Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stuff That is Never Said in the Mass Media

About Your Town

Megaprojects like conference centres, and sports complexes never succeed in revitalizing the down town core of a city.

The reason why the down town core deteriorated was suburban malls/suburban sprawl and sprawl is one of the chief reasons for increased taxation. (1)

We, the tax payer, have paid to destroy the down town core with our taxes, and now we must pay once more to revitalize it.

The destructive nature of malls/sprawl was well known 35 years ago, yet uncontrolled suburban growth went ahead anyway, because it was profitable to the developers, if not to the tax payer.

An alternate form of development, providing everyone a house and yard, yet taking up half the space of the conventional suburb, placing schools and shops within walking distance and preserving a farm green belt has been around for more than one hundred years. Yet highly expensive and environmentally harmful suburban sprawl was chosen instead. (2 )

About Your Home

Not one of the houses built years ago are up to code. Yet they have been here a hundred years, are in high demand when they sell, and will be here a hundred years from now if kept up. Could you say the same about the built-to-code chipboard and vinyl boxes built today?

While by laws and building codes have done a fine job of saving us from new 1910 style Craftsman bungalows, they sure did nothing to save us from leaky condos. What is the point of having regulations that don't protect you from real problems?

We are not living in Belgium or Holland, yet in spite of having a small population and huge land mass, building lots are expensive. Why?

Fifty years ago the average cost of a Canadian house was little more than twice the family income. Today it is seven times. Why, and who really benefits from this enormous disparity? (3)

About Government Debt

There isn't enough money to fund Old Age Security, but there is enough to spend untold billions on US-built war planes that we don't need.

We spent 44% of our GDP on WW2, had a post-war debt of enormous magnitude and at the same time financed the immense growth of the 1950 and '60s, yet today government debt is seen as a major problem.

With the 1960s economy we were able to fund unemployment insurance, universities, medical care and a host of other benefits for the people. Yet, here we are with an economy at least three times the size and we are told we must make cut-backs to those same services.

About Your Car

The speed limit is 100 kmh, yet most cars can do twice that. Why?

Excess speed is one of the greatest causes of auto fatalities. All the TV ads glorify speed and nothing is done about this.

The highest rate of accidents and fatalities are with young (age 16-19) drivers. Governments so eager to ban everything from peanuts to pot, never consider raising the driving age and saving hundreds of lives. Why?

Passenger vehicles eliminated bumpers about 20 years ago. A parking lot ding that meant nothing now will cost you hundreds of dollars. Manufacturers make money on parts, so screw you!

Petroleum is a finite resource and with India and China developing, the price will inevitably rise, yet no mainstream politician will raise the issue of developing programs to go beyond a petroleum-based economy.

About Laws and Regulations

To understand a situation one must "follow the money". What does that say about politicians who insist on treating drug addiction as a crime and fight decriminalization tooth and nail?

Why do courts freely grant injunctions against trade unions and environmentalists, but never against the corporations that are the root cause of strikes and protests?

How is it that the municipality will tell a homeowner or small businessperson in infinite detail what they can do with their property, yet we have to resort to civil disobedience to prevent a forest being clear-cut?

Most conflict comes from powerful minority interests pushing their agendas upon us. Conflict could be greatly reduced by adopting a more consensual approach - one that included all those effected by a policy or development, not just those who would gain financially or politically.

About The Economy

Every politician talks of the need to support small business, and the government spends millions on futile programs, yet the key issues, the high cost of commercial rents and intrusive regulations , are never mentioned.

Multi-national corporations drain wealth out of the community as the profits go to investors who live elsewhere. Locally-owned business strengthens the local economy through the multiplier effect. Therefore a strong economy must be locally based, yet all efforts are aimed at attracting multinationals instead.

A resource-based economy is unstable with its highly destructive, boom-bust cycle. An economy using resources for production of goods for local consumption, would be more stable and therefore less devastating for its workers and small business people.

The short-term view is always seen as irresponsible, yet this is precisely what our business people and politicians do – a world view no longer than the annual shareholders report or the next election. Many problems and much conflict could be avoided by taking the long term view of policies and economic development.

Privatization and out-sourcing do little to save tax payer money, since profits are usually guaranteed by the government. It is merely a way of shifting money from the public work force to the corporations, in other words, a form of corporate welfare that drains money out of the community. (4)

Canada Post sold its post offices, most of which had been owned outright and paid for generations ago. Now they rent offices from private companies. Money that could go to cheaper postage or better services is being channeled to private business – a form of legal racket with YOUR money.

About Social Problems

It is a well known fact that an increase in unemployment means an increase in the death rate. So why aren't politicians who deliberately create mass unemployment charged with premeditated murder?

Why is it that 40 years ago there were almost no homeless, yet with an economy three times larger, thousands of them are in the streets of our cities?


1. Cost of building and maintaining infrastructure

2. The Garden City or English "New Town" movement.

3. Figures from the Canada Year Book, 1962, 2009

4. Suppose subcontracting reduced 100 hospital cleaners wages by $5.00 an hour. That would be a total of $1,785,000 that would go to corporate headquarters and not to the employees who would have spent that money on goods and services in their community.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Conspiracy Theories as Modern Mythology

The term "conspiracy theory" is used by the media to suppress critical thought. The fact is, where you have coercive power, you will automatically have conspiracies – by those with power to maintain and increase it, by those without power to gain it. These are "conspiracy facts" not conspiracy theories. But there are also conspiracy theories in the pejorative sense of the term, wild-eyed stories about Illuminati and reptile people from outer space. It is this sense of conspiracy theory that I wish to examine.

Conspiracy theories are like the great myths. They are attempts to explain and give meaning to the complex, ofttimes frightening and contradictory world humans find themselves in. Like mythology, these theories, if taken literally, appear ludicrous. They are essentially coded narratives. Encoded within the story told, whether it is the "Fall of Man" or David Ickes' lizard people, is a message that is not without value.

The message or rational core that underlies even the wackiest conspiracy theory includes:

* The powerlessness and subsequent alienation of the people

* our domination by a small, violent and exploitative group

* that these dominators lack empathy and regard the rest of us as prey.

* media manipulation and manufactured consent

* habitual lying on the part of government and the authorities

* cover-ups and persecution of whistle blowers

* governments and corporations conspiring against the people.

Conspiracy theories are the new mythology of the contemporary world. They are rooted in a section of the population that still mentally resides in the pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment world. A population that does not think systemically and for whom emotions play a vastly more important role than logical argumentation. That a large portion of the population does not accept a scientific, rational world view, is in no small measure, a result of the ruling class need to maintain its power. They must promote scape goats, irrational fears, superstitions and prejudices to keep the population controlled. If the entire population had a scientific outlook, they would not be susceptible to this manipulation.

There is more to it than ruling class manipulation. Contemporary society, based ultimately on technics and science, is a terrifying place. Thanks to capitalism and the state, the Enlightenment did not fulfill its promise of a peaceful, humane world ruled by Reason. No wonder some people take refuge in the mythic. There is also the fact that to be human is to be a myth maker. Events and individuals soon become "larger than life", become part of a meaning - full narrative told around camp fires and tavern tables. Think only of the labour movement, Joe Hill and Ginger Goodwin, now virtual archetypal figures of the Murdered Hero. This from the most rational and systemically-thinking section of the populous.

The problem then is not myth making in and of itself. It is rather the type of myth. Atavistic responses such as racism and anti-Semitism woven into contemporary myth are the danger, not the myth making. The idea that all-powerful groups like the "International Bankers" or the Illuminati control everything and the rest of us are mere victims, only aids our subjugation - a response to our powerlessness that only abets our powerlessness. Blaming groups or individuals keeps us in a trap, preventing us from thinking in systemic terms and therefore getting a clearer understanding of how the system works. We are chasing a scary puppet and not confronting the real causes which lie in capitalism and the state.

Like the in field of history, myth is an area of contestation, of a struggle for hegemony. There are myths that keep people in subjugation and there are those that point to liberation. It is the latter we need to develop, not the former.

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