Facebook Slider
Get News Alerts!

Review by Thom Hartmann

I was ten years old when Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1961, and I still remember that week. Having grown up with monthly "duck and cover" drills in our elementary school, many of the kids of my generation saw the UN as the great moral force that would prevent the Soviet Union and war hawks in America from plunging the planet into a nuclear holocaust.

I remember wondering, the week his plane went down over Africa on a peace mission to the Congo, if Hammarskjöld's death would mean world war. I remember President Kennedy, on TV, saying, "Dag Hammarskjöld is dead, but the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the tasks for which he died are at the top of our agenda." I remember that I felt mildly reassured.

I remember that we talked about it in school when it happened, and we asked our teacher if the only UN leader we had ever known (he was elected in 1953 as the second Secretary General of the then-still-new institution) meant the bombs would begin to fall soon. My father reminded me today that, at the time, he had been considering creating an "old fashioned fallout shelter" in our home by putting a false ceiling into the basement and covering it with dirt from the back yard.

On July 29th of this year, Hammarskjöld would have been 100 years old. Still regarded as its greatest Secretary General, he helped shape the latter half of the 20th century, and kept the world from plunging into World War III.

As Kofi Anan said of Hammarskjöld in September of 2001, "His life and his death, his words and his actions, have done more to shape public expectations of the office, and indeed of the [United Nations] Organization, than those of any other man or woman in its history. His wisdom and his modesty, his unimpeachable integrity and single-minded devotion to duty, have set a standard for all servants of the international community - and especially, of course for his successors - which is simply impossible to live up to. There can be no better rule of thumb for a Secretary-General, as he approaches each new challenge or crisis, than to ask himself, 'How would Hammarskjöld have handled this?'"

On the United Nations website, the organization notes:

"In his final address of the year, broadcast over United Nations Radio on 31 December 1953, Mr. Hammarskjöld said:

"'....Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build for man a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just. And how can we fight for liberty if we are not free in our own minds? How can we ask others to sacrifice if we are not ready to do so?... Only in true surrender to the interest of all can we reach that strength and independence, that unity of purpose, that equity of judgment which are necessary if we are to measure up to our duty to the future, as men of a generation to whom the chance was given to build in time a world of peace.'" (UN Press Release SG/360, December 22, 1953)

The year he died, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. (Today, the United Nations dedicates an entire region of their website to Hammarskjöld.)

Thirty years later, I discovered that Dag Hammarskjöld had kept a diary, which came into print in the 1960s with the title "Markings." Reading it, I was touched in a way that no other book has done in decades. Fifteen years ago, when I owned an advertising agency in Atlanta, I bought 120 copies and mailed them to all our clients as Christmas/Chanukah presents.

"Markings" is not a political book, but, instead, is the spiritual diary of a man tortured by and yet at the same time drawn to the incredible burden he held of keeping the world from disintegrating into nuclear holocaust while both Khrushchev and US hawks like McCarthy and Vice President Nixon were doing their best to thwart his efforts. It starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961.

There are occasional veiled references to people and situations of the time, and knowing the history of the day it's not hard to figure them out, but mostly this book is the record of the personal spiritual and deeply mystical internal journey of one of the 20th century's greatest men, even as he walked through a political minefield and tried to keep the world from total nuclear annihilation.

"Markings" has developed a cult following over the 40 or so years it's been continuously in print. Two books have been written purely dedicated to decoding it - "Dag Hammarskjöld's White Book: The Meaning of Markings" by Gustaf Aulen, which sits beside my bed next to my old and tattered copy of "Markings," and "Dag Hammarskjöld: a biographical interpretation of 'Markings," by Henry P. Van Dusen.

A protestant Swede, Hammarskjöld would have called himself a Christian. I would call him a mystic who transcended Christianity. And friends I've introduced this book to - Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and agnostics - have found inspiration and meaning in it. (And for some, it was just too introspective or poetic.)

In "Markings," Hammarskjöld quotes the famous Sufi/Muslim mystic and poet Rumi: "The lovers of God have no religion but God alone." He quotes Zoroastrianists, ancient Chinese mystics, and Greeks.

As Gustaf Aulen writes, "God does not work only in the Christian sphere. His activity is universal, and its signs can easily be recognized everywhere with non-Christian religions. It is thus no accident that 'Markings' contains quotations from non-Christian authors. On the contrary, Hammarskjöld has searched - we might say, eagerly searched - for statements that can transcend the barriers between different religions."

Hammarskjöld was a Swede who loved his nation and the Scandinavian sense of "community obligation to others" (which conservatives decry as "socialism"), and an internationalist liberal with a PhD in economics. But in his heart he was a mystic.

Here are a few of his entries, just to give you a taste, a feeling, for his voice in this extraordinary diary:

On April 7, 1953, as the United Nations was voting him into an office he did not seek (up until just a few days before, he had no idea he had even been nominated), he wrote:

"Except in faith, nobody is humble. The mask of weakness or of Phariseeism is not the naked face of humility.

"And, except in faith, nobody is proud. The vanity displayed in all its varieties by the spiritually immature is not pride.

"To be, in faith, both humble and proud: that is, to live, to know that in God I am nothing, but that God is in me."

***

"That strange moment when a man's features are dissolved into the trembling shimmer on the surface of the wave, through which you peer into the depths without being able to see the bottom. You are tempted to dive and to grasp - but the water cannot be grasped, and beneath its surface you cannot breathe. One step further and the relation is destroyed, reduced to terror and error: you imagine you are taking possession of a human being, but, in fact, you are losing him. In your attempt to break down the barriers of a personality, you are building a new prison for yourself."

***

"Below even the sunniest and most secure human relationship, the abyss lies waiting - because our lack of faith is fascinated by the possibilities of the night side of life."

In 1955, struggling with communist China to release US prisoners of war from the Korean conflict, buffeted by criticism from both Khrushchev and American conservatives, Hammarskjöld wrote in his diary:

"'To the pure all things are pure.' But if a man can only reach this state by making compromises, then his striving is itself an impurity. In such matters there are no differences of degree.

"'What! He is now going to try to teach me!' --Why not? There is nobody from whom you cannot learn. Before God, who speaks through all men, you are always in the bottom class of nursery school."

***

"Before Thee in humility, with Thee in faith, in Thee in peace."

***

"So, once again, you chose for yourself - and opened the door to chaos. The chaos you become whenever God's hand does not rest upon your head. "He who has once been under God's hand, has lost the innocence: only he feels the full explosive force of destruction which is released by a moment's surrender to temptation.

"But when his attention is directed beyond and above, how strong he is, with the strength of God, who is within him because he is in God. Strong and free, because his self no longer exists."

It's unlikely that people who did not know him personally would have guessed that, during this incredibly turbulent year, the thoughts Hammarskjöld would choose to write into his diary talked of his wrestling with faith instead of world politics. In a 1955 paragraph that reminds one of great mystics like Meister Eckhart or Paramahansa Yogananda, he added:

"It is not sufficient to place yourself daily under God. What really matters is to be only under God: the slightest division of allegiance opens the door to daydreaming, petty conversation, petty boasting, petty malice - all the petty satellites of the death-instinct.

"'But how, then, am I to love God?' 'You must love Him as if He were a non-God, a non-Spirit, a non-Person, a non-Substance: love Him simply as the One, the pure and absolute Unity in which is no trace of Duality. And into this One, we must let ourselves fall continually from being into non-being. God helps us to do this.'"

On October 12, 1958, the Soviet Union exploded a 1000-kiloton nuclear bomb in an atmospheric test that shook the world. That day, Hammarskjöld wrote in his diary:

Day slowly bleeds to death
Through the wound made
When the sharp horizon's edge
Ripped through the sky.
Into its now empty veins
Seeps the darkness.
The corpse stiffens,
Embraced by the chill of night.
Over the dead one are lit
Some silent stars.

On the next page, perhaps at day's end, he wrote, simply, "Lord - Thine the day, And I the day's."

"Markings" is the diary of a man who was deeply struggling to fill himself with the transcendent, who had touched it and knew it, but also struggled with the humanness that so often keeps us from it. It's a frank and extraordinary insight into another person's soul, into his spiritual battles, his doubts, fears, and joys.

There is no mention in the book, other than in the most oblique of terms, of his work with the United Nations. Instead, we simply find the true heart - and the deepest anguish - of one of history's greatest statesmen and peacemakers.

Just a few months before he died, he wrote:

Sleepless questions
In the small hours:
Have I done right?
Why did I act
Just as I did?
Over and over again
The same steps,
The same words; Never the answer.

In his final speech to the UN, he compared the struggle for world peace with the progression in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (his favorite) from the stormy, bleak First Movement into the Ode To Joy of the Forth Movement. This rise from the base to the joyous, from the selfish to the selfless, from the human to the divine, was the constant effort of his life. (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was played at the UN in the commemoration of his death.)

Dag Hammarskjöld's extraordinary time on this world's stage - and the startling diary that he left behind - demonstrate to each of us the possibility of maintaining a deeply spiritual center, while still dealing with the most difficult problems of life. Indeed, his advice to himself was to throw himself into life with total effort, as his greatest gift both to his fellow humans and to God.

"Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live, great enough to die for," he wrote in 1952, before that fateful call from the United Nations.

Every reflective person struggles with finding his or her own personal mission, dedicating ourselves to things greater than our own short lives, and looking into the often frightening depths of our own souls. In following Hammarskjöld's discovery of his own mission, passion, and struggles with the seduction of joy and the pain of death and tragedy, we better prepare ourselves for our own inevitable confrontations with the same.

Published in Thom Hartmann

Review by Thom Hartmann

Who killed the goddess?

And why is it that there are so many men who are frantic about seizing political and economic power, subjugating women, and forcing on others their particular male-god-dominated religion?

Might understanding these issues help us understand why the dominionists who founded the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks, and now control the White House and Congress, are so in love with war and hateful toward social programs that help women and children?

Although he doesn't address the political questions in the third paragraph above, Leonard Shlain takes on the first two - and gives his readers the ability to suddenly understand that third question - in his book "The Alphabet Versus The Goddess."

The origins of violence, male dominance, and hierarchy have long been the subject of analysis by a spectrum of people and institutions ranging from the religious to philosophers to psychologists to biologists.

The theory put forward in the Bible, for example, suggests that it's God's will that men dominate women because of a mistake that the first woman, Eve, made, and that violence came from that act and showed up in the First Children when Cain killed Abel. As time went on, God got into the act, encouraging, perhaps most conspicuously Joshua, to commit acts of mass murder, even killing non-combatant women and children after having killed all the men in several communities. (Read the Book of Joshua if you want to see blood and guts that would make Bruce Willis blanch.)

Marija Gimbutas ("Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe" and other books) and Riane Eisler ("The Chalice and the Blade" and other books) suggested that there was a time in Europe when people lived tribally and in peace, and societies were matriarchal and matrilineal. They propose, more or less (this abbreviated form of explanation hardly does them justice - I recommend their books), that when humans began to herd animals and kill them for meat, we became inured to killing those we had become close to. The easy next step was killing people.

Daniel Quinn ("Ishmael" and other books) suggests that it all began with agriculture itself, particularly the cultivation of grain. Because somebody could "lock up the food," that person had the power of life and death over others, and thus were born the first kings. Interestingly, Peter Farb ("Man's Rise To Civilization") points out that the only Native American tribes that can be documented to have had a sophisticated system of slaveholding were those in the northwest where the salmon ran twice a year, producing two huge bulges in the food supply which had to be smoked and locked up (although Farb doesn't draw any conclusions from this, nonetheless his "Man's Rise" is one of the most brilliant ethnographic overviews of Native Americans ever written, and his research and thinking heavily influenced my book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight").

Psychologists and philosophers from Aristotle to Freud to Erickson have questioned whether social constructs, unconscious urges, or childrearing techniques may cause societal violence, hierarchy, and patriarchy. The debate - nature, nurture, family, culture - continues to this day.

For example, of the most brilliant of all the modern thinkers to examine neurological development and its stages, Allan Schore ("Affect Regulation and the Development of the Self," a book I cite extensively in my book "The Edison Gene") demonstrates in a massive work with over 2000 footnotes how physiologically and psychologically delicate and malleable our brains our, particularly in utero and during the first two decades of life - and how learning, particularly learning to read and write, change the way our brains are organized.

Into this debate steps San Francisco physician Leonard Shlain, with his book "The Alphabet Versus The Goddess."

Shlain suggests that the idea for the book came to him during a trip to Greece, although others such as Walter Ong ("Orality and Literacy," which is not in Shlain's bibliography) and Robert Logan ("The Alphabet Effect"), had previously tilled the field by some years. Nonetheless, Ong and Logan are difficult, academic reads, and Shlain has produced an eminently readable and fascinating story of another possible origin of what many consider to be the triune curse of humankind: war, hierarchy, and patriarchy.

The basic premise of Shlain's book is that we are naturally wired to be cooperative, nurturing, and probably matriarchal in social organization. Evidence of this - particularly evidence of the worship of goddesses along with gods - is widespread around the ancient world, and among indigenous peoples today.

But, Shlain says, when we teach abstract alphabets - the type where the letters are not pictures of the meaning conveyed - to children at an early age, we cause the abstract/male side of their brains to rise up and take over, suppressing the intuitive/holistic/female side. Males are particularly susceptible to this, although women like Ann Coulter (assuming she actually was born as a woman) demonstrate that it can happen to females, as well.

Shlain is a surgeon, and he goes into some length about the brain and brain development, although in a way that's palatable for a general audience. Indeed, his oversimplification for a mass audience has been one of the main points for which he is criticized: The old left-brain/right-brain theory is nowhere as simple as it was presented when first rolled out a few decades ago.

Nonetheless, Shlain's neurobiology isn't terribly in error, and his history is pretty startling. He documents how society after society across the world and across the arc of "civilized" history, suddenly became violent, patriarchal, and hierarchal after the mass introduction of alphabetic writing.

For example, he points out how Europe, during the largely illiterate dark ages, exploded into Mary worship (she was more often worshipped during that era than was Jesus) and an obsession with the Holy Grail (which he notes bears a connection to the first cup the Greeks he says was shaped after the breast of Helen of Troy, and is receptive and thus feminine).

Once literacy began to expand across Europe, an orgy of witch-hunts, pogroms, and inquisitions came about, leading to the murder of literally millions of women. (This continued in major cities like Boston in the United States right up to the late 1600s, and goes on in remote locations around the world - as does violence toward women, patriarchy, and hierarchy pretty much everywhere in the "civilized" world - to this day.)

Shlain repeats this example throughout the book, in culture after culture, nation after nation, era after era. It's fascinating, even when it gets repetitive.

Although Shlain doesn't mention Rudolph Steiner or the Waldorf Schools that Steiner created in the 1920s, there is an interesting parallel. Steiner said that children didn't come fully into the physical world until around the age of seven, and therefore shouldn't be "forced" to learn to read before that time. Similarly, Jean Piaget suggested that before seven, children were living in a semi-dream state. Joseph Chilton Pearce refers to it as the "magical child" period (also the title of one of his books).

Overall, Shlain's book is a brilliant start at trying to understand the problem that we see so clearly in the testosterone-driven war-obsessed behaviors of George W. Bush and the men and women around him - as well as previous tyrants and despots who used high-sounding language to justify mass killing and seemed to be in love with the process.

It points to the individual but, more importantly, illuminates the society that produces that individual, and gives us pause to consider where humanity has been, where it's going, and how we may get there intact.

(After you read it, if you find the topic as fascinating as do most who are exposed to it, then pick up copies of "The Chalice and the Blade" by Riane Eisler, "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn, and "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," which I wrote. All three also tackle our environmental and political problems in a cultural context and bring more light to bear on the issues Shlain raises.)

Published in Thom Hartmann

Review by Thom Hartmann

If you want to understand what transformed the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence, and that into the United States of America - and where we've done well and erred from there - you must first read robert wolff (he prefers the lowercase usage).

Although wolff's book "Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing" doesn't once mention the Enlightenment, Jefferson, or even the USA, it's nonetheless one of the most essential books to read for anybody who wants to understand the genesis of this nation and the original understandings of our Founders. This is because fifty years ago in the deepest forests and jungles of Malaysia, wolff - a psychologist who now, well into his 80s, is one of our wisest elders - made the same discovery that had fueled Rousseau's 1754 masterpiece "Discourse On Inequality" which, along with Rousseau's later book, "The Social Contract," was a primary influence of Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans.

Rousseau opened "The Social Contract" (and jolted Enlightenment thinkers, including - in a big way - Jefferson) with this sentence: "Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains."

Similarly, in "Original Wisdom" wolff writes about how the Malaysian slang word for the Sng'oi people of the Malaysian jungles was "Sakai," a word that once meant "slave," and how when he first met the Sng'oi, he naively referred to them as Sakai:

After I grew to know the Sng'oi, the People, and when I knew they accepted me, I apologized for having spoken of them as slaves before I knew what they called themselves.

We were sitting around the embers of a little fire in the early evening. There was a flickering oil lamp shedding some light on the porch of one of the little shelters. In this settlement there were four houses; no more than fifteen people lived here. After the sun went down, we sat around, talking now and then, mostly just being together.

I had learned a little of their language, I tried to understand some of what they were saying, but I never became really fluent. My apology was a simple phrase. I said I hoped they did not mind that I had called them Sakai. I was not sure whether I had said it right, and for a long time there was no reaction at all.

I imagined that I saw smiles on a few faces, but it was dark. I could not be sure. Long silences were not unusual among the People. Often someone would say something that would be followed by silence until, finally, one person would answer. This one person obviously spoke for the group, but I often wondered how he or she knew what to say for the group.

This time, again, one person answered. He - a rather adventuresome young man, I was told later - spoke slowly, simply, for my benefit perhaps. "No," he said, "we do not mind when others call us Sakai. We look at the people down below - they have to get up at a certain time in the morning, they have to pay for everything with money, which they have to earn doing things for other people. They are constantly told what they can and cannot do.' He paused, and then added, 'No, we do not mind when they call us slaves."

When I first encountered "Original Wisdom" it was titled "What It Is To Be Human," published by an obscure press, and out of print. A friend had shared it with me, and I was so astounded - and transformed - by the experience of reading it that I immediately did two things.

The first was to call a publisher I knew, Ehud Sperling at Park Street Press/Inner Traditions, and tell him I'd found one of the most important books of our generation, that it was out of print, and that he had both an opportunity and an obligation to share it with the world. (After reading the book, Ehud agreed, which is why Original Wisdom is now back in print.) The second was that Louise and I got on a plane and flew from Vermont to the big Island of Hawai'i to share a week sitting and talking with - and learning from - robert wolff. He has been one of my best and most insightful mentors ever since.

In the first centuries after European contact with the "savages" of North America in the late 15th century, the Founders of this nation were reading - in their day - the then-equivalent of robert wolff's modern work. And they were, in many cases, living with experiences eerily similar to those he documents in "Original Wisdom." Nearly all are now either out of print, or in obscure academic publications; most are written in the style of the 17th and 18th centuries that is, today, considered largely unreadable.

As I noted in my book "What Would Jefferson Do?":

"So much in answer to your inquiries concerning Indians," Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams in June, 1812, "a people with whom, in the early part of my life, I was very familiar, and acquired impressions of attachment and commiseration for them which have never been obliterated. Before the Revolution, they were in the habit of coming often and in great numbers to the seat of government, where I was very much with them. I knew much the great Ontasset, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees; he was always the guest of my father, on his journeys to and from Williamsburg."

On June 19, 1754, when Jefferson was only nine years old, Ben Franklin had introduced the Albany Plan of Union at a meeting attended by both his pre-revolutionary compatriots and a delegation from the Iroquois Confederation. Franklin had earlier attended an Iroquois Condolence Ceremony in 1753, and used Iroquois symbols both in his language and his design for early American currency. In 1770, Franklin wrote, "Happiness is more generally and equally diffus'd among Savages than in civilized societies. No European who has tasted savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." ...

Adams replied to Jefferson's letter on June 28, 1813, by saying, "I have also felt an interest in the Indians, and a commiseration for them from my childhood. Aaron Pomham, the [Indian] priest, and Moses Pomham, the king of the Punkapang and Neponset tribes, were frequent visitors at my father's house, at least seventy years ago. I have a distinct remembrance of their forms and figures. They were very aged, and the tallest and stoutest Indians I have ever seen. The titles of king and priest, and the names of Moses and Aaron, were given them, no doubt, by our Massachusetts divines and statesmen.

"There was a numerous family in this town, whose wigwam was within a mile of this house. This family were frequently at my father's house, and I, in my boyish rambles, used to call at their wigwam, where I never failed to be treated with whortleberries, blackberries, strawberries or apples, plums, peaches, etc., for they had planted a variety of fruit trees about them. But the girls went out to service, and the boys to sea, till not a soul is left. We scarcely see an Indian in a year."

Similarly, many of the Europeans wanted to become "savages" and live among the Indians:

Over the next hundred years, as more and more Whites encountered Native Americans, the incidence of Whites joining Indian tribes dramatically increased. Derisively termed "White Indians" by the colonists, thousands of European immigrants to the Americas simply walked away from the emerging American society to join various Indian tribes. Ethnohistorian James Axtell wrote that these early settlers joined the Indians because "they found Indian life to possess a strong sense of community, abundant love, and uncommon integrity" Axtell quoted two White Indians who wrote to the people they'd left behind that they'd found, "the most perfect freedom, the ease of living, the absence of those cares and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us."

In 1747, Reverend Cadwallader Colden wrote of the growing exodus of Whites for Indian life: "No Arguments, no Intreaties, nor Tears of their Friends and relations, could persuade many of them to leave their new Indian Friends and Acquaintance; several of them that were by the Caressings of their Relations persuaded to come Home, in a little Time grew tired of our Manner of living, and ran away again to the Indians, and ended their Days with them."

While most people in the modern world think of contemporary tribal people as hungry to join our civilized world, wolff found the Sng'oi just as happy with their own democratic culture as Colden found Native Americans in the 1700s.

Similarly, Colden wrote: "Indian Children have been carefully educated among the English, cloathed and taught, yet, I think, there is not one Instance, that any of these, after they had Liberty to go among their own People, and were come to Age, would remain with the English, but returned to their own Nations, and became as fond of the Indian Manner as those that knew nothing of a civilized Manner of living."

Not being fettered to eight or more hours of work a day to enrich some person or corporation at the top of an economic food chain, people in democratic indigenous cultures spend much of their time interacting with their children. James Bricknell, who was captured by the Delaware in the early 1800s and lived among them for several years before returning to his family, wrote in 1842: "The Delawares are the best people to train up children I ever was with-- Their leisure hours are, in a great measure, spent in training up their children to observe what they believe to be right-- They certainly follow what they are taught to believe right more closely, and I might say more honestly, in general, than we Christians-- I know I am influenced to good, even at this day, more from what I learned among them, than what I learned among people of my own color."

Similarly, in his afterword to "Original Wisdom," wolff writes:

The stories in this book are about people who have worldviews different from the Western one. They know their world differently. ... My translation into English words and an English sentence structure can only clumsily represent another view of reality. ...

It is difficult for Westerners to accept that people and their worlds are inseparable. Now all ancient worlds are threatened by our greed, our machines, our civilization. A young Sng'oi man told me the People are dying out; others have told me they have no place to run to anymore. As Hawaiians say, Hi'ina mai ki puana -- Let the story be told! ...

My luck was to find people who were human in an ancient way. My luck was to recognize and reclaim a humanity rooted in the earth. ...

May these stories help others remember.

 

Published in Thom Hartmann

Review by Thom Hartmann

This marvelous book is ostensibly presented as an argument for keeping the Estate Tax (aka the Inheritance Tax and now renamed by wealthy conservatives as the Death Tax). And if that's all it were about and all it had in it, I'd put it on a list of "good to know about" books and leave it at that.

But "Wealth and Our Commonwealth" is really much larger than just a book about Estate Taxes. Instead, it's one of the finest treatises in print about the history of progressive economics in America.

Most Americans these days don't remember why (or when) we instituted a progressive income tax, or why taxes even matter in society beyond the obvious issue of paying the cost of government functions like police and fire departments. They don't realize that the Founders of our republic had a visceral and intense concern about multigenerational accumulated wealth and the power of great wealth to corrupt democracy itself. They know that none of the supposedly "rich" founders left great fortunes and no foundations bear their names, and that the foundations of today are only named after people who lived in the late 19th and 20th centuries -- but they don't know why.

Most Americans also don't realize that a middle class is not a normal thing, and is brought about by direct intervention in the marketplace by government, including laws protecting labor, defining minimum wages, and taxing great wealth.

Without these progressive foundations, America would revert to what it looked like during the era of the Robber Barons -- the average worker earning the equivalent of around $9,000 a year in today's dollars, and a wealthy elite so rich and powerful that every branch of government was under their direct or indirect control.

America's first middle class was based on land and the family farm -- the agricultural nation that Jefferson idealized. That began to disintegrate after the Civil War when the railroads were so omnipresent that they made it possible for large corporations to define grain prices and drive small farmers out of business. This produced the eruptions of the Grange movement, and the Progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that brought us direct election of the Senate, the right of women to vote, laws protecting the right to unionize, the estate tax, and a progressive income tax.

These all set the stage for the emergence of the second American middle class, which only began to decay with the "Reagan Revolution" in the 1980s when Reagan declared war on organized labor and conservatives in Congress began dismantling progressive taxes.

"Wealth and Our Commonwealth" has one of the very best (and certainly the most concise) explanations of why progressive economic policies are essential to maintain a middle class -- and why a middle class is necessary for a functioning democracy. It's summarized in fewer than 20 pages in the first chapter, "What Kind Of Nation Do We Want To Be?"

The second chapter -- "The Origins of America's Estate Tax" -- is an extraordinary overview of the history of wealth, power, and democracy in the United States. It's essential reading for every American, and particularly for progressives who want to understand the interplay of economics and democracy in this nation (and around the world -- the principles are universal).

The third chapter starts just short of halfway through this 140 page masterpiece, and chronicles the rise among the wealthy of an organized opposition to the estate tax, and the sometimes shockingly devious means they use to convince average people they should be opposed to this tax. The book wraps up with several chapters about the politics of the estate tax, and a final, brilliant chapter that neatly frames the issue of "What We Owe Our Society."

There was a time in America when everybody understood that taxes are the price of admission to a civil society. And we called "freeloaders" those people who tried to avoid paying taxes, but still wanted to make use of public facilities from roads to bridges to fire and police protection.

Restoring a strong middle class and the vibrant democracy it makes possible will only happen if we wake up enough Americans to the conservative war against democracy and the middle class. Reading and sharing "Wealth and Our Commonwealth" is one of the most important first-steps you can take in helping bring about this awakening.

 

Published in Thom Hartmann

Review by Thom Hartmann

During the 1988 presidential campaign, Republican partisans began employing an unusually skillful use of language and advertising technique. The Willie Horton ads, for example, used an old NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) technique of "Anchoring via Submodalities," linking Dukakis, at an unconscious level in the viewer's mind, to Willie Horton by the use of color versus black-and-white footage, and background sound. After a few exposures to these psy-ops ads, people would "feel" Willie Horton when they "saw" Dukakis.

It was no accident. Toward the end of that campaign, I was presenting at an NLP conference in New York, and a colleague mentioned to me how the GOP had hired one of our mutual acquaintances to advise them on the tools of persuasion. "He's gone over to the dark side," my friend said sadly.

NLP and similar psychological techniques are somewhat like the Force referred to in the Star Wars movies -- they can be used to heal or they can be used to manipulate (within limits). They're grounded in the sciences of linguistics and hypnosis, and were first identified and codified in the late 1960s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.

I'd first learned NLP in the healing context in 1978, when I was the Executive Director of a residential treatment facility for severely emotionally disturbed and abused children, and found it a powerful therapeutic tool. I applied an NLP technique called "Reframing" to the issue of Attention Deficit Disorder, suggesting that kids with ADD were "hunters in a farmer's world" instead of "defective," a concept endorsed by NLP co-founder Richard Bandler (who trained me) in a foreword he wrote for one of my books and written up in a TIME magazine cover story in 1993. I'd also spent about a decade teaching NLP and training NLP Practitioners.

At the same time NLP was being used for therapy and to enhance communications, the dark side of the force was getting aggressive. Newt Gingrich in particular -- skilled in these techniques -- was working with Republican leaders and conservatives in the media to frame the word "liberal" as something akin to "traitor," an effort that ultimately led to his infamous "secret" memo to GOP leaders titled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control."

As FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) notes, Newt wrote, "Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. ... Apply these [words] to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

"Decay... failure (fail)... collapse(ing)... deeper... crisis... urgent(cy)... destructive... destroy... sick... pathetic... lie... liberal... they/them... unionized bureaucracy... "compassion" is not enough... betray... consequences... limit(s)... shallow... traitors... sensationalists...endanger... coercion... hypocrisy... radical... threaten... devour... waste... corruption... incompetent... permissive attitudes... destructive... impose... self-serving... greed... ideological... insecure... anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs... pessimistic... excuses... intolerant... stagnation... welfare... corrupt... selfish... insensitive... status quo... mandate(s)... taxes... spend(ing)... shame... disgrace... punish (poor...)... bizarre... cynicism... cheat... steal... abuse of power... machine... bosses... obsolete... criminal rights... red tape... patronage."

On the other hand, FAIR notes, Newt suggested that Republicans should also "memorize as many as possible" of the following "Positive Governing Words" to apply to any reference to Republicans or GOP efforts:

"Share... change... opportunity... legacy... challenge... control... truth... moral... courage... reform... prosperity... crusade... movement... children... family... debate... compete... active(ly)... we/us/our... candid(ly)... humane... pristine... provide... liberty... commitment... principle(d)... unique... duty... precious... premise... care(ing)... tough... listen... learn... help... lead... vision... success... empower(ment)... citizen... activist... mobilize... conflict... light... dream... freedom... peace... rights... pioneer... proud/pride... building... preserve... pro-(issue): flag, children, environment... reform... workfare... eliminate good-time in prison... strength... choice/choose... fair... protect... confident... incentive... hard work... initiative... common sense... passionate."

The result a decade of politicians and talk show hosts memorizing and parroting Newt's word list is that, in much of the public's mind, morality and patriotism are associated with conservatives while liberals are thought of in the terms described above.

And it's no coincidence that the most psychologically effective ad that the Bush campaign used in 2004 wasn't the wolf ad (that was #2) but one that had two specific NLP-based posthypnotic suggestions embedded into it, telling people that "in the quiet" and "when you're alone in the voting booth" that they "can't take the risk" of voting for Kerry. It looked like a simple check-list ad, but was saved for the last minute and played so heavily because it was so psychologically sophisticated and potent.

This is part of an overall attempt to manipulate, define, and "frame" the terms of discussion and debate in America. It's a sophisticated and well-funded project, with roots in NLP and psychology. Groups from the GOP to the most well known right-wing think tanks to the White House have been systematically using it, and the average American has absorbed thousands of hours of its output over the past two decades.

Into this fray steps George Lakoff, professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Like several of the early founders of NLP, Lakoff is a linguist, and today could easily be called one of our nation's best. Although he doesn't explicitly reference NLP in his book, it's an excellent primer in several aspects of this technology.

Lakoff opens his book with discussions of the views of government that are held by conservatives and liberals ("strict father" versus "nurturing parent"), and points out how often debates are won by conservatives even before the discussion has begun because they were first to seize control of the language. Part of this, Lakoff notes, is the result of a genuine difference in worldviews, but a larger and more insidious part is an intentional effort by conservatives to frame the terms of national discourse.

For example, when discussion is held about "tax relief," two historic understandings of taxation are lost: that taxes are the cost of admission to a civil society, and that those who want to evade taxes yet still use public assets like fire and police protection are freeloaders. Instead, taxes are cast as something oppressive, from which we need relief.

Perhaps the most useful part of the book is the end -- although the book is best read straight through, so the concepts in the end are in context -- where Lakoff presents his own far more ethical and honest version of Newt's famous word list. For example, where conservatives talk about "Strong Defense, Free Markets, Lower Taxes, Smaller Government, and Family Values," Lakoff recommends progressives reframe discussions into terms of "Stronger America, Broad Prosperity, Better Future, Effective Government, and Mutual Responsibility." He even titles his last chapter, "How to respond to conservatives," and it's filled with sound and pithy advice.

The DVD, "How Democrats and Progressives Can Win," expands particularly on this final part of Lakoff's book. It's a straightforward tutorial by Lakoff himself, and goes through a series of specific issues -- abortion, taxes, same-sex marriage, and the like -- telling progressives how to perform verbal jujitsu on conservatives, taking their frames and turning them inside out. It's best watched after reading the book, as there's a lot of shorthand in the movie that makes much more sense when you've first read the book. While it makes several references specifically about how to defeat Bush in the election of '04 -- which is now over -- the information is more useful and relevant than ever.

"Don't Think of an Elephant: know your values and frame the debate" by George Lakoff, and the DVD "How Democracy and Progressives Can Win" are vital tools for anybody interested in helping bring about a return to democracy in America. At 120 pages it's a quick read, yet the concepts contained are so important -- and explained in such an accessible fashion -- that it will transform your ability to communicate progressive values and ideas.

Published in Thom Hartmann

Review by Thom Hartmann

"Triumph of the Will," a movie made in 1934 by the legendary Leni Riefenstahl (who died in September 2003 at the age of 101), documents the 1934 Nuremberg rallies organized by Hitler's Nazis, and won gold medals for filmmaking in Venice in 1935 and in Paris in 1937. The Nazis required that the full or a truncated version of it be played before every other movie in theatres all across Germany, a requirement that stood until the Third Reich fell.

This film is important -- vital -- to see and understand for several reasons, even aside from the cinematic genius of its filmmaker. (There is an excellent biographical profile of her at http://www.leni-riefenstahl.de/eng/bio.html. The last scene of the movie, including its music, was eerily echoed in the end of George Lucas' first Star Wars movie, and other filmmakers over the years have pointed to "Will" as a seminal influence. Although she became one of the world's most famous photographers -- her last book published just last year -- she never made another movie after the fall of the Third Reich, as her reputation was so damaged by her association, at the age of 32, with Hitler in making this movie.)

The first non-cinematic reason this movie is still important 70 years after its creation is that it helps Americans demystify the rise of Hitler and helps us understand that the German people of that era were neither cartoon characters nor incarnations of evil, but real and average people swept up in a nationalist hysteria. Keep in mind that this movie was made just a year after the nation's most famous building had been burned in a "terrorist attack" that Hitler blamed first on communists and later on Jews, and he used the attack on the German Parliament Building to consolidate his rise to power. And that this movie was a very large part of the barrage of propaganda Germans absorbed in the 1930s (when you see the film, this realization will take on added significance).

Just prior to the filming of "Will," Hitler had also achieved passage of the famous Enabling Acts (in response to the burning of the Reichstag), which gave the government the power to open people's mail, tap their phones, break into their homes and collect their personal financial data without a warrant, and imprison protesters or corral them into separate zones. The Acts so offended the German parliament that Hitler had to add to them a 4-year sunset provision, so they'd automatically expire should his war on terrorism end within that time span. And they helped insure that there would be no protesters at the 1934 rally documented in "Will," even though at that time -- only a year into Hitler's reign -- many within Germany still openly opposed him. (One of the best books on this is Milton Mayer's "They Thought They Were Free," which you may want to read after watching this movie. Or just read this excerpt: http://www.thirdreich.net/Thought_They_Were_Free.html)

In the early 1930s, Germany was recovering from the crippling effects of the reparations provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that followed the end of WWI, and Hitler was widely credited with restoring both prosperity and a sense of national identity to the demoralized electorate. He worked hand-in-glove with big business to produce a giant war machine, and the side effect of all this defense-industry spending was a general increase in prosperity. The nation was being militarized while being told their national mission was to create a 1000-year reign of peace around the world. Peace through strength. Preemptive war. Get the terrorists before they can get us. Peace through military power and domination of the world.

As the world knows, Hitler and his closest advisors said Germany must find a "solution" to the "problem" of those dangerous people of middle-eastern ancestry, the Jews -- a "solution" which became the Holocaust. Ironically (or horrifyingly), in this movie you'll see the first major roll-out (by Hess, when introducing Hitler) of a word that Nazi propagandists borrowed from the Zionist movement. They began, in 1934, to heavily use the word "homeland" to promote the idea of "German blood and soil," using this word as part of an overall campaign to transform ordinary nationalism into a "patriotic" cult that quickly swept the nation.

If the first reason for seeing this movie -- aiding your historical understanding of the time and its propaganda -- is important, the second reason is vital. "Triumph of the Will" shows what can happen in a nation when its leader lies to their people, objectifies and then blames a cultural and religious "other" for their problems, stifles dissent, and -- with the complicity of an obedient media -- carefully stage-manages public appearances to seem that everybody totally adores him.

While there are parallels between the rise of George W. Bush and that of Adolf Hitler (I wrote about them just a few months after 9/11 in an article titled When Democracy Failed, which is now also a chapter in my new book "What Would Jefferson Do?"), it is disingenuous to try to draw too many comparisons. Hitler's evils -- and his ambition -- were on a scale unimaginable by Bush, and pointing out the similarities with too shrill a voice can diminish the horrors of the Holocaust and Hitler's other crimes.

But just as the CIA (then the OSS) fine-tuned its investigative techniques after WWII by learning technique from Nazi spies they brought into the agency, the Bush administration is using today -- for the first time in American history -- many of the same techniques for manipulating the people as did the Nazis in their early days (the Big Lie; controlled, adoring crowd scenes; stifling dissent; hyping terror for political gain; hypermilitarization of domestic police to create the storm-trooper look and feel).

For Americans awakened to today's realities, watching "Triumph of the Will" is an experience at once educational, enlightening, and horrifying. But it's a horror we must face if we are to avoid the same trap so many average Germans fell into in 1934.

Published in Thom Hartmann

Note From BuzzFlash:

We took the unusual step of asking our monthly "Independent Thinker" book reviewer, Thom Hartmann, to tell us a bit about his own newest book, "What Would Jefferson Do?"

Hartmann is a true citizen-scholar, in the tradition of many of the patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence. He's also a progressive radio commentator with a growing syndication.

Even though he's a BuzzFlash contributor who champions books that might otherwise not receive the attention that they should, BuzzFlash believes that many of Hartmann's writings also deserve a wider audience. In particular, we have been meaning for quite some time to interview him about his 2002 book, "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," which focuses on the threat posed by corporations legally being entitled to the same rights as people.

Hartmann is a true pro-democracy advocate. That is why he chose to focus on the Jeffersonian ideal of democracy in his latest book, which the Bush administration is trampling on as if such revolutionary thinking were weeds that needed to be stamped out.

In "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy," Hartmann reawakens the spirit of '76 that placed the ship of state in the hands of its citizens.

At a time when our Constitution and the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence are under siege by an extremist executive branch, Hartmann restores the sense of nobility and innovation that marked the creation of the great American experience in democratic rule.

* * *

How I Came to Write "What Would Jefferson Do?"

By Thom Hartmann

For the past year, I've been on the air coast-to-coast for three hours a day, five days a week, going up against Rush Limbaugh in the noon-3 PM time slot EST. Callers from California to North Carolina, Iowa to Texas, and even a few expatriate web-listeners who've dialed in from Australia, Germany, Taiwan, and Scotland, repeatedly stress a consistent set of concerns.

"I feel as though our country has lost its democracy," said one caller in New York. "Our politicians are for sale to the highest corporate bidder," said another in New Mexico. "I was arrested for standing a block away from a Bush fundraiser with a "No War for Oil," sign," said another in South Carolina.

A caller in Dallas told the story of how his masters degree in engineering and service as an officer in the army didn't qualify him to compete with the engineer in India who took his job. "I've been unemployed for 42 months," he said, "although I'm still looking every day for a good job."

There's a pervasive concern sweeping across our nation, a fear that both the economic American dream is slipping away while the ideals of American democracy have been under an organized and powerful attack since Ronald Reagan first declared war on America's workers.

In the midst of this, and with our last child grown and out of the house, Louise and I moved into an 1850 Gothic house overlooking a small town in central Vermont. In the house's dark and dusty attic we found a huge pile of old books, apparently left by an occupant in the 1920s. Among them were a 20-volume set, published in 1904, of the complete collected writings of Thomas Jefferson -- including over 10,000 of his personal letters, most never before or since published.

I was immediately addicted.

Four years later I came up for air, with a new appreciation of Jefferson's worldview and its application to today's world.

I'd discovered:

The critical missing context when he wrote his letter to Benjamin Rush in which he said, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny imposed upon the mind of man." (He was railing against churches trying to influence legislators.) I found his thoughts on progressive taxation (a person should only have to pay taxes "after satisfying his first wants" or basic needs).

Inheritance taxes ("If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance...").

Slavery (he repeatedly tried to end it, both in Virginia and nationally, believed it would have ended by 1808, and was nearly overwhelmed by despair when he failed).

The Ten Commandments as the basis of American law ("In truth, the alliance between Church and State in England has ever made their judges accomplices in the frauds of the clergy,").

And dozens of other startling aspects of Jefferson's worldview.

The result of this research -- combined with a critical look at today's world, and some startling new information about the biological basis of democracy -- became a book that was just published this month by Random House/Harmony and titled: "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy."

My hope is that it will bring a useful historical perspective, as well as a modern critique, to today's political discourse.

Published in Thom Hartmann

A Review by Thom Hartmann

What is perhaps most relevant and impressive about this book is that the first edition was published in 1997, meaning it was written in 1995/6. Nearly ten years ago, in a book about how every four generations (roughly 80 years) history repeats itself, the authors had the prescience to write:

"The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth. Americans will share a regret about recent mistakes -- and a resolute new consensus about what to do. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

"The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and efforts -- in other words, a total war.

...

"America’s post-Crisis answers will be as organically interconnected as today’s pre-Crisis questions seem hopelessly tangled. By the 2020s, America could become a society that is good, by today’s standards, and also one that works.

"Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse -- or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension."

The key thesis of the book is that there are four generations that recur every roughly 80 years, and are built into the structure of our culture and civilization. One of those four generations invariably faces a crisis, which was produced innocently enough by the actions of the preceding three and the stage of time. Each generation in a particular way is reacting in a predictable and reasonable way to the values and world-view of the one preceding it.

Roughly 80 years ago was the Great Depression and World War II. Roughly 80 years before that was the Civil War. Roughly 80 years before that, the Revolutionary War. Roughly 80 years before that, Glorious Revolution of 1675-1704. Roughly 80 years before that, the Armada Crisis of 1569-1594. And roughly 80 years before that the War of the Roses (1459-1487).

In each 80 year period, there are four turnings, produced by each of the four generations. The Fourth Turning is the one of greatest danger, maximum impact upon the world. And it’s due to happen any day now -- if it’s not already underway.

Understanding how these "turnings" come about, and the archetypal roles both each generation and individuals within them play is one of the most important keys to understanding what we can collective and individually do to bring about the most positive outcome from each Turning.

Although Strauss and Howe have written more recent books, The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny is, in my opinion, the most important of the bunch, a guidepost during this time of turbulence, providing access to the proverbial keystone that holds together our culture. It ’s certainly one of the most important and valuable books of this era.

Published in Thom Hartmann

A Review by Thom Hartmann

The best of novels always leave me wishing they hadn't ended -- I want to know more of the story, what happened next, where the characters went and what they did and how they ended up. In this exceptional work of non-fiction, Gore Vidal has used his brilliant novelist talents to produce a brief glimpse into the founding of America that left me feeling both enlightened, satisfied, and -- surprisingly for a non-fiction book -- wanting more.

Because the book is so short (189 small-format pages -- a weekend read) Vidal assumes that his readers are already well grounded in American history and thus touches only lightly on some of the more notorious issues and events in the lives of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.

For those who have read books like Charles Beard's 1932 masterpiece "The Rise of American Civilization," Fawn Brodie's seminal "Thomas Jefferson," or even my new history book "We The People," Vidal's light touch will serve as a reminder of some of the larger debates of those times, and memory will fill in the missing nuance. For those using "Inventing A Nation" as their first exploration of the lives of our most important Founders, it will evoke a hunger for more, lighting the fire of inquiry about how this nation came to be.

One of the truly marvelous aspects of Vidal's book is that it challenges, head-on, many of the most common misperceptions about our Founders (such as the notion that they really only wanted to create a country for rich white guys). He begins his myth-puncturing with the opening sentence of the book: "In the fall of 1786 the fifty-four-year-old president of the Potomac Company, George Washington, late commander in chief of the American army (resigned December 23, 1783, after eight years of active duty) was seriously broke."

As I'll be sharing in more detail on my radio program this month, page after page is filled with often subtle, often revealing, and always fascinating insights into the lives, times, personalities, idiosyncrasies, and motivations of our Founders. These range from Jefferson's idealism to Washington's stoicism to Hamilton's being "British Agent Number Seven."

My only complaint with the book -- a minor point, really -- is that Vidal refers to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party (today the longest surviving political party in world history, the Democratic Party, having dropped the "Republican" part of their name in the 1830s) by the then-common shorthand "Republican Party," which may cause confusion among readers not knowledgeable about the history of American political parties. (Vidal assumes his readers know that the modern-day Republican Party didn't come along until decades after most of the Founders were dead, being a semi-resurrection of the Whigs, who, in turn were a semi-resurrection of the Federalists).

Wrapping up the book, Vidal reveals a private conversation he had with his friend and relative-by-marriage John F. Kennedy. "...how do you explain," Kennedy asked, perhaps rhetorically, "how a sort of backwoods country like this, with only three million people, could have produced the three greatest geniuses of the eighteenth century -- Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton?"

A page and a half later, Vidal ends the book poignantly:

"Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us, as the New England hymn of my youth, based on Ecclesiasticus, most pointedly instructed us. Meanwhile, dear Jack, in the forty years since your murder, I have pondered your question, and this volume is my hardly definitive answer."

Jack Kennedy would have found both inspiration and insights in Vidal's short masterpiece, "Inventing A Nation." As will you.

Published in Thom Hartmann

A Book Review by Thom Hartmann

Class war by the rich against the working class has been openly declared in America several times -- the gilded age is a good example -- but few are as obvious, calculated, and well covered-up as the class warfare declared against average Americans by the so-called "conservatives" beginning with the Reagan administration. In "Class War In America," Charles Kelly lays bare the core of this war against the American middle class, its origins, and its methods.

The author of an earlier book titled "The Great Limbaugh Con," Kelly knows how to write in a compelling fashion (despite the fact that he has a Ph.D. in industrial communications and teaches at the university level). "Class War In America" is startling, revelatory, filled with factoids and ammunition for the water cooler wars, and is also the sort of book that you pick up on a Saturday afternoon and can't put down until bedtime when you've finished it.

Kelly's main thesis is that wage levels in a nation are more a function of power relationships than supply and demand. Although conservative pundits would have you think this contradicts classical economic theory (Smith, Ricardo, etc.), in fact it's largely in agreement with economists who have observed the growth of ancient guilds (the Masons, for example) and modern unions.

When labor has power equal to management, wages will increase and a middle class will blossom -- and when the power of labor is stripped, as Reagan systematically began when he broke the PATCO strike, wages decrease and the middle class deteriorates into the working poor at the same time corporate profits and CEO compensation explode.

One of the most remarkable parts of Kelly's work is how nearly the entire superstructure of the book is derived from quotes from conservatives themselves -- particularly Alan Greenspan -- describing in business publications like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes how they execute their strategy to reduce worker power and thus increase CEO compensation and corporate profits.

It's clear that conservatives declared class war on the American middle class in the 1980s, hired well-paid shills to run their PR machine (think Limbaugh, etc.), and, while openly discussing it among themselves in publicly available venues, have managed to keep most Americans in the dark about their real agenda.

"Class War In America" by Charles M. Kelly is a wake-up, a primer, and a powerful handbook for restoring America's middle class.

Published in Thom Hartmann
Page 7 of 8