Pure Power: How the Ocean in You Flows

Neo Nazis, violence, right wing extremism, despair. Behind these lies a deeper issue. The West has always been starving for, maybe obsessed with, power. By now, it has gained a little material, technological, utilitarian power — but that has come at the price of moral, spiritual, psychological power. The price of the former is the latter: for example, young people are dying faster because of a raging opioid crisis — like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy, the West is powerless to do much but eat its young. The reason is that it doesn’t quite know what power really is. And so, blinded by hunger for power, it is like a starving person eating poison.

So I want to talk about power in its purest form. I’ll do a long pointless explanation, which you can skip, and then talk a little about the experience of true power, which is what really matters.

When you wake up from a good sleep, you feel “energized”. Why is that? Not just because you “rested”. You can rest and feel exhausted by bad dreams afterwards, too. The reason is that mind, thought, self, mental action was gone. What was free to happen in its place? For some kind of energy to flow through you, “recharging” you. How could that be?

That power is always flowing through you. What is it? It is what being is in itself. If you learn to meditate, if you have a sudden experience of death like me, and so on, you will reach that place of pure being, the same as in deep sleep, only now you are conscious of it, and there you will immediately experience awareness in its raw form, like an ocean without an end. And just “beneath” the surface of that ocean, there is energy. Just pure energy.

You’ve already felt that pure energy — at least an inkling of it — on countless occasions. The instant you fell in love. A moment of epiphany. The birth of a child. Just standing below the stars on a summer night and feeling like you were never there at all. In all those moments, something unimaginably vast, oceanic, tidal, ripped through you.

That is pure power.

And then it was gone. Because the truth is that unless you can “channel” it, which is a terrible word with all the wrong implications, it will indeed rip you apart. So your little ego comes back into life, and then the experience of unity, oneness — and the impossibly vast power that you feel in that moment — vanishes, because your ego in a sense is there to protect you from it.

“Channel”. What do we really mean? We can’t control pure power, raw being. We can only let it guide us. So learning to be powerful in a genuine sense isn’t about Western notions of power at all — will, freedom, liberty, self-reliance, and all that it inevitably leads to: ubermen, competition, conquest, violence, envy, anger, which explains now. Being genuinely powerful is to let that vast ocean of pure energy flow through you just the way it should. What does “the way it should” mean? And how are we to do that?

By opening ourselves to it. Really standing naked in front of this great, vast, roaring ocean. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is. Saying: “Here is who I really am. I am wounded, hurt, small in this way, imperfect in this way, incomplete in that way”. And yet. Only then can pure energy flow through us just the way that it should. It can fill us up where up are empty, heal us where we are wounded, mend us where we are broken. It can flow, like water, from wholeness back into wholeness, because pure energy is always seeking itself, which is another way to say that the truth of life is love.

Now it probably won’t as simple as that. You will have to let yourself go. Pure energy, raw awareness, will whisper to you “go this way”, “this person is right”, “that way is wrong”. It will speak without words — and for that very reason, you will resist it, even though you will feel it. It’s movements, the movements of that great ocean, are what we call “emotions”, movements — and the reason that Western thought can’t even define emotions is that it doesn’t have a theory of being like the above yet, that is true to the human experience.

The ocean will speak to you without words. It always is, isn’t it? The challenge is letting your little ego hear its silent voice, without resistance, only acceptance, gratitude, silence. The ego says: “I am not guilty!”, “I am never afraid!”, and so on. What can the universe, pure being, raw awareness, tell you this way? It is talking, but you are not listening. The result is powerlessness. To be powerful is to hear the message that every instant of life is sending you, countless times, over and over again.

I say “message”. Why would this cold, harsh, impersonal universe care about you, me, our suffering, our pain? See? Your ego is already speaking. You are not hearing the universe now, are you? Never mind. It’s OK. Let us answer the question. Even if the universe is aware, why would it care? The answer is very simple, and you already know it. There is no separation between you and the universe, pure being, raw awareness. None whatsoever. All division is illusion. I am nothing you are not, and you are nothing I am not. That vast of ocean of energy beneath the surface of awareness, what is it really? It is you. Not just some of it. All of it. Just as the drop contains the ocean, so you contain pure being. Just as the drop is always seeking the ocean, so you are always seeking unity with pure being.

In its quiescent state, pure being radiates stillness, peace, calm. Now what happens the moment that it “sees”? Then you are created. Then you are born, you live, you die. You suffer, you live, you laugh. You are the act. You are the moment. You are the instant. You are the experience of the seer seeing itself and rejoicing. You feel evanescent and temporary because you are: you are just a glance. And just like a glance is fleeting, so you gain just a glimpse of the truth inside you.

Let me give you another analogy. The fish are just the ocean seeing itself. From the ocean’s perspective, there are no fish. There are just temporary moments and modes of awareness, each seeing in a different way. They are all absorbed back into the very same ocean. Who is, and who is not, and who has ever been? In the same way, you are just a glance, a look, the opening and closing of an eye.

So you must stand naked before this great and endless ocean. You must be able to say: “this is who I really am, frail, broken, small, humble”. You fear, deep in your bones, that the ocean will drown you. But all the ocean has ever done is flow through you. The moment you are naked, then the pure energy of being can flow through every last wound and scar in you. And that is all the experience of power really is. To let it.

Umair
August 2017

https://umairhaque.com/pure-power-ba3347ce2a24

Elon Musk may be a “visionary,” but his vision doesn’t seem to include unions

Tesla required employees to sign confidentiality agreements which prevent them from discussing workplace conditions

Elon Musk may be a “visionary,” but his vision doesn’t seem to include unions
(Credit: AP)
This article originally appeared in In These Times


Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been making more headlines than usual lately. Shortly after the business magnate claimed he had received governmental approval to build a hyperloop from New York to Washington, D.C., he got into a public argument with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the future of artificial intelligence. Musk also recently made comments regarding the production of Tesla’s new Model 3, a battery-electric sedan. “We’re going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell,” he told journalists.

It’s hard to know exactly what constitutes “manufacturing hell,” but it might also be difficult to ever find out. That’s because, since last November, Tesla has required employees to sign confidentiality agreements which prevent them from discussing workplace conditions. This policy has faced increased criticism since February, as workers at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. plant have expressed concern over wages, safety and their right to unionize. They have reached out to the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) union, which is now intervening.

Last week, some of those workers made specific demands. A group called Tesla Workers’ Organizing Committee sent a letter to the company’s board members seeking safety improvements and a clearer promotion policy. The letter cites 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the last full year for which such information is available. “For that year, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that our injury rate was higher than that of sawmills and slaughter houses. Accidents happen every day,” reads the letter. The committee also addressed Tesla’s resistance to workplace organizing: “We should be free to speak out and to organize together to the benefit of Tesla and all of our workers. When we have raised this with management we have been met with anti-union rhetoric and action.”

Attention was originally drawn to the factory’s organizing fight after Tesla employee Jose Moran published a Medium post on February 9. Moran raises safety concerns, writing that, a few months ago, six of the eight people on his work team were on leave due to workplace injuries. He also breaks down problems with the factory’s wages. According to Moran, workers at the Tesla factory make between $17 and $21 in Alameda county, an area where the living wage is more than $28 an hour. Moran wrote that some of his coworkers make a two-hour commute to work because they can’t afford to live near the factory.

“Tesla’s Production Associates are building the future: They are doing the hard work to build the electric cars and battery packs that are necessary to reduce carbon emissions. But they are paid significantly below the living wage for one adult and one child in our community,” Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign director of the local worker advocacy group Silicon Valley Rising, told In These Times via email. “We believe that green jobs should be good jobs, and that they have a right to organize and advocate for themselves and their families.”

The day after Moran published his post, employees passed out literature containing the piece during a shift change at the factory. According to an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made by workers, and obtained by Capital and Main, this prompted management to schedule a meeting where workers were told they couldn’t pass out information unless it was pre-approved by the employer. The same NLRB charge accuses Tesla of illegal surveillance and intimidation.

Moran’s piece, and the subsequent accusations, were taken seriously enough to be addressed by Elon Musk directly. In an email to employees, obtained by Buzzfeed, Musk declared that safety concerns ignored vast improvements established in 2017. Tesla also put out a statement echoing Musk’s claims. The company’s data points to a 52 percent reduction in lost time incidents and a 30 percent reduction in recordable incidents during the company’s first quarter.

Musk promised a “really amazing party” for workers after the Model 3 reached volume production. In addition to the party, the factory would eventually include free frozen yogurt stands and a roller coaster. “It’s going to get crazy good,” he wrote. As for Moran, Musk claimed he was a paid UAW plant and that he had looked into his claims and discovered they weren’t true. The UAW, he explained, “does not share our mission” and their “true allegiance is to the giant car companies, where the money they take from employees in dues is vastly more than they could ever make from Tesla.”

This wouldn’t be the last time Musk would use such language in regards to a union. Six months after Tesla acquired Germany’s Grohmann Engineering, Musk found himself clashing with the country’s dominant metalworkers’ union, IG Metall. The union intervened to insist that Tesla straighten out a wage discrepancy that had some workers claiming they were making 30 percent less than union rates. Musk sent a letter to Grohmann employees offering a one-time bonus — an extra 150 Euros a month — and Tesla shares instead of a pay increases that the employees desire. “I do not believe IG Metall shares our mission,” reads the letter.

“We’re a money-losing company,” Musk told The Guardian in May. “This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing.” Two months after that interview, Automotive News reported that Musk had been the highest paid auto executive of 2016, exercising stock options worth $1.34 billion. Musk’s incredible economic success hasn’t exactly been generated via an unfettered free market. According to data compiled by the Los Angeles Times in 2015, Musk’s companies have benefited from billions in government subsidies.

Whether or not Tesla’s board members are receptive to employee demands, it seems clear that the workers’ struggle is not going away anytime soon.

How Silicon Valley denies us the freedom to pay attention

Free your brain: 

A continual quest for attention both drives and compromises Silicon Valley’s techno-utopian vision

Free your brain: How Silicon Valley denies us the freedom to pay attention
(Credit: Salon/Flora Thevoux)

In late June, Mark Zuckerberg announced the new mission of Facebook: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

The rhetoric of the statement is carefully selected, centered on empowering people, and in so doing, ushering in world peace, or at least something like it. Tech giants across Silicon Valley are adopting similarly utopian visions, casting themselves as the purveyors of a more connected, more enlightened, more empowered future. Every year, these companies articulate their visions onstage at internationally streamed pep rallies, Apple’s WWDC and Google’s I/O being the best known.

But companies like Facebook can only “give people the power” because we first ceded it to them, in the form of our attention. After all, that is how many Silicon Valley companies thrive: Our attention, in the form of eyes and ears, provides a medium for them to advertise to us. And the more time we spend staring at them, the more money Facebook and Twitter make — in effect, it’s in their interest that we become psychologically dependent on the self-esteem boost from being wired in all the time.

This quest for our eyeballs doesn’t mesh well with Silicon Valley’s utopian visions of world peace and people power. Earlier this year, many sounded alarm bells when a “60 Minutes” exposé revealed the creepy cottage industry of “brain-hacking,” industrial psychology techniques that tech giants use and study to make us spend as much time staring at screens as possible.

Indeed, it is Silicon Valley’s continual quest for attention that both motivates their utopian dreams, and that compromises them from the start. As a result, the tech industry often has compromised ethics when it comes to product design.

Case in point: At January’s Consumer Electronics Convention – a sort of Mecca for tech start-ups dreaming of making it big – I found myself in a suite with one of the largest kid-tech (children’s toys) developers in the world. A small flock of PR reps, engineers and executives hovered around the entryway as one development head walked my photographer and me through the mock setup. They were showing off the first voice assistant developed solely with kids in mind.

At the end of the tour, I asked if the company had researched or planned to research the effects of voice assistant usage on kids. After all, parents had been using tablets to occupy their kids for years by the time evidence of their less-than-ideal impact on children’s attention, behavior and sleep emerged.

The answer I received was gentle but firm: No, because we respect parents’ right to make decisions on behalf of their children.

This free-market logic – that says the consumer alone arbitrates the value of a product – is pervasive in Silicon Valley. What consumer, after all, is going to argue they can’t make their own decisions responsibly? But a free market only functions properly when consumers operate with full agency and access to information, and tech companies are working hard to limit both.

During a “60 Minutes” story on brain hacking, former product manager at Google Tristan Harris said, “There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it.”

The problem, according to Harris, is that “this is just not true… [Developers] want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money.”

Harris was homing in on the fact that, increasingly, it isn’t the price tag on the platform itself that earns companies money, but the attention they control on said platform – whether it’s a voice assistant, operating system, app or website. We literally “pay” attention to ads or sponsored content in order to access websites.

But Harris went on to explain that larger platforms, using systems of rewards similar to slot machines, are working not only to monetize our attention, but also to monopolize it. And with that monopoly comes incredible power.

If Facebook, for instance, can control hours of people’s attention daily, it can not only determine the rate at which it will sell that attention to advertisers, but also decide which advertisers or content creators it will sell to. In other words, in an attention economy Facebook becomes a gatekeeper for content – one that mediates not only personalized advertising, but also news and information.

This sort of monopoly brings the expected fiscal payoff, and also the amassing of immeasurable social and cultural power.

So how does Facebook’s new mission statement fit into this attention economy?

Think of it in terms of optics. The carotid artery of Facebook, along with the other tech giants of Silicon Valley, is brand. Brand ubiquity means Facebook is the first thing people check when they take their phones out of their pockets, or when they open Chrome or Safari (brought to you by Google and Apple, respectively). It means Prime Day is treated like a real holiday. Just like Kleenex means tissues and Xerox means copy, online search has literally become synonymous with Google.

Yet all these companies are painfully aware of what a brand-gone-bad can do – or undo. The current generation of online platforms is built on the foundations of empires that rose and fell while the attention economy was still incipient. Today’s companies have maintained their centrality by consistently copying (Instagram Stories, a clone of Snapchat) or outright purchasing (YouTube) their fiercest competitors – all to maintain or expand their brand.

And perhaps as important, tech giants have made it near impossible to imagine a future without them, simply by being the most prominent public entities doing such imagining.

Facebook’s mission affixes the company in our shared future, and also injects it with a moral or at least charitable sensibility – even if it’s only in the form of “bring[ing] the world closer together”-type vagaries.

So how should we as average consumers respond?

In his award-winning essay “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy,” James Williams argues, “We must … move urgently to assert and defend our freedom of attention.”

To assert our freedom is to sufficiently recognize and evaluate the demands to attention all these devices and digital services represent. To defend our freedom entails two forms of action: first, by individual action – not unplugging completely, as the self-styled prophets of Facebook and Twitter encourage (before logging back on after a few months of asceticism) – but rather unplugging partially, habitually and ruthlessly.

Attention is the currency upon which tech giants are built. And the power of agency and free information is the power we cede when we turn over our attention wholly to platforms like Facebook.

But individual consumers can only do so much. The second way we must defend our freedom is through our demand for ethical practices from Silicon Valley.

Some critics believe government regulation is the only way to rein in Silicon Valley developers. The problem is, federal agencies that closely monitor the effects of product usage on consumers don’t have a good category for monitoring the effects of online platforms yet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks medical technology. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) focuses on physical risk to consumers. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC)  focuses on content — not platform. In other words, we don’t have a precedent for monitoring social media or other online platforms and their methods for retaining users.

Currently, there is no corollary agency that leads dedicated research into the effects of platforms like Facebook on users. There is no Surgeon General’s warning. There is no real protection for consumers from unethical practices by tech giants — as long as those practices fall in the cracks between existing ethics standards.

While it might seem idealistic to hold out for the creation of a new government agency that monitors Facebook (especially given the current political regime), the first step toward curbing Silicon Valley’s power is simple: We must acknowledge freedom of attention as an inalienable right — one inextricable from our freedom to pursue happiness. So long as the companies producing the hardware surrounding us and the platforms orienting social life online face no strictures, they will actively work to control how users think, slowly eroding our society’s collective free will.

With so much at stake, and with so little governmental infrastructure in place, checking tech giants’ ethics might seem like a daunting task. The U.S. government, after all, has demonstrated a consistent aversion to challenging Silicon Valley’s business and consumer-facing practices before.

But while we fight for better policy and stronger ethics-enforcing bodies, we can take one more practical step: “pay” attention to ethics in Silicon Valley. Read about Uber’s legal battles and the most recent research on social media’s effects on the brain. Demand more ethical practices from the companies we patronize. Why? The best moderators of technology ethics thus far have been tech giants themselves — when such moderation benefits the companies’ brands.

In Silicon Valley, money talks, but attention talks louder. It’s time to reclaim our voice.

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/05/free-your-brain-how-silicon-valley-denies-us-the-freedom-to-pay-attention/?source=newsletter

Pure Being: The Heart and the Moment

So there I am. On my giant sofa, curled up into a little ball. The BBC’s playing classical music to calm me. I hate classical music. The doctors have given me weeks to live. The sun’s rising. I’m over the grief. Just trying to sleep. Eyes closed.

Snap. Suddenly, I’m in a different place. There’s nothing here. Just a soft white light, like a cotton ball. Yet it’s not light. It’s like the light in all light. It’s radiating not just like a flashlight but like a heart. Compassion, love. It’s illuminating like a pure moment of seeing, not a searchlight. It’s seeing me seeing myself. I’m not in it, it’s not in me. It’s flowing through me as if I was never there.

I open my eyes. The light is shining through everything. Not on everything. Deep in the heart of everything. Every tree, building, person. Yet I’m not seeing it with my eyes. I’m seeing it with the very same part of that light that’s in me. It’s like a million mirrors all reflecting one source.

Wait. WTF! Is this a figment of my imagination? It feels more real than reality itself. I try to ignore it, dismiss it as the silly fiction of a sick, needy, mind. And yet. I start to go back to that place, whenever I need to be recharged with solace, strength, compassion. And I am. I can’t not see it shining through everything, no matter how I tell myself to get a grip.

I am a die hard empiricist. I can’t make any sense of it. Have I lost my mind? And yet, as I think about it, I realise three things. It is the most peaceful and loving place I’ve ever been. An ocean. It’s pure and boundless, with no notion of time or space. And somehow, everything is “made” of it. Made is a metaphor, I realise. Everything is realised from it, by realising everything else. But beyond the little phenomenal existence of trees and selves and time and objects, there is just this light of pure awareness, which I can see without seeing.

So I read and I read, utterly baffled, mystified. Not sure whether dying has taken away my reason. Finally, after a year – I don’t die – I come across the Tibetan description of Rigpa. Pure being. The base of existence. It has three properties. Luminosity, awareness, the energy of love. It has exactly the sane three properties that left me bewildered, at peace, full of grace. Pure being. The essence of all that is. Final reality. Now I had a little clarity.

I see a blade of grass. A little puppy experiences it very differently. It smells, hears, touches it. The tree experiences it differently still. The blade of grass experiences itself still differently. Through all these experiences, the “blade” is coming into being. It is becoming an object and subject of awareness. Many awarenesses. But what is there, really?

In reality, behind all these experiences, which are just thoughts in minds, there is no “thing”. Just pure possibility, which is the light of awareness seeing itself. There is no blade, no puppy, no tree, no you. Each sees the next its own way and thus mentally divides up the experience of pure being. That pure light of possibility separates into spectra and objects and things, by imagining thoughts in mind.

We are awareness seeing itself in tiny ways. Different ways. Just little fleeting facets of it. We divide it up into trees and puppies and people and blades of grass. That is the source of our suffering and pain and hurt. Then there is desire, anger, envy, and so on. When we return to oneness, as we do during sex, creation, communion, moments where we lose ourselves, we gain a little contact with pure being again.

That is what love is, and in that way you are an expression of love. Made from love, you will come home to love. You are a little river returning to the ocean. All the pain and hurt and fear we feel in life is distance from pure being.

I didn’t find pure being. It found me. What did I learn? Nothing at all. What did I forget? Everything. That light that illuminates light itself shines through us. We are just its expressions, sometimes it’s shadows. And always, in every moment, we are its children.

Umair

July 2017

New Poll Shows Nation Moving Left on Healthcare, Embracing Medicare for All

Published on
by

The poll shows that 62 percent of Americans believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee healthcare for all

“There is a significant increase in people who support universal coverage,” Robert Blendon of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told AP. (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

In the face of “cruel” attempts by the Republican Party to strip health insurance from more than 30 million Americans with the goal of providing massive tax breaks to the wealthy, a new poll published on Thursday finds that a growing majority of the public is “shifting toward the political left” on healthcare and expressing support for a system that ensures coverage for all.

“The Democratic party needs to stop fumbling around incompetently for a positive vision and instead unify behind the one already supported by the overwhelming majority of its voters.”
—Matt Bruenig
The poll, conducted by the Associated Press in partnership with the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, shows that 62 percent of public believes it is “the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage.”

As AP‘s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Laurie Kellman note, this is a dramatic shift in popular attitudes over a very short period of time.

“As recently as March,” they observe, “the AP-NORC poll had found Americans more ambivalent about the federal government’s role, with a slim 52 percent majority saying health coverage is a federal responsibility, and 47 percent saying it is not.”

This most recent poll also found:

  • Only 22 percent of Democrats want to keep Obamacare as it is, and 64 favor changes to the law.
  • 80 percent of Democrats believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure coverage for all.
  • 80 percent of Americans believe Republicans should work with Democrats to improve Obamacare.
  • 13 percent of Americans support the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, a proposal the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would leave 32 million more Americans uninsured.

These latest survey results are consistent with increasingly vocal grassroots support for a Medicare-for-All style system that “leaves no one out.” Prominent Democrats have joined the groundswell of enthusiasm; former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Elizabeth Warren(D-Mass.) are two of the more notable figures who have openly advocated a move toward single-payer in recent weeks.

“There is a significant increase in people who support universal coverage,” Robert Blendon of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told AP. “The impact of the debate over dropping coverage looks like it has moved [more] people to feel that the government is responsible for making sure that people have coverage.”

This soaring support for Medicare for All at the grassroots has been bolstered by recent analyses showing that a single-payer system would be more affordable than the current for-profit system—a fact that refutes President Donald Trump’s baseless claim on Wednesday that single-payer would “bankrupt our country.”

All of these factors, argues welfare policy analyst Matt Bruenig in a recent piece for Buzzfeed, amount to an irrefutable case in favor of moving beyond Obamacare to a healthcare system that ensures universal coverage.

“Now that the Republicans have failed [in their attempts to repeal Obamacare], the time is ripe for a serious single-payer push,” Bruenig writes. “Policy institutions need to work hard to hammer out the details of a single-payer plan, and the Democratic party needs to stop fumbling around incompetently for a positive vision and instead unify behind the one already supported by the overwhelming majority of its voters.”

 

Eugene Debs and the Kingdom of Evil

Posted on Jul 16, 2017

By Chris Hedges

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—Eugene Victor Debs, whose home is an infrequently visited museum on the campus of Indiana State University, was arguably the most important political figure of the 20th century. He built the socialist movement in America and was eventually crucified by the capitalist class when he and hundreds of thousands of followers became a potent political threat.Debs burst onto the national stage when he organized a railroad strike in 1894 after the Pullman Co. cut wages by up to one-third but did not lower rents in company housing or reduce dividend payments to its stockholders. Over a hundred thousand workers staged what became the biggest strike in U.S. history on trains carrying Pullman cars.

The response was swift and brutal.

“Mobilizing all the powers of capital, the owners, representing twenty-four railroads with combined capital of $818,000,00, fought back with the courts and the armed forces of the Federal government behind them,” Barbara W. Tuchman writes in “The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.” “Three thousand police in the Chicago area were mobilized against the strikers, five thousand professional strikebreakers were sworn in as Federal deputy marshals and given firearms; ultimately six thousand Federal and State troops were brought in, less for the protection of property and the public than to break the strike and crush the union.”

Attorney General Richard Olney, who as Tuchman writes “had been a lawyer for railroads before entering the Cabinet and was still a director of several lines involved in the strike,” issued an injunction rendering the strike illegal. The conflict, as Debs would write, was a battle between “the producing classes and the money power of the country.”Debs and the union leaders defied the injunction. They were arrested, denied bail and sent to jail for six months. The strike was broken. Thirty workers had been killed. Sixty had been injured. Over 700 had been arrested. The Pullman Co. hired new workers under “yellow dog contracts,” agreements that forbade them to unionize.

When he was in jail, Debs read the works of socialist writers Edward Bellamy and Karl Kautsky as well as Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital.” The books, especially Marx’s three volumes, set the “wires humming in my system.”

“I was to be baptized in Socialism in the roar of the conflict. … [I]n the gleam of every bayonet and the flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed,” he writes. “This was my first practical lesson in Socialism.”

Debs came to the conclusion that no strike or labor movement could ultimately be successful as long as the government was controlled by the capitalist class. Any advances made by an organized working class would be reversed once the capitalists regained absolute power, often by temporarily mollifying workers with a few reforms. Working men and women had to achieve political power, a goal of Britain’s Labour Party for workers at the time, or they would forever be at the mercy of the bosses.

Debs feared the rise of the monolithic corporate state. He foresaw that corporations, unchecked, would expand to “continental proportions and swallow up the national resources and the means of production and distribution.” If that happened, he warned, the long “night of capitalism will be dark.”

This was a period in U.S. history when many American Christians were socialists. Walter Rauschenbusch, a Christian theologian, Baptist minister and leader of the Social Gospel movement, thundered against capitalism. He defined the six pillars of the “kingdom of evil” as “religious bigotry, the combination of graft and political power, the corruption of justice, the mob spirit (being ‘the social group gone mad’) and mob action, militarism[,] and class contempt.”

Debs turned to the Bible as often to Marx, arguing “Cain was the author of the competitive theory” and the “cross of Jesus stands as its eternal denial.” Debs’ fiery speeches, replete with words like “sin” and “redemption,” were often thinly disguised sermons. He equated the crucified Christ with the abolitionist John Brown. He insisted that Jesus came “to destroy class rule and set up the common people as the sole and rightful inheritors of the earth.” “What is Socialism?” he once asked. “Merely Christianity in action.” He was fond of quoting the poet James Russell Lowell, who writes:

He’s true to God who’s true to man;
Whenever wrong is done.
To the humblest and the weakest,
’neath the all-beholding sun.
That wrong is also done to us,
And they are slaves most base,
Whose love of right is for themselves
And not for all the race.

It was also a period beset with violence, including anarchist bombings and assassinations. An anarchist killed President William McKinley in 1901, unleashing a wave of state repression against social and radical movements. Striking workers engaged in periodic gun battles, especially in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, with heavily armed company goons, National Guard units, paramilitary groups such as the Coal and Iron Police, and the U.S. Army.

Scientists warn of “biological annihilation” as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates

By Josh Varlin
12 July 2017

study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) indicates that human activity is precipitating “biological annihilation” and a mass extinction event.

The peer-reviewed paper, “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines,” argues that the severity of the ongoing biodiversity crisis is often underestimated by looking primarily at extinctions (the loss of all individuals in a species). The study looks more broadly at species’ population decline and argues that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.”

The study was coauthored by Gerardo Ceballos of the Instituto de Ecología at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City and by Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University’s Department of Biology.

The authors argue that while the extinction rate is already alarmingly high—including at least two vertebrate species per year for the past century—this does not tell the full story. Even if species have not yet gone extinct, their numbers and geographic distribution are decreasing dramatically, signaling an accelerating trend toward eventual extinction.

Detailed historical data from 1900 to 2015 is available for about 200 mammals, which are often major components of their ecosystems. Most of these key species are in crisis, even though they are not extinct: “In the 177 mammals for which we have detailed data, all have lost 30 percent or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40 percent of the species have experienced severe population declines (>80 percent range shrinkage).”

Gerardo Ceballos et al., 2017, “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online, http://www.pnas.org.

Because population declines presage extinction, the study concludes that the planet has already begun its sixth mass extinction—the first since humans evolved.

The last mass extinction was at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 66 million years ago, which saw the end of the dinosaurs, paving the way for mammals to dominate on land. The end-Cretaceous extinction was caused by an asteroid colliding with Earth, creating nuclear winter-like atmospheric effects.

The most catastrophic known mass extinction occurred at the end of the Permian Period (252 million years ago), and is known as “The Great Dying.” Approximately 70 percent of terrestrial species died during this cataclysmic event, which is thought to have occurred due to massive volcanic eruptions.

The fact that PNAS, one of the top science journals worldwide, published an article raising the possibility of events along the lines of “The Great Dying” is a sign that the ecological crisis is far advanced.

The paper, which is only about five pages long, not counting graphs or references, uses the word “annihilation” six times, “catastrophic” twice and a variety of “decimation” three times. Ceballos told the Atlantic that such frank language is warranted. “It would be alarmist if we didn’t have the data,” he said. “Now it would be irresponsible on our part to not use strong language. I wish we could say we are wrong but unfortunately, this is what is happening.”

The breakthrough made by Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo is their thorough examination of populations, rather than staying at the level of species. A population is a group of individuals separated from other populations, usually by geography. Each species is made up of one or more populations.

If a species is losing several key populations but its overall numbers have not collapsed, it often will not be recognized as being in crisis. However, if a species is atomized into disparate, isolated populations, with its overall habitat shrinking, that makes its eventual extinction more likely.

In other words, the loss of each population of a species is one major step toward its overall extinction, unless measures are taken to restore the population and reverse the crisis.

Because most studies focus on extinction and not the loss of populations, they understate the scale of the crisis. Not only is the decline in populations a prelude to a significant number of extinctions, but the pace of population loss is accelerating.

Moreover, many species with decreasing populations are not yet recognized as being endangered. Of all land vertebrates with decreasing populations, about 70 percent have been recognized as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, less than half of decreasing bird species are recognized as endangered by the IUCN.

Because of the complexity of the environment, removing even a seemingly minor population or species can severely impact other species—if enough species go extinct, it can damage whole ecosystems. Human life as we know it relies on an increasingly strained ecological balance, and may be impossible if biodiversity is reduced too much. The loss of this dynamic balance, once it reaches a certain point, can cascade into a catastrophic, possibly irreversible collapse.

The study identifies “the proximate causes of population extinctions” as “habitat conversion, climate disruption, overexploitation, toxification, species invasions, disease and (potentially) large-scale nuclear war—all tied to one another in complex patterns and usually reinforcing each other’s impacts.”

These factors are all caused or greatly exacerbated by humans’ unplanned and irrational interaction with the environment, rooted in the subordination of all social and economic life to private profit. It is worth noting in this context the mention of the potential environmental consequences of a nuclear war, which could be set off by any number of conflicts around the world caused by the division of the world into competing capitalist nation-states.

The authors identify “the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction” as “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.” One need not agree that population growth itself is the problem to recognize that human activity, without scientific planning, places immense strains on the environment.

Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo conclude their paper by noting that “the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most.” Their article should serve as a notice that the clock is ticking for humanity to establish socialism—a social system in which life is scientifically organized around human need, including the need to be in harmony with the natural environment. Only through the conscious effort to place humanity on such a rational basis can ecological collapse be prevented.

WSWS