Various issues (and non-issues)

November 6, 2012

Marah Mashi wrote two articles in Al Akhbar, Beirut, that offer interesting glimpses on Syrian reality.



Lizzie Phelan posted a moving commemoration of her Syrian friend Mohamad Rafea, who was kidnapped and murdered by the Western funded terrorist group Kutayabat Ahfaad al Sadeeq.


Chris Hedge posted one last damning peace about the US elections on truthdig.


This piece is well written and contains a few formulations that are worth remembering, like:

…those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards.”

Obama will, if he is re-elected, again betray us. This is part of the game. We dutifully assume our position. We cry out in holy terror. We promise to obey. And we are mocked as we watch promises crumble into dust.”

After three masterful paragraphs Chris obviously tries to overcome writer’s block by citing famous authors from Elias Canetti to French dramatist Jean Genet. All the quotes are focussing on the sexual perversion in concomitance with power and the text is meandering along the quotations to reach the final conclusion:

We react to every new stimulus as if we were rats crammed into a cage. When the elites push the button we jump. It is collective sadomasochism.”

Chris Hedge for sure is here onto something and the importance of sexuality as one of the driving forces of human history cannot be overstated. But sexual perversion is not a privilege of the elites, as every internet surfer will be able to confirm, who accidentally, by mistake, out of boredom, or out of profound interest visited a xxx site.

Sexual perversion is not a privilege of the elites, sexual desires and perverse dreams only can be more easily put into reality by wealthy and powerful persons. The less wealthy and less powerful have to rely on cheap porn, on plastic sex tools, and on their imagination. 

In other words: Sexual perversion is a part of human nature (especially of male nature) and not a defining characteristic of elites, Chris Hedge’s main argument in the reviewed article doesn’t seem to be valid and he was maybe mislead by his personal psychological projection.

Hedge is still one of my favorite commentators and I admire his stamina and honesty! His occasional slips and lapses don’t diminish his legacy, in fact, minor mistakes and oddities make him just more sympathetic to me.

Hedge writes: “The only recognizable basis for moral and political authority, in the eyes of the elite, is the attainment of material success and power.” This should probably be understood as: “The only legitimate basis for moral and political authority…” and with this minor correction the sentence becomes a clear and powerful statement that cannot be reiterated often enough. If this would have been the main message of his article I would have framed the piece and put it on the wall at the most prominent place in the sitting room.

The frustration game

Hedge’s article was also republished on the alternative news site Common Dreams, but not in a prominent place. Gone are the times, where his pieces topped the list, he is obviously still considered useful to lure left wing dissident to the site, but he has become a hot potato.

Common Dreams just in time published a reader survey, according to which 74 percent of the readers will vote for President Obama, only 18 percent for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan of the Peace and Freedom Party were not mentioned in the survey, are they too radical, too dangerous?

If there was any doubt before, Common Dreams has clearly disguised itself as a Democratic Party propaganda operation, used to sway or at least pacify left wing dissenters. I don’t know about the funding of this site, but user donations alone will not keep it running — who would pay for a news aggregator who’s few original articles from unpaid authors are carefully selected and censored.

I have denounced in earlier blogs that Common Dreams, Democracy Now, The Nation, AlterNet, and similar sites never cross the line where truly revolutionary and system threatening action begins. These sites are a platform where critical thinkers can vent their anger, but no one is allowed to present realistic visions, write about practical steps, show a way out.

The purpose: Letting off steam, the effect: Unheeded cassandra calls and helpless hand wringing. This is by design and the resulting frustration is a welcome effect. When all what is offered are bumper stickers for OWS and appeals to join protest gatherings or sign petitions the enthusiasm, commitment, dedication of dissenters will eventually ebb away. 

One commenter of Hedge’s piece wrote:

I’d like to pose a sincere question. How does one become an “agent of change”? I live in a small town far from any sort of political action, and posting things on the Internet, talking to friends, writing letters to the editor etc. doesn’t seem effective or satisfying. What I’m saying is that I feel pretty powerless and at a loss for concrete things I can do to make a difference. I applaud Chris’s eclectic and deadly accurate essay, but it’s not very helpful as far as offering a path to change and empowerment. As a lifelong pacifist, I’m not about to charge into the streets and start shooting bad guys. I welcome any and all responses to this post.

Dear commenter, I don’t know if you ever will visit this blog, but you are not the only one who asks this question, and so here a few short answers distilled from proposals, plans, visions by knowledgable and wise people all over the world:

Diminish dependencies

Diminish dependencies on big support systems, material as well as intellectual. Big support systems are not transparent, not controllable, and most important, they hold you hostage. You will not be able to stand up and bring down the existing system because the big support networks on which you depend would fall down too.

Join existing local networks and support systems or help to build up new local systems. Reorganize, revolutionize your life, find out, how to be happier with less material effort.

Hone your practical skills, joint the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement. 

I wouldn’t go that far to regard gardening and growing ones own food as a revolutionary act, but it goes a long way to reduce dependencies which could severely impede revolutionary activities.

I wrote more about this issue in chapter 10 and 12 of my blog post Priority List.

Diminish the dependency on material goods, on money, on social prestige. Drop out of the rat race. Of course, everybody has to contribute to the common good and help her/his fellow beings according to her/his abilities. A just society which is based on cooperation instead of competition will not tolerate parasites, but it will also not force its members to sacrifice their health for the benefit of the community and it will try to provide a joyful, happy life to everybody (this unfortunately will not be possible all the time even in the most ethical society because we are not living in paradise).

There is one dependency that we shouldn’t try to diminish. It is the dependency on the biggest support system of all, which is nature. We will always depend on nature and we have to defend her against the thugs who try to control or restrict the access to her (privatization of the commons), or destroy her and replace her with virtual systems.

Digging in the dirt (also called gardening)

As it gets colder and the plants are slowly shutting down, the gardening season is coming to an end. The strawberries had a terrific end run, producing fruits till the end of October. They started slowly in June and I was quite disappointed at the beginning about the low yield, wondering if the effort really was worth it. 

In August there was an epidemic of leaf diseases, mainly leafspot, but also powdery mildew and leaf blotch. I was constantly removing leaves, killing probably a number of plants in this way, yet the outbreak became controllable and the yield increased constantly and reached a peak in mid September, defying all conventional knowledge which tells that strawberry harvest is in June and July.

I had transplanted most runners to new places where they themselves got runners which again were transplanted after some time. A few of the third generation strawberry plants started blooming and growing fruits now at the start of November. I went out yesterday and wandered through the garden from bed to bed and I could still pick a dozen fruits. Unfortunately much of the plants effort will be in vain because there is not enough sun and freezing cold will stop them soon. 

Tomato yield was also satisfactory. In my youth I didn’t like tomatoes and I banned them from my diet for some 30 years. But with two boxes of tomatoes occupying a significant part of the fridge I gave it a try and did bite into one and I was pleasantly surprised. This tomato was tasty, sweat, refreshing, delightful. For three weeks I ate raw tomatoes as a dessert and as a snack between meals and unfortunately the whole harvest is gone now.

As a consequence of this tomato feast I have become addicted to the red fruits. Fortunately I don’t get easily addicted, but the home grown tomatoes were so delightful that I constantly feel a deep longing for their magnificent taste. I didn’t find tomatoes at the farmers market so as a matter of last resort I went to the super market and bought some — organic ones from a nearby producer of course. Labeling requirements are very strict here, the labels must tell the price per kilogram, the country of origin, and various other data depending on the nature of the item.

These tomatoes were expensive and they tasted not as great as the ones from the garden. I couldn’t say though they were bad, they were not bad at all, they just were not magnificent. Encouraged by this experience one week later I bought tomatoes again, this time the standard ones. The standard tomatoes came from Spain, they did cost only a third of the organic tomatoes, and they looked as good or even better than the organic ones.

When I tried one at home I was deeply disappointed, I could say, even shocked. The tomato didn’t taste well, it also didn’t taste bad, it in fact didn’t taste of anything at all. I first thought that this must be a bad fruit and tried a second one, but no luck, the second tomato also didn’t taste of anything.

I tried two other fruits before I deposited the rest into the compost, I hope that they are not too much contaminated with pesticides. Should I have put them rather into the hazardous waste compartment?

I’m still wondering how it is possible, that most people buy such tomatoes? How did the food industry manage to make the consumers believe that these red balls of organic matter are tomatoes? Was it a slow and longtime process over many years where real tomatoes were gradually replaced by fake ones? 

I’m mystified that this fraud has not be exposed until now and that fake tomatoes still can be sold everywhere. I’m mystified and also terrified because it doesn’t stop there, this is only one small part of a gigantic fraudulent scheme — it’s not only fake tomatoes, it’s fake grapes, fake lettuce, fake vegetables and fruits of any kind.

This is not the first time I had such an epiphany, the same happened before with grapes, strawberries, green beens, apples, carrots, and everything else that I grew in the garden, plucked in the surrounding meadows and forests, or bought from neighbors.

The homegrown food always turned out to be so much superior to anything the food industry was able to put on the shelves of the supermarkets and malls.

It seems, that the consumers are not realizing the fraud, because real food is hard to come by or unaffordable. The constant pounding of food industry propaganda had an impact too of course. At least four generations have now been exposited to food propaganda since their earliest days as toddlers.

Researchers at the University of Missouri, Kansas City’s BRAIN Lab. found that the brains of obese youngsters are wired to respond to the logos of food companies. “When showed images of fast food companies, the parts of the brain that control pleasure and appetite lit up,” writes researcher Makini Brice in a summary. “The brains did not do the same when showed images from companies not associated with food,”

Prof. Amanda Bruce, who specializes in the neuroimaging of obesity stresses, that the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically dense foods high in sugars, fat, and sodium.


Some consumers are aware that they are fooled, duped, shortchanged, but they simply don’t have the money to buy food that is three times as expensive. They have accepted their fate and try to make the food bearable by adding more sugar, fat, salt, pepper, curry, and other cheap spices to their meals. The same method is used for fast food, for prefabricated food, in diners and restaurants. Smokers have an advantage, as their taste sensitivity is greatly reduced.

These methods work for millions of people, what can be wrong about them?

I didn’t mention meat, because as a vegetarian the quality of meat doesn’t concern me. My cat family members unfortunately prefer high quality (premium) industrial food to the expensive organic varieties. I assume, that these premium brands are spiced with artificial flavors that attract cats. I have to give my little friends though credit for their intense efforts to enrich their nutrition with natural food from the garden and the adjacent forest.


Closing this text I have to reveal that the reason, why I’m at present are able to publish more posts than usual is not, that bad weather has brought garden work to an end (there would be still enough to do), but that I injured my left thumb while I was loading stone plates (needed to pave the ways between the beds) into the car. The wound was so severe that the doctor had to stitch it and in the last days I got a wound infection and have to take antibiotics — I really would have liked to avoid that!

I’m waiting now for the side effects of the antibiotics to set in, which could be diarrhea, headache, and all kind of other nasty symptoms. The cats comfort and support me as good as they can, sitting around me and on me and purring softly when I touch them.

The blog post Sowing the seeds of doubt was one of the most successful ever published, I only had as much hits with How to choose an echo chamber, and Breaking Point. It seems that I have to either write an inspirational text or a well researched one. Both things are not easily to achieve for a non native speaker of English. Fortunately I’m not obsessed with blogging and not craving to become a famous blogger!

Pictures are now an integrated part of my posts and I ask the valued reader not to block them, as they often add crucial informations to the story.

My habit to rush out posts as soon as I have typed the last sentence has the unfortunate consequence that the first versions are full of typos, wrong spellings, and bad grammar. When I checked the text of Sowing the seeds of doubt on the WordPress page I found more than a dozen errors. They are now eliminated, but were included in the version sent out to subscribers.

Dear subscriber, if you are put off by the mistakes, please read the newest version on mato48.com.


  1. Whenever someone starts obsessing over sexuality (and especially commenting on who is ‘perverted’), I run the other way. That is one aspect of our lives, and sometimes it is beautiful and sometimes it is ugly. Like preference for certain kinds of music or food, it is extremely personal and should be apolitical.

    Yet our preferences are used by elites everywhere as a means to divide us as human beings from one another. (some ‘anti-imperialists’ like Robert Mugabe are also guilty of this)

    What most struck me in Hedges’ article was his description of his school experience. Hierarchy, like that which is widespread in both public and private education, is what leads to harm and relationships based on power-imbalance.

    These two ideas are related but maybe not in the way the author intended. We deny children the right to explore their own sexuality in a safe way but tolerate the bullying, social isolation, etc. within the current top-down educational framework.

    Doesn’t this indicate that we as a society, which includes a lot of so-called ‘progressives,’ ‘liberals,’ and ‘leftists’ who bolster their arguments with talk of perversion, are more influenced by the reactionary and bigoted attitudes of the elite than we might imagine?


  2. I don’t blame Hedge, each of his articles is in fact a part of his autobiography (most writers work this way). He has to do it, it is a catharsis and it provides important lessons about the human condition.

    Most of us don’t live on an island isolated from the influences of society. And even the ones who live the most isolated lives were shaped by society from the first day of their life till the day when they chose to hide themselves away.

    Once upon a time when causality was the prevailing view, one could have argued that there is no causal connection between conservative ideologies and enlightened critical thinking. But causality morphed into multi causality and from there into a worldview where an infinite number of forces/vectors/movements are interconnected/related with each other in the great flow of matter and energy that constitutes our universe.

    To answer your question (which is a serious question, deserving a serious answer): We are all influenced by existing reactionary and bigoted attitudes, even if our response is rather an allergic reaction that an adaption or accommodation. Everyone is influenced by everything, though it is difficult to exactly quantify the magnitude of the various influences.

    And again, as I already hinted in my post, reactionary and bigoted attitudes are not a sole privilege of the elites. There are poor bigots and rich bigots, poor idiots and rich idiots (the poor bigots and idiots are the natural foot soldiers of fascism).

    Humans are born with a moldable, formable brain with large parts unstructured. Hard wiring (instinct) is less than in any of our fellow animals. Human babies would not survive without years of nurturing and guidance, their brains are largely formed by nurturing and education.

    Which implies, that we are to a large extend a product of our upbringing, that changes in society must be prepared/accompanied by changes in nurturing and education, that any fundamental change will take generations.

    Look at China, how they love capitalism!

    A society based on respect, caring, empathy is imaginable, but how can it emerge when we all grow up in a world of intolerance, indifference, hate?

    What do you think about Montessori education?


  3. Hi Mato
    For some reason I have been worried about you.
    You said some kind words in Levergirl’s or Jennifer’s comments, some months ago, which I didn’t acknowledge. So, I tracked your blog down, finally, to say thankyou.
    It’s nice to find your blog. I will take a look now, because I think you might be a kind person, and kind people are worth reading.(I’m bored with the semantic/logic-wrestlers, who can’t allow the best bits of being human- compassion, humility, empathy and love- into their dialogue because these thing are nuanced and don’t fit the structural progression of “rational” arguments….
    So anyway, Hope you are well, and this sudden concern for you is entirely unfounded!!!


    • I disappeared from Jennifer Browdy’s blog because of insurmountable differences. I acknowledge the need to conjointly discuss issues and look for compromise but at a certain point one has to stand ones ground.

      Because nature will not compromise.


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