Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Living on the commons

In my earlier blog posts, I have demonstrated the problems with the consumer capitalist system. Namely, that everyone in it must enter into monetary relations where one alienatingly functions alternately as a john or a prostitute, where wealth inequality increases as the rentiers get richer and the renters get poorer, and where the planet gets wrecked - all in a wash of pro-consumer propaganda that leaves little room for imagination. In this blog, I'll work through a thought experiment to investigate alternative ways of being.

in the book the Republic by Plato, Socrates asks some people he meets to give a definition of justice. Socrates in turn finds weaknesses in the various definitions and refutes them. Next, Thrasymachus provides a definition of justice as "Justice is what the powerful say justice is, so as to advantage themselves". Socrates stumbles and can't refute this. Socrates also can't come up with a better alternative definition, so he spends the rest of the Republic describing an ideal society that is just to its core on the basis of its design.

So while today, the exorbitantly wealthy neoliberal proponents with their ability to influence governments may be taking Thrasymachus' definition of justice to heart and molding a society that suits them, let's see through their unequal consumer-capitalist world to a truly a just society. Let's look at society where collaboration rather than competition determines relations, the obsession with jobs dropped, the delusion of exponential growth on a finite planet given up, and where equality and harmony with nature are highly valued.

When examining societies, a key feature to look for is the technologies used. Technologies in our modern neoliberal have two key features: They are on a scale that is outside the control of an individual or small group and require massive bureaucratic organization requiring a rigid division of labour to produce, and they are unsustainable and deleterious to the planet. A just and harmonious society cannot have such technologies. All technologies in the new society must be able to be created, repaired, and run by the individual members of the society or in small groups or guilds, the way cottage industries were at the start of the industrial revolution.

The technologies available for the new society are therefore much reduced from the present system. To avoid excessive labour, the number of technologies should be kept at a minimum. To select the technologies to be used, the fundamental needs of the society should be examined. For example, food, clothing, and basic medical supplies such as disinfectant. Food technologies would be basic, seed saving, basic farming implements, organic growing techniques focusing on encouraging beneficial insects to inhabit the area to eliminate pesticide requirements, and recycling nutrients to replenish the soil. As for clothing, the growing of flax, cotton, or raising wool in an ecological sustainable way, and extracting, refining, and weaving all with technologies that can be made by the community itself, such as a wooden loom. I'll examine making disinfectant as a special case.

The creation of a chemical plant would require a large capital investment, an army of unemployed looking for work, human resource department, bosses, a regimented education system focusing on job skills rather than human flourishing, lots of time spent apart from family, mind-numbing 24-hour shift work to keep the plant running to justify the investment and enrich the investors, marketing, and long-distance distribution. As all of the above are inimical to a just and harmonious society, something smaller scale must be considered. After reviewing the list of antiseptics and their production methods and raw materials, it appears ethanol may be the best option, so let's examine how to make it on a human scale, as an example of analyzing and selecting a reasonable technology.

There are likely several methods of chemically synthesizing ethanol, but the method of fermenting grains and distilling the result is best for a small-scale production. The grains used can be barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beets. Critically, the starches in the grains must be cooked and saccharified by an amylaze enzyme. The enzyme can come from malted barley. Malting barley can be done on a small scale without the need of experts, following techniques developed during medieval times. The malted barely then used for the fermentation of an all-barley mash, or it is mixed in with another cooked grain, for instance potatoes, and left for a while so that the enzymes from the malted barley can act on the potatoes. The next step in the fermentation is the addition of yeast. In mass society, one would buy a yeast packet from a store. This seemingly simple act however includes a huge chain of labour and social relations based upon capitalist values that we are trying to avoid. So how could a society not using money get yeast? The answer is not so simple. Wild yeast could be collected from the air, but it would likely be contaminated with mold and bacteria. Even if the society could start off with a single packet of commercial yeast* it would be a challenge to maintain the strain as there would be no refrigeration. Storing some of the yeast dormant in a cool underground area, and culturing it out into many glass jars of nutrient solution would be feasible with a bit of practice. Back to the process - after the mash has been treated with the malt enzymes, some yeast is mixed in and a few days later the result is ready to be distilled. An airlock would be useful to prevent contamination during the latter stages of the fermentation. This could be made from glass - which requires an entire glass making process. You are probably wondering what the mash was cooked in and what it was fermented it. Cooking pots and banded wooden barrels require metal. Extracting ores (not usually located right near the surface of the earth) and refining them in a blast furnace, then shaping the metal is no small task. This in itself would require the efforts of a substantial number of people, but it could be done by worker organization without bosses or capitalist investors. The metal producing worker collective would need to be initially self-sufficient in their basic needs of food and clothing, and would then be free from financial pressures to exchange their advanced products without needing to resort to marketing schemes. The next required technology is the still, usually made of copper, requiring at least bronze age production techniques. Finally glass would be the ideal storage medium to avoid evaporation of the alcohol. 

The preceding example of alcohol production shows that technologies are interrelated and rely upon each other. The point to be emphasized is that the limitation of technology is that most technologies cannot be generated by people freely working under their own direction without coercion. Technologies whereby people do not become the tools of their tools (such as where constant maintenance is required) are best, therefore there is a limitation against technologies requiring huge investments with long-term payouts that benefit a monied minority who don't do the actual work.

In my next post, I'll look at ways to reform the consumer-capitalist system to make it more liveable, in contrast to this post, which examines a way to escape entirely away from the system and start anew. For example, setting up a communal house in a neighbourhood where all food preparation would take place, so as to obviate the need for grocery stores or restaurants. The communal house would save food preparation labour, reduce food waste, and spare people from work at grocery stores and restaurants, where much of the time is spent waiting around doing nothing.

*The new society would not be starting ex nihilo, and even though it would have the goal of being self-sufficient and not dependent on the remnants of the capitalist world, it would initially collect a set of useful items and tools

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Battle of the Rent Collectors

Much press coverage has been given to Uber lately. Uber positions itself as a revolutionary way for people to get rides, but it is little different from the existing taxi service. The real difference, is that those benefiting from the work of the drivers will not be the existing taxi services, but the Uber investors.

There are two types of people in society. The rent collectors (the rentier class), and the workers, who generate and pay the rents to the rentiers. Many people are a mixture of both, rent collector and worker, for example someone who rents out their basement but works full time for a company not owned by themselves. Rents can come in the form of rental fees, taxes, royalty payments, and several other forms.

In the case of the taxi service, the taxi companies consist of the rentier owners, who collect a portion of the fares in licensing and franchise fees, and the taxi drivers, who are the workers. From the position of Uber, they saw the rents being paid to the rentier taxi company owners, and thought "Hey, how can we cut in on their action? How can we collect those rents instead? " The answer: the Uber car service, which collects 20% of the fare paid as rent.

The desire of the rentier class to increase the amount of rent they are paid (or the desire of more and more workers to leave the working class and enter the rentier class), is a major cause of increasing wealth inequality in society. As the working class must pay more rents, it gets poorer, and the rentier class gets wealthier. This is exacerbated by the fact that the more money one has the more rent one can collect (by acquiring more properties or investments). Thus, the flow of money cycling up the rentier class will only accelerate over time.

One way to break or slow the cycle is for the government to tax the rentiers at much higher (more progressive) rate than the workers. However, the rentiers are experts at putting aside a portion of their money into a pool to form think tanks and lobby groups to influence the politicians to not increase taxes on them. The rentiers also have excellent techniques for protecting their money from government taxation, through offshore accounts, and tax-code loopholes.

Another way to break the cycle of wealth inequality is the get rid of the rentier class completely. I do not advocate the Bolshevik method of 'eliminating' of the rentier class, but rather by appropriating their wealth and distributing it equally. For example, if a rentier owns 6 homes in a city, 5 they do not live in could be taken and assigned to families needing housing (see note 1). Excess of two cars, and excess of other possessions would be redistributed.

In the case of companies (such as factories) owned by the rentiers, they could be converted to worker-owned co-operatives. There hasn't been a lot of research done on the subject, but I believe that worker-owned co-ops would be less likely to produce poisonous or toxic substances, or to excessively pollute the planet in manufacturing their goods.

As the rent collectors battle it out amongst themselves to see who can collect the most rents, they may soon find the whole rent collection system flying out the window.

1. As for how to distribute the appropriated homes, the best way is that (in the case the home was being rented out) would be to give the home to the current tenants. The currents tenants would then become owners, and the money they previously paid as rent would go straight to property taxes and repairs, rather than through the landlord who was really just an unnecessary intermediary. Entire apartment buildings would be divided up into individual family owned units. As for the special case of people who live in the only home they own or have a mortgage on, but rent out their basement to help pay that mortgage, those owners would be given full title to their home from the bank. As all banks would be left without any mortgage payments coming in (the banks are completely in on the rentier game), the inflated bubble economy would be collapsing around this time, and people would likely need their basements as places to do handicraft work and would be free to have their tenants move out if they so decided. The tenants who had to leave the basement suites would be given priority on the unoccupied homes appropriated from the owners of multiple homes who were not renting out the extra homes they owned.

Letter on Transhumanism (The parable of the dying chief)

One day an indigenous chief lay dying in his tepee. He was surrounded by his friends and family. His armor and weapons sat in the corner. His horse paced about ruefully outside. His beautiful daughters and strong sons all wept and commended him for the greatness he had brought to their tribe. They recounted how he had led the tribe in a successful defenses against countless invasions of enemy tribes. They gave him approbation for the many fair and just decisions he had given on difficult matters between members of the tribe. They thanked him for keeping the many gods and spirits in favour by encouraging living harmoniously with nature. The medicine man wafted the smoke of a bundle of white sage over the chief and he drew his few remaining breathes.

Suddenly, the chief bolted up in bed. He sat fully upright, looking about in a panic. "Oh no!" he cried, "I can't die just yet! What a waste my life has been! All this time, riding about on my war horse, talking to people, raising children. What I should have been doing all this time is researching medicines and technologies that will keep me living forever! If only I'd spent hours and hours staring into microscope, creating pharmaceuticals. If only I'd done countless scientific experiments on animals, including vivisection, to develop surgical procedures that could extend my life!"

"But great father!" his family interrupted, "You have a lived a great a full life, you have accomplished so much in your years on this earth." 

"No!" he retorted, "I never got to spend hours and hours staring into a small screen, being amused at the flashing pictures. I never got to immerse myself in the fictional life of a set of characters on the screen. I only could live my own life directly, never vicariously. Furthermore, I never took the time to mass up large amounts of material possessions. I only had the things I needed for day to day life. I never got to pore through catalogs and shop in malls for things that I could imagine increasing my sense of self if only I owned them. I never took a vacation to Paris. What an unfulfilling waste it's all been! Oh won't someone freeze my body in liquid nitrogen in hopes of a future cure, or at least transfer my consciousness into a computer?"

The chief's family was left speechless. The chief fell back down onto the bed. He was dead. "What sort of evil demon was that which possessed him in his final moments?" they asked.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Being ill-at-ease in the present moment

Do you ever suddenly feel compelled to:

-glance at your smart phone, to check the news perhaps
-eat some junk food
-drink an alcoholic beverage
-smoke a cigarette or marijuana
-watch TV
-catch up on social media
-play a video game
-get angry at someone
-take a opioid related pill of some sort
-drift off into a fantasy, perhaps about being rich and powerful

-purchase a commodity

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be suffering, at least some of the time. Also, you are 'normal' in this day and age, where I say normal as in common or average. All the scenarios listed above originate from feeling ill-at-ease in the present moment. Engaging in any of the behaviors is a desperate escape tactic. Why would anyone not feel at ease in the present moment? And how do these escape tactics work?

Not feeling at ease in the present moment is an unnatural state that is conditioned by living in modern western neoliberal civilization. The basic unease can be caused by unresolved feelings from difficulties in childhood, yet rather than dealing with them directly through psychological or spriritual means, the system directs people to escape through distractions instead. Engaging in the distractions usually means spending money or consuming more media propaganda messages. People must be conditioned this way by the system because happy people who are at ease do not spend, and consumer spending is critical to prevent the economic system from collapsing.

People in our society are taught from an early age that striving and earning money with which to buy things is of utmost importance. This puts people on a hedonist treadmill that never ends, because people can never be satisfied for long with commodities. Finding satisfaction in things is the collective delusion our society suffers from. Real satisfaction in life is found outside of the consumerist system. But no one really dates mention that in the media, lest they lose their precious advertiser clients. The side affect of all this striving is unhappy people and a trashed planet.

Ingesting a psychoactive substance like alcohol or caffeine or any drug appears as a way to get into a more peaceful mindset. The mind says, "If only I had [this], then I would feel okay". As for consuming media images from a smart phone, or a video game, or a television program, it has a two-fold function of acting like a drug, and also distracting you away from the reality of your life. Having a daydream is along the same lines, although you provide the imagery yourself, rather than from a digital screen. Finally, getting angry at someone is in it's own category, though the fundamental function is the same. By getting all amped up about a perceived injustice, you generate a sense of pseudo-aliveness from the feeling of superiority over the target of your anger and the self-righteousness of punishing on them.

But why bother with these cheap temporary tactics that all have at least some negative side effects each? Just meditate on the fact that life is how it is, however it is. If you see life how it truly is, you are freed from a delusion of thinking it would be better some other way. You will be able to spend more quality time with your family as you will be less focused on escaping to your phone while you go through the actions in body only of being with them. You will save money by not needing to upgrade your computer to play the latest game. You will have less resentment towards you as people receive the brunt of your anger less and less often. The planet will get less polluted with packaging garbage if you stop trying to buy your way to happiness.

I would like to point out that it is not the necessarily always a sign of fearing the present moment to partake from the list above. For instance, if you go to your friend's house and he offers you a choice of craft beers, you would accept one gratefully not out of a desire to escape a feeling of unease. Some careful self-reflection is needed at all times though when accessing items from the list as to your true motive.

If you look at indigenous societies, there are little known instances of their having hard-core drug addicts or members who just wanted to watch plays or accumulate material possessions. They had a different ethos than us. Perhaps if we as a people change our ethos to one of appreciating the present, planning ahead less, focusing less on our material condition, striving less, and fostering relations more, we would lessen our suffering.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Consolations and Transistions

In my last post, I discussed the blue pill and red pill worlds. Staying in the blue pill world (neoliberal world of increasing wealth inequality, precarious employment, increasing commodity exchange based relationships, climate change), is easiest, so I'll give some advice on how to survive it without going crazy. As for the red pill world, the way there isn't currently known, but I'll discuss what a path to it might look like. 

In the current neoliberal world, there is a political and media system in place that is not amenable to change and cannot be reformed. It is a system where $464 billion dollars was spent world wide on marketing (in 2011). That is money that could have been spent on useful things like education and healthcare, that was instead diverted to creating enemy propaganda messages instructing people to consume commodities. Therefore, firstly minimize your exposure to advertisements. Use an ad-blocker in your browser. If your smartphone doesn't allow ad-blockers, try to use it less for internet browsing. Be aware that public relations messages constitute about half the content in the news (example: an article about a great new drug for treating high blood pressure is actually a paid advertisement by a pharmaceutical company). Better yet, get away from screens as much as possible, and be aware of status anxiety.

Status anxiety comes from wealth inequality. It was described by Rousseau in Discourse in Inequality as "amour-propre", a condition where one's self-esteem depends on the opinions of others. In countries with higher wealth inequality, those at the bottom strive harder to attain higher status. Status is usually derived from material possessions, such as cars and clothing accessories, but can also come from experiences such as vacations. This appears why those of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be arrested for theft - they simply cannot keep up any other way. Those of less wealth are also subject to higher risks of stress, obesity, and mental illness, likely from the $464 billion worth of advertising that are exposed to, yet can't comply with since they haven't the funds. Reducing wealth inequality would ease a lot of societies ills, but that will not happen because wealth inequality is the system. In the meantime, the best way to avoid amour-propre getting too inflamed is to be very wary of who you compare yourself to. It is perhaps better to seek the company of those of approximately similar wealth. Such an action however has the terrible side-effect of atomizing society even further. If one is wealthier than a friend, avoid flaunting it - as an example avoid posting stylized photos of your new luxury car all over social media.

Try to maximize face-to-face contact. Stay in shape, ignore the junk food ads and eat healthily. Remember the maxim "Happy people don't go shopping". Don't be fooled for a moment by any messages stating that the consumer has the power to change the world. The idea that taking shorter showers or recycling more could make a difference is just a way that the system tries to get people to blame themselves. The sad fact is that even if one individual becomes vegan, takes short showers, bikes to work, and recycles diligently, it won't make any difference overall, and climate change, environmental destruction, and mass species extinctions will still occur. Having some equanimity about the future is beneficial.

* *  *   *    *     *       *

Towards a way of life in balance with nature, as exemplified by indigenous cultures around the world. Exiting the neoliberal rat-race needs a place to go, and the system tries to leave nowhere left to go. Private property is a key aspect of the system, and is one the main reasons that the native people of North America were forced to live on small reserves. Since every inch of the continent is owned, purchasing land would be required at the moment. Real estate and farmland speculation, both highly antisocial behaviors, are rampant, so a group purchase of land, out a purchase after a real estate bubble pops would likely be required. The land would need a source of fresh water and an arable area to grow crops, as well as a forest for timber. A source of clay would also be useful for pottery. The group of people living there would need to have a common culture, possibly created anew and agreed upon. They would need to form a tribe with common values. Primitive technologies would need to be rediscovered or relearned. Anthropological studies would be a good source for this. Once established, the tribe could show case their accomplishments to the world. There would initially be some dependence on the system for goods that couldn't be immediately produced by the tribe, but a the tribe progresses to a true indigenous life style and build up their crafting capabilities, less and less goods would be required from the industrial system.

To clarify again why living as indigenous people does allow the use of advanced technologies, is that advanced technologies require capital, division of labour, bosses and employees, pay inequality, wealth inequality, dependence on a vast system, resource depletion, depredations and pollution. For example, if solar photovoltaic power is used, what is to be done when the voltage regulator malfunctions? There would be no way to repair it without an entire industrial complex. At the base of this complex is low paid workers, many of who suffer nerve damage from the chemicals they must use, are paid barely enough to pay their bills, and who unjustly create huge amounts of surplus value that makes its way into the hands of corrupt officials who then speculate on real estate ramping up wealth inequality even further.

The monolithic neoliberal system which has spread to the entire globe will try to keep chugging along until the planet is crippled, at which point it will collapse, leading to a red pill world that has to cope with the environmental aftermath. As for a sooner transition - thinking still required, action awaits.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Red pill or blue pill?

Do you take the blue pill? You wake up in a car dealership. It's a Saturday. You are presented with a bill for $472.81 to fix your car, which you mainly use for commuting to work and running errands. Despite working at your job diligently all week long, you have no food to eat, and need to stop for groceries. To save time on your precious day off, you get fast food on the way there. Your waist expands, you are now a statistic in the obesity epidemic. All the drudgery and lack of beauty of city life leads you to become part of the one in ten people in industrialized countries who takes anti-depressants regularly. You drink more alcohol than you think you ought to, and wonder why those who live in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia, all else equal. You have lots of bills to pay with more on the way. You try to relax, but with all your debt your mind keeps drifting to the fact that as your weekend comes to a close you must be ready to be back on work - with it's employer-employee money-based relations - Monday morning at 8 a.m. sharp.

Take the red pill? You wake up in the country side. You have no advanced technology, and no electricity, because that would require a system of debt and money-based relations, and unremitting toil to keep it all running. You have no possessions, other than your clothes and basic tools and cookware. Your shelter is basic, just enough to keep out the wind and rain. You rely on a community of handicrafting for your necessities. Some grow flax, some extract fibres from the flax, some weave those fibres into linens. Some brew beer. Some hunt deer. Your only requirement for the day is to get a bit of food by harvesting it or by barter, and to help out others around you in your community. Otherwise you can relax with your family and pursue your hobbies. Medical help is basic. No police, no government, and no taxes, no asphalt, no cars, no smog, no debt. Lots of fresh air. Does this sound like a crazy way to live? Unheard of? It's of course how people lived for the tens of thousands of years before the industrial revolution and the advent of capitalism. It's how indigenous people live. It's sustainable, and there are many people across the world who have not been put to the wheel of capitalism who live this way today.

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didin't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we didn't have any delinquents. Without a prison, there can't be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white man arrived and I don't know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.” 
― John (Fire) Lame Deer

Friday, 9 September 2016

Message to the citizens of the world III

This comes from Anonymous, and I am simply relaying it (posted below). I could not have said it better myself. Canada is an oil producing nation. Our trade with the States and their Federal Reserve system has been compared to a payment of tribute to their empire. 

Please see my post entitled 'The Ritual', to highlight my point the economy is not based really on money, but on getting people to squander their lives by going to work and performing repetitive labour day in day out, as is the custom of slaves. Far too much of the benefit of the drudgery goes to the elite through taxation to pay government debt. If we could get a system going where our earnings work for us and not a foreign military industrial complex, we could conceivably reduce the work week to 32 hours and still maintain the same standard of living.

To reduce debt would require re-working the current debt-based banking system, where every dollar in circulation represents a debt that was made. After viewing Money as Debt 1, 2, and 3 by Paul Grignon, I begin to worry the problem is not the banking system but the system itself. Debt is required by the system, because debt keeps people working. Eliminating debt would lead to less people working, which would lead to prices rises as factories would have to pay more to attract workers. High unemployment is viewed as bad, but no or very low unemployment is the capitalists' worst nightmare. If everyone owned their own home and had to work only enough for the basics, then immigrant workers would be required by the system to arrive to fill the job openings. This would lead back to an unequal society and is basically the system as it is now. Each generation arriving starts off doing the hard work, but has the chance to advance generationally through tiger-parenting. All that striving.

So, the current system won't allow a new banking system that leads to freedom from debt. Which means to eliminate debt, a new system would be required. However, a new system can never be arrived at democratically, due to the influence of money in democratic politics. The elite, who currently enjoy the situation of wealth inequality, will liberally pour their money to get the candidate who essentially maintains the status quo to be elected. Only with no campaign donations of any sort could democracy really work. No election signs, no advertisements. All that would be available would be word of mouth discussions. This would be 2-way communication, so unlike that from watching TV or listening to the radio. Gandhi referred to democracy as the vehicle that keeps capitalism running along. Spengler called democracy a religion of money.

As the money system and the political system maintain the current situation of increasing wealth inequality, I'll discuss another way in my next blog post.

Message to the citizens of the world III, by Anonymous:

At this point in history virtually every human on this planet is enslaved whether they know it or not. This is not the crude and primitive slavery of ancient times, it does not rely on whips and shackles to keep the oppressed in their place. These tools have been rendered obsolete by much more sophisticated methods.

That most of the enslaved are unaware of their condition and would in fact argue fiercely that they are free is a testament to the effectiveness of these invisible chains.

You've heard the expression "Money makes the world go round". There's truth in that.

Money is the prime motive for human labor in modern civilization. If you want food, shelter and clothing you must have money, and unless you are part of the tiny minority who have more money than they could ever spend in their lifetime, then you must work, beg or steal for that money. That's why you get up in the morning to go to work even if you hate your job, and that's why the specter of unemployment is more terrifying for most people than the prospect of spending 50 years of their life performing menial tasks within the confines of a florescent lit cubicle.

Of course in western countries some are fortunate enough to have pulled away from the brink and do not live in fear that their basic needs will be met, at least for now, yet they keep spinning the hamster wheel. Why? Because money and the bling it buys have become symbols of status and prestige. Money offers an illusory form of social validation, but even those who are not caught up in distinguishing themselves by how much they accumulate still must acknowledge the social stigma that comes with poverty.

The combination of these primal motivators: the need for food, shelter, clothing, and social validation, is a very powerful force. It's enough to drive humans to engage in all forms of activity, even to the point of harming themselves or others in the process. The accumulation of money is therefore an accumulation of social and psychological power, and those who control the creation of money control this power at its source.

So who controls the creation of money? Well in the case of the U.S. dollar, it's not the government. This shouldn't be an earth shattering revelation. The fact that the Federal Reserve is a private institution owned by a cartel of the world's most powerful banks is quickly becoming common knowledge; even the mainstream media doesn't deny it at this point.

However the full extent of what this means is only clear when you understand how the banking system really works, and unfortunately this is something we aren't taught in school. Once you have it explained to you in simple terms you'll understand why.

Every dollar in circulation is loaned into existence by a bank. The process begins with the Federal reserve when they loan out money to the U.S. government and to other entities. You've probably heard this talked about before, especially in regards to the interest rate on these loans which the Federal Reserve raises and lowers depending on economic conditions, but what is never talked about in the mainstream is the fact that the Fed isn't actually loaning out money that they have, they are merely typing those dollars into existence on a computer. You may be inclined to believe that this money is based on some physical backing like gold, but you would be mistaken. The Federal Reserve hasn't owned any gold since the 1930s.

When the Federal Reserve loans money to the U.S. government, the U.S. government gives the Federal Reserve government bonds in exchange. These bonds are simply written promises to pay back the money that was loaned to them with interest through taxation. So to be clear here, the government is taking out a loan from a bank that is creating the money out of thin air, and they're expecting you the tax payer to cover that loan. The absurdity of this arrangement is even more obvious when you realize that up until 1913 the U.S. government created its own money, and had no need for a bank to play the part of a middle man.

That new money loaned out by the Federal Reserve enters circulation through banks, accumulates in banks, and in the end the banks end up holding all of the cards, but not necessarily for the reasons you may imagine. Contrary to popular belief the majority of money in circulation isn't actually created by the Federal Reserve, but rather by the ordinary banks that businesses and individuals use for their checking, savings, and mortgages. How is this possible? Well, like the Federal Reserve, ordinary banks are allowed to loan out money they don't have. There are of course restrictions. Banks are only allowed to loan 10 times the amount that they actually have. So if Wells Fargo has 1000 dollars they can loan you 10,000 dollars, and they expect you to pay back that 10,000 dollars plus interest. This is called fractional reserve banking; 75% of all money in circulation is created in this manner.

Now as bad as this may seem it's really only the tip of the iceberg. Most banks structure payment plans so that for many years you are paying almost nothing but interest and only start paying down the principle gradually. The result of this strategy is that in most cases you pay far more in interest when you purchase a house than the house itself is worth.

So here's the real question: If all money is created through loans, where does the money come from for to pay for the interest? Let's say we reset the system to zero, loan 1000 dollars into existence and charge 7% interest. We now have 1000 dollars in the system but we owe 1000 dollars plus interest and that's more.

The money to pay the interest doesn't exist, never has, never will. This would be obvious if there were only one loan being issued to one person in this manner, but when performed on a global scale the reality is hidden, and is transformed into a game of musical chairs where the person ending up without a seat faces bankruptcy and financial ruin. The interest insures that there is always more debt than money in circulation.

Because every dollar in existence is tied to a debt this creates an unseen force that draws those dollars back to the banks, like gravity attracts a physical object to earth. The catch here is that it is the work of the people that moves that money.

Every hour that you work to pay back a loan or to keep the government from throwing you in jail over income taxes is an hour worked for the banks. The total receipts from personal income taxes just barely covers the interest on the national debt, and even the principle on that debt all ends up back in the hands of the banks. Once you understand that the money that the banks loans out isn't actually an asset, but is in fact a piece of legal fiction it should be clear that you are working for these banks for free. This is a cleverly disguised form of slavery.

If you manage to maintain your monthly payments then you are a successful slave, and you are allowed to keep the material comforts that come with that status, but if for some reason you fail to make your monthly payments then the bank or the IRS comes takes your house, your car and anything else you have of value. If somehow even with this enormous financial advantage the banks still manage to get themselves into trouble you the taxpayer will be forced to bail them out. No matter what the banks win. To say the game is rigged is an understatement.

You might be inclined to think that if you live outside the United States and don't use dollars then this situation has no bearing on your life, but you would be wrong. The dollar is both the world reserve currency and the only currency in which oil is sold on the global markets (this is often referred to as the petrodollar status). This means that where ever you live, whether your country is an oil exporter or an oil importer you are affected.

If your country is an oil importer you are effected by the fact that in order to keep your country running you have to acquire dollars. To acquire those dollars you have to send goods and services to the United States or to someone else who did. You too are a slave to the bankers.

Likewise if your country is an oil exporter you are affected by the fact that you send your oil to the U.S. in exchange for this debt based money. You are exchanging something of real and tangible value for digits on a screen. If for some reason the leadership of your country grows tired of this arrangement and tries to pull off of the dollar you'll quickly find the United States military at your doorstep ready to open up a can of democracy on you. Iraq learned this the hard way when they switched their oil sales to Euros in 2000 and Libya when they tried to organize a gold based currency for Africa.

Debt based money is a masterpiece of social engineering, the ultimate tool of the ruling elite, and yet in reality the whole thing is nothing more than a construct of belief.

Our chains are chains of the mind, and the path to freedom must also begin in the mind. If we want a better future for our children and grandchildren we must work right now to reach a critical mass of awakening.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Neoliberalism vs. Happiness

The dominant ideology of our times, neoliberalism has a set of main values that may be quite anathema to a happy society.

The three main values of neoliberalism are competition, money-making, and objectification. Workers must compete with one another for jobs and promotions. Money is deified and constantly lauded in the mass media, with many popular songs having lyrics glorifying the accumulation of commodities as the be all and end all. The commodities purchased with the money are promoted almost to the status of the earthly relics of a god. For the objectification aspect, the workers are reified into interchangeable cogs, and their true life interests are never inquired about or encouraged by the system.

These values can be seen in action in many of the most popular smartphone games, such as Clash of Clans, as well as PC games such as World of Warcraft. The games follow the same formula, you compete, earn gold coins, and send minions to die as cannon fodder on your behalf (they are objectified). In other games such as HayDay, you keep the money-making increases by continually reinvesting earned money in more production. Finally, Grand Theft Auto, the best-selling game ever, features killing for money, and women as mere sex objects. Perhaps these games are so popular because competing, money-making, and objectifying is so much easier in the games than in a system where wealth inequality is increasing and wages are stagnating for the majority.

Compare those three main values with the three values for creating happiness given "The Economics of Happiness" 2011 documentary: personal growth, relationships, and a desire the improve society. As I mentioned above, the system has no interest to foster personal growth, only career growth so that you can pay more taxes and spend more on commodities. Relationships are under pressure in capitalism as people have to move for work, often ending up away from their families for extended periods. With the strains of working full-time (where one gets money from working, but no useful goods, as has to use further limited time outside of work to get the necessities) and raising a family at the same time, the divorce rate is close to 50% in many first world nations. Finally, a desire to improve society? Wow, that is where neoliberalism really fails, and it is a system for aggrandizing the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

For myself however, a desire to improve society is why I write this blog. hopefully I can encourage critical thinking by pointing out the intense propaganda saturation and inanities of the neoliberal system.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Enemy Propaganda Determines the Content of the Media

Recently I got bored of the usually radio stations I listen to on the way to work, so I tuned into a country music station. I listened to it for about a week, and made some general observations about country music.

I noticed that a great deal of country music songs reference truck ownership, such as the joys of driving a truck down a dirt road. I thought it was rather infantile and shallow to prattle on about having a good time with a commodity like that. Unfortunately, song after song followed that pattern, although sometimes about boat ownership instead. And at every commercial segment, there was at least one advertisement for a truck or car dealership. 

I began to think that country music was lame, until I heard some country music on a college radio station. The music they played was soulful. It was about hard times as well as good times. I wondered why I hadn't heard such music on the main country music station. A search of the ownership of a main country music station uncovered that it was owned by a group that also owns 25 car dealerships, each of which would happily sell a pick-up truck.

Pick-up trucks, as with most other vehicles cause a lot of pollution in both their manufacture and operation. Their increased use also leads to the building of more roads, which wipes out land which could have other uses. Their use of petrol leads to geopolitical conflicts, oil spills, and greenhouse gas concentration increases. Accordingly, a message which tells people to purchase such a commodity is a harmful propaganda message - an enemy propaganda message.

For the radio station and auto dealer group, they want to hammer this message of truck purchasing into people's heads as much as they can. Thus for them, a 20-second commercial just isn't enough. And so, the songs themselves become 3-minute additions to their arsenal of propaganda messaging. A song about other aspects of life unrelated to the commodity fetish is not going to work to get people disposed to buying a truck, so those songs are not played by the main station, effectively censoring them out.

I would not be surprised if a modern country music artist was really just a hack backed by a public relations marketing firm working on behalf of the auto industry.

"We are the most propagandized people in history." -John Stauber

Enemy Propaganda in a Giant Tub of Cola

I recently watched what was considered the fifth most popular YouTube video in Canada. It was titled something like "Dude jumps in a giant pool of Coca-Cola". The video showed just that, a guy jump into an outdoor pool full of coke, takes a 2-litre bottle branded with the Coca-Cola logo on it and pours it over is head and goes on about how awesome it is.

In the comments section, viewers (of which there were over a million) lamented about how far YouTubers would go just to make a popular video, and how they would be willing to spend so much money on coke. I thought those commenters were rather naive, as there is enough evidence to show that the YouTuber didn't pay for the coke - the Coca-Cola company, or perhaps a public relations firm it hired did. Remember, this was not a pool of Pepsi, or simply a pool of a cola beverage, no, it was specifically a pool of Coca-Cola. Herein lies the genius of the enemy propaganda marketing messages - they are embedded in all aspects of the media, not just the commercials.

Advertisers know well that people are not big fans of commercials, and will often try to ignore or avoid them. And so, the advertisers turn what's know as public relations (PR) to ensure they get there propaganda messages into everyone's head. To this extent about half of the articles in the newspaper are actually PR messages, according to the documentary "Toxic Waste is Good for You." The main goal of the corporations marketing department is to get what's called top-of-mind-awareness of the commodity they sell. They will do this through advertising and PR messages. You will often sees these messages in tandem, such as where you see a glowing review for a car one page of a magazine, and an advertisement for that very same car on the very next page.

And so sadly, there is really no escape from enemy propaganda, as long as one consumes almost any mass media. Commercial free options like Netflix exist, but how many of those Netflix films or TV shows are depicting smoking as cool, or discussing Coca-Cola, or portraying the acquisition of any commodity as cool? It's certainly more than a few.

Self-sufficiency vs. Life in the Unemployed Reserve Army

At one point in time, one could provide for oneself and one's family without the need to turn to corporations to provide goods and services. This is no longer the case. What happened and why?

Key to the self-sufficient lifestyle is access to land for items like firewood, drinking water, and herding and gardening activities. In the middle ages there were common lands (no titled owners) that people (commoners) could access. Starting from the 17th century, a process known as the enclosure began. Wealthy landowners began getting title to lands and forcing the once free people on the land into serfs. The landowners got their title from the state, foreshadowing the corporate-state nexus we know so well today.

Taking away people's self sufficient paved the way for capitalism, because the capitalist system requires people to be dependent on it. The systems needs dependents to ensure there are enough labourers in the unemployed reserve army. This army of unemployed people desperate for work consists of people who are not self-sufficient, who cannot provide their own needs, and ideally are in debt. The members of the unemployed reserve army will try to out-bid one another in a race to the bottom when it comes to determining wages when selling their labour to the capitalists. This suits the capitalists perfectly, as they can make more profit when they pay the labourers less. In this case is one of the comparitively rare instances where state intervenes on behalf of the labourers, rather than the capitalists, by instituting a minimum wage. Some capitalists complain that the minimum wage is an unjust tax on them.

The members in the unemployed reserve army are awash in propaganda from the capitalists, promising them a wealth of commodities, gizmos and gadgets if only they would find a way to sell their labour, via non-stop marketing messages. Those that make it out of the unemployed reserve army into the work force find themselves continuously dependent on the system and unable to quit due to racking up of debts. Given that a typical mortgage amortization period is 30 years, it's mostly ensured the workers will continue to cooperatively trudge along most of their adult lives in their jobs no matter how little interest they have in their jobs.

And how to be free of periods of unemployment followed by alienating work? This would require being self-sufficient. But to be self-sufficient would require access to land (usually through title), and acceptance of a simpler less commodity-heavy lifestyle - two things the system certainly works to keep of of the reach of its labourers.

Thoughts on the Cowspiracy

This post is a bit a tangent from my usual topics - feel free to skip over it. I recently watched the 2014 documentary "Cowspiracy", as well as "If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls" by Paul McCartney. They are both propaganda films and they clearly espouse an ideology (veganism). However, these films don't seek to secretly sell you any commodity, so they are respectable in that sense.

After watching those films, I realized that meat is murder on five different levels:

1) Murder of the planet - The negative effect of the greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture (AA) is greater than that of the entire transportation industry. AA also leads to massive fresh water depletion (for instance, one cow can drink 150 litres of water in a single day). Also the slash and burn clear-cutting of pristine land to raise cattle contributes to species extinction.

2) Murder of the animal - This one is obvious. No matter how humane the slaughter technique used, it must be totally horrifying to the animal. The cruelty to animals while being raised is often comparable to being slowly tortured to death, and it is even considered normal in the AA industry for a sizable percentage of the animals to die before slaughter.

3) Murder of the souls of the people who work in AA - It's a brutal industry, focused on maximization. Being so poor and so without other options to have to sell your labour to the AA industry just to get by is an unfortunate position to be in, but one the wealthy owners in the system appreciate. If there was no unemployed reserve army so large that some of it's member would consider such work it would be for the best.

4) Murder of the people who eat the animal products - The animals are fed an unnatural diet and fatten up at an unnatural rate. This makes the meat more loaded with saturated fats than what our ancestors ate. Selective breeding, hormones, and constantly dished-out antibiotics make animal products available unlike those seen even a generation before. The combination of the massive amounts consumed and the high fat content make for a storm of high cholesterol, heart disease and countless obesity related illnesses such as bad knees. There's a sort of twisted poetic justice in getting sick and dying from eating animals that were cruelly raised.

5) Murder of the poor people who could have eaten the animal feed - The conversion of food energy to meat is very poor. If the food grown for the animals was fed to people directly, a lot of instances of starvation and famine could be alleviated. Here is a quote from Earthsave: "It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef."

If you become a vegan, are you partaking on a spiritual mission to save the planet?

There are no 'farm animals', only 'farmed animals.'

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Discpline Yourself and Obey

It is very common these days for individuals to end up in debt. Common debts are credit card debt, student debt, and mortgage debt. For the typical aspiring youth looking to get a good job and eventually own their own home, student and mortgage debt are nearly inevitable. For renters, a debt is created each month that needs to be quickly paid.

The capitalist system will greatly encourage its members to take on debts. The central bank makes policies that enable the banks to lend out money at low interest with only fractional reserves. This is because the system benefits from its members being in debt. Why is this? Because for capitalism to work, there must be a large reserve of poor workers eager to work. If everyone was wealthy, the system would collapse as companies could not find any workers to hire. Having a debt to pay off makes one eager to work hard.

Having a someone be in debt is an excellent way to keep them as a good worker. The worker in debt will usually discipline himself in order to pay off his debt. He will rise early each workday, put in a hard days work, obey his superiors, and not quit even if conditions are barely tolerable. This is because he wants desperately to earn the money needed to pay off his debt. His hard work enables two main things: One, the wealth generated by his labour power trickles up into the hands of the wealthy owners (for he is always paid less than the value of his work), and secondly, he pays lots of taxes.

Imagine a worker with no debt, and no rent, and some savings or say some earnings from investments. He might take years off to travel, switch jobs frequently as his interests in life change, and not work overly hard (as he would have less fear of being laid off or fired). Yikes, perish the thought! Better make sure he gets loaded with debt as soon as possible!

Wealth Inequality IS the System

Lately there is much talk in the news about controlling the increase of wealth inequality. Organizations such as Occupy get lots of coverage. It is suggested that if only taxes could be adjusted, off-shore tax havens regulated, or corporations limited, then all would be well. The unfortunate reality is that wealth inequality is not an undesirable side-effect of the system, it is the system.

It is not possible for one group of people to be rich unless another group of people is poor. This was pointed out by John Ruskin in 1860 in his series of essays Unto This Last. The original Unto This Last is difficult to read, but it was later translated by Gandhi into a paraphrase in Gujarati, which was later translated back into English under the title Unto This Last: A Paraphrase.

Ruskin describes wealth as being the power over the labour of others. This power is often symbolized by money. For instance, if I am rich and have lots of money, I can hire a poor person to clean my house. The poor person must do the work, as he needs my money to pay for food and shelter. The poor person can't hire me in return to clean his house, as, due to his lack of wealth, he does not have power over my labour because I don't need to bother getting money from him.

Ruskin further exposes that wealth inequality gets worse, because the wealthy can cause the poor to try to outbid each other and thus not get a fair wage. For instance, were I rich I could find out who would do the work for the least payment and hire only them. Outbidding each other like this, the poor could never get the wages needed to rise up the social ladder.

If you think there could be rich people without there being lots of poor people, just imagine that the state gave everyone 10 million dollars. No one could hire anyone to clean their house, because no one with millions of dollars would want to bother. The capitalist economy needs a reserve of poor people (preferably with many of them unemployed) to function, and thus the state, as long as the state is in the hands of capitalist interests, it will do little to address the roots of poverty and wealth inequality.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Ritual

All cultures of the past that we know of had rituals. Their rituals involved a certain set behaviours accompanied often by special food and drink. When they performed their rituals, did they think of them as rituals? Or did they just do them, considering the actions as just part of daily life.

We moderns probably think we have no societal rituals. Perhaps our main ritual is one we don't think of as a ritual. Think about the main activity of just about everyone - getting up early to an alarm clock's ring and going to work for the day.

As with many rituals, our ritual usually starts with a special drink. After waking up to the alarm clock, we prepare a cup of coffee. The psychoactive ingredients (mainly caffeine) in the brew help us stay focused during the ritual. The next main step is to get into a car and drive until stuck in traffic with all the others performing the ritual in a slow procession. Instead of all heading to the same altar, the performers of the ritual will split off in their cars as they approach their individual destinations.

The next phase of the ritual is (for many) to sit about at a desk pressing various buttons. This part of the ritual continues for a staggering eight or more hours, which would probably have been enough time for an ancient to complete a minor vision quest. Then, it's back into the procession in what is sort of elaborate mechanical moving costume, the automobile.

Some say we should go back and research and perform the rituals of the ancients. But simply knowing the outward motions and doing them is not enough to understand and have the proper experience of the ritual. That would be like people of the future copying our ritual of going to work, but then having no idea what to do at the workplace once they sit down at the desk. Better to move on to new rituals.

Power Relations Messages

I recently read a self-improvement book that said that one should never say to one's family or to oneself "I have to go to work". Instead the book said everyone should say "I get to go to work", and to feel proud about it. The intent of the message is help people feel better about their situation of needing to sell their labour to get by. This may seem well-intended, but the message unfortunately has a dark side to it.

In the current job system, people can be generally lumped into two categories, labour sellers (workers), and labour purchasers (owners). The labour sellers do so because they are ultimately poor. They don't have wealth to generate the income or goodwill needed to furnish them with sustenance. If they don't go to work, they will not be able to pay their rent or mortgage or buy food. To try to obfuscate this situation by calling working a privilege is to take from the workers the desire to improve their situation of needing to sell their labour. Own way to alleviate the situation would be to improve wealth equality, especially including providing people access to or ownership of their own land. The situation of wealth inequality will not be alleviated if people are not aware of their relative wealth, or what it means to be truly wealthy.

So why tell people not to think they need to work when really they do? Anyone buying labour or benefiting from the labour of others would benefit from having happy complacent workers free of resentment about their predicament. And who is it that benefits from all the labour going on, all the extracting of resources and the adding of value to them? It is of course the wealthy elite, who do not themselves sell their own labour, but simply use their rent derived money to get the service and labour of the workers. The wealthy elite benefit from their position at the top, and will freely send out power relations messages to maintain the hierarchy.

Another message designed to maintain the wealth hierarchy is to tell workers who ask for more pay or less working hours to "be grateful for what they have," and compare their lot with those in terrible situations. This insistence on having workers compare themselves with the lowest common denominator, instead of aspiring to greater heights is simply a message to maintain the status quo. Also watch out for the rags-riches-stories that are constantly paraded out on the media. The power relation message being given there is "If you aren't a self-made millionaire, it's not the fault of a system that constantly increases wealth inequality, no, it's rather your own personal fault for not having enough initiative or hard work." Using endless rags-to-riches tales to get the wage-labourer victims blame themselves rather than work to better their class position is an effective yet psychotic way to maintain wealth hierarchy.

I recommend taking the self-improvement book author's message and those like it with a grain of salt.

Wage Labour as a Form of Prostitution

The concept of having a job is relatively new, dating only from the mid 1600's. The structure of a job is basically as such: one sells one's labour is exchange for money. Whether one is a computer programming or construction worker or cashier, the exchange works the same way as long as one is working for a wage. This exchange structure, incidentally is the very same as that for prostitution. The prostitute sells his or her labour to a john, in exchange for a payment of money. Prostitution differs from construction work in that it is considered unethical, but pause should be given to consider the similarities of the underlying mechanisms. Key to both the situation of the wage labourer (job holder) and the prostitute is that they both lack independent means to support themselves and must turn to selling their labour to sustain their existence. There is little escape from this system once one is in it, save suddenly becoming quite rich (an idea offered out by those in power as a carrot to keep the workers going, even though social mobility is diminishing more and more and wealth inequality is on the rise), and going on welfare.

Once getting their money, the worker then transforms roles from labour seller (prostitute) to labour purchaser (john). The worker goes out with his paycheque and gets other to sell their labour to him. The cashier and waiter must service him, whether or not it is their true desire or ambition, because they are ultimately poor and must find some way to sell their labour pay their rent somehow. The workers must compete with each other to sell their labours, which leads to workers having to specialize. This specialization system is encoded into the education system and can be a downfall for anyone with multiple interests who would like to try out many jobs over the course of their life.

And what about those in the society that don't sell their labour for money? Let's look at the rentier class, those who live off rents, patents, dividend payouts and capital gains. Whereas the rentiers do not need to prostitute themselves by selling their labour, they nonetheless encounter only those prostituting their labour wherever they go as they spend their money, on for example kitchen renovations. The rentiers are thereby alienated from a great portion of society, as they do not share the dual role of worker/consumer (prostitute/john) but act only as johns.

How could there be a path out of this job system? The answer is clearly to be found by looking at how people lived before around 1600. Modern tribes in remote regions also offer some clues. Simply put, the people had access to land to sustain themselves, and worked to support each other and provide for each other without any need for money of any sort. Without money, there can be no exploitative job system. Could we provide for each other without the need for money in our 21st century mass society? Or are we stuck with the job system we have forever?

Understanding Enemy Propaganda

This blog identifies the marketing messages of advertisements and public relations communications as a form of propaganda. And not a benign set of propaganda, but rather a malicious form of propaganda that is ultimately harmful to its human recipients. This propaganda is an integral part of the ideology of a system that degrades the planet we depend on for sustenance and wears down the people within the system through accelerating wealth inequality. Marketing messages are revealed by their true name - Enemy Propaganda.

Every day we are bombarded by dozens of marketing messages from the mass media, not just in the ads but also thoroughly embedded in the content (such as a car review). This media may include internet, radio, television, billboards, and storefront signage. These messages come in the forms instructional messages and emotional messages, but critically they also serve to normalize consumer capitalism and reduce independent thought by continually painting a picture of the same narrow world view based on rabid commodity consumption. Enemy propaganda intends to influence the future behaviour of the passive recipient. And what behaviour is desired? It is of course the behaviour to spend money, to consume products. This message is extremely important to the consumer capitalist system, because if consumers stop spending money, the entire economic system will collapse.

All commodity production, which is almost without exception harmful to the planet and harmful to the exploited workers, is in the end justified by the sales made to consumers. If consumers do not buy these commodities, then the wage labour and the resource extraction for these commodities will eventually cease. To avoid this situation, consumers are constantly bombarded by messages to continue consuming. Identifying these propaganda messages as enemy propaganda and blocking or replacing them by propaganda that is derived from an ideology that is instead beneficial to people and the planet is a must.