Clearing | Anderson Valley | Adventist Mission | Highway Fatality | Getting Skunked | Train Yard | AVUSD News | Ukiah Hills | Need Housing | Daisy Train | AV Village | Rainy Hwy | Trail Advocate | Russian Gulch | Different Discussions | Meeting Stehr | Yesterday's Catch | Pardons Poll | Bridge Collapse | Class Warfare | Pulp Art | Missed Lay-Up | Negativity | Chagos Crime | True Happiness | Western Civ | Orange Obsession | Ukraine | The Philosopher | Evil Brother | Perfect Ernie | Chinese Protests | Biggest Threat | Human Adventure | Mountain Flowers
COOL AND CLEAR WEATHER can be expected through Wednesday. Another round of rain and snow is expected Thursday and into the weekend with snow levels as low as 2,500 feet possible. (NWS)
DECEMBER RAINFALL thus far: Yorkville 2.73" - Boonville 2.44"
ROSEMARY MANGINO: My application for unemployment has been approved. The basis for the approval was my former employer's (Adventist Health Mendocino Coast) unwillingness to deal with my complaint to them of a “hostile work environment” at the medical clinic. I pondered then, as I ponder now about the Adventist Health Mission statement… “Living God's love by inspiring wholeness and hope” … ?
HIGHWAY 20 FATALITY
DON’T LET THIS FAMILY BE SKUNKED
by John Meyer
In June 2020 just after Covid started I was contacted by Robert Pinoli, President of Mendocino Railways also known as the Skunk Train, who offered me $450,000 to $500,000 for my property in Willits. I looked for a property to replace it and was unable to find a property in Willits with two parcels so that I could build four houses for rental income. I explained this to Robert and offered to sell him my project for $1.5 million, to which he replied the property was not worth that much.
I was then contacted by Mike Hart (CEO of parent company Sierra Pacific Railroad Company) and when I refused his offer he indicated to me that he would get the property appraised at $350,000 and take it through Eminent Domain. They were able to get it appraised at exactly $350,000 and filed the action against my property on December 22, 2020.
Fast forward to April 2022 we finally got the site plan I originally requested in 2020 and that they were using for the previous two years and found out that they actually wanted to take my property and turn it into a campgrounds with a passenger loading station for the excursion train.
When my lawyer informed them that it would be illegal to take my property through eminent domain and turn it into a private campgrounds they quickly switched their story and days before our trial started came up with a new map with the idea of a transloading facility on my property. Mendocino Railways claims they are a public utility and a freight train moving goods between Willits and Fort Bragg. Robert Pinoli also stated under oath that their freight cars can hold four semi trucks of cargo/freight and can be loaded in half an hour.
I could’ve started this fund raising two and a half years ago but chose not to because I assumed Mendocino Railways would come to me with a reasonable offer which I would have accepted and I did not want to take money from people and then turn around and take an offer.
Now that is not the case. This case will set precedents and needs a judgment. The problem I have now is that the judgment will not be made for another six months and I have borrowed more money than they originally offered me for the property. I’ve exhausted all of my resources short of selling my equipment.
In Early 2020 with a FICO credit score rating of 815 I was prepared and in the process to build four houses on my property in Willits, three of which I would rent and one to live in. Now the money for that is long gone fighting this ridiculous court case with the Skunk Train/Mendocino Railways. They were prepared to pay $5 million for the campgrounds adjacent to my property which months prior to sold for $3.2 million just so they could cut off two acres and resell the campground; the two acres would be for the rail bikes parking and depot from my knowledge and statements under oath in court.
Now they claim to need 20 acres to build their “transloading facility” to ship freight between Fort Bragg and Willits (32 Miles by roadway 40 miles by train if they could even get through since the tunnel has been collapsed for many years) and claim that my property (21 flat acres) is only worth $350,000 versus $5 million for the campground which has less usable land (37 acres mostly hillside)
I don’t want to stop the excursion trains from operating. I’m trying to stop the owners from their illegal and abusive use of power that they do not legally have but it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight them and this has been happening countrywide with excursion trains over the last 30+ years and as far as I know this case will set precedents for the future and possibly the past.
These fraudulent actions have no statute of limitations. Up until this case I had no interest in suing anyone nor have I.
I have done a deep dive into this phenomenon over the past two and a half years and plan to spend much of my future time so that the fraud done to others in the past is rectified and that there is precedence for the future so other families do not have to go through what my family has gone through. Thank you all for your time and consideration. Please share this with friends and family.
1605 Fort Bragg Road
Willits, CA 95490
AV UNIFIED HOLIDAY NEWS
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Many thanks to all the family and community members who came to the Redwood Classic and contributed to make the rebirth of the event possible. Congratulations to John Toohey, and the students that worked so hard to pull this off. Special thanks to our Coach and Mrs. Espinoza and Justin Rhoades and Mrs. Collins for all of their scorekeeping. It takes a village to create something great for kids.
I am hosting a coffee for any community members at drop off at 8 o’clock in the high school library a week from Thursday, on December 15. If you are a parent/guardian/community member, please stop in and visit with me. Deleh will also provide some information on upcoming ELPAC testing. Translation is available. This is a good social opportunity to enjoy some treats and a warm cup of coffee on a cold day. Building our sense of community is important to me, and I hope you will come.
Oh yes we can. The food drive is overflowing. I am so proud of the students. The numbers are staggering. The first van loads of food will be arriving at the food bank on Wednesday taken over and distributed by our workability class with Miss Kira Brennan. Our CTE Academy students are loading the vans. This is astonishing generosity for a program that has never been implemented before. Class counts as of today are:
Seniors in the lead with 178!
8th Grade is close to 160!
7th Grade right behind with 153!
10th Grade with 97!
11th Grade with 64!
9th Grade with 53!
The ice cream party and trophy will be awarded next Thursday. The race is tight. In addition to the donations a considerable amount of cash was donated by our community in lieu of gate fees. I want to reiterate that we will no longer be charging gate fees for any non-playoff sports. We want our families and the community at our students' games. No charge, come on down.
The last day of school before the winter break is Friday, December 16. Return to school date is Monday, January 9. We look forward to having you back at school. We are not granting any independent studies on either side of the break. Kids need to be in school to learn from a live instructor. Doing packets is not an equivalent assignment. Additionally, independent study must be at least six hours of work per day. We have seen from past research that students who are taking extended vacations sufferÂ with disproportionately low achievement. Please use the approved vacation calendarsin advance to plan your family breaks next year, so that you do not have your student out of school. They will be required to make up all the work when they return. This is particularly problematic for high school students who will be credit deficient. Summer school will be available to support students who have not earned the required credit. Please think long-term and create your family plans around the school calendar.
Congratulations to the Unity Club, whose President is our own Mary Ann Grezenda, on a lovely holiday fair. FFA wreaths were for sale, and yummy posole and tamales to benefit Service Learning and GSA, and a wide range of crafts and gift items. I even had my picture taken with Santa. You are never too old.
The students' writing prompts last week focused on what to do with a $5,000 donation. I love reading the students' work, as I learn so much. They are requesting new PE equipment and upgrades in the gym. Painting the gym is a huge priority of mine, but it is outside of the scope of the bond when we have so very much other infrastructure that is decaying. If any of you know of a donor who would be willing to pay the prevailing wage cost to paint the gym, please let me know. I believe it would cost in the range of $70,000. The school district could partner on some of the cost. The new heaters have made a world of difference, now, we just need it to look nice!
I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
Anderson Valley Unified School District
26 DAYS LEFT - FEELING DISHEARTENED, ALMOST HOPELESS
My daughter and her two children (teenage girl and teenage boy) have lived in Fort Bragg for 7 years now. During this time my daughter has always worked and has been a valuable member of our town. In 2017, while working 2 jobs, she left her abusive husband. Because of a lack of housing at that time, she took the kids and lived in a tent (it was summer). By the beginning of Fall, she found a place through property management. On the 1st of November, her little place was sold and she was given a 60 day notice to vacate.
She knows what it's like to be homeless with children, It's TERRIBLE!!!!!! Now it's cold and rainy, Christmas and Birthday time. School ties have been established. She is feeling desperate. She does not know I am writing this - she finds it demeaning and mortifying to beg. I am begging for her. Anyone out there have any ideas at all for a 2 or 3 bedroom dwelling? She is responsible, kind and will always take care of other people's property.
All leads are greatly appreciated,
Ruth Martin <email@example.com>
P.S. Her job, her friends, her children's school & friends are all in Fort Bragg - she would like to stay close.
JOIN US TODAY AND SUNDAY FOR SOME FUN!
Anderson Valley Village Volunteer Training
This Tuesday, December 6th, 9:30 to 10:30 AM
The Mosswood Market
Join us for a short volunteer training and learn more about the Anderson Valley Village and how you can give back to the elders of our community. The work of volunteers is vital to our mission of supporting seniors as they age in place, providing all manner of help, from basic chores, transportation, tech support and errands to check-in calls and visits to skilled services. It's up to you how, and how often, to volunteer. Because we are working with a vulnerable population, we require our volunteers to have the COVID vaccine, thank you (please bring your card). And if you would like to be a volunteer driver, please bring your Driver's License and proof of insurance card. Volunteer applications are available at the training, Senior Center, Health Center and/or our website.
Please RSVP with the coordinator - Hope to see you there, thank you!
This Tuesday, December 6th, 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Anderson Valley Senior Center
Bring your smartphones, tablets, iPads, etc. and volunteer AV High School students will be available to help with tech support. Students will all be masked but not all are vaccinated. Please consider staying and enjoying the Senior Center's lunch — it's the best deal in town!
AV Village Monthly Gathering: Festive Bonfire Gathering
This Sunday, December 11th, 3 to 4:30 PM*
Anderson Valley Senior Center
Refreshments served Door Prize awarded to the lucky winner! Join friends (old and new) around a warm fire ring under the stars with holiday libations in-hand. Think about any worries, cares, glooms, negative thoughts, etc. from the past year you would like to let go of, as we will write them down and burn them together, as we make room for more joy in our lives.
Another member will briefly introduce their passions, skills or hobbies and how they ended up here. One member will share at each event — please let us know if you are interested in sharing.
Please RSVP with the coordinator — thank you!
*The gatherings will be earlier (3 pm) in the winter months so that folks don't have to drive home in the dark.
— Anica Williams, Anderson Valley Village Coordinator, Cell: 707-684-9829, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘RETIRED UKIAH GUY’ WRITES:
Since the beginning of covid I have biked on Redwood Trail in Ukiah at least 3 to 4 times a week. Its been very enjoyable for me and helped with my health. I see many people using the trail and really no problems with pedestrian and bikes sharing the trail. A wide cross section of people use it, working people from the hospital and doctor’s office getting a walking break, store employees from the Walmart Costco shopping center, various runners and bike riders, people with babies and children, people without homes, some people with either mental health or substance problems, dog walkers, you name it and they are there. It is a safe place to walk and ride, the redone intersections at cross streets make it safe to cross. You can access the Sun House and you can get to Walmart for your medications without a car. People also use it to get to grocery stores. It is maintained by City of Ukiah, volunteer organizations and individual people who pick up the trash. Currently there is an effort to get the rusty old rails removed so mowing is easier. If seeing a homeless person or the back of a business with junk ruins your day probably isn’t the place for you. There will always be whiners and half assed journalists complaining but hey the world is not perfect. Have a nice day.
ED REPLY: I beg your pardon, sir. I’ve got both cheeks.
Since I live near San Francisco and also have other residences, like my house in Boonville I have been thinking about the discussions with friends that I get into in different cities.
In the city house I once got into a discussion with a man at my barber shop about paleontology (the study of early man). He turned out to be one of the most important paleontologists in the world and was a professor emeritus at U.C. Berkeley. He invited me over to a get together at his house where I met what I call, famous people that you have never heard of. One was the inventor of potassium-argon dating, the technique for dating fossils and other things.
In Boonville, I had a totally different discussion, but to me, just as important. A fellow there told a story about how he had had this nightmare where he was driving a huge road grader and he lost control and was going downhill at an ever increasing speed. The other men at the table said, “Did you put the blade down? And the story teller said, “Of course, I put the blade down. But it didn’t do any good.” I thought it funny that everyone at the table knew what to do except me. Put the blade down, of course. I love the contrasts between both places.
by Marilyn Davin
After reading his messages in the AVA for lo these many years, I finally met Craig Louis Stehr in downtown Ukiah. Having no idea of what he looked like (he emailed me an AVA profile from years ago but I never read another writer’s impressions of someone before doing an interview myself, and online images didn’t offer much), I imagined Stehr might look a little like my blonde, blue-eyed Hindu brother: highlighted hair down to his elbows, tie-dyed tights, tennis shoes (no leather, he’s been a strict vegetarian for more than 40 years), and the stunted, worn teeth that his SF dentist told him are common in people who spend a lifetime eating a high-acid strictly vegetarian diet. No such imagining could have been further from the truth in Stehr’s case.
When Stehr walked toward me after passing through the gate of the Building Bridges homeless resource center on South State Street, I knew instinctively it was him even though he looked like one of my literature professors at Berkeley — clean-cut, but somehow hip at the same time. And when he took his hat off the curly white tendrils of hair on his forehead gave him the distinct vibe of a bust of Julius Caesar. He carried with him the Winter 2022 edition of Slingshot, a self-described independent anarchist’s newspaper, but with undertones of Mad magazine. One prominent article entitled “The Rise of the Anarchists” features the caricature of a young guy with dollar signs wearing a sideways baseball cap, with the accompanying caption: Most people who say they’re anarchists don’t want to give up unearned forms of hierarchy or make the changes that would entail. True enough. The front page article on the “revival” of Berkeley’s People’s Park took me way back to when I was 18 and cheering on the “people’s” struggle over that infamous square of downtown Berkeley real estate.
Stehr had asked ahead of time if I minded driving him to his post office box in Redwood Valley, which of course I did not. Why Redwood Valley? “The Ukiah post office wouldn’t give me a post office box because I’m homeless,” he explained, so he only collects his mail every few weeks or so when he scores a ride up the freeway. He carried his bundle of mail back to my car and we set off back down to Ukiah in search of a quiet place to chat. Stehr chose Black Oak Coffee Roasters on North State Street, where we settled in with café lattés (with complicated milk-foam decorations on top) and pastries. He recommended a pastry with a dollop of raspberry jam in the middle and it was indeed delish.
Stehr’s physical presence is engaging and open. He laughs spontaneously and often, and its joyous sound is infectious. He sees the follies of the world for what they are but says he doesn’t sink into their sorrows. “I am in the world but not of the world,” he said, a foundational biblical belief that provides emotional distance from the noisy, divisive issues that so bedevil us. He told me that one of the main differences between himself and others is that his beliefs afford him that emotional distance: a quiet, spiritual space in which to retreat from the nonsensical madness of the world. “It can anchor the mind,” he said, “a place I can go to.” Stehr added that he has concerns and worries just like everyone else but doesn’t respond with the high emotion expressed by others who wish our world could become a kinder, gentler place — which isn’t to say that he has no opinions about worldly goings-on. For example, though Stehr was raised Catholic and chose a different spiritual path, he says he harbors no resentment toward Catholicism. Nor does he see any spiritual conflict with his pro-choice beliefs. “I stand what I stand on and I know who I am,” he said. “Your sense of God dictates your life.”
Stehr told me that his relationship with the AVA began many years ago (he couldn’t recall the exact year) when he met Bruce Anderson at the Anarchist’s Book Fair at 9th and Lincoln in San Francisco. He said he also met Anderson with Alex Cockburn at a “Save Our Jobs” protest. “We went there to support the workers,” he said. Stehr has written for dozens if not scores of publications, including Slingshot and the AVA. He comes by his writing honestly; his mother Margaret, a real estate broker in Milwaukee, left her obit, which she wrote herself, next to her body when she died. About his own inevitable death, he said he is “uncomfortable but not afraid,” adding that, “I’ve never left the body before.”
Spiritual seekers and devotees often share life experiences that validate and intensify their beliefs, and Stehr is no exception. He described one of particular intensity that happened years ago in San Francisco. “I got to a point when there was nowhere to go, either backward or forward,” he said, and ended up drawing a circle in the sand at Ocean Beach and sitting in the middle of it to meditate. As day turned into night he said he gained clarity in the stillness of his meditating mind. “I just accepted my circumstances,” he said. “When I came back to consciousness after a whole day I just started laughing into the dark.”
On a very different occasion Stehr said he received a special request from Swami Prabuddhananda to become the live-in assistant to ailing William “Bill” Edward Corcoran for the last years of his life. “I was there for three years, sleeping on Bill’s kitchen floor,” Stehr said, adding that he was present for Corcoran’s cremation and the scattering of his ashes beneath the Golden Gate Bridge from a rented boat.
Stehr said he is always searching for opportunities to support causes that he believes can improve life on Earth, a life-long quest he describes in his regular messages in the AVA. Ideally, he said that he would like to participate on a larger national platform — which brings us to the state lottery, which Stehr plays twice a week. He has plans for his winnings should Powerball or Mega Millions pick the lucky numbers on one of his tickets. “I’d move to Capitol Hill,” he said, which he’s visited 16 times and believes to be ground zero for raising issues on the national stage.
But for now he’s bunking at Building Bridges while seeking out that next opportunity. “They call me The Mayor,” he laughed. “It’s warm, it’s comfortable, and they like me, so for the moment I’m parked here.” But talking about the local homeless situation did touch a nerve. “Talmage could have been used,” he said, referring to the former 488-acre, multiple-building site of a large state hospital. Purchased on the cheap by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, the “City of Ten Thousand Buddhas” now generates an estimated $244,862 in annual revenue from its restaurant, day care, classes, and many other activities.
We left Black Oak for Safeway, where Stehr often buys his fruit and yogurt for dinner (though he does enjoy the occasional steak dinner at Applebee’s, along with one of his favorite beers and a shot of whiskey). As we said our good-byes back in the Building Bridges parking lot, he offered some advice for spiritual seekers, which he no longer considers himself to be since he found what he was looking for: “Stop identifying with the body and the mind and your problem is solved.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, Monday, December 5, 2022
JORGE ACEUEDO-DURAN, Willits. DUI, person under 21 with blood-alcohol over 0.01%, misdemeanor hit&run with property damage, no license, reckless evasion, resisting.
JERRICK BERJES, Daly City/Piercy. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
JOSEPH COLLETON, Willits. Vandalism.
WILLIAM OWENS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, parole violation.
PARDONS FOR SNOWDEN & ASSANGE
Elon Musk posted a Twitter poll on Saturday on whether former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange should be pardoned. Preliminary results show overwhelming public support for letting the two, who both face charges under the Espionage Act, off the hook. “I am not expressing an opinion, but did promise to conduct this poll,” Musk tweeted, asking users: “Should Assange and Snowden be pardoned?” So far, with more than 1.3 million people voting, 79% say “yes,” 21% “no.”
ARCATA TO KORBEL RAIL BRIDGE COLLAPSE, 1896
KNOW THINE ENEMY
The expedited legislation passed by Congress to avert a strike by railroad unions dealt one more blow in the decades long war waged by the two ruling parties against the working class.
by Chris Hedges
The Congressional decision to prohibit railroad workers from going on strike and force them to accept a contract that meets few of their demands is part of the class war that has defined American politics for decades. The two ruling political parties differ only in rhetoric. They are bonded in their determination to reduce wages; dismantle social programs, which the Bill Clinton administration did with welfare; and thwart unions and prohibit strikes, the only tool workers have to pressure employers. This latest move against the railroad unions, where working conditions have descended into a special kind of hell with massive layoffs, the denial of even a single day of paid sick leave, and punishing work schedules that include being forced to “always be on call,” is one more blow to the working class and our anemic democracy.
The rage by workers towards the Democratic Party, which once defended their interests, is legitimate, even if, at times, it is expressed by embracing proto-fascists and Donald Trump-like demagogues. Dating back to the Clinton administration with NAFTA, the greatest betrayal of the working class since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, the Democratic Party has become a full partner in the corporate assault on workers. The cloying feel-your-pain rhetoric, a staple of the Joe Biden White House, is offset by a hypocritical subservience to the billionaire class.
In 1926, the havoc wreaked by rail strikes led to the federal government passing the Railway Labor Act to give itself the power to impose labor settlements on the rail industry. The Biden administration used this authority to broker a tentative labor agreement that would ensure a 24 percent pay increase by 2024, annual $1,000 bonuses and a freeze on rising health care costs. But workers would be permitted only one paid personal day and no paid sick leave. Of 12 unions voting on the deal, four of them — representing 56 percent of union membership in the industry — refused to ratify it. Biden signed the legislation into law on Friday.
The railroad barons refuse to permit sick days because they have stripped the railroads down to skeleton crews in a process known as precision scheduled railroading, or PSR. In essence, no spare labor is available, which is why the reduced labor force is subjected to such punishingly short periods of time off and onerous working conditions.
Class struggle defines human history. We are dominated by a seemingly omnipotent corporate elite. Hostile to our most basic rights, this elite is disemboweling the nation; destroying basic institutions that foster the common good, including public schools, the postal service and health care; and is incapable of reforming itself. The only weapon left to thwart this ongoing pillage is the strike. Workers have the collective power to slash profits and cripple industry, which is why the ruling class has gone to such lengths to defang unions and outlaw strikes. A rail freight strike, it is estimated, would cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day, with daily losses increasing the longer a strike continued.
The few unions that remain — only 10.7 percent of the workforce is unionized — have been largely domesticated, demoted into obsequious junior partners in the capitalist system. As of January 2022, private-sector unionization stood at its lowest point since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. And yet, 48 percent of U.S. workers say they would like to belong to a union.
Railroad workers have been especially hard hit. The workforce has shrunk from nearly 540,000 in 1980 to some 130,000 today. The consolidation of the rail industry means there are only seven Class I freight companies, with four of those companies controlling 83 percent of rail traffic. Service on the nation’s rail lines, along with working conditions and wages, has deteriorated as Wall Street squeezes the big railroad conglomerates for greater and greater profits. Indeed, the fragility of the rail system led to huge backlogs and delays during the pandemic.
The Democrats insist they are the party of the working class. Joe Biden calls himself “a proud pro-labor president.” But they pile up one empty promise after another. In 2020, they promised, for example, that with control of the White House and both branches of Congress, they would pass a law to strengthen collective bargaining. Instead, they revoked the collective bargaining power of one of the few unionized industries that retains it.
They promised to raise the minimum wage. They failed. They promised a national paid family and medical leave program allowing all employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off. It never happened. They promised to impose a federal tax rate on corporations ranging from 21 percent to 28 percent, so that “wealthy Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.” The proposed tax increase was scuttled. They promised to pass legislation to ensure that super PACs “are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties.” It went nowhere. They then mounted a midterm election campaign, which cost both parties a staggering $16.7 billion and was funded by massive infusions of PAC money.
The Democrats routinely say the right thing and do the wrong thing, and this is true for its tiny progressive minority, which dutifully votes to funnel billions to the war industry, including the war in Ukraine. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and most other progressive House members voted for the anti-union legislation while also voting for a separate resolution that would have given rail workers seven days of paid sick leave. The unions were demanding 14. The second resolution died in the Senate, as they knew it would, leaving workers with a woefully inadequate, pro-management deal that over half of them had already rejected. To his credit, Bernie Sanders voted against the bill when the sick leave amendment from the House, which he backed, was rejected in the Senate.
Why does any legislator believe railroad workers should be forced to use what few vacation days they may have if they fall sick and request permission to be absent days in advance, as if illnesses are scheduled events? Congress members and their staff do not work under these conditions.
“In a statement that perfectly captured the yawning gap between Democratic Party rhetoric and behavior,” Binyamin Appelbaum, the lead writer on economics and business for the New York Times editorial board, wrote in the newspaper, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced railroad companies as rapacious profiteers who ‘have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.’ Then, just one sentence later, she announced that House Democrats would stand with the profiteers.”
What are we to make of a Congress that refuses to support a single day of paid sick leave for 115,000 freight railroad workers, while the combined net income of the railroad industry is $27 billion — double what it was in 2013?
What are we to make of a Congress that in its latest military policy legislation sets the appropriation at $45 billion above the Pentagon’s request?
What are we to make of a Congress that refuses to pass gun control legislation despite 600 mass shootings this year, more than one per day?
What are we to make of a Congress that defunds the Internal Revenue Service, making it only practical to investigate those earning middle and lower incomes and near impossible to investigate tens of billions of dollars in tax evasion by corporations and the rich?
What are we to make of a Congress that rewrites the tax code on behalf of lobbyists so 55 of the largest corporations that collectively made over $40 billion in pre-tax income in 2020 - paid no federal income tax and received $3.5 billion in tax rebates.
What are we to make of a Congress, more than half of whose members are millionaires, who flagrantly use their committee assignments, inside knowledge of proposed legislation and classified intelligence reports to carry out insider trading to increase their wealth? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband invested millions of dollars in computer-chip stocks as the Democratic leadership was formulating a plan to subsidize the chip-manufacturing industry.
Most political theorists, including Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi and Max Weber, started from the premise that there is a natural antagonism between owners and workers. They understood that if the oligarchs shook off all restraints to the accumulation of wealth, it would destroy the political order. The ruling class masks its greed behind ideologies — in our nation’s case, free market capitalism and neoliberal globalization. Neoliberalism never made any economic sense. But it was disseminated by compliant academics, the media and political theorists because, to quote Marx, it allowed “the dominant material relationships” to be “grasped as ideas.”
“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry wrote. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so, and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”
All the advances we made in the early 20th century through union strikes, government regulation, the New Deal, a fair tax code, the courts, an alternative press and mass movements have been reversed. The oligarchs are turning American workers — as they did in the 19th century steel and textile factories — into serfs, kept in check by onerous anti-union laws, militarized police, the world’s largest prison system, an electoral system dominated by corporate money and the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history.
The rich, throughout history, have subjugated and re-subjugated the populations they control. And the public, throughout history, has awakened to the class war waged by the oligarchs and plutocrats and revolted. Let us hope that defying Congress, freight railroad workers carry out a strike. A strike will at least expose the fangs of the ruling class, the courts, law enforcement and the National Guard, much as they did during labor unrest in the 20th century, and broadcast a very public message about whose interests they serve. Besides, a strike might work. Nothing else will.
BLOWING A LAY-UP
is a moment in hell
a blow to the soul
cause you can’t make the goal
Ahead of the field
in apparent control
just don’t blow the lay up…
Saturday mornin’ on
the neighborhood courts
you don’t have to be great
I am proud to report
You don’t have to be black
you can even be short
just don’t blow the lay up…
Once I had cut for
a beautiful pass
and faked two defenders
right down on their as-phalt
Displaying my moves
With a touch of class
Just don’t blow the lay-up…
Blowing a lay-up
is a moment in hell
A blow to the soul
cause you can’t get the roll
watch out for the pole…
Put back the rebound.
— Fred Gardner
NEGATIVITY IS FATAL to all things, particularly any creative endeavor. You need to trust others in order to trust yourself, the work, the director, the entire bizarre and beautiful enterprise of the theatre or film, and negativity, gossip, anger--these all destroy the entire foundation on which you will need to stand. Try never to say anything of a fellow player or a play or a character that you would not want to hear said about yourself. Grow deaf and sweetly smiling when faced with gossip. Move along. Do your work. In time everything will earn the high standing you have demanded for it.
— Alec Guinness (interview with James Grissom, 1991)
THE CRUEL, DISHONEST AND SHAMEFUL Story Of Britain’s Last Colony May Be Coming To An End
by Patrick Cockburn
“The object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours,” wrote Denis Greenhill, the head of the Colonial Office in 1966 after Britain agreed to provide the US with a military base in the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Americans were promised that the islands where the base, Diego Garcia, was to be built would be uninhabited.
Greenhill, later Lord Greenhill of Harrow, was well aware that this was not the case at the time of writing, but cavalierly asserted that in future there would “be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a committee”.
In a tone of nauseating jollity, this senior British diplomat picks up on the seagull reference to explain what was going to happen to the 1,500 people or more who had lived and worked in Chagos for generations. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, “along with the Birds go some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure, and who are being hopefully wished on to Mauritius etc.”
Forcibly removed in three stages
The British government was as bad as its word and within a year the inhabitants of Chagos were being forcibly removed in three stages. The first to lose their homes were those who had temporarily left the islands and were refused passage back on boats so they could not make the return journey. Then in 1969, those living on Diego Garcia were deported to other islands in the archipelago, the Seychelles and Mauritius. The dismissive “etc” in Greenhill’s memo turned out to include Gatwick Airport where some of the bewildered and impoverished deportees were dumped.
On 27 April 1973, the last of the islanders were ordered to leave immediately. Twenty-year-old Liseby Elyse, recently married to a blacksmith and pregnant, recalls how they were allowed to take almost nothing with them: “they told us to leave everything behind. We were not allowed to take our dogs. Each of us was allowed one trunk, which we filled with our most important items.” Crammed into a boat, they reached Mauritius after four days sailing and were landed on the quayside, having initially refused to disembark, with no money or anywhere to live. “Soon after we arrived I lost the child, my first,” Liseby said. “I suppose it was the trauma and the sadness.”
The abandoned dogs back in the Chagos posed a problem for the colonial authorities who tried to get rid of them by shooting and strychnine. “When this solution failed, the dogs were rounded up, locked into a copra-drying shed, gassed, then incinerated,” writes Philippe Sands in his just-published book The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice and Britain’s Colonial Legacy. An exceptionally powerful and intelligent book, it weaves together the story of the Chagos islanders struggling to return to their homeland with the complex political and legal developments that affected them.
A quest for justice to this day
One theme of the book is the actions of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, and the positive role it ultimately played in the Chagos saga. Another is the tale of Liseby Elyse, whose life personifies “the wrongs done to her and other Chagossians, and their quest for justice which continues to this day”.
A further theme is the appalling behaviour of the British government at every stage. An old journalistic saying holds that “if you want a good story, imagine the worst thing a government could do and write that they have done it. The story will be denied within 24 hours and confirmed within the week.” Those who dismiss this advice as too cynical should read Sands’ book as it details the British government’s lies and perfidious manoeuvres over half a century.
When it came to the continuing exile of the people of Chagos, official mendacity became habitual and was accompanied by systematic evasiveness about the uses to which the Americans were putting their Diego Garcia base in what was still, after all, a British colony. After 9/11, Britain denied that Diego Garcia was being used for the “rendition” of prisoners for interrogation and torture. Eventually, it had to be admitted that “rendition” flights had taken place. The US Senate Committee on Intelligence concluded that the CIA may have established a “black site” detention and interrogation centre for”‘high-value suspects” on Diego Garcia, which may have happened with “the full concurrence” of the British government.
The government had hived off Chagos from Mauritius before the latter’s independence, renaming it the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), but Britain’s legal right to sovereignty over the area was always shaky. A greenwashing initiative took place to hide the enforced depopulation of the islands. In keeping with the growing demands for conserving the oceans, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced in 2010 a vast Marine Protection Area around Chagos. Conservation organisations expressed delight that pristine waters would be preserved, but showed faint interest in the fate of the deportees.
The startling truth about what the Foreign Office was really up to was revealed in a secret cable from the US embassy in London to the State Department in Washington sent in May 2009 in which a British diplomat called Colin Roberts, director of overseas territories at the Foreign Office, tells the American diplomats about the true reasons for the marine protection area.
The cable is one of the great trove of documents published by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in 2010, and relates how Roberts informed the Americans that “the former inhabitants [of Chagos] would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” He added cynically that the UK “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’ advocates.”
In the event, these cynical diplomatic calculations turned out to be wrong. Britain went on reiterating that the original inhabitants of Chagos could not return and Britain had full sovereignty over the area. But the International Criminal Court ruled in 2019 that Chagos was part of Mauritius, and Britain must end its illegal occupation. The UN General Assembly said that Britain must leave and was likewise ignored by the UK government.
A growing political price
But there was a growing political price for this as Britain had been unable to convince a single international judge of its right to the Chagos. Britain’s denunciations of other countries for illegally occupying territory not their own, such as Russia in Crimea, sounded peculiarly hypocritical in the light of what was increasingly seen as a scandalous injustice. Sands quotes himself telling Liseby Elyse that Britain, for all its rejection of the court ruling, would ultimately have to “recognise the legal and political realities.”
This may now be happening after the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the House of Commons on 3 November that Britain was opening negotiations with Mauritius on the question of sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago with the aim “to resolve all outstanding issues, including those relating to the former inhabitants.” The cruel, dishonest and shameful story of Britain’s last colony may be coming to an end.
As readers will have gathered from the piece above, I have been reading The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice and Britain’s Colonial Legacy by Philippe Sands. The book makes a much better present than anything else that I’ve seen on offer this Christmas.
(Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso). CounterPunch.org)
This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.
― Nikos Kazantzakis, “Zorba the Greek.”
SOME LIGHTS GO OUT, SOME LIGHTS GO ON
by James Kunstler
Have Americans grokked that virtually all of the mis-and-dis-information bombarding them lo these many years actually comes from the government and the news media channels that serve it? What we’ve got now in this country is a Mind-Fuckery Industrial Complex waging a psy-ops war on the people of this land. Why is that?
Essentially, to cover-up past crimes against the country by public officials. Twitter, pre-Musk, was a major accomplice and enabler of all that, and suddenly it’s not — to the horror of everyone in charge at our nation’s seat of government. The main crimes revolve around selling-out America’s future one way or another — “Joe Biden” and Company being only the most blatant perps in the big picture.
Before them was Hillary Clinton, with her purchase of the Democratic National Committee and previous lucrative ops during her turn as Secretary of State, like the Uranium One deal, the Skolkovo military tech transfer op, and then the Russia Collusion op to insure none of that would ever come to light. The whole Intel Community behemoth was neck deep in it, too, amping up the Russia prank into a four-year coup d’état. Remember, The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting that Hillary’s little hoax was for-real. It’s all just gotten more grotesque since Mr. Trump was ejected in the souped-up 2020 election, with sideshows such as the ongoing race-and-gender hustles, the climate con, and the Green New Deal bullshit.
Covid-19, surely released on-purpose, was, as Ed Dowd avers, a cover for global bankruptcy. Nothing else explains the astounding coordination of so many governments acting the same way against their own citizens: lockdowns, vaxx mandates, vaxx passports, and all. The icing on that poison cake, of course, is that everything the public health officialdom told you about Covid-19 was patently untrue, and dishonestly so, not via omission or plain incompetence. In fact, the virus was made in a Chinese lab with the help of Dr. Fauci and colleagues. Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine did work effectively against it. The “vaccines” were not tested properly and turned out to be harmful. And now the Covid-19 melodrama is ending in a discernable death-of-the-vaxxed and the reveal of all those aforesaid lies, while, anyway, despite their gaslight and smoke-screens, the global bankruptcy approaches its nauseating climax.
Watching the post-election political vaudeville during the lame-duck Christmas intermezzo, one can’t escape perceiving that just about everything in the USA is now heading south toward breakdown and ruin. The on-the-ground economy craters, inflation rages at the supermarket, supply lines break, the oil and gas industries get strangled, health care goes down smoking and burning, public education folds in disgrace and failure, Wall Street ends with a bang and a whimper, and John Fetterman prepares for his place in history.
Our government’s Ukraine op is ending in disaster for that sad-sack former Russian province and, surprise-surprise, for the European Union, NATO, and us, too. We finally played the Russia card like we’re the proverbial patsy at the poker table. Our hand turns out to be a pair of deuces with the five-of-diamonds high. Russia rakes in the chips with its massive natural resources and the world’s most stable currency, soon to be backed by gold. How’d that turn out, Victoria Nuland?
The EU was already functionally bankrupt. Now it has lost its entire industrial base for a lack of fuel to run it — self-Epsteined, shall we say, on the national scale — and faces not just a return to the medieval standard-of-living but also to the competitive savagery of many small nations soon to be fighting among themselves, making bad conditions worse. So sad. Euroland was a nice place to visit at the turn of the millennium and now the lights will blink out, like seeing a fond relative expire, eyes going vacant, on her deathbed.
Western Civ is, after all, a kind of family. And now the family is disintegrating — as old families will — in a malodorous fog of receivership, vice, and imbecility. Here in the USA, it’s hard to have faith in the supposed political opposition, the Republican Party. Not with Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy still riding herd. They preside over their own coterie of extravagant grift and disgusting privilege. Don’t be shocked… shocked… if they just stand by while America crumples into history at the hands of “Joe Biden.” If there is any saving of this nation, these two must be defenestrated — though saving the nation from penury, depravity, and senility looks increasingly improbable, at least in the form of the old federal republic we knew and loved.
The macro trend is quite clear, as laid out in The Long Emergency: what’s coming is the opposite of global government; rather, national governments become increasingly impotent and illegitimate, and smaller regions by necessity must retreat into autarky to keep anything going. For us that means Washington DC sinks into irrelevance while the states, or perhaps mere parts of the states, have to take charge of their own affairs.
That recovery process might have been jump-started by the Elon Musk revolution at Twitter. It will be a lot harder for the Mind-Fuckery Industrial Complex to operate with this key player in revolt. Lies will be contested now on the grand scale in ways that were formerly subverted. Things blurry will come into focus. Fresh air will blow in on chill winter winds. New ops against the people, such as the threatened central bank digital dollar, will be laughed off the stage. Some lights go out, but others get turned on.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
UKRAINE, MONDAY, DECEMBER 5TH
Several regions of Ukraine reported interruptions Monday to power and water supplies amid freezing temperatures after about 70 Russian missiles were fired at targets across the country.
Despite the strikes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed a high success rate in destroying the Russian missiles, with the Ukrainian Air Force saying more than 60 missiles were intercepted Monday.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Ukraine used drones to attack two military air bases within its territory Monday. Ukraine has not confirmed the attacks.
President Vladimir Putin visited the Kerch Bridge, a key link between the annexed Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia that was partially destroyed by an explosion in October, according to Russian state media.
MY BROTHER THE MURDERER
I was adopted when I was six weeks old. I grew up in the deep south. My dad was a doctor, my mother was a homemaker, a typical all-American family. My brother was adopted as a baby too. He was two years younger than me. He was a bastard from the day he was born. I hated him from the day they brought him home. I remember that day very well. It was at Catholic Social Services in Mobile, Alabama. We walked in and he was in a little white bassinet basket by the desk. I looked in the basket and I said, “Send him back. Get another one. You don’t want him.”
He didn’t have a good bone in his body. Growing up I saw it, but nobody else did. He would do and say things that aren’t normal for kids. Much in the way I guess Jeffrey Dahmer was not a normal kid, my brother was not a normal kid. I didn’t see him torture any animals but we did have family pets disappear. Looking back on it now I think he probably did something to them. He got into drugs when he was 10 or 11, got arrested at 13, and it went downhill from there. Growing up wasn’t easy. I think he knew that I knew what he was so he didn’t bother me physically.
My brother was 28 when he killed my parents. It was premeditated. It started with my parents refusing to give him the keys to one of the family cars because he wanted to go and get his girlfriend. They said no and sent him to my grandmother’s house who had just died three months before. While he was there I guess he started stewing and decided that he was going to get the car keys. He went downstairs, got a pipe and a knife and walked over to my parents’ house. Then he bludgeoned and stabbed them to death.
The trial was short and sweet -- three days, it was over. He was sentenced to death. He’s dead. He killed himself this past September on death row. I’m still not sure how. I know that he cut himself, but I’m not sure with what or where he got it. I need to read the autopsy report. I just haven’t got it yet. Nobody called me. A friend of my mother’s is a lawyer. She found out and told me. The actual prison never contacted me even though I was listed as family. He went into prison in January of 2005 and killed himself in 2006 so he wasn’t in prison long.
If nature versus nurture had any truth, he should have turned out to be the most angelic kid. My parents were high school sweethearts and were together until they died. There were 58. They should have gotten awards or something. They were the typical small-town perfect couple but they had evil in their house. They were very religious people and they thought prayer would solve all their problems. In the aftermath of what happened there was a lot of publicity. I had to go to their house and put tinfoil on all the windows because people were driving around trying to look in. It’s a lot different to look at violence on TV or in the movies than to be part of it in real life.
I think that the possibility of him killing my parents was always in the back of my mind. It was just a question of how and when. I instinctively knew he was evil, so evil that he was going to kill somebody. He hated my mother. It was a love-hate relationship and she was the one who controlled the situation as far as not giving him the car keys that night. So when I got the call I already knew. I just thought, “Oh my God, it’s finally happened.” I had dealt with it years before so I knew what I was going to say, what I was going to wear, how I was going to be in court. I was wearing these pants my mother got me for Christmas that year. I wanted to look conservative so they would listen to what I had to say about him. They didn’t let me talk much in court. I told them, “Well I’m probably one of the very few double orphans in the world, if not the only one. I had no birth parents and now I have no adoptive parents.”
BLANK SHEETS OF PAPER
by Alec Ash
In March 2020, after a panicked six weeks of chaos while Covid-19 spread in Wuhan and out, life in China returned to almost normal just as the rest of the world went into lockdown. By that summer, an image of thousands of swimmers without facemasks crowded in a Wuhan public pool became a symbol of Beijing’s success in ‘the people’s war against the virus’. I lived in a rural valley through it all, near Dali, without the need for a single Covid test or quarantine or lockdown. They were becoming more common in the cities, but there was still a popular sense that China had got it right.
In 2022, something changed. Much of the rest of the world, protected by mRNA vaccines, was emerging into the sunlight while China was still trapped in the dark. The two-month Shanghai lockdown in the spring shocked residents out of their smugness; one out-of-work restaurateur I met said he lost 20kg (down to 49kg by the end) for want of enough to eat. Covid tests were required every three days in Beijing. Residents’ movements were controlled by a health-tracking app: a green code allowed free passage; an orange or red code meant lockdown at home, transfer to a quarantine centre or another month unable to earn. The national ‘dynamic zero’ Covid policy was zealously implemented at a local level. People were fed up.
Last weekend, something snapped. People had waited until after Xi’s coronation at October’s Party Congress. They had witnessed a flirtation with looser restrictions in test cities such as Shijiazhuang, only for lockdown to be enforced again. And they had followed horror stories of the human cost of zero Covid, from the quarantine bus crash that killed 27 to the needless death of a three-year-old boy in Lanzhou whose medical care was delayed by lockdown restrictions. A fire in a locked-down apartment block in Urumqi last Thursday killed ten people. Street protests hit Urumqi on Friday, Shanghai on Saturday and Beijing on Sunday, along with sixteen other cities.
The marchers have been carrying blank sheets of A4 paper, which ‘represent everything we want to say but cannot say,’ in the words of one demonstrator. It was adopted as a form of protest in Hong Kong in 2020, and has now been picked up in the mainland. (On the Chinese web, searches for ‘A4’ and ‘white paper’ have been censored, as well as ‘Urumqi’ and ‘Shanghai’; domestic doom-scrollers are upsizing to the codeword ‘A3’.)
A flood of videos has breached the censorship dam, not only on Chinese-language Twitter but on my WeChat newsfeed too, among the selfies and food pics. The posts are generally gone within ten minutes. On Little Red Book (an app similar to Instagram) there are calls for ‘Banana Peel’ (xiangjiaopi, no prizes for guessing who’s meant) to resign. STEM students at Tsinghua university have held up signs with the Friedmann equations that describe the expansion of space (a pun on ‘freed man’ and an oblique reference to opening up). One woman in Zhejiang marched in chains with duct tape over her mouth, blank sheet of paper held high.
It is hard to overstate how unusual all of this is. Street protests are not uncommon in China, with hundreds of ‘mass incidents’, in the official euphemism, every year. Yet they tend to have a local focus: against cadre corruption, land-grabs or pollution. Now, for the first time since 1989, there is a nationwide expression of discontent with the government in Beijing. None of the demonstrations has reached anything near the numbers in Tiananmen Square 33 years ago, and they are already fizzling out as the police state kicks into gear. Yet if public protest at national policy is relatively ordinary in the West (as it was in Hong Kong before 2020), I have never seen anything like this in twelve years of living in China.
‘Xi Jinping, step down!’ crowds shouted on Urumqi Road in Shanghai on Saturday. ‘Communist Party, step down!’ Such a slogan was unthinkable until it was uttered. There may be some safety in numbers for the people chanting it, although many will no doubt be identified from videos (police are checking phones on the subways and streets, deleting photos and videos of the protests). In an online voice-chat forum of Chinese citizens on Sunday, a 26-year-old from Wenzhou vented even more boldly: ‘In 33 years the Chinese people haven’t spoken up, now we can say fuck you Xi Jinping, fuck your mother’s cunt.’
The protests were peaceful. Crowds commemorated the dead in Urumqi, declared solidarity (‘I love you Beijing!’), took off their masks. In Dali, a score of guitar-wielding slackers ambled through the city singing the Chinese lyrics of the ‘Internationale’. A group of Peking University students, who had protested silently with blank signs on Sunday, released a letter on Monday with a list of demands, including abolition of the health code system, an end to mandatory Covid tests and the lifting of censorship.
The sites of protest have now been overrun with police and the Chinese internet has been scrubbed clean of their digital record. As Rana Mitter put it, ‘state capacity to coerce is much stronger than 1989 and it seems unlikely that we will see a repeat of what happened that year.’ Yet the larger story, behind the headline of protests, is a quieter civil disobedience that is ongoing: a public throwing up of the arms, or at least roll of the eyes, when it comes to the Covid security state. Health codes are unscanned, tests skipped, residential authority figures challenged. Passive protest is almost as powerful as active: if paper cannot carry a slogan, it will not be written on at all.
I was in Beijing for the fortnight after the Party Congress last month. The vibrant city I had moved to in 2008 was unrecognisable. ‘It’s more or less North Korea,’ one bar owner said. That Xi Jinping was being anointed for a precedent-breaking third term did not help. Even some of his base had lost faith. I talked to a professor at Peking University, Pan Wei, who had supported the state through it all but now questioned zero Covid and Xi’s priorities: ‘I don’t understand this policy, it is hurting the economy and people’s livelihoods.’ For the first time in decades, a mass of people felt the central Party was not acting in their best interests.
There are, of course, the other half of the population who disagree. Xi’s popularity among the working class, combined with an abiding fear of Covid, means there is as much support for pandemic measures as resistance to them. Those who work in the weiwen tizhi or ‘stability maintenance system’, including health workers and local security guards, are generally true believers. And for the majority who have not been directly affected by lockdowns, there is little solidarity for those who have. Pride in zero Covid, for many, still outweighs its inconveniences.
Yet the civil unrest, though targeted at health policy, is about more than Covid. ‘In fact I think it’s showing dissatisfaction with the whole system,’ a programmer in Beijing told me. ‘I think China’s management is like Nazi Germany ... What’s the use of dialogue with thugs?’ He didn’t join the peaceful gathering by the Liangma river, instead advocating violent protest, though I got the impression he was letting off steam. He referred to Lu Xun’s allegory of an iron house where the inhabitants were suffocating in their sleep. ‘At least now many sleepers have awakened.’
For now, social stability has been reasserted; the iron shutters have come down. Even if Beijing can cut the Gordian knot of its zero-Covid policy – a sudden opening could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths – it is the lack of a plan to reopen, or an end point in sight, that distresses people. For many, in both China and the diaspora, the benefit of the short-lived protests was to show the chinks in the iron house’s armour: the people have a voice, and it can be heard, even if they are speaking with a blank sheet of paper.
(London Review of Books)
VIRTUAL REALITY IS SILLY when we've barely begun exploring our normal reality. Transhumanism is silly when we've barely begun exploring our normal humanity. Pursuing space colonization is silly when we haven't even learned to live on the planet we're adapted for. What are being presented as means for facilitating greater human experience are actually means for running away from it.
If most of us haven't even so much as mastered the ability to sit quietly for an hour and simply be still and content with what is, maybe it's not yet time to start hanging a bunch of fancy bells and whistles on the human adventure as though we have taken this thing as far as it goes.
Most of the futuristic visions people hold for humanity are really just visions of humanity running away from itself. Leaving earth and colonizing space. Leaving reality and building virtual reality. Leaving humanity and becoming cybernetic. All before we've actually learned to just be here. Baked in to all of these visions for our future is the assumption that humanity must always be restless. Must always be discontented. Must always be flailing around grabbing for more. This will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if believed. So it's important not to believe it.
What if instead of looking outward for directions to take human exploration, we looked inward? What if we as a species spent a few centuries really getting to know ourselves and what we're made of? Maybe we're like someone leaving a solid gold house to go treasure hunting?
Maybe all of our problems as a species can be solved by simply awakening human consciousness to what's really going on? Maybe all of our societal, geopolitical and ecosystemic problems would resolve themselves if we could become conscious of the forces within us that drive them?
What if there was a real societal push for practices like meditation and self-enquiry? What if facilities for psychedelic exploration were set up for public use around the world? What if we plunged in that direction, instead of trying to run off into space and virtual reality?
Ever known someone who's always moving from relationship to relationship, job to job, city to city, but always running into the same problems because the real source of their discontentment sits between their ears? Maybe that's humanity in general in our visions for the future.
This human adventure is going to keep unfolding for as long as it exists, but we do have control over what direction it unfolds in. Seems to me it would be best to start from where we're at and get the hang of basic human experience before getting all fancy about it. You've got to walk before you can run, and as far as the exploration of our inner dimensions is concerned, most of us aren't even crawling yet.
The adventure is right here. The journey is in you. You are your own unexplored universe. Take a breath, let the bliss rise in you, and see it for yourself, right this second. Do it now because there is only now to do it in. See? It's all here.
— Caitlin Johnstone