the Informed

Why Socialism Is A Dirty Word & You Should Feel Terrible About Yourself

Have you ever wondered exactly what is wrong with you? Have you ever wondered why you should feel like an awful person because you're a soft, left-wing, entitled, privileged, communist, liberal little twerp? Because if you haven't, you probably should. You see, since the late 19th century, they were branding you a loose canon, a disturber of the peace, a stoned-slacker and a traitor. A terrorist even. As propaganda infiltrated political systems and swayed public opinion, so-called liberals and activists have not been immune to its wrath; in fact they have been a target of it. The propagandists have long demonized them in order to maintain the status-quo and along with it, demonized the idea of socialism in an effort to neuter and render it a dirty word.

Let me hear that dirty word Socialism. - Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth in Bulworth (1998) written by Warren Beatty

So why do Americans, for example, especially feel that it is such a foul concept, to be shunned like the plague, when socialist countries like Sweden and Switzerland enjoy much higher standards of living and when the US actually implements a large number of socialist programs itself, programs that benefit large numbers of its citizens? Why do some people refuse to examine and understand this potentially hugely beneficial political construct, and only think of it in cursory terms? I think that to fully examine this question, it's important to first understand that:

There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them. They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism. - Wikipedia on socialism via Alec Nove

Despite the wide range of socialist concepts, all forms essentially share the notion of social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy, and this is what, in essence, ruffles so many collective capitalist feathers. This whole idea very much flies in the face of capitalism and is diametrically opposed to it, which is why it is so important for its detractors to keep its name sullied. There are many capitalists for example, who feel that it is important to maintain a system that keeps its citizens in a perpetual state of competition with one another, pitting every man and woman against the other in an attempt to collect more stuff and feel and appear more important. But science is continually reinforcing the theory that the human species thrives when in a state of cooperation. We are not the strongest or the fastest species, yet we rose to prominence through cooperation. In fact, we depend on it, and this is the crux of the issue; for by contrast when we require a service to be universally available for our society to function, we tend to draw upon socialist philosophies to ensure its continues success and availability; health care, public utilities and the like.

It then comes down to the basic concept that we are either here to help our fellow human beings survive and prosper, and thus benefit collectively, or we are only here to acquire as much for ourselves as we can, and in effect, be greedy little bastards. As appealing as that notion is to many, it is inherently flawed, as is capitalism itself. In the face of the absolutely extreme examples of inequality in the world, it becomes clear to the informed person that some degree of equality must exist and be maintained to preserve a moral social order. There must exist, for the peace of mind that we are all taken care of, some degree of socialism. To accept anything less not only sells us short but also disagrees with our essence as human beings. Just as corporations strive to become the next iconic symbol of their particular niche, why then can we not create an iconic society, an example of how it's done?

The trick to all of this, the rub, is that for a fair and equal system of governance to exist in a given society, there must be a sense of equality and individual as well as collective ownership, and for this to happen, small, locally organized governments must come about. Controlling the manufacturing, the transfer of information, autonomous; for when people are autonomous, they are free to soar.

I believe in individual freedom; that's my primary and complete commitment—individual liberty. That’s what it's all about. And that's what socialism was supposed to be about, or anarchism was supposed to be about, and tragically has been betrayed. - Murray Bookchin

Socialism, like any political construct, is only an idea, and like all ideas, is subject to scrutiny. But can we not at least come to a place where the majority of people decide the reality, not these modern-day elections that are only an illusion of choice? Can we not agree to take care of all human beings, where we share and collaborate and cooperate? Can we not agree to try to live together and be in support of one another? We live in a time where the planet is on the brink of collapse, where the systems that we rely on, the natural as well as the man-made, are on the precipice of falling down, and when that happens, no one wins, not even the elite. We need to tear down systems that only work for the very few and start to govern ourselves in a manner that befits the beauty of the human race. We allow a billion people to starve; why, because there is no profit in feeding them? This is wrong. We allow the corporations to destroy the planet so that they can profit. This too is wrong. It is time to examine other political systems with an open mind and reject the notion that they are bad merely because we've been told they are. It is time to reject the McCarthyism that plagues our society, the awful practice of making unfair allegations to silence dissent. It is time to wake up and embrace a system, whatever form it may take, that serves us, and not them.

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When Enough is Enough: Taking Ownership of Your World

What a powerful image, the lone unknown protester standing in defiance of the tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square during the massacre of 1989. This image represents an aspect of our humanity that fills us at once with pride that there are those among us that have this kind of courage, and with sadness that the world has to be like this at all. Conditioning is a powerful force, and we are all subject to its Siren call, but we inherently know deep down inside that the world should not have ever been the one that we have created, where millions die needlessly and where injustice, greed and selfishness are rampant. We are no longer afforded the luxury of thinking that this is all just human nature and the way it is. We criticize our leaders, we look to external reasons for why the world is the way that it is, but our leaders come from among us and our system is a product of us, and we need to own that and consider that maybe we cannot expect better from them than we do from ourselves as a whole. One of my heroes famously posits that maybe, just maybe, the public sucks. Garbage in, garbage out.

I have to pose the question, and I mean it in earnest; when do we decide that enough is actually enough, when we no longer sit on the sidelines and watch the world decay around us? Where is this supposed critical mass of understanding that will come one day, that will tip the scale of injustice and rip these monsters from their positions of power? When do we agree, as the human race collectively, that the time has come when we need to topple oppressive regimes and put in place systems that work for all people? Not serving an elite agenda, but serving our agenda, the mandate of the people. Why are we at a place where we are still trying to simply persuade individuals to inform themselves and transform themselves and understand finally that it is imperative that the world changes dramatically, and changes now? The need to acknowledge collectively that the current state of affairs on planet Earth is fucked up has never been greater. The need to take massive action has never been greater. A lot of rhetorical questions but we will answer them, regardless, collectively, when we stand together to create a better world. But it has to start with us. Garbage in, garbage out. As the late comedian George Carlin put it so eloquently:

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.

As we get older and we look around and we gain wisdom and an ability to embrace the truth, it does become appalingly clear that indeed things are not right at all, not in the least. In fact, it's gotten to the point where our very survival on this pale blue dot is at stake if we do not act. There are many links provided in this article that cite atrocities of all sorts to illustrate the truth of the point, but the hard fact of the matter is that none of it is truly necessary at all; we all understand on some instinctual level that things are, indeed, very wrong.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, we saw the pace of change rapidly accelerate, and along with it decay, rampant corruption, war, environmental and financial ruin, racism, sexismgenocide, our loss of privacy, freedom and any sense of justice,  not to mention a whole other host of problems of epidemic proportions. In the past two decades alone we have seen an incredible shift in the pace of social, economic and political problems and we now live in an era, for the first time in human history, where the end of human life on Earth is in the foreseeable future unless we act. Gandhi famously said:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Indeed, this is the only way to survive the coming decades, this time where the chickens will be coming home to roost. Encourage your friends to educate themselves on the problems we're facing, choose a cause, make a difference. Time is running out and we need to choose sides; either you're active or you aren't. We need to all do our part to wake up as many people as possible, and we need to create a culture wherein it is unacceptable to sit on the sidelines. We need to own our world and our minds and create an understanding that anything less is but another nail in this coffin of our making. Be the change. Make a difference.

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When Did Democracy Die?

America's founding fathers had quite a lot to say concerning the morality and the nature of democracy. They were a thoughtful group of men, intelligent and philosophical and empathetic to the plight of the common citizen, for the most part. Their thoughts and writings on democracy very much echoed these ideals and are embodied in the very fabric of the constitution itself. They envisioned a fair and equal country, one where rule of law and the wishes of the majority would prevail, a system in which the less wealthy would rule by default, being the majority voice. A place of prosperity, justice and equality.

While they foresaw democracy lasting many, many years, they acknowledged that it had certain specific and inherent dangers that had to be avoided at all cost; namely allowing financial institutions to control the production of money, maintaining a large standing army, and vast control by a minority of elite to name a few. But above all they warned, tyranny stood as the most heinous of all the dangers to besmirch the name of democracy. In answer to this, they charged that in order to ensure democracy's continued success, the population must be educated and aware of issues and problems, committed to the longevity of liberty and critical and actively participating in the cultural dialogue; indeed the informed would be the defenders of this new and bold society. 

If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it. - Thomas Jefferson

So what has happened in this era of decline to make us call another form of government altogether, democracy? For what we have in place now in the West is not that at all anymore; it is now only a vague shadow in the mist of what once was democracy. According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements:

1. A political system for choosing the government through free and fair elections.
2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

Let's deconstruct these four elements to see where we stand, assuming firstly that all four conditions must be true for democracy to be said to exist. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; I would cite this debacle that led us further down the black hole. Of Bush's election, Michael Moore used the occasion of his Oscar win to tell three billion viewers this:

On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I’d like to thank the Academy for this. I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and they are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it’s the fictition of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.

There are countless examples of the bastardization of free and fair elections, but the preceding example alone makes the case well enough in part because of its utter and complete extremism in the shredding of fair election of a public official.

In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme. - Aristotle

Regarding Dr. Diamond's second point; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; it is clear that most Americans are less informed and active in the political process than ever before. Apathy, dismay, hopelessness and skepticism plague the ruled and their power to organize and speak out has been diminished greatly in concert with this. There are a vast array of examples of citizens' rights to peacefully protest being removed from them in recent years as well as decades past. The mass arrest of Keystone XL or Occupy protesters, or on a much more horrific scale, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning are considered traitors for speaking out against a tyrannical regime and activists and those who feel the call to speak out against this madness are considered terrorists for attempting to uphold the values of justice and equality. They are silenced for wanting our leaders to protect the environment instead of serving their corporate interests. These are the very people that Jefferson and Madison said were necessary for the success of democracy. The whistleblowers and the activists. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. Democracy fails on two counts for this second prerequisite.

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality. - George Washington

On the protection of the human rights of all citizens, where do we begin? Forget the human rights atrocities committed by the US government abroad on a daily basis for a moment and consider the countless examples of American's human rights being violated. The horrific aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the unjust treatment of American Muslims, the lack of sufficient medical care, the war on drugs, the list goes on and on. The American government does not and has not protected the human rights of all of its citizens at any point in its history. Their police have killed more of its citizens on their own soil than soldiers have died in the whole of the Iraq war.

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. - John Adams

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. - James Madison

This brings us to the final criteria for democracy; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. There has been an erosion over the past few decades, one where the elite are allowed to practice legal greediness and where corporations are above the law. There is now a two-tier justice system; one for the rich and one for the poor. Rule of law is now a comic sentiment when applied to the US. They do not meet this criteria remotely.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy.... The world's great civilizations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back again into bondage. - Alexander Tyler ca. 1770

Democracy is a beautiful idea in it's concept, as are many political systems. Communism for example, despite the dirty name that McCarthyism has given it, is a just and fair system on its face. The problem is when greed and the wants of men infiltrate these ideas and twist and distort their founding principals. It is time to accept that democracy has failed and we are simply voting for one or another representative of a corporate interest, one driven by greed and acquisition at any cost - even at the cost of human life by means of war for profit. It is time to reconsider these tenets and to utilize our technology and understanding to create a new, better system. Critics will ask were this magical system may be hiding, but the truth is that there have been countless alternatives proposed over the course of time, but the elite are so entrenched in their power and greed that it will take nothing short of a revolution to effect a real change. This broken system has seen its day, and it is time for a change.

Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty. - Plato

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Let Them Eat Cake: To Have or Have Not

On a beautiful sunny Tuesday in Beverly Hills, California, a young woman alights from her white gull-winged Lamborghini Countach and hands the keys to the young Valet. "Be careful - I just got it waxed," she says to the boy. He is dressed impeccably in a white uniform almost matching the car in its tones but lacking its lustre and its shine; he is only a worker, not an elite. As he carefully parks the machine in a row of other equally impressive machines along a beautiful street lined with rows of tall towering palm trees, she walks towards the boutiques with a stride and confidence becoming some sort of queen. The breeze billows her beautiful dress and the sun gleams off her car in the lane and her sunglasses as she struts, and it's just another Tuesday for Marie, but today is a shopping day, and she always loves a good shopping day. Partly because she loves things, but mostly because she is very, very good at it. When Marie goes shopping, she always tells her socialite friends, she goes shopping.

Born in to an incredibly rich family with generations of inherited wealth, she has never known hunger, never known poverty and never thought twice about indulging herself. She has never known hunger, never known poverty and never thought twice about indulging herselfPart of the super-elite, a member of only a handful of families on the planet that hold the majority of its wealth and live their lives thusly, she holds all the keys. She deserves it, she figures, because she's entitled to it. After all, she was born into it and that's not her fault, and why shouldn't she deserve her good fortune in life? Someone has to be rich, why not her? She whips out her iPhone and quickly replies to the text from her boyfriend that, yes, she would be at the fundraiser tonight, smiley face. Thank God he's handsome, she thought. But before the gala she needs new shoes, a new dress and she has been in desperate need of a pedicure. And a little touch up on the Botox wouldn't hurt either, time permitting; a busy day indeed.

Her first stop is Jimmy Choo to pick up a new pair of  Vanquish pumps, a mere $1595, cheapies for Marie, but she's in a rush today. Next, off to Chanel for a little black dress, a steal at $2100. Pedicure, a quick massage and a new handbag for good measure totals a slight $4300. The Botox will have to wait until tomorrow, because after a quick $247 lunch and cocktails she's off to get ready for the fundraiser - something about the poor overseas. $8242 for the day, not bad, plus a $10K cheque for the needy, of course. Fundraisers always make her feel good about herself, and the food is usually fabulous.

By stark and somewhat unsettling contrast, on the same Tuesday across the Pacific Ocean, past South East Asia and the Pacific Rim, Past India and the Arabian Sea to the Sudan in Eastern Africa, an emaciated boy of 10 scavenges through a pile of garbage hoping to find some food. The sun no longer scorches as it sets, but he hasn't eaten in two days, not anything digestible at least, and his hunger pangs are all he can think about. That and the fact that his father left two weeks ago to work for a man in town and hopefully bring home some money for food. Sometimes his father was gone for months at a time, and sometimes he wondered if he would ever return at all. The boy is called Abebe, and it will be unlikely he will see 30 years old. His mother named him this because it means 'flourish and grow', and she wanted better for him than she had. She  wouldn't wish her pain and suffering on anyone, let alone her beloved little boy.

But at ten years old, he would soon be leaving behind childish things and he would have to leave to go find work for himself and bring  home food and money to the family. She would miss him but she tried not to think about the time when he would leave. She just wanted to make it through another season without any more death. It had been so long since there was a bountiful season that she could barely remember what it was like, but she hoped and prayed every day that there would be abundance this year. The ground around their tiny village was dry and cracked, and the smells of decay on the air a constant reminder of their terrible, wretched lot in life. She knew that this year wouldn't be much better than the last, and her heart sank at the thought of it. She wondered if somehow, someone would come and rescue her family from this nightmare.

Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food, but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die every day in childbirth, and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe. - Ban Ki-moon

Yes, this inequality is as extreme as inequality could possibly be, but who's fault is this terrible stain on our collective conscience? When did we feel that it would be ok to allow fellow human beings to live in this way, in an age when we could eradicate these problems tomorrow if we only decided to do so? Who's agenda benefits from such a terrible mass of impoverished people, and more importantly, why?

The real-world examples of both extremes of this equation are plentiful and aren't really necessary in this debate. It's sad, the fact that we know this disparity of wealth exists so intimately that it isn't even an issue for debate; it is both well-known and duly avoided. We all saw the commercials as children; for the price of a cup of coffee a day. And this theory is not even afforded the doubt that some put forth about climate change or the validity of the Holocaust.

Let me point out a few simple facts that even far-right pundits will have trouble refuting. In 2009, according to Oxfam, the richest 1% of the planet held 44% of the world's wealth. By 2014, that had risen to 48%, and by 2016 they will own half of the planet's wealth. It's projected that by 2020, they will have gotten their fat little finders on 58% of that pie. I'm not an economist, but that just doesn't seem right, or fair, or smart.

At all. In fact, it seems downright evil to a rational person. It's one thing to be well-off or comfortable, but seriously, when is enough, enough? Especially in the light of such profound suffering. It would appear never. As staggering as all of that is, can you believe that, as of 2015, 85 people hold as much in their greedy little hands as 3.5 billion? Eighty-five people, or 1/84th of one million have half of everything. Shame on them, and on all of us for allowing this to be. This should never have been to begin with.

Some say the solution to this problem comes in educating the poorest girls of the planet and that it yields great returns, of which I have no doubt. But whatever the solution is, can we not decide to work towards a world where we have the resources of another billion humans who are empowered to contribute, where the two-thirds of the world's population that have no access to the Internet suddenly do, where we can sleep soundly with the knowledge that we collectively agree to take care of the least among us, always? Why can't this be the world we live in? The truth is, it can be.

The benefits of wealth redistribution are countless. Far less crime and disease, a huge reduction in unnecessary mortality rates, more literacy and education, an increase in social action, manpower and means to effect change and government structure. We'd be able to reshape this world together without the limitations and barriers we've struggled with for so long. But maybe that's it; that's what they're scared of, there's the rub. Maybe if we liberate billions and allow them access to the wealth of our shared knowledge and give them the means to survive, maybe then they'll also rise. And that scares the shit out of them quite frankly. Never forget, their biggest fear is that one day we will all wake up, especially those people who have been wronged by them for so many generations, denied the means to fight back or retaliate. But they cannot suppress all the people forever. One day everybody will wake up, one and all, and one day soon.

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Canada's Bill C-51: Shredding The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Before Your Eyes

Canada's conservative government set the tone for their new anti-terrorism bill over the course of the past few years by carefully exploiting isolated incidents such as the shooting at Parliament Hill in October of 2014. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the nation on that eve, and with stern conviction told us that we are in danger of losing our way of life and freedom because of the threat of terrorism, because of this one isolated act. This rhetoric sounded all too familiar, and I couldn't help but feel dread as I listened; that this was going to be used as another tool to chip away at our remaining freedom and bully us into accepting new and unwanted policy. Since 9/11, the West has moved towards more surveillance of its population, less freedom of speech, and broader powers of spy agencies to pry and detain and act without warrants or just cause.

What then are we to make of it all, and how will the new anti-terrorism bill affect our way of life? Who to believe? Well, when Ed Snowden speaks, people tend to listen, and he has come forward to condemn the new bill in his typically well-reasoned manner. In a debate as relevant and important as privacy vs. security, he warns that we need to focus on facts and avoid the rhetoric; and this can be difficult when the news projects images of fear on a near-constant basis. When the government and the news media consistently use fear-mongering to push policies like this through, we all become victims of a larger, often hidden agenda, and this is something we need to understand and stand against in unity. For crying out loud, as a Canadian you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning or fatally falling in the bathtub than you do of being killed by a terrorist. Does it not seem insane that we are willing to give away so much of our freedom to protect ourselves from a completely nominal threat? The number of voices in opposition to this legislation are growing steadily, and Canadians' awareness of the severity of the impact of the bill is rising along with it. One hundred academics wrote an open letter to parliament urging the government to dramatically amend the bill, which has been requested to move ahead without a second reading (a typical Harper technique). And, I will safely speculate, the academics who penned this are much smarter and better informed than either Harper or his minions or the corporate interests he serves.

Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organise a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them. - Noam Chomsky

It's not like like there isn't a precedent for all of this. Do you recall a little piece of American legislation entitled "The Patriot Act"? Has it not proven to be the most absurd and abused set of laws ever enacted in the US? The broad generalisations and sweeping grants of power to law enforcement and security agencies culminated in countless documents leaked proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that the abuse is not only systemic and widespread but in fact flouts and often ignores the law altogether. We cannot accept this similar treatment for Canadians. Where the Americans have failed their people, we must not allow our government to do the same. We are already under heavy surveillance by our government - why would we empower them to do this more aggressively? Would you be willing to give up your rights as a citizen, the right to dissent, to criticise the government, to speak out for what you believe in if it meant you'd be safer from lightning strikes? Of course not. So why, then, do will give our rights and freedoms away for something so unlikely to affect us as a terrorist attack? They would have you believe that it is a real threat by the frequency that it appears in mainstream media, but rest assured - it is not. They are even using tools like Facebook to promote their agenda, against government policy. They are fighting hard to make you believe you need this legislation; they are in the process of manufacturing our consent, and as long as we're watching mainstream news and reading their so-called newspapers, we are unwittingly being indoctrinated into their way of thinking. How else can an otherwise intelligent population buy into such rhetoric and lies? Are we not smarter than all of this?

And now with the militarization of the police force in the US and Europe (and Canada is not far behind), they inch ever closer to a fascist regime, one in which we will wake up one day and wonder how we ever got here (watch John Oliver's brilliant take on this). But by then, it will be too late. They fear us as much as we fear them, have no doubt about that, and this is why these measures are being imposed on the populous. In the information age we are smarter, more informed, more connected and more active in the debate than ever before, and this is a terrifying prospect for those that want to maintain the status quo.

If you are afraid to speak against tyranny, then you are already a slave. - John Bryant 

The bill goes so far as to say:

Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general — while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed…is liable to imprisonment of not more than five years - Bill C-51

That's right, if you even "promote or advocate" what they deem as terrorism (speaking out about climate change, for example, falls into this category amongst countless other viewpoints) then you can get five years in the slammer. For holding a protest placard, for speaking out about the demonization of Muslims, or for writing articles like this one. This article in the National Post echoes a sentiment felt by many that the bill will actually undermine our anti-terrorism strategy. Rest assured, this bill is less about protecting us from terrorism as it is about controlling the population and having the tools to do so with broad, sweeping power.

These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power. - Edward Snowden

So what of the arguments that we need this type of legislation, and how do we effectively help those proponents of that viewpoint see the light? Interestingly, a non-filtered Internet search for arguments in favour of Bill C-51 yields only page after page of opposition. So who are the proponents of this legislation? That is a good question, and with so many back-room deals with corporations that occur nowadays (military and surveillance companies tend to do very well when these types of laws are passed) it's hard to uncover the true answer to that question. The reality is that there are no sound arguments to defend this bill. That is why they need to resort to propaganda. If their argument was sound, they would simply be able to state it, not quash us with fear until we relent. There are agendas, and you can count on the fact that this legislation will serve the ruling elite, not you and not me.

A Canada under Bill C-51 is not the Canada that I know and love; and I, for one, refuse to see us go the way of the dodo US. We are a nation that prides itself on being peace-keepers and freedom-lovers, not fear-mongers and fascists. Visit Stop Bill C-51, blog, tweet, protest, share on Facebook, inform your friends and relatives, post YouTube videos and dissent - while you are still allowed to. Write a poem, sing a song, make your voice heard. Whatever you have the means and skill and influence to do, do it and know that you were a part in stopping Canada from treading down a path that we will not be able to return from. Gather names for petitions, call, email and go and see your legislative representatives and tell them that you oppose Bill C-51. Bring them a copy outlining exactly what you object to, let them know you mean business. Protect your freedom and your rights while you still can, or risk waking up in a fascist regime one day in a country that was once Canada.

The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode the rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptable reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

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The World Is Too Dangerous For Anything But Truth

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance. - Socrates

After Socrates completed his service in the war, he devoted himself to his love of pursuing truth, and he soon came to be regarded as one of the wisest men in Athens. In fact, the Oracle of Delphi revealed to one of his friends that he was in fact the wisest of all men. Rather than revel in this and boast, Socrates set out to try to prove the Oracle wrong. He thought that if he could find a man who knew what was most important in life, then that man would surely be wiser than himself. He questioned anyone who would speak to him about this, and discovered that they all pretended to know things he did not. After some time, Socrates thought that maybe the Oracle was actually correct in his assessment, because he alone seemed to posses the knowledge that he did not know the answers at all, and he alone was prepared to admit his ignorance. It's too bad that Socrates is not here to refresh our memories in these modern times, for this is not how our modern-day thinkers and leaders act and operate today. They are arrogant in their assumptions.

It just ain't the same, old ways have changed / New days are strange, is the world insane? / If love and peace are so strong / Why are there pieces of love that don't belong? / Nations droppin' bombs / Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones / With ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young / So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone / So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong / In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin' in / Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends / Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother / A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover / The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug / If you never know truth then you never know love / Where's the love, y'all? / I don't know / Where's the truth y'all? / I don't know / Where's the love y'all? 
- Black Eyed Peas, Where Is The Love?

How can we be so sure of ourselves, and yet have the track record that we do? Do we not know that we only possess five sense, and that this tool kit with which we are able to perceive the world around us has severe limitations? We can only see a portion of the light spectrum, hear a portion of sound frequencies, feel that which our nervous system is equipped to feel, and yet we persist in our arrogance. How can we walk so tall when there is so much beyond our understanding? We create instruments and technologies to perceive that which we cannot through our senses, and all we learn from is just how many more questions are unanswered. So then, with this knowledge of our inherent limitations, should we not take Socrates' advice and acknowledge our lack of understanding about the universe? We should be gentle with ourselves and each other; it's ok to not know, and through that collective understanding we can grow and connect, everyone in every country and from every race.

Think of the countless examples of scientific theories that have been proven wrong over the ages. The flat Earth, a geocentric universe, the static universe theory, all proven wrong by new, updated and revamped ideas. And yet, at the time of these theories, there was no doubt in the minds of the thinkers of the day that they were right. Even with the vast amount of scientific truths that we are still so far from uncovering, we insist that we know.

What about social policies that we later rejected because they were outdated and either no longer served us or were deemed unethical? Woman banned from voting, slavery, denying gay people the right to marry,  alcohol prohibition and civil inequality just to name a few, all ideas who's times had to eventually come to an end. And yet still, the proponents of these ideas defended, sometimes to the death, their validity. Silly talking monkeys. Can it not then be determined that so many social injustices must also too one day come to an end? The failed war on drugs, disastrous environmental laws,  the demonization of Islam, marijuana prohibition and laws allowing corporations to supersede governmental authority must all, by extension, come to an end one day too. Even the very concept of country and nationalism must also one day no longer serve a purpose for us in and therefore be eliminated. This is in fact the definition of progress. Yet we resist, because we are right, or so we think because our limited perception and reasoning tells us so. The list of cognitive biases, that is, errors in thinking and logic which steer one away from the truth of a matter, is extensive. With so many possible wrong turns in our logic, how can we know the truth?

Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis foolish to be wise. - An often altered modern idiom

If even our very thinking prevents the truth from being revealed, how then are we so sure of things? Is it not possible that there are countless things going on of which we have not the slightest idea? Could it be that we are a larger collective consciousness, that our individualistic sense of things might be flawed? Perceptive people know on an intuitive level that there is so much more going on out there, connecting us and uniting us in ways unknown. We've all felt someone's eyes on us from across a room without even seeing them - we know on an intuitive level that somehow, on some level, we are all just one consciousness. Yet people and the powers that be insist on not only ignoring this, but suppressing this, suppressing our spirituality and our intuitive selves, manipulating the truth and bowing to the elite. When I get down about the world need a lift, I watch this (and here's the complete exchange) and my faith is restored, at least temporarily. It might help you too.

When are we going to wake up and realize that the system in place cannot begin to solve the problems we face? In all the myriad changes in our social structure over the centuries, we consistently move from intolerance toward tolerance somehow, albeit at a snail's pace. We simply do not have the luxury of time anymore, we need to move quickly, and the polarized, divisive quarreling we constantly engage in is getting us nowhere

Instead of fighting and bickering, debating whether or not we should build a wall between us and our neighbours or any other of our ludicrous ideas, should we not practice love and tolerance, patience and understanding, peace and harmony? Should we not be gentle on our fellow human beings and accept their faults and embrace their diversity? There are those that would argue that if you don't attempt to fix the system from within, then you are somehow misguided. To them I say, open your eyes. Open your eyes to the fact that billions live in poverty, war is constant, and the elite work to only serve themselves. These are not our best results; we can and will do so much better - we need to. I may argue this as if I know that I am right, but I humbly accept that I know as much or as little as anyone else. If you choose love over fear every time, we will prevail. It's just a choice.  

The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love. - William Sloane Coffin
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity? / Whatever happened to the fairness and equality? / Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity / Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity / That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under / That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down / There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under / Gotta keep my faith alive 'til love is found / Now ask yourself / Where is the love?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

How To Conquer The Mainstream Media & Other Life-Saving Tips


Most reasonably intelligent people know that the mainstream media outlets are generally full of crap. Disinformation, manipulative advertising, Hollywood propaganda, so-called reality TV, unparalleled news bias, the list goes on and on. But it's just too easy and so much fun to point this out that I would be remiss if I didn't begin by illuminating this reality of modern life with a few juicy examples. To begin, let's take a look at one of my favourites, the fact that, according to this study by Fairleigh Dickinson University, FOX News viewers are actually less informed than people who watch no news at all.

Sadly, this isn't all that shocking, but it should be unacceptable in our culture, especially at a time when revealing the truth should be our highest priority. If we continue to manipulate public opinion, how are we to tackle the massive problems we currently face? One doesn't have to wander too far into the intellectual quagmire to figure out why FOX News viewers are so poorly informed. The obvious and (in fact) true answer is that they are being fed disinformation on a constant basis and that they are buying into it en masse. The blatant manipulation this particular network exercises on its viewing public is beyond shameful and their downright unethical approach to what they refer to as news has proven itself to be (at least to any reasonably enlightened person) simply a tool for forwarding an agenda. But all of this doesn't even remotely begin or end with FOX News, unfortunately. No, these examples of propaganda run throughout the history of media itself. The offices of Hannity, O'Reilly and Limbaugh are very much open for business and taking new customers all the time. 

To cite a few other examples, take a look at this video entitled 'body evolution' where a woman is transformed into a 'more perfect' version of herself, a version that is not only unrealistic but unattainable - and this sells products. But the sad reality is that diseases such as body dismorphic disorder are significantly on the rise in our culture, with teens and children now seeking plastic surgery. Another example is the now common practice of disseminating a "local" news story to virtually all local news outlets across the US. Conan O'Brien has done a great job of illuminating this practice and its absurdity. And let's not forget the mother of all modern lies retold ad infinitum by the media: the justification for the War in Iraq.

The Iraq War was the biggest issue for people of my generation in the West. It was also the clearest case, in my living memory, of media manipulation and the creation of a war through ignorance. - Julian Assange

So what to do in this sea of lies, disinformation and ignorance? How does one seek the truth and find objective news, avoid the manipulative effects of advertising and live in a world unpolluted by bad information and propaganda? In fact, the US government even has gone so far as to lift its propaganda ban, thus making propaganda legal again. You read that right. To combat these forces, for starters an awareness of the effects of media consumption is critical to taking back control of your informational environment. Acknowledge that we have been exposed and trained by this stuff since we were very young, and it has shaped our world-view in such profound ways that we cannot even begin to grasp the scope of its effects on us. Watch less (or no) TV, do not watch FOX or CNN (unless you seriously dissect their propaganda) and avoid crap Hollywood movies and advertising. Remove the advertising you see while surfing the Internet and read alternative news sources (see the sidebar of this blog for a few great examples). There are countless ways to tailor the information you receive, but you need to be in the driver's seat. Be aware of the filter bubble going on throughout your Internet use and use tools to prevent your information from being filtered by someone else. Understand that, in an era of unprecedented information access, we live in a world where 30% of Republicans in the US still think Obama is a Muslim. You can be sure that that 30% are not critical of their news sources. Don't be one of them.

With all of this media bashing, however, let's not forget the benefits of media, as we all bask in its warm, glowing, warming glow. There are TV programs that I like to watch as a guilty pleasure and they bring me joy, comfort and a much-needed diversion sometimes, and I cherish that - but I remain critical. We all need to develop a critical mind when it comes to intelligently ingesting media and having it serve us. Noam Chomsky famously lives in his own version of a filter bubble, self imposed and isolated from the mainstream media, but he's managed to make this serve him in a very profound way, and as a result, he is able to critique our society in a much more objective way. If employed in intelligent and thoughtful ways, you can also create your own tailored filter bubble, created by a judicious use of technology and by taking control of the information you feed your mind. The information of the world all has an opinion, an agenda of its own, and we now live in a world where it is our individual duty to understand the source of the voice telling the story and be critical of our media, in all its forms. 

Popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, gossip is called news, and auto-tune is called singing. - Criss Jami

Truth comes to those who seek it, and this cannot be done through the passive consumption of media. It has to be done via a paradigm shift in your consciousness, like all of the positive shifts you will have to make to survive in this proverbial information war. The thoughts that shape who we are, are shaped by what we consume. In the book Connected, the authors state the case for the incredibly strong degree to which we are influenced by those closest to us in our social circles. This research speaks to the fact that as we are heavily influenced by those around us, so too are we influenced by information and media. Take back control of your mind and your thoughts - it's the best weapon you have against tyranny.

Illegitimi non carborundum (don't let the bastards grind you down)

Share your thoughts on media manipulation in the comments section below.

Cryptocurrency vs. The HSBC

The world's banking institutions, where to even begin? Perhaps as good a place as any to start would be this: the HSBC money laundering scandal whereby this giant multinational bank admitted to laundering billions of dollars for illegal drug cartels. Yes, that happened. Couple that with the horrible policy missteps before and after the crash of 2008 and you've got some woefully unethical business practices, committed by institutions that are were trusted by billions and that billions rely on. 

In fact, the corruption displayed by the world's largest financial institutions has been unparalleled, and  it reveals that there is in fact a two-tier legal system, one in which the banks are above the law. These institutions govern and impact our day-to-day lives more than anything else in our society, and yet they're just another indication that the systems in place don't remotely serve our interests, the 99 percent. 

It may seem safe to assume that when our daily lives are so intertwined with the policy and decisions of these institutions that there should be not only some form of regulation (there is very little left after deregulation became the new way of doing business), but also accountability, and it has become clear that there is none.

If a rich man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it. - Socrates

Given that the banks are having serious issues these days, it should then follow that we need alternatives to dealing with them, and that's where cryptocurrency comes in. Before we delve into that, however, let's first take a step back and examine money and the fractional reserve banking system as we understand it today. Although economists would have you think that the system is too complex to explain to us plebs, their jargon only serves to obfuscate what is really not all that complicated. In essence, when you deposit $100 into your bank account, the bank, by law, is allowed to lend out $90 of new money against it (keeping a fraction in reserve) and thus, money is created. In fact, your $100 will ultimately be turned into $1000 over time. Money out of thin air. While the cornerstone of our money system, it leads to inflation and the devaluation of our money, and because of these simple facts it is an unsustainable system with a finite life-span. Symptoms of it's finality have already been seen in market crashes throughout modern times. Even the Federal Reserve Bank (or The Fed) is a lie, as it is a private corporation attempting to disguise this by appearing to be a government institution. Economists will tell you that it's not that simple, because they are heavily invested in the system. Let's then look at the word economics for a second. Does it not mean to economize? To make efficient and without waste? Well, our current system of economics is failing at that with gusto. For this reason, and for many others, people have looked to other systems, systems outside the banking world and not within its jurisdiction.

The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are often so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Enter BitCoin, the world's first cryptocurrency and also the world's first decentralized form of money. A digital currency not based on the gold standard or any other fiction, it has shaken up the financial world and opinion is remarkably divided on its validity. Some economists, like Max Keiser of The Keiser Report, are strong proponents of it, and he states his case quite eloquently. Decentralized, above government authority, by the people, anonymous and free, BitCoin represents a fundamental shift in what we can achieve through progressive and alternative thought. There exists, for the first time in human history, a system of money that we own and control, and this is an exciting step towards autonomy. In a world where the establishment holds such a stranglehold on the institutions that we rely on, ideas like this remain the only way left for social change to occur - outside and above the system. If the big bankers want to operate above the law, then we will create our own methods of doing the same. The primary difference being that we are ethical. When CableGate erupted and WikiLeaks was put under the gun, while not illegal to donate to them, VISA, MasterCard and PayPal all refused to process transactions going to WikiLeaks, because of government pressure. In a world of decentralized currency, this could not happen.

Just like any decentralized system without government intervention (or even with it) there will be bad apples in the bunch. Do we choose to control the entire Internet because some will abuse it? A rhetorical question maybe, but that would by tyranny. If some people refuse to play by the rules, then we need to address the underlying issues of why that is, and not destroy freedom in the attempt to control them. In fact, studies on honesty reveal that most people are in fact exceedingly honest and want to be. As we embrace new ideas like BitCoin, we take the power back for ourselves and learn to govern ourselves, as autonomous individuals in a free society. While BitCoin and other types of cryptocurrency are not yet considered stable enough to invest your life savings in (and there are criticisms of this very young currency or course), it is an exciting venture into a new world where the power is taken back by the people. Just imagine, no middle-man, virtually no fees, no credit card companies and no government intervention. Embrace it and may you prosper!

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. - John Maynard Keynes

I can't understand why people are afraid of new ideas. I'm afraid of the old ones. - John Cage 

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Follow me on Twitter @craiganthonyiii
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