Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Facing The New Dark Age: A Grassroots Approach

Facing The New Dark Age: A Grassroots Approach
by John Michael Greer (2004) article link
May 29, 2011 | Countercurrents | The Archdruid Report

ABSTRACT: Despite four decades of detailed warnings, industrial civilization has failed to turn aside from self-destructive policies of exponential growth and dependence on nonrenewable resources. At this point, stark limits of time and resources as well as a failure of political will make attempts to prevent the fall of industrial society an exercise in futility. Individuals, small groups, and communities can still prepare for the approaching crises by mastering low-tech survival skills now to lay foundations for a sustainable society in the future.

I. The Closed Window of Opportunity

In 1972, the Club of Rome's path-breaking study The Limits to Growth(1) sent shockwaves around the world. At a time when politicians and pundits across the political spectrum argued that infinite economic growth was not only possible but desirable, The Limits to Growth showed that infinite growth on a finite planet was a recipe for disaster. They predicted that depletion of vital resources and increasing impacts from pollution would break the back of the global economy, leading to industrial collapse and massive die-off in the first half of the twenty-first century. Further studies(2) over the next few decades confirmed and expanded the warning, while economists and energy scientists showed that a sustainable steady-state economy was in reach if the process started at once.(3)

After half-hearted efforts sparked by the oil shortages of the 1970s, the industrial nations returned to business as usual. Alternative energy sources and proposals for a transition to sustainability withered on the vine. Meanwhile global population, rates of energy use, and pollution soared while resources dwindled. In 1992, twenty years after the original Club of Rome study, the same team ran their computer models again with newer and more complete data.(4) What they found confirmed the worst fears of ecologists and resource economists: the industrial world was in overshoot.

Among ecologists, "overshoot" describes a situation where a population of living things has outgrown its environment and is damaging the resource base that supports it.(5) As a population in overshoot expands further and increases its demands on its resource base, the resource base shrinks, cutting into its ability to support the population. Sooner or later rising demand collides with declining resources. The inevitable result is die-off.

The Club of Rome team twisted their computer models nearly to the breaking point to find a plan of action that would avert catastrophe if it was adopted immediately. The resulting plan was politically impossible - it would have required the citizens of the United States to accept Third World living standards - and it never reached the stage of public discussion. Even such feeble measures as the Kyoto greenhouse gas accords failed to win global support, and the dubious Republican "victory" in the 2000 presidential election made any attempt to face the looming future a dead issue until 2005 at the very earliest.

The implications of this delay have rarely been understood or accepted, even by those aware of the approaching crisis. Environmental activists still present schemes for making the transition to a steady state economy as though the industrial world had time to implement them. Yet in 1992, the "Limits to Growth" team warned that if the industrialized world did not launch a massive program to achieve sustainability within a few years, the chance to prevent industrial collapse and dieoff would have been missed.(6) Twelve years have passed since that final warning, and once again nothing has been done.

The hard reality of our situation is that the window of opportunity for a controlled transition to sustainability is past. Depletion of global oil reserves (the so-called "Peak Oil" problem) and global warming are only two aspects of a sprawling crisis that already affects every corner of the globe. The limits to growth are no longer a problem for the future. We are facing them now.

II. The Future Mirrored in the Past

The original "Limits to Growth" study provides a model for our future that bears careful study. Its most crucial and least appreciated prediction is that industrial collapse is an extended process, not an overnight catastrophe of the sort beloved by Hollywood scriptwriters. In simple terms, industrial society has to supply soaring needs from a shrinking resource base. As population rises, more people have to be fed, clothed, and housed; as production increases, more factories and infrastructure have to be built, maintained, and replaced; as the global environment suffers, droughts, crop failures, emerging infectious diseases, and rising sea levels all have economic impacts to be countered.

All these require ever-increasing resource use, but as resources are depleted, the cost of finding and extracting them becomes another burden on the economy. Worse, geological and/or environmental factors set inescapable upper limits on many resources. There is only so much oil in the ground, for example, and the faster you pump, the sooner you run dry. Forced to produce goods and services for immediate needs, forced to maintain and replace factories and infrastructure, to deal with impacts from environmental degradation, and subsidize a dwindling resource base all at once, industrial society is caught in a trap it can't escape. It can't do all of these things at once, and yet it can't stop doing any of them without going under.

The result is a rolling collapse extended over decades. As the economy falters, the shrinking pie of industrial production has to be cut into ever narrower wedges, divided between keeping the work force fed, clothed, and housed; maintaining and replacing economic capital and infrastructure; dealing with the immediate economic impact of environmental degradation; and struggling to keep oil and other resources flowing. Any shortfall in any of these imposes bottlenecks on the whole economy and makes the pie shrink further. Industrial production slumps and the core systems of the industrial economy start coming unglued: energy distribution networks fail, financial systems disintegrate, transport falters, national governments come apart. Finally population dieoff begins as the wrecked industrial system no longer produces enough to meet even the most basic human needs. The process ends with impoverished survivors a century from now scratching out a meager living amid the crumbling ruins of a once-great civilization.

This scenario makes a shocking contrast to the cozy fantasies of perpetual progress most people cherish. Those who study history, on the other hand, will find it much more familiar. The same process has happened dozens of times before, and our present predicament can best be understood by paying attention to the past.

The most crucial of these lessons is that all civilizations fall. As Joseph Tainter points out in his essential book "The Collapse of Complex Societies," this is one of the most predictable things about them.(7) Our civilization is larger and better equipped with gadgets, but it still faces the same fate as Nineveh and Tyre. Like the inhabitants of Rome at the beginning of the fifth century, or the people of the Mayan city of Tikal at the dawn of the tenth, we happen to be living in the early stages of this terrible but natural process. The crisis we face is no supernatural event, nor an instant catastrophe of the Hollywood sort. As the saying has it, it's not the end of the world - just the end of one more human civilization that failed to notice environmental limits, and crashed as a result.

Another crucial lesson is that the common notion of holing up in a cabin in the hills with stockpiled food and enough firearms to outfit a Panzer division is a Hollywood fantasy, not a realistic response. It takes time for a civilization to come apart, and the process is like rolling down a slope, not like falling off a cliff. We face a future of shortages, economic crises, disintegrating infrastructure, and collapsing public health, stretched out over a period of decades. A few years of stored food and an assortment of high-tech paramilitary gear are hopelessly inadequate preparations in the face of this reality.

Stockpiles of precious metals, another common hedge against collapse, are even more useless. All the gold in the world means nothing unless people value it enough to trade scarce resources for it, and if they value it that much in the postindustrial future, your chances of surviving long enough to enjoy it are not good. Archeologists in Britain every few years turn up hoards of gold and silver hidden away by wealthy Romans as the empire fell around them. The fact that the hoards are undisturbed suggests that their owners did not survive long enough to enjoy them.

A useful way to think of the approaching crisis is to imagine that someday soon you will be put on a boat, taken to some primitive corner of the world far from industrial society, and left there for the rest of your life. You can take anything you want with you, but the place you are going is inhabited, and if your only value consists of the things you have stockpiled, plenty of people will be interested in removing you and enjoying your stockpile themselves. In the postindustrial dark age, where all of us who survive the next decade or so will be spending the rest of our lives, the same rules apply.

III. The Problem with Progress

Many people come out of school thinking of civilization as some vague assemblage of art, literature, buildings, and government. At its core, though, a civilization is a system for producing and distributing goods and services. Roman civilization included not only temples and emperors but also grain markets, aqueducts, roads, and soldiers. When Rome fell, the population crash that followed was not caused by a shortage of temples. It happened because grain no longer reached the markets, goods no longer traveled over the roads, and legionaries no longer kept barbarians on the other side of the frontier.

The present situation is even more extreme. Most people in the developed world have never had to feed, clothe, house, or protect themselves with their own hands, and have only the vaguest notions about how to do so. They rely for every necessity of life on the industrial economy. Even the most basic requirements of life are tied to the industrial system; how many people nowadays can light a fire without matches or a butane lighter from some distant factory? The skills necessary to get by in a non-industrial society, skills that were still common knowledge a century ago, have been all but lost throughout the developed world.

This disastrous situation results from the modern obsession with progress. When a new technology is introduced, the older technology it replaces ends up in the trash heap. Since new technologies almost always demand more resources, use more energy, and include more complexity than their older equivalents, each step on the path of progress has made people more dependent on the industrial system and more vulnerable to its collapse. Compare a slide rule with a pocket calculator. People in the resource-poor world of the future will have a much easier time fabricating slide rules than pocket calculators. Unfortunately only a few retirees today still know how to use slide rules, and books on how to make and use them have long since been purged from library shelves. Even basic math skills are being lost as schoolchildren punch buttons instead of learning multiplication tables. Will our descendants have to rediscover mathematics all over again, reinventing addition by experimenting with pebbles in the dust? The possibility can't be completely dismissed.

For "slide rules" and "calculators" in the example just given, insert almost any piece of older technology and its more recent replacement. As we've climbed the ladder of progress, we've kicked each rung to pieces as we reached the next. Now we've run out of rungs, and the one holding us up is cracking beneath our weight. If it gives way, there's nothing to break our fall this side of the ground.

Once the problem is put in these terms, the core strategy of response is obvious. If industrial civilization faces inevitable collapse, the crucial step that must be taken now is the rediscovery and deployment of non-industrial means of survival. A few critical skills have already been preserved or rediscovered and passed on in this way; consider the case of the organic agriculture movement, which has evolved efficient, sustainable methods of growing food without petrochemicals using human muscle as the only energy source, producing yields exceeding those of modern industrial farming. Using such methods, a spare but nutritionally complete diet for one person for one year can be raised on less than 1000 square feet of soil.(8) Unfortunately only a small minority of farmers and a somewhat larger fraction of home gardeners practice these essential skills.

The same is true of many other non-industrial skills. One expert estimated recently that fewer than 500 people in North America can reliably start a fire with a hand drill, the simplest and most readily available of "primitive" fire-starting methods.(9) Black powder flintlocks, the only firearms that will still work when the high-tech ammunition runs out and today's assault rifles become tomorrow's awkwardly shaped clubs, are the province of a small network of hobbyists and historical reenactment fans. If these and other effective technologies are to be passed on to the future, this has to change.

IV. Building the Future from the Grassroots Up

Most proposals for dealing with the approaching crisis of industrial civilization take a top-down approach, offering grandiose plans for huge programs to retool the entire industrial world at once. As shown above, it is too late for that approach, even if the political will to accomplish it existed — which it clearly does not. But an alternative grassroots approach remains possible.

What would a grassroots approach to the coming crisis look like? It would begin with individuals learning the skills needed to build a sustainable society within the shell of the collapsing industrial system. These people would revive the basic skills of postindustrial survival, learning how to light a fire, grow a garden, treat an illness, and fight off an assault without any help from the industrial system, using simple hand tools and the capacities of their own bodies and minds. These skills would be practiced and mastered, not merely learned intellectually, so they could be used and taught to others at a moment's notice.

Each person would then learn some specialized non-industrial skill. The list of potential skills is limited only by the needs, wants, and resources of the postindustrial world. Blacksmiths and beer makers, herbalists and horse breeders, weavers and woodworkers, all fill critical economic niches once the factories shut down forever. Those who have learned such skills and can meet people's needs will survive and prosper even in difficult times, for unlike stockpiles, which benefit only the people who have them, skills benefit everyone. History shows that even in the most lawless and brutal societies — the pirate havens of the seventeenth-century Caribbean are a classic example – people with necessary skills such as physicians, navigators, and shipwrights were protected from violence because it was in everyone's best interests to keep them unharmed.

What gives this strategy power is that it can be done by one person acting alone and still have a positive impact. Anyone who learns the basic skills of postindustrial survival and some useful craft can survive, teach others to survive, and pass on crucial legacies to the future. As more people start learning and practicing the skills of a postindustrial economy, though, potentials expand swiftly. Once there are enough blacksmiths to keep the future supplied with iron tools, one or more of them can learn gunsmithing and prepare to arm a future community with Kentucky long rifles or the like. Once enough people know how to grow grain, brewing beer becomes a logical next step.

Many people assume that the collapse of industrial society would be followed by a reversion to the Stone Age, if not to a Mad Max fantasy of roaming raiders who somehow manage to keep eating food and firing bullets long after farms and factories are gone. It's clear that whatever the future holds, it holds many fewer people than today's world, and the road there won't be easy or pleasant. Still, plenty of societies in the past achieved a high level of civilization without the benefit of industrial technology. Widespread literacy, democratic government, and a decent standard of living can be achieved without factories and fossil fuels — witness the American Republic two hundred years ago. If people prepare now, there's no reason why the technology and lifestyles of 1800 should be out of reach for our grandchildren, and good reason to hope for a less catastrophic passage through the crises of the near future to the new dawn beyond.


1. Meadows, D. H. et al., The Limits to Growth (New York: Universe, 1972).

2. See especially Catton, W. R., Overshoot (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1982), and Gever, J. et al., Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1986).

3. See, for example, Daly, H., Toward a Steady State Economy (San Francisco: William Freeman, 1973), and Lovins, A., Soft Energy Paths (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1977).

4. Meadows, D. L. et al., Beyond the Limits (Post Hills, VT: Chelsea Green,

5. The concept of overshoot is explored in detail in Catton, op. cit.

6. Meadows, D. L. et al., op. cit.

7. Tainter, J., The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

8. See Duhon, D., One Circle (Willits, CA: Ecology Action, 1985), and Freeman, J. A., Survival Gardening (Rock Hill, SC: John's Press, 1983).

9. Baugh, D., "The miracle of fire by friction," in Wescott, D., ed., Primitive Technology (Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs-Smith, 1999), pp. 32-33.

John Michael Greer is the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, and the forthcoming The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered. He lives in Cumberland, MD, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Stop, Wake Up


Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times
by Laurence M. Vance article link
May 30, 2011 | LewRockwell

The Sunday before Memorial Day is not one of my favorites. The "patriotic" things that go on in churches in celebration or acknowledgment of Memorial Day are downright sickening.

Churches encourage their veterans to wear their military uniforms. Special recognition is given to those who "served." Prayers are offered on behalf of the troops, not that they would cease fighting foreign wars, but for God to keep them out of harm’s way and protect them. Mention is made of the troops defending our freedoms.

Churches decorate their grounds and the inside of their buildings with U.S. flags. Sometimes it is a few large flags hanging from the ceiling or adorning the walls. Sometimes it is many small flags stuck in the ground near the church entrance. Sometimes it is both. Some congregations are asked to recite the pledge of allegiance.

Churches sing hymns of worship to the state instead of hymns of worship about the person of Christ and his work. Songs like "My Country, ‘Tis of Thee," "America the Beautiful," "We Salute You, Land of Liberty," and "This Is My Country." Some churches go even farther and sing "God Bless the U.S.A." or "God Bless America." Too many churches sing the blasphemous "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

I know these practices are widespread because of the scores of people that have e-mailed me in disgust about what occurred in their churches on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

In most cases it is not even necessary to visit a church on the Sunday preceding Memorial Day to know what goes on inside. Just look at the sign outside of the church. Instead of a verse of Scripture or an announcement of an upcoming event, you are more likely to see some patriotic slogan, often with a Christian theme.

I have personally seen two signs this year that I find particularly offensive, not only to my Christian faith, but to reality:

Pray for the Troops,
God be with them.

The American soldier and Jesus Christ,
one gives his life for your freedom,
the other for your soul.

Yes, we should pray for the troops. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1 that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men." But what should we pray? That God would bless the troops while they injure, maim, kill, and destroy property where they have no business being in the first place? That God would be with them while they wage unjust and immoral foreign wars? Since when does wearing a military uniform excuse killing someone you don’t know in his own territory that was no threat to any American until the U.S. military invaded and occupied his country? How about instead praying that the troops come home where they belong or that Christian families stop supplying cannon fodder to the military?

That Christ gave his life for our souls is indisputable, but do American soldiers give their lives for our freedoms? You know, the freedoms we have steadily lost since the troops starting defending our freedoms after 9/11? Has there been in American history any foreign war, military action, CIA covert action, or intervention of any kind in any country that was for the purpose of defending our freedoms mentioned in the Bill of Rights? Of course not. Not one Iraqi or Afghan killed by U.S. forces was ever a threat to our freedoms. The troops don’t defend our freedoms, and neither do they fight "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here." And I can’t think of anything more blasphemous than mentioning Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace in the same breath as a U.S. soldier who unjustly bombs, maims, kills, and then dies in vain and for a lie.

It is time for Christians to slay the golden calf of the military. Christians should stop joining the military. They should stop encouraging their young men to enlist. They should stop being military chaplains and medics. American churches must be demilitarized.

It is a terrible blight on evangelical Christianity that our churches have sent more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries. If Christians are so concerned about the threat of Islamofascism, then what better way to confront it than with the Gospel of Christ?

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com.


Should a Christian Join the Military?
by Laurence M. Vance article link
October 11, 2004 | LewRockwell

Christian enthusiasm for war is at an all-time high.

Gullible Christians have not just tolerated the state's nebulous crusade against "evil," they have actively promoted both it and the overgrown U.S. Military establishment. Because the Republican Party is in control of the federal government instead of the "ungodly" Democrats, because President Bush is the commander in chief instead of the "immoral" Bill Clinton, and because the "enemy" is the easily-vilifiable Muslim infidel, many Christians, who certainly ought to know better given the history of state-sponsored persecution of Christians, "heretics," and other religious groups over the past two thousand years, have come to view the state, and in particular its coercive arm, the military, as sacrosanct.

For far too long Christians have turned a blind eye to the U.S. Global Empire of troops and bases that encircles the world. Many Christians have willingly served as cannon fodder for the state and its wars and military interventions. Christians who haven't died (wasted their life) for their country in some overseas desert or jungle increasingly perpetuate the myth that being a soldier in the U.S. Military is a noble occupation that one can wholeheartedly perform as a Christian.

The Question

The question of whether a Christian should join the military is a controversial one in some Christian circles. By a Christian I don't just mean someone who accepts the title by default because he was born in "Christian" America or "Christian" Europe. In this respect, everyone but Jews and atheists could be classified as Christians. The mention of a Christian in this article should be taken in the narrower sense of someone who professes to believe that Jesus Christ is the Saviour (Luke 2:11) and that the Bible is some kind of an authority (Acts 17:11). It is true that this may be too broad a definition for some Christians, and it is also true that many who profess to be Christians hold defective views on the person of Christ and the nature of the Atonement. But for the purposes of this article, the "broadness" of this definition and the permitting of these "defects" do not in any way affect the question: Should a Christian join the military? In fact, the narrower one's definition of what constitutes a real Christian, the stronger the case can be made against a Christian joining the military.

The idea that there are certain things Christians should not do is not only scriptural (1 Corinthians 6:9—11; Galatians 5:19—21), it is readily acknowledged by Christians and non-Christians alike. Christians have historically applied this idea to occupations as well. But it is not just unlawful occupations like pimp, prostitute, drug dealer, and hit man that Christians have shied away from. Most Americans — whether they be atheist or theist — would have a problem with those occupations as well. Everyone knows that there are also certain lawful occupations that Christians frown upon: bartender, exotic dancer, casino card dealer, etc. This prohibition is also usually extended to benign occupations in not so benign environments. Therefore, a clerk in a drug store or grocery store is acceptable, but a clerk in liquor store or an x-rated video store is not. Likewise, most Christians would not work for an abortion clinic, for any amount of money, whether in the capacity of a doctor or a secretary. In other places of employment, however, a Christian might have no problem with being employed, only with working in a certain capacity. This explains why some Christians might not wait tables in restaurants that forced them to serve alcohol, but would feel perfectly comfortable working for the same restaurant in some other capacity, like a bookkeeper or janitor.

The larger question of whether a Christian (or anyone opposed to the federal leviathan) should work for the state is not at issue. Someone employed by the state as a teacher, a mailman, a security guard, or a park ranger is providing a lawful, moral, non-aggressive, non-intrusive service that is in the same manner also provided by the free market. Thus, it might be argued that working for the BATF, the CIA, the FBI, or as a regulation-enforcing federal bureaucrat is off limits, whereas these other occupations are not. The question then is which of these two groups the U.S. Military belongs in. Given the actions of the U.S. Military since Sherman's state-sponsored "total war" against Southerners and Indians, the host of twentieth-century interventions, subjugations, and "liberations," and the current debacle in Iraq, it should be obvious.

The question before us then is whether a Christian should join the military. Although my remarks are primarily directed at the idea of Christian being a professional soldier (a hired assassin in some cases) for the state, they are also applicable to serving in the military in any capacity.

To save some people the trouble of e-mailing me to ask if I have ever been in the military, I will say now that, no, I have never been in the military. For some strange reason, many Americans think that if you have not "served" your country in the military then you have no right to criticize it. There are three problems with this attitude.

First of all, this is like saying that if you have not "served" in the Mafia then you have no right to criticize John Gotti. It reminds me of fellow travelers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s saying that if you have not lived in the Soviet Union then you have no right to criticize it. So no, I am not a veteran, but I have family members who were in the military and have lived near military bases and been intimately associated with military personnel since I was ten years old. No, I am not a veteran, but I am a student of history ("Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" — George Santayana), and was born with enough common sense to know government propaganda when I see it. I can also read above a tenth-grade level, which is about all it takes to compare the wisdom of the Founding Fathers with the drivel from Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Powell, and Rumsfeld.

Secondly, some of the most vocal critics of the military have been in the military, like USMC Major General Smedley Butler. So it is not just non-veterans who are critics of the military.

The third problem with the knee-jerk reaction to this article and me because I have never been in the military is that it is misplaced indignation. I am only examining the question of whether a Christian should join the military. Criticism of the military is not my direct purpose.

Another objection to an article of this nature is that if it were not for the U.S. Military then no one would have the freedom right now to write anything. But if the military exists to defend our freedoms, and does not just function as the force behind an aggressive, interventionist U.S. foreign policy, then why are our troops scattered across 150 different regions of the world? Why doesn't the military control our borders? Why do we need a Department of Homeland Security if we already have a Department of Defense? Why, with the biggest military budget ever do we have less freedom in America now than at any time in history? The U.S. Military could not even defend the Pentagon. The case could even be argued that U.S. Military intervention is the cause for much of the anti-American sentiment in the world. So, like Brad Edmonds, I don't owe and still do not owe the military anything. I trust in God Almighty to keep me safe from a nuclear attack, not the U.S. Military.

The Commandments

Using the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3—17) as a guide, it is my contention that the military is no place for a Christian. As a Christian under the authority of the New Testament, I am perfectly aware that the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament and were originally given to the nation of Israel. But I am also cognizant that the Apostle Paul said: "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Romans 15:4) after he had just recited many of the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:8—9).

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

The state has historically been the greatest enemy of Christianity. Yet, many Christians in the military have made the state their god. Members of the military are totally dependent on the state for their food, clothing, shelter, recreation, and medical care. They are conditioned to look to the state for their every need. But the state demands unconditional obedience. Shoot this person, bomb this city, blow up this building — don't ask why, just do it because the state tells you to. The soldier is conditioned to believe that whatever he does is right because it is done in the name of the state. The state's acts of aggression are regarded as acts of benevolence. Then, once the benevolent state is viewed as never doing anything wrong, it in essence becomes the all-seeing, all-knowing, omniscient state, since it would take absolute knowledge to know for certain that the person shot, the city bombed, or the building blown up "deserved" it.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (Exodus 20:4).

The state has an image that it expects its citizens to reverence and pledge allegiance to. This is especially true of people serving in the military. Perhaps the most famous picture of the flag is the raising of the flag by U.S. troops at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. But there is another picture of the flag that has occurred thousands of times that the state does its best to suppress: the picture of the flag-draped coffin of a life wasted in the service of one of the state's needless wars. Foreigners who object to our intervention in their country and our military presence across the globe burn American flags in protest. But they are not protesting because we are capitalists who believe in liberty, freedom, and democracy and they do not share our values. Christians in the military must reverence what has often justly come to be viewed by most of the world as a symbol of oppression. They must also pledge their allegiance to it. Christians blindly recite the Pledge of Allegiance without even bothering to find out where it came from, what its author intended, and how the state uses it to instill loyalty to the state in the minds of its youth. Never mind that the author was a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy (1855—1932), who was forced to resign from his church in Boston because of his socialist ideas (like preaching on "Jesus the Socialist"). Never mind that the idea for Bellamy's pledge of allegiance was taken from Lincoln's oath of allegiance imposed on Southerners after the successful Northern invasion of the Southern states. Never mind that "republic for which" the flag "stands" was, in Bellamy's eyes, "the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove." The Pledge is an allegiance oath to the omnipotent, omniscient state. There is nothing inherently wrong with the United States having a flag, but it has been made into a graven image that no Christian, in the military or otherwise, should bow down to.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain (Exodus 20:7).

The state will tolerate God and religion as long as He and it can be used to legitimize the state. God's name is taken in vain when it is used to justify the state's wars and military interventions. Some Christians in the military envision themselves as modern-day crusaders warring against the Muslim infidel. Indeed, the president even termed his war on terrorism "this crusade." Others, all the way up to the commander in chief, invoke the name of God or His words in Scripture to give authority to their unconstitutional, unscriptural, and immoral military adventures. When a young Christian man (or woman, unfortunately) leaves home and joins the military he often learns to take God's name in vain in ways that he never could have imagined. There is a reason the old expression is "cuss like a sailor," not cuss like a mechanic, an accountant, or a fireman. Singing "God Bless America" while cognizant of the abortions, promiscuity, and pornography that curse America is taking God's name in vain. Likewise, military chaplains asking God to bless troops on their missions of death and destruction are taking God's name in vain. Many Christians were upset a few years ago when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) tried to strike out the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance (which was only added in 1954). They should have cheered instead, for even though the two federal judges (the decision was 2-1) who made the ridiculous ruling that the inclusion of the phrase "under God" was an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion" ought to have their heads examined, America is not a nation "under God," and to say that it is (as when one recites the Pledge of Allegiance), is the epitome of using God's name in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8).

Although the sabbath day is technically the Jewish seventh day (Saturday) and not the Christian first day (Sunday), the basic principle is still the same. Christians the world over set aside the first day of the week to attend church services. Christians in the military are often deployed to some strange city or remote country for months at a time and are therefore forced to violate the precept of "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). Defense consultant Josh Pollack, in his "Saudi Arabia and the United States, 1931—2002," has documented that during the early decades of the American troop presence in Saudi Arabia, Air Force chaplains were forbidden to wear Christian insignia or hold formal services. During the First Gulf War of Bush the Elder, the importation of Bibles for Christian troops was discouraged, and no alcohol was permitted to U.S. troops in accordance with Islamic Law.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother (Exodus 20:12).

It used to be thought that following one's father into the military was a noble thing that honored him. Thankfully, this is not so much the case anymore. Is it honoring to one's father and mother for a Christian to accept the state's amoral values that are taught in the military and reject the values learned from a Christian upbringing? The temptations in the military for a Christian young person away from home for the first time are very great. Joining the military is one of the surest ways for a Christian to dishonor his parents by associating with bad company and picking up bad habits. This is not to deny that some Christians who are well grounded in the Scriptures live an exemplary life while in the military and are a positive force for good. But see the next point.

6. Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13).

This is perhaps the greatest reason for a Christian not to join the military. But there is a difference between killing and murdering. Under certain conditions, a Christian would be entirely justified in taking up arms to defend himself, his family, and his property against an aggressor. If America was attacked, Christians could in good conscience kill and maim enemy invaders. However, when was the United States ever in danger from Guatemala, Vietnam, Indonesia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Cuba, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, or any of the other places where the United States has intervened militarily? How then can a Christian justify killing any of them on their own soil? The old adage, "Join the army, meet interesting people, kill them," is now just "join the army and kill them" since you can't meet anyone at 10,000 feet before you release your load of bombs. The U.S. Military turns men into callous killers. The D.C. sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Timothy McVey all learned how to kill in the military. When a Christian in the military is faced with an order to kill, bomb, or destroy someone or something halfway around the world that he has never met or seen, and is no real threat to him, his family, or his country, there is really only one option: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 4:29).

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).

Human nature being what it is, the forcing of men and women together, especially for extended periods on Navy ships, has been the source of many broken marriages and unwanted pregnancies. Christians in the military also face incredible temptations when they are deployed overseas. In his seminal work Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Chalmers Johnson has described the network of bars, strip clubs, whorehouses, and VD clinics that surround U.S. bases overseas. The former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines "had no industry nearby except for the ‘entertainment' business, which supported approximately 55,000 prostitutes and a total of 2,182 registered establishments offering ‘rest and recreation' to American servicemen." At the annual Cobra Gold joint military exercise in Thailand: "Some three thousand prostitutes wait for sailors and marines at the South Pattaya waterfront, close to Utapao air base." The prohibition in this commandment applies equally as well to men who are not married, for "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

8. Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15).

Through its system of forced revenue collection (the income tax), the state is guilty of stealing untold trillions of dollars from working Americans. Very little of that money is spent for constitutionally authorized purposes. One of the largest expenditures of the state is its bloated military budget. Training, feeding, housing, transporting, paying, and arming thousands of troops all over the planet is a very expensive undertaking. Robert Higgs has estimated the true military budget in fiscal year 2004 to be about $695 billion. Besides being the recipient of stolen money, a Christian in the military may have to steal the lives of the sons and daughters of parents he has never met. He may have to steal land in foreign countries to build bases on. He certainly steals the resources of the countries he bombs. Christians in the military should heed the words of the Apostle Paul: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28).

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour (Exodus 20:16).

The state is the greatest bearer of false witness that there has ever been. The latest round of lies concerns the war in Iraq. Continual government lies about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, aluminum tubes, chemical and biological weapons, threat to the United States, tie to al Qaeda, and link to the September 11th attacks are the rule rather than the exception. The Christian in the military is supporting a lie and living a lie when he devotes his time and energy to supporting a U.S. war machine based on deception, disinformation, falsehood, and lies.

10. Thou shalt not covet (Exodus 20:17).

Young people generally join the military for the wrong motive. Bored, indecisive, in trouble, unemployed, seeking to get away from home — these are some of the reasons why young men and women join the military. But perhaps the greatest reason young people join the military today is because of covetousness. Recruitment slogans all emphasize how much money an enlistee can earn towards his college education. Then there are enlistment bonuses, free medical care, commissary and exchange shopping privileges, the lucrative retirement program, and the future "veterans preference" to help get that government job after retirement. But aside from money, some people covet an increase in prestige ("The few, the proud, the Marines"). Others covet the power that powerful weapons bring. Some Christian young people join the military because they are patriotic, loyal Americans who have been conditioned to think that they owe the state something ("Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"). Their patriotism is noble, but misdirected.

The Conclusion

Should a Christian join the military? Should anyone join the military? The U.S. Military, although officially called the Department of Defense, is the state's arm of aggression. If it limited itself to controlling our borders, patrolling our coasts, and protecting our citizens instead of intervening around the globe and leaving death and destruction in its wake then perhaps it might be a noble occupation for a Christian. But as it is now, the military is no place for a Christian.

The argument that you have to become one of them to win them is fallacious. No one would think of becoming a pimp or a prostitute in order to convert them to Christianity. The fact that a Christian is compared to a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3) is no more a scriptural endorsement of Christians in the military than God being compared to "a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine" (Psalm 78:65) is an endorsement of drunkenness.

When the nation of Israel rejected the LORD and desired a king "like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:5), God described "the manner of the king that shall reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:9):

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles (1 Samuel 8:11—20).

Christians should remember that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (2 Corinthians 10:4), and that we wield "the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).

That criticizing the military or recommending that Christians don't join it is seen as being un-American or traitorous shows just how effective the state has been with its propaganda. The United States is the greatest country on earth for a Christian to live in, but in spite of its military, not because of it.

Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com

Laurence M. Vance writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare StateThe Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking the Good War. His latest book is The Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his website.

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The Sky Really Is Falling

The Sky Really Is Falling
by Chris Hedges article link article link
May 30, 2011 | CommonDreams | TruthDig

The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with equal parts of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation—the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry—is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted Pied Pipers and fools.

Global climate change has made for freak storms and more intense weather. The result is Hurricane Katrina, this month’s devastating tornadoes and floods, and routine forest fires in California.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Horticulturalists are busy planting swamp oaks and sweet gum trees all over Chicago to prepare for weather that will soon resemble that of Baton Rouge. That would be fine if there was a limit to global warming in sight. But without plans to rapidly dismantle the fossil fuel industry, something no one in our corporate state is contemplating, the heat waves of Baton Rouge will be a starting point for a descent that will ultimately make cities like Chicago unlivable. The false promise of human adaptability to global warming is peddled by the polluters’ major front group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” This bizarre theory of adaptability has been embraced by the Obama administration as it prepares to exploit the natural resources in the Arctic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

“It is good that at least those guys are taking it seriously, far more seriously than the federal government is taking it,” said the author and environmental activist Bill McKibben of the efforts in cities such as Chicago to begin to adapt to warmer temperatures. “At least they understand that they have some kind of problem coming at them. But they are working off the science of five or six years ago, which is still kind of the official science that the International Climate Change negotiations are working off of. They haven’t begun to internalize the idea that the science has shifted sharply. We are no longer talking about a long, slow, gradual, linear warming, but something that is coming much more quickly and violently. Seven or eight years ago it made sense to talk about putting permeable concrete on the streets. Now what we are coming to realize is that the most important adaptation we can do is to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere. If we don’t, we are going to produce temperature rises so high that there is no adapting to them.”

The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.

“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.”

“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.”

“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.”

“The cast that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie.”

“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with 350.org. It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked."

"One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.”

“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.”

“In moral terms it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.”

“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.”

“I’d like people to go to climatedirectaction.org and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.”

“I wish there was some easy ‘end around,’ some backdoor through which we could go to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen. That became clear at Copenhagen and last summer when the U.S. Senate refused to take a vote on the most mild, tepid climate legislation there could have been. We are going to have to build a movement that pushes the fossil fuel industry aside. I don’t know whether that’s possible. If you were to bet you might well bet we will lose. We have been losing for two decades. But you are not allowed to make that bet. The only moral action, when the worst thing that ever happened in the world is happening, is to try and figure out how to change those odds.”

“At least they knew they were going to win,” he said of the civil rights movement. “They didn’t know when, but they knew they were going to win, that the tide of history was on their side. But the arch of the physical universe appears to be short and appears to bend towards heat. We’ve got to win quickly if we’re going to win. We’ve already passed the point where we’re going to stop global warming. It has already warmed a degree and there is another degree in the pipeline from carbon already emitted. The heat gets held in the ocean for a while, but it’s already there. We’ve already guaranteed ourselves a miserable century. The question is whether it’s going to be an impossible one.”

© 2011 TruthDig.com

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us MeaningWhat Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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