Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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New World Notes
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Welcome to the 60th episode of Third Paradigm, at long last. Our title this week is the Bipolar Bipartisan: Supporting Need and Greed at the Same Time. Our premise is that what defeats us isn't the other side. What defeats us again and again are our own unexamined contradictions. These leave us vulnerable to being confused and used, and incapable of thinking straight. The word is stronger than the sword. Propaganda funds wars and recruits those who fight 'em. Like the sword, persuasion cuts both ways, depending on who's wielding it and for what purpose. Persuasion, then, isn't enough. There needs to be a weapon that can only be used for good, like a safety razor. We need to beat those swords into safety razors. Confusion kills.
Speaking of persuasion and confusion, I noticed that several Tea Partiers use the same rhetorical device as my mother, against which I've never found a way to argue. On the radio show Uprising, a number of tea-partiers were asked how much of the budget was spent on defense. "20% max" was the average answer. When told it was 54%, they said that wasn't what they'd heard. You say this and I say that, your opinion, my opinion, end of discussion.
My mother also doesn't believe in the existence of facts. When I say Julia Ward Howe started Mother's Day as an antiwar proclamation, she says, "No, she didn't." When I say jet fuel can't melt steel girders, she says, "Well, that's your opinion." When I quote one of Jesus' many scathing remarks, she says, "That's not in my Bible." If I look these things up to show her, she says either, "You can find anything you want on the internet" or "Even the Devil can quote scripture." I can't win.
So before we can counter misinformation, we need to define what information is. How do you separate opinion from fact? Who do you believe and on what basis? What should the ratio of facts and logic be on which to found a conclusion? The rigor of critical thinking has been, not just lost, but bred out of us generation by generation. How else could we ignore the obvious contradictions between our belief in equality and our dependence on other people to produce all the goods we need to live? Clearly, people don't willingly give up their own right to consume what they produce because lighter-skinned people deserve it more than they do.
In this episode, we'll look at that strange hybrid of capitalism and socialism, the consumer democracy. A consumer democracy is a contradiction in terms. It's a slave-based society in which the slavery has been outsourced. It's dependent on producers who've been excluded from the society and deprived of their right to produce for themselves, usually through militarism, land theft, and debt. But as a democracy, it has to maintain the fiction of being inclusive and responding to human needs. This subliminal dissonance creates guilt, which can then be further exploited to serve the interests of centralized power. We'll examine our contradictions on nuclear weapons and the right of self-defense, and then we'll explore the difference between Republicans and Democrats in a survey of happiness. But we wouldn't be true to our name if we didn't end with a third paradigm, presenting an alternative bipartisanship that wouldn't leave us divided and crumbled, like so many broken fortune cookies.
First, though, let's read some poems: Begin by Rumi, Half-Life by Stephen Levine, Love Letters by Ikkyu, and Act Serious by Tukaram. The music is "Up All Night" by the Grails.
Those were Begin by Rumi, Half-Life by Stephen Levine, Love Letters by Ikkyu, and Act Serious by Tukaram. The music was "Up All Night" by the Grails from the album Black Tar Prophecies, Volume IV. To get the joke of the last poem by Tukaram, you have to look at the photo on our website at thirdparadigm.org. Joe Riley, from whose panhala site we nab these poems, has an uncanny knack for finding the perfect visual for every poetic occasion. With the irreverent Tukaram, he outdoes himself.
Some could consider the era we're living in a different kind of God's joke. As in the Chinese curse, we're living in interesting times. When I hear the news about climate change, bail-outs and leaky oil rigs, it seems like things are worse than ever. But this blatant and undisguised power grab could just be capitalism throwing off its cloak of secrecy for a fast getaway. Capitalism is reaching its logical conclusion, the purpose of which is to concentrate power in as few hands as possible. Someone sent me a list of the central banks owned by the Rothschilds. They included the national banks of 165 countries, out of a possible 195. Whether it's true or not, the monopoly game must be getting somewhat boring with 85% of the board owned by one family. This was sent to me from an email address called "whispering winds," who changed the name of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to "the dirty nasty stinky Fed."
But if US dominance is in freefall, no one's told Obama. His lecturing, know-it-all tone sets my teeth on edge. I'd never talk to my own daughters as condescendingly as he talks to other countries, as if they answer to him. Now, by saying who he won't use a first-strike nuclear bomb on, he's made the backhanded threat that he could bomb Iran, if they push him far enough. He uses language taken right out of Positive Discipline: they need to "follow the rules," they "refuse to meet their obligations," there must be "accountability for those who break the rules," those who "flout" authority must "face consequences."
Doesn't your blood run cold when you realize that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are acceptable forms of discipline to our president? This man believes that to spare the nuclear rod is to spoil the colony, one that's gotten too big for its post-Shah britches. A sensible non-proliferation treaty might be that no country who would ever consider using nukes should have them. But then why would anyone want them?
The Institute for Policy Studies points out that the New Nuclear Arms Treaty has just reinvented counting. Now a B-52 bomber loaded with 20 nuclear warheads is considered one nuclear weapon. Under the new agreement, the US and Russia could conceivably deploy more strategic warheads than had been allowed before. Ever the bipartisan hero, to win Republican support, Obama upped the budget for stockpile maintenance by 10%. The Nuclear Posture Review includes as many exceptions as a healthcare policy, states IPS's John Pfeffer, and there's still less time to recall an intercontinental ballistic missile than it takes to soft-boil an egg.
The Diane Rehm show talked about Obama's Summit on Nuclear Security. Her experts specified that this convention wasn't about reducing the US and Russian stockpiles, which are 95% of all nuclear arms, or about so-called "hostile states" like Iran and North Korea. This particular summit was about guarding against a terrorist group getting hold of nuclear weapons. One expert felt that Obama shouldn't even bother with this but should focus instead on Iran. Diane intervened, and for a moment I had hope, but her clarification was that she thought preventing nuclear terrorism was still a worthwhile goal, along with dealing with Iran.
I was glad to see that the listeners posting on her show didn't let the experts off so easy. One pointed out Iran's right to nuclear energy, and the lack of evidence that they're doing anything else. Another said that Iran had as much right to nuclear weapons as Israel, and asked why we weren't mentioning them. A third said that Iran had as much right to nuclear weapons as the US – they're no more a terrorist state than we are.
So how do we define terrorism? Princeton defines terrorism as the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence against civilians for political, religious, or ideological goals. So violence that's perpetrated for monetary gain, or, say, a college education, isn't terrorism. Nuclear arms are certainly calculated and always against civilians, since a targeted attack isn't possible. If Obama's reasons are political, religious, or ideological, to threaten Iran with nuclear attack is an act of state terrorism. But if he's just in it for the oil pipeline, he's legally on safe ground.
And so, the double standards just keep on coming. On Democracy Now, Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, talked about the assassination contract on the US-born Muslim cleric residing in Yemen. His legal opinion was that if the United States is in a state of armed conflict or self-defense, then the assassination order is legitimate. If the US isn't in a war, it's not. But what the cleric has said is that the US is leading a war against Islam and Muslims. Therefore, he states, jihad is binding on every able-bodied Muslim in defense of their people.
So if the US is waging war against Muslims, it's legitimate for the US to execute people in other countries, according to the rapporteur. But if a Muslim says that the US is at war with Muslims, it's then legitimate for the US to execute him. On that confusing note, let's break for a song. This is Peter Gabriel doing a cover of the Paul Simon classic, Boy in the Bubble.
That was Peter Gabriel singing Boy in the Bubble. Even though I love the Paul Simon version, sometimes another voice helps me hear the words more clearly, about bombs in baby carriages and what drives people to those extremes. Before he flew his plane into the Austin IRS building, pilot Joseph Stack wrote a letter that ended sarcastically with the capitalist creed – "From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."
Centralized socialism, however, is no better. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" makes a fine slogan, but who decides? Why should the product of my labor be yours, based on your inability? Neither system encourages fairness, reciprocity, productivity, self-reliance, or even generosity. I've been listening a lot to Ivan Illich, thanks to Robin Upton and his audio files at altruists.org.
Illich talks about how the institutionalization of public welfare destroyed the one-to-one relationship between the giver and the one in need. Giving was no longer a choice – this person, this circumstance. Instead it became a social obligation, to be dispensed by bureaucratic agencies. Illich highlights the vacuity of this substitute by the feeling in the US on April 15th – rather than the joy of taking care of the community, tax day is a time of bitterness, although usually not manifested in the style of Joseph Stack.
Compassion, which is our natural condition, has been turned against us. It's used to extract taxes, which are then used for the military. What we love will always be endangered, because it's the only way to raise funds for those things we hate.
In this way our egalitarian desires end up serving the interests of centralized power. Ivan Illich looked at liberal pity and conservative imperiousness as two hands used together to strangle subsistence. As a Roman Catholic priest, he founded an institute in Mexico to offer language courses to missionaries. But he also documented the role of the Vatican in creating the "Third World" by giving industrial hegemony the cloak of charity. Soon after, Illich closed the institute and left the priesthood, becoming a teacher but continuing to live his convictions.
Indigenous people call the war on subsistence the Fourth World War, but in fact, it's the proto-World War: imperialism against sovereignty. We don't count as wars the invasions and conquests, or the assault on the earth itself waged by the empire. But this is the basis for every war, no matter what ideology is given in order to get people to fight it. Who is the empire? It's not Western Europe or the US, white males or those with a certain income. It's not Republicans or Democrats. It's merely a handful of people. Currently in the United States, those who pull the strings have been researched to be fewer than 300 people. So why do the rest of us go along with it? For some, it's because their support for those in need ends up supporting those in greed.
Thanks to Kenneth Dowst for this clip from his 2-part episode, Bruce Gagnon on Endless War and the Economy, on his radio show New World Notes. I like the analogy of politics being like pro-wrestling, where they come out snarling and put on a good show, but the sponsors always win. The sponsors of our government are in agreement about the need for endless war and a rapacious economy. But what do the rest of us agree on?
According to a Pew Center study in 2008, not much. The median income of Republicans is $64,000 compared to the Democrat's $46,000. Republicans have more friends, are more religious, and are healthier. They like their spouses, their family lives, their communities, and their jobs better. They even like the weather better. They see themselves as doing better in life than their parents, and are more likely to feel that individuals – rather than outside forces – control their destinies.
There's another significant way they differ – Republicans tend to want what they already have, and Democrats, as a group, want what they don't have. Republicans say they value marriage, children, and religion – which aligns with what they have. Democrats place more emphasis on a successful career, greater wealth, and free time – which seem, in my experience, to have an inverse relationship to each other. But in contrast to their priorities, fewer Democrats own their homes, and when they do, the median value is lower, they're less likely to have paid them off, and their homes account for a larger percentage of their net worth.
The difference between Democrats and Republicans could be characterized as promoting Big Government vs. Big Business. But given their differences, both are self-serving. Democrats, who support social services, are more likely to be the recipients of those services. Republicans, who support militarism and deregulation, are more likely to prosper as a result. When these two are combined, we end up with a Big Government that serves the interests of Big Business – exactly the bipartisan agreement that the sponsors want: endless war, rapacious global economy.
I promised a third paradigm solution to this bipolarity, and here it is: small, local government, small, local economies, and small, local businesses. All should be freed from the stranglehold of centralized, institutionalized, bureaucratic control. Liberal pity and conservative imperiousness are, as Ivan Illich puts it, the two hands strangling sovereignty. It will take a bipartisan renunciation of consumerism to pry them off. But in all likelihood, consumerism will renounce us, by following the money after ours has depreciated, before we renounce it.
For Third Paradigm, this has been Tereza Coraggio. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for music and editing, and to Mike Scirocco for all things web. And thanks to Robin Upton and Kenneth Dowst. Check out our Third Paradigm website to see what we've been up to during this broadcast lull. If you select the menu item Food in the Hood, it will take you a page about our weekly frontyard food market for global charities. It features photos of the kids who've helped out, some with baby chicks nesting in their hair. It has recipe links and photos of the food. And best of all, it talks about the global causes we've supported with $7500 raised since we started a year ago. We go out with another Peter Gabriel – a haunting cover of the Talking Heads song, Listening Wind. See the concert video on our website at thirdparadigm.org.
Thank you for listening.