The Blessings of Capitalism — and How they’re killing us

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Last week, I went to Costco, the warehouse retail store. I wasn’t there to buy anything, just filling a prescription. While waiting, I went up and down the aisles, lined with 20-foot high floor-to-ceiling shelving, filled with food, clothing, electronics, personal care, and hundreds of other products.

I was awed by the wealth on display. Shoppers could choose from exotic packaged foods in huge bags (seaweed tempura snacks! Frozen shrimp skewers!), huge bottles of delicious sounding condiments (eight kinds of relish!), 10-pound racks of meat, organic fruits and vegetables, baked goods, clothing from functional to fashionable, computers, camping equipment, four kinds of charcoal, vitamins, chocolates, and a thousand other enticing items.

The shoppers did not appear wealthy. They were ordinary people, buying high-quality stuff that royal families of the past could never have bought, because they didn’t exist. And this was just one store. As of October 2019, there were 782 Costco stores worldwide, 537 of them in the USA, along with thousands of Walmarts, Targets, and other mega-retailers. Where, I wondered, has all this wealth come from?

We could name many sources, but the best answer is: capitalism produced this wealth. Capitalism is much more than the economic system analyzed by Karl Marx in the 19th Century, meaning private ownership of the means of production. It’s a philosophy, a way of life, of looking at the world and ordering societies around private property, competitive markets, and money.

No other way of life ever devised by humans has created so much wealth. Harnessing the problem-solving power of science and technology, liberating the creative energies of entrepreneurs and inventors, scouring the natural world to extract ‘resources,’ driving the labor of working people, capitalism creates a new and richer world every year. In 2020, we have far more people, living longer lives, with more stuff and more entertainment than anyone could have imagined on planet Earth.

How does capitalism create all this wealth? Mainly by turning money into a God-like force that drives human activity. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF,) capitalism comes in many forms, but all of them mold society to center human interaction on core principles including: accumulation of wealth, private property, competition, constant progress, and reliance on markets to make economic decisions. Based on what we can see at Costco, it works, but the natural world, which has no money, is left out of that evaluation.

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Capitalism’s core principles are not universal or scientific. They are cultural and philosophical. Max Weber wrote 115 years ago, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that the belief system of European Protestantism became the core beliefs of modern Western capitalist cultures. People are sinful. Work is good. More is better. Wealth is a sign of God’s favor.

It’s not conservative, it’s not liberal; it’s a religion. A Costco store is a capitalist temple. The shelves are altars; the checkout lines are our communion. It’s not exactly that money has replaced God. The religion of wealth fits right into modern faith, as we can see in the popularity of the Prosperity Gospel, one of the largest evangelical Christian movements. Secular or religious, everyone can worship at Costco.

Religion or death cult

But, there’s a slight downside to this religion. Unrestrained capitalism kills everything. Not by its occasional breakdowns into war and depressions, but through its daily successes. When acquiring wealth becomes the greatest good, the profit motive drives decision-making. Other values are ignored and often subverted if they interfere with accumulation of wealth.

Those ignored values include community, health, and beauty, and all who have no wealth: the air, the water, plants and animals, indigenous people, and workers. Every tree on the hill, every fish in the sea is expendable. Blogger Adam Idek Hastie wrote, “When you understand that under capitalism, a forest has no value until it’s cut down, you begin to see the root of our ecological crisis.”

The wealth on display at Costco was produced at great cost to Nature. Looking at the world’s depletion of water, extinction of species, rising temperatures, spreading deserts, we can see the costs not calculated in capitalism’s equations.

People ignore those costs, because believing that wealth is the greatest good is the mental box in which we all grow up. It’s the water we swim in, the air we breathe; few can break out of it. It’s a box that prevents even basic self-preservation for those who live in it.

In 1977, according to a report in Scientific American, Exxon corporation knew about the dangers of global warming, now usually called climate change. They actually did much of the research themselves. Exxon leaders chose not to prevent global warming but to hide it, so they could keep selling oil, a major cause of climate change.

Their disinformation campaign worked. To this day, even as the planet literally burns, millions of people think global warming is a hoax, thanks to the oil companies’ propaganda.

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                                          California on fire (Image/

People frequently compare Big Oil’s coverup to the cigarette companies’ denying the cancer-causing dangers of tobacco smoke, which kills hundreds of thousands every year. But big tobacco’s victims are only its customers. One hates to see them go, but one can always get more. Big oil’s victims include their own children and grandchildren. It staggers me that people could value profit over their own family, but their behavior shows us the powerful hold the religion of capitalism has on our minds.

It’s not only oil companies; it’s the whole system. Mining companies routinely displace indigenous people, excavate and pollute land and water in search of profitable minerals. Rainforests are logged for expensive timber; they are converted into coconut plantations to produce palm oil, they are burned to make room for cattle ranching. The people and animals who live there die or move into urban slums. Some of those forest-killing companies’ products can be bought at Costco.

It’s not that oilmen, mining executives, and rainforest loggers are evil people. Well, maybe some are, but no more than the average successful person raised inside the capitalist box, where wealth is the ultimate good. They can’t think outside it. And if they can see a bigger picture, they quit and are replaced by others who can’t. That’s why it’s called a system.

Are capitalism’s values our values?

Capitalism claims accumulation of wealth, competition, and private ownership of property as core principles. What’s wrong with these values? Aren’t they natural human desires?

They must be natural, or there would be no capitalists, but they are not our only values or our best ones. Most people also value community, Nature, peace, and the future of their children. We care about others and don’t want mass homelessness, incarceration, and war. We don’t want to live on a desert planet.

So, we are torn. As consumers, we benefit materially from capital’s endless progress, with its new products, its convenience and lower prices. As workers, as human beings and living things, we suffer. We can see that unrestrained capitalism is deadly, but what about the wonderful benefits it provides? Can we get the blessings without the curse?

People are working on it. Books are being written. Indigenous people have been trying to teach industrial societies to consider the impact of all our actions on all of life.

To move away from rule by wealth would require profound change in the way we are governed and the ways we live. Several forms of democratic socialism might be improvements. Cooperatives like Mondragon in the Basque region continue to thrive without capitalism. Perhaps we can attain what James Hurd Nixon calls a True Market Economy, which values all people and Nature, not only material wealth.

At least, we can strive to embody such a path in our personal lives.

Two links to alternatives to capitalism:

The Mondragon Cooperative Movement in Spain. Though they have now incorporated for tax purposes, they still commit to workers, environment, social

Forms of capitalism trying to be sustainable —

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Science Is A 4-Year Old Playing With The World

It needs adults to set limits.

Image courtesy: the

John von Neumann (1903-1957) was one of history’s greatest mathematicians.  His equations helped create both computers and the atomic bomb. He is known as the prime developer of game theory, giving scientists new tools to model social, political, and economic decisions. He published over 150 papers in physics, math, and other areas.

Von Neumann also spent years working to get the USA to launch a ‘preventive war’ against the Soviet Union, to destroy it with nuclear bombs. Based on his study of games like Prisoners’ Dilemma, which models how non-cooperating people make choices, Von Neumann concluded that if two enemy countries both had nuclear weapons, self-interest would drive each of them to use those weapons first. He thought the only scientific, rational thing to do would be to take out the USSR before they had nukes of their own.

This is the kind of thing science comes up with if not restrained by non-scientific thinking or by faith.  Von Neumann described himself as “fiercely anti-Communist,” but didn’t seem to consider how that belief system might affect his thinking. He thought he was advising what was objectively best for the USA. But if nuclear winter theory – which didn’t exist at the time — is correct, the smoke, dust, and radioactivity set off by Von Neumann’s preventive war would have killed all large life-forms on Earth.

Fortunately, Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower refused to launch the preventive war. A few years later, both the US and USSR had developed ‘second strike capability,’ meaning that even if their enemy destroyed their country, they would still have enough remaining nuclear firepower to destroy the aggressor.  This is the strategy called “Mutually Assured Destruction,” and it has prevented all-out war between nuclear powers ever since. Politicians, and not particularly brilliant ones at that, had saved the world from science.

Science does worst when it does well

It’s hard to deny that science, technology, and capitalism have dramatically raised humans’ living standards. Human population has gone up from about 0.6 billion in the year 1600 (when science started) to over 7 billion today. People are living longer; they’re traveling, expressing themselves in amazingly creative ways.  Rulers still start wars and impoverish billions of people, but decade by decade, violent deaths decrease and the numbers not living in poverty increase.

But for the natural world, of which we are a part, the cost of those advances has been enormous, incalculable. Continents have burned; at least half of the Great Barrier Reef has died, according to Australian researchers. Numbers of birds, insects, and other wildlife are down by at least a third, and about 1000 species become extinct each year, according to  The world is getting hotter and hotter, and there is no known way out of that lethal temperature rise.

                               Air pollution EU’s #1 health hazard   Image:

Capitalism’s need for growth and profit may be the force driving the world over a cliff, but science designed the train. As one of 10,000 examples, 19th Century British scientists discovered how to get gold from dirt by pouring poisonous cyanide solution over it. Using this ‘cyanide heap leaching’ method, mining corporations pile up mountains of dirt, derive a tiny amount of gold from it, and leave behind a poisoned landscape and polluted rivers. The people who live there suffer or move away, and the corporation pays a nice dividend to shareholders.

Absent the power of racial capitalism to run the world, this process would not be happening so widely. But it wouldn’t exist at all if chemists and geologists hadn’t invented it.

Making science work for all of us

When indigenous cultures ran the world, mining in general was extremely limited. Not because they scientifically calculated the environmental costs of mining, but because they worshipped the Earth and thought mining an assault on their Mother.  They thought the veins of metals that explorers sought to dig up were the literal veins of Earth, and without them, Nature was crippled and unable to provide as it had before.

But those beliefs weren’t scientific. They were pagan religion which capitalist believers in science thought meaningless.  And, though they were right about the effects of mining, the people who held those beliefs had no power against the capitalists’ guns.  So, the veins got dug out and the land poisoned. Now they’ve gone beyond the veins to mine the whole Earth.  Von Neumann would have been pleased.

My point isn’t to get rid of science or subordinate it to religion. But science is only beneficial when wise people look at the bigger picture beyond knowledge for its own sake, beyond profit or the solution to an immediate problem. The internal combustion engine, which powers most cars and buses, was a brilliant idea, but anyone could see it dirtied the air. So, wiser people might have asked, ‘What will 1,300,000,000 (the current number of cars driving in the world) of these things do to the plants, the animals, our health? Maybe we shouldn’t do this.’

But capitalism doesn’t ask those questions. Corporations see potential profits and they go for them, and anyone in the way is likely to be pushed out or destroyed. When the environmental bills come due, society and Nature, not the capitalists, have to pay them.

So, if scientists, capitalists, and corrupt politicians won’t ask of science, ‘Is this something we should be doing’, who will ask? We’ll need science to have a chance of surviving as a species on a living planet, but what kind of science?

We need people of wisdom to outrank the smart people. Scientists need adults in the room to set limits on their boundless desire for knowledge. We need philosophers and faith leaders, especially indigenous leaders, to make decisions about what to do with scientific advances, technological development and capitalist expansion.

At a time when indigenous people can’t even control what is done to their own land by capitalist science, it’s hard to imagine their having control over science and technology in general. But maybe other non-scientists such as religious leaders could join them. Maybe scientists themselves could come to endorse caution. That’s the kind of revolution we need if humanity and Earth are to survive. Science, yes, but in the service of wisdom.

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Jonah in the 21st Century

Shows us our possibilities today

Jonah in Nineveh

If the Book of Jonah were not over 2500 years old, I would think the author wrote it on an LSD trip. But despite its age, bizarre events and extreme brevity – only 1200 words – Jonah teaches lessons still relevant, maybe crucial today.

Religious teachers usually boil Jonah’s message down to, ‘Just do what God tells you,’ but, as with other Bible stories, you don’t have to believe in God to learn from this book. You can see the whole book as metaphor and still get the point.  Here are three other powerful themes in Jonah, chosen because they hit me personally in this crisis time. Maybe later I’ll write about the whale.

  1. Do what you are called to do, which may not be what you like to do. If you have a calling, a reason for being on Earth, a quest that your heart wants, don’t shy away. The world needs your gifts and your service; holding back isn’t helping anybody.

Jonah was at home in Israel, just chilling, when God told him, “Arise. Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their wickedness has come before Me.” (Jonah 1:2)

But that was a huge ask. Nineveh (near what is now Baghdad) would have been a trip of over 500 miles, requiring a month’s journey, risking death by bandits the whole way. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the biggest, most powerful city in the world at the time, an enemy of Israel, and Jonah didn’t even speak their language.

Quests are often intimidating; whether it’s starting a new career or stopping police violence, or most other things worth doing. They may be difficult; they may be uncomfortable or dangerous. They may require daunting amounts of work for long periods of time, with low probabilities of success.

Your calling may even appear impossible, but if you run away from it, it will torment you for life. In Jonah’s case, he ran the opposite direction and got on a boat headed to the farthest reaches of the world.  It didn’t help; God created a huge storm that threatened to sink the ship – another metaphor –so that the sailors had to throw Jonah overboard to save themselves. Refusing his calling almost cost him his life.

  1. Impossible things can happen – Jonah survived the sea thanks to a giant fish, and he learned his lesson. When God told him again to go to Nineveh, he went.

Now, preaching to the Ninevites was not likely to have much effect. Of the 16 prophets named in the Hebrew Bible, none of them succeeded in getting people to change their bad habits. That’s 0 out of 16, and Jonah had the added handicap of being a foreigner with language problems. What were the chances the 120,000 residents of the richest city in the world would listen to him?

Jonah kept it simple. His only words recorded in the book are: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4)

But to Jonah’s surprise, the Ninevites believed him. “They proclaimed a fast, and great and small alike put on sackcloth” (Jonah 3:5). Then a miracle happened. The king heard about Jonah and declared that all of Nineveh, even the animals, should fast and wear sackcloth and ashes, and cry out to God for mercy. The whole city repented, and God relented. Jonah succeeded where all the other Bible prophets failed.

Are we in Nineveh yet?

When we look at the enormous challenges involved in transforming our cruel, corrupt, environmentally-destructive modern societies into loving, sustainable ones, Nineveh’s transformation is a source of hope. As philosopher Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity said in this TED talk, looked at objectively, it’s almost impossible to imagine society changing so dramatically. From a scientific point of view, it’s hard to see how we’ll be able to stop global warming.

There may be no way it could happen, but perhaps it will happen anyway. It happened in Nineveh. As jazz great Sun Ra said, “Everything possible has been tried and failed. Now it’s time to try the impossible.”

Sun Ra image

  1. The Ninevites are just like you. The MAGA -hat wearers are just like me. When Jonah leaves Nineveh, its walls still standing, with its people reformed and alive, he is not happy with his amazing accomplishment. He’s angry that God didn’t follow through on his threat to destroy the city. God has to show him that the Ninevites are people, too.

Just as God forgave Jonah for his disobedience and sent the fish to rescue him, they – (I don’t know God’s preferred pronouns, so I’m going with they/them) — would forgive the Ninevites, and Jonah would have to accept it.

In his song The Ninevites songwriter Will Fudeman illustrates the problems with Jonah’s typically human desire to feel superior to the people he seeks to change. If we start out with the belief that we are better, smarter, or more enlightened than those with whom we disagree, we will not change anyone or come to peace with them.

If we do not realize that to change the world or change other people, we also have to change ourselves, we will not be effective. We might make things worse. By making people feel attacked or disrespected, we may drive them away from our perspective.

What does Jonah have to say in the 21st Century? How about this: take on the world’s need that calls you, no matter how hard it is. At least you’ll have an adventure. And who knows, seeming miracles do happen.  Maybe they will happen for us, if we learn to treat everyone as if they were people like us.


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When We See Through the Narratives

A better world will come into view

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           photo Michael Easterling

         “We construct a cubicle for ourselves and think that is our life.” Zach Bush MD

We believe that the world as we see it is real, but what if it isn’t? What if our society, our economy, our values, and all the structures we live by are only narratives, stories we tell each other? What would we do without the stories — most of them untrue — that control our lives?

We’re about to find out. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres world leaders, “Covid-19-has been likened to an X-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built. It is exposing-fallacies-and-falsehoods-everywhere: the lie that free markets can deliver health care for all, the fiction that unpaid care work is not work, the delusion that we live in a post-racist world, the myth that we are all in the same boat.”-

Covid-19, the Depression and the rebellions against police violence, are indeed waking people up. All the old narratives, like , and individual ess no longer make sense. How can we believe wealth is based on merit and hard work, when workers classed as are paid minimum wage, while billionaires get free government bailouts? How can health care, housing, and food depend on jobs that don’t exist?

         Stories are Shackles

The old stories have been revealed as shackles that more powerful people put on us. The rules that leave some people in the streets, others in prison, others in mansions; the ideas that bound our parents, their parents, and everyone for 1000 years are going down in flames. As travel writer Kristin Wilson “The pandemic has obliterated our old societal paradigm and shattered what we thought we knew about life.”

Many folks are terrified, because we all need some order in our lives. But scary as it is, when we see through the narratives, we will be free. What will that be like: chaos, anarchy and poverty, or a new future with new narratives that bring us together?

Can you imagine living without scarcity, without enemies or greed? It might not be as radically different as it sounds. of narrative shackles, we’ll probably do a lot of the we do now. We’ll still have to farm, make and fix things, and take care of each other. We’ll just work in a happier, saner, gentler way.

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                             Photo Alicia Eler Minneapolis Star Tribune

Lynne Twist, author of The , says there are three myths about wealth that distort our lives: scarcity, more is better, and the permanence of current social relations. She says the opposites are true. “There is enough. More is not better. Our drive to enlarge our net worth turns us away from discovering and deepening our self-worth…Our behavior is not permanently fixed; we can choose to act differently.”

When we recognize the the world is trying to give us, we won’t have to work so hard or consume so much. We could relax, work to make the world better, and enjoy life.

Crisis Leads to Opportunities

Secretary-General Guterres said, “COVID-19 is a human tragedy but has also created an opportunity to build back a more equal and sustainable world.” Can we take the opportunity this crisis forces on us, and rewrite our society’s stories? It will be hard, but not that complicated, perhaps only two steps:

Step 1: Recognize that the social structures we take for granted: like who , how money is distributed, who owns land and , and how we should relate to each other are only narratives. They don’t come from Nature or from God. People created them, and people do them differently in different places and times.

Step 2: Create new narratives like distributing to everyone. Mr. Guterres called for a New Global Deal “based on the rights and dignity of every human being, living in balance with nature, respect for the rights of future generations, writing off unfair international debts.” Other starter stories could be defining and as human rights. And who knows what other brilliant liberated people might create?

A year ago, such scenarios would have sounded like a cannabis dream. How will the bankers, generals, lords and ladies of our world ever be persuaded to give up the narratives that bring them so much wealth and power? How could ordinary people, however many billions of us rise up, overcome the massive military force and institutionalized power of the ruling classes?

But COVID has enabled us to see past the invisible walls that imprison us. We can see that we don’t have to fight on their battlefield. All we have to do is change the narrative. When people see the that is possible, some of them will drop their guns, take off their helmets or their three-piece suits and join a new narrative that brings more love into their lives.

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Do people really change like that? Individuals can. Psychologists tell me that therapy is the process of helping people to see their own narratives and let go of them. Therapists have so much work because people rarely let go of the stories that make them miserable, until they reach a level of pain they can no longer tolerate.

Could the same be true of a society, of a culture or all humanity? It sounds a huge project, but look around. Our social narratives are not only causing us pain; they are literally killing us. Every day, more people disbelieve the constant fear stories they are told about China, Russia, terrorism, crime, etc. We have been lied to for so long, about so many things, that ever-fewer people take our rulers’ word for anything.

When nobody believes the old stories, they will die. And we will have a chance to live. So, speak up. It’s not enough to mumble truth to power. Shout it out to everyone.

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More on the society coming into view:
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible and
Sacred Economics
by Charles Eisenstein

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life Barbara Kingsolver

Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word Linda Christensen

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Who Would You Be Without Yourself?

Who would you be without yourself?

If you took off all your coats

Of identity, of history, of trauma

The stories you were taught,

Those you invented and

Stood naked in the world on a warm day?

How would you see your life

Without the narratives of money

Of education, of success and failure?

If you had no nationality, no race

No gender, no age, or if those things

No longer mattered?


How would the world look

Unmarred by expectation

By judgment, fear, analysis?

Would you be overwhelmed by its beauty?

Don’t be afraid – you are beautiful too.

You will fit right in.


How would you move,

Without the weights you carry

The braces and splints you wear

To protect your broken places

The narratives that bind you

The need for others’ approval


How would it feel to be free?


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Gaslight for America

Letter received from a US intelligence agency:

Dear Patriot,
Thank you for defending your government and your corporations from disinformation and fake news. Each day, our shared understanding of reality is being challenged. Each day, new stories and facts undercut our approved narrative. We need good citizens like you to make sure alternative information is not seriously considered by any except a lunatic fringe.

One way to control information is called ‘gaslighting,’ meaning to push people to deny their own experience and believe things for which they have no evidence. The term comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight, in which a man (Charles Boyer) plays a series of tricks on his new wife (Ingrid Bergman) to convince her she is crazy. Some of the tricks involve the gas-powered light system.

Boyer torments Bergman to get her into an insane asylum, so he will have the house to himself. Sometimes, your government has to do things like that, too. The USA is our house, and we need to protect our American way of life, even if it means making a few people crazy.

Gaslighting is not easy, though; people don’t readily disbelieve their senses or embrace ideas without evidence. That’s why we prepared this handy list of strategies you can use — the same ones we use — to maintain your narrative.

  1. Insult people who don’t believe the approved story. Call them conspiracy theorists, crackpots, Covidiots, or come up with your own name. Ask them how their tinfoil hat is fitting.

2. Yell ‘Science’ at anyone who disagrees. Although science normally involves evaluating all sides of an issue, we define science as whatever evidence supports the government’s story. Claim “mountains of evidence” to support the official position, or call those who disagree ‘science deniers.’ Example: Follow the science that says hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work for COVID-19; ignore the science that says it does.

3. Use terms like ‘discredited,’ ‘disproved,’ and ‘debunked’ to describe noncompliant beliefs, without providing any evidence of where they are wrong. Example: claims that 5G wireless radiatio causes health problems are ‘debunked,’ even though there has been little or no research.

4. Don’t be afraid to change your story, and never acknowledge that you’ve changed. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda were our friends in Afghanistan, then our enemies in the War on Terror, now our friends again in Syria. Truth can change; people forget. President Trump changes his message every day, and nobody seems to notice.

5. Don’t be afraid to be absurd or ridiculous. Look at what we convinced people to believe on September 11, 2001. A hijacker’s passport miraculously ‘found on the ground’ near the World Trade Center. Three steel skyscrapers crashed straight down, which no other skyscraper in history ever has done without a controlled demolition. An airplane ‘crashed’ in Pennsylvania, leaving virtually no wreckage. It doesn’t matter how absurd our story is: just keep acting like it’s completely rational and call disbelievers conspiracy theorists.

image: architects and engineers for 911 Truth

6. Repetition — The more often people hear something, the more likely they are to believe it. That is why we tell the same story in 100 different ways on multiple media platforms. Remember that a story can be disproven many times, and people will still believe it if it’s said often by an authoritative voice.

Example: liberal media kept repeating Russia collusion narratives about the 2016 election, despite every single specific claim being shown baseless. After three years and several investigations, when all the charges fell through, these platforms acted like those years were no big deal. Our media still blames Russia for everything and attacks President Trump as a Russian puppet, and people still believe them.

7. Cancel the skeptics — Point to something they have said in the past, on any topic, that can be used to make them seem ridiculous, racist, or some other disqualifying trait. Or point to some other person they have associated with who is so disagreeable that mere association disqualifies the speaker. Example: when Rep. Tulsi Gabbard appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox TV show, liberals immediately said her antiwar message was now out of bounds, because “She went on Fox!”

8. If you’re in a position of authority, sympathetically tell people you approve of their demands and understand their position, while doing nothing at all to address their grievances. They must be crazy if they can’t see you’re on their side.

9. Remember, the goal isn’t to convince people of your position. It’s to make them doubt themselves, doubt reality, and ultimately to give up and say, “Whatever.”

We can’t overstate how important this work is. Facts in specific cases may clash with our stories, but we must uphold the larger truth — that America, our government, and our corporations are good and our opponents are evil. Winston Churchill said, “Truth is so precious it must be attended with a bodyguard of lies.” You are part of truth’s bodyguard. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of America!

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Without Stories

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And hardest of all

See yourself as you are

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The Dragon and the Bug

Once there was an enormous multi-headed dragon, stomping all over the world, stealing what it wanted, destroying what it didn’t like. Some admired it, most hated it, but all feared it. Even the dragon’s heads lived in fear of each other, because there is no honor among thieves or solidarity among monsters.

Nations and people talked constantly about how to resist the dragon, who they called Sam – though it had many other names – but they had a tough assignment. Sam’s heads left no doubt they would destroy the whole world if they felt threatened. Like most dragons, they hoarded resources and money, and with those assets installed and controlled leaders in other countries who would do their bidding.

Sam’s heads constantly spun webs of stories, with which to distract, confuse, and terrorize. Different heads told slightly different tales, though all agreed on the main points. These stories were its source of power.

One head glittered with gold and sparkled with dollar signs. That one spun narratives about money, how it was a natural thing like food or air, and people who had more of it deserved to live better and tell those with less what to do. More than that, money was alive, like a garden or a forest. If you held on to it, it naturally grew. If you didn’t have it, you suffered. So, even though it was only a made-up story, most people focused on and evaluated their lives by money, which made them miserable, because a few people controlled nearly all of it and didn’t share.

Another head was shaped like a missile and bristled with guns. It created horror stories of enemies in places far and near, of diseases and disasters that would come if they let their guard down. One head wore a white sheet and showed videos about how people who looked different were inferior and posed threats. Another appeared made of special effects and encouraged people to spend their days being entertained. One looked like a donkey for some reason, and one like an elephant. All of them had the same story about work: that it was necessary, the most important thing in life, but should be as miserable and poorly-paid as possible. These heads and others tried to show the world an intimidating collective face, but often fought each other in courts, media, and elections, or by assassination.

People living in Sam’s domain were of two minds about identifying with a dragon. The heads kept telling them that they were the greatest people in the world, and some believed those stories, even as their lives became meaner and more desperate. They clung to Sam’s narratives, and attacked anyone who challenged their chosen stories.

Propagandized as they were, the people might still have been able to fight the heads, but they were too divided. Some people supported one head, and some supported another, and constant fights broke out between them. The heads hired some people and dressed them in uniforms with guns to suppress the others, and a vast chain of prison camps sprang up in towns and villages across the land, with some residents caged and others paid to control them.

Sam seemed invincible. It was falling apart inside, but what could people do? They didn’t know the monster was held together by nothing more than stories and that those stories were increasingly disbelieved. They were too afraid, confused, and divided to fight back, and they lacked alternative narratives of their own. Then, when all seemed hopeless, there came a magic bug.


The bug’s name was Corolla, and in large doses, it could be fatal. Most people were scared of Corolla, but they were familiar with death and disease and prepared to go on living with this one. Some of the heads had different ideas, though. They thought a new bug could be a powerful weapon. They could use it to drive people into their homes while they stole larger fortunes and increased their power. Some heads thought their story of Corolla would win people to support them over other heads with different stories.

No one knew where Corolla came from. Some said from bats in caves; some from mammals in markets; some from the laboratories of the military. Some blamed distant countries; others blamed Sam. Whatever, various monster heads grabbed onto it and used it like a wrecking ball. They swung it back and forth, closing cities down, opening them up, blaming each other for the death and destruction.

Soon, most of the businesses, jobs, entertainment, and schools that made up Sam’s inner world lay in broken heaps. People who could still work, worked for less, slept in the street, ate what they could. It got harder for Sam to stomp around the world or pretend to be great when its insides were in so much pain.

At first, few noticed that their narrative shackles were crumbling along with their lives. How could people believe that wealth was based on merit and hard work, when workers deemed essential were paid minimum wage, while billionaires got free bailouts? How could people’s housing, food, and healthcare depend on jobs that didn’t exist? It made more sense that money should be a thing distributed to all, and people demanded universal income, healthcare, housing and education.

But Sam’s heads could not accept those demands; they would tear down the narrative structure that held the monster together. If people understood that scarcity is a myth, that private property, meritocracy, and race were only narratives without objective reality, Sam’s cruelty within and its wars without could not be justified. The heads turned against the people and against each other, seeking to keep their structure intact through force, creating a new narrative in which most of the people were enemies.

They kept slinging Corolla back and forth, and with each swing, things got worse. It was almost like the bug was inside Sam’s heads, making them do self-destructive things, as some germs can do to their hosts. People got hungrier, more desperate, lost their fear. They started seeing each other as brothers, sisters, and cousins instead of as rivals and threats.

They stopped accepting police violence, resisted, and some police eventually decided to serve people, not just protect property. They put down their guns and started acting as uniformed social workers, instead of as an occupying army. People won basic income, and suddenly jobs that killed souls and bodies had no takers. The owners had to make jobs better, and basic income and better jobs spread around the world. Of course, prices then rose, so people had to consume less, but they realized, after a moment’s media-inspired panic, that this, too, was a good thing. They tore up their lawns and parking lots and planted gardens to feed each other.

Corolla was still making people sick, and the people saw that guaranteed income was not enough to beat it, that we would have to have functioning communities and a government that cared. Then they realized that a caring government wouldn’t be killing people around the world. The soldiers demanded to leave their overseas bases and come home to help.

Because people were now collaborating instead of fighting each other, they had energy for caring about the animals and plants, the forests and water. Over time, the multi-headed dragon gradually shrank and transformed. Life became more pleasant; people started remembering joy and sharing their burdens and their love.

                                     Photo Alicia Eler Minneapolis Star Tribune

Obviously, my use of past tense has been a literary device. This story is happening now. It’s present tense, and many chapters remain to be written. We are here; we are desperate, but now is the time. Thanks to the bug, the fortress is no longer invulnerable. The monster’s inner weaknesses are exposed. Join together, fight together, reach out to each It’s present tense, and many chapters remain to be written. We are here; we are desperate, but now is the time. Thanks to the bug, the fortress is no longer invulnerable. The monster’s inner weaknesses are exposed. Join together, fight together, reach out to each other. Let’s write a blockbuster ending to our story.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @davidsperorn on Facebook or my blog The Inn by the Healing Path

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Midnight in the Imperial City


The walls of the imperial city look imposing

Magnificent, eternal, impenetrable.

But look closer; they are only video images

Projected on tattered cotton screens.


The weapons of the imperial city

Are fearsome, ingenious and powerful, but all they do

Is destroy. They can’t build or maintain anything,

So in the end, they always lose the war.


The City’s voice once crooned songs of power, freedom, progress.

Now it screams discordant messages of fear.

Of outsiders, of each other, of a hundred dangers

Lurking outside and within the walls.


Inside the City, streets reek of desperation.

Hungry people huddle in alleyways, while up the hill

The rich are feasting, pipes corroding

Bridges crumbling, Only the video games still work.


The emperors rely on their increasingly

Warlike police, but those men are starting

To ask, ‘What are we defending here?’

Even they see the City’s ways are not their own.

                                   Thai police join protests —

So why is the City still standing?

Its fantasy machine still has power; it

Divides people, confuses and frightens them

We have had no alternative, only old voices with stale messages.


But now there are New voices with new ideas

People willing to say what was off-limits a year ago.

Some of them are getting elected.

As people become more angry and desperate,

.The magic bullet called Corona

Has canceled the distractions and excuses.

Dawn approaches. The time has come

To bravely speak our dreams into reality.

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Not Going Back

Do Not Fear

Now you and I are on the run
Pursued by monsters real and imagined
Driven by fear, we stand at the edge
Of a wilderness, strange roars in the distance
Storms whirling around us.
And people are saying to each other
We can’t stay here, and we can’t go on.
We’re scared to death, and some are
Actually dying. We must get back to normal!

But a few youths, the most abused or the
Bravest ones, say they can’t go back.
They won’t go back.
‘People back there are locked in their houses,’
They remind us. ‘They’re out of work, depressed, scared.
Forests and oceans are dying.
Bombs are dropping. We refuse.
To do normal; we couldn’t if we tried.’

They set off into the jungle. Will you
Follow them? Or will you try to go back
To where workers are disposable,
Where health care is unaffordable, but bombs
Are free to those who drop them.
Is this the world you want?
Because COVID is our chance to change.

In the land of normal, all that matters is profit
and loss. Not health, beauty, truth, not
Art or justice. Black lives don’t matter, nor do
Anyone else’s. Only money matters,
And money is just a story. Why go back
to a story that is killing us?

Can we follow the brave ones; can we
Come together: races, sexes, nationalities,
Ages, orientations, religions? Can we
Let go of the stories our rulers tell
To terrify us, to keep us divided and in line?


Will you brave the wilderness
With me? Connect with Nature, love
The animals and plants, and each other.
Face down the guns of the lost-soul armies
Panicked inside their helmets. Face
Loss of income, home, freedom, safety and
Embrace the future beyond the wilderness?

We can’t go back to normal. Normal collapsed
For a reason. We need income basic to life,
Given to All. We need health care, housing, food.
We can afford all this, because scarcity is a lie
The rulers tell us to justify their own wealth.

So many questions, barriers, but we have brilliant,
Creative people to guide us. The important thing,
The only thing, is to commit to the journey. The way
Forward Is frightening, but the only way. We need
To be heroes, live with love and courage because we’re
Not going back to normal. There’s nothing there for us.
Be brave.

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