Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jan.17: No newspaper today. Hurray!

Beautiful day. Sunny, and not a copy of the Irving press in sight. Even better, there are some good news sources to catch up on.

There are these photos of a refugee camp at Dunkirk, France.

While we slap ourselves on the back for our incredible generosity in helping refugees, the reality is we help very few, and those not very much. As for the U.S., it had no trouble supplying 23,000 tons of bombs to Saudi Arabia to be dropped on an almost helpless Yemen, no trouble building and sending drones to kill all over the world, no trouble supplying weapons to whatever warlord might want them; but it won't lift a finger to help the casualties of the misery it has created in the middle east. And the worst offenders in the U.S. are the Jesus Jumpers. Meanwhile, Britain is still the racist and bigoted place it has been for the last 600 years.

And Canadians swoon in front of mirrors in self-admiration and even ecstasy for their very limited offer of help.
The Guardian has an excellent history of the Koch family, multi-billionaires who buy elections, buy journalists (even at the New York Times), who have spent hundreds of millions to deny that climate change is happening, and who were early into the game of creating 'think-tanks' which are really propaganda agencies for big business (and are much loved by the Irving press.)

Then there's the big issue in the U.S. election. No, no. It's not the stunning rise in poverty and homelessness, not the growing wage gap, not the worsening of racism, not the collapse of public schooling….. Nope. It's the need for every American to have his or her own gun for protection from ISIS which, apparently, is hiding under every bed in the country .

Then there's the arms business which is enjoying its greatest boom ever, supplying anybody who can pay for it with the latest equipment for up-to-date mass murder. The U.S. industry is the greatest beneficiary, then Britain and France and, recently, Canada. All of these countries have signed agreements not to sell weapons to countries with bad human rights records. All of these countries sell weapons to Saudi Arabia which permits no human rights at all.

And here is an interesting story on the gullibility of the U.S. (and Canadian) press. I've read many stories that fit this description.

And here is something to put it all into perspective.

And from here on, you have to settle for just me.

My first thought is for all those who are ardent believers in capitalism- and few of whom seem to understand the meaning of the word. Big business is usually not capitalist. It rarely takes risks. It rarely goes into ventures without state support – whether financial (as with Atcon and with tax rules), or military (as in much of the world right now, or heavy political influence (as in blocking study of its use of pesticides, buying forests at bargain rates….)

Small business owners are suckers for this line. They like to kid themselves that they are just like big business. In reality, they are victims of big business just like the rest of us.

And at some point, capitalism became a religion, a branch of Christianity.

It began in 1775 with the belief that Americans were a special people – that they were the beginning of democracy and human rights in this world. These were images endlessly reinforced in schools, in history, in novels, then in film and TV. In reality, of course, Americans were leaders in none of these. On the contrary, they were centuries late.

Democracy? Human rights? In a country whose business leaders depended on the labour of slaves who had no democracy or rights? In a country in which women had no democracy and very few rights? In a country in which those who didn't own enough property were commonly denied the right to vote? In a country which permitted all citizens to keep and bear arms?

Well, anyway, keeping and bearing arms had nothing to do with democracy. It was in the constitution because, by definition, only white folks could be citizens; and they needed guns for occasions when they might have to shoot a few slaves. They also needed guns to kill native peoples so they could steal their land.

Funny how the history books miss that.

All this took on a religious air quite early. The U.S. was, after all, a religious society if only because there was no other show in town on a Sunday. But more important, like all imperialists and slave owners, white Americans had to convince themselves they were racially and morally superior to slaves and native peoples. Britain and France and Spain and Portugal had already taken that path.

Enter God. (An acceptable guy. White. Spoke English. Their belief in the Christian God was evidence of their racial, intellectual, moral superiority, a superiority that justified their exploitation, theft, and murder. By sometime early in the nineteenth century, this had morphed into a belief that Americans were God's chosen people.

This first revealed itself as “Manifest Destiny”, the belief it was God's will for the U.S. to conquer the Americas – and more. That belief justified the war on Mexico and the theft of much of its territory. It justified setting up civil war veterans, mostly Irish, to invade Canada. It also justified threats to Canada by President Theodore Roosevelt, and the Spanish American war which gave the U.S. dictatorial power over the inferior peoples of Cuba, Puerto Rico and, in World War One, Haiti.

Manifest Destiny is still with us. Jeb Bush can tell you all about that in a document he helped to make. “The New American Century” makes it God's will for the U.S. to rule the world. That's what Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have been all about.
At some point – or as a culmination of several points – the U.S. made capitalism a part of manifest destiny and of the definition of what was American. The most striking example came in the 1950s when Senator McCarthy commanded the stage with his House Unamerican Activities Committee. It defined a belief in capitalism as being essential to be classifed as an American. Many people were destroyed by his committee just for thinking about communism – or anything communist lie health care.

And so it is the U.S. has been manipulated into becoming a sort of religion of whiteness, Christianity, capitalism, and God's chosen. If I were to move to the U.S. and became a citizen, I would be an American. But if I were a Mexican who had become an American, I would always be a Mexican- American. And a hundred and fifty years after the freeing of the slaves, African Americans are still second-class , at best.

The U.S. has always been a melting-pot only for people who fit the right image. Americanism is essentially a racist religion. Jews have only recently been accepted. People of African descent have, for the most part, not been accepted. And it's a very fanatical religion – something like ISIS.

Nor has capitalism proven to be in a class with the Ten Commandments. It has been a system of very uneven performance for most people. The industrial booms of the U.S., Canada, Britain, France of the latter part of the nineteenth century were made possible only by the massive use of their own people as cheap labour with no security, no social services, no hope of ever escaping the miles of slums and filth they had to live in.

It was made possible also by enslaving or virtually enslaving the people of India and China and Africa, Latin America. It was the golden age of a very few made possible by the squalor and early deaths of hundreds of millions.

Then, shortly before World War One, the system crashed. War spending revived capitalism for a time, then, in 1919, it crashed again – this time for ten years. And again, it was saved by war. And it's been very uneven, to say the least, since the late 1950s.

Then Mulroney began the dash to cash in on the poverty of most of the world through 'free trade treaties', which soon pulled jobs away from Canada and the U.S. so employers could cash in on the massive poverty of the world's poorest countries. - and push up the rate of poverty in Canada and the U.S. It also enabled employers to be free of those awful regulations that got in the way of profits – things like minimum wage, environmental rules….

In general, capitalism does not have a good track record of creating prosperity (unless you are one of the billionaires) in this world. On the contrary, it has been extremely unreliable and, in most countries, actively destructive.

Then came the moment the world should have paid more attention to – the US $700 billion dollar bailout mostly of banking institutions in 2008. (plus many bailouts in other countries.)

The failures were due to those institutions breaking laws in order to steal higher profits. Iceland put people in jail for it. But most western countries rewarded them, and boards of directors of those institutions got billions in bonuses out of their criminality. This was a turning point in history.

Capitalism had become so powerful it could not be punished for breaking the law. In fact, it had become so powerful if could ignore the law. We have yet to recover from that – and it does not look as though we will in any near future.

Capitalism has done a lot of things. It has created mass poverty all over the world for the last 500 years or so. It has been extremely unreliable over the years. It has been a major factor in spreading poverty even to developed nations. It has made life a horror in the undeveloped nations. It has been the cause of an unbroken series of wars for several centuries, with death tolls, especially of civilians, at the highest levels in history – and now with the potential for world destruction.

It also has become the major force in ignoring climate change, ignoring poverty, ignoring homelessness.

If capitalism was God's idea, it was not one of His better ones.

Minimally, we need to put severe controls on it. And at that, I don't see how a world can survive an economic system whose only reason to exist is to satisfy the insatisfiable greed of a few.

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