Wed. May 22nd, 2024

By:  Jane Stillwater

In America today, wealthy corporatists and oligarchs currently pretty much own our government.  Wealthy corporatists and oligarchs also pretty much own our media.  And wealthy corporatists and oligarchs also own our justice system, our banks, our educational systems and our voting machines.  “Okay, okay, Jane. We get the picture!”  Do you?

Obviously not.

I was just reading Al Gore’s latest article in Rolling Stone magazine, regarding the extreme emergencies created by climate change — and how climate-change deniers have blinded most of us to these immediate dangers.  By 2090, within my own granddaughter’s lifetime, both most of Europe and most of America will be deserts, hard-hit by extreme droughts.  Yet wealthy corporatists and oligarchs have deliberately covered up these extreme dangers — to you and to me as well as to our children and grandchildren.

According to Gore, “They are financing pseudo-scientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made ‘legal’ and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate change lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  (Question:  Would Michael Jordan have been as star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)”

But it isn’t just climate change that the Big Boys want us to doubt.  They also want us to swallow the myth that we live in a democracy.  You and I may think that we do.  But wealthy corporatists and oligarchs all know that we don’t.

American corporatists have carefully taught us to doubt the fact that there is voting machine fraud.  We’ve learned to doubt the fact that elections are bought and paid for by Citizens United.  We’ve been taught to doubt that there have been major FBI wiretaps.  We are told to doubt all the facts that keep pouring out at us from WikiLeaks.  We doubt the patriotism of poor Bradley Manning.

We learn to doubt that habeas corpus is becoming a thing of the past.  We even doubt that corporatist media tells us exactly what to think and when to think it.  We are instructed to doubt that there is union-busting.  We learn to doubt that women’s rights have been eroded.  We are told to doubt that Mexicans, African-Americans, Gays, Muslims and Asians are being hounded and jailed.  We also come to doubt that banks are illegally foreclosing on our homes.  We now doubt that torture is un-American.  And we’ve already been carefully taught to doubt that wiretapping and torture and false imprisonment and lord knows what all else could ever happen here in the USA, the Land of the Free.

Until it does.

We have been systematically taught to doubt all this stuff — until, like the heat waves in New England and the devastating floods on the Mississippi and the winters-from-hell in the Midwest, the reality that our democracy and civil rights no longer exist becomes real to us personally.

In the same way that we have been carefully taught to become climate-deniers by the corporatists who make a profit from pollution, we are also being carefully taught that Democracy still exists in America and that Justice is still available to all of us at any time.  Yeah right.  Like the Supreme Court represents us and not them?  Like the corporatists who have sold us their infamous Bush-Obama-Bush sandwich can’t yank us out of our beds and water-board us any time that they please.

We have been carefully taught to hold onto this myth, this myth of freedom.  Flag-waving.  The Fourth of July.  And hold on to it we do — until it may be too late and all the civil-rights trashing that wealthy corporatists and oligarchs have more obviously done to lesser, more third-world countries starts to become more and more obvious here too.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis, where all kinds of progressive topics were discussed — except one.  The Palestinian third rail.  None of the major speeches or the panels even mentioned the Palestine question, even in passing.  There were approximately 120 seminars at NN 2011 and only one of them even mentioned the freaking Arab Spring.

What a shame.

“But why is Palestine so important?” you might ask.  Here’s why.  Today in America, a whole bunch of progressives are trying to initiate another American Spring of freedom and democracy here too.  But that’s not the image of the future of America that the small band of wealthy corporatists and oligarchs who currently run this country have in mind.  Their particular vision seems to run more along the lines of America’s new Palestinian Winter.

Think about it.  High unemployment in America?  Palestinians have up to 70% unemployment.  Cheap labor?  Palestine has set the bar really high here.  But with a little bit of luck, corporatists can establish that high unemployment rate here too.

Intentional disintegration of the educational system?  Palestine already has that too.  And now American teachers are being dissed regularly.  Why?  Because an educated population wants democracy — while corporatists just wants the population to be servile (and dumb).

Rape of the environment?  Palestine already leads the way.  Corporatists in Israel already steal Palestine’s natural resources and pollute its air and its streams.  And mountaintop removal is already huge in Palestine.  Is West Virginia fast becoming the new West Bank?  It certainly looks that way.

And what about freedom and personal rights?  We’re fast becoming the new Palestine in this area too.  Non-violent protesters are being shot at, beaten and jailed in Palestine.  It’s basically a police state.  Can America become an obvious police state like that too?  I betcha anything that the corporatists certainly hope so.  Just think of all that cheap prison labor!  It’s already making our American oligarchs drool.

Palestinians are protesting their occupation, of course — but they are also protesting their corporatist abuse.  And they are being vilified in the media for doing it.  And vilification by the media of anyone who does not agree with the corporatist agenda happens here too.  Wanna know what corporatists have in store for American journalists?  Just go talk to a Palestinian journalist.  That is, if you are even allowed into Palestine — or are given permission to go visit one in jail (or in the graveyard).

And the Israeli corporatists teach their young soldiers to become cold-blooded killers of “collateral” women and children in order to “defend” corporatist interests.  Sound familiar?  That’s already happening here.

Jails and torture in Palestine?  They are a common part of Palestinian life.  Will they become common and familiar parts of our lives too?  These things are definitely on the American corporatist agenda already — as is control of American courts.

And the settlements in Palestine?  You think there will never be “settlements” here in America too?  Gated communities for the rich while the rest of us live in hovels and can have our houses taken away from us at any time?  Settlements, gated communities and foreclosures appear to be occupying American corporatists’ wet dreams too.

Palestinians have been getting thrown out of their homes for over 63 years now.  Americans are just now catching up.

This is why I fight so hard for justice in Palestine — a small place that is over on the other side of the world.  Because if Israel corporatists, using American money for backing, can do all these horrible things to Palestinians and blithely get away with it, then what’s to stop American corporatists from continuing to do these things to you and me too?

The only thing that will stop corporatists is if we too, like Palestinians, fight back and say “No”.  We too must also learn to say no.

On December 2, 1964, on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, a brave young student leader, Mario Savio, stated that, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.  And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

How much more relevant is Savio’s statement today, both in Palestine — and here.

PS:  On the Forth of July, me and my family are going to go down to the Berkeley marina and watch the fireworks from the balcony of the Doubletree Hotel and contemplate the first American Spring — in 1776.  And also barbecue hot dogs and eat olallieberry pie and celebrate my birthday (again).

Quiet on the set?: Filming a unicorn movie in Berkeley this week
By Jane Stillwater (originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet

Since it was founded back in 1880, Berkeley High School has been industriously busy cranking out whole bunches of amazingly wonderful graduates who have then gone on to do amazingly wonderful things.  One of these amazingly wonderful graduates is my son Joe — who is currently working as a sound mixer on a movie written and directed by Leah Meyerhoff, another amazingly wonderful graduate of Berkeley High.

“And right now you are filming this movie in Berkeley?” I asked Meyerhoff today after joining her film crew for lunch — cole slaw, BBQ chicken and stuffed bell peppers — and dragging my three-year-old granddaughter Mena along so that she could see what her daddy does when he goes off to “work”.

“Mostly we are filming in Berkeley.  Today we’re shooting a scene in a punk warehouse in West Oakland, but last week we filmed at Bette’s Ocean View Diner on Forth Street and next week we’re going to be filming at the marina.”  Apparently they’ve been filming in Berkeley for the past two weeks and still have two weeks more left to go.

Meyerhoff then had to run off to do directorial things and so I talked with her assistant director who was busy roughhousing with Mena and having a food fight.  “What’s the plot about?” I asked him.

“It’s basically a coming-of-age story, but one with a twist — coming of age in Berkeley.”  But then it was time for the assistant director to get back to work so I cornered one of the actors.

“The movie as about a young girl who is having problems at home,” said the actor, “and so she runs off in order to get away from a situation that she thinks is intolerable — only to find that she has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire and ended up in an even harsher situation.  And so she retreats into a fantasy world peopled with unicorns.”   But then the actor had to go off to hair-and-make-up, so I went off to talk with Meyerhoff’s assistant.

“Will the unicorn fantasy scenes be shot with special effects?” I asked her.

“No, we will be using animation, stop-action animation done by taking the objects we shoot and moving them one frame at a time.”  I wonder if they want to use some of Mena’s My Little Pony unicorns in the story — assuming of course that Mena would ever let them out of her sight.

Then Meyerhoff’s assistant got whisked away too, and so did Joe — and so Mena and I got to wander around the graphically colorful punk warehouse set all by ourselves — where we ran into a very nice ultra-punk “suicide girl” with a mohawk hairdo and a cute little kitten named Space Kitty, and the very nice punk girl and Mena chatted for a while about how cats are fragile and need to be petted carefully.

Then after that we begged everyone we saw on set for a part in the movie.  This could be Mena’s and my big chance!  But nobody had time for talent-scouting today.   “Quiet on the set!” someone yelled and that was that.

Later on, I found out that the film crew will be traveling to New York after wrapping up here, working on the animated unicorn sequences at a studio on the east coast, where Meyerhoff had attended film school at NYU.  Then the film will go into post-production for who knows how long, and then it will go out on the festival circuit where, with any luck at all, it will be released into theaters nationwide and then everyone in America will be able to see how amazingly wonderful Berkeley High School graduates can be — plus they’ll get to see some amazingly wonderful shots of Berkeley as well.   And, hopefully, they may get to see some amazingly wonderful shots of me and Mena as well.


David Pratt, the Glasgow Sunday Herald’s intrepid war correspondent. puts his finger right on the problem in Libya right now — everyone else seems to be in it for the money, while the Libyan people themselves are getting screwed:

Arms traders and terrorists are only winners in Libya:  …I still believe we were right to intervene in Libya. What worries me is the speed with which we have lost sight of our original objective – helping the Libyan people – and how strategists tasked with doing that seem hell bent on ignoring the long-term picture.  As Nato bickers and the coalition crumbles, the Libyan people are still paying a terrible price.  For now, only arms dealers and Islamic terrorists look set to profit.

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6 thoughts on “The corporatists vs. you & me: Why Palestine is important”
  1. How beautiful the three strong, soulful women look shining out from your lead photo. There, captured in a single image, is what solidarity is all about. The machine has become large and very powerful, but very, very ugly. It has plowed over the roses, the daffodils, the Iris, the Magnolia blossom; even the trembling orchid; to plant dandelions that blow in the wind and cause sinus infections. It has taken away healthy existence to plant corn. It has created monotony, erasing all signs of color, of peaceful existence, of joy. It profits from conflict. Tear down the machine and bring back the flowers, the beautiful flowers of humanity.

  2. @ Karlsie,

    To ask for the machine to be destroyed is to ask for much pain and suffering as the machine lashes out to crush it’s opposition. There’s an old Japanese legend regarding the cherry blossom: that the tree is nourished by the blood of fallen warriors – that blood then mixes with the otherwise pure white petals to give the flowers a pink stain at the base. A better symbol for beauty born from tainted innocence I cannot conceive.

    To ask for the return of the flowers is to ask for blood to be spilled to fertalize them – I respectfully request that you meditate on this…

  3. The flowers are worth protecting, Azazel. My eyes have grown weary of the colorless expressions underlining our Capitalistic system; its shallowness and lack of discretion. In thin soil, only the weeds take root. We won’t have family trees; only shrubs and bushes, of a most common variety, easily relocated.

    In order to allow my lilacs to flourish, my strawberries to stretch their tendrils and my lilies to thrive, i hack back the weeds. They are aggressive and recover quickly, but not my precious flowering plants. They need nourishment to grow, and space from useless consumption of their resources. The machine is an aggressive weed, giving neither nourishment nor space. While the warrior lays down his life in tainted innocence to protect the flowers, the soldier lays down his life in service to his king for money.

  4. @ Karlsie,

    I was just making sure you understood the full implications of your desire – many people I knew from my college days kept telling me how much they wanted “change” in society or “hope” for mankind and so forth. But you tell them what it would take on a practical level to see the outcomes they desire and they back away: they are under the impression that things will just magically happen if they just wish hard enough for them – and to mention that hard work, conflict and sacrifice is needed to achieve those ends makes them sweat bullets.

    I know it’s unpleasant for most to contemplate, but the situation will degenerate even further before any real movement is made away from the failed social institutions that landed us in this mess in the first place. It’s going to be a long road and there’s no real guarantee that we’ll ever reach the goal, but if we don’t take it upon ourselves to fight the machine we are doomed from the start…

  5. I’m no stranger to conflict, Azazel, nor violence, nor desperation. In some ways, our society is too civilized. It believes it can settle conflicts peacefully simply through lack of physical aggression. Verbal aggression carries its own violence and shelters itself behind the masquerade of civility; using law enforcement tactics and nanny devices much like a bully that runs to mama after alienating the neighbor kids. The bully forever wins if we don’t stand up to him. The consequences are rarely pretty, generally painful, but if you want to be out from under his shadow, it’s necessary.

  6. Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world…

    Have a good day

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