Labour Movement Asks Youth for Help

Originally Published March 18, 2014.

Santiago Escobar is driving back from St. Catharines to Toronto. Riding shotgun is his friend and union colleague, Pablo Godoy, the national representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

They’re returning home from Brock University, where they spent the last 10 hours talking with 300 students about the plight of migrant workers. On this particular day, they began at 8 a.m., and it’s just after six in the evening when Godoy answers the phone. He explains they’ve just finished their third presentation of the day and that they have nearly a month left to go of this.

Pablo Godoy attends Women Works and Union class at Brock University

Pablo Godoy attends Women Works and Union class at Brock University
Photo courtesy of S.A.M.E.

Godoy and Escobar are co-ordinators at Students Against Migrant Exploitation, a program begun by UFCW in 2010 to raise awareness about migrant workers’ rights. Their visit to Brock was part of a 30-day tour across campuses in Ontario just for that purpose, which began on Feb. 27.

“We talk to students about the…living and working conditions (of migrant workers),” says Godoy. “We try to get young people interested so they start their own chapters, build awareness, fundraisers, etc.”

It’s also one of the many strategies unions are using to reel in younger members, hoping they’ll join the labour movement and give it new life.

Put simply, Godoy says, the problem is that our population is aging. That means the labour force is, and will be, driven by new generations of workers that either bring new perspectives into the movement or allow it to die.

“Young people have energy and drive,” says Godoy, who is 28. “So even if we didn’t engage them, they’d eventually find a way to organize themselves. But unions…need to find ways to integrate them because of the energy and creativity they can imbue the labour movement with.”

The UFCW is campaigning to capitalize on the armies of unemployed and frustrated young people desperate to make a quick buck. But it’s also aiming for those already working in places with no unions and seeking help.

For instance, at an H&M store, a retail clothing shop, UFCW members helped a group of employees organize. The employees had reached out to them, says Godoy, because of problems they were having with their boss.

“We only provided them the know-how. They exposed themselves and put their feet out there and risked reprimands from the employers all by themselves,” he said.

About 40 per cent of UFCW members are under 30 years old. Many work in retail, and many also occupy posts at the union’s national office, Godoy says. All of this is an advantage, but also one of the main reasons why they have the resources – namely time and energy – to run around campuses and high schools recruiting potential members.

It’s also why Godoy and Escobar are travelling tirelessly across the province.

Yet, they’re not alone.

While the UFCW hits the road, Unifor, the recently merged mega-union between the CAW and CEP, has set its sights closer to home.

Internal outreach

Currently, Statistics Canada estimates about 14 per cent of 15-to-24-year-olds in Ontario are unemployed – twice the national average.

That’s apart from all those people bouncing from place to place in precarious work – temporary agency work, contracts and short- or part-time leave positions. Unifor is trying to target these sectors through Community Chapters.

“It’s associate membership,” said Angelo DiCaro, Unifor national young worker’s liaison.

People working in these types of temporary jobs, or even in between jobs, can band together and apply to become a community chapter.

“We’ve provided a platform for these people to come together,” said DiCaro. “They pay a nominal dues fee, but they get the full benefits of being in the union” – everything from information and education on union politics to benefits and collective bargaining power.

One of these chapters – Unifaith – is in London. It’s the country’s first union for clergy. So far, this is only the second of two chapters formed, “but dozens more are coming,” assured DiCaro.

There’s also a national Young Workers program that has set up youth committees across the country. Jim Reid, president of Local 27, in London, said one will be formed here over the next couple of months.

“You’ll see more focus doing outreach…to young workers but…also calling for regulation for (temporary) agency work, where a lot of young workers are starting out,” said Reid.

DiCaro said Unifor is also looking internally to educate existing members about the history of the movement and about ways to get active within the union.

“It’s reaching out to young members, so they can play an active role in building the union themselves…by impressing upon them the importance of… (coming) to meetings,” he said.

Pablo Godoy (top right) with three of the six team members who presented at McMaster University.

Pablo Godoy (top right) with three of the six team members who presented at McMaster University.
Photo courtesy of S.A.M.E.

Part of this effort involves a week-long, biannual young worker’s conference in Port Elgin, Ont., as well as a labour studies course offered at McMaster University, exclusively for Unifor members.

DiCaro is confident the results of this outreach are clear and evident.

“The role we play is transformative,” he said. “Members run campaigns, connect with the community…Some have gone on to become community activists… (Others) run for city council positions…and in federal ridings.”

Of course, the road to full integration is still long.

Overlooking associations

During the Founder’s Day celebrations at Western University, in London, Ont., one Saturday, a couple of adjunct professors took to Twitter to vent their frustrations over issues of low pay and job insecurity.

In an article in the Western Gazette, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association confirmed these are important issues to be debated in upcoming negotiations with the university.

Unifor’s community chapters are trying to reach people like these professors, who are in unstable jobs, but some people argue that unions have failed to connect with the associations already representing them.

D.W. Livingstone, Canada research chair in lifelong learning and work at the University of Toronto, said one reason for this oversight is the huge change in the class composition of the labour force. The number of professional employees is growing while the base of industrial workers is shrinking. This means that more people consider themselves middle class and therefore decrease their support for the rights of the working class, he said.

Livingstone said although unions are “doing the best they can under the circumstances,” he would like to see them doing more to tap into these largely ignored organizations.

“Many professional employees, technologists and technicians, have not traditionally seen themselves as eligible for labour unions,” he said. “The reality now is that about 20 per cent of the Canadian labour force is in associations… (that) are becoming economic collective bargaining organizations… But the trade union movement has largely ignored (them).”

Yet, the fact remains that unions are aware of their apparent middle-age crisis, and they are doing everything they can to reinvent themselves.

The point is, young is in.

The importance of youth

As a teenager, Pablo Godoy became interested in joining the union at Loblaws because of a problem he was having with his boss. When he found out the place was unionized, he joined.

By 17, he played an active role in UFCW’s talking union program, which took young union reps into stores and schools to talk about unions and working rights. At 23, he became one of the youngest national representatives at UFCW.

Godoy’s enthusiasm for youth activism is unmistakable.

“It’s important to understand how important, enthusiastic, creative and capable the student mass and young people as a whole are,” he says, as he makes his way back to Toronto to finally get some rest for the day. “That’s not just unions but any type of social movement.”

Like many other labour leaders, he makes sure to point out that the issue with young people today is not that they are apathetic to the labour movement, but simply lack understanding of it. “A lot of young people don’t have the information for their organization,” he says, “or know that you actually have rights.”

That’s why he is so enthusiastic about Students Against Migrant Exploitation, because he’s seen what providing this information to students can do. Last year, more than 100 students from an alternative high school in Toronto set up the first-ever high-school chapter to talk to students about migrant worker’s rights.

“So you see pockets of students and young people really interested and informed, that really want to make a difference….But there are (many) that just don’t get this information….As a student in high school, I never learned about my rights at a workplace.”

Message of an elementary student from a workshop held last year.

Message of an elementary student from a workshop held last year.
Photo courtesy of S.A.M.E.

 

That’s why Godoy says for the labour movement to survive, it’s important to get them young. To educate them before they enter the labour force. And, more importantly, to teach them where they came from.

“A lot of workers today take for granted the things they have, including their breaks, vacations, Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance,” he says.

“It goes unnoticed and unappreciated that those things came from somewhere, and that if we don’t fight to keep them, they will be very easily rescinded and taken back.”

 

Terry Glavin to the Canadian Left: ‘Put ‘Em Up! These Are Fightin’ Words!’ – A Lesson in What Journalism Isn’t

The first paragraph of Terry Glavin’s op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen titled ‘Venezuela and the Canadian Left,’ reads something like the opening scene in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which takes off like a rocket, as a drug-addled journalist and his attorney zoom through the desert in a convertible towards Vegas. Glavin’s opening paragraph reads just like that scene, minus the drugs but with 68 words chock-full of paranoia, panic, an alarming tone and inflammatory language about high inflation rates, food shortages and chaos: Fear and Loathing, indeed.

He concludes that first paragraph with what sounds like a caped villain in a bad opera who thinks he sees his enemy get his comeuppance: “Maybe,” he says, as he twirls the tips of his moustache between his finger tips, “the glorious Bolivarian revolution we’ve been hearing about all these years isn’t quite proceeding so splendidly after all.” BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

But how wrong is Terry Glavin!

Venezuela isn’t “convulsing in riots” over food shortages and high inflation rates, as dear Glavin would like us to believe. In fact, Mark Weisbrot, who has been there (or perhaps more likely still is), dispels those myths popularly peddled in the Canadian media, in a piece he wrote for the The Guardian.

Weisbrot writes:

Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas. (emphasis added.)

Weisbrot’s article explains in a bit more detail the issue of inflation, pointing out the monthly inflation actually began to fall on February, and that the return on government bonds were actually “the highest returns in the Bloomberg dollar emerging market bond index” that same month. It also explains that shortages are mainly affecting the poor, because the residents of the areas where the real protests are happening, he says, “have servants to stand in line for what they need, and they have the income and storage space to accumulate some inventory.”

Whether you believe him or not, Weisbrot’s reporting –his assessment of what is going on from the ground — substantiates facts with some context and analysis. With Balance. Journalism 101.

But not Glavin, it seems. He’s on a different kind of trip, perhaps confident because he’s on the op-ed section and can therefore let loose.
Glavin goes on for the next few paragraphs in the same manner as before — totally unhinged, like a tweaker on a speed binge determined to infect everybody at the party with his derangement. In one sentence 46-words-long he manages to insult the dead memory of Chavez, calling him an “unhinged caudillo,” and then brings into the mix Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Moammar Ghadafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Naomi Campbell and Susan Sarandon. The man is clearly on a mission, and everything he says gives him that kind of distinct you’d-better-join-or-get-the-fuck-out-of-the-way feel about him.

Finally, five paragraphs into the beast, Glavin gets to the point…or rather, gets if off his chest:

In Canada, El Commandante’s fan base carries on, goose-steeping in and out of the mouldering crypts of Israel Apartheid Week, Hands Off Iran and Canada-Cuba friendship clubs, moaning obediently into megaphones about CIA plots, Yanqui imperialism and whatever other cribbings they can manage to remember from that column the Toronto Star’s Linda McQuaig wrote after Chavez died last year, the one where Chavez shows up as “a feisty mix of Robin Hood, Che Guevara and Michael Bublé.”

I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why this is not what any sort of journalism — conventional or not — sounds like. A supposedly and presumably impartial journalist does not attack legitimate movements, groups of solidarity and support, as a “fan base” that’s “goose-steeping” around other clubs; it does not associate legitimate calls for international solidarity and personal convictions with “moaning obediently into megaphones” and yelling out “cribbings” half-remembered from a year ago. In short, it does not insult the people or the events it is covering.

Glavin then puts his sight on President Nicolas Maduro, who he blames for a number of charges including “subjecting all dissenters to harassment, bullying and persecution, resorting increasingly to the ministrations of motorcycle-gang paramilitaries and arrest-warrant fabrications involving treason, CIA collaboration and subversion.” He, of course, does not substantiate any of this with any other sources or documents other than his very own words, which he spews with fire and brimstone.

For instance, had he taken his time to calm his nerves, perhaps step away from the screen and clear his head, or have a drink, he would’ve read a report by the Organization of American States — the very organization Washington’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, appealed to asking for intervention to stop Maduro’s terrible crackdown — which instead applauded Maduro’s efforts for peace and expressed solidarity with his government.

The March 7, 2014 Statement reads, in part:

The Permanent Council hereby declares:… Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela and all political, economic, and social sectors to continue to move forward with the process of national dialogue towards political and social reconciliation, in the framework of full respect by all democratic actors for the constitutional guarantees of all. (emphasis added.)

Do your research. That’s another fundamental lesson our university professors cannot get tired of drilling into us. And it’s simple now, what with the Internet and all those search engines.

But Glavin stands his ground. Damn you and your technology! I got intuition! What else could he be thinking, right?

He goes back to belittling the members of the grassroots group Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front as “undead legionnaires” who only managed to catch this professional journalist’s eye because they were “far outnumbered in Dundas Square by scores of lively young Venezuelan ex-pats who had gathered there to demonstrate their solidarity with the student-led protest movement back home.”

Of course, once again, Glavin fails to mention that this so-called “student-led protest movement back home” is being headed by the minority of students that belong to the middle classes. The majority of students, who belong to the working classes, and who are not protesting, though they are demonstrating and continuing their every-day activities and community project, would be worth mentioning when speaking of students and “lively young Venezuelan ex-pats.”

Glavin also fails to mention what Weisbrot actually noticed about the students protesting when he was there: that “these people are not hurting. Their income has grown at a healthy pace since the Chávez government got control of the oil industry a decade ago.”

Glavin also doesn’t mention that the protestors are the ones who have rigged such ingenious and peaceful protesting tools like barbed wire extended across a street. The peaceful plan unfortunately backfired when an unsuspecting motorcyclist had his head severed from his neck this past February.

But it might not be all Glavin’s fault. Just doing a Google Search does, indeed, prove hard to find any mainstream news articles talking about it.

In any case, once you finally digest all the words on the first page, the second one comes by and seals the deal, so to speak.

***

Here, Glavin finally introduces some voices into the reportage other than his own, though you wouldn’t be faulted for confusing them. Much like Glavin, Montrealer Sylvia Guimarey, “a pro-democracy activist in Venezuela’s Canadian diaspora” is also baffled at the quintessential question: “Just why (does) Bolivarianism still hold such sway over so many Canadians who fancy themselves to be ‘progressive’?”

““Why?” Guimary asked…“Why is it taking so long for Canadians to understand that this is a total autocratic system now?”

Another activist in Montreal, Daniela Becerra, part of SOS Venezuela Montreal, “is similarly stumped.” But his writing doesn’t necessarily make it clear who’s the one thinking “(s)ome of the pro-government activity in Canada is clearly coming from such Caracas-supported initiatives as the Centro Cultural Simón Bolívar, run out of the Venezuelan consulate in Montreal.”

In notoriously Glavin fashion, we are also not told why this is “clearly” the case. Perhaps it’s because we, the readers, should just admit that we are too stupid to realize the obvious, and that’s why he doesn’t attribute that sentence to anyone or any organization in particular. Yeah, what any journalist worth his salt would do.

Glavin then manages to, in one broad stroke, paint all people who sympathize with the political left as ignorant boobs who follow something but “don’t have a clue” why.

And finally, to conclude his maddening trip, Glavin leaves his Canadian readers who have the audacity to sympathize with the left, with one last piece of advice: support the protestors, because they are “fighting for democratic institutional reform,” lest you become what he apparently despises most — “the radical-chic mélange that passes for the “Left” in Canada.”

And there you have it. An honest and raw account into the heart of everything journalism is not, as seen through Glavin’s defiant and honest fightin’ words.

Socialism (and hope?) Reaches the U.S.: Kshama Sawant

I remember thinking at some point in time, while I wrote or said something in the same way I’m doing it now — off the cuff and improvising most of it — that the political state of things  was changing in real and tangible ways. Whomever I was with at the moment reminded me that I was delusional, or perhaps even drunk, to actually think that the Occupy movement could mean anything significant for the political landscape of the world – least of all in the U.S. of A. I didn’t budge, but I did see his point: the ‘alternatives’ that people, including the ones at Occupy, demanded were never really articulated in a determinant way, that’s at least what we could gather from the news; we always got a version where they were always danced around, and flowered with terms like “social reform,” “bridging the gap between the rich and the poor,” and other pretty but substantially empty phrases.

And while some of the protesters and occasional journalist, did admire the style of the late Bolivarian leader, Hugo Chavez, and  of other of the new-century Revolutionaries spreading through South America like wild-fire (some would say), they did so from a distance, never really wanting to drink the Kool-Aid themselves, but wanting to see what it did to the brave-ish-foolish ones that did. But today I found out that some — at least one — seems to have taken a step further, however brave or foolish it may be.

sawant2

Kshama Sawant, an economics teacher, former Occupy activist and self-denominated Socialist, according to Democracy Now, was elected to the Seattle City Council on Monday, January 6. Some articles on the net are estimating that this is the first Socialist elected to office in over 100 years. Wikipedia — for whatever it may be worth — says Anna Louise Strong, a radical progressive, was the last far-left person to be elected to office in Seattle in 1916 (School Board). I expect I’ll find out a little more when I get a chance to sit down and actually dig into it, because it’s early and I didn’t expect to get into any of this heavy stuff at this time, without at least preparing my nerves or even a morning coffee.

But so be it. It’s very clear to me that whatever this could actually mean in the future, it certainly got the Washington-crowd out of bed with a jolt this morning, like a cattle-prod to the testicles when you least expect it. And I don’t mean just the politicians — because if it is just another smoke-screen after all, as I suspect some others may be suspecting, then that type of human-machine-dog hybrid that inundates Capitol Hill certainly knew about it — but just the good ol’ civilians; the unsuspecting ones (that sounds like a good movie title). And if rednecks keep up with news, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already up in arms, planning to ‘take back their country from the reds’ — though I would be surprised if they read the news. In any event, the point is that Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council wearing “the badge of Socialist with honour,” has certainly raised some eyebrows.

Now, the thing about it being a smoke-screen is not that farfetched, at least to jaded, or perhaps enlightened, or even unstable (depends where you look at it from) people like me. I wouldn’t put it that far past anyone in that state, or even remotely embroiled in politics, to concoct some bizarre plan to distract from the myriad other issues crumbling on top of them like a house of cards made of heavy and jagged marble (high unemployment rates, Guantanamo, drones, scandals, the overall stalemate in Congress, debt in the trillions, etc.). But it’s way too early to seriously assume that. And if I did, I’d be no better than that individual that was telling me Occupy and other such movements didn’t really mean anything.

I’ve met many people like that — hell, most people I meet are like that. At most, they sympathize with some ideas and call them well-intentioned and idealistic, but unrealistic at their core. These, I think, may very well be the same people that equate “conviction” with “stubbornness,” and “neutrality” or “objectivity” or “open mindedness” with being a fart in the wind, carrying the stench of an expulsed gas to whatever corner the stronger winds may carry them. I recall Thompson’s phrase in Fear and Loathing: “All energy flows to the whim of the Great Magnet…” I guess even a fart is energy, and the Great Magnet certainly doesn’t have to be benevolent, and often, as with most Gods in the religious/mystical history of the world, certainly not free of Greed, Insecurity and an ironically misplaced sense of Self-Importance.

In any case, I’ve always refused to be that person, and it’s always taken a bit more than wind to move me, even when it’s towards the warmth it’s moving me. Now it’s time to see what this Kshama Sawant can really do. She ran on a ticket to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, and Democracy Now reports that Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, is planning to raise city employees’ wages to just that. “Meanwhile, voters in the nearby community of SeaTac recently increased the minimum wage for many local workers to $15,” the article continues. “The vote suffered a setback when a judge ruled last month that the raise does not apply to workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the area’s largest employer. That ruling has been appealed. Murray and Sawant are being sworn in today with record crowds expected at City Hall.”

In this excerpt from a transcript of the interview with Democracy Now, Sawant captures what I think is the bigger significance of all this to the average person, whatever the emerging truth may be down the road:

Today’s inauguration really is an absolutely historic moment for working-class politics, and to understand—to really feel the moment that this is a turning point in the history of the United States…. this is all an indication that the people in this country are extremely frustrated and angry and outraged at the status quo…the fact that we have been victorious in this grassroots campaign is really an indication that people are ready to start moving forward, moving into struggle. And so, the real question is: How are we, on the left—how are we going to take up this responsibility of organizing the vast numbers of people, especially young people, for whom there is no future? And how are we going to present those alternatives? (emphasis added).

[Democracy Now Interview]

And there it is. Like the old ‘proverb’ says — or perhaps just a dumb saying we say all the time — now we just have to wait. Of course, we won’t do it with our arms crossed or thumbs up whatever orifice we can first find. Hopefully, we will be ‘waiting’ while really we are moving forward with it all: Writing more about it in the mainstream news; exploring what makes the difference between one or another state, or country; supporting and growing grassroots movements; having real discussions, even (and particularly) in newsrooms, about sincerely exploring what results similar domestic and international movements have done and could do, etc. This is no time for being a fart in the wind, but a Bastion of Change!

ECUADOR: FLYING HIGH WITH CORREA

Overwhelming Change: “Nothing Can Stop Us Now!”

My eyes filled with tears the first time I saw the video of NEE-01 PEGASO – Ecuador’s first space satellite – playing the Ecuadorian National Anthem in space. The images of the Earth from 900 km above gained a new profound meaning as the notes struck a melancholic chord in me, taking me back to the early years of elementary school, when we’d stand in line every Monday morning, singing along to that fantastic tune booming behind the poles where flags waved.

But it wasn’t necessarily the memories that moved me, particularly because back then I didn’t notice any of that. It was an overwhelming realization that the mess of a country I left behind almost 15 years ago to never look back has advanced in ways I never thought possible.

Since President Rafael Correa was first elected in 2006, the nation has taken great strides forward, most notably reclaiming political stability in a country that had seen 10 presidents thrown out in explosive popular revolts in less than a decade. The rates of reduction of poverty (one of the best in the region) has also been a major cornerstone of the so-called Christian Socialism the government has identified itself with. But that was expected…at least by me. The government is doing precisely what its mandate is, and needs no more accolades than knowing it has the support of an overwhelming majority of the nation’s population (If I recall correctly, Correa just won the election with over 65% of the votes). That’s not to say that it’s perfect, but its mandate is not to be perfect; it is to pull a nation out of the seams of hell.

So when I saw the video of the satellite carrying that tri-colour flag through space, the magnitude of the transformation that the country has undergone was simply overwhelming. That, I had not expected. I was completely moved with pride. Pride of having been born in a country that, after all it went through – after being recognized internationally only for its corrupt leaders and indigent levels of poverty – had finally been blessed with a leader that had vision.

******

The Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency (Agencia Espacial Civil Ecuatoriana (EXA)) is the “first space agency in the history of Ecuador,” and was founded in 2007 with the aid of the State through the Ecuadorian Air Force, according to its website. It is planned for 10 years and will see three ambitious phases implemented, including the first Ecuadorian astronaut in space, the first landing on the moon and the first satellite, the latter of which has been achieved.

Ronnie Nader is leading the program, and is Ecuador’s first astronaut, receiving his training in 2007 in the Russian Federation “on the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center…designed to train a scientist to perform research during short term suborbital space flight,” reads the website.

The EXA joined the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) in 2008 – “the world’s leading space advocacy body with 246 members…across 62 countries,” according to the IAF website. It also joined the Guinness World Record book for the “youngest human being ever to fly in microgravity, the RIM-G, a system allowing almost any person to fly micro-gravity without being sick, opening the door for thousands of Ecuadorians to the marvels of 0-(gravity) and to a new set of research opportunities.”

NEE-01 PEGASO, the satellite, which was launched from China on April 26, since Ecuador does not have a launching station, is tiny (1.2kg, 10x10x10cm), but was nevertheless able to transmit images and data from space for seven days, before it was hit by the debris of a Russian satellite on May 23.

It’s main mission is to study the environment in space in order to be able to build bigger and better satellites.

******

The idea that kids I grew up with and new generations could watch images of space delivered by their very own satellite, right at home, is astounding. Of course, many of them may have to go to public libraries, or the homes of kids who can afford computers and internet…but the possibilities are slowly emerging.

Ecuador is no longer a nation characterized by rampant corruption and poverty. Though the West may continue to denigrate Ecuador’s government, suggesting that it is authoritarian and a dictatorship, just as it does with other nations in full Revolutionary Motion, such as Venezuela and Cuba, to name a couple only, the undeniable jumps forward that this tiny Andean nation has made in the last seven years, is simply awe-inspiring.

People in Ecuador are seeing something they have not in a long time: the splendour of possibilities, and the results of having a government with integrity and genuine aspirations of progress.

…It was knowing all of this, that brought tears of utter pride and joy to my eyes…

THE HARSH REALITY OF OUR IMMINENT DOOM: GOOD FUCKIN’ RIDDANCE!

Walls of Ice

A couple of days ago I heard that the world’s Greenhouse Gases, of which Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most noxious one, have reached an all-time high. It apparently is the first time this has happened in millions of years. In fact, the last time similar levels were seen, according to the news reports, were when the Arctic was entirely ice-free, something like four billion years ago, when sea levels were 40 meters higher than today, and when the world was blanketed by seemingly infinite Savannah.

It worried me greatly to hear this, though it unfortunately also confirmed something of which I’ve been convinced for a long time: that thanks to our selfish, obsessive and institutionalized pursuit of material wealth, we are finally, as Marilyn Manson once said, “on our way down, now…”

The boob-tube rightly pointed to the rise in CO2 levels, which “picked up,” it said, “since industrialization,” as the main cause for this shameful and stupid ‘accomplishment.’ More specifically, it referred to human activity in terms of “burning gas and coal” as the main perpetrator (though not the only one: it also mentioned breathing and when plants died).

Of course, as I said, The Fear was already in me from long before hearing such calamities, though the news had renewed and invigorated it, for I had allowed it to wane in recent months, perhaps blinded by the transient pleasantness of warm, sunny days. Then yesterday, and again today, I saw more reports of natural catastrophes, though one in particular shocked me as much as hearing about our new ‘record.’

I heard about forest fires that consumed nearby neighbourhoods, though that wasn’t new and did not surprise me; it was just another dose of the real-life horror we are now living, and which is surely to blossom into full apocalyptic chaos for the generations unfortunate enough to come after us. But the thing that made my nuts and all the nerves in my body shrink with fear, was seeing a wall of ice about nine meters high, creeping in from the sea, slowly engulfing a tree that stood all by its lonesome self in the middle of a field…almost seeming petrified to move in the face of this roaring, blob of ice.

Today in the morning, I saw another report of a similar case where walls of ice had crept right up to people’s houses, destroying most of the wooden homes as the monster just continued moving ahead.

No Silver-Lining

Over the last decade, but perhaps more consciously over the last five years, I – as many others – have been noticing that our weather patterns grow more and more erratic every year; that the magnitude and type of natural disasters have both increased and varied, accordingly; and I’ve noticed that this doesn’t seem to scare many people.

I guess it makes sense that the world isn’t running around in a panic and crying about their doomed futures…Or does it? Many of the important things in life, I’ve noticed, don’t get done, or don’t get that first impetus, until catastrophe has hit, or until something very ugly has pressed for the necessity to do something. “You don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it,” has never sounded more appropriate. The only difference is that in that maxim, after you lose it, you gain a new perspective and try to do better next time. In the case of Mother Earth, however, once we lose her…We’re Shit Out of Luck.

Unfortunately, there is no upside here; there is no positive spin I can now write in here. I was thinking of how to follow that last sentence: perhaps, I thought, saying something about how it is in our hands to change it before it’s too late…But the absurdity of that statement hit me like a sack of jagged stones…There is no silver-lining anymore; there is no upside; there is nothing we can, in fact, do to save ourselves anymore. The generations that will come after us, I’m sure, will only inherit a living hell, at least until the species itself can no longer withstand the harsh and unforgiving climates…which of course wouldn’t be a bad thing…perhaps it is time for a renewal…to start from zero…and perhaps without us.

Just Let the Sun In!

When the “scare” about 2012 was still around, it almost became laughable to even suggest that the Mayans were onto something with their prediction. Of course, as with most of the important things in life, the truth of the matter (of their “predictions”) got thwarted and corrupted. In the end, much like it happens when you play “broken telephone,” the original idea had completely gotten lost in translation: the notion of Imminent and Life-Altering Change had been usurped by the stupid rumour of “doomsday.”

But to those who weren’t swept up in the hoopla of rumour, hyperbole or sensationalism, the idea that the Sun was to enter a new phase of expansion was a very real danger, since the science behind it proved that it could have dire repercussions here on Earth.

Mayan predictions have reportedly foreseen the coming of various eras of our time, including our agricultural and industrial revolutions. It wouldn’t be entirely farfetched to think that they had also calculated that the mixture of growing populations and heavier industrialization would lead to high levels of pollution that would, in effect, worsen the effects the Earth would be feeling from the Sun’s fifth phase of expansion. But that is irrelevant. What matters are the facts: that the Sun has, indeed, entered its fifth phase of expansion (confirmed by science), which, among other things, can cause massive solar flares that could reach and penetrate Earth’s very weak ozone layer, which, again, has only been weakened by the CO2 we’ve produced.

Natural disasters are, as we’ve already seen, a reality that continues to assault the world indiscriminately, even in places that traditionally would not see certain types of disasters for this or that reason (not near fault-lines, not appropriate temperatures/climates, etc). As scientists have long been stating, due to the rise in CO2 levels, oceans remain polluted for thousands of years as the CO2 does not simply leave. This changes ecosystems and causes the type of severe and erratic weather patterns I described above.

But the solar flares also have the potential to literally throw us back to the dark ages.

As it already happened in Quebec sometime in the ’80s or ’90s, solar flares, when strong enough, can interfere with our power grids, leaving entire cities without any electricity.

In today’s globalized world (and one where the Market, through places like Wall Street, reigns supreme), the lack of electricity in major cities would be infinitely catastrophic. The collapse of electricity would lead to the collapse of transportation, communications, trading, economics, etc. The entire world would be cut off from itself.

There was a documentary whose title I cannot remember now, which spoke precisely of all these things (I’ll try to find it and post it up). It went into great detail about what would happen if we are thrown in the dark for just a few hours, for a few days and for a few months. The results were globally fatal by the time we reached a few days!

Again, there is no silver-lining to any of this. I think we brought it upon ourselves.

Perhaps the only way to really save our species (not only our kids and their kids – that would be selfish), is to fully abolish our addiction to oil and, more importantly, to consumerism, which is what drives our consumption of oil in the first place. I have even had the fortune of meeting some individuals who do everything in their power to adhere to this philosophy of sustainability, and they’ve made my life that much better. But all my hopes (in regards to the survival of our species in the face of what we’ve done to Mother Nature) are now gone…

And Good Fuckin’ Riddance, too!

******

On a related note, the Canadian government is up in arms, enraged at the EU for even thinking of calling the Tar Sands “Dirty” Oil. They say there is no scientific evidence for it. They swear to start a trade-war over this.

Enough said?

ARTILLERY FOR THE MIND: ON ALIENATION INSIDE THE CORPORATIST-STATE

In the Age of Corporatism, Repression attacks Our Minds First

One of the concluding arguments in Lenin’s “The Revolution Summed Up”, states that “Imperialism – the era of bank capital, the era of gigantic capitalist monopolies, of development of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism – has clearly shown an unprecedented growth in its bureaucratic and military apparatus in connection with the intensification of repressive measures against the proletariat both in the monarchical and in the freest, republican countries” (emphases added).

It is on these conclusions that I want to expand.

We are currently living in a time far past state-monopoly capitalism: a state of such unhinged and unrestricted capitalism, that Business, having gone through such an “unprecedented growth”, has turned to Big Business; that is, into Corporations that have effectively gained the upper-hand (POWER) in the sphere of influence over the government and society. In fact, Corporations – by somehow managing to dupe the legal system and, by extension, the world, into granting them full legal human-status, with all the rights and responsibilities this entails (though the latter is much more dubiously interpreted) – and even with their own “military apparatus” – evidenced by the growing use of Mercenaries in state-wars: privately hired soldiers – have gained all the means with which to both undermine the working class’ interests, and overtake the state in matters of policy-making, most notably today in regards to environmental issues.

We are living in the age of Corporatism.

Lenin mentions the “intensification of repressive measures against the proletariat”. Surely, due to the historical context in which he wrote this, I assume Lenin thought of repressive measures in the sense of military or armed force against the proletariat; he also must’ve included democratic repression in the sense of limiting suffrage, participation, etc., to the higher classes in the regular bourgeoisie-democracy. But I doubt that he or even Marx or Engels could have foreseen the level of mental repression that this system would resort to in order to perpetuate itself.

Today, repressive measures, though still obviously palpable in the regular democratic process through the coveting of influence over policy making, resulting in environmental degradation, economic dominance over weaker countries through free trade zones and the like, the cutting of benefits to injured workers, the precarious pension situation (in many countries of the First World), and in the million of other ways that Corporations influence the government in their own favour – despite all of this abuse inherent in the bourgeoisie-democratic system, today repressive measures can also be witnessed in the type of Social Neglect and Detachment that, while masqueraded as “individualism”, has in actuality alienated human beings from each other through unrealistic portrayals of Fashion and Beauty (aesthetics); through Hollywood and the growing influence of Television over our lives (our critical- and world-view); but, perhaps most effectively and subtly acquired, through the massive expansion of the technological-electronics field.

In the Age of Corporatism, Social Alienation and Detachment Begin at Home

Today, it is almost unnatural for a kid 10 or 11 years old (what we now call a tween), to not have an I-phone, a Tablet or any other such gadget. In fact, some schools in the United States are apparently making it mandatory in every class. The ingenious cunning of the Corporation, of course, is that while this type of gadget alienates the kid from both his nature as a child and from his peers (as I will momentarily describe), it also makes it practically indispensable for the child’s education and culturalization process, as today’s level of “success” is heavily linked to our technological know-how. So while he shouldn’t have it, he should. The news talked not about whether the children should use the Tablets at school or not; they were concerned with how long they should use it for.

Why does a kid that is 10 years old need so many gadgets? With enough lucidity, it can even be argued that adults carry/own too many gadgets that, for the most part, they can do without (as I contend, indeed, but not the focus of this paper). But for a child? Good God, Man!!

Well, now let’s look at reality, and how alienation begins right at home.

As soon as the gadgets become mandatory, every kid demands and “needs” one (yet another example of Manufactured Needs), even those whose parents are “mere” labourers – proletarians  and can therefore barely afford one, if they can at all! This tension, at least in close families, antagonizes the dynamics as the parents either A) have to work longer and harder to make the money to afford the gadget, which leads to physical as well as mental turmoil and which, many times, even leads to fights or discomfort at home; or B) the parents feel impotent as they cannot afford the gadgets, either because they cannot get more hours, or even despite getting them; this type of mental depression, however temporary, afflicts the best of parents as much as if their kid had died.

Class Antagonisms now also become a much more real battle.

Now the kids whose parents can’t afford one are either rejected by their peers, or sneered at, or are simply made fun of, which in any culture demoralizes a young pup. Even the parents who may not be able to afford one for their kids may feel smaller in front of their counterparts. Furthermore, the kids feel a monumental type of social alienation, which, particularly in these countries (First World) is nothing to be sneered at. The type of violent, psychotic crimes (or border-line psychotic), that sees social pariahs raping, mutilating, assassinating, killing in series (serial-killers), sexual predators, and a thousand other such atrocities occurring at an alarming rate in the more developed countries (First World) is no sheer coincidence.

The amount of social neglect kids grow up with at school, as I have just described, is just one way – one of the most “modern” ways. Social Neglect, today, also begins at home, as parents either A) have to both work to support the family and therefore leave the kids alone at home or to grow up with a nanny; B) succumb to divorce – which in these countries, again, not by coincidence, the rate is of over 50%, or one of every two marriages – and therefore become absent parents, letting their kids grow up seeing various “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” come in and out of their lives, particularly in this “modern” world of Internet-Dating; or C) are social pariahs themselves that unfortunately had kids, but to whom they pay no attention at all (if not outright mistreat). The effects on the children’s social lives – even when they don’t culminate in psychotic, violent behaviour – are undeniably monstrous.

The Capitalist Machine – The Corporation, in our time – so cunningly gets us to fight among ourselves, among our family, our friends, our co-workers, and hate or, at the very least, envy those who can afford what we cannot. IT separates and divides us, the masses.

In the Age of Corporatism, The Family has Broken Down

Moreover, the breakdown of the Family – the real collapse of the type of family-values that are expected to be instilled at home to subsequently be expanded onto society – is another grim reality in our modern world of “Individualism” and “Modernity”; in our Age of Technology and Internet.

The “Modern Family” today looks very much like the sketch we saw above: at best, the step-parents are nice, and the new family, with step-children and step-brothers, gets along fine, perhaps even occasionally visiting with the other parent on weekends. In other cases, the single parent is a modern parent, a liberal parent, who dates various people, hoping perhaps to find another “the one”. The parent strives first to be the kid’s friend; then to be his parent.

Meanwhile, the children, at home, are just how society teaches us we are outside of home: by ourselves, on our own. They grow up with nannies, in the best scenarios, and no real parental control (and in this concept is included the type of love, attention and vigilance that parents need to exert over their children). Sometimes, to compensate for their absenteeism, the parents become too lenient, almost embarrassed to tell their kids not to do certain things since they themselves are doing it. Nothing is wrong anymore. Everyone is either a “liberal” or “antiquated”.

Nothing is indecent anymore: some of the “Best T.V.” consists of shows depicting broken families, cheating husbands and wives, young drug-addicts, etc. And anything that can still be deemed “indecent”, perhaps under irrefutable circumstances, can at least be “justified”. Thus, more and more husbands and wives (or boyfriends and girlfriends) cheat on each other, “just to get their attention”, having felt “neglected” or “not loved”. Everything is ok! Nothing is wrong! Morality, Truth, Virtue and Justice are all Subjective. Nothing is absolute. Plus, we see it depicted in every movie, T.V. sitcom and “reality show” as “normal”, as “part of life”, as something to try to avoid individually, but which inevitably exists socially, making it therefore something inescapable.

Another way kids grow up alienated from each other is manifested in their obsession, as we’ve seen, even at an early age, with having/owning tech-toys like Tablets, Cell-phones, I-pads, etc. Thus, children play with their “tech-toys” first, then go outside to play with other children (many times, even while they are hanging out, they are playing on their own individual gadgets).

And thus we see how the Corporation has, from a very early age, taught us dependence, not even on one another, but on a virtual world outside of ourselves. We become experts on using technology practically before we develop the ability to think for ourselves and think critically; the Corporation thus teaches us enough to simply reproduce (not evolve) ourselves and our immediate interests (before, in Marx’s time, Capitalism merely paid us enough); the ‘individual’ thus grows up “barely [casting] [his] goals beyond the day”, as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra puts it, looking only to the most convenient way he can get by, make money and “live well”.

In the Age of Corporatism, the Masses get “Trickled” On

In the Corporatist Society (most notably in the First World), the individual grows up realizing the ease with which he can make fast money. Parents send their kids to work from early on (15 or 16 years old), so that they may “learn the value of money” (I’m not even mentioning the social aspect of “taking away a kid’s youth”, though it is something to talk about). And we do: we grow up learning both how hard it is to make money and how pleasurable it is to spend it – also how good and important “IT” makes us feel, whether in actuality or just in our own perception. Those same parents then push their kids to go to school and “make something of themselves” so that they may become “successful”, which in the coldest fashion, they measure by the amount of money they will make.

We thus grow up adoring money – exulting it – so those of us who choose (or rather who have the means) to go to University prefer to take Finances, International Business and Economics, at least as serious, “hard” majors; we choose Political Science and Literature as “soft” majors, often when we’re “not sure of what we want to do”. Our priorities have switched – our sense of Culture has taken second place, though far, far back, to our Love and Need for Money.

(I’m excluding from this analysis those who choose to go to school and who choose their careers based on Ideology: People who love their field, whatever it may be – Journalism, Medicine, Law, Education, Etc. Reality has shown that this group – in the First World – is the minority.)

Those who don’t go to university or college try to find the best job they can – that is, whatever job pays more money. Thus you see kids that are 19 and 20 years old beginning the long and arduous career in the construction field. As adults, or simply when they’re a little older, though physically exhausted and beaten, many times in unhappy marriages, they still revel in the fact that they can “buy themselves anything they want”: the supposed cornerstone of “Freedom” and “Liberty”.

The Corporation, thus, revels!!! IT wins when we Love Money, because IT knows that we’d do Anything to Get IT (“money makes the world go ‘round”).

And the Human – with inherited Real Human Status, as opposed to granted – is left at the mercy of the Market. If he/she were lucky and studied Finances and Business, or – in the case of other professionals like Journalists or Lawyers or Artists, etc. – if he/she plays by the rules, that is, if he/she doesn’t ask the questions that mustn’t be asked, or rattle the cages that mustn’t be rattled, or express the massive social discontent/alienation through art, music and dance that mustn’t be seen, heard or felt; that is to say, if they adhere to the laws of the game, they will become a “success”.

For the rest – for the Proletariat – for the working class – for the engines of all that production and “success” – for the masses…They’re lucky if they allow themselves to be “Trickled” On