The New Feudalism - part II

After seeing the last post here at recycled minds, I was pleasantly surprised to see this line of thought expressed somewhere in the media. The U.S. lifestyle based on a never-ending cycle of the consumption of goods that are designed to be dysfunctional or obsolete not long after purchase is bad enough. When you tie in the credit debt that people have been enticed to take on in order to participate in this lifestyle, there enters in a certain level of unpredictability. We have now witnessed one possible outcome - the failure of numerous financial institutions and an impending recession and maybe depression. This cycle also serves to keep people tied to their debt, unable and unwilling to risk the loss of these products - products that have now extended to automobiles, homes, and even the weekly grocery bill for some. It serves to render the populace mute and ineffective - unable to participate in protest or actions of change. All of this leaves out the rest of the world that happens to be feeling the effects of our bumbling economy; it leaves out the rest of the world that has felt the effects of the creation of that economy. 
To keep this from getting any longer, and to sort of tie these thoughts together, I would like to share a piece by anthropologist John Sherry Jr. from his article, The Ethnographer's Apprentice: Trying Consumer Culture from the Outside In. 
Economists generally contend that economic development occasions some undesirable side effects, but they accept the enlightenment mantra that material progress breeds moral progress. A short laundry list of grievances would include the following indictments. Contemporary capitalisms are hegemonic in nature, and promote cultural homogenization; this massive reduction of diversity is considered both morally reprehensible and evolutionarily maladaptive. Globalization constitutes the enrichment of the core and the immiseration of the periphery. Ethnocide is waged via systematic cultural dislocation, and the spread of iatrogenic diseases integral to development. Ecocide is perpetuated through pollution and climate change. Materialism elevates acquisitiveness to a cultural syndrome, and the continued democratization of luxury promotes the endless escalation of insatiable want. Spectacle fosters distraction and complacency, encouraging a compliant citizenry. Consumer debt arises through and reinforces dysfunctional socialization and promotes a kind of indentured servitude. And so forth...
The article was printed in the Journal of Business Ethics, volume 80, 2008, wherein citations for parts of the above quote may be found. 

At least we still have beer.

More Debt, Less Resistance: The New Feudalism

"That debt is bondage is a profound moral truth. But it is an important shaper of political and economic consciousness as well. The more you are in debt, the less likely you are to rock the boat. Take on your employer? Go on strike? Risk your job by trying to start a union? What, and miss a credit card payment? Don't you get it? I'm maxed out. Risk getting my car getting reposed? You've got to be kidding."

Read More of "Union Card or Master Card -- How a Nation of Workers Became a Nation of Debtors" by Frank Joyce

Source: Alternet

"Now we have made history": Bolivia's New Constitution

Source: Upside Down World

After months of street battles and political meetings, a new draft of the Bolivian constitution was ratified by Congress on October 21. A national referendum on whether or not to make the document official is scheduled for January 25, 2009.

"Now we have made history," President Evo Morales told supporters in La Paz. "This process of change cannot be turned back...neoliberalism will never return to Bolivia."


Exposing Cracks in the Food Industry

SAN FRANCISCO — In the end, it all comes down to eggs.

On Nov. 4, California voters will be asked to decide on Proposition 2, an animal rights ballot measure that would grant the farm animals in California the opportunity to spread their hooves and claws, rather than being confined to restrictive cages, as many chickens, sows and veal cattle now are.

But because veal and pork are not major industries in California, the battle over Proposition 2 is focused almost exclusively on the state’s henhouses, which opponents say will be hard hit by higher production costs if the measure passes.

“This is a well-intended initiative for animals with some very negative unintended consequences for people,” said Julie Buckner, a spokeswoman for Californians for Safe Food, the leading anti-Proposition 2 group. “It’s going to wipe out the California egg farmers, and it’s going to raise the food costs for consumers. And this is at a time when our economy is hurting.”


Source: NY Times

The War on Drugs... or the War on Youth?

An article in came out last week exposing yet another reason why the War on Drugs in the U.S. is so problematic. Besides the disproportionate number of people of color who end up in jail on drug charges, the incredible amount of military and financial aid given to countries like Mexico and Colombia in the name of the so-called war, not to mention the violence committed against people in this country and around the world, there is yet another result of this faulty endeavor: 74% of all people arrested on marijuana charges in the U.S. are under the age of 30. 
Young people, in many cases those under 18 years of age, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.
Demographically speaking, the above statement is a "no-brainer." Yet this is hardly a fact that we as a reform community like to admit or emphasize. Instead, you'll hear reformers argue that the war on pot is a war on patients -- and at some level, it is. Or you'll hear advocates proclaim that marijuana enforcement disproportionately impacts African-Americans and Hispanics -- and to some degree, it does. Attend enough of these conferences and you'll inevitably hear that our movement needs better representation from women and minorities, both of whom face unique hardships because of the drug war, and that criticism is appropriate too. But, one thing you'll most likely never hear is that our movement needs greater involvement from teenagers and young adults.
But we should -- because for the young people in the audience, the war on pot smokers is really a war on you.
According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger. That's nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year. To put this bluntly, we now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.

Giving Weight to Words

The NY Times recently published an article about a new computer program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, that can determine a speaker's gender, physical and mental health, personality, and more, by counting that speaker's words. More "practical" applications of the program are analyzing terrorist communications and identifying authors of anonymous blogs.

"He Counts Your Words (Even Those Pronouns)"

"James W. Pennebaker’s interest in word counting began more than 20 years ago, when he did several studies suggesting that people who talked about traumatic experiences tended to be physically healthier than those who kept such experiences secret. He wondered how much could be learned by looking at every single word people used — even the tiny ones, the I’s and you’s, a’s and the’s.

"That led Dr. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, down a winding path that has taken him from Beatles lyrics (John Lennon's songs have more 'negative emotion' words than Paul McCartney's) all the way to terrorist communications. By counting the different kinds of words a person says, he is breaking new linguistic ground and leading a resurgent interest in text analysis." Read More >>

So "There is some for everyone"

"Cuba is limiting how much basic fruits and vegetables people can buy at farmers' markets, irritating some customers but ensuring there's enough — barely — to go around.

"The lines are long and some foods are scarce, but because the government has maintained and even increased rations in some areas, Cubans who initially worried about getting enough to eat now seem confident they won't go hungry despite the destruction of 30 percent of the island's crops by hurricanes Gustav and Ike last month."


Source: AP

Repower America Ad

ABC chose not to air this commercial, so we thought we would share it with you here.

Jamaica Implements National School Garden Program

Kingston, Jamaica: 
The National School Garden Programme was officially launched today (October 10), under the theme: 'Youth Response to Food Security', during a ceremony at Jamaica College in Kingston.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, J.C. Hutchinson, pointed out that $108 million has been allocated to the programme, and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs would take charge of it.

"Over a three year period, the main goal is to implement approximately 1,000 gardens in primary, secondary and tertiary level schools across the island. I am very pleased that the programme has been receiving overwhelming response and 340 schools have so far been registered, including schools with existing gardens that are being assisted with technical support and inputs," Mr. Hutchinson said.

The programme has five major objectives: to get young persons to recognise and accept the role they must play in food production; to encourage environmental awareness in sustainable agriculture; to select careers in agriculture; to treat agriculture as a viable business option; and to integrate service learning into the formal education process.

Chiapas: Police attack Indigenous farmers, killing six

"...[O]n October 3, 2008, federal and state police in Chiapas, Mexico, carried out a violent operation that left six people dead, 17 injured, and 36 more detained, almost all of whom were inhabitants of the ejido (communally held land) of Miguel Hidalgo, located in the municipality of La Trinitaria, Chiapas.

"Leading up to the attack, on September 7th, members of the ejido attempted to reclaim a Mayan archeological site located near the city of Comitán, with the plan of taking over its administration. In response, the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia y Historía (INAH, National Institue of Anthropology and History), which had previously been administrating the site, filed a lawsuit against those involved in the reclamation. A series of negotiations followed, with the last one taking place on October 2. ..." Read More >>

Source: Intercontinental Cry

Indigenous Leaders Demand Recognition of Rights in Global Warming Management

"Indigenous leaders in five Amazonian nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia on Wednesday demanded a larger say on how best to manage tropical forests to fight climate change.

More than a billion poor people who depend on forest ecosystems risk economic and cultural devastation if efforts favored by rich nations to reduce greenhouse gases fail to respect their rights and needs, they said at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. ..." Read More>>

Source: AFP

Sell it with Flowers

"If you're driving down the 405 some day and think those roadside poppies seem to be growing in the shape of the Coca-Cola logo, don't panic. You may not be hallucinating -- it could just be a new form of advertising. ...A federal waiver of rules regarding commercial uses on freeways, 'would allow sponsors to use vegetation to include commercial logos as part of the displays,' Kempton wrote. 'It is our expectation that sponsors would recognize the value of the program, exercise diligence in designing and maintaining displays that directly represent their business, and be willing to increase their financial participation.'" Read More>>
Source: LA Times

Cooperation as Rebellion: Creating Sustainable Agriculture in Paraguay

"In Paraguay, where 1 percent of the population owns 77 percent of all arable land, corrupt agrarian reform and the booming soybean industry is leading the country towards an industrial agricultural export model that leaves no room for small food producers. While many Paraguayan campesino [small farmer] families have moved into urban peripheries, tenacious farmers have fought not only for their right to land, but also to redefine and recreate the agricultural model based on cooperative, organic and people-friendly alternatives. As newly elected President Fernando Lugo moves to make good on campaign promises, the proposals of Paraguayan farming movements themselves already point the way to sustainable change. ..." >>Read More
Written by April Howard
Source: Toward Freedom