Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Enemy Within II: A Waco/End-Game Scenario

This article was originally posted to the Forget the Box news collective on the 31st of July.

I’ve been fascinated by the Siege at Waco and the Branch Davidians since I was an eight-year old and I watched the tragic events unfold nearly-live on CNN in 1993. Admittedly, I was not entirely aware of the grave implications of the raid, stand-off and siege back then as I am today, and Waco, in my eyes, is a catastrophe so epic it deserves to stay fresh in the minds of any concerned citizen living in a modern democratic nation. I think it would be too glib to call it an isolated event, and even if the threat from doomsday cults is generally a bit of a rarity, the lessons from the Waco Siege have broad implications, especially with regards to the responsibilities of modern media and the potential for State intervention therein.

At the end of the day you need to ask yourself the following question:

Can media and information be left in the hands of profit-driven corporations? The United Nations recently decreed that full free access to the Internet is a fundamental human right. And good timing too – the Obama Administration has been using free access to the Internet as a key tool for advancing the democratic agenda in countless Middle Eastern nations yearning to break free from oppressive and tyrannical dictatorships (apparently, the American government may have played a role in ensuring that social-networking and Internet access remained somewhat open during the Egyptian Revolution, despite Egyptian efforts to prevent this). Now, we’re also quite aware that the Americans, much like our own impudent thug of a federal government, have also been using the Internet, social-networking tools etc. against its own people and have also been waging a losing battle against Anonymous, Lulzsec and other revolutionary hacker collectives. Despite these half-hearted attempts at censorship, it seems to suggest that the world of privatized and corporate information may very well be on the way out, because democratized, free and reliable information is proving to be the new source of reliability for the youth of the First World. Very simply put – there is a large and growing segment of the population here in Canada, the US and various other nations across the globe that is no longer paying attention to corporate media because they have proven themselves unreliable. This same segment seems to value information free from corporate/political spin and private ownership, and I would hope that one day, as a result of this growing change in popular opinion, government will mandate that media and information can no longer be bought and sold, that humanity has a right to free, correct information, and that profit-driven journalism is anathema to the proper functioning of a liberal State.

Profit-driven, politically motivated media can be a killer, but we’re so used to having large corporations responsible for providing us with basic though vital information that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to consider what our options are. And if we have options today, they are options that essentially didn’t exist a mere eighteen years ago.

In 1993 a newly formed US government agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (attached to the Treasury Department and responsible for prosecuting in-country smuggling and stockpiling of the aforementioned controlled items) attempted to execute a search of the Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas. The Davidians were a non-mainstream splinter group loosely associated with the Seventh Day Adventist movement who took the Bible as the literal word of God. Their leader was a charismatic thirty-four year old Apocalyptic named David Koresh. Using the Books of Revelation and Isaiah as his guide, he instructed his congregation on the nature and identity of the Seven Seals, the seven signs leading to Judgement Day. This is not overly unique – there have been apocalypse/judgement day cults since the early days of the messianic religions. What made the Davidians a problem was their apparently massive collection of weapons and ammunition, not to mention the degree of self-sufficiency they had attained at their large agricultural compound. And so, the ATF was called upon to execute a search of the compound and to take any illegal weapons and ammunition found there, possibly also arresting any key members of the organization (the Davidians regularly sold guns at gun shows and ran their own catalogue as a means to support themselves – it was widely believed that the Davidians had illegally modified rifles to fire on full automatic, and that these weapons may be used by anti-government militias, or that the Davidians themselves were a potential threat to government, local or federal). Much like we saw in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, Bill Clinton’s election also saw a sudden rise in Far-Right organizations and anti-government militias. A few years prior to the Siege at Waco, the ATF and FBI attempted to serve a warrant at the Ruby Ridge compound of Randy Weaver, a white supremacist. The result was a shoot-out leaving one federal agent dead as well as Weaver’s wife and son. The ATF was ‘attempting a comeback’ from the disastrous events at Ruby Ridge, and had spent a considerable amount of time and effort establishing a strong local media presence. As it happened, Koresh was identified as a possible serial sexual-abuser and pederast in an article entitled ‘Sinful Messiah’ by the local Waco newspaper about a week before the attempted search. Local media coverage was intense, and Koresh, an apocalyptic who believed in the ultimate showdown between good and evil to be the ultimate climax of his existence, was now very directly threatened by exactly the forces he and his people wanted nothing to do with – mass media and big government.

When it came time to execute the search, the ATF was unaware that the Davidians had a) been tipped-off to the coming ‘raid’ by none other than Koresh’s brother-in-law (who himself had been inadvertently warned by a reporter) and b) had been preparing for a direct attack on their compound as a precursor to Armageddon, in which they would be fighting Evil incarnate. Mere minutes before the ATF arrived at the Mount Carmel compound, FBI mole Richard Rodriguez was outed by Koresh in front of his congregation and told to leave so as not to be killed. Rodriguez, with his insider perspective warned the ATF against attempting to enter the compound, sensing the bloodbath that was about to ensue.

What happened next is history. About 80 Davidians and four ATF agents were killed in the raid, standoff and siege. Timothy McVeigh would bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City two years later as a revenge attack. And the anti-government, Christian Identity extremist movement was provided a further sense of justification, not to mention martyrs. Events like Waco, Oklahoma City, Utoya and the myriad of other recent Far-Right terrorist attacks have a common denominator – profit-driven corporate media acting irresponsibly. And this will continue to be the common denominator – a slick, sick machine that manipulates people to commit acts of extreme violence and then viciously attacks those who would dare call them out for their transgressions. Look at the Fox News apologists who claim innocence and over focus on the killer’s purported Christianity to buy themselves a way out of dealing with the real issues. Look at the puppets that deny the merits of gun control for kickbacks from the NRA. Consider the ad revenue generated by comparing the teenage victims of a massacre to Nazis.

This is a machine worth raging against.

The Broken Republic – A Reflection on the Death of Reason

I was raised on TV,
Like so many of you I see around me.
Nothing to live or die for,
No religion too…

Gord Downie

The United States is broken.

It’s broke too.

And reason has taken a holiday.

When the most rational people a State can produce spend an inordinate amount of time arguing trivialities and tangents with reactionary fools, the political system is hopelessly broken.

And, seeing as hindsight is always 20-20, we can see the view from 2011 looks bleak. Facing backwards we see a dim light far off in the distance, bittersweet memories of simpler times in back in the mid-1990s. We’re fooling ourselves though – despite our nostalgia the view behind us is bleak past Bush the First, and the kindly old men and women we knew as ‘Leaders of the Free World’ back in our youth were criminals, war-mongers and masters of manipulation – setting the tone more than thirty years ago. Reagan may have looked good to a child watching CNN when the Soviet Union was dying, but his historical record speaks for itself – the man very nearly caused the Third World War, and his economic and social agenda triggered a major destabilization of the American middle-class, and an all-out war against the poor and labouring class in its own right. Many of the problems President Obama is trying to deal with today with have roots stretching all the way back to the heady days of the early and mid-1980s. And a good number of the crackpot lunatics running the RNC and GOP today know Reagan, through their own self-imposed myopia and outright arrogant ignorance, as perhaps the greatest modern American president. He has been idolized and made both Alpha and Omega in an ungodly union of so-called fiscal Conservatives, moralist-libertarians and corporate-evangelical Christians – all the major Conservative pundits praise his name and record as if it was unblemished. I say they’ve damn near made a false idol of this Reagan, and though I’m no Christian, I really wish they’d follow their own god-dammed commandments once in a while.

And reason? Gone. Poof! It disappeared because the People of the First World weren’t paying attention to what really mattered. They voted in governments that took money out of schools, hospitals and social services, and invested heavily in building new weapons to continue fighting wars (this despite the fact that by the late-1980s, it was clear the Cold War was over). They decided to simply equate being a Conservative with knowing something about how economics work. And our disinterest in really knowing whether or not our leaders knew what the hell they were talking about was recognized by the media, who realized in turn that the only thing that drives news coverage is scandal, bickering and punditry. Information wasn’t coming in quickly enough for the cable news outlets, so they had to start making news up – inventing a story to drive up ad revenue. And before we knew it our disinterest in actively participating in the democratic process had produced a new corporate policy for the Media Giants: if it’s not infotainment, it’s not news.

Therefore, out go the boring in-depth analyses of social and economic policy, and in come the actors. Starting with Reagan, the original b-movie actor turned politician, our political reality was radically transformed for the worse. The New Right united the RNC/GOP establishment with a massive voter base of special interest groups and special-ed students; those who could use the newly sensationalistic corporate media to press their agenda and distract from government economic planning, and those too stupid to care about government economic planning, but who want you to know that Jesus wants ‘Mer-ri-ca to kill the Ayatollah because of 9-11, and Obama is a secret al-Qaeda operative.

It’s bullshit – we are living in the Golden Age of Bullshit. No Gilded Age mind you – not even an attempt to hide the rotting soul within – it’s out there for all to see. Bullshit is currency now, and an unfortunately large number of people buy it. They buy into Goldline. They fall for Nigerian Prince Schemes. They don’t care that about healthcare – those obnoxious camera-whores from New Jersey are fighting each other again! What fun!

And don’t kid yourselves, we’re all partially responsible for this mess, or at the very least have been significantly conditioned whether we like it or not – the commercialization of information, media and facts has left an indelible stain on our collective society. So many of us are the exploited, the misguided mass that votes Republican, or Conservative or doesn’t vote at all. And we have been mislead by the exploitation of our general preference to be passively entertained rather than to actively participate in our society. As a result, the once progressive but now decadent West seems to be very quickly losing one of its core societies, as the American Civilization crumbles with the weight of its own accumulated inertia. If we’re not next to fall, perhaps there is a legitimate strength to the Canadian culture after all – and wouldn’t it be wise to get to know what specifically has minimized the impact of this kind of blatant exploitation of the People’s will. To be fooled by those who can afford to do so ad infinitum for their own selfish gain is one thing, but to have a significant amount of what constitutes your initial worldview so expertly tainted you need to dig yourself out of an ignorance pit just to realize what reason means is a horrifying imposed intellectual handicap. We’re not just being mislead, we’re being actively dumbed-down.

A few nights ago, trying to deal with my own angst-fuelled insomnia, I began reading the preferred copy of Plato’s Republic used by my Alma Matter, Concordia’s Liberal Arts College. Doing as I had been so trained, I picked it up and started on page one – no skipping to the Parable of the Cave for me. I was astounded at how expertly the editor’s introduction framed the contents of the Republic as an intellectual reaction to the decline of the once-great Athenian State. Undone by a seemingly endless war and a resurgent paganism that the state used to its own advantage, Athens slipped from an enlightened state to one of barbarity, avarice, corruption and a total disinclination towards what an individual can teach himself. Socrates was murdered because he was an atheist, and refused to believe that man was incapable of thinking and doing for himself and for others. After the fall of Athens, those who led did so by venerating the once-forgotten Gods, and reminded the people that they themselves were not responsible for their actions. ‘Tis only the will of the Gods you know…
And where are we now?

Back to basics, and not much further along than back when Socrates gave his version of The Last Lecture. We exist in a fearful, crumbling collection of dying societies, expert at carving out differences and distinctions between men whilst simultaneously encouraging the notion that we are all equally helpless. A society that has turned its back on our individual free-will and ability to think for ourselves – a dangerous situation for the Elites of Plato’s day inasmuch as it is a danger to the ruling classes that keep modern man in a brand-new cave. What war will save us now? What revolution of mind, body and soul will free us from our bondage?

Haven’t we been down this road before?

You’d think we’d have learned something by now…

A Call to Arms

The Antennae Galaxies, softly colliding - clearly not the work of the author, but a good reason to invest in NASA, the ESA, the CSA and JAXA

Now is the time to fight. Like never before in recent memory have the constructive capabilities of mass communication enabled the world to inform and react to our shared crises like it can today. What’s more, we are most definitely still at the very beginning of our journey to finally make the world a Global Village, with all the expected responsibilities, and for those reasons the persons and peoples of the world must chart a careful and conscious course of action. The world is aflame today; any well-informed individual living in the first or second world is likely quite aware of the numerous overlapping conflicts and crises currently affecting the planet. We, for the most part, have unrestricted access to all pertinent data, and as recent events in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, North Africa, Japan, the Arabian Peninsula & Persian Gulf and even the Mid-West indicate, the people of the planet have an incredible power – to mobilize themselves, exchange vast quantities of information, and best of all, to support each other with global micro-philanthropy. As Western powers attempt to control information, they are attacked by anonymous individuals whose only credo is to maintain the full democratization of information and global communications. Try and stop Wikileaks, try to suspend donations for Bradley Manning’s defence fund – your business will suffer, your ability to communicate will be paralyzed. The children of the peaceful, democratic, industrialized world of the `70s, `80s and `90s were cultivated in a era of heretofore unknown interconnectivity, integration and, most importantly, they have largely been educated to believe in core progressive values, such as acceptance, cosmopolitanism, multilingualism and social-democracy. These ideals exist fundamentally in a great number of people, especially if you grew up in Canada during this time, and must be protected and promoted if the human species is to ever evolve our way off this planet and into the great hereafter. The progressives and the fascists spent most of the 20th century slugging it out in an international cluster-fuck of death, depravity and destruction. Today, March 25th 2011, we witness the end game of a Kleptocracy – Qaddafi’s reign is over, and it was the much-loathed Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who made this statement in clear English but a few days ago; today a Canadian is slated to take-over command of the NATO mission. It’s been an odd week for the Harper Government. No spin, no jive, straight talk Steve Harper at his most remarkable when he declared regime change to be the end goal; today he and his merry band of pugilistic liars lost the confidence of the Parliament – for the third time in five years. I detest this man with every ounce of my being for what he has done to my nation, but at this point I doubt his government will survive this round of screaming, spiteful democracy. If the last thing the Harper Government ever did was to declare Canada’s intention to wipe-out the homicidal regime of the Lunatic Qaddafi, then I will know the man did at least one just, right thing during his time in office. It doesn’t say much about him as a leader, but it speaks to something that I hope is fundamental to Canadians. We have a responsibility to the world, as all first nations do, to repay our debt to the peoples of the world who do not yet live in the comparative luxury and peace we experience and take for granted. Therefore, it is our responsibility (and only our responsibility) to seek out the means and allies necessary to affect regime changes the world over.

The 21st century belongs to the Global Village – we must destroy all vestiges of despotic regimes in the second and third world now while we can, and secure for all peoples of the world a life free of human bondage. Make no mistake the decadent West enslaves the poorest of the world; we’ve built our economy largely on exploitation. Yes, we are responsible for many of the crises that have defined our times – be it the economic collapse, the deteriorating environment or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the peoples of the nations responsible are awakening, and despite all the chaos, I see love in the hearts of so many fellow citizens. I see the unknown youth of the West taking responsibility for the free-flow of information. I see a youth that cannot be swayed by so much Fox News idiocy. I see progressives rising up and demanding and end to the abuses at home and the abusers abroad.

Thus, this youth of the Global Village must now pool their resources and abilities and declare war on the regressives, the tyrants, and those who seek to abuse us. We, who only dream of a world working as a well-oiled machine, lubricated by the Progressive Meritocracy. We, who were born with love in our hearts, who knew from our earliest days the world was an inherently good place, where love, courage and righteousness always toppled the evil and corrupt. I know I’m not that different from most middle-class Canadians who grew up in the suburbs. As a child my parents, family and teachers showed me a world of endless possibilities. As a child I was taught to love all as I would love myself, and to create and dream to my heart’s desire. And when my parents were working to provide for our family, a well-imagined network of services ensured I would be raised right. A multilingual, multicultural preschool; an excellent public school with a devoted staff of experience educators, backed up by an even more exemplary Home & School Association of volunteer parents. And then the after-school daycares, the after-school Hebrew lessons and Communion classes. And if that wasn’t enough we also had media specially dedicated to us; Mr. Dressup, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Passe-Partout and the Umbrella Tree – all those lovely people on TV reaching out and telling me I was good, I was loved and all the world was mine to explore. And now this much-loved and adored generation of hipsters, rappers, freaks and geeks must declare war on that which would deny us the peace, progress and prosperity we were promised in our youth. Our progeny will not live in fear, our kin will not suffer, our clans will be united for once and for all and this Village we truly exist in will finally become self-aware; if attaining the complete and thorough state of global peace and satisfaction is not our universal end-goal, then what is?

Regime change seems to be the battle cry of the 21st century, for better or for worse. Unfortunately it is actually difficult to tell whether this world is better with or without Saddam Hussein, and its too early to tell what will become of Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya – we’ll be in a better position to judge once the World Powers realize their long-term responsibility to effect a lasting global democracy, a world where war, chaos and despotism can be neutralized in a matter of hours or days. Think of all the places in the world where the people live in one kind of bondage or terrorism or another. Realize these nations are armed with old, ineffective equipment, and can’t do much more than abuse their own people with them. Only the democratic, internationalist powers can remove this threat wherever it exists. And once this happens, the Powers must then destroy their own means to annihilate mankind and inflict genocide. In short, now is the time for responsible military intervention, peacekeeping and peacemaking on a heretofore-unknown scale. And while the Conservative elements in our society beef up their machismo by systematically neutralizing all the despots, all the juntas, terrorists etc – the Progressives will rise, get elected into power while government attention is elsewhere, and ensure a just society at home, before turning their efforts to stimulating a globally just civilization with our allies. Poverty, disease, famine, genocide, civil war, economic imbalance – all of this can be eliminated if the world were to finally act as one and pledge itself to democracy, diplomacy, philanthropy and the scientific method. With all these sources of suffering and human bondage removed from the face of the Earth, our singular people will finally conquer the skies above, and solve far greater mysteries than so merely why we happen to inhabit this planet. The grandeur of the Cosmos is ours to discover, yet we spend our time killing for profit and turning our eyes blind to so much death and depravity – abroad and at home. Worse still, we have the gall to believe these problems are unsolvable, and that idealism is misguided or naïve.

I used to think this way. But when I look up at the night sky or see a picture like the one above, of the eternal dance of the galaxies, I cannot help but realize these global problems were meant to be conquered, and that this constitutes the next major step in human evolution. We are changing as I write this, and the pace will not slow down. And if you can free yourself to look deep into whatever amount of the universe you can see at night, and spend some contemplating all those stars above, consider the wise words of another man with the initials SH. Stephen Hawking warned members of SETI of the potential dangers in actively trying to contact Extraterrestrial Life (which it seems a great number of people in the scientific community have already taken for granted, realizing that the probability of human beings being alone in our universe is likely impossible). Hawking drew a comparison between human beings in our current state and the Aboriginal Americans at the point of contact – in other words, if we’re not ready for ET, if we’re not mentally and sociologically prepared for contact, we’ll be doomed.

A more serious problem shared by all of humanity I can’t imagine. On the plus side, we’re at the far edge of our galaxy, and haven’t been generating nearly enough inter-stellar noise to flag down our nearest neighbour. In other words, we’re safe for now, but if we don’t start tackling the major problems we all face, we may one day wake up and realize it’s simply too late. We’ll wake up and realize we’re not alone; and then what?