Relishing the New Anarchy

I cannot get that old Barry Maguire song, “Eve of Destruction” to stop playing in my head.

“The eastern world, it is explodin’
violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
you’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
you don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’
and even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

but you tell me
over and over and over again, my friend
how you don’t believe
we’re on the eve
of destruction.”

When I go to a news site and see an image of destruction and bloodshed, I often have to read the caption before I can tell if I am looking at a foreign war, a victim of a natural disaster, or a peaceful protest in any American City you choose. Raising the question: is it less dangerous to peacefully protest in Cairo than UC Davis?

Once we had a Constitution. It didn’t give us rights because we already had them. It was more like a warning to potential tyrants about the places they may not go. I think of it as a memo to government from the boss.

You may not have noticed, but without any announcement it was secretly suspended as part of the “War on Terror.”

The US Senate is about to pass Senate bill SB 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act, a radically insane piece of legislation which redefines the US homeland as a “battlefield” and makes US citizens subject to military apprehension and detainment for life without access to a trial or attorney.

You are probably wondering why you never heard about it. You weren’t supposed to. But, it is real and you can look it up. Pay special attention to Sections 1031 and 1032 to see what will become of protestors and writers like me.

If you were to read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four in the context of what is going on around us today, you would be struck by the eerie similarities.

We seem to be living in a world of perpetual war in which war itself is the point, and the enemy doesn’t matter. This is from chapter nine;

“On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns – after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces – at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy.”

In the book, cameras monitor the movements of citizens continually.

Just the other day I was squeezing the Charmin down at the Pic ‘n Save when I became aware of a larger than life image of me on a sixty-inch plasma screen above the aisle.
Now, those of you who know me or have seen my picture understand what I mean when I say, with all due modesty, that I am a pretty awesome looking dude. But, there I was, suspended, larger than life, looking down on me, looking up at me. The message is clear, we may not be watching you squeezing the Charmin…but we could be. Or, anything else you do.
We have no idea how frequently we are monitored but, I have noticed that almost every time there is a crime there turns out to be a video of it. Does that suggest that criminals don’t notice the cameras or that there are so many of them that it is inevitable?

Your cell phone leaves an indelible record of your whereabouts and certainly has the ability to monitor your conversations and activity.

And, just like Orwell’s book, we keep changing enemies.

Iran is fast becoming our new Bogey man, and we have been saber rattling over their nuclear program the same way we jousted with Iraq before going in and tracking down those very scary “weapons of mass destruction.”

Libya has been pounded back into the 19th Century and twenty thousand surface to air missiles, probably from us, have gone missing. No good could possibly come of that.

Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have resulted in the overthrow of regimes; while in Syria, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Oman, bloody civil uprisings continue to grow.

What do we really know about Arab Spring? Is it El Qaeda driven? CIA driven? Is it driven by disgruntled youth or by ethnic or religious tensions? Is it old political axes being ground?

We are being told that the outcome will be the establishment of democratic governments and better days ahead for the people. Maybe I have become a little jaded, but it is a pessimism born of experience. The problems of poor economies and repression aren’t even being addressed. They are being exacerbated.

Peace in the Middle East has been a topic of discussion as long as I have been alive. And, just so there is no misunderstanding, I’m all for it. That would be nice. We would just sort of all get along and there would be peace, love and understanding, forever and ever after.

I can just see it. All seven billion of us lined up around the globe could link arms hand in hand, swigging litres of high fructose corn syrup and uniting our voices, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Yeah, it’s a compelling vision alright. Sort of gives you goose bumps. Except that every five seconds one of us will drop dead from malnutrition.

And then, I read about the record profits that weapons’ manufacturers have been making even during a tough economy and it is hard to imagine that none of those weapons will be used.

Here at home, local law enforcement agencies have been busy as bees beefing up their arsenals with noise cannons, tanks, chemical agents, and even drones, unmanned air craft, with which to hunt down their own citizens.

No question about it, all of the signs of a pending global outbreak of peace are firmly in place.

So it seems to me like a strange time to be declaring victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom and pulling out. After accomplishing exactly what? There were no weapons of mass destruction. Turns out they were right there on Wall Street aimed at the American middleclass.

Now America is suffering just as though Al Qaeda won. Ironic, no?

We are leaving Iraq, finally, thank God. But what are we leaving behind? Thirty seconds after our last chopper clears the Green Zone, three dozen tribal warlords will be right back to avenging ancient grievances.

But, thanks to us, all sides will be better armed because we will be leaving a lot of the weaponry we brought with us, as well as a ton of cash no one can account for.

These endless, needless wars have provided state-of-the-art training to our domestic gang members who signed up to learn better ways to commit crimes.
Get ready for Mexican style shootouts as our now heavily armed local police confront battle hardened gang members.

There will come a day when, like Vietnam, we will wish we had left well enough alone. For me that day came about ten years ago.

Arab Spring is forcing regime change. So far occupiers, or “mobs” as we are known in this country, have demonstrated in hundreds of cities. This will continue. The oppressed fight back when they realize that dead is better than living or they realize they are dead either way.

Occupy, as a movement is in its infancy, but it will continue to grow globally as awareness of a corrupt global plutocracy and its corresponding austerity spreads. Greece, England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and many other European nations have had their own problems with civil unrest.

Most Americans believe that it is their responsibility to obey the law just because the law is the law and “we are a nation of laws”. I am not among them.

We are a nation suppressed by big money interests who back the candidates who write the laws that serve their interests, not ours. We may still be a nation of laws in the sense that the government can put you in jail if they want to and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Seeing the devolution into a blatantly two tiered justice system makes respect for the law itself impossible. The rich and powerful flaunt the law while making it almost impossible for victims to even gain access to the courts.

In many states, judges are requiring anyone challenging a fraudclosure to pay the foreclosing parties the entire loan balance prior to trial. Who can do that but the super-rich?

In California, many judges are ruling that a homeowner cannot require the foreclosing entity to show any documentation demonstrating that they possess the legal right to foreclose. Literally, anyone can foreclose on any property in California, so you can guess what is happening. Oh, yes they are!

Anarchy, therefore, is the appropriate response to a system that has been completely corrupted. But, long before the flash point comes, there begins a gradual erosion of respect for the system.

My old friend, Jesus, crossed a river back in 1972 and never looked back. Last week we were having a couple of Stone Ruination Ales at Bull Taco.

“These are strange times, Jorge. What I like most about your country is nearly gone. In Mexico, there is a lack of confidence in the law.”

“Don’t you mean lack of respect?”

“You are being too harsh. A nation is forged by its history and circumstances, my little Gringo friend. In our past, conflict was almost always unequal and we got our butt’s kicked. Laws, many of them unfair, were overlaid on us by conquerors and so the law was always, how shall I say, more a matter of negotiation, never strict compliance.”

“So the rule of law does not really exist in Mexico today, and it creates uncertainty in all matters. Now, that is happening here.”

He’s right. People come to understand that the likelihood of being discovered and prosecuted is so remote that it’s worth the risk. The obvious truth is that, in America today, crime pays, and the bigger the crime the lower the risk of serious consequences. That really is trickle down.

The average settlement for massive fraud is a fine the equivalent of 2 percent of the illegally gotten funds. They get to keep 98 percent of what they steal, if caught, and never, ever go to prison.

My Russian friend, who would prefer to remain anonymous, runs a medium size business in a technical and record keeping intense industry.

Like everyone, he’s having to get creative about cutting expenses and saving money. Record storage became a substantial cost and he realized that, in the last ten years, no one had ever come to see any records.

“Why bother?“ he asked. “The layers of bureaucracy that require all of this paperwork can’t afford the personnel to administer it. Look at the SEC, the biggest fraud in history occurred right under their noses while regulators were doing the horizontal mambo with the titans of the industry.”

He sighed and then continued, “It reminds me of a story we would tell to illustrate the problem of Russian Communism.

The story is told of a government decision to hire a guard to watch over an important bridge. But, the government worried about whether they could trust the guard they hired to watch the bridge, so they hired a guard to watch over the guard.

Now the government became concerned about the second guard, the guard who was hired to watch over the guard who was hired to watch over the important bridge, so they hired a third guard to watch over the guard who was hired to watch over the guard who was hired to watch over the bridge.

But when austerity came, they laid off the guard who was hired to watch over the bridge.”

“What about law suits”, I asked, “and the need to produce documents?”

When he stopped laughing and caught a breath of air he said, “If they sue me, I don’t want any documentation for them to subpoena to use against me in making their case. Just like Wall Street, we do a little dance, sing a little song, make a little love and then it all goes into the Kobra 400WB Heavy Duty shredder. They call it plausible deniability.”

“If we need something down the road, we just Photoshop it. It’s a digital world, Georgie boy. It’s all digital now.”

Five years ago, this guy would have turned himself in for jay-walking.

The new anarchy seems to touch everyone.

Every few years I drive out to a place in the back country, I can’t say exactly where. Mike and Karen, not their real names, came here after the Haight Ashbury scene got a little too commercial.

They wanted to get back to the land and lead simple lives, and through a combination of organic farming and carpentry, they were able to eek out a modest existence.

It had been a few years, but last week I made the trek out to see them and get some of Karen’s organic fermented Pumpkin soup. I don’t want any; I just know I won’t be leaving without it.

When I drove down the driveway, I thought I was in the wrong place. Their original single-wide is gone and in it’s place, a magnificent log home. As I started to back out of the driveway, Mike arrived right behind me in a gleaming new F350 the size of a school bus. Mike is in his mid-seventies and now sports a snow white mustache.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

“Prosperity and The Grace of God.”, he said proudly.

“Amen to that, Mike”, I countered, “but how?”

“No, no”, he scoffed, “The Grace of God Cannabis Collective”

“Medical Marijuana?”

“I think I’ve really found my calling here, G-man. Let me show you around.”

I was starting to feel a little nervous. “Mike, I don’t think this is legal.”

“Oh, I’m not too worried about it. It’s kind of a grey area.”

Mike explained to me the intricacies of laws regarding medical marijuana.

“What about the Feds? Aren’t they cracking down?”

Mike roared with laughter. “The Feds? Thank God for the Feds. We couldn’t make any money without them.”

I suppose he’s right, in a way. History shows that all that a vigorous prohibition achieves is a higher crime rate, and the consolidation of profits but never a reduction in the behavior that resulted in drug use. People like drugs.

My friend, the retired school teacher, let’s call her Martha, is a third generation local. Her grandparents were among the early settlers.

Martha is “original” old-school. She does something that very few people do anymore, she writes letters. I don’t mean emails or postcards or “Hi, how ya’ doin’”; I’m talking about long, thoughtful, interesting, funny letters.

After 40 years of teaching school in the same place, she knows a lot of people and writes a lot of letters. The postage would be prohibitive except for one thing, she never pays for local delivery. She addresses every letter to herself and then puts the recipient’s name and address in the upper left hand corner. She mails them without stamps in response to which a machine at the post office “Returns” it to the address in the upper left hand corner.

“The mailman has to walk that route anyway; it’s just a little retirement benefit.”

We are all anarchists at heart, we just express it differently.

Recently, I was speaking with a woman in Portland. Let’s call her Blanche. Blanche and her friend, Estelle, take advantage of the public transit system to get around. When I say they take advantage, I mean that they frequently do not bother paying.

Portland is divided up into six transit districts, three of which are entirely located within a free rail zone to encourage people to use public transit. The other three districts either straddle or abut the free zone. Blanche and Estelle live just one stop outside the free zone, so they play cat and mouse with the transit authority.

When they occasionally get caught, they have to go buy a ticket, “The Walk of Shame,” they have dubbed it.

I suppose the new anarchy was inevitable for no other reason than eventually, at the rate our law makers make laws, everything will be illegal.

Now, I’m feeling a bit defiant. I think I’ve finally gotten up enough nerve to go in and rip that “do not remove tag” off the back of my couch.

The Occupiers have been pushed back, but the weather would have gotten them anyway. However, we learned something. This is for real. They will kill us. The right of assembly to protest may be gone. But, stifling the protest does not mean that evil has triumphed.

As the young man in Tiananmen Square learned the hard way, you don’t bring a shopping bag to a tank fight. The violent response from the one percent demonstrates that peaceful assembly will not be allowed. We must plan accordingly.

Being right will no longer be enough to protect us. So, I leave you with a cautionary tale from my Irish ancestors.

This is the grave of Shamus O’Day,
Who died maintaining his right of way.
His right was clear. His will was strong.
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

I think a drone just flew past my window.

George W. Mantor
The Real Estate Professor
Founder, American Foreclosure Resistance Movement

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” — Mahatma Gandhi