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Human Liberation and Revolt
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem is the school is not just trying to control the activity or behavior of students in class, but the person themselves, far beyond whatever authority they are entitled to. The excuses they give all have to do with some largely hypothetical behavior on levels of abstraction. If we see through the abstractions and get down to the *root* of the issues, then we see through the tyrannical attitudes and policies as well. And those abstractions -- that's the internal dialogue -- the cultural hegemony and the artificially limited choices the tyrants present (like having rights OR security). A cat would never fall for that.

Bluepilgrim, your example of the cell phone issue did not go unnoticed. I knew exactly the point you were making--the almost subconscious control of one's behavior on every aspect of our behavior.

By parallel example came to me on day passing a elementary school yard. The children were playing in the schoolyard and a woman teacher was standing in the center of the yard watching the children. I notice that every 30 seconds she would look at her watch to check the time. The recess is timed and her job was to keep time. This is where we, even as young children, are regimented; our activity is timed to the very minute. By checking her watch every few seconds she was making powerful statements, " I am authority. Your time is not your own to use as you wish. Life is composed of "free time" and "work time. How you use your time is my business. Your work time can be owned by another party. I keep careful watch of time because there are severe consequences to violating time division." All of this conditions us to accept the corporate world of wage labor, and personal Life divided between work time, and leisure time because corporations make money by time measuring work activity. This form of control subordinates the value and dignity of individual private time and establishes the precedence of us willingly turning over control of our lives to socially constructed tyrannies.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, there are countless small things which add up to make powerful statements and set the context (frame). They are noticed when one is awake. We can describe them in detail, which is helpful for people still struggling, but it's like describing a landscape to people who are blindfolded -- if they can get the blindfold off then it's all obvious just by looking.

The kids who see -- they have real problems with school, and the rest of the culture.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The schools can be a great place for facist to practice. The cell phone thing reminds me of a time my daughter had stayed after school and was waiting for the activity bus they went and sat on a wall that apparently is part a of a park and not the school. Most kids aren't even aware of where the boundaries are when the bus arrived the teacher wouldn't let them on because they went off school property (They were about 20 feet from where the bus stopped). She wouldn't let them inside the school to call their parents so they all walked home they lived in different areas so most of it was walking alone. Crossing a 4 lane major street. My daughter was charged by someones rottweiller that had gotten loose and thank god we had talked about what to do with dogs so she stopped instead of running. It scared the hell out her though and she came home in tears. I was furious I called the school and said I will be sending a cell phone with my daughter from now on. They told me I couldn't but I did and they never caught her with it. The next day I had to fight the grade school because they were telling my son who was in 5th grade at the time he couldn't walk home and then told him he had to walk through the woods if he did (gee thats safe take a short cut through an isolated area where people can't see you). These people are Nazi's A 2 block walk is safe, a 2 mile one across a busy road is not. You just really have to wonder who the hell some of these people are that we leave our kids with everyday. There are some teachers who are great but I have yet to see an administrator that wasn't on a power trip. Apparently pushing children around (and a lot of their parents too) makes them feel important.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be tempeted to get an attorney to write a letter to the the principle something like...

As part of the process of gathering information about these incidents and similar situations I enclose accounts of the events as recounted by ...[Diogenes]. Please review the information you have concerning these and respond with any discrepancies or alternative versions you might present.

That's it -- no threats or indications of anything -- just getting the material documented on paper. Twisted Evil
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of memory (in your latest post) I am reminded of a course I took when I was attending teachers' colelge back in 1971, taight by one of the rare facutly members there who had a doctorate -- one in education. He taught a course called Education in Contempory Society (or similar). We had discussions in class about things, and this guy had a watch. When time was up he would stop the discussion, even if someone was in mid-sentence making some point. Yeah --- 'education'....
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascism in US schools is nothing new. Behold:


Hitler got his flag-worshipping "Heil" salute straight out of the good ol' US of A, where it originated as a classroom indoctrination into "patriotism".

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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

now being replaced by the Bush salute
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city trader

PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

antifascist wrote:
Political Social Genius,

Yes, this strategy is what Bismarck, Minister-President of Prussia from 1862 to 1890,called "Zuckerbrot und Peitsche" (the sugar plum and the whip) aimed at the working class. Repressive measures given along with benefits to the workers so that they would not turn to the Social Democratic Party (a socialist party). The repressions involved outright arrest, deportation, laws against public meetings and campaigns. The plum offered to the working class was social-insurance legislation, sickness insurance law, accident insurance, old-age and disability insurance. This Bismarckian policy was extremely successful.
Our situation in American is that the Neocons, or Neofascists, have reduced the American social policy to a third rate welfare state and are even dismantling that as we speak.
This will result in social instability. Consequently, the power elite are mobilizing to protect themselves by increasing military policing of society, hyper-militarization of the domestic police forces, modernization of digital documentation technology, test runs of mass arrest capacity by executing warrant sweeps, arrest procedures rewritten, building of detention centers, and increasing penalties for all statutory laws since these will be used to incarcerate domestic political opponents.

Until 30 June people can hand in knives at police stations in England, Scotland and Wales without fear of penalty. The initiative - which is running alongside a three-week campaign in Northern Ireland - comes amid growing concern at the level of knife crime in the wake of a series of fatal stabbings across the country.


Dear xxxxx Tue, 30 May 2006

What these people haven't told you was that for the fifth anniversary of the Port Arthur Massacre, in 2001, Samantha Lee as the UN representative for Gun Control organised a special stalking camera for the pedestrians in Martin Place Sydney using an integrated gun sights so as to suggest that these people were being targetted by a shooter.

Roland Browne also did his bit in Tassie suggesting that hand-guns were now to be targetted for confiscation. Then Lee Riannon did her little bit and it became quite obvious that another massacre was being set up, at a school by a licenced shooter with a hand-gun. Additional information that the new firearm legislation was to be introduced in NSW by October 2001, was also revealing. However 911 came along and so the massacre took place in October 2002, at The Monash University, by a licenced shooter with a hand-gun.

Now I asked the question, that the school shooting was going to take place at several presentations, and it was also written up in the Hobart Mercury by the journalist Sue Bailey. The speech at Toowoomba 2001 which included the warning is available on the shooters news website.

After the Monash shootings it took me 2 days to identify Professor Bret Inder as the controller of that almost massacre. Inder is another UN stooge along with Samantha Lee.

So now we have another celebration of the Port Arthur massace, and a set of warnings from the High Priests of Control, Samantha Lee and Roland Browne. Browne is warning Australians of a 'Dunblane' style massacre, simply because of what they call semi-automatic handguns.

In about October this year, Australia is going to suffer a 'Dunblane' style massacre, with a hand-gun by a 'lone-nut' gunman. It will more than likely occur in a kindergarten or a primary school. The shooter, if he is not captured will commit suicide, as is the norm with all their planned gun massacres.xxxxx xxxxxxx

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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Monrow Monthly Squealer
by Jebby Smuthers
May, 2006

In response to a passle of recent stonings a new amnesty program has started which will allow local residents to turn in their stones without penalty. Local Deputy Bubba Cantright said the program is going well so far, with over 800 pounds of stones collected behind the town hall.

"We got this idea from the boys down to Turtle Crick. A few years back they started getting too many lynchings and they had this rope amnesty program. They got enough rope to make up a few nice hammocks for the village to set in during the hot months, and the folks went back to just shooting the troublemakers with rock salt and chasing them out of the area like they used to.

"We figure if we get enough stones we can finally build that new outhouse. As for the good faithful people and the blasphemers they can darn well settle for ducking them in the pond until they repent. This here's a new century and all, you know, and we can't just go around stoning everybody just for using a few cuss words. Gives the place a bad name."

The idea of amnesty is cathing on. Sherrif Newboot over to Jackson way says he's thinking about starting an amnesty for the big old firecrackers used to blow up toads. He said it was getting just too messy down to the tavern on weekends, and he was thinking maybe if they got enough of them they could tie them togehter and finally get rid of Ol' Greentooth in the swamp, who has been eating more of the kids who go skinnydipping there.

"Hot weathers coming and we really ought to do something about it, I reckon before one of the elder's boys git et", Sherrif Newboot said.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 8:26 pm    Post subject: Yes, it is . . Reply with quote

bluepilgrim wrote:
Yes, there are countless small things which add up to make powerful statements and set the context (frame). They are noticed when one is awake. We can describe them in detail, which is helpful for people still struggling, but it's like describing a landscape to people who are blindfolded -- if they can get the blindfold off then it's all obvious just by looking.

The kids who see -- they have real problems with school, and the rest of the culture.

I'm raising a kid who sees, and it's very difficult for her. Her response to "it's against the law" is apt to be "maybe that's a bad law". Question authority, even me. Speak truth to power. The media lies. Always ask "Who Benefits". And be flexible, self-sustaining. She's imbibed these messages for 15 years.

We have long, long discussions on the nature and source of cruelty, why is there money, why is there poverty, what makes some people have no soul, what is the attraction of power, etc. But her peers are a little baffled. Not into drugs, sex, self-destruction, doesn't hate her parents. College will probably be easier for her.
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city trader

PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shooting the troublemakers with rock salt

Steady you might give uk police the idea of carrying guns, our kitchen draws wont be safe.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bluepilgrim wrote:
I'd be tempeted to get an attorney to write a letter to the the principle something like...

As part of the process of gathering information about these incidents and similar situations I enclose accounts of the events as recounted by ...[Diogenes]. Please review the information you have concerning these and respond with any discrepancies or alternative versions you might present.

That's it -- no threats or indications of anything -- just getting the material documented on paper. Twisted Evil

I called the principals of both schools. The middle school said it wouldn't happen again but that she couldn't bring a cell phone. I said if it did happen I would be speaking with the school board. I should have gone to the school board anyway. The problem was the other 3 girls did not tell their parents. They were afraid of getting in trouble. Which I couldn't understand because if the story was as presented they did nothing wrong, but then again I probably wouldn't have told my mom either. The point was even if they had done something wrong what happened was unacceptable. (I don't think they did) Kids should never be turned away from using a phone. You don't endanger a childs saftey because they broke a rule. I think the other girls already had learned the lesson of being afraid of authority don't question even when you are right.

The grade school one lied about it. She said the counselor thought he lived somewhere else. Which wasn't true because the counselor who stopped them showed the kids a map and asked them if there was another way they could get home. When they said no she told them to cut through peoples yards and then go through the woods behind our house. She also threatened them with suspension if they continued to walk home. I have lived here for 12 years most of the kids on my street walk home from school when they reach a certain age. This was the first year I let my son walk with the neighbor before that I took them. I told the grade school principal that district policy was that if a street is deemed dangerous they must provide a bus. I really didn't appreciate her lying to me but I let it slide. It was his last year there.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds likem from this and other stories you have related, that your school system is run by little nazis. You need a parents association to take them to task to fix this.
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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 2:22 am    Post subject: Re: Yes, it is . . Reply with quote

[quote="dalton53]I'm raising a kid who sees, and it's very difficult for her. Her response to "it's against the law" is apt to be "maybe that's a bad law". Question authority, even me. Speak truth to power. The media lies. Always ask "Who Benefits". And be flexible, self-sustaining. She's imbibed these messages for 15 years.

We have long, long discussions on the nature and source of cruelty, why is there money, why is there poverty, what makes some people have no soul, what is the attraction of power, etc. But her peers are a little baffled. Not into drugs, sex, self-destruction, doesn't hate her parents. College will probably be easier for her.[/quote]

I've been pondering this. A problem I had is that my parents never told me I was growing up in a fascist empire or gave me any hints on coping methods, and how to survive circumventing it. Rather they were apparantly largely unaware of that and bought into it, and in fact gave me the message that I was crazy for objecting to it. For a while I was convinced I was crazy, and then I actually became crazy for many years to follow, until I finally figured out it wasn't me but the culture which was insane. It also took me years to figure out what the basic truths about events were and the real nature of this country -- even while objecting to them -- and that made me crazy. It's one thing to live in a tyrannical society, but quite another to be constitutionally opposed to tyranny and not realize it is inherent in everything you touch and think you know.
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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a while I was convinced I was crazy....

That reminds me of a passage in Orwell's 1984

1984, Chapter 13, George Orwell
In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 5:08 am    Post subject: Pinball Proto-Fascism, Muscle Car Imperialism... Reply with quote

Of Karl Rove, Nixon's Gray Ghost, Pinball Proto-Fascism, Muscle Car Imperialism, and the Gong Show of the American Political System

An unpopular war drags on, gas prices rise and rise, as a cloud of scandal gathers over Washington D.C. At times, it seems as though the 1970s never ended: it's just Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton's Quaalude-laced, faux populist snake oil caused us to sleep through the 80s and 90s -- and now we're awakening, hungover, groggy, queasy, still in the midst of that ugly and odious era. At least that's the encrypted message I've been able to decipher, using my Super-Secret, Decoder Mood Ring, special limited, Karl Rove edition. George W. Bush and Karl Rove are as much products of the 1970s as were Naugahyde pit group sofas and outbreaks of the Herpes Simplex Retrovirus at Plato's Retreat. Historically, the world will regard The Bush Administration as the Dacron Polyester of American presidencies: its legacy will carry all the beauty, style, and enduring appeal of a powder blue Leisure Suit. George Bush, himself, will be remembered as the Pet Rock of the American plutocratic class.

Accordingly, if there is any presiding spirit possessing the current zeitgeist, it is the gray ghost of Dick Nixon. During the Watergate Era, Karl Rove apprehended a fact the rest of us pushed out of our minds, due to its troubling implications: Nixon wasn't brought down because Americans were troubled by having a sick, corrupt bastard as their president -- we simply found it embarrassing to have the White House curtains pulled open, thus allowing the world to witness Nixon pacing the floors, draped in a dingy bathrobe, muttering expletives at the yellowing, West Wing wallpaper.

Moreover, Rove perceived that Nixon's paranoia, rage, envy, and resentment merely mirrored those of the American middle class. Nixon knew from the depths of his black spleen to the tips of his twitching nerve endings the dark side of the American character and how the pathologies therein could be exploited for political gain. In 1972, Rove watched and learned as Nixon was reelected in a landslide victory. Nixon showed Rove that the American middle and laboring classes feared and hated those spoiled brat, college campus radicals and uppity blacks that they saw every night on the evening news more passionately than they loved their own freedom.

Nixon realized the concept of freedom was (and remains) too vague for many of us. Where exactly can freedom be located? But, in contrast, just go down to any shopping mall and you'll find envy; just visit any suburban subdivision and you'll find fear; and just set yourself down on any stool at any neighborhood bar and you'll find hatred and resentment.

Nixon's legacy looms large before us, because we Americans have refused to face a few sad and creepy facts regarding why we were (and remain) possessed of the need to tell ourselves Watergate and Vietnam were mere aberrations and that Nixon's resignation from office in August of 1974 purged the demons from our nation's soul and cleansed us all. Even after Nixon was exiled to San Clemente and we took up the mantra That was that ... Let's move on ... Our long national nightmare is over, we Americans remained uneasy, desperately clinging to the sustaining self-deception of our being mere bystanders when the crimes were committed -- and, as a consequence, we made ourselves willing marks for political flimflammers (as within a few years time Ronald Reagan would exemplify) who peddle the politics of the comfort zone and all its attendant lies exalting the inviolable grace of our collective obliviousness. Otherwise, we would be forced to face our complicity in Nixon's crimes; otherwise, a million Vietnamese corpses would have risen accusingly in our dreams -- as tens of thousands of Iraqi dead would haunt our sleep tonight.

Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney -- these ruthless men are all Nixon's progeny. They all got away scot-free. In fact, they prospered in the cynical post-Watergate era and they continue to perpetrate their crimes right up to the present time. Moreover, it is we, the American public, who bear responsibly: we conjured these psychopaths with our ceaseless incantations of denial.

Fascism comes to a nation when a group of fanatical outsiders forge alliances, based on political and economic expediency, with a corrupt ruling elite -- as all the while, a fearful, distracted, denial-ridden public surrenders their liberty (then, inevitably, their souls) for the illusion of security and a few material goods. I first began to take note of the acceptance of proto-fascistic tendencies, in the cultural banalities evinced in the 1970s, even in those of us who were too young to have cast a vote for Nixon. I noticed my fellow peak-years-of-the-Baby-Boom teenagers were not the progeny of The Woodstock Nation, as the beleaguered authoritarian types of the era had feared. Instead we were the floating spirit-incarnate of a pop culture Weimar Republic. As a rule, we used drugs neither to expand our awareness nor as an act of social or political rebellion -- rather they were utilized as apolitical agents of anesthetization. Like the sound and fury of our pinball machine distractions, and our Muscle Car imperialism, and the pseudo-edginess of the so-called FM radio revolution (that was, in reality, the advent of corporate rock) -- our seeming rebelliousness was, below the lank-haired, faded denim-clad, reefer-reeking surface, a pervasive anomie ... the metastasizing of an insidious indifference -- to a large measure a radical renunciation of anything more challenging than those things available within the immediate confines of our comfort zones. It was a revelry in adolescent, pop culture narcissism, punctuated by incessant self-medication, that was mistaken for the excesses of freedom ... In short, just the sort of numbed-out, muck-headed Sturm und Drang one should expect from young minds -- bereft of life experience, brainwashed by an existence inundated by commercial manipulation, and incompetently educated by the state -- that were larded with Quaaludes and the like, for Christ's sake!

We were primed for proto-fascism by our habitual consumerism and willful ignorance. As the years trundled on, our customized vans would become Mini Vans that would morph into SUVs and Humvees. It was all about comfort, the illusion of control, and insularity, even then. All about our right to the pursuit of numbness. We were fledgling Weimar Republicans, clad in faded, frayed bell-bottom jeans. Beneath the pot reek, clinging to polyester fabric ... the Muscle Car rumble ... Quaalude spittle ... the tribally-administered prototypical serotonin/dopamine/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors that were the precursor of the pharmaceutical fascism to come -- we baby boomers were scions of the Cold War Military/Industrial/Consumer empire's Thanatopic dynamo. Even then, our corporately usurped Eros had transmuted into an indifference to little else but our ceaseless attempts to sate our hollow appetites and our perpetual need for distractions from the tedium and emptiness engendered by our existence within an economically exploitive, class-stratified system, where one's personal worth is measured in mammon and identity defined by consumption.

Our sense of entitlement would not have become so grotesque if our lives had not been so diminished by the internalization of our bloated empire. Up to the present day, our Nixonian self-absorption, pettiness, and spite are collectively magnified into the self-serving economic machinations and genocidal military designs of our elitist overlords. The accouterments of imperial power have grown so large and menacing, in direct proportion to the degree our individual visions have been rendered so small and corrupt.

This is criteria by which the United States was transformed from a republic, conceived to be governed by way of democratic discourse, into a shabby-ass, centerlines archipelago of shopping malls, devoid of a public square, dominated by a defining narrative of marketing platitudes and the collective, sound-bite psychosis of corporatist canticles. It all has gotten away from us, because an internalized McMansion has supplanted the towering glory of our internal Sequoia trees; hence, our roots can no longer reach deep down in the dark loam of our evolutionary legacy; our branches no longer lift towards the sky of possibility. We are devoid of nourishment and hope, because the internalized empire has clear cut it all, reducing sequoia forests to toothpicks in order to pick the bits of charred flesh of those slaughtered in its imperial wars from its teeth.

Furthermore, we shield ourselves from our complicity in the carnage by choosing to remain fixated by our small concerns and mind-numbing distractions, rationalizing the corruption of the corporate and political classes is in no way a reflection of our own self-serving proclivities; we march through our commodified, daily lives -- Storm Troopers of our venal, corporatized agendas (all maintained by bunker buster bomb imperialism and planet-looting ecocide); our thoughts as banal as Eichmann's as he calculated the weight capacity of death camp bound boxcars as, all the while, foreign blood is spilled in our name and the natural world that sustains us dies.

Yet, more than likely, the readers of this essay are as mortified, heartsick, and enraged by the actions of the US Government and the corporate overlords who own and operate it as is this writer -- nevertheless, we carry the empire within us as deeply as we carry the imprints of our parents' faces. It is too immense for us not to; it is too pervasive and invasive for us to avoid; it weaned us and socialized us -- and even when we rebel against it, our actions are generally restricted within limits set by it. Otherwise, the consequences would be too crushing for most of us to endure: financial ruin, destitution, homelessness, prison. There are reasons the neoliberal oligarchs endeavor to widen the class distinctions in the United States and abroad: The harsher the economic consequences are for the laboring classes to risk defiance the more obedient we will grow, particularly when we are incessantly plied with the synergy of corporate salesmanship and state propaganda -- and everyday we must negotiate our way through a collective mindscape as hyper-commercialized, zoning-bereft, and nature-denuded as the endless clip joints of corporate capitalism spanning the length of the land.

Yes, the empire is as noisy, distracting, and meaningless as a vintage 1970s pinball machine ... as smart and self-aware as a baby boomer, suburban pothead teenager, who, as the years have passed, has transformed into a self-absorbed Starbuck's Latte-slurping, SSRI-popping consumer zombie, afflicted by a mindless appetite begot by a inner desolation that threatens to devour the resources of the entire planet in the manner he devoured the food from his mother's pantry when he had a bad case of the reefer munchies in the 1970s.

Though the ensuing decades, we've continued to deceive ourselves into believing the corruption and embarrassments of the 1970's -- from the crimes of Watergate to the inanities of The Gong Show (the reality TV of the times) -- had nothing to do with us. As a consequence, it comes down to this: we didn't learn a damn thing during 70s, therefore, we've condemned ourselves to relive it.

Yes, it is high time to strike the gong for Karl Rove and his pathetic, dancing, feces-flinging pet monkey act that is presently stinking up the stage of The Gong Show of the American political system. But next, we should turn off the TV, walk to the closest mirror, look ourselves in the eye, and repeat the risible (as well as demonstrably false) phrase, I am not a crook, -- and then, at long last, face the Richard Milhouse Nixon within, and thereby come to grips with the reason we Americans are, at present, as popular and respected worldwide as Richard Nixon was in the Summer of 1974.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:25 pm    Post subject: The simply rich life of Charles Gray Reply with quote

This is an interesting life. Charles Gray found a way to protest against a fascist state--be independent. The average American is under total control of the government with an array of financial handles to control their behavior. Gray lived a life stripped of those handles allowing for a free and authentic life style. Deliberately engineering a low cash income seems the best way to resist forced payment to the Congressional-Military-Industrial complex.
Peace Through Poverty
The simply rich life of Charles Gray


Most people spend their lives trying to gain wealth. Charles Gray spent his trying to get rid of it. He went from involuntarily poor to unwittingly wealthy to voluntarily, joyously, rebelliously poor. In his last decade he took up a simple middle class life, and on July 8 he died of bone cancer at his home in northwest Eugene at age 81.

Courtesy Sylvia Hart.

Gray was a peace and social justice activist, an accredited political sociologist and amateur statistician, a husband three times over and a great-grandfather. But he was most widely known for living 18 years on less than $100 per month an amount he figured every human could consume to sustain an economically fair, environmentally sane planet.

"He proved that it could be done, and he did it with grace," said Gray's good friend Karen Irmsher. "He always had pretty things around. He would take a leaf he found on the ground and put it under glass. You never got the feeling that he felt in any way impoverished by what he was doing; in fact, he felt enriched. He felt freed."

Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography first prompted a 16-year-old Gray, the son of poor apolitical Methodists, to declare himself a pacifist. He promptly joined an interfaith peace ministry, and when he was drafted for World War II a few years later, he refused duty as a conscientious objector. But Gray and his girlfriend, Leslie Brockelbank, later made their own contribution to the peace effort while they attended the UO, organizing a food drive for hungry Europeans.

Gray married Brockelbank at the tender age of 20, and on their wedding night, the bride informed the groom that she had inherited about a million dollars. "I was very innocent," Gray said with a mischievous grin, lying in bed at home about a week before his death. "I didn't realize that my wife had a lot of money."

Rather than rejoice at his good luck, Gray felt burdened by the wealth. He had begun to suspect that the uneven distribution of money was at the root of all injustice, and as the years went by he struggled for a way to justify his own comfort.

In the mid-1940s the couple relocated to Denver, where Gray finished his bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Colorado. He also studied carpentry, part of what he called an effort to "mix work with my hands with work with my head."

As his two children, Howard and Mary Jane, grew up, Gray dug his hands into the peace and civil rights movements. These were the dark days of the McCarthy era, when Gray came to define pacifism on economic and social as well as physical terms. Reading the works of Martin Luther King, Jr., he was deeply moved by the connections between war, violence and racism. He joined the World Federalists, who called for a United Nations strong enough to disarm the world's superpowers, and Gray and his brother-in-law founded Colorado's first chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gray also hooked up with the Congress of Racial Equality and protested in Denver-area restaurants and theaters with a racially integrated activist group. In the mid-'50s, with financing from his wife, Gray helped build homes in white neighborhoods and deliberately sold them to African American and Hispanic families "causing a few uproars," he remembered with a chuckle.

When the Cold War arms race kicked into high gear around 1960, Gray, then 35, took leadership roles in demonstrations against missile bases and nuclear plants, calling for disarmament. He also resumed studying at the University of Colorado, where he would earn a Ph.D. in sociology.

In 1963, as the build-up to the Vietnam War escalated, Gray and his family took off by sailboat and landed in New Zealand, remaining there for more than three years. The parents returned to Eugene in 1966, but their children, by then young adults, stayed with the Kiwis. "That was a sad thing for everybody," Irmsher recalled.

Being an empty-nester only made Gray more radical. In the late '60s he linked up with several local peace organizations and threw himself into the Vietnam War protests. He began refusing the federal taxes that, according to his calculations, contributed to war. To illustrate his point, in 1970 he painted a bar graph of the federal budget on a three-block stretch of the UO campus from the bookstore to Johnson Hall. The military spending was the longest bar, far surpassing the money allocated to human needs like welfare and education.

Gray and Brockelbank converted their home into an office for activism. Shunning insurance companies, they created the Friend in Need fund, a collective savings account that a small group of contributing members could draw from in emergencies. They also founded the Energy Conservation Organization to organize against proposed nuclear power plants in Oregon.

Gray and his friend Peter Bergel bonded over their horror at nuclear proliferation, and together they hatched a political comedy street theater troupe called "Doctor Atomic's World Famous Medicine Show and Lending Library." They toured Oregon in a VW van, educating the masses and campaigning against nuclear power construction in Oregon. The effort may have had some effect: Of the dozen-odd nuclear power plants proposed for the state, only one was ever built, and that was decommissioned after 16 years. "We take full credit, of course," Bergel joked.

Gray at the WTO protests in Seattle, 1999.
The IRS eventually came looking for those missing war taxes, threatening to seize Gray and Brockelbank's small coastal hotel. The couple reluctantly settled, paying interest and penalties a hefty chunk, given Brocklebank's inheritance. Gray felt like he'd just donated to the war chest. "We decided that probably the most effective way to avoid the tax burden was to reduce our income," he said.

So in 1976 Gray and Brockelbank co-founded the McKenzie River Gathering, a nonprofit philanthropy organization dedicated to funding nonviolent social change efforts in the Northwest, using half of Brockelbank's fortune about $500,000 as seed money. "That was an attempt to liberate ourselves from our wealth," Gray said. "It was the only way to live nonviolently."

Today, the MRG celebrates its thirtieth anniversary and a total of $9.5 million in grants.

Even after halving his bank account, Gray was still uncomfortable with his comfort. "If you live on more than your fair share of the world's wealth, you're likely to be exploiting somebody to get there," he reckoned. He wanted to live at a consumption level closer to the world's poor majority.

He calculated what he felt was an environmentally and socially sustainable level of world consumption and divided it by the world's population to come up with a World Equity Budget (WEB) less than $75 per month in 1977. Gray committed to living on that amount, periodically adjusted for inflation and other factors, at age 52, when may of his peers were plumping up their retirement accounts.

His wife would not join him. Brockelbank declined an interview, but according to Gray's writings, she preferred a philanthropic approach, arguing that where you spend your money is more important than how much you spend. "We couldn't come to agreement on our philosophy, and we separated," Gray said. "That was the hardest part of living on my equal share."

He moved into a 7 by 12-foot trailer and, for the most part, stopped buying stuff. He did carpentry, gardening and other odd jobs about 50 hours a month at a rate of $1 to $2 an hour, giving him more time to dedicate to activism.

For the next 18 years Gray remained on the WEB, which increased to about $100 per month by the late 1990s. He approached it like a game of willpower, whittling his expenses down, counting every penny and taking joy in his own frugality. In the first few years, in Eugene, he managed to reduce his expenses to $21 to $32 per month. Then he moved to Portland and pushed them even lower, reaching an all-time low of $13.16 in 1979.

"The WEB was my special thing, and I did it with pleasure, almost a vengeance," he wrote in a 1989 essay published in Aisling magazine. "I enjoyed keeping the graph of my expenditures and seeing the line getting ever closer to zero."

But not even that freed Gray's conscience. For awhile in the '80s, he tried applying a dozen social-ecological criteria to every purchase he made. He later began working charity into his tiny WEB budget, donating 10 to 20 percent to social justice causes as "reparation payments to the victims of the Empire and to movements for social change," as he wrote in a 1989 book about his life on the WEB, Toward a Non-Violent Economics.

Some of his acquaintances may have thought Gray had gone off the deep end, but his good friends supported him. "Most of us look at what we should be doing and what we are doing, and they're worlds apart," said Gray's good friend Pam Fitzpatrick. "His view of what he should be doing and what he was doing was closer. He was living the change that he wanted to see."

Gray learned to survive on next to nothing. He gardened, plucked fruit from neighbors' trees and gleefully took to Dumpster diving, taking advantage of what he called the "Great American Garbage Can." He shunned the corporate health care industry, suggesting that simple living bike riding, relaxing, letting go of the fear of death will keep most people healthy most of the time. He denied himself coffee and chocolate, which he loved, except when friends offered it to him. He squirreled a savings out of his WEB for special things, like a dinner out with friends and even a trip to New Zealand to visit his kids.

He swore off cars and pledged his allegiance to the bicycle. When he moved from Portland back to Eugene in spring 1980, at age 55, he reluctantly let Brockelbank shuttle half of his possessions in her car and hauled the other 90 pounds 120 miles on his bike trailer. When someone later stole Gray's bike, he pulled a little cash from the Friend in Need fund, gathered used parts, and built a new one with help from the folks at Eugene's Center for Appropriate Transportation.

Gray knew that his lifestyle ran counter to the American way of life, but he desperately wanted others to see the joy in his poverty, the community blossoming from it, and join him on the WEB. If everyone did it, he told me, "Gracious, that would be wonderful. It would all be green. There would still be fish in the sea; there would be trees on the mountains."

Only one person took that leap with him. Gray had just spent a cold and lonely winter in a church's barn in Portland when he met Dorothy Granada, a nurse who would become his second wife, in 1980. "She and I hit it off because we both felt that the nuclear arms race would destroy humanity," Gray said.

Granada gave up her three-bedroom Portland home, her car and her well-paying job to adopt the WEB. Gray, for his part, gave up a decade of polygamy officially announced when he joined the sexual revolution in 1971 "for pragmatic reasons," as he wrote in a timeline of his activism. The two moved to Eugene together and took up residence in a small room off River Road, riding their bikes everywhere. They later built a little cottage, which a friend dubbed "The Condo-Minimum," with scrap lumber and recycled materials, for a total cost of $100.27. Gray remembered those as happy days. "The WEB meant a liberation of time because we needed so much less to sustain ourselves," he said.

Gray and Granada funneled that time into their peace work. On August 6, 1983 the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima the couple and nine others began a hunger fast to stop nuclear proliferation. Gray went without food for 40 days and Granada for 38, drinking only water. "That almost took us off the planet," Gray said.

But just as the activists were near the point of death, the Soviet Union shot down a U.S. plane that had strayed off-course. That threw off the disarmament movement, and the activists ate. Gray would continue to occasionally starve himself for various causes until his death.

In 1985, at age 60, Gray went to post-revolution Nicaragua with Granada to act as a witness, protector and liaison for victims of the Contras. They stayed in a refugee community for six months, doing public health and carpentry work as volunteers for Witness for Peace. Four years later they returned for three more years.

"I felt a sense of community in Central America, even with all the death squads and the butchery," Gray said, his eyes misting. "It was so inspiring what [the Sandanistas] did early on. But then the Contras would march right in with machine guns. They destroyed schools and clinics that the Sandanistas had built after the revolution."

On the dusty streets of a refugee camp Gray met Paul Dix, a photographer who was documenting the atrocities of the Contras during the Reagan era. Between trips to Nicaragua, Gray toured the U.S. with an exhibit of Dix's photos and Nicaraguan poetry. "He's kind of my guru," Dix said of Gray. "There was no ego involved with his work at all. He believed in a more just society, and that's what he practiced."

Back in Eugene in 1992, separated from Granada, Gray began working with the Committee in Solidarity with the Central American People. He joined the steering committee for Amigos de los Sobrevivientes, a therapy center for torture survivors, and helped organize weekly vigils demanding closure of the School of the Americas, the U.S. training grounds for brutal Latin American military leaders. He also started serving on the environmental and social concerns committee of the Eugene Friends Meeting.

Sylvia Hart and Charles Gray. Courtesy Sylvia Hart.
There he met his third wife, a fiery activist named Sylvia Hart, and they married in 1997. But Hart was a philanthropist, not an ascetic like Gray, and they hit an impasse: Either she had to move into his travel trailer or he had to move into her house. The strife was reminiscent of Gray's split with Brockelbank but this time he caved, moving into her modest northwest Eugene home and getting off the WEB after 18 years.

"She dragged me kicking and screaming back into the middle class," he joked. "But I've still maintained my preference for simple living."

Hart, sitting beside Gray's bed, had heard that before. "Of course that's very Gandhi," she said. "Charles and I differ on this."

"Sylvia is very much a philanthropist," Gray explained. "In order to be together, we are always making compromises."

Hart gave a tight smile and excused herself from the room.

She later clarified: "He has been all his life kind of a public man, and his public image was so entirely about the WEB and giving away a fortune and simple living. It was all true, it was all genuine, and it's wonderful. He's done a great deal. But he also had many years of middle to upper class living. He knew about property and investments. I view him a little differently because he was my husband and partner."

Was it tough living with such a hard-liner? "He had a wonderful combination of strength and sweetness, and he evolved a lot as he grew older," Hart replied. "We just about never fought. We negotiated."

Even after re-entering the middle class in his seventies, Gray kept up his work as an activist, biking most everywhere he went. As a member of the Homeless Action Committee, he led campaigns to end the city's camping ban and to save existing affordable housing. He joined EarthFirst! protest vigils at oil company corporate offices and anti-logging protests at Warner Creek. He gave presentations on the WEB and participated in civil disobedience at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. With Hart he worked for farmworker rights, and together they joined the Zapatista Caravan from Chiapas to Mexico City in 2001, when he was 76.

As Gray lay in bed, his loved ones buzzing in and out of the room, I asked him how he managed to live such an austere life without judging those around him. "I feel that people have to find their own path," he replied. "I get angry about the maldistribution of the world's wealth, but I try to accept people where they are. Maybe they'll move in a new direction.

"I don't envy you," he added referring, I think, to my X-Y generation. "I see humanity in a very dark place. Because of the power of the corporations and the power of the media, I see us rapidly destroying this planet that is a very beautiful place.

"What a joke the Creator played on us, huh? Humanity's gifts come with a price, and take what we can get is what we've been doing. Greed, violence, a high-consumption lifestyle: I just think it's all a crock. I despair along with the rest of us. I'm not very optimistic, but that doesn't mean it's all over. It's not that people aren't fighting back, but it's an uphill battle." He spoke slowly, focusing through the morphine.

"I feel that there's a lot more to life than our bodies, and I think that the thing that is eternal is our love for each other," he continued. "Even in the most awful situations, you see this wonderful love people rushing out in to the battlefield and saving each other. That's the other side. That's what holds us together people's love for each other, people's mutual aid. I see hope in the small things; I find joy just sitting on a riverbank. As I face my own death from bone cancer, I try to focus on the love that's all around me.

"Love is eternal. Guns, they just rust."
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 6:27 am    Post subject: Men Not Working Reply with quote

This is a very interesting story of men dropping out of the work force at first by force but over time voluntarily not wanting to rejoin corporate culture. From the corporations’ own cruelty of throwing millions of Americans out on the street in the name of profit and cheap labor, they are unwittingly sowing the seeds of social discontent by creating an under-class of unemployed workers. Historically, this is a very dangerous situation for society and sometimes for the power elite. These men are a powerful political force and the progressives should be taking note. Although these men may initially want to return to work, many shift their values and question society's norms and expectations. Some men decide that individual freedom and autonomy are more valuable than a consumer life style under the tyranny of corporate life. In other words, they begin to develop a new consciousness and develop new sensibilities on their own.

Go to the original article and see the statistical graphs showing the number of men missing in the labor force. The government's monthly unemployment numbers have over the past few decades masked this trend, yet only a massive exodus of men from the labor force could make such a trend possible. It is stunning.
Men Not Working, and Not Wanting Just Any Job
Published: July 31, 2006

FOUR YEARS WITHOUT WORK - Christopher Priga, 54, has not had steady work since he lost a job with a six-figure income as an electrical engineer at Xerox in 2002. He supports himself by borrowing against his home in Los Angeles.

ROCK FALLS, Ill. — Alan Beggerow has stopped looking for work. Laid off as a steelworker at 48, he taught math for a while at a community college. But when that ended, he could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demeaning nor underpaid.

So instead of heading to work, Mr. Beggerow, now 53, fills his days with diversions: playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, writing unpublished Western potboilers in the Louis L’Amour style — all activities once relegated to spare time. He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m.

“I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me,” he said. To make ends meet, he has tapped the equity in his home through a $30,000 second mortgage, and he is drawing down the family’s savings, at the rate of $7,500 a year. About $60,000 is left. His wife’s income helps them scrape by. “If things really get tight,” Mr. Beggerow said, “I might have to take a low-wage job, but I don’t want to do that.”

Millions of men like Mr. Beggerow — men in the prime of their lives, between 30 and 55 — have dropped out of regular work. They are turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified, even as an expanding economy offers opportunities to work.

About 13 percent of American men in this age group are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960’s. The difference represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Most of these missing men are, like Mr. Beggerow, former blue-collar workers with no more than a high school education. But their ranks are growing at all education and income levels. Refugees of failed Internet businesses have spent years out of work during their 30’s, while former managers in their late 40’s are trying to stretch severance packages and savings all the way to retirement.

Accumulated savings can make dropping out more affordable at the upper end than it is for Mr. Beggerow, but the dynamic is often the same — the loss of a career and of a sense that one’s work is valued.

“These are men forced to compete to get back into the work force, and even then they cannot easily reconstruct what many lost in a former job,” said Thomas A. Kochan, a labor and management expert at the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “So they stop trying.”

Many of these men could find work if they had to, but with lower pay and fewer benefits than they once earned, and they have decided they prefer the alternative. It is a significant cultural shift from three decades ago, when men almost invariably went back into the work force after losing a job and were more often able to find a new one that met their needs.

“To be honest, I’m kind of looking for the home run,” said Christopher Priga, who is 54 and has not had steady work since he lost a job with a six-figure income as an electrical engineer at Xerox in 2002. “There’s no point in hitting for base hits,” he explained. “I’ve been down the road where I did all the things I was supposed to do, and the end result of that is nil.”

Instead, Mr. Priga supports himself by borrowing against the rising value of his Los Angeles home. Other men fall back on wives or family members.

But the fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.

No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance.

The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

The disability program, in turn, is an obstacle to working again. Taking a job holds the risk of demonstrating that one can earn a living and is thus no longer entitled to the monthly payments. But staying out of work has consequences. Skills deteriorate, along with the desire for a paying job and the habits that it requires.

“The longer you stay on disability benefits,” said Martin H. Gerry, deputy commissioner for disability and income security at the Social Security Administration, “the longer you’re out of the work force, the less likely you are to go back to work.”

As a rule, out-of-work men are less educated than the population as a whole. Their numbers have grown sharply among black men and men who live in hard-hit industrial areas like Michigan, West Virginia and upstate New York, as well as those who live in rural states like Mississippi and Oklahoma.

The missing men are also more likely to live alone. Nearly 60 percent are divorced, separated, widowed or never married, up from 50 percent a decade earlier, the Census Bureau reports. Sometimes women who are working throw out men who are not, says Kathryn Edin, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. In any case, without a household to support, there is less pressure to work, and for men who fall behind on support payments, an incentive exists to work off the books — hiding employment — so that wages cannot be garnisheed.

“What happens to a lot of guys who become unmoored from family life, they become unmoored from everything,” Ms. Edin said. “They are just living without attachments and by the time they are 40 or 50 years old, the things that kept these men from falling away — family and community life — are gone.”

Even as more men are dropping out of the work force, more women are entering it. This change has occurred partly because employment has shrunk in industries where men predominated, like manufacturing, while fields where women are far more common, like teaching, health care and retailing, have grown. Today, about 73 percent of women between 30 and 54 have a job, compared with 45 percent in the mid-1960’s, according to an analysis of Census data by researchers at Queens College. Many women without jobs are raising children at home, while men who are out of a job tend to be doing neither family work nor paid work.

Women are also making inroads in fields where they were once excluded — as lawyers and doctors, for example, and on Wall Street. Men still make significantly more money than women, but as women become more educated than men, even more men may end up out of the work force.

At the low end of the spectrum, men emerging from prison with felony records are not easily absorbed into steady employment. Hundreds of thousands of young men were jailed in the 1980’s and 1990’s, in a surge of convictions for drug-related crimes. As prisoners, they were not counted in the employment data; as ex-prisoners they are. They are now being freed in their 30’s and 40’s and are struggling to be hired. Roughly two million men in this group have prison records, according to a calculation by Richard Freeman and Harry J. Holzer, labor economists at Harvard and the Urban Institute, respectively.Many of these men do not find work because of their records.

Despite their great numbers, many of the men not working are missing from the nation’s best-known statistic on unemployment. The jobless rate is now a low 4.6 percent, yet that number excludes most of the missing men, because they have stopped looking for work and are therefore not considered officially unemployed. That makes the unemployment rate a far less useful measure of the country’s well-being than it once was.

Indeed, a larger share of working-age men are not working today than at almost any point in the last half-century, which raises the question of how they will get by as they age. They may be forced back to work after years of absence, they may fall into poverty, or they may be rescued by the government. This same trend is evident in other industrialized countries. In the European Union, 14 percent of men between 25 and 54 were not working last year, up from 7 percent in 1975, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Over the same period in Japan, the proportion of such men rose to 8 percent from 4 percent.

In these countries, too, decently paying blue-collar jobs are disappearing, and as they do men who held them fall back on government benefits for income. But the growth of subsidies through federal and state programs like disability insurance has happened largely without notice in this country while it is a major topic of political debate in Europe.

“We have a de facto welfare system as Europe does,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist at the University of Notre Dame. “But we are not proud of it, as they are.”

Reading, Sleeping, Scraping By

Alan Beggerow has not worked regularly in the five years since the steel mill that employed him for three decades closed. He and his wife, Cathleen, 47, cannot really afford to live without his paycheck. Yet with her sometimes reluctant blessing, Mr. Beggerow persists in constructing a way of life that he finds as satisfying as the work he did only in the last three years of his 30-year career at the mill. The trappings of this new life surround Mr. Beggerow in the cluttered living room of his one-story bungalow-style home in this half-rural, half-industrial prairie town west of Chicago. A bookcase covers an entire wall, and the books that Mr. Beggerow is reading are stacked on a glass coffee table in front of a comfortable sofa where he reads late into the night — consuming two or three books a week — many more than in his working years.

He also gets more sleep, regularly more than nine hours, a characteristic of men without work. As the months pass, they average almost nine-and-a-half hours a night, about 80 minutes more than working men, according to an analysis of time-use surveys by Harley Frazis and Jay Stewart, economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Very few of the books Mr. Beggerow reads are novels, and certainly not the escapist Westerns that he himself writes (two in the last five years), his hope being that someday he will interest a publisher and earn some money. His own catholic tastes range over history — currently the Bolshevik revolution and a biography of Charlemagne — as well as music and the origins of Christianity.

He often has strong views about what he has just read, which he expresses in reviews that he posts on Amazon.com: 124 so far, he said.

Always on the coffee table is a thick reference work, “Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire” by Maurice Hinson. Mr. Beggerow is a serious pianist now that he has the time to practice, sometimes two or three hours at a stretch. He does so on an old upright in a corner of the living room, a piano he purchased as a young steelworker, when he first took lessons.

His new life began in the spring of 2001 with the closing of Northwestern Wire and Steel in Sterling, Ill., where he had worked since 1971. During the last three of those 30 years, Mr. Beggerow found himself assigned to work he really liked: as a union representative on union-management teams that assessed every aspect of the plant’s operations.

What made him valuable was his dexterity as a writer. No one could put together committee reports as articulately as he did, and he found himself on nearly every team. His salary rose to $50,000. During those years, he taught himself more math, too, to help in the analyses of the issues that the teams tackled: productivity, safety, plant layout and the like.

“I actually loved that job,” he said. “I even looked forward to going to work. The more teams they had, the more they found out what I could do and the more I found out what I could do.”

Mr. Beggerow would take another job in a heartbeat, he says, if it were like the work he did in those last three years at Northwestern. The closest he has gotten has been as an instructor at a community college, teaching plant maintenance and other useful factory skills. His students were from nearby manufacturing companies, which subsidized the courses, including his pay of $45 an hour. But factory operations in the area are shrinking, and Mr. Beggerow has not had a teaching stint since November.

Like Mr. Beggerow, the great majority of the missing men are out of the work force for months or years at a time rather than drifting in and out of jobs. There appears to have been no rise since the 1960’s in the percentage of men out of work for short periods, according to research by Chinhui Juhn, a University of Houston professor, and other economists.

Mr. Beggerow will not take a lesser job, he says, because of his bitter memories of earlier years at Northwestern Wire, particularly the 1980’s, when the industry was in turmoil. A powerful man, over 6 feet and 200 pounds, he worked then as a warehouseman.

What got to him was not the work. It was the frequent furloughs, the uncertainty whether he would be recalled, the mandatory overtime and 50-hour weeks often imposed when he did return, the schedules that forced him to work every holiday except Christmas, and then, as rising seniority finally gave him some protection, a six-month strike in 1983 followed by a wage cut. His pay shrank to $13 an hour from $17, a loss he did not fully recover until those last three years.

“I was always thinking if there was some way I could get out of this, do something else,” Mr. Beggerow said. “What made me so upset was the insecurity of it all and the humiliation. I don’t want to take a job that would put me through that again.”

Shortly after Northwestern closed, Mr. Beggerow married. It was his third marriage, and also Cathleen’s third. He has one adult child by the first wife; Cathleen has no children. For six months they lived on his $12,000 from a shrunken pension and her $28,000 as a factory worker — until severe injuries in an auto accident five months after their wedding forced her out of that job. She eventually qualified for $12,000 a year in disability insurance.

Their two incomes are not enough to cover expenses, which bothers Mrs. Beggerow, although not enough to badger her husband to take a job, any job. She respects him too much for that, she says.

Instead, she finds ways to make money herself, in activities she enjoys. She is taking in work as a seamstress, baking pastries for parties and selling merchandise for others on eBay, collecting a fee. Still, she says, she hopes to land a part-time clerical job. “The comfort of a paycheck every week would take a load off my mind,” she said.

While she is tolerant of her husband’s reluctance to work, respecting his current pursuits, she is not above looking for a job he would consider suitable. “I look at the employment ads every day,’’ she said, “and every so often I find one that I think might be right up his alley.”

Less Concern About the Future

Recently there was an opening for an editor-writer at a small travel magazine published in a nearby town. “I applied,” Mr. Beggerow said, “but the publisher did not seem to want someone my age.”

Meanwhile the Beggerows’ savings are shrinking. This year, for the first time, they have drawn down so much from their 401(k)’s they have been forced to pay early-withdrawal penalties. But Mr. Beggerow resists being stampeded.

“The future is always a concern, but I no longer allow myself to dwell on it,” he said, waving aside, in his new and precarious life, the preparations for retirement and old age that were a feature of his 30 years as a steelworker.

“When you are in the mode of having money coming in,” he explained, “naturally you think about planning and saving. And then when you don’t have the money coming in, you think less about the future, at least money-wise. It is still a concern, but not a concern that keeps me up at night, not in this life that I am now leading.”

Men like Mr. Beggerow, neither working nor looking for a job, also have become more common in the popular culture, making the phenomenon more acceptable. On the television show “Seinfeld,” Cosmo Kramer, who did not work, and George Costanza, who regularly lost jobs, were beloved figures. Personal-finance magazines whose circulations have grown rapidly over the last 25 years also encourage not working — by telling readers how to afford retirement at 50 and by painting not working as the good life, which it apparently is for a small number of wealthy men. About 8 percent of non-working men between 30 and 54 lived in households that had more than $100,000 of income in 2004.

“Men don’t feel a need to be in a career, not as much as they once did,” said Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at the University of California at Los Angeles. “Nor do men have the incentive they once had to pursue a career, not when employers are no longer committed to them.”

Mr. Priga, the former Xerox engineer who lives in Los Angeles, has been wandering in this latter Diaspora. He is a tall, thin man with a perpetually dour expression. His dress — old jeans and a faded khaki shirt — seemed out of place in the upscale Beverly Hills restaurant where he was interviewed for this article. But his education and skill were not out of place.

Mr. Priga is an electrical engineer skilled in computer technology, and much involved, as he tells the story, in writing early versions of Internet and e-mail software for banks and other companies. A divorce in 1996 left him with custody of his three children. One of them had behavioral problems and to care for the boy he dropped out of steady work for a while, mortgaging his house to raise money and designing Web sites as a freelancer.

He re-entered the work force in 2000, joining Xerox at just over $100,000 a year as a systems designer for a new project, which did not last. In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, Xerox downsized and Mr. Priga was let go in January 2003.

From Prison to Joblessness

“I’ve been through a lot of layoffs over the years, and there is a certain procedure you follow,” he said. “You contact the headhunters. You go looking for other work. You do all of that, and this time around it didn’t work.”

So he went back to designing Web sites as a freelancer, postponing the purchase of health insurance. No work has come his way since March, and even if people had hired him to design Web sites for them, Mr. Priga would not consider that real employment.

His father is his standard. At Mr. Priga’s age, 54, “my father was with Rockwell International designing the fiber optic backbone for U.S. Navy ships,” he said. “He got a regular paycheck. He had retirement benefits, medical benefits, all of that. I’m at that age and I don’t see that as even possible. I’ve kind of written off the idea completely. I’m more like a casual laborer.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics determines who is working through a monthly survey of 65,000 representative households. People are asked if they did any work for pay in the week before the survey, including self-employment. For Mr. Beggerow and Mr. Priga, the answer has been no.

The same goes for Rodney Bly, a 41-year-old Philadelphia man struggling with a prison record, although he has had income — from off-the-books work that he refuses to think of as employment.

Mr. Bly, a lanky, neatly dressed six-footer, was in and out of jail, mostly on drug convictions, from 1996 until 2003, but has been clean since then, he said in an interview last month. He has even been a leader of an Alcoholics Anonymous-style group of former addicts who meet regularly and do their best to stay off drugs and out of jail.

Mr. Bly has been living in a recovery shelter for addicts and shows up occasionally for meals at St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen and health clinic in a poor North Philadelphia neighborhood that tries to help ex-convicts get work and keep it.

He has worked pretty regularly, distributing flyers. But that brings him only $270 a week, most of which goes to the shelter for rent, utilities and food. More to the point, the work is off the books, which makes Mr. Bly invisible in the national statistics as a member of the work force.

Still, he has a girlfriend, reports Karen Pushaw, a staff member at St. Francis, “and that grounds him, keeps him looking for legitimate work.”

Ms. Pushaw tries to help. At her encouragement, he applied for 25 jobs this spring but received no offers, not even an interview. The obstacle is two felony convictions, one for car theft, the other for three instances of drug possession.

“Because of the two felonies, I can’t get a job as a security guard or a sales person or a short-order cook,” Mr. Bly said. “I can be a pot washer or a dish washer, but I can’t get a job that pays more than $8 an hour, not a legitimate one. I’m excluded.”

Amanda Cox contributed reporting for this article from New York.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2006 7:43 pm    Post subject: Madmen and Sedatives: Inside the Iron Theater Reply with quote

Ok, writer Joe Bageant is on my list of authors to read! This is a good find.
Madmen and Sedatives: Inside the Iron Theater
by Joe Bageant
| Sep 10 2006

Nobody talks about it out loud, but a few million Americans are seriously doubting their sanity these days. Or having their sanity doubted. Or both. They seldom speak their minds because what is going on in there is a vision of society that conjures grave doubt, if not outright horror. It is the kind of stuff that will get your ass kicked off the island in a heartbeat. Nobody wants to hear it.

Yesterday I was gridlocked with my wife in traffic near the new mall, surrounded by cars full of monsters. Every redneck face and bloated or coifed middle class head in every vehicle was a grotesque, awful thing. In them you could see the meanest kind of white man ignorance, or smug middle class obliviousness, the kind that could care less if all the babies in Iraq were fried on spits in the Green Zone of Baghdad, so long as their nails get done on Saturdays. (Ah, you’ve seen the monsters too, haven’t you!) There was that fleshy, overweight killer ugliness America seems to produce these day, the faces of a happy motoring people whose armies hold the world at gunpoint so they can stuff down pizza and check out this town’s newest mall. Underneath the ugliness, there's a festering mean streak caused by frustration of knowing deep-down that government and commerce are corrupt -- everybody knows this, but tolerates it for fear of losing their bling. The choice was ever thus (DeToqueville noted its beginnings) but now has become a waking nightmare. One that brings up rage for some if us, rage that, if expressed in the wrong places and too often will get me thrown into the psyche ward if I tarry too much longer here in the land of the free.

“Lookie there,” I told my wife, who was driving, “A Cheney car wash right over the spot where Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s mother was born! I remember when it was in a cornfield. And all these zombies who don’t give a crap about the bloody sand and sweatshops they create, just so they can buy a cheap skirt and drive cars worth 10 years of wages in most of the world through a goddamned car wash! If every American died tomorrow, it is unarguable that the planet would be way more sustainable for not having to feed their greed!” On the inside I was bawling and screaming at the same time. I go off on these tirades increasingly these days. It is not good.

I could see by my wife’s face she was wondering if “getting Joe some help” was in order. Oh yes, getting some help---which in America means calling the authorities, in this case the psychiatric medical ones. Advanced technology and the skills of the medical cadre of the super-state offer its citizens wondrous ways to reach out to those in need of help. But it always comes down to prescribing drugs or possibly of even being locked up “for your own good,” until your ideations are more “normal.”

And so it is that many of us keep the rage inside as best we can, unwilling to destroy a job, or a marriage. And there are many of us, judging from the emails I receive (see www.joebageant.com), men and women alike, mostly over 40 with lots at stake, who fear being judged unstable by the well intentioned folks around us who never in their wildest thoughts would consider themselves good Germans. At any rate, who wants to be seen as unbalanced at the very moment in our lives when we unexpectedly find ourselves seeing Americans and America as they really are (and may have always been) for the first time. Not that it required insight. The sheer scale and pervasiveness of our national condition, plus decades of exposure, made it so damned obvious we could no longer escape it.

Regardless, inside me it gives rise to an alter ego I call THE SCREAMING MAN, who luckily for me, only screams inside my head. I’ve come to learn lately that plenty of other Americans have their own SCREAMING MAN and even see the same monsters I see in the traffic. (A big thank you to the L.A. Times reporter who was the first to tell me he saw the same creatures). The thought that so much of my readership is comprised of such folks is worrisome at times.

Once the monsters in the traffic reveal themselves, life can never be the same. We are left to go about doing all the ordinary things we always did, but with the building inexpressible moral outrage, living out our lives as rote actors in a theater of iron. Inside the iron theatre---a place surrounded by high walls of normalcy, where to discover a window to the outside is considered madness---the majority have apparently learned their scripts too well. So we are left in sitting in traffic jams to fester on our evil situation.

The great evils both past and present---the American genocide against the red Indian, My Lai and the uncounted others like it, Chairman Mao’s purges, the Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians, the Muslim slaughter in Darfur, Bosnia, and most notably the Holocaust---were not carried out by sociopaths, but by ordinary people who believed in their states their leaders and their gods. The machinist who made instruments for Nazi Germany felt no guilt. Nor does the anonymous mailroom employee in the Department of Homeland Security. I make a living editing military history magazines, thereby providing “pompous reaffirmations of a great past amid present mediocrity and immediate disorder,” as Marguerite Yourcenar put it. And right next door to my workplace Pakistani and Croatian programmers design death dealing aircraft circuitry for Curtis Wright, yet inside our florescent lit, air conditioned reality, there is not an ounce of guilt, much less a sense of accountability. Our work feels unquestionably ordinary, just as does the work of the traffic monsters, most of who work in Washington DC or the beltway around it.

(Vertigo, a taste of vomit in the throat, then…)


Oprah, LSD and the Lycra Micro Jukebox

How did we become so numb to the greatest moral issues of our time? Our time? Probably in human history, considering the irrevocable destruction of our ecosystem. Especially considering that 40 years ago they seemed to dominate the national arena…The Vietnam War, civil rights… A hell of a lot of wrong choices built the 200-year long road to where we now find ourselves, and I must admit that my generation did its share of the paving, laying down much of the roadbed during the Sixties. Despite much talk since then about the Sixties fight for moral justice, talk still easily launched by the pop of a chardonnay cork or the appearance of The Grateful Dead at the local arena, nearly to a man or woman, my generation, regardless of affluence, has traded principles for simple materialism. Assuming of course, they had any identifiable principles, which most didn’t.

Perhaps it was only part of this country’s ongoing struggle to accept successive waves of immigration, but the Sixties saw a push toward openness toward diverse viewpoints and values. There has always been great pressure on our social and public institutions to be capable of accepting the diversity thronging at its doors, a pressure yielded to only when it looks like things are about to blow sky high: “OK n****r, you can ride in the front of the bus. Pssst! Jeeter, get out the fire hoses and turn the dogs loose.” No institution is more pressed than the educational system. “Aw now the Mexicans want bilingual education!”, which has been handed the responsibility of building character by parents, and charged by the state with creating obedient, functional citizens who can multiply at least to the sixth power, are willing to file income tax forms, and at least pretend they don’t smoke pot. We are talking bare minimum standards here, although lately the multiplication standard has been dropped in favor of a willingness to be subjected to surveillance and mass body cavity searches at football games. In a nation where real education remains under suspicion by both the devoutly religious right, and the all-but-antireligious left, it was natural that school administrators and 10 million or so state teachers college graduates---themselves products of the mediocrity characterizing our common denominator approach to democracy and education---would arrive the “morality-is-all-a-matter of opinion” solution. It was the only way out. And, besides, from their standpoint, it looked true.

(Hissss…crackle…can this truly be a signal through my fillings?)


Godammit, I was trying to establish rational discourse here. Now where was I? Oh yes. The erosion of moral principles…

So we now we find principles treated as mere opinion by most young people and their parents, call it diversity tolerance overshoot, and any answers posed to the great questions of our age neatly written off. Global warming? Just some scientists’ opinion. The unjustness of our wars? More opinion. Inequity in society? In whose opinion? Wastefulness of our lifestyle? A matter of opinion.

Over the course of two generations of this, a predictable thing happened. Because the first generation avoided the questions, the second one never learned that they could be asked. The atmosphere could not be riper for pure triumphant consumer capitalism and its inherent militarism (Somebody has to clear the way for Wal-Mart democracy.) If there are no overarching public moral or intellectual questions, then the only remaining questions are material ones: Which is best? The iPod or the RCA Lycra Micro Jukebox? Headphones, cell phones and polyphonic ringtones, everyone is plugged into the white noise of pure commerce. It’s the new “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” I liked then old version better. Used appropriately, LSD posed the great questions. And sometimes highlighted a few answers, too.

But it doesn’t take a psychedelic experience to pursue the kind of truth inherent to fleshly human existence, the kind that seeks justice from within our bones. In fact, it takes effort to avoid it. I’ve never seen a culture or human being that did not have an inherent sense of justice, an innate desire for balance. Most consider this to be the spiritual side of man, if they consider it at all. Most do not. A huge portion of the world is commodity addicted, while another portion is simply looking for a warm dry spot in which to Limbaugh or lay down and die. There is not much room for contemplation of the finer points of existence in either instance. Whatever the case, the American lack of even minimal spiritual observance inducted us into the Empire’s cast of featureless players inside the iron theater. Nobody needs answers to meaningful questions that are never asked, or dare not be asked.

Some days however, change does seem to be afoot, as it certainly must be, given that change is the world’s only constant. A majority of Americas now disapprove of the war in Iraq. Just three years ago when I started writing from this town’s taverns and churches, working people therein absolutely loved George Bush. Now they have returned to their normal state of political apathy, seldom speaking of Bush, but with one difference---they no longer approve of his war, and express disapproval generally in the form of grumbling. They grumble because television has given them permission to do so, through its constant touting of polling results expressing “dissatisfaction” with the war. Being “dissatisfied” with something, a war in this case, is more in accordance with their programming as consumers, not citizens. They will never get permission to be really pissed off, much less pissed off enough to burn anything down.

Television polls never specifically count the outraged and the heartbroken, thus reducing our deepest emotions, once more, to mere opinion in another opinion poll. Outrage is impermissible, except for the pretend outrage of Crossfire, etc, which has entertainment value, thus profitability. Which is why the majority of Americans know little about Cindy Sheehan. Sorry to say that here in lefty blogdom, but it’s true. Cindy Sheehan has never been on Oprah.

When and if Sheehan ever is on Oprah, we will know we have won regarding the war in Iraq. We will have won if your standard for victory is acknowledgment by the high priestess of emotional vapidity and Barnes and Noble sales, talked to by a woman who uses her child rape as a credential. In her particular celebrity delusion, she considers herself the emotional caretaker of the nation, the Martha Stewart of the soul. Lusting for proximity of your cause to celebrity may be a gratifying short term antidote, but lusting for universal justice is the ultimate cure.

But even assuming getting within four feet of Oprah Winfrey constitutes victory, we will have won far too late for the already dead on both sides. Vietnam proved that the Empire’s wars are easier to stop than the overall trajectory of national hubris and folly. Winning is stopping wars before they start, or creating a society wherein war is the last resort, not a casual preemptive option. As for the growing rejection of the war, copping to the obvious in the face of defeat, then claiming moral high ground after we have scorched it and everyone on it, well, that’s no victory at all.

Which leaves me here to fester on celebrity and moral victory under the looming possibility of forced medication by the state. Hmmmm….

Where the hell are you Aldous Huxley?

So are they gonna medicate me and you or what? Surely I must have some time left before that happens. And if they don’t, then I’ll have to do it myself anyway. You cannot win in the Iron Theater. What its producers and directors want to happen is destined to happen. They are always in control. And when it comes to control, you can’t beat the good ole US pharmaceutical industry, which has clearly met the challenge of adult rage and despair, and is now doping down the kids before they even hit puberty. Over the past six years mental health drugs prescribed to children have jumped 550%.

Recently the NFC (New Freedom Commission on Mental Health) recommended the mandatory mental health screening for 100% of America’s school children and drug treatment for all children “judged to in need of drugs.” Hell, every kid in the whole damned country needs drugs, if only to face their future in the global gulag being constructed for them.

Godammit, Huxley, you saw it coming, didn’t you? But I don’t think it will be nearly as much fun as your grim vision. You held out the possibility of science perfecting bread and circuses—Soma. Now THAT was an idea, bud! Three brands of pharmacological reality: Technicolor Soma a pleasant hallucinogen; Soma medium, a Valium-like tranquilizer; and El Crusho black gold, the heavy sleeping pill. And for the rugged freedom loving individualist, you offered those tropical islands offshore. There was really nothing coercive about it all. If the corpocracy had listened to you Hux, about how to do oppression the right way, I’d be curled up in the lap of Halliburton right now, gurgling happily. I have nothing against state-controlled euphoria if they don’t skimp on the euphies. By the way Hux, can I do the Technicolor on the Island? Or will I be kicked off that one too?

Anyway, we seem to be truly dicked now. Man the machine making monkey is so proud of the machines he has created he now pushes toward the machining of human nature itself. Why not? It was always so damned unpredictable. So yes, by dammit, let’s do’er! Let the scientific and economic machinery we have created remake us in its own likeness. Let there be technology without wisdom and efficiency without human benefit. Let there be one blissful nation of highly medicated sleepwalkers in a scientific hell that, if you get doped up enough, feels like paradise.

A visitation from Diogenes and Stonewall Jackson

So what about that rage, huh? My own personal experiences tell me that, being part of human nature, it’s also unpredictable stuff. Tonight I went to a dinner party given by a freedom-hearted couple, the female half of which is probably the most intellectually courageous woman in town. I can’t know that with certainty because even the most liberal people in this Southern burgh would never dare to invite me to dinner. Word has gotten around.

Two hours into the dinner party, I did a bad thing. I called a nice-enough but gutless, apolitical guest, “one more ignorant Cheney American wanting respect for his self-imposed blindness,” adding that “Everything is not just an opinion, you know.” My good wife stood horrified. (Yes, there was alcohol involved.) Now, I know I am not the judge of that man’s days, and that he has the right to his opinion or non-opinion. But some days I cannot find even the dinner party pretense of respect for American denial, and this was one of those days.

By way of rationalization, I tell myself that if Diogenes of Sinope could live under a tub and take shots at the entire Greek world, then I am entitled to a snootful and an occasional outburst, despite the disparity between my talents and the long dead old Greek’s. It’s either that, or the deer rifle and water tower solution. Or the cheap online polemics you are now suffering. All of which is more Limbaugh, but it is the best I can do at the moment to rationalize bad behavior.

It is 11 pm, after the dinner party, and I sit in this muggy summer darkness on a bench in front of the Stonewall Jackson Headquarters Museum, located right behind my house.

Stonewall Jackson sat on his horse and sucked on lemons while he calmly managed the slaughter of thousands. I should probably take up lemons instead of gin. But at least I am guilty of mere stupidity, not slaughter. Tomorrow I will repent. Maybe. Depends upon whether anyone with legal authority finally decides I need help. Meanwhile, any kind of resistance, even the stupidest sort waged against fools, gives relief on a hot night inside the iron theater.

This anger will all come out in the morning as prose. Most likely, bad prose. (It did and you are reading it now.) But at least it will be out. Hell, there is only the world at stake.

* For Al Aronowitz, “The Blacklisted Journalist,” (1928-2005). A friend and mentor in art.

About author Joe Bageant is the author of a forthcoming book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, from Random House Crown about working class America, scheduled for spring 2007 release. A complete archive of his online work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the subject of class may be found at: http://www.joebageant.com. Feel free to contact him at: joebageant@joebageant.com.
Copyright © 2006 by Joe Bageant.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2006 5:35 am    Post subject: Minima Moralia Reply with quote

Minima Moralia

Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia, an important text of Critical Theory, was written during World War II, while the author lived as an exile in America. It was originally written for the fiftieth birthday of Max Horkheimer, co-author of Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment.

The book takes its title from Magna Moralia, Aristotle's classic work of ethics. As Adorno writes in the introduction, the "sorrowful knowledge" (a pun on Nietzsche's "The Joyful Knowledge") with which the book is concerned is "the teaching of the good life", a central theme of both the Greek and Hebrew sources of Western philosophy. Today, Adorno maintains, a good, honest life is no longer possible, because we live in an inhuman society. "Life does not live", declares the book's opening epigram. Adorno illustrates this in a series of short reflections and aphorisms into which the book is broken, moving from everyday experiences to disturbing insights on general tendencies of late industrial society. Topics considered include the subversive nature of toys, the desolation of the family, the ungenuinness of being genuine, the decay of conversation, the rise of occultism, and the history of tact. Adorno shows how the smallest changes in everyday behavior stands in relation to the most catastrophic events of the twentieth century.

The book acknowledges its roots in the "damaged life" of its author, one of many intellectuals driven into exile by fascism, who, according to Adorno, are "mutilated without exception". But as one of its aphorisms reads, "The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass." So, as splinters left over from the smashed mirror of philosophy, the book's fragments try to illuminate clues as to humanity's descent into inhumanity in their immediate surroundings. A kind of post-philosophy working against the "untrue whole" of philosophy proper, Minima Moralia holds fast to the Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment vision of redemption, which it calls the only valid viewpoint with which to engage a deeply troubled world. By bringing the "Messianic light" of criticism on a landscape of consummate negativity, Adorno attempts to "project negatively an image of utopia."

Full text of Minima Moralia, translated by Dennis Redmond
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