Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why Socialism?

By Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The weekend starts here

Sitting by the fire watching Boston legal with me morning coffee. Ahhhh

Internet on

Go

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Max Brooks

This past weekend at Comic-Con — the geek ground zero held every summer in San Diego — it was announced that Brad Pitt would star in the film version of World War Z, a book by author Max Brooks (son of director Mel) that takes the form of an oral history of a zombie war. Set to be directed by Marc Forster, who helmed the last James Bond film, World War Z is the pinnacle of Brooks' zombie-obsessed career, which began in 2003 with the publication of The Zombie Survival Guide. That book recently marked its one-millionth copy sold. Brooks recently spoke to TIME about all things flesh-eating.

How did this all get started?

It started with Y2K. It started at a time which most of my readers don't remember. Most of the 20-somethings, they can't conceive a time when oil was cheap, America was at peace and the biggest star in the country was Freddie Prinze Jr. I feel like we're in the 1930s trying to explain the 20s, saying, "Yeah, there was a time when liquor was banned and everything was booming." During Y2K, there were all these survival guides coming out. And I thought, what about a survival guide for zombies? I went looking for it as a reader, not a writer. And I couldn't find it. And I thought, I'm into zombies, I'm OCD and I have a lot of free time...
(See top 10 post-apocalyptic books.)

Will we ever be finished with zombies?

Zombies are apocalyptic. I think that's why people love them because we're living in, not apocalyptic times, but I think we're living in fear of the apocalyptic times.

It's like with the Large Hadron Collider. There was a small chance the universe would implode if they turned it on.

And it was the same for the first atom bomb. They wondered if the atmosphere would catch on fire. Literally, they thought, "Will the chain reaction just not end?" I think that's why people are scared of zombies. Other monsters, you've got to go out and find. We're living in times where there are these really big problems. We've got terrorism, economic problems, unpopular wars, social meltdowns. The last time we dealt with this stuff was in the 70s, and that was the last time zombies were really popular.

People are proclaiming this a mini zombie renaissance, but were zombies ever really out of the cultural landscape?

That's the thing. When I started writing, there was nothing about zombies. It was all teen movies, which to me are scarier than zombies, but that's another story. I think now, people need a sort of safe vessel for the end of the world. You can read The Zombie Survival Guide or watch Dawn of the Dead and then go to bed saying, "Oh, it's just zombies."

Try doing that with The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Nuclear war can really happen. I think zombies are safe. Zombies are manageable. You can't shoot the Gulf oil spill in the head. I think some of these problems are too big and too tough to understand. What does the global financial meltdown of 2008 mean? I can't explain it, and I sure know you can't shoot it in the head.
(See the 100 best novels of all time.)

Speaking of, there is a lot of weaponry in the book, but not everyone is going to have a shotgun at home.

As they shouldn't. "Blades don't need reloading." It's right there on the back of the book. We're going for something you don't need to reload. Plus, you're going need a weapon that you can train with, something that looks remotely legal.

Can I kill a zombie with a baseball bat?

It would take a lot. A human skull is really hard. You've got to destroy the brain. You've got to hit and hit and hit. If you've got a bladed weapon, just chop the head off. Just don't step on head because it's still biting. So Birkenstocks are a no-no.

Attire is also extremely important in the book.

Tight clothes and short hair. You don't want to get grabbed. Dreads are not a good idea. Footwear, no matter what, it's got to be broken in. You don't want to go out and get a new pair of combat boots the day before a zombie outbreak because the blisters you're going to get are just going to slow you down and hurt your feet and then they're going to get you.

Are you done with zombies?

You know, I don't know. Zombies are so popular.There's a lot of chaff out there. For every one person who is legitimately passionate about zombies, there are a hundred people who are thinking, "Hey, I can make a buck off of this." The problem is that some of their stuff is so lame. Zombie hacks will write a whole book on one joke. They're not into it. You could waterboard these people and they wouldn't be able to tell you why they're into this stuff. If you literally took some of these people and put them in a room in Gitmo said, "Tell me the difference between a zombie and a ghoul." They wouldn't be able to do it. "I don't know. I'm just doing Sesame Dead Street. Isn't that funny? Zombie puppets."
(See the 100 fiction books of 2009.)

When you were writing the book, how did you make sure the survival techniques were legit if you took the zombies out?

There's no substitute for real research. I had to find out how everything from how much water you needed to survive each day right down to the comfortable shoes. Any survival guide will tell you, don't buy a pair of combat boots before any disaster. They'll tear your feet up. Or water. Don't bring water with you because it'll tire you out and you'll lose too much fluid. Bring a water pump.

Right now, is there a nation or group of people who could best survive a zombie attack?

Well, in World War Z, I would say that Cuba's in a pretty good spot. North Korea is probably pretty well situated to survive a zombie plague. Honestly, I think we are. I think Americans are at our best when we recover from a crisis. We've suffered some blows that other countries would have never recovered from. Any other country would have been knocked on its ass after Pearl Harbor, and that would have been it. We survived 9/11 and eight years of Bush and look what we dealt with. There have been many times in America's history where people have said, "We'll America's finished." They said that post-Vietnam.

Look at Obama and the fact that we live in a nation where a group of people went from slavery to the White House. No other nation has been able to do that. Suck on that, Europe. Oh yeah, you think you're so superior to us? When was the last time Spain had a Basque president? Or Britain had an Indian prime minister? Or France had an Algerian president? Or Germany had a Jewish chancellor? We're really able to bust through our social taboos and get stuff done when it needs doing.

I feel like that's interesting because most would probably argue that Americans don't have the mindset to work together and tackle something as big as a zombie attack.

I was in New York on 9/11 and I think we were amazing. The whole idea of a terrorist attack was to sow terror. New York wasn't terrorized. I spent the whole day going from hospital to hospital trying to give blood and the lines were out the door. The whole city was looking for ways to help. They were evacuating calmly, nobody was running around screaming, "Oh my God, we're all going to die." And if there was ever a time to do it, that would have been it. Instead, the city came together and said, "Okay, what do we do now?"

That's funny, because in every movie, New York falls instantly.

Right. It's the first city to go. Look at the black out that happened a few years later. Everyone was like "Oh my God, here it comes: riots, looting, race wars." No, but it was little bodegas handing out ice cream because it was going to melt. And maybe our greatest weakness is that we don't see a threat coming. While Al-Qaeda is plotting and planning, we're listening to "Oops, I Did It Again." So we're not good at foresight, but when we actually do get punched in the face, we get up really quickly.


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2006405,00.html#ixzz0um1LJ3Nd

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Will Survive

"On a recent trip to Europe, a family of three generations (a Holocaust survivor, his daughter and his grandchildren) dance to Gloria Gaynor's pop song - 'I Will Survive' at concentration camps and memorials throughout Europe.

This dance is a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and a celebration of life. It is an affirmation that man can triumph over the darkest of circumstance and still strive to find beauty and peace. Similarly, each one of us has to face the adversary of our own lives and find the spirit 'to survive.'

In making this video, my intention was to present a fresh perspective to younger generations who have often become desensitized to the horrors of the Holocaust.

I hope 'Dancing Auschwitz' will allow historical memory to live on, so that the lessons of the past will be forever remembered.

Both my mother & father, as well as being my inspiration, have also been my support throughout this project. At times, when I have felt challenged by its appropriateness, they have reminded me that 'THEY CAME FROM THE ASHES- NOW THEY DANCE!'"

www.janekormanart.com



Adorable Pikachu

Friday, July 09, 2010

Party Central

The worst thing about this entire clusterfuck..... I think the majoirty of New Zealander's knew it would turn into a disaster

for a nation of binge drinkers its embarrassing

you muppets that claim to lead... do it

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

There is nothing wrong

With the youth of today.... so please NZ Govt (and NZ media hacks) let's not wage war on them

and those of us over the age of 20... show some respect for those younger than you - they aren't scary... much

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Time for some... Housekeeping

He's fallen in the water

Nothing comes close to the comedy of The Goon Show, nothing... well nothing on this earth thats for sure

I can listen to the goons for days on end

I is perhaps a tad sad but I have not fallen in the water

Saturday, July 03, 2010

So looking forward to a goold old fashioned knees up




A good ol fashioned random night, with a variety of sounds from DJ's Dalai, Jason George, Kris B and special guest Heylady (J.E.F, Welly)!

Set times will be something like Dalai 8-10, Heylady 10-12, Jason and Kris B after 12 @ Red

Friday, July 02, 2010

How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran

BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf


By Stephen Kinzer

To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club. It's great not to be the only member any more!

Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation itself. Besides, when you're filling up at a Shell or ExxonMobil station, it's hard to feel much sense of moral triumph. Nonetheless, I reserve my right to drive by BP stations. I started doing it long before this year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

My decision not to give this company my business came after I learned about its role in another kind of “spill” entirely -- the destruction of Iran's democracy more than half a century ago.

The history of the company we now call BP has, over the last 100 years, traced the arc of transnational capitalism. Its roots lie in the early years of the twentieth century when a wealthy bon vivant named William Knox D'Arcy decided, with encouragement from the British government, to begin looking for oil in Iran. He struck a concession agreement with the dissolute Iranian monarchy, using the proven expedient of bribing the three Iranians negotiating with him.

Under this contract, which he designed, D'Arcy was to own whatever oil he found in Iran and pay the government just 16% of any profits he made -- never allowing any Iranian to review his accounting. After his first strike in 1908, he became sole owner of the entire ocean of oil that lies beneath Iran's soil. No one else was allowed to drill for, refine, extract, or sell “Iranian” oil.

”Fortune brought us a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams,” Winston Churchill, who became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, wrote later. “Mastery itself was the prize of the venture.”

Soon afterward, the British government bought the D'Arcy concession, which it named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It then built the world's biggest refinery at the port of Abadan on the Persian Gulf. From the 1920s into the 1940s, Britain's standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British cars, trucks, and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.

After World War II, the winds of nationalism and anti-colonialism blew through the developing world. In Iran, nationalism meant one thing: we’ve got to take back our oil. Driven by this passion, Parliament voted on April 28, 1951, to choose its most passionate champion of oil nationalization, Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Days later, it unanimously approved his bill nationalizing the oil company. Mossadegh promised that, henceforth, oil profits would be used to develop Iran, not enrich Britain.

This oil company was the most lucrative British enterprise anywhere on the planet. To the British, nationalization seemed, at first, like some kind of immense joke, a step so absurdly contrary to the unwritten rules of the world that it could hardly be real. Early in this confrontation, the directors of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and their partners in Britain's government settled on their strategy: no mediation, no compromise, no acceptance of nationalization in any form.

The British took a series of steps meant to push Mossadegh off his nationalist path.

They withdrew their technicians from Abadan, blockaded the port, cut off exports of vital goods to Iran, froze the country’s hard-currency accounts in British banks, and tried to win anti-Iran resolutions from the U.N. and the World Court. This campaign only intensified Iranian determination. Finally, the British turned to Washington and asked for a favor: please overthrow this madman for us so we can have our oil company back.

American President Dwight D. Eisenhower, encouraged by his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a lifelong defender of transnational corporate power, agreed to send the Central Intelligence Agency in to depose Mossadegh. The operation took less than a month in the summer of 1953. It was the first time the CIA had ever overthrown a government.

At first, this seemed like a remarkably successful covert operation. The West had deposed a leader it didn't like, and replaced him with someone who would perform as bidden -- Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

From the perspective of history, though, it is clear that Operation Ajax, as the operation was code-named, had devastating effects. It not only brought down Mossadegh's government, but ended democracy in Iran. It returned the Shah to his Peacock Throne. His increasing repression set off the explosion of the late 1970s, which brought to power Ayatollah Khomeini and the bitterly anti-Western regime that has been in control ever since.

The oil company re-branded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This corporate tradition has evidently remained strong.

Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian history have been less surprised.

Stephen Kinzer is a veteran foreign correspondent and the author of Bitter Fruit and Overthrow, among other works. His newest book is Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future.

Copyright 2010 Stephen Kinzer