Posts Tagged criminal

A Re-Visioning of “Civilization” in Light of Impending Apocalypse … Prometheus Made us “Civilized” … And Doomed: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 13

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Kaleidoscope of Postmodern Life, Part Thirteen: On Defiance, Alienation from Nature, “Civilization,” Apocalypse, Marxism, OWS, and Ayn Rand

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Will “Progress of Man” Be Humanity’s Epitaph?

peasantsplantingpotatoes_thumb2early-village_thumb2All of the “achievements” of “civilization,” these increases of control over Nature, are traditionally seen as the “progress of man,” the advance and evolution of humans. On the brink of ecocide and fishkill_thumb6peoples-orb_rr_thumb4humanicide as we now are as a result of these developments, we have a unique vantage point for re-visioning these changes. Are these vaunted human “achievements” so great if they lead to species annihilation, species suicide, as is becoming increasingly likely?

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We now continue to look into these questions. And the very next thing we see is that even the myths from ancient times give us evaluations and prognoses on us that are surprising in light of our current rationalizations of ourselves as a species.

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Defiance, Alienation from Nature,
“Civilization” … Apocalypse

Defiance = Birth Pain = Separation From the Real

254_thumb[1]Other aspects of the Prometheus and Eden myths fit with the interpretation I am making of it: Stealing fire/ eating the apple/ eating meat is the great act-out of the primal birth pain we created for ourselves by standing upright. It was a defiant act against Nature and Universal harmony, but it set us on the human path of being distinct from all other species. Without real access/ connection to the Real, we created substitute realities—culture, structured societies, status, language and writing, power relations, and abstract creative products. [Footnote 1]

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Prometheus Makes Us “Civilized” … And Doomed

pandoras-badfaoxFitting with that, Prometheus is given the central role in making humans distinct from all species, creating humanity, in giving defining attributes to humans to set us apart from all species and these are said to be fire and all the civilizing skills.pt654_84-cropped Prometheus is credited with, not only securing meat, fire, and all ailments and troubles (with Pandora), but also with bringing civilization and all its components of science, agriculture, mathematics, medicine, art, and literature…fine things no doubt, but all being aspects of control of Nature, opposition to the natural, abstraction and alienation from the divine, and not harmony with it or balance in relation to it. imadgfhfjgjkl;'ges_thumb[1]And only now are we beginning to understand the price that comes with these, as indeed we are suffering the penalties allotted Adam and Eve, Icarus, and Prometheus for their over-reaching and hubris. We are nearing the end of the slide into apocalyptic oblivion that Prometheus, Adam and Eve, and Pandora set us on (poetically speaking).

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The Answers

pandora__s_jar_by_a2010l-d33mfhw_thumb[2]pandora__s_jar_by_xxdigipxx-d3100pj.png_thumb[1]But within these myths lie the answers to our dilemma as well. These products of the consciousness of billions of previous humans—added to and refined over the millennia—prophesize the pandora__s_jar_by_shadow_lust-d31v87l_thumb[3]apocalypse looming before us, but these Nine-Days-of-Creation_thumb[5]tensions cannot exist in myth except being inextricably entwined with the very means of their release and resolution. So they lay before us the way home for us as well; and they predict our redemption and how it will happen. It is to this we now turn.

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Before looking at the resolutions of the uniquely human apocalyptic dilemma we have created, let me address something that is no doubt on many readers’ minds.

How Promethean “Heroism” Set Off Our Slide Into Alienation and Apocalypse … His “Rebellion” Was an Abomination, Not a Blessing

leave_eden_thumb491px-Draper_Herbert_James_Mourning_for_IcarusI know you are not used to hearing the Prometheus myth interpreted as a defiant act not a heroic act. It is never compared with Pandoras_Box_copythe defiant acts portrayed in the Eden or Icarus myths as I am here doing. Icarus is rightly said to be a tragic example of hubris or failed ambition, high-flying ambition. In Eden, Adam and Eve defy the sole divine commandment. But they can all be seen as acts of over-reaching, certainly as acts of hubris. And in all of them punishment follows the selfish act; there is karmic retribution for upsetting the natural or divine order.

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Prometheus Is a Criminal Not Heroic Figure…On Over-Reaching and Hubris

Overlord_Prometheus_Geth_PrimeBut remember that hubris and over-reaching was actually the earliest understanding of the Promethean act. It appears that time, understandablyas it doesprovided a rationalization of the defiant act. [Footnote 2]

As with everything else—language, culture, hierarchical society, and the Castle_in_the_Skylike—humans turn their faults into achievements, their crimes into heroism, their cowering before truth into brave creations of castles in the sky. So it is that the Romantic poets Shelley and Byron saw this myth as a reflection of defiance against an oppressive authority, as in their time was the Church; 9781565117877French Revolutionaries saw it as a poke in the eye to the parasitic blue bloods of their age; and Marxists and other activists find inspiration in it for struggle against the suffocating prerogatives of capitalism and imperialism.

They are fine to find inspiration where they can. I submit, however, that a deeper and more currently relevant understanding is the one I am presenting here and which was the earliest understanding. icarusGlowAnd despite all the rationalizing that’s been done on it, this earlier understanding—the one making it analogous to the Eden and Icarus structures—does shine through at times. In my opinion, Mary Shelley understood its real meaning when in 1818 she subtitled her masterpiece novel, Frankenstein “The Modern Prometheus.” In it, she demonstrates a remarkably current,Clive, Colin (Frankenstein)_02 postmodern theme of the dangers of human hubris, ofMonsanto-hungrymanFrankensteinFoods taking us into arenas of knowledge that we are nowhere near capable of managing … doing again, as we did at the beginning in taking from the divine the determination of life and death over the flora, fauna,imstiloyiages and even other humans at times, mucking with the divine order by stirring mouse-earup the forces deep within the atom and the DNA, opening more and more of Pandora’s jars, which can no longer be closed, many of them. So, yes, Shelley’s understanding is closer to my interpretation of the meaning of bringing these “civilizing arts” … In other words, they are in their essence and therefore their ultimate fruits abominations!

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atlas_shrugged_cover6a0133f4251a61970b0168e988eaf3970c-500wiIf my interpretation of Prometheus is still not understood and one wishes to follow Marxist, revolutionary, romantic, and modern interpretations of Prometheus as a righteous defier of injustice and heroic bringer of boons—in a way as to make him a model for our real occupy wall street and Arab Spring heroes frankenstein2today—than consider why it is that the person on the extreme other side of this revolutionary ideology, Ayn Rand, uses Prometheus as a model for her ideology of rapacious fukushima-no-1-meltdown-confirmed-japan_thumbcats_0individuality, which she does in her novels Anthem and the fanatically worshipped, Atlas Shrugged. So, no. Ayn Rand’s rendering shows the myth to be, at its base, depicting the ultimate perversion of a natural benign order and a criminal defiance of Young-Frankenstein-bh01polls_air_pollution_systems_4044_980080_answer_1_xlargeNature—as the industrialists and polluters of today show us—and not the revolutionary overthrow of an oppressive rule, as Marxists, Romantic poets, and French Revolutionaries saw it. [Footnote 3]

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Continue with Enter the Centaur: Wherein Lies Real Hope – Sixties and Millennial Generations Are Shamans for Deluded Promethean “Fathers”: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 14

Return to Deep Thoughts on The Fall – On Sacrifice, Dominion Over Death, Meat, and Murder … Beginning Our Apocalypse: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 12

Footnotes

1. See The Great Reveal, Chapter Thirty-Five: The Twenty-Seventh Prasad. A-mazing Cultural Maze.

2. On “time, understandably, as it does, provided a rationalization of the defiant act,” see “A Blessing for You…To Choose or Refuse”—The Great Reveal from The Planetmates: The Complete Prasads, especially

3. Regarding the glow-in-the-dark cats shown in the photo, see “12 bizarre examples of genetic engineering” at http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/photos/12-bizarre-examples-of-genetic-engineering/glow-in-the-dark-c

Continue with Enter the Centaur: Wherein Lies Real Hope – Sixties and Millennial Generations Are Shamans for Deluded Promethean “Fathers”: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 14

Return to Deep Thoughts on The Fall – On Sacrifice, Dominion Over Death, Meat, and Murder … Beginning Our Apocalypse: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 12

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Scapegoating the poor for America’s sins – How we are already a nation of brown shirts to some

Criminalizing the poor. You wonder why London happened? Why it’s going to happen here?

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It’s as bad as I feared…. and experienced. (the mo-fos)

Barbara Ehrenreich speaks out on the issue everyone is overlooking, except for those who have no voice. We are becoming a fascist nation. In the cities, people already live in fear of harassment for just being alive and not looking the right way, having enough money, having a place to go, or needing to sleep or go to the bathroom. It has become illegal to be human, unless you can pay some invisible toll.

Our brown shirts are blue shirts, but they are hardly different. This fascism will spread like poison to the strata above the poor.

In fact, all the outcry from the middle class is only an indication that it is rising, spreading. This is no exaggeration. I have been experiencing it myself and been among and talking to others who have for the last year and a half. 

The middle class participates in this scapegoating. They choose it in all the ways they want their communities to hide the truth of poverty in America and so in so many ways beat down and out of sight those who remind them their precious comfort is threatened and their vaunted middle class reality is a precarious house built on the ruined lives of the broken.

But the middle class ignore the totalitarianism that exists on the side roads to their peril. London shows Americans what they are reaping at this moment, even as the middle class seeks to maintain its privileges at the expense of the poor, in the same way that the filthy rich build their castles on the ruins of middle class dreams and portfolios.

Amplify’d from www.salon.com

How America turned poverty into a crime

Barbara Ehrenreich

The poor aren’t just struggling during the recession; they’re being actively hounded by urban officials

Post-Meltdown Poverty

Media attention has focused, understandably enough, on the “nouveau poor” — formerly middle and even upper-middle class people who lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their investments in the financial crisis of 2008 and the economic downturn that followed it, but the brunt of the recession has been borne by the blue-collar working class, which had already been sliding downwards since de-industrialization began in the 1980s.

In 2008 and 2009, for example, blue-collar unemployment was increasing three times as fast as white-collar unemployment, and African American and Latino workers were three times as likely to be unemployed as white workers. Low-wage blue-collar workers, like the people I worked with in this book, were especially hard hit for the simple reason that they had so few assets and savings to fall back on as jobs disappeared.

How have the already-poor attempted to cope with their worsening economic situation? One obvious way is to cut back on health care. The New York Times reported in 2009 that one-third of Americans could no longer afford to comply with their prescriptions and that there had been a sizable drop in the use of medical care. Others, including members of my extended family, have given up their health insurance.

Food is another expenditure that has proved vulnerable to hard times, with the rural poor turning increasingly to “food auctions,” which offer items that may be past their sell-by dates. And for those who like their meat fresh, there’s the option of urban hunting. In Racine, Wisconsin, a 51-year-old laid-off mechanic told me he was supplementing his diet by “shooting squirrels and rabbits and eating them stewed, baked, and grilled.” In Detroit, where the wildlife population has mounted as the human population ebbs, a retired truck driver was doing a brisk business in raccoon carcasses, which he recommends marinating with vinegar and spices.

The most common coping strategy, though, is simply to increase the number of paying people per square foot of dwelling space — by doubling up or renting to couch-surfers.

In Los Angeles, housing expert Peter Dreier says that “people who’ve lost their jobs, or at least their second jobs, cope by doubling or tripling up in overcrowded apartments, or by paying 50 or 60 or even 70 percent of their incomes in rent.” According to a community organizer in Alexandria, Virginia, the standard apartment in a complex occupied largely by day laborers has two bedrooms, each containing an entire family of up to five people, plus an additional person laying claim to the couch.

No one could call suicide a “coping strategy,” but it is one way some people have responded to job loss and debt. There are no national statistics linking suicide to economic hard times, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported more than a four-fold increase in call volume between 2007 and 2009, and regions with particularly high unemployment, like Elkhart, Indiana, have seen troubling spikes in their suicide rates. Foreclosure is often the trigger for suicide — or, worse, murder-suicides that destroy entire families.

“Torture and Abuse of Needy Families”

We do of course have a collective way of ameliorating the hardships of individuals and families — a government safety net that is meant to save the poor from spiraling down all the way to destitution. But its response to the economic emergency of the last few years has been spotty at best. The food stamp program has responded to the crisis fairly well, to the point where it now reaches about 37 million people, up about 30 percent from pre-recession levels. But welfare — the traditional last resort for the down-and-out until it was “reformed” in 1996 — only expanded by about 6 percent in the first two years of the recession.

The difference between the two programs? There is a right to food stamps. You go to the office and, if you meet the statutory definition of need, they help you. For welfare, the street-level bureaucrats can, pretty much at their own discretion, just say no.

When the Parentes finally got into “the system” and began receiving food stamps and some cash assistance, they discovered why some recipients have taken to calling TANF “Torture and Abuse of Needy Families.” From the start, the TANF experience was “humiliating,” Kristen says. The caseworkers “treat you like a bum. They act like every dollar you get is coming out of their own paychecks.”

The Parentes discovered that they were each expected to apply for 40 jobs a week, although their car was on its last legs and no money was offered for gas, tolls, or babysitting. In addition, Kristen had to drive 35 miles a day to attend “job readiness” classes offered by a private company called Arbor, which, she says, were “frankly a joke.”

Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police.” There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.

How the Safety Net Became a Dragnet

The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America.

Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.

Most cities, for example, have ordinances designed to drive the destitute off the streets by outlawing such necessary activities of daily life as sitting, loitering, sleeping, or lying down. Urban officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about such laws: “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a St. Petersburg, Florida, city attorney stated in June 2009, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges…”

In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually intensified as the weakened economy generates ever more poverty. So concludes a recent study from the National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness, which finds that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with the harassment of the poor for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering, or carrying an open container.

The report lists America’s ten “meanest” cities — the largest of which include Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Orlando — but new contestants are springing up every day. In Colorado, Grand Junction’s city council is considering a ban on begging; Tempe, Arizona, carried out a four-day crackdown on the indigent at the end of June. And how do you know when someone is indigent? As a Las Vegas statute puts it, “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance.

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one — for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

The viciousness of the official animus toward the indigent can be breathtaking. A few years ago, a group called Food Not Bombs started handing out free vegan food to hungry people in public parks around the nation. A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places, leading to the arrests of several middle-aged white vegans.

One anti-sharing law was just overturned in Orlando, but the war on illicit generosity continues. Orlando is appealing the decision, and Middletown, Connecticut, is in the midst of a crackdown. More recently, Gainesville, Florida, began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day, and Phoenix, Arizona, has been using zoning laws to stop a local church from serving breakfast to homeless people.

For the not-yet-homeless, there are two main paths to criminalization, and one is debt. Anyone can fall into debt, and although we pride ourselves on the abolition of debtors’ prison, in at least one state, Texas, people who can’t pay fines for things like expired inspection stickers may be made to “sit out their tickets” in jail.

More commonly, the path to prison begins when one of your creditors has a court summons issued for you, which you fail to honor for one reason or another, such as that your address has changed and you never received it. Okay, now you’re in “contempt of the court.”

The second — and by far the most reliable — way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong color skin. Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor succumbs to racial profiling, but whole communities are effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor. Flick a cigarette and you’re “littering”; wear the wrong color T-shirt and you’re displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighborhood can mark you as a potential suspect. And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be “resisting arrest.”

In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans — 2.3 million — reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.

It is not clear whether economic hard times will finally force us to break the mad cycle of poverty and punishment. With even the official level of poverty increasing — to over 14 percent in 2010 — some states are beginning to ease up on the criminalization of poverty, using alternative sentencing methods, shortening probation, and reducing the number of people locked up for technical violations like missing court appointments. But others, diabolically enough, are tightening the screws: not only increasing the number of “crimes,” but charging prisoners for their room and board, guaranteeing they’ll be released with potentially criminalizing levels of debt.

But at least we should decide, as a bare minimum principle, to stop kicking people when they’re down.

Read more at www.salon.com

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