nebris: (The Temple 2)
~So, as expected, The Electoral Collage confirmed The Donald as President Elect, which was an easy call, for all the sturm und drang. 'Gullible' is the kindest word I can think of for those of you who believe they would otherwise.

I have been reposting the following meme once again: “No argument from me that The Trump White House is going to be a Chaotic Clownshow Clusterfuck. What I keep beating the drum for is reforming the Democratic Party so it can take on the wreckage the GOP in 2018. Because the GOP is going to be in flames by then.

The current Democratic leadership is vile and corrupt. If you people really want to create change, contact U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders office and ask how you can help:

It's not that I believe any of that will save The Republic. The Republic is fucking dead. But I do hope that such can stave off Total Collapse until 'other solutions' manifest. Note that we are already IN Collapse, but that is process, not an event, and there are possibilities for managing it, though at this point it is not stoppable and we can only 'go through it'.

I have also been reposting this meme once again: TO DEFEAT THE CORPORATE CONFEDERACY TAKES PATIENCE AND GUILE

“Do not expect to defeat The Corporate Confederacy at the ballot box. Big Money can power its way through almost any election cycle. That is not however a call for Revolution. Big Money can power its way through those as well and rather unpleasantly.

Instead it must always be remembered that by its conscienceless and rapacious nature, the thing sows the seeds of its own destruction. Therefore what is required is both the ability to survive its collapse and to have another functional structure extent to replace it. Anything else is empty rhetoric.”

Those who know me are aware of what 'other functional structure' is that I am working on: The Sisterhood. My next several years are about Guiding and Mentoring our First High Priestess into her role as Leader of The Sisterhood. She has great promise, but is very young [though also very old] and her task is daunting.

The greatest obstacle I see is that most want to hold onto what they have, even though it is fairly obvious that our present social and economic structure is dissolving under our feet. Far too many are in total denial about that and such is how knuckleheads like Donald Trump come to power.

With his cabinet of kleptocrats, militarists and outright idiots, he is only going to accelerate the process of Collapse. Hillary would have maintained the steady slide downward and Bernie would have slowed it. But none of them could stop because they are ultimately all working within the system that is itself fatally damaged.

Yes, this is all very bitter and cynical and here is where I get to sneering part. Most Western humans [Middle Class Europeans and Americans] that I've met live in a fucking fantasy land. They think that the prosperous post WW2 World is 'the way things are supposed to be', when in fact that world is a political and social anomaly.

Well, kids, that fantasy is ending. Now we are getting back to 'the way things have been' for most of history, The Rich on Top and The Poor on The Bottom, and not much in between. Guess where most of you are going to end up?

And so it fucking is....

Nebs Sez

Jul. 23rd, 2016 11:54 pm
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
~Back some time in 2012 Vince Lamb said he hoped 2013 would be ''a better year'. I told him, 'no, it would be worse...and so would every year after it for the foreseeable future'. And looking out at the mid-point of 2016, I can see I was right. But once one knows the patterns, one can generally predict the future.

Nebs Pukes

Jun. 7th, 2016 10:12 pm
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
"I'm sick to my stomach. All the polls showed them in a dead heat in California, but all of a sudden she's got a twenty plus point lead...and for some reason they've never explained, the various news organizations are not doing any exit polling at all in the state, so we have zero 'on the ground' numbers to check this against.

This is why I hate getting excited by any candidate. Either they turn out to be a piece of shit or, if they're the real goods like Bernie, the systems grinds them down...."
nebris: (A Dark Boy)
The delusion that most Americans share is that The Republic can be saved. I'm a fat old man and I support Bernie because he could make the last few decades of my life moderately comfortable, whereas the other two will make it a living hell. But beyond that, The Republic is doomed. What shall follow I cannot say.

It is doomed due to a confluence of social, economic and technological factors that are more or less irreversible. Many of our citizens are 'surplus' to economic requirements and more are becoming so every day. That trend is not going to be changed and it *will* lead to social collapse. Catastrophic Climate Change is already upon us. We'll survive it as a species [we're like fucking cockroaches] but it will be 'a very rough transition' and Capitalism will be crushed in that as it will be rightly seen as the primary cause of that catastrophe.

Truth is, The Republic has been effectively dead for a while now. We're an Empire and have been since the end of WW2. The Republic began to die with the passage of the National Security Act in 1947. The Republic's Obituary was written two years ago:

"The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

This is not news, you say.

Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here's how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power."

In essence most Americans are debating over the division of table scraps.
nebris: (The Temple 2)
~There are days like this, where I'm tired and don't feel so good, when my resolve falters and I see how futile most of what we do and say really is. Everyone is in their own little bubble and clings to it desperately. Veganism. Libertarianism. BlackLivesMatter. The Tea Party. Light Working. Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton. Even Bernie Sanders. I support him, but he's really just a band-aid in regards to what actually faces us....

I have been consciously on this Path for two decades now and I can't seem to get anywhere. Most days I'm a True Believer – I really DO believe in what E has told me and in the promise of The Sisterhood – but some days I think I'm just a deluded old fool.

I'll probably feel better after I get some more sleep. Sleep is The Great Cure....and my reality at the moment is I feel like an utter failure.
nebris: (The Temple 2)
~I'm supposedly doing this Work to help 'save the species'? I don't even like fucking hoomons. As I have said many times, 'most humans are ignorant servile scum' and every fucking day proves that point ten dozen times over. Even those that I have respected and cared for keep turning out to be hypocrites, cowards and fools. So why the fuck have I be burdened with this fucking Her Prophet bullshit? FML
nebris: (Away Team)
"All politics is local." ~'Tip' O'Neill

~Which is why, in the end, democracy fails. Because humans are, as a rule, 'provincial', which is a socio-cultural way of saying that they are primarily concerned with their own immediate sphere of interest, tend to ignore everything outside of that sphere and react with fear/anger whenever the larger sphere impinges. That prevents most humans from thinking 'globally' or even 'nationally'. Now hold that thought...

"Why should I concern myself with how many die? Even the Christian Bible says what is man that God should be mindful of him? For me men are nothing but a brain at one end and a shit factory at the other." ~Aurelio Peccei, founder and first president of the Club of Rome

In 1972 The Club of Rome published a historical document, “The Limits to Growth,” described by Wikipedia as a “book about the computer modeling of unchecked economic and population growth with finite resource supplies.” I remember at the time it generated a lot of speculation and controversy, but for the general population, like so many things before it, it went down The Memory Hole, eclipsed by Watergate and then the Fall of Saigon. [see "All politics is local."]

Aurelio Peccei was one the authors of that report and his sentiments are fairly clear.

“The Limits to Growth,” were also, I have come to believe, a warning to the population of Earth from The Western Financial Elites; “Since you are obviously incapable of controlling your own affairs and managing your our resources, we are going to gather up as much of them as we can lay our hands upon, build ourselves safe havens and let the rest of you drown in your own shit. In fact, we plan to expedite that by making things as bad as possible in order to get this over with as fast as possible.” In other words, a Culling.

I suspect they made that decision not so much because they are evil – though there is certainly some sociopathic reasoning in the mix – but because, seeing that “All politics are local,” they already knew that the solutions required to head off Global Catastrophe would be impossible to implement. Keep in mind that at the time The Cold War was still going strong, America was socioculturally unraveling and China had just wrapped up The Cultural Revolution.

In that context, I really cannot fault the logic, even if I am one of those likely to culled.

I have imagined snippets of conversations such as these, uttered not at secret meetings in darkened rooms, but at bright social gatherings over cocktails:

“Let it all got to hell.”

“They will rebel.”

“We make Consumerism ubiquitous and fund their social hatreds.”

“But we cannot control something like that.”

“No, but we can guide it and we can survive it. We'll surf the apocalypse.”

If I were in their position, I'd do much the same thing, though as those of you who know me will understand that my 'grand scheme' is of a somewhat different design. And because of that, while I expect this Culling will more or less succeed, I have my doubts that it will play out at all close to what The Elites hope for.

But the die have been cast and now what shall be, shall be...

Nebs Sez

Jun. 25th, 2013 01:26 pm
nebris: (Away Team)
"The Global Climate has never been 'harmonious and balanced'. That's a Nature Lover's fantasy. It is fluid and dynamic and a warming trend was very likely on the menu anyway. However, that trend would have unfolded over a couple/three centuries and been 'manageable' from the human point of view.

But what we humans have done is to pump tens of trillions of tons of hydrocarbons into that fluid and dynamic system and supercharged it. Now it is getting warmer faster than it would have and the mean temperatures will be higher. Plus its storm systems will be far more violent. That is not simply natural 'climate change'; that is Catastrophic Climate Change.

It is probably that we are past any point of stopping this or even of ameliorating it. We just get to ride it out. We will survive this. We're like fucking cockroaches. But it's going to an unpleasant transit and a lot of us are going to suffer and die because of it."
nebris: (Away Team)
~I am presently on SSI and as such I also get covered by MediCal. Therefore, I that which of I speak know quite personally.

First, why am I on SSI? I became homeless back in the Autumn of 2003. I'd been in and out of the welfare system in LA County for over a decade at that point. I won't go into a whole sob story about my insane family, I'll just give you my diagnosis; PTSD and Severe Depression. Basically, I really cannot function in the day-to-day world. [there is an entire essay on whether or not the 'day-to-day world' is even sane in and of itself, but that is beyond the scope of this one, though only just as we shall see]

SSI, Section 8 and MediCal took me off the street and keeps me alive. It's that simple.

Back in January of 2009, before The Governator began cutting state welfare programs – to 'save the taxpayers money' – COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] had brought my monthly grant up to $907. Plus MediCal still had Adult Dental Coverage. Over the next year roughly $1.4 billion was cut from the state's various welfare programs.

How that effected me was that my monthly grant dropped, slice by slice, to $830. That's a loss of seventy seven bucks [$924 per year] for those who are bad at math. And Adult Dental was terminated across the board, except for extractions, which are considered 'surgery', basically meaning your teeth have to rot until they're bad enough to pull.

My monthly grant remained at $830 until this year when The White House gave everyone on SS, SSI, SSDI, and VA benefits a COLA for the first time since '09. I now get $854 per month. That's an extra twenty four bucks [$288 per year] for those who are bad at math. [I called it a 'cynical bribe' when it was announced]

Now, I'm sure there are a whole raft of folks who fume at the very idea that I'm getting any money at all. “Get a job!” is the usual rant, and no matter that even if I was capable of such, there sure ain't none to be had for this fat old man.

“Let him die,” is what they really mean. Because The Corporate State has ground them down so badly these types have come to hate those of us on welfare almost as much as they hate Union Workers whose contracts provide them with some small protection regarding wages and pension. Essentially, they've been told, and come to believe, that we should suffer because they are suffering. [that's called Class Warfare btw]

But aside from this utter lack of Compassion that The Corporate State has purposefully engendered, let's look at the real economics of all this.

As I said above, The Governator began cutting state welfare programs to 'save the taxpayers money'. Well, that's a lie. That money does not go back to the taxpayers. It goes to pay off the state's Bond Holders, aka Wall Street. In other word, it leaves the state altogether.

“That's better than you parasites getting it,” some will sneer, so let's take a look at that. Well, not really.

Think about this; where does all that money that I get each month go? Simply put, I spend it. On food and rent mostly. That means I go to the local stores, who pay employees and taxes, and said employees also pay taxes and rent and buy food and so on. So when I got cut, I spent $924 less per year.

Multiply that by $1.4 billion across the state. Given the domino effect of that loss, I'd wager that the overall loss of revenue at the retail level is at least $3 billion a year. Let me repeat that, the overall loss of revenue at the retail level is at least $3 billion a year. And that, combined with all the non-welfare cuts, ripples outward.

The elimination of Adult Dental is particularly galling. The state makes dealing with MediCal a nightmare, which I believe is politically motivated, so most private dentists won't deal with it at all. Into that stepped dental clinics, which hire mostly new dental school grads. But they also hire techs and bookkeepers and receptionists and buy supplies and so on...and all that too generates taxes and provides revenue to the local economy. But I repeat myself.

That is what Austerity means. “The Banks get paid and The People get screwed.” And this is going to keep on until the whole economy collapses. Not 'crashes'; it did that four years ago. No, I mean COLLAPSES, as in Does Not Work At All, Period.

I'd tell you to get out and vote, but Big Money has bought Government, lock, stock and barrel. I'd tell you to Rise Up and Fight! but that will just get your ass shot down in the street. Big Money has that covered too...for now. Collapse will likely crash that paradigm as well when there's no money to pay the police and the military. But by then it will be Too Late for y'all.

Me, I'm taking my little dole and hunkering down and doing the only thing I'm really capable of any more; writing. Whether that does any one any good remains to be seen.

And that's the name of that unpleasant lil tune...
nebris: (Away Team)
"A significant chunk of the elite turned against the American system post-1965 Voting Rights Act. You go through the South and you can see it very clearly-- the decline of spending or interest in common infrastructure such as schools, public pools etc. Basically, when the white settler elite (the former slaveholders) realized they would have to share the commons with African Americans they decided to withdraw from the commons. But this is true throughout the United States, not just the South. It is only most obvious in the South, and since Southern politicians have succeeded in dominating the federal system, they have also been able to cripple the central government as well. Look at the huge fight over federal funding for high speed rail in California, which is embarrassing. Even Japan's right-wing one party government could see the benefits of high speed rail-- during the 1950s.

Withdrawing from the commons has worked fine for the top of the income bracket. But their less well off foot soldiers didn't realize, however, is that we all live side-by side, and that systematically destroying the nation-state would also hurt them. Eventually the predator state prison complex gun would point at the white working class too-- and this has happened, they've found out that no one gives a shit about them either. You may go to church every Sunday, profess your undying belief in America, and work ass off at your construction gig, never accept welfare and look down on non-whites as shifty dope using profligate embracers of promiscuity,but ultimately the people whose economic program you supported for 30 years don't care about you and now they are going to destroy your life by privatizing what is left of the commons and leaving you to race to the bottom.

On the left, people decided that the idea of the nation-state was déclassé, and that patriotism was embarrassing, and they retreated, into the self-referential intellectual masturbation of post-modernism, where everybody is right and nobody is wrong. Of course, that's nonsense. They don't actually believe that, it's just a convenient cover for people who lack the courage of their convictions. Ironically, these people often embrace the Che cult, and the cult of ''third world liberation" generally, while never realizing that what drove those movements was not some embrace of an international ideal, but of localized, nationalistic sentiment. Carefully ensconced in academia, they have cushy jobs, retirement plans and insurance benefits, and enjoy regular international travel to mostly irrelevant conferences where other people just like them deliver talks on the post-Lacanian cultural analysis of the cultural identity of transnational non-traditional shamanistic sexuality participants (aka furries), followed by cliched calls to solidarity with striking workers in Greece. You can sneer at the nation state all you want, but you exist in a bubble of academic privilege that is paid for by federal student loans and defense department grants, and the multicultural diversity that you so prize exists only because there is still, just barely, a common American identity holding it all together. If the United States ever fell apart, no one is going to protect your precious, diverse, non-traditional gender role-loving community, as the US will look more like the Balkans after the end of Communism.

There is a way out of this situation, but the answers most certainly will not be found among an elite that long ago turned its back on America." ...a 'tim302' commenting on When Elites Depart..
nebris: (Away Team)
By Charlie Stross

I'm off to do a reading in a few hours, and it's chilly outside, so I feel like turning up the heat. Therefore:

My view of contemporary US politics, which is that of an outsider and obviously incomplete (and possibly faulty, and subject to change) is as follows:

1. The USA is already a functional oligarchy. (Or, more accurately, a plutarchy.) It has been functioning as such for some time — since 1992 at the latest, although the roots of this system go back to before the Declaration of Independence — it's a recurrent failure mode. Historically such periods last for a few years then go into reverse. However, this time the trend has been running since 1980 or even earlier. What we're now seeing are the effects of mismanagement by the second generation of oligarchs in power; the self-entitled who were born to it and assume it to be the natural order of things.

2. It's impossible to be elected to high office without so much money that anyone in high office is, by definition, part of the 0.1%; even if they're an outsider to start with, they will be co-opted by the system (or neutralized — usually before they are elected).

3. Public austerity is a great cover for the expropriation of wealth by the rich (by using their accumulated capital to go on acquisition sprees for assets being sold off for cents on the dollar by the near-bankrupt state). But public austerity is a huge brake on economic growth because it undermines demand by impoverishing consumers. Consequently, we're in for another long depression. (The outcome of this new long depression will be the same as that of the first one: the main industrial power — then it was the UK; now it's the USA — will lose a lot of its remaining economic lead over its competitors and be severely weakened.)

4. Starving poor people with guns and nothing to lose scare the rich; their presence in large numbers is one major component of a pre-revolutionary situation.

5. Worse, the poor have smartphones. (Or will, within another couple of years. By 2020, today's iPhone 4S will be a cereal-packet-freebie grade toy. $10 for an equally powerful device, sold on a pre-pay tariff, via WalMart.) Which means a former constraint on civil unrest (media channels are expensive to run, so the oligarchy can maintain an effective choke-hold on mass media while trumpeting their support for freedom of speech) no longer holds true. See also the "Twitter revolution" (RIP) in Iran.

6. The oligarchs are therefore pre-empting the pre-revolutionary situation by militarizing the police (as guard labour). Note also that the prison-industrial complex remains profitable as long as there's a tax base on which to pay for the prison guards — or to use as collateral for loans to cover the guards' wages.

7. Modern communications technologies (including the internet) provide people with a limitless channel for self-expression (not to mention distraction— endless circuses without the bread). They also provide the police state with a limitless flow of intelligence about the people. Note also that it's possible to not merely listen in on mobile phone calls, but to use a mobile phone as a GPS-aware bugging device, and (with a bit more smarts) to have it report on physical proximity (within bluetooth range — about 20 feet) to other suspects. The flip side of social networking is that the police state knows all your acquaintances.

8. So I infer that the purpose of SOPA is to close the loop, and allow the oligarchy to shut down hostile coordinating sites as and when the anticipated revolution kicks off. Piracy/copyright is a distraction -- those folks pointing to similarities to Iranian/Chinese net censorship regimes are correct, but they're not focussing on the real implication (which is a ham-fisted desire to be able to shut down large chunks of the internet at will, if and when it becomes expedient to do so).

(Obligatory supplemental reading: The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod.)

What am I missing?
nebris: (Away Team)
“Oddly, I spent last night at a party talking to a young woman from China who believes that her country is on the brink of major civil unrest” Laurie Penny Tweeted this a few days ago. I Tweeted back that I'd been saying this for more than a year now and getting dismissed. I then resolved to say something about what I call The Three Chinas Paradigm.

The Old Men in Beijing would like the world to think that China is nearly all Mandarin speaking Han. But of course China is a vast and complex nation-state with dozens of languages and ethnicities. Such should be obvious. Even the United Kingdom, which could be shoehorned into the US state of California, is similar with Welsh and Scottish nationalism and an English spoken in Yorkshire that is nearly incomprehensible to many other English speakers.

So to say there are Three Chinas should be understood as a socio-economic simplification, albeit a useful one in my opinion.

The First China these days is The East Coast, what I call the Go-Go China. That is that China we all know, the one that has seemed bound for World Domination, the Capitalist Roader China that produces cheap goods by the megaton, is packed wall to wall with new millionaires and has funded America's wars for the last decade.

The Second China is what I call The Middle Kingdom, the China of The Ten Thousand Villages. This is actually the real China, the one that has existed for millennia. Most Chinese live in this China. They provide the work force for The East Coast. They are poor and both they and their land are increasingly exploited and polluted. This is also where 'destabilizing unrest' begins in China.

The Third China, which is not really Chinese at all, is The West, Sinkiang and Tibet. Sinkiang is largely [and sparsely] populated by Turkic Muslims. Tibet is of course Tibetan. Beijing has been waging an ethnic war on both provinces for a half century, transplanting Mandarin speaking Han by the hundreds of thousands. For Beijing, Sinkiang is Strategic, both as a buffer state against Russia and as a road into Central Asia. Tibet is even more crucial as it is the principal watershed of East Asia. These provinces are actively hostile.

One can easily see that this is a volatile mixture. Absolute Control is absolutely essential. Of course such is also impossible. Sooner or later Control slips. I suspect this is what keeps the Old Men in Beijing up at night...and the quote at the top is just one more indication that it is slipping faster.

With the Global Economic Downturn deepening, the overseas markets that The East Coast has come to depend upon are shrinking and the work force from The Middle Kingdom are be sent home in droves. Sent home to poverty, poisoned land and endemic official corruption. And the authorities on The East Coast are ruthless about 'clearing out' unemployed workers. Each worker shipped back is another drop in a growing pool of anger, a pool that is becoming a lake, and may even become an ocean. More and more signs of that anger are being reported every day.

Remember that in China 'civil unrest' is something of a euphemism. We'd call it rebellion or even Civil War. And keep in mind that a serious civil war in the People's Republic of China is quite likely to involve the use of nuclear weapons.

This is not simple schadenfreude on my part. We too have come to depend upon China and if the above comes to pass - as I believe it will - these events will ripple economically here as well, such as the loss of those cheap consumer goods which are helping keep many America families [barely] afloat. And the consequences of that will then ripple throughout our society and then back to China.

Interesting Times indeed...


Oct. 12th, 2011 08:32 am
nebris: (A Manga Thang)
~I was gonna rant about how most humans are either stupid or deluded. I had another bellyful of that this morning. But I'd be better off wanking to on-line porn. That at least would make me feel better for a while. *sigh*

But I'll just stick my brāne inside The Hologram instead and watch a cop show or two. Then I'll get back to work on The Explanation, which I suppose would make me an Optimist.
nebris: (Away Team)
Cabinet: Issue 42 Forgetting Summer 2011

Will Wiles

How do you design a utopia? In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan. The Universe took the form of a tank, 101 inches square, enclosed by walls 54 inches high. The first 37 inches of wall was structured so the mice could climb up, but they were prevented from escaping by 17 inches of bare wall above. Each wall had sixteen vertical mesh tunnels—call them stairwells—soldered to it. Four horizontal corridors opened off each stairwell, each leading to four nesting boxes. That means 256 boxes in total, each capable of housing fifteen mice. There was abundant clean food, water, and nesting material. The Universe was cleaned every four to eight weeks. There were no predators, the temperature was kept at a steady 68°F, and the mice were a disease-free elite selected from the National Institutes of Health’s breeding colony. Heaven.

Four breeding pairs of mice were moved in on day one. After 104 days of upheaval as they familiarized themselves with their new world, they started to reproduce. In their fully catered paradise, the population increased exponentially, doubling every fifty-five days. Those were the good times, as the mice feasted on the fruited plain. To its members, the mouse civilization of Universe 25 must have seemed prosperous indeed. But its downfall was already certain—not just stagnation, but total and inevitable destruction.

Calhoun’s concern was the problem of abundance: overpopulation. As the name Universe 25 suggests, it was not the first time Calhoun had built a world for rodents. He had been building utopian environments for rats and mice since the 1940s, with thoroughly consistent results. Heaven always turned into hell. They were a warning, made in a postwar society already rife with alarm over the soaring population of the United States and the world. Pioneering ecologists such as William Vogt and Fairfield Osborn were cautioning that the growing population was putting pressure on food and other natural resources as early as 1948, and both published bestsellers on the subject. The issue made the cover of Time magazine in January 1960. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, an alarmist work suggesting that the overcrowded world was about to be swept by famine and resource wars. After Ehrlich appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1970, his book became a phenomenal success. By 1972, the issue reached its mainstream peak with the report of the Rockefeller Commission on US Population, which recommended that population growth be slowed or even reversed.

But Calhoun’s work was different. Vogt, Ehrlich, and the others were neo-Malthusians, arguing that population growth would cause our demise by exhausting our natural resources, leading to starvation and conflict. But there was no scarcity of food and water in Calhoun’s universe. The only thing that was in short supply was space. This was, after all, “heaven”—a title Calhoun deliberately used with pitch-black irony. The point was that crowding itself could destroy a society before famine even got a chance. In Calhoun’s heaven, hell was other mice.

So what exactly happened in Universe 25? Past day 315, population growth slowed. More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic. Mouse society had collapsed.

On day 560, a little more than eighteen months into the experiment, the population peaked at 2,200 mice and its growth ceased. A few mice survived past weaning until day six hundred, after which there were few pregnancies and no surviving young. As the population had ceased to regenerate itself, its path to extinction was clear. There would be no recovery, not even after numbers had dwindled back to those of the heady early days of the Universe. The mice had lost the capacity to rebuild their numbers—many of the mice that could still conceive, such as the “beautiful ones” and their secluded singleton female counterparts, had lost the social ability to do so. In a way, the creatures had ceased to be mice long before their death—a “first death,” as Calhoun put it, ruining their spirit and their society as thoroughly as the later “second death” of the physical body.

Calhoun had built his career on this basic experiment and its consistent results ever since erecting his first “rat city” on a quarter-acre of land adjacent to his home in Towson, Maryland, in 1947. The population of that first pen had peaked at 200 and stabilized at 150, when Calhoun had estimated that it could rise to as many as 5,000—something was evidently amiss. In 1954, Calhoun was employed by the National Institute of Mental Health in Rockville, Maryland, where he would remain for three decades. He built a ten-by-fourteen-foot “universe” for a small population of rats, divided by electrified barriers into four rooms connected by narrow ramps. Food and water were plentiful, but space was tight, capable of supporting a maximum of forty-eight rats. The population reached eighty before succumbing to the same catastrophes that would afflict Universe 25: explosive violence, hypersexual activity followed by asexuality, and self-destruction.

In 1962, Calhoun published a paper called “Population Density and Social Pathology” in Scientific American, laying out his conclusion: overpopulation meant social collapse followed by extinction. The more he repeated the experiment, the more the outcome came to seem inevitable, fixed with the rigor of a scientific equation. By the time he wrote about the decline and fall of Universe 25 in 1972, he even laid out its fate in equation form:

Mortality, bodily death = the second death
Drastic reduction of mortality
= death of the second death
= death squared
= (death)2
(Death)2 leads to dissolution of social organization
= death of the establishment
Death of the establishment leads to spiritual death
= loss of capacity to engage in behaviors essential to species survival
= the first death
(Death)2 = the first death

This formula might apply to rats and mice—but could the same happen to humankind? For Calhoun, there was little question about it. No matter how sophisticated we considered ourselves to be, once the number of individuals capable of filling roles greatly exceeded the number of roles,

only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. ... Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation. Their most complex behaviors will become fragmented. Acquisition, creation and utilization of ideas appropriate for life in a post-industrial cultural-conceptual-technological society will have been blocked.

If its growth continued unchecked, human society would succumb to nihilism and collapse, meaning the death of the species. Calhoun’s death-squared formula was for social pessimists what the laws of thermodynamics are for physicists. It was a sandwich board with “The End Is Nigh” written on one side, and “QED” on the other. Indeed, the plight of Calhoun’s rats and mice is one we easily identify with—we put ourselves in the place of the mice, mentally inhabit the mouse universe, and cannot help but see ways in which it is like our own crowding world.

This is precisely what Calhoun intended, in the design of his experiments and the language he used to describe them. Universe 25 resembles the utopian, modernist urban fantasies of architects such as Ludwig Hilberseimer. Calhoun referred to the dwelling places within his Universes as “tower blocks” and “walk-up apartments.” As well as the preening “beautiful ones,” he refers to “juvenile delinquents” and “dropouts.” This handy use of anthropomorphism is unusual in a scientist—we are being invited to draw parallels with human society.

And that lesson found a ready audience. “Population Density and Social Pathology” was, for an academic paper, a smash hit, being cited up to 150 times a year. Particularly effective was Calhoun’s name for the point past which the slide into breakdown becomes irretrievable: the “behavioral sink.” “The unhealthy connotations of the term are not accidental,” Calhoun noted drily. The “sink,” a para-pathology of shared hopelessness, drew in pathological behavior and exacerbated its effects. Once the event horizon of the behavioral sink was passed, the end was certain. Pathological behavior would escalate beyond any possibility of control. The writer Tom Wolfe alighted on the phrase and deployed it in his lament for the declining New York City, “O Rotten Gotham! Sliding Down into the Behavioral Sink,” anthologized in The Pump House Gang in 1968. “It got to be easy to look at New Yorkers as animals,” Wolfe wrote, “especially looking down from some place like a balcony at Grand Central at the rush hour Friday afternoon. The floor was filled with the poor white humans, running around, dodging, blinking their eyes, making a sound like a pen full of starlings or rats or something.” The behavioral sink meshed neatly with Wolfe’s pessimism about the modern city, and his grim view of modernist housing projects as breeding grounds for degeneration and atavism.

Wolfe wasn’t alone. The warnings inherent in Calhoun’s research fell on fertile ground in the 1960s, with social policy grappling helplessly with the problems of the inner cities: violence, rape, drugs, family breakdown. A rich literature of overpopulation emerged from the stew, and when we look at Calhoun’s rodent universes today, we can see in them aspects of that literature. In the 1973 film Soylent Green, based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!, the population of a grotesquely crowded New York is mired in passivity and dependent on food handouts which, it emerges, are derived from human corpses. In Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner’s 1972 novel of a hyperactive, overpopulated world, society is plagued by “muckers,” individuals who suddenly and for no obvious reason run amok, killing and wounding others. When we hear of the death throes of Universe 25—the cannibalism, withdrawal, and random violence—these are the works that come to mind. The ultraviolence-dispensing, gang-raping, purposeless “droogs” of Antony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, which appeared in the same year as Calhoun’s Scientific American paper, are the very image of some of the uglier products of mouse utopia.

Calhoun’s research remains a touchstone for a particular kind of pessimistic worldview. And, in the way that writers like Wolfe and the historian Lewis Mumford deployed reference to it, it can be seen as bleakly reactionary, a warning against cosmopolitanism or welfare dependence, which might sap the spirit and put us on the skids to the behavioral sink. As such, it found fans among conservative Christians; Calhoun even met the pope in 1974. But in fact the full span of Calhoun’s research had a more positive slant. The misery of the rodent universes was not uniform—it had contours, and some did better than others. Calhoun consistently found that those animals better able to handle high numbers of social interactions fared comparatively well. “High social velocity” mice were the winners in hell. As for the losers, Calhoun found they sometimes became more creative, exhibiting an un-mouse-like drive to innovate. They were forced to, in order to survive.

Later in his career, Calhoun worked to build universes that maximized this kind of creativity and minimized the ill effects of overcrowding. He disagreed with Ehrlich and Vogt that restrictions on reproduction were the only possible response to overpopulation. Man, he argued, was a positive animal, and creativity and design could solve our problems. He advocated overcoming the limitations of the planet, and as part of a multidisciplinary group called the Space Cadets promoted the colonization of space. It was a source of lasting dismay to Calhoun that his research primarily served as encouragement to pessimists and reactionaries, rather than stimulating the kind of hopeful approach to mankind’s problems that he preferred. More cheerfully, however, the one work of fiction that stems directly from Calhoun’s work, rather than the stew of gloom that it was stirred into, is optimistic, and expands imaginatively on his attempts to spur creative thought in rodents. This is Robert C. O’Brien’s book for children, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, about a colony of super-intelligent and self-reliant rats that have escaped from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Will Wiles is a London-based author and journalist. He is deputy editor of Icon, a monthly architecture and design magazine. His debut novel, Care of Wooden Floors, will be published by HarperPress in February 2012.

nebris: (Away Team)
Coming Apart: Inertia, Not Progress Defines the Decade After 9/11

Organized Climate Change Denial “Played a Crucial Role in Blocking Domestic Legislation,” Top Scholars Conclude
nebris: (Away Team)
From The Infamous Brad [the comments there are quite informative as well]

Denial: Yes, I know that they're breaking the unions, and laying people off left and right. But we're the strongest, smartest, most productive people on earth! Our way of life will survive, it has to! Anger: They can't get away with this! Take to the streets! Bargaining: Maybe if we adopt some of their proposals, create something called New Labor, or become Third Way Democrats, they'll let us keep our middle class way of life? Despair: Oh, god, no, they won't, not after the bankers successfully blackmailed us into covering 100% of their losses, and certainly not after Citizens United. And Obama keeps selling us out. I'm so depressed, I can't even watch the news any more.

Those were all natural stages of the grieving process for the way of life that the G.I. Generation, the Greatest Generation, intended to leave to us as their legacy. The time period from roughly 1946 to 1972, in America and in the UK and in Japan and in parts of western Europe, was one of the rare times in human history where people -- in this case, the people who lived through the Roaring 20s, the horrors of Prohibition gangsterism, the further horrors of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the even further horrors of World War II -- set out to build for us a world where nobody was so poor that they had nothing left to lose, and where nobody was so rich that they were above the law.

It was a beautiful world. It was a dream worth fighting for, and they fought for it. It was better than what we have to day. But it's been hit by one hammer blow after another since the OPEC oil crisis of 1973. And now, that dream is dead. You've had your time of denial in the 1980s and 90s, and your time of anger during the second Bush administration, and you spent the whole 2008 election cycle and the almost three years since then bargaining. Which is why most of you have already reached despair. And that's good. It was necessary to your healing process. But now, maybe, it is time to move on to the final stage of grief for that lost egalitarian dream: Acceptance.

The winners, the right wing Democrats and the Republicans, New Labor and the Tories, have said it out loud, and repeatedly: they consider the "middle class" to be people between the 85th and 95th percentile of income, and everybody below that to be poor. And as several of them have said lately, they deeply resent the generosity with which they allow poor people, in America and elsewhere, to cling to unnecessary luxuries ... like air conditioning. And a telephone. And a refrigerator. They resent that they let you keep those luxuries, which means if you're not in the 85th percentile of income for your country, you better take it for granted: those luxuries are going away. Period. In the post-Citizens United world, a world where the people who fund the only candidates who can win in either party's primaries are universally convinced that any resources that are going into lifting the bottom 85% of society out of poverty are wasted resources, where that's taken for granted by vast voting majorities of the elected representatives of both parties no matter what else they quibble about? In that world, no amount of denial, or anger, or bargaining, nor despair; neither angry violence nor peaceful protest; neither inspirational speeches nor cynical compromise, is going to change that.

It's a done deal. Maybe it's been a done deal, as some people warned us at the time, since Reagan dissolved the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization, but whether or not it was then, it certainly is after Citizens United. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get on with what's really important. Maybe, for you, that's still a life in politics, if what you care about are other issues, like women's rights, or the environment, or whatever. If not ... and for me, if we can't get that right, it's mostly not ... if not, for the rest of you who are like me? It is time for us to get on with planning for what our new lives are going to be like once the changes are done.

Welcome to the rest of your life. Specifically, welcome to this: Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh's 2006 book, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. If you haven't done so yet, you need to read this book. I don't know how many of you read the last book I begged you all to read, Nick Taylor's American Made. I get the sense it was maybe a quarter of you. But if you want to know what your life is going to be like if you aren't already in the 85th percentile of American life or up, you cannot do better than to read this book, and I'll tell you why.

Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociologist with some training in economics who dedicated eight years of research (1995-2003), most of it embedded with his subjects living and working alongside them, to trying to understand better than has ever been understood before how it is, exactly, that people survive in an urban ghetto: what do they do all day, where does the food that feeds them come from, how do they survive the brutal winters and the summers, how do they deal with crime in a neighborhood where, at most, the cops come every 20th or so time you call them, and never stay longer than an hour or two before going back to some neighborhood that actually has property values left to protect? What he found surprised him; if you haven't lived that life, it'll probably surprise you several times, too. But more about that later; here's why it's important to you:

The older people in this south Chicago neighborhood, a couple of blocks from where Cabrini Green used to be, reminded him that they remembered a time when, due to harsh segregation both of housing and economics, south Chicago had black poor people, a thriving black middle class, and a modest group of wealthy blacks. When housing desegregation came, those middle class and rich people left that neighborhood, commuting back in to their old family churches but otherwise never seen again ... and that was in the 1960s. The neighborhood he studied is one that is almost entirely literally post-economic, in exactly the way that your life is going to be: a place with few honest imports, and few honest exports, a world down to its last couple of people living anything that you or I would recognize as a middle class way of life. A world where only 4% of the population has the luxury of never doing business with people who are, at least technically, criminals ... not coincidentally, the 4% of the population who have jobs nowhere near the neighborhood and who don't socialize with anybody near where they live. A world where technically 20% of the population was unemployed even before the 2007 financial collapse, and where 40% were unemployed by the broader (U-6) measure of unemployment. But on the other hand, it's also a world where almost literally everybody works, actually works, at least an 8 hour day, frequently a 10 to 16 hour day ... just, mostly, off the books, getting paid 25¢ to $2.00 a day plus barter.

And yet, they live. They, and their parents, and in some cases their grandparents, have lived without anything you would recognize as a middle class standard of living for longer than most of you have been alive. One that goes almost entirely without reliable health care, and certainly goes without anything resembling honest law enforcement. A life that includes bouts of sleeping in abandoned buildings or basements or alleys for nearly everybody, at least a couple of times in their lives, lives that are shorter than you were lead to expect and you're not going to get now. They come to the bus stop after the last bus has left, or hang out on stoops of abandoned buildings during the day, or make out with each other on thown-away alley couches because, crammed 20 or 30 people per house, that time outdoors is the only privacy they get. (If you think Facebook is eroding your privacy, wait until you find out what poverty will do to it.) And the ghetto is a horrifically awful place for children, and they know that; even the prostitutes and the drug dealers struggle with how can they better provide for their children with no more resources than they have and no more help than they're going to get, without sacrificing what little income the community has that feeds those children?

It is not a life that you would want, although if you're a majority voter in the 85th percentile of income and up, it is a life you think is entirely fair for people who deserve less than the truly deserving do, the 15% of us you consider to be the only productive members of society. And it is, as that majority of the upper-middle-class and the wealthy will certainly argue, a life that is humanly possible, and one that has love in it, and even occasional moments of happiness, for almost everybody. And if you're not in the 85th percentile by income or above already, and you don't know how you, personally, will live, when the people you think of as "middle class" and that your rulers think of as "the poor" or "the working class" are reduced to ghetto levels of poverty and scarcity and danger? This is the best book that I've found, yet, to get you started about asking yourself this question: when it comes to that, which of these people do I want to be like? How will I live?

Will you be like one of the three truly powerful women he got to know, in the neighborhood -- women who owned big but run-down houses free and clear, who operated off-the-books boarding houses to the hustlers and prostitutes? Or will you be one of the prostitutes, or will one of your family members be one of the prostitutes who bring home the money so that once in a rare while the family can afford some fenced black-market penicillin or the occasional tooth extraction? Will you be one of the three or four shade tree mechanics per neighborhood, undercutting the above-board garages while paying a couple of bucks a day in protection money to the local street gang so you can work unmolested in an alley, giving the corrupt cops deep discounts on their oil changes so they don't run you in? Will you be the woman who runs an illegal unlicensed catering business, selling $2 lunches to the construction workers around town who work on the rich peoples' houses and office buildings, or one of the army of street hustlers getting paid $2 a day plus lunch to hand-deliver those meals for her? Will you be one of the hustlers who interviews and vets homeless people, getting paid a small commission by the property owners of the empty properties, to find reliable homeless people willing to get paid $1 to $2 per week plus free rent to sleep in the basements of those properties to ward off the copper thieves? Or will you be one of those homeless people? Or will you be one of the less reliable homeless people, who get paid $1 a week or less and the bartered right to use a store's bathroom, store your stuff in its storeroom, sleep under cardboard in the alley behind it, and sleep indoors on the stockroom floor during (and only during!) the worst couple of nights of the year, in exchange for a promise to be there, in that alley, from sundown to sunup to call the police or the fire department or the street gang if needed? Will you join the gang, and provide contract negotiation services between hustlers and their clients, and security that sometimes does extend beyond the protection racket to the trying-to-be-above-board stores? Will you own one of those stores? Or will you be the guy selling (probably shoplifted) socks and underwear for $2 as you walk down the street or in the park? (Or, to pick an example I see every time I take the train, the guy selling pirated DVDs of newly released movies for the same price?) Will you be one of the storefront pastors who try to keep peace in the neighborhood, and try to provide for the children, even though most of your salary and all of your church's rent are covered by the $2000 per gangland funeral you collect?

Unless you are already in the 85th percentile or above, you need to read about these people's lives, and ask yourself which of their niches you will fit into when the ghetto comes to you. Because only when you find one or two that you could be comfortable in can you start to plan, and only once you start to plan can you begin to be prepared, and only when you're prepared can you put your mind at rest. Only then will you be ready to get on with the rest of your life in what reduced standard of life, like the reduced standard of life after any loss, will pass for happiness. Only then will you be ready for acceptance.
nebris: (Away Team)
...I felt it time to re-post this piece from April 29th because of the depressing exchange between 'Badnewswade' and 'Gwendally' in this post, one which I likened to 'a pair of peasants fighting over a bucket of pigshit', hopefully to remind them both that The Rulers are laughing at their antics...

From What Is To Be Done
By Tom Wellington

The thirty year long subterranean class warfare of rich and the super-rich against the middle class is entering its final phase – Class Genocide.

Until now, the top 1% has appropriated to itself the benefits of the country’s economic growth, while the middle class stagnated. While making the tax code more regressive, the wealthy have also cut programs that helped people out of poverty and into the middle class. In part they rich were enabled by the American middle classes’ dreams of moving up. Particularly during the booms, entering the top 10% seemed just one stock pick or house flip away for many people, so with a little luck that low-upper bracket could soon be theirs. Since the first government programs cut helped move poor people into the middle class, cutting them did not hurt already middle class Americans. There was always a racial and ethnic component to shutting down entry into the middle class that the politicians subtly played off of.

That was the old class warfare. It unfolded so slowly that for years it just seemed coincidence that the rich always won and the middle class always lost. Even then, the middle class was at least running in place and not losing ground, it just wasn’t gaining. The rich were getting more, but the middle class remained stable and reasonably secure in their ability to remain in the middle class, and they had reasonable confidence that their children and grandchildren would also enjoy middle class status. That is what made it a class – a status that could be maintained for your lifetime and passed along to your descendants.

Now everything that defined the middle class is being dismantled. In America, you are middle class if you have a white collar job requiring a college education, or a union blue collar job, own your own home, are secure in retirement and able to pass along at least a little something to your kids. It’s pretty much what most of us grew up expecting.

With the Ryan budget, and the radical actions Republicans governors are taking in the various states, the GOP is destroying the foundations of middle class security and its ability to ensure that middle class children can become middle class adults. Starting with the land grant colleges of the nineteenth century, public schools, the GI Bills and student aid, the state and federal governments have built the middle class through access to education. When I attended the University of California, a world class education cost $750 a quarter in in-state tuition. My father was the first in his family to attend college and the GI Bill paid for it. I hesitate to think of the state of education and student aid in ten years, when my kids are ready for college, if Paul Ryan has his way.

The Ryan budget put a fear into me, for the very first time in my life, that in retirement I could go broke from medical bills. This is a real fear for those of us on the downside of the baby boom who are not grandfathered into Medicare as we know it. It is also a fear for those in Medicare, or soon to be, because they would be one line of legislation away from being swept into fending for themselves in the insurance market – where insurers will not fall all over themselves to offer good coverage at reasonable prices to eighty-year old diabetic cardiac patients.

It is so much more than the “safety net” that is currently being lost. The continued fallout from the housing bubble/mortgage crisis is going to end the 30 year mortgage for good. Along with the bottomless cup of coffee, the 30 year mortgage is one of America’s great contributions to civilization. The 30 year mortgage exists because of Federal support and regulation. The 30 year mortgage turned America into a nation of homeowners. It also turned every home into a piggy bank where each mortgage payment represented a deposit, and this increasing equity provided an emergency fund, a college fund, retirement savings and the ability to pass something along to the next generation. Think what losing all of that will mean to what we now think of as the middle class.

Without home-ownership, retirement security and college education, what then is left of the middle class?

The effect of all these changes cumulatively ending the middle class as we know it is not an accident. As they say about software – this is not a bug, but a feature. In some of my next posts I will look at why changing the nature of America’s class structure (what we lulled ourselves into thinking was a practically classless society because the middle class seemed to embrace almost everyone) is not a byproduct of what is happening, but the purpose of what they are doing.

The cumulative effect of all of these changes is not simply that millions will be moved out of the middle class, it is the end of the middle class as we have known it all of our lives. There simply will not be a middle class – there will be haves and have not’s. It will not be the America we want or knew.
nebris: (Away Team)
..via Penny Red
Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder 'mindless, mindless'. Nick Clegg denounced it as 'needless, opportunistic theft and violence'. Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge - declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was "utterly unacceptable." The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality,’ as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism.’ This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

"Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’

There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.

Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer. As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.

Noone expected this. The so-called leaders who have taken three solid days to return from their foreign holidays to a country in flames did not anticipate this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong. And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain. Let me give you a hint: it ain’t Twitter.

I’m stuck in the house, now, with rioting going on just down the road in Chalk Farm. Ealing and Clapham and Dalston are being trashed. Journalists are being mugged and beaten in the streets, and the riot cops are in retreat where they have appeared at all. Police stations are being set alight all over the country. This morning, as the smoke begins to clear, those of us who can sleep will wake up to a country in chaos. We will wake up to fear, and to racism, and to condemnation on left and right, none of which will stop this happening again, as the prospect of a second stock market clash teeters terrifyingly at the bottom of the news reports. Now is the time when we make our choices. Now is the time when we decide whether to descend into hate, or to put prejudice aside and work together. Now is the time when we decide what sort of country it is that we want to live in. Follow the #riotcleanup hashtag on Twitter. And take care of one another.


nebris: (Default)
The Divine Mr. M

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