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Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART FOUR

In the previous three sections, readers will have considered, in Part One, an overall overview of the very idea of memorializing 9/11; the point there was that we cannot commemorate unless we understand.

Part Two, in investigating the 1945 Peace Treaty with Japan, proffered a ‘book-end’ for the period of time that 9/11 arguably closed; this assessment both cast an appraising eye back in time and recounted events that followed in the aftermath of WWII’s denouement, which effectively inaugurated the period that ranged to at least September 10, 2001.

Part Three contained two sections: the first utilized events in Santiago, Chile as a focal point for grappling with the second half of the period between 1945 and 2001, a time in which the contradictions and paradoxes of corporate, imperial imprimatur became increasingly difficult to manage, though the plutocrats did try; the second gave a lightning tour of the parameters of post-9/11 existence, a glum and grim decade that will surely appear like ‘the good old days’ unless working people manage to throw off corporate rule and bring something akin to participatory democracy to pass.

Today’s final piece of this little puzzle provides readers with conclusions to ponder and the nerdy reflections of this humble correspondent about what is most important in this material.  Paulo Freire, whose Pedagogy of the Oppressed ought to be universally mandatory reading, has contended that becoming fully human requires a dialogic nexus.  Whenever readers are ready would be a good time to start.

CONCLUSIONS–Rationale for Continuity, Inevitability of Karma, & Transformative Possibility

The upshot of this analysis ought to operate essentially as a no-brainer.  ‘What is going on?’  The USA is continuing on a path that has always been one aspect of its tendencies, from the theft of North America and the enslavement of Africans through the wholesale slaughter of civilians on every continent save Australia and Antarctica.  This, put simply, is the pathway of imperial imprimatur, dressed up as ‘development’ and assistance and ‘freedom.’

‘Why did 9/11 happen?’  The comeuppance of ‘what goes around comes around’ had to take place.  Sowing the wind cannot but reap the whirlwind; this humble correspondent’s wife, whose grandfather died in a hail of Pinochet-inspired bullets, understands this much more deeply than do most hyper-privileged ‘middle-class’ Americans.  But obviously, even the fantasy of this ‘middle-class’s’ existence is on the wane.

‘Why has the aftermath of 9/11 made the world even less secure and more prone to mass collective suicide?’  The fundamental contradictions of SOP political economy, the vicious suppression of democracy while purporting to support majority rule, and misguided and mistaken consciousness all portend ill.  Only the last of these, a grappling with consciousness, can yield the possibility of transformation however.

Such conclusions are obvious to anyone who can stand the storm of condemnation that attends speaking truth to power.  In the midst of imperial arrogance, truly, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

One might anticipate that, at least occasionally, intimations of such thinking would wend their way into the primary mediated expressions upon which most residents of the planet rely.  Not only has this been rarer than hen’s teeth, but the opposite is also manifestly the case: corporate views are practically universal in one form or another, from laudatory reporting on ‘tea-party’ fatuousness to superficial boosterism in regard to ‘Obama’s job initiative,’ from fetishistic accounts of individuated ‘art’ at Burning Man’s petty bourgeois celebration of nihilism to the latest Hollywood gossip, and on and on and on and on and on, apparently ad infinitum, world without end.

At the very least, one might hope that, confronted with crisis after crisis, with every indication that all the accepted nostrums are crashing and burning, organized contingents of citizens would begin to network with each other to contend for power.  Instead, through a combination of hypocrisy, bigotry, laziness, and willful ignorance, folks in the United States seem inclined to ‘worship false gods’ and rely on greedy, venal ‘leadership’ to rescue them from looming crises on every front.

One need not, thankfully, hope for a Western Hemisphere ‘Congress of Soviets’ to set things right.  On the contrary, homegrown models are readily available.  The Economic Bill of Rights is solid thinking for a transition in the direction of social justice and actual democracy.  Tens of thousands of individual initiatives to achieve justice and empower communities occur every day.  These have appeared in SERMCAP’s work and elsewhere that this humble correspondent has published.

As well, this humble correspondent is one of the many scattered grassroots thinkers who want to light a pathway toward something akin to sustainability and human flowering.  A “New Ten Commandments” is a recent example.  From number one, “The Golden Rule Reigns supreme,” to number four, “All Who Work Are Equal,” to number ten, “All Else Is Negotiable,” it represents a common-sensical, class conscious morality and ethics that might underlie democracy.

The epilogue to this hortatory set of ten rules serves as well as anything to close this brief section.  “The central task of the social reformer, or ‘progressive,’ as the first decades of the twenty-first century unfold, is to form relationships that are durable and pointed enough to begin, on the one hand, to dismantle the Imperial-Financial-Military-Prison-Pharaceutical-Industrial Complex, the various arms of which–the ‘War on Drugs, Homeland Security, Xenophobia-Incorporated, Operation Iraqi Liberation and similar exercises in military mass murder and social control, and so on and so forth–effect the enervation of the working class, both in terms of consciousness and in terms of action, and, on the other hand, to work to reconstitute the social and productive forces in that ‘Complex’–now turned to exploitation and repression and inanity–so that they can start to express humanity’s innate creative capacity to construct a human existence.”

As this series has hammered home, such a capacity to reform and resuscitate has to start with analysis and continue with conversation.  This humble correspondent is having his say herein.  He’d love to hear from folks.

AFTERWARD–The Dialogic Necessity of Exchanges That Deal with Ideology and Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois, genius that he was, estimated that “the great problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”  Perhaps the grand dilemma of the twenty-first century is the conundrum of false consciousness.

In saying this, as the final paragraphs of a series on ‘Understanding 9/11’ spin-out, this humble correspondent is remonstrating that we must either demonstrate a willingness to talk about all of these things together, holding fast to the standards of evidence and intellectual honesty of any debate that hopes to learn and teach something, or we face a more or less rapid decline as a species.  At the least, no ‘good life,’ as in an evolution of humans to include conscious agents who shape their lives and the world, can transpire if we refuse the mental labor that this series extols and proffers.

The title of one of William Appleman Williams volumes neatly summarizes the ideation and ideology of citizens of the United States in this regard, at least since the 1940’s.  The Great Evasion remains a timely manual for what Americans choose to ignore.  Survivors of the storm that is breaking upon us now may well recall the phrase and nod ruefully.

Williams was writing of the wisdom that Karl Marx evinced; he subtitled this slender volume, “an essay on the contemporary relevance of Karl Marx and on the wisdom of admitting the heretic into the dialogue about America’s future.”  Others who have followed the traditions of that thinking include, of course, this humble correspondent.  As well, readers not afraid of engaging the real, and its sexy cousin, the possible, may want to consult innumerable additional intellectuals.  Three will serve to close our interlude here.

**Jurgen Habermas has for decades sought the joining of art, science, and morality.  The conjunction depends, in the current context of rampant compartmentalization, on the only glue that can cause these things to stick together: honest and respectful conversation.

Against the opportunistic thugs of ‘neoconservatism’ and ‘neoliberalism,’ not to mention the hypocritical bourgeoisie who worship at the ‘cult of the expert,’ Habermas defends the modernist prospect: to comprehend reality, to work with others to shape that reality, to transform consciousness and reality in league with others so as to have a positive impact on the world.  He offers sage ideas to readers willing to listen.

“(W)ith the decisive confinement of science, morality, and art to autonomous spheres separated from the life-world and administered by experts,” precisely the protocols in place in all establishment government agencies and most Non-Governmental Organization granting agencies, “what remains from the project of cultural modernity”–learning so as to rescue ourselves from perdition–“is only what we would have if we were to give up the project of modernity altogether.”  And ‘to give up altogether’ is to invite, and to deserve, the long darkness that looms.

**Paulo Freire is another proponent and practitioner of mutual dialog in the service of empowerment and transformation.  In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, cited above, he sticks to the contention that only through mutual dialog is full humanity accessible.  He thus rejects the one-way manipulation of advertising, foreswears the ‘bank-deposit’ pretension of U.S. pedagogy, and overturns any reliance on the ‘cult of expertise’ that capital uses to hide its sins and justify its excesses.  Basically, in this view, we desperately need listening sessions in which the working class gets its chance to speak.

As one commentator summarized, “Freire’s life and work as an educator is optimistic in spite of poverty, imprisonment, and exile.  He is a world leader in the struggle for the liberation of the poorest of the poor: the marginalized classes who constitute the “cultures of silence” in many lands.  On a planet where more than half the people go hungry every day because nations are incapable of feeding all their citizens, where we cannot yet agree that every human being has a right to eat and to be housed, Paulo Freire toils to help men and women overcome their sense of powerlessness to act in their own behalf.”

**David Graeber is brilliant American anthropologist, teaching in Ireland, who reveals indelible connections among morality, money, debt, and governments, connections that ‘free-market’ flacks would have us believe are ‘theoretically’ unnecessary.  Ranging incisively through historical and anthropological evidence, he proves his negative case–that the ‘free market’ is a fraud–decisively, and makes a good start on supporting his positive point, that humans have long cycles defined by alternating uptake of commodity and debt monetary relationships.

Perhaps more in tune with the specific undertaking of this series, he has also written Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams.  Therein, he insists on multidisciplinary analytical tools as the essential accompaniment of addressing the multiple, intersecting crises that our planet full of cousins faces.

Such nerdy fellows as these, and the multitudes of other men and women who refuse to compartmentalize and insist on wide-ranging analysis and honest political economy, can contribute to the capability to discuss the world intelligently.  But ultimately, much larger groups of folks are going to have to jump into the game, if we’re to have a prayer to rescue something for our progeny.  That, above all else, is the lesson of 9/11: Learn and Participate, or die.

Truly, the working people of all the Earth must find a basis for unity–winning a world and losing our chains simultaneously.  Otherwise, we will merit nothing less than the carnage that is already happening and will, more or less steadily, worsen during this period of darkness that could portend a new dawn or might preface a long and possibly endless night for the lucky fuckers here who are busy pissing away our birthright–consciousness and reason–out of a perverse combination of greed and fear and wanton self-righteous indulgence in infantile narcissism.

Hanging Together Beats Pulling Apart

Tennessee, tornado benefit          When at the end of April disaster struck Camp Creek, in the form of devastating tornados, death and destruction seemed inconsolable and irremediable.  Helping the scores of families who lost homes and property and loved ones fell to FEMA and the State of Tennessee.  Unfortunately, not all of the victims qualified for such disaster assistance as loans.

Thus, Hemlock Hollow Hostel’s Hattie Kinsey, ably assisted by Barbara Ann and Dre and others, including such storytellers as Larry and Gaylene and various local mountain song birds, stepped into the breach to raise money for the tornado victims as this years National Trails Day fundraiser.  The final tally for those who have suffered will exceed $2000.

How did Hattie and her co-venturers accomplish this feat.  A tasty, apple-wood smoke pulled pork and beef BBQ dinner was the feature of the day.  A silent auction raffled off various treasures to the highest bidder.  A rubber duck race on the adjacent rushing waters of Upper Paint Creek also generated significant cash, as well as prizes for the ‘owners’ of the winning toy quackers.  Food, stories, music, and fellowship all blended together in an upsurge of neighbor-to-neighbor generosity.

This willingness to reach out and give, when others in our community are suffering, is a hallmark of uplands’ folk.  We all know that horrific natural calamity can strike at any moment.  This spirit of giving certainly helps to fill gaps that one might hope would not be present in the provision of social disaster assistance, but which, perhaps inevitably, do exist.

Undoubtedly, many more stories lurk behind the surface of a scorching day, when the cooling waters of a mountain stream beckoned in the bright sunshine and the shady porch of Hemlock Hollow also offered shelter from the heat.  Perhaps at some point, more about these matters will be available to consider.  For now, anyone would have to offer kudos to all the helpers at Hemlock Hollow who collaborated to make this event come to pass.

Faux Popular Democracy in Capitalism’s Mediation of Merger Mania Part 2

Or, Why AOL Is, Apparently, Perfect for Huff-Po and, Decidedly, Horrible for Majority Rule

UNIT TWO: What in the World Is AOL Anyway?

Chapter One–The Scientific, Technical, and Social Roots of Online America

ENIAC Computer by public domain


America Online

Today’s text introduces Unit Two of this five part series.   This initial chapter leads on to three sibling sections that will, in as thorough and incisive a fashion as this humble correspondent can manage in a relatively short space, explicate what constitutes the corporate entity that has ‘branded’ itself AOL and considers itself the epitome of America in its online guise.

Where we left off, media was mushrooming up from the cow paddies of routine politics.   How exactly did America Online, as of now not yet done with its third decade, emanate from the historical and political economic background of modern times?   The purpose of this quite lengthy section is to manage a tale-of-the-tape that offers an intelligible, and relatively complete, response to this inquiry.

Like so much of what citizens now consider this virtual age, the roots of AOL lie in the way that the conflagrations of the 1940’s responded to the deflationary death spiral of the 1930’s.   In 1945, at the dawn of a new epoch that shined with a nuclear glow, as the Cold War heated up, and nearly everyone still breathing wondered where to bury a hundred million or so corpses and how to avoid the next tally from being higher still, the captains of capital looked forward to an unstoppable ‘thousand-year-reich’ of commodities and markets that only lasted a “glorious thirty” years, with everything antithetical hidden behind ‘iron curtains’ of one sort or another.

These leading lights of the ruling class foresaw an age of ubiquitous convergence.   Communication and computation and observation would yield, in every sector of the economy, times when markets would work as their proponents had always promised, even as they continued to seek the institutional succor of government instead.   This new age would not eschew governance so much as it would make the public sphere subservient to corporate, which is to say commercial and imperial, mastery.

ANTEDILUVIAN BEGINNINGS ON THE ‘ENDLESS FRONTIER’

The observer might not easily see the connection between AOL and   a project named the ‘Manhattan Engineering District,’ but Vannevar Bush joins the two like a rivet connects discrete plates on an aircraft carrier.   Not only did this MIT wizard unite the industrial and financial powers-that-be behind publicly-funded science, but he also insisted on the durability of this formula after the war.   In the event, he also succeeded in promulgating institutionalized funding and management models that followed corporate guidelines and priorities.

Vannevar Bush by public domain


In essence, Bush is the technical and intellectual father of the Military Industrial Complex.   His Science: the Endless Frontier links markets and profits and prosperity and power-politics and empire and innovation as a set of relationships that nations sunder at their peril.

What is more, he both, on the one hand, very precisely conceived of the world wide web and many of its technical attributes as an aspect of this industrial militarization of politics and, on the other hand, proffered a guidebook–almost a recipe–for their initiation and growth.   In “As We May Think,” also written just after WWII ended, Bush envisions personal computing, Wikipedia, hands-free 24/7 virtual connectivity, and a swirling constant interchange that many feel is still a possibility if the World Wide Web survives a corporate takeover.

Moreover, this meme still resonates powerfully.   The term, ‘meme,’ is itself something like Bush’s name for his concept.

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library.   It needs a name, and to coin one at random, ‘memex’ will do.   A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

No wonder entire symposia keep flowering that orbit around Bush’s now long-ago article in Atlantic Magazine .

Equally applicable as connective tissue between such trendy(or declasse, as the case may be) eventualities as today’s AOL and the inception of the war machine is the fashion in which Bush’s ideas have become almost biblical in their expression of the current canon.   The American empire, American well-being, the very essence of the American way, in such thinking, are inseparable from the uninterrupted perpetuation of an ever expanding plethora of the hot new way, an endless frontier of endless frontiers.

Needless to say, whether one appreciates the artfulness with which its principals have undertaken the task, America Online–with former Secretary of Defense and general corporate booster Alexander Haig leading the charge to invest–has depicted itself as the quick-and-easy path to such innovativeness.   When that way of conceiving things began to seem positively fuddy-duddy, AOL, driven by the relentless necessity of monetizing something , cast around for ways of reinventing itself as ‘trendier-than-thou.’

That such an evolution, in a society under the sway of finance and industrial monopoly, inherently revolves around opportunistic cash-outs and market wedges, not to mention a tendency to sweep up the competition and the newest confabulation simultaneously, should come as no surprise.   Indeed, all manner of analysis recognizes such ineluctable expressions of capital’s conceptualization of virtuality.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington very recently confirmed this contemporary relevance of dear Uncle Vannevar.   In a brief essay entitled, “An Endless Frontier Postponed,” the author warns that a lack of consciousness about the union of academia, capital, and government makes possible an ideological commitment to sundering this troika, which in this SOP POV threatens any hope of continuing political-economic predominance by the United States.

And indeed, this is now one popular trope.   A much less common thread is that the collective financing and support for the internet means that it should actually operate according to common goals, and under democratic guidance.   This is what Michael Zweig means when he suggests that “being charitable to the poor” means far less that “arranging that they have power, one obvious element of which is media potency.   Whatever the unfolding of this dialectic, that the taxes of working people funded the creation and evolution of the World-Wide-Web is incontrovertible fact.

MA-&-PA KETTLE FINANCE THE INFRASTRUCTURE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE AND PROTOCOLS OF THE WORLD-WIDE-WEB

Multiple intersecting timelines play key parts in the manifestation of virtual life that so characterizes the present pass that many people can no longer conceive an ‘unwired’ existence.   Computers, military and academic laboratories, telecommunications, printing and publishing all have an arc of expansion that, as one, has yielded the montage of interfaces and devices and distracted human beings who meander over the earth today, both actually and electronically, both as flesh-and-blood and as avatars.

The recognition of this interrelated interdependence is critical to any rational understanding of a phenomenon such as AOL, or its swallowing of Arianna Huffington’s self-styled bastion of progressivism.   Neither could have been more than a foggy, opiated pipe-dream but for the work performed on the public dime, as it were.   NASA, the nuclear-weapons-lab complexes, major research universities, and the corporate vanguard, without exception either were direct chain-of-command elements of the State, or, in any event, they would have withered and blown-away without government dollars.

US Army Missile Squadron by public domain


Thus, MIT researchers came up with the first video game while doing missile and other military research; Bell labs invented push-button telecommunication techniques in part as a result of decades of walkie-talkie military deals; the Advanced Research Project Agency(ARPA) was a Department of Defense response to Sputnik–soon yielding the first generation WWW through ARPANet; under the purview of government contracts, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange(ASCII) grew out of Bell labs and American National Standards Institute efforts–and still underlies the basic coding on which AOL, et al. depend to this day.

Almost without exception, the nodes and methods of the web, of being an American online, as it were, only happened because tax-dollars financed them.   Even in such ‘venture-capital’-worshipping materials as Piero Scaruffi’s A History of Silicon Valley , again and and again and again, over and over, “almost without exception,” the hand of the government appears as central to this amazing transformation toward virtuality that typifies life today.

Immediately prior to the assumption of an institutional form more or less recognizable as the direct predecessor of America Online, additional important developments took place on the nascent internet, as of 1972 controlled by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency .   The first e-mail, for instance, sallied forth in 1971 as a result of one investigator’s efforts that sought to make military research communication more efficient.   Though it did not modulate in chipper tones, “You’ve got mail!,” that cheery quip emanated from State-funded efforts.

Shortly thereafter, big improvements in FORTRAN, the machine language developed for military and scientific purposes, happened, followed shortly by Bell Lab’s first issuing of the much more intuitive C-programming language .   Soon afterward, Xerox’s DOD-funded Palo Alto Research Center, on its way to inventing “the office of the future,” created the Ethernet, many standards of which continue in force to the present moment.

Throughout the mid 1970’s, with the formation of Apple Computer and Microsoft and more, many of AOL’s predecessors availed themselves of the possibilities for private gain from public investment, even as the general economy reeled from one stagflationary whipping post to another. In 1978, the first Bulletin Board System came into being; the BBS model was important in various early attempts to cash-in on what social support for computing and networks had created, not to mention underpinning AOL’s ultimate success.

As with the rest, these BBS outgrowths trace their roots back to public inputs.   File serving, downloading, the very protocols that allow a network to engage and remain operational, are the result of socialized inputs and relationships.

Due to its prominent role, the history of TCP is impossible to describe without going back to the early days of the protocol suite as a whole.   In the early 1970s, what we know of today as the global Internet was a small research internetwork called the ARPAnet, named for the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA or ARPA).   This network used a technology called the Network Control Protocol (NCP) to allow hosts to connect to each other. …Due to limitations in the NCP, development began on a new protocol that would be better suited to a growing internetwork. … called the Internet Transmission Control Program (TCP).   Like its predecessor NCP, TCP was responsible for basically everything that was needed to allow applications to run on an internetwork.

In other words, America Online did not emerge randomly.   Nor did it occur as a result of individuals, rugged or colorful or otherwise, working separately and ‘individually.’   Nor was it in any way a primary result of ‘natural’ bourgeois inventiveness.

On the contrary, the growth stemmed from fields prepared by social stewards, using common treasure.   The concrete components uniformly resulted from or depended on government-financed research.   Every single stop on the ultimate information highway was only possible because of collective efforts that invoked federal financing.

John Hopkins’ Stuart Leslie, in his article, “The Biggest ‘Angel’ of Them All: the Military in the Making of Silicon Valley,” makes this argument dispositively.   The ‘marketplace’ is no freer than a Soviet Five Year Plan, or, at the least, it is ‘freer’ in a different way; moreover, we might imagine other ways to ‘free’ things up.

This can lead to some interesting conclusions.   They are factual, no more a ‘matter of opinion’ than the determination that United States Treasury dollars are necessary to run the Department of Defense.

Here’s one such deduction.   Not only would the astounding wealth ‘created’ by the ‘free-market’-touting boosters at AOL have been inconceivable without social backing of the most extensive sort, but also, the smaller but still substantial sums that now line Arianna Huffington’s purses are only available for her accountants to count because of the taxes of everyday Americans, such as the bloggers on the site who will never make a dime from the deal.

Hearst newspaper and sports quoteAs commercial outlets that purported to represent our communities drop like rats in a plague, people need to be clear that critically important news is constantly happening all around us; how can we organize ourselves to make sure that the loss of contemporary media, imperfect as it may be, does not turn into a permament decline in the quality of popularly available data?

Enquiring minds want to know…