Wednesday, April 03, 2013

When Will We Challenge Them?

Vanilla Rose's comment to yesterday's post:
"Politicians pay lip service to the idea that everyone is "equal", but firmly believe that some people are much, much more deserving than others. And that they are in the very deserving category. The majority of the Cabinet (in the UK) are millionaires and yet food and alcohol at the House of Commons is subsidised. They have many perks and yet many still cheat on their expenses forms.

One Cabinet minister chose yesterday to answer the question, "Could YOU live on £53 a week?" with "Yes". I went into the supermarket this morning and the cashiers and other customers were all of the opinion that he couldn't. And said supermarket is not normally a hotbed of debate."
It arrived as I was reading an article by George Monbiot from the UK's Guardian newspaper: Communism, Welfare State – What's the Next Big Idea? Any attempt to challenge the elite needs courage, inspiration and a truly groundbreaking proposal....

As well as ideas to challenge Establishment's lopsided treatment of The People during austerity situations, or indeed, in just about any situation one could name, it'd help to understand just how we, The People of many countries, have come to find ourselves in such a dire situation.

A couple of clips from the piece:
........Thousands (in the UK) will be driven from their homes, and many more pushed towards destitution. Relief for the poor from council tax will be clipped; legal aid for civil cases cut off. Yet at the end of this week those making more than £150,000 a year will have their income tax cut. Two days later, benefit payments for the poorest will be cut in real terms. A week after that, thousands of families who live in towns and boroughs where property prices are high will be forced out of their homes by the total benefits cap. What we are witnessing is raw economic warfare by the rich against the poor.... .....So the age-old question comes knocking: why does the decent majority allow itself to be governed by a brutal, antisocial minority? Part of the reason is that the minority controls the story..............relentless propaganda..... Divide and rule is as potent as it has ever been.
Much the same thing can be said of US media, also long ago bought and controlled by corporations/the elite. They have power to "control the message", keep the country divided.

George Monbiot goes on
..............But I've come to believe that there's also something deeper at work: that most of the world's people live with the legacy of slavery. Even in a nominal democracy like the United Kingdom, most people were more or less in bondage until little more than a century ago: on near-starvation wages, fired at will, threatened with extreme punishment if they dissented, forbidden to vote. They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.........
That last remark is important, it describes another facet of the reason we are where we are today. And yet, and yet, by those same people, whose ancestors were serfs, scarcely more than slaves, from time to time through the centuries, there has arisen a welling up of passionate and determined rebellion, attempts to bring about a better balance. It can happen!

For thousands of years, in almost every country of the world, a tiny minority of people have dominated and oppressed (to different extent and under different labels) the rest of the population. There has to be a better way. Many great brains have tried to solve the problem in the past. For instance, in the thread of comment following the article linked earlier in the post, a discussion emerged about Marxism. But Karl Marx was a man of his time, for him 21st century economies, policies and technologies were unknown factors. Things have changed beyond all imagination, and will continue to change at what to a 19th century mind would seem like breakneck speed. New political philosophies - completely new, not just re-hashed versions of the old stuff, are urgently needed. Isn't there someone with vision, someone somewhere, who could initiate another great welling up of determined rebellion by The People against the injustices of ruling elites and powerful corporations? The People, I'm confident, would re-discover their courage - it has been found before, it will be found again. Things change, The People do not.


Vanilla Rose said...

Yay! I am a muse! Thank you for writing this. :)

LB said...

Hi Twilight - It's good that we should challenge and inspire others to act mindfully. We can only change our world if and when we're willing to first change ourselves, when we're willing to seek the truth. Corruption thrives when we choose to remain ignorant, disinterested and self-serving, holding others to higher moral standards than we do ourselves - or when good men and women see, yet remain silent and do nothing.

The problem of greed is a human problem, one not unique to the governments, corporations and religious institutions that rule our world. Greed takes many forms - love of comfort, status, power, money - we can even hunger for the approval of the group, so much so that we're willing to set aside individual conscience and independent thought. It's a question of what we value and how much we're willing to sacrifice for the common good, how much TRUTH we're willing to see.

I just read a great article by Chris Hedges titled: "Treason of the Intellectuals", in which he talks about the intellectual dishonesty that helps perpetuate the misinformation we're constantly bombarded with. Acting out of truth requires not only commitment and effort, but also discernment and sacrifice.

Interestingly, as I was googling the article I saw how Chris Hedges has *just* resigned in protest from PEN, "a global organization made up of writer members that advocates for free expression and other human rights causes."

libramoon said...
Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World
By Michael Schuman

"With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.

A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right."

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ So y'are, VR - many thanks for playing the role so well. :-)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for you wise thoughts on this. Yes, I read the Chris Hedges piece too, and of his resignation from that organisation.

I noticed, investigated, and saved a poem a commenter had left under the Hedges piece (can't recall on which site, as Hedges piece was on several sites yesterday).

This is the poem, by Otto Rene Castillo who was a Guatemalan revolutionary (

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.

They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.

They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total life.

On that day
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:

"What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?"

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

Twilight said...

libramoon ~ Thanks - that's a very good article!

Last para:

That leaves open a scary possibility: that Marx not only diagnosed capitalism’s flaws but also the outcome of those flaws. If policymakers don’t discover new methods of ensuring fair economic opportunity, the workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge.

In Marx's day the workers of the world would have had great difficulty in uniting, for many reasons. Today it's different, the age of the internet brought with it some annoyances, but some valuable advantages - as long as it remains free that is.

What we do need is a Marx-like figure for the 21st century - and I do not mean we need communism, as such - just in case an Anonymous commenter decides to descend and tear me off a strip! ;-)

LB said...

" . . . their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death."

Thanks for sharing the powerful poem, Twilight. Intellectual or not, we all risk the "coward's death" each and every time we avert our eyes or fail to honor our connection to other human beings - *especially* to those we disagree with. Sadly, I think many of us have become so enamored of the world with all of its illusions and enticements, we barely notice when a valuable piece of our humanity dies or fails to flourish.

Twilight said...

LB ~ True, and very sad, LB.

The poet's country was a lot less advanced and powerful than the US - or UK, his people, the ordinary people, who he calls "simple men", were far more disadvantaged than we are, so I guess he felt especially
incensed that those of his countrymen who had had the advantage of good education chose to remain silent. We, or most of us have enough education to not need to rely on "intellectuals". Yet they do have a bigger voice than we do - even here, if only more of "em would use it.

I can think of few who speak up -
Dr Cornel West is a favourite - he's not afraid, Chris Hedges of course, and some independent political bloggers (Chris Floyd, Dave Lindorf, for instance) - who are not classed as the ivory tower-type university-based intellectuals.

TV moguls, or fear of losing audience, or position, has gagged so many who should be speaking up.

LB said...

That's a good point about people living in other countries or during different times, Twilight. It can be very tough to speak out, especially when it involves risking life and limb or one's ability to earn a living - all the more reason to respect the ones throughout history who have been courageous enough to try.

Still, in this country at least, there are small, *potentially* meaningful ways to speak up that don't involve much more than making an effort . . . by signing online letters and petitions in support of causes we believe in, phoning our elected representatives when critical issues come up and through economic boycotting. And we can stop rewarding politicians (who continue to play by the same corrupt rules) by no longer voting for 'the lesser of two evils'.

With the exception of a small handful of people, no one I know seems very interested in doing any of these things, even when I make it easy for them by providing links to click on or phone numbers to call. Considering how many regular folks I know (many of them 'liberal', including a few in the progressive religious community, as well as quite a few alternative healers like myself who volunteer), I find it frustrating, sad, even hypocritical. Most people seem disinterested, reluctant at best or unwilling to make an effort.:(

Right now I subscribe to quite a few online publications that help keep me updated and connected - Credo, Healthcare-NOW, Just Foreign Policy and The Organic Consumer's Association, to name a few. And Truthdig keeps me informed and thinking. I may not agree with everything I'm presented with, but I always appreciate the right to make an informed choice.

Thanks, Twilight - I appreciate your posts and enjoy our exchanges.:)

Twilight said...

LG ~ Thank you, also - the feeling is mutual! :-)

Yes, there are thing we can do, which cost us nothing or very little but effort. I have signed several petitions online in the past, I've written to our senators - once, and to our local newspaper a couple of times.
Standard format letter from Senators in response, and nothing at all from newspaper. It doesn't encourage further effort in that direction, for me in my situ. I live in OK - red (very) state, with two backward senators: Inhofe and Coburn, bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry I suppose. So, I let off a bit of steam here from time to time.

PS - I note that Jim Carrey who spoke out supporting the gun control issue recently and received a lot of nasty responses in return, did come back at the opposition in another post at HuffPo yesterday. Good for him! THAT is what I'd love to see more of.

People of the US love their "celebs", more than their intellectuals. So many "celebs" who are supposed to lean left fudge around the edges, afraid to upset Obama, afraid they won't get to be a Kennedy Center Honoree or invited to the White House, or whatever - Kudos to Jim Carrey! :-)

LB said...

Have you ever tried calling? Just recently, I heard an elected representative address those of us who have been advocating for no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He said he's frequently approached by fellow lawmakers asking about a particular bill or letter that's being circulated, having only been made aware of its existence by the staffers who take our calls. Our phone calls can and *do* make a difference, plus it's relatively easy to call.

There are a few (very few) celebrities who stand out - Viggo Mortensen has been consistently outspoken in his political and social views, challenging the President's positions on Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and more. He was also very outspoken in his public support of Dennis Kucinich during his 2008 campaign for President.

Viggo is also a strong and uncompromising supporter of a *true* form of single-payer, universal health care, which Obama's Affordable Care Act is NOT. Here's a link to Viggo speaking out about a few of the many issues he's concerned about:

I always liked Viggo as an actor, discovering how similar our political views are was surprising. Plus, he's my astro-twin - same year and day.

Twilight said...

LB ~ I haven't tried called congresspersons - no. I'm conscious of my accent, and feel that once they heard it they'd take the attitude that I'm "not from round here" and don't understand the problems" - or alternatively they'd just wish I'd get back to the place from whence I came. :-)
Added to that, going against right-wing politics in this state is such a brick wall - pointless really, LB. Just raises the blood-pressure. It's even worse than Texas.

Thanks for reminding me about Viggo - I did a post about him back in 2009

I was amazed in 2008 when Kucinich got so little support - that's what persuaded me to register as Independent when I became a US citizen, rather than Democrat.

Sean Penn supported DK, and is another who I admire for his outspokenness. They are few. There are lots of "stars" who'll praise Obama but too few who will criticise him even mildly.

LB said...

Thanks Twilight, for the link to your post on Viggo Mortensen, which I enjoyed reading. Seeing as how our charts (and social values) are so similar, I'm always interested.:)

LB said...

Adding, I have my doubts about some of the online petitions I sign, so for me, calling or emailing representatives with a specific message seems like a more effective (or less ineffective) option. But I can understand your frustration and reasons for not phoning. I just wanted you to know I get what you're saying.:)

Twilight said...

LB ~ I understand - and thanks again for the conversation! :-)