With permission from
Norbert Wilson who joined the Friedman School as a professor of food policy, has been investigating food waste, building on his past research on food choice, domestic hunger, food banking and the international trade of food products. What motivates people to spend good money on food they don’t intend to eat?
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, a staggering 1.3 billion tons — is lost or wasted every year.
The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to an exaggerated use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food.
When Wilson turned his attention to issues related to food waste, he theorized that consumers buy food even when they’re aware they may not finish it. It’s a concept that anyone who has purchased a container of sour cream can understand–we buy it knowing we may toss the container with a hefty portion still clinging to the sides.
Wilson found a clue in 2013, when the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report showing that a substantial portion of America’s $160 billion food-waste problem could be traced to those “use by” and “sell by” dates on food containers. It turns out that many consumers, worried that food that has passed the date on its packaging is no longer worth eating, throw out plenty of perfectly good stuff. Could consumers be thinking about those labels as they buy the food?
To find out, Wilson devised an experiment that involved putting differently worded date labels on yogurt, cereal and salad greens. The labels used a variety of terms–“use by,” “best by,” “sell by” and “fresh by”–and included an expiration date. Wilson wanted to know whether certain language would result in people buying food with a greater expectation that they would waste some of it–what Wilson and his colleagues called the “willingness to waste.”
The 200 participants in the study were asked to examine food carrying the different labels and then say how much of each product they expected their household to consume. In nearly every case, the subjects’ answers indicated that they would be more willing to toss out food if it had the “use by” wording. The researchers theorized that may have been because “use by” implies that the food would no longer be safe to eat after that date.
The study found that date labels were influential even when it came to a food like boxed cereal, which is less vulnerable to spoilage. In fact, the willingness to waste was actually higher for cereal than it was for more perishable items like yogurt and bagged salad.
The cereal example also showed that the perception of a bargain can influence willingness to waste amounts. For instance, when participants in the study perceived that they were getting a better deal by buying a larger box of cereal (think Costco-size double boxes of Cheerios), they anticipated wasting more of it, even if the “use by” date was a year in the future.
“I was surprised by how strong a response they had to the cereal,” Wilson said, “and that people were willing to waste more when they saw the larger size.” The pitfall for consumers, he said, is that tossing more of the cereal may have canceled out the savings they thought they were getting.
The findings imply that the way foods are packaged can enable waste. Tweaking package sizes may keep consumers from buying more than they’ll eat. But one wide-reaching change would be to standardize date labels–currently unregulated at the federal level–so that they have a consistent meaning. “To move forward on reducing food waste,” Wilson said, “we will need collaborations between industry, consumer groups and the government to change labels.”
Lost and Tossed
“Loss” means food that doesn’t make it to market, while “waste” is the term for food that stores, restaurants and consumers toss. Loss is a greater concern in developing countries, accounting for 84 to 95 percent of the food that goes uneaten there. Waste is a bigger problem in higher-income countries, where about a third of uneaten food is simply squandered. Researchers see chances to fight both problems all along the supply chain.
Harvests lost to poor storage and contamination. Farmers in low-income countries often can’t protect harvested crops from the elements and pests. Simple technologies, such as metal silos, could help. Some farmers cut their losses by 40 percent when they started using specialized plastic storage bags.
Food lost in packaging and handling. Without refrigeration or other ways to preserve them, foods wilt and spoil. Rough handling damages produce and hurries rot.
Food wasted by stores and restaurants. American stores toss about 43 billion pounds of food per year–from dented melons to discontinued cookies to ham that is nearing its “sell by” date. Restaurants cook abundant amounts and then dump what’s left at the end of the day.
Food wasted at home. What with buying too much, serving too much and not storing food properly, an average American family throws away up to $2,200 worth of food every year.
Setting the Stage of the Press-President War
US ruling ideology and Washington power have become unstuck as never before. A war of opposing certitudes and denunciations is waged day to day between the long-ruling US corporate media and the White House. Both continuously proclaim ringing recriminations of the other’s ‘fake news’. Over months they both portray each other as malevolent liars.
US bully pulpits are now beyond show disagreements and successful media inquisitions of the past. Slanderous accusations long confined to vilifying the designated Enemy have crept into accusations of the President himself. ‘The Russians are coming’ is returning as the final recourse of smear to stop deviations from the global program of hugely profitable enemy hate and perpetual preparations for foreign war.
The ruling big lies of the US money party and corporate globalization have divided into opposing camps. The Press and the President denounce each other non-stop on the public stage, while US dark state agents take sides behind the scenes.
Fake news is the medium of battle.
Tracking the Real Fake News Built into Corporate Globalization
Beneath the civil war of official narratives, cognitive space opens for truth long suffocated by ‘the Washington Consensus’. Even the US-led G-20 has recently agreed not to automatically condemn ‘protectionism’ as an economic evil. The battle slogan of transnational corporate rule over 30 years has been quietly withdrawn on the global stage.
Is the big lie of ‘free trade’ finally coming to ground? It has long led the hollowing out of societies and life support systems across the world in a false mass promotion as “freedom and prosperity for all”. In fact beneath the pervasive fake news, a closed-door transnational corporate command system forces all enterprises across borders into a carbon-multiplying trade regime with thousands of rules to protect the transnational corporate looting and ruin of home economies and environments as the only rights enforced.
Propagandist names and fake freedoms are proclaimed everywhere to conceal the reality. The corporate-investor regime has stripped out almost all evolved protections of workers, ecologies and social infrastructures. Non-stop liquidations and roboticizations of local jobs and enterprises are reversed in meaning to ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ and ‘higher living standards’, the very opposite of the facts. Destabilization and bombing wars attack resource-rich and air-defenceless societies outside the circle of treaty subjugation.
False news allows every step. Even the happy-face Trudeau regime is taken aback by the tidal shift to national priorities. Its ministers scuttle around the US in near panic to find common cause for restoring the unaccountable regime. Multiplying carbon, disemployment and ecological plunder are ignored throughout in the longest standing fake news of all –‘economic growth”.
In fact, there is no real economic growth in universal life necessities or reduction of waste. The only growth is of volumes and velocities of transnational money exchanges, foreign commodities, and private profits to the top.
‘More prosperity for nations and the world’ means, decoded, more transnational corporate-state treaties to deprive nations of their rights to organization and production for citizens’ real needs as well as organically regulated protection of environments and ecosystems.
The consequences covered over by pervasively false cover stories are speeded-up ecocidal extractions, permanent disemployments, and wastes hemorrhaging into cumulatively more polluted oceans, air, atmosphere and life habitats. Corporate-state solutions of carbon markets for pollution rights have nowhere reduced any of these life-and-death crises, but only further and selectively enriched transnational corporations.
As for the Obama solution, “we need more Canadas”, fake news again conceals the reality. Beneath the global celebrity hype covering empty and broken promises, Canada’s Trudeau regime is essentially a brand change of PM rhetoric to advance transnational corporate dictates as ‘free trade’ and to ensure oil pipelines out of the most polluting oil basin in the world, Alberta’s tar-sands, are built through water basins and indigenous lands across Canada and the US. One cannot help but observe this is Trump’s plan too, and overrides Trudeau’s promises to protect Canada’s first peoples.
I recently sent a letter to my local MP requesting evidence for what PM Trudeau promises over months of repetition that “more free trade” means “a better life for those in the middle class and those wanting to join the middle class”. As always, there is no evidence to support the non-stop false news from the PMO. Revealingly, the “middle class” turns out to be people making $180,000 a year slated to get significant tax cuts.
Trump’s rogue elephant charge on Washington-led lies, war, and dispossession of the working class is no solution to life-blind corporate globalization. Trump in office is a US nationalist oligarch commanding policies even more blindly rapacious in despoliation of the environment and transferring far more public wealth to the rich.
The common ground of all our lives, collective life capital, does not exist for any government in ‘the free world’ or any policy of ‘globalization’. The lies that must be promulgated to advance the private corporate agenda are built into its transnational command system from the beginning.
Out of the Ruling Memory Hole with the Internet Commons
Joining the dots shows that every step of US money-party ‘globalization’ has, in fact, been driven by fake news.
No corporate media tolerance has been given in a quarter of a century to any voice demanding accountability to the common life-ground of citizens. A new game of numbers has proceeded instead. At most, a euphemistic ‘climate change’ has been endlessly debated while the totalizing destabilization of human and planetary life cycles remains without a name or collective response. Only more profitable market panaceas which do not reduce any pollution continue to divert from the deepest degenerate trends destroying the planetary life host.
On the upside, the big lies of ‘free trade’ and ‘humanitarian wars’ have been called into official question for the first time by the Trump presidential campaign, and he has been elected against the official line. Yet opposing camps are still at each other’s throats. So the perpetual fallback on accusing the long-designated foreign enemy is triggered by the fallen establishment. The fake news chorus of Russia’s aggressions now includes collusion of the Trump administration with its officials to win the US election. This mainspring diversion from reality is called back from the dead witch-hunts of the past. As then tool, facts do not count, only accusations do. The official media line is almost predictable: Russia is behind Trump’s election victory. As always, reverse projection is the mass-psyche operation to blame an official Enemy to divert attention from the life-and-death facts. The Enemy is once again accused of doing what the US has always done worse as the reason for attacking It. Russia is the usual placeholder in this reverse-blame operation. The 2016 US election of Trump is the latest variation.
Meanwhile throughout the election and its aftermath, the new transnational internet commons including Wiki-leaks over a decade has increasingly laid bare the greatest propaganda machine in history now in many-leveled crisis. The long normalized half-truths, one-sided slanting of the facts, and non-stop fallacies of inference are coming out into the open as never before. The pretexts and lies for US imperial bullying and war are exposed beyond any corporate-media gate.
This time the accusation is “interference and attack on the US presidential election” with no evidence of wrongdoing or vote manipulation whatsoever. Yet as in the long past, the method is smear with no evidence for the accusations. Ever more media repetition and shadowy insinuation does the job. It has always worked before, why not again since all the other media buttons pushed on taking down the Trump peace initiatives with Russia and opposition to globalization of US jobs have failed.
Having wondered during the election campaign whether we could be “friends with Russia” and promoted diplomatic relations into his administration, Trump can be named as the enemy in hiding to be rooted out. The real problem the fake news never mentions is that he threatens the cornerstone of the US war state over 70 years.
So when Trump won the election with his heresy still intact, the ever-ready accusation of evil-Russia connection moves into high gear although the target is the opposite of communist and an epitome of capitalist riches and connections. We see here the historical mind-lock compulsion to blame the Enemy Russia and smear whoever dissents from it, even if it is a bully-capitalist president. There are very big stakes in keeping the game going.
Yet the no-profit and unpaid analyses from the internet commons have no such ulterior motive and interest in false accusations. With more objectively informed analysts than the commercial press and unimpeachable facts like WikiLeaks going to tens of millions of readers across the world, the genie is out of the bottle. The official grand narrative and its normalized big lies are coming apart at the seams.
So blame as usual is diverted onto the accepted Enemy, now conniving with Trump to attack the 2016 US presidential election. Beneath the fake news, the fact is that positive diplomatic relations with Russia not only threaten to stop the highly profitable permanent war against it, but spike the longest pretext for US war and military domination now moving through Ukraine.
The free internet commons cannot be gagged for telling the truth. Freedom of speech in the US cannot be openly stopped without fatal loss of legitimacy of rule.
So the rest follows. All the non-corporate and non-profit messages from the critical sites on the internet commons which are speaking against the US war state inside are now vilified as ‘fake news’. A third, unofficial protagonist has entered the battle with no private profit or career motive or corporate boss to serve and a wealth of proven professional knowledge and talent at work. It has to be denounced to sustain the big lies of the ruling money-war game which is in deepening crises and conflicts all the way to the unprecedented US President-Press civil war.
The Harvard Proclamation of a New Memory Hole
The innermost fount of US ideology and war, Harvard University, has now stepped in. It is officially naming and denouncing US-critical internet sites for ‘fake news’.
Not even the medieval Church went so far in its Index Librorum Prohibitorum of prohibited writings. It was at least innocent of scientific method and openly declared its dogmas. Not Harvard.
Underneath notice, all the sites it attacks are internet commons, and none are financed by private corporate donors and captive institutions while Harvard and the corporate media are. This is the real battle agenda underneath, the long war to privatize the news for profit as everything else with anti-establishment internet criticism now the target.
In the background, Harvard University has long propagated an unexamined academic method. It normally cuts off any faculty or learned source of opposition to the private corporate rule of America and the wars of aggression to impose it on the world. Accordingly, the underling grand narrative equations of the US is Good and the designated Enemy is Evil is not questioned. It is presupposed. Malevolent motives are always assumed of the designated Enemy, down to Harvard-produced geostrategic economic and war models. So when a host of internet commons sites challenge the grand narrative framework, Harvard and satellites denounce them to stop people reading them. A long list of critical sites is accused without criteria, proof or evidence as all spreaders of ‘fake news’.
What is not recognised here is that only on the internet commons can the process of truth be free from ruling pressures to control message for external sponsors.
Here there is no commercial-profit condition to speak and write, and no livelihood dependence on private profit. There is no inducement to avoid life-and-death issues in academic obfuscation or ad-vehicle style. Internet authors not on the payroll can be free of the game of all games behind the scenes – enriching the rich further with no life-coherent criterion of truth.
These underlying conditions of the internet commons and free speech itself cannot be recognised by the academy or the corporate press without undercutting their proclaimed status as the only legitimate founts of truth. The internet commons is a new world of competitive capacities to research, understand and disseminate not bound by private money patronage (as over centuries in Harvard University).
When challenged in this way, Harvard (and the official press) are set back on their heels. They cannot think the facts through because their instituted presumptions have long been what they must presuppose and not question to acquire their credentials and pay for public speech. They must attack what calls all this into question if it effectively speaks truth to power to expose or de-legitimate the ruling system narrative as false. Harvard and the US press thus follow the reigning method of reverse projection. They accuse the effective opposition of ‘fake news’.
The most revealing fact here is that Harvard authority as other academic administrations proceed in name-calling without any valid argument or demonstration – the very basis of reasonable conclusion. Yet this is such a long tradition of presumptive accusation allowed against anyone designated as the Enemy, and anyone else exposing the falsehood of the ruling US story of moral superiority over all others and God’s blessing to lead the world by force or money.
This is why only dissenting sites from the official storyline of US freedom and rightness in all things are accused as ‘fake news’. Accusation of opposing positions is so well-worn into conditioned brains that endless repetition locks it in as self-evident. This is why attributions of vile motive are automatic from Harvard or the New York Times for any outside leader opposing US interference in their countries including elections. US hypocrisy here is staggering, but unreported. In fact, Harvard’s life-blind elite of war criminal geo-strategists, economic modellers and so on are fawned upon within the wider corporate rule they serve.
None can engage critical facts and thought challenging the US moral superiority assumptions because they have never been required to consider them. So they denounce them as once the Church denounced apostasy. In the end, US system worship is a war-state religion. It eliminates all enemies to its right to rule. Its globalizing system institutes the market laws of God. War crimes are God-blessed justice.
Freedom of Speech, the Process of Truth, and the US Constitution
Led by senior academics, journalists and technical expertise, the internet commons provide for the first time impartial witness and free speech open to public examination and circulation across borders. They are free from corporate-rank dictate and private copy-right control.
In consequence, the internet commons are liberated from private corporate profit as controlling goal. Those who know what they are talking about can speak truth to dogma and power without words to appease editors, business boards and ad revenues. Truth itself is not defined, but its principle of process is a more inclusively consistent taking into account towards life-coherent conclusion
Despite Google black-holing of radical legal facts, CIA penetration of Wikipedia, and so on, the internet commons’ freedom of speech is far beyond anything guaranteed in the US constitution. In fact, the ‘sacred US Constitution’ that all presidents give oath to “preserve, protect and defend” guarantees in the end only freedom of public speech to private money demand.
Long before the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision reverse-titled as “Citizens United”, the US constitution was structured to one overriding end – to remove prior limits to private-money right over all else, including to begin, the rule of British law and the lands of the first nations West of the Appalachians.
This is why no common life interest exists in the US Constitution from the start. People’s universal human life necessities of water, food, protection and liveable environment are ruled out a-priori. This is why civil rights themselves were first federally enforced by the ‘commerce clause’ protecting freedom of commercial bus passengers including blacks to cross borders.
It is also why the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the equal rights of freed slaves ended up being the legal basis for private-profit corporations and wealthy funds to acquire the constitutional rights of living persons (e.g., to freedom of speech for big money to buy elections and to avoid government access to financial records).
Even the iconic rights of “life, liberty and happiness” turn out to be in fact only private market rights which allow corporate ‘fictive persons’ to unlimited money wealth, protection against public redistribution, and the freedom of private wealth alone to speak to America by buying corporate self promotions and election attack ads.
The US Constitution fix goes all the way back to 1787. As professor of constitutional law at Chicago’s iconic Kent College of Law, Matthew Stanton, explains in personal correspondence:
“[The fix] goes all the way back to the 1787 coup where the 39 signatories to the Constitution sequestered themselves in a Philadelphia meeting house, with locked doors and shuttered windows, to ostensibly make adjustments to the Articles of Confederation, but instead delivered an entirely new document that enabled creating a federal system centralizing control of the economy by propertied wealth”.
Russia the Enemy: the Deus ex Machina of Fake News
We may recall that the corporate-press and Wall-Street-enriched candidate for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, started the accusation of ‘fake news’ to explain her defeat. As establishment mask of the politically correct masses with the money-war party as her paymaster, Clinton blamed her fall in the 2016 US election on the new enemy she saw arising against the official story and herself. When the ‘glass mirror’ story line did not take, she joined forces with the corporate media on another plane. ‘Fake news’ misled Americans. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the TV Networks, and other establishment tale tellers saw pay-dirt far beyond Clinton’s failed bid for president.
In fact, the corporate mass media were losing marketability by the escalating appeal of free social media. The once all-powerful press propaganda system has been increasingly deserted. The ‘fake news’ story provided a media base to condemn free internet news and commentary as immoral. The 2016 election became the leverage for a big market grab back.
Very soon it was not just ‘fake news’ to spike news cycles and subscriptions. War as peace and corporate globalization as freedom found its long place of rule – the enemy of Russia to blame. Now the news can be that Russia hacked and attacked the lost 2016 election. Russia may be a hollowed-out shell by global corporate and oligarch dispossession. But it can still continue as pretext for US-NATO war crimes and aggression reverse-blamed on it. As the European breadbasket and newly discovered fossil-fuel rich nation, Ukraine is a very big prize. Now in Ukraine’s US-led coup aftermath and ethnic civil war, evil Russia can be an ace card again to accuse for attacking the US election.
Since Russia led by Putin is drawing the line as in Crimea to support the Russia-speaking region against US-led war crimes under international law (documented in previous articles), all roads connect. “Russia’s uncontrolled aggression” is reverse-projected onto the victim again in a glorious new use. Reverse blame it for interference in the US election of Trump and kill Russia-US peace initiatives at the same time. No fact is required to verify the accusation, and no law broken is needed to insinuate treason of whoever relates with Russia’s officials in peace initiative. It can work even against an elected US president.
At the same time, the US’s own record attacking other nations’ elections and societies is thereby erased as well – continually orchestrating mass-murder and dictatorship to sabotage the electoral process from Vietnam and Chile to Ukraine in 2010 and Latin America social democracies since.
If it were a story of reverse projection by a mass-murderous psychopath, it would be too much to believe. Yet it now runs the US news cycle as the big story unfolding with no evidence of US illegality, force, or non-compliance with international law. The accusations run by themselves in US media culture and across the empire. So as 2017 Spring breaks, endless media insinuations of treason seep into the populace from corporate media sites across borders with backrooms and Congress setting up for another presidential inquisition.
It is interesting to observe two precedents. Past inquisitions were unfolded soon after Bill Clinton said in India, “it’s time to level up rather than down in global trade” and Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protections Agency, stopped corporations from outsourcing US jobs, and made peace with China as Trump sought with Russia.
The ludicrous hypocrisy, factual vacuum, and war-drums of blame-the-enemy go into high-volume operation again, led by an attack-dog media against the elected US president whose only action has been to have business-like relations with Russia. Few observe the immense stakes of the US media and war establishments in this process. Cui bono? – who benefits? – is the question never asked.
What’s new? The perpetual red herring of ‘Russia aggression’ takes everyone’s eyes off the ball – including the continuing US-drone mass murder and ecological wars built into the Trump agenda. Canada’s oil and mining corps and big banks sneak behind the pervasive fake news with a smiling Trudeau front. NATO demands more money behind Trump now fulsomely praising what he earlier campaigned on as “obsolete”, as he has done with the CIA he also condemned. Those hoping for a new departure under Trump from the big lies and war crimes as normalized operations watch in a combination of horror and hilarity.
Who connects the dots? Beneath official notice, the ruling goal of US empire is blind to its consequences of human and planetary life ruin. It has to cover itself in false news to carry on. This is why fake news is not a temporary phenomenon of the Trump era. It is the necessary veil of illusion of an eco-genocidal system. The symptoms and trends are everywhere. But a US-led prism of false inversions of reality regulates consciousness, perception and reaction to ‘steer the course’.
This is true of both sides of the Trump divide, and also in corporate Canada as the US’s largest trading partner, branch-plant and resource cornucopia. What is new is that the ruling illusions are divided against themselves at the top of the US political and ideological system. The Trump phenomenon reflects the rupture. The US empire is in deep crisis from its cumulative destruction of social and natural life support systems. Its carcinomic multiplication of private money demand with no tie to the production of means of life is the reality beneath all the false news.
Nothing is life secure. The ‘global security system’ protects only money values and sequences through life hosts. Peoples everywhere compete to make it go faster to survive. The ruling concept of ‘economy ‘inverts the systematic depletion, degradation and despoliation of the life capital of organic, social and ecological life. Universal necessities of human and fellow life are stripped, polluted and wasted as ‘efficiencies’.
President Trump has gone into the political ring to fight it out with the political establishment on a nationalist capitalist level. He is losing money in the short term. But his program in office is completely eco-blind, and the opposing mass media follow suit. All they can focus on is demonizing normal relations with the official Enemy Russia. Meanwhile Trump has all but abolished the EPA and cut off all federal funding for restoration of the Great Lakes, the most important source of fresh water heritage on the planet.
These supreme crimes under international law are recognised by none on stage. In Canada, a Nazi progeny and neo-Nazi supporter of the violent coup and civil war in Ukraine is made Foreign Affairs Minister and hustles her connections throughout the US to keep the attack-Russia juggernaut going as in the past under a continuous barrage of ethnic prejudices and fake news.
The pattern is clear but unspoken. The Enemy Russia is the auto-pilot of fake news to divert from US and client leadership failure on almost every level. Relations of mutual respect with Russia’s ambassador are ‘collusion’ and taboo.
The Reality Beneath the Questions not Asked
How does disclosure of Hillary’s Clinton’s apparatus theft of the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders get blamed on Russia? The question is not asked. The Washington mass media and visible Congress focus instead on accused “collusion with Russia” with very big stakes in the new inquisition show. Suspicions without substance run free in the mass media once the designated Enemy is smeared onto the target, even if elected president.
Who knows that the US joined the armed forces of Britain, colonial Canada and Japan to crush the 1917 Russian Revolution on behalf of the Czarist autocracy and Western capitalism? More deeply, who names the governing objective behind all the shows of force and accusation over a century since? To be managed successfully, attention must be diverted from the facts of US-led war crimes and public looting within and without US empire proclaimed as ‘world freedom’.
The new President and his Exxon Secretary of State seek business-like relations with Russia. Very big powers are coming into conflict over business and war within the US empire. Big oil in both leviathan countries are pitted against the US Enemy-and-smear establishment which has long run the show with big oil formerly leading it. Now transnational big oil in the US and Russia are leading out of the blind alley of war against each other which has so totally failed to bring benefits to either side in the long term, and has almost reversed civilization.
The dots again are not joined. The completely counter-productive war against Russia to keep the US money-war state going is deepened by Wall Street. The falling price of oil is driven beneath notice by Wall Street which has successfully short-future-traded oil down to establish its money-printing powers by debt as supreme over its rival substitute, while diverting everybody’s attention from the greatest fraud in history still going. Observe that Wall Street remains untouched even from its multi-trillion dollar heist from public and pension coffers from 2007 on.
Blame Russia is the normal chorus which Wall Street benefits from as the ultimate leader of the ruinously anti-productive money-war system. It pays off so well to the money party in more public dollars appropriated by its control and issue of money debt for everything that exists; the pervasive military-industrial complex which never gets reversed even in the peace after the planned destruction of the ‘Evil Empire’; and the corporate mass media in front turning the fake news system over continuously to promote, idealize and divert from the global empire’s war and occupation powers. The neo-con and neo-liberal war strategists alike are built into the dark state as managers uniquely dependent on Russia as the Enemy.
So it is in all their self-maximizing interests to sustain perpetual accusations of some enemy’s evil as the great cover-up story of US empire and it inherited war-crime system. Joined to despotic local oligarchies, this axis dismantles ever more societies for corporate, bank and military plunder and jackal payoffs everywhere (including the academy). There is no limit or borders to the established system invasion, and all is at the expense of public treasuries and of life support systems across domains.
President Trump does not break the fatal ruling cycle. He demands that vassal states should pay for their US military protection, a new global extortion supporting new NATO oligarchies against change which accompanies his stripping of environmental protections to pay for more war powers. Trump behind his populist bluster is a paradigm example of instituted US capitalist greed and aggression. Yet the fact that hate of the Enemy is smeared even onto him for not hating Russia too reveals the ultimate pretext of the US-NATO war machine. Behind the US-led perpetual arms build-up, border threats and bombings of mostly innocents across the globe while blaming the terrorists for the horrors now built into the global ‘growth’ system is fake news as continuous cover story. The war-criminal drone mass murders continue on unnoticed. The bank looting of public wealth is instituted more broadly. The universities, health systems and public infrastructures are privatized for profit with no life criteria of outcomes.
Trump is dispossessing the American common wealth for big US money in line with the Reagan public-looting machine before him. It drained public revenues into a black hole of US debt, blamed acid rain on trees, and portrayed orchestrated mass murderers of socialists in Afghanistan and Nicaragua as ‘freedom fighters’. What has changed in the corporate media’s fake-news today?
Trump in office is the opposite of the anti-establishment candidate he promised to be. He wars on the US Environmental Protection Agency (its only collective life protective organization). He fractions corporate taxes in a giveway to the rich beyond Reagan’s $500-billion tax cut. He privatizes the public’s falling infrastructure for speculators and developers’ long-term private tolls, profits and control for private profit at taxpayers’ expense.
Who in the corporate media or Congress questions any of it?
The Trudeau regime to the north imitates the new massive scheme of privatizing public infrastructure. But it disguises it in terms of public investment in public goods. The big banks and speculators on both sides of the border are the winners whatever the corporate media and state cover story. The common wealth is sold off under pervasive fake news masquerading as responsible and for the public good. But the drive-wheel policy mechanisms for ever more dismantling of the living earth and redistribution of more public wealth upwards to the rich march on beneath conscious comprehension.
Trump does not hide the privatization for profit of America’s public infrastructure and stripping of public health and environmental protection policies once he has rising stockholder support in office. The Trudeau Liberal party masqueraded as the social democrat NDP in promising whopping public investment to win the election, but when in office lets the giant privatization boondoggle trickle out in sunny avoidance of the facts.
The monumental schemes of robbing the commonwealth at every level are led by slanted and selective reports through every step across ever more domains. But a constant across US empire is Russia the Enemy to justify it all. In the deepening life support crises of this ruling axis, Russia’s projected ‘attacks’ still lead the show.
The Life-Blind Moral DNA of US Rule
With no common ground but belief in God’s blessing over all nations and the greatest killing machine in history to enforce it, US ideology may seem to be a psychopathic rationalization writ large.
Yet the US national morality tale governs perception so that the a-priori life-blindness is not recognised even by philosophers. The US continues to be ruled at home and abroad without life-value ground or compass. So as the US-led global market system multiplies its demands on organic, social and ecological life systems, it moves inexorably towards a few multibillionaires with more wealth than 99% of the population, steering planetary depredation to ruin as freedom and growth.
How else would a global cancer system behave? Yet almost none recognise that this system overrides life requirements at every level. The reformer Trump selects for even more wealth and power to the home rich. He attacks evolved environmental research and regulations with no better alternative. He seeks to repeal Obamacare with no public option considered. His nationalist and cost-cutting program is essentially life-blind.
The baseline of crisis goes all down to the moral DNA of the US project and its evolved economic, political and ideological system. The innermost value driver is long presupposed without question by even US moral philosophers and social scientists as the first principle of their models. Atomic self-maximization towards more private money-value without limit is the meta-program.
In consequence, the ‘global free market’ the US leads and imposes has no feedback loops to protect human or planetary life against hollowing them out for transient commodities, private profit and wastes on every level. The ruling system is structured only to ensure more money demand and commodities to those who have money to pay. Any accountability to universal life necessities is ruled out a-priori from the US Constitution, ruling market doctrine, and received theories.
As I have commented in articles prior to his presidency, “Trump is America come to meet itself”. But the US cover story has not yet been decoded in its master functions of legitimation and idealization. What makes the eco-genocidal system acceptable to human consciousness is an ultimate story line and moral syntax that transforms it into heroic liberty, individualism and moral supremacy.
This moral syntax has been imprinted into US empire since its original revolution against Britain to invade the America West to the Pacific Ocean to appropriate and destroy all the life and life support systems of the developed first peoples there as ‘freedom’, ‘development’ and ‘self-defense’. What is required for the grand narrative’s success is to hide the reality of continuous eco-genocide by continuous false representations as the virtue and truth others fail to understand.
This first principle the justifying morality tale entails the second – that an alien Enemy must always be blamed for the system’s destructive attacks on barriers and resistance to it. Conversion of all life and life support systems to limitless self-maximization of the US system and its richest citizens then proceeds under cover of fake news with wars of acquisition and control represented as courageous and beneficent for all.
For-profit private corporations are the ever more empowered legal vehicles of this transnational system which is set to select for systematic self-maximization of the rich by all market, state and war means that can be constructed to enable it, starting with the US Constitution (as explained above). This set-point is built into the legislative, judicial and executive branches so that today the system outcome is a constitutionally ordered money-party control of all three branches of government as well as the funding systems of social sciences and philosophy.
Fake news in the widest sense provides a continuous cover story to mask and justify the underlying program which is not seen – the money-war party’s limitless take from life within and without the US that depends on a designated Enemy as perennial pretext to strip the US and global commonwealth against effective opposition or change.
Prof. John McMurtry FRSC is the author of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Solution and the three-volume study, Philosophy and World Problems, UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Paris-Oxford.
I was recently told by an Asian friend of mine who is working in Paris: “Lately I stopped following almost all that is happening politically in the United States, in the UK and even here in France. It all feels suddenly so irrelevant, a waste of time.”
Statements like this would be unimaginable only one decade ago. In the past, what came from Washington and (to a smaller extent) from London was monitored with great attentiveness and fear, all over the world.
But all of a sudden, things have begun to change, rapidly. Despite the extremely violent nature of the Western-designed-and-manufactured global regime, which has been over-imposed on so many parts of the world for decades and centuries, increasing amounts of people in Asia, Latin America and Africa stopped worrying and went leisurely to the ‘barricades’, beginning to rebel against the perverseness of the ‘world order’.
Did it all really happen ‘all of a sudden’?
Or were there various catalysts at work, for already quite a substantial period of time?
It is a well-known fact that any deep-seated, chronic anxiety cannot disappear in just a short moment. People who are enslaved, humiliated, scared into obedience, people who are forced to feel uncertain and constantly frightened, cannot reverse their state of mind without some important external factor or set of factors.
It became obvious to me, as I have been working continuously on all continents and in almost all conflict zones of our Planet, that the renewed pride and courage which is now inspiring millions of oppressed human beings, actually came from the decisive and determined stand of just several brave and determined nations, big and small.
The myth about the omnipotence of the Empire has received a few significant blows.
The fable of invincibility has not completely disappeared yet, but at least it has got fractured and gravely injured.
The gate of the terrible prison began cracking. It has not collapsed, but the fractures were wide enough for at least some sunlight to enter the dark and dreadful cavities inhabited by billions of unfortunate and shattered beings.
Some victims stood up immediately; not many but at least some did. Others raised their heads in feeble hope, still lying down on the dirty ground, still chained, and still shaking. That weak light alone entering the dungeon was actually much brighter than what most people ever experienced in their entire life. It has been strong enough to provoke wonderful, brilliant sparks of hope.
Except for some temporary setbacks (like in Brazil and Argentina), the anti-imperialist coalition is now steadier than ever; it is determined and constantly expanding.
And it is clearly winning!
It is truly a ‘rainbow coalition’ of countries, big and small, ‘red’ and ‘pink’, even ‘green’.
The only unifying factor is the shared determination not to be controlled by Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.
For decades, Cuba stood against the Empire, even after the Soviet block was broken to bits, even when all mutual agreements ceased to be honored by the criminal Yeltsin administration.The Cuban people never surrendered. It is because most of them always believed, from the bottom of their hearts, in socialism and internationalism. And also because they have been convinced that the Western Empire is a morally corrupt and illegitimate entity and therefore has to be resisted.
A small and relatively poor country – Cuba – demonstrated to the entire world that while the Empire is mighty, sadistic and brutal, it is not omnipotent, and it is possible to defy it. There is no reason why one should not dare, or one should not dream about a much better world, why one shouldn’t fight for true freedom, attempting to win.
Cuba inspired the world. Its daring Revolution took place just a few miles from the shores of the United States. Soon after, its teachers and doctors went to all parts of the earth, spreading optimism, solidarity and kindness. Its heroic revolutionaries went to fight against the most dreadful forms of colonialism, which were torturing people, is such places as Congo, Angola and Namibia.
After Obama’s attempts to water down the determination of the Cuban citizens, many enemies began to predict, cynically:
“Now Cuba will compromise and sell its Revolution.”
It never did! I traveled to the Island last year, driving through the countryside, and speaking to people in Havana, Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba. Almost no one was ready to compromise. A greatly educated nation, Cuba saw through the Empire’s tricks and deceptions.
Now almost nobody speaks about the “Cuban compromise”, anymore, simply because there isn’t any on the table.
China, one of the oldest and greatest civilizations on Earth, went through the terrible period of ‘humiliation’. Divided, occupied and plundered by the West, it has never forgotten nor forgiven.
Now the Chinese Communist state and its mixed economy are helping countries in virtually all parts of the world, from Oceania and Latin America, to the Middle East and especially Africa, to survive and to finally stand on their own feet. Despite all the vitriolic propaganda regurgitated by the West (those people in Europe or North America who know close to zero about Africa or China, habitually passing ‘confident’ and highly cynical ‘judgments’ about China’s involvement in the poor world; judgments based exclusively on the lies and fabrications produced by the Western media), China has been gaining great respect and trust in virtually all corners of the globe.
The Chinese people and their government are now standing firmly against Western imperialism. They will not allow any recurrence of the disgraceful and dreary past.
The West is provoking this mighty and optimistic nation, pushing it into a terrible confrontation. China doesn’t want any military conflict. It is the most peaceful, the most non-confrontational large nation on Earth. But it is becoming clear that if pushed against the wall, this time it will not compromise: it will fight.
In the last years I have spoken to many Chinese people, as I traveled to all corners of the country, and I’m convinced that by now the nation is ready to meet strength with strength.
Such determination gives hope to many other countries on our Planet. The message is clear: the West cannot do whatever it wants, anymore. If it tries, it will be stopped. By reason or by force!
Russia is ready again, too. It is standing next to China, enormous and indignant.
Go to Novosibirsk or Tomsk, to Khabarovsk, Vladivostok or Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. Talk to Russian people and you will soon understand: almost nobody there believes or respects the West, anymore. Throughout history, Russia was attacked and ransacked from the West. Millions, tens of millions of its people were murdered, literally exterminated. And now, the nation is facing what some consider to be yet another imminent attack.
Like the Chinese people, Russians are unwilling to compromise, anymore. The old Russian forecast is once again alive, that very one professed by Alexander Nevsky:
Go tell all in foreign lands that Russia lives! Those who come to us in peace will be welcome as a guest. But those who come to us sword in hand will die by the sword! On that Russia stands and forever will we stand!
In Russia, as in China, and as in so many other nations that were devastated by the Western plunderers, nothing is forgotten and no one is forgotten. It only appeared for a while that the memory had fainted. It never does. You cannot burn down an entire land, ruin the cities, burn the fields, and still pose as one with the moral mandate. Or as we say in Chile: “Justice takes time, but it always comes!”
And the world is watching. It is suddenly clearly registering this determined and brave, epic stand of morally strong nations. Many of those who are watching are deeply impressed with what they are seeing. Perhaps not in London or in Paris, but go and ask those in Johannesburg or Beirut, or even in Calcutta, Cairo or Buenos Aires. Perhaps you suspect what answers you’d receive there!
Throughout modern history, not once has Iran invaded a foreign country. Yet its secular, progressive and democratic government (under the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddegh) was overthrown in 1953, in a CIA-backed coup. What followed was the monstrosity of the ‘pro-Western Shah’, and then a horrendous war, an invasion by Iraq, which was also fully backed by the West and which took hundreds of thousands of human lives. Since then, Iran has been suffering from targeted killings of its scientists (by the West and Israel), as well as terrorist attacks also backed from abroad.
Instead of falling on its knees and begging for mercy, Iran defied the West. On several occasions and when provoked, it sent its battleships to the neutral waters near the US coast, and it pledged to defend its land, in case it was to be attacked.
Iran also showed great solidarity towards Latin America, working closely with virtually all of the revolutionary governments there. It stood firmly by Venezuela in a time of great crises, building social housing in Caracas and supporting the Process by all other means.
In Latin America, no one will ever forget how former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Caracas to attend the funeral of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, his dear friend. During the memorial, the aged mother of Chavez suddenly approached Ahmadinejad, in tears. Breaking all religious protocol of a Shi’a country that he was representing, the Iranian President embraced her, and held her against his heart, until she calmed down.
This moment was expressing one simple and powerful reality: all of us, the internationalists and anti-imperialists, are fighting for the survival of humanity and this planet. There is more that unites us than what is tearing us apart. Once we win, and we will win, the world will be able to find a common language.The West wants to divide us, by spreading hostilities and distrust, all through ‘false news’ and fabrications. But we understand its game. We will not break our ranks, anymore.
The West is clearly losing. It knows it. It is in panic.
Its nihilism, its propaganda and indoctrination tactics will soon be defeated.
I wrote a lot about the DPRK and how it joined the list of the ‘most hated nations on Earth’. It is a well known fact that North Korea was, for years and decades, much richer and more democratic than South Korea (ROK). But it embarked on one tremendous humanist ‘project’, and together with Cuba, the Soviet Union and to some extent China, it liberated almost the entire African continent, at great cost and sacrifice. And not only that: it sent its top educators and doctors to all corners of the most devastated continent on Earth. Its pilots also flew Egyptian MIGs against Israel, during the 1967 war. These facts have been silenced by Western propaganda, but they clearly explain why the DPRK has been ostracized, pushed to the corner, hit by senseless embargos, and forced to react the way it has been reacting for at least the last two decades.
North Korea has never surrendered either, and it never will.
Neither has Venezuela, for many years the great sentinel and engine of the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as of Latin Internationalism and solidarity. Surviving coups, embargos, plots and propaganda campaigns, surviving attacks, even terror, of the foreign-backed ‘opposition’, Venezuela has been injured but it is alive. Just a few days ago I spoke to an Italian Parliamentary delegation, consisting of the”5-Star-Movement” MPs, which recently returned from Caracas. Their conclusion was simple: “The worst is over”.
The world knows it! Venezuela, DPRK, Cuba – they never fell. No matter how many knives penetrated their bodies, despite so much pain caused by the sanctions, coup attempts and direct acts of terrorism administered by the West and its monstrous Empire.
It is becoming clear and obvious: the West is helpless against determination, true courage and patriotic love. It is powerless when confronted with humanist ideologies, and with true loyalty!
And the world keeps watching, drawing its conclusions.
I wrote about Syria, comparing Aleppo to the 20th Century Stalingrad. This is where racism, terrorism, and the lowest forms of Western imperialism (and shameful acts of the regional lackeys) were decisively stopped. The price was terrible, but the message to the world extremely clear: The people who love their country with their entire hearts can fight and win against all odds, especially if by their side stand truly great and reliable friends and comrades!
One day the world will thank the Syrian people, profusely and properly. One day, everything will be understood. One day, perhaps soon.
This is one of the greatest moments in human history, perhaps the greatest.
It has arrived without big salvos announcing monumental revolutions.
Everything is happening fast, in an organized and determined manner.
The greatest minds of Russia, China, Latin America and the rest of the world, are feverishly, day and night, trying to determine what really brought our world, our civilization, to this ludicrous downfall.
The simplified and stripped-down answer is this: Western imperialism (military, economic and ‘intellectual’/’cultural’), colonialism and neo-colonialism, as well as that dreadful by-product of all the above combined – a set of unchecked and savage form of capitalism.
Simultaneously, new forms of government, of economy and social systems are being, once again, planned.
The military strategists of the countries that are refusing to kneel in front of the barbaric terror of the West, responsible for hundreds of millions of murders and billions of ruined lives, are planning how to defend their countries and the world.
Once again, the world is at work! It is building trenches, educating people, preparing them for the final showdown with the culture that has been tormenting our Planet for centuries.
It is the moment of great hope and renewed enthusiasm.
Of course, if seen from Western capitals, everything is bleak and depressing. There is no ‘hope’ at all.
I agree fully: there is no hope ‘for them‘.
The logic, the ‘philosophy’ with which the Europeans and the North Americans have become accustomed to analyze the world, has arrived at a dead end.
Yes, it is ‘the end of philosophy’, or as they say, ‘the end of history’. I fully agree: it is the end of their philosophy and of their history.
That’s why, reading about their elections or statements produced by their politicians, is nothing less than a waste of time. The world realizes it, more and more.
Their ‘new tricks’ are actually very old. Their entire system is outdated. It should have been retired at least one hundred years ago. It survived only because of its savagery and cruelty. It will go soon, anyway.
These days, encountering people inhabiting the West is like encountering those zombies who were living in Nazi Germany during WWII. After the war was over, they were street walking for years, at least many of them, repeating the same refrains: “We didn’t know!” “We never realized”. The Nazi propaganda and the one, which has been used in the West and in the colonies (as Noam Chomsky and I defined in our book “On Western Terrorism“), are based on precisely the same roots, foundations and methods. Both are extremely effective, when it comes to the total brainwashing of the population.
To follow up the last chapter of the imperialist and turbo capitalist morass of the West is embarrassing and useless.
Both Europe and the United States are suffering from a series of devastating mental illnesses, as was defined by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, right after WWII.
Getting too much involved in pathological behavior, constantly studying and analyzing it, could only break and deeply depress any healthy person’s mind.
There is nothing more to understand. Hundreds of millions of victims in all parts of the world are speaking for themselves.
The only rational issue here is this: how to stop this horror, as soon as possible? How to allow humanity to return to its natural development and evolution patterns?
I don’t believe in ‘punishments’ and ‘trials’ and other vehicles of intimidation and of spreading fear. I don’t care whether the West will ‘pay’ for all that it has done to the world. I only want it to be stopped, once and for all.
I work very hard for it to be stopped.
So are others.
And the world is watching, and all of a sudden enjoying what it sees.
Suddenly more and more people are daring to laugh at the global regime. Of course not in Paris, London or New York (here they are scared and obedient, even more than before). But outside, yes!
People on all continents want to see and hear about what ‘others do’, what ‘we do’, not what the Empire and its mental conditions are producing.
They are laughing and waiting impatiently for what a new day, a new year will bring. They are waiting for the true new beginning to arrive.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism“. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.
Our modern-day anxieties about sleep are the symptom of another, more complicated disease in society today.
Source: The Night Shift | New Republic
For $149, a company called Hello will sell you Sense, a two-and-a-half-inch, machine-tooled orb that watches you while you sleep. Tracking room temperature and other data through the night, the device awards you a “sleep score” between 0 and 100, based on how well you rested. You can then boost your rating by following certain tips and best practices, like shelling out for a humidifier or fiddling with the thermostat. It’s not clear how much this element of gamification helps you drift off, but Hello’s numbers are certainly on the rise: Founder James Proud, a protégé of Peter Thiel, has raised more than $40 million in funding, and garnered admiring profiles from the likes of Forbes and Business Insider.
Sense, and a host of apps and biobehavioral doodads like it, are the vanguard of a vast new industry that promises a better-rested future. From meditation apps to glasses that prevent screen-induced eye strain to green tea lotions, this brave new world of sleep products ranges from new age to high-tech and back again. Arianna Huffington, in her latest iteration, has emerged as a sleep guru, preaching that Americans are trapped in a “sleep crisis”—one that can conveniently be ameliorated by following the steps outlined in her book The Sleep Revolution or buying products (eye masks, pajamas, microbiome-analysis kits, light bulbs that imitate a sunrise) from Thrive Global, her wellness startup.
Such companies find a primed market. Up to 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, and millions more self-medicate with booze, drugs, meditation, diets, or elaborate hygiene regimens. Offices are strewn with Red Bulls, coffee machines, and (when budgets allow) the occasional napping pod. We complain about sleeplessness in the same way we complain about how busy we are: as a signal of our success and engagement with society.
The less sleep we get, the more it has come to mean. As the new sleep industry has flourished, so has a whole field of study, dedicated to the culture surrounding sleep. Countless new books, relying on the language of efficiency and hacking, analyze the “sleep paradox” and “smarter sleep.” In 2015, the mattress startup Casper launched a magazine about sleep, titled Van Winkle’s, and there is hardly a lifestyle publication in America for which sleep isn’t a staple subject.
What all this thinking tends to ignore is that our current sleep dysfunction is not a glitch, a minor bump in the smooth running of a success-oriented society, but an inextricable part of our working lives. If millions are experiencing a crisis of sleep, it reflects a full-scale unraveling, a crisis centuries in the making.
It wasn’t always this way. Sleep as we know it—along with many of its disorders—is a relatively recent development. For most of human history, sleep was social, Benjamin Reiss argues in Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World, a new cultural and anthropological examination of sleep through the ages. It was “generally distributed in several chunks throughout the day and night” and it varied to fit into the changing of the seasons and of daily life. People slept longer in winter to conserve energy, and between short bouts of sleep there was time to have sex, pray, or socialize. Don Quixote could satisfy himself with one short spell, but his companion Sancho Panza slumbered much longer, spending “from night to morning” in uninterrupted repose.
Just as different cultures developed distinct notions of family and hospitality, they fostered different sleep rituals. Among the Asabano people of Papua New Guinea, it is polite, even an honor, to offer to sleep in the same bed or room as a guest. Co-sleeping offers protection, warmth, and comfort. In other contexts, though, co-sleeping can feel threatening: Homeless shelters, Reiss notes, are often loud and dangerous, with people coming and going at all hours, many of them suffering from untreated mental illness. And since co-sleeping can also contribute to the spread of disease, the practice eventually came to be associated, at least in the United States, with the very poor and destitute. “Massive group sleep was really only for the neglected or unwanted members of society,” Reiss writes.
During the Industrial Revolution, a new kind of “sleep dogma” took hold, one immediately recognizable to many Westerners today. The new “sleep norms” included “sleeping in private” and “consolidating one’s sleep at night”—the eight hours we now think of as a gold standard for proper rest. Children were trained to “reproduce these norms,” and those who couldn’t learn to sleep this way were diagnosed as medical exceptions. Society began to hum to the carefully managed timetables of factories, offices, schools, and militaries. Civilized people now rose early in the morning, labored during the day, and slept at night—customs that served to create “hearty, autonomous, self-willed adults who could march off confidently into the workforce” and toil more productively.
In this video, reporter Stefania Seccia talks going beyond ‘band-aid’ solutions.
Do keep in mind that we live in a very affluent society. Abject wealth inequality is rearing its ugly head. There are about 2/3000 homeless people in Vancouver, population 2 million.
“The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations.”
The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.
The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.