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No one tells me ‘nuthin anymore.  We missed the UN international torture day, it happened on June 26th and of course I hear about it after it happens.  Our media coverage was, underwhelming, as torture must not bring us down from the elation felt in the US for the SCOTUS SSM decision.

I’m not even sure what to wear to celebrate UNITD, orange jumpsuit?  Bruises?  How does one costume lifelong psychological trauma.

I’ll be ready next year though, rest assured.  :/

An anti-government protest placard is seen outside Downing Street during a march to protest against the British government's spending cuts and austerity measures in London on June 20, 2015. The national demonstration against austerity was organised by People's Assembly against government spending cuts.   AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL

An anti-government protest placard is seen outside Downing Street during a march to protest against the British government’s spending cuts and austerity measures in London on June 20, 2015. The national demonstration against austerity was organised by People’s Assembly against government spending cuts. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL

Well, let us pause in complete shock as the Tories institute more cutting of public services and benefits.  You may have heard that Austerity is the new black in terms of doing shitty things to societies.  Austerity has destroyed Greece and rightly the people of Britain are fighting back.

“Thousands of demonstrators staged an anti-austerity march in London on Saturday, in the first major public protest since Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron won a general election.

Opposition politicians, trade union bosses and celebrities were among the crowds marching through the capital’s financial district.

Protesters called for the halting and reversal of spending cuts imposed by the previous coalition government and further measures proposed by finance minister George Osborne.

“We have seen a huge impact on our work at primary school,” said Sian Bloor, 45, a teacher from Trafford near Manchester.

“I regularly bring clothes and shoes for children and biscuits for their breakfast, just so they get something to eat. You can see how children are being affected by the cuts.” Bloor said.”

The wealth from the Regan-Thatcher era STILL hasn’t trickled down.  This must be some very sticky money as seems to be residing in the hands of the upperclass and corporations who have gerrymandered the British polity to benefit them and screw the rest of society.

“Placard-waving protesters marched from the Bank of England and filed past the nearby Royal Exchange, as the sound of drummers filled the air, creating a festival atmosphere.

Some of the placards read: “Austerity Doesn’t Work”, “No to Cuts”, “Get the Tories Out” and “Austerity is Class War”.

“It will be the start of a campaign of protest, strikes, direct action and civil disobedience up and down the country,” said Sam Fairbairn of organisers the People’s Assembly.

“We will not rest until austerity is history, our services are back in public hands and the needs of the majority are put first.” Fairbairn said.”

The message from the people is always the same – more equal distribution of wealth, reinstatement of public utilities and welfare.  The stuff that makes society prosper and run well.   Of course, given the current neo-liberal fetish the Western world is stuck in, all of these things are the darkest of evils.

“Cameron clinched an unexpected election victory on May 7 that gave his centre-right Conservative party an outright majority in parliament for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The victory was widely seen as an endorsement of the Conservatives’ austerity programme and is likely to see a continuation of cuts to public spending as they seeks to curb a budget deficit of nearly $140 billion.”

Let us hope for another election soon in Britain, perhaps people will get their priorities straight then.

[Source:Al-Jazeera]

 

444unnamed    The recent terrorist shooting in South Carolina have brought the issue of racism back to the top of the heap in the mainstream media.  I’m sure there will be deep introspective think pieces in all of the major dailies and magazines.  Then, like any story the media deigns “having being milked enough”, the racist terrorist attack will be quietly shunted to the side while the next tragedy is cued up for consumption.

Consumption of news these days seems to be the problem though. We are expected to keep track of the world, hell even personalize our ‘news experience’, but that is not what being an educated, engaged member of society is all about.  The 5th Estate is (should) there to monitor the centres of power in society and report their activities for the citizens of democratic countries can engage with and evaluate said activities.  With so much of media today being focused on infotainment rather than critical analysis of important events how the the average citizen get the information she needs?

There are a couple of threads to pull apart with the questions being raised.  Firstly, the idea that personalized news is good idea for democratic societies, secondly the role of infotainment media and lastly the effect of the professional media colluding with the centers of power in society.  All three of these aspects work against the creation of active, informed democratic participation in society.

“Society” is the watchword here – the ludicrous amount of personalization options presented to us in North America society gives us choice – and we all know (or should know by now the neo-liberal taint associated with that concept) that the choice presented to us is really a form of atomization that keeps our fingers firmly off the pulse of society and rather, firmly on our own as we sail alone through society.

What comes to mind is an captioned black and white image (pro-tip:if you want to every reuse something save it the first time you see it) of people on a train all

A big tip of the hat to Bleatmop for tracking down this picture.

A big tip of the hat to Bleatmop for tracking down this picture.

reading the paper.   The witty caption was something like this – smartphones and technology have changed society darn much…  You can see the obvious parallel being made; every buried in a newspaper vs. everyone buried in their smart phones.  On the surface this is correct but I remember pausing then thinking that something wasn’t quite right.

That “something” was that reading the daily newspaper was a still a shared experience in society.  You could talk to someone about an article, even a complete stranger, and it was likely that they would have read the same article and then you could start a conversation about it.  How neat is is that?  Today though, that is a much taller order as many people have tailored their consumption of news to their tastes and sphere of interests making finding a common ground with people that much more difficult.  Talking to people about important issues is what community is about, especially when they have different views on what is the correct course of action.  Hashing things out, being charitable, accepting an well reasoned argument are all part of living in a democratic society.

Democracy is not a streamlined affair, nor should it be, because our personal freedom and ethical concerns are at stake.  When governments act unilaterally and secretly it doesn’t matter what personal choices you make, it is the society around you that is going to shit and your choosy-choices and personal experiences will also be circling the drain since you are part of said society(see Canadian bill C-51, NAFTA, Trans-Pacific-Partnership).  So having a reliable, accessible, common base of public knowledge is important to democratic society.

Democratic society has given us many media choices but, coupled with the capitalist infrastructure that actually runs the show our media sources have conglomerated and become ensconced within the power structures of society.  See Fox and Faux News for the most shining example of the marriage between news and corporate propaganda.  The focus of much of our news media today is to sell advertising, while educating/informing the public on crucial issues facing society is quite far down the list.  I shudder when I see how much of the professional media now resembles Entertainment Tonight rather than the venerable Front Page Challenge (The Fifth Estate, Marketplace, et cetera).  It now takes a great deal of time just to filter out the dross to get to the important news that people should know about their society and even then one must take into account the bias and elite influence present within ‘serious news’.  The importance of public broadcasters cannot be overstated here – public institutions such as the CBC, NPR, and BBC are more free from the elite consensus and can more accurately report on the issues without the elite’s point of view being considered the default (This is a relative judgment – see Media Lens for an annotated listing of how awesomely independent Auntie Beebs is becoming).

Public broadcasting, with all of its problems aside, is one avenue to escape ‘the preferred message’ being broadcast to society by the corporate media with their vested interests of the status-quo.   This isn’t a wild conspiracy theory – the way the world currently works benefits a certain class of people and it is their best interests to maintain the current system because it keeps them at the top of the heap.  No mystery present.  This system also provides the answers to why certain problems keep cropping up again and again within society – inequality, institutionalized racism and sexism for example.  There structures within society serve their purpose; the ‘right people’ profit from their existence and thus are maintained.    Just look at the perspectives surrounding mass murders:

 

shooter

 

The evidence, but then put through the media filters and the very different result…

murder

The NYT’s nails it, for once, and lays down a view into the systemic racism that permeates North American society.  This is the story that needs constant repetition.  Yet, watch how soon the white racial violence dissipates into the ether.   This is not a fluke, not a statistical aberration, this is policy.  And thus, because of the collusion of much of the media with the current centres of power, the problems that face our society are not adequately dealt with nor are they given the proper amount of time or analysis that would help the people of the nation understand these problems and what can be done about them.

For those in power though it wise to note that only so much tamping down of these systemic problems can be done.  Eventually, these issues take a life of their own and people will take radical action to resolve these seemingly ‘intractable’ problems and not in the way that the nestled elite likes.

Change is Coming

 

Well we can’t be posting sunshine everyday here at DWR.  A small reminder of what the people of our nations are up against.  From the essay titled Revolution and American Empire by Rob Urie.

 

“Liberal economists have ‘fought the good fight’ for nominally populist economic programs for the last decade with little but growing frustration to show for it. In sequence, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama enacted economic policies— deregulation of banks, tax cuts for the very wealthy, the largest bank bailouts in human history and ‘trade’ deals that formalize corporate control over civil governance. There exist economic theories to support each and every one of these policies. Many prominent economists base which economic policies they support or oppose on which political Party is in office at the time they are proposed. The policies enacted are retroactively deemed ‘politically feasible’ in tacit admission that economic outcomes are politically determined. ‘Markets’ are used to explain these outcomes with the politics removed.

From the time of the American Revolution to today, with a brief compromise between 1948 and about 1973, the U.S. has been run by and for a self-serving plutocracy. Slavery and genocide weren’t ‘accidents’ nor were they the product of primitive thinking. U.S. wars in Central America, Southeast Asia and Iraq were / are as primitive, in the sense of being for-profit and brutal, as any in human history. And it is hardly an accident that elite impunity and immunity from prosecution for crimes, including War Crimes, is matched by brutal repression of the economic underclasses. Banks and corporations are the social forms of economic imperialism, necessary to the imperial project that places the rest of us as imperial subjects. Back to the start: the American Revolution was fought for the freedom to repress while the revolutions of liberation it has opposed were / are by-and-large fought against it.

The obligatory liberal chides against Russian and Cuban totalitarianism, in their contemporary incarnations against ‘strongman’ Vladimir Putin and the aging Fidel Castro, never admit to two centuries of American crimes or to never ending U.S. attempts to undermine democratic revolutions around the globe. This isn’t to gloss over crimes— the U.S. is the only nation in history to drop atom bombs on largely civilian populations, U.S. General Curtis LeMay joked that had the U.S. lost WWII he would have hung for the bombing of Tokyo, three million killed in the Korean War, three million killed in Vietnam, one million killed in Iraq and substantial portions of Central America turned into right-wing gangster states. Cuba is poor today because the U.S. has enforced an economic blockade of it for half a century. And the only guarantee from ‘liberalized’ relations between the U.S. and Cuba is that Cuba will get the worst of it.”

plutocracy
 

[Source:Counterpunch]

 

Rachel Notley being sworn into office.

Rachel Notley being sworn into office.

This is taken from the interview titled: Does Capitalism Cause Drug Addiction?  The piece that I am going to excerpt is about how we view addiction in society.  If we are to believe Hari, it isn’t about a failure in moral rectitude or falling into a drug laden trap of compulsion; but rather it is the atomization and rampant consumerism in society that causes the addictions we see today.

Ratpark“Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. The drug war is certainly not what we’ve been told it is. And the alternatives aren’t what we think they are.

And there were two people here in Canada who really helped me to think about this. One is guy called Bruce Alexander. He’s someone you will know the work of. If you had said to me four years ago, say, “What causes heroin addiction?” right, I would have—I would have looked at you like you were a little bit simpleminded. I would have said, “Well, heroin causes heroin addiction, right?” There’s a story we’ve been told about addiction, how it works, for a hundred years now, that’s so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that it seems like our common sense, right? We think if the first 20 people on the rows here, if we all used heroin together for, say, 20 days, there are chemical hooks in heroin that our body would start to physically need, right? So, on day 21, we would need that heroin. We would physically crave it. And that’s what addiction is; that’s how we think it works.

And the first kind of chink in my doubt about that was explained to me by another great Canadian, Gabor Maté in Vancouver, who some of you will know the work of, amazing man. And he pointed out to me, if any of us step out of here today and we’re hit by a bus, right, God forbid, and we break our hip, we’ll be taken to hospital. It’s very likely we’ll be given a lot of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. It’s much better heroin than you’ll score on the streets, because it’s medically pure, right? It’s really potent heroin. You’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. Every hospital in the developed world, that’s happening, right? If what we think about addiction is right, what should—I mean, those people should leave as addicts. That never happens, virtually never happens. You will have noticed your grandmother was not turned into a junkie by her hip replacement operation, right?

I didn’t really know what to do with it. When Gabor first explained that to me, I didn’t really know how to process that, until I met Bruce Alexander. Bruce is a professor in Vancouver, and Bruce explained something to me. The idea of addiction we have, the one that we all implicitly believe—I certainly did—comes from a series of experiments that were done earlier in the 20th century. They’re really simple experiments. You can do them yourself at home if you’re feeling a little bit sadistic. Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says is that shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

There was a really interesting human experiment going on at the same time as Rat Park, which kind of demonstrates this really interestingly. It was called the Vietnam War, right? Twenty percent of American troops in Vietnam were using heroin a lot, right? And if you look at the reports from the time, they were really worried. They thought—because they believed the old theory of addiction. They were like, “My god, these guys are all going to come home, and we’re going to have loads of heroin addicts on the streets of the United States.” What happened? They came home, and virtually all of them just stopped, because if you’re taken out of a hellish, pestilential jungle, where you don’t want to be, you can die at any moment, and you go back to a nice life in Wichita, Kansas, you can bear to be present in your life. We could all be drunk now. Forget the drug laws. We could all be drunk now, right? None of you look very drunk. I’m guessing you’re not, right? That’s because we’ve got something we want to do. We’ve got things we want to be present for in our lives.

So, I think this has—Bruce taught us about how this has huge implications, obviously, for the drug war. The drug war is based on the idea that the chemicals cause the addiction, and we need to physically eradicate these chemicals from the face of the Earth. If in fact it’s not the chemicals, if in fact it’s isolation and pain that cause the addiction, then it suddenly throws into sharp contrast the idea that we need to impose more isolation and pain on addicts in order to make them stop, which is what we currently do.

But it actually has much deeper implications that I think really relate to what Naomi writes about in This Changes Everything, and indeed before. We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that.”

 

I’m very happy to see that some places in Canada are starting to turn on to this sort of thinking – Medicine Hat Alberta for instance where they are working toward eradicating homelessness – by giving people homes to live in – because it is cheaper to do so that the current methods.

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