Energy In, Energy Out-sourced
I’m thinking about energy these days. Oil, tar sands, the amount put into Homo industrious‘ lifestyle and wars for extraction. All the globalized harvesting of proteins from the collapsing seas. Forests cut down for soy beans. Millions of acres of grass prairie torn up to fuel cattle and cars.
Japan is giving the green light to ratcheting up their Fukishima-based economic growth model. More nuclear energy, at what cost? Shell Oil drilling in the Arctic and Australian/Canadian mining firms pushing into all of Latin America.
It’s the small stories on National Petroleum-Pesticide-Pharmaceutical Radio (NPR) that catalyze my thinking about how out of scale our daily lives are, largely because we’ve collectively allowed corporations to determine our lives – where and how and why communities, CITIES, grow. Things have gotten so out of whack that every waking and sleeping hour is determined by the heart of the monsters at Dow, Exxon, Monsanto, General Dynamics, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Bechtel, BP, Halliburton, JP Morgan Chase, and all the sycophants coming from elite schools to push the money eaters’ agendas.
So the NPR affiliate in Seattle gives out a little blurb on how corporate officials from Alberta, Canada, are in Seattle for a week to recruit a myriad of American workers to fill the gap or shortage of laborers and skilled workers up North to harvest the sludge of tar out of the province’s bowels.
No critical look at why the process of tar sand extraction-cooking is so damaging. How it is so tied to a broken dream of corporations, governments and under-educated masses just ignoring the reality of carbon dioxide pollution and atmospheric destabilization and all the attendant climatic disorders that come with global warming. Nothing of the First Nations people’s being thrown on the proverbial heap of exploitation, extinction, and extermination that is the way of white man-woman in his-her pursuit of profits and this unsustainable corporate grand larceny of water, air, the very DNA fiber of human life.
Just trippy, happy reporting, and PR flaks from Alberta just being fawned over by the reporter (sic) who throws softball questions at her while the Alberta-or-Bust lady went on and on about the great opportunities for Seattle-area workers making a new life in Alberta. And who knows, “… some might just want to stay permanently … and live the dream that is $20 and $30 an hour job part of the endless humanity polluting industries.”
In the Eye of the Beholder
What’s Seattle got to say about cyclists? Here’s from a recent comments section out of the Seattle Times: “Until the cyclistas agree to be licensed on the same basis and at the same fees as motorcyclists, I am against any spending on them, period.”
Typical comments lobbed around here, really, on a daily basis, but, thankfully, plenty of comebacks, illustrated by this keen thinker:
Right now half of all road costs are paid from general taxes. Gasoline is subsidized by the general taxpayer via ethanol and oil company subsidies. Add to that the cost of wars to maintain U.S. access to mid-east oil ($2.51 for every gallon of gas consumed in the U.S.). Add to that my inflated health care insurance premiums that subsidize treatment of asthma due to high levels of particulate matter in the air and treatment for the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US resulting from bad diets and sedentary lifestyles. Since the lion’s share is funded through local, state, and federal taxes and fees, quite the opposite is true; the cost to non-drivers is grossly higher. This includes maintenance, expansion, building new, and providing police forces, emergency personnel and equipment. Then there’s a lifetime effect of road deaths (40,000+/year) and injuries, watershed destruction, groundwater and run-off pollution, excess asthma rates, higher incidence of heart disease, negative effects for those living near highways, noise pollution, congestion, CO2 emissions, etc.
Two very different narratives, or psychological frames, or consciousnesses. Ahh, but the retrogrades thinking bicycling is bad are outnumbering the alternative. Think Texas Republicans taking out critical thinking from their state platform – and then you get the picture:
Texas Republicans are saying that their 2012 platform’s opposition to “critical thinking skills” was a mistake—but that mistake is now the formal policy of the Republican Party of Texas until 2014. The stated reasoning behind opposition to critical thinking skills was that such education programs “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” As Hunter described this logic:
Critical thinking, of course, is what allows a person to differentiate between fact and hokum. I will assume that this is the peeve being addressed by the party plank (which, as it turns out, doubles as a handy paddlin’ board). Differentiating between fact and hokum sounds all fine and good until it leads to questioning your elders. When elders spout hokum, now that needs to be properly respected. If your elders say the Loch Ness Monster is proof that evolution never happened and that Noah’s Ark was actually a hovercraft, you had better damn well not start using your newfound critical thinking skills on picking apart that. Believing something contrary to your parents counts as behavior modification only if the original behavior was a full-on brainwashing.
I’ve Got Mine and You’ve Got Yours – the $8 an Hour Social Darwinism Polka
Amazing, walking the two dogs on Beacon Hill while hearing thunder claps in the middle of the day in July (nah, no climate change here) while a steady stream of commercial airlines line up to fall to earth, to that strip of land near Renton that is Sea-Tac International Airport (sure, we can absorb another 20 percent increase in air traffic by 2030). All those travelers embarking/disembarking into the lives of the awaiting low wage job holders who are the new immigrants, those wheelchair tenders, baggage handlers, taxi drivers, and food handlers and Sky Caps.
What delusions – Seattle expects to live off the nitrous oxide of its high tech-creative class-knowledge worker bubble. Constant steady growth of Amazon.com and the retailer’s new campus towers in downtown. A $4.2 billion deep bore tunnel to expand the opportunities of developers and the building industry elites. More yammering about having the city paying for the pro-basketball team to return, along with a hockey club. All these endless clever growth parodies, as if the party never ends.
Land and water locked city, in a state where support for the big colleges like UW and WSU is floundering, let along all the community colleges and small ones like Eastern Washington U which are having more of that party favor fun – cut classes, gutted departments, eviscerated programs, larger classrooms, more firings, and the constant and steady growth of contingent faculty in their every precarious majority status of faculty of the realm and the onward ho of creating more and more virtual tinkering as on-line “communities” are exploding as the new educational think.
Did I say a billion bucks from taxpayers to pay for a new waterfront park and amenities so those land developers can feel good about their investments matched by public investments in the form of levies and other funding sources? That’s what a new tunnel does, after the perfectly okay viaduct gets completely torn down.
Meanwhile, politicians are attacking the right to collective bargaining and the value of higher education instructors, a la Wisconsin. Expect more teacher layoffs as more and more of the tax pie, those tax revenues that are not only regressive but insane, vanish thanks to corporate and political malfeasance. You know, revenue streams tied to the crap we buy and the homes we own. Never serious talk about having corporations pay for all those externalities they create, all those operating expenses and R & D bucks and pollution mitigating programs vis-a-vis us, US taxpayers.
We’ve ended up in this miasma of failing to call a spade a working class person, or really stalling our ability to go deep into a critique by finally seeing that the elites, the One Percent, and those doing their bidding have set upon this land a slash and burn class warfare that for almost 99 percent of journalists is an impossible concept to not just broadcast and report on, but to grasp.
Dueling Banjos, Dueling Consciousnesses
It’s the dual consciousness W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about for blacks having to have two completely operating systems in America – one for their own community and one while in the white dominion of male Caucasian privilege. We’ve all been co-opted by bifurcated thinking, this dual consciousness. It’s the only way to survive daily.
Our work when we are in the employ of the prison industrial complex, or those closely aligned to the military industries and the industries of misery fueled by the school-to-prison pipeline, is the work of the un-brave, the unworthy, of the incapacitated and cynical consumer-gestating breeders of unraveling social and spiritual cohesion. Sort of contrary to why we are on earth, no? To protect the lives of all people, including the very poor, the very babies the imperialists use to fuel their engines of harvest.
If you drink the Kool-Aid quick enough, and long enough, Seattle might seem like a trailblazing city. It’s not, though. Traffic is absurd. Cyclists are called cyclistas and derided and threatened all the time by all those car wanderers. Nothing too gory in the news about those college grads with student loans and countless opportunities to make it big with those MA’s and PhD’s cooking slow food specialties at their restaurant jobs or serving up $8 drafts mugs of organic Heffeweizen.
There are out of work families, tremendous fissures in the suburbs turning into the new ghettos, and constant unbelievable rents and mortgages that sap the two-income families of even those making upward of $120,000 combined income.
Money (investments), food (trendy, decadent), music (new, undiscovered), yoga (hot or nude or both) and the perennial extracurricular conversation (“where you heading for the weekend… ?”) occupy the lives of Seattlites more than one might imagine. Yes, you can catch Jane Goodall or David Suzuki or Chris Hedges at a Town Hall, and there are unions fighting for a fair economy rumbling in West Lake Plaza, and there are pedestrian and green roof advocates, but in the end, the city and entire Puget Sound “area” are captured by the illusions of the rich, the regattas floating lazily on the blue water, the cozy weather of a laid back July evening. All those lights and the endless luminescent rivers composed of vehicles coming and going on I-5; the floating bridges leading to the Cascades; the canopy of maples and cedars like a dot of verdant safety on the dust bowl planet; all those container ships lighting up the waterfront in a spotlight of falsified positive economic growth; well, all of that, and the Space Needle, they are all part of this big eyes sort of feel to this Emerald City.
It’s an illusion. I’ve written about it before for DV, and, not surprisingly, in contemplating the “value of this place,” I see Seattle is a microcosm of broken dreams and usurped lives. I can find similar cases elsewhere in this continuous USA scam.
Supersonic Contrails Lead to Tax Dodgers, Chamber of Commerce, Military Industry
Not surprisingly, as I write this column, after taking those dogs up the hill to the park where Somali women eat chicken out of a bag, Salvadorans slam Cokes to wash down their pupusas, and eighty-something Chinese men and women do Tai Chi, out of the wispy clouds comes ricocheting several F-18’s, afterburners fully lit up, the rapid hot breath of their engines sounding like giant tree chippers on steroids. For whatever reason, the USAF jet jockeys flared into my neighborhood’s atmosphere and shot toward Boeing Field, a slingshot maneuver back in the direction of the supercharged civilian-military-industrial complex king Boeing’s Everett headquarters.
Those F-18s and A-10s have been flying around for two days, forcing sonic booms into our weekend as they practice for the biggest show on earth – the Boeing SeaFair air show next month. More self-esteem raising for the masses, thanking Uncle Sam and the industrialists for sucking up our public coffers for the military junk and metal supersonic birds stamped Made in the USA, Made for Death.
Boeing, this region’s sacred cow. Lockheed Martin, another sacred corporation spending like spendthrifts US tax money to mess around with its F-22 stealth bomber. The entire military spending party is as obscene as drug kingpins dipping victims in sulfuric acid. Half of all of Boeing’s profits come from its military machine – the F-18 Hornet, F-15, tankers, the Apache helicopter, huge cargo jets and behemoth helicopters. All that hardware manufactured in Mesa, Arizona, cities in Pennsylvania and California, our own Everett, and St. Louis Missouri, to name a few. All those Democratic and Republican politicians fawning over these mega-corporations like Boeing. The boards of education and college presidents bending over as if Boeing’s proctologists are their dominatrixes, promising ever more tech programs and more graduates to get those “good-paying manufacturing jobs.” Lobbyist after financial fascist line up and ply the trade of the military-prison industrial complex, centered around the industrial food-energy-mineral extraction complexes.
Forget that just three months ago we had another illustrative fine monumental ripoff in the USA with tax day – as these companies like Amazon, Verizon, Boeing, GE, and hundreds of others, had their own personal jubilees, thanks to legions of accountants, lawyers and insiders helping their respective companies to avoid their fair taxes or dodge them altogether.
Another military industrial complex under girder, General Electric, which made pre-tax profits of $44 billion from 2008 to 2010, received almost $5 billion in refunds. A GE spokesperson added, “We are committed to acting with integrity in relation to our tax obligations.” GE’s largess is around its energy and financial global services.
The close second for tax dodging goes to a country and political system of its own, ExxonMobil, with this nation’s highest pre-tax earnings three years in a row. Wow, they didn’t get off too easy with a 2% federal income tax payment rate. Here’s a PR spin from Exxon: “Any claim we don’t pay taxes is absurd… ExxonMobil is a leading U.S. taxpayer.”
So, back to Seattle’s own Boeing: along with Verizon, Dow and DuPont, all of whom made profits three years in a row, the Seattle company paid zero taxes over the three-year period. Just a few more tax evaders – Citigroup and Bank of America, with combined pretax earnings in 2009 and 2010 of $8 billion, each paid zero taxes two years in a row. Two in the 5 percent club, Chevron and Merck, paid that rate from 2008-2010. Two techies like Hewlett-Packard and IBM paid 3% and 2% respectively.
Those Carnival cruise ships mucking up Puget Sound, well, the corporation as a whole paid a whooping 1% in taxes last year.
Our supercharged and patriotic corporations and their sweet deals; the sweetness of Citizens United; the sweeter taste of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and Barclay’s scamming us all – oh, how saccharine the one percent are tasting these days as their corporate thuggery and their continuous extortion rackets, inside trading deals, and infinite lobbyists-a la-pimps bulking up politicians into high paid tricks transform them into the new army of fascism.
Soon the display of both hubris and imperial death will be in the air as the militarists and their civilian masters will be in the sky overlooking the Cascades and Olympic mountains.
The Ultimate Fly-over – A Trillion Dollars Later and Women in Afghanistan Still Shovel Shit
How many weepy eyed Seattlites will be craning their necks skyward as the three-day obscene display of military might and corporate felony displays the reason for crumbling cities, dead schools, no health care for all and dwindling safety nets.
- Here’s how the big air show – Sea Fair – will play out in Seattle, and one can bet the closed floating bridge, all the extra security, all the other asides and fanfare crap will come from Seattle and King County coffers. Hell, in Seattle, the sweatshop Wal-Mart of the internet, Amazon.com, gets kudos for throwing in on the July 4th fireworks display on Lake Union. What a winner, Mr. Bezos is.
Check this out, one day of the three-day air military orgasm fest –
August 3, 2012
8:30 a.m. GATES OPEN
8:30 a.m. H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing Session
10:00 a.m. F1 PROP Tour Testing Session
10:00 a.m. Hyperlite Wakeboard Experience
11:10 a.m. Vintage Hydroplanes
11:20 a.m. U.S. Coast Guard – HH65 Search & Rescue Demonstration
11:25 a.m. Boeing Air Show
11:35 a.m. U.S. Air Force C-17 Fly Over
11:40 a.m. Flying Heritage Collection Fly Over
11:50 a.m. Red Eagle Air Sports presented by PPG Aerospace Demonstration
12:00 p.m. Main Stage: Navy Band Northwest
12:05 p.m. T-38 Fly Over
12:10 p.m. Red Bull Air Force Demonstration
12:30 p.m. U.S. Air Force A-10 Fly Over
12:35 p.m. Sean Tucker Team Oracle Challenger Bi-plane Demonstration
1:00 p.m. F/A 18 Super Hornet Flight Demonstration
1:15 p.m. CH-47 Helicopter & Special Forces Demonstration
1:30 p.m. Fat Albert – C130 Demonstration
1:40 p.m. U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration
2:30 p.m. Hyperlite Wakeboard Experience
2:30 p.m. Main Stage: UC7
2:40 p.m. Vintage Hydroplanes
2:50 p.m. H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Qualifying Session
4:00 p.m. Main Stage: School of Rock
5:00 p.m. F1 PROP Tour Qualifying Session
6:00 p.m. GATES CLOSE
Three days of little kids, families and military rah-rah types in Seattle, the supposedly highest educated and most “liberal” joint on the planet watching jets and air vehicles go whoosh and zoom while schools crumble, roads are full of potholes, and the rats of Seattle hunker down for yet more feasts as garbage pick-up shifts to twice a month.
Here’s a break down of the highest costing air metal the US pumps out, from fighter jets to huge helicopters and spy planes – F/A-18 Hornet: $94 million; EA-18G Growler: $102 million ; V-22 Osprey: $118 million; F-35 Lightning II: $122 million; E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: $232 million; VH-71 Kestrel: $241 million; P-8A Poseidon: $290 million; C17A Globemaster III: $328 million; F-22 Raptor: $350 million; B-2 Spirit: $2.4 billion.
This, of course, is just a big drop in the bucket, since we have to have 300 of everything, and these costs for those air programs above do not include all the cost overruns and other pyramid schemes defense contractors squeeze from the US tax coffers.
And forget about the black budget-black ops crap the USA spreads across the globe. The drone program’s budget or just how much those UMV’s cost? Just the Unmanned drone, the Predator, costs $4.5 million each.
the costs of the CIA managed Predator and Reaper RPV “drone” surveillance and strike program in Pakistan (and Yemen, where strikes have also occurred). This “black” budget item is inside the Pentagon budget and includes the costs of the drones, the operators, fuel, and weapons, and is not publicly known. We cannot say if expenditures for the drone program are entirely contained in the accounting of Pentagon spending for the wars or also partly in the “base” portion of the Pentagon budget. We can say this about the Air Force version of the drone program. As the New York Times reported in 2009, “Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes — which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece — have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Real Costs of Being an American – War, GNP – gross national pain
It’s so easy to get caught up in the monetary costs of war machines. Or how much those budgets drain the budgets of American communities from sea to shining sea. Or the costs to the US actors in those wars using that equipment we all paid up the ass to see on those “all you can be” TV PSAs.
Do we ever really understand the costs of war, the costs of empire, the costs of protecting and hoarding and harvesting energy, minerals, trees, marine flesh, water on the people we in the West invade? That’s an entirely other story, something akin to the costs of drug use and the drug war on the Mexican people and country, recently laid out by Rebecca Solnit, “Apologies to Mexico: The Drug Trade and GNP (Gross National Pain)”
I apologize. There are so many things I could apologize for, from the way the U.S. biotech corporation Monsanto has contaminated your corn to the way Arizona and Alabama are persecuting your citizens, but right now I’d like to apologize for the drug war, the 10,000 waking nightmares that make the news and the rest that don’t.
You’ve heard the stories about the five severed heads rolled onto the floor of a Michoacan nightclub in 2006, the 300 bodies dissolved in acid by a servant of one drug lord, the 49 mutilated bodies found in plastic bags by the side of the road in Monterrey in May, the nine bodies found hanging from an overpass in Nuevo Laredo just last month, the Zeta Cartel’s videotaped beheadings just two weeks ago, the carnage that has taken tens of thousands of Mexican lives in the last decade and has terrorized a whole nation. I’ve read them and so many more. I am sorry 50,000 times over.
The drug war is fueled by many things, and maybe the worst drug of all is money, to which so many are so addicted that they can never get enough. It’s a drug for which they will kill, destroying communities and ecologies, even societies, whether for the sake of making drones, Wall Street profits, or massive heroin sales. Then there are the actual drugs, to which so many others turn for numbness.
These conversations never go well in Seattle or in Phoenix or anywhere along the Gun Belt or Air Conditioning Belt, AKA Sun Belt – “everything we do and consumer and say and feel and hold dear fuck up the rest of the world …” We have a more difficult time as educators and journalists discussing the realities of making money – having neighborhoods, homes, cars, families, dogs, picket fences, vacations and retirement funds – from our industries of death and destruction. Calling Boeing on the carpet for anything in Seattle turns those asparagus-and-Copper River-salmon-loving NPR liberals into seething mad men and women.
O.I.L – Operation Individualistic Liberation
Do we want to calculate the carbon footprint for that SeaFair air show, or how many pounds of jet fuel will be expended? Is it a worthy exercise, or is it just the external costs of being a fat and happy American? Oh, all those filled hotel rooms, Burger Kings flipped, lattes pulled, and parking lot spaces sold during this spectacle of worthless air equipment – that’s the benefit of war.
But here’s a little tidbit on the actual oil consumption by (and protected by) our men and women in uniform: “Oil Wars Transforming the American Military into a Global Oil-Protection Service” by Michael T. Klare:
The DoD uses 360,000 barrels of oil each day. This amount makes the DoD the single largest oil consumer in the world. There are only 35 countries in the world consuming more oil than DoD. The U.S. Air Force is the largest oil consumer within the DoD services.
Less than half of DoD oil consumption occurs in the continental U.S., and the rest is consumed overseas. According to Sharon E. Burke, the Pentagon’s director of operational energy plans and programs, the Defense Logistics Agency delivers more than 170,000 barrels of oil each day to the war theaters, at a cost of $9.6 billion last year.
Although energy costs represent less than 2 percent of the DoD budget, indirect costs such as those for transporting fuel to battlefields and distributing it to the end-user add to the total. When the average American is paying $3 per gallon of gasoline, the price can soar to $42 a gallon for military grade jet fuel delivered through aerial refueling.
America’s dependence on imported petroleum has been growing steadily since 1972, when domestic output reached its maximum (or “peak”) output of 11.6 million barrels per day (mbd). Domestic production is now running at about 9 mbd and is expected to continue to decline as older fields are depleted. (Even if some oil is eventually extracted from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, as the Bush administration desires, this downward trend will not be reversed.) Yet our total oil consumption remains on an upward course; now approximating 20 mbd, it’s projected to reach 29 mbd by 2025. This means ever more of the nation’s total petroleum supply will have to be imported — 11 mbd today (about 55% of total U.S. consumption) but 20 mbd in 2025 (69% of consumption).
More significant than this growing reliance on foreign oil, an increasing share of that oil will come from hostile, war-torn countries in the developing world, not from friendly, stable countries like Canada or Norway. This is the case because the older industrialized countries have already consumed a large share of their oil inheritance, while many producers in the developing world still possess vast reserves of untapped petroleum. As a result, we are seeing a historic shift in the center of gravity for world oil production — from the industrialized countries of the global North to the developing nations of the global South, which are often politically unstable, torn by ethnic and religious conflicts, home to extremist organizations, or some combination of all three.
Give the Marines and Army the Green Combat Award
Forget about tallying all those direct monetary costs of running our military on steroids – those numbers are off the charts. Yet in this day and age, we have serious discussions about Earth Day celebrations centered around how generals and admirals are going to turn the US military into a green fighting machine. We have lost the intellectual contest when we get stories like this in alternative media – Yes magazine via Alternet:
One hell of a bizarre headline – “Why The US Military Is Leading The Charge For Green Energy Our generals see our dependence on oil as a huge vulnerability, and climate change as a ‘threat multiplier.’ Can their leadership make a difference?”
Absolutely delusional and so greenie weenie, trying to calculate the green rating of the US military machine. Again, sometimes the obvious and profound can come from more mainstream media, like the Atlantic – “Unaccountable Killing Machines: The True Cost of U.S. Drones”
And then, leave it to Stan Cox, ex-military, to clearly parse exactly what this idea of “reducing dependence on fossil fuels” means:
Two days before Earth Day 2010, the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate released a report on efforts by the U.S. military to “reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut global warming pollution by enhancing energy efficiency and harnessing clean energy technologies.”
The Navy, in one of Pew’s examples, “is developing a ‘green’ carrier strike group to run completely on alternative fuels by 2016.” And they scheduled an Earth Day demonstration of “the ‘Green Hornet’, an F/A-18 Super Hornet powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend.”
That as much as anything reveals the shallowness of America’s reaction to the many environmental crises we face. Were our society actually interested in becoming more ecologically sound, we could make immediate, long strides simply by eliminating those activities that are most dangerous and destructive in their own right, starting with the bloated war-making apparatus. To attempt instead a “greening” of the U.S. military-industrial complex will only boost its killing power.
The technology of destruction can’t be tamed by laying improved environmental technology over the top of it. An instructive if unlikely example is provided by that most routine of technologies, air-conditioning, and the role it plays in military conquest.
It’s this constant eco-pornography and sustainability lite coming from this generation and the previous one, and the one I am from, Baby Boomer-lite. All we are collectively after, generally speaking, is one tweak after the next of our lifestyles – reusable and recycled, 50 percent post consumer content or whatever. But it’s still about being plugged in and turned on.
The Wired City, The Wired Mind
Here’s what futurist Glen Hiemstra has to say about the cities of the future:
It’s quite clear in 20 to 30 years from now that everything will be much more connected. I’m still frustrated I can’t walk out onto the street and ask my phone, “Where’s the bus?” and then within a second it tells me every public transit vehicle around and how to catch it.
The online and offline worlds will fully merge so the concept of going offline will have left our conscious and language, unless you specifically unplug from the network by going into the wilderness. You’ll always be online. That’s just a generational change of accepting it as reality. The younger generation doesn’t perceive the difference all that much already.
The new human, online 24/7, every cell in the body flickering with silicon charge? Then, the very idea that Millennials are driving the future migration to the cities is also another prescient piece of news reporting worthy of further analysis:
Just after the close of World War II, the last Great Migration in the United States — the move from the city to the new suburbs — began to emerge, fueled by new roads, low congestion, and modest energy costs. It was a new beginning, a chance to shake off the past, and it came complete with the promise of more privacy, more safety, and easier financing.
Not surprisingly, Americans bought in.
After that, it didn’t take long for the preferred retailers to do likewise, abandoning the city and following their customers to the suburbs. The suburban single family home on a large lot became synonymous with the American Dream.
After 60 years, many commentators have announced that the American Dream is poised to make its next great shift — this time from the suburbs to the urban core of our cities. Indeed, at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in San Diego, Chris Nelson, Joe Molinaro and Shyam Kannan made it clear that a radical shift in preferences is on the horizon.
They’re not alone in that position.
Just last week, Robert Shiller of the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index made the dramatic statement that, with our growing shift to renting and city living, suburban home prices may never rebound in our lifetime.
Why such pronounced findings? According to researchers, it lies in the preferences of our largest generation since the Boomers, the under 30 Generation Y.
What’s been left out is a country divided, aging, and young people still handcuffed by the corporate monsters that control lives and propel the imperial wars of consumption.
Education as Entertainment … or Massively On-line Open Courses (MOOCs), Teachers Be Damned!
Thus far, the country has reverted to entertaining ourselves into oblivion. Another person telling me about Katie Holmes or Lance Armstrong or some woman in China forced to abort at seven months gestation will get clocked.
What in hell have we been doing as educators and journalists, two roles I’ve had since before 1979? Why is it my one-hour radio interviews are so 1990s? Why is it books are so passe? Why is it so progressive to know all the characters’ names in Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, and Modern Family, or why Curb Your Enthusiasm is so pointedly pointless therefore pointedly profound?
This is how it comes at us, the endless bombardment of meaningless nonsense and consumer-directed drivel. It takes a few sorties over my hood by Colorado Springs Academy grads in our fancy killing machines to unleash a column that started out as a commentary on education, on what James Howard Kunslter pointed out in his short column, “Strange Jubilee,” published here at DV.
It’s this hypnotic thing in Seattle and other places where downtowns and urban density are the attractions and operating principles created largely from the ennui of the suburbs and lack of creative class folk in the ‘burbs. Mass consumption, though, at the Wal-mart and Home Depot, has been replaced though other forms of consumption. Lifestylism in the cities costs money, and the jobs and the debts from higher education might not be fueling these creative classes of knowledge workers brought out in these short, punchy pieces that leave so much behind.
Well, that’s another post, but to reiterate the meaning here, it all comes down to education, and relentless truth, relentless critical thinking, relentless putting the pieces together and connecting the dots. It’s so much bigger than just finding a strip of land and worthy skills to live nearly off or completely off the grid from as subsistence farmers. How to husband chickens and goats. How to cure meat. How to dig a well and tend a garden. How to fix machines and mend broken bones.
There are just too many of us to expect seven billion little kingdoms, serfdoms, fiefdoms of smart, strong, hard-working young people who will know how to build fences and live off the land, away from a reliable grid or completely unhooked to technology and electricity.
What are our roles as educators and journalists, then? Teaching students that they can have a role in revolutionary change? How easy is it to even slice one-tenth of the corporate cancer from our collective selves? One-quarter? Let alone one hundred percent.
That’s where we are at now, complete subservience to the corporate will, vulnerable to the hucksterism, flailed by amnesia and those shifting baselines – no one will remember the day when people lived without smart phones or completely on-line schools.
Can we with all our force just bombard youth with the idea that “throwing the bums out” is a nostalgic moment in American collective mythological conscience, because, in reality – not having to delve too deeply in The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – that option seemed sketchy from the start of this country’s inglorious Manifest Destiny bulldozing?
Letting them know that it is more than just a simple choice of picking the Twiddly-Dee or the Twiddly-Dum in our political juggernaut. What is it that has replaced thinking and critical dialogue for money and the fool’s game of throwing the dice at the popular media pundits while self-manipulation and agnotology delude the modern thinker into believing her or she has some prime choice of self-imposed agency?
What’s the role of education in this flummoxed collective consumption society whose ruling class seems to resemble tin-horn merchandisers of smutty thinking and slackened morality?
Do we as educators and proponents of both a publicly-controlled, publicly-centered PK-12 educational frame and a dynamic and robust state-funded system of public four-year universities and two-year colleges continue to support a system of castes and multiple-underclass frames for corporations, government and elite to plunder?
Are we supposed to allow government paralysis and the death of a populist movement define our class of instructors, this new faculty majority of precarious and contingent workers called adjuncts? Do we have a place in this struggle to push America toward its final spasms of privatizing seizures?
Education as Revolt and Tearing Down the Walls – Recycling with War as Background Noise
It’s telling that just a few weeks ago in the Emerald City Chris Hedges spoke to a rarefied crowd, at Town Hall, live author events sponsored by none other than Boeing. He made it clear that he’d be out there protesting Boeing like he did Goldman Sachs. If you have chance, listen to his essay near the end, after the Q & A session. It reiterates what I have found after years of protesting, including the most recent protests – inside job as a shareholder – of Amazon.com. The same sort of ruthlessly disconnected treatment from low and mid-level workers looking at us as if we are aliens – snapping photos of us while eating their arugula and sipping Kombucha tea:
“Chris Hedges’ Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt June 29th 2012 Seattle”
He presses the points coming from his books, The Death of the Liberal Class, and from his new one, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt illustrated by Joe Sacco.
His words recently published in the Boston Review are tied to how corrupted our society has become in honoring war and the profiteers of death:
We condition the poor and the working class to go to war. We promise them honor, status, glory, and adventure. We promise boys they will become men. We hold these promises up against the dead-end jobs of small-town life, the financial dislocations, credit card debt, bad marriages, lack of health insurance, and dread of unemployment. The military is the call of the Sirens, the enticement that has for generations seduced young Americans working in fast food restaurants or behind the counters of Walmarts to fight and die for war profiteers and elites.
The poor embrace the military because every other cul-de-sac in their lives breaks their spirit and their dignity. Pick up Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or James Jones’s From Here to Eternity. Read Henry IV. Turn to the Iliad. The allure of combat is a trap, a ploy, an old, dirty game of deception in which the powerful, who do not go to war, promise a mirage to those who do.
I saw this in my own family. At the age of ten I was given a scholarship to a top New England boarding school. I spent my adolescence in the schizophrenic embrace of the wealthy, on the playing fields and in the dorms and classrooms that condition boys and girls for privilege, and came back to my working-class relations in the depressed former mill towns in Maine. I traveled between two universes: one where everyone got chance after chance after chance, where connections and money and influence almost guaranteed that you would not fail; the other where no one ever got a second try. I learned at an early age that when the poor fall no one picks them up, while the rich stumble and trip their way to the top.
Those I knew in prep school did not seek out the military and were not sought by it. But in the impoverished enclaves of central Maine, where I had relatives living in trailers, nearly everyone was a veteran. My grandfather. My uncles. My cousins. My second cousins. They were all in the military. Some of them—including my Uncle Morris, who fought in the infantry in the South Pacific during World War II—were destroyed by the war. Uncle Morris drank himself to death in his trailer. He sold the hunting rifle my grandfather had given to me to buy booze.
He was not alone. After World War II, thousands of families struggled with broken men who, because they could never read the approved lines from the patriotic script, had been discarded. They were not trotted out for red-white-and-blue love fests on the Fourth of July or Veterans Day.
Twiddly dee, twiddly dum,
Ho hum, ho hum, ho hum.
I yawn, I sigh, I pass life by
Just twiddlin’ da thumb.
While some go here, and some go there,
For you all go somewhere.
You work, you play, yet here I lay,
For I have not a care.
A tallyhe, a tallyho,
I have no where to go.
I laugh, I smile, but all the while
I ain’t your average Joe.
I taste, I smell, I hear, I see,
But feel nothing in me.
I tick, I tock, but hear the clock,
In mocking misery.
I waste away another day
But what is there to say?
Ho hum, ho hum, twiddly dum,
Won’t matter anyway.
My first intent was to carry on with James Howard Kunstler’s basic premise that our Millennials holding certificates of higher education to nowhere … post-secondary degrees for the price of two arms and two legs should just march into the hydrogen sulfide air of the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions and put to fire those notes that are now collectively amassed to the tune of more than a trillion dollars.
His blog was titled, “Strange Jubilee,” and in it, reprinted here at DV, he goes to the themes Jim has been developing in his decades-long “long emergency sepia” but this time advancing the idea that the education system screwed these youth several ways – prostrating the American family with loans, and creating an American student whose hundreds of billions in outstanding loan debts have been for naught, useless degrees and majors leading them into a world of perpetual collapse and failure.
But to tell the truth, I started off this column first looking at the Center for Biological Diversity web site, perusing those pages where one flashpoint moves to the next flashpoint in the realm of environmental destruction. Then, I was beginning to think about the smallest seahorse in America, the dwarf seahorse, which is part of a campaign by the Center.
How it faces big time problems: like water quality degradation in the Gulf of Mexico, pollution from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and cleanup and, of utmost importance, the loss of their seagrass habitat.
As a metaphor, dwarf seahorses are like many of our fellow species who we call First Nations or Indigenous peoples. They are habitat specialists. When seagrasses disappear, the seahorses vanish with them. For the past six decades, more than 50 percent of Florida’s seagrasses have been destroyed. These one-inch-long fish are not the only wildlife that depends on seagrass to survive, but they are the interestingly emblematic of many animals species – they form monogamous pair bonds. Every morning they end up congregating to do this greeting dance. Seahorse females place eggs inside the males’ pouches. The males then give birth to miniatures of adults.
Enter humans – boat propellers, shrimp trawlers and ocean acidification are all harming the seagrass ecosystem these animals need to survive.
Then, thoughts of who the hell would give a squat about those sea horses without the superstructure of education and all those soft skills degrees and “unnecessary fields” prompting youth to flare out into a world disconnected to the corporate stiff arm salute to all things empirical and tied to free (sic) markets and unbridled corporatism.
The plight of the dwarf seahorse, like the plight of us, humanity, is dependent upon education – feeling, thinking, emotional, creative people. Life moving forward will not be cemented to those debts to be repaid (and they shouldn’t be repaid – sort of a truth and reconciliation thing for those barbarous and felonious financial institutions).
Educators have to stick it to the administrative class, stick it to the technology fiends, stick it to the virtual reality dealers. We have to dance and sing and break bread in the same space, on the same dimension, in the same web of love.
I’ll defer to Hedges again to end this lumbering piece:
Human imagination, the capacity to have vision, to build a life of meaning rather than utilitarianism, is as delicate as a flower. And if it is crushed, if a Shakespeare or a Sophocles is no longer deemed useful in the empirical world of business, careerism and corporate power, if universities think a Milton Friedman or a Friedrich Hayek is more important to their students than a Virginia Woolf or an Anton Chekhov, then we become barbarians. We assure our own extinction. Students who are denied the wisdom of the great oracles of human civilization—visionaries who urge us not to worship ourselves, not to kneel before the base human emotion of greed—cannot be educated. They cannot think.