Suicide Under Capitalism and Thoughts of A Better World

I definitely think that in a better world, there would be significantly less suicide and thoughts of suicide.  By better world, I’m referring to a non-capitalist/anti-capitalist, anti-greed, ecologically focused world in which people were not forced to slave away for a “living.” I imagine this world being similar to the one depicted by William Morris in News From Nowhere.  Not forced to do menial or tedious tasks for pay, people would be free to engage in work or projects of their choice.  People would be less stressed and happier and thus also healthier and able to be kinder and more caring and loving towards each other.  This kindness and loving care would make for much less loneliness.  There would be a better, stronger sense of community and family and friendship among humans.  In this environment people would work, not out of mere need, but out of a desire to help each other, knowing that the quality of everyone’s life is improved by that sort of kindness and helpfulness.  And the quality of other people’s lives would actually matter to people in such a world, unlike people in this world who tend to be solely focused on the quality of their own lives and maybe and their immediate family/friends’ lives. In that kind of a better world, where people would have much more freedom and time to develop relationships with one another and care for one another, emotional awareness and sensitivity would be the norm.   Medicine, no longer a commodity, would truly be for the health and well being of those receiving it.  Cancer and other diseases would be dealt with much more effectively and holistically.  And in a society focused on ecological well being, there would be much less pollution and food would be healthier (no more corporate junk food).   People with a healthier environment would naturally be healthier and cancer rates would decline.   People would not only live longer, but would be healthy up until the very end of their life instead of suffering through months or years of illness.   But sometimes, even in a better world, people would occasionally die early.  And when that happened, the utmost care and loving compassion would be given to the person in their death process and those grieving for them, by their community, friends and family.

But, unfortunately, I don’t live in such a world. And I am suffering from severe depression, sometimes to the point where I consider suicide. It is this kind of social misery that exists in the present world order that is mainly why I am an anti-capitalist. The rampant depression and suicide in the world today is a testament that the status quo system can’t take care of us and we can’t really take good enough care of each other in it.  Health as a commodity doesn’t cut it. We need real care for our health. We are dying of cancers from the pollution and degradation of air, water and food quality, but we are not equipped or set up to really help each other.

There are people who are trying to help create better alternatives to the status quo. The Occupy Movement was an example of such an attempt. But as long as the capitalist system remains intact and running the world, these little quality of life projects–while they are certainly worthwhile and able to help some people–can only do so much and the overall misery under capitalism for most of the people in the world remains. I would like to see more efforts and projects to improve the quality of our lives here in this world given what we have to work with.

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OCCUPY THE VOTE! Oliah’s Interview with Andy Fahrenwald regarding the imperative need for the Occupy Movement to become Actively Involved in the upcoming Elections

A recent facebook debate with some Tea Party sympathizers sparked my reaction to their claims that Paul Ryan’s budget is sensible.  They argue that Obama’s healthcare plan would end decent healthcare in this country, and that Obama’s plans will not balance the national budget.     I decided to interview my friend and comrade Andy who has been an active fighter for true Democracy in this country for over 50 years.  Aug. 12th, 2012

1. How will universal single-payer healthcare reduce the debt?

To begin with, it will result in everybody paying half of what they pay now. Taxes will go up but insurance costs will be eliminated. In terms of medical costs, when hospital fees, doctor fees and pharmaceuticals are brought under control, the overall cost of medical care will precipitously fall to levels achieved by other civilized western democracies. It should be noted that our healthcare statistics put us near the bottom of worldwide metrics, for example child mortality rates are high in this country. Under government provided healthcare, preventative care will greatly assist in improving our worldwide ranking. Currently, people forgo checkups and other preventative care due to its high costs and thus end up in the emergency room at a huge cost.

As far as Canada goes, many people cross the border in order to get healthcare and buy pharmaceuticals that they can’t afford here in the U.S. The Canadians I’ve talked to, love their universal/single-payer healthcare system so I would suggest that we franchise our healthcare system to Canada.

As far as national debt goes, the government was bringing in as much as it was spending during the Clinton administration and beginning to draw down the incredible debt that Reagan had run up. The 2nd Bush administration reversed all that by slashing taxes on the wealthy & corporations while simultaneously launching two unfunded and unjustifiable wars. At the same time, regulations put in place during the Great Depression to prevent the financial industry from running amuck, were stripped away. Thus the banks were able to gamble with the assets of their depositors and borrowers and lose it all in the Big Casino they had created i.e. the Stock Market.

The resulting crash and Depression has put millions out of work. The first priority of government now should be creating jobs which will help restart the economy and increase tax revenues.

So, overall the reckless running up of debt and removal of government oversight and regulation has destroyed our national economy & prosperity. And now the people who’ve benefitted from this by putting money in their wallets that should’ve raised the wealth of the middle class has instead impoverished that class. Now they’re spending that money on propaganda and legal bribes to legislators to make sure they can keep doing what they’ve been doing, and furthermore to help pay for the agenda of the Tea Party which they secretly helped write.

2. So universal healthcare comparable to that of all other civilized countries (ours is the only western nation that does not have it) is one way to reduce debt but what are some other ways?

Many of our international allies are prospering because they do not have to assume the expense of the military burdens that our country pays for–a billion bucks a year for Egypt under Mubarek, a billion bucks a year for Israel. Throw in all of our other Middle-Eastern clients plus NATO, make them pay their way and that will run our debt down real fast, by commensurately running down our military budget and foreign military aid.

3. What about taxing the super-rich?

The wealthy individuals and corporations have had their taxes slashed and the result has not been an increase in wealth for the middle class but instead has impoverished the 99%. The truth is that wealth trickles up, not down.

4. Obama’s attempts to establish single-payer healthcare and also to tax the wealthy have been hindered by the Republicans and Tea Party in the Congress. It seems that unless the Democrats can gain a majority in the Congress and Senate then Obama will continue to be blocked or kept from making much progress as he has been over the last four years. So should the Occupy Movement vote for Obama and other liberal candidates? Or what do you think is the next step here?

We’ve got to get the right-wingers who are in the pockets of Big Money out of Congress and make sure that control goes to the liberal Democrats in the Senate–which is only 3 senators away from Republican control. Legislation has to be put in place to stop massive legalized bribery of Congress.

More than vote, we have to vote and get out the vote. We’ve got to occupy this election Hit the streets. Expose the lies and defeat the Tea Party Congressional candidates which now include the vice president.

5. So we’ve got to Occupy this Election! Thank you Andy for your time.

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Book Review : Public Secrets by Ken Knabb

REVIEW OF PUBLIC SECRETS

Of the few books I’ve read recently, I was particularly intrigued by Ken Knabb’s Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb 1970-1997. I was drawn to this book by my interest in Situationist theory. Knabb has been a key figure in the Situationist movement in the United States, having translated the bulk of the Situationist International’s works into English.
First, I read “Confessions of a Mild-Mannered Enemy of the State,” his autobiographical sketch, in order to get a better idea of who the person behind all this theoretical writing is — his personal history and development. Throughout the author’s life experience, certain basic themes stand out: his love of learning (particularly self-education through books), and his quest for experience, awareness, consciousness of self and world, and of course, his evolving revolutionary anti-capitalist perspective. It was this critical process that attracted Knabb to the Situationist International in 1969, and later led him to become critical of tendencies within the Situationist milieu. Knabb especially appreciates the S.I.’s dialectical approach. He explains it thus, “The dialectical method that runs from Hegel and Marx to the situationists is not a magic formula for churning out correct predictions, it is a tool for grappling with the dynamic processes of social change. It reminds us that social concepts are not eternal; that they contain their own contradictions, interacting with and transforming each other, even into their opposites; that what is true or progressive in one context may become false or regressive in another.” He emphasizes the importance of dialectics throughout the book.
Knabb introduces the book with an overview of “how we got to this absurd position,” that is, capitalism — what it is, how it is degrading our lives, etc. He goes over some radical history, referring back to Marx’s “primitive accumulation,” in Capital I. He looks at various corrupted attempts at revolution (Stalinism, Leninism) to define what revolution is not. He then mentions some of the more effective revolts through time — Italy 1920, Spain 1937, and France 1968 are a few examples. He suggests problem-solving strategies, including writing pamphlets — getting one’s ideas out there (part of what inspired me to write this zine), and again underlining the need for dialectical analysis, including self-examination.
I was especially enamoured of Ken’s “Affective Detournement: A Case Study,” an account of his several-month-long Reichian experimentations in critical self-analysis. He examined his personal “psychogeography”, on the principle that “you discover how society functions, by learning how it functions against you.” I thought, “wow, here’s an intelligent radical theorist who is actually examining his flaws, criticizing his own past, and trying to break out of his rigidity/‘character armor’ and habitual behaviors. This is something we should all engage in, and often.” I was moved to laughter by such passages as, “I particularly aimed at countering any defensive seriousness by constantly holding up to myself the absurdity and silliness of my ego. Sometimes, when no one else was around, I would walk down the street singing free-associations and laughing at myself.”
After reading that, a friend of mine said, “Ah, but I do this even when others are looking.” People have different thresholds for overcoming their “biologic rigidity.” Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see those who talk or write about “liberation” actually practicing it (or at least striving to achieve self-liberation).

In “Joy of Revolution,” Knabb enthusiastically puts forth anti-hierarchical revolution as the only sane solution to capitalist insanity. He gives an idea of how this global social change might unfold and also sketches out how a post-revolutionary world could look. He strikes me as very optimistic about what technologies would be retained in a liberated society, when he proposes that, “airplanes would be kept for intercontinental travel (rationed if necessary) and for certain kinds of urgent shipments, but the elimination of wage labor will leave people with time for more leisurely modes of travel — boats, trains, biking, hiking.” Though I agree with the latter part of that statement, I find it hard to believe that a truly rational society would continue to use airplanes, which are highly polluting machines, without significant alterations to make them much less polluting. However Ken does suggest that a lot of technologies would be phased out, ecologically improved, and redesigned “for human rather than capitalistic ends.” In any case, he states that these are merely some ideas of how a liberated society may work out, and they are not an exact blueprint. Knabb’s idea is that, once we’ve finally conquered the mundane stumbling-block that is capitalism, revolution will present us with far more interesting problems to grapple with, “An antihierarchical revolution will not solve all our problems; it will simply eliminate some of the anachronistic ones, freeing us to tackle more interesting problems.”
The latter part of the book is a collection of previous publications by Knabb and other Situationist-influenced people, including critiques of certain non-dialectical aspects of the Situationist milieu — such as the fad it later degenerated into, or its inadequate critique of religion.
Knabb also includes his own critique of religion, specifically “engaged Buddhism,” and an introduction to the works of revolutionary thinker, poet and literary genius Kenneth Rexroth. Rexroth is certainly an unusual gem of an individual, particularly in U.S. history, who I had not looked into prior to reading Public Secrets.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those interested in anti-capitalist/revolutionary theory. It is a clear, straightforward, honest, well-written, and dialectical composition.

—Oliah Kraft, Allergic to This World
(Oregon, 2007)

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Occupy Wall Street Speech by Slavoj Žižek

“Don’t fall in love with yourselves, with the nice time we are having here.
Carnivals come cheap—the true test of their worth is what remains the day
after, how our normal daily life will be changed. Fall in love with hard and
patient work—we are the beginning, not the end. Our basic message is: the
taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world, we are allowed
and obliged even to think about alternatives. There is a long road ahead,
and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions—questions not
about what we do not want, but about what we DO want. What social
organization can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders
we need? The XXth century alternatives obviously did not work.

So do not blame people and their attitudes: the problem is not corruption or
greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution
is not “Main street, not Wall street,” but to change the system where main
street cannot function without Wall street. Beware not only of enemies, but
also of false friends who pretend to support us, but are already working
hard to dilute our protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine,
beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, they will try to make us into a
harmless moral protest. But the reason we are here is that we had enough of
the world where to recycle your Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for
charity, or to buy Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes for the Third World
troubles is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture,
after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, we see
that for a long time we were allowing our political engagements also to be
outsourced—we want them back.

They will tell us we are un-American. But when conservative fundamentalists
tell you that America is a Christian nation, remember what Christianity is:
the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love.
We here are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street they are pagans
worshipping false idols.

They will tell us we are violent, that our very language is violent:
occupation, and so on. Yes we are violent, but only in the sense in which
Mahathma Gandhi was violent. We are violent because we want to put a stop on
the way things go—but what is this purely symbolic violence compared to the
violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist
system?

We were called losers—but are the true losers not there on the Wall Street,
and were they not bailed out by hundreds of billions of your money? You are
called socialists—but in the US, there already is socialism for the rich.
They will tell you that you don’t respect private property—but the Wall
Street speculations that led to the crash of 2008 erased more hard-earned
private property than if we were to be destroying it here night and day—just
think of thousands of homes foreclosed…

We are not Communists, if Communism means the system which deservedly
collapsed in 1990—and remember that Communists who are still in power run
today the most ruthless capitalism (in China). The success of Chinese
Communist-run capitalism is an ominous sign that the marriage between
capitalism and democracy is approaching a divorce. The only sense in which
we are Communists is that we care for the commons—the commons of nature, of
knowledge—which are threatened by the system.

They will tell you that you are dreaming, but the true dreamers are those
who think that things can go on indefinitely they way they are, just with
some cosmetic changes. We are not dreamers, we are the awakening from a
dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything, we
are merely witness how the system is gradually destroying itself. We all
know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice, but it
goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet;
it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. What we are
doing is just reminding those in power to look down…

So is the change really possible? Today, the possible and the impossible are
distributed in a strange way. In the domains of personal freedoms and
scientific technology, the impossible is becoming increasingly possible (or
so we are told): “nothing is impossible,” we can enjoy sex in all its
perverse versions; entire archives of music, films, and TV series are
available for downloading; space travel is available to everyone (with the
money…); we can enhance our physical and psychic abilities through
interventions into the genome, right up to the techno-gnostic dream of
achieving immortality by transforming our identity into a software program.
On the other hand, in the domain of social and economic relations, we are
bombarded all the time by a You cannot … engage in collective political
acts (which necessarily end in totalitarian terror), or cling to the old
Welfare State (it makes you non-competitive and leads to economic crisis),
or isolate yourself from the global market, and so on. When austerity
measures are imposed, we are repeatedly told that this is simply what has to
be done. Maybe, the time has come to turn around these coordinates of what
is possible and what is impossible; maybe, we cannot become immortal, but we
can have more solidarity and healthcare?

In mid-April 2011, the media reported that Chinese government has prohibited
showing on TV and in theatres films which deal with time travel and
alternate history, with the argument that such stories introduce frivolity
into serious historical matters—even the fictional escape into alternate
reality is considered too dangerous. We in the liberal West do not need such
an explicit prohibition: ideology exerts enough material power to prevent
alternate history narratives being taken with a minimum of seriousness. It
is easy for us to imagine the end of the world—see numerous apocalyptic
films -, but not end of capitalism.

In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker
gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he
tells his friends: “Let’s establish a code: if a letter you will get from me
is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it
is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue
ink: “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant,
apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the
West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair—the only thing
unavailable is red ink.” And is this not our situation till now? We have all
the freedoms one wants—the only thing missing is the* red ink*: we *feel
free* because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What
this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to
designate the present conflict—’war on terror,’ “democracy and freedom,’
‘human rights,’ etc—are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the
situation instead of allowing us to think it. You, here, you are giving to
all of us red ink.”

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No Nukes! : We are all Downwind of Fukushima

In the wake of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, as Japanese workers struggle desperately to stabilize six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, the United States government has not reconsidered the safety and environmental hazards of nuclear energy. Instead, President Obama has proposed a $36 billion dollar taxpayer giveaway to the nuclear industry so that it can build new plants.

U.S. proponents of nuclear power claim that an accident like Japan’s “can’t happen here.” That is precisely what the operators at Fukushima claimed prior to this catastrophic accident. Twenty-three of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are of the same model as those in Fukushima. The two active nuclear plants in California are located on earthquake fault lines near the ocean! Obama, who claims “protecting the American people and keeping this country safe” as his job’s top priorities, is certainly not doing his job by funding an energy source that is neither safe for people nor for the environment. Despite the fact that radiation from Japan’s nuclear crisis has been detected in rainwater from U.S. coast to coast, the Obama Administration has not taken the wake-up call from mother nature, the clear warning that nuclear power is not a safe option.    Those who think that nuclear power is safe, should be over in Fukushima working to cool the reactors and clean up the mess. After they’re hospitalized for radiation exposure, then maybe they’ll change their views.

I am writing this letter to urge people to oppose giving our tax dollars to the nuclear industry. We can not afford to fund nuclear energy. The risks are too high and there is no good solution for how to store the spent fuel rods. The $36 billion dollars should instead go to safe, renewable, and environmentally sound alternative energy such as wind or solar.

In addition, the existing nuclear plants in the U.S. should be shut down–particularly those in earthquake-prone California. At the very least, serious improvements should be made to the safety of nuclear facilities and no new plants should be built. But the reality is that nuclear power is inherently unsafe. Fukushima is a harbinger of future nuclear crises. We must act now to prevent such a reoccurrence before it is too late.

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To the People of Egypt and Beyond

Dear People of Egypt,

We, the people of the U.S. (many of us but unfortunately not all), support your inspiring and tremendous stand for true democracy!  Thank you for bringing to light yet another example of the hypocrisy of the United States Government – it claims to support democracy, yet it props up corrupt dictators and oppressive regimes such as Mubarek’s.   We demand that our tax dollars no longer get spent arming dictators and oppressors!   Give the money to the people, to all oppressed people here and over there!  No more greed and hoarding of money!  It is time for poor and working class and oppressed people everywhere to stand together and demand equitable distribution of resources, wealth and political power!

Too many people are too comfortable because they have wealth.  But that wealth comes at the expense of miserable poverty and oppression of others.  It would be a much more pleasant world for everyone if we all shared in a good quality life without the need to exclude and oppress anyone.    In the United States, which might more accurately be called the divided states because there is a lack of class-consciousness here,  there is just enough material-comfort to distract us from the miseries of the status-quo which include poverty, police brutality and oppression, the highest percent of people in prison in the world, homelessness, increasing economic disparity and unemployment, environmental degradation (the recent oil spill is a prime example of this), and pollution that we have to live in.  Only those who can afford freedom – the wealthy – are free, and even that freedom is limited in a corrupt capitalist world order where most of us are slaves to wages.

Your example, people of Egypt, is encouraging!  It shows that people can stand up to their oppressors and say “Enough!”;  that people can organize, revolt and share in a popular movement against oppression.  May all the oppressed people of the world work together – Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel united, England, France, U.S. and all of the countries east and west both – in a new movement for real non-corrupt democracy and for equality in wealth and freedom!   Solidarity!

For Liberation,

United States Citizens for True Democracy

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BP : We’re all Downstream

BP : We’re All Downstream

British Petroleum’s oil cataclysm in the Gulf  of Mexico – the biggest oil calamity in U.S. history – is a horrendous example of  our  “Profits Rule” system’s degradation of life.  Though it is among the worst, this catastrophe is part of a long train of similar disasters.   The fouling of our planet will continue unabated as long as Capitalism is at the helm.

While implementing “green energy” such as solar or wind instead of fossil fuel is minimally necessary for the survival of the human species, that survival will certainly be limited if Capitalism continues to exploit and plunder the planet.  We have to move beyond this impoverished survival in order to really live life to the fullest potential.  Do we want to just do what’s necessary to survive – barely eking by, or do we want to do what’s needed to improve and enrich the quality of our lives and our environment?  If we desire the latter, then we are going to have to make more drastic changes, not simply in our energy sources, but  in the entire social system and world order.

BP, like all corporations, is solely concerned with making material profit regardless of the environmental impact, thus to save money they skimped on both the safety procedures and equipment of their oil rig.  Beyond that, the government regulators have been corrupted.  The whole idea of regulations presumes that we must tolerate the system of exploitation.  Evil needs regulations,  Good Work needs encouragement and reward.

As a result of this insane status-quo, the oil rig explosion :  left a petroleum-spewing geyser in the ocean floor;  killed 11 workers and countless living creatures in the sea and air;  much of the Gulf of Mexico will now be a miasmic dead zone where no aquatic life can survive due to lack of oxygen;  illnesses in the area are increasing; and the damage has only begun!  This is just a glaring (and nauseating) reminder that we are under the reign of a corrupt and absurd value system – wherein profit is made from our illnesses and from the pollution created by this system.  As long as they’re making money, our Capitalist rulers don’t care that they are poisoning our water, land and air – from their perspective it’s good for business – they can sell us water filters, bottled water, and air filters, to accustom us to a polluted environment.   Capitalism continually reduces the quality of just about everything under the sun – from soil and food to architecture and forests.

Quality is made scarce, and only the rich can afford to live as we all should be able to live – in high quality dwellings, surrounded by lovely nature, eating and drinking of the finest of Earth’s offerings.  Instead, the vast majority of us are forced to live as cheaply as possible, with minimal wages and encouraged to hoard/”save up” what money we are able to obtain to buy this or that “luxury”.  “As ‘natural’ products have become a niche market for those affluent enough to pay for them, the goods available to everyone else are even shoddier and more toxic than before.” – Brian Tokar,  Earth for Sale. Good-quality food, water and housing should not be a luxury.

Capitalism is a system based on the spoiling and scarcity of all that is good quality in life.  Thus Capitalism is a system of poverty.  As Oscar Wilde wrote in his Soul of Man Under Socialism, “The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.”  And he wasn’t only referring to material poverty, but to social, æsthetic and spiritual poverty as well.  Is the misery and degradation of most of what exists really worth the pleasure of the few?  And is not even that pleasure diminished by the suffering and destruction surrounding it?  Wouldn’t it make better sense and be more desirable to live in a society where the quality of the whole of life and the well-being of the planet were of the utmost importance?

We are all downstream and downwind of BP’s toxic mess, and every other assault of the planet by the Capitalist system.  And no water or air filter is going to be enough to protect us, unless we stop this Capitalist madness!

Instead of a system that puts profits before people and the environment, we need something new, something that has not been tried before – a system that holds the planet and life on it in the highest regard, seeing no other profit than the improvement of the quality of life for all living things.

-Oliah Kraft

May 31, 2010

e-mail : allergic(at)riseup.net

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