The Importance of CrimethInc.

•August 29, 2010 • 1 Comment

Lifestyle Anarchism is often used as a pejorative to disrespect those who allegedly put individual liberation before collective action for social change. CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective is a common target of opponents to “Lifestylism”. Detractors will often cite a lack of critical theory or broader understanding of the context of their actions. Essentially, the problem is that there is not enough of an active focus on incorporating individual or small-collective actions into a broader social movement. In this way, they do not so much provide an alternative lifestyle to capitalist statism, but depend on it. In essence, it is a sub-culture, not a counterculture. Which is a legitimate criticism, I would forward.

However, the concept of individual liberation that defines CrimethInc is an important part of a broader social movement for community and autonomy both.

It is true that though dropping out, dumpster diving, hitch-hiking and vandalism are certainly liberating experiences, they are not in of themselves productive in a social context. Despite their limited potential for propaganda of the deed, Individualized Anarchy is an ineffective and patently ridiculous solution for permanent social change. Living off the margins of society is not autonomy; it is parasitism.

Establishing this, we may now acknowledge the fact that such “Lifestylism” is actually an important stepping stone to throwing off the conservatism that holds us back as individuals. In temporary circumstances, the unbridled freedom offered from living off the margins of society is not unlike the experience of Henry David Thoreau. If we are privileged enough to exist in a situation that permits it, we should seize the opportunity to do so for a short time, to fulfill ourselves as individuals and gain a greater sense of autonomy and confidence that is too often robbed of us by the system.

But we must press on father than this. While we throw off the shackles of an oppressive society, we should also be planning and organizing and accomplishing the creation of a new one. Whenever possible, people should get off the grid in all forms reasonable. Growing community food collectively, designing autonomous rain-catches, collectively investing in solar panels and wind turbines, educating one’s children to be as great as they can be outside the long arm of capital, reducing consumption to a bare minimum across the board in one’s personal life and local community; these are the true occupations of the ex-worker. If work is the enemy, play must be ensured productive (and vice versa). “Lifestylism” as we know it is more of a vacation than a true life-long pursuit.

Moreover, solidarity and mutual aid between those who are unable to get off the grid and those who are must be continually expanded. Workers and their allies must continue to organize for not just short-term benefits or survival, but also long-term plans of community autonomy. These mutual struggles on a simultaneously local, regional, and global level will build the solidarity between communities that will lay foundations for federations of autonomous communes that the platformists dreamed of, and only too briefly and partially realized.

If I may interject another point, CrimethInc’s decentralized nature has become more form than function. This needs to change. CrimethInc needs to be a banner of liberation that has no real address; publishing locations must be multiplied where possible, direct action organized autonomously and frequently under the name, and self-initiative encouraged. As it stands, it would not be far-fetched to claim that CrimethInc is really just a group of cool folks up in the lovely town of Salem, Oregon, and whoever contributed to the several books they published. This needs to change. Perhaps the central CrimethInc page could be replaced in function by a wiki, while the current main site changed to merely a publishing location page linked to by the wiki. These simple, uncontroversial changes would encourage participation and autonomy greatly. In addition, several critiques emphasized the need for CrimethInc’s own renewed emphasis on social change, rather only individual liberation. It would be fantastic to see some CrimethInc autonomous collective put out a more socially rather than individually oriented work, and this picked up and published by the now-largest collective in Salem. This would balance the direction of CrimethInc towards sustainability and greater social vision, and not coincidentally give it new opportunities to reach out to new activists rather than just mainly frustrated middle-class non-activists. This broadening of outreach will contribute greatly to the overall movement and avoid division and unconstructive critique within it when it is recognized.

Essentially, we must all realize that we are all important to the struggle; collectivists and individualists, planners and spontaneous activists, the “playful” and “serious”, CrimthIncers and “Professionals” all. More than that, we can all benefit and learn from each other, to improve our movement. Because this is all our movement. We are all liberated, or none of us are. We’re all in this together. Feminists, Queers, Straights, Straight-Edge, Drug Using, Communists, Collectivists, Individualists, even the Egoists and dare I say sometimes the anarcha-Capitalists, those without labels and all of those who are willing to work together in a system of autonomous communities regardless of the words they use to describe themselves. We’re one big union, as some of our forebears used to say. One big movement. Our moment.

The world’s first general strike happened in Rome in 494 B.C.E. Refusing to abide by the harsh enforcement of proto-capitalistic draconian debt laws, the proletariat of the city as a whole left the city of Rome and threatened to found a new city. We need something remarkably like this in the modern day, and though CrimethInc’s approach as it is now is far from complete or comprehensive, it certainly is a step in the right direction that should be applauded, encouraged, and built upon.

References & Further Reading

Very Strange

•June 6, 2010 • 6 Comments

It seems that someone has attempted to break into this blog. The attempt has been thwarted, but this is still disconcerting to me.

Money

•May 31, 2010 • 1 Comment

One of my friends wrote this paper for school. It raises some great points, and I thought I’d share it here, of course with his/her permission. He/She asked to remain anonymous.

Money

During the financial crisis of 2007-2010, everyone was affected.  It is estimated that the average American net worth dropped by 25% (Kalita).  Still, some were affected more than others.  Some lost jobs, others lost homes, and for all too many, both.  Foreclosures, along with subprime loans, the deadliest weapons of capitalism, were employed ceaselessly.  The banking industry received a bailout, but the American individual, upon whom the nation is built, was cast aside, thrown under a bus, because they simply had to “pick themselves up by their own bootstraps”. The financial industry engaged in wasteful practices that ruined families, communities, economies, and our globe as a whole, and their political friends in our nation’s capital ensured they would never foot the true bill for their economic genocide.

Foreclosure rates during the recession were high, and they continue to be high.  In April 2010, 1 in every 386 American homes was in some stage of foreclosure. (RealtyTrac) Some areas, however, are hit harder than others.  Detroit, for example.  After the auto industry crashed, Detroit began to die, slowly becoming a carcass of empty homes, vacant lots, and abandoned factories.  In April 2010, 1 in every 162 homes in Detroit was going through foreclosure.  Because there are so many empty homes in Detroit, the average home price has dropped dramatically, as per the laws of supply and demand.  The average price of a foreclosed home in Detroit is $10,176.  Nationwide, the average price is $177,395.  There are some homes in Detroit, however, that can be had for much, much less.

Take, for example, 9631 Mansfield St. This 3 bedroom, 1 bath house with 1,147 square feet includes a master bedroom, a spacious kitchen, a full basement, and a garage.  It has two stories, and was built in 1939.  It’s just two blocks from the scenic Stoepel Park, and walking distance from Stein Playground.  It’s located near the intersection of the 39 and the 96, making it a short drive downtown.  In short, this is a great place to raise an all-American family.  This house was foreclosed recently and is now bank owned. It is being sold for $500 (Realtor.com 1).

Another example is 15039 Maddelein St.  A beautiful home, it has 3 bedrooms and one bathroom.  It boasts 1320 square feet.  It is located a block and a half from Heilmann Memorial Playground on a shady street.  It’s merely walking distance away from the beautiful Lake St. Clair, giving it wonderful recreational opportunities for the fisherman or boating enthusiast.  This house was last assessed in 2009 at a value of $19,000.  It was built in 1915, making it 95 years old.  It’s really a piece of American heritage.  The house is now on sale for a mere $50.  Get it while you can, for the low, low price of a couple crappy CD’s from Walmart! (Realtor.com 2).

What has happened to our capitalist system? What is determining the value of our products? Why do a few pieces of plastic cost more than a American home? Land is the one commodity that will never change.  There is a limited amount of it.  As the earth gets more populated, land prices should go up.  They should never drop.  Housing prices should follow land prices.  A house on a piece of land should never sell for 50 dollars. Clearly, someone, or something, has rigged the game.

What do the banks gain from foreclosing on these homes? The Mortgage Banker’s Association estimates the cost of foreclosure for the bank to be over $50,000 (Mortgage Bankers Association 4). If they spend that much to foreclose, and then sell the home for $50, $500, $10,000, even $50,000, they will come out at a net loss.  Not to mention that even if the borrower can’t make the payments now, they may eventually pay back some part of the loan; this potential loss of capital is seemingly never taken into account.  In foreclosing on homes, and selling them on the cheap, the banks destroy a family and lose money. This is, quite simply, an entirely ludicrous system.

There is clearly something wrong with our lending system.  If banks were to avoid foreclosures that would lose them money, then they would save enough money to give a small amount thereof to struggling borrowers who could then use the money to re-establish themselves and resume payments.  The borrower and the bank end up ahead. It seems almost as ludicrous as the situation in the first place that no one has thought of this sane, rational, economical alternative to it. Clearly, someone is profiting from this insane, destructive status quo.

Our current financial system has yet another downfall. Subprime lending- or, below-prime lending, a fancy way of saying crappy lending- is a huge player in the foreclosure game.  Subprime mortgages are directed at borrowers with a low credit score- usually 620 or below.  They are usually adjustable rate loans that are initiated when rates are low.  As rates go up, the monthly payment goes up faster, sometimes doubling.  The interest rate of a subprime loan is also always, as a rule, at least 2 percentage points higher than that of a “prime” loan. Borrowers quickly find themselves underwater.  Unable to make the payments, they default (NPR 2).

Subprime lending is essentially a kind of Predatory lending.  Predatory lending involves lenders deceiving borrowers.  Often this involves a lender promising a good loan to a borrower.  When the borrower goes to actually sign the loan, the loan is magically not good.  The interest rate is different than promised.  There also may be more adjustments that unfairly benefit the lender at the expense of the borrower. A California study found that 70% of Subprime mortgages had negative (for the borrower) changes at signing (Setzer 2).  Pressured be the seller, the borrower signs the documents, hoping to discuss the issues with the lender later.  Once it’s signed, however, there is simply nothing the borrower can do, as the lender has coerced the borrower into ceding the protection of the law.

Predatory lending also sometimes involves brokers writing loans that are literally impossible for the borrower to pay off.  This generally involves deceiving the uninformed borrower into an interest only loan.  The borrower is required to pay only the interest on the loan, and thus, the balance never decreases.  After a few years, the payment will skyrocket to cover the balance.  Even worse, Negative Amortization loans require the borrower to pay less than the interest.  Thus, the balance grows. Eventually, the payment will be increased: Substantially.  Negative Amortization is illegal in many states. Lenders engaging in these practices will often ignore the usual guidelines of who can get a loan. The income, the debt-to-income ratio, and the credit score of the borrower may indicate that they should not be receiving a loan, but the lender will give it to them anyway (Setzer 3).

Brokers were, and are, enticed to write loans to people who can’t repay them because they are paid commission based on how many loans they write per month.  If the loan defaults, there is no penalty for the broker; this is a serious flaw in the banking system, for obvious reasons.  To compensate for this disaster waiting to happen, the financial institution originally writing the loans will often sell the loans in bulk to investors so that they don’t assume any risk (NPR). Sometimes, the lender will write loans with the intention to foreclose.  They milk the borrower for payments for as long as they can and then foreclose and sell the home. It is, beyond all the jargon, glorified thievery. The bank makes up the loan balance with the home’s sale and keeps any payments made by the borrower as profit.  In short, the people who write the loans do not care if the borrower defaults.  The people who write the loans take no real risk.  In the second half of 2008, there were 148,697 subprime foreclosures- 18.39% of all foreclosures (Liebowitz 2).

Capitalism is a system designed to reward the seller with the best products.  The seller with the best product gets the most customers and thus succeeds while a seller with a lesser product fails.  Supply and demand set prices, and everyone is, in theory, satisfied.  In our current system, however, the opposite is true.  Corporate lenders make money by loaning money to people who cannot pay it back, while lobbying a government to provide tax incentives for homeowners. These average people who unwittingly “take the bait”, are ruined financially, but the original lender, that is, the big corporations, are not held accountable. The investor and the borrower loose, and the lender wins.  But the lender produced a terrible product.  The investor produced a good product and the borrower is the customer. Why does the bad product make the most money? Why does the customer suffer? How can we fix our broken system?

Subprime lending should not be stopped.  People with poor credit should get an opportunity to borrow money.  The actual loan, however, should be modified.  Instead of an adjustable rate mortgage, use an adjustable balance mortgage.  If the value of the home goes up, the mortgage balance goes up.  If the value of the home goes down, the mortgage value goes down.  Perhaps this could be based on a percentage system, in the interests of fairness.  If the borrower has paid back 50% and the home value goes up, they would only owe 50% of the new value.  That way, if the home value doubles, the borrower does not pay back double, but a percentage of the doubled value.  Thus, the borrower is not ruined by huge payments.  If the value of the home goes down after the borrower has paid back 50%, they then owe 50% of the new, lower value.  That way, if the home value is cut in half and the borrower has already paid half, the bank is not cut off.  They continue to receive payments.  This system will allow faltering neighborhoods such as Detroit to get back on their feet by lowering the payments on houses in failing communities.  It will also allow the banks to make more money in the end because of the general rise in value of real estate.  Everybody wins; even the corporate banks, though they will no longer be able to “win” at the expense of everyone else.

Unregulated capitalism does not work; at least not for the common person.  Gary D. Cohn, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs received a total of 72.5 million dollars in 2007.  4 other Goldman Sachs employees received over 49 million dollars each. In all, out of 54 executives from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, New York Mellon, State Street Corp, and Wells Fargo 53 made over 1 million dollars in 2007.  The majority of these executives made over 10 million dollars.  All of these companies were recipients of government aid from the bailout (CNN Money 2). These companies were at least indirectly responsible for the financial crash. Why are they receiving so much money when it is the common man who is in danger of foreclosure? Gary D. Cohn will never be in danger of becoming homeless.  And yet the taxpayers are paying for his company to pay him; our money has funded the rewarding of criminal, immoral, and unbelievable behavior- we have subsidized our own exploitation.

$536,300,000,000 of government money was used to bail out failing US companies, most of them financial institutions (ProPublica 5). There are 156,297,000 taxpayers in the United States (as of 2008) (IRS 6). That means that $3,431.29 from every taxpayer was given towards these failing companies.  For families with two taxpaying adults, that’s $6,862.58.  Yet, when homes are foreclosed upon, that amount is not taken into consideration.  Families who gave the banks thousands of dollars in their time of need are turned away when they get behind on a few payments.  Why didn’t the government bailout the Americans who were in danger of foreclosure? The workers, the teachers, the nurses, the bus drivers, the farmers, and all other hardworking Americans were told to simply deal with it, while the money was given to Goldman Sachs instead.

The bailout was deemed necessary because the banks were considered too big to fail.  But why were they failing?  The answer lies in deregulation. In 1933, the Glass-Stegall act was passed.  This required commercial banks to make relatively low risk investments, such as loans and mortgages, while investment banks could continue to invest in high risk securities.  This kept the commercial banks, who were sitting on piles of cash, from making (or losing) as much money as they could.  It was, however, relatively risk free, and thus the FDIC was willing to insure them.  In 1999, this was done away with by $300 million in lobbying; the result was the Gramm-Leach-Billy Financial Services Modernization Act (Gilani 3).  This would allow commercial banks to make high risk investments with FDIC paying the bill if things went wrong.  In 2007, things went very wrong.  The bill also allowed the merger of Citibank and Travelers Corp to create the world’s largest financial company.  Such a company could not be allowed to fail, because if it did, it would take much of the industry with it, and subsequently the entire national, and perhaps international economy; a “snowball effect”.

After a quick recovery, thanks to government money, the banks have been doing very well with deregulation.  Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America all had perfect first quarters this year.  That means they had no days with a net trading loss.  Goldman Sachs reported earnings of over $100 million on more than half of the days of the quarter.  They made an average of $25 million more on days when they traded verses days when they didn’t trade (Mildenberg 4). It’s easy to see why the banks like to trade these high risk securities.  If things go well, they make millions.  Because banks went down during the crisis, there is now less competition for the survivors. Of course, the survivors were those handpicked by Senators, with the “encouragement” of well-placed financial industry lobbyists, to be “too big to fail”. In addition to having little competition, the surviving banks are also growing.  JP Morgan and Chase, for example, absorbed Washington Mutual (Osborne 1). Wells Fargo now owns Wachovia (Triangle Business Journal 6). This is making the big banks bigger and bigger. If they were too big to fail this time, what will they be next time?

This is not capitalism. It is simply thievery. It is class warfare, of the rich against the poor, with all thoughts of a free and fair market thrown out the window, all concepts of common rules to play by laughed off as “socialist nonsense”. What have we come to?

Another major contributor to the fall of the financial industry was shadow banking.  Shadow banking is a term for financial institutions that channel money from investors to securities.  Since they are technically “channeling” money instead of receiving deposits, they are not regulated as a bank.  They invest close to 100% of their “deposits” to make as much money as possible.  They purchased securities rated AAA- or rather, got AIG to insure the securities as if they were AAA.  A lot of these securities involved large groups of subprime mortgages; not high-class securities worthy of AAA status.  When the housing market crashed, the shadow banks lost enormous amounts of money.  When their depositors wanted to withdraw, the shadow banks didn’t have enough to cover their debt.  As they went under, they pulled AIG (their insurer) with them.  With no shadow banks loaning huge sums of money, much of the financial market that depended on them crashed (Mehrling 3).

The banking industry needs to be regulated again.  Large mergers, such as Citigroup and Travelers Corp. should not be allowed.  If monopolies are watched in other sectors, they should be scrutinized in the financial sector.  The Glass-Stegall act, or something similar, needs to be re-instated.  The FDIC should not insure banks making risky investments.  Depositors need to be made aware of the risks of an investment bank and encouraged to deposit in a safer bank.  The shadow banking industry needs to be regulated.  Insuring an investment should be illegal.  By helping the big banks, the government is only encouraging them and their dangerously criminal behavior. We must not allow our government to be usurped by crooks.

The financial crash can only be explained up to a point.  From there, the markets seem to have a mind of their own, doing unexplainable, frightening things.  On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 1,000 points during intraday trading (It climbed back to close to open by the end of the day).  There were rumors circulating that a software glitch at the NYSE caused the drop, but the exchange denied the allegations.  Other theories include fear about German and Greek problems. Proctor and Gamble dropped 21% in minutes before climbing back up.  There is still no clear explanation as to why the Dow dropped so low, so fast.  It was the biggest drop in a single day since 1987 (Krantz 2). If this sot of thing is happening and no one knows why, it shows that the market is completely uncontrollable, that it is bigger than any one person or corporation. What if it drops 2,000 points next time? How about 5,000? 10,000? How can we trust our whole economy to such a system?  What happens when the “invisible hand” of capitalism develops a mind of it’s own? Our economy is too big to fail; so we must act preemptively to protect it by seriously reconsidering the way we organize it.

The financial industry has made a lot of mistakes.  They also made a lot of money- and the American people paid for it all.  They contributed directly to the bailout.  They were forced out of their homes because of foreclosures.  They were attacked by predatory lenders offering subprime loans.  They suffered the effects of financial deregulation.  Their shares went up and down for no reason.  The government let it all happen.

The financial industry has long tentacles wrapped around the arms of “our” Congress.  Over the past decade, the financial companies have spent more than $5 billion pushing the government whichever way it chooses.  $1.7 billion was directed at campaign contributions.  The remaining $3.4 billion was used for lobbying.  In total, that equates to $9,345,794.29 per member of congress (Harder 1). When it comes to political positioning, Goldman Sachs is at the top of the food chain.  Henry Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs was Treasury Secretary under Bush.  In 2006, Goldman Sachs Managing Director Mario Draghi became the governor of the Bank of Italy.  England and Canada have also recently appointed Goldman Sachs executives to political positions (Lynn 2). During a session of Congress discussing the bailout, Dennis Kucinich questioned aloud “Is this the US Congress or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?” (Kucinich 1). That statement is a perfect description of the amount of power the financial industry has over our government.

Money is a powerful thing.  Though it would seem that the collapse of one person’s mortgage should have no effect on someone else, the financial crisis has proved just the opposite.  When one house goes down, that soon brings down another, and the two bring down a street, which brings down a neighborhood, which brings down a city.  That leads to a bank collapsing, which pulls down all it’s depositors, linked banks, and insurers. All those collapses lead to larger ones and soon the market is in the dumps and analysts are predicting the worse is yet to come.  This leads to widespread fear and selloffs which pulls down stocks even more.  Soon, even nonfinancial companies are feeling the push and are laying off employees which leads to decreased buying.  This creates a never-ending spiral. Capitalism is linked. If your neighbor goes down, it could affect you very severely. Big finance is everyone’s business. Ultimately, what we should take away from the financial crisis is that we must work more closely together, as a people; that the illusion of competition is less important than the act of collectivization. Adam Smith promoted capitalism with a government whose primary function is to protect the people.  What he didn’t realize is that in addition to military protection from thieving armies, the people need financial protection from robber barons. We need the government to protect us from the financial industry. The next crash could be our last.

Works Cited

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Eye on the Bailout | ProPublica. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://bailout.propublica.org/&gt;.

Gilani, Shah. “How Deregulation Eviscerated the Banking Sector Safety Net and Spawned the U.S. Financial Crisis.” Money Morning. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://moneymorning.com/2009/01/13/deregulation-financial-crisis/&gt;.

Harder, Amy. “Report: Financial Lobbyists Spent $5B – Under The Influence – Under the Influence.” Under The Influence – Under the Influence. Web. 29 May 2010. <http://undertheinfluence.nationaljournal.com/2009/03/report-finds-some-k-street-inf.php&gt;.

Kalita, S. Mitra. “Americans See 18% of Wealth Vanish – WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – WSJ.com. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123687371369308675.html&gt;.

Krantz, Matt. “Fear Rises While Dow’s 1,000-point Drop Remains a Mystery – USATODAY.com.” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World – USATODAY.com. Web. 28 May 2010. <http://www.usatoday.com/money/markets/2010-05-10-mart10_ST_N.htm&gt;.

Kucinich, Dennis. “OpEdNews – Article: Kucinich Opposes Bailout, Asks, “Is This the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”” OpEdNews.Com Progressive, Tough Liberal News and Opinion. Web. 29 May 2010. <http://www.opednews.com/articles/Kucinich-Opposes-Bailout-a-by-Dennis-Kucinich-080928-572.html&gt;.

“Lender’s Cost of Forclosure.” Mortgage Banker’s Association. Web. 26 May 2010. .

Liebowitz, Stan. “New Evidence on the Foreclosure Crisis – WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – WSJ.com. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124657539489189043.html&gt;.

Lynn, Matthew. “Goldman Sachs Has Gained Too Much Political Power: Matthew Lynn.” Bloomberg.com. Web. 29 May 2010. <http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aGS6lvr8ipiw&refer=columnist_lynn-redirectoldpage&gt;.

Mehrling, Perry. “Shadow Banking: What It Is, How It Broke, and How to Fix It – Business – The Atlantic.” Breaking News, Analysis and Opinion on Politics, Business, Culture, International, Science, Technology, National, Food — The Atlantic. Web. 28 May 2010. <http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/07/shadow-banking-what-it-is-how-it-broke-and-how-to-fix-it/21038/&gt;.

Mildenberg, David. “‘Perfect Quarter’ at Four U.S. Banks Shows Fed-Fueled Revival – BusinessWeek.” BusinessWeek – Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-11/-perfect-quarter-at-four-u-s-banks-shows-fed-fueled-revival.html&gt;.

Osborne, Alistair By. “After JP Morgan Chase’s Washington Mutual Deal, Rescue Talk Turns to Wachovia – Telegraph.” Telegraph.co.uk: News, Business, Sport, the Daily Telegraph Newspaper, Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/3089381/After-JP-Morgan-Chases-Washington-Mutual-deal-rescue-talk-turns-to-Wachovia.html&gt;.

“RBC Bank, Wachovia, SunTrust on Weiss List of Vulnerable Banks – Triangle Business Journal.” Business News | Bizjournals. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/stories/2010/05/24/daily26.html&gt;.

“Real Estate – REALTOR.com®.” Real Estate Listings, Homes for Sale and Rental Property Listings – REALTOR.com®. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/15039-Maddelein-Street_Detroit_MI_48205_1118777526&gt;.

“Real Estate – REALTOR.com®.” Real Estate Listings, Homes for Sale and Rental Property Listings – REALTOR.com®. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/9631-Mansfield-St_Detroit_MI_48227_1114817485&gt;.

Setzer, Glenn. “Refinance To Reduce My Mortgage Payment – Mortgage Fraud Part 2.” Mortgage News Daily – Mortgage And Real Estate News. Web. 27 May 2010. <http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/1052004_Mortgage_Fraud2.asp&gt;.

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“Subprime Mortgages: A Primer : NPR.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9085408&gt;.

“U.S. Foreclosure Trends and Foreclosure Market Statistics | RealtyTrac.” Foreclosure Real Estate Listings | RealtyTrac. Web. 26 May 2010. <http://www.realtytrac.com/trendcenter/&gt;.

Categorization of States

•May 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

ALL STATES, all powers, that have held and hold rule over men have been and are either republics or principalities.
- Niccolo Machiavelli

There is a succession process in state development. Authority is never constant; it is always evolving, tending to consolidate itself, assuming it is left alone to do so. It is the natural tendency of those who are greatly privileged and powerful over others to seek to widen that inequality. They do this primarily on the basis of two factors that perpetuate the other: fear, and greed. More specifically, these are fears of losing what one has (and thus a fear of everyone else), and lust for more goods (and thus a greed that disregards others). These are, not coincidentally, the two forces that drive the market; in addition, they are diametrically opposed to the human virtues of community, selflessness, and loving compassion. Politics and economy are inextricably intertwined in this way; one influences the other, pulling the other one upon the path it has set its sights upon. Thus we may only create a truly compassionate society by removing all major competitive forces from both the economy and politics of the system. We have not done so, and so we all suffer the consequences. Some more, and more obviously, than others.

But excuse me, I disregard the main point of this entry. Namely, I wish to disclose my views on the progression of state development, and how that relates to the overall progress of history and our potential future within the context of the veganarchs’ social revolution.

First, there was the Lockean “State of Nature”, so to speak. Individual pre-hominids scurrying around, acting roughly independently without a really cohesive means of organization.

Primitive humanity began to organize itself shortly after acquiring sufficient cognitive and communicative skills, creating small communities across the world. This is far before the agricultural revolution. Such societies live in perpetual scarcity, constantly under environmental pressures, and so they move around frequently, often in tune with the seasonal climatic changes of their area(s). These are “Hunter-Gatherer” groups. Individuals likely have little degree of autonomy from their group, because they are collectively oppressed by their harsh environment. Sexual division of labor is simply a matter of necessity and expedience.

Next, there is the advent of Tribes. Somewhere along the line, community pressures started to become more apparent. Groups became somewhat larger. One’s tribe was one’s extended family, and it became custom to mate and marry outside of it due to the political benefits thereof. This lead to further subordination and subjugation of women, and the establishment of a true, recognizable patriarchy. Authority became centralized in dominant adult males. People experimented with domestication, in some areas, and groups tended to stay in one area for a season or two, rather than weeks or months.

Then there interposed the Agricultural Revolution. This was crucial to the development of human society, for it allowed for the creation of centralized authority, cities, and large populations. Humanity became less enslaved to Nature, and more to the newly created State. The advent of larger populations and cities created a society in which community culture became more helpful

Now we get to the “good” part: Human Civilization.

First you have Oligarchic Theocracies. These are very striated societies, divided strictly into several castes: Monarch, Priests, Soldiers, Merchants, Farmer Peasants, and Slaves, in that rough order. Sometimes Merchants would be demoted, for social purposes, to just above the slaves; however, their power usually compensated for this. The reason for this situation is that the Merchants and the Priest-Monarch complex-that is, the Middle Class and Aristocracy-are constantly, throughout all of history, interlocked in a struggle for power, control, and domination. The Aristocracy always inherits its power; the Middle Class will usually be found taking it. This struggle is a primary source for the creation of social energy, which, under the right circumstances, may reach a threshold level that will catalyze major social upheavals and changes. The Middle Class will always win out, because they hold the reigns of the economy as society grows and prospers; the Aristocracy rarely has the capability or the will to invest in any economic situation beyond agriculture and rural landowning. Also, the Aristocracy often will fight itself, in the form of conflicts between kings, nobles, and clergy. This “first phase” of society is what I term the First Aristocracy. It includes all Monarchies, Early-Era Theocracies, and Aristocracies, and ends about 1789-1865 in Europe and the US, with the French Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Revolutions of 1848, and the Civil War.

After awhile, the Merchants rose to power. Inevitably, the old land-holding aristocracy loses power, and is replaced by the capital-owning Upper-Middle Class. The aristocracy, over time, becomes basically irrelevant, merging with the Upper-Middle Class to form a new, temporarily stable Ruling Class. Because of the domination of all aspects of the economy, politics, and societal thought enjoyed by this 2nd Iteration of the Ruling Class, there is likely to be no further iteration of the Ruling Class once the society has reached this point, unless there are significant complications. This stage is called Corporate Oligarchy.

And that’s where we are today, in the Developed World.

“But wait!”, you might say, “I live in a Democracy!”. No, you don’t. There isn’t a real democracy anywhere in the world. Societies certainly possess democratic or socialist elements and trappings, but that is all they are: superficial appearances meant to distract people from the fact that they are nothing more than well-paid serfs. Let me show you the actual class structure of the world:

 – The Ruling Class: A blend of Upper-Middle and Aristocratic classes, these people make all the decisions that are important to a society. They control all the corporations, and thus the Media, and thus what people think: which makes directly controlling the electoral process irrelevant and actually counter-productive, as it may spark a revolution. They control the government, because they control who gets elected, and set up measures to ensure their sole control over the political sphere . They also control the corporate workplace, which is essentially a dictatorship, where they enjoy absolute control over most everything anybody does. And in addition, they run all the religious establishments as well, further controlling what the vast majority of people think.

 – The Middle Class: This is composed of all the people employed in the non-decision-making, yet still high-ranking, parts of the service sector: Lawyers, Doctors, Mainstream Artists, and others. They have somewhat expendable personal monetary resources, so they are often also Investors and Consumers. They often own their own practices and businesses. They are the main engine of consumption that keeps that end of the modern-day Capitalist system going. Recently they are being thinned out by the Ruling Class’s intentional and unintentional actions; this will have severe economic-political consequences for society as a whole, as the mortal wounding of the Middle Class will render it very unstable in short order.

 – The Lower-Middle Class: This is composed of Clerks, Teachers and Professors, and anyone else who works in a white-collar situation but doesn’t have much money. They are almost always employed to someone else, and are also consumers, but to a significantly lesser degree. Not all have their own houses. They have lesser means than their Middle-Class proper “cousins”, and generally have to work harder, longer, and in more menial positions. They are generally non-unionized, with the notable exception of a large portion of the Teachers and Professors. They are the well-paid serfs.

 – The Working-Class: Unionized Laborers, Farmers, and whoever else who still works with their hands in the manufacturing or agricultural sectors are the people in this class. They always work for someone else, and are given only a moderate degree of self-management. They used to be, back in the late 1800s, the driving force behind social change. Since Post-Industrialization in the Developed World, they have shrunken and become irrelevant in far too many aspects. They are also well-paid serfs, and actually often have it “better” than the Lower-MC due to their unionized situation.

 – The Underclass: Non-Unionized Laborers, the Welfare-Dependant, and all the rest of this society’s downtrodden compose the final class. They are beaten down, kept from organizing, frightened with insecurity, and put under the worst kind of oppression. There is much revolutionary potential here, but they must be motivated and organized and spoken to. This is difficult to accomplish in much of a successful manner. They are the worst-treated serfs, their jobs being anywhere from having to resort to criminal activity, scratch by a living on the very margins, or work in slavery-like conditions.

In “Developing” Nations, the situation is more or less similar, except that the “intermediary classes” are much smaller in proportion to the Underclass. This is where post-industrial “developed nations”, or rather their corporate owners, have shipped their manufacturing jobs to.

But the story does not end here.

We are currently reaching the end of this Second Phase of human society, or the Second Aristocracy. The current system is simply unsustainable. The Middle Class is being squeezed all around the world like never before, and it is indeed collapsing, particularly in the US. The Ruling Class is aggrandizing itself too quickly, too far, and the economy is suffering for it: e.g., the current economic crisis and “financial bailout”. What is to come is a grand swell of opposition from a disenfranchised former middle class and a newly angered Working and Underclass, one that will determine the fate of the society for the next phase of its development. Moreover, the wasteful short-sightedness of the current system has caused irrevocable alterations to the climate through its damage to the environment, which will cause massive upheavals around the world as feudal financial systems also come crashing down.

Amidst the chaos, the Veganarchists must assert themselves and take control of the situation, before people like neo-Stalins, neo-Maos, neo-Hitlers, or neo-conservative totalitarians of all stripes and colors get their hands on the reigns of this great new people power, and use it to create an insane, destructive, unsustainable, and inhumane “new” society. We, Veganarchists, need to educate people on what constitutes a good society, on alternative models to things like capitalism, nation-states, and even organized religion, and why they need to be implemented now. There can be no time for compromise, or casual reform: nothing will suffice but a full, all-out push to fix society, on all fronts, immediately. We have the opportunity to do such things right now, with the mindless anger of the Tea Party Movement in the US being hopelessly wasted on nationalism, racism, blind angered bigotry, and useless, regurgitated old talking points of conservative politics. These people in particular must be targeted for intelligent dialogue: they are crucial to saving our planet.

Throughout all your efforts, remember that the name of the Third Phase is up to each and all of us. We’re counting on you.

Veganarchist Values, Morals, Tenets

•May 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Values and Morals are the priorities one puts upon life. It is a person’s general direction, and consequently can function as the collective measure of the true worth of a society. Beyond technology, wealth, and power, there is what those are all used for; and that intent of an individual or a group is what is most important, in the end.

When someone is born into a society, they generally adopt and adhere to the general values and morals of that society. Throughout human history, the idea of having two sets of moral or values was seen by the Establishment, particularly the Church (and State, when they were united) as being a direct threat to its existence. Though times are more tolerant at present, at least superficially, in a very real way this was a correct assessment. This multiculturalism and allowance for free thought allows one, in theory anyone, to free oneself from the shackles of thought control.

Still, uncommon willpower and time to discern the situation of society and this that of the of slavery within our own value systems is required; this greatly impedes the great impoverished masses from realizing this, or being able to act upon it, being weighted down with the load of labor and subsistence life, and also due to their often de-facto imposed isolation from the wider world. Ironically, it is generally up to people of wealth, power, and relative leisure to catalyze social change. However, the Upper Class is usually so inundated with propaganda and pleasure that they usually do not want to, or know how, to work for revolutionary change, with some notable exceptions; and even if they do, they are usually the moderating influences on such revolutionary activity. So this leaves one group: the middle, given just enough to be free, but not enough to be serfs once more. Generally, it has been people in the upper-lower to upper-middle classes in developed countries that has produced meaningful revolutionary leadership; generally people that actually, comparative to most, appear to benefit from the Establishment’s system. It is from this group that I come, and from this group that I think will come the leaders of Veganarchism: those people with the opportunity to help others understand, with the revolutionary capital, so to speak, to “invest” in a revolution which will create a better future for all; even the now poorest of the poor, to the richest of the ruling class.

Those who dissent from the mainstream are varied: one of these groups, however small, is composed of the Veganarchist movement. Parts of this ideology are shared and practiced by a lot of people; it’s just that only a few that recognize their connection, and practice all of them.

The central tenets of Veganarchism are as follows:

  • There is an Establishment which is a parasite upon Humanity, having corrupted its society so as to keep it from evolving to a more humane, progressive, and advanced state.
  • This Establishment is the dominant force in human society, and maintains homeostasis and thus its existence by maintaining the status quo, whatever the cost to humanity, by manipulating all people to its agenda of self-preservation.
  • This Establishment must be destroyed, and can only be done so by the simple act of people recognizing the previous two tenets, and working to make a new society free of this parasite. The Establishment is already losing ground gradually due to a general trend towards higher technology and (most importantly) the application of such higher technologies towards the furtherment of a more humane society.
  • The Establishment and Humanity cannot coexist for much longer. The Establishment must be destroyed soon, for we are reaching a point of no return for our society in many aspects, amongst them environmental and technological: we must find a way to reorganize society that will permit us to have a reasonable chance at our continued existence as a species without destroying ourselves.
The Central Values of Veganarchist adherents are as follows:
  • Veganarchists are engaged in a Five-Part Struggle against the Establishment: Political, Economic, Egalitarian, Environmental, and Belief. Others are engaged in less comprehensive struggles, or none at all, and should be “upgraded” to the Five-Part Struggle. All Humanity is our potential ally, and we work for even the benefit of our self-proclaimed opponents.
  • Veganarchists practice universal love and forgiveness for all people; retribution is not an option, no matter how heinous an individual or a group’s crimes. All people deserve to be put upon the path of righteousness, however much we may dislike them personally, or their choices morally.
  • Veganarchists, accordingly, do not commit violence, whenever it can be avoided, against any sentient being. A cow, a horse, a dog, and even the tiniest insect are innocent; . We don’t walk around trying not step on bacteria; but if something has a brain to feel its own demise, it should certainly be spared if reasonably possible. Certainly a Veganarchist would never support the mass organized killing of human beings in wars, or animals in factory farms; they are appalling injustices.
  • Veganarchists maintain their beliefs, even when it is hard to keep from not dissenting. Never keep your mouth bound shut; only maintain a kind tone and peaceful intent. Individualism and confrontation do not mean anger and violence.
  • Veganarchists try to keep from falling into despair over the subject of how backward the world may seem to them. Depression leads to anger, anger leads to violence. In addition, it drives others away from looking at the philosophy. We try to keep an upbeat, optimistic, and positive tone to our thoughts and words as much as possible.
  • Veganarchists want to have fun. This is, I think, the most important tenet. We aren’t a bunch of armchair revolutionaries idly hypothesizing about the inevitable proletariat revolt of retribution against the ruling class, that we will never live to see: on the contrary, we want to participate in a revolution in how we think about others, and how we run our world. We want to love, and be loved, we want to see the whole world mature, we want to live our lives, we want to be a creative factor of this new world we’re going to create. And we want, most of all, for you to join us of your own volition. We want you to choose love over hate, individuality over obedience, empathy over callous ignorance, and become a stronger, healthier, happier, more loved and loving human being, an adult worthy of inheriting with us what is an all too childish world.

Spreading Veganarchism

•January 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Some will say we, the Veganarchists, will spread like a virus. Like a disease we will corrupt the minds of the gullible and weak-minded, but will eventually be stamped out by the good forces of strong will and emotional knee-jerk reactionary stagnation.

In reality, we are not the disease. We are the cure.

We are the cure for a dying cancer patient in all of us, of all of us. We are the antidote for all the ills of society, and we are evolving faster than the disease is. For we are movement, to the old stagnation; we are the education to the old ignorance. And we are the collective to the old selfish.

We do not corrupt minds; we enlighten them. Unlike the Establishment which will seek to, and already does so effortlessly, demonize or ridicule us, we do not impose our views on others. We convince them, through reasoned debate, rational argument, constructive criticism. We teach those who are not privileged to understand the world as we do, and listen to what they, the students, have to say. We teach them peer-to-peer, with humility and patience. And, eventually, they understand.

And when they understand, we arm them. Not with guns or knives, but with words and insight: things far more dangerous, profound, and capable.

And they will seek out new students, to teach them what they have learned. And so on.

And so the world shall change dramatically. Through kindness and commonality, humility and humanity. All for one, one being all.

Veganarchist Manifesto

•January 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Veganarchism.

What does this word mean? It means to be able to see clearly through the illusions and around the distractions that society has erected against its constituents. The Establishment might be regarded as a being unto its own, separate from the humans which make it up; it makes surprising attempts to survive against the inevitable waves of change and societal progression. In general, its attempts consist of stopping individuals from realizing the Truth. The Truth is that there is a struggle between their current societal Establishment and the Emergent philosophy, and that they are far better off supporting Emergence, which is Societal Progression.

Thus, it means to understand Unity of Struggle. Unity of Struggle is the understanding that the progressive cause has many fronts of struggle, many conflicts all ongoing simultaneously, and the reason progressive causes have been held off for so long is twofold. First, that people do not understand the struggle and are manipulated by the powerful Establishment into detracting from progressive causes that would benefit them and the whole society. Second, that these progressive causes do not largely unite and make a coordinated educational and advocacy effort on all fronts simultaneously. This division is fostered by the Establishment to keep the. However, bit by bit, Society has been progressing since the European Renaissance of the 1500s. Unfortunately, Establishment practices have simultaneously moved from undesirable to wildly unsustainable.

It means to understand the Establishment. The Establishment is not a conspiracy of the elite, or any individuals plotting total world domination. The Establishment is a separate entity from any human being; it is the tendency for human society to work against itself and preserve the status quo policies, practices, and worldviews, personified. It is a result of the “societal glue” of human conformism magnified to problematic levels by lack of education and awareness, combined with artificial Establishment interference.

Finally, it is to understand that societal understanding and progression is not a fixed goal. It is constantly evolving, changing to look for “the next big thing”, so to speak. What I believe to be what we should strive for on the very fringe of societal struggle will, with any luck, be the reality of a future generation’s world; and they will strive for further societal development that we cannot even imagine.

Is Veganarchism a worthy cause?

Yes, it is. Through planning, the awareness of Veganarchism will lead to a better world for all through Emergent philosophy’s planned societal progression. Everyone will be freer, more involved in society, happier, and healthier, all by many degrees, when my personal understanding of Veganarchism is implemented.

But what is it?

Veganarchism is a philosophy of universal community of all human beings, compassion for all living things, and global solidarity against the Establishment. A few key ideas punctuate this:

  • Unity of Five-Fold Struggle: Political, Economic, Egalitarian, Environmental, Belief. Veganarchists know these by heart: they are the Five Arenas of Struggle, all of which are interconnected. All areas of our ailing society are ill, and all deserve attention. To go into depth about why this is, would demand a book: one that I’m writing right now.
  • Universal Love: It may sound “hippie”, or “cliche”, but that does not mean it is a stupid thing. Love everyone, forgive everything, and work to make the world a better place. Let go of all your attachments but the ones you really ought to treasure, and build new love with new people every day. Live to harbor no hate, no disdain, no despair. Life is too short.
  • Speak Up, Out, Forward: Never keep silent when injustice is being committed. However, never hurt another being if you can help it: As a Veganarchist, you work for every person, every animal that can think or feel. You do not wish vengance, only virtue. Similarly, keep your tongue as kind and civil as is possible, to everyone. Educate firmly, but politely.

How, then, may Veganarchism’s ideals be implemented?

What we need is an Intellectual Assault on all fronts. We need Debate Warriors to teach and reeducated indoctrinated Establishment slaves, and turn them into an army of organized, rebellious, free-thinking radicals. To do that, we need Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech. The Internet is the best place for free-association, debate, and organization at this point; we must defended its independence and autonomy from the Establishment at all costs. It is our greatest asset. In a broader sense, we should defend these aforementioned two freedoms with all our strength. Without them, our movements become deeply inhibited and even completely ineffectual.

The Decentralization of the Veganarchist Movement is our greatest asset and detriment. It would be prudent to use beneficial aspects of both centralized and decentralized models, whilst discarding whatever negative attributes we can from both. An excellent term for the concept I am extrapolating towards is a “Leaderless Resistance”. Look it up.

The Establishment is akin to a Hydra. There is a necessity for constant refutation and struggle by as many people as possible, and the relatively simultaneous defeat of all heads at once. We cannot simply postpone one struggle until another generation; History has shown us that our time is running short. We must end this current Establishment in all its forms and end this phase of Emergent Struggle with a conscious refutation of this incarnation of the Establishment.

We live in a profound generation. We may well be the last generation of this Establishment Phase; whether we choose to move into a new age of Emergence, or completely collapse upon our outdated institutions is up for debate. To quote a favorite literary character, “We will all soon have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy,”. Our comfortable childhoods, our free rides will soon end quite abruptly. We can take the reigns of responsibility for our society, or watch our Establishment slave master run all of us off the cliff, into the abyss, never to return.

 
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