6:21 PM Comment0 Comments

With the death of Kim Jong-il North Korea's totalitarian dictator, the world can finally say goodbye to the era of 20th century 'socialism' that dominated much of the globe throughout the century. The world can say goodbye to the Stalinist dictators and the kleptocrats and say hello to... what? Consumer capitalism? Or maybe, 21st century Socialism, in the style of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales.

As we've seen with Fidel Castro's retirement from dictating, Cuba has made moves towards liberalizing it's economy and ameliorating some of its more criticized human rights problems. North Korea, which is on track to build a railway and gas pipeline connecting Russia and South Korea looks to be headed down a similar path if transition goes smoothly. Will Korea continue on its political path, collapse or turn into a state capitalist economy like China? It's too early to tell. One thing is for sure, the era of 20th century socialism is in its dying days.

What will this mean for American foreign policy? Well, it will likely spell trouble, if communism dies in Korea. Who will American authorities point at to say, "look you don't want to be like them, right?" The negativist approach to tackling the socialist problem. Not North Korea. Not Cuba. Venezuela is looking pretty peachy these days. As are Vietnam and Bolivia. Also, China. But wait, China isn't socialist, its state capitalist. Right, that may be America's last chance at salvaging the image of 'capitalism.' But they'll never admit that the burgeoning China is capitalist even if it will restore faith in capitalism, they're just too prideful.

Either way, two conceivable paths could be drawn with the end of 20th century socialism. The waning of capitalism in favour of 21st century democratic socialism, or a newfound respect for China's state capitalism, and the birth of the concept of 21st century capitalism with China at its head. This spells a dramatic shift away from democratic process and widespread human rights violations in favour of economic growth.

Thus ends 20th century Socialism. Your move, China.

10:07 PM Comment0 Comments

Freedom is meaningless. If freedom is the right to endlessly exploit Earth's resources at a rate of depletion contradictory to the sustainability of human life, freedom is not an option. The infinite growth paradigm is a flawed one. Wealth is not infinitely expandable in a closed system with non-renewable resources. Capitalism may have aided in bringing us a higher 'quality' of life but at what cost? We consume more per capita than ever before in history, we consume for the sake of consumption because it is necessary to perpetuate growth and consumption. Our growth as a civilization has been almost exclusively driven by capitalist exploitation of oil, so where does that leave us?

The exploitation of oil has been nearly the sole driver of technological and economic development in the last 100 years. Capitalism which necessarily maximizes production and consumption of commodities has done just that with oil. It has marched forward at the fastest possible rate of consumption. When will this rate slow, when will it stop? When the oil runs out. If our population grew to 7 billion on the consumption of oil, what does it mean for our population when the oil runs out? Imagine the reverse. Whether or not you think alternative energy will take its place, capitalism continues to fail in respect to sustainability and the environment.

Capitalism has no mechanisms within it for the preservation of resources, it is effective at consuming resources at the fastest rate possible because it necessarily consumes them at the fastest rate possible. The system cannot sustain itself without constant growth. This means the depletion of our oil, uranium, mass-deforestation, ecosystem destruction, over-fishing, run-away climate change and a whole host of other problems with no capitalist solutions. Capitalism is like a virus on the whole of humanity. It necessarily depletes our resources in order to reproduce and grow driving forward every moment toward our ultimate demise. The problem with this virus is it hasn't yet adapted to occupy a different host, so it drives to its own destruction just the same.

People will say communism and state-driven economies are no better, that the Soviet Union was as destructive as capitalist societies. First, this argument in itself doesn't justify the capitalist paradigm. Secondly, communists have thus far played in an unfair game. Because of the largely unfettered growth of capitalist societies, communists have had to play the state-driven growth game, consuming at rates similar but slightly short of capitalist societies in order to keep up and maintain their sovereignty.

So in conclusion, if freedom means to commit species suicide, the most counter-evolutionary act possible, then I want nothing to do with freedom. If freedom is the ability to grow to a destructive end and to consume for the sake of consuming, let freedom whither and die for I will not commit myself to the cause of species suicide. It may be better to burn out than fade away, but remember Neil Young followed that line with, "Once you're gone, you can't come back."

Capitalism is necessarily the most destructive, idiotic and ill-conceived economic system ever devised and our salvation as a species lies in one thing, conscious evolution. We must recognize that long-term survival depends on a no-growth, steady-state economy.

10:19 AM Comment0 Comments

The American Empire is a word left-wing pundits have thrown around loosely since at the very least Vietnam. The economic imperialism which the United States has participated in since the Second World War has produced a soft empire at the beck and call of American interests. American foreign policy determines domestic policy in many countries in the world. This map depicts countries which many believe to be in some way under the thumb of America; they are either reliant on American trade or military.

The countries highlighted may be countries which have an extensive American military presence, hold American military bases or rely on America for trade or security. Since becoming part of the 'soft empire,' some countries have achieved a certain degree of independence from American trade and militarism. Notably Vietnam and Brazil. Bolivia has been tentatively removed from the map, because of significant and largely successful efforts by the current President to move towards independence and Bolivian sovereignty. A cursory glance shows that much of the world is subsumed in the American Empire, far more than the British Empire at the turn of the 20th century. That's not to say it is more powerful, as America does not necessarily have direct authority over these nations; however, it is more stable because it does not appear as Empire to the careless viewer.

People point to the Arab Spring as a time when American influence is declining, mostly because of the ousting of American-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately, while Tunisia has made significant strides to determining its own future, it remains to be seen whether or not anything will change in Egyptian-American relations. Either way, these are exceptions to the paradigm. In Libya we saw American-backed rebels oust an anti-American leader. In Algeria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and more we have seen protesters fail to end pro-Western regimes largely with the open satisfaction of the American authorities. Further, it is seeming more and more likely that Syria and Yemen will fall in popular uprising or civil war; these are states which harbour enemies of the United States. It all seems to be leading towards toppling the biggest domino of them all, Iran. With heightened talk once again of a military strike on Iran maybe the United States will finally soon have the regional support it needs.

To the south of the Arab world comes another story of victory for the oppressed or so it seems. South Sudan, oil rich and long in conflict with the Sudanese authorities has seceded in a referendum largely engineered by American authorities. Bill Clinton oversaw the process and now, South Sudan can start exporting oil through Kenya to American oil interests. To secure the region America has already aided Ethiopia and Kenya in strikes against the wayward failed state of Somalia and recently authorities announced that American troops would begin to be stationed in the homophobic, Christian fundamentalist state of Uganda as a landing point for securing American empire in the region. In the end, this has not been a victory for the Nubian people but for the United States. American foreign policy has intelligently engineered the independence of South Sudan and the cooperation of its new neighbours in securing American oil interests.

As protesters of the American Fall protest at home they do not realise the Rise of America that is going on in the rest of the world. The economic downturn, the gap between the rich and the poor, the foreign wars which still rage are distractions from the growing soft empire. It's all moving closer to a confrontation between America and an enemy larger than any since the Second World War.

3:22 PM Comment0 Comments

I know how to ruin anything. For now, it's videogames. Now, many people will say, "Oh they're just games," and yeah, they are for most people but they are incredibly influential. Today, I watched live coverage of E3 and the unveiling of Modern Warfare 3 gameplay. One in the long and almost universally recognized Call of Duty war-game franchise, this game takes war to the homefront in an epic urban battles against the Russians. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll play it if I can but I can't help but feel like the Modern Warfare series presents a huge danger to our political future.

By virtue of taking place on American soil fighting a foreign occupant within the near future, by virtue of the game containing modern weaponry and modern enemies by virtue of the games intense realism, it will have an incredible ability to inculcate an obsession with military culture and patriotism in today's youth. In Nazi Germany and fascist Italy similar obsessions were encouraged in an attempt to build support for the military industrial complex and the fascist state. There, participation in organized sports, boy scouts and military rallies were used to create this military obsession in everyone young and old. Here today, we have millions of young men fighting in simulated battles that could theoretically occur. What will the effect be? This will fundamentally change the public's view of the military. This will create less opposition to military action and more of a sense from the public that military action can be just.

When kids play Call of Duty, especially Modern Warfare 3, they will associate glory, patriotism and freedom with their military and yes, maybe those are things that the military should stand for; however, I can't help but feel that anti-war messages will be drowned out and that we will find ourselves incapable of seeing the military in a bad light. Call of Duty is the most politically irresponsible thing ever to happen when you consider the impact it may have on the security of our freedom and democracy in the Western world and to think, it was the people who made it and the people who chose it. Farewell freedom, I feel the Fascist fanfare.

Videogames, ruined. But seriously, I'm going to play that game for sure but let's all keep an open mind and don't let it change us.

9:00 PM Comment0 Comments

Alright, let's get serious for a second. You've seen the toilet paper ads. They've been up for at the very least a year by now filling us with dread about leaving little white pieces on our backsides.

Now, I understand that some couples like to play around the nether-regions of the human body, and it's altogether likely that the average couple will occasionally at least accidentally encounter the white-piece-covered sphincter in question. Still, I don't think this warrants an entire long-winded advertising campaign praising the fact that a particular kind of toilet paper doesn't stick to your behind.

Even if the above were reason enough for this ridiculousness, the campaign doesn't seem to appeal to adults, with the latest having a mother(bear) inspect her son (of at least school age) for little white pieces before he goes out to play. AH! I've got it! All along they were advertising to the fringe market of nudist colonies, who are apparently huge buyers of hygiene products.

Anyway, all kidding aside, it's kind of odd how effective this campaign must be to still be torturing me daily with it's absurdity. I always thought that most people's buttholes would be out of sight and out of mind as soon as they stood up from the porcelain. It seems as though some folks, with their reader's digest and slightly heated cushiony toilet seats have all-together too much time to worry about the perfection of a part of their body few will ever see.

Thank you for indulging me, this has been bothering me as long as these ads have been on the air.

2:25 PM Comment0 Comments

For the cynic who seeks change, the best thing you can do is try to stay positive. Do not mistake apathy for antipathy because in reality no one is on the other side of the fight against hunger, poverty and injustice. Just do your best to be the best example you can be.

Very few people respond to hostility. To scream at others in order to guilt them and create fear about social justice is futile. These militant styles pioneered by long-dead revolutionaries have no place in a modern setting. Effectively, these techniques alienate people who would otherwise be sympathetic to the cause creating no net change. They fill people with worry and hopelessness which they ultimately direct, or misdirect, as hatred toward the messenger instead of the issue.

This is why I have been making an effort to reframe the way I tackle world issues, especially around other people. While I occasionally maintain feelings of hostility towards the 'apathetic', social change cannot come from hostility. It must come from understanding and we should treat each other with respect and courtesy. Most importantly, we must keep a positive attitude, without it, where is our hope for success?

Critical analysis of the world around us, or more simply put 'cynicism', and optimism are not mutually exclusive, either. The difference between pessimistic cynicism, and optimistic cynicism is that the latter can actually produce positive social change. The world to come must be modelled on hope for a better future, not fear of a worse one.

Stay positive but don't give up the fight.

4:15 PM Comment0 Comments

With this week's election results now firmly in the minds of Canadians we've begun the obligatory period of discussion about the consequences. It seems the only thing we can agree on is that there has been a big change in the Canadian political landscape. Some people are pointing to the "americanization" of Canadian politics as the main driver of this change. This idea assumes that some outside force has imposed American standards of politics on Canadians; however, the true source of this change is much less dubious and potentially more grim. This election has emphasized the americanization of the Canadian people, not of our politics. Specifically, it marks the americanization of Canada's elders revealing a vast and problematic generational split between our youth and our seniors.

As we move through 4 years of conservative majority, we can expect that Canada will come to look more conservative. We can expect that our politics will come to look more American. Consecutive conservative majorities may well lead to a diminished role for the federal government in Canadians' day-to-day lives, which is exactly what our seniors voted for but exactly what youth opposed. What is really going on here is a generational split. En masse baby-boomers voted for a government who would guarantee their pensions but otherwise stay out of their lives. They don't need national childcare, they don't need job security and they don't need interest-rate caps. Seniors seem to just want to be left alone. On the other side, we have a smaller population of youth who are very concerned and opinionated. They have different concerns. Unfortunately, they are not politically active because this long-standing generational split has caused an alienation which is not about to go anywhere.

Throughout consecutive conservative majorities we may see a growing conflict between these two groups, the baby-boomers and youth. As the baby-boomers grow older what we will see is the growth of a populist gerontocracy. As the issues which matter to youth go unheard our country will suffer fundamentally. Some people foolishly say that the youth must now care for the old with our aging population when really we must all care for each other. How can our seniors receive treatment for health problems if students can't go to medical school? How can people afford to take care of sick relatives if they can't afford child-care? Populist appeals to an aging population and a blatant disregard for the needs of Canada's young citizens will end in disaster for all Canadians.

That's not to say elderly voters don't care about youth and youth don't care about the elderly, (youth voted en masse for parties who expressed a strong desire to stimulate our health care system, which should be of primary concern to our aging population but not so much to the healthy youth). Unfortunately, in many cases the issues which affect each group are easily forgotten by the other. What we need is for Canadian's to rise up, not to overthrow a regime, but to make that regime know what our needs are, that regime needs to listen to all of us. It can't be either/or, seniors concerned for their children and grandchildrens future, as well as youth concerned with the health of their grandparents and parents must all make their voices heard to close this generational gap once and for all.

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