(November 7, 2005)
[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]
Confronting the contradictions fraternally: The Special Issue on who we are and what we stand for.To the Editor:
What have we come to? Who are we? And what do we stand for?
These vital questions were asked in the Swans special issue, and they were answered in excruciating, honest, personal and communal explorations.
We are arrogant, delusional, criminal, self-indulgent, uninformed, misinformed, insular, pathological, programmed, complacent and obedient cyborgs and zombies engaged in torture, massacre, barbarism, and general depravity brought about by the corporatization of our society in pursuit of our unified religion of profit. The result is misery, fear, and loathing abroad and a third-worldization right here.
We are a contradiction as we have always been. How else was a declaration of independence scribed on the heels of genocide and in the midst of slavery? Were the self-evident truths harbored within that document empty rhetoric? Is the continuity of injustice and oppression more plain than we had realized? Or was there something profoundly human in the American experiment that transcended our basest instincts? Has something good, if not exceptional, been derailed? Either way, we all agree that the society we have here before us is diseased.
The next question becomes who to blame. Gilles d'Aymery asks "we" or "they" and knows there is no simple answer. Are WE responsible or can we effectively distance ourselves from the perpetrators? Is it our European roots or is that more distancing? The buck stops where? Is it our chosen lifestyles or those evil corporations who force those lifestyles upon us? Is it our failure to build the political infrastructure of social justice or is it an organized right-wing with deep pockets and infinite will and wisdom? Do we build our institutions or are we products of them?
It is a question not of blame but of consciousness. Are we capable of living deliberately or are we enslaved by our unconscious beings? We can only build and shape our institutions if we are aware of their existence and our role in them. We look inward and confront the contradictions, however ugly they are and however difficult this is. We hold hands and move forward together, beyond fear, beyond contradiction, and towards truth, towards justice. We lay all of this out so that we may begin to correct it.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA - November 4, 2005
Right on target: Robert Wrubel's Where Is The Left In The U.S.?Dear Editor,
Substitute "The Left" with "Our Humanity."
Richard W. Symonds
field, Gatwick's 'City' of Crawley, England - October 24, 2005
Robert Wrubel makes a number of excellent points regarding the Left in the U.S.
Given the fractured "conservative" dialog over fiscal responsibility in US government and the Miers comedy, the "Right" is no more cohesive than the Left. The "Right" is merely in control of mass media and that control gives the Right a distinct advantage.
I think that what passes for the "Left" in America has fallen into a perpetual state of "I don't want to be put out." Protest is scheduled months in advanced and even then, the "protest" needs to establish a "consensus." The "Left" has been made out to be the closet whore by the Democratic Party and is only ever brought out of the aforementioned closet if and when the "Left" is needed as foot soldiers by the Democrats. Even then, the "Left" is kept at an arms length by Democrats. The "Left" has been shut out of the American political process as has the moderate "Right" and a corporate political mindset is in absolute and unchallenged control of America and American government. The "Left" and the moderate "Right" are simply grunts to be used and then discarded by America's aristocracy and ruling elites. I'm of the opinion that the American people are on the losing end of this political stick.
When this political stick gets jabbed into the eye of the American people it is painful and blinding. America's fascist rulers are going to continue stabbing the American people directly in the eye and killing our children in stupid wars of aggression with impunity. There is not as much a divide or disagreement between the so-called "Left" and the moderate "Right" as our media concerns would have us think. So long as "we the people" must schedule our protest or plead with the two ruling parties of American politics for some face time, we will be left out of the process and that is exactly how our rulers want it.
Most respectfully yours,
Murray, Utah, USA - October 24, 2005
Predictable response -- Anti-Americans should leave: Gilles d'Aymery's The American Experiment, Really?Editor:
In my September 19 letter, I commented on Gilles d'Aymery's fabulations and whishful thinking. I felt his views wholly un-American. The latest generalizations he put forward struck me as not only un-American, but anti-American.
To be critical is fine. To paint a picture of a blood-thirsty, materialistic people, however, is not. His literal hate is contradicted by history. We have consistently freed people all over the world. We've saved Europe twice. We defeated the evils of nazism, fascism, communism. We'll defeat Islamicist fundamentalism. We will bring peace and prosperity to the world. This is our, American mission. We are the chosen people.
I don't wish Mr. d'Aymery any ill. He's free to say whatever he wants -- this is America, and people keep dying so that he can distil his poison. But, since he so obviously hates the U.S., I wonder why he's still here. Would it not be time to put his thoughts and actions together and leave the country?
A majority of the American people wisely chose a great leader. Can't the nay-sayers accept that wisdom? I guess they can't...but we will prevail...and they will end up in history's landfills.
Hoboken, New Jersey, USA - October 31, 2005
Editor's error: Note from the EditorDear Editor,
Your "Note from the Editor" regarding Judith Miller included a misstatement. It was not the current New York Times puplisher's father who was in cahoots with the US government 60 years ago; it was his grandfather. Few people know who William Laurence was and what he did. Perhaps, to enlighten your readers, could you explain further.
London, England, UK - November 1, 2005
[ed. Mr. Wrinkle is correct. Sorry for the error. I've made the change in the archives to reflect Sulzberger's grandpa status. On William Laurence, I did not feel the need to repeat what was said on Democracy Now since I had put a link to the explanation in the first place. Thanks for the correction.]
Take a break from the Zombie Nation: John Steppling's What Have We Become? Not Better -- Zombie NationDear John,
I just finished reading your "Zombie Nation" and I'm a bit concerned about you. I want you to take a deep breath and relax. It's going to be O.K. There's some leftover lasagna in the fridge. And some pecan pie. Go grab a plate. And bring the bottle of Chardonnay while you're at it. Sit down and eat. I'll talk.
Look, if you're a philosopher, all this social analysis should bring you some pleasure. My guess is that you are actually a closet Romantic. Ç'est dommage. All that Noble Savage stuff, Byronesque poetry and death worship has gone to your head. As Horace Walpole, a devotee of the Gothic said, "the world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel."
Liberals are in a terrible fix these days. I doubt if Las Casas suffered as you do. Or felt so isolated. As an activist of sorts, he faced reality and struggled to change it. The forces he challenged in the Catholic Church were profoundly ignorant and viscious (some things never change). The Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, was at the height of his power at the time Las Casas was a Dominican novice. On the other hand, Humanism was a widespread European movement during the same period, emphasising the dignity of man and his perfectability. Clearly, Las Casas embraced this outlook.
His descriptions of the cruelties inflicted on the Arawak people living on Hispanola (which you quote at length) exposed the depravity of the Spanish occupying forces and the Spanish monarchy who financed them. Las Casas did not "turn away, walk away, fast."
Nor must you. Especially at the moment that another occupying force is engaging in the same kind of depravity in Iraq.
As a Romantic Man, you exhibit the signs and symptoms of a chronic misanthrope. This will not do. You need to develop some backbone.
Remember the "options speech" by Tom Cruise in the film Top Gun? Well, here are your options:
Option A - Make like Henry David "as if you could kill time without injuring eternity" Thoreau. Plunge yourself into solitude for a month. Go to the wilderness, total isolation (bring some snacks and lots of water). Practice self-reliance. Reflect upon your life. When you return to "civilization" your misanthropic impulses will be weakened. If you are still seeing Zombies, go to...
Plan B - Buy a pick-up truck with a cabover camper. Go find Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Mothers for Peace (on the East Coast, I think) and hang out with them. Lend a hand. Buy some groceries and cook dinner for everybody. If your social anxiety begins to kick up, you might want to try...
Plan C - Keep the truck and head north, way north...to Alaska! Get a job butchering salmon during the spring/summer at one of the canneries. Stand shoulder to shoulder with other cold, miserable, desperate, and underpaid men and women, young and old, for 12-16 hour shifts, 7 days a week (no shit, my friend). At the end of each day, you and your co-workers will exhibit all the traits of REAL ZOMBIES as you trudge back to your crummy little tents and collapse for a few hours sleep. This experience will establish in you a sense of solidarity, rather than misanthropic loathing, for your comrades with whom you share much suffering and little joy.
At all events, DO NOT, I repeat, do not rent a DVD of Night of the Living Dead! The life you save may be your own...!
Yuma, Arizona, USA - November 5, 2005
Corporate America, Adam Smith: Raymond Garcia's The United Corporate States of AmericaMr. Garcia,
Although of historic interest to students of US Constitutional law, the overturning or modification of the 1886 Supreme Court decision extending "civil rights" to corporations is entirely irrelevant to the problems facing our global economy. That decision served capitalist development in the late 19th Century and was consistent with other legal expedients as the USA emerged as an imperialist power. The issue, as you expressed it, is largely reformist in outlook and therefore, anachronistic.
The impulse to raise this issue is powerful, I'm well aware, especially at this moment of economic crisis. But I don't think it's a good time to resurrect it, for the simple reason that it fails to confront the central issue, viz. that capitalism in the early 21st century, no matter how you tweak it, is incapable of providing the level of international coordination and purposeful social development that will serve humanity. If you have any doubt of this, simply open a recent issue of the Financial Times. And as prescient as Adam Smith was in his day, his commentary is hardly applicable to this crisis.
I'm aware that most Left-Liberal academicians were stunned by the auto-destruction of the Soviet Union (it had little to do with Ronald Reagan) because they'd accepted the pernicious lie that Socialism had been established in Russia. A Stalinist canard, perpetuated and amplified by his Anti-Communist detractors in the West. The fall of the USSR was predictable since the Terror of 1936-1938.
I'll admit that being a Fellow Traveler is often exasperating, but at least it offers a coherent and humane outlook, one that recognizes that working people must overcome (and NOT reform) Capitalism.
One more point. You mentioned the "era of Jacksonian democracy" in the 1820s (sic) and the achievement of suffrage for white males. If not a "radical" reform, at least it was a progressive one, but it also marks the early subordination of the working class by the Democratic Party. Andrew Jackson falsely cast himself as the savior of the working man and the enemy of big business. His efforts link the interests of the northern urban masses with the southern slave aristocracy ended 130 years later with the refusal of organized (white) labor in the form of the AFL/CIO to support the black civil rights movement. A shameful episode, and one that Richard Nixon adroitly capitalized on in his "Southern Strategy," garnering the white southern vote and bequeathing it to future generations of the Republican presidential candidates. And the wreckage of the Democratic Party is offered, cynically, to the working class on the 2nd Tuesday of every other November. The official bourgeois opposition party is no longer an alternative to the Republicans even on a reformist platform, as they plead with the Bush administration of unity and cooperation!
The American People require and deserve a labor party that will aggressively oppose Capitalism and encourage its destruction.
And they oughtn't settle for anything less.
Winterhaven, California, USA - November 5, 2005
Raymond Garcia, on 24 October, makes a trenchant case against Corporate entities having no restraints in the U.S. on their conduct once they go bankrupt. Individuals are not so fortunate in escaping the consequences of their actions, he notes, because their entire assets are exposed to retribution by courts if they are deemed to have acted irresponsibly or illegally.
He quotes Adam Smith in support of his case from Wealth of Nations. He writes:
Ironically, this very contradiction was illustrated in the business section of The Chicago Tribune on October 13, 2005. The top of the fold article was titled "Delphi Chief Warns Workers," in which the CEO of Delphi warned workers that if they didn't accept these radical pay and benefit cuts, they'd hire scabs or go bankrupt. Directly below it was an article about Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan (ex-Ayn Rand disciple) glowingly pronouncing that the US economy was avoiding energy price-fueled inflation because of its "flexibility."Smith did indeed write about the pernicious effects of joint stock companies, which became the main organising entity of capitalist development in the mid-19th century in Britain and the USA. In various forms they dominate the corporate activities of most capitalist countries (all versions).
Smith regarded the inevitable fact that joint stock companies, which are necessary to raise the vast capital stock of the large private chartered monopolies of his day, such as the East India Company, would have the obvious defect that the managers of them would not be the owners because shares would be dispersed among savers, who would not be directing the business. This opened the option for the Directors to act in their own, and not the owners', interests.
Raymond Garcia focuses on the legal fact that Corporations were given a legal identity, became legal 'persons' in their own right, and could be sued just like an individual, the difference being that once the corporate entity is bankrupt, it ceases to exist and can no longer be sued, except that the remaining assets are used to liquidate its debts or that proportion of them that are disposable.
Smith saw the joint stock company from the perspective of the mid-18th century. He had no notion of the sheer scale of capital accumulation that became possible, or the funds that would be mobilised, from societies much wealthier in a real sense than anything known or imaginable to him or anybody around him. The records of the Chartered private companies were so bad that it stigmatised the concept of joint stock companies for him. His vision of commercial firms were smallish scale in the main, though he had access to some quite large firms and their owners, such as the Carron Ironworks, near Falkirk, under Dr John Roebuck and he knew Wedgewood in England (pottery). His entrepreneurs were independent tradesmen, journeymen, blacksmiths, iron forgers, saddlers, weavers, builders, and such like, whose capital requirements were obtained, and to be obtained, by harsh frugality out of their revenues, plus a little borrowing.
Stepping outside of Smith's time, the expansion and legalisation of joint stock companies was inevitable. The weakness he rightly points to is glaring and, fortunately, capable of some partial remedy. If the Directors or managers act in a criminal fashion, they should remain accountable, and at peril of judicial sanctions against their private property. That already happens in the UK to an extent. Moreover, if the Directors manage a pension fund for their employees, better the company manages this at arm's length with no borrowing from it. If they mismanage the pension fund, as they seem to do regularly, they are in breach of contract on the basis of what they promised -- deferred income for a pension -- they should be liable to be sued individually for this breach, and their private property put at risk.
I do not suggest that this solves all the problems, but it equalises the misery for the perpetrators with their victims. That should act as a deterrent (with close attention paid to the source of the funds with their families acquire ownership of assets in their names to keep them out of reach of creditors.
"The sainted prophet of such ideology, Adam Smith" was never linkable in any way to "the pinnacle of free market capitalism." That is a creation of those who purloined his legacy.
Emeritus Professor, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK - October 24, 2005
Adam Smith's Lost Legacy
Drugs, Death, and AmericaDear Sir:
Since 2001 there have been about 0.4 million global drug deaths linked to US Coalition re-establishment of globally-dominant Afghan opium production (almost completely destroyed by the Taliban in 2000-2001 but 76% and 86% of global production in 2002 and 2004, respectively, after US Coalition invasion and conquest).
Of these 0.4 million post-2001, US Coalition-complicit, opioid-related deaths 1,200 have been Scots, 2,000 Australian, 3,000 Canadian, 3,200 British, and 50,000 American.
Seven million people die each year from tobacco, alcohol or illicit drugs (annual market value about US$1 trillion, US$0.9 trillion and US$0.8 trillion, respectively), the annual breakdown being roughly 5 million, 1.8 million and 0.2 million, respectively. Australian David Hicks has been abusively imprisoned for 4 years without trial by the US after allegedly being part of the Taliban that eliminated this deadly drug trio from Afghanistan.
Australian Nguyen Tuong Van is facing execution in Singapore for carrying 0.4 kilograms of deadly heroin deriving from the 4,200 tonne annual opium production in US Coalition-conquered Afghanistan -- yet the complicit US Coalition leaders remain unexposed and unpunished.
One can understand why intrinsically racist, Anglo-American mainstream media resolutely refuse to report the horrendous post-invasion avoidable mortality and under-5 infant mortality in the Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories that now total 2.1 million and 1.7 million, respectively [0.5 million and 0.3 million, respectively, in Occupied Iraq] (UN data) -- but why won't they report the Coalition-complicit drug deaths of 3,200 Britons and 50,000 Americans?
Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please inform all your associates.
Melbourne, Australia - October 30, 2005
Dr. Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003), and is currently writing a book on global mortality -- numerous articles on this matter can be found by a simple Google search for "Gideon Polya" and on his website & his Global Avoidable Mortality blog.
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