Western countries and democracy

Western countries only like democracies when they can chose the people running them. Western countries only like democracies when they allow companies from those countries to go in, exploit people, and plunder resources. Western countries only like democracies when they don’t serve the people, but rather the elites and the corporations. Otherwise, those same countries who wax eloquently about the dangers of dictatorships and the need for democracy will launch an invasion on some pretext (real or made-up) and replace that democracy with a puppet state. Or, they ensure a stable state never forms in the first place. And, of course, this is tied in with capitalism and the ownership of our government by (big) corporations.

Don’t be distracted. What Donald Trump said today is not an anomaly — it is implicitly or explicitly believed by at the very least a large minority of the population. The reason these nations are getting screwed over is that companies and governments from all around the world are ensuring that either those governments are obsequious to other governments and corporations (and not actually working for their people) or that those governments don’t exist in the first place. Fixing this requires deconstructing the paradigm that we have built.

War on Christians

Now that the holiday season is officially upon us, I want to take some time to dispel a pervasive notion that has creeped into the public consciousness.

There is no War on Christians. Christians are not being persecuted.

Fact: The government, on all levels, is dominated by Christians.

Fact: The government has celebrated Christmas, Easter, Lent, and so on. Every. Single. Year.

Fact: Christians are the vast majority of the population. And have been. Since they killed off the Native Americans.

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Military spending

The most depressing news for me from the last couple of days was the $700 billion increase in military spending over the next 10 years.

If you take a look at the vote distribution, you’ll see that the vast majority of both major parties voted for the bill. The same damn people who insisted (and sometimes still insist) that single-payer is too expensive, that tuition-free college is too expensive, that we can’t afford to build our infrastructure — those same goddamn people had the nerve to vote for this bill. The same people who deride Sanders and other progressives as pie-in-the-sky idealists who don’t know how to make actual policy vote for an increase in the military budget that would more than cover providing tuition-free college.

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Hillary Clinton’s interview

So Hillary Clinton did an interview recently.

[1:57] “I had not drafted a concession speech! I had been working on a victory speech!”

That…is kinda entitled. But, I suppose, if you believe in polling as your primary deity as she seems to (and, to be fair, as many do across the political spectrum), she had every reason to believe she would win.

[2:15] “I just felt…this enormous let-down…this, kind of, loss of…feeling and direction and sadness.”

I understand this — especially if you’ve been campaigning for the last few months and thought you would win (again, based on polling).

[3:56] “[Interviewer:] You specifically bought this house for a reason. [Clinton:] I did. [Interviewer:] And this was to be… [Clinton:] Well…I know a lot about what it takes to move a President and I thought I was going to win…[Narrator:] The Clintons had acquired the house next door to accomodate White House staff and security during a second Clinton administration.”

Okay, seriously? Look, I understand thinking you’re going to win. But being so sure that you already start making preparations honestly smacks of entitlement. It smacks of smugness and this sense of “Of course I’m going to win!” which is honestly quite frustrating and off-putting. And for those who are angered by my reaction, do you really think we liberals and the media wouldn’t lambast Trump if he had done the same thing? Of course we would.

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Terrorism

I think one thing many people miss when it comes to “terrorism” is how the word is defined versus how it’s used. Here’s the dictionary definition:

Terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion (from Merriam-Webster)

Terrorism: the use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political goals. (from The Free Dictionary)

So this definition says nothing about who is doing the violence. But consider how it is (almost) always used: it is used to describe a violent act carried out by a non-state actor, usually a group of like-minded individuals with a specific political goal. But why is the use limited to non-state actors such as “terrorist groups” or individuals such as James Fields Jr? When we use drone strikes to remotely target people we call terrorists and end up killing civilians instead (90% of people killed by drone strikes were not intended targets during one 5 month span, for example), why would that not count as terrorism? When we rain death and destruction almost continuously on 7 different countries simultaneously or take out heads of state, why is that not considered terrorism? In those cases, we are most certainly using violence (often against civilians in the case of the drone strikes) to achieve political ends (a change of government and the establishment of a more friendly regime, for example). So this fits the definitions given above, but “terrorism” is almost never used to describe it.

This, of course, begs the question: Why would we not call this terrorism? Well, it’s obvious. Calling what we terrorism would mean that we would be the #1 terrorist threat, not ISIS or Al Qaeda. Calling what we do terrorism would make the military contractors, the CIA, and the military itself complicit in that terrorism, which is unacceptable to those people. But fundamentally, calling what we do terrorism would imply that our actions aren’t automatically legitimate, which is what truly frightens many people. The dogma of American Exceptionalism (and of the legitimacy of the state more generally) requires that everything the state does must be legitimate. And the world recognizes terrorism as illegitimate, which means calling what we do terrorism would mean our government (and countless others) is doing something illegitimate. But the fundamental fact remains that what we are doing is terrorism.

Self-segregation

Y’all, let’s talk about self-segregation for a second.

First, what do I mean by “self-segregation”? I mean the tendency I’ve seen by some of my friends to unfriend those who harbor extreme views. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this often with my liberal friends unfriending or shunning Trump supporters. I’m not going to claim that it only happens on this side, though, because I don’t have enough data on this stuff — I’ll just talk about this phenomenon generally. I think that, on an aggregate level, this is misguided. Please hear me out before calling the mob on me 😉

I think the people who do this have two main reasons for doing so. First, there is the mental health aspect — people don’t constantly want to feel unsafe among their friend circle, so they kick out anyone who makes them feel unsafe. The second main reason, I think, is that people don’t want these extremists to feel as though their views are valid — that is, this is meant to ostracize these people from society and make them feel as though they don’t belong, that they don’t have a place here.

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Slavery

This notion that somehow only the South benefited from slavery is just bullshit. Their economy was more dependent on slavery, sure. But America as a whole benefited. It gave America the ability to build up an army, “expand” West (claiming more illegally stolen land for ourselves), “purchase” land from the French (as if it were the French’s to sell in the first place), and so on. All that didn’t only happen with the North’s money. It took all of the money available in America. And for too long, America condoned the abhorrent institution of slavery to keep the economy going and make enough money to fuel the dreams of empire. So to pretend that everything we have — everything — isn’t in some way connected to white supremacy and the institution of slavery is naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.

White supremacy is the reason this country exists in the first place — Europeans who landed here thought they inherently had more claim to the land than Native Americans because of the color of their skin. White supremacy and slavery is the reason our economy grew at a rapid pace right after the country was created (stolen from Native Americans). White supremacy is the reason we (as a country) overlooked the institution of slavery (surely African Americans aren’t people!) while it kept our economy growing. And all of our future successes — all of them — were derived from that first period of growing Westward (stealing more land from Native Americans because duh of course white people are superior to Native Americans) and a rapidly growing economy (thanks to slavery and the North’s refusal to condemn it for a long time).

We secured a place in the world’s economy thanks to those things. We had more land to do with as we pleased thanks to those things. We were relatively isolated from hostile forces (including during WWI and WWII) thanks to those things. And everything — from the Industrial Revolution to our success after WWII — depends on those things being true. So to pretend that we’d still be here if white supremacy weren’t a thing is the height of ignorance.

This country was built on white supremacy, and far too many people still believe in it.

That Google memo

Here is the original memo. I’m just going to try to comment on the whole thing. Bear with me here.

Background: I actually agree with this — we do all have invisible biases, and we all would do well to examine ourselves to see what those biases are. Discussion with those who disagree with us (hello CCC!) can definitely help us figure out what those biases.

Google’s Biases: I don’t know enough about Google to comment on this.

Left Biases: Can confirm. Am a socialist 😉

Right Biases: I presume these are decently correct.

Rest of that paragraph: Again, I don’t know enough about Google’s culture specifically, so I can’t really speak to that. I do know, though, that in many “left”-majority spaces, there isn’t as much tolerance for dissenting views as I’d like. Notably, though, this applies to people on both sides of the nominal “left”, which is interesting (see: basically any news show where the supposed “liberal” comes on the TV to berate Sanders supporters for not falling in line behind corporate Democrats). So while I agree it is a problem, I don’t think it is only applied to people to the right of the nominal “left”.

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Ethical Consumption

I wanted to take some time to discuss something I’ve noticed recently.

The first incident was a week or so ago when I was in a restaurant with my family and there happened to be M&Ms on the table. My sister asked if I wanted some and I declined, saying that I didn’t feel good eating chocolate that had most likely been harvested with child labor (and possibly child slavery). My dad then told me to stop talking about it.

The second incident happened yesterday when a couple of us went to the movies. Something very similar to the M&M incident happened, but regarding Godiva (which apparently might be a bit better than Mars at sourcing their chocolate?). And in this case, it was kind of seen as a joke or something that could be ignored.

Now it’s not that these people aren’t liberals — my parents and sister are pretty liberal, as are my friends here at Brown. But a curious phenomenon happens when it comes to what we buy.

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