Saturday, April 06, 2013


The shortest and most direct Theoretical Weekends here at Scission of all time...and it comes from Karl Marx.

Thesis 11...

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

Friday, April 05, 2013



If I am not mistaken there was a time when President Obama, even before he was President Obama, promised that when he was President Obama, he would shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo.  If I am not mistaken that was years and years ago.  If I am not mistaken that damn thing is still not shut down.  The government of the USA can't quite figure out how to do that.  This is a government that can figure out how to shut down numerous other things, but just can't get it done at Guantanamo.  You would almost think they don't really want to shut it down.  But that can't be since President Obama said he would and he is such a good guy and all.


I've got an idea on how to do it.  Just do it.

It's Prison Friday here at Scission and whatever else you call it, that place on Guantanamo Bay is a prison...a prison full of prisoners, some who really are nasty sorts and others who, well, probably haven't done a thing, but how would we know one way or the other.  Trials?  I don't think so.  Freedom of information, well, not really.  

Anyway, who cares, we have this War on Terror, also know as the Hundred Years War, going on and well, it sort of trumps everything else...obviously.

Anyway (again with the anyways), in a typical and totally ineffective "plea" from the United Nations, its High Commissioner for Human Rights announces the news that damn, Guantanamo should be closed.

The US response, stick it up your ass, dude.

The UN response will be, "oh, okay, then, just saying."

Meanwhile, how about those crazy North Koreans?  What's up with them.

The following is from United Nations Human Rights (which I sometimes have to think is really all about ensuring human rights for members of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

Anyway, as if it matters to anyone, I present you with...

Pillay says Guantanamo detention regime is in “clear breach of international law” and should be closed 

GENEVA (5 April 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged all branches of the United States Government to work together to close the Guantanamo detention centre, saying “the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention and is in clear breach of international law.”
“I am deeply disappointed that the US Government has not been able to close Guantanamo Bay, despite repeatedly committing itself to do so,” Pillay said. “Allegedly, around half of the 166 detainees still being held in detention have been cleared for transfer to either home countries or third countries for resettlement. Yet they remain in detention at Guantanamo Bay. Others reportedly have been designated for further indefinite detention. Some of them have been festering in this detention centre for more than a decade. This raises serious concerns under international law. It severely undermines the United States’ stance that it is an upholder of human rights, and weakens its position when addressing human rights violations elsewhere.”
Commenting on the current hunger strike by Guantanamo detainees, Pillay said that “a hunger strike is a desperate act, and one which brings a clear risk of people doing serious lasting harm to themselves. I always urge people to think of alternative, less dangerous, ways to protest about their situation. But given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantanamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.”
Pillay noted that four years ago she warmly welcomed President Obama’s announcement immediately after his inauguration that he was placing a high priority on closing Guantanamo and setting in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees. She welcomed a White House spokesman’s reiteration of this commitment last week (27 March), citing Congressional legislation as the prime obstacle.
“Nevertheless, this systemic abuse of individuals’ human rights continues year after year,” she said. “We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the US – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.”
“As a first step,” Pillay said, “those who have been cleared for release must be released. This is the most flagrant breach of individual rights, contravening
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.* Last September's death of Adnan Latif -- the ninth person to die in detention at Guantanamo -- was a sobering reminder of the problems with the Guantanamo detention regime under which individuals are detained indefinitely, in most cases without charge or trial. It is time to bring an end to this situation.”
Pillay said she was deeply concerned over the continued obstacles the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 has created for the closure of the detention facility, as well as for the trial of detainees in civilian courts, where warranted, or for their release. The Act was signed into law by President Obama on 3 January despite previous threats to veto its renewal. The High Commissioner has repeatedly maintained that those Guantanamo detainees who are accused of crimes should be tried in civilian courts, particularly as the military commissions – even after improvements made in 2009 – do not meet international fair trial standards.
“Anyone who is deprived of his or her liberty by arrest or detention is entitled, under international human rights law, to regular review of the lawfulness of their detention and to be released if the detention is not lawful,” she said. “Any ensuing judicial proceedings must scrupulously respect due process and fair trial standards.”
So long as Guantanamo remains open, she added, the authorities must make every effort to ensure that detainees’ rights are observed. “No one is suggesting that the US should be ‘soft’ on people who have planned or carried out crimes or atrocities. Indeed, international law requires that there must not be impunity for such crimes. Nevertheless, human rights are universal and apply to all persons, including those suspected of having committed the most serious crimes such as acts of terrorism,” she said. “Under human rights law, people deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity.”
The High Commissioner also called on the United States Government to extend an invitation which would allow full and unfettered access to the United Nations Human Rights Council experts, including the opportunity to meet privately with detainees.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been ratified by 167 States, including the United States of America.
For more information or media enquiries please contact Rupert Colville (+ 41 22 917 9767 or

Thursday, April 04, 2013


"Many of the most effective strike tactics – from sit-down strikes that physically occupy a workplace, to solidarity strikes that spread through a supply chain – are now generally illegal. "  

Remember this quote for a minute.

Precarious workers, the precariat, I talk about them all the time.  Hey, fast food workers are amongst the most precarious of the precarious.  These workers get paid next to nothing, have few if any benefits ever, are often classified or forced to be part-time, have almost no rights, have lousy and dangerous working conditions, and on and on.

How come they don't get together and organize?  Now back to that quote above.  "Many of the most effective strike tactics – from sit-down strikes that physically occupy a workplace, to solidarity strikes that spread through a supply chain – are now generally illegal. "  You see pretty much anytime these working folks, often young, even think of organizing, boom, they are out of a job.  If they actually try a strike, well, the bosses just replace them out of the unwaged reserve army of labor...and keep business going.  How could you shut down such a business and make your strike serious?  Well, you could try a "sit-down strikes that physically occupy a workplace" or maybe you could call for "solidarity strikes that spread through a supply chain."  Of course, those are now "generally illegal."


Far be it from me to call for illegal actions, but sometimes you just got to....

And then good autonomist Marxist that I am, I will pontificate and point out that the strike, a union organized and led strike will end up with a contract which will only cement the wage relation and further enforce Capital's domination.

Yeah, all this is easy for me to say...

But then I am not a 23 year old, single mom, with no insurance, barely holding on to a rented apartment, barely getting by.  Easy for me to say.

Further, the truth is that there is no doubt fast food workers carry out acts of resistance every day.  You know they their own ways.  That, too, is part of the struggle to break out of Capital, a very important part.

But the McCapital is big time and it ain't easy taking on giants.

Still when working people, young or old, get together, well, you just never know what might happen next.  

And us, you and me, we need to find ways to support these folks.  It is their jobs and more significantly their lives which are on the line.  We could do something.  If they don't ask us, maybe, we could walk up and ask New York.

Dig it!  Do it!

The following is from Salon.

Fast food workers plan surprise strike

UPDATED: Workers in some 70 restaurants expected to walk off job, potentially shutting down several eateries today

Fast food workers plan surprise strikeA protester holds up a sign at a demonstration outside McDonald's in Times Square in support of employees on strike at various fast-food chains in New York November 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

Updated, 12:11 p.m.: The Fast Food Forward campaign says hundreds of workers are now out on strike, and that they are on track to have 400 strikers, from about 70 stores, by the end of the day. At least one store was unable to open for lack of employees this morning. Local politicians, including at least three mayoral candidates – City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio – are expected to rally with the fast food workers. Striking workers are currently converging at a Wendy’s in Midtown Manhattan, a Wendy’s in Brooklyn, and a Burger King in Harlem. At 5:30 PM, strikers and supporters will gather in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and march to a McDonald’s store for the day’s largest event.

Asked for comment on the strike, spokespeople for McDonald’s and the National Restaurant Association referred Salon to their statements from yesterday. In an e-mailed statement, de Blasio said, “Fast Food Forward is fighting for solutions for working people right here and now, and it deserves the support of all New Yorkers.”

Original post: New York City fast food workers this morning planned to walk off the job in what organizers promised would be the largest-ever strike against the fast-growing, virtually union-free industry. The workers are demanding that chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s raise their wages to $15 an hour and allow them to organize a union without retaliation. The campaign expected over 400 workers from 50-some stores to participate in the surprise strike, doubling the size of their previous walkout and potentially shutting down several fast food restaurants for the day.

“Obviously, it will piss off our bosses even more than before,” KFC worker Joe Barrera told Salon in a pre-strike interview. Barrera, 22, said that over his seven years in the industry, “we’ve had our complaints, but no one actually spoke out about it … I guess people were finally tired of the disrespect, under-compensation, being overworked, not having steady schedules and times, not having enough hours – basically, being played around with.” Workers from Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Papa John’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are also expected to join the strike.

Barrera, who’s paid the $7.25 minimum wage, said that a decent raise would allow him to stop skipping meals and start pursuing college. “Maybe I could afford to have a girlfriend, take her out on a date …” he added. “All of that money goes right now to just surviving.”

Fast food is becoming an ever-larger and more representative sector of the U.S. economy. “We should think of these jobs as the norm,” said Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren, “because even when you look at the high-skilled, high-paying jobs, they’re even adopting the low-wage model” of management. That means erratic schedules, paltry benefits, and – so far – almost no unions. “These are the quintessential example of the kinds of jobs that we have now,” said Warren, “and of the kind of job that we can expect in the future for the next few decades.”

Asked yesterday about recent labor protests, a McDonald’s spokesperson emailed a statement saying, “We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald’s restaurants” and that the majority of its stores are franchisee-run restaurants “where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits.”

Today’s planned work stoppage represents a major escalation by Fast Food Forward, a campaign spearheaded by the community organizing group New York Communities for Change (a successor to the now deceased ACORN). The fast food campaign’s funders include the Service Employees International Union. As Salon first reported, the campaign went public with a previous strike on Nov. 29. A parallel effort is underway in Chicago, where workers are also demanding $15 an hour and unionization without intimidation, but so far haven’t gone on strike. While New York’s and Chicago’s are the only ones to go public so far, similar organizing efforts are underway elsewhere as well.

Reached over email regarding the Fast Food Forward campaign, National Restaurant Association executive vice president Scott DeFife warned that “Any additional labor cost can negatively impact a restaurant’s ability to hire or maintain jobs.”

If the nature of the fast food industry reflects what’s happening to U.S. jobs, the shape of the fast food campaign reflects the challenges unions face in fighting back.

Since 1935, federal law has promised workers who want a union the chance to hold an election and force their boss to negotiate. But that promise has proven pretty empty. Among the obstacles: The government-sponsored election process is rife with opportunities for intimidation and delay. Companies that fire workers for organizing risk only meager penalties, after what can be a years-long process. Even when workers win a unionization election, they’re as likely as not to be left without a union contract a year later, because companies can stall or stonewall negotiations.

So even though the law says that it’s up to workers whether to bargain collectively with their boss, it’s really up to bosses whether to bargain in good faith with their employees. To succeed, union campaigns have to mount enough pressure against companies to make the costs of holding out greater than the benefits. But courts and politicians have made thatharder to pull off, by making one of labor’s key weapons – the strike – harder to effectively use. Many of the most effective strike tactics – from sit-down strikes that physically occupy a workplace, to solidarity strikes that spread through a supply chain – are now generally illegal. And “permanently replacing” striking workers – de facto terminating them by refusing to let them have their jobs back after a strike – is generally kosher under the law.

“It’s important to recognize that labor law is set up to prevent exactly this type of organizing,” Joe Burns, the author of “Reviving the Strike,” said of the fast food campaign.

The Fast Food Forward campaign reflects some of the ways unions are taking on this challenge: finding alternative leverage points against corporations, and reimagining the strike. NYCC executive director Jonathan Westin told Salon that the campaign “is taking on all of the different avenues that we can, to engage workers, community, clergy, elected officials, and allies, to do everything we can to change the conditions within the industry. And if that’s through labor law, great. If it’s through other avenues, where community folks are stepping up and doing things differently, that’s great.” As Salon reported, when a Wendy’s worker was told she’d been terminated the day after the November strike, clergy, politicians and other supporters won her job back within an hour by rallying inside and outside her store.

In recent decades, as strikes have declined, unions have increasingly turned to “comprehensive campaign” tactics designed to compel companies to budge through a combination of political, consumer, community and media pressure. Tactics in such campaigns can range from digging up dirt on management, to calling on customers to boycott, to lobbying against a company’s zoning application. Each of these can pack a punch. But unless the campaign is really engaging workers, companies can often just wait out the bad press while forcing employees to attend that many more anti-union meetings. Just look at Wal-Mart, which withstood a well-funded union-backed air war in the 2000s without really breaking a sweat.

Simply put, few things engage customers, threaten management and transform workers like a good strike. And so, with organized labor nationally very much playing defense, labor organizers have been grappling with how to make strikes work for non-union workers. Today’s fast food strike, the fall strikes by Wal-Mart retail and warehouse workers, and a February strike by janitors who clean Twin Cities Target stores all share a few apparent tactics in common.

Because it’s legal to “permanently replace” workers who just strike in order to win union recognition or higher wages, workers announce that they are striking in protest of violations of labor law by management (if the government finds this to be true, then permanently replacing them becomes illegal – though that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen anyway). Because modern U.S. strikes are often more about humiliating management than shutting down business, workers go out on strike for a single day rather than walking off the job indefinitely. And rather than waiting until a majority of workers are willing to take the risk of going on strike, organizers mount strikes with a minority of the workforce, in hopes that their courage – and their safe return to work afterward – will inspire more of their co-workers to join in the next time.

If organizers’ estimates (400 to 500 strikers today) hold true, that’ll suggest that such “minority unionism” is paying off for NYC fast food workers, at least so far. McDonald’s employee Stephen Warner told Salon that when he heard about other workers going on strike in November, “it gave me hope for a better future … I was very surprised.” He’ll be out on the picket lines himself this time, he said, “hopefully to set an example for the rest of the people in fast food, so that they know that change is possible.”

But can these efforts ever develop the clout to compel a company like Wendy’s to foreswear union-busting? Labor campaigns have won some victories against fast food giants before. As I reported for the Nation last month, a strike by 15 immigrant guest workers led McDonald’s to cut ties to a franchisee that had allegedly subjected them to shifts of up to 25 hours straight. Consumer pressure campaigns by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (a non-union labor group) have gotten chains like Taco Bell to sign agreements requiring improved conditions for Florida tomato workers. And members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a union that generally eschews legal union recognition, say their workplace has forced improvements in discipline, scheduling and pay in some Minneapolis Jimmy John’s stores. But getting industry giants to drop their opposition to collective bargaining would be a tall order, one that would likely require much larger strikes, in many more cities, to even be conceivable.

“The franchise structure makes it easier for McDonald’s or the other food chains to just cut a franchise loose and say they’re not responsible,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, who directs labor education and research at Cornell. That’s because it’s the thousands of individual store franchisee-owners who legally employ workers, but it’s the corporate headquarters that actually calls the shots. On the other hand, Bronfenbrenner told Salon, “unlike Wal-Mart, McDonald’s is much more vulnerable to consumer pressure, in that they have competitors.” While some labor campaigns focus all of their firepower on making an example of a single company, Bronfenbrenner said that this campaign’s strategy of mobilizing against all of the major fast food industry players could pay off if one chain decides to make a deal with the union in hopes of getting a competitive advantage by escaping labor strife.
Burns, a negotiator for an airline union, called the fast food workers’ willingness to walk off the job “a very positive sign” of “a major shift in organizing strategy” after years in which unions largely neglected strikes. But he predicted that the constraints of labor law — including the laws limiting “representational strikes” designed to win collective bargaining, and repeated “intermittent strikes” against the same boss — will come to pose a major obstacle. “In the long run,” Burns told Salon, “it’s hard to see a successful strategy organizing fast food that doesn’t involve violating labor law.”

While that hasn’t happened so far, the fast food strikers are drawing inspiration from a group of workers who famously mounted an illegal strike. Today’s strike date was chosen because it marks 45 years since Rev. Martin Luther King was gunned down in Memphis, where he was supporting striking sanitation workers who were demanding union recognition. At a New York City meeting last Thursday, two veterans of that strike met with fast food employees just before a secret meeting where workers voted to authorize today’s strike. “In order for you all to win anything, you’re going to have to stand up,” Memphis striker Alvin Turner, now 78, told the crowd. “You’re going to have to stand up and be counted … If you don’t stand up, you can kiss it goodbye.”

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


I just ran across this piece, which I will post below,  where the author posits a bunch of reason why youth have essentially been pacified.  Now, I really don' accept the basic premise that youth have, in fact, been pacified.  I'm not sure what is expected of my younger brother and sisters.  Are they supposed to come along and do what no other generation has done and really kick start the revolution or something.  There are plenty of young people amongst the multitude out there who are pushing Capital toward its breaking point. Granted, and I hate to even bring this up, but it is true, my generation did participate in a rather adventurous time and, although we fell short, we did cause some big changes.  On the other hand, no sooner then we sat down then Ronald Reagan sat up, Christian fundamentalism was on the rise, and racists and fascists started making a comeback.  So I am not about patting ourselves on the back all that much.

The reason that I am printing this is that I think it does demonstrate that the tactics of repression go far beyond simply gunning folks down,  beating folks on the head, or  locking them up.  The Empire is not led by a bunch of fools and things just don't happen for no reason or by coincidence.  Force and violence don't have to grow out of the barrel of a gun or at the end of a truncheon. 

Capital always has to come up with new  response to a class in struggle.  Sometimes it is forced to make changes in the way it operates in basic production schemes,, sometimes it has to come up with new ways to hold on to its power.  

Make no mistake about it, it is working people who are the one's who push things forward and it is Capital which has to catch up.  And make no mistake about it, working people are not confined to wage workers, to factories or workplaces...the working class is much beyond that and the social factory has been with us now for a long time.

So don't be confused and don't give up.

Yogi Berra had it right when he said it ain't over until its over...and my friends it is far, far from over.

Now it is late and I have got to bail out.

The following is from Void Mirror.  Make of it what you will.

8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: 

How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.
Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”
The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).
Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is