Category Archives: Books

October, 2007 Memories

 

In October, 2007, I had just retired my state medical and DEA licenses.  The practice of medicine was ruining my health and attitude.  It had become too hostile and dangerous for this wimp of a psychiatrist.

I spent the next few months reading.  These journal entries are the result.

MY GRANDFATHER’S SON, CLARENCE THOMAS, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007 – I went to B&N hoping to buy a copy of Clarence Thomas’ book, My Grandfather’s Son, which comes out today.  Jonathan, my B&N employee friend – the coin-collector customer-service-book-orderer, a 20’s something kid who agrees with me so is very intelligent – told me B&N only ordered 12 copies of the book.  Corporate B&N in New York “didn’t know Clarence Thomas was from Savannah.”

Well, Jonathan, you and I both know that’s a lie, but we’ll pretend they don’t want to undersell his book in his home town.  He’s much too credible.

Sure enough, B&N’s 12 copies sold out in about ten minutes.  They had to rush order 40 more copies.  Should be here in 2-3 days.  400 more copies would be more cost-effective.  They can save on UPS shipments.

Apparently B&N’s entire marketing department missed the 60 Minutes interview with Thomas last night in advance of this pub date.  60 Minutes interviewed him right here in Savannah.

Is B&N trying to lose money?  I would sell its stock real quick-like if I had it, and I would buy copies of Thomas’ book, instead, from another distributor.  What is B&N trying to hide?

Thus do I think like a free market capitalist.

THE ROBBER BARONS, MATTHEW JOSEPHSON, 1934

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – I’m reading in The Robber Barons, about Jay Gould, the money churner and asset plunderer par excellence.  Gould was a master manipulator, but anyone who refused to play his games could have stopped him.  He used Vanderbilt’s and others’ spite towards him to play out his line, then reeled in the big fish over and over.  How many times do people bite before their mouths are full of holes and they are still starving?

I’m getting an explosion of awareness regarding American history.  Why has this become my latest passion?

I see the patterns set in motion long ago, in the history of human beings as we remember them, and in America.

The American history most astounds me.  Lincoln essentially bought political favoritism by giving the West, the Louisiana Purchase, away to friends, political donors, and corporate railroad interests.  Thus did he finance his war on the South.

I’m seeing Lincoln and Wilson as ego-driven megalomaniacs, not the great liberators their handlers claimed.  They got us into two of the bloodiest wars to date, and the third great liberator, Roosevelt, got us into World War II.

I haven’t appreciated the intensity of my feelings for peace.  What I’ve believed was my own violent nature is merely the reflection of a world so foreign to me that I had to identify with it to understand it.  Once identified, I can forgive it, or so I hope.

Vis a vis The Robber Barons, I don’t understand sleazy business practices.  I read, astounded that taxpayers have allowed these people to get away with such cruel dishonesty for so long.  We have the veneer of civilization, but the viciousness has only changed garments and venue in time.

Jay Gould must be the idol of today’s Wall Street.  This is why product quality has plummeted.  Gould, et al. paid more attention to stocks than to managing tangible assets, and today’s brokers are doing the same.  They have even less connection with the corporations’ tangible products than before.  They deal only in electronic stock certificates, used in place of currency for the insiders.  It’s a method for selling other people’s and taxpayers’ productivity.  The companies’ products and services are only excuses for selling stock and feathering government pension and benefit nests.

Through all these wars and contests, who has benefitted, I wonder, as I sit in my lofty 21st century perspective.  I have the advantage of history to guide me.  For all of recorded history, war and fighting don’t work.  The fruits of victory are spoiled by the fighting.

ROBBING HOOD

Monday, October 8, 2007 – When you rob from the perceived rich to give to the perceived poor, you are still a thief.  You set up a race to the bottom, because everyone vies to be the best thief.

What happens when everyone is equally poor?  Leadership loses its relevance, and it’s every man for himself, unless he can learn to cooperate with those around him.  This is genuine leadership.

Now government robs from the poor to give to the rich.  This is easily camouflaged, because there are so many more poor people than rich people.  Cumulatively, poor people consume much more food, energy, clothes, and other tangible products and pay more in taxes than the rich, who reap the bulk of the profits from taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

BURNED-AT-THE-STAKE LIFE

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 – I’ve been thinking about my friends’ attitudes, which they revealed over the years I went the psychiatry route.  They seemed to think I defected.  I was merely exploring my own consciousness through the medical model.  They hurt my feelings most by making no effort to understand my point of view or to give me credit for the history we shared.

They seemed so afraid I would abandon them that they pushed me away.  I had to go deep inside myself to find companionship.  Here I make friends of ghosts, memories, my cat, plants, and the few people who accept me at face value or who must deal with me.

I feel like a witch appearing to burn at the stake, shackles melting in the heat, but who emerges triumphantly from the blaze.

“I’m only waiting for the chains to melt, Assholes, then we’ll see who can take the heat.”

The witch got a little burned in the chastening, admittedly, but she’s walking, talking, and breathing fire.  She cackles.

Smell that?  They piled hemp on the logs, this time, so the burning was more enjoyable.

I have internalized the sacrificial heat, contained and controlled it, practicing using the dragon’s fire to advantage.  Sort of.  Burned the tips of my first and second fingers the other day.

However, burning witches is a waste of time and resources, and it distracts everyone from doing anything useful.  It pollutes the air and puts everyone in a bad mood.

bkswildrey1927

 

THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, THORNTON WILDER, 1927

Saturday, October 13, 2007 – I started one of Mama’s books, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder.  Published and printed in 1927, the book has thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I have avoided it, thinking it a war novel, but I was wrong.  It’s about a 100-plus-year-old, hand-made bridge across a deep gorge between Lima and Cusco, Peru.  Set in 1714, it tells the imagined lives of the five people who fell to their deaths when the bridge finally gave way.  I’ve read about Dona Maria, the sad, alcoholic, rich mother, whose adored daughter had repudiated her, married a rich patron of the Spanish court, and moved to Spain.

Now, I’m reading about Esteban, whose identical twin brother, Manuel, died, leaving him half alive and desolate.

THE CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND:   A SECOND LOOK AT THE FEDERAL RESERVE, G. EDWARD GRIFFIN, 1991-2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007 –  So far, The Creature from Jekyll Island is astounding.  It is so clear, concise, well researched and documented, reasonable, and logical that I’m amazed it hasn’t made a larger splash.  Perhaps the time wasn’t right.  It’s a sleeper and about to come into its own.

Griffin writes about the history of money and defines terms.  He mentions tobacco as commodity money. So are shrimp, eggs, and any food, and that’s the bottom line.

He discusses the gold standard, says there were only about three examples of “honest” money in the world:  Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire – which lasted 800 years on the gold standard – a bank in Germany before Napoleon plundered it, and maybe one in Amsterdam.

By “honest money” Griffin means money which is 100% backed by solid deposits, like gold.  He says fractional reserve banking, which is lending more money than you have in deposits, against deposits that already belong to someone, is dishonest, because the banks have no right to do that.  Why have a bank store your money if it’s not safe there?  If I want to lend money, I can do it and keep the interest.

Fractional money eventually disintegrates into fiat money.  This usually seems to happen to finance wars.  The author doesn’t specifically state the latter, at least not yet.  He says fiat money has zero percent backing, and that’s what the US dollar has become, fiat money.

Seems funny in light of all the political debate about international currency.  I don’t know if any international currencies are backed by gold or silver, so they are all equally worthless, according to Mr. Griffin.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 – We all know quantum theory turns the “scientific method” on its ear. If it works in sub-atomic physics, it works in life, because we are all composed of those electrons they study.

Now, if the experimenter influences outcome by desire or expectation, there is no way the scientific method can be valid.  Experiment design alone can determine outcome, as any drug study shows.

Now that we’ve established that the “scientific method” is a crock, a sacred cow that needs to be broiled and served up as steaks, for the mastication and nourishment of truly progressive science, we introduce the quantum leap from the scientific method, which is the fact that human beings, by the power of their will, have the ability to influence destiny!

DIAGNOSIS:  TESTOSTERONE POISONING

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Genetics:  A sex-linked condition, like hemophilia

Epidemiology:  Found almost exclusively in males

Presentations:

Sadistic type:  Bullies

Masochistic type: Cons

Other:  Disputed

Treatments (Experimental):

Death: Not politically correct

Funded by costs

Not economically sound

Prison camps:  A better idea, but still must house and feed

Not economically sound

Castration:  The nation is almost equally divided on this one.  A growing contingent claims testosterone poisoning is a medical illness, with castration the treatment of choice, worthy of insurance funding.  It is believed Leydig and other testicular cells could be recycled into pill form and scientific research.  Many female scientists have already applied for research funding.  A particularly elated female researcher said no man has had the balls to apply, so the women have an open field on government contracts.

THE RAIN FALLS ON ALL

Friday, October 19, 2007 – I dyed fabrics last night, noticing how cotton or silk, sewed with polyester thread, doesn’t dye right, because the polyester doesn’t absorb dye.  It also melts at lower temperatures, which makes garments with polyester thread hard to iron.

As I do things like this, I think about world politics, and how they affect daily life.  We are being socially engineered to use man-made products in lieu of natural ones, because our textile mills and cotton are going to China.   Meanwhile, China exports acrylic – a petroleum product – to the US, complete with the overhead of packaging, transportation, import and export taxes, and distribution.  Machine-made polyester is considered a cheaper improvement, but it doesn’t wear or last like natural fibers.  To me, plastic clothes reflect America’s cheap, plastic attitudes.

It’s raining.  The rain is natural and impartial.  Governments come and go, but the rain falls on them all.

ON MEDICAL LICENSE RETIREMENT

Monday, October 22, 2007 – Other people are more upset than I am about retiring my medical licenses.  This shows how over-rated the license is.  Once I explain my rationale, no one challenges it. I’m becoming convinced this is the most powerful statement – nay, indictment possible regarding the health scare/snare racket.  If the system has become so bad that I am afraid to practice within it, that must be truly scary, indeed.

From my perspective, malpractice has become entrenched, subsidized, mandated, and legislated to the point where the risk to me is too great to continue.  Only by retiring my medical licenses do I make my stance definitive, direct, and consistent with my beliefs.

DIEBOLD

Monday, October 22, 2007 – My psychodrama continues.  I removed stuff from the safety deposit box today and put it in a safer place than bank with a Diebold key.  It makes me nervous that Diebold has the contract on voting machines, bank safety deposit boxes, and bank ATM’s.   Call me paranoid.  No, it’s not a conspiracy.  Anyone can buy Diebold stock, I suppose.  I should check it out.

THE “CONSPIRACY THEORY” AND LIZARD WISDOM

Monday, October 22, 2007 – People like Hillary Clinton scoff at “the conspiracy theory.”  My sister mentioned it today.  It is they who imagine such grandiosity.  I merely think the politicos’ behavior is stupid and counterproductive.  That there are so many people being stupid, incompetent, paranoid, dangerous, and dishonest doesn’t necessarily make it a conspiracy.  It merely means the planet is overrun with idiots.

This is something lizards understand.  On my way to run errands, I had a conversation with a lizard on my back door.  He was too close to the hinge for my comfort.  I stopped to caution him – her, I think, although she was large.  I told her she needs to be more careful.  I mean well, but I’m clumsy, and when I get agitated, I’m dangerous.  I’m also noisy, so she needs to stay out of my way if she doesn’t want to get hurt.  I watched her listen.  She tilted her head this way and that, eyeing me from different angles, while spread getaway style along the bottom edge of a step.  My head was sideways, watching her, studying the wide blue eye shadow that ringed her eye.  Such wisdom in animals’ eyes, if you look closely.

According to the World Book encyclopedia (2005), lizards are 65 million years old.  Cockroaches are 250 million, birds 213 million, cats 55 million, dogs 34 million, man two million years old.

I told the lizard this hanging out on back doors is a bad idea. I killed one of her relatives by accident the other day. He got caught in the screen flange.  It devastated me, because I figure these lizards are Lizardo’s relatives and descendants, and they are watching out for me.

As I got in the car, I saw a second, smaller lizard on the porch, also watching me.  I hope he/she was listening.

Of course they were.  That’s how they have survived so long.

Then, as I leave, I startle three deer in the woods, a doe and two fawns.  They stopped to watch me, and I told them how much I love them.  It worries me that Carol is clearing out so much of the underbrush, because the deer have fewer and fewer places to hide.

LET ‘EM FAIL

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 – Status post a trip to Cutter’s Point Coffee, where I read a Wall Street Journal scarfed from an outside table.  I’d also purchased the USA Today and Savannah Morning News from the news boxes in front of CVS/Piggly Wiggly, so I was saturated with more current events than I knew what to do with.

The Fed meets today, and Wall Street is all aflutter.  The presumed crisis is most amusing to me.  These idiots will not see that it is not my crisis but theirs.

What they perceive is a crisis, I see as blessed relief from Yankee oppression and aggression.  Let the markets fail.  It’s high time they did.  Get outside before the skyscrapers collapse.  The penthouses have the farthest to fall.

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It’s About Time: Bud, Beon, and the Bots

kcoartsplit1

Sunday, July 2, 2017—This is a scene from my novel, a decades-old perpetual work in progress.  Superficially sci-fi, it is based on a philosophy that life is immortal, everything has consciousness, and everything runs its course then evolves into something else.  Time and space are illusions within a “spacious present.”  Death is like a phase change–like water converting to steam–while retaining the essential qualities of water.  From this perspective, there is no end point, and the process is the goal.

The purpose of the novel is to make you smile.  Let me know if you want more.

CHAPTER 4

CAUSE AND EFFECT

The sun, shining through dingy, crocheted curtains, cast a mosaic of light and shadow across the worn rug. By the angle of the light and content of the shadows, Joe knew it was at least 11 AM.

His head throbbed with an intensity of 200 on a one-to-ten scale.  The light hurt his eyes, but he didn’t have the courage to move.  He remained curled stiff, eyes clenched shut, until his bladder forced him to attempt the impossible and get out of bed.

He moaned, then winced.  He eased to a slouching position at the edge of the bed, resting his aching forehead between tender hands.  Slowly, ever so slowly, he stood and staggered to the bathroom, carefully shielding his eyes from the light.  He downed two aspirin and then a third, to abort the stroke he must be having.  It was at least a stroke. Maybe an aneurysm had burst.  He stared into the mirror.  Images of his certain, agonizing, and imminent death spread like acrid black goo across his quivering brain.

“I’m dying,” he told his haggard face. It stared back at him—coldly critical, his appearance substandard today, even for him.  He and his reflection eyed each other.  He noted the dark eye sockets, red eyes, fuzzy vision, chin stubble, wrinkles, and greasy hair.  He didn’t smell too good, either.  Let the embalmer handle it, he decided.  That’s what he’s paid for.

He trod a wobbly path through the living room to the kitchen, where the percolator was full of yesterday’s grounds.  His stomach wasn’t feeling much like coffee, but his head told him he was in caffeine withdrawal.  He cursed Marian for getting him so drunk that he forgot to prepare the coffee pot.  He imagined her boiling in a vat of coffee, begging for mercy.

Suddenly, Beon’s face loomed across Joe’s inner screens.  The balding, round visage grinned like the Buddha, his eyes innocuous, his portent ominous.  Joe’s head pounded harder, and his knees felt weak.  An image of lab rats, pinned to boards and randomly shocked, blotted out Beon’s face.  Then, the lab rats became little Joes, with Beon delivering the shocks.

Joe listed the objective, measurable reasons for his agony.  Unendurable pain. Undetectable caffeine levels. Betrayal by his only friend.  Violation of sacred coffee ritual, and death without absolution.  Beon.  He threw fresh coffee in the pot, spilling half the grounds on the counter, creating yet another reason to feel miserable.

Percolator finally started, Joe turned to face new trouble.  He opened the freezer and scowled at empty ice trays.  The little Joes in his head jumped and slumped.

He dragged his failing carcass to the couch. He imagined the pain in his head could power a small city, if he could figure out how to harness the energy.  Not today, though.  And tomorrow wasn’t looking too good, either.

Beon’s face returned, and with it, thoughts of the healing machine.  Joe wondered if it could cure his headache.  “Yes,” said Beon’s image.

“Who asked you?”  Joe demanded, not realizing he spoke out loud.

“You did.”  Joe decided he was going crazy, too.  “DALE,” said the face.  “Diet-Associated Life Enhancer.”

Joe covered his ears, but it did no good.  Beon’s image swelled in his head, and dream pictures bombarded his brain, rocking his scientific foundations.  The throbbing and pounding got louder, clanging against his skull.  Joe closed his eyes and waited to die.  Through it all, Beon’s face smirked, as if he enjoyed Joe’s suffering.

But death defied him, and Beon continued to grin.  Joe glanced around the room.  A single picture, hung askew, showed a listing clipper ship, an artifact left by the previous tenant.  George White left a few pieces of tired furniture, too, good enough for Joe.  His mailbox in the foyer downstairs still bore White’s name.  When neighbors called him “George,” Joe didn’t bother to correct them.  It was as good a name as “Joe.”

Now Joe wondered for the first time what happened to George White.  His couch may not look great, but it had personality.  It was warm, comfortable, inviting.  It was friendly.  It was taking care of him, helping him feel better, as a friend would do.

“I have tangible evidence that you existed,” he told the former tenant, “even if we’ve never met.  I still get your mail.  Beon is only imaginary, but he’s torturing me, and I can’t get away from him.”

Joe’s eyes began to blur.  His stomach felt queasy.  Vague terrors swept over him, and sweat poured from his upper body.  He wiped his face with a dirty napkin and dropped it on the floor.  “This is only a hangover.  It clouds my perspective, makes me think crazy thoughts.  It was only a dream.  A machine like that is impossible, and Beon doesn’t exist.”

Finishing People’s History

bkszinn2003

Seven years ago this month, I finished reading A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition.  I have posted blogs about the first part of this book in March, 2017 and April, 2017.  In these blogs, I have noted events described in the book, as well as my thoughts on them.  The book had a powerful effect on me, supporting and expanding my beliefs about under-reported US history.  This May, 2017 post covers the final section of the book.

FINISHING A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, HOWARD ZINN

            Monday, May 3, 2010—I read some People’s History, now at World War II and how brutal the US was, dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan for no good reason except economics, killing 100,000 people in Hiroshima, mostly civilians, and 50,000 or more in Nagasaki.

Why oh why would people do this, I wondered.  It explains why people are so afraid now, why Americans are such mealy-mouthed wimps.

Thursday, May 6, 2010—I spent the afternoon reading People’s History, up to page 462.  Now into the race riots of the 1960s and 1970s, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  The FBI apparently did everything it could to intimidate King.

I can understand why people are afraid of government, and it is becoming more paranoid all the time.  I’ve always believed blacks are inherently peace-loving people, and Martin Luther King personified that spirit.

I wonder why I’m so fascinated by People’s History, because it implicates the federal government as a vicious, tyrannical bunch of mobsters since the land’s discovery.  Yes, it gives me even more data to support my beliefs.  It reveals what hasn’t worked.   Zinn focuses so intensely on the hatred and violence, though, that I wonder what ultimate purpose it serves.

While I believe the government is justifiably paranoid, I have to respect its power to hurt.  I’ve learned my lesson, I hope, about pissing the wrong people off.

As Malcolm X said, if you remain radical long enough, you win your freedom.  This is my belief, too, because I’ve come back from the “lunatic fringe” with more elbow room, maybe.

Fidel Castro in 1959 pissed the US off by confiscating land held by US corporations, then distributing it to landless peasants.  The Bay of Pigs was a manufactured crisis by John F. Kennedy and associates to stir up revolution against Castro in Cuba, but Fidel was too popular.  The US was embarrassed because its tactics, so successful everywhere else, failed with Castro.

Saturday, May 8, 2010—I read some People’s History, now up to page 490 in this 688 page book.  We’re in Vietnam now, and it is astounding.  The US has made a career of sadism, so no wonder we have a nation of victims.  We have the CIA actively stirring up trouble in a pacifist, land-based, family-and-tradition-based culture, but the CIA couldn’t seem to control the outcome, no matter how many cities and fields they bombed, people they slaughtered, or poisons they sprayed and dumped hither and yon.  They couldn’t understand how the revolutionaries managed to maintain morale, and I contend they weren’t fighting governments but for a way of life.  Ho Chi Minh, the North Korean leader, was immensely popular among the people, because he confiscated land of absentee landlords and distributed it among the landless, similar to what Castro did in Cuba.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the CIA/US plant in South Vietnam, was hated by the people, and South Vietnam was essentially a US government invention.  When Diem became an embarrassment to the US, they allowed him to be captured and assassinated.  Three weeks later, JFK was assassinated.

Castro and Ho Chi Minh understood Communism in the communal sense of the term, by giving land to the landless, and this is why the people were so willing to fight for it.  They weren’t defending ideological political battles for governments, or other people’s turf.  They were fighting for their homes, families, livelihoods, and way of life.

It amazes me the CIA could be so stupid, because it is obvious to me.  Their self-defeating, blind irrationality did more to promote Communism–in the communal sense—than any leader could have achieved alone.

Perhaps if we thought of people as belonging to the land, rather than the other way around, we would have a more solid footing.

Friday, May 14, 2010—I’ve been reading People’s History tonight, wondering how people can be so cruel for so long, such that it is institutionalized and considered normal, including the lying and deceit in government and the military.

I read about the Attica prison riot, followed by other prison riots, all turned into massacres by federal troops, FBI, and militia.  The prisoners’ non-violence was more threatening than if they had been violent.  Same with the American Indians, who occupied Alcatraz, a deserted federal prison, on a rock in the San Francistco Bay.  There were forcibly evicted from there and also from land at Wounded Knee they had by treaty; but that was given to the government under “eminent domain.”  This occurred in the 1960s or 1970s and hundreds of Indian men, women and children were slaughtered after the government tried to starve them out first.

Saturday, May 15, 2010—Reading books like People’s History shows I am not alone in my understanding—far from it–as people like Howard Zinn have tracked this for years and were even given a voice.  He makes no reference to the bankers’ playing both ends against the middle and leaves the stock market out of it, although he cites illegal campaign donations by specific corporations, like ITT and 3-M.

Reading about the American Indians validates my beliefs about the native American cultures, which respected the earth and all its creatures.  I wonder how much violence they had before the Europeans arrived.  I believe it was probably minimal and was developed in reaction to the European invasion and introduction of guns.

Sunday, May 16, 2010—I read more People’s History, through Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr.  All continued to serve the government/corporate marriage.  Pacifist Jimmy Carter increased defense spending significantly.  Zinn says the Democrats did more to impose regressive taxes—Carter increased payroll taxes—than the Republicans.

Zinn claims legislation like the Clean Air Act and OSHA  were deprived of teeth by subsequent caveats, administrative decree, or insufficient funding.  He does not go into the ways these bills helped the monopolists by stifling competition.

Zinn also seems to have a shallow idea of the domestic spending programs.  He implies they are good and necessary, but he doesn’t recognize they wouldn’t be necessary if the poverty weren’t artificially created by government’s social engineering.

Zinn says Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. used CIA to interfere in Nicaragua, Panama, Granada, and El Salvador, under various pretexts.  Bush Sr. hoped to restore American confidence in the military, since the Soviet Union collapsed and was no longer an excuse, so he created a war in Iraq.  They and all their aides lied throughout.  Congress had passed limp dick legislation to pander to public disgruntlement, and to curb presidential powers, but Ford ignored it, and so did Reagan.  No one objected.  Congress looked the other way, and the Supreme Court, of course, felt no obligation to reprimand the presidents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010—Now into the Bush Sr. years in People’s History of the United States.  Apparently HKW Bush was determined to do Desert Storm.

Zinn’s approach is becoming trite.  He emphasizes the contest between military and social spending without questioning the spending itself.  The idea that it’s a rich vs. poor issue, without understanding—as I suddenly did—that it’s a government control issue, as in controlling economic narrows.

Thursday, May 20, 2010—Down to the wire on People’s History.  We’re now into all the pacifist movements during the first Iraq war.  They were ineffective.

And on to the Clinton years.  Bill Clinton was as much a war hawk as any of them and cut social programs but not bureaucracy.

Government has appropriated unto itself responsibility for every area of people’s lives, so it needs the bureaucracy to dole out the money it has stolen, to return it piecemeal to those it deems worthy.

Zinn has some good ideas about how to rebuild America from the ground up, but he is still too tied to money, according to me.  The notion that everything must be tied to a monetary scale, like community involvement, restricts the flow of energy and diminishes the value of time, as well as other factors that have no monetary equivalent.

Friday, May 21, 2010—People’s History gives an account of the protests from many camps over the quincentennial of Columbus’ landing, on Columbus Day, 1992, so that hero has toppled from many pedestals.  The media ignored the protests.

Saturday, May 22, 2010—I finally finished People’s History.  Given his era and background, Zinn does a remarkably good job of describing the brutal history of the US and the rampant disregard for the very principles that citizens believed it stood for.  Rather than protect rights, nurture freedom, democracy and capitalism (in the human capital sense), it has made a mockery of all three, preying on a naive and gullible public to twist noble ideals into their opposites.

The current economic crisis is bringing it all to a head, I believe, because taxpayers are finding they have been used to dig their own graves.  The country is morally bankrupt, and there is no one to blame.  As the state assumed the role of lord, master, and god, acting as legal and moral judge, guard, and executioner, taxpayers must look in the mirror and see we are the state, and we are responsible for the monster it has become.

In People’s History, Zinn mentions protest against the bombing of Afghanistan following 9/11.  I remember being the only person I knew objecting to retaliatory gestures, and people around here hated me for it.

 

Ambling Through “People’s History,” Part 2

bkszinn2003April 15, 2017

Seven years ago this month, I was still reading A Peoples History of the United States,  by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition.  This is the second in a series of posts about this book, facts and my thoughts on them.  I blogged about the first 40 pages on March 7, 2017 (“Zinn on First Americans”).

Friday, April 2, 2010—I read 30 pages of  A People’s History of the United States  Now we’re into slavery from a Lincoln point of view, more or less, hinting but not stating what “freedom” meant to hoards of blacks who had no place to go and no skills except farm work, picking cotton but not selling it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010—People’s History horrifies me, as did Open Veins of Latin America.  I wonder why I persist in reading that stuff.  Am I merely looking for what’s wrong, following the trail I find so counter-productive in others?

I think I’m trying to understand how people can be so easily deceived into violating their own common sense and good judgment, on individual and mass levels, even when claiming the opposite.

My desire to trust, to give people the benefit of the doubt, has betrayed me more than anything else.  As a result, I have become the victim of numerous desperate people who believed they were saving themselves by sacrificing me.

This “die so that I may live” attitude is the fundamental betrayal of Christianity and perhaps underscores the strange notion that there is nobility in martyrdom.

I don’t see popes going to war, nor kings, nor presidents and members of Congress.  Thus the hypocrisy of the death by proxy stance that Christianity has become.

I have an idea.  Let’s create hell on earth so people will want to die.  That should solve the overpopulation problem.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010—We’re now into “The Other Civil War” chapter, page 237, about the strikes in the North in the 1830’s and beyond—long before the war on the South began.

Zinn annoys me because he focuses on the injustices and riots themselves, blaming the “capitalists,” the “rich,” and the “landowners,” without giving a good account of their methods.  The Robber Barons did a better job of showing how the railroad interests used government to further their ends.  In fact, Zinn’s history seems to worsen class divide by pandering to the disenfranchised and showing no effective retaliation other than violence, labor unions, and strikes.  He lets the government off the hook by virtually ignoring it, except in the most superficial way.

Thursday, April 17, 2010—I read about 12 pages of People’s History..  All about labor strikes during the mid-to-late 1800s.  A bad depression in 1893 due to boatloads of immigrants brought to lower the price of labor while native-born laborers couldn’t afford to feed their families.   Over and over the federal government and state militia came in to break up strikes, and the Supreme Court and lower courts cemented the rights of corporations over individuals in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and other tactics that proved who the federal government really works for.

Zinn doesn’t say much about the Supreme Court, but it appears to be the great black hole in this whole US federal government farce.  Zinn only touches on the notion that it is composed of presidential appointees who are confirmed by Congress, thereby a mockery of the idea that the US is a republic.  But language distortion goes back a long way.  Even the 1800s sources Zinn quotes were discussing the conflict of labor vs. capital, referring to the overlord imperialists as “capitalists” unwilling to acknowledge human capital’s value.

Laborers never learned how to organize, except to fight, and this is why they failed.  Had they taken over the mills and factories and run them themselves, evicting the bosses, we may have written a different history.

Saturday, April 17, 2010—More violence.  Now the US in the late 1890s expands its imperialist empire, because all those machines that displaced all those workers are producing more goods than anyone needs or can afford.  So the US is forcing its way into other countries, like Japan and Cuba.  It’s justifying war, as in Cuba, supposedly to support revolutionaries against oppressive government, but also to protect American corporate interests that invested there.

Monday, April 19, 2010—Now, we’re into the Spanish-American War, in which the US used the Cuban revolution in 1898 or so to substitute the US Platt amendment for the Spanish rule.  It then used economic expansion to justify a bloody takeover of the Philippines, really bloody, in which American troops went on killing sprees wiping out entire towns, no one over ten years old spared.  And bragging about it, calling the Filipinos “niggers.”

McKinley was president at the time.  Of course he didn’t want war but felt it necessary to protect the Philippine timber and other resources from other countries and the Filipinos from themselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010—I read more People’s History, now up to page 363.  Late 1800s and early 1900s.  Strikes and more strikes, labor disputes, government stepping in at every turn to protect the corporations, the factories, murdering strikers, arresting leaders, making examples of them.  World War I was probably a diversionary tactic, to find an external enemy, because the internal mood was so belligerent.  No wonder people are afraid of the government.

But Zinn skips right over the Federal Reserve Act and income tax.  He subtly distorts the record by blaming Taft for the income tax and Wilson for the Federal Reserve Act, and only mentions these in a sentence or two in passing.

How strange, think I, that he would so easily bypass the vehicle by which the very workers he panders to were so completely disenfranchised.

People tell me Zinn is a “liberal.”  He seems to celebrate socialism, derived from Populism, but never defines any of it.  It’s clear “capitalism” was used in the vernacular in the 1800s to describe the industrialist imperialists, so demonization of the term began long ago.  The notion that human capital, like “qi” or life force in Oriental medicine, has been eliminated from the equation tells me this is why we are all are so debilitated now.

I can only do so much, I decided.  Many people have had a piece of the picture.  Zinn even quotes Helen Keller a time or two.  One of the heroines from my youth, she was social consciousness itself, a socialist at a time when socialism was needed, because it was synonymous with compassion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010—Peoples History shows how ruthless the GoverCorp attitude is.  People are right to be afraid.  Those who opposed the barbarians were glamorized, like Upton Sinclair, yet used to enable social reforms that played into GoverCorp’s hands.

On page 368 Zinn discusses World War I, the Espionage Act, which was used to jail and castigate people who opposed the war.  The Socialists didn’t, as a group, but notable Socialists like Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Clarence Darrow, were soon converted.

Zinn’s history bats the ball back and forth like a tennis match but offers few insights into the causes.  The attitudes that have come down through time allow people to justify cruelty, violence, and bloodshed.

 

 

 

Zinn on First Americans

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A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES:  
1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
Published 1980; fifth printing, 2003

Introduction:  One of the best American history books I have read, this stellar work upsets any romantic notions one might have about our nation’s beginnings.  I read the book seven years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, March 12, 2010—I sprang for A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, who just died a couple of weeks ago.  I have read 40 pages of this 690 page book and find it most inspiring, surprisingly enough.  It begins with an account of Columbus’ brutality in slaughtering the Arawak Indians in the Bahamas (which Zinn never calls the “West Indies”) and the blood lust that accompanied the gold lust and slave lust that characterized not only this but subsequent genocide in North and South America.

Apparently there were 10 million Indians (Native Americans) living in North America when the Europeans arrived, with their strange notions of property rights, their guns and superior attitudes.  Many of these natives were organized in loose confederacies by language.  The Iroquois spread through much of New York , with various centers or pockets of clans distinguished by their regions or specialties.  The Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), and the like.  They were generally pacifist, meaning they existed in peaceful harmony with each other and other tribes.  Disputes were generally between individuals.  Land and housing were held and worked in common.  There was no sexual one-upmanship.  The senior women controlled the decisions about whether to wage war, elected the tribal leaders, and removed them if they got out of line.  They made the moccasins and tended the crops, so they controlled the supplies for warring missions.

The English in Jamestown and New England behaved as badly as Columbus, but here the issue was land rather than gold.  They plopped themselves in the middle of established Indian turf and used guns and deception to bully and con the area Indians into submission.  In the beginning, the natives were willing to share, because this was their way, but when the Brits began to reveal their barbaric, exploitive, attitudes, the Indians grew wary.  Brits raided Indian villages, stole women and children for sex, slavery, and sport, murdered at random, and burned crops for no good reason, even though they were starving.  They couldn’t get along with each other, either, enough to cooperate, and they were all too lazy to work.  Those settlers who defected to the Indians for safe harbor and food were severely punished if caught.

So this is our heritage.  Zinn says the combined assaults of war, disease, and famine decimated the North American Indians to about one million in a few short years (maybe 50).

A quote from Chief Powatan to John Smith in 1607:  “Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?”

I like Zinn’s approach.  He does not romanticize or pander to the cultures that were obliterated.  He is the ultimate egalitarian, so far, recognizing the clash of values in the clash of cultures, and writing the history from the perspective of the vanquished.

The book, and especially the first chapter, spoke to my soul, because the descriptions of Arawaks and mainland natives sounds much like my ideal commune, a place where everyone has a role to play for the communal good, and no role is considered better or worse than others.  I sense the Indian spirit is rising again, by default, if nothing else.  We are backing into it, because we are too weak and debilitated to fight, and there is little left to steal.

This is the great dilemma of modern man.  We have progressed ourselves into a quandary, slaves to our own progress, with a wheel that is spinning out of control.  Progress downhill fast has hit the swampy bottom, I hope, and is having to deal with the muck, sewage, toxins, landfill, and dysfunctional technology it has created.

The “health care crisis” is a political statement, and a wise one.  “Sorry, I’m too sick to go to war, to work, to pay taxes or contribute to the economy.  Where’s my check?  You promised.”
They are learning instinctively if not intellectually, that the way to downsize government is to bankrupt it.

For Better or Worse

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In late 2006, ten years ago, I started reading an abridged (317 pages) version of Democracy in America, the classic work by French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville.  It took several years to finish it, but I noted de Tocqueville’s observations and my reactions along the way.  Below are my comments at that time, along with my retrospective on the 2016 election and its implications so far.

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA – ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE – 1832

             Democracy in America, the much quoted tome by French aristocrat and dilettante Alexis de Tocqueville, was written after a nine-month tour of the United States in 1831-2.  This 317-paged abridged version was edited by Richard D. Heffner, who wrote the introduction.  It was published in 1956.

Even in 1831, apparently, de Tocqueville recognized attitudes that have led to today’s problems in America, such as the driving greed of all layers of society, and the work-driven ethic.  At that time, class distinctions weren’t so clear, but this is shifting, and the oligarchy today consists in large part of so-called “public servants” who have commandeered public property and cordon it off against the public.

De Tocqueville also astutely observes that a comfortable populace will not revolt.  He didn’t anticipate they would not work, either, if the government makes life too comfortable, as is presumably happening now.

It bugs me that he calls this “democracy,” but I suppose it’s the closest form anyone in recent history has known.

De Tocqueville is optimistic and extremely perceptive, recognizing trends that have become so pronounced now that they are almost pathological, as the preoccupation with material things, for instance.

He was struck even then with the American love for money.  He did not see then the gradual centralization of power, but we didn’t have a democracy, either.  Slaves, Native Americans, and women were irrelevant in the political paradigms.

De Tocqueville’s observations provide perspective on America’s early ideals.  They show to some extent where we went awry.

He distinguishes, for one thing, between centralized government and centralized administration.  He says we have the former but an absence of the latter.

No more, I claim.  De Tocqueville wondered about the wisdom of the arrangement.  He said centralized administration saps initiative from local communities.

THEN AND NOW

            Democracy in America points to US priorities in the 1830s, and they are becoming ever more obvious today.  The fixation on material wealth and status stand out.  The idea that we have centralized government, and now centralized administration, too, seem particularly relevant with the president-elect’s cabinet and administrative picks.

I was one of those who stood aside during this 2016 election year, a part of the process by default but as removed as I could get.  My general belief is it doesn’t matter who the president is.  The machinery of government grinds on as if leaderless and, according to me, has been cruising downhill throughout my life.  That the pace has picked up recently, since the tech explosion, perhaps, or since 9/11, has less to do with the presidency than with general mass awareness and passive collusion with hitherto unseen forces.

Blame social media, “fake news,” the widespread sense of betrayal, and the general—albeit semi-conscious—preoccupation with money and status at all levels of society.  Blame the dissolving faith that government has answers, the disillusionment with delegated power and authority.  Passive aggression and passive resistance make for a general sense of social malaise that leads to personal and social stagnation.  What is left?

I’d like to believe we are undergoing a revolution in consciousness, a period of confusion in which we re-assess what we have believed and whether it remains valid. We are all—all of humanity and other life and non-life–in this stew pot together, for better or worse.  The fortune tellers on the payroll are busy trying to predict what disasters a Trump administration can wreak.  Even his supporters seem disgruntled over his choices of advisors and cabinet heads.

I say we got what we deserved, for better or worse, and, in retrospect it seems we have been heading along this path at least since de Tocqueville visited in 1831.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News and George Orwell’s 1984

There’s a lot written lately about “fake news,” the widespread dissemination of misinformation.  This is nothing new.  Fake news has been around at least as long as gossip and probably longer.  No one can know more than her own perspective, and to presume otherwise leads to trouble.

Seven years ago, I re-read George Orwell’s classic dystopic novel, 1984, published in 1949.  In this book, history was deliberately re-written on a regular basis by the Party of the infamous Big Brother.

1984 opens with protagonist Winston Smith going home at lunch to write in the secret diary he bought on the black market.  He works at the Ministry of Truth falsifying old news accounts.

Author George Orwell gets right to the point and packs the desolation of the times into the first few pages, describing the old, worn apartment building Winston lives in, Victory Mansions, with elevator that rarely works, the smell of boiled cabbage, the leaky roof, suspicious, deadened people.  We hear about Hate Week and Two Minutes Hate being a part of the daily routine.

The telescreen in his living room transmits both ways, and you can’t turn it off.  Smith lives in the world of the eternal present, in which the past is continually re-written  People disappear, and all record of them expunged.  There is perpetual war.  Smith lives in Oceania, which is currently at war with Eurasia and at peace with Eastasia, but despite obliterated history, Winston remembers only four years ago, Eastasia was the enemy and Eurasia the friend.

Posters, stamps, coins, cigarettes and myriad other things bear Big Brother’s face and the ominous “Big Brother is watching you.”  We have Thought Police.  We have the party’s slogans:  “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”  News is so disconnected from what’s really happening that it is a farce, yet no one remembers clearly whether things have ever been different.

Language defines thought, and 1984 speaks to this more succinctly than anything I’ve ever read.  The point of Newspeak was to reduce the number of words, to constrict thought, render it homogeneous and controllable.

Midway through the novel, Smith is having an affair with Julia, a Party member who passed him a note saying “I love you,” when she fell in the hall and he helped her up.  She is 15 years his junior and content to live a double life of hating the Party while pretending to be a model member.  She is purely sensual, uninterested in politics except as it affects her life.  She believes war is frustrated sexual desire and that sexually satisfied people have no need or desire to fight.  This, she says, is why the Party outlaws it except between husband and wife, and only for the purpose of having children, and providing no one enjoys it.

Winston knows from the beginning he is doomed, just doesn’t know when his time will come.  Every move is watched, every facial expression, every sound transmitted over the telescreen.  Solitude is suspicious, as is unaccounted-for time.

Smith eventually takes Julia to meet with O’Brien, an inner party member he believes is a member of a subversive organization, the Brotherhood.  This organization is reputed to be headed by an Emanuel Goldstein, the demonized “Enemy of the People.”  O’Brian says he is indeed a member of the Brotherhood and enlists Winston’s participation, exacting promises to do whatever is necessary, on command, without asking questions, and expecting no rewards or acknowledgement.

 

Smith loses my allegiance when he says he is willing to abase himself to defeat Big Brother.  He dehumanizes himself with that commitment, and becomes no better than those he condemns.  He is willing to trade one overlord for another, perpetuating the cycle.

After meeting with O’Brien, Winston gets the forbidden Goldstein book and begins to read it, but he is then arrested in his hideaway just before reading the “Why?” of the party’s obsession.

The rest of the book is about Winston’s capture, imprisonment, torture, and re-education by O’Brien.  O’Brien says the party decides what reality is, and a lone individual like O’Brien cannot contest it.  The party is immortal.  He says the party did not make the mistake of previous dictatorships, (thereby admitting a past before the Party):  socialist governments that pretended to claim power merely long enough to establish justice and equality.  No.  The party wants power for its own sake, and it wants to use that power to crush all individuality and potential resistance. But even Winston Smith, during his interrogation, protests that such a brutal power structure as O’Brien describes could not sustain itself and would self-destruct.

In the end, of course, when O’Brien threatens to put a rat cage over Winston’s face, he commits the ultimate betrayal:  he begs to have them sick the rats on Julia, instead.

And, of course, the final two sentences—which I’ve remembered for 30 years, verbatim:  “He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.”

Although George Orwell is uncannily prescient in some of his observations, like the muddying of language, the telescreen, and the homogenization of individuals into a mass mind where individuality is a crime, he cannot account for factors that make totalitarianism unsustainable.  We are now seeing the disintegration of the power structure that bleeds individuals to support itself.  It boils down to the simple fact that armed or violent resistance only reinforces the power structure, but non-participation and withdrawal deplete it.  Orwell is looking at an urban population dependent on infrastructure and easily controlled supply chains.

Also, while Orwell claims history is being wiped out by revisions in books, statues, streets, churches, and newspapers, he overlooks the fact that the dilapidated architecture itself bespeaks a more competent society, because those buildings were once new, with roofs and plumbing in good working order.

Orwell also deprives his characters of any curiosity outside politics or basic amenities.  In his first rendez-vous with Julia in the country, Winston is transfixed by the song of a thrush.  There is no other evidence of anyone doing anything useful, and the appreciation for the bird is an exception.

The characterization of perpetual war merely for the purpose of destroying excessive production, the three entities perpetually at odds with each other, the control of people by controlling their minds, is uncanny.  There’s a reference to 1914 as the turning point in history.

Doublethink, the ability to hold two mutually exclusive views at the same time and believe them both, is crucial.

 

But men have always thought in terms of violent revolutions that are manipulated simply to switch one power elite for another.  They do not recognize that these systems disintegrate from within because those in power can’t trust each other.  I believe the violence comes later, once people see how weak the structure has become.

I say you control by controlling the food and water supplies, and the product lines, a much more fundamental and practical method, if power is your aim.  Of course the power brokers know that, and all this talk about controlling minds is intellectual camouflage.  It’s hard to imagine Big Brother having much power in a rural area where people have more resources at their disposal.

George Orwell, pen name for Eric Arthur Blair, died a year after 1984 was published, at the age of 46.  He had lived through both world wars, the Depression, and had lived in poverty through much of his adult life.  He foresaw much of what is happening now, and he was discouraged about the future of mankind.  But in the final analysis, 1984 is a masterpiece of tight prose, excellent descriptions, good character development, and interesting plot, well worth reading.