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An Evolving Secular Palm Sunday Sermonette: Direct action is an obligation

purposely made difficult. (Here’s the Wikipedia discussion of “direct action.”) Young people, the worker, and the poor correctly sense the sickness of our world, purposely made to seem invincible. We “expect” them to work when there are no jobs and deal with contradictions and injustice with superhuman self-discipline Jesus Christ would not expect them to marshal. They are made of flesh and blood. They do not like the crap sandwiches we feed them. They sometimes seize temporary escapes or feed on each other. Who can say that is not purposeful too? … but not by them. Every addict, teenager, and petty thief is a revolutionary could-a-been, not to mention a potential profit center. Much better to keep them scrambling for self-medication and blaming each other than to allow them to band together in human solidarity. By all means, keep them from voting. Screw democracy, we’ve got a global economy to run. [Continued from this "top of the blog" video of The Clash's Ghetto Defendant:]

But who are “we”? Which side are “we” on? Why should “we” reflect the interests of the powerful and not the powerless? Just “because”? Who is chained here? Not just the powerless but also the comfortable. The comfortable are chained by their desire for comfort. The powerful dole out comfort. Unless we are willing, as individuals, to lose things the powerful have that make us comfortable, we not only cannot challenge the status quo but are the very instruments of the status quo. And the status quo is a material disbursement of resources. And unfair material disbursement of resources is not God-ordained. Remember the part about “on earth as it is in heaven.” “God,” according to the above-mentioned Jesus Christ, is materially, not just spiritually, on the side of “them,” not the comfortable “we.” A fair distribution of the things that humans need is a moral issue. But, to side with the poor and the weak is to require some of that superhuman self-discipline we cannot expect others, including the poor and the weak to have, which is itself a contradiction that the powerful have on their side. Continue reading

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Final Cuba Jeopardy Answer–”The Emergence of Marxist Holism”

Sven. Who is Chris Farley?
No, I am sorry that is not correct. Your wager, your guaranteed minimum Celebrity Jeopardy $1,000, takes you down to 0.

Pendejo. I’m a gay pirate from Cuba. I’m sorry, you once again failed to put your response in the form of a question, such as where do you come up with this stuff? With your wager of $1,000, you are also at 0.

Richard. Why to the capitalist overlords Cuba must fail and for the rest of us Cuba “must” succeed? Yes, you placed it in the form of question, with the correct question word at that. You succinctly hit themes of your obscure 2008 India-published book, Talking About Trees: Science, Ecology and Agriculture in Cuba . You even subtly changed prepositions to connote the not fully recognized nature of Cuba’s importance to humanity’s future and added appropriate quotation mark qualifiers recognizing the pivotal role that Cuba could play but implying the stubborn persistence of socialism even if Cuba goes the way of the Soviet Union or China. But don’t get fatheaded elitist. A portion of your winnings is being expropriated for Obamacare! And you’ll be coming back tomorrow to battle the SuperTeachers, beginning with “The Embargo” for $100 on an original reason for the embargo was when Castro declared Cuba a _________ state. If all this musical, graphical, and intellectual stimulation makes you nauseous, go back to Hahvard professor.

Nananana nanana, nananana Na nanananana, nananananananana, Na nanana, na, na, na, pum pum. Continue reading

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Coping Strategies of Poor Women in the Deep South

I will be brief: A humane society does not effectively force segments of its population to engage in dehumanizing coping strategies under the guise of picking one up by one’s bootstraps.

What leads me to write this diary are the faces and plights of three women in the Deep South whom I have come to know in the last week alone. One is a middle-aged African-American woman who prostitutes for a living, desperately wants to be drug-free but just failed a stupid drug test administered for no good reason by a state engaged in fighting the immoral Drug War, which treats economic, medical, and social problems as criminal matters, so that now she can go back to jail and leave her children to cope without her. Another is an early twenties “white” woman who was neglected by her drug addicted mother as a child, was given the great opportunity of going to a charter school where the county now shuttles its low income problem students, dropped out of school, and who, for a time, found promising work in the exciting career of removing her clothes for and rubbing against the groins of ogling drunk men, but who now, about to give birth to her first child in the county jail, where she was placed after being picked up for an old violation of probation relating to petty theft, is “out of work” and has lost the only thing she owns, a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. [UPDATE: The petty theft charge is interesting. A couple years ago, she attempted to steal from a Walmart $50.52 in children's clothes and $6.00 worth of children's cupcakes to give to a destitute friend who had nothing for her own child's birthday party.] Another is an early twenties African-American woman who no longer is able to strip for a living in the Deep South at another nearby club because she got into a fight with another stripper and lost her job, for which she now sits in jail on a battery charge. What a shame to give up such a promising career in a moment of reckless temper tantrum-ing. She should have kept her cool and put in perhaps another ten or fifteen years in this promising career before the ogling fine Christian “white” drunk men would no longer pay her for just dancing and lap dances. Continue reading

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My Life as a Dog: I Should Have Told Him Everything

Republished here in full from Francisco Nejdanov Solomin’s “Galtisalie” blog at Daily Kos.

When the loved ones who were there for us from day one get old, sick, and in my dad’s case, suddenly stricken by dementia, this film is all I can compare what I feel inside to. I am inside a kid again, when all the freshly mowed grass smells were imprinted, when all the loves and losses were boldest. All I can do is pray that he recovers his mind and wish that I was back then again to do it all over and tell him everything and be there for all of HIS suffering those days and years when all I could think about was my own suffering due to the injustices I felt at the imperfect life dad and mom had given my siblings and me. All of that imperfection is absurd and itself unjust now. Dad was doing the best he could in an absurd and unjust capitalist world of contradictions and cruelty. It is his flesh and blood, love, companionship, and yes incredibly sweet and active mind that I will never stop craving. The flesh and blood, and love and companionship on some level, hopefully will be around for a while longer, but the mind for now and maybe forever is incapable of sharing with me all of those amazing thoughts, many of which I now disagree with, but yet were and still are on some level so preciously painful or painfully precious.

The minor league and sadly one must now admit crypto-fascist Nixon, pro-War, anti-Viet Cong “flag”-waving propaganda he encouraged me, not even 11, to be a part of now seems almost quaint–but not quite. The horror still comes through in its very All-American-Christian-ness. Continue reading

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What in Tarnation is “Prout” and Why Should We Care?

Republished by garden variety democratic socialist. Written by Francisco Nejdanov Solomin blogging as Galtisalie for the Anti-Capitalist Meetup Group at Daily Kos.

Introductory Note: As background for this diary, it might be helpful to read Geminijen’s excellent and balanced diary from a few weeks ago, Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Fagor Goes Bankrupt – Trouble in Camelot, which discusses one of the world’s most important cooperative movements, founded by a do-gooder Catholic priest. The subject of the instant diary also involves cooperatives, but as will be apparent, much more.

I am biased but to me, “Prout,” which stands for “Progressive Utilization Theory,” is a lovely theory of progressive socialism we all should study, learn from, and consider adopting as part of our praxis and our goals for humanity. Unfortunately, as a new student of Prout, I cannot nearly do it justice in this diary or anywhere else at this time. In addition, I am not in a position to report on the practical experiences of putting Prout into practice. As someone who grew up in irrational Christian fundamentalism (and still lives in the repressive Deep South, where I can see such “faith” put into practice on a daily basis in anti-”other” bigotry and legislation), I no longer like to make my decisions based on “enthusiasm” for what people, spiritual or otherwise, say as opposed to what they do. And I am HIGHLY skeptical about any religion’s ability to confront the harsh world of capitalism in an effective and objective manner (although, from what I understand, Prout’s associated spiritual movement claims not to be a religion).

But I do not want to let my skepticism itself turn into blinders or cynicism for what may have value in the critical work for justice down here on terra firma. All human endeavors are to some degree a mixed bag. I am, after all, a socialist, after a century of ultimate public humiliation of the cause I still dare to hold dear. Course correction is nothing to be embarrassed about but rather something to be celebrated. The work to save humanity is entitled to a mulligan every single day until we get it right.

The first part of my personal credo is to “accept[] life’s complexity.” To me that includes the challenge to evaluate honestly both the positives and the negatives of all things relating to “spirituality.” Prout is not only a system with many complex moving parts but also a holistic system whose whole is intended to vastly exceed the sum of its parts. I can only give my gut impressions of whether it could even theoretically help to accomplish the enormous task of like “saving the world” or something else “major” for humanity, but I am not qualified to explain much less critique all of its parts.

Fortunately, I have a lovely book to help me explain its details, Dada Maheshvarananda’s 2012 updated version of a book first published in 2003, and currently titled After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action (Innerworld Publications).

And, I have you, my comrades, to help me critique the parts and the whole within the context of various movements and sub-movements on the left, both historical and potential.

Dr. Marcos Arruda says of the book in the Foreword, “The nine years that have passed since Dada Maheshvarananda first published this precious book have proven its validity and relevance.” I could not agree more. One of the things I have greatly benefited from in the last couple of years are book recommendations from kindred spirits on the left with whom I have gratefully come into contact via the information superhighways and byways. I am still no socialist scholar (and do not make it a priority to become one), and often the people giving me book suggestions are, but if I had to make one book recommendation at this point in my fledgling socialization process, this would be it. Not because the book is perfect or because I agree with everything in it or in Prout more generally, but because Prout as explained in this book comes closest to announcing to the world the direction I think we should be heading than anything else I have yet read.

Plenty of us realize capitalism is a disaster. Marx got that quite right, and Prout, whose founder actually was a big fan of Marx, seconds the notion. Prout also does a really good job of telling us where we should be going to fix things. And this book is a compelling, reasonably detailed, and accessible explanation of Prout. Continue reading

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A Socialized Reflection on Repression in the Deep South by and for the 1%

This personally important diary was originally published by Francisco Nejdanov Solomin at his Galtisalie blog at Daily Kos. It is republished here in full.

Ah yes, how us repressed masses just love us some “filth.” Okay, I have little sense of humor these days. But to save someone the trouble of putting the famous “Help! I’m being repressed” video in the comments, I got it covered. Because I was a teenager in 1975 when the movie was released, I would never dispute the almost biblical inerrancy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (I missed the road show of Spamalot at the local community college thee-ayter, but heard it was good.) So, at the outset, please let’s have a good laugh. And truly, I am a fortunate son. I have nothing personally to complain about regarding the treatment of me by and for our world’s 85 wealthiest kings and their noblemen. Everything is just great. If I could just keep my mouth shut about the real exploitation, oppression, and repression that goes on every day in our world, I probably would never have to worry about me experiencing direct repression.

Problem is, I can’t keep my mouth shut. And, if I open my biiiiiiig mouth and say what I am convicted to say, that means very real repression of not only me but also my family and friends. And all of us have to eat and work and have bills to pay.

Importantly, I can’t really choose my words carefully enough and still have them be my cause’s message. You see, I am a deeply committed socialist, just like George Orwell. (Also just like Orwell, I am a deeply committed democrat too. You are allowed to be both. They don’t tell you that in school. In my view and Orwell’s, and many other good folks’ opinions, the two belong together.) Have been one in my heart for over 25 years, but just last year decided to make it official with myself, and, in small relatively safe ways, with our world. I’m still a hardworking Democratic Party member, and expect I will always be, but also now I proudly associate with all manner of pinks and reds, provided they support democracy and civil rights. I challenge anyone who excuses plutocracy, regardless of its label, whether it purports to be “communist,” like North Korea, “market,” like the U.S. and Russia, some combination of “communist” and “market,” like China, or “religious”/”royal” like Saudi Arabia. I also urge Latin American and Caribbean countries on the left to reject authoritarianism, but I recognize that this can be challenging in the face of U.S. neocolonialism and dirty tricks, so I also take on U.S. neocolonialism and dirty tricks. Continue reading

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Free Democratic Socialist Seeds

Brrrrrr, it is cold outside in much of the U.S., in many places life-threateningly so. Yet, wherever you live, now is the perfect time to start planning your next workers’ garden and planting seeds of rearrangement. Even if you do not currently have affordable and safe access to soil and space for one, because of neoliberal-caused migration, wage slavery, unemployment, overcrowded living conditions, guns, asphalt, concrete, and broken glass where children need to play, the drug war being fought in your otherwise forgotten neighborhood, colonialism, neocolonialist land-grabbing, bankruptcy, repossession, or other conditions of despair, land reform may be the perfect solution, but it will not happen without Niebuhrian coercion.

With the workers’ gardens land reform could make possible would come the question of what to grow and when. Unless you live in the Deep South where one can have a thriving winter garden (including some sustainable “perennial” vegetables requiring little or no effort), after the fall harvest and during the winter may be a slow time as far as gardening goes, good for cover crops or otherwise renewing the soil we all depend upon for survival, but not a productive time as far as yield. Still, when spring comes, and sooner or later it will, you will want to have thought through how you can best steward your soil and space.

I am going to let you in on a little secret a hardworking concerned elderly man who lived with his elderly wife in a trailer told me when I was much younger as we were walking out of church in a rural working class but rapidly gentrifying area of central Florida:

I want to tell you something. There are these things called seeds. You put them in the ground and food comes up. I don’t want you to forget that.

Continue reading

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Niebuhrian Coercion and a Non-Utopian Version of a Vision That Hopefully Will Never Die: Bolivarian-Burnsian International Justice and Solidarity

Dedicated to the spirit of the tenth socialist commandment:

Look forward to the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one community, and live together as equals in peace and righteousness.

Before you jump to the conclusion from the title of this piece that Brother Francisco has gone “violent,” please note that “coercion” can be democratic, where democracy is available, and even where democracy is not available, it can be peaceful to a large extent. But it must involve bona fide pressure in some form appropriate to the circumstances toward a worthwhile vision. I believe that the world’s worthwhile vision should be global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone’s basic needs and would like to see this vision put to “a worldwide vote.” If it “passed,” it could generate bona fide, peaceful, and democratic pressure from below, i.e., coercion by the masses, to at a minimum supplement begging to the powerful for economic justice.

This raises the question of why the citizens of the world cannot vote as citizens of the world on any issues, much less arguably the most important subjects we share in common. We have in effect worldwide unsustainable exploitation without representation. Our nation state-based fractured system of global “governance” is the reason we cannot do so, and it is a failure at economic justice from the standpoint of everyone but the powerful. As it stands, international coercion exists, but only for the purpose of maintaining capital hegemony, or, to use Billy Bragg’s lyrics, “making the world safe for capitalism.”

Humanitarian tendencies for economic justice across national boundaries supported by Pope Francis depend upon passing the tin cup. I think this is both wrong and foolish, and so did Simón Bolívar. In his own cautious way, so did Reinhold Niebuhr. As I will try to develop in this post, the challenge is to harness the commitment in the promotion of international justice and solidarity of the Bolívars without losing democracy, which, however imperfect, Niebuhr valued and so should we. Continue reading

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A Socialized Reflection on the Praxis Implications of EVANGELII GAUDIUM, Jesuit History, and Jesuit Scholarship

This socialized reflection is dedicated to the memory of the late Frs. Jean-Yves, Matthew, and Robert, who influenced me greatly; to my mentor, Fr. Bernie, who had to leave the Church and become an Episcopalian to be married; and to an honest Englishman.

Homage and Scorn

In an Anglican cemetery lies a tombstone with an inscription profound for its simplicity:

Blair gravestone

I’d have said, “He gave us clearheaded humanitarian commitment in the moments that he had.” He did not die a hero but lived to write these words:

“They laid me down again while somebody fetched a stretcher. As soon as I knew that the bullet had gone clean through my neck I took it for granted that I was done for. I had never heard of a man or an animal getting a bullet through the middle of the neck and surviving it. The blood was dribbling out of the corner of my mouth. ‘The artery’s gone,’ I thought. I wondered how long you last when your carotid artery is cut; not many minutes, presumably. Everything was very blurry. There must have been about two minutes during which I assumed that I was killed. And that too was interesting — I mean it is interesting to know what your thoughts would be at such a time. My first thought, conventionally enough, was for my wife. My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well.”

Now is my turn to make choices of whether and how to be part of the dolorous sacrifice. Now is my turn to overcome the greatest untruth, a false life, and the greatest deception, that not daily bread and moments in a world which suits us so well are the gift, but ownership. Some possessions are necessities, but hoarding is self-deception.

I go to a quiet place to try to recall things read long ago, the quietest one I know, Father Louis’s home. I sit quietly and experience peace inside and see what I can learn. Hours pass … nothing may be changing outside, yet in the silence of the Abbey night I glimpse another visitor, a priest, sitting behind me in the guest section of the narrow church, out of place, long after Compline, and in our minds–”‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’” (Luke 12:15-21, NRSVACE)–and other such long-buried thoughts have a field day.

Vigils and Lauds pass then comes raw grey daylight. In his mind, the priest wanders out to the highway where he sees Lazarus, and, willing to make himself bruised, hurting and dirty, offers to cleanse sores and buy breakfast, and Lazarus cries as he receives equality for an hour, and the priest cries too then moves on to a teenager seeking medicine he has learned to shun, so he moves on again, caritas in actione … heaping dark scorn on himself all the while.

In my mind, An Gorta Mor slithers down the highway, and I leave the Abbey running after it, pick up a stick, ready to pounce if I can ever catch up to it, and I may never get to come back and will have to pay the price of heretics, and the lumpenproletariat will join me for bedraggled meals of unblessed bread, and I will grow to resemble Lazarus myself, unhealthy but not confined, not clinging to my own security, but not really knowing what to do next …

I soon have to leave the Abbey. It is beautiful. Best place I have ever been. But along with seeds of contemplation were first planted seeds of rearrangement, and I long ago received my calling and think it means to be out there sometimes lost, caritas in actione per rationem mutationis.

Book burnings are no more. I will not have to double bag them in 8 mil, super heavy weight plastic bags and bury them–those by dead socialists, those by dead priests, and the one from my Baptist youth authorized by the dead witch-hunting torturing king that says: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, KJV) 

I still love those words translated for my edification but not in time for Agnes Sampson to pray them as she was garroted then burned at the stake for the uninsured losses of the king. Why blame misfortune on a spontaneous act of God when there is an outcast wise wife of Keith who stubbornly refuses to plead guilty? 

The king handing out magic puppets,

him whom we dare scorn.

Preface

I want to give you a couple of warnings about this reflection, which relates to Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII GAUDIUM (“The Joy of the Gospel”). First, and less important, it is really long (almost 30,000 words) and detailed. You might want to read Part I., the Introduction, come back later to read Part II., the Contextual Analysis section, and then come back a third time to read Part III., the Textual Analysis section. I am not trying to generate multiple hits at this obscure website, which will be what it will be, but to avoid wearing you out in one sitting. I hope to eventually combine this post into a pamphlet I am working on regarding the subject of “social compacts,” so, if it is any consolation, one day this post will be part of something that is even more tedious. Smoke ‘em if you gaudium! Continue reading

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Christian-Marxist Dialogue: A Not So Ridiculous or Antiquated Notion

[PLEASE NOTE: Nine days after I originally did this post, Pope Francis issued his Apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII GAUDIUM, the first of his Pontificate and one heavily focused on economic justice and dialogue, the very subjects of this post. After you read this post, please consider reading my subsequent, and much more lengthy and detailed, post dated December 13, 2013, entitled "A Socialized Reflection on the Praxis Implications of EVANGELII GAUDIUM, Jesuit History, and Jesuit Scholarship." The two posts, and their links, will provide interested persons with a detailed socialist perspective on the Pope's exhortation and its possible aftermath.]

I am a Christian contemplative of the most tolerant sort, in the Thomas Merton tradition, with a healthy admiration for the late Jesuit guru on social justice, Jean-Yves Calvez (whom I discuss in this post), while also remaining pro-choice, because that is what I feel is right. I also am a committed democratic socialist who appreciates many of Karl Marx’s writings, to the extent I have read and understood them. But I do not consider myself a Marxist–or any other “ist”–than a garden variety democratic socialist. While I am inspired by and fortunate to keep learning a lot from Marx, I do not place a lot of emphasis on becoming an expert in his oeuvre, for various reasons I explain in detail in Pamphlet No. 1: A Winding Path to Workers’ Gardens/Un camino de bobina a jardines de trabajadores, not least of which is my perceived need to concentrate on building a compassionate socialism for today that actually works well and is democratic. (In that pamphlet I also discuss my idiosyncratic religious journey in even greater detail, along with a bunch of other stuff, including soil science!) Continue reading