Tag Archives: Chris Hedges

2016 Summer Newsletter

 Greece Workshop Report

During the last week of June I conducted a weeklong workshop and colloquium on Innovation in Exchange and Finance at the Alexandros campus of the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School on the beautiful Pelion peninsula overlooking the Aegean Sea in Greece.

I had planned this to be a collaborative, interactive and problem-centered workshop that would bring together skilled and accomplished people to produce significant innovations in the areas of exchange, finance, and economics. We were fortunate in being able to draw together an excellent cohort of participants having diverse knowledge, skills and experience. Nine of these were full-time and several more participated in various parts of the workshop, particularly the June 25-26 weekend when we had a number of Greek participants from Volos and Athens. The Volos contingent shared their experiences over the past four years in creating and operating the Volos TEM trade exchange. It was very useful for all of us to hear about their difficulties and false starts and the lessons they have learned which will be applied as they move forward into the next phase of their project.

In addition to the registered workshop attendees who came from Australia, India, Ireland, Serbia, Sweden, the US and the UK, several Kalikalos staff members participated in some aspects of the workshop. We were disappointed however that one registrant from Saudi Arabia was unable to attend because his entry visa was denied by the Greek government.

Our work sessions were loosely structured to allow space for each person to share not only their questions but also their experiences and insights, and for the spontaneous emergence of ideas action plans. In addition to my presentations of foundational concepts using slide shows and videos, the format included a number of participatory exercises. Participants had opportunities to showcase their ongoing or planned projects and receive feedback from the group, and as is usual in any such gathering, informal discussions and networking were an important part of the experience.

Kalikalos has invited me to return again next year to conduct another similar workshop on monetary and financial innovation. It will be scheduled in the general timeframe of the second week of June (exact dates to be determined soon). My colleague Matthew Slater, one of this year’s participants who has particular expertise in IT, crypto-currencies, has agreed to assist me in that workshop, and over the coming months we will be working to further develop the format and the program.

I am hoping to once again attract participants who are ready, willing and able to put their knowledge and understanding into action. As Malcolm Gladwell points out, it takes mavens, connectors, and marketers working together to make a project successful, but most of all I think it takes entrepreneurs who are able to bring harmony to the mix, to hold the vision and to dedicate themselves fully to its realization.

As the time approaches, we and the Kalikalos team will be asking you to help us get the word out to our target groups— trade exchange operators, social entrepreneurs, local government officials, serious students, and enthusiastic agents of change.

In the face of the ongoing global economic and financial crisis and increasing political uncertainty, the creation and deployment of innovative decentralized mechanisms for reciprocal exchange and equitable finance are becoming ever more urgent and the opportunities have never been greater. We are now on the brink of ushering in a new more just and sustainable economic paradigm that will enable small producers and local enterprises to thrive, and communities to gain more control over their own destiny and quality of life.

Before and after my workshop I spent an additional three weeks at Kalkalos living in community at the Kissos campus. That in itself was an enlightening and enjoyable experience.
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Upcoming presentation – Malaysia

In October I’ll be presenting at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth (http://www.ifiw.my/) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ll be outlining my revolutionary plan for a decentralized global exchange network based on direct control of credit by producers.
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“IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro and apologises for the immolation of Greece“

In a July 29 article in The Telegraph, journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard dissects a recent report by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). He says the report, “goes above the head of the managing director, Christine Lagarde. It answers solely to the board of executive directors, and those from Asia and Latin America are clearly incensed at the way European Union insiders used the fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system.”

He concludes that “The injustice is that the cost of the bailouts was switched to ordinary Greek citizens – the least able to support the burden – and it was never acknowledged that the true motive of EU-IMF Troika policy was to protect monetary union. Indeed, the Greeks were repeatedly blamed for failures that stemmed from the policy itself. This unfairness – the root of so much bitterness in Greece – is finally recognised in the report.” Read the full article here.
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Recommended reads and views

Chris Hedges: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism.

Michael Hudson interview: The new global financial cold war

Basic Income gaining ground:

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, testifies in this 2-minute video that the US planned to overthrow seven countries after 9/11.

Wishing you a relaxing and enjoyable summer,

Thomas

Big Brother is watching you…and groping, and detaining, and…

What’s next?

This article by Naomi Wolff describes just how far advanced tyranny is in the United States today. With few exceptions, our national leaders who have sworn to uphold the Constitution have trampled it into the dirt. Isn’t there a name for that?–t.h.g.

How the US Uses Sexual Humiliation as a Political Tool to Control the Masses

By Naomi Wolff, Guardian, April 5, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/05/us-sexual-humiliation-political-control/print

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the “trespass bill”, which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to “turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.” He said he felt humiliated: “It made me feel like less of a man.”

In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices’ decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven’t been introduced into a prison population.

Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. There’s the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram – der Spiegel reports that “former inmates report incidents of … various forms of sexual humiliation. In some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex”. There was the stripping of Bradley Manning is solitary confinement. And there’s the policy set up after the story of the “underwear bomber” to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine – made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff – with images so vivid that it has been called the “pornoscanner”.

Believe me: you don’t want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

One of the most terrifying moments for me when I visited Guantanamo prison in 2009 was seeing the way the architecture of the building positioned glass-fronted shower cubicles facing intentionally right into the central atrium – where young female guards stood watch over the forced nakedness of Muslim prisoners, who had no way to conceal themselves. Laws and rulings such as this are clearly designed to bring the conditions of Guantanamo, and abusive detention, home.

I have watched male police and TSA members standing by side by side salaciously observing women as they have been “patted down” in airports. I have experienced the weirdly phrased, sexually perverse intrusiveness of the state during an airport “pat-down”, which is always phrased in the words of a steamy paperback (“do you have any sensitive areas? … I will use the back of my hands under your breasts …”). One of my Facebook commentators suggested, I think plausibly, that more women are about to be found liable for arrest for petty reasons (scarily enough, the TSA is advertising for more female officers).

I interviewed the equivalent of TSA workers in Britain and found that the genital groping that is obligatory in the US is illegal in Britain. I believe that the genital groping policy in America, too, is designed to psychologically habituate US citizens to a condition in which they are demeaned and sexually intruded upon by the state – at any moment.

The most terrifying phrase of all in the decision is justice Kennedy’s striking use of the term “detainees” for “United States citizens under arrest”. Some members of Occupy who were arrested in Los Angeles also reported having been referred to by police as such. Justice Kennedy’s new use of what looks like a deliberate activation of that phrase is illuminating.

Ten years of association have given “detainee” the synonymous meaning in America as those to whom no rights apply – especially in prison. It has been long in use in America, habituating us to link it with a condition in which random Muslims far away may be stripped by the American state of any rights. Now the term – with its associations of “those to whom anything may be done” – is being deployed systematically in the direction of … any old American citizen.

Where are we headed? Why? These recent laws criminalizing protest, and giving local police – who, recall, are now infused with DHS money, military hardware and personnel – powers to terrify and traumatise people who have not gone through due process or trial, are being set up to work in concert with a see-all-all-the-time surveillance state. A facility is being set up in Utah by the NSA to monitor everything all the time: James Bamford wrote in Wired magazine that the new facility in Bluffdale, Utah, is being built, where the NSA will look at billions of emails, texts and phone calls. Similar legislation is being pushed forward in the UK.

With that Big Brother eye in place, working alongside these strip-search laws, – between the all-seeing data-mining technology and the terrifying police powers to sexually abuse and humiliate you at will – no one will need a formal coup to have a cowed and compliant citizenry. If you say anything controversial online or on the phone, will you face arrest and sexual humiliation?

Remember, you don’t need to have done anything wrong to be arrested in America any longer. You can be arrested for walking your dog without a leash. The man who was forced to spread his buttocks was stopped for a driving infraction. I was told by an NYPD sergeant that “safety” issues allow the NYPD to make arrests at will. So nothing prevents thousands of Occupy protesters – if there will be any left after these laws start to bite – from being rounded up and stripped naked under intimidating conditions.

Why is this happening? I used to think the push was just led by those who profited from endless war and surveillance – but now I see the struggle as larger. As one internet advocate said to me: “There is a race against time: they realise the internet is a tool of empowerment that will work against their interests, and they need to race to turn it into a tool of control.”

As Chris Hedges wrote in his riveting account of the NDAA: “There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, the Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, DC, and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011.”

This enormous new sector of the economy has a multi-billion-dollar vested interest in setting up a system to surveil, physically intimidate and prey upon the rest of American society.

Now they can do so by threatening to demean you sexually – a potent tool in the hands of any bully.

The Occupy movement at risk from violent protesters

In a previous post (Who Will occupy Whom? A Warning for OWS) I warned about threats to the occupy movement and suggested a general strategy for achieving popular empowerment, peace, justice, and personal freedom. That post was prompted by, and included, an insightful article by Richard K. Moore. This one is stimulated by an article by Chris Hedges that highlights a more immediate threat that has recently developed in Oakland and elsewhere. That threat appears in the form of violent mob action that goes under the rubric of The Black Bloc. According to Wikipedia, “The Black Bloc is sometimes incorrectly reported as being the name of a specific anarchist group. It is, rather, a tactic that may be adopted by groups of various motivations and methods.” Those methods include violent confrontation with authority and destruction of property, tactics that play right into the hands of domineering oligarchs intent of preserving their privilege and hold on power. No doubt, the actions of many Black Bloc protesters are motivated by their ardently held, though misguided, ideology, but it seems likely that there are among their leadership agents provocateur who are intent on helping to maintain the present power structure by discrediting any opposition to it.

The media have generally characterized these anarchist actions as being part of the Occupy movement, but as Chris Hedges points out in his article, The Cancer in Occupy, The Black Bloc is no friend to the Occupy movement which began as peaceful expressions of discontent with the status quo, and is hopefully maturing into a progressive movement toward popular empowerment. Hedges calls the Black Bloc anarchists “the cancer of the Occupy movement,” and I’m inclined to agree. One feature of the Black Bloc protesters, and the basis for the name, is that they dress in black clothing and use ski masks, scarves, sun glasses, and other means to obscure their faces. But anonymity and concealment are antithetical to civil society and are more likely to enable criminal and anti-social activity rather than protection for the legitimate assertion of people’s rights.

Any movement will eventually develop factions that diverge on the basis of philosophy, goals, strategies and tactics. The mainstream of the Occupy movement must find ways to distance itself from such groups and tactics because, as Hedges points out, “Once the Occupy movement is painted as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob we are finished. If we become isolated we can be crushed.” One way to preserve the legitimacy of the movement is to insist on openness and transparency. If that can be expressed strongly enough, it might preserve in the public mind the identity of Occupy as a benign and creative force.

I believe that the ends are inherent in the means and that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12, KJV). The Occupy movement must move toward disciplined organization and employ tactics that are at once compassionate and effective, tactics that even progressives who work within the establishment can embrace. It must be a form of organization that relies not on power hierarchies, but on solidarity and consensus within small communities of peers organized into large networks than can enable concerted action.

The real threat to the powers that be, (and the most promising path toward our goals) is intelligent, non-violent, empowering actions that make them and their systems irrelevant.

The way forward, as I see it, is to assert our fundamental rights and to organize better ways of providing for our basic needs. Yes, there will be adverse consequences, but ultimately right will prevail. I am reminded of a scene from the film Gandhi, in which the mahatma leads a large number of people on a march to the sea—to make salt. Why was that a revolutionary act? Because the British government had a “legal” monopoly that forced people in India to buy their salt from that single source. What a patent absurdity, to tell people that they are prohibited from making their own salt. What a gross infringement of basic human rights!

But people everywhere today suffer under equally absurd “laws” that force people to rely upon banking cartels to provide government-approved forms of money to enable the exchange of the goods and services we all need. In some places, competing forms of currency and financing alternatives are prohibited outright, in others they are impeded by onerous taxation and reporting requirements. But ultimately, the people will reclaim the credit commons and free themselves from oppressive systems of money and finance. I urge you again to heed the prescriptions outlined in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

Viva la revolución pacífica!

–t.h.g.