Monday, September 05, 2016

Did you get your precious photos?

“The problem with Americans is they have no culture” Barry F ca. 1988

I don’t know why my friend said this.  I can’t remember the discussion or the context, much less the day. But I do remember him saying those very profound words. He is perhaps the most American person I know. Originally from Indiana, his family moved around as his father sought jobs, much like the rest of the U.S. and World population. He is a Navy veteran, and wears this proudly. He is also much decorated with tattoos, and until age struck him with joint problems, was also an artist, a skin illustrator, description courtesy of Rod Steiger. Decades before personal decorations entered mainstream culture, he had multiple piercings both seen and unseen (Yes, that body part) and tattoos everywhere. He enjoys his Harley, cheeseburgers and coffee. Despite his long hair and anti-social appearance, he was also perhaps the most normal behaving of my cohort, which at the time, in our twenties, consisted of ex-junkies trying to learn how to put on our pants. His house was at least clean and livable.

His observation is profound because it is very true. And, because it is true, it has allowed a culture to be implanted.

My title is from the movie Blade Runner, and is part of a conversation between two replicants, the genetically engineered biological slave subjects of the movie. They are part the emotionally important cache of memories for one of the characters that are either implanted within or generated by the replicants as they live their brief, engineered four-year lifespan.
In a way, many Americans are much like them. Most of us are not the descendants of Massachusetts Bay and its associated Boston Brahmins, but instead are the children of great crashing waves of desperate, landless, hungry peasants symbolic of famine driven diasporas left on the beaches as the waves recede. Our ancestors landed, dusted off the sand, and were too busy working and enjoying the idea they could actually own land and eat too worry. We do not know who the hell we are and how we got here, and our ancestors never had the time to remember and tell us, as they were too busy working. Here, they at least had a chance. They were not so hungry they had to chew on leather mitts, as my grandfather once described. The problem is with no ties to the land, implanted cultural memes of patriotism and no historical context, American’s can be sold any story. Chopping down Cherry trees, not telling lies, Cherokee Princesses, the belief that no one was here or god intends us to rule or evil communists or shining city on the hill, we can be told anything because we have no history. Or, at least one that is truly told.

It is erased. The Indigenous inhabitants didn’t exist or were primitive savages digging in the ground for roots, rather than the people who had complex societies who died from biological bad luck in the evolutionary viral sweepstakes. They were not the people who built Cahokia, designed the Serpent Mound, mined copper on the Keewenaw and traded it for shells from the Gulf of Mexico and somehow brought them to the Grand Mound on the Rainy River. They were, and are, the disappeared Injun of the “Trails End.”

As colonists with the ancestry of desperate peasants, we don’t have much to emotionally base our lives on. You see this when people investigate their genealogy. It is inevitably some Royalty from the Merovingians or Tudor’s, rather than indentured servants named John. The same is true, for people feeling loss or guilt over how they got here, so they invent things such as the apocryphal Cherokee Princess who confessed on the deathbed to Indian heritage. Much laughed at, it should really be pitied. The tellers are often emotionally desperate people trying to belong to something in a world that has forced their ancestors to move every generation for 150 years.  Veryone needs a home, and we will invent one if needed.

Thus the myths.

As Noam Chomsky one clarified, you never hear of someone in Italy being called “ Anti-Italian” during a political discussion. Terms like that, such as “Anti-American”, are used only in places where all cultural life is subsumed to the Nation State, as in Totalitarian states.  This is a relatively new development. Culturally, this has endured in the U.S. since the propaganda project to politically move us into World War One, but up until Word War Two, people still questioned involvement in other countries, despite the constant invasion of danger zones such as Nicaragua and Mexico.  Eagles, the word “Freedom”, and the Military are just part of the precious photos we use, much like the replicants. They are our false memories, our implants, creating a cultural memory to justify our existence.The methods and symbols used are still the same, and Edward Bernays would be very proud.  

God forbid someone mention genocide. 

The True History of Violence.

In North Dakota, Local Dakota Natives and supporters are protesting a pipeline  being built through both North and South Dakota. Ignoring the hideous irony of both states being named by colonial settlers after people they forcibly removed from the east following a mass hanging, I will allow myself to continue using the names.  As the protest has grown with calls for support from the outside, the protest has not disappeared, as is likely government officials hoped for.
This Minnesota Public Radio headline reflects the Orwellian language of our colonial culture and modern capitalism: “Dakota Access Pipeline Protests in North Dakota turn violent.” Local officials complained that protesters violated public land; private “security companies” used attack dogs and pepper spray on the supposed invaders. The empty stupidity and arrogance of any Government official standing west of the Missouri River south of Bismarck and complaining of Natives “violating private land” should be met with derision and a public dunking. Any soul familiar with the history of the Fort Laramie Treaty would know this, but colonial cultures, especially one as arrogant as the immigrants to the United States, must erase history in order to justify their very presence. Genocide and land theft don’t match with flag waving and the “shining city on the hill.” The Dakotas are its very essence.

A true complaint and history of violence might include how colonial settlement was built on the violence of extraction for profit, beginning with the fur trade, the buffalo slaughter, the Forts, the Indian Agents, the forced settlement of the Dakota from Minnesota to what are now the Dakotas, the Black Hills gold rush, the mines, the Dawes Act, the importation of colonists via public subsidy of the railroads, the Homestead Act, the damming of the Missouri, the coal mines and now of course, the oil extraction.  None of these are mentioned, and of course if they are, the immediate response is to “Why do you bring up the past...all you do is complain!” That is the heart and soul of any colonial culture built on exploitation for profit…deliberate erasure of history.

The true history of violence links settlers very presence with exploitation. The workers, now best represented by oil boomers, pipeline workers and imported mercenaries renamed “security firms”, are merely well trained and indoctrinated servants of their corporate masters and their state enforcers. Most of them are merely desperate to make a living in Post-Reagan America, which is really America at its core, built on fraud, boom, bust and resource extraction.  The Bakken is just a pile of Buffalo bones heaped across the horizon disguised in moving metal. Afterall, America is real estate speculation started by European royalty until the locals wanted their cut.  As modern workers on the industrial frontier, the corporations are able to buy their allegiance as their profits are beyond avarice. Meth and Heroin have replaced alcohol for use in quieting the soul. And like much of the U.S. population, indoctrinated on flags, empty myths and psychological desperation to justify their own actions, the response to anyone interfering with their right to rev a truck is rage.

The mercenaries, who at this point should probably include most government officials who complain of the protestors, are servants of power and privilege. Most are amoral, self-serving psychopaths, the ordinary bureaucrats as in Hannah Arendt’s description of Adolf Eichmann. It is fitting the local sheriff has a German name, for his actions do imitate the Afrikaners, another colonial culture built on its own myths and a cultural history of nothing. Underneath their definitions and actions are the ignorance and myths of our history,  a history of land exploitation, of soil, of the fish and animals, of the Natives and of the immigrant colonists. The error lies in the colonist descendants, orphans of history and capitalism, their history erased much like the forced Native boarding school victims, not knowing just how they got here in both time and place. Someone has been telling them to wave the flag and forget who they are, and off they have gone for three generations. Their anger is desperation to keep up with the great debt cycle their masters impose on them, but without history they have no words. You cannot speak up if you don’t know the language. And that is what makes us human.

What frightens the government and the corporations is the Natives are restless, and now some of the Sepoys agree with them. They are terrified of Lucknow happening here, not in violence, but in political resistance. The security “companies” are the paid mercenaries of the exploitive state. They are the cavalry with different emblems. It may no longer be legal to kill us en masse, but they can enslave us or pay us, and still make a tidy profit.

Monday, July 11, 2016

It’s not about guns, it’s about money.

Someone is making a lot of money from people dying.

The mass murders and police killings of the last several years, despite the large overall drop in violent crime since the early 1990’s, are now part of competing political narratives. A world to be made safe from hordes of dark skinned lunatics, both native and foreign, endanger the Great White Bwana of America, or a chaotic maelstrom of random lunatics bent on destroying all that is good and holy; suburbia and the last bastions of whiteness, small city, town and rural America.  Coupling this with the official narrative of deranged desert lunatics who for no reason hate us, paranoia has matched heights of the cold war. Instead of Red Dawn Russians, we have Red Dawn North Koreans, a tale that would be hilarious if it wasn’t tied to a propaganda system preparing young people to die for the Empire of commercial gain. One has to search through academics, non-mainstream news sources and the odd foreign correspondent to find anything mentioning United States Foreign Policy, covert activity and military presence as possible causes. Our Saudi friend’s spread of Sunni fundamentalism, joined with our support and subsidy of the murderous Israeli State is never mentioned. After all, why would they hate us after dropping bombs on them or starving them into submission, not when all you want is to hand them democracy and McDonald’s?  The barbarians are here and the gate is breached. Beware sinners.

As most people act emotionally and not rationally, the reality of dropping violent crime rates for the past two decades has also seen an explosion in security systems and weapons for home defense. Fear is a greater motivator than rationality, and despite the lowering crime rates, the advertisements for home security systems and guns as home “defense” find a receptive audience, helped along with a 24-hour news cycle that can turn a traffic stop in Reno into a seeming nation threatening debacle.

“Back to live video…How many more of these grocery store purse snatchers might be tied with ISIS, Wolf?”

A hundred years ago, the first system of politically coercive propaganda was created to build popular support for the United States to enter World War 1. Largely forgotten, the basic infrastructure we see now,  advertising, spokespeople, paramilitary enforcement and surveillance developed as means to push the United States into a war a large part of the populace did not want. Wilson’s “making the world safe for democracy” required authoritarian means. Out of this came Edward Bernays, who, modifying and improving the methods, fully developed social manipulation and public relations by making the world safe for women to smoke. Ignoring the decades since then, when the methods were simply studied and refined, network technology has simply made this easier. Psychologists, social network researchers and advertisers now access a mass propaganda system with real time testing. 

A researcher for a gun company can now learn how his major audience, largely working class white males with poor family relationships and poor relations with fathers, can have their insecurity manipulated into a need for authoritarianism and guns. Insecure emotionally and from a young age  raised on a propaganda diet of manhood via military means, authoritarianism provides the needed warmth of security and this group is easily coerced into an obsessive need for weapons. What has made it worse is the social instability extreme capitalism has wrought. Whole communities destroyed, family relationships torn apart by either disappearing income or the need to move to survive, the fear is real. Despite the wealth, suburbia is not community; it is an artifice resembling community based on commodification of community. And with fear comes anger. This, the remains of human community left in the U.S., is an audience ready made for weapon’s sales. Mix in a propaganda culture of manhood by violence and militarism, you will likely have what we have now. While everyone yells and screams about guns as inanimate objects and/or responsibility, the central question is lost. Does everyone, from socially awkward mentally ill people to random women having a gun make us all safer, or does it simply add better death machines to all the insanity and rage constantly floating around in a society 40 years into the neo-liberal project of privatizing the earth and society for the benefit of the wealthy?

The Gun and weapon manufacturers have succeeded in their aim. Their product is now the answer to all our problems. They have managed to join and help create a propaganda stream of fear and paranoia where their product, nothing more than a simple to operate but albeit messy death machine, is the solution for everyone. Police, ordinary citizen, ordinary housewife, oppressed minority or just plain old whackjob, they have the solution or you. The bigger the better, which in reality is kill more faster. That is all that guns do and are for. This is the world they wanted, and they could ask for no better advertising then mass slaughter. How else will you defend yourself against our product than by having one yourself?

The United States of Fear and Death, brought to you by the NRA and the gun manufacturers.