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The Mass-Dumbing-Down of America: Donald Trump as the Canary in the Cave of Ignorance

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”— Isaac Asimov

The political right in America has been flirting with dangerous ideas for a while now, particularly on issues involving immigrants and minorities. Lately, with the advent of Donald Trump as the leading presidential candidate in the Republican Party, the rhetoric has gotten particularly insane.

To my mind, the most dangerous of those ideas is the idea that democracy means that everybody is entitled to one’s own ignorance, even worse, that, to paraphrase Asimov, one’s ignorance is as good as one’s knowledge.

If you have any doubt about the above quote by Asimov pick up the following recent books on this issue: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1964) by Richard Hofstadter; The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby; The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein; Idiot America by Charles Pierce; American Idyll: Academic Anti-Elitism as Cultural Critique by Catherine Liu. They may convince you that the problem is real indeed. If they do not convince you, you may have grounds to suspect that you have been affected by the general dumbing-down and may indeed be in chain in Plato’s cave of ignorance and mere appearances and don’t even know it.

The apotheosis of this strange anti-intellectualism which denies even the empirical evidence of science, which Asimov believes has always been integral part of American culture, arrived lately with the bizarre phenomenon of Donald Trump, who in many ways has become an icon for the millions of people who follow him as a savior of sorts and consider anti-intellectualism a sign of liberty and free speech. The question arises: How did we descend this low? The short answer is this: by the dumbing-down of the general population. Trump is nothing less than the proverbial canary in the coal mine: a sign that the oxygen of liberty and democracy is diminishing precipitously, and not only in America, but globally, especially in the West which has always been proud of democracy’s invention together with the concept of freedom. Alas, rabid nationalism and even fascism are returning with a vengeance. We seem to be back to square one in the early 30s, brown or black shirts strutting about parading their patriotism. One begins to wonder if World War II was an exercise in futility after all.

But let us explore in some detail what is the essence of this dumbing-down. Let us begin by examining the ecological catastrophe we are currently experiencing well into the 21st century. Time is running out despite the recent Paris Conference on Climate Chance which may mitigate somehow the impending catastrophe but we are hardly out of the woods yet; that will only happen if urgent action follows the empty rhetoric. As it is, the totality of destructive damage that transnational corporations have perpetrated against all forms of planetary life has destroyed the eco-systems of thousands upon thousands of animal and plant species. Of the five times that life on earth has become massively extinct in the past, we humans are rapidly causing the sixth great cycle of mass extinction and the first and fastest due to manmade effects in the form of rising global air and water temperatures and over-polluted water, air and soil. The dead zones across the planet are spreading faster rates of extinction amongst plant and animal life than at any prior time in the earth’s known history.

I checked those facts with my elder daughter who is finishing up a master in ecology and the environmental science, and she assures me that such is indeed the case. The facts are there for anybody to digest if one believes in truth. Destruction of our living habitat and eco-system carries perhaps the most damning, ultimate dumbing-down effect that the oligarchs of our brave capitalistic world of the ilk of Donald Trump and company, have caused. But then they no doubt have laid out their own contingency plan utilizing a hidden technology that can save them when the lights go out on mother earth for the rest of us lowly expendables.

Indeed, the powers that-be in the United States have been systematically dumbing-down Americans as a society for a very long time – all by calculated design. Originally the term dumbing-down was used as a slang expression in 1933 by film screenwriters to mean “revising [the script] so as to appeal to those of lower education or intelligence.” It actually began as a concept with the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller who declared that we don’t need a nation of thinkers but a nation of workers, that is to say, we need automatons who enrich the elite class and don’t do much thinking for themselves, or anybody else.

The most obvious example of how Americans have been dumbed-down is through this nation’s failed public education system. At one time not that long ago America reigned supreme as a leading model for the rest of the world providing the best quality free public K-12 education system on the planet. But over the last many decades while much of the rest of the world has been passing us by, it seems an insidious federal agenda has been implemented to condition and brainwash a population of mindless, robotic citizenry that simply does what it’s told, and of course the brainwashing commences early.

As a pawn to the military industrial complex, the US government has chosen permanent war over its own people. One can count a minimum of six major wars in the 20th century, not to mention the minor covert ones all over the globe. This misguided decision to opt for power rather than knowledge and wisdom, has decimated the middle class and created a college educated indentured class struggling in heavy debt to find any means to stay afloat. With an outsourced, now vanished manufacturing base, upward mobility and the American dream have become tragic casualties of modern life.

After centuries of carefully orchestrated design, oligarchs of the banking cabal have finally gotten what they’ve been plotting and scheming, globally enforced austerity and impoverishment reducing life in America and around the world to near Third World status, and absolute control. The oligarchs are counting on a dumbed-down population too busy addicted to their video games or watching sports or Kim Kardashian’s latest wardrobe malfunction to even notice that a longtime oligarch eugenics plan is already well underway. The fact that a Donald Trump is in the lead for his party’s nomination as the next president of the US speaks volumes by itself.

But this dismal outcome has long been in the making on many fronts. Over numerous decades a grand experiment engaging in social engineering with America’s youth has been steadily working to homogenize a lowest common denominator product of sub par mediocrity, creating generations of young Americans who can neither read nor write, nor think for themselves in any critical manner. According to a study last year by the US Department of Education, 19% of US high school graduates cannot read, 21% of adults read below 5thgrade level and that these alarming rates have not changed in the last ten years. Has anybody noticed that the debates or the Republican party are now conducted with language at the fifth grade level, complete with bullying and clownish body language and vituperations? They are not for enlightenment but for amusement and distraction. They resemble more a circus than a deliberative dialogue.

The international test results from the 2012 PISA indicate American students are lagging behind virtually all developed nations even more than in the past. China topped all 65 nations while US teenagers again scored at or below average in math, reading and science. That is because the current educational system is no longer about learning the basic A-B-C’s but simply cranking out a subclass of work force laborers. Some concerned educators have dubbed the current education system as “limited learning for lifelong labor.” That is to say, education has become training for a job and acquisition of practical skills, and consequently it is no longer education educating holistically the whole man.

But this planned system of a New World Order (NOW) featuring a planned global economy and a planned global education system has been promoted for well over a century now. The Carnegie Foundation outlined its explicit roadmap for absolute oligarch control way back in the 1930’s. Department of Education whistleblower Charlotte Iserbyt exposed the conspired downfall of America’s educational system in her well documented chronicle The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. She demonstrates that even national sovereignty gets subordinated to world authority.

The heavy focus of public education today is primarily limited to standardized test performance and the proliferation of privatized charter schools complete with private contractors teaching the tests, usurping the authority at all levels from state, to local communities, to individual teacher’s lesson plans, to home schooling parents, largely replaced by instructional software programs.

This lopsided war between fascist run propaganda schools brainwashing a Brave New World youth and the local school boards, teachers and parents battling for their lives to maintain what little choice they still have left with their children is yet another pathetic cautionary tale of what the oligarch agenda is doing to destroy America today.

Instead of encouraging the gifted by teaching to their strengths, too often they are responded to punitively by either overly frustrated and/or rigid, authoritarian adults bent on maintaining some semblance of control. The one size fits all cookie cutter system stifles learning, cognitive and intellectual development and creativity, rewarding those who acquiesce and simply do what they are told as good little boys and girls on their way to being good little employees and citizens who are so easily manipulated, controlled and subdued. They become the lifeless, walking dead who merely go through the daily motions on autopilot, too beaten down, numb and/or fearful.

A substantive quality education should teach the curious developing mind to be critical and discriminating, willing to ask questions, challenging the status quo of preconceived suppositions and accepted dogma. With an educational system that purposely misinforms and indoctrinates young people to respond as Skinnerian rats to a positive reinforcement schedule of operant conditioning, children as future adults are being shaped and programmed to become little robots easily controlled by their oligarch masters.

Another primary means of dumbing down America is through mass media. If the public is busily preoccupied with the superficial garbage spoon-fed to the masses every single day via television, movies, music, internet, video games that all act just as effective as the most potent drug dulling the senses and the brain, again an enormous control over the population is achieved and maintained. Here again Donald Trump is the perfect icon: politics reduced to entertainment. When asked where he derived his knowledge of the facts from, Trump answered “the TV shows.”With so much entertainment as the modern day opiate to the masses to divert people’s attention, these weapons of mass distraction easily render people oblivious to see what is really happening in the world. We are all being numbed and dumbed.

This too is another form of calculated brainwashing, mind control as well as behavior control that the media as vehicles of propaganda and disinformation constantly utilize. The constant 24/7 sensory bombardment that media puts on humans is one highly effective means of control over both culture and population.

Currently an incredible near 70% of all Americans are taking at least one prescription drug. Between the multibillion dollar alcohol and tobacco industries and the multibillion dollar Big Pharma industry, these corporate entities wield colossal amounts of power in America, buying off politicians, spending billions on advertising, often times killing people whose addiction overpowers them.

Rampant drug addiction in US society becomes yet another very effective means of control over millions of humans who struggle daily with their very real demons. The number of deaths related to drug overdose has jumped 540% since 1980. And whatever collateral damage results from those who die as well as those who engage in criminal activity to support their habit, with both a privatized prison industrial complex and privatized medical system, again the only profiteers feeding off the misfortunes of the afflicted are that same power elite.

The same damage and dumbing down-effects are only added on when considering the detrimental and often lethal effects that chemically processed foods, chemical and hormone injected meat products, genetically altered organisms (GMO’s) and pesticide-ridden foods, not to speak of fluoride treated water, that virtually the entire American population consumes on a daily basis. The masses are poisoning themselves to death with built up toxins in their bodies.

In conclusion, after this brief excursus into the byways of mass-dumbing-down, perhaps we can agree that what is most disturbing about Donald Trump is not who he is, for one cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but the obvious evidence, that the ones who think like him and follow him devotedly are legions. That spells disaster even for a democratic society with constitutional checks and balances. Will the canary in the cave of ignorance save us? That would be a silver-lining to be greatly hoped for, but there are no guarantees and democracy may indeed perish in the cave of ignorance together with the witless canary. Time will tell.

Author’s Note: this article has previously appeared on December 19, 2015 in Ovi Magazine

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Americans fear punishment for Afghan war crimes

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Lo and behold! Looks like the “great and terrible” United States can be scared to the point of hysteria. Another myth about American omnipotence is being debunked before our very eyes now that the big shots in Washington are dreading the prospect of being held accountable for the crimes their soldiers have committed in Afghanistan.

Well, it’s been a long time since the Yankees have last been scared of anyone anywhere, save, perhaps, for Soviet missiles. Still, the challenge they now have thrown out to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has laid bare their cowardice for the whole world to see. And all this under the guise of threats and warlike rhetoric, of course.

Washington saw red when, in November 2016, Foreign Policy journal wrote that “the prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is ready to initiate a full investigation of a range of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including some by US personnel.” Washington was incensed even more after the very same publication wrote that “the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will seek to initiate an investigation,” and that “the prosecutor’s office repeatedly called attention to alleged abuses of detainees by US personnel between 2003 and 2005 that it believes have not been adequately addressed by the United States.”

The ICC report noted that “crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims.” 

Shortly afterwards, US officials visited The Hague where the ICC was meeting to discuss the potential investigation and to express concerns about its scope in what was seen as their first attempt to intimidate the court.

A report by the UN mission in Afghanistan added fuel to the flames of the ICC probe. According to the report, in 2016 alone, 11,418 civilians died there at the hands of all the warring sides, including the Taliban (banned in Russia). Still, the main culprits are US invaders and their NATO allies.

Despite the mounting pressure, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia persisted with the investigation. Washington then ramped up the pressure by simply revoking her entry visa to the United States. Simple as that.

Bensouda’s office said she had an “independent and impartial mandate” under the Rome statute governing the ICC, and described Washington’s move as an attempted attack on the ICC by the US Administration bringing a sigh of relief from “law-abiding” Americans. And no one in the “free and independent” US media raised his voice against this arbitrary practice.

Such voices of disagreement came from the European Union and the United Nations though, with the UN Secretary General’s official spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressing the hope that “the United States government will continue to comply with its obligations… and that the prosecutor, when she needs to come to the United Nations, will be afforded a visa for work done at the United Nations,” where Fatou Bensouda was to present a report to the Security Council on the progress of ongoing investigations into the events in Libya.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini likewise backed the ICC: “We will continue to fully and strongly support the ICC and its work,” she said.

It has also been said that Washington’s disregard for the ICC, which comprises 123 countries (excluding Russia and the US), is fraught with an international scandal. However, President Trump will hardly bother to worry about trifles like this. Responding to the start of the investigation into the crimes committed by the Americans in Afghanistan, the US State Department vowed to revoke or deny visas to ICC staff “seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by US forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.” 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened “to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course.”

Washington reserves the same treatment also for the ICC staff investigating alleged crimes by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and President Trump has confirmed this. Paraphrasing George Orwell, all people are equal before the ICC, but some people are more equal than others.

However, here the Americans’ strength turns into weakness and uncertainty. President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton threatened prosecutions and financial sanctions against ICC staff, as well as against countries and companies assisting in ICC investigations of US nationals. If this is not a sign of panic, then what is?

However, the mere fact that an official investigation has been launched against the United States is unprecedented in modern-day politics. When even a Gambian national can see that a global superpower is losing strength and is vulnerable, one can only imagine what will happen if everyone else in the world realizes this too.

Fully aware of this prospect, the Americans have applied all levers of political and economic pressure available to them and showed everyone that they are still a power to be reckoned with. On April 12, the ICC  unanimously (sic!) rejected prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to investigate criminal offenses allegedly committed by NATO coalition forces against civilians in Afghanistan on the very dubious grounds that such an investigation at the present time “would not serve the interests of justice.”

The ruling states that the prosecutor’s request “establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the Court.” However, the Chamber noted “the time elapsed since the opening of the preliminary examination in 2006 and the political changing scene in Afghanistan since then, the lack of cooperation that the Prosecutor has received and which is likely to go scarcer should an investigation be authorized hampering the chances of successful investigation and prosecution, as well as the need for the Court to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is happy: “I am very pleased that the ICC made this decision today. It is the right one. When Americans misbehave, whether it’s our military, intelligence officers, we have a robust democratic process that holds them accountable. You’ve seen us do that for those that misbehaved. There is in no way or any need for the ICC to intervene,” he said.

This is a striking example of national legislation taking precedence over international law – especially in critical situations.

President Trump was equally pleased hailing the ICC’s refusal to consider the actions of the US military in Afghanistan as “a major international victory not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law (?)”. He reiterated US reservations about the Hague-based ICC, saying that its “broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers” present a threat to US sovereignty. Which means that Yankees are immune from prosecution – something we should all keep very much in mind.

The whole situation turned out to be pretty ambiguous: the Americans got scared, but the ICC ended up bending under Washington’s pressure. It still looks like the days of America’s complete domination are over, just as the current scandal proved beyond any reasonable doubt.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Russia in Venezuela

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Russia´s interests and presence in Latin America is not new. We should remember Russian activities in Cuba during the Cold War, which almost generated a nuclear war between Moscow and Washington. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was quite clear that Central and South America were not among the top priorities of the Russian Federation.

Anyway, at the beginning of the 21st century Russia returned to that region and Venezuela and other Chavist anti-imperialist (mainly understood as anti-American) populist governments were eager to deep their diplomatic, economic and military relations with Moscow.

From the Russian side we can identify a general objective, which is to gain influence in Latin America at the expense of the United States and a particular one: to secure lucrative economic opportunities in the oil and gas sectors.

A marriage of convenience between Venezuela and Russia was born at that time. Moreover, it lasts until today.

In the case of Venezuela, after the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, the reduction of the international oil prizes and the mismanagement of the national economy generated a crisis that began as economic, then social and finally political.

In this situation of institutional weakness, foreign powers as Russia, China, and the United States intended to gain influence and to get benefits for their companies. However, since Maduro continued its anti-American rhetoric were mainly Russian and Chinese companies those that obtained the lion´s share. It is important to note that according to international studies Venezuela has larger oil proven resources than Saudi Arabia, which helps to understand the interest of those extra regional powers in that south American country.

The regional and international pressure on Maduro´s government and the growing domestic opposition lead to a political and economic isolation of Venezuela. As a consequence of that the government increased its dependence on Russia and China.

Russian oil and gas companies are very active in Venezuela and the main interest of Putin´s administration is to secure their interests and protect their investments. More than investments, Venezuela is highly indebted to Moscow and Beijing since during the last five years those two countries were the only external creditors to Maduro´s government.

Behind the so-called strategic partnership, there is pure economic and geopolitical interest.

The main problem that face Russia (and China) is how to convince to the Venezuelan opposition, headed by Juan Guaidó, to recognize their position in the case of changes on the government. Due to the determined support received from Washington it is not clear that Moscow and Beijing will get what they want. Washington want a new beginning, to begin from scratch and not any kind of compensation or share with Russia and China. From our perspective, those are extreme positions (Russia and China from one side and United States on the other side) and diplomatic channels could open the ground for negotiations and compensations.

Russia´s deployment of troops has to do with media more than with a military need. We can argue that those forces are there to protect Russian interests (Russian infrastructure and investments) not Maduro´s government.

Any military clash would be hard to sustain for Russia due to the impossibility to maintain a logistic chain and the financial costs involved. It is more rational to consider the deployment of troops as an insurance for its interests and a leverage for any potential negotiation.

At that moment, nor the United States nor any other South American country (mainly Colombia and Brazil) is eager to a violent regime change in Venezuela and a military intervention. If Washington (and Guaidó) recognize the interests of Russia and China, Maduro´s government will lose its main political and economic supporters and will be open to a transition. In the meantime, the Venezuelan people is trying to survive. Venezuela has generated more refugees than Syria. Just to note it.

Russia’s deployment of troops in Venezuela has caused a new standoff between the U.S. and Russia with the U.S. accusing Russia of intervening in Venezuela’s internal affairs. But is the U.S. really in the “moral high ground” of such accusation given its history of intervening?

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The Only Way To Solve America’s Immigration Border Crisis Without Losing Its Humanity

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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The United States of America is under unprecedented turmoil these days over its border crisis problem with Mexico, more with the political forces at work both for, and against, erecting a wall, cracking down and jailing and removing illegal aliens, giving more authority to local law enforcement to work with federal law enforcement in these efforts, as well as more scrutiny and hammering down of immigration applications of all types.

Truly there is a fury of activity within the United States with allegations of “racism” and “xenophobia” being thrown around, responded to with “national security” and “safety” being hurled back.

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight because the Republicans and the Democrats are locked in a fight to the death, with neither side willing to budge or even negotiate a way out of this mess.

Suffice it to say that one of the main origins of this now boiling over immigration border crisis lay with the people that elected Donald Trump to be President – more commonly known as “Nationalists,” or “America Firsters.”

These people are characterized as being staunchly against Globalism, or Internationalism, and share many commonalities with their cousins across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, otherwise known as the supporters of “Brexit,” who wanted to pull away from both the European Union and the globe in general.

But the problem lies in the fact that for at least the past 70 years, the United States and Europe have literally operated on an “Ordo Ab Chao” (“Order out of Chaos”) approach, destroying and starving other nations and their sovereignty with outright war, terrorism, election overturning, sanctions or just cutting them off from the global economy.

The “blowback” of these interventionist policies of the past 70 years has resulted in incidents such as September 11 and other terrorist acts in its most violent form, but also in mass illegal immigration as another form of blowback, albeit much less violent but still just as disruptive to the economy, safety, health, and cohesion of the United States.

This is also happening in Europe wherein the people of those countries that they destroyed, are now flowing back into theirs, through the millions of refugees created by the unforgivable, wilful, wanton, and intentional destruction of their infrastructure, waterways, electrical grids, arable land, cities, hospitals, schools, everything.

One of the major reasons that the Establishment in both America and Europe were so vehemently against the Presidency of Donald Trump, or the people behind Brexit, is because they were still not finished with that “Ordo” portion of the phrase, only finished with the “Chao” part, wherein they were still right in the middle of massive project finance, foreign loans through the World Bank and IMF, public and private massive investment and international business, as well as other mechanisms designed to replace foreign nations with leaders, infrastructure, and cultures that were more amenable and in line with this Establishment.

Now that Trump is in office, he has surrounded himself with other like-minded people who simply don’t care about the thousands of private and public international agreements, treaties, loans, funding, relationships, or understandings by and between the U.S. and foreign nations/leaders, and simply thinks that these countries can either “take care of themselves,” “save their own people,” “pay their fair share,” and other isolationist principals – but in reality, after 70 years spent destroying those nations and making them promises, this type of abrupt “cutting off” policy, while disallowing them to enter or do business with the USA, is nothing short of a slow motion genocide of the world’s people.

To that end we as a nation, if we are to begin to solve this endless illegal alien immigration crisis, must bite the bullet and forge/build relationships (and even provide funding) to those nations where the majority of these people are coming from, so that this sieve is turned off, as much as possible.

Merely building a wall, while turning away or denying all immigrants their basic human rights, is simply not enough.

The USA (and Europe) has had a significant role in destroying those nations from where these illegal immigrants have come from, and must do more to assist those nations in controlling their own “emigrant” problem, so that the USA (and Europe) does not have to.

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