Tag Archives: Occupying America We Shall Overcome

Free book excerpt #15 from author, blogger and Web pastor Paul J. Bern

Of The Bullies, By The Bullies, and For The Bullies

(excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“) © 2012 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

 

f0c38-new2boccupy2bcover
Perhaps the most ominous sign regarding the true nature of economic discrimination and class warfare against the middle class and the poor, which invariably includes people of color, is that of bullying, intimidation and similar forms of abuse directed at employees in the workplace. Although I’m certain that everybody who reads this can think of an example of having a really bad boss, the following alarming example of abusive management in the third world is the best (or worst) example I have found. The question is, could this “method” of management be coming to America’s shores next? Worse yet, is it already here?

More than a decade ago, shoe giant Nike came under fire for its use of sweatshop labor in the production of its products. Most of the criticism focused on its Indonesian workforce, where workers, largely young women, were forced to labor under harsh conditions and abusive supervisors. In 1997, filmmaker Michael Moore made Nike abuses a subject of his film “The Big One”, and met with Nike CEO Phil Knight. Knight explained that the reason his company was using low-wage labor in Indonesia is allegedly because “Americans don’t want to make shoes”.

At the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen Group factory in Sukabumi, Indonesia, which makes Converse shoes for Nike, and PT Amara Footwear factory in Jakarta, workers alleged that they are paid ultra-low wages, regularly verbally and physically abused, and even fired for the act of taking sick leave (this has since become a fact of life in the American workplace as well). The 10,000 mostly female workers at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant make around 50 cents an hour. That’s enough, for food and bunkhouse-type lodging, but little else. Some workers interviewed by the AP in March and April described being hit or scratched in the arm ― one man until he bled.

An internal Nike report released to the AP found that ‘nearly two-thirds of 168 factories making Converse products worldwide fail to meet Nike’s own standards for contract manufacturers. Meanwhile, in 2010, Nike CEO Mark Parker received an 84 percent hike in his annual compensation, raking in $13.1 million, an amount many of the workers in Sukabumi and Jakarta can only dream of.

If the top 1% has their way, these kinds of workplace abuses and sweatshop conditions will be making their way to your workplace. Here in Georgia where I live (plus several other states, mostly in the Southeastern US) we have what are called “right to work” laws. Basically what it means is that anyone can be terminated for any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all. So no matter where you work, there is always this cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead, knowing that you can get canned without warning, even if you are doing everything right. Imagine what Jesus would say about this if He came back today! Would he be pleased? Absolutely not! So I would say that being forced to work in what amounts to a hostile work environment is just one more reason for us all to rise up against the top 1% and take back all that they have stolen from us. Our dignity, our human rights and our governmental, economic and political systems will be taken and confiscated from the rich no matter how long it takes!

The fact of the matter is that this type of brute-force management has lately spread from much of America’s professional life over into our personal lives, with the most obvious examples being the militarization of our police departments combined with the lost cause known as the “war on drugs”. In so doing, those who used to be sworn to protect and to serve have become those who harass and intimidate. They have become the lackeys of the top 1%, with some in law enforcement chomping at the bit for an opportunity to lock up a few people and bloody a few heads, if not worse. However, I also believe that there is no small number in the law enforcement community who realize that they are actually part of the 99%. When they do, and especially when they realize that they are just pawns for the 1%, they will join us in droves, coming over to our side having realized that they were only being contemptuously used to guard what the 1% has hoarded at the expense of all the rest of us, including themselves.

The police arms race has very clearly spread well beyond the urban borders of the only cities to actually be targeted by foreign terrorists. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles and tanks for use in domestic police work, as if such things were truly needed. They aren’t.

The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the “men in blue” from peace officer to urban soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to keep the peace. Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that — suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the bad guys. For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is supposed to be an absolute last resort.

Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to identify and kill the enemy. This is a problem. Cops are increasingly seeing the citizens they’re hired to protect as ‘the enemy’. This is in part how nonviolent protesters end up tear-gassed and shot at. This is part of why violence is so often the first resort of cops dealing with any sort of tricky situation, rather than the last. The idea that we need our cops to be the heavily armed soldiers of the streets instead of, say, social workers and peacekeepers with the power to arrest leads to bad recruiting, bad training, unnecessary deaths, mass distrust of the police by vulnerable communities, and the contemptuous feeling of many cops that they themselves are above the law.

The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It actually began in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs.” Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war-related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country….

The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America’s police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism. Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets. In a particularly egregious example comparable to going duck hunting with a bazooka, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida — which has all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade — were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”

In 2006 alone, the Department of Defense distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and “other” items worth $110.6 million to local police agencies. After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics say even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, “One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry.” Departments in places like Indianapolis and some Chicago suburbs also began acquiring machine guns from the military in the name of fighting terror….

The total number of SWAT deployments per year in the U.S. may now top 60,000, or more than 160 per day. SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed. Never mind the collateral damage! Earlier this year, the Department of Education even sent its SWAT team to the home of someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program. In so doing, the inability to repay one’s student loan has now become criminalized. This is why we are occupying and will continue to occupy America. Being poor and broke is not a crime. We the American people will not stand idly by while poverty becomes criminalized. Enough is enough!

Class warfare has been declared upon us all by the top 1%, and the main assault against the remainder of us has already commenced. Starting with the Occupy Movement in September 2011, and the ‘We Are the 99%’ Movement at about the same time, the counterattack by the 99% against the elitist 1% has begun in earnest. In so doing, although a second American Civil War has been started by the wealthy elitists, it is we the people – the 99% – who comprise the overwhelming majority of America, and it is we who will finish it. In fact, this counterattack has already begun, it’s just that it wasn’t that apparent at first. It wasn’t supposed to be. In the next chapter I will shed as much light as I can on how this is occurring, and highlight a few methods about how this can be accomplished in as peaceful a manner as possible.

Available on Amazon for $14.95, or visit www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations and buy direct (free shipping, tax deductible)!

Or, buy the E-book ($2.99) at https://payhip.com/b/CV5h (also on Kindle or Nook).

Watch a short promo at http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Free book excerpt from “Occupying America” by Pastor Paul J. Bern

Occupying America: book contents plus free sample

Table of Contents

Chapter One

A Commentary On Modern Revolutions ———– page 3

Chapter Two

The Occupation Chronicles —————————— page 27

Chapter Three

A Documentary of a Broken System —————— page 56

Chapter Four

Capitalist Implosion: The Warning Signs ———– page 94

Chapter Five

Class Warfare: The Attack of The Elites On The 99%

——————————————————————— page 128

Chapter Six

Counterattack: The Second US Civil War ———– page 168

Chapter Seven

Ways to Replace a Broken System ——————— page 211

Chapter Eight

The United States of America: Under New Management

———————————————————————- page 249

Book Excerpt

Just as in Europe, we are seeing the results of colossal social failure. The occupiers are the very sort of people, brimming with ideas, whose energies a healthy society would be marshaling to improve life for everyone. Instead, they are using it to envision ways to bring the whole system down. What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible.

Everything we’d been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid – in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. It is nothing but a legalized Ponzi scheme, and all Ponzi schemes eventually implode.

When the history is finally written, though, it’s likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. Thirty years of relentless prioritizing of propaganda over substance, and snuffing out anything that might look like a political basis for opposition, might make the prospects for the young protesters look bleak; and it’s clear that the rich are determined to seize as large a share of the spoils as remain, tossing a whole generation of young people to the wolves in order to do so. But history is not on their side. As I see it, if the occupiers finally manage to break the 30-year stranglehold that has been placed on the human imagination, as in those first weeks after September 2008, everything will once again be on the table – and the occupiers of Wall Street and other cities around the US will have done us the greatest favor anyone possibly can.

The Wall Street protests must grow and spread across this country because they are the only realistic hope for change remaining for the 99% of Americans falling behind in this broken economy. Sad to say, but democracy in the land of the free and home of the brave simply no longer works. Big corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the political system for decades with their hefty donations to various political campaigns. Their contributions guarantee that bought-off politicians pass laws and tax breaks to their benefit. It is no secret, everyone is aware of how the system works, and it must be called for what it is: legalized bribery.

With traditional democratic political methods useless, what recourse do ordinary Americans have left? We are now witnessing the only real avenue left: ordinary citizens taking to the streets and demanding change to the rigged economic system that leaves 99% of them behind. It is only a start, but a vital one. Every day more people are awakening to the stark realization that the political and economic system in this country is stacked against them and getting worse.

During the Vietnam era, because they were directly affected, young people took to the streets to protest the war. America’s young males were subject to a draft, and the prospect of being shipped off to die in a war they didn’t believe in angered them a great deal. And so the war planners wised up and did away with the draft, but look at what has replaced it. America now has perpetual wars for oil, using a “volunteer” military, many of whom have enlisted due to lack of other opportunities. Seemingly unaffected by post-Vietnam wars, students and other young people have been politically inactive since the early 1970s.

But that is coming to an end. Young people are finding few if any jobs awaiting them when they get out of college (that’s assuming they were fortunate enough to afford the high tuition). They graduate with no income coming in, but years of student loan debt to pay back. Those without a college or high school degree are even worse off. All of them see the sad reality, that the American Dream is only for the privileged few. If these demonstrations and protests continue to grow and expand, both here and abroad, the big banks, oil companies, billionaires and politicians will have to pay attention and give some ground. Either that, or face the prospect of violent revolution.

To get a print copy just click here; also available in audio format here

For digital format (phones, readers, tablets) please click here! Many thanks to all…..

Save

Tagged , , , , ,

Occupy Wall St. Is Growing Into a Grassroots Movement

How “Occupy” Is Evolving

(excerpt from, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

 

This weekend in Sacramento, Cal. the Occupy movement will celebrate its third anniversary from July 31st until August 3rd. At one time there were some people who said that the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements were headed for the dust bins of history. Time has proven these detractors to be completely wrong. In fact, it is an accurate statement to say they underestimated Occupy, the 99%, Anonymous and other similar movements like the world peace movement, et al. These movements of the people are continuing to grow due to a growing population of long-term unemployed workers, people working one or more part time jobs when a full time job with a middle class level of income are urgently needed, and growing numbers of people who have walked away from the traditional job market in exasperation. These college-educated vagabonds are living “off the grid” in shelters, tent cities, or squatting in abandoned, boarded-up houses in inner city neighborhoods.

 

 

There can be no doubt that working Americans from all kinds of backgrounds are becoming increasingly desperate about their economic situations and their future prospects. Is it any wonder that this is happening? Everywhere we look we see jobs disappearing by the millions, homes being stolen right out from under the owners through fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices, pension and retirement funds being wiped out by highly speculative investments of dubious origin by compulsive gamblers posing as financial advisers and stockbrokers, and the hijacking of our democracy through corporate “campaign donations” and “lobbying fees” that are little more than legalized bribery. Most alarming of all is the increasing lack of access to preventative health care and to higher education. I experienced this myself a number of years ago when I wanted to change careers, only to be told that I couldn’t get a student loan because my credit score was too low. If I wanted to go back to school and learn a new trade, they said, I would have to pay the tuition out of pocket. Since I was working as a “temp” IT contractor at the time, there was no way for me to come up with the tuition to pay for my retraining, and so I remained stuck in my situation, unable to improve myself even though I very much wanted to do so. What I have since learned is that what I went through when I tried to change careers to alleviate long-term unemployment is very commonplace, especially for older workers like myself (I won’t say how old). By now, multitudes of unemployed Americans who want retraining can’t get it for the same reasons that held me back, and nearly everybody else has figured out that they too are stuck as far as their professional lives are concerned. Like myself, they are furious at being backed into a corner by economic inequality, and they’re looking for ways to fight their way out of the corner they find themselves in.

 

 

To sum up our situation as America’s work force, we’re mad as hell – livid, actually – and we have collectively decided to take back from the top 1% what they took from us, since what was taken belonged to the American people to begin with. As things stand today, the elites who comprise the top 1%, and particularly the top tenth of a percent, are in very serious trouble indeed. From a political, economic or societal standpoint, I vigorously maintain that time is about to run out for the reign of the rich and powerful – especially when the US dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency. Even now the elites continue to puzzle over what people want, mainly because the majority are clueless, and the rest just don’t care. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda? The goal can be articulated in one word – rebellion. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and to exercise power. Like myself, they have no faith – nor should they – in the political system of the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices because the news and entertainment media are bought and paid for by the top 1%. So we are creating an alternative press of our own, such as Mother Jones, Alternet, OpEd News, and others. We know all too well that the economy serves the top 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%, so we are forming own communal, cooperative, nonprofit interdependent system. This movement is just one effort of many all across America to take our country back as best as it can be peacefully accomplished.

 

 

The problem is that this is a goal the power elite find to be incomprehensible. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and full throttle capitalism are natural laws which are some kind of permanent and eternal states of being that can never be altered. What these delusional elites fail to realize is that our protest and rebellion (not just America’s, but the entire world’s) will not stop until the bonfire of the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until ownership of entire corporations is transferred from the stockholders and boards of directors directly to the workers where it belongs, most likely in the form of worker-owned businesses or cooperatives of all sizes. This Populist uprising will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working classes of all colors, the elderly, the sick, children, the mentally ill, and those being slaughtered in our imperial wars overseas and tortured in the American military’s so-called “black sites”. ‘We The People’ will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. We will not rest until students no longer have to go into debt for life just to obtain higher education, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. The rebellion will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in serious trouble. That’s also why the reason for the existence of the entire capitalist, debt-based economy is now falling into question. And that is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening.

 

 

The occupation of Wall Street, and the Occupy encampments elsewhere such as at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in which I took part in October 2011, has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. Even though the police have shut down the encampments in New York and elsewhere, the power elite will still lose their grip on society because this vision and structure have been imprinted into the minds of millions of protesters. The greatest gift the “occupation” has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint has now been transferred to cities, parks and families facing foreclosure across the country.

 

 

The tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, proven that we can and will bring enormous public pressure on the top 1% in the form of these movements. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular – even that they are common sense – and connected to a social base. “Occupy Wall Street” is the tactic that has launched a movement for social justice and real democracy onto center stage. It has served as the initial catalyzing symbol for what undoubtedly will become a rejuvenated civil rights movement. Hopefully ten years from now, when we look back at all we’ve accomplished together, Occupy Wall Street will be considered a critical moment that helped to spark and then build a lasting movement. “We are the 99%” has become a core message of this burgeoning movement. It emerged in tandem with the deployment of the captivating tactic of occupation. The framework of the 99% accomplishes a number of important feats:

 

[1] The 99% frames the consolidation of wealth and political power in our society – the central grievance of this movement and a central crisis of our times.

[2] The 99% frames a class struggle in a way that puts the 1% on the defensive, whereas the common accusation of “class warfare” has somehow tended to put a lot of people in the middle on the defensive.

[3] The 99% casts an extraordinarily broad net for those invited to join the movement. Most everyone is encouraged to see their hopes and dreams tied to a much bigger public issue. Thus it frames a nearly limitless growth trajectory for the movement.

[4] The 99% even leaves room for the 1% to redeem itself. There are many striking cases of “1%’ers” speaking out as defectors – such as former or current military and law enforcement personnel – who are as vocal as anyone that the system is broken and in dire need of replacement.

 

The 99% meme is a grand prize winner. It points the way toward a necessary expansion that is ongoing as I write this. It encourages us to not just act on behalf of, but alongside of, the 99%; to look beyond the forces already in motion, to activate potential energy, to articulate a moral political narrative, and to build up and strengthen our culture. The Wall Street protests must grow and spread across this country because they are the only realistic hope for change remaining for the 99% of Americans falling behind in this permanently broken economy. Sad to say, but democracy in the land of the free and home of the brave simply no longer works as it is currently being administered. Big corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the political system for decades now with their hefty donations to political campaigns and other pet projects. Their contributions guarantee that bought-off politicians pass laws and tax breaks to their benefit. It is no secret, everyone is aware of how the system works, and it must be called for what it is: legalized bribery.

 

 

 

With traditional democratic political methods useless, what recourse do ordinary Americans have left? We are now witnessing the only real avenue left: ordinary citizens taking to the streets and demanding change to the rigged political and economic systems that leaves 99% of us behind. It is only a start, but a vital one. Every day more people are awakening to the stark realization that the political and economic system in this country is stacked against them and getting worse. During the Vietnam era, because they were directly affected, young people took to the streets to protest the war. America’s young males were subject to a draft, and the prospect of being shipped off to die in a war they didn’t believe in angered them a great deal. And so the war planners wised up and did away with the draft, but look at what has replaced it. America now has perpetual wars for oil, using a “volunteer” military, many of whom have enlisted due to lack of other economic opportunities. Seemingly unaffected by post-Vietnam wars, students and other young people have been politically inactive since the early 1970s.

 

 

But that has finally come to an end, and I think it’s about freakin’ time! Young people are finding few jobs awaiting them when they get out of college (assuming they are fortunate enough to afford the high tuition). They graduate with no income coming in, but years of student loan debt to pay back. Those without a college or high school degree are even worse off. All of them see the sad reality, that the “American Dream” is only for the privileged few. “The reason they call it the America dream”, said the late George Carlin, “is because you have to be asleep to believe it”. If these demonstrations and protests continue to grow and expand, both here and abroad, the big banks, oil companies, billionaires and politicians will have to pay attention and give some ground. Either that, or face the prospect of violent revolution. As the late President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.

 

 

How all this will play out is still uncertain as I write this. The road to reversing several decades of unfair and corrupt politics and excessive greed promises to be a rocky and difficult one. Things could get a lot worse before (and if) they get better. But a revolution, preferably a bloodless one such as the Civil Rights, Occupy and 99% Movements, is necessary to restore democracy and economic fairness in America and around the world. With traditional methods of political change proving useless, mass protests, strikes, ‘occupations’ and other public demonstrations are the only realistic strategies left. Which is why the Wall Street occupiers and their brethren across the country (and the world!) cannot quit, and why we must all continue to grow and expand to a point that the powers-that-be realize they must give the rest of their fellow Americans a seat at the decision-making table. The occupiers and protesters cannot and will not quit, of that you can be sure. If the protests wither and die, so will what is left of America’s hopes and dreams, not to mention our freedoms. So we will not let this movement quietly fade away. On the contrary, we will continue to grow and consolidate in preparation for our next task, which is to take these Populist movements to the next level. As we do so, we will continue to remind one another of why we occupy, and why we’re not going away. The Occupy Movement and the 99% Movement, together with a host of other related social and political movements such as Anonymous, will continue to get larger and better organized over the rest of 2014 and well into 2015, using primarily the Internet and social media to accomplish their goals since it is the most cost-effective tools at our disposal right now.

 

 

Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, corporate America with their armies of lobbyists on K Street in Washington, and the military/prison/industrial complex are justifiably afraid of this global movement and what it represents. More importantly, they all remember where this movement got its start, which was in Egypt in January 2011, followed by the riots in Tunisia, Algiers, Britain and Spain in the spring and summer of 2011, plus the ongoing civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Now it has arrived on American shores and firmly established a beachhead from which a worldwide movement has been launched that has captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of millions of Americans. And this movement of the people is only this – that we are sick and tired of working for bare subsistence wages that amounts to economic slavery while the stockholders and the boards of directors of these giant multinational corporations, not to mention all the cash-rich privately held companies, get to control much of America’s cash flow while paying themselves exorbitant bonuses. As I wrote in my previous book, “It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us”, and since then the plight of the middle class has continued to slowly get worse just as I predicted it would. All these problems and issues are indicative of a broken system that is beyond fixing. The time has come to replace it. The only remaining question is, will the American people be able to accomplish this peacefully? That depends completely on how the 1% respond to the peaceful protests, public demonstrations and wildcat strikes of the 99%. If they respond with violence, there will be another American civil war, and the USA will turn into another Syria, Libya, Gaza or Greece. Let’s hope and pray that the solution will be a peaceful one.

Tagged , , , ,

Shootings on a daily basis are not just random events

Furious America and the Reasons Why

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

(excerpt from chapter 6 of, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“)

It seems like every time we turn around, somebody else snaps and goes off and shoots any number of people, many just before killing themselves. People are all up in arms everywhere, asking each other, “But why is this happening?” Is it any wonder that it seems like people are exploding in frustration all over the place? Since there are no doubt more than a few who are asking such things, maybe we should stop and explore a few basic facts. A record-high 85% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, adding to negativity that has been building over the past 10 years. According to a Gallup’s annual Governance survey from last year, record criticism of Congress, elected officials, government handling of domestic problems, the scope of government power, and government waste of tax dollars has been feeding back from working Americans in increasing volume. Here are a few examples:

[1] 85% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.

[2] 69% say they have little or no confidence in the legislative branch of government, an all-time high and up from 63% in 2010.

[3] 57% have little or no confidence in the federal government to solve domestic problems, exceeding the previous high of 53% recorded in 2010 and well exceeding the 43% who have little or no confidence in the government to solve international problems.

[4] 53% have little or no confidence in the men and women who seek or hold elected office.

[5] Americans believe, on average, that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, similar to a year ago, but up significantly from 46 cents a decade ago and from an average 43 cents three decades ago.

[6] 49% of Americans believe the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. In 2003, less than a third (30%) believed this.

[7] At 43%, fewer Americans today than at any time in the past four decades say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems. That is significantly lower than the 58% average level of confidence Gallup has found on this since 1972, including a 77% reading shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Along with Americans’ record-low confidence in the federal government on domestic policy, Gallup finds record skepticism about government waste. As previously reported, Americans, on average, think the federal government in Washington wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, the highest estimated proportion of waste Gallup has found on this measure in trends dating to 1979.

Americans’ sense that the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms is also at a new high, 49%, since Gallup began asking the question using this wording in 2003. This view is much more pronounced among Republicans (61%) and independents (57%) than among Democrats (28%). But there are more fundamental reasons – reasons that hit way too close to home – why many Americans today feel threatened by their government, by the possible loss of jobs or homes, and most of all they fear getting sick or injured, which for many people would mean personal bankruptcy. But the most visceral fear that people have in these very tough times is the loss of their ability to sustain themselves, and especially their kids. I have first-hand experience in this regard, as do millions of others.

Psychological oppression – manifested by widespread apathy and resignation in the face of major corporate and government attacks on working Americans – is at an all time high in the US. Historically, it’s often a strong and sustained youth rebellion that enables a society to throw off severe psychological oppression. The following is a breakdown of the forces I see favoring and countering the formation of an uprising in the US that will be led by its youth:

[1] 35% of the US population is under 25.

[2] Total unemployment among age 16-25: 24-25%, with many facing permanent unemployment.

[3] Percent of non-white unemployed youth: 46%

[4] Unemployment among African Americans under 25: 40.7%

[5] Unemployment among Hispanic Americans under 25: 35%

[6] Highest rate of imprisonment (which disproportionately targets youth and minorities) in the industrialized world.

[7] Widespread availability of illicit drugs to dampen youth resentment and anger, especially in minority communities. Ever since the opium wars in China, addictive drugs have been a favorite weapon of the British and American elite to suppress resistance movements. The late Gary Webb and others who have studied CIA involvement in narcotics trafficking have documented disproportionate targeting of minority neighborhoods with both heroin and crack cocaine. This is no accident.

Clinical psychologist and social commentator Dr Bruce Levine recently published an article on the Web about American societal institutions that tend to crush young people’s natural spirit of resistance. The institutions Levine highlights as inducing compliance, as opposed to rebellion, include student-loan debt, the uniquely American tendency to medicate non-compliant and rebellious children and teens, American schools that educate for compliance rather than democracy, normalization and fear of surveillance, the “three screens” (TV, computers and cellphones), and so-called “fundamentalist” consumerism (the completely ridiculous belief that all human needs can be met by buying something).

No one disputes that teen homelessness is both the strongest and most alarming symptom of the disintegration of US society. Homeless children and teenagers under 18 represent one-third of the US homeless population. 2.8 million American children have at least one episode of homelessness every year, while 1.35 million American children are permanently homeless. Approximately ten percent of homeless teens had access to state and city-run shelters prior to the 2008 economic collapse. However, owing to extreme state and city budgetary difficulties, most have been forced to close. In third world countries, homeless children are called “street kids.” The US government prefers to call them “unaccompanied minors.” Giving it a fancy name doesn’t hide the fact that the rate of homeless American children per capita is worse than in some third world countries. Today’s homeless kids will grow up to be America’s infuriated adults. Infuriated adults invariably strike back at that which enrages them. It happens 200% of the time.

Among countries who keep a count of homeless children under 18, India has the highest rate of street children per capita, with 1 homeless child per 61 residents. Egypt is next with 1 per 110, then Pakistan (1 per 120), Kenya (1 per 133), Russia (1 per 141), and Congo (1 per 148). The per capita rate of child homelessness in the US is 1 per 245 residents. This is worse than the Philippines (1 per 360), Honduras (1 per 370), Jamaica (1 per 419), Uruguay (1 per 1,000), and Morocco (1 per 1066). Germany, in contrast, has 1 homeless child per 4,100 residents.

The understandable rage that many of these kids are harboring is exactly what happens when all hope of any economic opportunity is taken away from any nation’s youth. This is precisely what happened in Britain in the summer of 2011. Speculations circle as to why the 2011 London riots became so big, but the answer was quite obvious as the disorder spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who one day were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. The violence on the streets was being dismissed as “pure criminality”, as the work of a “violent minority”, as “opportunism”. This is insanely insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest that has been a long time coming. Angry young people with nothing to do and nothing to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. It will happen in America next. It’s already started with the mobilization of the Anonymous, Occupy and 99% Movements.

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. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about US civil unrest 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 and work. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalized and harassed by the police, after years of not seeing any conceivable hope of a better future buried under a pile of student loan debt, 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”?

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 are not solved by a few pool tables or basketball courts. 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 realize 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 wildfire after a lightning strike.

Here in the US, we have so far had the advent of the Occupy Wall St. and the “We Are The 99%” movements on the American political scene since the fall of 2011. The primary difference between the protest movement in the US and those overseas – such as North Africa, Syria, Yemen and Nigeria as of this writing – is that the American protests have all been peaceful and nonviolent. However, I have observed a growing groundswell and a developing cultural backlash here in America regarding the choices American voters will have in 2014 and particularly 2016. This could wind up being little more than having to pick the most necessary evil as opposed to nothing at all, and that could enrage the American people enough for an explosion of civil disobedience that could easily result in massive rioting. Either that, or a sudden surge in the price of fuel to, say, $5.00 – $7.00 per gallon for whatever reason, would likely turn the American people into a raging inferno that would burn the capitalist, profit-driven and intentionally rigged economic system to the ground.

Although up until now the American people have shown admirable restraint during these difficult times in which we live, this time the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be extracted from the guilty parties. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling. In so doing it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands, and it is a process in which Washington is playing a useful supporting role.

Over the next 2 years, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its huge pile of cash, understand how financiers get rich, and what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution, and to make the Wall Street criminals pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. The truth that is written throughout this book is a part of that same tsunami, focusing the rage and frustration of the US middle and working classes, and particularly that of the poor, into an expression of how we feel, what we need (not our wants, just mainly our needs), what our hopes and dreams are, and above all recognition of our value as dynamic and sovereign individuals, all of whom can contribute to the greater good, and to our belief in the sacredness of life.

Tagged , , , , , ,