Cancel The Bogus Debt

Photo by Ruth Enyedi on Unsplash

Why should poor people always owe rich people?

Living in communities, people owe each other all the time. Sometimes I give you a ride; sometimes you bring me dinner. Society is a network of obligations that keeps us from falling into isolated desperation.

Such obligations don’t become “debt” until we put a money value on them. Suddenly, instead of infinite ways to repay a kindness, there is only one, money. Over time, according to anthropologist David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5000 Years, those who lent money (the creditors) developed a state with the power to collect their debts. Then debt became violence. Borrowers became liable to lose their homes, their land, and their freedom.

That doesn’t mean debt is a bad thing, but it does mean that some debts are illegitimate and shouldn’t exist. Illegitimate debt means debt acquired at no fault of the borrower. It was imposed on them; they were swindled into it, or the creditors just made it up. Miners trapped in debt to the company store had illegitimate debt. Medical expenses, taxes, fees and fines are imposed; dishonest mortgages like the “subprime” loans that caused the crash of 2008 are swindles.

Even if debts start off legitimate, high interest rates and compound interest can cost borrowers far more than the benefit they received from the loan. They’re just transferring money to the rich, like many people’s credit card debts and student loans do.

Right now, citizens, governments, and businesses are drowning in levels of debt that would have been unimaginable even a generation ago. Because of debt, the rich have become inconceivably rich, while the poor are going hungry and homeless or being jailed for nonpayment. Economist Michael Hudson says that Western capitalism has morphed from a system of production and markets into a system of debt creation and collection. This is why we can’t compete with countries like China who actually produce things.

A brief history of debt

Indigenous people had no debts. They had obligations to each other. With the rise of agriculture and cities, loans accounted in money and charging interest enabled economies to grow, but they caused great suffering. The invention of interest made debt harder to repay. Then came compound interest, in which the creditor charges the borrower additional interest on the interest they already owe. The creditor’s money is making money for them, and the borrower falls deeper into debt.

Graeber describes how this widening chasm threatened early agrarian societies such as Babylon and Sumer, in what is now Iraq. When peasants got into debt; creditors took their land or their cattle, and often sold their children into slavery to pay off loans. Farmers were driven away to become nomads, and the food supply collapsed.

Eventually, creditors stopped selling children into slavery in most places, but replaced that practice with debtors’ prisons. Debtors often died in prison in utter misery. Debtors’ prisons never disappeared. According to Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, they changed their name and are growing rapidly in America today. According to the Federal Trade Commission, debt collection cases now make up the majority of many states’ criminal cases. People are being sent to prison for parking tickets, or for an unpaid credit card debt.

What Is illegitimate debt?

Medical expenses, taxes, fees and fines are often incurred without much choice. High compound interest rates can make debts unpayable, as with mortgages and student loans. I’ll come back to these individual bad debts later, but first I want to look at the far more damaging and dishonest debt between nations.

Nearly all the debt the poor countries “owe” the rich countries represents theft by the rich. The model case was the catastrophic debt imposed on Haiti when Haitian slaves overthrew their French masters in 1804. Instead of the defeated masters having to pay their former slaves for the vast wealth they had created and the suffering they had endured, French, English, and American threats of invasion forced the Haitian government to compensate their masters for winning freedom from them.

The 150 million francs they were forced to pay (equivalent to $21 billion in today’s money) to prevent the restoration of slavery was far more than they could deliver. They had to borrow to make payments, incurring interest, which was compounded, so no matter how much they paid, the principal shrank very slowly, if at all. That debt wasn’t paid off for 150 years and sunk Haiti, once one of the world’s wealthiest islands, into utter misery and poverty.

Most 21st century international debt is equally bogus. John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hitman about his years as a “strategic consultant” working with countries in the global South “We go into a country; we make this big loan. American companies go in and build an electrical system or ports or highways, and these would basically serve just a few of the very wealthiest families in those countries. Most of the loaned money comes back to the United States; the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves.”

Poor countries’ leaders don’t take these loans because they’re stupid. Western economic “consultants” like Perkins try to persuade or bribe them. If that fails we threaten them, and if they still say no, we overthrow them with a coup, assassinate them or invade and destroy them, as in Iraq and Libya.

Once a country is in unpayable debt, they will be forced to go to institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank for new loans to repay outstanding loans. The IMF will impose a structural adjustment program, (SAP), typically involving cutbacks to government services and employment and full opening of their internal markets to imports from their creditors. The local economy inevitably shrinks and their debts grow deeper.

Everything the global South “owes” is illegitimate.

                                            Photo by Jonathan Kho on Unsplash

Illegitimate Individual debts

Our culture tends to treat poor people the way Wall Street treats poor nations. We blame people for being in debt. Debt is a source of guilt and shame; the debtor made bad decisions or doesn’t work hard enough. But much personal debt is imposed by an unjust society.

Taxes have been a major source of debt for thousands of years. Some tax money goes for needed services, but much of it goes for things the taxpayer would never choose to buy, such as military adventures (historically the main use of tax money.)

Medical debt — is frequently outside the debtor’s control. Nobody chooses to get sick or be in an accident. Patients don’t make their own decisions about care. (Doctors and hospitals do that.) Most countries have government support for medical expenses; we have GoFundMe and 500,000 medical bankruptcies a year.

Student debt — According to the US Department of Education, about 43 million Americans owe a total of $1.4 trillion in student loans (an average of $32,000 each.) Because of compound interest, a student loan that seemed reasonable can become unmanageable. If one misses a payment, the late fee gets added to the principal and starts having interest charged on it. The American Civil Liberties Union reports on a truck driver whose $2500 federal driving school loan had “mushroomed to $12,000 with interest and fees,” despite his efforts to pay it off while supporting a family.

Legal debt — States around the country are charging people money for being arrested. In North Carolina, and many other states, prisoners have to pay room-and-board for nights spent in jail, crime lab fees if the police sent specimens, and a fee for appearing in court. If a convicted person is released on probation, they may have to pay for their own probation officers and drug tests to prove they are sober. Parents who have children taken away by Child Protective Services have to pay for foster care in many states.

● Some cities and counties and some police departments fund themselves with fines and tickets. Poor people can be fined for letting their grass grow too high or walking in the street. As with parking tickets, these fees will go up if not paid promptly, which many poor folks are not in a position to do, and if not paid, people can be jailed for nonpayment

Credit card debt is sometimes legitimate, sometimes not. Under influence of non-stop advertising and media expectations, people often choose to buy things they don’t need on credit. But the compound interest and late fees are not legitimate.

Illegitimate debt must go!

As the people of Babylon found out 5000 years ago, interest-bearing debt tends to grow and impoverish a whole society. We can see exactly that process happening now, sinking the world in poverty and environmental chaos while creditors become billionaires. These problems aren’t new, and ancient solutions could still work.

● Cancel bogus debt (called Jubilee in the Bible)  — massive forgiveness of all illegitimate debt, especially international debt and legal system-related debts.

● Strip interest payments from consumer debt. Once someone has paid back the principal on a student loan, credit card, or mortgage, plus maybe a 5% service charge, their debt should be considered paid.

● Close debtors’ prisons. Jailing people for owing money is unjust and benefits only the prison industry.

● Eliminate compound interest. Why should money make more money at worker’s expense?

I know this is less a political program than a vision. Of course, capitalists will rage and claw against any forgiveness of debtors. Debt creation is what they do. Their system might well collapse without it.

But for most of us, and for our planet, the system has already collapsed. Get out of it! Stop paying, stop buying on credit, demand debtors be released and bogus debts be canceled, and we’ll see what happens.

Learn more

A powerful and disturbing essay
A Pound of Flesh: The Criminalization of Private Debt, ACLU

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber

“In jail for being in debt,” Star Tribune
“Debtors’ Prisons, Then and Now: FAQ,” The Marshall Project
The Steep Cost of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines The Brennan Center
Unjust Debt Goes to the Heart of International Inequality, The Guardian
The Long Fight Against Unjust Taxes Wall Street Journal
China’s Fortune Cookie vs. America’s debt economy — Michael Hudson

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Take These Jobs And Shove ‘Em

We need basic income and real work, not bullshit jobs.

                            The face of office work.  Image from Alamy

“Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.” Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau wrote those words in 1863, so he never got to see how much stupider and more damaging jobs would become in the 21st Century. Throwing rocks over a wall, then throwing them back might seem meaningful and rewarding compared to sitting in an office writing reports nobody reads, cold calling people to sell insurance, defending a predatory corporation in court, or any of the 50% or more of jobs whose own workers class them as “bullshit.”

Millions of current jobs are worse than meaningless. David Graeber, recently deceased anthropologist author of Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, wrote that “our capitalist system rewards those who destroy value over those who create it, paying higher wages to consultants, marketing experts, and creators of financial products than nurses, teachers, and sanitation workers.”

While white-collar jobs tend to be meaningless, a lot of working-class blue collar jobs also serve no good purpose. “Good jobs” building oil pipelines or cutting down forests, are not making the world a better place for anyone.

We need to do away with bullshit jobs. They can be replaced by a strong universal basic income (UBI) program that would enable people to do the immense caretaking that people, animals, plants, and our planet need, or do whatever creative things they are called to do.

And here’s the reason I write this article: the rich ALWAYS say we can’t afford UBI. We don’t have the money, or it would cause massive inflation. But the clear truth is that we ALREADY waste more money than UBI would cost, paying for meaningless jobs. Just give us the money and skip the BS.

What makes a bullshit job?

Dr. Graeber defined a bullshit job as a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence, even though, as part of the conditions of employment, they feel obliged to pretend that this is not the case.” He says that, ironically, bullshit jobs tend to be higher-paid and get more respect than useful work. (Think how society treats corporate vice-presidents vs. the farm workers who feed them.)

It’s not all good for the privileged. “Those who work in bullshit jobs,” says Graeber, “such as middle management, PR, HR, marketers, lawyers, lobbyists, financial consultants, are often surrounded by honor and prestige; they are respected as professionals, well paid. Yet secretly they are aware that they have achieved nothing … they feel it’s all based on a lie — as, indeed, it is.”

                                             Image all over the Internet

Graeber was surprised to find out “just how hard it was for so many people to adjust to what seemed like minor problems such as boredom and sense of purposelessness in life. Why couldn’t they just say, ‘Okay, so I’m getting something for nothing. Let’s just hope the boss doesn’t figure it out!”

“But no, the overwhelming majority reported themselves to be utterly miserable. They reported depression, anxiety, psychosomatic illnesses that would magically disappear the moment they were given what they considered real work; free of an awful, sadomasochistic workplace dynamic.”

Studies that came out after Graeber’s articles went viral found that 37% of UK residents thought they had bullshit jobs, while 13% were “not sure.” 40% of Dutch employees acknowledged that their positions had no good reason to exist. Graeber says these numbers are artificially low, because many employees never see the outcome of their company’s business so can’t appreciate how useless it is.

Not just office workers

Jobs can be bullshit on at least four levels.

● Some jobs have almost no duties; you only have to be there, perhaps waiting on your executive boss in some way. Or the duties are manifestly useless, like sitting in meetings where nothing actually gets done.

● Sometimes the job is real, but the entire company is bullshit. It might be a tax dodge which only exists to launder money, or a social agency which pays professionals to make being poor into a full-time job.

● Sometimes the whole industry is bullshit. Think about hedge funds or the financial institutions that caused the 2008 crash. We have offices full of financiers who move money around and take pieces of it for themselves. Can anyone identify a valid social reason for their existence? Yet they employ thousands of people.

● Some companies and industries are worse than useless; they actively destroy the world in which we live. Military industries, mining, oil and gas companies are obvious examples, but there are many more.

At any level of employment, if the job is stupid or does no good, workers won’t be happy and society receives no benefit. Think of a lumbering company whose business plan is clear-cutting old growth forests. They will have a large group of people doing the actual cutting, though fewer than before since bulldozers have replaced many of them. There will be supervisors telling them what to do, office workers keeping their records and writing their paychecks. Above them are executives who buy, lease and sign deals to gain access to the trees and to sell them. Above them are financiers who may never have seen an old growth tree or a logger, but rake in profits on the company stock they own.

All those jobs are destructive. Some may feel emptier than others, some are better paid than others, but are any of them meaningful?

                   A coal mine that used to be a mountain.  Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

    Where did all the bullshit jobs come from?

Why are there so many bullshit jobs? The short answer is “Mechanization.” Every year, hundreds of thousands of workers are replaced by machines. This process has gone on since the start of the industrial revolution, and the pace is accelerating. Some decent new jobs are created, but not nearly enough to keep up.

But there’s a second answer — the system needs to keep people working to keep profits coming and workers from rebelling. That’s why we have new high-rise office towers while old ones sit empty and the construction workers who build them have high rates of suicide. We build new housing developments while millions of homes and apartments are vacant. Profits depend on keeping the wheels turning, even if the jobs are bullshit and we’re heading for a cliff.

Why do people work meaningless jobs? Maybe fear of homelessness and hunger drives us to take jobs we don’t want and stay in jobs we hate. Society looks down on the unemployed poor, calls them lazy, and treats them cruelly. Society runs on the Protestant work ethic which condemns idleness as a great sin. Keep pushing those papers and draining those wetlands or burn in Hell! We oppress Nature and workers at the same time.

We Need Worldwide Basic Income Now

Capitalism has created immense wealth. But the wealth has never been shared. It’s used to enrich the few and to push people into ever-more-pointless bullshit jobs.

As we’ve seen, many jobs are unnecessary anyway. Capitalism makes people do them to survive, because rulers fear what workers would do “if they had security and time,” as Dr. Graeber puts it. Society produces more than enough wealth to replace bullshit jobs with UBI.

Then people can do work the world needs. Indigenous people see our purpose on Earth as caretaking Nature and providing for future generations. We must heal the grievous wounds industrial civilization has inflicted, grow more trees and food, caretake for animals, plants, people, water and Earth, and enjoy Life.

Once freed from unnecessary bullshit jobs, what wonders of beauty and science could people create? How much fun could we have? UBI should be implemented worldwide. Studies show UBI doesn’t make people lazy; it frees them to be better.

Some things to do about a bullshit job: If you’re ready, quit. It’s OK to not have a job. Join or form a worker-owned cooperative to do something good. If your job is useful but could be much healthier, organize a union. Fight for UBI. Join or support an Indigenous-led group fighting for our Earth.

Because of climate change, time is short. Why don’t we start healing now?

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Why We Need Water

Capitalism destroys the source of life; Indigenous resistance tries to save it.

                        Photo by Jolanda Kirpensteijn on Unsplash

Thousands have lived without love. Not one without water.” W.H. Auden

Water is the most precious substance on Earth. There is nothing else like it in the universe. Without water, there is no life; with water, life is everywhere. Indigenous people know water is life, and they are putting their lives on the line to protect water from the profit-driven machines polluting and destroying it.

For capitalists, oil and minerals are valuable, but water is worthless until you put it in a bottle to sell. For people and other living things, the opposite is true. Along with climate, water protection is the battle of our lifetimes, a huge part of the struggle to keep a livable world.

What happens without water

According to Science Daily, water shortages already affect about 2.8 billion people each year. They report, “Water scarcity is being driven by growing freshwater use and depletion of usable freshwater resources.” IOW, water is being wasted and polluted, while conditions such as climate change and deforestation decrease the amount of fresh water available.

When people do not get enough water, our bodies do not function. Water has the unique ability to dissolve everything our body needs — e.g. foods, proteins, hormones, and waste products — and move them in and out of our cells and bodies. About 60% of a human body is water, and while we can survive with percentages as low as 45%, going too low is unhealthy and sometimes fatal.

All plants and animals we eat depend on water to grow and live. So water scarcity leads to food scarcity. Sometimes, water gets polluted with chemicals or metals or with too much organic waste from farms or cities. Plants, animals, and humans can no longer use polluted water. Yet industry and big agriculture continue to treat water as a free waste dump and a free resource for their machines. They can do this because our governments, which they control, allow them to.

Ways capital wastes water include:


Oil and gas are the biggest threats to water. Oil coats the surface of water and poisons creatures who live there. Domestic oil flows through pipelines that often leak, damaging whatever land or water they occupy. But the people whose water and land is being polluted get no benefit from the oil. These people are often the indigenous residents, and they are the leaders in fighting to protect water for all of us.

In 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux and supporters from around the world fought a year-long struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline that Energy Transfer Corporation was building through their land and under the Missouri River. Police beat and arrested the water protectors, but they stopped the pipeline until President Donald Trump took office and ordered construction be completed.

More pipelines are being built, and indigenous people are still resisting. Currently the pipeline to stop is called Line 3, built by the Enbridge Corporation. Line 3 will cross 227 lakes and the Mississippi River. A movement is growing to stop it, but the pipeline keeps growing, its owners ignoring treaty rights and attacking water protectors.


Hydrofracturing (“fracking”) means injecting large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals, under high pressure into underground cracks containing oil or natural gas. Fracking expands the cracks, allowing extraction of the gas or oil.

Fracking also permanently pollutes the 2 to 10 million gallons of water used each time a well is fracked. (Most wells need to be fracked many times.) It’s a straight-up trade of water for oil, but water is needed for life. Oil isn’t.

Industry groups say water used in fracking will not contaminate drinking water, but according to this article in Scientific American,”the entire groundwater resource in the Wind River Basin (in Wyoming) is contaminated with chemicals linked to fracking.”

Livestock in areas surrounding wells have died. As with pipelines, the affected people don’t benefit. The fracked fuel is transported by pipelines, usually to some port from which it is sold to Asia or Europe.

Environmentalists, farmers, and indigenous people are leading the fight against fracking, from Romania to the UK to the Dakotas, basically all over the world.

Deep sea drilling

There’s a lot of oil under the ocean, but because it requires miles-long extraction pipes, and leaks cannot be easily repaired, deep sea oil is extremely dangerous to extract. That doesn’t stop the fossil fuel companies, who create spill after spill, poisoning fishing waters for everyone.

The inevitable results are disasters like the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizons explosion in 2010, which killed 11people, polluted the northern Gulf of Mexico and the marshes of southern states for years. Even now, according to an article in Nature, fish in the Gulf are contaminated. Meanwhile, even deeper, more dangerous undersea wells are being drilled.

Other forms of pollution

Companies pollute water with products other than oil and gas. Mines, chemical, and manufacturing plants toxify the water of millions. Plastic in water kills fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles. Other major sources of non-chemical pollution are factory farms, with their tons of organic waste that create life-killing harmful algal blooms (HABs)in the water exposed to it.

Who protects water? How can we help?

How can we protect water, which means protecting life itself? We have leaders. We need to follow indigenous leadership and relearn our connection to the world. Earth and all living things are our relatives. Only when we see water as sacred will we care enough to risk everything to save it.

      March to protect indigenous women Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash

Some indigenous water protectors looking for help:

Stop Line 3 is organizing people to come to the Great Lakes area and put themselves on the line.

Honor the Earth seeks to protect the Great Lakes from pipelines and mines. They invite people to come and block pipeline construction or to get involved in other way.

Some good groups that support indigenous resistance with advocacy and financial help:

The Water Protectors Legal collective “provides legal support and advocacy for Indigenous people, the Earth, and climate justice movements.”

Cultural Survival brings together indigenous people and their supporters from around the world.

The Seventh Generation Fund “protects the Rights of Mother Earth through Indigenous stewardship and traditional knowledge while advancing Indigenous Peoples’ right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” Most of their support is financial.

Survival International “fight for tribal peoples’ survival. We stop loggers, miners, and oil companies from destroying tribal lands, lives and livelihoods across the globe.” They have won some amazing victories over industrial giants.

The Red Nation and their book The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth have a 2-point program to repair the climate crisis.

                     Water is life. Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

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Want Sanity? Boycott Corporate Media

They lie, terrify, confuse and divide us

              Media coming to get you Photo by Matt Chesin on Unsplash

The world’s top “influencers” aren’t sexy people on TikTok. They are the CIA, the military-industrial complex, and the corporate owners of broadcast and print media. The media they control influences billions of people. For our own health and the world’s, we need to stop watching, listening to, and reading them.

How do you feel when you watch Fox, ABC, MSNBC, PBS, or other corporate news? Are you afraid, confused, sad, angry, discouraged? Maybe with a little American patriotism mixed in? If you have such a reaction, they’re doing their job.

Social critic Jessica Wildfire wrote, “You are always being shown what to think, especially when you don’t realize it. The shows you watch inform how you act. This is how “mind control” actually works. Nobody needs to put a microchip in your vaccine. They’ve got your eyeballs.”

While media outlets have always reflected the views of their owners, they have in recent decades been structured into a network of platforms, broadcasting the same corporate message in a bewildering variety of voices. In the 1950s, The CIA established a program called Operation Mockingbird to recruit a small army of media figures to shape public views of reality. They created what Frank Wisner, then head of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination, called his “Mighty Wurlitzer,” of propaganda (named after the huge organs some theaters had at the time) “on which I can play any tune I want.”

The CIA is far from the only agency using media to shrinkwrap our minds. Big industries, governments and advertisers lie to us constantly. A hundred years of psychological research has made them extremely effective persuaders.

                            Photo by Sara Gacic on Unsplash

Here’s how they roll

Fear — George Grebner, researcher of 20th Century journalism, wrote, “Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures…. They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities.”

That’s why, all our lives, media has been working to terrorize ua. I grew up fearing communism and the threat of nuclear war. We kept hearing that the Russians wanted to destroy us. We were told to build fallout shelters in backyards and hide under school desks in case of nuclear attack.

After the Soviet Union fell in1989, we were taught to fear terrorism..Media constantly reported on ‘terror plots’ narrowly thwarted by the FBI, plots usually hatched by FBI informants themselves. We lived with a backdrop of color-coded terror threat levels that meant nothing except “be afraid.”

Then fear shifted back to Russia and China. Russia will sabotage our electric grid. China will freeze us to death next winter. All along, we are taught to fear crime, stranger abductions (featured on milk cartons,) and other people, especially those of a different skin color.

With the pandemic, extreme fear of disease and death has replaced foreign threats. Stay inside! Stay home! The air is full of deadly germs. Ignore how the system is systematically robbing you and killing all life on Earth. Fear COVID!

Distrust and division –If people came together, the rule of the 0.1% couldn’t last. The rulers know this and have developed a hundred ways to divide us, starting with racism. For two hundred years or more, Americans were taught that white people were superior. Racism didn’t exist; we rarely heard the word in the media. Black people’s poverty was their own fault. Many white people dutifully took their rulers’ side against inferior people of color.

By 2019, though, that scam wasn’t working so well. The misery of the entire working class had reached the point where a multi-racial working class movement was a possibility. So media changed the story. Suddenly liberal, mainstream media outlets like the New York Times featured racism all the time.

Not that there was any chance the 0.1% were going to make the slightest amends for slavery and Jim Crow. The goal was to make sure white and Black people didn’t unite. So, we saw media reports that Black Lives Matter were burning down cities. White supremacist militias were coming to urban centers with their guns.

Our rulers aren’t one-trick ponies, though; they divide us in all kinds of ways other than race. Sex, gender identity, age, nationality, citizenship, religion, political affiliation, taste in music, and more are all used to separate people. On social media, algorithms literally divide us by our beliefs and attitudes into a thousand different echo chambers who never talk to each other.

Confusion — William Casey, director of the CIA under President Ronald Reagan, is widely reported to have said, “Our disinformation program will not be complete until everything the public believes is wrong.” To confuse us, they lie regularly, change their stories frequently, and force-feed different information to different groups.

In media reports to Rightist audiences, caravans of unarmed, desperate refugees from Central America became an invading army. In reports to liberals, the unarmed Capitol Hill rioters of Jan. 6, 2021, became an insurrection. Donald Trump’s win in 2016 was due to Russia’s buying $247,000 worth of Facebook and Twitter ads. Readers may believe one of these stories even now, but they are media gaslighting us, seeking to confuse us until we give up and say ‘whatever.’

Promoting war, austerity, and separation

Why are they doing this? First and foremost, the Mighty Wurlitzer plays to gain support for rulers’ wars and aggression. That’s why we hear about how badly China treats the Muslims in Xinjiang and the protestors in Hong Kong. These stories come from people found and promoted by the CIA or their regime change friends at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As if the US were really concerned about protecting Muslims. (Like they protected the Iraqis and Libyans!)

They also have domestic motives. COVID narratives full of fear and confusion have divided people even more sharply than racism. Mask and anti-mask people, vaccine promoters and resisters aren’t even speaking to each other. Either way, we’re told to stay home and be safe. How can people organize or fight for change when we’re hiding in our homes? It’s like a police state without the police.

This is how important narrative is. Society, as Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone says, is made of story. We gain our perception of the world from what we are told and shown. What most people are told is what corporate media chooses to tell us, and that story is 50% illusion and 50% lies.

What can we do about being lied to all the time? TBH, social media isn’t that much better. We need to talk to real people. See and hear what’s actually around us. Stay sane. When your coworker harangues you with propaganda and calls it science or news, ask them where they learned their story. Why should you, or they believe sources that lie so consistently?

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Eat Right for Your Body and Planet

                  Photo by Raul Gonzalez Escobar on Unsplash

If we would like life on Earth to continue, what should we eat? On one level, this question look silly: how can one person’s diet make a difference in climate change and mass extinction? On a deeper level, our food choices are crucial. They determine our relationship with Earth and with all living things.

Not that your personal diet makes a big difference to anyone except you and those you eat. But changing social norms of eating could make the world healthier and happier. If we change our attitude toward food, we will be better able to fight for the animals and plants that feed us.

We should eat as if Earth were sacred to us. Eat as indigenous people have done; they lived successfully here for thousands of years before industrial civilizations. What would Indigenous approaches to food look like in 2021?

Eating animals – yes or no?

Most indigenous people, even those who gardened, hunted animals for food. Unlike plants, animals (like us) have to eat other living things to survive. But indigenous people respected and honored plants and creatures who gave their lives to be eaten. They did what they could to create habitat for them and regarded them as family.

In places where adequate food can be grown and found, vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for individuals and planet. But in drier, higher parts of the world, crops are very hard to grow, so people have to eat some meat. And for genetic reasons, some people seem to need animal protein.

Meat-eating can be done with minimal cruelty. Wild, free-range, and compassionately farmed animals can have pretty good lives until the end. Corporate-farmed animals are a whole different story.

Feedlot cattle, pigs, and chickens are crowded together with no chance to move around. They produce huge amounts of waste which turns into the greenhouse gas methane. Steers need about 410 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. They also consume large amounts (variously estimated at 2.5 lbs — 6 lbs) of commercially grown grain for every pound of beef.

As regards climate change, feedlots are bad, but well-run pastures for cattle are good. Veganism is good, but it’s not the only way.

Honorable Harvest

It’s not just what we eat, but how we obtain the food and treat the creatures we eat. In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Native American botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer explains the rules of what her people call an Honorable Harvest of both plants and animals.

● Take only what you need. Never take more than half. Don’t waste. Natives in the North central part of North America depend on wild rice that grows in water. European visitors wondered why Natives didn’t harvest more, since food often ran short in the winter. They don’t take more, because they need to leave some to grow back, and some to feed the animals who live there. Contrast that with settlers who killed off the passenger pigeon and almost exterminated the buffalo in a few decades.

● Take only what is given to you — there’s a difference between a free-living fish who bites a lure and one raised in packed conditions on a fish farm. The wild-living ones had happier lives. The fish farms pollute and spread disease.

● Non-food plants deserve to live, too. In an Earth-centered agriculture, farmers would not poison all the other plants and insects with chemicals. They wouldn’t plant monocrops over vast areas. We would integrate the Natural world into agriculture, like on this farm.

● Treat everything we eat with respect and gratitude.

● Share what you’ve taken with others. Give back to the animals and plants by improving their habitat.

Eat locally

These days, people eat food from anywhere, at all times of year. This is not healthy for our bodies or our planet. Shipping stuff and people all over the world is a major cause of climate change and ocean pollution.

Anishinaabe leader and former Green Party candidate for Vice-President Winona LaDuke became a farmer in her 40s. In this TED talk, she describes the health and productivity benefits of growing plant varieties that are right for your area. She showed off dozens of multi-colored varieties of corn which are rarely grown in corporate farming, but do well in different localities and are much higher in vitamins than the usual hybrid yellow sweet corn.

We can eat locally through growing our own, through Farmers’ Markets, or community-supported agriculture (CSAs, those boxes of produce delivered every week.) Some stores try to buy local and tell their customers the sources of what they sell.

Herbicides, mechanized farming, over-irrigation and mono-cropping have worn out huge tracts of land and decimated birds and insects, raising risk of famines. But LaDuke showed examples of small urban farms growing astonishing amounts of food, like these in Milwaukee or these in Cuba. Such farms are feeding thousands of people and building up local economies.

Healthy foods

Speaking as a nurse:

● Protein: There are many sources besides factory-farmed meat. In addition to organic, free-range animals and wild-caught fish, there is now artificial, lab-grown meat. It’s corporate, but it seems healthy and tastes good when I’ve tried it. There are also plant-based meat alternatives like Seitan. Tofu is a good source. More adventurous people could try eating bugs and worms, which have been made into some good tasting stuff, and use much less land and water than cattle.

Beans and nuts, IMO, are the best foods in the world, the life force in a very small package of protein, fat, and carbs. Also, eat fruits and vegetables. Olives might keep us fed in a warming world.

● Commercial grains like wheat and rice are grown with large amounts of chemicals, farm machines, and genetic modification. And they are not strictly necessary. Other starches like potatoes, starchy vegetables, fruits, and yams can replace some of them. Or buy/grow organic grains.

● Eat things that don’t need refrigeration or freezing, shrinking your carbon footprint big time. If you do need a freezer or fridge, get a horizontal (chest) freezer that opens from the top. That way, all the cold air doesn’t fall out when you open it, saving electricity.

         Energy-saving freezer Image from Istock

Lots of people are panicking over the pace of global warming and the massive changes it will bring about. We could all starve, but if we learn to eat in harmony with Nature, while working to restore Earth, we could slow the warming and keep feeding ourselves. When Cuba’s food and fossil fuel supplies were cut off at the end of the Cold War, they survived by making rapid food changes like the ones in this article. They now lead the world in sustainable agriculture. Maybe we could do that, too.

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Economics for a Sacred Earth

How a Nature-based economy could save us

“There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.” Herman E. Daly

            Photo by Elizabeth Lies on Unsplash

Modern market economies are based on a series of lies, and these lies have brought us to the brink of disaster. We may have gone over the brink already, but Nature has formidable healing powers. If we replace a market system based on maximizing wealth, with a sharing economy based on the well-being of all, our sacred planet may still recover.

The most blatant lies say that Earth’s resources are inexhaustible free goods, to be scooped up and sold off for the profit of whoever can exploit them. Nobody owns the minerals, the oil, the jungles, the oceans, the animals or plants, so any corporation with guns and bulldozers can take them.

The second, related lie proclaims that people are motivated by bottomless wants and prize material possessions over other values such as human connection or a healthy environment. So increasing material wealth increases human well-being.

These lies are easily refuted. If resources were inexhaustible, why would corporations be using ever-more dangerous, expensive, and destructive technologies to get them? Why would we be fighting wars to get at readily available minerals? If endless material desires were the humans’ natural state, why would we have want-stimulating advertising, aimed at promoting dissatisfaction with our lives?

How money drives misery

“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Oscar Wilde

Before industrial capitalism and its marketing narratives, people were happier with far less in material goods. A study of indigenous Australians by the University of New South Wales and the First Nations Foundation found that, “Wealth was more commonly perceived in non-monetary terms, such as caring for family. Few participants expressed a desire to be rich or have a large amount of money.” Before capitalism, we weren’t “consumers;” we were citizens. Some indigenous cultures still live that way.

Industrial market-driven societies give everything a price, which we mistake for its real value. That is why, as Adam Idek Hastie says, “Under capitalism, a forest isn’t worth anything until it’s cut down.”

Equating a thing’s worth with how much money it will bring in the market, gives no value at all to Nature until it’s turned into products. That’s how corporations find it rational to permanently pollute water, the eternal source of life, in order to extract oil, another nonrenewable resource, which is then simply burned.

Modern finance capitalism has made the price/value disconnect worse. Business journalist Hans-Jürgen Jakobs says, “The people who control the international finance economy have next to no contact with the businesses they own. All they care about are abstract numbers and hitting abstract targets.” Why would they care about their businesses’ impact on their workers or on Nature?

Professor Kathleen Vohs from Minnesota University found that, when people think about money, they “think transactionally, and they become more callous towards other people.” Now imagine those other people are far away, don’t look like you or speak your language, may not be human, and you will never meet them. Do you see how money-based economies can lead to horrors like slavery, factory farming, or mountaintop removal mining?

An economy of gift

Money did not always rule us in this way. Indigenous people traditionally used gift and barter as their means of exchange. They were materially poorer than capitalist or socialist societies are now, but their lives were richer in connection and mutual support. They were also sustainable; they didn’t have to destroy Nature to survive.

Imagine an economy in which things people need — such as housing, food, clothes, and tools –were treated as gifts. People who have them share them. Exchange without price may sound ridiculous to minds raised on capitalism, but indigenous people have employed gift economies for thousands of years.

Can we have gift economies in our complex capitalist world? People are creating them. One example is the Buy Nothing project, in which local groups in 44 countries (so far) “creatively and collaboratively share (through online connections) the abundance around us.”

Sharing is gifting. People are sharing bikes, cars, homes, and other things you can see on the website Companies like Uber and AirBnB have monetized sharing, which IMO damages but doesn’t completely negate the benefits.

For the foreseeable future, there will still need to be money, and a gift-related form of that, Universal Basic Income (UBI) already exists. UBI is money given by society to everyone. Why can’t we expand UBI everywhere?

Credit unions are forms of sharing money. Alternatively, we could leave money out of the story and gift people housing, food, and healthcare directly, as countries like Finland do.

Think locally

A sacred Earth economy would have to be more local. No more picking up a fruit grown in Chile on our way to work in Chicago. Instead, we could grow lots of food in urban farms like these in Milwaukee. Shipping stuff and people all over the world is a major cause of climate change and ocean pollution.

Workers and users living close to each other know of each other and might care about things like product safety, working conditions, and the environmental impacts of products. People living around the world from each other probably won’t.

What couldn’t a sacred Earth economy do?

In a sacred Earth economy, Nature wouldn’t be brutally exploited, and workers would not be driven by the threat of hunger and homelessness. Could such an economy create large numbers of cars, airplanes, or bombs? No. Could it provide cheap fast-food hamburgers? Probably not. Would people buy lots of plastic junk? Not so much.

Then it gets more complicated. Would we still have computers and smart phones? What about travel? What about the Internet? The hows and how-much of these things still need to be worked out.

Things we would have more of

● Agriculture –Without mechanized, petrochemical farming, many more people would have to be involved in growing food.

● Environmental restoration — there would be a lot of unmaking, replanting, and cleaning up to do.

● Creativity, art, and fun are always wanted and needed. People would still invent things and do science for the common good.

If a gift economy sounds like a recipe for poverty to you, it’s not.

In his research on gift economies, scholar Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift, and Common as Air found that “Objects will remain plentiful because they are treated as gifts.”

Native American botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote that gifts in her culture are passed around to those who need them, gaining value each time they are passed. Gifts create a personal relationship, very different from the shallow market relationships we are used to. They lead to more exchange and cooperation, instead of exploitation of each other and of Mother Earth.

We could learn to live like that.

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Make Earth Sacred Again

Reverence for Nature could stop Big Money’s destroying the world

Indigenous people hold on to their wisdom, because they know the day will come when their knowledge is needed for Earth to survive.” Robin Wall Kimmerer

Image noah-buscher–unsplash

[Author’s Note: I am not indigenous to North America. I have two generations of ancestors buried here, and two more born here. I cannot speak for indigenous Americans or anyone else, but I have been trying to learn from them and other wise people. We are all indigenous to Planet Earth.]

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Industrial civilization and its religion of wealth have brought the world to the brink of destruction. Possibly we’ve gone over the brink already, but if we learn and follow indigenous practices and wisdom, if we honor Nature in all we do, She may still have the power to recover and save us.

There is no time to waste. Oceans are heating, acidifying, and suffocating in plastic waste. Rainforests are cut down, burned, turned into plantations and cattle ranches, killing billions of animals. As fossil fuel emissions cause rising temperatures, and deforestation causes drought, whole continents burn, while corporations dig and drill more oil and coal from ever-dirtier sources.

Perhaps well-off people in air-conditioned, fireproof houses or bunkers can endure extreme heat and drought, flood, fire, and storm, but animal and plant life cannot. Without them, how will we eat? How will anyone survive?

Changing political parties or even economic systems won’t change our doomed trajectory. Capitalism works too well at producing economic growth, gouged from the natural world. It has to go, but what will replace it? Socialism has its own record of environmental devastation.

For 500 years, industrial societies have taught us ways that are killing us; now we need to unlearn them. Sri Lankan essayist Indica Samarajiva wrote, “We have been taught that resources are inexhaustible, greed is good, and that anyone saying otherwise is just a dumb communist. Western consumers have accepted consumer culture as a substitute for culture and consumer goods as a substitute for good.”

We have learned to value money more than the world that gave us life. As Charles Eisenstein wrote in Sacred Economics, money has literally become our God, the unseen and incomprehensible force that controls everything that happens. Whatever you think about religion or about the idea of God, you will probably agree that worshiping money is worse.

Money-worship has already led to horrors like slavery and colonialism which have killed tens of millions. Samarajiva says colonialism, capitalism, and climate change are the same thing — tearing up the land to find resources, oppressing brown people to get them, and destroying the human environment through their consumption, because it all makes money.

Even those who claim to believe in God live as though money were their master. In our system, money brings power, which brings more money and more power. Billionaires are celebrated and give their advice to politicians. Somehow, I think Native elders could do that job better.

We need a new belief system, or a very old one: toward money, toward Nature, and toward each other. We need to collectively move away from money as God. Whatever one personally believes, our society is ordered around service to capital, and individuals can’t change that. We need to redirect our reverence to the Earth that created and sustains us.

An old/new Religion

“Upon suffering beyond suffering: the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness, and separations. A world longing for light.” Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux leader

Economist-historian Richard Smith wrote, If we want to save the planet, corporations would have to be nationalized, socialized, completely reorganized, or closed down.” Earth-destroyers like armaments, chemicals, and mining would have to go first.

But how could a program that involves shutting down large corporations and militaries be implemented under a corrupt capitalist government? Could a program that calls on people to stop driving, stop eating factory-farmed food, do more physical work and care more for others go viral? I have to admit; such changes sound politically impossible.

What might be possible is a spiritual movement to restore the Earth to its rightful place at the center of life. Where we recognize Her as our grandmother and all living things as our siblings. An Earth-centered faith might lead to a society in which it would be unthinkable to pour chemicals into a river, or to make pigs live in tiny cages 24/7, or to leave thousands of people sleeping in the street.

Imagine living where people revered Earth, not money. A world where people spend days restoring wetlands or growing food, and being happy to do what they considered Creator’s work. Imagine a world where helping others, both human and nonhuman, was a prime motivation.

Does that sound impossible to you? Maybe, maybe not. Religions have transformed the world before. Christianity so changed the Roman Empire that it collapsed. Islam swept the Arab and Persian worlds from rule by warlords to unified societies with laws that tried to be just. Faith leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have led movements that changed societies.

I think Islam might be a model, because there will be fighting involved, and they were good at that. Indigenous societies also have their warriors.

Belief may not move mountains, but it can inspire action that restores them. We could choose beliefs that revere Earth and show us our place as part of Nature’s community, not its lord and master. Maybe faith in Nature CAN go viral.

Some possibilities for living with an Earth-orientation:

● Devote some time each week to caring for Nature wherever you can find Her. Grow organic food. Restore damaged lands. Plant trees.

● Learn from animals and plants by spending time with them.

● Create or join a gift economy like the Buy Nothing Project to make money less important in our lives.

● Pay attention to your body. Bodies are our closest connection to Nature and the greatest gift we will ever be given. Honoring the body is honoring Nature.

● Fight against militarism, racism, and materialism, as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us.

● Support indigenous people’s movements opposing pipelines, protecting rainforest dwellers, supporting Native sovereignty, and returning land to the tribes.

● Find indigenous teachers where we live, on-line, or in print who can guide us toward living sustainably. IMO, every level of government should have an indigenous council to advise it (or replace it).

Learn more:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants Robin Kimmerer PhD. The best thing I’ve ever seen teaching Native wisdom to non-Native people.

Pagans in the Promised Land Steven T. Newcomb — Describes both the U.S. Government and Christendom’s predatory policies against Indigenous American Tribal communities.

Learn about De-growth, shrinking the economy and enhancing quality of life.

The Red Deal Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth, by The Red Nation.

Read about indigenous movements in Africa.

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, Charles Eisenstein

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Why Animals Are Getting Fat

Same as with people, toxic chemicals cause their weight gain

                                          Photo by Kat von Wood on Unsplash

Obesogens are everywhere

What are some of these chemicals?

Why I’m Angry about This

What you can do

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Photo by Sandy Kumar on Unsplash


In what bandages have you wrapped yourself?

What splints do you wear to protect your injured places?

How does that padding limit you?

What have you lost in trying to be safe?


Remember as a child, when you ran free, tumbled and played

Remember being yourself, before the world taught you how to be

Someone else?

Before you were wounded, before you were

Bullied, chastised, ignored into the splints

And casts you wear now?


You may have forgotten those feelings; we all forget sometimes.

But your body knows who you are.  Maybe

You still need those bandages, maybe you don’t.

Maybe those old wounds are actually healed by now.

Could you take off some of your wrappings

And move how you want to move?


Can you imagine how it would feel

To run, to fly, to sit still when that is right

To tell the world, ‘This is who I am. Accept me

Or let me go?’


Can you imagine being free?

Can you accept life’s responsibilities,

And find freedom within them?

Sending you the courage to find out.

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Leaving Las Vegas

Giving up technological fantasies, embracing Nature

                            Photo by Lyle Hastie on Unsplash

Not unique; not an outlier

We have been warned

Revolution would be a start

                           Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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