Present Students, Future Slaves

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The Slave Ship 1840 William Turner

Every generation for the last 30 years has endorsed neoliberal policies, leaving today’s young people not only without a voice, but also saddled with a set of economic, political and social conditions that have rendered them devalued, marginalized and ultimately disposable. Henry Giroux

Philosopher and political thinker, Sheldon Wollin died this month. His claim that the U.S. government operates, not as a democracy but in what he called “inverted totalitarianism” – “every natural resource and every living being is seen as a commodity and exploited to collapse as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism” and nowhere is this better exemplified than in our student debt crisis.

The average American student debt upon graduation is $29,400 and this while America’s federal government projects a record $50-billion profit on student loans in 2014! This makes the student loan business the most profitable business in America. (ExxonMobil made $44.9 billion in 2012)

The usury attached to a college education in America supports massive  hierarchy, concentration of power and wealth, and greater inequality. The fact that a higher education is financially out of the reach for the majority, ensures that only an elite will continue to control and lead the future of our country.

While profits soar for the government,  the young people have little time for political engagement or creative experimentation. The debt burden forces graduates to make career decisions based on the bottom line.  They don’t have time to become involved in not-for-profit jobs or peace-promoting activities. This level of debt load creates a disconnect from the social needs of the community. In a market-driven society the only obligation is to be a good consumer. The liberal arts and the investigation of subjects that explore the imagination and how power is created is not supported.

What type of future are we creating? Why is it Germany and other EU countries have completely eliminated college tuition?

In 2013 legislators in Oregon unanimously passed a bill that instructs the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” plan to finance public higher education. Under the plan, students pay nothing while in school, then pay a fixed percentage of their income (3 percent after a 4-year degree) to fund higher education going forward. This is at the very least a step in the right direction.

Rest in Peace, Sheldon Wolin.

Some relevant links:

The Ripple Effects of Rising Student Debt

Left Behind
A Crisis of Affordability

NY Times Obit: Sheldon Wolin


Leisure and Magic


Woman playing flute by reflecting pool:  San Francisco Chinatown post-1910

Leisure activity in consumer culture is usually ready-made and pre-designed – and within it’s predicable banality it’s no wonder that the ‘magical’ has grown in popularity and most importantly, profitability.

Where’s the fun?

The ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ magical options are astounding in their variety – the Crowley-ites, Queens of the Nights, fey Renaissance fairs, the law of attraction, tricked out tantrikas, the burning people – all kinds of allure from ordinary reality – a little love and light, or a little light bondage will bridge the gap between boredom and consumption.

Consumer culture loves the mainstreaming of the occult. It sustains and maintains what it needs most to thrive – our energy, self-absorption and our self-interest. The mainstreaming of magic offers a ‘more’ real world of the esoteric – a clever choice for sophisticated audiences who poo-poo what is ordinary.

Each era seems to have its own variety of cognitive dissonance; like the dissonance required for monks in the Middle Ages to burn people alive, take their money for positions in heaven and then say mass. This is not unlike the Law of Attraction with it’s training to “block the negative”, and only see what is possible for ourselves, a kind of feeding frenzy of self-interest.

At the root of it all is money. To pursue leisure and magic – to have exotic experiences and attract more money –you first need money.

Money allows us live in alternative realities. It also allows us to create real alternatives so that all the children of the world – the millions now living in poverty and abuse – are given the chance to experience what it means to have some fun within “leisure time.” We have the means and we have the opportunity to transform our relationship to money and leisure from being takers of experience to caretakers of existence.

Privatization and Passivity

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Kenya Jones fills a bucket with water at a vacant house in her east side Detroit neighborhood. Jones has been without water at home for a month because her landlord has not paid the bill. (National Geographic)

Privatization will be the evaporation, not only of our water supply and other natural resources but also of whatever democracy there is left to fight for. Will we do something before it’s too late?

The word ‘private’ is ubiquitous: private sale, private offering, private community, and private communications. Privacy is so sought after – is that because we have so little of it? Are we willing to privatize our resources: our water, our earth and minerals, etc. because we have been socially conditioned to venerate all that is private…. is it our secret pleasure to want to ensure that, if need be, we too can avail ourselves of the privileges that come with privacy or are just indifferent or passive?


Nearly 19,500 people living in Detroit have had their water service interrupted since March 1. The Water and Sewage Department began cutting of residents who missed their payments. Detroit has the highest “big-city rate” in the nation, 40% of Detroit live in poverty. Half of all Detroit water customers were behind on payments, owing a combined $90 million and yet General Motors and the city’s two sports arenas also owe millions in unpaid water bills but their water was not turned off.

Charity Hicks, founder of the Detroit People’s Water Board said, “”This is a test being looked at by cities across the US – even the world,” Charity says. “We will not let water be used as a weapon to remake the city in a corporate image. We will re-establish what it is to live in a democracy, with a water system that is part of the commons, that affirms human dignity and that ensures everyone’s access.” One woman said she got involved in the water battle after she received a $600 water bill for one month and yet Detroit has access to our nation’s largest fresh water supply.

The Guardian wrote: “The targeting of Detroit families is about something else. It is a ruthless case of the shock doctrine – the exploitation of natural or unnatural shocks of crisis to push through pro-corporate policies that couldn’t happen in any other circumstance…. and that. The water shut-offs are a way to make the balance-sheet more attractive in the lead up to its privatization.”

As utilities that were once services have now become authorities (in Detroit children are being removed from households that have had their water cut-off) at what point do we challenge our passivity? Supporting a policy that ensure the basics of food, shelter and environmental dignity for all, a policy unaffiliated with a political party, a big foundation or non-governmental organization, the Living Income Guaranteed can be implemented within our existing infrastructure. We don’t need to build a new waterworks, the one we have works fine.

Further reading:

In Detroit, Water Crisis Symbolizes Decline, and Hope

Thousands March for Water Rights in Detroit

Detroit’s Water War: a tap shut-off that could impact 300,000 people


Redefining Community


Longing for Community Mark Tobey 1973

Unbridled consumerism reduces the life and light of the world. It is a dimming of potential, creativity and community. It is a hyper-managed cloud of particulates that promote the cult of opinion, the promise of technological solutions and ‘self fulfillment’ experiences that will result in transcendence.

Once community ties and interwoven ties predominated – and if that support was oppressive at times, it was for the most part, a safety net that could be depended upon if we needed it. But that support has been reengineered. Today traditional values that once characterized community life have been altered to value the personal and those in our immediate environment. For this to work, critical thinkers, for example, had to be convinced that while buying and selling for purely personal gain was indeed superficial, non-profits and foundations would step up and serve as stand ins for the conscience of the community – but these adjuncts never delivered real community, nor were they ever never meant to.

For most, there is no upside to consumerism. Most do not reap the rewards promised and despite this, change is feared. Consumer science already knows this and has developed the promise of ‘experience’. Our purchasing power broadcasts our status and determines our ability to have experience and the variety of such experience. It is a system that venerates the winners. The losers are accepted as a necessary side effect. This has been a gradual process of desensitization –to pretend there are no side effects of this lifestyle choice–– and it is one that has required a massive suppression of the cost of consumerism – for people, plants and animals in the world today

Community is to give as we would like to receive so that everyone has access to all the things we would want for ourselves: good housing, food and shelter. That’s the point of the Living Income Guaranteed: it is the unauthorized view of our potential, a stepping down from the manufactured into the real, from consuming and production to communing, to communicate, to build common ground. It is a deliberate transfer of resources to reprogram our world to serve common goals for all humanity, not just those sanctioned by the elite or by socialists or communists – it is non-hierarchical, it is reasonable and it is worthy of who we are and what we are capable of becoming.

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