A Political Primer (leaflet)


1. We get a big influx of beginners from time to time — for instance, when the three World Trade Center towers fell, when the first Zeitgeist film appeared, when the banks crashed, and when Trump got elected.

The new political activists are naive, and wrong about nearly everything, but I’ve been too impatient with them. I need to remember that in 2006 I too was a beginner and wrong about nearly everything, and even now there are still some things I haven’t figured out.

The crises are growing, so we need more people talking about what is really going on. I’d like to simply tell them, but they may have difficulty hearing me, because what I’ve seen is very different from what they’ve previously been told. Still, maybe they’ll at least consider it. So here goes:

2. You’ve been surrounded by lies. The red pill will shock you as it did Neo. Some “conspiracy theories” are true, though initially it’s hard to tell which ones. The government, the mass news media, and both money parties are owned by big corporations, and they all lie about everything. The biggest lies are those of omission, when they agree on an issue and hardly discuss it at all.

A good start would be to get away from the corporate news media (FOX, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, etc.) and start reading some alternative media. My own favorites are Counterpunch, Greanville Post, Black Agenda ReportDemocracyNow, The Intercept, Common Dreams, Truthdig, Caitlin Johnstone, Richard Wolff, Lee Camp. And read Howard Zinn’s history, too.

3. Global warming is much worse than the corporate news tells you. Floods in 2100 are a distraction from famines in 2030. Tipping points and feedback loops are about to send us over a cliff. And in addition to climate change, there is plastic in the oceans, oil in the rivers, etc., all bringing us toward ecosystem collapse, which will kill us all. Already, other species are dying off faster than any time since the dinosaurs.

Governments are doing too little to change things, because they’re bought off by big businesses that profit the way things are. The rich are short-sighted, because in the past their money has always protected them from the consequences of their actions. But soon they’ll discover they can’t eat money.

The market is not wise or efficient. It always has unmeasured costs, paid not by the buyer or seller but by everyone else. Those externalized costs are enormous, and they’re killing everything.

For our species to survive, we’ll need huge changes in government and market.

4. The economy may soon collapse for a variety of reasons, even before the ecosystem collapses. For instance, more robots means fewer wage earners, hence fewer buyers for the goods made by the robots. That trend can’t continue much longer.

In the meantime, torments grow for most people. If we don’t share, then we trade — but that favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, thereby making him stronger still, increasing inequality. That’s inherent in any kind of trade, any system of private property, and it can’t be overcome by reforms, regulations, “moral renewal,” or voting: We can’t end plutocracy by electing better plutocrats.

Already, inequality has grown to enormous levels, creating poverty and plutocracy. Our society has enough resources to end poverty, but that doesn’t happen because it wouldn’t profit the rulers. If you’re not ready to end private property, then your calls for equity are just noises.

Wealth is power, so we have a tiny ruling class. And power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved; the ruling class becomes greedy and cruel. And even those of us without power are corrupted by this economic system: Competition kills empathy, turning neighbors into rivals, yielding racism, sexism, nihilism, mass shootings, and an acceptance of war.

5. The wars are all based on lies. The Department of War was renamed the Department of “Defense” shortly after the novel “1984” was published, but it was never really about defense.

  • Russia is not attacking us,
  • Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs,
  • North Vietnam did not shoot first,
  • Truman nuking Japan did not save lives,
  • the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a surprise or unprovoked,

and so on. The wars have all been bipartisan. Here are some real reasons for the wars:

  • to import cheap labor and materials,
  • to perpetuate the petrodollar,
  • to make big profits for US military corporations, and
  • to distract the US public from domestic problems.

Politicians draw lines on maps and say the people “over there” are different — but really, those are our cousins; it’s the politicians who are different. Lately some of them are crazy enough to think of “winning” a nuclear war, but no one will survive the subsequent radioactive fallout.

The USA was never “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Rather, the USA was founded on genocide and slavery, and it starts more wars and imprisons more people than anyone else on earth. Martin Luther King was quite right to call the USA “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world“; that is just as true today. Power corrupts, so we should replace all our society’s authoritarian hierarchies with horizontal networking.

6. Reforms are not enough. Reforms would be appropriate if — as we’ve been told — our society were based on sound principles such as freedom and democracy, and we’d merely strayed superficially into corruption. If that were true, then reforms could solve all our problems by getting us back to the sound principles.

But none of that is true. Regulations can’t make a kinder, gentler guillotine. The problem is not good institutions run badly, but bad institutions, founded on bad principles. We can’t end ecocide, poverty, war, and other problems until we replace our society’s real principles — hierarchy, property, and separateness — with a better foundation: harmony and consensus. It’s a fool’s errand to try to make the lies of freedom and democracy come true, for those “principles” can’t really work:

  • “Freedom” is an independence from other people, the sort prized by the plutocrat who thinks he is “self-made.” But in fact we are social animals, and we are only happy or productive together. Rather than separateness, what we need is harmony — that is, to get along with each other in comfortable relationships of respect, understanding, caring, and sharing.
  • And “democracy” looks better than oligarchy, but it’s still no solution to our problems. Democracy is a milder form of “might makes right,” encouraging a misinformed 51% to overrule the 49% without caring or understanding. Really we need to work toward understanding and meeting each other’s needs in consensus.

We are heading toward paradise if we find wisdom, or extinction if we do not. We need huge change in how we see the world, how we see each other. Find your best feelings inside yourself and your friends. Let’s make those the basis of our new world, a different and better world. The first step is to get more people talking about it.


2018 June 14, version 3.15. The printed version fits on two sides of a “legal” (8.5 x 14 inch) piece of paper.