The Wrong Side

June 3, 2010

There’s 2 sides at least to every issue
and I’m sure that each has merits
but my nation picks the worst (or seems to)
and I don’t know how to bear it.

In the game of global politic
the stakes are high as ever
the world is grinding down to shit
with American hands on the lever.

Across the world apartheid reins
a million and a half in the cage
would anyone please try to explain
why we’re on the side of the captors?

Oil slicks the size of nations
set loose by reckless corporations
we have the strength to rein them in
if the politicos weren’t paid-for patsies.

Obama, Osama, who’s worse for your mama?
Who fights the bigger war?
Who takes your rights, privacy, money?
Piece by piece by little piece.

Give up freedom to fight those who would steal your freedom.
Who is the real terrorist here?

One slain in NYC is worth more
than one in Kabul.
Or Baghdad
Gaza or Tehran.

How much more?

A little girl
or a wedding party of dozens
destroyed by remote control.
Is that how to react to terror tactics?

If the one with the gun
to the head of her sister
must shoulder the blame of her actions.
These sister nations all have bloody hands.

Still…

Doesn’t the one who always sides
with violence, funds oppression
courts authoritarianism over freedom
bear the blame a little more?

What if she is the one passing out the guns?
The one with the biggest armies
the most bombs
the biggest stake in the status quo?

Sister America, you’re on the wrong side!
Sister America, you ARE the wrong side.
Sister America, you hold the world against the wall.
Sister America, you must fall.

If we are all to live.

This one will probably get me some heat. Before you react, claiming I hate America, I’m acting unfairly, don’t see this in perspective, use too much hyperbole, realize this – the biggest player in the game (in this case politics) is the one who makes the rules that all others must abide by. Iran, China, Israel, Russia, Britain, everyone must play by American rules right now, because we have the biggest guns and the best capacity to wreck everyone’s day. It’s been this way ever since we took over as global hegemon from the Brits, and will remain this way until another country arises that can take us in a fight. I’m betting on the Indians, honestly.

In this present moment we are the strongest military in the world, and are very open about using that capacity to achieve our goals. It didn’t start with Bush – Clinton bombed and shot cruise missiles at his share of the world – Bush the elder had his Iraq adventure, Reagan his secret wars… it goes back a long while. I would make the argument that we have been at some sort of constant war since the Spanish-American war in 1898! Warfare is our primary means of international relations, of maintaining our position at the top of the hill.

We need war to keep our cheap cars, cheap TVs, cheap oil, low taxes. We’re addicts – to consumption, to abundance, to waste, and to the warfare that underlies it all. We hold the world at gunpoint and reap the resource reward. How else do 5% of the world’s people get to consume 25% of the resources? It isn’t because we’re free and they’re not. It isn’t because we have some god-given right to all this abundance. It’s schoolyard tactics, nothing more – we are the biggest, meanest kid on the playground and until another, bigger kid (or some sort of Karate Kid) comes along to knock us around, we’ll remain atop the dirt pile.

It isn’t just, fair, or equal – lip-service values that every American needs to profess to be taken seriously, but ones unsupported in our nation’s history. Before the ink dried on our Constitution, the revolution was betrayed – equality, liberty, the pursuit of happiness were not, are not, for any except the privileged. Doubt me? We’re suspiciously absent from the French Revolution, leaving Thomas Paine, mother of our country, to rot in jail, and the revolution to fail. Then we funded Napoleon in exchange for land that wasn’t his to give. Haitians were so inspired by our example that they too threw off their colonial masters and became the second republic in the hemisphere – we ignored them then, and have actively worked against their subsequent democratic movements to this day. We massacred a continent’s worth of peoples, destroyed entire cultures, stole homes and lands from every group we came across in our mad rush to the Pacific. At least some of the survivors have casinos now, right?

The Civil War was northern manufacturing against southern agribusiness at the core, with the respective elites of each society vying for influence. The north won out through blockade and systematic destruction of the south’s biggest economic advantage (slave labor) and as history is written by the victors, so did the official account blur out the economic underpinnings and slap on a facade of human rights. Abraham Lincoln put it well – “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that” War in industrialized society is about power – I can think of very few exceptions, of very few wars where one side at least has not been motivated by gaining power. (Money, land, people being expressions of that power.)

Peering through the lens of costs and benefits, as any good Capitalist ought, America has made spectacularly good returns on her wartime investments. The Mexican-American war, instigated by and pursued almost entirely by the USA, gained us a coast-to-coast empire. The Spanish-American war earned us a global network of naval bases for pennies on the dollar, and sunk one of the world’s faltering empires in the process. We fought a dozen small wars in Central America against weak republics, gaining a century of dominance, control over the Panama Canal Zone, and another resource pipeline from these subject states. In World War One we made our money selling to one side of the conflict, then jumped in to fight the last 6 months against shattered Germany and come out as victors. In World War Two our isolation from the fighting and scorched-earth policies in Europe and Japan led to a stunning victory – a near-monopoly on world manufacturing capacity, and no one to oppose our cultural and economic dominance save devastated Russia. From an investment standpoint, nothing we did before or since can compare with the returns on World War Two. From that conflict we became the world’s imperial master, and every fight since has been a holding action to keep ourselves on top.

The problem is that we’re losing now. We’re broke, owing money to everyone, importing nearly everything. We built up the foreign markets so well that it became profitable to manufacture everything overseas instead of simply importing the resources and making things here. Now we sell knowledge, education, and guns. Lots and lots of guns. We sell them to our allies, to neutral parties, to enemies when it serves some aim or another. We arm the world, in exchange for mountains of cheap goods – an arrangement that has no foreseeable problems or future consequences for anyone. Oh wait, that’s not right… THEY’RE USING THEM AGAINST US?! Who could have seen that coming? The height of folly has been to first drive ourselves into reliance upon far-away colonies, then to build for them the infrastructure and armaments necessary to throw off our yoke. How long before the nations of the world tire of sending us their minerals, their oil, of using their labor to build our entertainment devices? How will we oppose them when they rebel?

It is a cycle in every empire I have ever heard of for the central power to grow and thrive and gain until it is fat, bloated, weak, and dependent on its long-stretched tendrils for survival. At that point another power, be it from within or without, topples the empire and after a period of turmoil and infighting, another power arises somewhere within the system. Looking at the Romans, the Dutch, the Venetians, the Spanish, the Brits, the Russians, and now ourselves – the similarities are there, the biggest difference is our possession of a huge quantity of doomsday weapons. None of the previous dying empires had such a trump card, and as such there is no real precedent to our decline. We’ve certainly gotten more violent, more willing to use torture, assassination, remote-controlled killer drones, undeclared war, accept civilian targets; time will only tell what the American people are willing to accept in order to maintain the social order. If we’ve already accepted torture as necessary, racial profiling and religious violence as means to our ultimate end, and constant war as the way of the world, there is truly no telling what America’s next move is.

We have a situation where any strong, charismatic leader can have near-singular power over the nation, and while Barack Obama is not that leader, can you see the possibility of another him, but stronger and with malicious intent, as leading our country down the path to immolative global war? Certainly the power exists, as do the means – it remains to see whether the American people will demand their leaders take the sensible route – laying down the motorcycle, as it may be – or will continue our collective push toward totalitarian annihilation – and run us all face-first into the brick wall.

This is why I urge America to fall from our high mount – we cannot sustain it without destroying all we once held dear. There can be no American empire without slave labor and an owner class, without the rescission of freedoms, without constant violence to put down unrest, without surveillance and police state; without becoming the very sort of evil empire we portray ourselves as fighting against in film and popular culture. The transition will be rough, surely – perhaps it will be the greatest challenge of the American people, to put this out-of-control machine to rest – but only by acknowledging our internal problems and the fundamentally inconsistent manner in which we live our lives. We will come out of it stronger albeit poorer, and the whole world will benefit.

It begins, however, with us. With this generation. We must stop taking the prosperity for granted, stop charging our lives on credit cards, stop supporting the very things that hold us in this perilous position. Our food must come to us down traceable routes. Our power must come from sustainable sources. Our basic necessities must be produced locally, within a day’s travel preferably, if we are to stop relying on foreign powers with no interest in our well-being. We cannot live sustained on oil and corn (really, more oil) and propped up by our military power. Stop supporting the financial industry that owns our government, stop voting the same corrupt politicians into office, in fact stop voting and start participating. There is no substitute for a good angry protest in terms of inciting change. It is foolish to believe that pacifism and inaction, blog posts and angry letters will ever change the world so well as taking on your elected figures in person. This country was designed so that the highest authority would be the people, but it is run as if the only ones that matter are those with the money and influence to drive events directly. Does this stem from “them” corrupting the process, or is it because we have stopped caring, dropped out, and chained ourselves to TV, microwave dinner, iEverything, stable wage-slavery? When did you last take any action to better your society?

Every people have the government they deserve. Our ancestors faced harder problems than we do today, and came out better. If we wish, as a people, to survive and prosper, then it remains our responsibility to do so. No elected official, no president or congressman, can do that for you. No vote will ever change the world. If we want to leave a world, a country worth living in to our children, then it remains our responsibility to push for that. The status quo is unsustainable. The center will not hold.

I welcome any commentary, but please be prepared to back it up.

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A Bright Future in Sales

April 28, 2010

I’ve been busy, not doing much in the way of fun but at least getting my feet back under me. This past week I did a metric fuckload of interviews, broke my personal oath to never work anything that required me to wear a suit in the process, but as luck would have it I managed to bail out of that noise quickly enough.

Actually here’s a fun story – last Thursday I had a reply to one of my endless resume submissions from a company downtown. Despite not knowing anything about them or their business I did an interview, didn’t honestly give a fuck about them because of the suit thing, so of course they loved my “confidence” and invited me to start Monday. Desperate for money and deeply foreboding I said sure.

Cue ominous music.

I almost didn’t go – it pretty much came down to my mom, Natalie, and my bank account telling me to get the fuck over myself. Money is important for survival they keep telling me. Don’t be an idiot. Besides, the salary offered promised to get me out of debt in a matter of months, and on the road faster than unemployment and I really do like not some bank’s bitch.

Monday bright and unhappy early I put on the whole jacket, tie, stupid shoes kit and went in to the office. I don’t even know to describe the loathing I was feeling for myself; I was pretty much ready to keep driving into Mexico, but I eventually hit the office and went inside to see the super-perky future coworkers.

“no fucking way” said the inside voice. “this is goddamn ridiculous.”

I was right, but I wish I could say I’d gone with instinct and walked back out. Instead I went inside, played fake Monday cheerful with the rest of the place, and got assigned to job-shadow a guy named Mike. We did that smarmy “hey nice to meet you person im going to be require to spend a lot of time around” greeting, got into his car, drove back north.

Mike was the first person in this whole scheme who actually told me what they did. Here’s the short version: we were going to drive to an area, park the car, and start walking into businesses one by one asking them to order office supplies from us. I’d just signed up to be one of those direct-marketing fuckers that the entire world wants to kill on sight. Pay comes on a straight commission, the salary and benefits in their ad having vanished, and work days would be 7:15am to 5pm, business professional dress required. All salespeople use their own cars and aren’t recompensated for jack fucking shit. I would have jumped out of the car window right then except for 2 things – first I really wanted to not die jumping out of the window on the highway and second there was this little thought that said “there will probably be a funny story at least.”

We drove into a business park in Mike’s “T” or territory, parked, and started walking. We pretty much just chose a direction and then followed the “tight to the right” method of walking into every single business in the righthand side of the world asking whether they would like to buy some office supplies from 2 guys in suits. I’m sure I didn’t help sales, because I was looking at faces exactly like my own would be if some asshole guys came into my work at 9am and tried to sell me something – on top of that, I agreed with them! Still, people are naturally polite to suits (which is why we’re wearing them) and we’d always manage to get just past that it’s-awkward-to-just-throw-them-out threshold before making our pitch.

Here’s how it goes:
Smarmy salesfucker – “Hey happy Monday” (big ole shiteating grin)
Victim – (confusion, polite smile) “Hi, can I help you?”
SSF – “We’re here to talk with whoever in charge of ordering your office supplies.”
V – (slow creeping horror) “Umm… That would be me. Some variation of no.”
SSF – “Well, we’ve got this great deal…”
V – “No.”
SSF – “Can I ask you some questions? (No pause) When you do buy office supplies, where do you usually get them?”
V – “Wherever is cheap and close.”
SSF – “and what if I could get you them cheaper? Would you be interested then?”
V – “No.” (please go away now very evident in body language.)
SSF – (Ignoring his victim) “I’m going to prattle on about some more shit and keep you from your work…”
V – “please god save me! (or) GET OUT (or) Sorry, very busy, leave now.”

It was soul-crushing. I hated us after 10 minutes, and we did 6 1/2 hours. The only thing I can say tempted me about this job was the inevitable supply of stories ending in “and then the secretary snapped and tried to stab me with a letter opener” sure to result from being the least-welcome man on Earth.

Mike was a cool guy though – he was pretty much my exact foil, a conservative, risk-averse, capitalist who desired little more than to get a steady job, a little wifey, and settle down to live the dream of corporate wage-slave suckery. Can’t say I understand him, but to each his own. Oh, and get this – 2 hours in, when I’m questioning whether I ought to just run screaming, he told me he had turned down a teaching gig in Korea to work this job. Not kidding – foreign teaching gig, door to door office supply sales. How often can you say you’ve met your exact opposite?

We did the power lunch, where I was forced by business park geography to break my fast food fasting, ate shitty tacos and talked pyramid schemes, I mean company advancement, I mean pyramid schemes. Essentially you work 50-60 hour weeks for $400-600 per week, grind yourself to death and hope for a promotion. After a year if you haven’t killed yourself, you can hang the tattered shreds of your soul on a $100,000 per year paycheck – or at least that is what the advertising says, and I trust advertising as far as I can spit a mouthful of office supplies.

What I do know is this – we talked to people in 93 different offices, from corporate banking headquarters to small-time startups to family-owned businesses. We saw a hundred vacant places, a catholic university, a WWII veteran’s museum, and about 25 psychiatrist’s offices. We talked to CEOs, secretaries, accoutants, a televangelist, and one poor guy who took the wrong smoke break.

And in all that time we sold not a goddam pencil.

Straight commission work – we made nothing. We lost money, since we both drove there, and I left my sandwich in my car, so I bought lunch too. We got a lifetime supply of unhappy glares, and I wore a fucking suit too.

On the way back to the office Mike was pretty glum, so we got red bulls and listened to country rock as I tried desperately to convince him to get out of the job, out of the country, out of his own life really. No dice – some people aren’t ever going to climb outside of the box. After talking with the boss and thanking both he and Mike for their time I quit as politely as possible and drove home.

I couldn’t believe people actually live like that -still don’t – and I had to blow off some nervous “what-the-fucking-fuck-is-wrong-with-this-world?!” energy so I ran to the rock climbing gym and threw myself up some walls. It’s kinda like 3-D chess, but hurts more when you put pieces in the wrong place. Whatever – it’s my current therapy. Did well, got up a couple walls I hadn’t managed before, met pretty girls and their rock-climber boyfriends, and eventually I was telling this same story to the manager and marveling over how people can let their awful job consume them so deeply.

That’s when he offered me a job.

I’m no idiot – I took him up on it immediately, and supposedly I’m starting soon. Combined with a waiter gig at a restaurant that’ll be opening in the next few weeks, it looks like I’ll manage to fit into the employed-broke-writer-working-below-his-skills stereotype, which is close enough to be a stereotype, but still not true. I’m happy with it, it lets me climb for free, and will surround me with happy, healthy people who don’t work 60 hour weeks for $600. The best part? Once I factor in gas costs I’d be doing 12-hour days for roughly McDonalds wages. Fuck. That. Noise!

Nothing left to do but celebrate with frozen yogurt and new rock climbing friends. Small victory for staying free, money I don’t have, but rarely does anything taste sweeter!

Ps – I’ll add a photo of me in a suit whenever I get over my present revulsion toward them enough to play dress up. I owe Marc that at the least!

Dear Barack Obama,

 

I’m touched to receive your Thanksgiving mass spam email today, a thousand miles from home and a lifetime away from all the people I know and love. I miss them all terribly, and empty, thoughtless little gestures like a 2 million person email really make the difference on hard days like today. Nonetheless, I do have a few problems with the message you sent me, which I’d like to expand up here.

My problem, if I may put it succinctly is that you are a snake – your tongue slithers in and out, you say all the right things, but you don’t act to back them up. You ask Americans to sacrifice while you rob us of our futures, steal our social security, undercut our medical and health care, and waste our precious resources on pointless warfare. You are a liar, Barack, and you betray the American people with your silver tongue.

If you really cared about average Americans and their sacrifices you would not act as you do. You would not send our young men and women to fight wars of aggression to protect the interests of large corporations. You would not give trillions of dollars from the American people to large banking consortiums who filled your campaign coffers. If you really cared about Americans you would not dedicate your presidency to the service of large banks, corporations, and rich Democratic backers, and instead work against those groups to help the average Americans being crushed beneath their bloat and waste. No Barack, you don’t care about the average American beyond whether she votes for you and the Democratic party every 2 years. You don’t give a fuck about the poor Americans shivering and hungry, and you certainly don’t care about the soldiers you send overseas to protect “American interests” that are directly at odds with the interests of real Americans. Instead you give flowery speeches, then turn around and heap shit on the poor while robbing them of the opportunities, aid, and wealth they deserve.

How can you pretend to care, spit out pretty words, and then ensure that the actual help goes to those with the deepest pockets and most influence?

If you practiced what you preach you wouldn’t act as you do, but because you do act this way – attacking American values and the livelihoods and savings of real Americans – it is quite obvious that you are just another mouth, just another pretty face to make the authoritarian state more palatable, easier to slip under the front door while America sleeps. Your job is to make the transition from free people to slaves more peaceful, less obvious, and at that job you excel. Still, you’re not getting people like me, because I’m gone – left, moved out, and I’m never coming back. I hope you still feel bad about what you’re doing to America Barack, but I imagine you’re so self-assured, so confident in your own incorruptibility and faith that you don’t even realize what a fucking tool you’ve become. Enjoy the leash, I’ll be out in the real world helping people.

With love,

K

PS – for those who would dismiss me as an angry ranting idiot, google some combination of Unocal, Afghanistan, Pipeline, or perhaps Obama, Secret Meetings, insurance companies, or even Bagram, torture, rendition.  Any one of those 3, plus dozens of other combinations, put the lie to Obama’s pretty words – he’s just another mouthpiece, like ever president for a damn long time.  The bullshit Thanksgiving mass email just put me over the edge today, but I’m sick of this two-faced shit getting passed off as truth.

This post was originally a response to this article, which I found on Digg.  It is on the issue of global governance and global government, which I find fascinating.  So, here goes.

 

Nobody really reads this blog at all, but I do have one beef with this article that I would like to lay out.  Perhaps by writing it down, I may better understand my own position on the issue.

The author assumes that “Global Government” and “Global Governance” are one and the same, but that is frankly untrue. (Or at the very least, not a consensus agreement among those in international relations, philosophy, etc.) There is a prolonged argument among theorists whether the two terms are interchangeable, or whether “Global Governance” (defined by thinkers who find a difference between the two as any global regulatory framework, independent of a central government) is possible without a state.

When I was in college, I remember debating a professor on this point, and defending the thesis that Global Governance would lead to Global Government, but that the transition would be slow enough that it would occur democratically, through treaties between nation-states, international business networks, and non-governmental organizations. I went on to argue that this transition, should it be chosen willingly by those affected, is not a guaranteed evil. At least to me, it is conceivable that a global federation of co-dependent states, or even a centralized global government, could be both free and open, BUT ONLY IF THE CITIZENRY ACT TO MAKE IT SO.

I still believe that some form of Global Governance (of which Global Government is but one variety) will eventually come to pass. As the article brings up, the issues facing humanity are larger than any one government is capable of dealing with. If such issues truly do threaten the survival of our species, or if inter-national relationships become beneficial to the point of overcoming of their deficiencies, then we will likely see the rise of some form of Global Governance.

To conclude  – Global Governance is likely going to occur at some point in the future of humanity, provided we don’t die first. That said, the form that this governance system will take is entirely up to the inhabitants of Earth to decide. Fascist and unfree societies do not come into existence without the support (tacit or otherwise) of the citizenry. Similarly, no Global Governance, and certainly no Global Government, can be created without the consent of the governed. If we take on those in power, if we become the media, if we are willing to fight for that which we hold dear, there is no reason that Global Governance (or Government) must destroy rights and suppress freedom any more than existing nations do.

Now, if you think existing institutions already repress freedoms to an intolerable extent, then the task is more arduous, but ultimately the goal is the same – to create a system where the rights and freedoms of all are protected from those who would seek to deny them, without itself denying these same freedoms.  The line is a delicate one, indeed.

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