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Before the Flood Needs a Sequel

earthrisekillingmemeI just watched Before the Flood on National Geographic, hoping that the filmmakers dug deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Although the film is a strong call to action, I was disappointed that it didn’t follow the story far enough to locate and identify the source of political inaction in America.  The sad truth is that corruption is so extensive, and the political institutions so compromised that voting will not fix this problem unless and until anti-corruption ballot initiatives are passed in every state and eventually in Washington to get fossil fuel money out of the political process.

One of the saddest moments of the film was scientists blaming themselves for failing to inform the public, but that failure cannot be laid at their feet. The fourth estate – the news media – has failed spectacularly, an there is little hope for improvement now that corporate ownership is more concentrated than ever. The mainstream media frames issues and shapes public opinion. Algorithms on social media and Google are manipulated to promote the same narrow view of what is possible. Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” exposed the Propaganda Model but having accused the media of complicity, that understanding of power was  never allowed to bubble to the surface of public consciousness in America. It is time to wake up and connect the dots between political corruption, corporate malfeasance, and media complicity. We need to lay the blame where it properly belongs. As Utah Phillips said:

The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.

This is no time for blind optimism, but fear of the future won’t help either. The time has come to get angry at the crimes fossil fuel companies commit, especially in North Dakota. We need to recognize that what is ‘legal‘ and what is ‘right’ may be very different, in a world where corporations have been allowed to write laws that members of congress often don’t even read.

Before the Flood is a great documentary, but like the Paris Accords, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. I strongly recommend that in his next film, DiCaprio focus on the obstructionist fossil fuel corporations, even if they threaten to sue. If we’re too afraid to step on the toes of the oil giants, we cannot hope to stop them from destroying the biosphere. They have too much power and they are not going to give it up voluntarily. The world would be a better place if the biggest multinationals were broken up into smaller units.

The next film I want to see will focus on the current DOJ investigation of the horrifying fact that EXXON KNEW about man-made climate change in 1981 and spent decades hiding the truth and lying about it. A crime of that magnitude should result in prison for perpetrators and the company should be liquidated.  Ecocide should be recognized as an International Crime Against Humanity under the Rome Statute and people of all nations should demand that their governments ratify the treaty. We need to fight to take back control of our governments and hold the fossil fuel giants to account. We can all begin by standing with Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline.

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Climate Crisis Solution: Reclaim Democracy

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I just watched the trailer for “Before the Flood” and spotted a serious error made by one of the talking heads interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary. The interviewee says:

“Politicians will do what the people want them to do. Once the American people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”

This fundamental error is the reason climate change is still getting worse. Gilens and Page wrote a paper that demonstrated in 2014 that although politicians respond well to the wishes of billionaires, the average voter has “little or no independent influence” on public policy. This is a difficult fact to accept, as is the reason people have not been shouting louder about the climate crisis.

Ten years ago Al Gore tried to convince us of “The Inconvenient Truth” (2006) that climate change was the most pressing issue of our time. Gore was correct, but his ideas were attacked and marginalized by organized right-wingers. The documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (2015), based on a book of the same name, unmasks the climate deniers, but fails to appreciate the role the corporate media plays in controlling the narrative. For that you have to go back to “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), to learn how the Propaganda Model works. The consolidation of media ownership is part of an even larger problem described in “The Corporation” (2003) which makes the case that if  a corporation was a person, they would be considered a psycho.

This is the fundamental root problem of climate change. The biosphere is not under threat because you ate a hamburger this week (although it would be better if you didn’t). The problem is that the greed of billionaires is out of control. The climate scientists are not experts in the politics of power. The mainstream media produces propaganda instead of journalism. Corporations are abusing eminent domain not for public good, but for private profit because the Supreme Court condoned their behaviour. Politicians on both sides of the party divide are beholden to their major corporate donors. The average voter is learning that, worse than being ignored by  elected representatives, even if their vote is accepted, it may not even be counted at all. Once we finally realize that the root cause of climate change is a lack of democracy, the way forward becomes clear.

When a critical mass of people wakes up, our peace officers will stop acting like rent-a-cops doing dirty deeds for greedy billionaires. Anti-corruption laws, driven by grassroots action and ballot initiatives, can take government out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street banks, and restore it to the people. Electoral reform can break the corrupt two-party system and ensure that paper ballots are used to audit electronic voting machines. The debate system can be opened up so smaller parties are not unfairly marginalized. When the people take back their power they can stop greedy corporations from destroying the biosphere and solve all kinds of problems.

Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. If you want to be part of the solution, share these ideas with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, classmates and neighbours. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

 

When Freud got Schooled by a Woman

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Sigmund Freud, venerated master who laid the foundation for psychoanalytical theory, got a couple of things spectacularly wrong. He placed far too much emphasis on libido and unconscious drives as determinants of personality, while underestimating the influence of environmental factors like birth order and interpersonal relationships. Where he really screwed up was in his androcentric view that women were driven by libido just like men, except that they tended to become hysterical for want of a penis.

Karen Horney (I know what you’re thinking , but it’s pronounced horn-eye) never considered herself a feminist, but refused to be held back by traditional gender role expectations. She tore Freud’s penis envy to pieces and explained why a woman really doesn’t have any use for a phallus of her own. Horney pointed out that what women can do physiologically in carrying a pregnancy to term, birthing and suckling infants, is far more enviable than the male ability to pee standing up.  The following essay was written for a psychology class but it fits into the blog posts I’ve written lately on feminist topics.

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The Feminine Psychology of Karen Horney

Karen Horney was a woman both of her time and ahead of her time. The circumstances of her life allowed her to develop theories of the personality that were far more sophisticated than she was given credit for. Although she achieved significant professional accomplishments, the pervasive androcentrism of that still marks western civilization prevented her work from having the impact it could have otherwise. This essay, after a brief biography, will trace the early development of Horney’s feminine psychology by exploring the series of papers published in 1967 which looked at the feminine personality in its own right, rather than assuming that a woman was just an inferior man. A consideration of Horney’s later life and work shows how she moved beyond the rigid structures of the male/female binary to develop a more holistic, optimistic and universal theory of personality development. Also, it is worth exploring the reasons that Horney’s name rarely appears in academic psychology textbooks today and also to consider how a better appreciation of Horney’s thinking might be beneficial, not just to psychology, but applied to larger issues as well, through consilience.

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Early Biography

Born Karen Horney was born in Germany to an upper-middle class family 1885. Her father, a stern Norwegian sea captain, was 17 years older than her more social mother, who was Dutch. Karen’s mother supported her educational ambitions against her father’s resistance (Kerr, 1987). A few years after the university in Freiburg accepted female students, Karen began training to become a doctor (Eckardt, 2005). She continued her studies in Berlin and married Oscar Horney in 1909 (Kelman, 1967). In 1913 Horney demonstrated her remarkable fortitude by nursing her daughter while writing her medical exams. She then began a training analysis with Karl Abraham which she completed in 1915, although she was reportedly disappointed with the results (Kerr, 1987). By the time she had completed her training as a psychoanalyst Horney was also mother to three daughters, which contributed to her insight into the psychology of the female (O’Connell, 1980). By 1920 Horney was on the teaching staff of the new Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute (Kelman, 1967). Berlin between the wars was a vibrant society, alive with new ideas and a thriving arts community (Eckardt, 2005). Although Sigmund Freud was the acknowledged “master” of the discipline, the psychoanalysts in Berlin were less directly influenced by Freud, who trained a loyal following in Vienna, and thus had more freedom to develop their own ideas about psychoanalytical theory (Kelman, 1967).

Horney’s marriage suffered as a result of her husband’s expectations that her family life should take priority over her career and the couple separated in 1926 (O’Connell, 1980), although they didn’t divorce until 1937. Karen Horney left Berlin for the United States in 1932 to become Associate Director of new Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute (Kelman, 1967). Two years later Horney moved to New York where she continued to practice, write and teach until her death in 1952 (Eckhart, 1984).

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Early Development of Theory

Although Karen Horney began her career as an orthodox Freudian psychoanalyst, she soon began to deviate from Freud’s understanding of the psyche (Kelman, 1967). Over the course of her career, Horney’s theories of personality moved further from the orthodox, leading to conflict with mainstream psychoanalytical thought (Kelman, 1967). She was so far ahead of her time that her ideas languished, unappreciated by psychoanalysts who nonetheless incorporated her ideas in subsequent development of the discipline (Smith, 2006).

Freud and his theories emerged from nineteenth century Vienna’s sexually repressed Victorian mores. This was in agreement with his Jewish heritage which positioned men at the head of the household, with women in a subordinate role (Kelman, 1967). Freud’s maleness coloured his perceptions of what it meant to be a person and his ideas tended to be mechanistic and deterministic in keeping with the scientific thinking of his time (Lopez, 1984). He viewed the human organism in a materialistic way, as a closed system with a fixed structure (Kelman, 1967). His point of view naturally informed his perspective, and reflected the attitudes toward women which were common in his culture (Kerr, 1987). In Freud’s theory, males were normative, the phallus was central in their psychosexual development and the libido was the primary drive behind human development even in infancy. In this biological determinism, women, lacking a phallus were like defective males, always seeking to replace that missing part. The primary motivation to have a child in Freud’s theory, was to create a substitute penis, hence a male child would be preferred (Kerr, 1987). This “penis envy” was the basis of female neurosis, in Freud’s opinion (Kerr, 1987).

Karen Horney was trained as a psychoanalyst by Karl Abraham, who himself was a devoted Freudian (O’Connell, 1980). Although the theories she developed in later work diverged from those of Freud and Abraham, she always acknowledged that Freud’s theories formed the foundation on which her own concepts were built (Kelman, 1967).

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Feminine Psychology

Throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s Horney published a series of papers that illustrate the development of her thinking about feminine psychology (Kerr, 1987). Many of these papers were collected and published in English in 1967. Kelman’s introduction to Feminine Psychology describes how the uniqueness of Horney’s ideas was evident even in the first paper she published in 1917 in which she asserted that “much that we have regarded as constitutional” could be remedied by removing “a blockage which can be lifted” (Kelman, 1967). This idea never left her, but was expanded and developed in future writings.

Karen Horney published her first paper on feminine psychology in 1922. This was the first of a number of papers on this topic that she published over the next decade (Kerr, 1987). In 1923 Freud published his theory about the importance of the “phallic phase” in psychosexual development. Horney challenged Freud’s thinking not just on a theoretical level, but backed this up with clinical observations from her practice (Smith, 2006). She noted the more practical aspects of penis envy in that a girl might envy the boy his ability to pee standing up, to hold and see his genital organ, but suggested that a girl’s feelings of inferiority stemmed more from cultural issues than from sensing that she is no more than an incomplete male (Lopez, 1984). The messages of inferiority a girl is subjected to come from the messages she receives from her environment and her family, including restrictions and cultural stereotypes (Symonds, 1991) Horney was able to identify the phallus-centred point of view as natural to the male theorist, but challenged the way they applied this viewpoint to theories of the psychosexual development of females (Symonds, 1991). The biological capacities of women should not be ignored, in Horney’s view, as in her therapeutic experience, males were as likely to envy women their capacity to give birth and suckle their infants, as women were to envy the male phallus (O’Connell, 1980). Horney asserted that what women envied was not the penis, but the superiority that males assumed in society, which limited women’s opportunities (O’Connell, 1980). In addition, Horney noted that envy was a pathological condition, regardless of one’s gender (Kerr, 1987; Symonds, 1991).

In “The Flight From Womanhood” published in 1926, Horney makes a number of keen observations about feminine psychology. Still greatly beholden to the ideas of Freud, she elaborates an alternative to his theory of the centrality of the male phallus by suggesting that we “free our minds from this masculine mode of thought” (Horney, 1926). In so doing, it becomes clear that the great biological difference is not the male’s fleshy organ, but the woman’s generative capacity. Horney points out that a baby is far more than a poor substitute for a woman’s missing penis, but represents great fulfillment, “ineffable happiness” and joy (Horney, 1926). She goes further to suggest that male envy of women’s physiological superiority is the cause of the forced subordination of women by men (Lopez, 2005). This obstruction of women’s development and full social and economic participation leads to the view that women are in some way inferior, but it is wrong to assume that inferiority is the cause of the subordination (Horney, 1926). Horney goes on to flesh out feminine perspectives on psychosexual development, genital awareness, castration fantasies, libidinal interest in the opposite sex and rejection of the feminine role, or the “masculinity complex” (Horney, 1926).

An important concept in understanding Horney’s critique of Freud’s theories is androcentrism. She quotes George Simmel’s views on the assumptions of the normative nature of maleness which liken the dynamics to the master and slave relationship. According to Simmel, it is the privilege of the master to be unaware of his superior position, but the slave cannot ever forget his place in this hierarchical relationship (Horney, 1926). This understanding of privilege is still not widely understood or accepted by the dominant culture today as any online discussion of feminism will demonstrate.

Another analogy to the male/female relationship is the parent/child model, which Horney proposes in a later paper on “The Problem of Feminine Masochism.” Horney notes that like penis envy, masochism is a neurotic condition, rather than a universal condition of women, as postulated in Freudian thought (O’Connell, 1980). While masochism occurs more frequently in women, this is an adaptation or coping strategy to deal with the restrictions placed on them by society (Kerr, 1987). Horney refuted Helene Deutsch’s odious assertion that women desired rape and humiliation and countered that women sought safety and satisfaction through being inconspicuous and dependent (Kerr, 1987). It was this need for safety rather than Freud’s pleasure principle (the id) that motivated human activity (Smith, 2006). The basic anxiety that the world was potentially hostile resulted from conditions that made children feel unloved or unsafe and thus helpless (Smith, 2006).

The roles approved for women encouraged them to be dependent on men for care, protection, love and prestige and thus encouraged them to focus on the beauty and charm that will please men, and make men and children the center of their lives (O’Connell, 1980). Over time it became clearer in Horney’s writing that gender roles are so dependent on cultural influences that the biological determinism of Freud could be safely ignored (Smith, 2006). Freud resented her opposition to his theories and went so far as to suggest she failed to understand the ‘intensity of her own desire for a penis’ and failed to appreciate that desire in her patients as well (Kerr, 1987). This unwarranted ad hominem attack indicates the deep roots of the nerve Horney’s sharp observations skewered.

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Horney’s Career in America

When Karen Horney was invited to become the Associate Director of a new psychoanalytic training center in Chicago in 1932, she had the approval of Freud himself (Clemmens, 1984). During this period Horney visited Berlin only to find that the Nazi’s had taken control of the institute there, ending any thoughts she may have had about returning to Europe (Kerr, 1987). However, her two-year contract in Chicago was not renewed because of serious differences of opinion between Horney and her superior, which led her to move to New York. The move to a new life on another continent heightened her sense of the importance of cultural influences on human development (O’Connell, 1980).

By 1941, Horney’s shift from a biological approach to an appreciation for cultural influences and psychosocial factors led to a schism from the New York Psychoanalytic Institute which was also in the process of splitting from the international body in Europe (Kerr, 1987). Her theories had moved so far from the foundation of Freudian thought that she was demoted as a training analyst at a dramatic meeting during which almost half of the membership present declined to participate in the vote, and after which Horney and four like-minded colleagues immediately resigned and marched out (Kerr, 1987). The small group soon established The Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis but within a few years there was another split and the American Institute for Psychoanalysis was formed (Kerr, 1987).

Beyond Feminine Psychology

Horney’s theories continued to develop, moving beyond the male/female binary to a more universal idea of human development. From 1937 onwards, Horney wrote several books which developed a more complete conception of human personality development. Rather than human behavior being driven by libido, Horney postulated that a basic anxiety was the foundation of neurosis and that while the coping mechanisms chosen tended to vary by gender, they were not exclusive to each sex (O’Connell, 1980). These mechanisms were grouped into general movement toward, against or away from others in order to reduce one’s level of anxiety (Symonds, 1991) She continued to develop and modify her theories throughout her life, but although Horney’s theories coalesced into a broad understanding of neurosis and the self, she never considered her model of the personality to be complete (Clemmens, 1984).

Another key difference between Horney and Freud was her optimistic view in the face of his belief in a destructive “death instinct.” Horney thought that people were only destructive when their naturally contstructive nature was blocked by negative forces from the environment (Smith, 2006), whereas Freud thought there was an instinctive counterpoint to the the life force, or Eros.  The film “A Dangerous Method” suggests that Freud’s theory of a death instinct may have been suggested to him by Sabina Spielrein, another under-appreciated woman psychoanalyst.

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The Influence of Horney

Karen Horney was a woman ahead of her time in the challenge she posed to male supremacy in the psychoanalytical establishment. Her thinking helped to reframe the understanding of personality by acknowledging the importance of cultural factors like sexual stereotypes and interpersonal relationships (Ingraham, 2005). This attention to non-biological determinants also provided the basis for a more optimistic evaluation of neurosis and the possibilities for positive change and personal growth (Ingram, 2005). Another of the great contributions of Horney’s work is the holistic nature of her practice, taking in the many causal factors that lead to neurosis (Smith, 2006).

Freud’s tremendous influence on the development of psychoanalytic theory and his rejection of Horney’s challenge to his androcentric views are part of reason that Horney is not better known in the field (Clemmens, 1984). Held in high esteem by her contemporaries, Horney’s ideas were later excluded from mainstream psychoanalytic thought (Kerr, 1987). Although Horney rarely appears in textbooks, her ideas were eventually incorporated in psychoanalytic practice (Smith, 2006). Concepts like compartmentalization, externalization, blind spots, and the “tyranny of the should” have been incorporated into other personality theories, as have the striving for self-realization and the unlimited potential for personal growth (O’Connell, 1980)

The posthumous publication of Horney’s papers on Feminine Psychology in 1967 contributed to the development of feminist thought which grew into “second-wave” feminism in the 1970’s (Buhle, 1998). The challenge to mainstream psychoanalytic thought that Horney represented was not without pushback. Generally speaking, when the soldiers came home from WWII, the women who had kept the munitions plants operating tended to get married and head home to raise families. However a disturbing trend of blaming mothers for everything wrong with their children arose in this period (Buhle, 1998). To this day, an androcentric perspective dominates in psychology, despite specific efforts to ameliorate this bias by, for example, forbidding the use of male pronouns in a generic context (Hegarty & Buechel, 2006).

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Conclusion

The psychoanalytical theories have much to contribute, even today, to discourse in a number of fields. The rise of third-wave feminism is underway in reaction to a global spreading awareness of the persistence of casual sexism and “rape culture” (Mansfield, 2014). The mechanistic, reductionist scientific paradigm so deeply entrenched in Freud’s time is still the dominant viewpoint the scientific establishment (Hegarty & Buechel, 2006).

The destructive nature of humankind is more in evidence than ever with respect to the increasingly urgent issue of climate change. Horney would not agree with those who think it’s too late to make a meaningful change to save the biosphere from catastrophic habitat destruction and species loss. The male-dominated capitalist system would benefit from an injection of Horney’s understanding of the pathological nature of envy. Horney’s holistic approach may be able to inform other disciplines and help to move toward the kind of consilience that can bring about the meaningful and significant change that our species now requires.

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References

Buhle, M. J. (1998). Feminism and its discontents: A century of struggle with psychoanalysis

Clemmens, E. R. (1984). The work of karen horney. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 44(3), 242-253. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01252687

Eckardt, M. H. (1984). Karen horney: Her life and contribution. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 44(3), 236-241. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01252686

Eckardt, M. H. (2005). Karen horney: A portrait: The 120th anniversary, karen horney, september 16, 1885. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 65(2), 95-101. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/s11231-005-3620-6

Hegarty, P., & Buechel, C. (2006). Androcentric reporting of gender differences in APA journals: 1965-2004. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 377-389. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.377

Horney, K. (1926). The flight from womanhood: The masculinity complex in women as viewed by men and by women. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 7, 324.

Ingram, D. H. (1985). Karen horney at 100: Beyond the frontier. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45(4), 305-309. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01252864

Kelman, H. (1967). Karen Horney of feminine psychology. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27(2), 163-183. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01873051

Kerr, N. J. (1987). “Wounded womanhood”: An analysis of karen horney’s theory of feminine psychology. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 24(3-4), 132-141. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1111/j.1744-6163.1987.tb00295.x

Lopez, A. G. (1984). Karen horney’s feminine psychology. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 44(3), 280-289. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01252690

Mansfield, H. (2014). Feminism and its discontents; ‘rape culture’ at harvard News America Incorporated.

O’Connell, A. N. (1980). Karen Horney: Theorist in psychoanalysis and feminine psychology. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 5(1), 81-93. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1980.tb01035.x

Smith, W. B. (2007). Karen Horney and psychotherapy in the 21st century. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(1), 57-66. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/s10615-006-0060-6

Symonds, A. (1991). Gender issues and Horney theory. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 51(3), 301-312. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/BF01249252

GMO Apologist Funding and the End of Democracy

I’ve been poking around for information on how the money flows from the GMO Lobby to the relatively small cadre of apologists who defend them. When clicking through links about genetic engineering (GE), the same names keep popping up. If you follow the pro-GMO money it tends to lead back to the very corporations who stand to rake in massive profits by keeping people ignorant about what goes into their food supply.

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As a starting point, let’s look at Kellogg’s funding of a recent study suggesting that 100 billion cows were healthy right before they were slaughtered for food after ingesting GE feed for only 90-120 days. The study came out of the University of California at Davis, which gets lots of research funding  from ‘industry partners’ .

When I started clicking links to the Kellogg Foundation I found some rather odd data. The branding on their website is all about helping children. Nothing in the mission statement about the quality of cow feed. So I searched their grants page for UC Davis and found a number of awards adding up to over six million dollars, only a pittance of which went to grants that had anything to do with children. I fail to see how grants to livestock feed studies mesh with the stated mission of the Kellogg fund.

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This sort of inconsistency leads to accusations of corruption and money laundering akin to what the Grocery Manufacturers Association did during GMO labeling campaigns in California and Washington state. Kellogg’s funnelled money into both of those campaigns due to concerns that GMO labeling will eat further into their profits, down 16% in the 2nd quarter. This setback was attributed to changes in eating habits rather than the boycott of Kellogs products to protest their opposition to labeling their GE foods.

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I’m not attacking the scientists involved in pro-GE studies. They probably believe that they’re doing good work for the benefit of mankind. Noam Chomsky explained in Manufacturing Consent how the systemic filters ensure that the people who get ahead in the media are the ones whose outlook meshes with that of their corporate masters. There are similar filters operating in academia.

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Let’s turn our attention to the cozy group of GMO cheerleaders who jumped on that feeding study like a duck on a junebug and started sharing the shit out of it. I first found it on a Facebook page and followed the links to an article in Forbes by Jon Entine. He’s head of an outfit called the Genetic Literacy Project. Sourcewatch follows the funding through front groups and networked organizations that are funded by right-wing think tanks and ultimately the Koch Brothers, who also support anti-labeling laws.

When I started sharing my views on Twitter, I got into a lengthy exchange with Kevin Folta at the University of Florida. I didn’t find any links to Kellogg’s there, but I did stumble onto some fascinating reports on how the Koch Brothers bought a department and tried to buy the presidency of another of Florida’s state universities. Of the 12 institutions in Florida’s state system, UFlorida has the largest endowment and enrollment and also appears on the list of recipients of Koch brothers’ largesse. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency makes it impossible to determine how much Koch influence might be exerted at UF.  Regardless, it is clear that Folta has solid connections to the Genetic Literacy Project and other GMO cheerleaders who present at the same conferences.

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Why should you care who funds whom? It’s not just that a handful of corporations are trying to get a stranglehold on the world’s food supply. You should care that YOU DON’T LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY ANYMORE. Let that sink in. This is not just my opinion. Princeton academics have documented this fundamental shift to oligarchy. Predictably, this story received almost no coverage in the mainstream mediaChris Hedges  describes what has happened as a corporate coup d’etat. The same kind of stealth tactics that Big Ag pursues have also been used with great success by Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tobacco and Wall Street took it to a whole new level.  Naomi Klein‘s new book, does a great job of explaining how capitalism is destroying the biosphere.

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If the corporations have already won, as Hedges and a great deal of evidence suggests, what are the people to do?  Citizens in the U.S. and Canada will have to take back democracy from the ground up, starting at the municipal level. (Take a look at what they’re doing in Seattle if you need some inspiration.) In every election at the provincial/state or federal level the number one issue we need to demand accountability on in Canada is ELECTORAL REFORM. In the U.S., campaign finance needs reform to address the corruption and legal bribery that has quietly robbed the people of their power.

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Expect the bullshit machine try to scare you with all manner of reasons to keep the status quo. Don’t drink their kool-aid. An estimated 400,000 people who hit the streets of New York on September 21st to demand action on climate change were just the tip of the iceberg.  As more North Americans realize their country has been stolen by the .001%, I predict we will see even larger crowds in the street. The police state cannot prevail against a populist uprising.

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Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer points out that when economic inequality reaches the record levels we are seeing, the result tends to be an uprising or a police state. Then Ferguson happened and showed America the police state had already arrived. Peace is a good thing. Nobody wants a violent revolution, but maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option to anyone who values their civil rights or the biosphere we depend on for survival. If you don’t get off your arse and demand your democracy back, you will condemn your children to live as serfs on a poisoned planet, who think they are ‘free’ because the media told them so.

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ps; If you found this enlightening, please consider sharing it with others.

The Tide Turns on Sunday

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The beginning of the end of rapacious, planet-killing, unfettered capitalism is upon us and some people are worried about how it will unfold. According to a recent article in the Vancouver Observer, the RCMP is keeping a close eye not just on organizations concerned about the environment, but also individual shale gas opponents like me. Frankly, I’m somewhat flattered because the more I learn about how the whole matrix is constructed the more I’m convinced that anyone who isn’t on a government watch list by now ought to be ashamed of herself.

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To be perfectly clear, I have never advocated for violence or criminal activity. I believe that the people will rise up to counter the serious threats posed by avaricious fossil fuel corporations, and in a peaceful manner. Most of the violence seen at demonstrations seems to be perpetrated by law enforcement personnel.  The G20 was a deliberate attempt to scare us into submission so that we’d stay home the next time a call for action came.  It didn’t work.  Instead, it woke people up to the massive lies they’ve been sold.  “The government wouldn’t let that happen” and “If they did, the press would tell us about it”  are nonsense and now everybody who wants to see the evidence can get it online.  The timing of that nasty little article in Vancouver was calculated to frighten people into staying home next Sunday instead of coming out en masse in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York. The tactic won’t work.  I will absolutely hit the pavement to march with millions of other people around the globe, including the UN Secretary-General.

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I was at a march once where some clean-cut, muscular guy in combat boots and a bandana got up on a light pole and started barking about kicking some ass. Everyone within earshot looked at him like he had two heads and then completely ignored him. By now, the majority of participants in these events are aware that undercover cops have been known to ‘infiltrate’ and sometimes try to provoke trouble, in order to justify a heavy handed response from their uniformed brethren. You can actually hear an organizer order a masked undercover cop to “put the rock down”  about 30 seconds into this video. That may be an extreme example, but it does show what can happen and how it can be countered.  If you ever see a similar incident, just pull out your phone and start recording some video.  Obviously if they appear to pose a physical threat, the real cops can be asked to deal with them, as happened in the Quebec incident.

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A few weeks ago, billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer appeared on the TEDtalks homepage with “Beware, fellow Plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming” making the point that inequality makes everyone less secure. He made the connection that our current level of economic inequality is comparable to what existed in pre-revolutionary France, just before they started lopping off heads. He pointed out that the result of such inequality tends to be an uprising or a police state. Then Ferguson happened. The increasing militarization of the police is now very clear, as is its ultimate purpose. Clearly, fear of an uprising is pushing the U.S., as well as Canada in the direction of becoming a police state. It is instructive to notice whose fear is driving this change.

swat  permit

Any plutocrats capable of reading a history book should realize that the pendulum – their power – has reached its apex and is bound to reverse direction. Sunday, September 21, 2014 will very likely mark a major turning point.  The number one issue in the next federal election in Canada will be electoral reform, which will also require dumping Harper.  Reclaiming democracy across North America is absolutely essential to fixing the carbon problem because only then can out-of-control capitalism be reined in. If we don’t use legislation to regulate the big polluters on a global basis, our biosphere is toast. Despite what capitalists would have you believe, this is not rocket science. Power needs to come back to the people because the corporations have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of using it responsibly.

I don’t expect to see police being over-zealous on Sunday for a few reasons beyond being way outnumbered. The intentions of the marchers are clearly peaceful and even if some cops wanted to make work for themselves, they have to realize by now that cameras will be everywhere and if they abuse their lawful authority their behaviour will be held up to scrutiny and, if applicable, ridicule.  Another reason is that even though cops are more thoroughly brainwashed than just about any other segment of the population, they have kids too and are smart enough to do the math and realize that their kids and grandchildren will suffer if we fail in this epic struggle.  Our cause is just and we are out of time. If you have never considered attending a public demonstration before, now is the time to stand up and be counted. If you think you have a good excuse to sit this one out, imagine how lame it will sound to your grandkids when they ask if you were at the largest climate justice mobilization in the history of the world.

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The Lessons of Ripples

256px-Ripple_effect_on_waterWhen I walk along the edge of Lake Ontario and see little boys tossing pebbles into the water it always brings me joy. My own little boy did that once, drawn inexorably toward the shoreline and delighted by the rings he created as they moved ever outward. We smile at their efforts to make a mark on a great body of water, but little children understand something that the rest of us forget. The first lesson of  ripples is that the only moment that any of us will ever have is right now. We sense this when we crouch beside children to see the shiny new world through their eyes. Now is the dividing line between the past and the future, between desire and fulfillment. Every pebble we toss, every decision we make happens on that frontier between our intentions and our actions.

As soon as we toss the second pebble we see that interesting things happen where two worlds collide.

The border where the sea meets the shore supports tremendous biodiversity and in science, intersections like this hold important lessons. The interactions between industrial scale monoculture, genetic engineering and chemical pesticides are having a devastating impact on the living earth. We are only beginning to see the connections to mammalian health and there are even deadlier interactions connected to the burning of fossil fuels. Corporations profiting from genetically modified seeds were allowed to be responsible for safety testing but their methodology was, unsurprisingly, inadequate. Longer term studies have now been released that are cause for concern. I am now trying to process the understanding that my child, for most of his life, has been used by transnational corporations as a science experiment without my knowledge or consent and that despite my effort to end it, this experiment continues, because I don’t buy groceries at his father’s house, or the school cafeteria.

The more pebbles you toss into the pond, the more complex the ripples become.

There are bound to be some messy interactions between the ripples created by different groups and we need to allow for this while understanding that although our goals may differ in their specifics, we all share the same fundamental needs for clean air, water and non-toxic food. The politics of division is incredibly corrosive, and it threatens the very biosphere when it fragments opposition to ecocide. Whether people stand behind the Idle No More protesters as settler allies, or march against GMOs as fellow earthlings or Terrestrials, it is the joining in a common purpose that will tip the balance of power away from oppression and exploitation and towards justice and sustainability.  Some people think the living earth is a sentient being, but whether Gaia has consciousness or not is a moot point if we argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin while ignoring the transnational corporations that are destroying the biosphere we need to survive. We are all on the same side in our need for air, water and food.

Ripples begin from point at which the pebble falls and travel at their own speed.

Although it is inevitable that trolls will try to sow conflict by trying to find differences between the indisputable needs of First Nations’ communities and the sympathetic desire of Settler Allies for a better world for all of our grandchildren, I think we are all bright enough to recognize and reject any false narrative that attempts to weaken our shared momentum. We all need to begin where we are. Settler Allies are not equally educated or aware of indigenous issues, and this isn’t going to change overnight.  My lack of in-depth understanding of the historical issues should not preclude my participation as long as I recognize and respect First Nations moral authority and sovereignity in events that they organize.  Settler allies’  understanding of the importance of dismantling the oppressive colonial power structures will grow over time, and gradually spread outwards throughout the wider community. Patience and understanding will help this process unfold.

Once they start, ripples keep going and cannot be stopped.

Years ago I would watch my son sleeping and unconsciously match my breathing to his. My love for him and the primal instinct to protect was a powerful and transformative force. When I became a mother my circles of concern and compassion expanded outward to take in other children not born into the privileged life my son enjoys. News stories of abuse and neglect that make everyone sad, seemed suddenly to cut much deeper. The protective instinct a parent feels is a powerful, primal thing. No matter what other roles I may adopt, I am a mother first, and that means I would stop a bullet for my child. While the threats to our childrens’ health are widespread and numerous, I am not going to back down just because the problem I’m trying to solve is massive and intractable.

It is no surprise that Idle No More movement has risen on the shoulders of indigenous women. Mothers Against Drunk Driving made a real difference because they have an unassailable moral authority.  Mothers of children everywhere are struggling against the corrosive power of transnational corporations and winning skirmishes on the ground in their own communities. These small victories send hope and courage rippling outwards to more families, friends and neighbours, increasing numbers of whom are finding it necessary to get off the couch to defend their communities as the tentacles of unrelenting corporate greed reach further into our daily lives.

As a species, we are finally connecting the dots between the countless smaller battles being fought in communities around the globe. We are dropping pebbles into the same pond because the issues are interconnected. The campaigns of groups like Idle No More, Seed Freedom, and Occupy all have a fundamental purpose in common with Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Arab spring brought people from all faiths and walks of life into the streets to recognize their common cause, and we are seeing small groups of people in the west now coalesce in social media. There is a growing awareness that we are all on the same side, and the divide-and-conquer tactics of transnational corporations are losing traction.

The pebbles of change will continue to drop and whether we march city streets, or meet at the blockades, we can all join hands and hearts in defense of the earth.  There is a reason we are all drawn toward the shorelines of lakes, rivers and oceans to make ripples. It is the same thing that draws us to the barricades to make waves. The place where two worlds meet is where the tide turns and ripples begin to spread outward. This connection is where the magic happens.

Helpful posts;

http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/

http://decolonization.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/idlenomore-settler-responsibility-for-relationship/

http://valleyroadrambler.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/how-to-be-a-settler-ally/

A Love Letter to the One Percent

Earth_Western_Hemisphere“The rich are always afraid.”- Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth 

Dear One Percent,

I can understand why you might be a tad nervous these days. Your lofty penthouses must offer spectacular views of the collapse of western civilization. We have reached a fork in the road and there is a real struggle about which way to go. Since you’ve usurped most of the power in the world and your vote counts for more than mine, I’m asking you to please use it wisely.

If we continue down the broad path of globalization, unfettered corporate pillage and the continued massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the super-rich, we are all going to have a bad time. History repeatedly demonstrates the resilience of what a former employer of mine actually called “the great unwashed masses.” The stronger the downward momentum when the people hit bottom, the higher they will bounce. There were no gates high enough, or walls thick enough to resist this force when it erupted in France, Russia, China, or countless other “civilized” nations that didn’t share resources fairly. What’s worse, if ecocide is allowed to continue, there won’t be a world worth living in when the dust settles.

Nobody wants that to happen in America except Fox News. Bloody violence would be a wet dream for both Rupert Murdoch and the pundit class who are employed by the military-industrial-prison-complex. The vast majority of sentient beings on this planet, perhaps especially the cops and soldiers, want peace. However, we all have the right to defend ourselves and our families from abuse. More of us are recognizing that the planet we live on should also be inside our circle of concern, because if she dies, we do too and so more of us than ever are willing to put ourselves in harm’s way to defend the earth.

We are hearing the term ‘revolution’ being tossed around in a less figurative context these days. We are approaching a tipping point and none of us knows for certain what lies on the other side. Let’s take a moment to think about what we want to find there. I expect to see small communities building their own sustainable economies, growing more organic food in more shared spaces. We already see the growth of free-cycling, tool libraries, seed libraries, maker spaces and other alternatives to consumerism. We will see increasing engagement in governance, beginning particularly at the local level and, if necessary, increased civil disobedience in the prevention of ecocide. We will see a new economy growing to fill the void as our current unsustainable house of cards slowly but surely collapses down to a manageable size.  The whole fossil fuel industry will gradually subside, while clean, renewable energy companies rise to replace them. Institutional pressure to divest from fossil fuels will accelerate this process. At the same time, we can also expect to see a number of democratic movements coalesce in order to find a way to bring power back to the people from whom it was stolen. Checks and balances on the power of transnational corporations must be restored if we are to save this planet. Please keep in mind that we don’t have another one to go to.

The massive chasm of income disparity represents a threat to everyone, no matter how much or how little money they have. Change is inevitable and its up to you, dear one percent, to make sure the transition goes smoothly. We all need you to become part of the solution by defecting from the forces of unmitigated greed and join our common cause as Terrestrials. We all breathe the same air, and so will all of our children, even yours.

Love,

Some of the rest of us.

Some handy links;

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/19658-our-invisible-revolution

http://sacred-economics.com/

https://www.facebook.com/solvealltheproblems

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Connect-ALL-the-DOTS/244043472413348

“Seeds of Death”-Excellent documentary

I Fracked My Brain

This random insight hit me as I tumbled into bed two hours too late last night, having written 6 blog posts in 2 days. No recreational drugs were involved in this effort, not even caffeine. It was as if I turned on the spigot at a well into which thousands of bits of information had been pumped, building up the pressure. All the little bits of evidence that the world is going to hell in a handcart were shoved together inside a brain not quite big enough to hold it all, and now the flow has reversed.

I’ve been dismayed by the wide variety of problems we face today, and the inability of people to just connect the dots and realize that our children’s children are in grave danger and we need to do something about that before its too late. Divisions between any two groups on this planet are a problem because they distract us from the deception that that’s more important than the air we breathe and the water we need to live on this planet. If you think about basic human needs that we all have in common it really is not that complicated. We are all human, and beyond that, we are all Terrestrial.

We are all on and of this Earth. This planet is our home, just as we are home to billions of tiny micro-organisms that populate our skin and our intestinal tracts. The health of the parent organism depends on the health of its population, and too many of these populations are ailing. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’m sick of a culture where rape is considered acceptable to joke about while we allow massive corporations to rape the planet for the profit of the few. If the Earth is our mother, think about that. We allow corporations to rape our mother. Yes, that is a truly disturbing picture. How many of us are saying that’s OK, as long as I get paid for it? Under the law of this land the person who co-operates with a crime is guilty as an accessory to it. It’s time to wake up to that fact.

I often tell my child that every problem has a solution and most have several. Saving the Earth has millions of solutions and we don’t have to pick just one. Some of us are pushing to divest from fossil fuels, others are fighting to get genetically engineered foods properly labeled and others want fluoride out of the drinking water. There are thousand of courageous people working at worthy and noble causes. These are all important, but the task of fixing all that is broken in our world will be much, much easier once we have wrestled control of our democracies out of the bloody hands of corporations who are murdering mother earth.

Repairing our broken democracies really is the foundation of any plan to save the world. That is the first prize we must keep our eyes on. That is the intermediate step that will bring all our plans closer to fruition. Terrestrialism is a little seed of an idea that I would like to plant in other brains. As an identity, it spans every living being on this planet – it is a club we already belong to. If you can shift your perception to encompass that idea, the world you perceive will change into a far less threatening place.

If you’re wondering how this will work, understand that it really is all about what you focus on. If you are focused on repairing the damage we have done to the biosphere so that our grandchildren don’t drown during a hurricane, how important is it to establish exactly who knocked down the world trade centre? Once you realize that the past cannot be undone, but the future can be saved, it becomes easier to entertain two conflicting viewpoints in your brain as well as in your circle of friends, without making a big deal out of it. Bringing the guilty to justice is certainly a worthy cause, and that is a goal we should work towards, but our basic needs for air, clean water and healthy food must be prioritized.

Keeping the goal in mind is helpful when fracking your brain by filling it up with the thousands of points-of-view that you are exposed to every day. Some of these ideas will stay with you, not unlike the chemicals that are pumped into the ground under our aquifers, but many will be ejected as unhelpful. Whenever you find a deep fissure between ideas, look for the elements of distraction and deception that go along with the politics of division, and realize how many of these dichotomies are false and illusory. We are all of this earth and we all have a duty of stewardship towards her.

Ending Ecocide

Genocide is one of the four crimes against peace identified in international law. When a movement started to add Ecocide to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the backlash was tremendous. If you follow the money it is easy to see why. Corporations have a legal obligation to put profits before people and an ecocide law would seem to supersede that. So the vicious cycle continues; resource depletion, scarcity, conflict, war, and more environmental destruction. Huge corporations are raking in billions this way, and whine that any change would damage the economy. News flash – the economy has already been trashed – and it was Wall Street that did it, not the tree-huggers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. That is a false dichotomy which doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies will encourage many to shift their production to clean energy. Political pressure can shift subsidies from dirty oil to sustainable sources.

Enshrining ecocide into law will only be successful where democracy has been reclaimed from the corporations who control the medium and the message. The legal concept of superior responsibility means that the buck stops at the top. CEO’s and company directors don’t want to end up in jail, but that doesn’t need to be the end game in an ecocide prosecution. Corporations could be carved up into smaller units and still maintain employment and earn profits for their shareholders. I don’t buy corporate fear-mongering because, as Polly Higgins points out in her TEDx talk, of the 300 companies who profited from slavery, not one went out of business when it was abolished.

Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, we can add ecocide to our vocabulary and start tossing it around more generously. We can paint it on banners and march it through the streets. We can throw it at political candidates and demand that they respond to it. And when corporations stick their fingers in their ears, pretending they don’t hear it, we can vote with our dollars.

Watch the talk you won’t find on TED.com:

Visit the website:
http://eradicatingecocide.com/