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  October
21, 2013
Crisis: class war, communism, universities, war, right-wing ideology, 9/11
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Let’s Get This Class War Started
  2. Spain's communist model village
  3. Universities putting research before teaching, says
       minister

  4. The Business of America Is War
  5. Right-Wing Ideology Run Wild
  6. September 11th and Pearl Harbor
About ME/CFS

Introduction

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 complex; 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).

1. Let’s 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 become disposable.

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 Dictionary):

  • I am the oldest son of genuinely marxist 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 marks, but
  • 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 1980ies.
  • 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, history, philosophy 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 - provided 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 power/influence.)
  • 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 regulated capitalism.

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 other things:

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:

Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx all began from the premise there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the masses.

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 reasonable.)

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, Hedges writes:

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 only groups 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' ending:

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.

3. Universities 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

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.

It is not to be thought that I agree with an English conservative minister, but it ends thus:

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 another 25%.

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".
4. The 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 News:

This starts as follows:

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).

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 a war.

Henderson says more things that are right, such as:
Ideology is a form of debilitating shortsightedness. It replaces reality with an idealized version that usually has too little to do with the real world to be workable.

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 dictatorship.

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.

---------------------------------
P.S. 22 oct 2013:I added a few links, corrected a few lapses, and inserted some qualifying terms.
Note

[1] 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 Greenwald:
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. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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