Alien Nation Edition
So it appears as though the word “burglary,” though commonly understood to mean a break-in for the purpose of committing a theft, is actually defined as a break-in for the purpose of engaging in any criminal activity, so the incident at Ruppert’s FTBoffices does qualify, from a legal perspective, as a burglary. My bad. Sorry about that.
Also, before moving on to other things, I have to note here that several people wrote me to ask, confidentially, who the mystery dissident journalist was. *Sigh* I’m going to give you all the benefit of the doubt here and just assume that these were probably new readers who can, I suppose, be forgiven for failing to appreciate my rather demented sense of humor.
Now then, by a quick show of hands, how many of you read the title of this newsletter and got all excited thinking that I was going to be writing about alien abductions, shape-shifting reptilians and anal probes? I see a few hands up in the back of the room, which means that some of you are probably going to be disappointed. But that’s okay, because there is always a certain percentage of you that are disappointed with anything that I choose to write about.
I was shocked to find, for example, that some of you were not the least bit interested in reading about Dick Cheney’s penis. One of you actually wrote to tell me that not only is the subject of little interest, but that, in any event, Cheney’s penis “couldn’t possibly be any bigger then my husband’s.” Information sharing can be a good thing, to be sure, but for future reference, that was probably a little more information than I really needed.
Moving on then, I know that I have beat this particular horse before, on more than one occasion, but bear with me here because I feel that I need to point out once again, for the benefit of the slow learners in the crowd, that the basic principle by which this country’s political establishment operates is – now pay attention! – control through fear.
Everyone understands that … right?
I mean, it’s pretty basic stuff – scare the hell out of people and they’ll obediently follow whatever path they are told is the safe path to follow. Of course, it probably won’t really be the safe path to follow, and there probably won’t really be anything to fear – other than the motives and intentions of those directing you down the path. But if you really scare the bejesus out of somebody, none of that is going to matter to them at the time.
There is, to be sure, a whole lot of stuff to be scared of in the world today – or at least a whole lot of stuff that we are conditioned to fear: terr’ists; immigrants; emerging viruses; natural disasters; violent criminals; Peak Oil; Iran; Iraq; North Korea; Osama bin Laden; Saddam Hussein; Hezbollah; water bottles on airplanes. All in all, it’s a very scary world out there.
I was reminded of this recently when I was called upon, for the first time in my life, to serve jury duty. Actually, that’s not quite true; I have been called upon before, but I was never able to serve because of, if I remember correctly, financial hardships and medical conditions. But this recent jury notice happened to find me in good health and financially sound – which is another way of saying that getting out of jury service has become much more difficult – so I diligently reported for duty, showing due respect for the sanctity of the courthouse by arriving only slightly late and with my “Fuck the LAPD” t-shirt only partly exposed, and then proceeded to sit idly by for several hours with little to do other than mentally calculate the odds that any prosecutor would actually seat me on any jury.
Midway through a very long day, I was sent to a courtroom along with about forty other potential jurors. Before entering the courtroom, a random draw was held and I happened to pick a fairly high number, so my fate, it appeared, would be determined by how many of the hapless souls ahead of me in line were accepted as jurors. It soon became clear that more than a few of them were going to make a play for rejection, so I figured that, if nothing else, I might sneak in as an alternate juror.
There seemed to be two different strategies employed by those seeking dismissal, by the way, one that we will call the “good strategy” and one that we will call the “really bad strategy.” The opposing attorneys, you see, are basically on a fishing expedition during the jury selection process, and what they are fishing for is bias. The defense attorney is basically looking for bias against his or her client, and the prosecutor is looking for bias against pretty much any form of authority. Toward that end, each side will ask a series of questions. It’s pretty obvious what they are fishing for, which makes it pretty easy to make a play for dismissal.
The really bad strategy, employed by more than one potential juror that day, is to reflexively snap at every piece of bait that is dangled out there, even if doing so requires you to directly contradict a position that you took just a couple of questions ago. This strategy will likely provide some invaluable entertainment, but revealing to everyone in the room that you will go to hilarious lengths to avoid jury service will not necessarily get you booted.
The better strategy, by far, is to zero in on a single area of bias that the attorneys are looking for and then sell it as best you can. To greatly increase your odds of success, I would suggest playing to the prosecutor rather than the defense attorney, who is likely a public defender with little interest in actually defending his or her client. From what I observed, an anti-police bias will get you kicked loose in time for lunch, but a pro-police bias probably will not. Compare these two examples (which may or may not be exaggerated to some extent):
Prosecutor: Have you ever had any personal encounters with the police, and, if so, would you describe those encounters as positive or negative experiences?
Potential Juror #1: Well, I was pulled over once a long time ago by a cop who seemed like he might have had a little bit of an attitude, but overall …
Prosecutor: Judge, I move that this juror be dismissed and then immediately taken to lock-up.
Public Defender: Have you ever had any personal encounters with the police, and, if so, would you describe those encounters as positive or negative experiences?
Potential Juror #2: Well, my brother is a cop, and my brother-in-law is with the highway patrol, and my dad is retired FBI, and my wife works part-time down at the station as a dispatcher, and I know from talking to all of them that the police have a really hard job, what with having to deal with all the scumbags out there, and with the ACLU-types crying every time one of the scumbags goes and gets himself shot. Speaking of shooting, by the way, did I mention that I’ve been the president of my local NRA chapter for the last ten years? And Grand Dragon of my KKK chapter? By the way, is that nigger over there the defendant in this case? ‘Cuz I’ll tell you what, that sumbitch looks guilty as all hell to me.
Public Defender: Your Honor, I think we may have found our jury foreman.
As a potential juror, you are not told what charges the defendant is facing. But if you pay attention to the questions that are asked, it’s not that hard to figure out. In this case, a young boy, likely the son of the defendant, was apparently seriously injured or even killed while riding a small dirt bike. The boy was too young to ride legally, and so the state was charging the man with something along the lines of reckless child endangerment.
For the record, some of the potential jurors seemed horrified at the thought of a child possibly maimed or killed as a result of the negligence of an adult. Others seemed just as horrified that the state was prosecuting a grieving father who had likely already punished himself far more than the state ever could. Or maybe that was just me.
All of the prospective jurors were asked whether they had ever let their own children do something that was potentially dangerous, or whether they themselves had been allowed, as children, to do things that others would consider dangerous – possibly even reckless. A few of the jurors allowed that they had ridden dirt bikes and/or that they had allowed their own kids to ride dirt bikes or ATVs. None of the jurors’ answers ventured much beyond that. My number, alas, never came up, and that’s kind of a shame, because I sat there for several hours with nothing better to do than mentally compose my answer to that particular question. It would have gone something like this:
Was I ever allowed to do anything dangerous as a child?! Is that what you’re asking me? Are you serious?! EVERYTHING I did as a child was dangerous. EVERYTHING!! If I allowed my own kids to do half of what I was allowed to do as a kid, the Department of Child Services would have taken them away from me years ago and I’d probably be locked away in prison. Negligence?! You want to talk about negligence? My parents must take the friggin’ cake when it comes to negligence! As just one example, our family logged thousands of miles driving all over Hell’s half-acre in the family car and never once – not once! – did they strap me into a child safety seat. Come to think of it, most of the time I didn’t even wear a seatbelt. Here’s another example: for most of my formative years, my primary mode of transportation was a bicycle, and never once did my parents insist that I wear a helmet! I didn’t even own one (which is probably a good thing, because I’m thinking that if I had tooled around town on my bike sporting a helmet in the 1960s and 1970s, I would have gotten my ass kicked on a pretty regular basis). And get this: every year, on the Fourth of July, I was allowed to set off explosive devices and burn shit up right in front of our house! And my parents, if you can believe this, watched me do it and even cheered me on! And on Halloween, I was allowed to go out at night with no adult supervision to solicit candy from complete fucking strangers. Oops … sorry there, judge … am I allowed to say ‘fucking’ in this courtroom? Anyway, as I was saying, I was also allowed to ride a small dirt bike, or at least I would have been if my dumbass older brother hadn’t crashed the damn thing into a chain-link fence before I got my chance to ride, deeply cutting his finger in the process. Oh shit! Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that, since the prosecutor over there seems a little overzealous. Is there a statute of limitations on this child endangerment stuff? I mean, you’re not going to extradite my dad from Arizona to answer for letting my brother ride that dirt bike back in 1970, are you? Anyway, like I was saying, when I was a kid I was actually allowed – forced, really – to walk to school, which is shameful, when you think about it, since everybody knows that any reasonably responsible parent lines up with all the other SUV-driving parents to drop off and pick up their kids, so that the little ones can be safely transported to their respective homes where they can interact with their peers in safe, modern ways such as with text messaging and instant messaging, rather than in the dangerous ways of the past, which generally involved leaving the house to play in the great outdoors. Believe it or not, we were allowed to do that. We were allowed to freely roam the neighborhood from a very young age, sometimes on bikes, sometimes on skateboards (with hard clay wheels that would stop cold if there happened to be a microscopic particle of sand on the sidewalk, hence the scar on my chin), and sometimes on foot. And do you know why we were allowed to freely roam the neighborhood? Because we actually HAD a neighborhood! Believe it or not, there was a real sense of neighborhood and community in those days of yore. I don’t live in a neighborhood today, your honor. Oh sure, I have ‘neighbors,’ I suppose, in the sense that there are other people who live all around me. But none of them know one another. We all live in our own little safehouses, shielded from the scary world. But in the old days, everyone knew each other and everyone’s kids ran the streets together. And the school, well, that was the center of it all. There was always something to do at the school. There were bike safety classes and an annual bike rodeo. There was the wildly popular annual fair. There were various after-school programs. There were bake sales. There were paper drives. There was a very active PTA. There were people staffing the school on weekends who would gladly provide you with a carom table, or a basketball, or a football, or all the gear needed to put together a baseball game. And finding enough people to field a team was never a problem. But if you go by a school now on the weekend, or even fifteen minutes after the final bell rings on any given weekday, do you know what you’ll find? Padlocked fences and barren asphalt. You won’t see any kids playing. And you won’t see any kids on the streets either. Where the hell are all the kids? And what happened, by the way, to the paperboys? When I was a kid, we were all paperboys. We were out riding the streets after school delivering the evening newspaper, and then once a month going up to the doors of the homes of random strangers, demanding money for providing a service, and being careful to always ‘porch’ the paper during the month of December in the hopes of collecting those big Christmas tips, and then returning to the usual erratic delivery pattern in January, while forever hoping that the one guy who never answers the door when you come to collect even when you can see him through the window sitting there watching TV and drinking a beer will eventually pay you for the last three months of service, so that maybe there will be some kind of financial reward for getting up every Sunday morning before dawn and overloading the handlebars of your bike with heavy Sunday editions of the local newspaper so that you can pedal around town alone and cold in the pre-dawn hours, because your parents – and I bet you were wondering where I was going with this, weren’t you? – have no concern for the way they recklessly endanger your life on pretty much a daily basis. Can you imagine allowing a child to ride a bike with dangerously overloaded handlebars, with no helmet or other safety gear, alone and a couple miles from home at 5:00 in the morning in a neighborhood full of strangers, possibly sex offenders? But you know what, Judge? We kind of liked doing it, most of the time. And you know what else? While my kids have every goddamn electronic gadget imaginable – from I-Pods to cell phones to laptop computers to portable DVD players – they don’t have what I had as a kid. They don’t have it because it has been stolen from them and it can’t be replaced with e-mail and digital cameras. What they don’t have, your honor, is a sense of neighborhood. They don’t have a sense of community. They have been deprived of meaningful human interaction. They have been conditioned to live in a world where trust in others has been replaced by fear of everyone and everything. Their world is a world built entirely on fear. But here I may have digressed a bit. What the hell was the question again?
As I have stressed before on these pages, one of the primary goals of the powers-that-be is the complete atomization of society – the destruction of all social, cultural, and familial bonds. It is the ultimate divide-and-conquer strategy: reduce the entire population to armies of one, each alone and isolated, unable to fight back against the rapidly encroaching police state. As I have also emphasized before, technology has played a major role in the process of atomizing Western society. Just as the egregiously misrepresented Luddites warned, the proliferation of advanced technology has led to a rapid process of depersonalization.
But just how successful have the puppet-masters been at fostering social isolation? I am sorry to have to report here that a landmark new study (all but ignored by the American media) provides chilling evidence that the psychological warfare campaign has been wildly successful. According to a Washington Post report:
Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.
A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.
The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties – once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits – are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone …
Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in …Whereas nearly three-quarters of people in 1985 reported they had a friend in whom they could confide, only half in 2004 said they could count on such support. The number of people who said they counted a neighbor as a confidant dropped by more than half, from about 19 percent to about 8 percent.
(Shankar Vedantam “Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says,” Washington Post, June 23, 2006;
read the full report here: http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/June06ASRFeature.pdf#search=%22Lynn%20Smith-Lovin%20%26%20social%20isolation%22)
The study found sharp declines in all non-kin relationships. In 1985, 29.4 percent of people reported a close relationship with at least one co-worker; by 2004, that figure had dropped to 18 percent. Even more alarmingly, the percentage of respondents enjoying a close relationship with a co-member of a group dropped from 26.1 all the way down to 11.8. Understating the obvious was the study’s lead author, Duke University Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin: “This is a big social change, and it indicates something that’s not good for our society.”
Let’s be a bit more blunt here and stipulate that a society in which 24.6 percent of the people do not have a single close confidant, and an astounding 53.4 percent have no close non-kin relationships, is a very, very sick society. It is debatable, in fact, whether it is actually a society at all, but rather an essentially random collection of strangers, unconnected to each other in any meaningful way, each going about their meaningless lives in conditioned isolation.
Just how sick is this society? That is difficult to say, since we don’t have any data from a healthy society to provide a baseline for comparison. It is regrettable, to say the least, that the data available to the researchers only covered changes in Americaover the last two decades. Lacking earlier data, 1985 serves as a baseline for evaluating the data from 2004, but there is little doubt that America was already a very sick society by the mid-1980s and that social isolation had already increased immensely from earlier decades.
What would we find if we had data dating back to the 1960s, or the 1940s, or the 1920s? Does anyone doubt that that data would reveal a marked pattern of steadily increasing social isolation extending back many decades? When was America last a healthy society? What do the social isolation statistics of a healthy society look like? If someone were to finance a comprehensive international study of social isolation, how sick would the figures from 2004 America look in relation to the figures from the rest of the world? Where would America rank among nations? I’m guessing we’d be dead last.
And what does the future hold? If the last twenty years have brought such significant change, through a process that appears to be accelerating, then what will we find twenty years from now, or even ten years from now? If one in every four Americans now have no close relationships, even within their own family, can we expect to see that rise to one in every two Americans by 2020? Is this the kind of society you want your kids to grow up in? Because this isn’t conjecture or ‘conspiracy theorizing,’ folks, this is the cold, hard reality of the society we live in. Take a look around as you go about your daily activities today; one of every four people you see have no one to turn to, no one to confide in, no one to really talk to. And fully half the people you see have no social network at all beyond their own family.
But fear not. A lot of them probably have I-pods and personal computers with high-speed internet access. So it’s all good, I suppose.
Technology has, to be sure, played a major role in the rise of social isolation. But so too has the selling of fear, for we live in a world, as I may have mentioned before, where control through fear is the basic operating principle of our allegedly democratic government. I am not suggesting here, of course, that this is something new. There was, if I recall correctly, a fair amount of fear-mongering going on when I was a kid. Everyone seemed to be convinced, for example, that it was only a matter of time before “The Bomb” came raining down on America’s cities. To insure that we never stopped thinking about the prospect of nuclear annihilation, public schools held regular “bomb drills” or “drop drills.” When the alarm sounded at my school, we were all expected to take cover under our desks, with our hands strategically placed over our heads. We held regular fire alarm drills as well, but those were a bit different in that they had a real purpose: acquainting students and staff with evacuation plans in the event that an actual emergency should arise. The drop drills, on the other hand, served no purpose other than to induce fear. And I say that because research that I have done as an adult has led me to the shocking conclusion that my hands and a wooden desk would not have offered ideal protection from a nuclear blast.
There were other things to fear in the ‘60s and ‘70s as well. Strangers bearing candy were a persistent problem, though I made it through my childhood without ever encountering one of these legendary figures – except on Halloween, when, for some unexplained reason, it was perfectly okay to accept candy from strangers, especially if they were strangers who passed out really good candy and not the shitty candy that some people handed out, almost as if they actually wanted someone to egg their house. And then, of course, there were the people who just left a bucket of candy on the front porch for trick-or-treaters to help themselves to, kind of on the honor system.
While we’re on that subject, I’d like to take this opportunity to say, to all the kids down in Torrance, California who got to those houses after my brothers and I did, that we are very sorry for our youthful indiscretions and we plan on making it up to you someday. Also, we would like all our former neighbors to know that we no longer see the humor in setting off smoke bombs from the local fireworks stand on your front porches and then ringing-and-running your house. At the time, I’ll admit, it seemed really damn funny, especially when you’d come stomping out through the cloud of colored smoke to try to find us, while we sat hiding in the bushes across the street struggling mightily to stifle our laughter. But now, looking back as a responsible adult, I find it only mildly amusing.
Anyway, let’s now move on and take a look at the question that I am sure is on everyone’s mind, which is: what the hell is your point here, Dave? Glad you asked. The point is that we are now in a better position to discuss the question posed in Newsletter #81 (April 7, 2006). As readers will no doubt recall, in that outing I basically asked what it was going to take to get a reaction from the American people. But as it turns out, I was asking the wrong question.
The problem, you see, is not that the American people are not waking up to the outrages committed by this administration. To the extent that they can be trusted, every public opinion poll in recent years – whether concerning the occupation of Iraq, the handling of Hurricane Katrina, the performance of the 9-11 Commission, or any number of other issues – has reflected the fact that the American people are indeed waking up. And among those who have woken up, there appears to be agreement that the problems we are facing require immediate action.
So the problem is not that the American people don’t know what’s going on. And it’s not that they are too apathetic to care about fixing the problems once they recognize what those problems are. No, the real problem is that what is required to correct the course of this ship-of-state is a massive and sustained social movement. And the real question that needs to be asked is: how does a massive social movement arise in a nation that is almost completely devoid of any meaningful social networks?
And the answer, it appears, is: it doesn’t.
We are all products of what is surely the most socially isolated society that this planet has ever seen (except for those of you who are reading this in other parts of the world). And the harsh reality of the sick society that we live in is that the obtaining of real knowledge may be more of a curse than a blessing. With real knowledge comes the ability to see more clearly through the fog of lies, but with that increased awareness comes an inevitable feeling of helplessness. For how is someone to act upon that which has been learned when said person has no social networks to call upon and acting alone is clearly not going to prove effective? Hence the gaining of knowledge often leads, ironically enough, to yet further social isolation.
If I had it to do over again, I don’t know that I would have burrowed down this rabbit hole as deeply as I have. Unfortunately, it’s a one-way path; once you have dug your way in, there’s no way back out. There’s no way to unlearn that which has been learned. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with being able to understand how the world really works, and being able to more accurately process new information as it becomes available. But if you are powerless to right the wrongs in the world, is it better not to know? Is it better to live life comfortably numb?
I often get messages from some of you asking why I don’t burrow deeper – why I don’t address issues like, for instance, those mentioned at the top of this post. And the answer is that I don’t find the evidence in support of these ideas very credible. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t dug deep enough down all the various branches of the rabbit hole. Maybe the view from my current position is so unrelentingly bleak that I don’t want to find out what lies beneath.
But then again, maybe if you dig deep enough, there is another way out.