Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amy Goodman: The Obscenity of War

The Obscenity of War
by Amy Goodman article link article link
Published on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 by
(bold text emphasis added by MMr)

President Barack Obama has just returned from his first trip as commander in chief to Afghanistan. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation of that country are now in their ninth year, amid increasing comparisons to Vietnam.

Daniel Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger once called "the most dangerous man in America," leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg, who was a top Pentagon analyst, photocopied this secret, 7,000-page history of the U.S. role in Vietnam and released it to the press, helping to end the Vietnam War.

"President Obama is taking every symbolic step he can to nominate this as Obama's war," Ellsberg told me recently. He cites the "Eikenberry memos," written by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, which were leaked, then printed last January by The New York Times.

Ellsberg said: "Eikenberry's cables read like a summary of the Pentagon Papers of Afghanistan. ... Just change the place names from ‘Saigon' to ‘Kabul' ... and they read almost exactly the same."

The Eikenberry memos recommend policies opposite those of Gens. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, who advocated for the surge and a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Eikenberry wrote that President Hamid Karzai is "not an adequate strategic partner," and that "sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable." Petraeus and McChrystal prevailed. The military will launch a major campaign in June in Afghanistan's second-largest city, Kandahar. Meanwhile, with shocking candor, McChrystal said in a video conference this week, regarding the number of civilians killed by the U.S. military, "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." U.S. troop fatalities, meanwhile, are occurring now at twice the rate of one year ago.

Tavis Smiley has a PBS special this week on one of the most powerful, and overlooked, speeches given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The address was made on April 4, 1967, exactly one year to the day before King was assassinated. The civil rights leader titled his speech "Beyond Vietnam," and controversially called the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

The press vilified King. Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." Smiley told me: "Most Americans, I think, know the ‘I Have a Dream' speech. Some Americans know the ‘Mountaintop' speech given the night before he was assassinated in Memphis. But most Americans do not know this ‘Beyond Vietnam' speech." Smiley added, "If you replace the words Iraq for Vietnam, Afghanistan for Vietnam, Pakistan for Vietnam, this speech is so relevant today."

Like King, Obama is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, Obama mentioned King six times, yet defended his war in Afghanistan. Princeton University professor Cornel West, interviewed by Smiley, said of Obama's Nobel speech, "It upset me when I heard my dear brother Barack Obama criticize Martin on the global stage, saying that Martin Luther King Jr.‘s insights were not useful for a commander in chief, because evil exists, as if Martin Luther King Jr. didn't know about evil."

In early March, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, offered a resolution to end the war in Afghanistan, saying: "We now have about 1,000 U.S. troops who have perished in the conflict. We have many innocent civilians who have lost their lives. We have a corrupt central government in Afghanistan that is basically stealing U.S. tax dollars." The resolution was defeated by a vote of 356-65. A Washington Post poll of 1,000 people released this week found that President Obama enjoys a 53 percent approval rating on his handling of the war in Afghanistan.

The public is unlikely to oppose something that gets less and less coverage. While the press is focused on the salacious details of Republican National Committee spending on lavish trips, especially one outing to a Los Angeles strip club, the cost to the U.S. taxpayer for the war in Afghanistan is estimated now to be more than $260 billion. The cost in lives lost, in people maimed, is incalculable. The real obscenity is war. Ellsberg hopes that the Eikenberry memos will be just the first of many leaks, and that a new wave of Pentagon Papers will educate the public about the urgent need to end Obama's war.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vi Ransel: Mass Unemployment in America

The Plight of Mass Unemployment in America. What are the Causes?
Workhouse Nation: Part Two
by Vi Ransel article link
March 29, 2010 Global Research
(bold text emphasis added by MMr)

"The people who own the country ought to govern it." - John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 1789-1795

"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve a greater prosperity and opportunity for all." - Lord Brian Griffiths, Goldman Sachs international advisor, 2009

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." - John Kenneth Galbraith

In an interview with Detroit Free Press and USA Today just before his "jobs summit" in December, President Obama said "It's just not going to be possible for us to have a huge second stimulus, because frankly, we just don't have the money." And "I want to be clear: while I believe the government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector." This was just two days after he announced a $30 billion per year escalation of the war in Afghanistan. (emphasis added)

The president opened the summit itself by saying that we had to face the fact that our resources are too limited to finance job creation. But he failed to mention that the $1.4 trillion deficit tripled last year's deficit due, in large part, to the bank bailout, which "according to the Inspector General of TARP, was allocated up to $23.7 trillion (of the people's money) in cash handouts, loans, debt guarantees and other subsidies" to the financial sector. (1) That's in addition to the loss of $1.3 trillion in revenue due to the Bush tax cuts that went overwhelmingly to the already superfluously wealthy. (2) (italics added)

The president asked the multimillionaire corporate CEOs assembled for the summit what he could do to get them to hire new workers. They demanded corporate tax cuts. The president told them "that he would propose tax incentives for hiring new employees, the dismantling of business regulations, and other measures that will do next to nothing to put jobless people back to work," but will, however, boost corporate profits. (3)

The $100 billion the administration claims will go toward "job creation" is primarily credits to businesses that hire workers or raise wages, extended unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments. But even if the $100 billion did create jobs, it would be two million jobs paying $50,000 (or four million jobs paying $25,000) for a projected 20 million unemployed or underemployed. (4)

In a nod to the jobless, the president asked that the unemployed "be patient" and "keep hope alive" as his adminstration pays down the deficit with "unprecedented fiscal austerity," and "sharp cuts in social spending." This was in addition to his repeated calls for the already poverty-stricken to cut their consumption - of medical care? of shelter?! of -- food?!! - while funneling trillions to banks and the military, and giving billions to insurance and pharmaceutical corporations as well as looking to institute a national consumption, e.g. sales, tax and slashing spending for social programs.

"At the same time, the labor cost gap with Third World countries must be closed so the US can be transformed into a cheap labor platform to send US exports around the world. This is the administration's plan for 'economic recovery.'" (5) (emphasis added)

Once the American people are desperate and groveling for jobs, the "opulent minority" will use us to manufacture the things they were having made so cheaply in China - until China had the temerity to raise workers' wages to tamp down the threat of rebellion. With nearly eight million jobs wiped out since the recession began, mass unemployment is being used to drive down wages as close as possible to those of the most destitute and desperate of the world's people.

Wage and job-cutting, speed-ups, and cuts in social programs will allow the export of products made in American sweatshops as a condition of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which has already done a complete audit of the US financial system, something usually reserved for bankrupt "Third" World nations. Cuts in federal "spending must be put in place, in part, to convince creditors, especially China, that the US can get its finances back in order." (6) This is the "reasoning" behind SAPs. Immiserate citizens to satisfy creditors.

Former Wall Street bank director and Assistant Secretary of HUD for George H. W. Bush, Catherine Austin Fitts, calls what's happening to our economy "a criminally leveraged buyout." She says our country is being bought "cheap with its own money." Using the IMF-World Bank template, a country's bankruptcy delivers "public assets and resources" to transnational corporations and cancels "national sovereignty." After a country is "driven to destitution," its government's public policy is created by its creditors and not by the people's representatives. (7)

State and local governments, which may not run a deficit, will be forced to slash resources even further. And to "preserve bond ratings and the rights of creditors," public assets - water, natural resources, infrastructure - will be sold at huge discounts to global investors in order to "save America," which will wind up owned by its creditors (much like your house). In other words, social spending programs that promote the general welfare will be frozen, while national "security" spending skyrockets, and there won't be even a hint of a tax increase for the "opulent minority." Neither will there be a jobs program or a halt in foreclosures. Wages and living standards will plummet while banks continue to boom.

"Increasingly, America is owned by super wealthy foreign interests. ...for example...CIC, the China Investment Corporation"... owns ..."stakes in dozens of major U.S. companies. ...Aetna, Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, Goodyear, Johnson & Johnson, MetLife, Visa, and Wells Fargo. ...CIC is funded from China's...$42.4 foreign reserves..." much of which is generated by "... American consumers, businesses, and even governments that keep buying products imported from China. So, CIC is using our exported dollars to buy our domestic corporations and banks. ...For example, last year when Morgan Stanley boasted that it was repaying the Wall Street bailout money it got from us taxpayers, it didn't mention that nearly $2 billion of the payback came from selling a chunk of itself to CIC." (8)

But: "...if American imperialism is to maintain its position of world domination, domestic politics and social relations within the US must be radically restructured. The resources required to sustain a global military posture and to prevent undue dependence on foreign creditors must be extracted from the American working people through the gutting and effective destruction of the programs which consume the bulk of the federal budget - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." (9)

Also headed for the deep freeze are the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Energy, and Justice, which will receive, altogether, $250 billion in federal funding for 2010. The military, the wars and the Department of Homeland Security will get $700 billion, almost triple that. This is also more than the "defense" budget of the rest of the world combined. But there's no talk of reductions here. (10)

Exempt also are the bank bailouts and interest on the national debt - $125 billion in 2010. And trillions over the next ten years will keep going to the same financial corporations that got trillions of our dollars in government guarantees and loans. The administration's own estimate of the money the freeze will save is $250 billion over the next ten years, or three percent of the $9 trillion estimate of new debt. The $15 billion the administration claims the freeze will save next year is one percent of the Congressional Budget Office's budget deficit projection. (11)

The freeze barely touches the deficit. Economist Paul Krugman estimates that without the freeze, total public debt would be 78.7% of US GDP by 2020. With the freeze the figure, according to the administration, would be 77.2%, a difference of one point five percent! (12) That's all it takes to justify the destruction of necessary social programs. In other words, once bankers and generals get their cut of our money, we won't even get crumbs. The plan is to sacrifice millions of our livelihoods via mass unemployment to please the bond market. (13)

The 2,585-page, $3.8 trillion 2011 budget allocates a mandatory 59% for programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment and Pell Grants. Another 34% is "discretionary" spending on programs such as education, transportation, housing, the environment, energy, science and the military. The last 7% pays our national debt service. (14)

Let's look at that "discretionary" spending. Two-thirds of it, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), will go for national security. Only 11% of our tax dollars dedicated to "discretionary" spending will be spent on non-security concerns. In other words, President Obama's plan leaves 89% of the budget untouched. Only domestic social service plans are eligible for cuts. NPP estimates military spending over ten years will increase more than $500 billion, twice the $250 billion savings predicted from cuts in non-security discretionary spending over ten years. But the Defense Department already has $295 billion in cost overruns in 96 major weapons programs. This, all by itself, will wipe out any savings from a non-security discretionary freeze. (15)

The Air Force's C-17 cargo planes alone, at $330 million each, with a total program cost of $65 billion, got $2.5 billion from Congress in 2010 for ten of these planes that the Pentagon didn't even ask for! That $2.5 billion, in 2010, could provide health care for 141,681 people, pay 6,138 public safety officers, 4,649 music and art teachers, and 4,568 elementary school teachers. There would still be enough left for 22,610 college scholarships, 46,130 Pell Grants, 1,877 affordable housing units, renewable electricity for 382,679 homes and 29,630 free Head Start programs - all for the cost of ten, unasked for C-17s. (16)

And while the freeze exempts the Pentagon, the payment of existing debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the president has plans for those three social programs. He's created a "bipartisan" commission that the Wall Street Journal calls the "Political Cover Commission." "A gang of ten Democrats and eight Republicans would be charged to come up with ways to reduce the deficit. The idea is for everyone to hold hands and agree to raise taxes and cut entitlement spending together (Medicare, Social Security, etc.) so neither party gets the blame." (17)

Obama picked Democrat Erskine Bowles, a banker and former Clinton chief of staff, and Republican Alan Simpson, a retired Wyoming senator, to head the commission. "In an interview with the Washington Post... Simpson virtually spat out his hatred of any government program that guarantees basic necessities. 'How did we get to a point in America where you get to a certain age in life, regardless of net worth or income, and you're 'entitled'?" (emphasis added) Former investment banker Erskine Bowles is currently on Morgan Stanley's board. He was also a General Motors director from 2005 until its bankruptcy last year. Both companies were big beneficiaries of the administration's bailouts. (18)

The "opulent minority" is demanding measures that can't be put into place by democratic means because the majority of the American people oppose them. The insistence on bipartisanship means that both the Republican and Democratic halves of the Money Party must stop their political dog and pony show and close ranks against the majority of the American people.

Still, the president's healthcare summit ended without an agreement between Republicans and Democrats just a day after he appeared at the Business Roundtable and pledged allegiance to the free market while reassuring the assembled CEOs that his plan would improve the competitiveness of their corporations. "I believe businesses like yours are the engines of economic growth in this country. You create the jobs. I firmly believe that America's success in large part depends on your success." Not!!! US corporations cut millions of jobs since 2007, and just the past year alone makes it clear that corporate success has nothing to do with promoting the general welfare.

The healthcare plan itself mirrors the one that passed the Senate. And while it doesn't say just where most funding will be cut, hundreds of billions of dollars will likely be slashed from Medicare. The plan doesn't mention universal health coverage or a public option, or a national insurance “exchange." Employers won't have to provide insurance for workers, and insurance and pharmaceutical corporate profits won't be constrained.

But individuals as well as families will be forced to buy insurance or pay a penalty, and over twenty million people will still have no healthcare coverage at all. The only differences from the Senate plan are tweaks in the amount of the fines, and the point at which exemptions from penalties kick in. The result is the same, billions funneled to insurance companies. (19)

The president called healthcare, and not the insurance and drug corporations' unconscionable prices, an "undeniable drag on our economy." He wants "a health care system that is not a drag on business," in which reduced labor costs equal increased profit. He explained that his plan is just the opposite of a government takeover, and that it would deliver "more customers to insurers."

He did refer to the Wall Street bank bailout as the reason for defunding social programs. "The steps we took to save the economy from depression last year have necessarily added to the deficit. But I've also said that we intend to (make the people) pay for what we added" (when we gave trillions, no questions asked, to Wall Street). (italics and emphasis added)

He said his administration has "identified more than 120 programs for elimination." He repeated his State of the Union goal of doubling US exports (Of what?!) in five years by pursuing a "more strategic and aggressive effort to open up new markets for our goods," and "send(ing) more products overseas" and "borrow(ing) less and produce(ing) more."

But "The US now has a trade deficit with every part of the world. ...What is striking about US dependency on imports is that it is practically across the board. Americans are dependent on imports of foreign foods, feeds, and beverages... Americans are dependent on imports of industrial supplies and materials... more than three times US dependency on OPEC. ...Americans can no longer provide their own transportation. They are dependent on imports of automotive vehicles, parts, and engines... 1.5 times greater than US dependency on OPEC. ...Americans are 3.4 times more dependent on imports of manufactured consumer durable and non-durable goods than they are on OPEC. ...Americans no longer can produce their own clothes, shoes, or household appliances... The US 'superpower' even has a deficit in capital goods, including machinery, electric generating equipment, machine tools, computers, and telecommunications equipment." (20)

So, what are we capable of exporting, and how could we afford to manufacture it here? And while the president talks about doubling the export of products made in the USA, he also said he'd modified his proposal to eliminate loopholes that allow US corporations to make money overseas so they can avoid paying taxes. This proposal was originally designed to raise up to $210 billion, but after listening to corporations complain that these loopholes let them do better against overseas competition, the president changed his mind. (21)

The record-breaking profits of insurance and pharmaceutical corporations in 2009 barely got a mention. Instead the president re-committed himself to defending for-profit insurance and touting a market-based, rather than a government-administered approach. And he went out of his way to emphasize that his priorities were controlling government spending and reducing the deficit.

The administration is narrowly focused on the interest payments on the national debt, which go primarily to the "opulent minority" of Americans and to foreign creditors. In other words, we're paying interest to this "opulent minority" for borrowing to finance the cost (among other things) of their Bush tax cuts. (22) This means that "...America will always have a deficit. Our deficit will never go away because our ruling class lives off the interest from the deficit. They love the deficit. They appear to be wringing their hands about having a deficit - but the real reason that we have a deficit is to keep the ruling class wealthy." (23) (emphasis in original)

So the president's healthcare plan is essentially the status quo, except that insurance corporations will see their profits rise even further, though last year the largest US health insurance corporations set new profit records. As millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes, the top five insurance corporations averaged an increase of 56% over 2008. (24)

Wellpoint profits increased 91% over 2008, setting a new record for annual income, while total enrollment dropped by 1.4 million. Cigna profits skyrocketed 346% in 2009, another new record, even as enrollment dropped by 639,000. Profits at Humana were up 61% over 2008. United Health Group profits were up 28% over 2008, while enrollment dropped by 680,000. And at Aetna, profits shrank by 8% as enrollment increased 1.2 million, or 6.9%. (25) This proves that increasing coverage can negatively effect an insurance corporation's bottom line.

"If we have to chose between achieving our membership goals and achieving our profitability goals, profits will win every time." - Humana CEO Michael McCallister, 2003 "We will not sacrifice profitability for membership." - Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly, 2008

Could it be any clearer? Our health is a commodity to be bought and sold, numbers on a corporate spread sheet, a mere means to create profit and a life of luxury for a parasitic "elite" of shareholders who sit atop the rest of us as if we were a throne.

In his interview with Bloomberg Business Week, the president even made a point of explaining that everything he's done and intends to do is in the interest of corporations. "...if you actually look at our policies, everything that we have done over the last year, and everything we intend to do over the next several years, I think is going to put American business on a stronger footing."

He explained that his administration's policies, which consist primarily of a multi-trillion dollar, no questions asked, giveaway to banks, have restored the country to economic health. "We had an economy that was contracting at 6%. It is now growing by 6%. We had a market that people had no idea where it would bottom out, and that market has now stabilized. We had a banking system that was on the verge of meltdown that is now showing significant health, at least in terms of their bottom lines. And so the steps we have taken, I think, created an environment in which business can be profitable." (What about stabilizing the well-being of American citizens now in meltdown?) (emphasis added)

He didn't mention the fact that "business," e.g. corporations, "disappeared" millions of people's jobs, many of them overseas to other countries' economies via our Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), or that his administration has done next to nothing to address the situation but cut taxes for corporations.

He worried about mass opposition building toward Wall Street and the corporate elite, but the important message he had for the corporate community, which he stresses during his lunches with corporate CEOs, and he has lots of lunches with corporate CEOs, was that "...we have every interest in you succeeding... we want and need more input from the corporate community just so we can communicate to the corporate community the fact that, if you look at our actual policies, as opposed to the speculation around our policies, they have been fundamentally business friendly." (When was the last time you had lunch with your president to provide him with some input? And when did your community last meet with your elected representatives?)

The president also announced future corporate tax cuts. "This year I will sign legislation that will cut corporate taxes by about $7 billion... This notion, somehow, that we have been putting this enormous tax burden on business is just not true. It is not supported by facts."

His long term strategy for increasing corporate profits is increasing exports by decreasing US labor costs and pressing China to increase the value of its currency. He "referred to government-sponsored loans for General Motors and Chrysler which were conditioned on massive pay and benefit cuts for auto workers, along with the destruction of thousands of jobs." (26) In effect, he gave corporations loans and made the workers pay for them. (emphasis added)

That was "an example of a very hard decision and a very politically unpopular decision that from my vantage point is pro-business," the president said. This attack echoed that of his idol Ronald Reagan's firing of PATCO, and signaled corporations that cost-cutting and wage reductions could be used to fatten their bottom line. "You would be hard-pressed to identify a piece of legislation that we have proposed out there that, net, is not good for business." "We are pro-growth. We are fierce advocates for a thriving dynamic free market." (27) (How about something that is, net, good for the majority of tax-paying citizens and not offshoring, tax-evading, job-destroying transnational corporations?)

And when asked what he thought about multi-million dollar Wall Street bonuses, the president said "(And) I like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free market system." (But is such grotesque inequality part of democracy?)

Obama essentially used his health care summit, his Business Roundtable speech and the Bloomberg Business Week interview to showcase Democratic reform as the pinnacle of fiscal responsibility and austerity. But what it is is cost-cutting and rationing healthcare for the majority of Americans while blatantly defending insurance company profits. The president made it clear where he stands. "There are some who have suggested scrapping our system of private health insurance and replacing it with government run health care. Though many other countries have such a system, in America it would neither be practical or realistic."

He neglected to say why, but all the usual suspects attended the healthcare summit - UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna Corp - and the president reassured them that drastic cutbacks would not affect their bottom lines. "The rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink the government deeper and deeper in debt. On this we all agree." (Not the bank bailout, the military, the Bush tax cuts, or corporate welfare?) "The bottom line is, our proposal is paid for." (on the backs of the American people, just like the bank bailout, the wars, the tax cuts for the embarrassingly wealthy and giveaways to corporations.)

The president has said, that "For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve the financial crisis." "Everything is on the table." But one of the most obvious solutions, taking the profit out of health care, was never really allowed on the table, let alone seriously considered. The "debate" was dominated by an "opulent minority," economically parasitic and rapacious in its social outlook, which accrues to itself ever more of the national wealth.

The continued growth of profits is becoming increasingly incompatible with a decent standard of living for the workers who create the real wealth of society. As American global economic hegemony declines and the vast polarization of our society increases, past democratic reforms can't continue if profits are to keep growing. The general welfare of the majority is now an intolerable drain on corporate profit and the personal fortunes of the "opulent minority." (28)

Though corporations, aided and abetted by union management as well as Congress, "have been able to drive down wages and increase productivity, they have not been able to put a brake on spiraling medical costs for employee insurance coverage..." (29) "Reform" will allow both the government and the corporations to jettison any responsibility whatsoever to fund healthcare, forcing the working population to pay for the cost of insurance corporations' profits so other corporations won't have to.

Robert Reich, Clinton's Labor Secretary, has posited that there's a "radical restructuring of the economy that is going on behind the scenes." In other words, behind the people's backs. "...people who lost their jobs were pushed into lower paying jobs..." And those who had lower paying jobs were pushed out entirely, while bank, and other corporate profits, continue to escalate. Corporations continue to consolidate, further concentrating power in the hands of their shareholders, as real property/wealth is distributed upward to the "opulent minority."

And now all of us freeloading, entitlement-grasping working people on whom they not only depend, but whom they themselves have immiserated, must be made to pay for the "opulent minority's" good times via a present-day version of the Victorian workhouse.

The Enclosure Acts in Britain forced people off the land they'd worked by right for centuries, fencing them out, driving them into the "great dim sheds" of the Industrial Revolution (1700-1800). Though Britain amassed natural and financial resources from its colonies and profits from its slave trade, this made up only 5% of Britain's national income during the Industrial Revolution. Britain's dense population for its small size, and the Enclosure of common land created a readily available labor supply. And it was through the Enclosure movement, in large part, that the peasantry was destroyed as a meaningful resistance and removed the obstacles to Britain's mandate of capitalism.

And while prior to the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648), it had been a Christian's duty to undertake the seven corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; welcome the stranger; clothe the naked; visit the sick; visit the prisoner; and bury the dead, after the Reformation, "outdated," other-directed values became inconvenient. Moral expectations and noblesse oblige disappeared and it became necessary to regulate poor relief by law.

The moral economy was replaced by a political economy in which the well-off had no moral obligation to help the ill, the aged, the widowed, the orphaned or the unemployed. Such obligations were replaced with a cash payment which destroyed both the human link between the haves and the have-nots, as well as the right of the poor to claim relief in times of hardship, like illness, a hard winter or trade depressions. And with the appearance of laissez-faire economic theory, poverty came to be seen as the result of self-chosen immorality, irresponsibility, or idleness, or an inherent weakness or inferiority - all of which were used to justify leaving the destitute to their destitution at the "invisible hand" of the "free" market.

At approximately the same time, Thomas Malthus was expounding his theory that the relief of poverty itself created poverty. In other words, those who could not work should, if necessary, starve rather than have government provide any kind of relief because it "distorted" the "free" market that determined the "natural" level of wages and prices. The "law" of supply and demand had to be allowed to operate freely without acknowledging that the "free" market was often the cause of unemployment/idleness. This "natural law" assumed that people would work for any wage offered rather than starve themselves and their families (which was exactly the point) and in order for wages to rise, the labor supply had to become scarce through starvation, disease and/or exposure to the elements.

There's a modern version of this theory at work today in South Carolina, where "Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving government assistance to 'feeding stray animals.' 'My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.' 'How do you fix it? Well you say, look, if you receive goods or services from the government, then you owe something back.' "We can't afford to keep just giving money away." He said that government continues to reward bad behavior by giving money to people who 'don't have to do a thing.' (30)

He failed to mention Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut for the disgustingly wealthy. Nor did he touch on tax breaks, abatements and subsidies to our largest corporations. He seems to have forgotten the more than $23 trillion allocated to the banks, no questions asked, or the onerous workfare obligations imposed on those who receive public assistance and the tax on unemployment benefits.

Britain's remedy for fixing the problem of giving money to people who "don't have to do a thing" was workhouses. Workhouses had appeared in Britain in the 1600s as places for people to live and work when they couldn't support themselves. The unemployed, able-bodied poor could only get relief by going into these workhouses, even if trade depressions had caused their "idleness." The work, like factory work, was continuous, boring, hard and degrading. They crushed bones, broke stones and "picked" oakum, e.g. unbraided bits of used, tarry rope, the fibers of which were then used as caulk for sailing ships. The workhouse, like workfare, was used as a deterrent. And as they are for welfare, conditions were made as harsh and degrading as possible so only the truly desperate would apply to "the house." And once poor parents entered a workhouse, they were held to have forfeited responsibility for their children, enabling landlords to take them as unpaid "apprentices" until they came of age, 18 for girls, 24 for boys.

At the same time, debtors could be locked up "until their families paid their debt. Some debt prisoners were released into debt bondage to become indentured servants until they paid off their debt in labor." (31) (emphasis added)

And in fact, two to three Europeans who came to the American colonies were debtors when they got here. Some colonies, like Georgia, were supposed to be debtors' asylums. In 1789, the Society for the Relief of Distressed Debtors determined that of 1,162 debtors in New York's debtors' prison in 1787 and 1788, over half, 716 of them, owed less than 20 shillings. In 1831 imprisonment for debt was abolished in New York, and in 1841 Congress passed a law that offered bankruptcy to everyone. Debtors' prisons all over America were finally abolished and bankruptcy laws liberalized as Americans realized that most people do not fall into debt of their own choosing - or as a result divine retribution. (32)

But in 2009 in Georgia, people who couldn't pay their fines - plus the monthly fee to the private corporation that collects the payments - were often sent to jail, according to Stephen Bright, President of the Southern Center for Human Rights. And in 2006, the center sued on behalf of a woman locked up for eight months in Atlanta because she couldn't pay a $705 fine. And until a few years ago in Gulfport, Mississippi, defendants who couldn't pay their fines were put in jail 'til they "sat off" their fines. (33)

Barbara Ehrenreich points out that while debtors' prisons no longer exist, a creditor can petition a court to issue a summons for nonpayment of a bill. If you fail to appear you're in contempt of court, which lands you in jail - where you can run up more debt. An increasing number of prison systems charge their inmates for room and board. Taney County, Missouri charges $45 a day, Springfield, Oregon charges $60, and New Jersey is considering a $10-15 day fee. Nobody knows what happens if an inmate can't pay. More time in jail to "sit it off?" (34)

Prisoners' rights advocates worry that as government budgets come increasingly under pressure, courts and prisons will get even tougher about forcing indigent defendants to pay cost and fees, and will imprison more of them if they can't come up with the money, in effect imprisoning them for poverty. (35)

In America prior to the 1930s and Social Security, destitute elderly poor people went to the poorhouse, or workhouse. Such "houses" were widespread in America. Poorhouses were often on "poor farms," where any able-bodied residents were made to work. These could be part of the same economic complex as a prison farm, and most produced at least some of the produce, grain and livestock they consumed, like serfs working on a medieval manor, or Victorian residents of a workhouse. "Residents" (inmates) were expected to provide labor to the extent that their health would allow, in the fields as well as providing housekeeping and care for other residents. Rules were strict and accommodations minimal. (36)

Now the "opulent minority" is instituting another set of Enclosure Acts. This time, rather than fencing us out, they've built a fence to keep us in. The wage slave system wasn't escape-proof enough, so we've been enclosed within a fence of debt from which there is no escape. To that end wages will be halved - again. Foreclosures strictly carried out. Insurance for health, like that for cars, will be mandatory. Unions have already been neutralized, reduced to shells of their former selves. Free speech is relegated to zones behind barbed wire fences policed by minions of mammon armed with gas, guns and tasers. And now that Obama's healthcare "reform" has become law, the workhouses of Victorian England will pale by comparison with the "great dim sheds" of our new plantation-poor farms constructed by Halliburton.

"For in every city these two opposite parties (people v. aristocracy) are to be found, arising from the desire of the populace to avoid oppression of the great, and the desire of the great to command and oppress the people.... For when the nobility see that they are unable to resist the people, they unite in exalting one of their number and creating him prince, so as to be able to carry out their own designs under the shadow of his authority." Machiavelli, The Prince, Chap IX.

"Do not put your trust in princes..." - Psalm 146:3

"We have stricken the shackles from 4,000,000 human beings and brought all labourers to a common level, but not so much by the elevation of former slaves as by reducing the whole working population, white and black, to a condition of serfdom. While boasting of our noble deeds, we are careful to conceal the ugly fact that by our iniquitous money system we have manipulated a system of oppression which, though more refined, is no less cruel than the old system of chattel slavery." - Horace Greely


(1) Barry Grey, "Obama's jobs summit: 'No money for jobs'" wsws 12/5/09
(2) Lee Sustar & Alan Maass, "A budget only Republicans could love", 2/3/10
(3) Barry Grey, ibid.
(4) Patrick Martin, "Obama Budget: war, debt and cuts in social services" wsws 2/2/10
(5) Jerry White, "Obama announces fraudulent 'jobs' summit," wsws, 11/13/09
(6) Wall Street Journal 1/4/10)
(7) Mike Whitney, Counterpunch , 4/2005
(8) Jim Hightower, "Buying America - With Our Dollars,", 3/5/10
(9) Peter Martin, "Obama's budget reveals the bankruptcy of American capitalism," wsws 2/3/10
(10) Tom Eley, "Obama to impose freeze on social spending," wsws, 1/27/20
(11) Tom Eley, ibid.
(12) Lee Sustar & Alan Maass, "A budget that only Republicans could love," wsws 2/3/10
(13) Lee Sustar & Alan Maass, ibid.
(14) Jo Comerford, "A Titanic Budget in an Ocean of Icebergs,", 2/28/10
(15) Jo Comerford, ibid.
(16) Jo Comerford, ibid.
(17) Wall Street Journal, 1/21/10
(18) Patrick Martin, "Bipartisan campaign targets US working class," wsws, 2/18/10
(19) Kate Randall, "Obama unveils health plan ahead of bipartisan summit," wsws, 2/23/10
(20) Paul Craig Roberts, "American Economy: R.I.P." Information Clearing House, 9/10/07
(21) Tom Eley "Obama courts US corporate elite", wsws 2/25/10
(22) Patrick Martin, "Obama Budget: War, Debt and Cuts in Social Services," wsws, 2/2/10
(23) John Harvey from Jane Stillwater's, "John Harvey: Why America will never be socialist," Smirking Chimp, 8/19/09
(24) Figures - Health Care for America Now
(25) Kate Randall, "US health insurers reap record profits in 2009," wsws, 2/19/10
(26) Joe Kishore, "Obama affirms right-wing, pro-business policies in interview," wsws, 2/15/10
(27) Joe Kishore, ibid.
(28) Kate Randall, "Obama's health care agenda amd the case for a socialist alternative," wsws, 2/27/10
(29) Kate Randall, "An attack on health care in the guise of reform," wsws, 3/2/10 )
(30) Nathaniel Cary, "Bauer: Needy 'owe something back' for aid," The Greenville News, 1/23/10
(31) Debtors' Prison, Wikipedia
(32) Jill Lepore, "I.O.U." The New Yorker, 4/13/09
(33) Editorial, the New York Times, The New Debtors' Prisons, 4/6/09
(34) Marlys Harris, "Could Debtors' Prison Make a Comeback?", 8/10/09
(35) Editorial, the New York Times, ibid.
(36) Poorhouse, Wikipedia

Vi Ransel is a retired writer of eEementary Educational Materials and Corporate Communications, who never thought she'd be returning to the Gilded Age - and beyond, when America was ruled by a Unitary Executive (King George III) and the largest transnational corporation in the world (the British East India Company). She can be reached at

Vi Ransel is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research Articles by Vi Ransel
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Noam Chomsky: Globalization Marches On

Globalization Marches On
Growing popular outrage has not challenged corporate power.
by Noam Chomsky article link
Published on Friday, March 26, 2010 by the New York Times Syndicate

Shifts in global power, ongoing or potential, are a lively topic among policy makers and observers. One question is whether (or when) China will displace the United States as the dominant global player, perhaps along with India.

Such a shift would return the global system to something like it was before the European conquests. Economic growth in China and India has been rapid, and because they rejected the West's policies of financial deregulation, they survived the recession better than most. Nonetheless, questions arise.

One standard measure of social health is the U.N. Human Development Index. As of 2008, India ranks 134th, slightly above Cambodia and below Laos and Tajikistan, about where it has been for many years. China ranks 92nd-tied with Belize, a bit above Jordan, below the Dominican Republic and Iran.

India and China also have very high inequality, so more than a billion of their inhabitants fall far lower on the scale.

Another concern is the U.S. debt. Some fear it places the U.S. in thrall to China. But apart from a brief interlude ending in December, Japan has long been the biggest international holder of U.S. government debt. Creditor leverage, furthermore, is overrated.

In one dimension-military power-the United States stands alone. And Obama is setting new records with his 2011 military budget. Almost half the U.S. deficit is due to military spending, which is untouchable in the political system.

When considering the U.S. economy's other sectors, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and other economists warn that we should beware of "deficit fetishism." A deficit is a stimulus to recovery, and it can be overcome with a growing economy, as after World War II, when the deficit was far worse.

And the deficit is expected to grow, largely because of the hopelessly inefficient privatized health care system-also virtually untouchable, thanks to business's ability to overpower the public will.

However, the framework of these discussions is misleading. The global system is not only an interaction among states, each pursuing some "national interest" abstracted from distribution of domestic power. That has long been understood.

Adam Smith concluded that the "principal architects" of policy in England were "merchants and manufacturers," who ensured that their own interests are "most peculiarly attended to," however "grievous" the effects on others, including the people of England.

Smith's maxim still holds, though today the "principal architects" are multinational corporations and particularly the financial institutions whose share in the economy has exploded since the 1970s.

In the United States we have recently seen a dramatic illustration of the power of the financial institutions. In the last presidential election they provided the core of President Obama's funding.

Naturally they expected to be rewarded. And they were-with the TARP bailouts, and a great deal more. Take Goldman Sachs, the top dog in both the economy and the political system. The firm made a mint by selling mortgage-backed securities and more complex financial instruments.

Aware of the flimsiness of the packages they were peddling, the firm also took out bets with the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) that the offerings would fail. When the financial system collapsed, AIG went down with it.

Goldman's architects of policy not only parlayed a bailout for Goldman itself but also arranged for taxpayers to save AIG from bankruptcy, thus rescuing Goldman.

Now Goldman is making record profits and paying out fat bonuses. It, and a handful of other banks, are bigger and more powerful than ever. The public is furious. People can see that the banks that were primary agents of the crisis are making out like bandits, while the population that rescued them is facing an official unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, as of February. The rate rises to nearly 17 percent when all Americans who wish to be fully employed are counted.

Bringing Obama to Heel

Popular anger finally evoked a rhetorical shift from the administration, which responded with charges about greedy bankers. "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama told 60 Minutes in December. This kind of rhetoric was accompanied with some policy suggestions that the financial industry doesn't like (e.g., the Volcker Rule, which would bar banks receiving government support from engaging in speculative activity unrelated to basic bank activities) and proposals to set up an independent regulatory agency to protect consumers.

Since Obama was supposed to be their man in Washington, the principal architects of government policy wasted little time delivering their instructions: Unless Obama fell back into line, they would shift funds to the political opposition. "If the president doesn't become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose" the support of Wall Street, Kelly S. King, a board member of the lobbying group Financial Services Roundtable, told the New York Times in early February. Securities and investment businesses gave the Democratic Party a record $89 million during the 2008 campaign.

Three days later, Obama informed the press that bankers are fine "guys," singling out the chairmen of the two biggest players, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs: "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free-market system," the president said. (Or at least "free markets" as interpreted by state capitalist doctrine.)

That turnabout is a revealing snapshot of Smith's maxim in action.

The architects of policy are also at work on a real shift of power: from the global work force to transnational capital.

Economist and China specialist Martin Hart-Landsberg explores the dynamic in a recent Monthly Review article. China has become an assembly plant for a regional production system. Japan, Taiwan and other advanced Asian economies export high-tech parts and components to China, which assembles and exports the finished products.

The Spoils of Power

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has aroused concern. Less noticed is that the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and the rest of Asia has sharply declined as this new regional production system takes shape. U.S. manufacturers are following the same course, providing parts and components for China to assemble and export, mostly back to the United States. For the financial institutions, retail giants, and the owners and managers of manufacturing industries closely related to this nexus of power, these developments are heaven sent.

And well understood. In 2007, Ralph Gomory, head of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, testified before Congress, "In this new era of globalization, the interests of companies and countries have diverged. In contrast with the past, what is good for America's global corporations is no longer necessarily good for the American people."

Consider IBM. According to Business Week, by the end of 2008, more than 70 percent of IBM's work force of 400,000 was abroad. In 2009 IBM reduced its U.S. employment by another 8 percent.

For the work force, the outcome may be "grievous," in accordance with Smith's maxim, but it is fine for the principal architects of policy. Current research indicates that about one-fourth of U.S. jobs will be "offshorable" within two decades, and for those jobs that remain, security and decent pay will decline because of the increased competition from replaced workers.

This pattern follows 30 years of stagnation or decline for the majority as wealth poured into few pockets, leading to what has probably become the greatest inequality between the haves and the have-nots since the end of American slavery.

While China is becoming the world's assembly plant and export platform, Chinese workers are suffering along with the rest of the global work force. This is an unsurprising outcome of a system designed to concentrate wealth and power and to set working people in competition with one another worldwide.

Globally, workers' share in national income has declined in many countries-dramatically so in China, leading to growing unrest in that highly inegalitarian society.

So we have another significant shift in global power: from the general population to the principal architects of the global system, a process aided by the undermining of functioning democracy in the United States and other of the Earth's most powerful states.

The future depends on how much the great majority is willing to endure, and whether that great majority will collectively offer a constructive response to confront the problems at the core of the state capitalist system of domination and control.

If not, the results might be grim, as history more than amply reveals.

© 2010 The New York Times
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include: Failed States, What We Say Goes(with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Chris Hedges: Is America ‘Yearning For Fascism?’

Is America ‘Yearning For Fascism?’
by Chris Hedges article link article link
Published on Monday, March 29, 2010 by

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

"We are ruled not by two parties but one party," Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. "It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded."

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

"It is time for us to stop talking about right and left," McKinney told me. "The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized."

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators' offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says "Don't Retreat, Instead-RELOAD!" there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts "baby killer" at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, "In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented." It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

© 2010
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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James Howard Kunstler: Our Turn?

Our Turn?
by: James Howard Kunstler article link article link
Monday 29 March 2010 |

Nations go crazy. It's terrifying when it happens, especially to a major nation with the ability to project its craziness outward. We look back on the psychotic break of Germany in 1933 and still wonder how the then-best-educated population in Europe could fall under the sway of a sociopathic political program. We behold the carnage and devastation left in the wake of that episode, and decades later you still can do little more than shake your head in bewilderment.

China had a psychotic break in the 1960s in its "cultural revolution," provoked by the mad neo-emperor Mao. He sent cadres of Chinese baby boomer youths rampaging across the land, turned every institution upside down, and let millions starve. Mao's China lacked the ability then to export this mischief, but enough of his own people suffered.

Cambodia was the next humdinger of a national nervous breakdown when the Paris-educated classic marxist Pol Pot decided to make the world's biggest omelette by cracking a million eggs. He took everybody wearing eyeglasses, everybody who appeared to have a thought in his or her head, and sent them out to the bush to be worked to death, or shot in ditches, or disposed of otherwise. The mounds of skulls remain to tell the tale.

Lately we've had the Hutu-Tutsi genocides in Rwanda, the craziness in former Yugoslavia, the cruelty of Darfur, the international suicide-bomber craze (including today's blasts in Moscow). Surely, I've left a few out... but these are minor episodes compared to what be coming next.

Am I the only one who senses it might be America's turn to go nuts? I don't mean a family squabble, like the Boomer-Hippie-Vietnam uproar that was essentially an adolescent rebellion against bad parenting in the national household. I mean a genuine descent into madness, with the very high probability of persecution, violence, murder, and mayhem -- all more or less sponsored by various authorities and institutions.

The Republican Party is doing a great job in provoking such a dangerous episode by making consensual governance impossible in a time of awful practical problems and challenges. They're in the process, right now, of transforming themselves from the party of "no" to the party of no decency, no common sense, no ideas, no conception of the public interest, and no respect for the traditions that they pretend to stand for, like due process of law. In the days since the passage of health care reform, they've gone as far as inciting mobs to violence against their fellow congressmen and senators -- bricks thrown through windows, death threats made, coffins placed in the yards of their adversaries. One day soon, somebody with a gun or an explosive device, someone with a very sketchy sense-of-self, and perhaps a recent record of personal failure and humiliation, is going to sacrifice himself to become the Tea Party's first martyr by shooting up a shopping mall in some blue district.

Republican leaders' avidity to ally themselves with the followers of hate-monger entertainers like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the Fox News gang is only the beginning of the process that will lead to a political convulsion possibly worse than the one that started at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, 1861. If it comes, it will certainly be a far more incoherent conflict. The guerilla forces of the radical right will not know whether they are fighting for WalMart, or the Financial Services arm of General Electric, or against abortions, or for bigger and better freeways, or the rights of thoracic surgeons to drive families into bankruptcy, or against the idea of climate change, or evolution, or Jews-in-the-media, or their neighbors having something they feel envious about....

In the background, of course, is an economy just barely holding together with political baling wire and duct tape. It has very poor prospects for continuing in the way it was designed to run, on cheap oil and revolving debt. The upshot is an economy now destined for permanent contraction, and nobody has a plan for managing that contraction -- which will include awful failures in food production, in disintegrating water systems, electric grids, roadway systems, schools... really anything that requires ongoing public investment. It includes a financial system that cannot come up with capital deployable for productive purpose, or currencies that can be relied on to hold value, or markets that function without interference.

For its part, the Democratic Party has done a poor job of clearly articulating the realities of these things, and in actions like bailouts they've given the false impression that the nation can somehow engineer a return to the reckless hedonism of the late 20th century. My guess is that the situation is so desperate now that President Obama and his supporters can't risk telling the truth about the comprehensive contraction we face.

The health care reform act was a tortured way of dealing with some of this indirectly. It will absolutely lead to a kind of health care "rationing," but rationing is unavoidable in an economy where there is less of everything that people need, and fewer resources to spread around. The difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Republicans would prefer to see the rationing accomplished by money-grubbing health insurance companies denying coverage to policy-holders who get sick, or by the bankrupting of households (i.e. losers who deserve to die anyway), while the Democrats want to at least try to distribute what we can a little more fairly. The larger failure of both factions to emulate better systems running in sister societies like Canada and France is something that history will judge.

I was in favor of the health care reform act for the reason of that basic difference between the Right and the Left. For all its flaws -- and perhaps even the prospect that we are too far gone in national bankruptcy to ever get all its provisions running -- I believe it was necessary for our national morale to pass the bill, to prove that we could do something besides remain stuck in paralysis and bickering indefinitely. And it was necessary to smack down the Party of Cruelty, to inform ourselves that we are not quite ready to go completely crazy.

Whatever his flaws, omissions, and failures, I'm impressed with President Obama's ability to conduct himself like an adult, like a good father, in the face of the most unseemly provocations by his red-faced adversaries John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, and all the other apoplectic opportunists trying so desperately to turn the United States into a high-definition Jesus tele-theocracy of Perpetual NASCAR. As economic conditions worsen -- I believe they will -- I hope Mr. Obama can discipline these maniacs. I would like to see him start by instructing his attorney general to look into the connection between Republican officials (including staff members) and the threats of violence and murder that were made last week around the country.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of "The Long Emergency," the novel "World Made By Hand," and the sequel, "The Witch of Hebron, coming out in September from The Atlantic Monthly Press.

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A New And Living Way

MM Book 2 Chapter 10-3

“Faith [G4102 assurance; fidelity; root G3982 persuade; trust; obey; have confidence; believe] *OF* Christ”; Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism [BAPTISED COMMUNITY; A NEW AND LIVING WAY] into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should *walk* [G4043 be occupied; to make one's way; progress; to live; to regulate one's life; to conduct one's self] in newness [G2538 in the new state of life in which the Holy Spirit places us; G2537 a new kind; as respect to "form and substance"] of life [WALK IN *NEWNESS* OF LIFE; MESSIAH]; ** FAITH *OF* = LIVING FAITH ** — many have “faith *in* Christ” [secular-Christian-ity; the COG Inc.] but “faith *of* the world”, the “lie” as [dead] systemic [belief in; conviction of the truth of; trust in MAMMON]; Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [the works of the devil], that *henceforth* [at this moment, and from now on] WE SHOULD NOT SERVE [G1398 be in bondage; do service; to obey; to yield obedience to; to give one's self up to; G1401 one who gives himself up to another's will; a servant] SIN – WE ARE TO GIVE OURSELVES TO GOD’S WILL, AS HIS SERVANTS [ministrants], *NOT* SATAN – WE MUST BELIEVE GOD AND TRUST IN HIM, WE MUST LIVE BY FAITH *OF* CHRIST [as "the Anointed"] – WE ARE RECONCILED TO GOD BY CHRIST’S DEATH, WE ARE JUSTIFIED [freed; righteousness] BY CHRIST’S FAITH [faith *of*; ** His "being and doing" now ours **], AND WE ARE SAVED BY CHRIST’S LIFE: Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, ** but Christ liveth in me ** [we *are* Christ come in the flesh, His very body]: AND THE LIFE WHICH I *NOW* LIVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY THE FAITH *OF* THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME, AND *GAVE* HIMSELF [as "gift"] FOR ME.

MM Book 2 Chapter 10-4

Our observance of Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread [ULB] signifies this Living Faith [the seven annual Holy Days provide a deep understanding of God and of our place within His Family], Christ in us, in understanding Jesus Christ and our Baptism, the deep meaning and significance, YET WE DENY OUR RESPONSE-ABILITY(-IES) by our chosen “corporate form and its work”; the “lie” [strong delusion] – we acknowledge the Holy Spirit but NOT its working [working the selfsame Spirit], the ministration of its, and our, very gifts – the deep meaning and significance of the “bread” and “wine” includes the fact that we are “CHRIST COME IN THE FLESH”, that we are the very Body of Christ [His flesh and blood] and “washing each other’s feet” includes the fact of preparing and supporting each other’s ministry in deep humility and love !! – 1 Cor 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread [** UNLEAVENED BREAD ** OF SINCERITY AND TRUTH; MANNA; CHRIST, THE BREAD OF LIFE], and drink [this] cup [EXPERIENCE; LIVING WAY (our life = Ministry)] of the Lord, *unworthily*, shall be guilty [G1777 subject to; liable] of the body and blood of the Lord [SUBJECT TO THE "BODY" AND "BLOOD" OF CHRIST] … 29 For he that eateth and drinketh *unworthily* [G371 in an unworthy manner; G370 unfit for a thing; G514 befitting; congruous; corresponding to a thing; AS BEFITTING CHRIST HIMSELF; AS GOD IS SO ARE WE IN THE WORLD], eateth and drinketh *damnation* (2 Thess 2:10) [G2917 judgment, root G2919] to himself, ** not discerning ** [G1252 make a distinction; to separate] the Lord’s body – WE MUST COME OUT OF EGYPT, THE SINS OF THIS WORLD [physically and spiritually (the COG Inc.); we must withdraw, separate from the pharaoh's, the self-ordained], ** WE MUST MAKE THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MAMMON AND MESSIAH, OR ELSE WE TAKE THE PASSOVER UNWORTHILY; WE MUST DISCERN [to recognize as separate or different; to perceive or recognize the difference] THE BODY OF CHRIST ** - this has been, and is, ** our failure ** as the COG, and our spiritual illness is the result: 1 Cor 11:30 For this cause [not discerning] many are weak and sickly [G732 sick; without strength] among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge [G1252 discern; contend; separate] ourselves, we should not be judged [G2919 condemn (damned)].

MM Book 2 Chapter 10-5

*Only* God can know God, and it is “God in us”, that enables us to know Him, and to be response-”able” for Christ’s Ministry, NOW also *our* Ministry: the ministration of God’s Spirit, according to His Will and Purpose; the deep spiritual meaning of Passover includes the knowledge and acceptance of Christ ** living His life ** in our flesh [His very flesh now our flesh (unleavened bread); His "life" blood now our blood (cup of wine)] and of *our* Ministry, the very Ministry of Jesus Christ !! – THIS MUST BE OUR CONSCIOUSNESS, *NOT* WHAT IS PREVALENT IN-AND-OF THE WORLD [the hierarchy; COG INC.], STRIVING AGAINST THE SPIRIT AND DENYING GOD, DENYING OURSELVES GOD !! – those claiming the ministry of others, and then the support of those taken from, are of the SYNAGOGUE of SATAN, the ANTI-ANOINTED, and do *NOT* discern the Body of Christ, they believe the LIE [because they received *NOT* the "love" of the truth; GOD = LOVE, THEY RECEIVED NOT GOD !!] — the COG Inc., curricula [church as college; Ministers decreed in dogma by Degree], activities, media programming and religious indoctrination all portray corporatized-hierarchical, Mammonized ideas and institutions, in support of an apocalyptic creed and warning work; ** THIS PORTRAYAL OF GOD IS A BETRAYAL, A LIE **.

MM Book 2 Chapter 10 web page (widescreen)
MM Book 2 blog home


Holy Days: Family and Community

The Seven Annual Sabbaths

Our inherent value = love and truth; the communitarian way, the environment instituted in the pages of the OT and exemplified in the NT has a built-in reminder to maintain "the continual", the daily worship (the practise of the way): the annual Holy Days, the festivals; the shared symbolic behavior so important to fellowship and cognition.

The seven annual Sabbaths instituted forever not only the Holy Days [God's Plan of Salvation for humanity] but the way of life within, explicit in the harvest feasts: the communitarian way, the *path* [personal achievement of true humanity] - the first day of the sacred year (the annual beginning); the Passover (the sacrifice, the reconciliation, the acceptance; the SAGE attempt to silence); ULB (the putting away of sin, the commitment); Pentecost (the gift of God; a society of the gift); the fall harvest season, Trumpets, Atonement, FOT, LGD: the return Christ, of His message; the putting away of the adversary (Mammon; the alienated, privileged attitudes); the harvest feast (feast of booths, the millennium, the communal reconstruction); the judgement (the Book of Life opened; all of humanity to share in the way).

The Passover observance at even (sunset), in the NT the Last Supper; the wine and unleavened bread taken by the Baptised in acknowledgement of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus for the remission of sins and in rededication as the very flesh and blood of the "body of Christ"; the Night To Be Much Remembered, observed the next sunset, was instituted to remember the Exodus of Israel from Egypt (typifies sin), the 7 Days of Unleavened Bread [ULB] begin; they picture the removal of sin from our lives; no leavened bread or products of any kind (the puffed-up lives, attitudes); the first and last days are annual Sabbaths; next is Pentecost, which pictures God's Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Christian Community, the 3rd annual Sabbath.

The Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Christ; the Second Coming when Christ directly intervenes in world affairs and establishes the government or Kingdom of God over mankind; the beginning of the Millennium; the next event is pictured by the Day of Atonement; the binding and separation of Satan, the author of all sin (the transgression of God's Ten Commandments) away from mankind until after the Millennium; next is the Feast of Tabernacles [FOT] or Booths, a feast of ingathering, a seven day festival where we leave our homes and gather together if possible; it pictures the Millennium when Jesus Christ is Lord and King over all the earth, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mankind alive and born during the Millennium and the earth is prepared for the next great event to take place; that event is pictured by the Last Great Day [LGD], the resurrection of every man, woman and child who has ever lived/been conceived (including the stillborn and aborted, placed into their parents arms); the dead stand before God; this is the Great White Throne Judgement, not a condemnation to a hell as traditional Christianity believes, but a time when the "Book of Life" is opened to all of humanity and they are given their first opportunity to receive God's instruction, to learn his way of love based on the 10 Commandments and ultimately to be born into the very Family of God.

The spring (3 Sabbaths) and fall Holy Days (4 Sabbaths) picture the plan of redemption for mankind and are explained thoughout the Bible; by keeping them as commanded by God every year, the Church (the community) is kept in constant remembrance of God's plan for mankind and man's destiny to be born into the Family of God and ultimately to share in the rule and continuing creation of the universe.

MM Book 2 Chapter 10-17

When we come in contact with, or come up against, “character” that *lacks* God [in others or in ourselves], it is an opportunity to express God: INIQUITY PURGED BY MERCY AND TRUTH [mercy/forgiveness] – all of us have been casualties of the prevailing systemic character, the fear “bullet” [arrow] that is shot deep into us; God will heal the “inflicted wound”, and heal us !! — we must pull-back “for” engagement [from the evil; we are in conflict of interest]; WE MUST *OCCUPY* COMMUNITY, WE MUST *PLACE* GOD’S PRESENCE INTO WHEREVER WE ARE [location or situation]; GOD’S CHARACTER AND ABILITIES ARE OURS TO PLACE !! – WE *ARE* GOD FAMILY, WE EMBODY [our being] AND CREATE [our doing] COMMUNITY, THIS *IS* OUR RESPONSE-ABILITY !! — OUR MINISTRY [ministration] IS ** OUR RELATIONSHIP(S) **, OUR COMMUNITY !! – AGAPE LOVE IS THE GIFT, AND THE GIVING !!

“… The three main festivals in the Bible are Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – in the physical application Passover is the festival of political freedom, Tabernacles of economic freedom, and Pentecost, the central and most important, is a festival of spiritual freedom [see Harris L. Selig, "Links to Eternity", p. 370; Richard C. Nickels, Giving and Sharing, "Pentecost Paper"]:

PASSOVER = POLITICAL FREEDOM – EXODUS (out of bondage), Christ Systemic;
PENTECOST = SPIRITUAL FREEDOM – 10C, Covenant People, Holy Spirit, COG;

MM Book 2 Chapter 10 web page (widescreen)
MM Book 2 blog home


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passover Letter: Let God's People Go !!

A Passover Letter to the COG "Ministry": LET GOD'S PEOPLE GO !!

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But *it shall not be so among you*: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [G1249 diakonos; attendant]; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:42 But Jesus called them [to him], and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But *so shall it not be among you*: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister [G1249 diakonos; attendant]: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But *ye [shall] not [be] so*: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether [is] greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? [is] not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-44, and Luke 22:25-27 are clear definitions of, and a clear recognition that, an imposed systemic is employed within the COG [Church of God], ** in direct violation of Christ's instructions **. These testimonies clearly show that there is a very serious *error* within the COG which has caused and continues to cause extremely grievous repercussions !! "... For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might *destroy* the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. This is the purpose, the commission of the Church, to destroy the works of the devil, not to mimic and employ his systemic !! The nature of the beast is directing the COG, not the nature of God. We must understand that God does NOT desire to exercise lordship over us - it is Satan's desire to exercise dominion over others; God's purpose, desire, is the exact opposite: ** it is to serve His creation ** IN RELATIONSHIP, and this, our relationship, *is* the GOVERNMENT of GOD !!

The COG is not a hierarchy, a one-man rule with a professional ministry, ranking the "gifts of God," nor is it a professional eldership, with many "gifts of the ministry" within the eldership. The COG is a "ministry of gifts" imparted to all those within whom the Spirit of God resides, a common ministry of the brethren, each with a gift, or gifts that God has given them, freely sharing all that God has freely shared with them [in a reciprocal relationship, with each other and with God], for the edification of the body of Christ, for the work of the ministry, their ministry. The work of the ministry [the ministration of gifts] belongs to the entire body of believers, equipped, guided, and encouraged by a mutual sharing of God's gifts, to expound and apply His Word with wisdom and power.

The body of Christ is held together by every part working together. Each Christian has a ministry given to them by God - each has stewardship responsibilities, authority, and full accountability to God. There is no professional ministry, no corporate church [the COG Inc.], no ranking of spiritual gifts, no division into ministry and laity, no copyrighting of God's truth [God owns the copyright; no money, no price]. No man has the right to put his name on any understanding given by God, an understanding to be placed on the common table, in proper humility [with no thought of reward or recognition], for all to eat. We are all brethren, no more, no less !! The COG is not a business, the COG Family is a community !!

The COG community is patterned on local, autonomous, loosely-confederated congregations, with those mature in the spirit [elders] chosen within each, gently leading in servant authority, leading by persuasive example [we love Christ because He first loved us], not bosses over God's church, not imposing, but guiding [as arbiter with Christ] each congregation in their gifted dialogue, their reasoning together, with the spirit of God leading, to an understanding of the truth of God, and abiding in that truth.

Christ's desire is to use the church-community to show the world a wholly new form of authority. But this new form of authority is nullified by the top-down, command-style structure that prevails in the COG today. The Gospel is negated even before it is proclaimed, because we deny its power with the way we conduct our lives and our church business. As a result, God is robbed of His glory and His image is distorted before the watching world. Nothing could be more serious than this !!

The COG must withdraw out of this world's systemic [be ye separate; be not partakers], we must withdraw out of its unholy and unrighteous ways into God's separate and self-sufficient community [Holy and Righteous in *all* our ways; a *living* witness]. How we stand in *relation* to our fellow man and his society as his future judge [1 Cor 6:2, the saints shall judge the world, the angels] is paramount. We cannot partake of another's sin, or be the cause or occasion of the same, or our role as judge is negated !! The COG systemic must be *of God* NOT of man [we are under judgment now]; how can we mete out judgment when we are guilty of complicity in the very sins being judged ?? The COG must be the alternative community, the *full* preaching and witness [our citizenship wholly conformed to the Gospel], the light that the world can see and turn to. We must not participate in this imposed, evil systemic [the false god of business and its monetary system, its instrumentality of oppression], helping to build holocaust, while at the same time planning our escape. God's people must strive to be self-sufficient in *all* their ways, ie., negative-interest community currency(-ies) used within the confederated, communitarian community-congregations.

Our withdrawal into God's community is only possible if we truly go to our scattered brethren [in love, in prayer, trusting in God] to resolve any differences [instead of accusing, marking, calling our judgment "tough love"]; we have more in common than in difference [the carnal wall of division and strife is money, position, and personality]. The COG has a different mind [God's mind], a different attitude [Holy, righteous, spiritual character], and a different purpose in life [to destroy the works of the devil]. The COG walks a different path, guided by God's MAP [mind, attitude, purpose] and spiritual compass [the Holy Spirit showing us the way]. The work of the COG is to believe on Christ [John 6:29], to be committed unto, to be persuaded of, to trust, to follow Christ, in all of His Ways. All things are possible with God !!

The various COG Inc.'s must be disestablished in total. Restitution must be made to *all* brethren [past and present; we must forgive each other]. God's people must be let go, must be set free by the professional ministry, who are opposing God both in mind and in form. They too, must take their proper place within God's ministry of gifts. We must all go to God in deep humility, in weeping and mourning, and ask for His forgiveness. We must ask God to lead us into His righteous community, to establish His community filled with agape love and healing !! We must repair the breach, and restore the paths to *dwell* in. The Ministry of Reconciliation begins within the Church of God.


Jeremy Rifkin: The Age of Empathy

A new generation of scientists, scholars, and social reformers are beginning to challenge dominant narratives of human nature that inform our cultural and political debates. The notion that reason is the apex of human consciousness is giving way to an 'Age of Empathy', writes Jeremy Rifkin.

Stepping Up To The Age of Empathy
by Jeremy Rifkin article link article link
2nd March 2010 - Published by The Huffington Post

While our radio talk shows and 24-hour cable TV news programs incessantly play off the political rift between conservative and liberal ideologies, the deeper conflict in America has always been the cultural divide between faith versus reason.

At the dawn of the modern market economy and nation-state era, the philosophers of the Enlightenment challenged the Age of Faith that governed over the feudal economy with the Age of Reason. Theologians and philosophers have continued to battle over faith vs. reason ever since, their debates often spilling over into the cultural and political arenas, with profound consequences for society.

Today, however, at the outset of a global economy and the biosphere era, a new generation of scientists, scholars, and social reformers are beginning to challenge some of the underlying assumptions of both the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason, taking us into the Age of Empathy.

The empathic advocates argue that, for the most part, both earlier narratives about human nature fail to plumb the depths of what makes us human and therefore leave us with cosmologies that are incomplete stories--that is, they fail to touch the deepest realities of existence. That's not to dismiss the critical elements that make the stories of faith and reason so compelling. It's only that something essential is missing--and that something is "embodied experience."

Both the Abrahamic faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--as well as the Eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, either disparage bodily existence or deny its importance. So too does modern science and most of the rational philosophers of the Enlightenment. For the former, especially the Abrahamic faiths, the body is fallen and a source of evil. Its presence is a constant reminder of the depravity and mortality of human nature. For the latter, the body is mere scaffolding to maintain the mind, a necessary inconvenience to provide sensory perception, nutrients, and mobility. It is a machine the mind uses to impress its will on the world. It is even loathed because of its transient nature. The body is a constant reminder of death, and therefore, feared, disparaged and dismissed in the world's great religions and among many of the Enlightenment philosophers.

Most of all, the body is to be mistrusted, especially the emotions that flow from its continuous engagement with and reaction to the outside world. Neither the Bible nor the Enlightenment ruminations make much room for human emotions, except to depreciate them as untrustworthy and an impediment either to obedience to God in the first instance or to the rational will in the second instance.

In the modern era, with its emphasis on rationality, objectivity, detachment, and calculability, human emotions are considered irrational, quixotic, impossible to objectify, not subject to detached evaluation, and difficult to quantify. Even today, it is common lore not to let one's emotions get in the way of sound reasoning and judgment. How many times have we heard someone say or have said to someone else, "Try not to be so emotional . . . try to behave more rationally." The clear message is that emotions are of a lesser ilk than reason. They are too carnal and close to our animal passions to be considered worthy of being taken seriously--and worse still, they pollute the reasoning process.

The Enlightenment philosophers--with a few notable exceptions--eliminated the very mortality of being. To be alive is to be physical, finite, and mortal. It is to be aware of the vulnerability of life and the inevitability of death. Being alive requires a continuous struggle to be and comes with pain, suffering, and anguish as well as moments of joy. How does one celebrate life or mourn the passing of a relative or friend or enter into an intimate relationship with another in a world devoid of feelings and emotions?

New developments in evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and psychology are laying the groundwork for a wholesale reappraisal of human consciousness. The premodern notion that faith and God's grace are the windows to reality and the Enlightenment idea that reason is at the apex of modern consciousness are giving way to a more sophisticated approach to a theory of mind.

Researchers in a diverse range of fields and disciplines are beginning to reprioritize some of the critical features of faith and reason within the context of a broader empathic consciousness. They argue that all of human activity is embodied experience--that is, participation with the other--and that the ability to read and respond to another person "as if " he or she were oneself is the key to how human beings engage the world, create individual identity, develop language, learn to reason, become social, establish cultural narratives, and define reality and existence.

If empathic consciousness flows from embodied experience and is a celebration of life--our own and that of other beings--how do we square it with faith and reason, which are disembodied ways of looking at reality and steeped in the fear of death?

When we deconstruct the notion of faith, we find that at the core are three essential pillars: awe, trust, and transcendence. The religious impulse begins with the sense of awe, the feeling of the wonder of existence, both the mystery and majesty. Awe is the deepest celebration of life. We marvel at the overwhelming nature of existence, and sense that by our own aliveness, we somehow fit into the wonder we behold.

Although faith is set in motion by a feeling of awe and requires a belief that one's life has meaning in a larger, universal sense of things, it can be purloined and made into a social construct that exacts obedience, feeds on fear of death, is disembodied in its approach, and establishes rigid boundaries separating the saved from the damned. Many institutionalized religions do just that.

It is awe that inspires all human imagination. Without awe, we would be without wonder and without wonder we would have no way to exercise imagination and would therefore be unable to imagine another's life "as if" it were our own. We know that empathy is impossible without imagination. Imagination, however, is impossible without wonder, and wonder is impossible without awe. Empathy represents the deepest expression of awe, and understandably is regarded as the most spiritual of human qualities.

But faith also requires trust--the willingness to surrender ourselves to the mystery of existence at both the cosmic level and at the level of everyday life with our fellow beings. Trust becomes indispensable to allowing empathy to grow, and empathy, in turn, allows us to plumb the divine presence that exists in all things. Empathy becomes the window to the divine. It is by empathic extension that we transcend ourselves and begin connecting with the mystery of existence.

In the empathic civilization, spirituality invariably replaces religiosity. Spirituality is a deeply personal journey of discovery in which empathic experience--as a general rule--becomes the guide to making connections, and becomes the means to foster transcendence. The World Values Survey and countless other polls show a generational shift in attitudes toward the divine, with the younger generation in the industrialized nations increasingly turning away from institutionalized religiosity and toward personal spiritual quests that are empathic in nature.

Reason too can be salvaged from its disembodied Enlightenment roots and be recast within an embodied empathic frame. While reason is most often thought of in terms of rationalization, that is, abstracting and classifying phenomena, usually with the help of quantifiable tools of measurement, it is more than that. Reason includes mindfulness, reflection, introspection, contemplation, musing, and pondering, as well as rhetorical and literary ways of thinking. Reason is all of this and more. When we think of reason, we generally think of stepping back from the immediacy of an experience and probing our memories to see if there might be an analogous experience that could help us make the appropriate judgment or decisions about how best to respond.

The critical question is where does reason come from? The Cartesian and Kantian idea that reason exists independently of experience as an a priori phenomenon to be accessed does not conform to the way we reason in the real world. Reason is a way of organizing experience and relies on many mental tools. The point, however, is that reason is never disembodied from experience but rather a means of understanding and managing it.

Experience, as we learned earlier, begins with sensations and feelings that flow from engagement with others. While one's sensations and feelings make possible the initial connection with the other, they are quickly filtered by way of past memories and organized by the various powers of reason at our disposal to establish an appropriate emotional, cognitive, and behavioral response. The entire process is what makes up empathetic consciousness. Empathy is both an affective and cognitive experience.

If empathy did not exist, we could not understand why we feel the way we do, or conceptualize something called an emotion or think rationally. Many scholars have mistakenly associated empathy with just feelings and emotions. If that were all it was, empathic consciousness would be an impossibility.

Reason, then, is the process by which we order the world of feelings in order to create what psychologists call pro-social behavior and sociologists call social intelligence. Empathy is the substance of the process. Reason becomes increasingly sophisticated as societies become more complex, human differentiation more pronounced, and human exchange more diverse. Greater exposure to others increases the volume of feelings that need to be organized. Reason becomes more adept at abstracting and managing the flood of embodied feelings. That's not to say that reason can't also be used to exploit others, for example, to advance narcissistic ends or create terror among people.

By reimagining faith and reason as intimate aspects of empathic consciousness, we create a new historical synthesis--the Age of Empathy--that incorporates many of the most powerful and compelling features of the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason, while leaving behind the disembodied story lines that shake the celebration out of life.

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