And So, My Fellow Americans: Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You ………

For a few months now, I've been sensing a shifting vibration in the comment section of ZH and it’s something I wanted to talk about. There’s a growing undercurrent of inevitable defeat and resignation in the air and if nothing else, we need to be aware of and acknowledge it. I suspect some of it has to do with the very nature of Zero Hedge, which has a single minded focus; to expose the ugly underbelly of the beast and its various assorted minions, lackeys, stooges and front men. So the range of comments that are "on topic" will obviously be narrower (and a bit more negative) than a standard financial news blog or a general interest news site. This is to be expected. Tyler, Marla and the rest of the crew set the beat and we dance to the tune.

In addition, the invited contributors are guests of Zero Hedge and pretty much stay within the Zero Hedge theme, though poor Leo gets beat up for being realistic (some would say optimistic) in his assessment that the rocket fueled market rise isn’t over. I can't speak for the others but my sense of social grace demands that I not burden or embarrass my host by singing off key. After Tyler invited me to contribute and Marla showed me the house, my primary question was "What were the house rules"? Marla said that other than the obvious, meaning no loud parties, keep my feet of the coffee table and use a coaster under my glass, there really were no rules. The ultimate judge of whether an article is off base would be the reception it receives on ZH. She wouldn't need to run me out of town if I bombed or went off the reservation because the ZH community would do it for her. Fair enough. But this is a financial blog and I’ve often wondered where the line is between inbounds and out.

With that in mind and with sufficient rope in hand to hang myself, I’d like to start a new dialogue. There seems to be a growing survivor’s vibe on ZH that has ballooned as the stock market rise has continued in defiance of all known laws of gravity. There’s quite a bit of anticipation that the bubble’s going to blow soon and it's going to be ugly when it does. And while everyone doesn’t subscribe to this perspective, in my view we seem to be developing a herd mentality that is narrowing our focus and tolerance for contrary views. Considering this is a contrary blog, we’re becoming somewhat intolerant of contrary views. In my humble opinion these are warning signs, and this was the reason I decided to post my "How To Start A Populist Movement In Under Three Minutes" article. My intent was to break up the music mix and spin some new tunes. And as always, I wanted to spark discussion and debate.

The response was great, with many jumping in and providing intelligent and thoughtful feedback, proving once again that the real value and hidden treasure of ZH is in the comments section. In fact, there appears to be a movement growing already, with many discussing the idea of a one page synopsis of the top issues we're facing that can be quickly distributed to friends and community. This was an excellent example of proactive thinking rather than reactive, of positive instead of negative; a sign of healthy community discourse. In fact, there was an wonderful comment posted by "Bob" that I would like to (in part) repost because it deserves closer attention. He (assuming Bob is a he) brings up a valid point and something I was hoping to see. Bob said....

"I'm pleased to see this question addressed.  My perception of the ZH commenter community's evolution from the beginning to now is that the herd here has developed ever more sophisticated rationales, analyses, arguments and proofs, excuses, etc., for fatalistic surrender to impotence in the face of the criminal mass clusterfuck by the banksters and their minions. This strikes me lately as the perfect soil for a non-movement . . . a potential crop that just never germinated. If I were a NSA psy-ops guy, I can see that clever passivity would be a great thing to cultivate as cool enlightenment. I would indeed like to see something different here, however."

Further down, in response to some back and forth commenting, Bob makes another valid point. He says……

“I do understand the math, B9K9, but I don't understand sitting back.  That posture may be good for the individual, but the larger community (it seems to me) deserves more from the people who are most knowledgeable--meaning much of the ZH readership--than for us to circle our wagons and simply await the fireworks together. I understand the odds of it making any difference, but it strikes me as throwing in the towel. Do I have an active alternative to offer? Not in cyberspace, I'm afraid.”

The focus of my articles and comments, particularly since I was invited to be a contributor, has been to see the bigger picture, to look within the mind as well as over the hill, to see beyond the single minded perspective of “the one” and gain the perspective of the many. If we were to dogmatically follow a path of strict self interest in our thinking and actions, the community as a whole, whether in cyberspace or in earth space, would rapidly disintegrate into a narcissistic naval gazing self centered hell hole.

In my view, Bob quite eloquently challenged us to see not only that we need to move beyond the self, the ego, but that we must do so, that it is our obligation as members of this community to reach out to others and return far more than we consume. He’s talking about the selfless impulse of community service in whatever form it may take. Bob is challenging us to put our money where our mouth is and do something rather than just talk about it. His comments certainly hit home with me. While my message has been consistent, I’ve been timid and hesitant, reluctant to push any harder than to drop ideas and concepts here and there and see what germinates. As I said earlier, some of that has to do with my position as a guest. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do more.

So are we just sitting around, waiting for Armageddon to arrive to prove us correct in our assessment? Are we endlessly discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin while congratulating each other on how refined our analysis is? I don't mean to be harsh or critical. ZH is by far the best blog I've ever seen, with an active community of dedicated contributors and posters of obvious high intelligence, open mindedness and tolerance for contrary views and opinions. The community is the icing on the cake Tyler, Marla and company serve up piping hot on a daily basis. Hands down, we have a great community.

But where are we going and what will our contribution be to the community outside of ZH if we’re correct and the world is headed for a very painful awakening? What if it doesn’t? We talk all the time about the sleepwalking masses. I published two articles titled "End of Empire" which obviously speaks to where I think things are headed, though I expect the unwinding to be agonizingly slow as the vampire powers extract every last ounce of blood from the body, eventually killing it’s energy source. But what am I doing about it? How am I preparing myself and my community for what I see coming? If you think this thing through, if the veins and arteries of this nation become clogged, not only will the nation as a whole suffer greatly but the communities where we live will be impacted as well.

I found myself thinking the other day that my America, the one I grew up with and took for granted, was missing in action, AWOL, gone and seemingly never to return. And I wondered what had happened. Why wasn’t someone doing something about this? Where were the responsible people? Where did “we” go wrong? How could we have let these bastards steal that which is most important to each and everyone one of us, our identity, our national soul, our presence. It feels like someone snuck in during the night and took the very essence of America. Then I realized that this essence isn’t static or stationary, that it can’t be formed into a box or tin can which is then placed on a shelf for easy retrieval when needed. It’s much more than that.

My body is not the same “body” I possessed a month ago. Most of my cells have been replaced or repaired and technically I’m not the same person I was. But obviously I am the same. This seamless transition occurs because my essence (some would say my soul) is passed from one cell to the next, with both old and new cells acting in concert to maintain and possibly improve the whole, the entity of which each cell is a part of. The continuity provided by my consciousness ensures that my essence isn’t lost as my component parts are repaired and replaced.

Thinking this through to its logical conclusion, a deep sadness fell over me as I recognized that at some point I had failed to pass on America’s essence to the next person, the next citizen, that I was in fact AWOL, not America. America is exactly what you would expect her to be after decades of neglect and disinterest, of constant use without renewal. I looked into the belly of the beast and that beast was me. If I had been upholding my end of the bargain, these bastards would not have been able to do as much damage as they’ve done. I’m not shouldering all of the blame, only my fair share of this mess. I’m not asking us to walk a self destructive path of endless guilt and despair, only that we do an honest self assessment of our own responsibilities and (in) action and then move the ball forward.

America isn’t a land mass located in the Northern Hemisphere between the Pacific and Atlantic. America isn’t 350 million people who live within its boundaries nor is it a government drifting dangerously close to a rocky shoal in uncharted waters. America is none of these things. America is an idea, a concept, a state of mind, the cumulative product of the collective consciousness of not only its inhabitants, but of the 6.6 billion humans who live outside its borders. Which means America can renew and rebuild as quickly as we wish, for the reality of this renewal can materialize as quickly as our imagination can create it. We can change everything in an instant if that is our wish.

For example, I can instantly decide I no longer wish to be angry with my son for some silliness he may be guilty of. It’s me, and me only, who can decide at this very moment that I would rather love and hold him tight than spend another minute angry about something of no consequence. This conscious decision, not anything my son did or didn’t do, is the spark that creates the change that then effortlessly materializes. No one “makes” me angry, sad, glad or frustrated. It’s always my choice, my decision, what my reaction or perspective will be, regardless of outside influences. I decide what state of mind I possess and what will be presented to the world from one moment to the next. To blame anything or anyone else for my state of mind is nothing more than blame shifting and the ultimate in self deception. The same applies to all of us; to that state of mind we call America. This is our center, our energy source, where our true power originates. It can never be taken from us, only given away because we’re either ignorant that we posses it or tricked into believing it doesn’t exist at all.

The American renewal could begin in an instant if only we make the conscious decision. When done, it would quickly be followed by the fleeing sorcerers and magicians. It’s so deceptively simple that it remains incomprehensible. The powers-that-be have tricked us to believe that only they possess the power to change what we see. So while fully armed but convinced we are defeated, we hand over our power and turn back to our bleating. The powers may appear to be supremely arrogant, but they’re also aware that the time bomb is ticking. They’re more frightened of us than we are of them and the evidence of this is in their preparations for the end.

While there are always a thousand and one reasons not to do something and sometimes just one or two in favor, the consensus roadblock to change is awareness and self-actualization, brought about through organization. Here is a brief excerpt from the book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky.

“For most of modern life, our strong talents and desires for group effort have been filtered through relatively rigid institutional structures because of the complexity of managing groups. We haven’t had all the groups we’ve wanted, we’ve simply had the groups we could afford. The old limits of what unmanaged and unpaid groups can do are no longer in operation. The difficulties that keep self assembled groups from working together are shrinking, meaning that the number and kinds of things groups can get done without financial motivation or managerial oversight are growing. The current change in one sentence is this. Most of the barriers to group action have collapsed and without these barriers we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done.”

For thousands of years, each successive generation of the powerful have perfected the techniques and methods used to distract, deflect or destroy populist movements that have a dynamic leader. And the belief is that movements cannot exist without a leader. The failed populist movements of the past 50 years of American history are perfect examples of this. The labor, anti-war and minority movements of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were subverted from within or by execution. The same can be said with the political assassinations by the state of JFK, RFK and MLK, to name just a few. To think that such overwhelming forces could be subverted by a leader of a nascent movement is pure folly. You do not attempt to meet head on any forces that are overwhelming. But, what keeps the powerful up at night is precisely the opposite, a leaderless movement that can’t be appeased, divided or decapitated. And since the mechanisms of communication for leaderless organizations are now a central part of the economies of the world, the tools we can use to create this movement can’t be taken from us without crippling the powerful as well. Power to the people now has a new and more powerful context in which to germinate and bloom.

A very famous line from John F Kennedy's Inaugural Address of January 20, 1061 has been rattling around in my head for weeks. Kennedy was attempting to tap into the soul and creative spirit of America with his signature speech, and he continued this theme during his tragically short presidency. JFK was not only trying to wake a sleeping giant, he was doing something far more dangerous to the entrenched powers-that-be. He was attempting to transfer power back to Americans by inspiring Americans. He was showing us that we can, that we should, that we are in fact obligated and responsible as citizens of this nation to give more than we receive. Most importantly, he was telling us with actions and words that by doing so; we grow stronger both individually and collectively. This is a concept we take for granted when dealing with our families, but we’ve forgotten it’s also our responsibility and reward as citizens of this nation and our community. We complain that we’re called consumers rather than citizens. Do we deserve to consider ourselves citizens? Do we honor the concept of citizenship with little more than our rhetoric?

So with apologies to Tyler and Marla if I'm breaking the house rules and in the spirit of the season of spring renewal, I’d like to ask the ZH community what we think each of us might do to move the ball forward. Short of moving into an underground bunker with a stash of dehydrated food and emergency supplies of Playboy magazine (or Playgirl for our female contingent) if or when the breakdown comes, we'll still be living in our community and thus we'll need to make do with what's in place at that time. What can we do on a local, regional or national level that will improve our lot in life as a community and as a nation, now or later? How can we organize without leaders? As far as I’m concerned, anything goes and no comment should be shouted down as silly because quite frankly, we really have no idea how this will play out.

As inspiration, below please find Kennedy's inaugural speech in its entirety. Ready.....Set......Go!

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge—to convert our good words into good deeds—in a new alliance for progress—to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support—to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective—to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak—and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course—both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go free."

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

Cognitive Dissonance 4-5-2010

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