Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Should We Fear David Brooks' "Population Implosion"?

Danny O'Keefe shared an article by David Brooks titled "The Fertility Implosion" which expresses Brooks' growing trepidation about birthrates falling worldwide. Danny offered the following intro: "A major point in this article is that when people expand their income ability (usually with the benefit of greater education) they rely less on large families. The Earth could use less people. If the capacity to create and retain wealth grows, then the only real problem with maintaining an equity standard would seem to be fair distribution. If that sounds like socialism then let your granny starve."

I responded:
Danny, I agree with your analysis of the issue, but I don't think Brooks does. Perhaps I am just so jaded by all the recent assaults on women's rights, but this reads to me like a subtle admonishment to the advocates of birth control that we are controlling ourselves out of "prosperity."

The irony of this way of thinking is that it is predicated on the interpolation or conflation of the perceived need for large families due to the low life expectancy juxtaposed with the capitalistic fantasy of endless growth for prosperity. The irony stems from the fact, as you have pointed out, that increased population does not mean increased economic growth when the wealth is siphoned off by a tiny percentage and the trajectory of the "trickle" ceases to be "down."

It is likely that, with the technology that David Brooks acknowledges, we could, indeed, feed the world and not only successfully sustain life but improve living conditions for all. This cannot occur, however, when the system designed to provide that sustenance is predicated on promoting predators and sacrificing workers to a slave-like subsistence.

Brooks laments the fertility implosion because the system he supports demands a perpetual supply of an ever cheaper and harder working labor force (i.e., the hilarious misnomer: increased productivity) who do not share in the profits that their labor creates. Adam Smith would not recognize this grotesque perversion of his theory of capitalism as distorted by the amoral and immoral elevation of greed and selfishness by the likes of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, two unlikely but sympathetic bedfellows, whose acolytes recite snippets of their philosophies like mantras without an inkling of understanding.

In OUR TOWN, Wilder has an angry man ask Editor Webb (the play's most centered and level headed character, played, incidentally, by Ronny Cox in the excellent 1977 TV production), "“Is there no one in town aware of social injustice and industrial inequality?” To which Editor Webb replies:

"I guess we’re all huntin’ like everybody else for a way the diligent and sensible can rise to the top and the lazy and quarrelsome sink to the bottom. But it ain’t easy to find. Meantime, we do all we can to take care of those who can’t help themselves."

In the last thirty years, we have completely reversed these goals, rewarding and promoting corruption and fraud as the methodology of the quarrelsome and lazy gamers of the system while the diligent and sensible see their prospects squeezed out of them as that desire to help others is seen as a foolish weakness and unaffordable indulgence: Socialism, if you will.

My guess is that the only way to turn this delusional, self-destructive juggernaut around is by simultaneously and wholeheartedly supporting workers rights, women's rights, immigrants' rights, LGBT rights everywhere in the world, coupled with a profound respect for and aggressive protection of the environment. If we can do those "simple" things, we just might overcome this offensive glitch in the slow but inevitable evolution of freedom on this little speck of dust.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Time to Take It Back (Rush Did...)

Did you happen to notice that Rush Limbaugh has apologized to the Georgetown student that he slandered? It is a typical type of political media apology—I'm sorry that you were offended by what I said...I make jokes...I might have used an ill-chosen word or two, but what I was saying is still true—but the truth is that Limbaugh almost never apologizes for any of the crap he spews, so those of you who pushed those advertisers' buttons really got through. If even a few of them have dropped him permanently, it will be a positive move, but if we call him out every time he makes a racist or sexist remark and let his sponsors know that we will not support them as long as they are supporting him, he just may eventually go the way of Glenn Beck and lose his national audience. 

There is all this talk about "entitlements" and how they are destroying this country and must be cut back or eliminated. I worked for forty years as a teacher, so I don't even get social security, yet many of these obscenely highly-paid pundits and pension-for-life politicians characterize the pension that I did earn as nothing less than stealing from honest, hard-working taxpayers (I, of course, have been an honest, hard-working taxpayer since I was sixteen), but now I am merely a leech. There you have it, from "teach" to "leech" as a sign of these bizarre times. 

I say we start with Scott Walker in Wisconsin, where this latest war on the 99% began and get him out, and then start recalling the hell out of those Governors and legislators across the country who are waging an immoral and unscrupulous war against workers, women, immigrants, homeowners, children, the elderly, the poor, veterans, ad infinitum.

The thing that the far right wing figured out (I am going to stop calling them Republicans—I have had many friends who considered themselves to be Republicans who were far left of many "centrist" Democrats in this looking-glass world of present day politics, but this current crop of psychotic sycophants and cynical, polemical demagogues do not deserve to be graced with the name Republican)...Anyway, the thing that the far right wing figured out was that in this day of instant and world-wide media, NO politics are LOCAL. That's why they have been infiltrating and running campaigns for school boards, sheriffs, judges, state legislators, governors, and local referendums and initiatives, as well as pumping millions into national campaigns while simultaneously pushing for deregulation of the media, of the environment, of finance. Deregulation really just means, "Now you can't stop us at all because we just conned you into wiping out the law that criminalized our acts of pillage and mayhem." 

My senators and rep from California or Maine or Hawaii may agree with me 100%, but their votes can be neutralized by a 40% minority in the Senate. Judges decisions don't just affect the defendant, they can have ramifications across the country. When a Scott Walker introduces a bill to destroy the rights of workers, that same bill shows up in fifteen different state legislatures the same week. When Virginia attempts to pass a law requiring women to be physically or sexually assaulted by a doctor or technician for no other purpose than to abuse and terrify her (their law did not require her to actually look at the ultrasound) before she can have an abortion, variations of that law are simultaneously being introduced in other state houses around the country.

These assaults on workers' rights or women's rights don't originate in Wisconsin or Ohio or Virginia. They are devised by far-right think tanks—the same ones that thought up and published the Patriot Act ten years before 9/11—then disseminated through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the National Chamber of Commerce, then hammered into the unsuspecting and undiscerning ears and minds of the populace 24/7 over the airwaves of Fox and Clear Channel, then "picked up" by the rest of the media, and finally perpetuated through endless bloggers and trolls on the internet.

We have to get smart. We need to be aware of and support campaigns across the country when a rational candidate has a chance to eliminate an irrational one. We need to have civilized, reasoned, informed conversations at work, at the store, in our schools, in our homes. We can't let racism or sexism or distortions or lies go unchallenged, not in jokes, not in public forums, not on the internet, not in idle chat among friends. People can be persuaded, but they have to hear it reiterated again and again from people they respect in order to drown out the conniving cacophony calculated to create complacency and hopelessness which, in turn, can convince people to either not vote because "voting is useless" or to vote against their own best interests through deceptive and manipulative propaganda. 

So let's reframe the discussion. End the entitlements (right there, we can get rid of corporate welfare and tons of business tax loopholes), all we want are OUR OWN EARNED BENEFITS, which include general health, welfare, safety, and security for all. I will offer more on the necessity of taking back the language at a later date. But for now, as Woody Guthrie and Studs Terkel used to say, "Take it easy...but take it!"

And as I always say, "The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!" 
Tim McMullen

My song, "The Governed's Mental Getcha'," written in 1980, which addresses a number of the issues that have reared their ugly heads in recent months (okay, they never went away).