“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”
The Outline of History — HG WELLS
The essay below was written in the beginning of September 2016 (the only detail I added later being the response of Julian Assange to the accusation that the Wiki-Leaks came from Russia). It does intuit that because Hilary is so truly establishment, and because the DNC establishment pulled out all the stops to have her win the primary that a grave miscalculation could be in the making, though many of us, myself included, never believed Trump could actually win on his agenda.
Easy to say now (though many of us said it back when Bernie was winning primaries) Bernie was significantly more likely to beat Trump than Hilary. Perhaps Bernie will now give guidance to an ideologically bankrupt Democratic party?
Meanwhile, the gloves are off and no mistake … if Trump and the billionaire paid for Republican controlled Congress are true to their climate-change-denying words, then we are at war for the sake of the planet and future generations. Trump’s predator-capital-drill-baby-drill ethos, will make a lot of enemies of his own supporters when he tries to green-light pipelines through their backyards. Trump’s denial of fact based science will make the US a laughing stock around the world, so world step up with us to diminish the undue and undemocratic influence that US power has on world affairs. And Trump’s misogyny, racism and xenophobia will bring a whole new era of culture wars the idiot billionaire has never even had the intelligence to even imagine.
Onward living, breathing free spirits of the planet earth, connected as we are by an atmosphere that Trump seems intent on continuing to poison.
APPLYING THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
CAPITALISMOS … the capitalist universe … predator capitalism … that currently manifests itself as the neo-liberal economic experiment that has been tried and tested in practice over the past forty years and has clearly been revealed to be demonstrably failing most of us. We see it on a daily basis in our struggle to make ends meet and do more with less. There is no trickle down and there are only bombs falling from the sky on those who are used as an excuse for the perpetual war machine to perpetuate itself and there is only a vast vertical tsunami spiral of wealth being transferred upwards.
The failure of what we will call this ‘neo-liberal economic project’ (aka neo-conservative aka free trade fundamentalist economic world order) is writ large in the spiraling greenhouse gas emissions and the consequent proliferating climate crises which can be plotted on graphs. In my own locality in the fact that greenhouse gas emissions have made the wildfire season in the Eastern Washington on average 70 days longer than it was a mere forty years ago, and in two out of the last three years we have experienced devastating wild fires, one of which was stone’s throw from my home.
We see the abject failure of the project in the escalating and scientifically measurable wealth of the obscenely rich. Being generous let’s say that Rex Tillerson, the CEO of the Exxon Mobil, works a sixty hour week. He earns in excess of $40 million a year before tax (if he indeed pays any tax) and he literally makes minimum wage in the time it takes to say “minimum wage” (… beat) and again (… beat) and again … ad infinitum.
In scientific terms the experiment has been repeated over and over again over forty years and its theoretical basis—endless economic growth— is a proven false positive, for it ignores the fact that the earth is a finite planet with finite resources. Any sane person would cancel the experiment … kill the ideology …
♬ Die-die-die-die-die-die-die-die! Die Capitalismos die! ♬
DEMOCRACY TM BRAND … MAKING AMERICA A JOKE AGAIN
We are a curious species, in that our greatest quality—a brain capable of imagination and empathy—can be so easily deluded into sanctioning the unsanctionable. At least four million years in the evolutionary making our sapiens’ brain is the most advanced thinking machine in the known universe. All of our art, our culture, our science and all our knowledge spring from this font, so, you may ask, why is there such a dumb shit-show of a pantomime going on parading as the so-called democratic election of the next corporate-appointed “leader of the free world TM“.
Why would anyone in their right mind choose a country where the cops regularly shoot-to-kill in the first instance—if the ‘suspect is black, even when they are not really even an actual suspect, but are perhaps merely shuffling in their seat to find their drivers license, or if they happen to be an autistic guy involuntarily convulsing—and ask questions later?
Who would see leadership qualities in a nation where the fundamentalist dictum of having the right to bear arms reigns so supreme that civilians are regularly gunned down by the mentally unstable and the POTUS (despite his professed best intentions) is absolutely powerless to stop this near daily carnage?
How can we believe the lawyerly aspirations of the same President who sits down each week to approve a kill-list of suspected terrorists, and then dispatches the full technological might of the most insanely over-armed military the planet has ever seen to assassinate them, knowing full well more civilians than suspected terrorists will be killed in the cross-fire?
The glib answers to such questions from the corridors of power—like Madeleine Albright’s answer when asked about the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of US-led sanctions against Iraq in the 1990’s— reads along the lines of “I think this is a very hard choice. We think … we think the price is worth it.”
Worth it for whom? The short answer being, it is worth it for the supreme beneficiaries of the neo-liberal project who have run the planet for the at least the past forty years and in so doing are running said planet into the ground. In contemporary vernacular it is worth if for the 1% and their lackeys.
In other words it is worth it for our power-mongers to fight a perpetual propaganda war pushing mythologies about freedom and democracy around the world, whilst simultaneously maintaining, expanding and dissimulating their program of endless economic growth, which importunes the regular sowing of carnage and imposition of war anywhere on the planet when local conditions, at home or abroad, demand the leadership qualities of the United States. In actuality there is nothing less democratic and free than being randomly killed by a bomb falling from the sky.
As evidence of how ineffectual POTUS can be in facing down the demands of the neo-liberal economic project we need look no further than Obama and the seemingly innocuous issue of labeling Genetically Modified food. Not only has Obama failed on his promise of eight years ago to make GM labeling mandatory, whilst we were all summer vacationing last month he signed S. 764, the so-called Dark Act into law, effective immediately, not least over ruling Vermont’s historic voter supported GM labeling law.
In deference to the neo-liberal power mongers at one fell swoop Obama, if successful, will undermine all the piecemeal efforts he has made to reel in the fossil fuel companies in the lame duck session after the election in an attempt to force his Trans Pacific Partnership ‘trade deal’ through Congress. The TPP as well as continuing the grand neo-liberal tradition of outsourcing American jobs, will give corporations carte blanche to get dirty fossil fuel—which needs to stay in the ground if we are to survive as a species—out of the ground and drive it through sacred native lands, across pristine endangered species habitats, and through your home if it stands in the the way of of their railroads, pipelines and coastal terminals (not least in Washington state where I live) to ship it to the Pacific Rim countries for very short sighted profit.
Note: Hilary Clinton initially voted for the TPP and only jumped ship when Bernie Sanders was inflicting a string of primary defeats against her. Her VP choice voted for it, and we know that in her neo-liberal heart she hopes it goes through without her having to dirty her hands with it.
In a world where every living being is linked by a rapidly corporate-managed deteriorating atmosphere we all have a stake, and contrary to the myth the United States upholds about itself: that it remains the essence of Government of the People, by the People, for the People, most people outside of the US, and many people within it, really do not think it capable of leading anyone. Peel back the shiny wrapper and we have the worst kind a leader imaginable: a brute bully, an oligarch and a psychopathic warmonger, but NOT I hasten to add, a natural born killer.
The current globally ruling dogma of the neo-liberal economic project perpetuates the long held, but quite false myth, that aggressive predatory competition is the defining characteristic of human nature. In actual fact, and contrary to centuries of propaganda otherwise, the human condition does not spill from the womb, imprinted with bellicosity. Rather premeditated killers are overwhelmingly made by training whether it comes in the form of abuse by those who themselves were abused, or in the form of religious, political and military instruction on how to kill fellow humans.
To my knowledge in my fifty something years, I know or have met only a handful of people who have deliberately killed people, being made up of war veterans and one psychopath who remains in jail for beating his mother to death. By a huge margin it is safe to say that most of us have not killed another human being. The evidence for this is not merely anecdotal, and would be very easy to prove empirically, that this it is how we homo sapiens are in our natural state: very social, often charitable and mostly peaceful.
How many of us wake up and think ‘oh I’ll go kill my neighbor today,’ and then actually act on the thought … for the hell of it, ‘cos he’s an asshole’ or maybe cos we just don’t like the kind of shirts he wears? Maybe he is an asshole but most of us don’t go around and murder him, but our government does this shit on a daily basis, to some of our neighbors’ citizens wherever they may reside on the planet.
Hopefully—real hope and not Obama brand HopeTM—in the footsteps of HG Wells and every true artist who ever lived, we can take some solace in the fact that in parallel with the past forty years of the neo-liberal sown disaster and killing to keep the corporate world in the driving seat, there has been an unprecedented revolution in scientific knowledge about our own human origins and our actual human nature.
THE MAKING OF OUR VERY HUMAN BRAINS
To over-simplify and cut a very long story short … somewhere between four and seven million years ago our ancestors,’ perhaps forced by climate changes to scope out new habitats for food, found advantage in walking on two legs, and evolution began to sow skeletal changes that made this adaptation permanent and increasingly efficient. Part of the new diet our ancestors found comprised of sucking the marrow from the bones of carcasses discarded by other predators, and over time we began using rocks as tools to more easily harvest the bone marrow. Such high quality protein aided brain growth and at some point one of our ancestors stumbled upon cooked meat, fried by a lightning induced wild fire, and some even brighter sparks had the imagination and experimental capacity to realize that by taking a burning branch or a glowing ember and blowing on it, fire could be effectively tamed as a source or warmth and as a means of cooking.
Over millions of years the feedback loop of more meat leading to bigger brains, leading to more inventive ways to find meat, propelled our ancestors increasingly towards an evolutionary bottleneck. Literally. The trade off for walking on two legs meant a narrower pelvis for females, triggering an adaptation for now bigger brained babies to be born earlier so they could fit through the ergonomically narrower birth canal, meaning that more and more brain and body growth began to occur after the baby was born. Babies born more physically helpless needed much more hands on care and attention to enable them to survive childhood so they could go on to have babies of their own, and thus promulgate our species.
Our survival thus depended on the provision of intensive childcare, requiring an attendant evolutionary growth spurt in what Boyd calls “the ability to form and maintain a flexible, multi-dimensional adaptive social network.” That is, to feed the group and defend the ‘nest’ (mobile encampment) in the wild (no longer in trees, but on the ground) our ancestors had to become much more social, and evolve a “fierce egalitarianism” in order to work well in groups of 50-150 band members to protect and nurture and their young. Our survival literally relied on each other. Under these constraints we were perhaps bound to develop the more subtle forms of communication that we recognize today as language, triggering even more brain power, which all goes into making us the most social species on the planet. Even armed with our post-modern cult of the individual none of us in the twenty first century would have make it beyond the first few days of life without being entirely dependent on the intensive help of our care-givers.
In this scenario, around a campfire, lies the cradle of what we understand today as all of human culture. From the very earliest sing-song, goo-goo-ga-ga two-way (and sometimes baby initiated) conversations between mother and newborn, to our most complex adult interactions. And the physical evidence is written on our bodies for all to see, in the unique and quite beautiful adaptation of our exposed eye-whites, priming us for necessarily drawing attention to each other through the eye-contact of social engagement. In contrast the more darker-pigmented or hidden sclera of all our mammalian cousins, indicates their survival relies more on the means of camouflage, whether as predator or prey, specifically not attracting each others’ attention
Just as most mammalian young hone their locomotion skills by endless physical play, we as human children need a complex range of social play behaviors, because our survival relies on us being able to read the intentions and motivations of other humans and communicate with them accordingly. Thus, the endless ‘conversation’ going on in our own heads incorporates an animal fight or flight simulator and the more human friend or foe calculator with which we navigate our social world. In other words we are always experimenting with our uniquely human capacity facility for empathy, to run the scenarios in our brain, to put our self in someone else’s shoes to gauge how we feel about some human action or person.
Today we have a highly sophisticated art form which is built on our empathetic nature that we call theatre. And reverse engineering why we have art in the first place there is indeed a growing body of scientific thought over the last forty years that believes art was, and remains, essential to human survival because if we are bereft of art we are bereft of empathy, our most vital human quality.
The intricate and multifarious imaginary somersaults that comprise the make-belief play behavior of six year olds, pits friends against monsters, magicians against maniacs and embroils the players in fantastical conflicts. And, most of us, even those who do not regard ourselves as at all artistic or creative, still engage in similar mind-bending feats of imagination when we are asleep dreaming.
We can clearly argue that fully operational physical play behaviors are essential to the survival of a particular species and I suggest the same holds true for humans developing social play behaviors and conversely that the frustration of those play behaviors as children and adults contributes greatly to social dysfunction. The psychopath is not someone who mis-uses imagination to come up with diabolical means of doing harm to another human being, he is someone who never developed the imagination to appreciate the difference between make-belief violence and actual violence, in most cases because actual violence was administered to him as a substitute for childhood play.
On a societal level, whilst defending the nest from predators and providing food and childcare for children were paramount concerns for our hunter-gatherer forebears, declaring war on other bands of proto humans was not a first resort. At a time when the total human population of the world was no bigger than Chicago is today, it was easier to migrate using our wonderfully adapted legs, and use or spectacularly adapted brains to eek the best food out of a new situation.
That is not to say violent conflict was totally absent from hunter gatherer culture, or that there were never any territorial fights when environmental conditions put the squeeze on, but rather that our so called propensity for war, as we understand it today, is a more modern cultural invention which has generally been forced upon us by our political masters in more hierarchical times. We can say with accuracy that hierarchical social structures first developed, in the wake of the human discovery and adoption of agriculture, a mere 10,000 years ago, when nomadism was rapidly superseded by a settled sedentary lifestyle. The tale of the fall of man told by The Book of Genesis is about-face, for the drastic change came not from man being expelled from the Garden of Eden but him being newly bound to it, i.e. before agriculture, which is most of human history, there really were no gardens.
Agriculture meant that for the first time our ancestors were able to amass surplus food, allowing bigger social groupings to exist beyond the 50-150 sized groups of hunter-gatherers that had existed for all prior human history. Food surpluses also enabled some people to specialize in certain tasks, resulting in social stratification and the emergence of a leadership class of kings and priests. Perhaps inevitably, when one settlement’s crops failed it sometimes became easier to go ransack some neighbors’ food store than survive a winter with no food. Perhaps in these struggles the beast that became Capitalismos with its exponentially increasing distances between rich and poor, first took root.
And yet even today most of us, for most of the time remain charitable to our fellow human beings in the twenty first century. Perhaps we volunteer at the High School, (not because the neo-liberal project with its insatiable appetite to transfer public funds away from the public, has made volunteering essential to a well functioning school, but) because it is the human thing to do, allo-parenting our children into young adulthood precisely because our deep evolutionary history makes us at least as much altruistic and co-operative as we are selfish.
Of course there are competing theories as to how and when all these evolutionary and cultural changes occurred and how they interacted to make us the human beings that we are, but we are here and they did happen. And, we can safely say that they bring us much closer to the truth of human origins than the version given by The Book of Genesis.
Moreover, the deep evolutionary history of our species plainly discredits Hobbes’ persistent characterization of the lives of the poor, and by (myopic) extension, our hunter gatherer forbears as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” living uncivilized and inherently violent lives in constant fear. Hobbes’ philosophical pronouncement on the human condition was based not upon any investigation of how our ancestors actually lived but rather on the misplaced assumption that human nature consisted of the worst of what he saw around him, living in poverty stricken, inner city slums of seventeenth century London and Paris.
We can, however be forgiven for thinking that Hobbes’ fictions still inform the mainstream discourse of political life here in the US in the twenty first century. Politics as portrayed by the corporate owned mass media has been reduced to ignorance-perpetuating sound-bites employing the short hand of stock images as a substitute for real imagination. It has become a tit for tat war of who can out-do whom in the stoking narratives of fear and railing on the manufactured anger points of ordinary Americans. It is a contest to see who can hit hardest with the full might of the American military machine when duty calls.
(See Obama’s last State of The Union speech anyone?)
(And I mean come fucking on … blaming the leak of DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks—documenting the DNC’s own wrongdoing—on the Russians, is a black op straight out of Hilary’s—let’s-put-Bernie-and-his-socialists back-in-the-fucking-dungeon-and-throw-away-the-key—’this is how I am going to govern’ Playbook.)
(N.B. HRC categorically stated that 17 US intelligence agencies concurred that Russia was behind these particular WikiLeaks … Julian Assange—one of a growing number of political prisoners isolated at the behest of the US—says that the leaks did not come from Russia and that WikiLeaks have in fact published tens of thousands of leaks highly critical of Russia, but as Hilary well knows, people will barely remember her bald faced lies when she is elected, let alone ask: Why the fuck does a country need 17 intelligence agencies?)
ELECTING THE NEXT PYSCHOPATH
At our current juncture, with what on many levels can accurately be described as governance by psychopathic tendencies, we see politicians who are only too eager to forfeit the problem solving powers of the human brain for a fundamentalist belief in the over-riding evil of human nature. Perhaps that is what they see in the mirror in the morning but their assumption that we are all cut from that same cultural cloth is false.
The pathological lies of our politicians, in service of their us and them crusades against evil are scientifically measurable. 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity (2014 by Charles Lewis) takes its title from The Center for Public Integrity Report published as Iraq: The War Card, which found that in the two years after 9-11 and before the invasion of Iraq by playing on our instinctive ‘defend the nest’ sensibilities, that “George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials made at least 935 false statements about the national security threat posed by Iraq.” Ditto Tony “I will be with you whatever” Blair and his cabal of cronies.
There was a tsunami of corporate mainstream media egging our politicians on, to war on Iraq, and whilst a trickle of bad press followed in its wake, for the beneficiaries of the neo-liberal economic project the war was and remains a wildly successful disaster capitalist venture. In the first instance for western corporations profited hugely from the multi-billion dollar business of war; in the second instance it was boomtown as a money laundering operation, funneling US tax payers money, billed as Iraq reconstruction costs, to western conglomerates like Halliburton et al; and in third instance in a feedback loop, creating the hatred that fuelled the emergence of al Qaida in Iraq and ISIS, the perpetual war machine now has a whole new generation of enemies, to justify its future military overreach.
The problem with the US election is that—having done just enough to derail Bernie Sanders— a killer-in-chief for the neoliberal economic project will now win. Both candidates lack the imagination, as Obama did, to think outside of the maintenance, expansion and deployment of the US military machine. Since our past leaders laid the ghost of Vietnam to rest, the psychopathic demonstration of the lack of basic human empathy in the corridors of power is writ large … every time the duplicitously named smart bomb plows into an Afghan wedding party, or a drone attack levels a family house in Pakistan, because it is easier for the psychopaths to destroy than it is for them to create. And we know that both Trump and Clinton are just itching to get their hands on the button. And after a black suspect was assassinated in Dallas this past July with a police robot bomb, one wonders if we will see the use of drone attacks on US citizens on US soils during the next presidency?
I am a realist and I know Trump is the worst example of keeping us mired in struggles and culture wars we thought we had pretty much won, and having to refight these battles all over again would be a disastrous distraction, but I also know what Hilary Clinton represents. She is the embodiment of the neo-liberal economic project as her husband was before before her. And Clinton is already stacking her deck with neo-liberal fundamentalists, in her choice of running mate and her campaign staff, (which basically and arrogantly says ‘fuck-off-I-will-bury-you’, to everyone who supported Bernie) In truth the political establishment in waiting lacks any imagination to get beyond ‘more of the same’ policies, and Clinton clearly represents much ‘more of the same,’ in the service of obscene wealth.
USING OUR IMAGINATION AND EMPATHY
We are then faced with an existential struggle in which our fight or flight instincts will kick in, except on a finite planet up against endless economic growth there will soon be nowhere left to run. Blind to its own scientifically guaranteed self destruction, under Clinton or Trump the project draws us ever closer to the inevitable and myriad forms of societal collapse that are already happening for many of us on our shared planet. Depending on how bad or how terribly bad it gets, cultural, and possibly biological, evolution will kick in.
True to our actual human nature, people all over the world whose lives have been infected by the neo-liberal malaise, and who are tired of having their cooperative spirit hijacked by predator capital, are instinctively aching for a simpler, more community based, more sustainable way of living, and millions of local initiatives are testament to this.
Our empathy is as alive and well as it has ever been in our urges to feed and protect and nurture our children, and many of us are realizing that to be able to continue in that very human quest, nurturing will include contesting and overthrowing the neo-liberal ideology in the near future, even whilst being basically forced to vote for it in the near present.
It is going to get ugly but if we have faith in our basic humanity, and use our imagination and empathy and our human problem solving brain power we might be able to stop it getting very ugly.
Danbert Nobacon studied children’s play in college for two years in the 1990’s whilst moonlighting in the punk rock band Chumbawamba. He very recently performed on the Rock Against the TPP tour. He is currently teaching theatre in his local Junior High and High school. And, he is half way through recording an album entitled Stardust to Darwinstuff musically embodying some of the above themes, due for release in early 2017. He would like to wholeheartedly thank all at the staff The Weeklings for airing dissenting voices over the past four years.
Good piece, Danbert! Regarding your intro, I doubt that the Democrats will give Bernie any chance — the neolibs who run that show will come up with another corporate shill in four years’ time and the tired contest between two almost-identical parties will run again.
Yes, it’s sad that Republicans don’t believe in science. But the real, present, right-now danger isn’t climate change in the global-warming sense. It’s nuclear weapons. Even a small nuclear war (200 or so bombs) and the mass fires which follow it will throw the northern hemisphere into global cooling, with unknowable consequences (other than mass starvation and the collapse of what we think of as civilization).
Hilary Clinton was the war candidate. She was supported by Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney. Her stated policy was to confront Russia militarily over Syria. She supported coups d’etat in Honduras and Ukraine, and called Putin “Hitler.” Trump, on the other hand, was vilified by the democrats and the mass media for being Putin’s bro.
The US and Russia have about 14,000 useable nuclear weapons, pointed at each other (and the rest of us). Had Clinton been elected, we might not have made it through the next four years at all.
If Trump and Putin do turn out to be bros, maybe we’ll survive long enough to support next year’s attempt by the United Nations to outlaw nukes.
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