WIZARD’S BANE

Darkness covered the city, flowing down the streets and collecting in the alleys. Silence sat heavily on the sleeping town, its buildings swathed in a thick fog, light pooling in liquid puddles under the occasional street lamp. The town drunk stumbled down the street, his head spinning from the pots of ale he’d just finished off in the pub. Reaching the nearest alley, he leaned heavily against the wall then slid down to sit on the ground. Reclining against the building wall, he threw his head back and began singing loudly, and badly off-key. A brief flash of light a few feet further down the alley startled him and he peered into the darkness.

« Who’s der? » he slurred, trying to make out anything in the inky blackness. No answer was forthcoming however, so after a few seconds he shrugged and went back to singing.

The reason for the flash stood silently several feet away, his eyes adjusting to the sudden darkness. The putrid smell of rotting garbage caused him to wrinkle his nose in disgust.

« Wonderful, » he thought sourly to himself. « A backwater planet in the middle of nowhere. And where do I materialize? In the middle of their garbage dump! »

He closed his eyes for a second, then took a deep breath, settling his nerves.

« Well, it could be worse I guess. I wonder just how primitive these people are. »

He picked his way slowly through the darkened alley, trying to avoid the larger concentrations of refuse. By the time he reached the street, the town drunk was happily snoring, the words to his song long forgotten in the stupor produced by the ale.

« At least » he thought to himself as he inspected the drunk, « I look like they do physically. »

He squatted down beside the drunk and carefully pulled his tattered cloak aside then frowned.

« Clothing . . . that’s another matter, » he mused, dropping the cloak back down over the snoring man.

He glanced down at his seamless, black jump suit and shook his head.

« I’ll never fit in dressed like this, » he thought, studying the drunk’s ratty attire, then stood and glanced cautiously around the street.

The fog drifted past, swirling slightly in the faint breezes as he watched, but no other signs of life were evident on the street. Satisfied things were relatively safe, he cautiously stepped out of the alley and turned left then made his way up the deserted street, hugging the rough brick wall of the building and trying to stay well out of the light as he made his way past silent store fronts.

The buildings ended fairly quickly and the street turned into a lane running out into the open land. The man stopped, then sighed and turned around.

« Better and better, » he thought, shaking his head. « Backwater planet, primitive culture, local inhabitants who appear to have all the civility of poorly bred pigs and now this. » He stared back up the street at the few buildings visible through the fog.

« Maybe it’s bigger if I go the other way. I need clothes. »

He studied the buildings for a few seconds longer then shook his head again.

« No, » he thought, correcting himself, « I need a farm. With a clothesline. And a sympathetic farmer. »

He frowned, remembering the drunks singing and made a face.

« A farmer whose language I probably don’t speak, » he muttered then looked up at the invisible stars. « Why me!? »

He glanced over his shoulder into the blackness that shrouded the lonely countryside then turned back to the town again. If there was a farm out there it certainly didn’t show up in the middle of the night.

« When I get my hands, » he thought vehemently, « on the idiot that opened that warp… »

Light spilled suddenly out of a doorway a few feet ahead of him as the door opened, and he flattened against the wall. A couple strolled out, waving behind them at a fairly crowded, smoke filled room, then wandered off down the street arm in arm. He waited until they were lost in the fog before breathing a silent sigh of relief.

« Clothes now, » he reminded himself. « And food. And sleep. Retribution later. After my powers come back. »

He glanced around, then continued on up the street toward the alley he’d materialized in.

As it came in sight he could see a dark figure bent over the drunk who had been happily snoring away in its entrance. He froze, watching as the figure drew a knife out of a sheath and silently cut the drunk’s pouch from his belt. The man narrowed his eyes and glanced around. The street was still empty and the alley was only a few feet away. Trained reflexes took over and he advanced silently, little more than a shadow, as the figure opened the pouch and began rummaging through it. He paused for a moment, waiting until the thief was completely absorbed in the contents of the pouch, then stepped forward, one hand going to the thief’s throat, the other grasping its knife hand. In a single fluid motion he bent the thief backwards, lifted it off the ground to its toes by the hand on its throat and forced the knife hand open. The knife hit the ground with a dull thud and he shoved the arm up behind his prisoner’s back. The other struggled slightly, stopping as his hand tightened around its throat.

« You know, for a thief, you’re not very observant, » he growled, his voice low.

His captive grunted and he applied a bit more pressure to the arm behind its back.

« Ow! » came the unhappy protest.

« Not only that, but your choice of targets is lousy, » he continued, then waited for a reply.

« Let me go! » the other managed, then gasped as a bit more pressure was applied to his arm.

« Well, » the man thought, « language will evidently not be a problem. That’s one positive aspect to this. »

« Let you go? » he asked in a low, dangerous voice. « Let you go? And then what? Wait while you pick up your knife and try to kill me? I think not. » He squeezed slightly on the other’s throat again.

« NO! » his captive cried out, sudden fear filling his voice. « Just let me go and I swear I won’t . . . »

« No, you’re right, » he interrupted. « You won’t . . . because you really won’t like what I’ll do if you try. »

He twisted the other’s wrist slightly, provoking another cry.

« I’ll let go, » he continued, his voice dark and threatening, « but you move and you die. Understand? »

« Yes, » came the reply through tightly clinched teeth.

He let go and the thief stumbled forward, whirled around, then stood uncertainly in front of him, rubbing his wrist and watching him warily. The fog drifted slowly past behind him, diffusing what light the nearby street lamp shed and giving him an unearthly backdrop. The thief looked up into a pair of brown eyes that appeared faintly to glow and gulped, his blood running cold.

« Your name? » the man asked, looking down at the thief and crossing his arms.

« Why? » the other asked hesitantly.

« Because I asked, » he stated bluntly.

« Kheri, » came the response after a moment.

He nodded, then bent over and picked the knife up off the ground.

Kheri’s eyes darted to the street but prudence kept him from moving.

« You can call me Dale, » the man said, straightening up and handing the knife back to its owner.

Kheri looked at the knife suspiciously, then carefully reached out and took it, sheathing it quickly.

« So now what? » Kheri asked nervously, looking back up at the man who towered a full twelve inches over his slight, five and a half feet.

« First, give him back his pouch, » Dale replied, indicating the drunk. « Second, you just became my guide to this place. To start with, I need other clothing. You’re going to help me find some. »

Kheri opened his mouth to protest, caught the look on Dale’s face, nodded once, then dropped the pouch next to the drunk.

« What kind of clothes do you want, » he asked, his gaze wandering over Dale’s strange attire.

« Normal stuff, » Dale told him. « What any average, working man would wear. »

Kheri stared at the jumpsuit for a couple more seconds then nodded.

« All right, » he replied apprehensively, « I know where you can get something but we’ll have to leave town. The only stuff around here is either on someone’s back or in a store. And they’re locked. »

« And stuff outside town isn’t? » Dale asked.

« Well… » Kheri fidgeted and tried not to feel frightened. « My aunt’s got a farm. It’s several miles out. I can try to get you some of my uncle’s old things unless you object to a walk? »

Dale caught his eyes and held his gaze for a moment until Kheri shivered and looked down.

« All right, » he replied, satisfied that Kheri was telling the truth, « we’ll go visit your aunt. Which way? »

« Uh . . .  » Kheri stammered, his heart pounding, « T. . . this way. »

He moved cautiously past the larger man then stepped out of the alley and started up the street toward the center of town. Dale turned and followed silently behind him. Kheri’s thoughts raced as he walked past the silent wooden buildings that lined the street. The desire to dash off into the fog filled him and he fought it down, certain that he would fail in the attempt. His arm still ached from the pressure Dale had exerted on it back in the alley and he had no desire to find out just how strong he really was. He rubbed his throat, still feeling the ghostly impressions which Dale’s fingers had left in it and shivered.

« Clothes… » he thought, trying to control his overly active imagination. « I gotta tell her something. . . »

He pictured the ancient steamer trunk locked away in his aunt’s attic, full of his uncle’s rotting clothing and frowned.

« Maybe I can just offer to clean up, » he thought then shook his head. « She’ll have it locked though. I gotta get her to give’m to me. »

His arm twinged slightly and he rubbed at the shoulder, remembering the sudden, iron grip which had grasped his wrist, the ease with which Dale had lifted him from the ground, then held him on the tips of his toes, and shivered. The brief events in the alley sprang back to the front of his thoughts and overpowered his shaky attempt at planning. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath, then forced himself to consider what his Aunt might respond to.

He was distracted, still deep in thought, when the last few buildings came in sight. Dale dropped a hand firmly on his shoulder, shattering his concentration and he jumped.

« Stop, » came the soft command behind him. He froze instantly and glanced quickly around. A few seconds later a movement in the shadows a short way up the street caught his attention and he flattened against the wall next to Dale, holding his breath, watching. A figure detached itself from the shadows a moment later and crossed the street, visible now as one of the town guards. The two of them stood motionless, waiting as the guard glanced around, then made his way on down the street.

« All right, let’s go, » Dale said quietly after the guard had vanished into the fog and his footsteps were no longer to be heard. Kheri nodded silently, then looked curiously at Dale as they started walking again. Dale returned his gaze and lifted an eyebrow in question.

« Yes? » he asked.

« How’d you know he was there? » Kheri asked.

« I heard him, » came Dale’s quiet reply.

Kheri blinked.

« You heard him? » he repeated dubiously.

« Yes. » Dale answered without explanation.

A shiver ran up Kheri’s spine and he stopped, turned to face Dale and took a deep breath.

« Who . . . I meant what… » he stammered, unable to turn thoughts into words.

Dale sighed inwardly, then crossed his arms and looked down into Kheri’s eyes.

« Are you sure you want the answer to that question? » he asked. Kheri nodded, his eyes locked on Dale’s face.

« At the moment, » Dale told him, « I’m just a stranger who would prefer not to be noticed. You get on my bad side, I might turn out to be your worst nightmare. »

Kheri swallowed nervously, unable to look away.

« You do as I ask, and behave, and I may turn out to be a valuable friend, » Dale continued, still holding Kheri’s gaze with his own. « You want more explanation than that, earn it. How far is it to your aunt’s farm from here? »

« Uh. . ., » Kheri stammered and shook his thoughts free from the somewhat frightening flight of fantasy they’d taken.

« About three. . . four miles. . . not far. An hour or so walk, » he replied.

« She get up early? » Dale asked.

« Usually yes, » Kheri agreed, « and this is market day. There’ll be traffic coming into town in a while, too. »

Dale regarded him silently for a moment longer, watching the younger man fidget nervously.

« In that case, » he suggested softly, a flinty edge to his voice, « I suggest you turn around and we get going. »

Kheri broke into a sudden sweat and turned quickly around, leading the way out of town.

The Lady and the Sparrow

There was a lady who lived in a large house, but she was not happy, not happy at all!

Closing herself off in her bedroom, there were tears and remorse over her life.

Now, every day, a sparrow would come to her window and tap-tap-tap on it.

This sparrow wasn’t the most handsome nor did he have the best stocked nest among the other birds.

However, he did have a heart that he wanted to share with the lady, for he as well felt her distress and tears.

And so he would daily fly to her window: tap-tap-tap.

The lady at first ignored the sparrow, not even giving him a glance.

After a while, she did at least come to the window, but never opened it.

Secretly she admired the sparrow’s persistence.

But, alas! everyday she would leave the safety and silence of her bedroom and descend to an uncertain and more troubling level

One that would inevitably make her unhappy and unfulfilled.

Still, she would — in the quiet of her room — think of the sparrow and yet she never opened the window upon his tap-tap-tap arrival.

On one occasion, she even admonished the sparrow to leave her alone and to never come to her window again.

But both knew there was something of a bond, a strong bond there.

So the sparrow — the one with not the prettiest feathers and a really messy nest — still would arrive.

And on the latest visit, the lady cracked open the window

And as the sparrow flew away, he saw her smile.

Yet it was still going to be another long and cold and lonely winter for him.

But there was a glimmer of hope for them both, wasn’t there?

An italian movie adventure

aExperience a movie adventure of a lifetime

Prepare yourself to be part of the cast and crew in the production of

« Federico Fellini
CINE-Magician »

during October 2006
in Rome, Italy

Apply for tutoring under the direction of Maestro Aldo Vidali and in 10 weeks you’ll be given the opportunity to become a co-producer and be part of the 2006 Uneco Cinema Production Unit during the shooting of the movie.

October is the perfect time of the year in the Eternal City

Fellini-Antonioni Studio & Uneco Films will take professionally trained students and Fellini lovers on the movie making adventure of a lifetime in Rome for the entire month of October to explore and create a motion picture about the greatest film author of all time: Federico Fellini and what he would say today.

The film will be directed by a good friend and collaborator of the late great maestro: Aldo Vidali.

Fellini is to cinema what Shakespeare is to theater

The movie you will participate in will bring to the world Fellini’s vision, his comments on the human condition, and glimpses of his profound reflections that will expand our understanding of life and love.

Those who have learned from and loved the great magician of cinema will flock to see this great historical work that will make Fellini live again as a voice for our troubled times.

In Rome you will meet a number of Italian movie people and some of Fellini’s old friends. You will enjoy a unique life experience, dine in the restaurants Fellini frequented, and visit the places where he made his films.

When viewed through Fellini’s tolerant, compassionate, and penetrating wisdom, Rome itself becomes a great 2000 year old teacher that gives us back a sense of proportions and lifts us above the aimless agitation of the modern world to return our spirit to our true and noblest human dimension. Humor will be an important part of this unforgettable mission.a

If you are among those who desire the exhilarating experience of the magic of human love and seek to discover the joy of creating in the incomparable style of Maestro Federico Fellini, then this will be the most unforgettable chapter of your life.The total tuition for 10 weeks of tutoring is $5000.

To participate as CO-producer of this not-for-profit cultural and educational work, you will need $50,000 including your travel expenses and share of equipment rental and post production costs.

Fellini and the Revealing Art of Movie Acting

Film people, whether in Hollywood, Rome, New York, London or Paris, have one thing in common: they admire professionalism. Given a choice between two actors, professionalism will often be the deciding factor. Competence and reliability are crucial to the forming of a reputation far more treasured than erratic brilliance.

The student seeking to become a professional actor must develop and refine understanding of the extra disciplines that filming demands.

For example: you’ve got to know how to help the camera. In a close up, the camera magnifies your actions, so you have to know how to scale down the action of your performance without losing intensity as the shot gets tighter. The professional will reduce performance physically in a close up, but not mentally. In fact, the mind should work even more intensely in a close-up because in a close-up the performance is all in your eyes and facial expression, and you cannot use the rest of your body to express yourself.

Fellini often remarked that movies are a synesthetic medium. The effects on the senses from peripheral images and sounds other than the central elements in any scene. The collateral effects, such as seeing good food in a scene and having one’s appetite stimulated. A song meant for the ears but which brings visualization or evokes memories or historical periods. All these effects are referred to as synestesia.

Fellini was deeply aware of synestesia and encouraged actors to use this second layer of awareness which impacts an audience almost subliminally. 

The power of imagination that is the foundation of great acting is implicit if we are to achieve wholehearted harmonious collaboration especially from those who have digested the immense possibility that opens into our lives when we have decided to fully embrace the profession of movie acting.

The importance of alertness and the wisdom of relaxation in movie acting. « If you are knocking yourself out, you are doing it wrong, » according to Michael Caine. Therefore, one of the first things we have to learn is how to overcome nervousness. We must seek what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the « Phaedrus » when he said: « May the outward and the inward person be at one. »

It is by this « pulling oneself together » that our greatest powers and talents are helped rise to the surface. Our lives are granted periods of spontaneous grace, when we feel exceptionally well and at ease. Finding the secret for extending these periods of intrinsic happiness until almost everyday of our lives is a fulfilling joy is like finding a magic power.

Acting, by its very nature, is a moving from the world of reactions to the world of self controlled action. In life we are often like boats without direction whose captain is asleep at the wheel as our boat is tossed aimlessly toward dangerous shores. The accomplished actor learns to handle the sails of emotions and stays awake by holding the rudder of reason to take advantage of the pressure of winds and currents, and thereby sets course for safe harbor. Achieving control of your vessel gives you immense self confidence and fills you with joy.

So, as an aspiring actor, if a life storm has pushed you off course do as all good sailors do: head into the wind, reduce sail and then reset course so that by taking advantage of the energy of the storm you make great progress in the good direction where the island of fulfillment awaits you.

Fellini had all the appearance and presence of a very simpatico man of the people. He was warmhearted and simple in his daily communications with others and cordial to the constant calls of his admirers. Under his casual and normalizing Romanesque presence Fellini manifested a world of profundity and understanding of the human condition and — least known to most in spite of its appearing in brilliant flashes and in grotesque symbols in many of his films — he had an astounding intellectual intuition of esoteric realities and a vast, refreshing spiritual vision.

His understanding of the magical power to be evoked in the synergy of a cast of actors supported by film technicians all collaborating in the art of making a movie was key to his free directing style and his teaching actors to think and become immersed in the reality of roles. He understood that it was energy and enthusiasm generated by sharing a collective creative process that made motion pictures the principal and most powerful art of the Modern Age.

The artist, whether a poet, singer, dancer, actor, musician, writer, or craftsman, invests first in himself/herself and follows his/her love for his/her chosen art. In many cases more than one art fills the life of the artist. Dedicated artists soon intuitively discover that as they perfect their art, after much work and even pain propelled by love of it, gradually and sometimes suddenly a luminous quality, an inner well being, enters their life and with it a profound understanding of life itself. This understanding becomes the very wine the artist produces and feels compelled to offer others so they may become « inebriated, » even if for a moment only in a theater, while reading a book, by hearing a song, and share the artist’s vision of life’s potential for perfection.

Learning to act frees our power for self expression. By gradually learning to express feelings in the interpretation of a role, a power is developed inside of us that can unleash joyful enthusiasm not only for this great art but for the infinite dimensions of life itself.

Part of the actor’s work is to train the will so that the personality can break out of all self imposed limitations born of fear and illusion about the human condition. Only in a fearless state do we become fully empowered to manifest what is best in ourselves. That is when we can fully share and enjoy life with others.

We hear often the question: « What’s new? » and life responds, « I am always new! Haven’t you noticed? »

Acting is the art of conscious renewal. Some of the greatest actors are known to have experienced the sudden « awareness of awareness,  » what in the traditional Japanese « No » and « Kabuki » theatre is known as the « Zen of acting. »

The profound transformation called « renewal » is best grasped by those who, facing the shock of imminent death, are suddenly reprieved and literally given a new lease on life. That is when human awareness fully awakes and experiences a rebirth and a full restoration of a sense of proportions: eyes see better, ears hear more sharply, and all sensations become deeply real as they were when we first entered life and had no questions yet.

We tend to forget the cyclic aspects of life, even though we are taught the lesson of cyclical repetition daily with the rise and setting of the sun and with each season, and by the four directions rotating around the axis of high and low.

Hugo Chavez’ Vision: The Earth’s Dream

« Democratic Socialism is love of the people. » These words of Venezuela’s President announced the birth of a different world – a just and peaceful world the youth of the entire planet believes is possible.

Hugo Chavez’ speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations inspired my article, « Hugo Chavez and the Devil’s Recipe, » which first appeared in The Lone-Star Iconoclast of Crawford, Texas, on January 29, 2007, and later in Venezuelanalysis.com on March 15, 2007. That story compared the vision of Mr. Chavez to the worldview of Federico Fellini, the great Italian film director. Both Fellini and Chavez express love and empathy for the people with their work. Fellini, as a cine-magician, helped give birth to a more human culture, and Chavez, as a revolutionary liberator and statesman, is creating a different world that may save the planet from destruction.

« Hugo Chavez and the Devil’s Recipe » attracted so much international attention that people from all over the globe asked: How is it possible to compare a great Italian film author to a visionary South American statesman? The answer: Hugo Chavez shows by his actions that he not only loves the people, but fully understands the needs and aspirations of the world’s youth.

Like Fellini, Chavez does not hate the rich, but knows that they are psychologically deformed by excessive and un-earned opulence and by the guilt that being oppressors of millions festers in their hearts.

The lunacy and cruelty of the global situation is caused, therefore, by the fact that both oppressors and oppressed are dehumanized by the odious reality of fear, greed, and an absurd spiritual myopia that the natural abundance of the Earth is not enough for all to share.

The rich are making themselves sick and dangerously unsafe by inflicting criminal misery on others. The oppressed and poor are sickened by lives turned into miserable destitution and hopelessness from birth to death.

Both ‘haves » and ‘have-nots » are in different ways completely dehumanized and evermore hateful of each other. The unhappiness of the rich and powerful is well known to the psychiatric profession. The poor’s sickness is evident in our crowded prisons and slums. This expanding evil eventually erupts in crime, suicidal terrorism, the reactive police state, and criminal wars of aggression. The obscene plunder by a ravenous and blind few results in universal wage slavery and/or desperate poverty for millions, making this world dangerous and unhappy.

Chavez’s enlightened peaceful revolution is reversing this global lunacy and will even help the rich from becoming further mentally retrograde, like medieval lords. The Bolivarian revolution will help many of these pathetic materialistic souls regain a sense of proportions, become human again, and meet life with renewed hearts. Only a socially responsible democracy and economic justice can bring about this kind of renewal. Such a renewal will protect reformed oppressors from the danger of growing resentment and outrage of the majority as abuses become increasingly transparent to a larger and larger portion of the world population.

Unless change comes fast enough, it will soon become self-evident — even to the simplest minds — that all of us have been fleeced of our universal birthright to share equitably in the bountiful commonwealth of this planet. Some believe that –as the current insurgencies in various parts of the earth evidence — heightened awareness may bring back the revival of the guillotine (to use a stark illustration) as an expeditious instrument for cutting down to size despots, exploiters, oil and gas gougers, highway robbers, and all high ranking thieves in the military industrial complex. That would restore our Republic and bring an end to the Evil Empire as fast as France got rid of its crowned heads and aristo-pigs feeding at the royal trough.

Recently, President Chavez has attracted world attention and become the recipient of increasingly vicious attacks from neo-fascist media whores in direct proportion to his growing fame as a great leader. He is gaining a reputation as the uncompromising and outspoken nemesis of the troglodytes that turned the White House into a fetid Neolithic cave.

« Troglodytes » is a fitting offence that must be clearly understood (Thomas Paine, one of the fathers of our Republic, wrote: “He who dares not offend cannot be honest”), so here are four dictionary definitions of « troglodytes » that prove it to be an the ideal insult for the current White House simians dragging their knuckles on the carpet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: 1. Pre-historic cave dwellers; 2. Persons of degraded, primitive, or brutal character; 3. Persons unacquainted with affairs of the world; 4. Animals living underground. Hence, President Chavez was perfectly correct to call the troglodyte-in-chief an « ass, » a « coward, » and the very incarnation of evil: « the devil. »

On Monday, December 5, 2005, the following posts appeared on an anonymous blog: Planetofa$$holes, run by political satirists who target traitors, religious fanatics, and other lunatics — like the recently departed Jarry Foulwell (good riddance) — from an underground wine cellar named: In Vino Veritas. Their therapeutic use of insults to retain a sense of reality in our 21st Century bedlam is refreshing.

Beware of being too rational. In the country of the insane, the integrated man doesn’t become king. He gets lynched. ~Aldous Huxley

On March 2, 2004, in Caracas, Hugo Chavez wisely proclaimed: « George W. Bush is an IDIOT! » With this truthful pronouncement the great President of Venezuela launched a new era of outspoken honesty in international relations, making it easier for decent people everywhere to see what global oppressors and phonies really are and to properly frame them as miserable a$$holes.

When a head-of-state who loves his people, as Hugo Chavez does, uses the most popular and versatile of all insults: “IDIOT” to describe the perverted liar-in-chief of the most powerful empire on earth, the time for praising the great Latin American President has come.

Hugo Chavez holds in contempt the excessive desire for private wealth, the criminal culture of corruption, and unregulated materialism that grips the vast majority of human beings in hopeless poverty. No one has the right to own in excess, he believes. Opulence in a world so full of poverty is obscene, degenerate, and criminal, no matter how much fat cats protest about having earned their billions legally, even if immorally. Legality is not equivalent to honesty.

Understanding this about Chavez and watching Fellini films like « La Strada, » « Nights of Cabiria, » and « La Dolce Vita, » it becomes easy to see that both Fellini and Chavez are clearly aware of the soulless cruelty and brutal dishonesty of unregulated capitalist-corporate systems that are devouring the earth before our very eyes.

With their great hearts, Fellini and Chavez saw that it is the goodness of simple people — working very hard just to have enough to feed their own families — that keeps the world from collapsing into utter chaos. Both saw the limit of tolerance getting very close and the failure of social compassion.

The vision that makes millions of hearts beat with great hope is Hugo Chavez’s mission for a world without oppression and poverty. Chavez is one of the few statesmen with an understanding of history and realism about the future. Demonic materialists are afraid that he may wake up the sleeping masses to see the nakedness of their blood-soaked oppressors. Their mad hatred of Chavez is like the screeching reaction of a hyena caught by a sudden spotlight in the act of trying to devour a sleeping child. The innocent child represents the TV-hypnotized millions, watching meaningless crap that prevents them from noticing that the hyenas are devouring their country. Chavez understands all this.

His first step toward that different world is the revival of Simon Bolivar’s dream of a united Latin America with democratic, social, and economic justice for its people. The union of a truly democratic Latin America will establish a shining example that can expand social progress on a global scale and spread the ideas of a sustainable way of life based on nurturing, responsibility and equity rather than hoarding and oppression by a few.

Hugo Chavez also understands the need of major united efforts to spread this new human conscience, to restore the real ideal of active love of one’s neighbor. He wants to develop a free international media and protect the independence of electronic networks, so that the world’s youth can bypass and overwhelm the propaganda spin machines of the Evil Empire. Oppressed people everywhere — in Europe, Asia, North American, etc. — will want to participate and contribute to this global revolution. A different world dream is being born right now, and Chavez is helping to deliver the shining new infant. Once the North unites with the South as one soul dedicated to life, environment, and the future of all our children, the world will be safe at last.

During the 2005 World Social Forum at Gigantinho Stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Hugo Chavez was enthusiastically introduced by Ignacio Ramonet, a famous Spanish writer and journalist. This was Chavez’ response:

Ignacio Ramonet, in his introduction, mentioned that I am a new kind of leader. I accept this, especially coming from a bright mind such as Ignacio’s, but many old leaders inspire me.

Some very old like, for example, Jesus Christ, one of the greatest revolutionaries, anti-imperialists fighters in the history of the world, the true Christ, the Redeemer of the Poor.

Simon Bolivar, a man that crisscrossed these lands, filling people with hope, and helping liberate them.

Or that Argentine doctor, who crisscrossed our continent on a motorcycle, arriving in Central America to witness the gringo invasion of Guatemala in 1955, one of the many abuses that North American Imperialism perpetrated on this continent.

Or that old fellow with a beard, Fidel Castro Abreu Lima, Artigas, San Martin, O’Higgins, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, Sandino, Morazan, Tupac Amaru, and all those old leaders one draws inspiration from.

Old leaders, I understand them, because they were true and they have all returned.

Today we are millions.

One of these old fellows, when he was about to be killed, shouted: ‘I die today, but some day I’ll return and I’ll be millions.’

Atahualpa has returned and he is millions. Tupac Amaru has returned and he is millions. Bolivar has returned and he is millions. Sucre, Zapata, and here we are. They have returned and are with us. In this crowded Gigantinho Stadium.

Hugo Chavez is today’s greatest revolutionary leader. All over the world, the spirit of past leaders is returning in the hearts of new generations. Benjamin Franklin is back. Crazy Horse has returned. Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Henry Thoreau, JFK. They are millions. Let oppressors beware.

And let us all be aware that there never was true spiritual awareness without active love for our brothers and sisters. Let oppressors learn. That is what Jesus taught. That is what Gandhi and Martin Luther King confirmed.

It is when Hugo Chavez says that Bolivarian Democratic Socialism is « love of the people » that the President of Venezuela proves himself to be a true Christian and a liberator. He is putting all fake Christians to shame, those fat, narrow-minded televangelists that call for war and foam at the mouth, asking for the assassinations of the great Bolivarian leader from the South. Their days of defrauding innocents are over for scum like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, departed Jerry Falwell, and all the other racists in the lower states. So it also goes for those false Catholics who opposed liberation theology, practice child abuse, and who supported the Mussolinis, Pinochets, and Somosas of the world.

Hugo Chavez is today’s man of destiny that will lead the world to a re-evaluation and renewal of the social and international order: from the rebirth of the UN as a truly democratic world forum, to new fair treaties that will lift poor nations into the modern era with equal standing in the global family of independent and cooperative societies.

When Chavez stood before twenty-nine heads of state of the Non-Aligned Countries gathered in Caracas in May 2004, he galvanized those who heard him. He spoke for the “Conscience of the South” and showed globalization to be a conniving manipulation to force acceptance of the Bushist New World Order imposed by the rich to utterly enslave oppressed nations by forcing them to remain low cost producers of wealth and recipients of leftovers and scraps for their own people.

At that meeting, Hugo Chavez reiterated the staggering fact that only 15% of people living in the North are reaping the benefits of globalization. He showed how globalization has itself brought dependency and poverty, even though the world’s tremendous scientific-technical advances have the capacity to generate wealth and wellbeing for all humanity.

The real face of the imperialist New World Order can be seen especially in the South, where 790 million are starving, 800 million are illiterate, 654 million will not live past 40 years of age. This is the harsh face of the new economic order imposed by plutocrats. Every year the South sees the death of over 11 million helpless boys and girls below 5 years of age. Children die at the appalling rate of over 30 thousand every day: 21 every minute!

But numbers are not enough and Chavez knows this. He wants the media to show images of this dreadful reality so the millions in rich countries will stop sticking their heads in the sand. Chavez is not perfect, but he is a fighter for the downtrodden and represents hope for a better life for millions.

The fact that rich exploiters in Venezuela and the U.S. calumny Chavez is proof that Hugo is not a member of their dark mob of highway robbers, even though he controls 30% more oil reserves than the Saudi Royal despots. Controlled U.S. media is never permitted to attacks Big Oil club members, especially the Saudis. Chavez is the outsider, a dangerous do-gooder, a rebel Bush & Cronies failed to kill in the 2002 U.S.-financed fascist coup against him.

Fellini would have loved Chavez. Fellini showed us how to observe the world carefully as a composition of events in light and colors, and how to listen to the sounds and voices of life. He saw humanity oppressed by the stupidity of the rich and viewed the rich as lost souls in their selfish, shallow, and insensitive excesses. He saw ignorance cultivated by decadent religions, and cults as a tool of oppression that had always helped power-holders.

President Hugo Chavez, like Fellini, protested against Catholic political meddling and showed his understanding of the separation of politics and religion. On May 13, 2007, while in Brazil, Benedict XVI made two outrageous statements: « Christianity was not imposed by a foreign culture » and « Christ was the Savior [America’s natives] silently yearned for. » He further demeaned the rebirth of pre-Columbian beliefs as « a step backward. » These pontifications sparked protests from native peoples everywhere, including México.

Natives in Ecuador were shocked that Benedict XVI seemed ignorant of the Spanish-Catholic history of brutality. The Confederation of Indigenous Nations responded: « Surely, the Pope does know that representatives of the Catholic Church of those times, with honorable exceptions, were accomplices, deceivers, and beneficiaries of one of the most horrific genocides in all human history. »

Too honest to let this pass — even if problematic for a leader of a Catholic nation — Venezuela’s Chavez asked the Pope publicly:

How could you say that they came to evangelize…when they came with arquebuses (firearms) to evangelize? With no sort of imposition?…La Conquista was something far worse than the Holocaust in the Second World War and no one can deny it. Not even your Holiness can deny the Holocaust of the natives of our land. Christ arrived much later to America; he did not arrive with (Christopher) Columbus: that was the arrival of the anti-Christ…As a head of state, I beg your holiness to apologize to the peoples of our Americas. I believe it is the right thing to do.

Chavez stands for the truth of Christ’s teachings, not the politics of a Vatican that has almost always helped oppressors, whether with crowns or banks. Organized religions all over the world today, as much as they did in the past, are all still fleecing multitudes and peddling fear and promises of salvation at discount prices. Chavez is no fool. No religionist deception will intimidate him, just as Catholic power did not intimidate Fellini working in the heart of Catholic Rome.

Fellini’s answer to the lunacy of the world is to participate in the joy of living with humor, compassion, and, above all, Love, even as we strongly oppose evil.

Fellini and Chavez are universal comrades, marching at the head of millions of great heroes of the past and are among the ranks of the founders of a new and different world that is in the process of being born.

« Compete or Die »

Why do capitalists have such an insatiable thirst for profit? Before capitalism, ruling families consumed the surplus, demanding the biggest, the best, and the most of what was produced. Capitalism transformed the goal of production from consumption to accumulation.

Even though the economy of the Middle Ages was dominated by agriculture, there was an embryonic class of capitalists that operated small workshops and bought and sold goods. Over several centuries, this class grew in size and influence until it began to challenge the rule of the landed aristocracy. The French Revolution (1789–1799) marked the first capitalist revolution.

The capitalist class replaced the feudal system of production-for-use with a new system of production-for-profit. To the prime directive of all class societies, “Seize the Surplus,” capitalism added a second directive, “Compete or Die.” All capitalists are engaged in a race to accumulate capital. As the previous chapter explained, capital is surplus extracted from the worker that is used to extract more surplus. There is a limit to how much surplus can be consumed, but there is no limit to how much capital can be accumulated. In the 19th century, Karl Marx described the driving force of capitalism as, “Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets! Accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production.”

The capitalist cannot stop competing for profit. Capitalist A buys a knitting machine so that his workers can produce more sweaters at a cheaper rate. As his profits roll in, other capitalists rush to purchase knitting machines. Soon, sweaters glut the market and the price of sweaters plummets. Capitalist A has lost his advantage. If he wants to stay in business, he must find another way to raise his profits.

Raising productivity
The key to raising profits is to increase worker productivity. Productivity is a measure of the value of what workers produce over and above the value of the wages they are paid. Compete or Die demands that each capitalist outdo his competitors in raising productivity. Some ways of doing this include:

• lengthen the workday
• increase the number of days worked per year
• increase the speed of production
• redesign the work to increase output per worker
• use machines to increase output per worker
• employ the fewest number of workers
• cut wages and benefits

Employers lengthen the workday by demanding overtime. Unpaid overtime is even more profitable. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the practice of working “off the clock” is illegal and widespread. The workday is also lengthened when wages fall so low that more than one job is needed to make ends meet. Productivity rises when workers don’t take holidays and when employers don’t replace workers who fall ill, are injured, retire, or quit. Like speeding up the assembly line, deliberate “short-staffing” forces those who remain to work harder for the same pay. As if people weren’t working hard enough, performance-enhancing drugs are being developed to keep people working longer and performing better. One study found that a compound called CX717 helped sleep-deprived monkeys perform better than when they were well rested. Non-sleep-deprived monkeys who were given the drug did even better.

It is more profitable to overwork one section of the labor force and keep the rest unemployed than it is to provide jobs for everyone. Maintaining a pool of unemployed workers pressures those with jobs to accept conditions they might otherwise reject. The unemployed are not rewarded for boosting the profits of the capitalist class. On the contrary, the jobless are condemned as “free-loaders,” even though the capitalists are the ones getting the free ride.

Productivity rises when more workers accept temporary, part-time jobs that typically pay less, have few if any benefits, and can be easily terminated. In 2001, 31 percent of female and 23 percent of male workers in America were employed in such jobs. Productivity also rises when employers can pay lower wages to young, female, Black, immigrant, and disabled workers.

Employers also increase productivity by cutting wages and benefits. The current attack on unions is being driven by the demand for higher productivity. Even as profits rise, retired seniors are being forced back to work to pay medical bills that are no longer covered by their pension benefits. Employers who hire undocumented immigrants can pay them less than the law demands and sometimes nothing at all. By shafting vulnerable workers, dead-beat bosses make super-profits.

Each new industrial technology is designed to extract more value out of each worker. Each generation of workers is promised that if they accept the new technology, they will enjoy easier work, more leisure time, and a higher standard of living. Between 1973 and 2000, the output per worker per hour nearly doubled in the U.S. In other words, all the goods and services produced in 1973 could be produced in half the time by 2000. In her book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Juliet Schor calculates that if workers controlled production: « We actually could have chosen the four-hour day. Or a working year of six months. Or every worker in the United States could be taking every other year off from work — with pay.

Why did this not happen?

More work, less pay
Because the capitalist class owns the means of production, it claims all the benefits that flow from rising productivity. Workers get falling living standards in return for their labors. Between 2000 and 2003, the productivity of American workers rose 12 percent, while the median household income dropped three-and-a-half percent over the same period. It has continued to fall every year since then. To compensate for falling wages, people work more hours. By 2000, the average American worker was putting in 199 more hours on the job, or five weeks more than in 1973. In 1991 Schor calculated:

In the last twenty years, the amount of time Americans have spent at their jobs has risen steadily…about nine hours, or slightly more than one additional day of work [every year]…Working hours are already longer than they were forty years ago. If present trends continue, by the end of the century, Americans will be spending as much time on their jobs as they did back in the nineteen twenties.35

Most Americans are not only working longer and harder, they are also taking home less money. In the late 1960’s, the minimum wage in America was half of what the average worker earned per hour. By 2003, it had fallen to 34 percent of the average wage. A 2004 report called Working Hard, Falling Short found that,

More than one out of four American working families now earn wages so low that they have difficulty surviving financially. By 2003, one in five American workers were in occupations where the median wage was less than $8.84 an hour, which is considered to be a poverty-level wage for a family of four. A full-time job at the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour would not be enough to keep a family of three out of poverty…In all, more than 14 million, or 21 percent of all kids under 18, still live in poverty — a higher proportion than in 1975.

Real wages have dropped so low that two people must work to earn the same income that one used to make. By 2000, half of all families were two-earner families, and more than half of low-income working families were headed by married couples. Families that depend on two incomes are less able to provide home-care for young children, the sick, and the elderly. The resulting stress on the family is discussed in the next chapter.

Because the capitalist class seizes the surplus, rising productivity enriches the capitalist class at the expense of the working class. The difference in pay between executives and workers is one measure of this growing inequality. Between 1950 and the mid-1970’s, average executive compensation was about 35 times the average wage. By 1999, the average CEO of a major US corporation was taking home 330 times the average wage and 476 times the average blue-collar wage. By 2004, the proportion of the economy going home in workers’ pockets had dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.

The land of opportunity should be renamed the land of inequality. Between 1992 and 2000, the incomes of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the U.S. increased 15 times faster than the bottom 90 percent, whose income barely kept up with the rate of inflation. In 2005, the New York Times reported that

The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make — $365,826 compared with $7,047 — which is roughly comparable to the income disparity in Namibia…Put another way, for every dollar made by households in the top fifth of Manhattan earners, households in the bottom fifth made about 2 cents.

Competition corrupts
In 1869, Thomas Joseph Dunning wrote,

Capital shuns no profit just as Nature abhors a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain profit of 10 percent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 percent profit will produce eagerness; 50 percent positive audacity; 100 percent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 percent, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, not a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated.

Competition breeds corruption. When only winners are rewarded, people will do anything to win. Businesses cook their books, employers violate health and safety regulations, students cheat on exams, politicians take bribes, and athletes inject performance enhancing drugs. In 2006, the media reported that hundreds of Americans had been given tissue transplants from illegally-looted corpses. When a corpse can provide thousands of dollars worth of transplantable parts, someone is bound to cut corners.

Corruption is standard business practice and occurs in all sectors of the economy, as those with access to desired goods and services enrich themselves by granting favors. According to Global Corruption Report 2006,

In the health sphere, corruption encompasses bribery of regulators and medical professionals, manipulation of information on drug trials, the diversion of medicines and supplies, corruption in procurement [bribes, kickbacks], and over-billing of insurance companies.

The greed for profit overrides human decency. In 2002, America’s largest telecommunications company announced that it was cutting 7,000 jobs on the East Coast. Just a year earlier, Verizon had hailed these same workers as heroes for the way they labored around the clock to restore communication networks destroyed on 9/11. The layoffs were not the result of there being too many workers. Quite the opposite. The company was experiencing rising numbers of customer complaints, more service disruptions, and longer waits for installations and repairs. Nor was the company suffering financially. Verizon’s net income had more than doubled over the previous quarter, and the company’s top executives were making millions of dollars. Driven by Compete or Die, they wanted more. This level of greed is difficult for most people to understand.

Capitalists have no use for reciprocity; they profit only by taking more than they give. In contrast, ordinary people depend on reciprocity to survive. When my car blew a tire on a major highway, a passing truck driver pulled over and changed it for me. He refused my offer to pay him for his time, insisting, “If it was my wife or mother, I would want someone to stop and help her.” Life in the working class is precarious, and one needs all the friends one can get. As the saying goes, “It’s only the way the cards have been dealt, that I am the helper instead of the helped.”

Interpersonal conflict
Compete or Die creates conflict in human relationships. When the elite seize the surplus, everyone else must scramble for the crumbs they leave. There are not enough good jobs and affordable housing. There is stiff competition for higher education and for higher-paid jobs. The competition that dominates our lives is dramatized in “reality” shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Apprentice, and America’s Top Model. The premise of these shows — There Can Be Only One — implies that those who are not chosen have no value. This message is so pervasive that people will even compete for admiration, love, and respect — as if there were not enough to go around. Such competition can take the form of malicious gossip and bigotry, where putting down others is a way to elevate yourself. Children quickly learn that a well-placed “put down” can bring attention, even admiration, at someone else’s expense.

While feeling one-up generates elation, feeling put-down generates resentment and a burning desire to get even, fueling interpersonal conflict and law suits. In 2003, four-and-a-half billion dollars were paid to settle medical malpractice claims in the U.S. Doctors are not being sued for making mistakes, because most doctors who make mistakes are not sued. Doctors are sued for being arrogant. When medical errors occur, doctors who express genuine concern for their patients are rarely sued; whereas doctors with a condescending attitude are sued repeatedly.

Personal competition is fierce because success is determined by the ability to surpass or defeat others. The year I applied to medical school, there were 2,000 applicants for 64 places. All 2,000 applicants qualified academically; they could apply only if they had three years of university with a Grade Point Average of 3.6 or higher (out of 4). However, neither the government nor the medical profession wanted to admit all 2,000 applicants. The government wanted to limit the number of doctors to minimize the budget for medical care. The medical profession wanted to limit the number of doctors to keep physician incomes high. Even though society needed more doctors, and all 2,000 applicants were able and willing to contribute in that way, only 64 would be selected.

For 64 hopefuls to win the medical-school lottery, 1,936 would have to lose. The admissions process claimed to distinguish the more worthy candidates from the less worthy ones. Its actual function was to make the lottery appear less arbitrary, because there was no significant difference between those who won and those who lost. At no point in this process did the 2,000 cry, “Foul! Unfair! Let us all in!” The few who were admitted believed that they were chosen because they were superior, while those who were rejected believed that they were turned down because they were inferior (or tried again in the belief that their superiority had been overlooked).

In Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt recounts how Black and White applicants to U.C. Davis medical school were set against each other when a few minority students with slightly lower test scores were admitted under affirmative action policies. A White student who was not admitted sued the university, claiming “reverse discrimination,” because his test scores were higher than some of the minority students. Schmidt concludes,

Such racism takes the anger that springs from the frustrations of a life of limited opportunity and aims it at other victims — the minorities — thus taking the heat off the hierarchical system that by its very nature restricts the number of openings. And so we have ludicrous situations like the one at U.C. Davis, where almost 2,000 rejected whites could think of 16 minorities as stealing their opportunity to become doctors.

They compete and we die
Capitalist competition is deadly because business is concerned only with making profit in the here-and-now. What comes later is of no concern. The necessity for short-term gain explains why beef producers would endanger human lives and risk their own livelihoods.

Mad Cow Disease began in 1986 in Britain as a result of diseased animal carcasses being fed to livestock that were later consumed by human beings. Over a hundred people died and an unknown number were infected with a deadly brain disease. Millions of cows had to be destroyed, and the British beef industry collapsed. How did this happen?

Cows are normally vegetarians. However, they grow faster when they are fed rendered protein. Rendering is the process of pulverizing discarded and diseased animal parts to produce a sludge of raw protein that can be incorporated into animal feed. (Rendered protein is also used to make pet food, fertilizer, cosmetics, concrete, tires, gelatin, candy, and many other products. The rule of Compete or Die demands that when one rancher starts fattening his cattle on rendered protein, all must do the same to stay competitive.

Despite the British disaster, the lure of profit prolonged the feeding of rendered beef to North American livestock until 1997, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the practice. However, the FDA continued to allow diseased cattle remains to be fed to pigs and chickens, whose remains could then be fed back to cows. In December of 2003, the first case of Mad Cow Disease surfaced in the U.S. Before the diagnosis was confirmed, meat from the infected animal had been distributed to more than eight states, and the cow’s spinal cord had been incorporated into food for pets, pigs, and poultry.

The government’s first concern was to protect the beef industry. As the news broke, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman stated, “We believe that the food supply is fully protected and that consumers should feel fully confident that the beef supply in this country is very safe to eat.” Another diseased cow was identified in December, 2003, and a third was found in June, 2005.

In 2004, the Department of Agriculture refused to allow a Kansas beef company to test all of its cattle for BSE (the infection that causes Mad Cow Disease). The National Cattlemen’s Association applauded this decision on the basis that testing all cattle would imply that untested beef might not be safe. While BSE testing is inexpensive, more testing would increase the risk of finding the disease. In 2006, the Department of Agriculture announced that it was reducing testing for BSE from the 1,000 tests per day (about one percent of slaughtered cattle) initiated in response to the first sick cow to one-tenth of that. The reason given was that the risk of BSE was “extraordinarily low.” With less testing, the risk of identifying sick animals is even lower.

Servant to capital
In the most elementary sense, the State is guarantor of the conditions, the social relations, of capitalism, and the protector of the ever more unequal distribution of property which this system brings about.

The capitalist State has a huge presence in everyday life. The State is more than the government; the State is a complex structure that includes the legislative, executive, and judicial sections of government, the police and the military, the penal and education systems, and government-funded agencies. (The capitalized “State”
refers to this complex structure, in contrast to the lower case “state,” which refers to the level of government below the federal.)

The State presents itself as a class-neutral force. In reality, the State manages the capitalist system for the ruling class. The State also functions as a capitalist in its own right. The U.S. government is the biggest venture capitalist in the world; three-quarters of all American research engineers and scientists work in federally- funded enterprises.

The capitalist State and the corporate class are inseparable. In 2006, coal industry executive Richard Stickler was appointed head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The mines that Stickler had previously managed injured workers at rates that were double the national average. No doubt they were also more profitable.

State officials and corporate executives are interchangeable because they have the same goal — to serve business through favorable legislation and lucrative contracts. Almost half the politicians who leave Congress become lobbyists or “influence peddlers” for business. This is equally true of Republicans and Democrats. Well-connected lobbyists enable the industries they represent to influence State policies: energy companies decide energy policy, chemical industries dictate pollution regulations, drug companies shape drug policy. Former politicians are also valued for their ability to secure government contracts. In 2006, the New York Times reported that, in the three years since its founding, more than two-thirds of the senior executives at Homeland Security had become executives, consultants, or lobbyists for private security companies that sell services to the federal government.

The incestuous relationship between the corporate class and the State is exemplified by Dick Cheney, former CEO of energy corporation Halliburton. Shortly after becoming vice-president, Cheney moved to deregulate the power industry, allowing energy corporations to inflate the price of power and pocket billions of dollars in profit. With Cheney as vice-president, Halliburton secured a contract with the Pentagon to service its global military operations. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, Halliburton was awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to put out the oil fires, rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure, and provision the military.

The rule of Compete or Die also dominates international relations. To give the advantage to its own capitalist class, each State strives to:

• regulate and maintain the supply of labor
• referee the competition of capitalists within the nation
• provide corporate welfare
• cushion industry from economic crises
• provide military forces to protect (and extend) domestic capital interests.

To regulate the supply of labor, the State sets immigration policy; polices the national borders; regulates and funds education; and licences the skilled trades and professions. When more workers are needed, more immigrants are admitted, and people are encouraged to have more children, or denied the means to control their fertility. To reduce the number of workers, governments clamp down on immigration and restrict the right to have children. During World War II, the federal government passed the Lanham Act, funding daycare for an estimated 600,000 children. This measure enabled more women to enter the workforce to replace men who had been sent to war. When the men returned after the war, the Lanham Act was terminated and women were pushed back into the home.

Slave-owners were responsible for feeding and clothing their slaves, and feudal lords had a duty to care for those they ruled (noblesse oblige). The capitalist class is so obsessed with accumulating capital that it is willing to work its laboring class to death.

The industrial revolution of the 19th century plunged workers into desperate conditions. Slum housing had little or no ventilation. Garbage and excrement littered the streets, and toxic fumes filled the air. Unguarded machinery mangled human limbs, as malnourished men, women, and children worked around the clock. Frederick Engels documents

Women made unfit for childbearing, children deformed, men enfeebled, limbs crushed, whole generations wrecked, afflicted with disease and infirmity, purely to fill the purses of the capitalist class.42

The capitalist class refused to solve these problems, so the State stepped in to prevent total social collapse. Today, the State is responsible for public sanitation, housing standards, public health, and pollution control. Labor laws regulate the hours and conditions of work. The State also provides minimal support to the unemployed, the destitute, the elderly, and the disabled. These measures reduce or cushion the destructive effects of capitalist competition — preserving the beast by preventing it from devouring its own tail.

Referee
Compete or Die locks every capitalist in cut-throat competition with every other capitalist. To prevent complete chaos, the State imposes rules of competition. The State is no neutral referee between warring capitalists; it can be bought. By 2005, there were 34,750 registered lobbyists in Washington — 65 for every member of Congress. By 2004, over two billion dollars were being spent every year to influence the federal government. This money is distributed fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with more going to whichever party is office. Lobbying is a good investment. The Hewlett-Packard Corporation paid lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote federal legislation that saved the company millions of dollars in taxes on overseas profits.

What happens when the interests of different industries conflict and both are lobbying hard? Consider the following example. General Motors spends more money on medical care than it spends on steel for its automobiles. As the New York Times points out,

General Motors covers the health care costs of 1.1 million Americans, or close to half a percent of the total population, though fewer than 200,000 are active workers while the rest are retirees, children or spouses. Not only are such costs escalating rapidly, but GM’s rivals, based in Japan and Germany, have virtually no retirees from their newer operations in the United States and, at home, the expenses are largely assumed by taxpayers through nationalized health care systems.

The U.S. auto industry would be more profitable if the State took over the cost of providing medical care; however, a State-funded medical system would put the medical insurance industry out of business. Both industries make hefty political contributions. The inability of the State to resolve this conflict leads to convoluted bureaucratic dances, like the 2004 proposal to establish a “federally chartered but privately run reinsurance organization” for the purpose of “shielding employers from the most expensive medical cases.”

Corporate welfare
The State supports the capitalist class by taking from the poor and giving to the rich — a kind of reverse Robin Hood. Every year, city and state governments give businesses $50 billion to “create jobs” in their localities. Corporations play cities and states against each other to get the maximum pay-outs. North Carolina gave Dell Corporation a $200 million subsidy package for a factory that was expected to cost $100 million. Dell also arranged to get several million more at the local level for the same facility.

Corporate subsidies do not require that any jobs be created because these subsidies come without strings. Once they have the money, businesses can use it to downsize, contract work out, eliminate unions, and even move away. Such betrayal is inevitable because the primary function of business is to make profits, not create jobs. Governments understand and support this goal. The hype about job creation is designed to make corporate welfare more acceptable to taxpayers and voters.

Government-funded social services are another form of corporate welfare. After workers in Flint, Michigan, made General Motors the biggest corporation in the world, GM abandoned the city. Instead of forcing GM to meet its obligations, the government subsidized GM’s move from the city by providing welfare to thousands of laid-off auto workers.

The State enables employers to pay poverty wages by covering the difference between what workers earn and what they need to survive. Medicaid, Social Security, children’s medical insurance, free school lunches, Section-Eight housing assistance, income tax credits, and other social supports are a massive boon to employers. In 2001, the state of California spent $86 million providing food stamps and subsidized housing to Wal-Mart employees alone.

Of $21.2 billion of public assistance provided to low-income California families in 2002, 48 percent — or $10.1 billion — went to families in which at least one member worked at least forty-five weeks per year.44

The State works to shift the tax burden of the capitalist class to the middle and working classes. Waged workers have taxes deducted automatically from their paychecks, while businesses have innumerable ways to avoid paying their share. In Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-
Rich — And Cheat Everybody Else, 
David Cay Johnston explains that legal tax-dodges allow the richest 20 percent of Americans to pay the same portion of their income in tax as the poorest 20 percent of Americans. By 2002, less than 10 percent of federal revenue was coming from corporations.

Business tax shelters cost the U.S. treasury an estimated $54 billion in revenue every year. By creating 881 offshore subsidiaries, the Enron corporation paid absolutely no taxes for four of the five years before it collapsed. Between 1998 and 2001, CSX Corporation made $900 million in profits and paid no taxes at all. On the contrary, it received $164 million in tax rebates. Twenty-one states permit utilities to keep the taxes they collect from customers. Between 2002 and 2004, Xcel Energy collected $723 million in taxes, paid none of it to the government, and received $351 million in tax refunds.

In 2005, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that the federal government could increase tax revenues by $311 billion over the following 10 years if it pressed rich individuals and corporations to meet their tax obligations. However, the State has no interest in clamping down on the class that it serves and protects. In 2003, the IRS audited fewer than one quarter of one percent of corporate tax returns. Corporate tax evaders who are caught are seldom punished or even made to pay the money they owe. Furthermore, Congress periodically grants U.S. corporations tax holidays — times when they can import billions of dollars in overseas profits virtually tax free.

The State also cushions the corporate class from market forces. Because production is driven by profit, the economy moves through a “profit cycle” of booms and slumps. When producing steel is profitable, everyone rushes to produce it. The resulting boom in steel eventually creates more product than can be sold profitably. “Excess” steel is left to rust, steel workers are laid off, and some steel companies go bankrupt. When steel finally becomes profitable to produce again, capitalists will compete again to produce it. This boom-slump cycle affects every sector of the economy.

Despite talk about “market forces,” the State cannot allow large corporations to go bankrupt and take down chunks of the economy with them. In the 1980’s, billions of tax dollars bailed out the bankrupt Savings and Loans industry. Twenty years later, the federal government helped ailing industries to offload their pension obligations. In 2004, a federal judge ruled that the nation’s fourth largest coal company no longer had to provide medical and retirement benefits to more than 3,000 workers, many of whom suffer from Black Lung and other occupational diseases. A year later, a federal bankruptcy court allowed United Airlines to walk away from almost seven billion dollars’ worth of pension obligations, the biggest pension default in American history.

Competition goes global
The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. ~Major General Smedley Butler

Compete or Die is a global imperative; all capitalists need a home State to support them against their foreign rivals. Small industries rely on their State to protect them from foreign competition by setting up tariff barriers. Larger industries depend on their home State to help them penetrate foreign markets. The opposing interests of small and large businesses drive the conflict between “protectionism” and “free trade.” Workers lose either way. Protectionist polices shield smaller industries from having to compete in the world market. Eventually, these less-competitive industries fail anyway, as thousands of laid-off American steelworkers can confirm. Free trade policies make it easier for larger industries to penetrate foreign markets and to set up shop in countries where wages are lower, driving down wages at home. Workers can defend themselves against free trade and protectionism only by uniting across national borders.

The “free market” is anything but free because every State does its utmost to further the interests of its own capitalist class. Farm subsidies are a good example. In 2005, the U.S. government paid farmers a record $23 billion in subsidies. These payments allow American agribusiness to dump a surplus of cheap food on the world market. Farmers in poor nations cannot compete with this subsidized produce and are forced out of business, making their countries even more dependent on U.S. food imports.

The stronger the State, the more it can push the interests of its home-based corporations. U.S. corporations dominate the world because the U.S. is the world’s strongest military power and can dictate the terms of doing business. According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman,

The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon valley’s technology is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

U.S. Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), who was decorated with two Congressional Medals of Honor and a distinguished service medal, had this to say about the link between business and the military.

I spent thirty three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps…And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street…I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers…I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to that Standard Oil went its way unmolested…During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

War without end
Compete or Die drives nations to war. As economic rivalry grows more fierce, military conflict becomes more deadly. During the 17th century, the dollar rode the sword around the globe in search of resources to exploit. By the end of the 19th century there was no new territory to conquer, and the imperial powers turned on one another. World War I proved that capitalism was as efficient at killing people as it was at producing wealth. World War II was even more deadly. President Franklin D. Roosevelt condemned the German bombing of British cities as inhuman barbarism. Five years later, the U.S. dropped half a million incendiary bombs on Tokyo, killing 100,000 people in the course of one night. Six months after that, America dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, introducing humanity to the prospect of complete annihilation. Instead of being horrified by these new weapons, every ruling class wanted them.

The United States emerged from World War II as the world’s dominant nation. Over the next 40 years, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were locked in an economic and military struggle for world domination called the Cold War. Because the Soviet Union was economically weaker to begin with, its efforts to match the U.S. in the arms race weakened its economy even further. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in the late 1980’s, the United States emerged as the number one super-power. However, it wasn’t long before a new challenger appeared.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Chinese economy was growing so fast that it was predicted to match the U.S. economy within 30 years. In 2004, the U.S. produced six times more than China did. Nevertheless, China was producing 70 percent of the world’s toys, 60 percent of its bicycles, 50 percent of its shoes, and 33 percent of its luggage. China also accounted for one-third of the global growth in automobile sales and had become the world’s third largest producer of personal computers. The lure of profit continues to draw foreign investment to China. The average Chinese wage is five percent of the average American wage, and more than one billion Chinese represent a huge market for goods and services.

While China poses a growing economic threat to the U.S., there is no contest when it comes to military power. The American military budget is greater than all other nations in the world combined. Not counting Social Security, the federal budget for 2007 was over two trillion dollars, half of which was designated for the military. The U.S. Defense Department budget alone is six times the military budget of Russia, and eight times the military budget of China. Nevertheless, the United States viewed China’s attempt to buy an American oil company as a threat to national security. For the U.S., national security means economic dominance, and China’s efforts to fuel its growing economy threatens that dominance. Compete or Die is no mere slogan. With economic and military rivalry intertwined, war is inevitable.

The United States will sacrifice everything to maintain its global dominance. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that any attempt by another nation to control the Persian Gulf would be considered an attack against the U.S. and would be repelled by military force. Well before 9/11, the U.S. Department of Defense declared that, “the mission of the U.S. military today and tomorrow” is “full-spectrum dominance,” defined as “the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations.” In 2002, President George W. Bush declared the right of the United States to use military measures (including nuclear weapons) against any nation that challenges the United States and to ignore international treaties or agreements that interfere with American interests.

The current wars in the Middle East have the potential to ignite a Third World War that would wipe humanity off the planet. We can prevent that terrifying outcome by replacing capitalism with a sharing, cooperative society that has no need for war. That is what most people want. The insistence that war arises from human nature, not capitalist competition, is mistaken. As the next chapter explains, capitalism survives only by overriding the human longing for belonging and security.

Summary
Capitalism is based on the rule, Compete or Die. The competition for capital respects no limits, subordinating everyone and everything to the quest for profit. Economic competition has pushed productivity so high that, if the surplus were shared, everyone could have a decent standard of living. However, the capitalist class controls production so that the more workers produce, the more the capitalists take, and the less workers get in relation to what they produce. Military competition threatens to destroy the world. The only force that stands opposed to this deadly competition is the desire of ordinary people to live in peace.

Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney

Trickier Dick Departs
“Principle doesn’t do you any good if you lose,” Dick Cheney, first
appointed to government office by Richard Nixon, told journalist Tim Russert in 1976. It could be argued that until his seventh and final heart attack last week, and the drawn-out, painful respiratory complications that came to an end late yesterday afternoon at his Wyoming ranch, Cheney never did truly lose, despite bringing scandal, ethics investigations, and eventual doom to just about every administration he worked for. Through his stubborn dishonesty on matters both petty and grand, and by demonstrating his proficiency in an aggressive and frequently extralegal
realpolitik—and getting away with it—this avid chili lover, Yale
dropout, two-time drunk driving convict, and shooter of hunting
partners and other animals became a grimacingly enduring icon of
American business and politics.

In their 1983 book Kings of the Hill: Power and Personality in
the House of Representatives, 
Dick and his wife Lynne Ann Vincent Cheney referred to the “hawks” of the War of 1812 as “audacious and bold…[maneuvering] a doubtful president and a divided nation onto a firm and fiery course.” The book goes on to admit that “the war hawks’ prediction of a swift and easy victory was soon proved false by a series of bloody and painful defeats,” but this did not mean that Dick Cheney, the 46th vice president of the United States, was slated to learn from this historical lesson. In his 2009 memoir, Direct Threats and Decisive Action, he characterized the invasion and subsequent defeat and withdrawal from Iraq in 2008 as “an unfortunate intersection of unforeseen instabilities combined with a lack of political will.” The invasion and occupation ultimately claimed the lives of more than 62,000 Iraqi civilians, 25,000 pro Iraqi/anti-US combatants, and 5,700 US soldiers.

Born January 30, 1941, to Richard and Marjorie Cheney, Dick was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska until the age of 13, when his family moved to Casper, Wyoming. There, Cheney occupied himself hunting, fishing, playing football, and nurturing a lifelong love of military history and biographies.

After earning a scholarship to Yale in 1959, Cheney flunked out. “I had a lack of direction, but I had a good time,” he said, and returned to Casper, working as a lineman for a power company.

In 1964 he married Lynne Vincent, who would become a political and business figure with considerable power of her own. Cheney returned to the University of Wyoming for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before unsuccessfully pursuing a doctorate in political science at the University of Wisconsin. During this time, from 1963 to 1965, Cheney received four student draft deferments, and a fifth in 1966 as a “registrant with child or children.”

In 1969, Cheney embarked on his political career when he was hired, by Donald Rumsfeld, for the first of many positions within the Nixon administration. In 1975, he was made the youngestever chief of staff when the doomed Gerald Ford appointed him to the post. Following Ford’s defeat in 1976, Cheney successfully mounted a campaign to represent Wyoming in the US House of Representatives, where he served from 1978 until 1989.

He suffered the first of his many heart attacks in 1978, at the age of 37. Subsequent attacks were responsible for his distinctively crooked “smile.”

In 1989, when George Bush Sr.’s nomination of John Tower was rejected, Cheney was nominated for Secretary of Defense. There, he devoted himself to lobbying for a bigger military budget, MX missiles, and more B-2 Stealth Bombers. After picking Colin Powell to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cheney presided with Powell over Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

In 1993, Cheney returned to the private sector and joined his wife at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank founded primarily to support limited government, vigorous private enterprise, and strong national defense. He would later found a think tank of his own, along with Rumsfeld, William Kristol and others: The Project for a New American Century, which had a defining influence on the disastrous foreign policy of the second Bush administration. In 1995, Cheney became chairman and CEO of Halliburton Energy Services, where (until his 2000 vice presidential bid) he put his connections to muscular use for his new employers, sheltering subsidiaries from taxes and winning Halliburton a variety of highly profitable no-bid or faux-bid contracts.

Cheney’s always-troubled health began its serious decline in late 2007, when his approval ratings dropped to the lowest in history for any sitting Vice President, amid mounting opposition to the war in Iraq; the exposure of his deliberate use of false information to manufacture support for the war; probes into his role in leaking classified information to the press, otherwise known as the Plame Affair; and questions about his financial dealings while in charge of Halliburton Energy Services.

Though his widely-hoped-for resignation or impeachment never came to pass, after leaving office, Cheney retired largely to isolation on his Wyoming ranch, accompanied by an unprecedented three round the-clock doctors from the White House Medical Group. After his fifth heart attack left Cheney with an even more severe crook in his smile and an uncontrollable neck twitch, he retreated entirely from the public eye. After attack number six left him without the use of his right and only good eye, Cheney severely curtailed his hunting expeditions.

He is survived by his wife and daughters, Mary and Elizabeth,
who has three grandchildren with former Homeland Security
General Counsel and current Republican presidential frontrunner.

Tom Cannon

Tom Cannon’s introspective works have been described as « touching and revealing. » He attempts to open the eyes of his audience to the subtle beauty of the natural world around them.  Mr. Cannon works as a professional school teacher and lives in Santa Cruz County. Known for its pristine landscapes and elegant flower and leaf design compositions, Mr. Cannon’s photography has been featured at several local art exhibitions including the Annual Photography and Mixed-Media Show in Santa Cruz (Dec. 2000).

Tom participated in Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios for a number of years. He is the winner of the 2002 Metro Goldie Artist of the Year Award.

« Tort Reform » Fraud, The Oids & Corporate Class War on America

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A FILM STUDENTS’ BREAKFAST
« Federico Fellini could help save democracy, » said Lorenzo, an 18 year-old UC Santa Barbara film student, to his classmates during the complimentary Sunday brunch served by retired actress Rona Barb to her youthful room tenants.

« My dad, » voiced Roger, another film student, « says democracy is dead, and our civil justice system and lawyers are being neutered by corporations that want to get away with murder without having to pay damages. My dad’s an attorney — he knows. »

« That’s right, » said Lorenzo. « My father is making a movie about corporations stealing the planet from under our feet by using frames. It’ll blow people’s minds. My dad worked with Fellini. He saw people in Italy change after City Of Women came out. »

« That’s the craziest thing I ever heard! » jumped in Ms. Barb, participating in the discussion while pouring tea.

« No, it’s not crazy at all! » protested Lorenzo. « The movie I’m helping my father make is about framing ideas to reshape the way we see the world. I learned a lot about that subject when I assisted in filming Professor Lakoff. »

« Okay, okay, but changing how we see the world and saving democracy? Changing the way Italian men see women? Wow! That’ll take a lot more than a movie, » argued Ms. Barb as the boys laughed.

« It’s like stopping global warming. That will take a lot more than Al Gore’s movie. »

« Some books changed the world, and movies can do it faster, » insisted Lorenzo. « For years the media has been putting down trial lawyers as if every lawyer was a bad guy. They pushed Congress to vote against public protection and cut damage awards so low that lawyers can no longer take big corporations who hurt people to court. People lost and business won. »

« So, what’s that got to do with a movie about saving democracy? » Ms Barb queried.

« A lot. If you’re hurt, you should have the right to sue. So corporations spread the myth that trial lawyers are all bad. That’s a dirty corporate trick. Professor Lakoff suggests that we call attorneys ‘public protection attorneys,’ not ‘trial lawyers.’ The ‘public protection attorney’ frame reminds people of the good attorneys do. It would look real bad for business to try and smear public protection, right? That’s all got to do with framing language! The word ‘trial’ is a scary word, but ‘protection’ — that’s a good word. People would wonder what is really going on if they saw ‘tort reform’ as an attack on public protection. Get it? Cutting protection for people — that’s not reform, that’s a con job. »

« So? I still don’t get it. What’s that got to do with a movie saving democracy? » persisted Ms. Barb.

« Well, » Roger, answered, quoting his dad, « ‘Lawyers should never have to defend themselves in propria persona in the court of public opinion.’ They know better. That’s what they always tell other people. Well, they ought to follow their own advice. A movie can show Americans that controlled media is destroying our civil defense system. That’s part of democracy. »

« Thanks, Roger! Good argument! I rest my case, » beamed Lorenzo.

SOUND FRAMES AND IMAGES OF LIGHT
Young energy is our greatest national asset. Let’s help put that energy to work. To be a civilized nation, America must do all it can to unfold the full potential of our youth. Young adults finish college and are unable to find jobs that put what they learned to good use. Many grads end up bagging groceries or flipping burgers for years. What future do we offer them? None! The real question then becomes: « Are we a civilized country? » Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Western civilization. He replied:  » I think it would be a very good idea. »

An unforgettable film about civilization and the renewal of respect for human rights, a film showing how nations, after the horrors of World War II, attempted to establish a global civilization under international law with conscience and responsibility toward all life — this is what we need. For a brief period, countries achieved common consent on civilized principles and spelled them out in the magnificent 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All UN Member States solemnly agreed “[t]o cause it [the Declaration] to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.” That was a solemn promise. Most failed to honor it, including the U.S.

Now 58 years later the appointed pResident of the US and his Attorney General think that human rights are quaint, old-fashioned ideas written on weird, out-of-style documents — like the US Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Exposing this stark contrast through the power of cinema will shock most audiences, and that is why we need such a movie.

So, film students got talking about coming to democracy’s rescue with what the great master of film, Fellini, called cine magia – cinemagic. When informed, young people want to take up the cause and honor that pledge of 1948 by inspiring citizens to act in defense of humanity’s future.

Uneco’s film, Deflating The Elephant, will illustrate the crucial articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are essential to our survival in this dangerous century, and vividly frame one of humanity greatest achievements with cinematic images. After viewers of Deflating The Elephant see how far we have fallen since the Declaration’s creation, their hearts and minds will be transformed and moved to renew the covenant. 

Few clearly perceive how dangerous the world situation is becoming.

Inhuman money controls mass media and deliberately broadcasts as many frivolous distractions as possible to keep people from noticing the fascist beast closing in on millions of unsuspecting victims. Current diabolical schemers make Hitler and Stalin look like dilettantes. Their skills at diverting attention by frequently sounding terror-lurking-under-every-bush alarms have been honed to perfection. A movie can expose them with scandalous evidence. 

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As a boy, I experienced arrogant Italian Fascism and the evil of rightwing fanatical religionism. In December 2000, when America was flagrantly betrayed by five black-robed hypocrites, shivers of horror went down my spine. Our grassroots organization immediately net-published a large front-page headline: « DAY OF INFAMY – Fascist Coup in the United States! » which was printed over a photo of marching Nazi SS troopers. Friends objected that to use the word « fascist » was an exaggeration. Now, six year later, most are as outraged as we were then and have been ever since.

In 2004, a second national election was stolen by the same fascist cabal and American democracy de facto ceased to exist, except in the deluded minds of sleeping TV network audiences.

That year, University of California Berkeley Professor George Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, appeared and was an instant bestseller. What it revealed is how linguistic frames influence social conditions.

Reading Don’t Think of an Elephant was a stunning clarification for me of how evil ideas throughout history are framed to allow « the few » to control and oppress « the many. » Indeed, ideas projected through invisible linguistic frames can transform the mind. d

Lakoff’s scientific explanations brought back memories of working with Federico Fellini and learning from him how cinematic images change society. For example, after Fellini’s Casanova and City of Women, I had watched downcast Italian males leaving theaters, stunned. Exaggerated Italian machismo was crushed by these great films and never fully recovered.

Fellini’s demolition of century-old prejudices and Lakoff’s linguistic art of framing suggested to me a potential cinematic cure for America.

It was my good fortune to share Federico’s thoughts about dreams and metaphysical questions while he was conceiving his mysterious story, The Voyage of G. Mastorna. This work contains some of his visions and speculations about the human state in this world and after death. During that unforgettable experience, Fellini explained how cinematic images liberate, dissolve fear, and open our lives to perceiving the subtlest aspects of the world. That « sceneggiatura »– The Voyage of G. Mastorna — is now known as the most famous never-filmed-screenplay in the history of cinema.

Fellini’s insight on the magic of light gives us a glimpse of the profundity of his art. He said:

What is light? If cinema is images, light is its evident essence. In cinema, light is idea, sentiment, color, profundity, atmosphere, style, narrative, poetic expression. Light is the magic power that adds, cancels, softens, suggests, exalts, alludes, underscores, and renders the fantastic credible and acceptable, or, on the contrary, creates transparencies through which the gray daily reality becomes rich, fairytale like. With a single reflector and a pair of lights an opaque face, with as much expressiveness as a bare knee, appears intelligent, mysterious, fascinating; an open, benevolent, peaceful face becomes sinister, menacing, frightening.
The poorest scene — squalid, shabby — can with light reveal enchanting or ominous aspects…barely moving a 5000 watt light and lighting up an opposite light, all the feelings of anguish vanishes and everything is serene, comfortable, homey. Finally, film is written with light; the style of an authentic filmmaker is expressed with light.k

THE MOVIE
Uneco Productions’ Deflating The Elephant owes much to The Strange Voyage of G. Mastorna. Like Mastorna, it is a voyage into past and future … in this world and in an imaginary world where humanity is at last cured and grown to maturity and sanity … a satirical, historic, amusing, and symbolic movie.

Like Moby Dick, Deflating the Elephant is about hunting large beasts that incarnate evil. It will bring down the rogue pachyderms that are devastating our world (just as Twentieth Century fascists and Bolsheviks devastated theirs) by unmasking the secret class war the rich are waging against the American people. The hunting weapon this film delivers to the people is a Fellinesque-Lakoffian bow with arrows that can pierce soft, bloated underbellies of the fascist beasts and deflate them of their foul, hot air.

George Lakoff exposed the fact that conservatives spent 40 years and billions of dollars to grow, feed, and empower these land-roving Moby Dicks. False conservative frames have just about destroyed our 230 years of progress toward a vision of democratic culture and equality before the law and have nearly extinguished the American dream.

It is especially important and urgent that millions of Americans clearly understand why sharply framed and well-aimed progressive ideas can instantly bring down the ugly beasts.

The speed of change possible through strategic use of visual frames must be understood by all those liberals who wring their hands and worry that the deceitful conservative frames erected over four decades by lavishly funded, right-wing think-tanks may take just as many years to demolish before our Constitution can be restored and « We The People » take our country back. This is not so! If we had to wait 40 years, there’d be no country left to take back and no environment to restore.

With vigorous action, immediate liberation is assured because of a self-evident universal law, which we all experience many times in our lives. It is this: to build takes time, but to destroy takes only an instant. Any structure — no matter how big, complex, or expensive in building — can be demolished in a tiny fraction of the time it took to erect. So, we must act now, without hesitation. No more wishy-washy, centrist, political correctness nonsense. It is assured that the ridiculous compassionate-conservative reputations of oppressive pseudo-religious fascists painted by years of false media hogwash will go up in acrid smoke the moment progressives strike back with well-framed truths and ideas because fascists fear the light.

Make this important truth your own and pass it on: all that is needed to remove their ugly framework in a day is a wrecking ball, and Deflating the Elephant is that wrecking ball. To put it to good use progressives needs only a small fraction of what neo-fascists invested to steal our country from under our feet.

The looming environmental and nuclear catastrophe set up by the insane military industrial complex is staggering. Deflating the Elephant, coming after Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, will further galvanize many to act in self-preservation.

In 1997 Uneco understood the far-reaching vision of Gore’s Earth In The Balance and awarded the Vice President an honorary position on its roster of American Wilderness Heritage GuardiansGore responded encouragingly.

Soon after coup 2000 students organized by Uneco made a low cost video titled Life & Liberty in the Balance, which preceded and, we are told, inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 since it touched on most of the same facts Michael Moore included in his powerful film almost a year later. l

Now Uneco brings together the power of Fellini’s cinemagic and Lakoff’s art of framing in a nonprofit film brilliantly introduced by Academy Award Star Sean Penn, a true American, profoundly dedicated to saving his country from the present hypocrite-usurpers who have shown no love for the American people.

QUESTION: « Can powerful movies save our future? »

ANSWER: « Social change is caused by extraordinary content delivered with penetrating power. Think of how much Shakespeare, Dante, and Fellini changed minds. »

Read on and you will marvel.

There are two kinds of content: the cathartic and the inspiring. The first grips us with fear, shock, desire for change, and finally compels us to action. The second shows us a safe and luminous future. To be effective, the screen must move us over a panorama of inspiring realistic possibilities for restoring the commonwealth for the common good. It must clearly explain why we can no longer allow our country to be the pig-trough for multinational swine. An inspiring call to action will show why our ecosystems on which all of life depends must become our national priority. The environmental insanity of current power holders is the worst danger threatening our survival. Deflating the Elephant reveals how a different world is possible.

Media whores owned by energy and military industries will lash out against this rising revolution with the usual tiresome lies, as they are presently throwing at Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Fortunately, Gore has gone through that once before and is way above their smelly swamp. The public is not stupid and when shown the records will agree that free enterprise must cover the costs of its own productions. Corporations should not expect taxpayers to pay for the toxic mess they dump on our land.

Our system is not free enterprise. It is socialism for the rich with giant subsidies paid by the taxpayers as corporate welfare. « Free enterprise » without capital or credit is reserved for working people, the poor, and the homeless. The poor are told to believe in the land-of-opportunity fiction: « Pull yourself up by your boot straps! » How can anyone perform such a miracle if they’re barefoot?

RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR THE YOUNG
All have an equal right to this world and the young must claim their share now while there is still time.

The illicit government of appointed and election-stealing crooks is cutting support for education so that many students start life in debt and without adequate jobs. In our hometown of Santa Cruz, in the shade of the redwood forest on America’s beautiful California shores, I observe my older son, Orlando, at work, forging uphill for his own opportunity. I see his good will, his compassion for others, his constant learning, as he creates side-by-side with his good friend and partner Keenan.

Now Keenan is a rare example for the young. Strong as Samson, he has raised a little dove named « Whoo » that he rescued at birth and has cared for for many years. Whoo follows this strong and gentle environmentalist, often landing on his shoulders or nesting in his hair while Keenan crafts beautiful, inspiring HD content in his self-built studio.

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Watching these two young men working together discussing ecology, health, and life, I envision a progressive, peaceful future for America. They are struggling to succeed in the marketplace on a very uneven playing field, without capital or loans. So I ask: Why should they not also inherit their share of business subsidies to capitalize their creative enterprise? Why give billions in subsidies to energy companies that stole more money from California and the rest of the nation than a highway robber? Why not fund young entrepreneurs? Why waste billions to destroy first and then abusively privatize Iraq when our young people are struggling to get a start in life and cannot even afford healthcare or equipment?

It is time to get angry and resist this domestic oppression until this government collapses in its own rottenness!

HOW THEY STOLE OUR COMMONWEALTH
Exposing how we have been robbed is sobering.

Conservatives used many deceiving frames to steal from us. We’ll tackle here just a few of the metaphors they employed to deform one of democracy’s most fundamental pillars: justice.

Mixing Fellini’s cinematic secrets with Lakoff’s scientific brilliance is like mixing nitro and glycerine — which makes up dynamite. Liars and thieves are in for a big surprise.

The neo-crooks have been fanning the flames of a still unexplained 9/11 tragedy into a fabulously profitable perennial frame: « war-on-terror. » What should have been an international police hunt by civilized nations has turned into a deadly, trillion-dollar con job. In reality, there is no war. The phony « war » frame provides a legalistic and pseudo-moral justification for flag waving, criminal wars of aggression, and the dismantling of our Constitution. The 9/11 Commission colluded with Bush and Cheney so that the inseparable twins were conveniently questioned together – to avoid contradictions — behind closed doors, and not under oath for fear of future indictments for obstructing justice. The questioners were all tail-wagging administration’s lap dogs.

Lights and cameras will capture the criminal activities of the national security organizations that colonize the world with prisons, torture chambers, and concentration camps. The horrors of so-called rendition (criminal kidnapping with torture outsourcing) and the deployment of massive domestic electronic spying networks that outrageously violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens and intrude even on their attorney-client privilege will be exposed.

What was once a country of laws is now a country run by a self-declared fundamentalist despot claiming the privilege to violate any law he chooses. The film will show how fundamentalist Christianoids want to control women’s bodies and intrude in the privacy of our bedrooms, just as Mussolini did in 1929 with the Lateran Pact that gave the Pope and Vatican clergy control of family law and imposed obligatory religious education. The danger of religionistic fanatics, whether Muslim mullahs or Texas Baptist Christianoids, deserves close monitoring.

« [I]n order to understand the danger posed by Christian fundamentalist, we must first take a look at what they believe. What is it that these folks hold to be fundamental? What is it that they insist one must do in order to be saved? The answer is threefold: First, in order to be a Christian, a person must believe that the Bible is the one and only infallible, truly inerrant, source of truth, and that the holy books of all other religions are of demonic origin; secondly, one must believe in an afterlife, that every human being will end up in either Heaven or Hell. And finally, it is essential that one understand that in order to go to Heaven he must accept Jesus Christ (the only Son of God) as his own personal savior, otherwise, and without exception, regardless of how good a life he may have lived, he will be sent to the agonizing fires of an eternally burning Hell. That is their doctrine … that is what they believe to be The Truth of God. From: « The Most Evil People in the World, » by Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.

In his book: Gangs of America, Ted Nace reveals the impostrous way the U.S. was taken over by big business. Historically, it was the battle between democracy and corporations that started the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party was an action to block the British East India Company, the most powerful corporation that ever existed, from monopolizing the American commodities markets, starting with tea. The American Revolution was a pragmatic economic rebellion against an overbearing corporation and an oppressive government thoroughly intertwined with it.

The East India Company had planned to replace independent local merchants with a company-owned distribution system, i.e., an early version of what we now call “vertical integration, » like, for example, oil companies owning wells, refineries, and gas stations.

Boston pamphleteers — we had a free press then — laid out the scenario in detail, warning that if the British were to succeed in bringing the tea distribution system under sole control of the East India Company, they would inevitably repeat the same scheme for other imported commodities. Sound familiar? Think of the WTO.

The East India Company, if once they get Footing in this
(once) happy country, will leave no Stone unturned to become your Masters. They are an opulent Body, and Money or Credit is not wanting amongst them. They have a designing, depraved, and despotic Ministry to assist and support them. They themselves are well versed In TYRANNY, PLUNDER, OPPRESSION and BLOODSHED. Whole Provinces labouring under the Distresses of Oppression, Slavery, Famine, and the Sword, are familiar to them. Thus they have enriched themselves, Thus they are become the most powerful Trading Company in the Universe
. Excerpt from a broadside signed “A Mechanic,” Philadelphia, December 4, 1773.


Imagine a private company so unaccountable that it conducts its own criminal trials and runs its own jails; so dominant it possesses a 250,000 man army, twice the size of Britain’s, to fight company wars; and so predatory that for more than two centuries it squeezes the economy of the richest country in the world until observers report that some regions have been “bled white.” A third of Parliament owns stock in it, and a tax on its tea constitutes 10% of the government’s revenues. Even the King is dependent on periodic “loans” from the company!

When the cargo ship Dartmouth arrived in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16, 1773, approximately 150 men assembled at the home of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal’s founder. They came from many backgrounds: some were apprentices, some tradesmen, some wealthy owners of businesses. By dawn, the entire shipment of tea had been destroyed. The American Revolution would soon be underway.

One glaring example in a long record of uncontrolled corporate evil was unleashed against this country in 1936:

[C]onsider this unpunished crime, committed by the leadership of General Motors, together with Standard Oil of California, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, B. F. Phillips Petroleum, and Mac Manufacturing.
In 1936, the five companies formed National City Lines, a holding company that proceeded to buy electric trolley lines and tear up the tracks in cities across the nation. Each time it destroyed a local trolley system, National City would license the rights to operate a new system to a local franchisee, under the stipulation that the system convert to diesel-powered General Motors buses.
By 1949, more than 100 electric transit systems in 45 systems had been torn up and converted. In April of that year, a federal jury convicted GM and the other firms of conspiracy to commit anti-trust violations. But the judge set the fine for each company at $5,000. Seven executives were fined one dollar each. After the conviction, the companies went back to purchasing transit systems, removing electric trolley lines, and replacing them with buses. Gangs of America, Introduction p. 7.

As Atlanta mayor and former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young once observed, “Nothing is illegal if 100 businessmen decide to do it.”

In 1882-83, Judge Stephen Field’s Ninth Circuit Court, with twisted judicial sophistry, established the personhood of corporations in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific. This self-evident absurdity has proven to be a menace to democracy and humanity.

Judge Field’s tortuous legalese behind the creation of immortal, frankensteinian corporations coincided with the view of Professor John Norton Pomeroy, namely: « The truth cannot be evaded that, for the purpose of protecting rights, the property of all business and trading corporations IS the property of the individual corporators. A state act depriving a business corporation of its property without due process of law, does in fact deprive the individual corporators of their property. In this sense, and within the scope of these grand safeguards of private rights, there is no real distinction between artificial persons or corporations, and natural persons. »

Ted Nace explains why an understanding of this is critical:

As simple as this false argument sounds, it was a significant departure from established legal doctrine, which had always made a distinction between corporate property and individual property. The most crucial distinction is that owning shares in a company allows a person to own property without being subject to the sort of accountability to the community that normally attends the ownership of property [emphasis added]. For that reason, courts had never assumed that shareholders in a corporation should expect equal rights; on the contrary, the enjoyment by corporate shareholders of privileges such as limited liability justified applying special restrictions to corporations and their owners. Gangs of America, p. 118.

It is self-evident that giving legal personhood to a corporation, while enjoying all other rights, also creates the right to do wrong and escape responsibility. In the 2006 California primaries, the residents of Humboldt County said enough is enough and successfully challenged corporate personhood.

Expanding on the danger of corporate personhood, the movie screen will explode with images of corporate abuse against individuals and society.

THE NEAR FUTURE IN LIGHT OF HISTORY
America won its greatest victory against Italian fascists, German Nazis, and Japanese imperialists while fighting for democracy under the leadership of liberal President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After WWII, humanity renewed its hope in the flowering of a great civilization founded on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a world in which nuclear holocausts like Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never again happen; where war, death-camps, fascist oppression, and gulags, would forever be mere memories of past insanity; where international law would settle disputes and people everywhere would become self-governing; where victorious nations would cease selling instruments of death and instead spread the profitable tools of healthcare, economic prosperity, and environmental conservation.

However, the realization of this hope, this beautiful dream, never did come to pass.

Bloodshed and destruction quickly resumed and continue to this day: Korea, Vietnam, Palestine, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Iran, East Timor, Africa, Cambodia, Chile, Argentina, Bosnia, and Iraq. Why did all members of the UN including the U.S. fail so miserably? Because of the perennial Oids!

THE ODIOUS OIDS – WHO ARE THEY?
Thomas Paine said: “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” So, we are going to tell you about the Oids, and then insult them with every name in the book. Read on.
Christianoids

To pre-empt the extreme rightwing’s evil reaction to well-deserved insults, we refer hateful and blind Christianoids to the ultimate authority on how to deal with hypocrites: Jesus of Nazareth — but not the fictional straw-Jesus invented by triple-born-again fundamentalists (we say « triple-born-again » advisedly because to be a Christian already means to be born again, so to be a « new born » Christian means to be a « new born-new born, » which equals being born three times!).

Deflating the Elephant takes us into the Dantesque other-worldly nightmare of triple-born Christianoids who commandingly claim that a fetus is an unborn soul or child even when the Bible, their ultimate authority, contradicts them. Scripture speaks of life from birth to death, not from conception to decay, of the soul entering the body when the body receives its first breath, and ending when it exhales its last. To « expire » is defined as « to die; to breathe one’s last breath; to exhale; to breathe out. » Confer Genesis 2:7: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Clearly, the body of Adam came to life not when God completed the molding of his flesh from clay, but when his body received its soul by inhaling the spirit, which is God’s breath and which must return to God when we breathe out or exhale our last breath.

When we die, our flesh and organs are still living and are in fact viable enough to be transplanted into another person. However, once the soul is gone with the last breath, the body –even if parts of it are technically living — is not a person. So it is for the fetus.

Whether it is aborted by nature or choice, the fetus never incarnated the divine breath, the soul. Until the first breath vivifies it into a person, the fetus is only a vessel, a body, and not a living human being. This fact will never be accepted by Christianoids because it is one more politically inconvenient truth. Unborn flesh (a miscarried fetus?) has never been legally considered a person. Even so, fascist rightwing pseudo-Christians backing the Bushist partyline are unabashedly trying to trump thousands of years of precedent.

Jesus would lash out against these Christianoids –- witness his kicking the moneychangers out of the temple — for he never spared the feelings of hypocrites (hypocrite Ann Coulter so perfectly incarnates nasty neo-fascism that she uses this Jesus episode to attack liberals when most money changers are conservatives; in doing this she dumbly set herself up again as the proverbial dumb blonde she is). So, Deflating the Elephant will treat hypocrites by throwing caution to the wind and mercilessly hurling at them every insult in the book, just as Jesus did without fear:

Matthew 23:
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides…
17 Ye fools and blind!…
19 Ye fools and blind!…
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.
24 Ye blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous…
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! How can ye escape the damnation of hell?

So, who are the Oids!? They are that recurring percentage of psychotics throughout history that makes peace and justice impossible. It is imperative that Oids be exposed if we are to cure humanity and create a progressive world.

By way of explanation, adding « oid » to any word alters its meaning to: « made in the form of » or « pretending to be. » For example, when « oid » is affixed to the word « sphere, » it becomes the word « spheroid, » which means « made in the form of a sphere » (not a real sphere). « Oid » is, therefore, a label for « hypocrites » and for all those who pretend to be something they are not. A Christianoid can then be defined as « a pseudo-Christian » or anyone pretending to be a follower of Jesus while at the same time supporting war, torture, and the death penalty. »

Let’s be creative here.

A patrioid is a flag-waving idiot who forgot that the flag represents the Union established by the U.S. Constitution. « Monkeys can wave flags, but that does not make them patriots! » noted Scott Ritter (who is a real patriot).

All evildoers can be lumped under a single label: « humanoids » — that is, beasts made in the shape of humans.

What makes the Oids what they are? It takes great writers and film authors to penetrate and expose the dark workings of reptilian brains in humanoid form. Indeed, to explain the intrinsic Oid madness and how to deal with it is a Dantesque, Shakespearean, or Fellinesque task.

EMOTIONAL HONESTY vs. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
Recently Senator Murtha – who is to be highly commended for is outspokenness against the war — protested criminal military actions in Iraq. While he deserves praise for this, it is evident that Senator Murtha is unfortunately still a victim of political correctness. After the Haditha massacre committed by U.S. troops, he said: « One woman, as I understand it in talking to the officials in the Marine Corps, was bending over her child, pleading for mercy, and they shot her in cold blood. That’s the thing that’s so disturbing. » What an astounding hyper-understatement!

As much as Senator Murtha must be admired for his courage, in following the Washington-accepted PC communications style imposed by the conservative culture of hypocrisy, he failed to galvanize public condemnation. How can murder in cold blood be referred to as simply « disturbing » — is such a satanic crime not outrageous beyond belief? Diabolical? Insane? Nauseating? Evil? Does it not call for Divine vengeance?

To bring it home, just imagine yourself finding your own family slaughtered in cold blood and hearing someone politely saying: « I am troubled » or « I’m disturbed. » Emotionally honest people express their pain and anger openly and directly.

One trick satanic corpo-media uses is to make justified outrage and righteous indignation look like hysteria. Any sincere expression of shock and revulsion in the face of a crime is treated as excess so insistently by criminal media whores, that all truth is neutralized and soon forgotten.

This is how the odious media-oids subliminally train decent people to restrain sincere dismay, disgust, and rage to grotesque levels of apparent indifference to the suffering of others. We are told by inhuman monsters never to « lose our cool, » never to let anger roar to the level of rage in our voices, never to dare call killers murderers, especially if they are a part of our own despicable government.

ROOTS OF TERRORISM
The kind of shameful injustice deliberately perpetrated in Haditha against the innocent without remorse, honest apology, or meaningful restitution is the proverbial root of all terrorism and the cause of endless violence.

Deflating the Elephant will examine some historical instances of terrorism with the stark realism of Gillo Pontecorvo’s famous film, The Battle of Algiers (which the Pentagon is studying today).

One example: For centuries, Samson, a suicide terrorist, has been viewed as a biblical hero, invoking the same Semitic God as he brought down a crowded temple in Gaza and killed 3000 Philistines as Muslims invoke when they slaughter innocents and blow themselves up. This evokes a strange similarity to the destruction of Manhattan’s World Trade Center 3000 years later. Samson did not bring down the temple because he hated freedom — that’s bush-shit — he did it after having been cruelly blinded and brutally chained to a stone mill for many years. He probably loved freedom, but had no hope for it or for justice being done. As a consequence, he committed an internecine terrorist act.

Not a single corporate media whore has mentioned the glaring fact that the Bible regards Samson’s act of terror as a good thing. For centuries Christian cultures have accepted it as justifiable revenge on the part of a badly persecuted Jewish Samson. The neo-cons never called him a terrorist! Figure out that one. Doesn’t God talk to Bush? Is God a racist? Is America the only « nation under God » or is God above all nations? Confusing, to say the least.

DEACTIVATING THE OIDS
Let’s confront this failed Administration of appointed criminals and all who betrayed us in Congress, regardless of party, and kick them out of office. We can do it by peaceful resistance, boycotts, loud protests, massive turnouts at the polls, cleaning up our voting and election systems, and, if it becomes necessary, by calling general strikes in the spirit of a full-fledged Gandhian revolution.

Our reward will be an economically sustainable future where wealth is multiplied by all, for all, with fair compensation for labor and renewal of our environment so that at last we can lift the poor out of despair, increase our general security and wellbeing, and eliminate most crime.

A STIRRING PROGRESSIVE FUTURE
In conclusion, a stirring progressive future can be ours if we educate ourselves and invest some of our time and resources to actualize the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.S. Constitution. By learning the art of language framing we can participate in deactivating the Oids and in finally deflating the elephant. When progressives unite in their common vision, the fascists who have taken over our country will scurry into the woodwork. Then our world will be renewed and the future will be very bright.

A Learning Guide: Learning English as a Second Language in the Rural Areas of Yunnan, China

In The Tree of Knowledge, Maturana and Varela state: “We human beings are human beings only in language. Because we have language, there is no limit to what we can describe, imagine, and relate” (Maturana and Varela 1987: 212). Language is an event which enters the plane of being, and through language we create meaning and come toward understanding. Maturana and Varela allude to an important aspect of language; namely, language enables us to express an understanding of our world within time. We are temporal beings. We can describe a past, a present, and through imagination, a future yet to be realized. In his work Time and Narrative, Paul Ricoeur directly addresses the aporia of being in time. In his text, Ricoeur illumines the fluid, multi-dimensional nature of time. He writes, “We can say that preoccupation places the accent on the present, just as primordial temporality placed it on the future and historicality on the past” (Ricoeur 1988: 82).Thus, the development of this learning guide must naturally acknowledge that adult learners of English as a second language in the rural areas of Yunnan, China come to the learning forum with a lived past, hopes for an imagined future, and an ability to fully engage in the present moment.

This learning guide addresses the following questions: How does the adult learner of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China learn best? How is he or she changed by the experience? What are the implications for narrative identity? This essay examines these questions, offers a means to assess learning, and also analyzes the implications of a changed narrative identity for the adult learner in China. Ricoeur notes that “narrative identity is not a stable and seamless identity. Just as it is possible to compose several plots on the subject of the incidents…so it is always possible to weave different, even opposed, plots about our lives” (Ricoeur 1988: 248). According to Ricoeur, there is a core aspect to identity which does not change; yet, there is simultaneously another part of our identity which is malleable (Ricoeur 1992: 116). Narrative identity holds both change and permanence (1992: 116).

There are certain components which are critical to effective learning. First, the learner must be provided with the opportunity for reflection in the learning setting. In other words, adults who are learning English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China must be allowed time to reflect upon what they are learning, and why they are learning. Through reflection, the learner is able to identify a deeper meaning and purpose in the experience of learning. Richard Kearney submits that in the act of reflection, we are searching for “some kind of significance in terms of referrals back to our past (memory) and forward to our future (projection)…We might say that our lives are constantly interpreting themselves”(Kearney 2002:129). Kearney expands on this idea when he says that “our existence is already to some extent pre-plotted before we ever consciously seek out a narrative in which to reinscribe our life as life-history” (2002: 129). We emerge from a particular history. At the same time, we define our own lives through the narrative, and the story may be told and re-told in many different ways. There is, in fact, a continuous unfolding of the story. So, we repeatedly ask ourselves: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I learning? Who am I becoming? The answers may very well change as we change within time.

Another important component that can foster learning is recognition of the individual learner as a temporal being. In designing learning events, it is paramount that the educator takes into consideration the learner’s past, present, and future. A classroom event, for example, that draws upon history could be writing a story about a significant event from one’s youth growing up in rural China. A learning event that concentrates on the present could involve students verbally sharing some aspect of present day life that is important. One learner may say that he is a rice harvester and talk about how growing food has meaning in his life. Another learner may say that she weaves cloth, and speak to the significance of creating clothing for people to wear. The responses will vary, but all will be joined in the act of sharing and in the desire to express thoughts and ideas in the English language. A learning event that is future oriented could engage the learner in writing his or her thoughts on how life may change through the study of English. In this event, the learner draws upon his or her imagination to project what the future may hold in light of present action. An imagined future enables the learner to envision a world beyond the world that is known, and it opens up new possibilities.

It should also be noted that the study of a different language very naturally introduces the learner to a different way of seeing the world. “In China, people have a very strong sense of group identity. In most situations a line between an outsider and an insider is drawn either explicitly or implicitly” (Gao 2000: 13). Thus, “there are many terms like tongxue (schoolmate), and laoxiang (people who share the same place of origin) which imply group identity and mutual obligations” (2000: 13). As does Chinese, the English language contains features that reflect particular beliefs and cultural norms. Ellen Herda writes, “To uncover how our history affects us we can look at language and tradition. The language we speak holds our history” (Herda 1999: 4). The learner of English will become familiar with a different vista through study of the language. He or she may then take in that which is desirable, and discard that which is not viewed as desirable. Risk is inherent in learning. We may be changed by the experience. Adult learning is crucial for social change to occur.

The power of the narrative itself must also be considered. Literature offers an expansive venue for learning in China: The story of someone else is also our own story, and we can experience the self through another. Ricoeur writes, “Literature is a vast laboratory in which we experiment with estimations, evaluations, and judgments of approval and condemnation through which narrativity serves as a propaedeutic to ethics” (Ricoeur 1992: 115). Literature offers a broad spectrum of human experience and emotion, and it comes to us as the story of another. Yet, simultaneously, it is also our own story, as we see ourselves in the characters. Ricoeur submits that “there is no ethically neutral narrative” (1992: 115). In the narrative, be it text or oral story, someone tells something to someone else about something. We who encounter the narrative then determine our own ethics. We may agree or disagree with the narrator. In rural China, group discussion about a story could provide the experience of finding shared beliefs; or, perhaps, the opportunity to identify differences among learners. It is important to find common purpose in the experience of learning. So, while individuals may have different reasons for wanting to learn, they can find common ground in the desire to learn. There must be mutual respect in the learning environment in order for trust to take root. It is incumbent upon the educator to model trust and to demonstrate value of the other in the learning environment.

Adult learners of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China come to the learning environment with a culture and an identity, and it is important to consider these issues in the development of a learning program. In Oneself as Another, Ricoeur hypothesizes that identity is composed of sameness, idem; selfhood, ipse; and a dialectic of the two (Ricoeur 1992: 116).Ricoeur submits that we can overcome the assumption of otherness, “which is always presupposed” (1992: 335). We do so through “the admission that the other is not condemned to remain a stranger but can become my counterpart, that is, someone who, like me, says ‘I.’ The resemblance based on the pairing of flesh with flesh works to reduce a distance, to bridge a gap” (1992: 335). But there is always an ipse-identity, which is largely unchanging. Selfhood contains character and those traits which remain constant. The interplay of ipse and idem acts much like a hermeneutic circle, moving to and fro, defining and redefining the self in relation to another. Ricoeur maintains that we come into our fullest sense of humanity when we assign a greater value to the other over valuing of the self. Ricoeur states:

In order to be the ‘friend of oneself’—in accordance with Aristotelian philautia—one must already have entered into a relation of friendship with others, as though friendship for oneself were a self-affection rigorously correlative to the affection by and for the other as friend. In this sense, friendship forms the bed of justice, as the virtue ‘for others,’ following another of Aristotle’s sayings” (Ricoeur 1992: 330).

In the learning setting, Ricoeur’s theory of identity is quite relevant. Adult learners of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China can be encouraged to help one another through cooperative learning events, such as telling a story together, or creating and describing artwork together. To reiterate, with a deeper level of trust, there is greater potential for learning and venturing beyond know parameters. It is anticipated that trust will grow very gradually in the learning environment in rural Yunnan. Thus, the educator must be prepared to more forward slowly with the learning agenda and related activities.

Ricoeur submits that our aim should be “the good life,” which “is lived with and for others” (Cohen and Marsh 2002: 17). Ricoeur states that there is an “ethics of reciprocity, of sharing, of living together” (2002: 18). He does not assume that the sharing is equal; rather, one shares based on one’s ability to share. The act of sharing is what is significant in this case. Ricoeur’s theory of identity goes to the point of suggesting that the self cannot be defined absent the other who stands in relationship to us, for we inhabit a shared world. In the act of learning English as a second language, learners in rural Yunnan, China can be given the opportunity to ask themselves: What constitutes the good life? What role do I play to bring forth the good life for myself and for others?

In rural Yunnan, China today, there is increased exposure to the internet and other media, although not at the same rate as in urban areas. Nonetheless, inhabitants of rural China are increasingly aware of concepts such as freedom and democracy. With this exposure, there is a wider variety of thoughts and ideas, and thus the possibility of realizing other modes of being, thinking, and doing. The apparent gain is the increased awareness of different cultures, ways that were previously unknown. However, this gain has the potential to cascade into an abyss of homogenization, as people in China consciously or unconsciously emulate the Western world. There may be something lost in this process that is integral to Chinese identity. Perhaps the loss will not be apparent until it has already occurred, as this is often the case with subtle cultural changes over time.

To assess learning, the educator may employ a narrative assessment. Narrative data could include a story, video, metaphor, or some other chronicle of ideas and events (Herda 2004: 1). The act of emplotment is required for the learner to gather together seemingly discordant events into a concordant narrative. Through character, plot, and story, we recognize ourselves and the other. We see both that which is like us, and also that which is not like us. We must interpret, reflect, configure our understanding of the data presented, and then articulate that understanding in the act of speech. It is important that both course content and assessment materials reflect the interests of the group of learners. We naturally engage more fully in tasks that have meaning for us. Therefore, the educator must be careful to seek out the interests of the learning group, and direct assessment toward this subject area as well. Learning cannot be successful if the educator seeks a univocal stance in the learning environment.

At or near the conclusion of the English language course, there could be a learning exercise in which learners are asked to reflect upon whether or not learning English has changed them, and if so, how has it changed them. It is anticipated that there will be changes; however, the changes may differ from individual to individual. It is through relationship and conversation that we can hear the voice of another, and understand his or her unique view. Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer. The educator too, will likely be changed by the experience. The educator will likely learn from the learners. Intrinsic to any linguistic exchange is that it offers something to both persons who are participating in the dialectic.

There are definite implications for the narrative identity of adult learners of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China. In the dynastic period, persons in rural China were largely isolated from foreign ideas and foreign cultures. Today, due to modern technology and changing political systems, people in rural China are slowly being introduced to that which is foreign. At times, that which is foreign holds appeal, and is appropriated. At other times, that which is foreign remains estranged from the self. However, over time, it seems likely that the learners of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China would be influenced in some way, and their identity changed, either subtly or profoundly through the experience. In China, “the dragon is an ancient symbol of transformation and adaptability, characteristics that are the key to the resilience of Chinese civilization” (Shaughnessy 2005: 7).Globalization brings to China an increased exposure to that which is not Chinese. But only the Chinese can determine who they are, and who they are becoming.

To summarize, this learning guide for learners of English as a second language in rural Yunnan, China incorporates the following tenets into the learning experience: Acknowledgement of the adult learner as a temporal being, the inclusion of reflection in the learning process, and eliciting an awareness that the other has preeminence over the self. Ricoeur makes evident that, when we can see the self as another, we come toward greater compassion and understanding of our common ontological condition. This learning guide recognizes that learning is purposeful, and has the potential to be transformative. Trust is necessary for the adult learner to venture forth and assume risk to learn a new way of speaking, describing, and being in the world. It is not possible to ascertain whether or not learning English will bring greater happiness to people in rural Yunnan, China. However, it can be said that learning another language will expand the horizons of the learners who engage in the learning.