Fun fact: An up or down vote in Congress would guarantee the government shutdown would end immediately. There are enough votes in Congress to keep the government open right now. Everyone could go back to work, and the US government would not risk a catastrophic default on the national debt in two weeks.
Only problem is, that vote won’t happen because the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, refuses to consider it. He can cause almost a million people to lose their jobs and can cause god-only-knows levels of economic harm to America. He can do this because of the ‘Hastert Rule’, in which the party that controls Congress sets the entire agenda. Thus a ‘majority of the majority’ - roughly 30-40 people in Congress, can destroy the entire American economy if they wanted to, which is exactly what has just begun. The only catch is because their congressional districts are heavily gerrymandered, they are unlikely to be voted out of office. The combination of gerrymandering, the ‘Hastert Rule’, and the low-risk for Congressmen can do much more damage to this country than Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein ever could.
Oh, and the government funding bill that is rejected by Congress (but really John Boehner) would only fund government for 2 months. Then this would all happen over again, and again, and again. The first time he would be able to cancel Healthcare Reform. But what about in 2 months? The EPA maybe? If this kind of manipulation of the American budget process becomes acceptable, what isn’t on the table? What kind of future does that mean?
The debt ceiling, which comes up on October 17th, can wreck incredible devastation on the economy. If Congress does not pay the bills for the spending Congress has authorized, then America will default on its debts. That means interest rates will rise. Your student loans, your mortgage, these are about to cost a lot more money. But it gets worse.THE AMERICAN DOLLAR IS THE RESERVE CURRENCY OF THE WORLD. A default on the National Debt could, and most likely would, lead to a global recession worse than 2008. And if other governments shift to another reserve currency, as would be their right, then it only gets worse for Americans.
Why are we even talking about this? Who in their right mind would hurt America like that? The answer is in Congress. Right now, John Boehner will not allow Congress to vote on an increase in the debt ceiling unless:
1) The Keystone pipeline is built 2) The Environmental Protection Agency stops regulating carbon 3) Delay Healthcare Reform 4) Adopt the Mitt Romney budget 5) Means Test Medicare 6) Tort Reform 7) End the Citizens Financial Protection Bureau
…and much more. Do it, or else America enters a massive recession and loses its place as a great nation. And remember - this only lasts for one year. Next year, there will be a whole bunch more demands. You may agree with some of these proposals on their own merit, but do you believe blackmail is an appropriate way to pass them?
There is no American government, at least the kind that we recognize, in the future if this becomes normal. An election is a formality - a dedicated minority of Congressmen can do anything they want, and can avoid losing elections by redrawing their districts. Remember - more than 1 million people voted for Democratic representation in the House in 2012 while electing President Obama and a Democratic Senate. But that didn’t matter because the House is so heavily gerrymandered that Republicans are safe, and from that perch can threaten the solvency of the country they pretend to love.
This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. If it makes you feel better, pretend it is President Ronald Reagan dealing with Nancy Pelosi, and she is threatening a financial catastrophe unless Reagan taxes the wealthiest Americans at 90% and redistributes their wealth to the International Association of Tree Huggers.The point is, our system of government is now structured in a way such that this kind of lunacy is possible.
It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat. You can support health care reform or think it is a bad idea/implementation. That is beside the point. The fact that this much damage can be caused shows that our government is broken structurally. This isn’t as simple as voting people out. We have to change the structure itself. For example, this can all be prevented under these reforms to the way Congress functions:
1)If the ‘Hastert Rule’ is thrown out. That way, it is an open up-or-down vote for legislation in Congress, period. No one person can prevent a vote.
2) If Congress refuses to pass a budget or raise the debt ceiling, then they are all automatically fired and new elections are held. Period.
3) If the lines that divide congressional districts are drawn by an independent, non-partisan 3rd party commission to prevent political bias from entering the process.
Yeah, those 3 things are probably enough to fix it. There is much more that can be done, but those three (which are fair and non-partisan) would go a long way to fixing the mess we are in. We can’t vote away this problem. We have to deal with the fact that our national dysfunction is structural. The script is written no matter who we elect to act out the parts.
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, now is the time to be an American first and stop this kind of exploitation and blackmail by Congress.
A Brief Open Letter to our “Leaders”
Journalists like Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh have recently reported that for the past months Syrian rebel forces have had access to chemical weapons from varying sources, like overrun depots abandoned by Assad’s forces, sarin gas smuggled over the Turkish border, and “mislabeled” canisters supplied by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan. There is abundant evidence that the rebels have and have misused chemical weapons, and Assad consistently denies the use of and shows that he has no practical reason to use his chemical stockpile. Now the UN inspectors have given testimonies that seem to implicate the rebels as the perpetrators. The release of the chemical agents seems to be an accident on account of the rebels improperly handling them. Perhaps our world leaders should actually listen to and educate themselves with as many sources as possible before jumping to a preferred conclusion.
Mr. President or Mr. Secretary, please show Congress, the American people, and the United Nations your conclusive evidence before you ride gung-ho into another Middle East conflict. Evidence for use of chemical weapons by Assad is still missing from the public eye! If the evidence is there, shouldn’t it be in your best interest to reveal it? If you proceed with your assault, you will be actively working against both your best interests in that region and those of your constituents. You will effectively become al-Qaeda’s air force and fuel their operations for years to come. We absolutely should not be involved, and we absolutely should not go to war again for false reasons. If the US engages in armed interventions in Syria, then we lose all remaining credibility as a moral and political authority on the playing field of the world.
America needs to reanalyze its trigger-happy tendencies and instead focus locally on its own problems in government, social wellbeing, basic infrastructures in our country that are rapidly aging to obsolescence, and institutions to actually listen to the voices of the people in an open and positive way. Here’s looking at you, NSA.— Nathan Spotts
On "Brave New World" vs. "1984"
I’m really tired of discussion, and comics that pit these two against one another. And almost every single time, it’s some smug fuck who thinks he’s more hip or intelligent or insightful to note that the less famous of these works is more accurate.
When the reality is - we have both.
Lets not forget, first off, that these works are largely shaped by the experiences of the two men.
Orwell was part of the Indian Imperial Police. He fought in the Spanish Civil War. On the outbreak of World War II, Orwell’s wife Eileen started work in the Censorship Department in London.
Huxley didn’t serve in war. Temporary blindness kept him out of WWI, he did farm labor and later immersed himself in education in medicine. he taught foreign languages and even taught Orwell himself at one point. And while he served a bit in the Air Ministry, he never really did see war.
After the publication of 1984, to give you an example of how long this debate has been going, Huxley wrote Orwell stating:
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.
The comics, much like certain books, draws the conclusion if one was to look at the prophetic works of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Huxley’s work came closer to the truth than Orwell’s.
While the comics makes some correct and astute observations about most of America, some parts of Japan, Europe and a scattering of other places, I feel the book and comic author is in grave error.
What fails to be taken into consideration is that methods of control differs with economic conditions AND in how much a person decides to buy in.
This is why the Matrix (movie) was so genius. The Matrix could be seen as Huxley’s Brave New World. Little workers spending 40 hours a week in cubes so they could have money to overindulge and enjoy their lives. The Matrix was American life. But Neo represented “the one” who didn’t buy into it and who fought back. And for him - the machines used deadly force and oppressive techniques that were much more overt.
Whether you get exposed more often to Brave New World or to 1984 really depends on what economic class you hail from and/or how undone you are with the state of things.
My main three points here are as follows:
- The lower class is more often to get Orwell’s boot (boot - taken from the quote “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever”.) , since they mostly can’t afford Huxley’s spectacle to the fullest extent necessary for control.
- Those of fragile middle class who buy into the spectacle, are made to blame the lower class for their ills, thus becoming part of the Orwell’s “boot”.
- If you are part of the middle class who decides to protest and are no long buying into the spectacle, you also, get the boot.
These things work in tandem. And while I’m sure it’s not entirely like this by design, it is how systems of power have come together.
In America, I guess one would be hard pressed to see 1 and 2 in action. Even a good portion of our working poor maintain enough income, combined with some misplaced priorities, to partake in the spectacle. Most poor people in America, have lives filled with “stuff”. Access to medical care, retirement, affordable transportation and so forth? Probably not. But they have tvs. They have Internet. And they are still sold “cool”.
But if any demographic cannot afford spectacle the way the middle class can that fills the suburbs and cities, it is the poor in this country and if there is any group that see’s the “boot” more often than not? It is the poor. Are the poor more likely to do drugs than the middle class? No. Yet police roam their streets like it’s a war zone and due to the pitfalls of poverty, sometimes it really is. Persons with even minor offences are often made an example of and have ‘the book’ thrown at them in the justice system, while suburban folks are given chance after chance to get their act straight. But often the poor are just a group of people to be kept in fear and under control. From Stop and Frisk that targets them, to getting pulled over for “being black on a friday night”, we see those who are often identified as powerless (as race and economics are usually tied together) behing harassed by government agents in uniform.
But take this idea out to other nations. North Korea, the majority of China, dictatorships through the Middle East and so forth and what do you see? Orwell’s boot making it’s presence be known again and again
Middle Class Not Buying In
One has to look no further than Occupy Wall Street Protests(2), or the WTO protests, or the NATO protests, to see what happens when the (mostly) middle class and working people stop spending their time at the mall or on the couch and start spending their time on the street. See how quickly the mirage of the spectacle fades away to reveal Orwell’s reality behind it almost immediately?
Huxley’s Spectacle is a product of improved economic conditions. That’s all. It’s simply a nicer, more pleasant way of control. It’s easier, nicer and more profitable to pacify than the shackle and beat. But spectacle requires buying power from the populace and a will to buy in. If either of those things falter, the ugly head of ruling by fear, by violence, my militant propaganda – does not take long to come out.
The Collusion of the Boot and the Spectacle
The NSA spying debacle is a perfect example of these two aspects of prophetic dystopian fiction merging. Those in power created products to dazzle us. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Verizon, etc. While we’re engaged in games, online socializing (while disconnecting from our real life communities), while our entertainment has us isolated in our homes, the government is now able to request/demand the information - our GPS coordinates, our phone meta-data, access our emails, our searches, our calendar info, our Google Docs and Dropbox contents, our IMs and SMS messages.
This is a perfect example of both idealologies happening to work completely in tandem. The all seeing Eye of Big Brother being fuelled by us buying into the spectacle, to mindless entertainment.
Entertainment (both in media and online interaction) that is self-forgetting and narcissist(as opposed to art and in-person interactions, that tend to be more self reflective and self-confronting), is the tool that enables corporations that distract us to give the government that oppresses us the information that is needs.
More on the Matrix
the Matrix illustrates the 1984/BraveNewWorld relationship beautifully, I think. While not literary as the previous works, the Matrix in a way, brings it all together.
You can believe in the Matrix and live within it like a happy little sheep. The vast world the Matrix provides is the spectacle. It’s filled with sensations and experiences to keep you passive and easily controlled.
If you wise up to the spectacle? Well, they have agents (the boot) for you then. And anyone plugged in – can be an agent. Just like in this world, where those that buy into the spectacle either empower or become part of the boot willingly and possibly apathetically. This can go as much for the passive consumer or reactionary movements meant to uphold the status quo (Tea Party).
If you don’t believe the Matrix, they need to fix that situation with violence. The agents can attack you or the sentinels can end your physical life.
As a side note, I think one of the most interesting characters in the first Matrix movie is Cypher. The guy who sells them all out to the Agents.
He is a person who wants to do what many, who have had the metaphorical veil of spectacle lifted from their eyes, wish was possible in real life; To go back, when it was simpler and more rewarding.
Cypher remembers how that ignorance of the spectacle was bliss, how he’s tired of reality and he’s willing to help the agents of the Matrix be ‘the boot’ in order to have that back. How many of us liberals, greens, communists, libertarians, anarchists, socialists and other various forms of rabble rousers who supposedly care so deeply, get online, rant, argue over dinner tables, tune in to our pundits and journalists and at the end of the day end up indulging in the music, the tv shows, the consumer habits, the movies that define us? How many of us are never moved to action? How many of us are, see how much of an uphill battle it is and get discouraged? I think we all can relate to Cypher in that way. The desire to go back to indulgence.
For many of the slacktivists of this nation, I would assume, are people who at one time or another wish they never knew of whatever ills and problems they clearly see plague our society – regardless if our supposed solutions are sensible or not. They want to act, but can’t bring themselves too and the government provides us pacifying measures at wh.gov. It’s another means of control. that’s all.
We reflect on our childish ignorance and yearn for the day we could go back to those times when we didn’t know such things. To back to immersing ourself in distraction and ignorance.
But the majority of us I would assume, whether we like the ugly fact or not, relate more to Cypher than we do to the hero, Neo. Cypher ultimately represents our internal struggles to chose spectacle over reality, to chose apathy and the path of least resistance. He represents the people who just want to do their jobs, live their lives, enjoy their tv shows, and enjoy their juicy steak.
How many of us participate in lifestyle habits that we know have an immoral effect on the world? We do it almost mindlessly. All of us. We know that by participating in the spectacle and purchasing sweatshop made trinkets and gadgets here to keep us entertained are funding ‘the boot’ through labor abuses abroad. Our silence and compliace allows the boot to do what is does to others, in an unobstructed manner. We buy entertainment and shrug the seriousness of it off. It’s easier to just retreat back into the spectacle. Even for those of us who aren’t entirely apathetic. We are made to feel powerless against organizations so ruthless, and then are handed comforts, bread and circus to hide within.
This is really the genius of the Matrix. Unlike 1984 and Brave New World, this was no prophecy for the future but rather a metaphor for what we are today. It’s illustrated with the real emotions that Cypher feels and what that says about us, the spectacle and the boot, among many other things. I’m sure I could get lost in my ramblings about such things.
The Matrix joins together much of the themes we see in both literary works. It describes the variety within our submission so well and it does it in a way that really removes a lot of political language that would get people steamed over discussions of religion, class, government, and the market, etc..
Comics that try to dicksize the two works together are missing the point. When left wing protests occur that threaten the powers that be, they are tear gassed and beaten in the streets. Left wing, even peaceful and small, organizations are infiltrated constantly, peaceful protests are incited into riots by agent provacteurs. You don’t see this in right wing protests because they maintain the status quo. They help keep those in power, in power. They are the “Agents” This is why the Tea Party or even Westboro Baptist Church are never infiltrated by law enforcement, it’s why cops don’t show up to those shindigs in riot gear ready to crack skulls. Because they uphold the system, they keep people down from making change.
The skulls that need to be cracked are those who stopped buying in. Those who “unplugged”. Those who gave up on Huxley’s distractions - if even for a phase, and they need be opposed with Orwell’s “boot” to minimize how much change they can really effect.
This isn’t the Matrix. There’s not going to be any hero story for us. It’s an uphill battle - first against ourselves, our petty desires, our petty comforts, our petty narcissism and self indulgence and only after we can confront those internal demons can we stand toe to toe in the streets with those ready to hit us over the head with night sticks.
Only when we start to reject entertainment and a lifestyle that helps us escape, that makes us look outward, that makes us self-forget, and start embracing art and human connection that makes us look within ourselves, confront ourselves, our fears, our ethics, the things that MEAN SOMETHING to us can we reject Huxley’s world, and start fighting Orwell’s world. There’s a reason Reality TV is promoted over poetry. While Twitter is considered a “community” that’s better over your own local organizations. They help you forget yourself and encourage you to endlessly project your ego, rather than look inward. And until we stop doing that, until you “ungplug”, you can’t fight the machines, because you are the machine.