"War-Preparers Anonymous": Who Are These Men, What Are Their Names? Diseased Sociopaths Who Must Be Outed. Change Won't Come Without Confrontation First.

Just a few nuggets.

The first is a passage in Kurt Vonnegut's "Fates Worse Than Death," a book of autobiographical essays. And the second, a conversation on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour with Phil Donahue.

This is the kind of illuminating and challenging stuff one stumbles upon and seeks to share in the hope that it could help lead to more enlightenment in these dark days. The first uses satire to get to a fundamental truth about a deranged society that needs re-framing through humor in order to understand just how far adrift we've gone. And the second is through the noble example of two stalwart truth-tellers who have long, illustrious careers of challenging the powers that be. Great examples of how it's done. Mock them, and stand up to them.

Here's an excerpt from an essay in that Vonnegut book (I'm guessing Kurt wouldn't have minded us excerpting so much of his wonderful text, given today's seriously gloomy context). Maybe the guys responsible for the propaganda generated to accomplish these insane poll results should be forced to read this.

What has been America's most nurturing contribution to the culture of this planet so far? Many would say Jazz. I, who love jazz, will say this instead: Alcoholics Anonymous.

I am not an alcoholic. If I was, I would go before the nearest A.A. meeting and say, "My name is Kurt Vonnegut. I am an alcoholic." God willing, that might be my first step down the long, hard road back to sobriety.

The A.A. scheme, which requires a confession like that, is the first to have any measurable success in dealing with the tendency of some human beings, perhaps 10 percent of any population sample anyone might care to choose, to become addicted to substances that give them brief spasms of pleasure but in the long term transmute their lives and the lives of those around them into ultimate ghastliness.

The A.A. scheme, which, again, can work only if the addicts regularly admit that this or that chemical is poisonous to them, is now proving its effectiveness with compulsive gamblers, who are not dependent on chemicals from a distillery or a pharmaceutical laboratory. This is no paradox. Gamblers, In effect, manufacture their own dangerous substances. God help them, they produce chemicals that elate them whenever they place a bet on simply anything.

If I was a compulsive gambler, which I am not, I would be well advised to stand up before the nearest meeting of Gamblers Anonymous and declare, "My name is Kurt Vonnegut. I am a compulsive gambler."

Whether I was standing before a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, I would be encouraged to testify as to how the chemicals I had generated within myself or swallowed had alienated my friends and relatives, cost me jobs and houses and deprived me of my last shred of self-respect.

Not every member of A.A. or G.A. has sunk quite that low, of course--but plenty have. Many, If not most, have done what they call "hitting bottom" before admitting what it is that has been ruining their lives.

I now wish to call attention to another form of addiction, which has not been previously identified. It is more like gambling than drinking, since the people afflicted are ravenous for situations that will cause their bodies to release exciting chemicals into their bloodstreams. I am persuaded that there are among us people who are tragically hooked on preparations for war.

Tell people with that disease that war is coming and we have to get ready for it, and for a few minutes there, they will be as happy as a drunk with his martini breakfast or a compulsive gambler with his paycheck bet on the Super Bowl.

Let us recognize how sick such people are. From now on, when a national leader, or even just a neighbor, starts talking about some new weapons system which is going to cost us a mere $29 billion, we should speak up. We should say something on the order of, "Honest to God, I couldn't be sorrier for you if I'd seen you wash down a fistful of black, beauties with a pint of Southern Comfort."

I mean it. I am not joking. Compulsive preparers for World War III, in this country or any other, are as tragically and, yes, as repulsively addicted as any stockbroker passed out with his head In a toilet in the Port Authority bus terminal.

For an alcoholic to experience a little joy, he needs maybe three ounces of grain alcohol. Alcoholics, when they are close to hitting bottom, customarily can't hold much alcohol.

If we know a compulsive gambler who is dead broke, we can probably make him happy with a dollar to bet on who can spit farther than someone else. For us to give a compulsive war-preparer a fleeting moment of happiness, we may have to buy him three Trident submarines and a hundred intercontinental ballistic missiles mounted on choo-choo trains.

If Western Civilization were a person--

If Western Civilization, which blankets the world now, as far as I can tell, were a person--

If Western Civilizations, which surely now includes the Soviet Union and China and India and Pakistan and on and on, were a person--

If Western Civilization were a person, we would be directing it to the nearest meeting of War-Preparers Anonymous. We would be telling it to stand up before the meeting and say, "My name is Western Civilization. I am a compulsive war- preparer. I have lost everything I ever cared about. I should have come here long ago. I first hit bottom in World War I." Western Civilization cannot be represented by a single person, of course, but a single explanation for the catastrophic course it has followed during this bloody century is possible. We the people, because of our ignorance of the disease, have again and again entrusted power to people we did not know were sickies.

And let us not mock them now, any more than we would mock someone with syphilis or smallpox or leprosy or yaws or typhoid fever or any of the other diseases to which the flesh is heir. All we have to do is separate them from the levers of power, I think.

And then what? Western Civilization's long, hard trip back to sobriety might begin.

A word about appeasement, something World War II, supposedly, taught us not to practice: I say to you that the world has been ruined by appeasement. Appeasement of whom? Of the Communists? Of the neo-Nazis? No! Appeasement of the compulsive war-preparers. I can scarcely name a nation that has not lost most of its freedom and wealth in attempts to appease its own addicts to preparations for war.

And there is no appeasing an addict for very long.

"I swear, man, just lay enough bread on me for twenty multiple re-entry vehicles and a fleet of B-1 bombers, and I'11 never bother you again."

Most addictions start innocently enough in childhood, under agreeable, reputable auspices-a sip of champagne at a wedding, a game af poker for matchsticks on a rainy afternoon. Compulsive war-preparers may have been encouraged as infants to clap their hands with glee at a campfire or a Fourth of July parade.

Not every child gets hooked. Not every child so tempted grows up to be a drunk or a gambler or a babbler about knocking down the incoming missiles of the Evil Empire with laser beams. When I identify the war-preparers as addicts, I am not calling for the exclusion of children from all martial celebrations. I doubt that more than one child In a hundred, having seen fireworks, for example, will become an adult who wants us to stop squandering our substance on education and health and social justice and the arts and food and shelter and clothing for the needy, and so on--who wants us to blow it all on ammunition instead.

And please understand that the addiction I have identified is to preparations for war. I repeat: to preparations for war, addiction to the thrills of de-mothballing battleships and inventing weapons systems against which there cannot possibly be a defense, supposedly, and urging the citizenry to hate this part of humanity or that one, and knocking over little governments that might aid and abet an enemy someday, and so on. I am not talking about an addiction to war itself, which is a very different matter. A compulsive preparer for war wants to go to big-time war no more than an alcoholic stockbroker wants to pass out with his head in a toilet In the Port Authority bus terminal.

Should addicts of any sort hold high office In this or any other country? Absolutely not, for their first priority will always be to satisfy their addiction, no matter how terrible the consequences may be--even to themselves.

Suppose we had an alcoholic President who still had not hit bottom and whose chief companions were drunks like himself. And suppose it were a fact, made absolutely clear to him, that if he took just one more drink, the whole planet would blow up.

So he has all the liquor thrown out of the White House, including his Aqua-Velva shaving lotion. So late at night he is terribly restless, crazy for a drink but proud of not drinking. So he opens the White House refrigerator, looking for a Tab or a Diet Pepsi, he tells himself. And there, half-hidden by a family-size jar of French's mustard, is an unopened can of Coors beer.

What do you think he'll do?

Here's the The Ralph Nader Radio Hour, with guest Phil Donahue.

And while the country cycles on with one obsession and outrage after the next here's something to contemplate:

"According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child watches 18,000 TV murders before it graduates from high school."

And we wonder how people have become so desensitized to things such as police murder, bombing of defenseless countries, drones, dying from lack of healthcare coverage, beating up or killing journalists etc.

Some, however, lead the way by example.

This woman Medea Benjamin is a titan; a fearless, selfless, empathetic humanitarian of the highest order. As was suggested in Dore's show, imagine what effect it might have if at every one of these smug Institute gatherings (which are really private clubs with the facade of somber and thoughtful thinkers, but are just thug operations underwritten by the oligarchs who use create them solely to push their evil agenda) it were interrupted constantly by courageous folks who are tired of this shit.

Anybody know of similar speaking engagements that we can upend? Carlin, at the end of his days, thought we as a species had become too soft, content and self-involved, that "nobody wants to cause any trouble anymore. Because everyone's got a cell phone that makes pancakes and rubs their balls. No one wants to rock the boat."

Well, here are some guys who are also completely dedicated to thrashing boats, so to speak.
The Yes Men are another group of all-time prankster heroes in the vein of Benjamin's Code Pink but with a different tact (think Abbie Hoffman, but modern day clean-cut Yippies). Look up their prank appearance on the BBC which resulted in sending Dow Chemical stock into a tailspin.

FAQ:

What are Yes Men? What's a Yes Lab?

Since 1996, the Yes Men have been aiming media attention at issues related to the corporate takeover of our society. They also help other activist orgs do the same. On this website you can:
• learn techniques for causing trouble
• read about Yes Men and Yes Lab projects
• arrange to do a Yes Lab
• contact us or get on our list
The through-line of Yes Men actions is that they highlight the idiocy of the neoliberal delusion. Most recently, we have focused on the Democrats' responsibility for our current apocalyptic situation.

Every time I hear Crosby sing this I get goosebumps (here he is looking gloriously more and more like fellow dissident Mark Twain, albeit it crossed here with Paul Bunyan):

Who are the men
Who really run this land?
And why do they run it
With such a thoughtless hand?
What are their names,
And on what street do they live?
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not
An awful lot
To ask.

And in closing, as can almost always be the case with espousing any and all radical ideas, Howard Zinn gets the last word:

"I can UNDERSTAND pessimism, but I don’t BELIEVE in it. It’s not simply a matter of faith, but of historical EVIDENCE. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give HOPE, because for hope we don’t need certainty, only POSSIBILITY."

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Mark from Queens's picture

soon. Non-cooperation, mocking of the rulers, shaming the superiors, throwing proverbial rocks at institutions, getting in the face of these pampered and privileged, ruddy doughboy-looking motherfuckers in suits ruining it all for us - by exposing the fraud for what it is.

Look at this shit:

Taibbi tweeted today that the 2020 election is shaping up to be "a monument to human ugliness - it will make 2016 seem like a church bake sale."

I'm not content to wait out or wallow in this depraved circus of bizarro, Idiocracy thrust upon what is a majority of us who don't want to be played like this. But the malaise is so strong that were mostly left inert, not realizing that almost everybody is feeling this way.

Unless people who give a shit start leading by example. Let's bring some levity in to it also. But most importantly let us begin.

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

a TREASURE!

This is one of the most valuable contributions ever made to our discussions here. Thank you.

P.S. Long ago, before the invasion of Iraq, I took part in an online discussion group started by Ariana Huffington before she started Huffington Post. I forget the name of it. And one of the regular contributors was a medical doctor. One day the contributor's comments were being written by his father, who referred to him as his son, Dr. Vonnegut. In the comments, he focused on Christ and the Beautitudes, which I know Vonnegut spoke about. In any case, you never know whom you might be in correspondence with on these blogs. Peace.

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Bisbonian's picture

@Linda Wood , this is one chock-full-of-good post.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Big Al's picture

they live. We even have their email addresses and phone numbers. There are 537 of them counting the President and Vice President and they make all these decisions to prepare for and conduct war and imperialism. Sure, there are other "men who run this land" behind these 535 people, but the actual process runs through them. Without them, all this most probably would not happen.

Seems like the mass civil disobedience should be first directed at them and this political system that enables this addiction. Seems like our choices are to either force them to do what we want or take away their authority and do it ourselves. I say we do it ourselves because it's evident they're never going to do what we want.

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@Big Al the whole security apparatus.

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dfarrah

for what most ails mankind.

In “The Sirens of Titan” published in 1959, the primary protagonist Malachi Constant was returning to Earth in the far future after a series of ordeals, and he was greeted by a beneficient, all-knowing father-god figure named Rumfoord:

“Welcome, Space Wanderer,” blatted Rumfoord’s oleomargarine tenor from the Gabriel horns on the wall. “How meet it is that you should come to us on the bright red pumper of a volunteer fire department. I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine. Tell me, Space Wanderer, do you see anything here—anything that makes you think you may have been here before?”

Volunteer Fire Departments, firemen, and fire engines appear in several places throughout KV's body of work.

Vonnegut lived his fiction. He joined the local department in Alplaus, NY in the late 1940s at the time that he was working as a publicist for GE's research laboratory in upstate, NY. while formulating his first novel, "Player Piano" (you should definitely read that book, if you haven't already - it's more reality grounded and less whimsical, but a close guide to his own thinking and discontent with the conformity and hierarchical nature of post-War American society.

"Player Piano" is set in a post WW3 future of the 1960s when virtually all non-professional, non-executive jobs have been automated by little strands of computer tape. Vonnegut got that one right. The protagonist drops out of his high-paid job as an Engineer and becomes an unlikely leader of the rebellion of the laid-off Blue Collar America. The characters and Moose lodges of the out of work rebels had to have been an inspiration for Fred Flintstone.

Kurt is one of the few writers offering a workable way forward toward revolution that I could actually see following.

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@leveymg

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Sigh

Bisbonian's picture

@leveymg Indeed. His fiction wasn't fiction...no matter what my history professor said about his eyewitness account of the bombing of Dresden.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

k9disc's picture

Baretta was considered super gritty. Was there anything more than a bloody nose or a flesh wound?

I think the media world changed forever with the film, Se7en. Brad Pitt, the protagonist, getting his wife's head handed to him was a game changer. Next thing you know Saw is an A list film, and the Walking Dead is on TV.

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

@k9disc Your idea is very interesting.

Will you expand if you feel like it? thx.

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dfarrah

k9disc's picture

parents.

If you look at teabaggers, they're pretty much a straight up reading of John Wayne and Antony and Cleopatra; think 40s-50s media. It's pretty freaky, if you ask me. Like political worldview in grainy black and white.

I'm from the Scooby Doo age; meddlesome kids stuff. But on the parental media front it was kramer vs kramer, clint eastwood, robert redford - clean and gritty heroes and family shit.

That changed a bit with the 80s, a lot more existential threats. WWIII, invasion big bad terrorists; the cartoons of the day were existential as well. Gargamel wanted to end all smurfdom.

Enter the 90s with Silence of the Lambs as super scary; then Se7en. Game changer, IMO, from a storytelling standpoint. You can go for broke in an A-List flick. Title characters can be killed off to great effect. Nothing is sacred in story telling. Story telling is more like "real life".

But it's not. It's fantasy. It is not fun filled horror, it's horror, and it's impactful upon us. Cannibalism is a bit or a gag now.

Hopefully you followed that. It's a good one to talk about over beers, not so good in text. But that's it in a nutshell. We're inculcated by the media of our parents for a baseline view of humanity. And that's completely terrifying to me.

@dfarrah @dfarrah

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

Deja's picture

I haven't listened to the interview yet, but certainly will. I just mentioned someone I saw on Phil Donahue the other day -- Granny Pot or whatever she went by. She was repeatedly jailed for passing out pot edibles at an AIDS Hospice back in the Phil Donahue Show days. Angel on earth, that lady!

As for this:

We the people, because of our ignorance of the disease, have again and again entrusted power to people we did not know were sickies.

. . . except we most certainly DO know.

They are the ones we're given to "choose" from to lead and represent us. But hey, don't forget to vote! If you don't, or if you choose outside of the singular party choice of two (D or R), you deserve what you get. Plus, it'll be your fault for what the sickies do. /s

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"The gatekeepers must change."
Prince

mimi's picture

til they hit bottom. I hope no one will wait it out til they are down there.
Trump says US will withdraw from nuclear arms treaty with Russia

Donald Trump said on Saturday the US will “terminate” a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
John Bolton pushing Trump to withdraw from Russian nuclear arms treaty
Read more

The Guardian reported on Friday that Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, was pushing for a US withdrawal from the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF), which the US says Russia has been violating with the development of a new cruise missile.

Speaking to reporters in Nevada after a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.

“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.”

The big moustache club leader will certainly not make those nice flip-flops his singing brothers do.

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wendy davis's picture

just for now as i'm pressed for time, this:

there are solidarity marches shown here; today was for workshops, sunday for the marches. i had half a mind to put up a thread tomorrow, or someone else can if they'd rather. as noted, bruce dixon will be there, and he explains why here.

from @ajamubaraka, Oct 17

"Support the Peace Congress to End wars at home and abroad." Both corporate parties have demonstrated their commitment to use state violence to protect interest of the corporate and financial oligarchy. But we still have the people."...and touts this via popular resistance:

"On November 10 in Washington, DC, there will be an historic gathering of groups and people to launch the Peace Congress to End US Wars at Home and Abroad. The Peace Congress will bring together advocates for peace and economic, racial, environmental and climate justice to develop a strategy, goals and actions based on the principles of unity. These are:

End U.S. wars at home and abroad.
Create a peace economy that meets the necessities of people and protects the planet.
Respect the self-determination of all people and nations.
Create transformative change by building a movement of movements., etc.

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wendy davis's picture

the bidness of amerika is...bidness. i can't find reliable sales of USian weapons and systems overseas for the past several years (over a trillion, iirc), but part of the reason for eternal wars and proxy wars is: US weapons manufacturers (read wall street), of course.

it's in their interests that amerika names enemies (not 'axes of evil' like bush (obomba?), but now 'competitor nations' under herr trump. how many extra billions did the D team approve for the military budget over what boss tweet had initially asked for? and in his pentagon's defense posture, china and roosia were named as what weapons systems, ships, and bombers needed funding. this, as war games in the arctic and the south china sea are being held right now.

billions to saudi arabia (clinton) over a trillion to ksa (boss tweet), weapons to ukraine in a roosian proxy war for NATO...the list goes on and on...poland offering millions to have a NATO base there to counter the Bear, gah.

oh, you masters of war...they're all rich man's wars, but let's hear from sam bradley. he owns the song now, as far as i'm concerned.

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then we just need to hand WWIII over to God and then apologize to everyone as the bombs fall.

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"Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist." Taslima Nasrin

gulfgal98's picture

This article was linked in a Tweet by Joanne Leon whom many of you probably know from dkos and ShadowProof. Notice how she uses the word "addicted."

When I read the article, a cold shiver went down my spine. We really are preparing to wage wars with both China and Russia and we think we can win? Never mind the fact that the next big war probably will not be confined to far away places out of the sight of coddled Americans.

And when I read this, the thing that immediately jumped out at me is that it appears that we are planning to be the aggressor nation. WTF?

As a result of the focus on great power competition, Selva is working to build out a “global campaign plan” for both Russia and China, looking across the breadth of the U.S. military before assigning a combatant commander as the “coordinating authority for management” of the plan, in case a conflict arises.

But figuring out which is the likeliest scenario and how to invest accordingly are major challenges being worked out inside the Pentagon. Selva indicated that those challenges will be part of the upcoming National Military Strategy, expected to be completed before the end of the year. But the question of having enough funding to prepare for both is clearly on Selva’s mind.

Russia is far better prepared to save its population. Having gone through massive casualties during World War II, Russia actually has civil defense and preparedness programs for its civilian population. There appears to be no plans in this war effort by the US corporate government to protect our civilian population. But then, many of the elite have openly expressed a desire for depopulation. Could this be Agenda 21 put into action via wars with China and Russia? I don't know if that is true. What I do know is that planning to wage simultaneous wars with China and Russia is sheer lunacy.

Superb essay, Mark! Good

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

zoebear's picture

Really hit he nail on the head, didn't he? Great excerpt. Between learning from the resourceful writers here how the captains of industry helped Hitler become Hitler, and the colossal greed and destruction that both WWI & WWII have fueled, his words are not only prescient but ring the alarm for us all.

But I think the the word "Peace" as we use it to describe anti-war activists does not accurately describe what we must do. Peace is a word that conjures up the best of our humanity, while what we should really be highlighting is the worst: The heinous crimes these war criminals are committing on a daily basis over the course of decades while filling their bank accounts with an offensive and foul amount of blood money.

Better, I think, to highlight and remind everyone the human consequences for those on the losing side of war profiteering. A name, or a phrase that can powerfully appropriate language to conjure up the horrifying human toll that is on the receiving end of a grotesque and immoral amount of money being made off human suffering.

Thanks for the essay.

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Soldier: What? Ridden on a horse?
King Arthur: Yes!
Soldier: You're using coconuts!
King Arthur: What?
Soldier: You've got two empty halves of a coconut and you're bangin' 'em together.

mhagle's picture

Great essay and comments!!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo