Category Archives: Society

Postliterate America, by Linh Dinh

Both the quantity and quality of what people read has dramatically diminished. From Line Dinh at unz.com:

I was just interviewed by two Temple journalism students, Amelia Burns and Erin Moran, and though they appeared very bright and enterprising, with Erin already landing a job that pays all her bills, I feel for these young ladies, for this is a horrible time to make and sell words, of any kind, and the situation will only get worse. We’re well into postliteracy.

With widespread screen addiction, hardly anyone buys books or newspapers anymore. My local newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer (Inky), no longer has a book review section. Its retired editor, Frank Wilson, was never replaced. Frank had three of my books reviewed, Night, Again, Fake House and Blood and Soap, but the last was in 2004.

Frank lives near me, so I see him around. A lifelong Philadelphian, he takes pride in knowing the city well. Speaking of Steve Lopez, an Inky reporter who made his name with a novel about North Philly, Badlands, Frank sneered that Lopez didn’t actually try heroin, so he didn’t really know what he was talking about. Frank did.

If you mess with Frank, the bearded, snarling Irishman will maul you with his cane. Frank’s not just ancient, but old school.

After moving to Philly in 1982, I’d read Clark DeLeon’s daily column in the Inky. Covering the city with knowledge, heart and humor, DeLeon helped me to feel grounded, and challenged me to explore my new home. After 23 years at the “same sloppy-topped gun-metal gray desk,” DeLeon was fired, however, a casualty of postliteracy.

Clark, “For 16 years I wrote six columns a week for the paper’s metro section. In later years I was cut back to five columns a week. In the final year, I was down to 1 column a week in the feature section.”

No longer a professional journalist, Clark earns his keep by working as a costumed tour guideoutside Independence Hall. Done with work, he’d often down a few at Dirty Frank’s. A tall, square-jawed and rugby playing dude, Clark would sit there in his black tricorne hat, brown waistcoat and white shirt with billowing sleeves, like a hulking Paul Revere, here to announce the worst of possible news. The death of the word, and thus thinking, is coming!

To continue reading: Postliterate America

Advertisements

Twelve Tips For Making Sense Of The World, by Caitlin Johnstone

These tips will stand you in pretty good stead. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:

In an environment that is saturated with mass media propaganda, it can be hard to figure out which way’s up, let alone get an accurate read on what’s going on in the world. Here are a few tips I’ve learned which have given me a lot of clarity in seeing through the haze of spin and confusion. Taken separately they don’t tell you a lot, but taken together they paint a very useful picture of the world and why it is the way it is.

1. It’s always ultimately about acquiring power.

In the quest to understand why governments move in such irrational ways, why expensive, senseless wars are fought while homeless people die of exposure on the streets, why millionaires and billionaires get richer and richer while everyone else struggles to pay rent, why we destroy the ecosystem we depend on for our survival, why one elected official tends to advance more or less the same harmful policies and agendas as his or her predecessor, people often come up with explanations which don’t really hold water.

The most common of these is probably the notion that all of these problems are due to the malignant influence of one of two mainstream political parties, and if the other party could just get in control of the situation all the problems would go away. Other explanations include the belief that humans are just intrinsically awful, blaming minorities like Jews or immigrants, blaming racism and white supremacy, or going all the way down wild and twisted rabbit holes into theories about reptilian secret societies and baby-eating pedophile cabals. But really all of mankind’s irrational behavior can be explained by the basic human impulse to amass power and influence over one’s fellow humans, combined with the fact that sociopaths tend to rise to positions of power.

Our evolutionary ancestors were pack animals, and the ability to rise in social standing in one’s pack determined crucial matters like whether one got first or last dibs on food or got to reproduce. This impulse to rise in our pack is hardwired deeply into our evolutionary heritage, but when left unchecked due to a lack of empathy, and when expanded into the globe-spanning 7.6 billion human pack we now find ourselves in due to ease of transportation and communication, it can lead to individuals who will keep amassing more and more power until they wield immense influence over entire clusters of nations.

To continue reading: Twelve Tips For Making Sense Of The World

Postcard from the End of America: Callowhill, Philadelphia, by Linh Dinh

Society is changing in many different ways, most of them not for the better. From Linh Dinh at unz.com:

Love City, 2018

Love City, 2018

I’m sitting in a spacious bar, Love City, that was once a factory. Too slicked up, it’s not quite a ruin bar, of the kind you find in Budapest. The patrons are mostly hipsters and yuppies, but with a handful of Joe Sixpacks thrown in. Looking like contractors, they’re probably fixing properties in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

On the way here, I spotted a few homeless lurking in the underpasses, beneath the Reading Railroad train trestle. Long disused, it’s being turned into a beautiful park, so soon enough, you’ll find the haves walking their dogs, jogging or sunning themselves above, with the have nots sleeping on dirty mattresses, or going to the toilet, below. They’ll probably all be shooed away. Problem solved.

After talking to three black men, a once-pretty white woman scrambled up an embankment. Reeking of urine, a groggy black dude asked me for change, as did a black lady waiting at a bus stop. A handful of tourists tittered outside the Edgar Allan Poe house.

Since a 20 oz. Love City Lager is a reasonable $5, I have one in front of me as I upload three photos, just taken in the neighborhood.

One is of a sign on a corner grocer’s door, “No Weapons Allowed / Detection Devices On Premise / Upon Detection/ Police Will Be Notified Immediately!” Beneath it is an ad for Newport, aimed at a black clientele, obviously, though you’re not supposed to notice that, since we’re all the same, remember? This is the kind of store that sells cigarettes, soft drinks, candies, potato chips, beef jerky, canned food and the only symbol of hope left for many Americans, lottery tickets.

The second photo is of a billboard, “OPIOID DETOX / GET CLEAN. / LEAVE PROTECTED,” with five white faces, and one black, all happy. Just three miles away, there are around 40 tents on sidewalks, occupied by homeless junkies, mostly white and under 35. I didn’t think Kensington could get worse, but it has.

To continue reading: Postcard from the End of America: Callowhill, Philadelphia

Memorialize That, by James Howard Kunstler

There is, as James Howard Kunstler notes, a prevalence of insanity in American life. From Kunstler at kunstler.com:

War for the USA these days is a weird, inconclusive enterprise. Our objectives are poorly discerned, hardly even articulated anymore, just a pattern of going through the motions as destructively as possible with no end in sight. How many Americans can state what our mission in Afghanistan is after seventeen years of blundering around its bare mountains and valleys? What exactly has been the point of our exercises in Syria? To get rid of Bashar al-Assad, the wonks might say. Really? And replace him with what? With the ragtag ISIS maniacs we’ve been shoveling arms and money to?

What goes on in the Baghdad Green Zone these days with Operation Inherent Resolve still underway? How come four US Special Forces soldiers were killed in Niger in 2017? Do you know what they were doing there? How many Americans can even say where Niger is on a map? How much better is life in Somalia these days with American soldiers on-the-scene? What was the net effect of our effort to liberate Libya in 2011 (Operation Freedom Falcon)? What factions are US military advisors training in Ukraine? And what for? Defense Secretary James Mattis says, “We’re working with them on reform of their military.” Hmmm…. So they can be more like us?

Did you happen to notice Sunday that many Major League Baseball teams were sporting military-themed camo caps? What’s up with that? Are we planning to send Aroldis Chapman to throw 105mph fastballs at Hezbollah? In fact, camo has been a popular theme in civilian fashion for years so that everyone from truck drivers to millionaire rap stars can affect to be mighty warriors. Do you know that since 2009 the National Football League has been under contract with the US military to stage on-field patriotic tributes and warplane flyovers — and how much do these displays cost (taxpayer alert)?

I suppose that military prowess is all we’ve got left in the national pride bag in these times of foundering empire. Few are fooled these days by the “land of opportunity” trope when so many young people are lucky to get a part-time gig on the WalMart loading dock along with three nights a week of slinging Seaside Shrimp Trios for the local Red Lobster. Of course, there are a few choice perches in venture capital out in Silicon Valley, or concocting collateralized loan obligations in the aeries of Wall Street — but nobody is playing Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man to celebrate these endeavors.

To continue reading: Memorialize That

The Cosby Status Quo: A Facade of Wholesomeness Masks Feudal Exploitation, by Charles Hugh Smith

Remember the scene in Braveheart when the loathsome lord exercised his “right” to sleep with a new bride on her wedding night, infuriating her new husband. That’s feudal exploitation, and it’s making a comeback. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

In America’s feudal society/economy, there are two systems of “justice”.
The conviction of Bill Cosby for sexual exploitation/assault serves as a useful metaphor for our entire status quo, which projects a wholesome PR facade (free market capitalism, win-win, democracy, meritocracy, anyone can grow up to win American Idol, etc.) which masks a predatory culture of exploitation.
The most important aspect of the Cosby case is that dozens of reports of his drugging and assaulting women were routinely ignored for decades. The facade of wholesomeness, generated to protect the profit-generating machinery of the Cosby brand, buried accusations with a blizzard of legal and PR maneuvers.
The only difference between the predations of Cosby and those of Harvey Weinstein is that Weinstein had no need for a facade of wholesomeness because his brand/core business did not generate profit from a pretense of wholesomeness like Cosby’s. Weinstein’s predations were an open secret because he reckoned his power and connections rendered him invulnerable. In other words, he was nobility in a feudal society/economy.
In America’s feudal society/economy, there are two systems of “justice”: one for the wealthy and powerful oligarchs generating profits for Hollywood and Corporate America, and an overcrowded gulag of serfs forced to plea-bargain in the other.
The predation and the hollowness of the wholesome image were well-known to those serving the nobility. Hundreds of insiders knew the truth, just as hundreds of insiders with top secret clearance knew about the contents of the Pentagon Papers, and thus knew the Vietnam War was little more than an accumulation of official lies designed to protect the self-serving elites at the top of the power pyramid.
Only one analyst of the hundreds with access to the truth had the courage to risk his career and liberty to release the truth to the American public: Daniel Ellsberg.
If you want to understand why the status quo is unraveling, start by examining the feudal structure of our society, politics and economy: the endemic corruption, predation and exploitation of the privileged nobility at the very top, the well-paid class of self-serving sycophants, toadies, lackeys, hacks, apologists, flunkies, careerists and legal-team mercenaries who toil ceaselessly to protect their oligarch overlords from exposure and the exploited, powerless serfs at the bottom.
As Orwell observed about a totalitarian oligarchy, some are more equal than others.That is the definition of an exploitive, predatory feudal society.

 

Entertain a Clown and You Become Part of the Circus, by Doug “Uncola” Lynn

How the devil would design a political system for maximum control. It sounds a lot like our current system. From Doug “Uncola” Lynn at theburningplatform.com:

If I were the devil, I would desire the most efficient system of governance whereby maximum control could be exerted over the greatest amount of people at any given time. I would identify those who stood in my way and take them down either by force or subversion.  There would be no room in my world for individuality, free thought, or vain imaginings of anything, or anyone, more powerful than me.  As an orchestrator of chaos, the only unity I could tolerate would be that which served both my means and ends.

Without a doubt, divide and conquer would be my means and one world under me would be my objective.

I would use my power to threaten, coerce, blackmail, and subjugate those under my command; to harness them on the way toward my ultimate goal of total world dominion. The loyal ones would reap rewards of preeminent prestige, privilege, and perverted pleasures. The traitors to my cause would suffer lawsuits, investigations, poverty, public humiliations, torture, or death. Deception would be my modus operandi and confusion would serve me well; as long as I remained ever in the know with billions of eyescontinually watching and one eye always on the final destination.

I would stamp out truth and label it by other names. Facts would become fake and vice versa.  I would cover the eyes and ears of my minions to shield them from all except my own reality; until their collective voices became one with mine. Comprehensive consensus would appear universal as dissent would be quelled and free speech quashed.  Language would be utilized to affect thought and to establish the ideological premises for whatever conclusions I required.

Soon, words and concepts would come to mean the very opposite of what they once meant.

To continue reading: Entertain a Clown and You Become Part of the Circus

The great exodus out of America’s blue cities, by Kristin Tate

People are getting fed up with the high costs, taxes, crime, grime, and homelessness rampant in many of America’s cities, most of which have been run by Democrats for decades. From Kristin Tate at thehill.com:

Am I the only one in my spinning class at Equinox in Manhattan who’s fed up paying $200 every month for a gym with clean showers, $3,000 in rent every month for an apartment without cockroaches and $8 every morning for a cup of coffee? Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.

New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.

With between up to 50 percent of their paycheck going to a combination of federal, local and city taxes, not including other consumer taxes baked into every aspect of their consumer practices, residents don’t even have the comfort of knowing that their tax expenditures are going to the improvement of their lives in the city. New York infamously misuses the hard-earned tax revenues of its citizens in ways that scarcely benefit them.

Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of the New York City metro area since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.

The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.

To continue reading: The great exodus out of America’s blue cities