Only employee ownership can save the corporation

The summer of 2018 was a trying one for Google, Tesla, and other members of a celebrated Silicon Valley cohort that was supposed to have re-written all the rules. These companies continue to amaze with what they do well. But their attempts to revolutionize corporate culture—to create what could be called a utopian workplace—have run into certain basic truths they were never going to escape. Like the industrial corporations that preceded them, these newer companies are confronting challenges not just from the marketplace but from within. In order to meet those challenges, they must dig deeper than their predecessors did and move to structurally empower their most valuable resource: their employees. In doing so they should embrace a movement toward a democracy of work.  — Christopher Mackin

This article in the New Republic says you can’t paper over the essential logic of capitalism.  The contradictions won’t be resolved until employees are part-owners in their workplace.

Into these [larger scale businesses] we have brought together larger amounts of capital and larger numbers of workers than existed in cities once thought great. We have been put to it, however, to discover the true principles which should govern their relations. From one point of view, they were partners in a common enterprise. From another they were enemies fighting for the spoils of their common achievement. … I hope the day may come when these great business organizations will truly belong to the men who are giving their lives and their efforts to them, I care not in what capacity. … Then we shall dispose once and for all, of the charge that in industry organizations are autocratic and not democratic. Then we shall have no hired men.  — Owen D. Young, CEO of General Electric (1927)

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Let me remind you who you really

[Excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, by Rob Brezsny]

You’re an immortal freedom fighter who has adopted the mission to liberate all sentient creatures. You’re a fun-loving messiah who devoutly wants to help all of your fellow messiahs claim the ecstatic awareness that is their birthright.

Try to remember. You’re a vortex of fluid light that has temporarily taken assumed the form of a human being, suffering amnesia about your true origins. And why did you do forget? Because it was the best way to forge the identity that would make you an elemental force in our 14-billion-year campaign to bring heaven down to earth.

You are a mutant deity in disguise — of the same lineage as a Buddha or Christ, and conjured from the same fire. You have been around since the beginning of time and will be here after the end. You’re learning.  You’re getting better at playing the preposterously amusing master game we all dreamed up together before the Big Bang bloomed.

Lately, I must admit, our work has seemed almost comically impossible. Many of us have given in to the temptation to believe that everything is wrong wrong wrong. Ignorance and inertia, partially camouflaged as time-honored morality, seem to surround us. Pessimism is enshrined as a hallmark of worldliness. Compulsive skepticism masquerades as perceptiveness. Mean-spirited irony is chic. Stories about treachery and degradation provoke a visceral thrill in millions of people who think of themselves as reasonable and smart. Beautiful truths are suspect and ugly half-truths are readily believed.

So, at this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, it’s not easy to carry out our mission. We’ve got to be both wrathful insurrectionaries and exuberant lovers of life. We’ve got to cultivate cheerful buoyancy even as we resist the temptation to swallow thousands of delusions that have been carefully crafted and seductively packaged by those messiahs among us who bravely volunteered to play the role of know-it-all deceivers.

We have to learn how to stay in a good yet unruly mood as we overthrow the sour, puckered mass hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as “reality.”

Most importantly, we have to keep our imaginations wild and hungry and free, even as we are ferociously and single-mindedly dedicated to the cause of beauty and truth. We have to be both disciplined and rowdy.

What can we do to help each other in this work?

First, we can create safe houses to shelter everyone who’s devoted to the slow-motion awakening of humanity. These sanctuaries might take the form of temporary autonomous zones like festivals and parties and workshops, where we can ritually explore and potentiate the evolving mysteries of pronoia (the antidote to paranoia). Or they might be more enduring autonomous zones like homes and cafes and businesses where we can get regular practice in freeing ourselves from the slavery of hatred in all of its many guises.

We can conspire together to carry out the agenda that futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard names: to hospice what’s dying and midwife what’s being born. We need the trigger of each other’s rebel glee as we kill off every reflex within us that resonates in harmony with the putrefaction. We need each other’s dauntless cunning as we goad and foment the blooming life forces within us.

Here’s a third way we can collaborate: We can inspire each other to perpetrate healing mischief, friendly shocks, compassionate tricks, irreverent devotion, holy pranks, playful experiments, and crazy wisdom.

What do tricks and mischief and jokes have to do with our quest? Isn’t America in a permanent state of war? Isn’t the global biosphere in freefall collapse? Hasn’t the paranoia about terrorism decimated our civil liberties? Isn’t it our duty to grow more serious and weighty than ever before?

On the contrary: I say this is the perfect moment to take everything less seriously and less personally and less literally.

Permanent war and the loss of civil liberties are immediate dangers. But they are only symptoms of an even larger, long-term threat to the fate of the earth: the genocide of  imagination.

Elsewhere, on pages 184-186 of my book, I have identified pop-nihilist storytellers as the vanguard perpetrators of this genocide of the imagination. But there is another culprit as well: fundamentalism.

The fundamentalist takes everything way too seriously and way too personally and way too literally. He divides the world into two camps, those who agree with him and those who don’t. There is only one right way to interpret the world, and a million wrong ways. Correct belief is the only virtue.

To the fundamentalist, the liberated imagination is a sinful taboo. He not only enslaves his own imagination to his ideology, but wants to enslave our imaginations, too.

And who are the fundamentalists? Let’s not remain under the delusion that they are only the usual suspects — the religious fanatics of Islam and Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism.

There are many other kinds of fundamentalists, and some of them have gotten away with practicing their tragic magic in a stealth mode. Among the most successful are those who believe in what Robert Anton Wilson calls fundamentalist materialism. This is the faith-based dogma that swears physical matter is the only reality and that nothing exists unless it can be detected by our five senses or by technologies that humans have made.

Life has no transcendent meaning or purpose, the fundamentalist materialists proclaim. There is no such thing as a divine intelligence. The universe is a dumb accidental machine that grinds on endlessly out of blind necessity.

I see spread out before me in every direction a staggeringly sublime miracle lovingly crafted by a supernal consciousness that oversees the evolution of 500 billion galaxies, yet is also available as an intimate companion and daily advisor to every one of us. But to the fundamentalist materialists, my perceptions are indisputably wrong and idiotic.

Many other varieties of fundamentalism thrive and propagate. Every ideology, even some of the ones I like, has its share of true believers — fanatics who judge all other ideologies as inferior, flawed, and foolish.

I know astrologers who insist there’s only one way to do astrology right. I know Buddhists who adamantly decree that the inherent nature of life on Earth is suffering. I know progressive activists who sincerely believe that every single Republican is either stupid or evil or both. I know college administrators who would excommunicate any psychology professor who dared to discuss the teachings of Carl Jung, who was in my opinion one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I know pagans who refuse to consider any other version of Jesus Christ beyond the sick parody the Christian right has fabricated.

None of the true believers like to hear that there are at least three sides to every story. They don’t want to consider the hypothesis that everyone has a piece of the truth.

And here’s the really bad news: We all have our own share of the fundamentalist virus. Each of us is fanatical, rigid, and intolerant about products of the imagination that we don’t like. We wish that certain people would not imagine the things they do, and we allow ourselves to beam hateful, war-like thoughts in their direction.

We even wage war against our own imaginations, commanding ourselves, sometimes half-consciously, to ignore possibilities that don’t fit into our neatly constructed theories. Each of us sets aside certain precious beliefs and symbols that we give ourselves permission to take very seriously and personally and literally.

Our fundamentalism, yours and mine, may not be as dangerous to the collective welfare as, say, the fundamentalism of Islamic terrorists and right-wing Christian politicians. It may not be as destructive as that of the CEOs who worship financial profit as the supreme measure of value, and the scientists who ignore and deny every mystery that can’t be measured, and the journalists, filmmakers, novelists, musicians, and pundits who relentlessly generate rotten visions of the human condition.

But still: We are all infected, you and I. We are fueling the war against the imagination. What’s your version of the virus?

Try to remember. We are reverent insurgents … convulsive beautifiers … rowdy avatars. We have more mojo at our disposal than we realize. But if we hope to navigate our way through this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, we will have to summon previously untapped reserves of that mojo. We will have to keep our imaginations wild and hungry and free, and make sure that all of our fellow messiahs, even those who volunteered to play the roles of ignorant deceivers, have the chance to keep their imaginations wild and hungry and free.

How might we start curing ourselves of the fundamentalist virus and move in the direction of becoming more festive and relentless champions of the liberated imagination?

For starters, we can take everything less seriously and less personally and less literally.

We can laugh at ourselves at least as much as we laugh at other people. We can blaspheme our own gods and burn our own flags and mock our own hypocrisy and satirize our own fads and fixations.

And we can enjoy and share the tonic pleasures of healing mischief, friendly shocks, compassionate tricks, irreverent devotion, holy pranks, playful experiments, and crazy wisdom.

visit Rob Brezsny’s website

 

A Long Legacy

At a time when the American economy was creating wealth prolifically, and all of it was going to a tiny minority who didn’t need it, a populist from Louisiana stood up and told the truth.  Working Americans were being robbed.  The productive economy was being drained not for anything that anyone needed or wanted, but just to feed the desire of accumulation of a few Rockefellers and Morgans and Carnegies.

huey-long-stamp

He was enormously popular.  He was about to run for president, and he was shot and killed, under circumstances that remain murky to this day.

Three decades later, there was a wave of assassinations of American progressives.  JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm, Lennon, JFK Jr, Wellstone — all these men were charismatic progressives.  Less war, more sharing of the wealth.  None of their deaths has been convincingly explained, and for some of them, the stories that came out of official accounts are laughably full of contradictions and impossibilities.

There were countless others, just as visionary, but perhaps perceived as less of a threat, and they found ways to sideline their political careers without murder.  Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich, Eliot Spitzer, Russ Feingold…

These progressives give us a hint of what American politics would look like if the people’s voice were allowed to carry the day.  We can restore democracy to America.  We will restore democracy to America, and it will change the face of our country and our planet.

Huey Long would have been 125 years old today.

We say to America’s 125 millions, ‘None shall be too big.  None shall be too poor.  None shall work too much.  None shall be idle.’


They can’t shoot us all.

Mankind ready to fledge

I look at mankind and I see a species in an awkward transitionary phase, like how the ancestors of birds probably were before they really got that whole flying thing down. We’ve evolved these gigantic brains which give us a capacity for abstract thought that has enabled us to out-survive and out-thrive other competing organisms, but we haven’t yet moved into a mature relationship with that newfound capability. A human brain can make someone so crazy and miserable that he’ll blow it out of his own skull with a gun, a weapon which we invented using that same capacity for abstract thought.

Humans, to put it simply, have an unhealthy relationship with narrative. If you have ever experienced a moment of mental stillness, you know how peaceful and pleasant that experience is. It is natural and harmonious. It’s only once you add in the believed mental chatter that we suffer, we hate, we fight each other, and we can be manipulated by narratives inserted into our mental processes by plutocrat-owned media.

There is nothing inherent in the human organism which makes suffering natural or necessary; it’s only the babbling believed narratives in our minds that generate suffering. The same is true of our susceptibility to mass media manipulation.

Caitlin Johnstone

Two spirits

Native Americans traditionally assign no moral gradient to love or sexuality; people are judged for their contributions to their tribe and for their character. It was also a custom for parents to not interfere with nature and so among some tribes, children wore gender-neutral clothes until they reached an age where they decided for themselves which path they would walk and the appropriate ceremonies followed. The Two Spirit people in pre-contact Native America were highly revered and families that included them were considered lucky. Indians believed that a person who was able to see the world through the eyes of both genders at the same time was a gift from The Creator.

Traditionally, Two Spirit people held positions within their tribes that earned them great respect, such as Medicine Men/Women, shamans, visionaries, mystics, conjurers, keepers of the tribe’s oral traditions, singers/artists in addition to adopting orphaned children and tending to the elderly. Female-bodied Two Spirits were hunters, warriors, engaged in what was typically men’s work and by all accounts, were always fearless.

Five Genders, by Duane Brayboy

Epiphany

Epiphany is an unveiling of reality. What in Greek was called epiphaneia meant the appearance, or arival, among mortals of a divinity, or its recognition under a famailiar shape of man or woman.  Epiphany thus interrupts the everyday flow of time and enters as one privileged moment when we intuitively grasp a deeper, more essential reality hidden in things or persons.  A poem-epiphany tells about one moment-event, and this imposes a certain form.

A polytheistic antiquity saw epiphanies at every step, for streams and woods were inhabited by dryads and nymphs, while the commanding gods looked and behaved like humans, were endowed with speech, could, though with difficulty, be distinguished from mortals, and often walked the earth.  Not rarely, they would visit households and be recognized by hosts. The Book of Genesis tells about a visit paid by God to Abraham, in the guise of three travelers. Later on, the epiphany or appearance, the arrival of Christ, occupies a central place in the New Testament.

Czeslaw Milosz (?)

 

The Noble Soul of Solomon Northup

I recently completed reading Twelve Years a Slave, the autobiography of a free Negro from New York who was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in 1841.  Maybe we don’t need these graphic reminders of the brutality with which slaves were routinely treated in America’s ante-Bellum Deep South, but two things about Northup’s account command our attention.  First, his extraordinary erudition and fine writing style, in a man who had limited educational opportunity early in life, and who, prior to writing this volume, had not been permitted paper or pen for 12 years.  Second, and more remarkable yet, is the generosity of spirit with which he regards the very men responsible for the whippings and deprivations that made his life a living hell.  I can only compare him to Nelson Mandela, who so magnanimously forgave the men who held him a political prisoner for 27 years.

The existence of Slavery in its most cruel form among them, has a tendency to brutalize the humane and finer feelings of their nature. Daily witnesses of human suffering—listening to the agonizing screeches of the slave—beholding him writhing beneath the merciless lash—bitten and torn by dogs—dying without attention, and buried without shroud or coffin—it cannot otherwise be expected, than that they should become brutified and reckless of human life. It is true there are many kind-hearted and good men in the parish of Avoyelles—such men as William Ford [Northup’s first owner, for a brief period]—who can look with pity upon the sufferings of a slave, just as there are, over all the world, sensitive and sympathetic spirits, who cannot look with indifference upon the sufferings of any creature which the Almighty has endowed with life. It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that the rod is for the slave’s back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.

There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones—there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not—may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance—discourse flippantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life; but let them toil with him in the field—sleep with him in the cabin—feed with him on husks; let them behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they will come back with another story in their mouths. Let them know the heart of the poor slave—learn his secret thoughts—thoughts he dare not utter in the hearing of the white man; let them sit by him in the silent watches of the night—converse with him in trustful confidence, of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and they will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves.