely on the government jobs for their jobs. They will lose their jobs or not be paid. I mean, President Trump, before he was president, of course, we know that he didnt pay many of his own workers. But this idea of who is hurt during a government shutdown and who continues to get paid?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, for me, this isҗas Senator Corker said, this is theater. This is Mr. Trump producing a big news event. He is in charge. He is acting. And for him, the cost of these hundreds of thousands without incomeand, by the way, all the people they canגt spend on, who are losing an income indirectly, when you multiply this out, as we do in economics, the impact is very severe. And Im not even talking about the services they canҒt perform and the long-run effects of the services not being performed by the government. The IRS is cutting back at a time when we are desperately in trouble with our revenues anyway. So, yeah, its a crass, self-serving, political ploy, the costs of which, like in the tit-for-tat war with China, are huge but are not being counted, because they donҒt calculate in to the self-promotion of our leadership.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But this is all coming, supposedly, in a time when we have the lowest unemployment record in decades, supposedlyunemployment rate. Yet, of course, many of those who are employed are severely underemployed. But Iגm wondering what your sense is of the actual economy itself?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the reality is that we are - we have a lot of employment, but the quality of the jobs has collapsed over the last 10 years. The people who work now used to be people who had a job with good income, good benefits and good security. The jobs, overwhelmingly, created have none of those things: low wages - that’s why our wages have gone nowhere; bad benefits - those are shrinking, pensions and so on; and the security is virtually gone. One of our biggest problems in America is people don’t know one week to the next what hours they’re working, what income they’ll get. You can’t have a life like this.

So, what weve done is we’ve ratcheted down the quality of jobs. We’ve made people use up their savings since the great crash of 2008, so theyҒre in a bind. They have really no choice but to offer themselves at lower wages or at less benefit or at less security than before, which is why there’s the anger, which is why there was the vote for Mr. Trump in the first place, because this talk of recovery really is about that stock market with the funny money that the Fed Reserve pumped in, but is not about the real lives of people, which are in serious trouble, hence the numbers, like a average American family can’t get a $400 emergency cost because it doesn’t have that kind of money in the background. So, you’ve undone the underlying economy, you have this frothy stock market for the 1 percent, and this is an impossible tension tearing the country apart.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Democrats will be taking officewill be taking over the House next week. And itגs not only the Democrats, but you have this whole new generation of progressives that are moving in. What do you want to see happen? What can they do?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the first thing is, they have to get strong enough, which may take a while, to have the numbers able to fundamentally change policy. Thats what I want. I want them to recognize that our economic system is a problem, that there ought to be a national debate, which theyҒre in the best position to start, that we stop looking for this scapegoat or that onenot just Mr. Trump with Powell or with Mnuchin, but the whole mass media effort to see a problem everywhere but in the basic economic system. We have to get over that. For half a century, weגve been afraid to debate those questions, because of the Cold War and everything having to do with it. Lets do that.

Let’s ask, for example, whether the best way to organize our enterprises is to have a tiny group of people - board of directors, major shareholders - make all the decisions, so that the rest of us have to live with the results, but we have no input. You know, a country that promises it is committed to democracy has never faced the fact that in the enterprise we don’t have democracy. We have a tiny group of people making all the decisions. And that’s not a good idea. And maybe now we can face that the decisions they’ve made, individually and collectively, have plunged us into a situation where we cannot afford the luxury of not facing basic questions about how our economy is organized. We should have done it for the last 50 years. Maybe this new generation of young people coming into the Congress will begin that conversation and, hopefully, bring us along into a national debate on these subjects, which is long overdue.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, but beyond the debate, what kind of legislation do you think that the House should be seeking to pass?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, easiest way to summarize it: We have been following - and, unfortunately, Democrats, too - something called trickle-down economics. We do economic policy where we help the folks at the top - we bail out the big banks, we give a tariff benefit - and we hope it trickles down, which it rarely does.

First thing they can do, reverse it. Lets do trickle-up economics. You help the people at the bottom, in all the different ways that we know how to do because the FDR regime back in the ‘30s did a lot of that. So we know how to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Like?

RICHARD WOLFF: Do it well, put people to work. Put people to work doing socially useful things at a decent income, not working in a fast-food restaurant under unbearable personal situations. Here’s another one: this greening of America. There’s a project that could help millions of people in a direct way. Let’s kind of do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Put forward by a Democratic Socialist, a Socialist like yourself.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. And thats where we’d expect it to come from, because we haven’t been willing, outside of the mainstream, to have the debates, so - excuse me, in the mainstream we haven’t had it. So we need the folks coming in, that are new and different, to talk about all of those things.

We did them before. The minimum wage should be raised, and dramatically. We should be helping all the kinds of people who have been denied help. We should be making sure that jobs are secure, that jobs have proper benefits, that we’re enhancing the benefitsall the things that could help the folks at the bottom have the money to spend, that will trickle up into the profits and revenues of business. That’s a more humane system.

And, you know, even if it doesn’t work as much as we want it to, at least we will have helped the majority of people. What we have now is trickle-down, that helps those of the top, and then, when it doesn’t trickle down, what have we got? We’ve helped those at the top - again. The focus on trickle-up would be an alternation in our policy that’s long overdue.

AMY GOODMAN: Are we in the midst of a recession, or is it just about to hit us?

RICHARD WOLFF: It’s just about to hit us. Goldman Sachs is literally predicting it. JPMorgan Chase - you mentioned these institutions before - they’re all saying in their newsletters - if you read the financial press, its not a question of whether, it’s just a question of when. And its sort of within the next six to 18 months. So, yes, it’s possible those will be wrong, but, you know, its been that way for a couple of centuries. It’s a good bet. And so, yes, were going to have one.

And Mr. Trump is in the very dangerous position of having two years to go before he has to run for re-election, at a time when the one thing he can point to, which is economic something, is going to disintegrate, as it has in the last several weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Wolff, we want to thank you for being with us, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, visiting professor here in New York at The New School, founder of Democracy at Work, hosts a weekly national TV and radio program called Economic Update, author of a number of books, including Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown.

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The Year of Fascism
Ten Lessons We Should Learn From 2018

By Umair Hague
Eudaimonia
December 30, 2018

Theres an open secret that too many of us donҒt want to admit right now, at the end of a long, ugly, emotionally bruising, psychically battering year. Yet if were going to learn anything from the mess weҒre in, it starts with just that open secret.

This was the year of fascism. The year that bona fide fascism  replete with demonization, dehumanization, demagogues, camps, show trials, and hints of genocide ח made a dramatic, shocking return to the global stage. Do you think I exaggerate? What other system, way, attitude, puts toddlers on trial? cages infants? Calls them vermin? Does literally unspeakable things, things for which we have no words, like killing them by denying them water and medicine, or freezing them to death? This was a year defined by the resurgence of fascism, if only we are brave enough to admit it. I wouldnt blame you if җ like many people  you canגt quite bring yourself to do so. After all, doing just that brings up tough, unforgiving questions. Was I complicit? Am I? Arent we better than this? DidnҒt we learn anything from history?

The year of fascism began in America. It skyrocketed to the heights of power, and then spread through the world like a terrible epidemic. Soon enough, Europe was infected. Paris was on fire. There were neo-Nazis in the Bundestag. Italy was gripped by its own ugly bout of what looks a lot like national socialism. And so on. Now, it was utterly predictable that America was going to implode into fascism (no, that doesnt mean youҒre a fascist, it just means that there are supremacists in high office, doing terrible things, which are slowly normalized.) Not just because fascism was invented in America  the Nazis, after all, studied Americaגs race laws, great admirers of its system of slavery and segregation  but because political economy said so. That brings me to my second lesson.

Economics was right, but American economics was wrong. Was it the one of historyגs greatest, weirdest coincidences that nations as different as America, Italy, and Austria all melted down into different degrees of fascism? How can the cause of fascism be cultural when these nations dont share cultures? But wait җ wasnt economics wrong? IsnҒt the economy booming?

Its baffling җ and nobody explains it well, mostly because almost nobody remembers how to think about it well. I dont blame you for being confused. The confusion arises from the a simple problem.

American economics was wrong. About what? About everything, more or less. Capitalism - by way of slashing social investment, privatizing everything, making corporations people, and cutting taxes for the rich - wasn’t the answer to everything. Wealth and income and prosperity didnt trickle down from billionaires to average people. Instead, the rich turned into the super rich, while the average American went deeper and deeper into debt, unable to afford basics like healthcare and education and a home on his stagnant income.

(American economics is so badly wrong that it says absurd, bizarre, hilarious things like: “the economy’s booming!!” at the precise moment that life expectancy is cratering, suicide and depression are skyrocketing, young people cant afford to start families, old people can’t afford to retire, and average incomes have barely budged for half a century. LOL So when people living shorter, unhappier, grimmer, poorer lives, to the point that they kill themselves in despair, have become a “booming economy,” then, my friends, a theory of dunces has replaced reality with a grotesque and backwards illusion. The earth isn’t flat - though American economics would like us all to believe it is, in a weirdly Soviet twist.)

But American economics is not all of economics - its just a weird, cultish subset, its own strange discipline, which is at this point, so badly wrong its somewhere between absurdly hilarious and tragically gruesome. That’s because 1) it didn’t study the world 2) learn anything from history 3) think very hard about whether it’s conclusions are backed up by the most basic empirical reality (like - wait, how can an economy be booming when life expectancy is falling? Isn’t life the point of money, not money the point of life?)

EconomicsҢ  not American economics, but the real thing - said exactly the following would happen  exactly what the great economists of the past, like Keynes, would have predicted: because the average Americaגs life had fallen apart, because he was so deeply indebted, society would destabilize, and a fascist-authoritarian wave was likely to roar. Keynes, after all, was the one who pointed out that is precisely what happened in Weimar Germany. In todays context, it goes something like this: when there isnҒt enough to go around, and there is no way to ever get or have or be any more, people define the weakest among them as nonhumanӔ or subhumanӔ  precisely so there is more for them. That brings me to my third lesson.

Fascism is a way to ration a stagnant economy. It is what happens when a collapsed middle class punches down, instead of lifting up. Imagine that the pie is shrinking for a moment. But our bills are going up, year by year. What are we to do? The easiest solution is to exclude some people from having a share. That is what fascism really is. We define some people as inhuman, so that they do not belong anymore ח and then there is more, suddenly, finally, for the true peopleӔ, the volk, the real ones. In Weimar Germany, that is exactly what happened. Spectacular economic mismanagement led to runaway inflation, living standards cratered, there wasnt enough to go around җ bang! Fascism.

But thats what happened in America, too җ only in a less obvious way, at least to pundits, who never leave the DC/NYC bubble. Prices for the basics of life  education, healthcare, even food, rose by thousands of percent. But incomes didnגt. The average persons living standards cratered. There isnҒt enough to go around  enough healthcare, education, incomes, jobs, money, retirement, childcare, maternity leave ח all these things are in chronic, constant shortage, thanks to predatory capitalism, which needs those artificial shortages to boost its profits. So peoples share of the social surplus has declined sharply. That alone predicted a sudden tidal wave of fascism җ and then there was the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which made it more or less inevitable.

Let me give you a concrete example so its clearer. There was a nobody җ a man who used to be a machinist, unemployed now in Weimar Germany, drunk every day, wth no hope in the future. Along came the Nazi party. He joined it, out of hope. And he found himself living in a fine riverside mansion, filled with grand art and furniture. Suddenly, he had power, money, respect, belonging, an address. He was someone. But the mansion was seized from a Jew  and given to him because he was an SS officer. And so, really, was the respect, money, and belonging, too. Do you see what I mean? Itגs often said that national socialismӔ is just a label without a meaning, but that is wrong. It is the act of taking the possessions, belongings, wealth, incomes, jobs, homes, and ultimately, the personhood of those who are even weaker than the middle class who has collapsed into new poverty  by defining them as impure, as unreal, using the state to do it ח creating whole new industries and jobs (not to mention norms, values, and ideals) along the way.

But thats what began to happen in America җ a collapsed middle class, suddenly lurching into new poverty, began punching down, hoping to seize prosperity from those even weaker than it, Mexicans and blacks and immigrants and so on, by taking away everything from them  beginning with their personhood. Stagnation lights the spark of old bigotries. But the lesson is this. Middle class collapse is the strongest predictor of fascism there is ח it tells us a society cant punch up, climb up, lift up anymore, and soon enough, it will begin to have to punch down.

Fascism is always a depression away. What does it mean for a middle class to collapse? Where are the good jobs left in America? The truth is there arenҒt many. Sure, the unemployment rateӔ is low  but the average American is living paycheck to paycheck, unable to muster $500 for an emergency. That tells us in no uncertain terms that the jobs he is doing are low-wage, dead-end ones ח essentially, he is a servant to the new rich, whether he drives their cars, or delivers their fineries, and so on. America has undergone several decades now of hidden stagnation  itגs economics statistics only tell us about the health of capitalism, but when the stock market booms, average people get poorer, not richer, because those profits are had by cutting away their incomes and wages and raiding their pensions  all while charging them higher prices every year for the very things they produce.

But when people cannot make ends meet, then the problem of allocating a stagnant social surplus arises. And yet, just as in Weimar Germany, the capitalists, who are profiting massively by driving the average person into stagnation, cannot be moved - they will not budge an inch, or give a dollar, to lift living standards up. They simply don’t care What is a society to do? There is no solution left, apart from excluding some, so that the illusion of prosperity for the true volk can appear. Bang! The fascist implosion begins. Germany 1934. America 2018. But the lesson is: fascism is always a depression away. It is a solution to a very real problem - a bad one. The problem of depression, of stagnation, of stuck or declining living standards, and no resources or mechanisms available with which to reverse them. What is left but to turn on ones neighbour, and take his bread, then? A starving man will do anything to feed his kids - including believing a bellowing demagogue when he shouts those other kids, the strange-looking ones, are parasites and vermin.

Fascism was predictable. So how come nobody predicted it? The sequence above  stagnation, middle class collapse, simmering rage, implosion ח should have foretold a fascist wave in gigantic blinking red letters blaring air-raid alarms. It did, to those of us who are versed in history, economics, and politics (after all, greater minds, from Adorno to Fromm to Bourdieu, have spent decades explaining how capitalism implodes viciously into fascism  not the Marxist revolution that once was hoped for.) Those of us who did see it coming tried warning of it as desperately, urgently, and loudly as we could. But Americaגs class of leaders  politicians, academics, intellectuals, columnists, pundits - didn’t just refuse to listen. They made us pay a steep price - we were shunned, mocked, reviled, and taunted. Those of us who saw it coming were women and minorities, mostly, or both, and we have lived this before - but those who didn’t see this coming were those who couldn’t. That is because they were all one kind of person: comfortable, upper-middle-class, Ivy League, white, who’d never really lived anywhere but the East Coast of America. No, its not that they;re all bad or inherently bad - it’s that a kind of predictable group think emerged, just like in a frat-house: hubris, arrogance, willful blindness, a closing of the mind - and a backlash against anyone who tried to open it.

דLOL  fascism? Those people are weirdos! No matter how accomplished they are, theyגre nottheyŒre not us! Theyre women and minorities! Come on. WeҒre right  we always are! There are more of us than them ח and were stronger!!Ҕ They were right  there were more of them than there were of us. They were stronger. But that didnגt make them righter. It only made them, sadly, a little deafer, dumber, and blinder. They failed at job one of any leader  protecting their society from turning on itself.

It happened here, and it still is. Because of the comfortable atmosphere of hubris, arrogance, and ignorance among them - America’s politicians, intellectuals, and pundits spent all of 2016 and 2017 lost in a fog of denial, wandering in circles like the blind. “How bad could it possibly be?” A lot, lot worse than they thought, it turns out. They spent that vital time minimizing, denying, and erasing the possibility of implosion - instead of reflecting on it, considering it, understanding it, grappling with it. The New York Times and Washington Post profiled Nazis as handsome, charming rogues, over and over again - while warning their readers never to bring to use words like fascism and authoritarianism, because it couldn’t happen here.

And that is exactly how in 2018, it did, with a vengeance. Bang! Those of us who warned of it were dismissed, taunted, mocked, and sneered at  and we still are. It would be wise for those who made the fatal mistake of not seeing fascism coming when it was eminently predictable to admit it, to learn something from that mistake. But I donגt see any evidence of that. Morning Joe, who supported Trump all election long, is now a vicious enemy of his. But he never examines why, is open enough with his viewers, to say, I was wrong, and that is how we got here. Why was I wrong? Doesn’t it matter? You see, unless there is responsibility amongst leaders - then there will irresponsibility. Until there is accountability, then there will be failure. Not to take responsibility for I failed to protect my society from fascism, and that was my first jobӔ is to add insult to injury. That brings us to my next lesson.

Fascism takes us by surprise  happens faster, harder, and worse than we think because we try very hard not to think about it at all. Weגre in denial  but denial is fascismגs best friend. America spent so much time it-cant-happen-hereing that it did. That is one part of the story in a nutshell. ItҒs difficult to admit that fascism is a thing that hasnt ғgone away, died some kind of natural death. But fascism is more like a plague, which can strike at any time, if you understand the above, than some kind of episode in distant history. ItԒs always just a depression away. And yet when we waste time it-cant-happen-hereing, like AmericaҒs leaders all did, for crucial, vital years, then how can we prepare for it? Fight it? Prevent it? We cant. We disempower ourselves, as we always do, when we make ourselves blind. America was caught totally by surprise by its fascist implosion. Most people, IҒd wager  who are good and decent people ח are still in shock, though they might not know it. Theres a lingering hangover of disbelief, of confusion, of bewilderment. Wait җ were killing kids? What the? How is this happening? Yet shock is what happens when you spend so long in denial, reality comes as a jolt.

NobodyҒs immune from fascism  itגs only cure is prosperity. Fascism spread to Europe, too. Nobody is immune from it. And yet the spread of this latest fascist wave tallies with what the economics predict: those societies where middle classes have done better see less of it (not none of it). Sure, France and Germany and Sweden all have their extremist fringes  who have risen to power. Yes, the Gilets Jaunes are setting Paris on fire. But these nations arenגt headed by supremacists. They arent nearly as badly affected by neofascism as America is җ and that is because America is where the middle class collapsed the most.

Fascism is a disease of modernity  itגs cancer. It happens when middle classes implode into sudden poverty  thatגs a curse of prosperity, because middle classes are a new phenomenon in history. When they cant make ends meet, when they grow desperate, enraged, when they lost trust and faith in society җ then they turn on those below them and beside them. A man who has been lifelong friends with his neighbours will take all that they have if he sees his children starving. It is the simplest and greatest lesson of the 20th century. For that reason, peace amongst people is the most fragile and tenuous victory of all  it only becomes possible through shared, enduring, growing prosperity. Why is it that a century later ח we still havent learned it? And that brings me to my last lesson.

Social democracy insulates societies against fascism. Fascism is rising hardest and fastest in countries which have failed the challenge of really modernizing. Of giving people a fair chance at a decent life. Foremost amongst these is America җ where people must make grim, terrible choices, like chemotherapy, or feeding my kids?Ӕ, my life ӗ or my life savings? But there are many more. EuropeԒs peripheral states, too, are failing to modernize. Russia has descended into nationalist fervor since it failed to modernize. And so on. The lesson is simple. Fascism is a kind of reaction to a society being stuck at a certain stage of development  it is what happens when a society fails to make the transition from capitalism to social democracy. Or, worse, regresses from social democracy to capitalism. Fascist pressures are emerging in Europe precisely because a foolish policy of austerity is turning social democracy back into capitalism. You can think of it like falling into a chasm, if you want.

Capitalism is not meant to last forever. It is meant to evolve into social democracy. Society is meant to transcend capitalism, to go beyond it, by investing the social surplus it creates in things like hospitals, schools, education, media, retirement, for all. If a society doesn’t do that - then the rich will become ultra rich, while the middle implode into the new poor, and that new class of poor will grow resentful, enraged, embittered, and punch down, hoping to seize what they can from those even more powerless than them. Bang! Thatגs the fascist implosion. Its what happened to the world in 2018. Economics has everything to do with it. It’s not a coincidence that so many countries turned so hard towards fascism so fast.

The question in 2019 is whether we are wise enough to begin understanding it.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/31/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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