I am so happy to connect again and so deeply grateful for your support. I write to update you on an astounding development in the media world.
A new commercial made by Oscar-nominated director Adam McKay that mocks Chevron is racing around the world with over 5 million views online. McKay, who directed The Big Short and Don’t Look Up, probably just made the first truthful commercial about Chevron in history. The tagline at the end has a voiceover from a Chevron spokesperson saying to the American public: “It’s hard to comprehend how little we give a f*ck about you.”
I probably get what that means as much as anybody in the world.
This spoof commercial was released on the eve of the one-year anniversary of my sentencing by Judge Preska to six months in jail after Chevron spent decades retaliating against me for helping Indigenous peoples and farmer communities win a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against the company. To this day, Chevron would rather spend money paying lawyers to try to destroy me than paying the Indigenous peoples that it poisoned after deliberately discharging billions of gallons of cancer-causing waste onto their ancestral lands in the Amazon.
Adam McKay said Chevron is murdering us. This is not bombast – he is right. Literally thousands of people in Ecuador’s Amazon have died of cancer after being exposed to Chevron’s pollution. Not to mention many other people around the world in dozens of countries who must deal with Chevron’s toxic waste, as documented in a recent report by the academic Dr. Nan Greer.
While I appreciate Adam’s unwavering commitment to justice, at the grassroots level we must continue our historic fight to hold Chevron accountable for causing a mass industrial poisoning in Ecuador’s Amazon. Without our grassroots power and support from all over the world, the affected communities in the Amazon will stand little chance against Chevron’s power.
We need to raise $100,000 by October 15 to fund my appeal to the US Supreme Court and to restore my full rights and continue our advocacy campaign to jack up the cost to the company of its inaction. Will you help us reach this goal by contributing $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000 or more today? If you can make any contribution recurring, that would be deeply appreciated as that allows us to create a more sustainable funding base.
(Published at OpEdNews.com, Sept 1 2022, and was their #1 headlined article for six days with over 3300 views)
In just a couple of months, Americans will cast an important vote. If we make the wrong choice, we may never get another.
Our political system has left us with limited choices: Our two powerful political parties have made sure American voters have to choose one of them. If you don’t, your vote will be practically worthless.
The voters will get to decide…..
In November’s miderm election, we can experiment with a new brand of American fascism, which we haven’t tried before. Or we can settle for the more conventional limited democracy we’re used to. After 246 years as a nation, we are left with two contrasting brands: the centrist, imperfect Democratic Party or the angry, fascist-oriented Republican Party.
Both the Republican and Democratic Party are flawed and unpopular. Yet unlike many other countries with multi-party systems, we have only two parties to choose from. Between them, they have divided control of our political system and restricted voters to a narrow choice.
As harsh as it sounds, if we vote Republican we will have installed a Congress that will be more than ready to introduce an undemocratic American-style fascism to this country. The word “fascism,” connected to the policies and ideas of the Republican Party, is not hyperbole. There is no one source to explain the definition of this particular set of ideas and principles. This is primarily because fascism is shaped by its leaders, its era, and its location. But it has some defining characteristics.
Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime…that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Today’s Republican Party pretty much checks off all those boxes. Nationalism (“USA! USA!”) is exalted, and the party has shown itself to be partial toward White Americans. Republicans want a strong leader, e.g. Donald Trump, are partial toward the wealthy, and stand strong against changing social norms, like gender fluidity and minority rights, as well as non-traditional religious beliefs and nonbelievers. And it is obvious they are going all out to suppress the votes of their political opponents and make sure Democratic Party votes will be unable to topple Republican leadership.
That leaves voters with one other choice: the centrist, moderate Democratic Party. Yet how democratic is it? The party favors free-market capitalism and gives favorable treatment to wealthy corporate donors. However, they are more willing than Republicans to provide modest government programs for the disadvantaged and tend to be considerably more liberal on social and cultural issues.
Voting Democratic will prevent the trauma of fascist control and give the country a chance to heal from the damage of the personality cult that distrusts democracy. We do have to remind ourselves that the Democratic Party, while a better choice, will not be a panacea.
You are going to get one or the other party. No matter which one, our troubles are likely to remain and our political divisions will not be going away. Nobody talks about it, but the U.S. Constitution, just as are most religious doctrines, is outdated and incapable of solving many of our modern problems. There are ways to amend and modernize our 233-year-old founding document, but smaller states are reluctant to give up their built-in advantages, so changes are not easy to come by.
The problems of our remarkable, but outdated Constitution, start with the reality that the presidential candidate with the most popular votes is not necessarily the winner. Recent history provides clear examples of this outrage. How can our elections be considered democratic when the antiquated “electoral college” decides the winner?
But right now, the most important task we have is saving our democracy from those who are abusing it. If we don’t, all hell will break loose, here and around the globe. It could get very ugly. But if enough voters cast their ballots wisely (hint: not Republican), it doesn’t have to be that way.
These hinge points of history are never painless, but they always leave enlightenment and true change in their wake.
As Russian President Putin tries his version of Hitler’s September 1939 “defensive” attack on Poland, we’ve reached the apex, the hinge, of American history’s Fourth Great Turning. And, for the most part, everybody sees it.
Americans who were preoccupied with false claims of voter fraud and the “tyranny” of having to wear a mask or get vaccinated are seeing in Russia and Hungary what actual tyranny looks like.
Putin has miscalculated terribly. His entire career has been, much like Donald Trump’s, one of pushing moral and legal boundaries while getting off scot-free or even being celebrated for his “victories.”
And, like Donald Trump’s incitement of the January 6th violence made him unelectable in America, this error on Putin’s or his advisors’ part could threaten his hold on his own presidency.
When he leveled cities like Aleppo in Syria and Grozny in Chechnya, an orgy of blood and slaughter, nobody seemed much to notice except for the resulting explosion of Syrian refugees in southern Europe.
But Ukraine has become the George Floyd of the world. Smartphones are everywhere, and what’s being referred to as “the world’s first Tik Tok war” are, like Floyd’s murder at the hands of authoritarian cops, showing up on tiny screens, international newscasts, and in living rooms across the world.
War, at least in countries with a large enough middle class to have both numerous smartphones and good Wi-Fi/cell infrastructure, will never be the same. Neither will President Putin: this is most likely the beginning of the end of his political career.
Whether he’ll step down and hand the reins to a trusted subordinate, face an internal coup from his own military like Trump almost did, or find a face-saving resolution to the Ukrainian war and then fade into obscurity is unknowable at this moment.
But make no mistake: both America, Russia, and the world have changed, and the power of autocrats like Russia’s Putin and Belarus’ Lukashenko will never be the same.
Three times in the lifespan of America — each roughly eighty years apart* — the history of the world has turned on an event in which we played a pivotal role. This fourth era, dominated by the personalities of Trump and Putin and now pivoting on the presidency of Joe Biden, will be remembered as the Fourth Great Turning.
The First Great Turning was the American Revolution, kicked off by the Boston Tea Party when patriots protested a billion-dollar (in today’s money) tax cut and tax refund Great Britain gave to the East India Company so they could lowball the price of their wholesale tea and wipe out smaller American competitors.
It was the modern world‘s first great experiment with democracy in a republic.
At the time there were no functional democracies in the world and hadn’t been for almost three thousand years; within two decades the French had executed their king and democratic movements were well established across Europe.
The Second Great Turning, about 80 years later, was the American Civil War. The southern states, in order to preserve and enforce the enslavement of millions of human beings, had completely rejected democracy and turned what we call the Confederacy into an oligarchic police state.
Elections had become shams, a few thousand rich masters of the largest plantations owned the entire political systems of each Southern state, and even white dissenters faced imprisonment, torture, and death.
By the late 1830s there was no longer a free press in any of the Southern states: the transformation into an autocratic police state was complete, as I lay out in detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. Dissent had been almost completely crushed.
Thus, the Civil War was the world’s second turning-point to determine the survival of democracy in America and, by extension, across the rest of the planet.
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After the morbidly rich oligarchs of the south declared war on the still vital democracy of the north, the handful of republics around the world that were trying out democracy held their collective breaths and watched with horror for four long years until democracy finally triumphed.
The year the Civil War started, 1861, British philosopher John Stuart Mill published a how-to manual for parliamentary democracies in his Considerations On Representative Government; all but 7 of the world’s democracies today use variations on his proportional representation parliamentary system, which allows for vibrant multiparty systems.
Within a half-century of American democracy surviving the assault of the Confederacy’s oligarchs, the world was filled with new and thriving democratic republics, most using Mill’s model.
The Third Great Turning, roughly 80 years later, was The Republican Great Depression and World War II, when fascism — described in The American Heritage Dictionary as “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism” — rose its ugly head and challenged the democratic world order, nearly taking down all of Europe.
The American-led destruction of German and Italian fascism signaled a new world order rooted in elected governments, a free press open to the world, and the creation of the United Nations.
America herself became more democratic as an outcome of our brush with racist fascism. The GI bill educated a generation and, with widespread unionization, built the first truly strong and vibrant middle class in the history of the world.
That prosperity brought along with it a turn toward progressivism, rising to America’s motto E pluribus unum (“Out of many, One”). Progressive movements had significant victories with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of the 1960s, laws protecting the environment and working people, and a widespread end to many of the sneaky strategies used mostly in the South to disenfranchise Black voters as well as college students and Social Security voters.
The Fourth Great Turning was arguably kicked off 80 years after the end of WWII by Donald Trump’s ascension to the US presidency and his rapid realignment of US foreign policy away from Europe, NATO and other democratic republics and toward oligarchies like Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
He pulled us out of “free world” programs like the Paris Accords, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, the TPP, and the Iranian nuclear deal.
When Trump publicly asked Russia for help in the campaign, specifically to hack the DNC and reveal Hillary Clinton’s personal emails (lots of recipes and personal notes to old friends, it turned out), Russia’s intelligence services complied, according to the Mueller investigation. A dozen Russian intelligence operatives were singled out in Mueller’s report for prosecution for their helping Trump become president.
The Trump and Brexit campaigns, both with Russian affiliations, were among the earliest to exploit the weaknesses in Facebook and other social media’s algorithms that could be used to outrage and mobilize large numbers of people with naked lies. These foreign successes in helping elect Donald Trump and pass Brexit, both designed to weaken the European Union and cripple NATO, are legendary, as I documented in The Hidden History of Big Brother.
But now it’s all exposed. Putin’s brutality has mobilized the world to the defense of a small democracy standing against the military barbarity of the unaccountable leader of a major world power.
At least among developed nations, it’s unlikely there will be a repeat anytime soon of this sort of unwarranted violence. Putin is politically done for. Even if he radically escalates and ends up destroying Ukraine or trying to go after Moldova, he’s done.
His “fan boy” Donald Trump also lies exposed to the world; Americans see Trump now as a broke con artist, a shill for oligarchs, and a pathetic wannabee dictator.
His fan club is reduced to conspiracy nuts, “low information voters,” and historically malinformed men who think if they can just stockpile enough big guns they can take on the FBI and the National Guard. They get frantic just thinking about the terror of having to wear a mask to protect people who might be immune compromised or elderly.
But even if many of Trump’s followers are buffoons, this is a serious moment filled with crisis and danger.
Just like each of the previous three Great Turnings in American history, this transition will be rocky and painful. It will cost Ukraine and Russia (and maybe us and more if the conflict spreads) both money and blood. It will be massively disruptive to the world economy and our own domestic politics.
But when the dust settles, it will also have awakened somnambulant Americans to the danger of politicians and a Supreme Court that has so rigged the rules of domestic politics that many of our representatives are no longer accountable to their citizens.
Americans are beginning to once again understand, as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt both warned us, that oligarchs owning politicians and poisoning the channels of public discourse weakens and can ultimately kill a democracy.
These hinge points of history are never painless, but they always leave enlightenment and true change in their wake.
Once again, America must choose between a strongman neofascist oligarchy or a return to democracy and a republic. Once again, the world watches in horrid fascination as the agents of obscene wealth and police-state brutality struggle to tear apart our democracy.
Barring disaster, this Fourth Great Turning will turn out like the previous three and produce a better world for all. It’s small comfort as we watch defenseless men, women, and children being slaughtered by Russian troops live on television, but history tells us these turnings are very, very real and their consequences echo for generations.
Also, Peter Turchin has written several fascinating, although dry, books about the 40-year cycles that seem to appear within democratic nations.
His argument, in a nutshell, is that the pendulum swings to one side until it reaches, in its application, the limits of what then-contemporary society is willing to accept from that side‘s philosophy. Typically, he suggests, that takes about two generations or 40 years.
Then begins a swing back to the other side until a similar limit is reached. Rinse, wash, repeat. So FDR‘s swing to the left finally reached the point where, in the 1960/70s, it became so inclusive of racial and gender minorities that it produced enough of a backlash to give birth to Reagan’s swing to the right. Reagan’s swing to the right, in turn, has now hit the fascist extremes that characterize the far right, including misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and distrust of democracy itself. Thus has begun the swing back to the left I wrote about above.
On the 80 year cycles, Strauss and Howe’s work begins with a quote from Arnold Toynbee that, as far as I can tell, is apocryphal but nonetheless widely repeated: “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.” A human lifespan is roughly 80 years.
If, for example, when Phil Graham took the floor of the Senate in 1999 and argued that we should do away with Glass-Steagall because it had been so successful it had prevented any banking crashes since the 1930s and was therefore no longer necessary, if anybody in that 1999 Senate had been an adult in the 1930s and actually remembered that time they would’ve laughed him off the floor.
But there was literally nobody there who had an actual memory of the time, and Americans, if we are uniquely bad about anything, it’s remembering and understanding the contemporary applications of history’s lessons.
Published In OpEdNews, August 27 ,2022 (revised and updated)
I hope it is becoming obvious why Donald Trump went so overboard with his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and that he was the rightful President of the United States. His desperation seems most likely related to his belief that if he was the sitting president he would be immune to criminal charges (he avoided numerous indictments while in office). And Trump must have known just how numerous and serious those criminal charges would be.
He pulled out all stops in attempting to gaslight his supporters, because he needed them to come to his aid in pulling off the biggest coup in American history. Most of those supporters blindly bought his lies and absurd explanations. Because Trump said so, they believed that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen from the incumbent president and there was no legitimate reason that Joe Biden and his “radical socialists” should be in power in the nation’s capital.
So many of his followers believe everything this orange simpleton says. He said he had the most votes for president in 2020, even though he had no evidence, but whatever he lies about, his Cult45 followers will be on board. Trump has about 35% of this country convinced that he really had the most votes. Never mind that he lies six times before breakfast and doesn’t appear to be capable of telling the truth. He has long ago proven that he is the greatest con-man in American history, and was even able to fool nearly half the American voters into believing he deserved to be President of the United States in 2016.
The looming question this week is: why was Donald Trump in possession of all those boxes of classified government documents? Let’s take a closer look into the mind of Mr. Trump. What does he value most of all in his life? Power, yes, and he’s doing all he can to reclaim it. And then there is his other love, money. What can he do to get more money? What did he possess that would be of considerable value to certain people? Perhaps something that he had hidden in his home in Florida? What could that possibly be? I have my suspicions and perhaps so does the Justice Department. I have a feeling that we will know the answer in the not so distant future.
By the way, is anybody curious how Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner raked in $2 billion from the Saudi government shortly after leaving office? And former U.S. Treasurer under Trump, Steve Mnuchin managed to get $1.5 billion from the Saudis and allied countries. Not that there is anything suspicious about these windfalls, although what these Middle Easter countries got for their money is a bit cloudy.
I can’t imagine it had anything to do with access to classified information from mysterious government files found in Mar-a-lago, but some people might let their minds go there. It does allow the mind to wander into suspicious corners, and there is much information still unknown and questions still unanswered. We have a lot more to learn, but I have a funny feeling that Donald J. Trump is a bit worried right now about the outcome of all of this.
Conservative cable channel Newsmax has signed a new multiyear agreement with distributor Verizon, the two parties announced on Wednesday.
The new agreement will retain Newsmax’s broad distribution on the Verizon platform, which the company claimed reaches 3.5 million subscribers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. https://www.allconnect.com/providers/verizon
“Verizon has carried Newsmax for many years, and we are delighted to be extending our distribution through the Fios platform,” said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media. “We have found them to be outstanding partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the presentation of diverse, independent voices through their programming. We’re glad that we are continuing with this new agreement.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but news of Wednesday’s agreement comes just days after Verizon confirmed it would not renew its contract with One America News Network, another conservative cable channel, after July 31, saying OAN would be removed from its television lineup.
“Our company has long advocated for providing customers with the ability to choose what content they want to watch, and our Fios TV platform offers a wide and diverse choice of programming options, including a la carte options, that strive to meet our millions of customers’ various content needs and preferences,” Verizon said in a statement to The Hill last week.
Newsmax and OAN, both with audiences a fraction of that of the three main cable news channels, emerged following the 2020 presidential election as the networks of choice for former President Trump’s staunchest supporters based largely on their segments about Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud and other culture war issues.
TBPR Editor: Check out the quote in boldface above.”Diverse? Independent?” That does not sound like the real Newsmax network!
The past week has seen record-breaking heat waves across Europe. Wildfires have ripped through Spain, Portugal and France. London’s fire brigade experienced its busiest day since World War II. The U.K. saw its hottest day on record of 104.54 Fahrenheit. In China, more than a dozen cities issued the “highest possible heat warning” this weekend with over 900 million people in China enduring a scorching heat wave along with severe flooding and landslides across large swathes of southern China. Dozens of people have died. Millions of Chinese have been displaced. Economic losses run into the billions of yuan. Droughts, which have destroyed crops, killed livestock and forced many to flee their homes, are creating a potential famine in the Horn of Africa. More than 100 million people in the United States are under heat alerts in more than two dozen states from temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s and low 100s. Wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres in California. More than 73 percent of New Mexico is suffering from an “extreme” or “severe” drought. Thousands of people had to flee from a fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park on Saturday and 2,000 homes and businesses lost power.
It is not as if we were not warned. It is not as if we lacked scientific evidence. It is not as if we could not see the steady ecological degeneration and species extinction. And yet, we did not act. The result will be mass death with victims dwarfing the murderous rampages of fascism, Stalinism and Mao Zedong’s China combined. The desperate response is to burn more coal, especially with the soaring cost of natural gas and oil, and extend the life of nuclear power plants to sustain the economy and produce cool air. It is a self-defeating response. Joe Biden has approved more new oil drilling permits than Donald Trump. Once the power outages begin, as in India, the heat waves will exact a grim toll.
“Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,” U.N Secretary General António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis on July 18. “No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.”
“We have a choice,” he added. “Collective action or collectiv The Anthropocene Age – the age of humans, which has caused extinctions of plant and animal species and the pollution of the soil, air and oceans – is accelerating. Sea levels are rising three times faster than predicted. The arctic ice is vanishing at rates that were unforeseen. Even if we stop carbon emissions today – we have already reached 419 parts per million – carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to climb to as high as 550 ppm because of heat trapped in the oceans. Global temperatures, even in the most optimistic of scenarios, will rise for at least another century. This assumes we confront this crisis. The earth is becoming inhospitable to most life.
The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1 Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. We are approaching a tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius when the biosphere will become so degraded nothing can save us.
The ruling class for decades denied the reality of the climate crisis or acknowledged the crisis and did nothing. We sleepwalked into catastrophe. Record heat waves. Monster droughts. Shifts in rainfall patterns. Declining crop yields. The melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers resulting in sea level rise. Flooding. Wildfires. Pandemics. The breakdown of supply chains. Mass migrations. Expanding deserts. The acidification of the oceans that extinguishes sea life, the food source for billions of people. Feedback loops will see one environmental catastrophe worsen another environmental catastrophe. The breakdown will be nonlinear. These are the harbingers of the future.
Social coercion and the rule of law will disintegrate. This is taking place in many parts of the global south. A ruthless security and surveillance apparatus, along with heavily militarized police, will turn industrial nations into climate fortresses to keep out refugees and prevent uprisings by an increasingly desperate public. The ruling oligarchs will retreat to protected compounds where they will have access to services and amenities, including food, water and medical care, denied to the rest of us.
Voting, lobbying, petitioning, donating to environmental lobby groups, divestment campaigns and protesting to force the global ruling class to address the climate catastrophe proved no more effective than scrofula victims’ superstitious appeals to Henry VIII to cure them with a royal touch. In 1900 the burning of fossil fuel – mostly coal – produced about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. That number had risen threefold by 1950. Today the level is 20 times higher than the 1900 figure. During the last 60 years the increase in CO2 was an estimated 100 times faster than what the earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age.
The last time the earth’s temperature rose 4 degrees Celsius, the polar ice caps did not exist and the seas were hundreds of feet above their current levels.
You can watch my two-part interview with Roger Hallam, the co-founder of the resistance group Extinction Rebellion, on the climate emergency here and here.
There are three mathematical models for the future: a massive die-off of perhaps 70 percent of the human population and then an uneasy stabilization; extinction of humans and most other species; an immediate and radical reconfiguration of human society to protect the biosphere. This third scenario is dependent on an immediate halt to the production and consumption of fossil fuels, converting to a plant-based diet to end the animal agriculture industry – almost as large a contributor to greenhouse gasses as the fossil fuel industry – greening the deserts and restoring rainforests.
We knew for decades what harnessing a hundred million years of sunlight stored in the form of coal and petroleum would do to the climate. As early as the 1930s British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar suggested that increased CO2 was warming the planet. In the late 1970s into the 1980s, scientists at companies such as Exxon and Shell determined that the burning of fossil fuels was contributing to rising global temperature.
“[T]here is concern among some scientific groups that once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible and little could be done to correct the situation in the short term,” a 1982 internal briefing for Exxon’s management noted.
NASA’s Dr. James Hansen told the U.S. Senate in 1988 that the buildup of CO2 and other gasses were behind the rise in heat.
But by 1989 Exxon, Shell and other fossil fuel corporations decided the risks to their profits from major curbs in fossil fuel extraction and consumption was unacceptable. They invested in heavy lobbying and funding of faux research and propaganda campaigns to discredit the science on the climate emergency.
Christian Parenti in his book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence quotes from “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change,” a 2007 report produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security. R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, writes in the report’s final section:
In a world that sees two meter sea level rise, with continued flooding ahead, it will take extraordinary effort for the United States, or indeed any country, to look beyond its own salvation. All of the ways in which human beings have dealt with natural disasters in the past…could come together in one conflagration: rage at government’s inability to deal with the abrupt and unpredictable crises; religious fervor, perhaps even a dramatic rise in millennial end-of-day cults; hostility and violence towards migrants and minority groups, at a time of demographic change and increased global migration; intra-and interstate conflict over resources, particularly food and fresh water. Altruism and generosity would likely be blunted. The profits from fossil fuels, and the lifestyle the burning of fossil fuels afforded to the privileged on the planet, overroad a rational response. The failure is homicidal.
Clive Hamilton in his Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.”
“But accepting intellectually is not the same as accepting emotionally the possibility that the world as we know it is headed for a horrible end,” Hamilton writes. “It’s the same with our own deaths; we all ‘accept’ that we will die, but it is only when death is imminent that we confront the true meaning of our mortality.”
Environmental campaigners, from The Sierra Club to 350.org, woefully misread the global ruling class, believing they could be pressured or convinced to carry out the seismic reconfigurations to halt the descent into a climate hell. These environmental organizations believed in empowering people through hope, even if the hope was based on a lie. They were unable or unwilling to speak the truth. These climate “Pollyannas,” as Hamilton calls them, “adopt the same tactic as doom-mongers, but in reverse. Instead of taking a very small risk of disaster and exaggerating it, they take a very high risk of disaster and minimize it.”
Humans have inhabited cities and states for 6,000 years, “a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone,” the anthropologist Ronald Wright notes in A Short History of Progress. The myriad of civilizations built over these 6,000 years have all decayed and collapsed, most through a thoughtless depletion of the natural resources that sustained them.
The latest iteration of global civilization was dominated by Europeans, who used industrial warfare and genocide to control much of the planet. Europeans and Euro-Americans launched a 500-year-long global rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth – as well as killing the indigenous communities, the caretakers of the environment for thousands of years – that stood in the way. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution two and a half centuries ago, has become a curse, a death sentence.
Anthropologists, including Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies, Charles L. Redman in Human Impact on Ancient Environments and Ronald Wright in A Short History of Progress, have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. Civilizations, as Tainter writes, are “fragile, impermanent things.” Collapse, he writes, “is a recurrent feature of human societies.”
This time the whole planet will go down. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new peoples to subjugate or new civilizations to replace the old. We will have used up the world’s resources, leaving the planet as desolate as the final days of a denuded Easter Island.
Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.
“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr writes in Beyond Tragedy: Essays on the Christian Interpretation of Tragedy.
The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation or use of fossil fuels, lead to disaster in the long run. This is what Wright calls the “progress trap.”
“We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion,” Wright notes, “that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.”
The U.S. military, intent on dominating the globe, is the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses, according to a report from Brown University. This is the same military that has designated global warming a “threat multiplier” and “an accelerant of instability or conflict.”
The powerlessness many will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the remaining tribes faced extermination. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization — the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself — would disappear. Our psychological hard wiring is no different.
The greatest existential crisis of our time is to at once be willing to accept the bleakness before us and resist. The global ruling class has forfeited its legitimacy and credibility. It must be replaced. This will require sustained mass civil disobedience, such as those mounted by Extinction Rebellion, to drive the global rulers from power. Once the rulers see us as a real threat they will become vicious, even barbaric, in their efforts to cling to their positions of privilege and power. We may not succeed in halting the death march, but let those who come after us, especially our children, say we tried.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.
“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. As I write, the number-one videocassette rental in America is the move Dumb and Dumber. “Beavis and Butthead” remain popular (and influential ) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning – not just of science, but of anything – are avoidable even undesirable.
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements – transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting – profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
(This is a revised version of a previously published commentary on DailyKos, June 5 )
One reason Russian President Vladimir Putin felt confident he could swiftly conquer Ukraine was likely because of his extraordinary success accomplishing his goals in the United States.
By assisting Donald Trump to win the presidency in 2016, Putin purposely changed the course of modern American politics and history. Obviously, he alone did not put the reality TV star in the oval office, but considering how close the 2016 election turned out, it is likely Trump would not have won without an assist from Russia.
As we know, Democrat Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump. But the Republican nominee was able to win crucial electoral votes in several closely contested states. Trump won in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, each by less than 1 percent of the popular vote.
Russia’s influence was significant, as reported in a study put together in 2017 by The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, covering the work of the FBI, CIA, and the National Security Agency. It concluded:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
Putin has always known that Russia cannot compete militarily with the United States, but the former KGB operative found other ways to damage his strongest rival. After considerable help from Russian and other like-minded election provocateurs most Americans and the rest of the world were stunned to see Donald Trump elected and sworn in as this country’s 45th president.
This country has paid a huge price. Trump’s surprise win was a major jolt to America’s psyche. Despite his numerous flaws as a politician and as a human being, the Republican candidate continued to prove himself the champion con man of all time. He had inexplicably managed to convince nearly half this nation that he alone would restore America to greatness.
By helping Trump gain the presidency, Putin knew that the U.S. would be easier to manipulate, which it was. Upon taking office (and even before) Trump moved to dredge up the worst prejudices and fears in this country. His efforts succeeded, the poison spread and today is stronger than ever.
In short time racism, xenophobia, anti-feminism, gun worship, fear of alternate gender lifestyles, religious fundamentalism, distrust of government, and a hatred of all things liberal or progressive rose to the surface and were exploited by the Trump administration and their political allies. Political decency and tolerance evaporated, making way for a disturbing dark side to take control of the Republican Party.
With the help of Fox News and the growing ultra-right news and social media presence, Trump and his loyalists egged on the haters and others fearful of losing power and privileges. The new president and his cult-like followers gained strength and neutralized the moderate wing of the party. Before long Republicans morphed into an ideological and angry party that no longer resembled its old self.
Although there has been no firm evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the interference from Moscow was well documented. The Internet Research Agency, basically a troll farm based in Russia, produced millions of anti-Clinton, pro-Trump social media posts, planned pro-Trump political events, hacked into the internet accounts of important Democratic campaign committees and leaders, and leaked stolen campaign information to the public.
Right now, the voter suppression and gerrymandering in Republican-controlled states is unprecedented in election history. Some of these red states are passing laws to replace neutral and objective election officials with partisan Republican-leaning officials. If Republicans don’t like the election results in their state, elected officials can step in and appoint new electors more favorable to their views. In other words, goodbye American democracy.
For the last five or more years, President Putin has had reason to smile and feel triumphant for his disruption of our political process and culture. He felt confident he could roll over his Ukrainian neighbors and increase his power on the world stage. Indications are he may have bitten off more than he can chew and badly wrecked his master plan. Still, he remains firmly in control of Russia and its nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads.
The Democratic Party needs to get far more serious to protect our fragile democracy. No more compromise, weak negotiation, giving in, and politeness. The Republican Party today will not give an inch and will do anything in its power to take control of the U.S. government. Democrats must recognize this and fight back just as hard. The party’s existence, as well as democracy itself depends on it.
Both Presidents Trump and Putin should be on trial for their sabotage and disruption of the American political process and the ensuing chaos they have caused. Enemies of democracy should be prosecuted and locked up, while at the same time, supporters of democracy must do everything possible to fix the damage and help our country regain its political bearings. The world is far too dangerous and our problems too critical to do otherwise.