Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Category Archives: Evolution

Independence Day: A Time for Celebration or Mourning?

patriotic genius

Years ago, I spent a couple of summers working in a salmon cannery in Naknek, Alaska.  On the base of the Alleutian Peninsula, surrounded by the bleak, brown landscape of the summer tundra, it was a dreary job of 16-hour days spent gutting fish, in a tiny town in one of the most desolate regions on earth.

Among some of my stranger workmates were a handful of proud skinheads from Washington state, including a giant, 6′ 4″ weirdo with a shaved head, scraggly ginger beard, and oversized horn-rimmed glasses.   We were often situated side-by-side on the “slime line,” as it was termed, and engaged in conversation on a wide variety of topics whilst ripping fistfuls of guts from the insides of unfortunate salmon.

He was, not surprisingly, an ultra-conservative Republican who loved capitalism, worshiped the mythical free market, and adored the writings of Ayn Rand.  As a long-haired hippie fresh from the streets of Portland, we obviously didn’t quite see eye to eye on many – most – issues.

When the 4th of July came and, during one of our paltry 30-minute meal breaks, we were served revoltingly dry barbecued chicken in celebration of our nation’s independence, he looked at me snidely and asked whether or not I considered Independence Day to be a day of mourning.

And it was a fair question.   Read more of this post


Intellectual Engagement with the Fringe Right: “It’s like a retarded person who had AIDS”


Over the last few days, Failed Empire has received quite a bit of attention from, shall we say, less than sympathetic readers.   In the interest of openness I never delete any comments, but the comments that self-professed conservatives tend to leave say quite a lot about what we’re up against in the fight to build a better world.  Consider the following examples (I’ve put all personal insults and particularly ignorant comments in bold).

From the post “One Million Expected for Bruins Rally as Nation Crumbles“:

the write of this article is a complete jackass. yes there are lots of problems in the world. and having parades like this to celebrate good things, things that make people happy, helps remind us what we are fighting wars for. Just sit at home and be miserable you fucking loser.

 — “Joe,”

lol this guy is such a tool.
fight the power, pro! lmao.

 — Anonymous

And then a slew of comments from a particularly mature individual who has given himself the devastatingly witty moniker “Impeach Hussein”:

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A Bleak Future: The Natural Progression of a Capitalist Nation

Once you sift through the layers of thinly veiled racism, a picture emerges of just how bleak many Americans perceive the future to be:

Why the white working class is alienated, pessimistic
The latest measure of this discontent came in a thoughtful national survey on economic opportunity released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project. If numbers could scream, they would probably sound like the poll’s results among working-class whites.

One question asked respondents whether they expected to be better off economically in 10 years than they are today. Two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics said yes, as did 55 percent of college-educated whites; just 44 percent of noncollege whites agreed. Asked if they were better off than their parents were at the same age, about three-fifths of college-educated whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics said they were. But blue-collar whites divided narrowly, with 52 percent saying yes and a head-turning 43 percent saying no. …

… 63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Even college-educated whites are less optimistic (only about two-fifths agree). But the noncollege whites are the gloomiest: Just one-third of them think their kids will live better than they do; an equal number think their children won’t even match their living standard. No other group is nearly that negative.

The focus on whites versus “minorities” is wholly unnecessary, and only serves to reinforce racist notions that have lingered since the birth of our nation.  What is most relevant in the article is the negative perception that people of all races – but particularly working class people – have of the future.

The comment section for the above article is filled with tales of suffering and discontent:  people working three jobs simply to make end meet, or being fired after 20+ years on the job as yet another corporation seeks to maximize its profits by moving operations overseas.  The article has been shared on Facebook nearly 5,000 times, a fact which suggests that a very tender nerve has been struck.

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American War Crimes: U.S. Military Forces Deployed Cluster Bombs in Libya

cluster bombs

Perhaps not the most unbiased of sources, but it offers a perspective worth considering:

 The HRI said it has convincing evidence that the cluster bombing blamed on pro-Gaddafi forces was actually carried out by the US navy.

The report says at the time of the attack, Human Rights Watch and a reporter working for US media immediately blamed forces loyal to Libya’s embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi for the cluster bombing that threatened civilian lives.

According to the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were quick to condemn the act. …

The Libyan regime had flatly denied reports that they have used internationally banned cluster bombs in the ongoing clashes with revolutionaries.

As I’ve stated previously, Gaddafi is a war criminal and deserves to be treated as such.  But the standard corporate narrative that portrays the United States as being a pinnacle of justice and a defender of human rights is utterly laughable, and needs to be challenged at every step.

It is quite probable that the United States has used cluster bombs in Libya, as it appears they have done in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Cluster bombs are against international law and their deployment should be considered deplorable, as they are a particularly brutal form of weapon.  However, focusing on the type of weapon used misses the larger issue.  War of any kind is reprehensible, and any entity which engages in warfare should be considered, by definition, guilty of war crimes.

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Self-Destructive Religious Beliefs Strike Again: KY to Build Creationist Theme Park While Slashing Education Budget

Continuing with the anti-religious theme, let us now turn to Kentucky, where creationism apparently trumps education every time:

In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.” It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.” …

Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks. At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. …

In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.

This is the very definition of idiocy, and another prime example of why we need to fight against religious belief in every way we can.  It is not simply a matter of respecting the beliefs of others, allowing people to live according to their own wishes.  The problem, as anyone who has ever met a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim understands, is that a substantial percentage of religious people are not content to keep their views and way of life to themselves.  Spreading religion is built into the very fabric of their belief system, as is the case with every successful collection of memes.

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Graciosa Aims to be World’s First Carbon-Free Island by 2012

A step in the right direction:

The tiny island of Graciosa off the coast of Portugal is undergoing a silent revolution. A German company is trying to make the 4,500-strong community energy self-sufficient and independent.

Berlin-based “Younicos” wants to harness and store the power generated by the wind and the sun on a scale large enough to supply the entire island.

Company founder, Clemens Triebel describes his vision:

“We would have a place in the world where already today, the energy supply with renewables would be ensured one hundred percent, without the people living there having to suffer from poorer quality or other disadvantages compared to other industrialized countries.”

The bottom line about Gracioca’s move towards a complete reliance on renewable energy is this:  we have the capacity to do it, even today.  If communities and nations around the globe merely made the effort and directed sufficient resources to the cause, there is no reason to believe we could not attain total energy self-sufficiency.  The only thing which prevents us from realizing that goal is a simple lack of motivation; instead of utilizing our intellectual and material wealth for creative purposes with benefits for all, we prefer to squander our wealth on weapons and war.

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Class Warfare in the Era of Conscious Evolution

In the classic novel The Time Machine, H.G. Wells envisioned a future in which humans had diverged into two distinct species:  the Eloi and Morlocks.  The Eloi were a species of great beauty but intellectual simplicity.  They spent their lives in a lighthearted stupor, laughing and dancing the days away without a concern for anything beyond the superficial pleasures of today.  The Morlocks, in contrast, were creatures of necessity.  They lived in dark subterranean dwellings, and lacked any of the positive traits – such as love and compassion – that we attribute to humans today.

Wells described the means through which the two species had come into being.  Essentially, the Eloi were descendants of an aristocratic elite, who through countless generations of easy, comfortable living had devolved into mindless – albeit attractive – creatures of superficial comforts.  The Morlocks had descended from the working classes of today, after generations of malnutrition, hard labor, and dismal living conditions.

The parallels between Wells’s vision of the future and the world we see today are striking.  Clearly, there is a large – and growing – divide between the wealthy elite of today and the ordinary, working and middle class masses.  The wealthy of today lead lives of leisure and luxury, while those at the bottom work dreadfully long hours and consume extremely unhealthy food, devoid of needed vitamins and nutrients.  Having spent some years in the trenches of the working class myself, I know all too well how desperate life can be.

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EU-India Free Trade Agreement to Block Access to Affordable Medication

A new Free Trade Agreement between India and the EU is threatening to deny millions of people – both in India and around the developing world – access to affordable medication:

Meanwhile, in Brussels, negotiations continued on a trade agreement that would raise prices on Indian-made pharmaceuticals. The drugs that India manufactures have helped five millions people living with HIV to maintain their health, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Frontiers).

“More than 80 percent of the AIDS drugs our medical practitioners use to treat 175,000 people in developing countries are affordable generics from India,” said MSF spokesperson Paul Cawthorne, the article said. Cawthorne said that HIV patients were not the only ones to benefit from the lower cost of India-made generics. “Beyond AIDS, we rely on producers in India for drugs to treat other illnesses, such as tuberculosis and malaria,” Cawthorne explained. “We can not afford to let our patients’ lifeline be cut.”

The EU is seeking more protections on intellectual property, including “data exclusivity” provisions that would extend to drugs that are no longer protected from generic brands by patent limitations.

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The End of Suffering

I’ve had a strange couple of weeks.  This tumultuous period began with the death of my cat, just two days before the end of 2010.  Initially I suspected that he had been poisoned – this being Thailand, after all.  A quick Google search quickly revealed, however, that he had more likely died from rabies.  In his case, the disease appears to have taken the paralytic route, a lesser known but nonetheless extremely common form of the notoriously lethal illness.

I ended up receiving rabies PEP only to later discover that the course of treatment I was administered was well beneath the standard of that recommended in the States (for those who know the score, I was given the vaccine only, without HRIG/ERIG).  Needless to say, this resulted in quite a bit of worry on my part, as I considered the (relatively small) possibility that I might be one of the unlucky few who developed symptoms of the disease more rapidly than the vaccine alone could provide immunity.

This sudden possibility of my own imminent demise necessarily lead to, amongst flashes of sheer panic, reflections on the nature of life and – at the risk of sounding cliched – our ultimate purpose here on this earth.

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Study Suggests the Conservative Brain is Less Evolved

The concept of evolution has traditionally been thought of in terms of physical development only – birds evolved wings to fly, fish developed gills to breath under water.  What has perhaps been less apparent is that the thoughts and beliefs of human beings can also be attributed to evolutionary processes.

It is obviously understood that the capacity for thought and consciousness is facilitated by the physical brain.  It is not a great leap to conclude that the types of thought patterns and behavior exhibited by any given individual is largely determined by the extent to which that brain has evolved.  For example, human beings of today are vastly different than the human beings of 10,000 years ago.  And although certain barbaric tendencies remain, it seems evident that the evolutionary trend is one of increasing compassion, empathy and altruism.

In light of these two realizations – that human thought is a result of the evolutionary progress of the human brain, and that compassion seems to represent a more evolved state – we arrive at two important conclusions.  The first is that the destructive impulses of greed, violence and individual gain at whatever cost are representative of a less evolved state, similar, in many respects, to the differences between the mental capacities of humans and apes.

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