Deeeeeep Thoughts…

As I sit back and ruminate about the world and recent events I am struck by the interconnectedness of all things.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens in a vacuum.  Everything is always acting on everything else.  Seemingly disconnected events are actually small tributaries feeding the much larger river that makes up the flow of history.  And maybe, if you feel that flow, you can change the river’s course.  Or not.  I have tremendous faith in individuals but very little in humanity as a whole.

Today I’m catching a glimpse of that river.  There are four big stories over the last couple of years; the movement and consolidation of wealth from the American middle class to the wealthy, the effect of social media on the world, the loss of American civil rights, and the revolutionary wave sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East.  I think I see how these events are connected, and by understanding that we may be able to have a profound influence on the future.

Let’s start with the effects of social media.  By intimately connecting large groups of people in real time the world not only becomes smaller, it becomes more politically homogeneous.  It’s no coincidence that oppressive regimes shut down the internet as soon as there’s unrest.  They know it’s a threat, they just don’t understand that it’s already too late at that point.  Social media allows personal contact across borders and the free flow of seemingly innocent information.  It allows every day people to really experience the exact way people in other countries are living.  No government propaganda, no hollywood idealization, just what your cousin does on Tuesdays.  The exchange of all this personal information breeds unrest in a way that can’t be countered by all the propaganda in the world.

It’s pretty easy to see how this would lead to the waves of unrest in the unbelievably repressed Middle Eastern states.  The west has had a straight forward and evil deal with Arab despots; keep the oil flowing, keep it cheap, don’t attack Israel, and we won’t care what you do to your people.  Go ahead, steal from them, torture them, keep them stupid, poor and repressed.  It’s worked well for both sides until now.  We get oil, they get rich, and their people were easy to keep in line.  Control the media, shut down the newspapers, preach hate in the Mosques, and kill any opposition.  If you control the message you can get people to believe anything.  Until Twitter ad Facebook screwed it all up.  It was suddenly obvious that you were being lied to because Uncle Achmed in Michigan was telling a different story without meaning to.  He was just telling you what he ate for lunch.  And it all unraveled.  Quickly.

But what, you ask, does that have to do with TSA sexual assaults and our shitty schools?  Perhaps everything.  I’ve been fussing for months about the  redistribution of wealth in the good old US of A.  There’s been a systematic looting of the middle class by the rich.  By continually lowering the top tax brackets, eliminating inheritance taxes and loosening corporate regulation we’ve allowed most of our wealth to be concentrated in a very few hands.  Those hands now control the media and most of the government.  The Citizens United decision might make it impossible for true democracy.   Cities and states are cutting things that were once considered essential services and no one dares point out that the real problem is that rich people aren’t taxed highly enough.   Instead unions and firefighters are blamed for having pensions after they retire.  The rich have managed to convince us that those wealthy teachers and nurses are at fault for our shitty schools and healthcare system.  Right now they’re trying to dismantle unions in Wisconsin because unions probably represent the last hold out of middle class power.  What a joke.  We’re already living in something close to a third world economy with a few very rich people, a lot of poor people, and no one in between.

If you’re going to economically repress a large group of people you have to make sure they don’t get too feisty or start thinking too much.  The best way to do this is through fear and humiliation.  TSA anyone?  Terrorists are coming to get you and we have to take your civil liberties and your sense of personal power in order to protect you.  Just give us your constitutional rights and we’ll keep you safe.  Throw in your right to collectively bargain too.  Oh, and we need to do it for the children.  There now, don’t you feel better?   No, I fucking don’t.  They stole our money and our way of life and now they’re stealing our rights so that we can’t fight back.

Do you see how this begins to all come together?  The whole world is heading to a new political average.  As Americans we like to see ourselves as the shining light of freedom.  We’d like to see the Middle East as becoming free like
us, and they are.  But at the same time we’re becoming less free like them.  Naively we thought the new world order would be reached by getting repressive regimes to grant civil rights.  In fact, it looks like we’re going to meet them somewhere in the middle.  They’ll get a few more rights and their poor will get a few more services and we’ll lose a few rights and whole lot of quality of life.

This is absolutely not their fault, it’s ours.  They’re heading the right way.  Freedom and civil rights aren’t finite.  They can have them without us losing a thing and anyone who suggests otherwise is a racist and a moron.  It’s easy to see how the rich and powerful in their countries need to be reined in in order for the great masses to live a little better.  They’ve figured it out.  We haven’t.  We have exactly the same issues but it isn’t as clear because we’re heading in the other direction.

Social media has made the world a much more intimate place.  The universality of knowledge brought on by that intimacy is fueling a new political homogeneity.  Our actions will determine where that new average settles in.  I, for one, think we need to go back to the role of being a shining example of freedom and civil rights.  Even if it means peril from terrorists.  Even if means taxing the rich back to the pack.  Even if it means revolution here too.  Or you can settle for police state light and a better kind of poverty.  The choice is ours.  Via con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

-Archbishop Angus


Walk Like an Egyptian…

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” – Mark 8:36

Tunisia.  Egypt.  People in the streets.  What does it all mean?  I don’t know and neither does anyone else.  The democratic uprising in the British colonies turned out to be really fucking important.  Tianamen square, not so much.  China went right on being shitheads and the average person there doesn’t even know it happened.  Only time will tell, and we are not a patient people.  When there are some real answers we’ll probably have stopped paying attention.  Even so, here are a few observations on the current situation…

Observation #1- Why is the United States seemingly always on the wrong side of history?  Once again we have a country ruled by a life long dictator widely known to steal elections as well as torture, rape and plunder his own people.  And once again it turns out that we’re his biggest supporter, sending him both cash and legitimacy by the boatload.  Sure, now that there are a million people in the streets calling for democracy we kind of support their cause.  In a careful, guarded way.  But if this revolution works we’ll have another country that hates our guts because we’re associated with a brutal regime.  Cuba, Iran, Haiti, the list goes on and on.

I understand the ‘strategic value’ of these countries.  I understand the ‘real politick’ philosophy that demands we deal with unsavory characters to expand our power and influence.  I also understand that we suck at it.  We constantly choose short term gain over long term legitimacy.  Most of our allies end up becoming our enemies cause we backed the guy who’s regime contradicted everything we believe in.  The Shah of Iran was our guy until the people overthrew him.  They started hating us so we backed Saddam in Iraq.  Until we didn’t and had to overthrow him ourselves.  Do you have any doubts that whoever wins in Egypt will probably hate us?  I don’t.

I have two possible suggestions for the future of our foreign policy, get out or get moral.  Since we both suck at diplomacy and seem to be running out of money why don’t we come home for a while.  Close our foreign bases and just defend our borders.  Let the world work it out for themselves because we clearly aren’t helping.  I think it would be possible to stay in the UN, become honest advisors and keep trading partners without being such a military busybody.  Or we could create a new foreign policy based solely on our better ideals.  Only support democratic countries and shun any place without free and fair elections.  Refuse to send aid or support to any and all dictators.  Hell, we could even do both of these things.  It’s not like we could do any worse.

Observation #2- The corporatization of our news channels has resulted in really crappy journalism.  This is probably a really crucial story.  The entire Arab world may change and the coverage SUCKS.  CNN is trying but they clearly lack the resources.  MSNBC doesn’t know what the fuck to do.  The air heads at Fox keep putting up a map that shows Egypt in the wrong place.  Journalism has devolved into partisan shouting matches and now that there’s a real story to cover no one knows how.  I take that back.  Richard Engel on NBC knows his shit and has it covered.  Everyone else is a mess.  On MSNBC last night they were covering the conflict as dawn broke in Egypt.  The prevailing opinion was that the first few hours of light would bring important developments.  So MSNBC went to repeats of earlier programs.  So did CNN.  Those who are truly interested have to go online or to foreign sources to get any reasonable kind of reporting.  What good is freedom of the press if the press is made up of failed political hacks and profit driven companies?

Observation #3- Liberals are full of shit.  After the shooting in Tucson they couldn’t wait to climb all over the airwaves and blame gun ownership.  Evil guns were the problem, not a poor, sad, alienated and angry wacko.  Now those same liberals are reporting on the heroics of Egyptian people patrolling their neighborhoods with sticks after the break down of law and order.  Don’t you think it would be better if they had guns?  Hell, don’t you think it would be a fairer fight if the protesters had guns as well as the corrupt police and professional thugs?  Rachel Maddow, who in many ways I respect, didn’t notice the hypocrisy of going from the heroic dude with a stick story to an interview with the mayor of NYC about limiting gun control.  Come on, be a little smarter than that.  Our founding fathers knew that guns in the hands of everyday people thwarted tyranny and they were right.

Observation #4- Conservatives are pimping for evil.  Take a good hard look at what’s going on in the Arab world.  A group of ruling elites have plundered their country’s wealth for decades.  The rich are getting richer and more isolated while the poor are having trouble paying for the basics necessary for existence.  Eventually the poor are so screwed that they figure what the hell, might as well revolt since I can’t feed my family either way.  You don’t think that could happen here?  Why not?  Egypt has had a stable civilization for a lot longer than we have.  So go ahead, Republican party.  Keep moving the wealth from the middle class to the rich while you foment hate and anger among your base.  Fan religious extremism and pay no attention to the examples of history.  You might learn that the military here isn’t sure who’s side it’s on either.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.