This website, gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com, has today published a revised version of Pamphlet No. 1: A Winding Path to Workers’ Gardens: A Half-Hispanic Christian Contemplative Soil Scientist’s Journey to Garden Variety Democratic Socialism Grounded in Our Soil.
In addition to cleaning up grammatical errors from the first version (hopefully most of them anyway!), the revised version adds a great deal of other information, including more insights on the U.S. relationship with Cuba and an entire section on the physiological aspects of nutrient scarcity and soil.
I will from time to time post excerpts from this 166-page pamphlet. I also hope to have a complete Spanish translation available in the near future. In the meantime, below is the conclusion of the revised pamphlet. I hope that you can read it and that it will interest you in reading “the mother of all pamphlets.”
“In the field of opportunity it’s plowin’ time again.”
Through the writing of this pamphlet, I now see more clearly the need for the people to take deep worldwide democratic action to supersede the status quo. To me love is the beginning, middle, and end of the cause, the ways, means, and the end—not soft confrontation-avoiding or untruthful complexity-avoiding love; rather, truthful and sometimes divisive, hard-edged love that encompasses, but it is not limited to, justice, yet is always open to reconciliation.
Justice could never be perfect. Utopian efforts which claim to not need political democracy have always themselves become alienating and often unjust. But places such as the U.S. that have a weak version of political democracy have no bragging rights. To oppose building a loving society and a loving world because that supposedly might disturb long-dead racist founding fathers’ concepts of law or justice or be inconsistent with classical economic rhetoric about the beauty of the “free market” is no longer acceptable or rational. We do not live in 1776, and the powerful are perfectly happy to set aside classical economic rhetoric and manipulate markets for themselves any time they please, including for the world’s massive grotesque financial corporations, which masquerade reckless derivatives as “growth.”
A society’s sense of justice sometimes may need to catch up to love, and then the laws sometimes may need to catch up to justice. As long as I live in a nation state with democratic recourses for addressing needed changes, including structural changes to the malfunctioning of the democracy itself, I will work as hard as I am able through democracy, ever standing in solidarity with the powerless, including those in other nation states who do not have similar political freedom. But while I come in peace, I do not come merely in politics.
I want to provide as much mutual aid as I can both to those who are desperate through material deprivation and to those who are desperate through alienation. The two groups often overlap—slums, for instance, are both economic and soul devastation zones. I began writing my soil-focused technical report out of concern for those who are desperate through material deprivation. Over time, as the rest of the pamphlet “wrote itself,” I began to see that alienation of people in the “free”/“wealthy” market capitalist world also has a gloomy systemic relationship to exploitation of the materially desperate all around our world, regardless of the label given to their nation state.
The core of the gloomy global system is very simple and one of stunning immorality: whether in domestic or foreign affairs, the very powerful have a very high tolerance of other people’s pain. They set up their societies to do just this, including at the most impoverished levels. Abandonment based on “merit” of one’s own family back in the slums becomes the way out for the fortunate few, with hopefully the possibility to rescue the rest of the family at some point, who then will never look back again. The powerful dress up the immorality of the societies they create in all manner of laws, nostalgia, religion, and theories, but it is still immorality. To retain power, most of the truly powerful will tolerate just about any amount of pain born by other people.
In political democracies, politicians often are not the truly powerful but instead the ambitious instruments of the truly powerful. Through political expenditures, divide-and-conquer techniques, appeals to racial and ethnic prejudice, threats of layoffs, and other tactics, the powerful are experts at spreading their immorality through large groups and eventually the societies that they run, which is why slavery did so well for millennia and genocides still occur.
They will enter agreements with the most overtly despicable human beings if necessary to get their way. The gloomy system of the powerful is not a relationship that is restricted to “market” capitalism by any means, but control of most of the capital in societies of all types is always the key objective of their will to power. For these supreme “apolitical” political capitalists, labels do not matter, because one way or another the powerful will be capitalists and the capitalists will be powerful. Just like market capitalists, state capitalists and dictators the world over are directly or indirectly controlling most of the property to their own selfish ends, living large, alienating and exploiting the powerless, and plundering the planet. In many places where there is no official government control, powerful lords of chaos or religious terror are doing the same thing.
To break this immoral system of power, the people of the world must obtain control over the powerful of whatever stripe, who must be removable from power at the behest of the people. The people must take deep democratic control of their own destinies so that no powerful lords lie beyond control of the people and so that the people can provide for themselves a system that is based on love as much as possible.
Some on the left remain willing to overlook the alienation and injustice of actually existing socialism and any dictators who happen to be anti-U.S.; not me. Whether the dictator claims to be right wing, left wing, or religiously-inspired may not matter in practice. The world power structure is changing rapidly, and the U.S. no longer runs even the “free” world. While the U.S. deserves little moral authority in the world, China and Russia deserve none—their economic power has not been coupled with liberty and justice for all. While I would not have wanted to live under Stalin or Mao, I would not want to live under Xi Jinping or Putin either. In relative terms, I am quite glad that I live “under Obama,” in part because of the human being that he is but more so because of the somewhat functioning political democracy-lite the U.S. has. As bad as President George W. Bush was, he is gone and painting pictures of himself. I shiver at the notion of the restoration to power of yet another member of the Bush family, but at least the voters, subject to the anti-democratic Electoral College, will decide.
The U.S., while certainly not all-powerful anymore, and not the devil made out by religious extremists, could do much better than what it is doing to provide moral leadership in the world. Without its credibility, the world is much worse off. The U.S. is stagnating in its delusional self-righteous grandeur. More importantly, it is squandering the opportunity to lead the world into a better and more democratic collective future by (a) failing to pursue deep democracy at home, and (b) opposing a global social contract in lieu of the consumerist, neoliberal, too-big-to-fail, finance-manipulating, alienation-causing, union-busting, bubble-based, land- and resource-grabbing transnational approach that the powerful of the world plainly prefer.
The powerful are perfectly happy to leave basic needs unmet for billions of human beings. The basement level of justice that should be required in a global social contract is for everyone’s basic needs to be met. Nation states seeking the respect of the people of the earth should sign on to such a global social contract and make it credibly enforceable in practice. Many would not do so because they wish the reckless partying of the powerful would never end, poor and hungry be damned.
The U.S. could begin to mend its credibility in the Western Hemisphere and internationally by making peace with Cuba. Together in a dialectical shocker, the longtime enemies could compromise and lead the way forward to deep democracy. Cuba, because of its leadership in economic justice and sustainability achieved against the incredibly long odds imposed by U.S. policy and the collapse of the Soviet Union, has a great opportunity to lead the developing world to deep democracy. It, like the U.S., should not squander its leadership potential.
By reconciling with each other, Cuba and the U.S. could lead the world forward more lovingly and peacefully. The U.S. should make it clear to Cuba that it would welcome Cuba’s conversion from undemocratic paternal authoritarianism to constitutional democratic socialism rather than insist on Cuba adopting the U.S.-style neocolonial democracy-lite that exists on both sides of Hispaniola. The U.S. appears pathetic and hypocritical to hold in place, decade after decade, an embargo on little Cuba when it props up far worse ruling structures around the world and when a majority of the non-food items purchased in Walmart are produced by the exploited workers of state capitalism who are denied civil and political rights.
If Cuba were located in the Pacific and a hundred times larger, does anyone doubt that Kissinger would have long since found a way to bridge this gap? This is not to say that Cuba is right about its disgraceful denials of civil and political rights to its own people any more than China is. It is simply to recognize that in a world where China is entitled to “most-favored-nation” status, global trade and travel restrictions need a total rewrite to provide a meaningful ethical foundation for relations. Small but proud nations like Cuba that, all things considered, have done a great job of providing economic justice and sustainability should not be disfavored.
Of course, I am not going to hold my breath on the U.S. being all that it can be. It is too highly divided because of its aging/raging right/white wing. Democracy-lite and neoliberalism leave the U.S. without much moral authority in the world and without much responsiveness to the needs of its own people. The world is not turning out the way lovers of justice want it to turn out. The U.S., having missed the window of opportunity to advance a truly compassionate globalism in light of the end of the Cold War, is unlikely to rectify the situation. But I am entitled to dream, however far-fetched the dream.
One theoretically could wallow in despair, retreat into a self-protective version of contemplative silence, or even try to wash one’s hands of it all and hold on to one’s possessions as hard and long as possible. But in actuality those are not at all options for me. In my case, moral incentives I do not completely understand but I think have something to do with wanting to lessen my own alienation, and some of Jesus’s teachings I learned as a child, will not remotely allow that of me. Others obtain moral incentives in other places, and I fully respect that.
I, as a citizen of the world living in a somewhat politically-free slightly moral country within a highly messed up world, am partially responsible for what my country does to the limits of free speech. I, in an exploiting wealthy nation state, indirectly live off exploitation. I am implicated if I exercise my right to remain silent.
Citizens in the U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and in the U.S. enemy North Korea, and in many other places around the world, do not have the civil freedom that I have to speak up for the powerless. Alas though, in the U.S. one has to use a pseudonym or face reactionary demagoguery—even for being a peaceful tomato-growing “garden variety” democratic socialist. Nonetheless, I have to at least risk publishing this pamphlet and running a little website in my spare time to make my digital voice heard as much as I can on behalf of the desperate.
All around me in the U.S. people are made desperate by alienation, which often seems related to the heightened stress of living in a land of empty flamboyant consumerism on the one hand and economic injustice on the other. This alienation undoubtedly has led to an epidemic of devastating self-medication. There is something particularly sick about U.S. society that seems to bring out the worst in self-medicating alienation.
An honest and just U.S., like an honest and just world society, would face its alienation and injustice. It would be deeply democratic and not allow the powerful to wall themselves and most of society’s profits and resources off from the sad reality of desperate people. I do not have all of the answers and will continue to ruminate over how best to steward myself in solidarity with the desperate. I do know a bit about how to safely enrich soil and about how to grow wholesome food at little or no cost.
Humans have an incurable healthy addiction to eating and will do anything to satisfy it. Each day, those who are desperate for food for themselves or their families generally must try to obtain enough cash to purchase all of their calories and nutrients needed to avoid undernourishment. For two billion people, when they can find enough cash to eat, the food they can afford does not supply all of the required nutrients and “hidden hunger” occurs. I am hopeful that workers’ gardens could lower their material desperation. As I deduced in my technical report, almost 30% of the current world population might directly benefit from the increased fruit and vegetable consumption that could become available with access to well-tended workers’ gardens based on free or inexpensive nutrient input sources. And to the extent that people are less dependent upon markets and cash to “earn” or “win” all of their daily sustenance, they might be better off in terms of alienation.
I am not waiting for the global democratic socialism of which I dream to begin looking at scientific options for the victims of food injustice to grow food in an affordable, safe, and sustainable manner. Species-beings in developing and developed countries alike should begin to look at the science involved with nutrient scarcity and our soil and to cooperatively visualize a healthy and sustainable food future for everyone. I think that creating all of the workers’ gardens that are needed and making other structural changes that are needed to provide food justice will require systemic change, and I will fight like hell for that change. But until that systemic change happens, I will also fight like hell for as many of the living to be able to eat healthy diets as possible.
I have learned a lot about focusing on doing my best from recovering addicts whom I love dearly. Addicts who wish to stay clean have to recognize that they are powerless on their own, like the alienated and economically desperate in general. I have seen good people from sad backgrounds who are trying to stay sober demonstrate humility, kindness, and solidarity that all of us should emulate. They have to learn about forgiveness and reconciliation and try to recreate families the best way they can. They have to find some sort of existential acceptance and support because they have come to believe that they are powerless to deal with their addiction on their own. Ultimately they must take it one-day-at-a-time—that is the nature of their situation.
I cannot change the nature of the addict’s fight for sobriety. I can do my best to stand in solidarity with them. I can try to insist that my nation state make drug treatment more accessible than prison cells. I also can support efforts to prevent addiction from ever going active in the first place by lessening alienation.
The plight of the hungry is in some ways similar. To many people adequate nourishing food is like drug treatment to the addict desiring to enter recovery, sometimes available in theory but so expensive as to be inaccessible. We should not let children and pregnant mothers go a single day of their lives in hunger. We should prevent food insecurity from ever paralyzing the life of any human being regardless of her or his age or where she or he was born. We have the technical means to do these things if we had the global system in place to implement the means. Global capitalism is not that system. Global democratic socialism is.
While I work for systemic change, I can also work to make the situation of some of the hungry a little less perilous through mutual aid. It all seems so hopeless, I know, like putting drops in leaky buckets. I too can only wake up every day, live one-day-at-time, smile quietly, and do my best to help others, which also helps me too. Life is so much less alienated lived that way. Peace be with you.