We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Vindication of Edward Snowden

Click here to access article by Conor Friedersdorf from The Atlantic. (Commentary edited for errors and added to at 7:20 PM Seattle time.)

There are numerous articles this morning directly related to secret government and it's contradiction with democratic principles. I'm referring to the sentencing of Jeffrey Sterling the former CIA agent for leaking an operation that handed Iran faulty information designed to impair their nuclear program, to an article by Chelsea E Manning entitled "We're citizens, not subjects: We have the right to criticize government without fear", and this one about Snowden who went public with information about the NSA's mass spy programs of US citizens.

What few people realize that the government of, by, and for a class of people, who own and control most of our economy and money supply, is that this tiny segment of people have been practicing in secret and engaging in conspiracies from the very founding of our nation. Their capitalist ideology laid the foundation in the unrestricted ownership of economic property that has brought to this class overwhelming wealth and power which, in turn, has produced a grotesque empire engaged in never-ending wars, 24/7 surveillance of its citizens, militarized police forces, Patriot Acts, etc. A little history is needed to put this into perspective. 

Before capitalism, the economy was overwhelmingly based on small farming operations by people who, as serfs, belonged to the land and their king together with an aristocracy whose ancestors through violence obtained control of most of the land. Their rule was legitimatized by the Catholic church who taught their unwitting serfs that kings ruled by "divine right". 

Beginning in the 17th and 18 centuries a new class of people entered the world scene. Slowly there developed the practice of a king granting permission ("charters") to groups of individuals to pursue economic enterprises that were in the interest of the kingdom such as the East India Company to extend the crown's control over India. Little did the king and his aristocracy know that this would eventually result in the overthrow of their rule. The huge success of this Company and the rise of a new ruling class was no doubt aided by co-opting members of the aristocracy into buying stocks in the newly charted Company. 

The Renaissance followed by the Age of Enlightenment produced a new understanding of the physical world based on observation and experiments. These periods also contributed to the rise of this new class.  The latter period saw the rapid development of mechanical technology, inventions, and the harnessing first of water power to mechanical technology, then coal-fired steam engines to drive the machinery, then gas, etc. Capitalists began to see how their "ownership" of such marvelous inventions could benefit them.

To make a long story short, these chartered companies became more numerous and successful by economically using both private armies and public armies to gain control of new lands which they developed into plantation farming using slaves. Improvements in transportation brought them to new lands and people to exploit. These operations created a new class of influential people called capitalists who chaffed under the restrictive rules of the monarchies. They advocated a new religion which they frequently called "liberalism" which sounded much nicer than capitalism.

The term "liberal" has always meant the absence of control or restrictions on people's behavior. The new class of capitalists adopted this term to serve their own interests of getting rid of monarchical interference in their economic pursuits and to deceive the unwitting public that they were promoting civil rights by being against rules restricting their behaviors and expressions of opinion. This is the way they enlisted the support of ordinary people to overthrow the rule of monarchies and aristocracies.

Moving ahead several centuries, here in the US we've witnessed how ordinary Americans such as Tom Paine whose writings were used to pitch the liberal version about civil liberties for ordinary citizens. After the success of the War of Independence from Britain, the governing elite severely criticized Paine's democratic views, and he died in obscurity and virtually penniless. Another illustration of how little the new embryonic class of American capitalists believed in civil liberties for the masses is their passage of the Sedition Act of 1798. Only seven years after the adoption of the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, the Sedition Act (see this and this) was passed by the Federalists which prohibited the following:
To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute....
In the 19th century the new ruling capitalist class successfully waged many pitched battles with wage workers and small farmers. They didn't hesitate to use private armies as well as their government armies to thoroughly crush organized worker opposition. (See my commentary here for a brief summary.) Farmer resistance during the Populist Movement was more easily managed by capitalist party politics which co-opted resistance leaders and diverted activists toward dead-end projects like silver coinage.

Now we are seeing their new version which is called appropriately "neoliberalism" that eliminates national borders which prevent capitalists from accruing even more wealth and power. This time they are peddling another story to sell this program to ordinary people: neoliberal trade treaties will provide more jobs!

The history of the US has been a history of subterfuges, conspiracies, violence, and government secrecy using "classified information" justified by reasons of "national security". All such actions have been directed by the capitalist class for their interests of wealth and power against all opposition both domestic and foreign. So, isn't it time for progressive people to grow up and realize that they have been deceived for centuries into believing that they are living in a "democracy", a government by and for the people??? Isn't it time for we, the people, to finally realize that the time has come to establish a new society? After all, our ruling masters even admitted we had that right more than two centuries ago:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Of course, we have that right, and it is our obligation to see this through not only for the "pursuit of happiness", but for our very survival on a planet that can sustain human life, the lives of our children and succeeding generations. It is for us now the living to "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" for the overthrow of the capitalist system so that we can create a system that truly serves our happiness and futures.