"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
This Class War Started
2. Spain's communist model village
3. Universities putting
research before teaching, says
4. The Business of America Is War
5. Right-Wing Ideology Run Wild
6. September 11th and Pearl Harbor
There are six crisis
items today, and they are mostly about backgrounds or generalities:
Hedges wants a class war; Hancox discovered a Spanish communist
village; Willets argues universities do too little teaching; Astore
describes the present day military-industrial
Henderson argues much of US business is war related; and I end with a
reference to some 5 hours of video about 9/11.
The first is longest,
and there I also clarify my own position as regards politics (somewhat).
Get This Class War Started
The first piece is by Chris
Hedges, who has identified himself as "a socialist", which I remark
mainly because of his title and argument, because I do not know in what
sense (probably not quite what I think, as an European), and also
because I am not, in most plausible European senses of the term:
This starts as follows -
and I do recommend you read all of it, because most of the arguments
are plausible, and it is well written:
“The rich are different from us,” F. Scott
Fitzgerald is said to have remarked to Ernest Hemingway, to which
Hemingway allegedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”
The exchange, although it never actually took
place, sums up a wisdom Fitzgerald had that eluded Hemingway. The rich
are different. The cocoon of wealth and privilege permits the rich to
turn those around them into compliant workers, hangers-on, servants,
flatterers and sycophants. Wealth breeds, as Fitzgerald illustrated in
“The Great Gatsby” and his short story “The Rich Boy,” a class of
people for whom human beings are disposable commodities. Colleagues,
associates, employees, kitchen staff, servants, gardeners, tutors,
personal trainers, even friends and family, bend to the whims of the
wealthy or disappear. Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and
political power, as they have in the United States, the citizens too
There is a lot more, and I
will quote a little more, but before doing that I should somewhat
clarify my own position (with links mostly to my Philosophical
- I am the oldest son of
parents, who were in the (real, communist) resistance to the Nazis
during WW II, in which my father and
his father were arrested, convicted as "political terrorists" by
collaborating Dutch judges, and sent to the concentration
camp, that my grandfather did not survive.
- I studied philosophy and
psychology, and got academic degrees in both, also both with excellent
- I have been ill since 1.1.1979, when I was 28, and have never
earned more than dole money, which makes me one of the poorest Dutchmen
(but I survive and live without debts, and the last thing is
also quite rare among Dutchmen, especially these days - and many
Dutchmen have big loans for houses or cars).
- I gave up on Marx and Marxism when I
was 20, in 1970, for intellectual reasons (not for
ethical or moral reasons, for there my parents and I mostly agreed, and
certainly not for political reasons), in which I was quite unlike the
majority of the Dutch students, who did not know Marx well or at all,
but who often got "Marxist" or "feminist" or at the very least
"socialist", because that was quite fashionable, until well into the
- Politically speaking, I
am a classic liberal,
more or less in the sense of Mill, rather than
those coming after him who claimed to be "liberal", but I have kept
away from all political parties and from voting since 1971,
because I think politics-as-is comes down to either deluding or being
deluded (aka deceiving or being deceived)
or indeed, as often, both.
- But I do know much
more about politics,
and psychology than almost anyone, because I am very intelligent, have
no TV, no job, and no health, which also
made it possible for me to read for at least 48 years now.
- From my point of view -
that is also wholly a-religious: I am and always was an atheist - the
main differences between people are intellectual and ethical,
and the majority is - by and large - not intelligent
and not ethical,
though most are moral
by social constraint, but also mostly egoistic.
- I do not care for
politics, as long as people are free, unsurveilled, live in a non-totalitarian
and open society, and everyone makes a decent wage and has fair
leisure, all of which has been quite possible the last 100 years or so
people, especially those in power, since it are
always the minorities who determine things, want it.
- Personally, I do not
care if - provided the last point holds - some have much more
than others, though I also think no one's economic worth
entitles him or her to more than 10 to 15 times in salary as much as
me, or as
the lowest decent wage. (This was the norm for some 40 years in
Holland, but has been giving up in favor of giving a very few millions
a year, for no good reason at all, except that they have
- Also, I am most in favor
of a mixed system: We all depend on tenthousands of others, to
get the things we need, and some sort of mixture of socialism and liberalism
probably is best, and that also includes a properly
There is a lot more I could
say at this point, but this is clear enough, and anyway I am in a
minority, and always have been, and the main reason for me to be in a
minority are intellectual and ethical differences with most others.
Now back to Chris Hedges,
whom I like and think I understand mostly, but whom I do not agree with
politically or philosophically - and most of my not understanding him
has to do with his being an American, which I never even visited, and
my being a European, and possibly also with his having a fairly rich
background, while I had a very poor one, at least in Dutch terms.
I have the following
disagreements with him, it seems:
First, about rich
people: I do not think them much worse than those who are not rich -
they just have much more chances to do what they want, and like most,
they mostly care for themselves, their families and friends, and few
others. I see no reason to assume most poor would behave much or any
better than most of the rich.
Hedges writes - among
My hatred of authority,
along with my loathing for the pretensions, heartlessness and sense of
entitlement of the rich, comes from living among the privileged. It was
a deeply unpleasant experience.
I am quite willing to
believe him, but in my experience the poor are not much better, for the
most part, and I have all my life been poor - in a Dutch context, which
was quite well compared to most countries - and I am older than Hedges.
Second, Hedges writes:
Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx all began
from the premise there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the
Yes, and I agree, but two
of my points are, first, that this has always been so, everywhere, in
each type of society, and second, that it is now possible, thanks to
science, to feed, clothe, house and take care of people in much better
ways than it used to be - in principle, if people want, and if they are
reasonable. (But in fact often they do not want, and often they are not
Also, since I have read all those Hedges lists, I may also be point
out that only Marx was a socialist and a communist: the others drew other
consequences from the same (sort of) facts viz. that there always
- for at least 2500 years - have been a few rich and many who were not
rich, in almost any more or less developed society.
Third, about classes and
class war: Hedges cites Marx, to the following effect:
“The ruling ideas
are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material
relationships,” Marx wrote, “the dominant material relationships
grasped as ideas.”
That is the sort of baloney
(amongst a lot more) that made me give up Marx: There is much
more to the "ruling ideas" than is (somehow) caused by "the dominant material relationships", and indeed societies are not
determined by their economies. (Also, the expression is quite unclear,
but let's assume "the dominant material relationships" are the fact that there are rich and poor,
or capitalists and proletarians, or bankers and non-bankers.)
Fourth, more specifically,
Class struggle defines
most of human history. Marx got this right. The sooner we realize that
we are locked in deadly warfare with our ruling, corporate elite, the
sooner we will realize that these elites must be overthrown.
No, Marx got that wrong: History depends
on much more than "class struggle" (which anyway seems to be
based on a category
mistake: there are no classes, in the way Marx believed: there are
and individuals, and while the rich and the poor mostly have been
opposed, "class struggle" simplifies too much).
What I do agree with is
that the current political and economical elites are mostly rotten
(which may have been the case always, in any developed society:
real bastards make a lot more chance of becoming rich or
powerful); the reasons why they are, are quite diverse; and there is no
reason to suppose their opponents will do much or any better, after a
revolution, as can be
seen - for example - from the socialist revolutions that happened in
Russia, in 1917,
and China, in 1948.
Fifth, here is Hedges'
It is an old
battle. It has been fought over and over in human history. We never
seem to learn. It is time to grab our pitchforks.
I agree that it is an old
battle. But if "we never seem to learn", there is little to hope, and
nothing to fight for; and to fight with "pitchforks" against the modern
military machine or police apparatus is to invite destruction.
Then again, Chris Hedges is
an honorable man (quite straightly, without Shakespearean overtones)
and means well, and I also agree with his diagnosis of the actual facts
more than I disagree, but I also see neither much of a hope nor much of
a chance to start a "class war" in the existing situation.
But I think he deserves
reading and he also knows more about the US than I do, and he is
certainly right in considerable parts of his analysis.
2. Spain's communist model village
Immediately following Chris
Hedges's analysis, here is some news about a sort of communist
experiment in a little Spanish village, that at least has had limited success. The article is by Dan
Hancox, in the Guardian:
Here is the first paragraph:
In 2004, I was
leafing through a travel guide to Andalusia while on holiday in
Seville, and read a fleeting reference to a small, remote village
called Marinaleda – "a communist utopia" of revolutionary farm
labourers, it said. I was immediately fascinated, but I could find
almost no details to feed my fascination. There was so little
information about the village available beyond that short summary,
either in the guidebook, on the internet, or on the lips of strangers I
met in Seville. "Ah yes, the strange little communist village, the
utopia," a few of them said. But none of them had visited, or knew
anyone who had – and no one could tell me whether it really was a
utopia. The best anyone could do was to add the information that it had
a charismatic, eccentric mayor, with a prophet's beard and an almost
demagogic presence, called Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo.
There is quite a bit more, and
indeed Hancox also wrote a book about it. I do not think it proves
anything much, except that it is possible - in a small community,
probably mostly due to their mayor - to have a society going, for quite
a while now, that is in some ways socialist, and is not dictatorial.
putting research before teaching, says minister
Next, a piece that is
only here because I wrote yesterday about the great declines in
education I have seen the last 43 years:
This begins as follows
It is not to be thought that I
agree with an English conservative minister, but it ends thus:
Universities need a
"cultural change" towards teaching, the universities minister, David Willetts,
has argued, as a survey of UK undergraduates showed they were being set
less work and received notably less tutor feedback than did their peers
50 years ago.
Willetts, writing in a
pamphlet published to mark the anniversary of the 1963 report by the
academic Lord Robbins that paved the way for a significant expansion in
university education, says the higher education system has become "so lopsided away
from teaching" that universities need to fundamentally rethink their
role and priorities.
Here the first paragraph
agrees with my diagnosis, but the last paragraph - even more
"university"-students - is utter baloney, or indeed shows that what are
now called "universities" have already been so much degraded
that virtually anyone can take them and "graduate".
The study also showed
that 2012 students were obliged on average to submit one piece of
written work a fortnight, as against one a week for those in 1963.
While some critics argue
that the post-Robbins and, particularly, post-1992 expansion of
universities has helped bring about this situation, in his pamphlet
Willetts explicitly argues for greater numbers of students still,
suggesting that within 20 or so years student numbers could rise by
Business of America Is War
Next, a piece by William Astore that I found on Alternet, but that
originates from TomDispatch:
This is by a retired USAF
lieutenant colonel, and starts as follows:
There is a new
normal in America: our government may shut down, but our wars
continue. Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the U.S.
military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the
Afghan War can still be prosecuted,
Italy can be garrisoned by American troops (putting the
“empire” back in Rome), Africa can be used as an imperial
playground (as in the late nineteenth century “scramble for Africa,” but with the U.S. and China
doing the scrambling this time around), and the military-industrial
complex can still dominate the world’s arms trade.
And that is indeed a problem,
as he proceeds to explain.
5. Right-Wing Ideology Run Wild
Next, a piece by Lawrence Henderson, who teaches history, in Consortium
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed, and "free market"
is mostly a slogan, and a contradictory one: A real market exists only
when quite a few things are regulated, and else it soon becomes
In the Eighteenth
Century, the western world shifted from mercantilism to capitalism.
Mercantilism was an economic system that gave governments wide-ranging
regulatory powers over commerce, mostly to ensure a positive balance of
trade. It also allowed for strong guild structures and protection for
domestic industries. But the Industrial Revolution ended mercantilism
and brought to power a business class that wanted to be free to operate
without government oversight.
In the generations that
followed, as this capitalist worldview evolved, the business class made
a fetish out of the “free market” and viewed government as, at best, a
necessary evil. Any sort of regulation was seen as the equivalent of
slavery, and the proper role of officialdom was reduced to maintaining
internal order (police), defending the realm (military) and enforcing
contracts (the courts).
Henderson says more things that are right, such as:
Ideology is a
of debilitating shortsightedness. It replaces reality with an idealized
version that usually has too little to do with the real world to be
And he ends thus:
All such shortsighted
ideologies, be they of the Right or the Left, have proven unrealistic
and so have failed. Unfortunately, they have wreaked havoc in the
meantime. We have only seen a shadow of the potential for damage of the
present ideological challenge. Let’s hope we can avoid its full force.
I agree if only because (1)
there is no potential to start "a class war", with anything like a
chance of success, while (2) if it would succeed, it probably
wrecks enormous havoc, and ends up as it did in Russia and China: as a
6. September 11th and Pearl Harbor
Finally, a reference for those
who want to look at nearly 5 hours of video, from Washington's Blog:
These are three videos of
circa 1 1/2 hours each, that are completely free and well made, by
Massimo Mazzucco, about the events of 9/11.
I have so far seen two of the three, and it does seem more likely to me
that 9/11 was engineered, by
persons like Cheney and Rumsfeld, in order to reap the advantages they
- and their backers in industry and the military-industrial
complex - in fact have reaped.
Then again, I do not think this (the real truth about 9/11, if it can
be established at all, which seems doubtful) is very important, but for
some Americans and others it may well be, and as I said, the videos I
saw are well made, and are completely free.
oct 2013:I added a few links, corrected a few lapses, and inserted
some qualifying terms.
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should
not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part
of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more proper
that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same
principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some
particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and
the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I
quote from is quite pertinent.)
About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.:
The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1.