Socialist v. Democratic Revolutions

by KnoFear

Greetings all!

This post comes the weekend after the United States election, in which president Barack Obama was re-elected by a comfortable electoral margin. Many state ballot measures were also voted on, giving various failures and successes to both liberal and conservative movements in America. In good news, gay marriage laws have been approved in Maine and Maryland, while a Minnesota ban was removed. Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for those of age, and Massachusetts now allows weed for medicinal purposes. A ballot measure in Florida against Obamacare failed, while similar measures in Alabama, Wyoming, Montana, and Missouri passed. However, these measures against the health-insurance mandate are mostly moot, seeing as the Supreme Court ruled that the law is legal and therefore goes over the heads of state laws. However, this post concerns a topic of much more direct interest to communists, socialists, and the like. Today, I will be arguing the merits and pitfalls of both socialist and democratic revolutions for the purpose of communism. The question of which type of revolution to pursue has been one that plagues us on the left constantly, and here I intend to see what I can make of it.

Before I dive head first into the high and low points of socialist and democratic revolutions, they first must be defined, even within somewhat loose terms. The socialist revolution is often the one non-communists imagine when they think of a communist rebellion in their country. While a socialist revolution does not have to fit this imagery, it tends to lean in this direction. The path of a socialist revolution is often more likely to be violent, as it involves the complete and immediate takeover of the means of production by the workers. It involves the overthrow of bourgeois society and economic norms, creating a socialist state wherein the proletariat is placed in power. In some communist ideologies, this revolution is planned and led by a vanguard party which serves to direct the new socialist state through and after the revolution until true communism is achieved. If I must simplify it down to a point, this is the type of revolution where one is most likely to find the streets running red with the blood of the bourgeoisie. The best example I can present of a socialist revolution in history is one of the most well-known historical revolutions: the Russian Revolution. Specifically, I speak of the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks achieved power from the provisional government left in the wake of Tsar Nicholas II. This revolution is well-known; the Bolsheviks took power and began the first communist leadership structure that had staying power on a national scale. Eventually, once the Whites had been conquered by the Reds, the Soviet Union would come to be. This exemplifies the socialist revolution well, in that the overall speed with which the communist goals were achieved was quick, and the disestablishment of the former state occurred in a similar fashion. There was violence between the communist and anti-communist forces, and the consequences of such a revolution are more than apparent through history. However, the revolution was successful.

The democratic revolution is inherently a different means of achieving the end result, a communist state, of course with the same dream of the penultimate and perfect state resulting from such efforts. The democratic revolution takes a divergent path towards this goal, in that it cannot occur without major popular support. The democratic type requires that the populace of a nation desire a significant change of governance towards socialism/communism, and as such a revolution takes place. The idea of a democratic revolution is that the people are wise enough to choose communism for themselves, rather than requiring a socialist revolution to take place first. The people choose to rise up on their own, and they choose to abolish the old bourgeois state. The key of democratic revolution is just that; mass democracy. The hope is that people will learn what is best for them, and because of this they will make the choice of communism to better themselves. However, this type of revolution typically receives less belief and support among communists, often due to perceived problems with its mechanics. I will note these in the coming paragraphs. For this type, I select the Chilean election of 1970, in which a Marxist candidate, notably Salvador Allende, received a plurality and therefore a victory. While not necessarily a true democratic revolution, it is the closest example I can pull out at this time. The Chilean people selected a communist presidency, therefore choosing to remove the shackles of capitalism in their nation. While perhaps not a revolution, this is the closest I believe we’ve ever come to such a phenomenon.

And now, we come to the benefits and drawbacks to both socialist and democratic revolutions. Obviously on the former end, violence is an immediate drawback. A socialist revolution inherently has a tendency to draw bloodshed due to the immediacy with which the change is fostered, and often causes fighting or even war due to resistance by the bourgeois state and its military forces. Sometimes, the people of a nation will be scared or unprepared for such a revolution, and will willingly attempt to counter it with violence. Because a socialist revolution is not the kind of thing that can draw back and hope for better times to rebel, it is not uncommon for violence to be a result of it. Look at many of our historic socialist revolutions, and violence took place; Russia, China, Cuba, etc. Death and suffering occurred in all of these places, and was very much unavoidable given the circumstances. Socialist revolutions can also lead to much popular unrest, as chances are the majority of the population may not support a new regime in such a manner. This can lead to further war and can even lead to an overthrow of the new socialist regime, impairing progress. Meanwhile, a democratic revolution has an opposite set of issues. While much more likely to be successful as an end result, democratic revolutions have much more trouble occurring in the first place. They require an educated and willing populace, which is a wholly uncommon situation. A democratic revolution also requires that the military of the state be either sided with the communists or be unable to stop the revolution. If the state can simply shoot down its opposition, chances are it will. Because a democratic revolution is meant to be nonviolent, it would only hurt popular viewpoints of the revolution for its supporters to carry weaponry. The democratic revolution also leaves open a hole in that it sets no particular function in place to rule a nation after the revolution ends. Socialist revolutions tend towards support of a vanguard party; while a democratic revolution can do the same, those that support democratic revolutions are less likely to suggest a vanguard party. I know I wouldn’t be the first to point out a vanguard option when there are other means of governance.

Now, we come to the good sides of each revolutionary model. The socialist revolution, in its immediacy and potency, is considerably more viable and quicker than a democratic revolution. While a socialist revolution very well may draw bloodshed out of its opponents, it is through this will to fight that the revolution is made easier to prepare for. While most leftists would prefer to see less death in the wake of progress, those willing to see it occur will inevitably have a heavier hand in revolutions. Because the socialist revolution is more strong-willed and backed with power, it can often be achieved whether the state is willing to fight or not. One thing I hear from communists hoping for socialist revolution often is this: “Better to have guns and not need them, than to need them and not have them.” This is something reflected in the words of Che Guevara, a great communist revolutionary, who once said something along these lines. “A revolution without guns? It would never work.”

Meanwhile, the democratic model presents multiple benefits as well. A democratic revolution presents significant opportunity for a peaceful transition to communism instead of a violent one where people suffer and die, where families are broken. A democratic revolution also promises a significantly higher chance of staying power; with the majority of the populace supporting the new regime, coup d’états are wildly less likely to occur. With popular support also comes the opportunity to resist international influences on the revolution, along with the opportunity to move quickly on governmental reform. Popular support also ensures a level of stability to a new communist state that a socialist revolution may not be able to provide. I personally would much rather see a democratic revolution take place due to my opposition to violent means to any end. If I were to support a violent socialist revolution, I would risk becoming a hypocrite of my own words. If I am to criticize America for supporting violent capitalism, I generally see it as wrong for myself to support violent socialism, except when absolutely necessary.

That is all for this week, and once again I’ll be noting the upcoming changes to this blog. The URL and name of this blog will be changing at the beginning of the next year to reflect my name change to KnoFear. As I said last week, this is inevitable. As always, I am available for contact through zerospintop@live.com, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Steam, and Tumblr. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.

Posted in Communism | 6 Comments

The Great Lie: Failure of Free Market Capitalism

By KnoFear

Greetings all!

This post comes amid a hectic flurry for me. Last weekend, there was no post due to fears during Hurricane Sandy and strong amounts of schoolwork as my first quarter came to a close. I had originally intended to post this topic then, and then to finish October properly this weekend. However, I scrapped those plans in view of the special time with which I am posting in. Tomorrow is the presidential election date for America, and much of our future is determined tomorrow. Because of this, I felt it proper to close October in a less traditional style for this blog, and instead of doing two posts do just one. While tomorrow we decide whether we want a liberal in power or a conservative, we shall still decide within the boundaries of capitalism. Here, I intend to show a portion of why capitalism itself is a poor choice to make.

Moving on, this post is not made to argue strictly for communism. I will solely argue against capitalism, however this will be done through a leftist vein. The main point of this post is to focus on the greatest lie capitalist societies teach us. That we can do whatever we want to if we work hard; that we can become anything we desire. Capitalism says that we can get filthily rich if we try, and that we all have an equal chance in capitalist society. This is wildly untrue. So much of your success is not determined by effort, but by wealth and connections. If you are born with rich parents, your chances of success are increased exponentially. You have access to better schools, a childhood not plagued by monetary problems, and connections in industry that the poor can only dream of. The top 1% is just that; one percent of our population. Capitalists may say that with 308 million people in America, 1% is still a large amount of people. Relatively speaking, it isn’t. Especially when you realize just how much worse the wealth gap is here, and elsewhere in the world. Because capitalism lies to us in this way, it is not worth the trouble of its existence. We would prosper much faster and in a more equal way without it; capitalism is a system of the past now. It is time to take the next step.

And now, we move on to my supplementary arguments. First, I’d like to note that capitalism inherently takes away from mass democracy and economic rights. This is mostly done through multinational corporations and their leaders. Look at the election; oil corporations and big banks have all but bought our president for us. Through political ads and direct threats to their employees, this campaign has been very much tainted by the business of voting. That is what this democracy has very much become; a system where even the government is a business. No government should function that way. A corporation or business has a duty to protect its CEOs and shareholders first; employees and customers be damned. That corporation or business must operate on a strict budget or be destroyed. And if it is destroyed, most businesses give huge going-away presents to their CEOs and nothing to the common worker. Does this sound ideal for a country? A country has its first duty to its citizens. A country must work not to better the lives of its legislators, but to better the lives of all. A country must defend its people, and a deficit is not of huge concern to a country because government should not be out to profit. That is the job of the private sector, not the public. A government should not foster wealth inequality; nothing should. The job of government is to ensure that the people are not starving on the streets without money for food.

My next point centers on exploitation. Let’s take an example in the form of a common factory worker. At the beginning, this worker had hopes and dreams. As a child, he or she likely wished to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a famous movie star. However, because they did not have wealth as a child and were not extraordinarily smart, they were not able to achieve the education they needed. Without college or connections, they were forced into blue-collar labor at a factory, where they make a measly salary for harsh work without many benefits. If the corporation that owns the factory gets enough profits, it willingly downsizes its workforce to cut away the payment of salaries and benefits it no longer desires. The worker is now unemployed, suffering every day, and there’s a good chance he’ll become homeless. And as an employee, he was not much better off. His product was not what he created in that factory, but rather it was his labor. He was selling his physical energy just to sustain himself in society. In this way, he prostituted himself to the bourgeoisie just to survive. While not a slave in the traditional sense of the word, he is not free. And he is not the only one. Countless people in America and worldwide suffer in the same way as this worker drone, and it is the fault of capitalism that such exploitation occurs. It’s disgusting as it is, and was only worse for people during the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, much of the developing world still suffers in the way laborers suffered in newly industrial Britain and Japan. Because we have other options which do not exploit workers in the same fashion, we have a duty to remove capitalism. It is in humanity’s own interest to prevent exploitation and suffering; this is simple evolutionary fact. We must protect and provide for our race because we have the ability to do so. Capitalism is no longer necessary for that, so it must be removed.

Third, capitalism inevitably fosters imperialism and therefore suffering in one way or another. Initially, this was very easy to see and most historians agree on it. At the inception of capitalism as a global force and throughout the Industrial Revolution, the empires in Europe and Japan spread their influence over the world. This drove the populace of colonized areas into deep submissive poverty, forcing them to produce raw goods and purchase high-priced finished products. Entire native populations were literally enslaved and subjugated to do this, causing global suffering on unprecedented scales. People were beaten and killed, all while comparatively nothing was done for the greater good of humanity. Capitalists may say that the progress in technology, medicine, etc. makes up for this suffering, especially in light of the fact that it does not exist as much today. However, this is not even true. Slavery does still exist today, and it very much is just as bad as the past. Even though those technological breakthroughs have occurred and education has become better, these things do not occur because of capitalism. I’m certain if you ask the creators of great vaccines, the creators of great innovations, that they will not tell you they did these things solely for money. Take Dr. Jonas Salk for example; he created the vaccine for polio. He didn’t do it for the profit; that wasn’t even on his mind. He wanted to help cure a deadly disease for mankind’s greater good, and this is why he claimed no patent on his vaccine. Instead, he preferred it given away to people as much as it could. He wanted to help remove a deadly disease, not make money. Even as he aged, he didn’t look for profit; instead, he tried to find a cure for AIDS. My point is as follows. Capitalism is not responsible for these advances; people are responsible for these advances. The good nature of some human hearts is enough to cause progress, with or without capitalism in place. Therefore, because capitalism hurts people along the way, it is not worth its existence and omnipresence. It should be removed. Don’t worry; progress can very much happen without it.

My next point concerns market failure and instability. Market failure is often described as the failure of capitalist society to produce enough quality goods and services for all people. Market instability is the tendency for capitalist nations to experience periods of growth, followed by recession and suffering. Even in these periods of decline, the rich rarely suffer at all. In fact, they are often responsible for this decline and sometimes benefit from it disproportionately. Market failure on the other hand is best shown through the case of India. In India, hundreds of millions of people are starving, and yet the country is a big food exporter. Shouldn’t India feed its own suffering masses before the well-to-do in other nations? I rest my case on this issue.

And now, we come to the last two points I wish to make, notably sustainability and inefficiency. As a system, capitalism not only exploits workers, but it also exploits our planet. Through industrialization and negligence, our Earth has become wildly polluted. Many species have gone extinct, and humanity increasingly finds itself presented with the dangers of a warmer world. The evidence is overwhelming; the Earth has warmed considerably in recent years, and our pace is not slowing sufficiently. The danger of this is obvious; storms will increase in strength and number while general sustainability of the planet will decline with pollution. We cannot live in a world which becomes a desert without much produce. Humanity is growing; we need more food, and a healthier environment if we wish to avoid mass starvation and disease. On the issue of inefficiency, this is clear in many common households of America. We have recycling bins, but most of us don’t use them as much as we should and often use them improperly. We are a very lazy people; there’s a reason we rarely have voter turnout beyond fifty percent. We’re also a very obese people, not just due to genetics and the availability of fast food, but because we’re often too lazy to change small things in our diets. This inefficiency and waste is promoted by capitalism; how many commercials do you see promoting vegetables as compared to those promoting McDonald’s? The ratio is ridiculous, especially because the number of commercials for legitimately healthy foods is almost zero.

That is about it for now, even though I didn’t cover some topics in full, including property and inequality. But you probably know my views on that already if you’re a regular reader. I’d also like to announce something here as well. At the beginning of the next year, this site will undergo two critical changes. First, the name of this site will be changed. My name on this site is no longer “SuperJew McLovin,” so the URL will be switched to KnoFear. The usual blogspot.com will follow, of course. KnoFear reflects more of who I am and is my universal name on many sites, so I’ll be using it instead. The name of the blog will be switched from “A Nerd’s Life” as well. This blog no longer reflects my original intentions of being a daily blog about my life, but instead reflects my political beliefs. As such, the name will likely be changed to some awful pun about communism or something like that. This message will be repeated at each blog post until then to remind all of you about the impending changes. I hope I won’t lose any of my readers with this change, and such is why I will say this message over and over again. I wish to avoid confusion. And now good night, and this is KnoFear signing off.

Posted in Capitalism, Current Events, Economics, History, Politics, Rightism, Society, United States | 1 Comment

On The Deception Of The Masses

by The Necromancer

how Capitalist society continues to promise so much and deliver so little

Today we continue to hold witness to the great lie of modern society. A lie which propagates itself with mass media, with lofty notions of freedom and liberty, and taught to each new generation as the “true” way humanity should live. That lie is that all people living under the “Western Liberal Democracy” model of society are equal. That they are free. But the truth is something far more complex. As I am an American, I will likely use examples within my own nation. For those who read this and wish to provide examples in their own nations, I urge everyone to do so in the comments section.

What is the truth? The truth is that the peoples of supposedly “free nations” may have their rights, but there are a multitude of hidden double standards. The issue of Racism, for example, has been a long-standing one in America. While the official policy of discrimination and hate had been scrapped nearly forty years ago, pervasive elements of Racism still split the masses. What is worse is that many willing feed the fire of hate. It may be illegal in America to not hire someone or treat someone based on their skin, but to the subtle racist there are still many avenues of discrimination. Simply ignoring applicants (but not before you fill your Affirmative Action requirements), for example. While businesses can no longer hang signs stating that “-INSERT MINORITY HERE- need not apply”, this has never stopped employers claiming that potential applicants are “not qualified” or even “over qualified”. The same plight is faced by those who have physical or mental handicaps (I know “handicap” is no longer the accepted vernacular, but as I am an amputee I feel perfectly within reason to use the older term if I want). Tell me, where is the real equality here?

There is also the double standard of the older generation. Specifically speaking, the Great Recession of the past few years has seen record numbers of career workers, many of whom were very skilled in their professions, unemployed. Due to their age and supposed “over qualification” (that increasingly popular excuse again), many of these older unemployed have gone without new jobs. Legally, yet again, they must be considered. But in reality, that is the only obligation to equality Capitalist society is held to owe these people who have worked hard all their lives.

Another pressing double standard is that of Women’s Rights. Most recently highlighted by Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney with his “binders full of women” comment, the plight of real equality for women continues. Statistically, women still make less than their male counterparts in the workplace. And even if they are just as qualified, women are less likely to reach the highest levels of any company. The old term “glass ceiling” comes to mind once more. Even with Romney’s example, all he did was highlight the fact that he had files on potential female employees only because he legally had to.

That of course brings us to the lie that is Affirmative Action itself. Now, do not get me wrong. Affirmative Action has been a step in the right direction. Certainly we do not desire to go back to the days of open discrimination. But, as is expected of a New Left policy, it never did go far enough nor does it get to the heart of the problem it tries to address. In some cases, Affirmative Action has, rather then foster a true atmosphere of equality, created further animosity and division. People to this day argue about the social impact of the legislation and how it has created a small, and sometimes vocal, minority that consists of the former oppressors who now claim they are the oppressed.

While a step in the right direction, true equality is not granted with mandates and requirements to have X amount of minorities in one’s employ or to have X amount of women in the boardrooms.

Now I shall move on to another part of the great lie. To quote the activist and lawyer Bryan Stevenson: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth, the opposite of poverty is justice.” True to my fashion, I shall interpret this observation from the Marxist perspective. Never has wealth been the opposite of poverty. Instead, wealth has been used as the false promise and distraction to keep people in poverty. Western media, especially in America, idolizes the rich, the luxurious, and the bourgeois way of life. Our opponents, especially the disciples of Ayn Rand, proclaim that wealth will solve all of one’s problems alone.

We know better. No amount of money can make up for the exploitation and degradation of the masses. While it is a sad fact that people can be bought, and certainly Capitalism loves buying people, no amount of wealth will make up for what wrongs have been committed against entire groups of people. We shall take the experience of Native American tribes as example. The United States Congress allows for reparations payments to the various tribes. One of three forms is through cash payment. This money has hardly ever done anything to improve the chronic poverty of most modern Native American communities.

Justice, on the other hand, is part of the solution to poverty. When the masses are given justice, their oppressors held accountable rather than penalized, when the law states that serious and lasting consequences are to be handed down on those who continue to exploit people, there is justice. When the people feel justice has been done, there will be satisfaction. When people feel that justice has been done, they will have the motivation to continue. When justice is combined with a stable and secure environment, the masses will thrive.

That brings us to another aspect of the lie of the Western model. Or does it? No, this next aspect is uniquely American. I will at least give some credit to Europe and elsewhere in regards to providing stability for the masses. But in America, even basic requirements of a stable life are seen as commodities, as a means for profit. While the propaganda of American democracy promises the opportunity to thrive, this is conditional and rarely does anyone attain the idolized status. It is because the individual faces several distinct hurdles to their stability. As noted, stability is required for the individual to actually thrive. These hurdles are the cost of healthcare, the cost of education, and the cost of living itself.

In America, healthcare is seen as a business. Something for profit. If one cannot afford medical care when they fall ill, they don’t get it. If you are uninsured in America, you are particularly screwed. I won’t repeat the horror stories one hears in this nation about what happens to people who cannot afford medical care. The point is that people cannot be stable if they are ill. So long as medical care is seen as a business and not a requirement for the stability and success of human life, nothing will change. The myth will live on that opportunity is out there for wealth. Just don’t get sick.

The cost of education hampers many aspiring workers around the world. This situation is further complicated by the myth given to children as they grow up, that they can be whatever they want to be. Well, you can be whatever you want to be, provided that you can afford the education to get there. For those who come to America and are skilled professionals, the lie is even more painful when they realize their credentials or degrees are not recognized by their potential employers. Thus these people, who have likely sacrificed much to move to a new and better country, are suddenly saddled with the choice of finding a way to pay for the proper piece of paper or settle for lesser work. Either way, these immigrants are now in a struggle that will threaten their continued success and stability. Instead, they become further victims of the great lie.

Both of these factors contribute to the cost of living. The cost of living alone is a threat to stability. However, it is the staunch position of our opponents that the government’s sole obligation is the security of the people. When it comes to the stability of the individual, they argue that it is a violation of their own rights to use funding to create an atmosphere where people are not just safe, but need not worry about how they will feed themselves or pay for medical expenses. No, when it comes to the cost of living, our opponents solution is to tell the hard working people to “just get another job”. As a Marxist, I find this an unethical and immoral response. If we create a society that solves the critical issues of the needs of the people, they will have stability. When the masses have stability, they will feel secure. Add this to the State’s obligation to keep it’s people safe, and now the masses are even more secure. And if social justice accompanies this development, the people will be unified. When individuals are stable and secure, when truly unified with one another, they will have all the tools necessary to succeed in their lives. Never has wealth alone provided all of these things.

The lie of the modern American model extends to democracy itself. I’m hoping those who comment may add to the nature of democracy in their own nations, as I would like to think it may be slightly more legitimate elsewhere. But in America, democracy isn’t really the truth. Our system works yet again on money. Campaign contributions buy airtime and eventually votes for both of the major Parties. The so-called “Third” Parties usually get locked out of the national spotlight. A choice of but two Parties is not democracy.

I will, of course, take a small breather here and admit the irony of a Marxist-Leninist preaching democracy. Traditionally, Marxist-Leninists have not been famous for their democratic spirit. This leads me to the lie that is perpetuated by the West. That if you do not have their definition of “freedom”, you are not free. Using the American model as example again, this has been a most voracious accusation due to the continued mentality of the Cold War.

I believe there has been some confusion on what the Marxian definition of democracy is, so it is little wonder that Socialist nations are proclaimed as undemocratic. But in regards to democracy, the great lie of the West is yet again exposed. While their political systems are democratic to varying degrees, the democratic spirit is crushed in almost every other area. In regards to the workplace alone, the Capitalist economy is especially tyrannical. True democracy is not just political, it is social. In the Marxian sense, if the masses cannot execute democratic principles within their workplaces, they have no control, stability, or security over their lives. While workers unions have existed to fight and protect workers rights, until the working masses have a genuinely cooperative environment where each individual has a say and stake in their workplace, they will remain commodities to be exploited. Yet again, without justice the masses will never be free. So long as the old bourgeois model is retained, the working person will never have justice or be recognized for their true worth.

This is the lie. This all is the great lie of the “victorious” Western Liberal Democracy. The deception of these nations Capitalist models. What is so horrid is that many have bought into it. They’ve been fooled, and even praise their exploiters. Some even argue that things need to be even more laissez-faire, with less assured security from the only entity that is capable of ensuring the stability of the masses. That the State has no place in supporting it’s people.

They too further the lie, they too obstruct the progress of human development. And as such, the great lie of our era is continued and renewed. Until the masses realize and become conscious of their exploitation by both their governments and their employers, the deception will live on. It is the duty of the Communist to wake the masses, to arise them from their slumber and show them how we are all being used.

Posted in Capitalism, Communism, Current Events, Economics, History, Leftism, Marxism, Philosophy, Politics, Rightism, Society, Theory | 1 Comment

Rejuvenation: Review of the blog

Some of you have probable noticed a completely abrupt surge in activity today, bu have realized that some of the topics seem out of date. The reason for this is that it is completely my fault: I had numerous writers that have contributed numerous work for the blog, and I had planned to to place them in, but either due to work, exhaustion from work, laziness, or any combination of the three, I have held it out up until now. Despite being late, I hate to see their opinions and contributions have to wait longer until more convenient. I am also announcing that all future contributions will be on time (relatively speaking). And so hopefully we will remain consistently active for the time being.

Enjoy!

DeathlessLegends, Chief Editor of the Red Star Vanguard

Posted in Communism | Leave a comment

Right v. Privilege: The Cost of Higher Education

By KnoFear

Greetings all!

This post concerns an issue which affects me personally, and which I likely will become even more invested in during the coming months. This issue is that of the costs surrounding the pursuit of a higher education in the United States of America. We know they are significantly high; what matters is why, and what we can do to change that. This week’s quote comes from Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who has described himself as a democratic socialist, the only one in over six decades. I typically find more ground with him than most politicians in America these days.

The cost of an undergraduate education has been rising for decades, and has only been rising more sharply in the past few years. We can already see that the average cost of education at a public university is over 13,000 dollars each year, while the cost of attending a private college is more than double that price at over 32,000 dollars each year. This does not even factor in costs beyond tuition, room and board. Students often purchase fairly expensive meal plans at college, and must put in large sums of cash to get textbooks each semester. There are bountiful ways for a college or university to charge more money for a student to attend, and these costs will only be compounded further as time passes if we do nothing.

If certain conditions were met, these rising costs would not matter. If average GDP per capita and household wealth had been rising alongside average American salaries, these numbers would not matter nearly as much. If the ratio between financial aid and loans for education had not been increasing so rapidly or had been decreasing to a more stable level, these rising costs would mean even less. If these conditions were met, every average American family could afford to send their children to most every school without having to suffer enormous financial hardship, or put that hardship on the shoulders of their kids. However, none of these conditions have been met in recent years.

Unfortunately, the average American GDP per capita (PPP) is about 49,000 dollars, and this number swings on a pendulum quite immediately in differing regions. The median household income is about 50,000 dollars, an 8 percent drop since 2007. The American per capita personal income is about 40,000 dollars. This too varies by state, with Mississippi having the lowest median personal income of about 31,000 dollars. The average cost of living in the United States has only been rising in the past years, to about 27,000 dollars each year, and that cost cuts out the possible costs of marriage/divorce, college/student loans, credit debt, and retirement all together. If all the possible yearly costs are averaged properly and added together, the total comes to about 40,000 dollars. That’s quite a bit of cash for a man or woman who doesn’t own their home permanently, has never married or divorced and is not raising a family of any kind. This is especially frightening, to know that the cost of living and median personal income are at about the exact same cost. That means a person making 40,000 dollars a year cannot spend anything on luxuries if they fulfill the average costs of necessities. This situation is especially scary for those people making the minimum wage, set at 7 dollars and 25 cents per hour. At an average of 2080 hours of work for any American per year, these people make about 15,000 dollars each year. This is far less than the average cost of living, even when many of the pieces of that cost are cut away. These people will have to skimp on many essentials, like food, just to survive in America today, let alone afford college for themselves or their children. The worst thing among them all is the amount of financial aid being given to students on average: just 12,000 dollars. Not particularly frightening for public university students until you realize the majority of that is made up in the form of student or parent loans, whose costs will rise and compound exponentially each year. Just imagine how much worse that is for private university students and parents.

By now, I’ve established that the costs of college versus how much Americans can afford are far too high. In fact, it’s plain absurd how bad it can get; some university tuition costs alone are more than entire household incomes each year. How are students expected to be able to pay these amounts without wallowing in unmanageable debt? The answer, in many cases, is that they are not. The goal of most private universities is to pull a profit, so if a student can’t pay their debt for a long time the college will continually collect more and more money from them through interest, fees, and penalties. Meanwhile, fresh-out-of-college employment rates and average salaries are even lower than the national total averages, and this has persisted for years. All of this equates to students and parents suffering for years on end just to achieve an education through undergraduate school. This can become doubly worse for those pursuing graduate school, as the extra years pile on the costs even further.

Let me establish why this is wrong in the first place. It’s easy to suggest that colleges should feel free to charge however much money they want for students in order to turn a profit; this is the free-market, so they should be able to function the same way as a business, right? Nope, not even close. You see, this would only be true if education were a privilege and not a right, and if less-costly yet equally as academically honorable institutions existed across the nation. None of these cases are true. To address the latter, we all know the big name schools across the country: Rice, Caltech, Berkeley, New York, Boston, Chapel Hill, Chicago, the Ivy League, etc. Not only are all of these schools highly expensive for most students and significantly difficult to get into, but many are concentrated on the eastern or western portions of the United States. Meanwhile, there are a good lot of students in the Midwestern states that would have to travel halfway across the country to attend a highly competitive school, let alone afford the costs associated with such travel. Therefore no, there are not enough competitive and affordable universities across the nation for colleges to charge these enormous sums.

The former point, that education is a right, is one I must elaborate more uniquely on. Education is clearly not a privilege; if it was, elementary, middle, and high schools would all charge tuition. But they don’t; all primary education is publicly funded by taxpayer dollars. True, private options exist, though comparatively few students attend these schools for results that are not always better than the public option. However, it seems our country values education as a right only up until the age of majority, because at that point a good portion of education is cut off from public funding. Even public universities still charge fairly ludicrous sums for students’ tuition, room and board. This is, frankly, both obscene and absurd. Why should education not be a right? If education is a privilege, only those with money and connections can afford higher education. This forces the poor and middle class to either abandon hope of ever getting an education and a good job, or forces them into the army so they can hope to afford college at a later date. Either way, we end up with an inevitable plutocracy in which the rich completely control the nation’s wealth, politics, and educational institutions, a wildly unstable situation that hurts the majority.

Education is a right, up to and through tertiary education; why should people be forcibly restricted from pursuing their dreams by wealth? If education is a right, then it should therefore be publicly funded in absolutely all cases; this means that even private universities should be willing to give in to public funding, and public funding needs to be increased significantly. Let’s take a look at nations in the European Union, which value education as a right in full. Most students in these nations either pay tuition close to just 1,000 dollars, or none at all in several cases. Imagine that, paying nothing for college and still getting a fairly competitive academic value out of it. Students are paying whopping loads less for their education in Europe, and they still pump out a large deal of Nobel Prize winners. The E.U. is still holding onto a very high standard of living and median wages, and has a very highly educated population in most every member state. I’m sure you can see the disparity, and the comparatively easy solution to the crisis. Simply make college a public institution, charge more on taxes, and make the costs of higher education much lower much quicker for students from all economic groups. It pays off in the long run to not have our incoming work-seekers laden with debt immediately.

That concludes my piece this week, and I hope I’ve provided all the information necessary to bolster my argument. I am always open for response here in the comments section, or on my email at zerospintop@live.com. As always, I can be contacted through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Steam, and DeviantArt. I have also recently opened myself a Tumblr account by the name of KnoFear through which I can be contacted; I will likely be posting links to my work there as well. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.

Posted in Current Events, Politics, United States | Leave a comment

Utmost Respect: Opposition to Vegetarianism

By KnoFear

Greetings all!

This post comes delayed from its original set date mostly due to school work again, and for that I apologize. I’ve also been playing around with the style of this blog and its format, and have been considering some possible changes to make the site more visually appealing and navigable. However, I did intend to write this out before, so it does need to be said. I am not a vegetarian, nor do I think I ever will be. I also oppose vegetarianism on various grounds. For some reason, this seems to be an “oddity,” for a leftist to not be or at least support vegetarianism. But here, I intend to explain why, and likely gain the ire of my fellow leftist colleagues along the way. But I’m willing to take those blows for now.

First, I must qualify my argument. I do not absolutely oppose all vegetarianism. If you are not eating meat strictly for religious reasons (if you are, say, Hindu) then I do accept that and would not argue against such a practice. If vegetarianism is somehow a part of your culture or traditions, I will not keep you from practicing vegetarianism in that case either. In fact, I’d be very much interested in learning about such a culture that I have not heard of before. I also am in favor of bettering our treatment towards animals, specifically those which we eat most like chickens and cows. We should not line chickens up in cages and give them hormones and do all sorts of horrible and immoral things in order to gain profit or create a more “appealing” product. I also believe we should not excessively hunt any animals, and that hunting should be primarily for sustenance rather than for sport. If you kill a deer in the woods, you should eat it, whether you very much want to or not. You should also be using as much of the dead body as you can; waste not want not, and all that jazz. We should not be killing endangered animals as well.

However, if you are simply vegetarian because you don’t want animals dying so you can eat, I don’t condone that. Let’s start with the facts, shall we?

Animals have populations in the wild which are hopefully in a stable size. In order for such a stable size to be maintained, there must be a food source which also must remain stable. There must be a birth rate which combats the rate of death and predation, but does not cause excessive growth of that animal’s population. However, human intervention or the lack thereof in certain animal populations can very drastically help or harm said population, and this cannot be avoided due to the extreme amount of space which humans have occupied at this point in history. Take, for example, the deer population around Maryland. Here, there are so many deer it often seems ridiculous, and they have become monstrously overpopulated. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing for an animal’s population to be high and rising, but the opposite is true. Overpopulation often leads to severe competition among a species for resources, leaving many animals to starve and die in horrid conditions. There are many of these animals starving and suffering because of this overpopulation.

Now let’s say that we stop eating cows and chickens. These populations are already enormous due to our breeding of them, and so removing them from our diets would also end the only source of predation for both of these groups. We would instantly see overpopulation and starvation, making the quick deaths we see on the farm seem gentle compared to the suffering a starving cow will go through for days on end before it dies. This provides us with a good reason for not cutting meat out of our diets quickly; by doing so, we would be doing the animals we are trying to help a huge disservice, and would thereby be treating them even more poorly than we currently do. If we ever had to absolutely cut out meat from our diets, it would likely take a very long time and would not be a very cost effective process, and would also be met with fiery resistance. All in all, the effort put into saving these animals would not be worth our time and would likely endanger their populations in the process. Animal populations follow a graph very similar to an economy; if the population retains a steady process of growth and death, it will remain safe. However, if the population explodes in growth too quickly, it will crash and burn in a very unhealthy fashion.

Now, in the case of hunting animals, some things are quite different. Hunting for deer is not quite as widespread as is the butchering of cows, so I have to treat the situation differently. I’ll be taking deer hunting in Maryland as my example once more. As I stated earlier, the deer population in Maryland is simply enormous for the state’s relatively small size, and as such a set of hunting regulations are in place for hunting these deer. As one can see, there is no limit to exactly how many deer may be taken per day, as long as they are in season and the hunting occurs during permitted hours. The main reason why Maryland has so many deer is because the state used to regulate hunting more strictly, and eventually the deer population exploded years ago. As such, these regulations were dropped in order to better control the population and prevent the rampant spread of disease among the deer. However, there are simply not enough hunters to bring the deer population down to its original levels, and while starvation among the deer has been mostly conquered through hunting, I doubt that it doesn’t happen anymore. I’m sure you can see my point by now, in that hunting can prevent populations of certain animals which are prone to excessive growth from exploding and damaging the species as a whole. While hunting may not be the entire solution to such problems, it is an important part of it. And lastly, to hunt these animals and then not eat them would be entirely wasteful; plus, there would be far more deer corpses for people to deal with.

And now, we come to the secondary portion of my argument, which is more grounded in my political leanings and my treatment of other cultures. Being vegetarian, at least in a first-world country simply because you don’t want to hurt animals, is a very privileged thing to do. Let me explain. In many parts of the world, like the Amazon Basin for example, meat is very much a part of the culture that has not changed for a long part of history. Let’s say you, a vegetarian, decides to visit said region and are offered a meal which contains meat by your Brazilian hosts. If you deny the offering on the basis of “I don’t eat meat,” well that is frankly like slapping your hosts in the face. Not only are you turning down their generosity without a good explanation from their point of view, but you are also essentially telling them that their culture is a barbaric one and you are superior to them.

“But what if I never go to a place where meat is the culture?” I’m sure some of you are asking that. You might not be insulting people straight to their faces, but you are still indirectly making a mockery of how many people choose to live their lives. You are also making a mockery of how many people are forced to live their lives. In many countries, meat in the diet is not just a part of the culture, but it is a necessity. It is often the case that without meat, significant portions of the human population could not survive or prosper at all. I am certain that a starving man will not turn down a burger because it is “cruel” or “immoral.” He will scarf it down hungrily, and thank you with all of his heart. Do you know why? Because that man does not have the privilege of choice in his diet, and therein lies my most direct qualm with vegetarianism. Choosing to cut meat from your diet, choosing to say “I can do this, so I will,” is a very improper thing to do that can be seen as very insulting. Most vegetarians and vegans live in countries where the ability to cut meat out of your diet is easy. America, for example, is a fairly rich country with tons of food options beyond meat that won’t cost much. It is comparatively easy to be a vegetarian here than, say, in Ethiopia. Just because you can be a vegetarian without drastically changing your life, does not mean you should. And just because you provide a righteous justification for your means, those means do not justify your ends. By becoming a vegetarian or vegan, you are shoving your lifestyle into the face of others and declaring it to be the superior way of life. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be looked upon with severe ire by many of my fellows.

That is all for this two-part post, and I hope I’ve made my explanation concise for all of you. Once again, I encourage comments here to provide feedback for me. I am available through my email at zerospintop@live.com, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Steam. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.

Posted in Current Events, Philosophy | 4 Comments

These Red Lines: Our World of Cultural Divisions

By KnoFear

Greetings all!

If you’re here, you’re likely wondering why I did not post last weekend. For reasons mostly relating to my workload at school, I have decided to simply do a double post this weekend instead of following the normal format. However, this blog will follow its regular format when nothing else gets in the way. Strangely enough, these two posts will likely have nothing in common, but bear with me. This post was inspired by a one-panel comic I saw months ago but which I can no longer find myself. It depicted two women, both looking at each other and the differences they saw on the outside. One of these women was dressed in a skimpy bikini and sunglasses with bleached blonde hair, holding a small purse with an even smaller dog on the inside, and sandals on her feet. The other woman wore a traditional Islamic piece of clothing which covered most all of her body, from head to toe. Very little could be seen in the comic, at least beyond her eyes. However, both women thought the exact same thing: “What a horribly oppressive, male-dominated culture must rule over her life.” The comic speaks the truth; our cultures divide us so, because we often have trouble viewing anything with a different perspective than our own. As such, we cannot see eye to eye, and this can cause serious issues both on the domestic and foreign policy stage. I intend to show why culture matters so much, and what can be done about it.

Anyway, I feel it necessary I explain the comic I just described for those who don’t understand it. It’s easy for any Western citizen to see why the Islamic woman may appear to be oppressed by men. This is especially true for nations which force women to dress conservatively such as Iran. We see it as stifling freedom of expression and choice of dress, something we can easily take for granted in a country which only keeps us from dressing too little (and even those restrictions are small). We see a society entirely different from our own, one where sometimes women are not allowed to drive or leave the house without a man, in the case of Saudi Arabia at least. We see a woman that longs to dress as she pleases, and we think how horrible it must be for her there. But then we always forget to take a look from her perspective towards ourselves. If you’re born in Saudi Arabia or Iran, chances are you’ll grow to appreciate and enjoy the values these countries espouse if your personal situation doesn’t suck. This is especially true of those who are very religious. While we see the hijab and think of misogyny, many can see it as a form of protection towards a woman’s modesty. Many religious women in this part of the world view conservative dress as a way to prevent men from objectifying them, a value which we simply don’t share because it is not a part of our culture.

Our culture is a very liberal one, and I don’t mean politically liberal. I mean that we have much freedom of choice in our clothing and speech, and we very much take that to heart. Women are objectified constantly in our media, written and digital, so we are desensitized to it. It happens so often, that we are now used to it. However, if you were to stick a religious Iranian man in New York, I bet you his eyes would cringe and he would turn away upon seeing some of the billboards there. If he were to watch just about any successful movie in America, I’m certain he’d be unhappy at the amount of sexual content, whether simply referenced to or directly shown. I myself hate how much sex permeates our society, but it’s not something I can change. It is a part of our culture now, and it would take years and the collective will of everyone in order to be changed. Therefore, it will never happen.

However, there are some drawbacks to such a society. Because women are objectified so much, it becomes very hard to define when a line has been crossed. This is why sexist jokes pop up on television so very often; whether directed towards men or women, it will almost never go “too far” in our collective opinion. If it’s any consolation, we know that we at least have a line we don’t cross, and it showed when Todd Akin espoused his comments about “legitimate rape” ([link]). Unfortunately, the very fact that our elected representatives have sunk this low and lower should be a good indication of how poorly our society can reflect on us. Even though we almost unanimously directed hate against him after his statements, this doesn’t change the fact that there are likely many people out there who agree with him, logic and science be damned. And we must realize this: that only in a culture like our own could something like this happen. We might not have the highest amount of rape in the world (that title belongs to the Democratic Republic of the Congo), but we do get hundreds of thousands of victims of sexual assault each and every year here. And I’m certain that making sexism a joke definitely won’t help us to make those numbers go down. So the next time you’re out in public in a revealing outfit, with eyes on you, remember this. The thoughts going through people’s minds about your outfit likely aren’t thoughts which you want to hear, but the fact of the matter is that our culture is mostly okay with those thoughts (unless they’re about rape, of course).

Cultural differences extend beyond our choice of clothing, and can have a much more pronounced effect on our policy towards other nations. Let’s take Russia as an example this time. For Americans, Russia is an example of a government system we don’t want, even though communism has been removed as the status quo there. Russia still exhibits a government which gives stronger power to the executive branch and where corruption and cronyism are a common thing under Putin. We look at such a way of life and wretch, despising the thought of such little freedom. But many Russians don’t see it this way. Unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran, I do have some contact with people in the world’s largest country, and I am given some perspective of why Putin still receives wide support there. Russian culture and society has very much become used to powerful rulers over the years of the past, and these ways have not changed much today. Having a strong central power which keeps Russia afloat can be seen as more important to Russians than having an absolutely free society. Having a working and growing competitive economy can be seen as more important than having a competitive electoral process. It’s no secret that Putin has a death grip on power in the Kremlin, but as long as Russians don’t see their country spiral into authoritarian economic depression, it’s unlikely he’ll be yanked from his position. But this is why we can’t understand how the protests in Russia prior to his election not so long ago didn’t become nationwide; we can’t imagine living in a place where freedom isn’t a top priority, and this is why we were still disappointed when he won the election. We may see freedom and electoral cleanliness as being incredibly important, but the same can’t be said for Russia, at least not yet. While opposition to the current Russian model is anything but small, it would take quite a change for the entire thing to be flipped to a model like our own.

Meanwhile, there are likely many Russians looking outwards towards us. Many of them likely had no idea why any of us would be so upset that Putin became president; sure, they understand the argument that it’s not an entirely free electoral process. But the thing is, a good amount of Russians just don’t care that it isn’t. Many would rather see Russia prosper economically and educationally than see one person voted out of power to satisfy a sometimes-ally country. This is a reason for our tension; what we can’t understand, we attack. We do this out of fear or hate, but either way the result is the same. Neither side gets what it wants, and we end up bickering over small things that should never get in the way of international progress.

You may be wondering why all of this matters, if as I have said culture and values are notoriously difficult to change. If it would take decades for us to change, then why worry about it? If problems over cultural divisions are bound to occur, then what is the point of my argument at all? My answer is as follows. While it is true that we cannot change our own culture and values quickly or properly, we can certainly change how we view other cultures and the values they espouse. It’s not easy, but I invite all of you to try it. Any time you see an issue pop up in a nation other than your own and you develop an opinion on it, try viewing it through the eyes of a native in the country in question. For example, look at France and its ban on wearing religious clothing ([link]). I bet it’s hard to why people would protest such a ban, but think about from their perspective. Their religious expression is at stake because of the values of a society not entirely their own. Is such a ban justified by values different than those the law applies to? Think about it.

That is all for now, and once again you are encouraged to comment here with your thoughts. My email atzerospintop@live.com is always open, along with my Facebook, Google+, Steam, and Twitter. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.

Posted in Communism, Current Events, History, Leftism, Marxism, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Rightism, Society, Theory | 1 Comment