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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

How I plan to survive the 21st Century

Excerpts from my latest book, The Journals Of A

21 Century Schizoid Man;

-សតិវ អតុ

I am in my 50s, so this chapter is about the changes I’ve witnessed in the last decade. That will explain some of the problems I have with modern technology. I lived through the last half of the 20th century and naturally, as with the turn of the last century, I have to adjust to new technologies and new ways. Other trends, such as politics and commercial culture have never been worse in my lifetime. Since this is only the first decade of the new century, there is hope that things will change. Here are some excerpts from “How I plan to survive the 21st Century”:



Technology, some good, some wasteful and useless

I remember a story of a man selling and then teaching farmers how to drive cars and trucks, shortly after the year 1900. Being used to using horses and mules, the farmers would yell “whoa” rather than hit the brake.

Apparently this was his main problem in teaching people to drive. Today our roads are full of cars and horse or mule driven wagons exist only for museums.

Like the man yelling “whoa” I’m still getting used to a whole new century, where some things are great, others suck.

On the bright side, I love computers. Blogging is one of my favourite pass-times. Using a word program is 100 times better than trying to use a typewriter to write things. The programs also allow spell check, which has really helped me. Now I can write way more than I used to and I really enjoy writing. 

I love social networking. I love that groups with blogs or web sites around the world are available to us. We can now keep in actual contact with an organization anywhere in the world. I like finding out that there are hundreds of US Marxists, just as myself, all over the country. I can read their web sites or blogs. I can leave messages, take part in discussions or take part in discussion sites. I have met a lot of Marxists on my Facebook page, where I can also take part in discussions.

I also enjoy social networking with all my friends. We can let each other know anytime something is coming up to do or just share information.

I have a regular size computer, but I love using my laptop in coffee shops and places that have Wi-Fi so I can sit and drink coffee, while I cruise the web, or check for e-mail or other messages.

Then there is my cell phone. I love being able to make calls anywhere. It really helps for emergencies. I love that it has a call log, so if I miss a call, I can look to see who tried to call me. My phone has a camera, which I love. But as with the old farts on the commercials, I’ve been watching lately, I just use my cell phone as a phone or occasionally a camera, which I have.

That’s my entire phone does and I suppose this is where I feel like the farmer yelling “whoa” instead of pushing the break.

I don’t understand the idea of standing in a line for hours to get a new cell phone that acts more like a small computer. Some of the stuff on these phones seems like nothing more than elaborate toys. 

If I already have a computer, why do I need all that other stuff? These new “iphone” or “smart phones” allow you to serve the web, download music, text with words and pictures to your friends and there is even an app that lets you know where you are at any time. No need to learn how to follow directions or learn how to get somewhere. A machine is doing that for you. I’ve been able to find my way through this town and others. Do I suddenly need a machine to tell me how to get around this town or most of the others I’ve been to?

Whoa, it took me a while to figure out what the commercials mean by app.


Music and culture

Then there is music. Most people just copy songs off their “smart phone” or computer. How many people keep anything like a collection of music, following certain bands or singers?

When I was in high school I used to buy albums. Not only did I get a collection of music, it had album art. The albums and record labels used to tell us who wrote the songs, the length of the songs, who played what instruments. There were also surprise songs that were great, yet never made the radio or got any air play.

A few years ago music CDs were supposed to replace vinyl and provide us with albums of the future. I liked CDs because there was still some artwork, and the disks usually had all the information I like. Now it’s getting really hard to find any place that sells CDs.

I’ve been told that all that information is available from music sites and the places where people download songs. But how many young people bother to look at any of that stuff or do they just ignore the details and look for a snappy tune to listen to? And do they keep any songs for later or just listen to whatever they like at the time. I have an album collection and the music brings back memories for me. I love having that library. Some young people still buy CDs and keep music they appreciate. So I’m not the only person who sees the value in investing in a good album.

I heard on the radio that many bands and singers are using their music for commercials because they can’t make money on albums anymore, since so much of their songs can be downloaded for cheap or free.

Then there is the quality of music since the turn of the century. Thanks to shallow contests by useless hacks from such garbage as “American Idol,” all we get are people who can sing and dance, have no imagination of their own and over all they have nothing to really say.

No doubt rap and hip hop are more popular with the youth of today. Things change and that is the nature of things. Right now that seems to be the music trend of the youth of the 21st century. There’s nothing wrong with that, as things do change.

Still, some of us like rock music and absolutely nothing new has come out of the rock music industry this last decade. There are no Frank Zappas, no Sex Pistols, no Ramones and no Pink Floyds. So far, trash TV has flooded out pop music with such crap as Justin Bieber.

It seems like cheap TV shows such as “American Idol,” and economic conditions force rock stars to make most of their money off of commercials. We now have a plastic (1970s lingo for shallow) cheap, meaningless totally commercial, 21st century music culture. Since fame and musical fortune are just a contest, no one is building audiences, trying new ideas or building themselves up the way the old bands did in the last century.

The decline of our news media

I used to watch the news show” Nightline.” It was often biased, but at least it had news. Now the same show covers such crap as “Dancing With The Stars.” It’s almost always about celebrities.  There are wars going on in such places as Syria. But don’t watch “Nightline” for that. There are important questions in people’s mind such who’s getting voted off “Dancing With The Stars” So I quit watching the show all together. I don’t even wait to see what the topics are because I already know it will be something stupid that I don’t care about.

Our news media is almost void of investigative reporting about real important events. I’ve once heard of foreign student tell me;

“I know you have an independent press, but it sounds like a government run press.”

Of course the war in Afghanistan is never criticized for being an occupation. All the major news outlets just mouth whatever the military tells them. Winning is all they talk about. The use of unmanned drones to assassinate people and the non-Taliban resistance to our occupation is never discussed.

For example, one opposition group is the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan. This group is not Islamic and according to them;

“One is the reactionary goal of the war: to reassert U.S. supremacy in the region and beat back anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism, not to free the people but to enslave them to Western imperialist capital. To that end, the occupation preserves major features of the country's oppressive economic and social system and subjugation, and ideological backwardness. The other factor is the way the imperialist armies fight and indeed must fight…..”

US Opposition groups to such policies are ignored unless they go on a glass breaking spree or cause as much havoc as the Occupy Movement did a few years go. The news had to cover Occupy, but only because it was too large to ignore……… 

The triumph of corporate capitalists over our political system

There is no doubt that wealthy people believe they have every right to use their money to influence or virtually decide who runs the country. Billionaire Donald Trump had a meltdown when, after spending $millions trying to defeat President Barack Obama and take back the Senate. He spent all that money and it just didn’t pay off. He threw a hissy fit. He tweeted "a total sham and a travesty."...."revolution in this country."

The 1% acted like animals Tuesday Night when it was clear they did not get the elections they tried to buy.

Trump is one of those people with an ego as large as his bank account.

But let’s look closer to home. Anyone who has been to Wichita Kansas can quickly see that The Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their Koch Industries have a tight grip on this city. At Wichita State University, there is Koch Arena which used to be Henry Levitt Arena in 1964. In 2002-03 Koch brothers paid $6 million for renovations so they could have it named after them. Koch gives money to Wichita State University so now WSU employees have been warned against taking part in any anti-Koch protests.

The Kochs are not into free speech. They are robber barons of the plains and they know it. They buy politicians as if they were hotdogs at a food stand. They make money paying people a little more than minimum wage for dirty, dangerous work. They are $ billionaires who own close to half of Wichita and they have financial holdings in other parts of the country. They already have many of the Kansas State politicians in their back pocket.

Wichita’s local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, October 2012, has done its share of giving the Koch brothers publicity. They printed page after page of articles glorifying the Koch brothers and their so called “Ideas for the future of Kansas.”

The Wichita Eagle had at least four articles from the perspective of the Koch Brothers and some of the articles took up entire pages, “Revenue, employment continue to grow at Koch Industries,” “The Kochs’ quest to save America,” and “Koch relentless in pursuing his goals,” to name three.

 They noted that the Koch brothers have been under fire for their support of think tanks, such as Americans for Prosperity. The Kochs set them up and hire those who will agree with them and them only.

Americans for Prosperity is a phony think tank and sometimes acts as a political lobbyist group for the Koch’s political agenda. The Kochs give a false implication that they actually have a strong following and knowledgeable experts to help set their policies. The group spent $110 million to try to defeat Obama.

After Obama won his first term in office, the Koch Brother’s longtime political strategist and flunky, Rich Fink told the brothers the country was headed toward bankruptcy. Fink told them bluntly that Obama’s administration represented the worst of what Charles and David fear most: a bloated, regulation-heavy, free-spending government that could plunge the country into another deep recession. That day, Fink advised two of the richest men in the nation that it would be the fight of their lives to stop the government spending spree and to change the course of the country, starting with the 2012 election.

The Koch Industries Political Action Committee has spent $2.3 million in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They’ve spent more than $60 million lobbying Washington in the past decade and $13.6 million backing political candidates, usually Republicans, since 1990.

The Koch Brother’s, being the “great humanitarians” they are, were concerned they might have to fight regulations. That is important to a company that puts their workers under dangerous conditions;  and pollutes the air, soil and water around them. The worst that can happen to Koch industries would be for them to be held responsible for what they do through regulations.

As with many other captains of industry the Kochs seem to want to make sure that poor people and especially poor workers are completely dependent on them (and sweatshop owners like them) for their work. They like the idea that if an employee quits or get fired, they are “up shit creak.”

Worst of all, the Kochs have spent $ millions to buy candidates and decide elections with all their dirty tricks so that people won’t really have a choice at the polls. They may actually believe they know what is best for the rest of us, so they have decided who will run things in Kansas and other parts of the country. There have been articles written lately about other $billionaires who believe what is best for them is actually best for the country. In other words, many of these people believe their own “shit.”   

Trump, the Koch Brothers and lots of other captains of industry are modern aristocratic hypocrites. These modern day robber barons seem to have as much power today as they did at the turn of the last century.

As with the turn of the last century, we may see changes as corporations make their hold over our lives more and more obvious. With Occupy, black bloc, anarchist groups and new Marxist groups networking and strategizing, we may eventually see change in this century. So far we have only been through one whole decade. A lot can happen in 100 years.


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