Review: Jeff Guinn – “The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple”

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read the author’s book on Charles Manson, which I think lacked some sort of human sensibility where a pure, non-autistic read on Manson would have helped the book; instead, I feel it contained a lot of research that was collated, rather than displayed as a coherent mass.

That problem is not available in this book, where I would have liked to see a more human approach, perhaps a display of more feelings than there are, but regardless, I was first and foremost very interested in reading about how Jones’ relationship with his parents was shaped, perhaps most interestingly the one between himself and his mother.

His mother really did not care for him, for being a mother, and bore a massive grudge against her husband, who was unfit for manual labour, and spent a lot of time down the local bar. Jones grew up with his mother constantly making up stories, wishing she were somewhere else.

From the book:

Lynetta had absolutely no natural maternal instincts. She’d never wanted or intended to become a mother. Later, she would weave a tale of becoming ill and falling into a fevered vision of approaching “the Egyptian river of death.” As Lynetta was about to cross, perishing in the process, the spirit of her mother appeared and told her that she could not die, because it was her destiny to give birth to a child who would become a great man. Whether it was due to destiny or desperation, in the fall of 1930 Lynetta announced that she was pregnant. She gave birth in the Crete farmhouse on May 13, 1931, to James Warren Jones. But besides saddling Lynetta with even more responsibility, the arrival of the child changed nothing.

Real poverty:

The rest of Lynn wasn’t automatically condemnatory of such bare-bones housekeeping. In this community of no secrets, everyone knew the other Joneses were subsidizing Jim and Lynetta. The lack of furniture, household amenities, and traditional meals could be chalked up to pride. Jim and Lynetta probably didn’t want to take one more cent from his relations than they had to. But Lynetta dreamed of a finer life. She fancied herself a writer and thought she’d been one in previous lives. She wanted conversation devoted to grand things, reincarnation and progressive, nonconservative politics, not boring chatter about drapery and pie recipes. So she spurned invitations to visit other women in town and never invited them into her home. Even out in public, shopping or attending the Wednesday night community movie, Lynetta rarely spoke to anyone, and when she did kept conversation minimal. Many felt she was taking on airs she didn’t deserve—the woman couldn’t even keep a decent house. But Lynetta simply didn’t have anything to talk to them about and felt there was no basis for friendships. Lynetta couldn’t avoid spending time with the rest of her husband’s family. Without them, she and her husband and son would have been insolvent. But she was sensitive to every word they spoke to or about her, always anticipating insults. It was particularly galling that they constantly called her “Lynette” rather than “Lynetta.” When they’d first met her, she still called herself Lynette much of the time, and that was how they continued addressing her. They meant no offense, and certainly would have obliged if she’d asked them to call her Lynetta. But she didn’t, preferring to assume deliberate insult. Constantly frustrated, unable in any tangible way to fulfill her ambition of being a great lady, Lynetta got through her dreary days by nurturing resentments, and imagining confrontations where she triumphed over enemies through wit and courage. Lynetta later wrote colorful accounts of these fantasies, substituting self-aggrandizing fiction for fact. But during these early years in Lynn, her only audience was her small son. Jimmy’s two earliest and most enduring lessons from his mother were these: there was always some Them out to get you, and reality was whatever you believed.

There were some very clear signs of Jones’ abilities – and inabilities – from the freaking get-go:

Jimmy briefly claimed that special powers were conferred on him by the Almighty. Challenged to prove it, he rigged a cape, probably a towel, climbed on top of the garage roof, and yelled for everybody to watch him fly. The other kids never believed Jimmy would actually jump, but he did. Instead of flying, he hit the ground hard and broke his arm. Afterward Jimmy was unabashed. He apparently still believed in his new powers even if nobody else did, but he didn’t mention them again. Around the same time came the animal funerals.

Also, he kept talking openly about sex in all kinds of very weird and incorrect situations. An example:

Some nights, Jim would summon Ronnie and launch into long, graphic conversations about sex. He was determined that the boy should know every possible detail. In a 2014 interview, Ronnie joked that, had Marceline been willing, Jim might very well have offered a practical demonstration. The ten-year-old dazzled his pals with his newfound knowledge. They agreed that Ronnie now knew more about sex than any other kid in their elementary school.

Early on, Jones really wanted a racially integrated society where diversity and socialism were key. He actually didn’t care much about a God, any God, but socialism was the thing. He really wanted to help the poverty-stricken people, even if it meant he had to walk over corpses to get there.

Some of the Peoples Temple actions were really powerful:

Jones, at this stage in his life, was both visionary and pragmatic. Economic segregation was deep-seated in Indianapolis and would have to be challenged from the bottom up. Most corporate owners would be impervious to any requests. He couldn’t bring sufficient political or economic pressure to bear on them, and his talent for empathy wouldn’t work because they had nothing in common. But small businessmen, operators of mom-and-pop companies, were different. Jones understood their fierce pride in achieving ownership, and fear of losing what they’d worked so hard to attain. So he began his crusade with white-owned neighborhood cafés and restaurants. Most routinely turned away prospective black diners, though in passive-aggressive fashion rather than openly denying service based on race. Blacks who arrived and asked to be seated, even in places with many empty tables, were informed that advance reservations were required. If reservations were then requested, the blacks were told that every table at that time was already spoken for. Jones and Marceline went to medium-priced restaurants where they regularly dined as a couple or together with the white Haldemans, but this time they brought African American friends. When informed that reservations were required, they replied politely but firmly that this was never the case before. If no table was currently available, they’d wait to be seated. Occasionally, they finally were, though the service provided and food served was always deplorable. Most often, they were left standing until the restaurant closed. Either result suited Jones. The next day, he’d be back by himself, asking to speak to the owner. If the owner wasn’t on hand, Jones kept returning, as often as necessary until he was granted a meeting. Then, in a reasonable tone, Jones would ask that the restaurant begin accepting African American guests, and provide the same quality of food and service to them that was enjoyed by whites.

At first he was always refused and told to mind his own business. Jones would politely ask that the owner reconsider; he’d be back to talk again. During a second conversation, Jones worked to establish common ground. He’d grown up poor, he understood how hard it was to even start a business, let alone keep one going. Jones wasn’t pressing integration to cause trouble; he was suggesting something that would actually boost revenue by bringing in new customers. Everyone would benefit. Of course, continued refusal to integrate would result in a third visit, and this time Jones would bring a crowd of blacks and whites with him not to dine but to protest. He’d regret the necessity of it, and of course it would be picketing of a peaceful nature. Still, the restaurant’s white customers would have to maneuver through polite protesters asking them to withhold their business until this restaurant served diners of all races. It would be embarrassing; income would be lost. Jones’s sincerity was obvious. No one dared call his bluff. When the first few restaurant owners capitulated, Jones rewarded them by appearing with lots of new customers, most of them Temple members. He was shrewd, usually arriving at off-hours rather than busy ones, providing the restaurants with additional traffic without inconveniencing or driving away their regulars. Bills for these meals were paid out of the Temple general treasury, so cash-strapped members of the church enjoyed dining out for free.

It was Marceline who first proposed a “rainbow family.” Why not adopt multiple children of different races? She and Jim would love the children, of course, and try to be the best possible parents, but there would be the added benefit of the Jones family being a constant, unmistakable example of racial harmony. Her husband was enthusiastic. A black baby was the obvious choice, but never in Indiana history had a white couple adopted an African American infant. The Joneses would investigate that, but decided to begin with an Asian child. Since there were none available in their home state, the Joneses traveled to California, where they met and adopted two Korean orphans, a four-year-old girl they named Stephanie and a two-year-old boy renamed Lew. The children fit perfectly into their new home. Their adoptive parents adored them, and so did the congregation of Peoples Temple. Their new grandmother was less welcoming. Lynetta still didn’t care for kids. Almost at the same time Stephanie and Lew arrived, Marceline learned that she was pregnant. Marceline loved children, and the thought of giving birth to one of her own was thrilling. The pregnancy was uncomfortable from the start, but Marceline was a trained nurse and knew how to take care of herself. As she came closer to term, she cut back on outside activities and had lots of bed rest.

Temple women were glad to pitch in and help with Agnes, Stephanie, and Lew. The church continued involving its children in all sorts of wholesome activities, and in May 1959 there was a weekend outing to the zoo in Cincinnati. Jones led the group, which included his children but not their mother, who was in her final weeks of pregnancy and stayed home to rest. It was a rainy weekend. Thunderstorms lashed the region, but the Temple trip to Cincinnati went on as planned. They carpooled in a variety of vehicles. Everyone had a fine, if wet, time, and on the way home Stephanie Jones rode with one of the congregants. On the way, they were hit squarely by a drunk driver—Stephanie died instantly. Further pain was inflicted on the little girl’s grief-stricken parents when they prepared to bury her. Stephanie was Korean, and no Indianapolis cemetery would allow her body to be interred next to whites. Only a black mortician would prepare the dead girl for burial. The Joneses were directed to “Negro cemetery sections,” which were in the worst areas. It was still storming when Stephanie was laid to rest. The hole dug for her coffin was half full of water. Jones sobbed as Stephanie was lowered into the muck. He would recall later, “Oh, shit, it was cruel, cruel.”

All in all, this book deeply delves into how people followed Peoples Temple, and makes it easy to understand, while avoiding Jones’ cause celebre in exploitative ways, even though his personality and those around him make up for that in spades, being extreme in a slew of ways.

Overall: very good, very non-blaming and still with a clear agenda that’s palatable.

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Movies I've watched recently:

  • Manchester by the Sea (2016) - IMDb 3/10

    2017-04-16 15:28
    * * *

    Just because the film naturally carries a containment of sorrow and gloom, it does not explain its complete dreariness. It's got bits of chronological experimentation and nice views of the sea, but otherwise, this is forgettable. See Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" instead.

  • Fifty Shades Darker (2017) - IMDb 1/10

    2017-04-15 18:28

    I actually thought this film would not be as bad as the first one, but obviously, I was wrong. This is overwrought in no sense of the word, and if it were human, it would be incarcerated indefinitely. This film actually violates basic human rights in ways the first one didn't, so I guess that's what this new version brings to viewers. In no way is this erotic, interesting, or entertaining. The people involved in this should look themselves in the mirror and not make a third film, which _will_ be made.

  • T2 Trainspotting (2017) - IMDb 6/10

    2017-02-22 22:58
    * * * * * *

    This is more a film, I think, which is about aging and repeating your past than anything else. Sure, the characters are older, but I cringe a lot as Boyle has chosen to have them repeat some of their "fave lines" from the first film, 21 years later, for no apparent reason. The slow parts move best, for example, where Renton visits his father, despite that one being sappy. The "new girl", basically a Renton, doesn't bring much to the table. However, Robbie Carlyle steals the show; where Ewen Bremner's "Spud" previously did, by being a comedic maestro with his movements and druggy cadence, he is now converted into a caricature of himself - and yes, I am aware that druggies who have been on dope for more than two decades tend to turn into caricatures in more ways than one - while Begbie offers more. A lot more. Carlyle's acting is so strong that even Begbie's most obvious characteristics - e.g. as displayed where his son stands up against him by wanting to go to college to learn hotel management instead of joining his dad in a life of crime - turn interesting. He's a tour de force. Still, while this film is interesting and entertaining, it is too much of a parody of itself to become a truly interesting introspective. And the plot turn at the end was really a bit too tell-tale and boring to me.

  • Medicinen (2014) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-12-12 19:00

    A car crash where your newborn child dies would be a less hurtful experience than watching this film. I'm kidding, but there is some truth lodged in that statement. This film is very "inspired" by "The Devil Wears Prada". By this I mean Nutley and his writer cohorts have concocted a story about an abhorrent person - played by Bergström, despite many doubts on my site as to what "playing" could be, according to herself - who starts ingesting a medicine that seems to change her life. Naturally, this medicine is a sugar pill. The medicine is also the only thing which is sweet about this film. The script is so poorly written that any, and I repeat, _any_ breathing thing - or dead - could easily excrete something which would improve and best this depressing piece of scatological experience, which all should avoid at all costs. Actually, I could go on forever about how bad everything from the direction to casting, acting, the soundtrack and segues are, but I will not. I refuse to. This is on par with Nutley-Bergström's "Angel", which also marked a new milestone in the string of eulogies to Swedish cinema that seems to be their goal. I'm angry to know the couple seem to use films as an excuse to a) go abroad and senselessly film scenes that have none or very little function for a film and b) have Bergström cry and copulate. Don't see this, even for "fun", which was why I saw it. I will never, ever see this film again, and I hope Bergström-Nutley never, ever make another film, write one nor act in one for the sake of humanity.

  • Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) - IMDb 4/10

    2016-11-26 17:10
    * * * *

    This film stretches beyond a regular action film and even really dips into the true meaning of the word apocalypse, but that's the most positive thing about it. Miike has been taking some major leads from Shakespeare, considering he lived a few hundred years ago, this film is truly not very original. Having said that, it's missing in atmosphere. It doesn't pace well and lost me a bit after 30 minutes and did not win the loss back. Having been Shakespearian before that, this film segues into being laughable and filled with fight (as most films by Miike are). Not recommendable to anyone who doesn't want to dabble in martial arts action-cum-half-assed weird dreaming, having fallen asleep with "Macbeth" on your face.


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Stubbetorp + guitar

Visited Mia’s friend Johan’s magnificent place on the countryside last Sunday. I borrowed my mate Michael’s car and sped off. Turbo – I dig it.1 It was very, very calming and nice. The horses! One of them pushed and bit, but couldn’t get a piece of me. The dogs ran everywhere and were very cuddly. Johan pampered us and everything was very nice. As usual, I could have driven Mia around all day.

Now it’s time for an extended weekend. May 1st is a holiday in Sweden. Can’t wait to sleep and play my new guitar. Oh, did I mention it before? I didn’t.

Having owned a Gibson Les Paul copy for more than two decades…it’s brilliant to finally own a Gibson. Brilliant.

  1. I feel like Cyrus from “The Warriors writing that.[back]
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Review: Noam Chomsky: “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power”

Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power by Noam Chomsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Noam Chomsky is pretty much an autodidactic intellectual. Instead of relying on old ways to attain knowledge, by which I mean going to school and relying firmly on what he learnt there, he has always undergone a more critical route: why would schools be right? And even if they were right at the time, will not fact change?

The above is merely a ground point, made to illustrate how I love Chomsky’s intellectual thinking. He even criticises himself, and apologises when wrong. However, in this book, there’s simply no real wrong, if you ask me.

This book is made after the documentary film with the same name was made; in it, Chomsky basically produces a monologue where he speaks of the American dream, what is monetarily required to exist in the USA, and perhaps mainly, of the differences between what some institutions and people want us to believe to be real, and what is real.

His style is exquisite:

Since the 1970s, there’s been a concerted effort on the part of the “masters of mankind,” the owners of the society, to shift the economy in two crucial respects. One, to increase the role of financial institutions: banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and so on. By 2007, right before the latest crash, they had literally 40 percent of corporate profits, far beyond anything in the past.

He takes a look on how “class mobility” is not really part of the so-called American Dream anymore, simply because it’s impossible; 70% of the American population cannot contribute to legislature and real changes, due to how plutocracy and capitalism works now.

Increasingly, the business of the country isn’t production, at least not here. You can even see it in the choice of directors. The head of a major American corporation back in the ’50s and ’60s was very likely to be an engineer, somebody who graduated from a place like MIT, maybe industrial management. There was a sense in the ownership and management class that they’d better attend to the nature of the society—that this was their workforce, this was their market, and they had to look forward to the future of their own corporation. That’s less and less true.

More recently, the directorship and the top managerial positions are people who came out of business schools, learned financial trickery of various kinds, and so on. And it’s changed the attitude of the corporation and of the leadership to the firm. There’s less loyalty to the firm and more loyalty to oneself. The way to get ahead now in a major firm is to show the good results in the next quarter. That’s not the long-term future of the firm—it’s what you can get out of the next quarter—and that also determines your salary and bonuses and so on. So if business practices can be designed to make short-term profits and you can make a ton of money and it crashes, you leave—and you’ve got the money and the golden parachute. That’s changed the nature of the way firms are treated very significantly. By the 1980s, say, General Electric could make more profit playing games with money than it could by producing in the United States. You have to remember that General Electric is substantially a financial institution today. It makes half its profits just by moving money around in complicated ways. It’s very unclear that they’re doing anything that’s of value to the economy. So what happened was a sharp increase in the role of finance in the economy, and a corresponding decline in domestic production. That’s one phenomenon, what’s called “financialization” of the economy. Going along with that is the offshoring of production.

Even if you are critical against some of Chomsky’s anti-neoliberal points, such as:

In fact, what are called international “free trade agreements” are not free trade at all. The trade system was reconstructed with a very explicit design of putting working people in competition with one another all over the world. What it’s led to is a reduction in the share of income on the part of working people. It’s been striking in the United States, but it’s happening worldwide. It means that an American worker’s in competition with the super-exploited worker in China. Incidentally, in China the inequality has grown enormously. China and the United States are two of the most extreme in this respect. There are plenty of labor struggles in China trying to overcome this, but it’s a very harsh regime. It’s hard to do, but something’s happening—and that’s global. What the United States is exporting are operative values—the concentration of wealth, tax on working people, deprivation of rights, exploitation, and so on—that’s what’s being exported in the real world. It’s kind of an automatic consequence of designing trade systems to protect the rich and privileged.

…there is so much fact against the critique, that’s it’s impossible (at least for myself) not to take in:

Policy is designed to increase insecurity. Alan Greenspan, when he testified to Congress, he explained his success in running the economy as based on what he called “greater worker insecurity.” Keep workers insecure, they’re going to be under control. They are not going to ask for decent wages or decent working conditions, or the opportunity of free association—meaning to unionize. If you can keep workers insecure, they’re not going to ask for too much. They’ll just be delighted—they won’t even care if they have to have rotten jobs, they won’t ask for decent wages, they won’t ask for decent working conditions, they won’t ask for benefits—and by some theory, that’s considered a healthy economy.

Where great leaders – every great leader, in fact – has pointed to the fact that people must have the power, Chomsky points out to what is:

Now, there have been efforts to restore some form of regulatory measures, like Dodd-Frank. But the business world has lobbied very hard to create exceptions, so that much of the shadow-banking system has been exempted from regulation by lobbyist pressure. And there’s gonna be constant pressure—we can be certain of it—from systems of power to prevent any constraint on expanding their power, and the profit. And the only counterforce is you. To the extent that the public fights back, effective systems can be created—not only to regulate the big banks, but to insist they demonstrate their legitimacy. And that challenge should be imposed on the institutions of the financial system, very broadly. That’s another task for an organized, committed, dedicated population—not just to regulate them, but to ask why they’re there.

Remember, it’s not a law of nature that the United States doesn’t have a manufacturing industry. Why should management make those decisions? Why shouldn’t those decisions be in the hands of what are called “stakeholders,” the workforce and the community? Why shouldn’t they decide what happens to the steel industry? Why shouldn’t they run the steel industry? These are very concrete questions. In fact, we’re constantly seeing cases where, if there were enough popular mobilization and activism, we would have a productive industry manufacturing the right things.

Talk about empowering people.

And what does the plutocracy think about that?

Recently, there was a publication by Citigroup, one of the biggest banks. They put out a study for investors in which they identify a new category in the world—what they call the “plutonomy”—those who have substantial wealth. The plutonomy are the main drivers of the economy—they’re the main consumers, that’s where all the wealth goes—so Citigroup has a “plutonomy investment portfolio.” They’ve had it since the mid-’80s, when Reagan and Thatcher in England drove forward policies of enriching the very wealthy and letting everyone else suffer. And they point out that their plutonomy investment portfolio has far outperformed the market, and urge investors to concentrate on investing for the plutonomy. So the small percentage of the world’s population that’s gathering together in increasing wealth—that’s what you focus on. The rest you can forget about.

Now, the plutonomy is much more rigorously following Adam Smith’s vile maxim: “All for ourselves, nothing for anyone else.” What about the rest? There’s a term coming into use for them, too. They’re called the “precariat,” precarious proletariat—the working people of the world who are living a more and more precarious existence. So we have the precariat living insecure, precarious lives, getting by if they can, many in terrible poverty and suffering in other ways—and the advice of Citigroup (which, by rights, the public ought to own by now, having bailed them out so often—but they’re doing fine, richer than ever) is that they’re asking investors to focus attention on the plutonomy. It’s a really serious problem, and we’re heading toward a cliff. But from the point of view of the masters of mankind, it doesn’t matter much—“as long as we make plenty of profit tomorrow, who cares if our grandchildren won’t have a world to live in?” It’s related to the attitude toward the country altogether. Well, that’s a division the world over. In China, it’s the same—it has an extremely oppressed labor force, no independent unions, tens of thousands of labor protests every year—and super-wealth. In India it’s even more extreme. In other developing countries it’s changing a little bit, like in Latin America. Take Brazil, a most important country, where there have been significant attempts to deal with the tremendous inequality and overwhelming problem of poverty and starvation in the past ten years. But for the most part I think the Citigroup analysis is pretty accurate—there’s a plutonomy that’s very rich, and the rest get by somehow if they can.

One of Chomsky’s fortés is, to me, how he talks of the simple stuff, of how things could be:

We have the only health care system in the advanced world that is based overwhelmingly on virtually unregulated private health care, and that is extremely inefficient and very costly. All sorts of administrative costs, bureaucracies, surveillance, simple billing—things that just don’t exist in rational health care systems. And I’m not talking about anything utopian—almost every other industrial society has them and, in fact, they are far more efficient both in outcomes and costs than the one we have in the United States. That’s a scandal, but also quite apart from the millions of people who have no insurance at all, and are even more insecure.

On how economic institutions, e.g. politicians, banks, and hedge funds work:

Deregulation went on through the Clinton years. Clinton came along, and there was a tech boom—but by the end of the 1990s there was another bubble that broke, the dot-com bubble. In 1999, regulation separating commercial banks from investment banks was dismantled. Bush came along and we had the housing boom, which, amazingly, the policy economists didn’t notice—or they ignored the fact that there was about an $8 trillion housing bubble that held no relation to the relevant facts about cost of housing. Of course, that broke in 2007, and trillions of dollars of capital just disappeared—fake wealth. That led to the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Then comes the Bush and Obama bailout, which reconstructed the powerful institutions—the perpetrators—and left everyone else floating. There was severe harm to people, who had houses taken away from them, jobs diminished, and so on. That’s where we are now. It was done with impunity, and they’re building up to the next one.

…and how the taxpayer – near-unwittlingly, as it’s really used as a pawn – is the one to pay for the problems that our “masters” create:

Each time, the taxpayer is called on to bail out those who created the crisis, increasingly the major financial institutions. In a capitalist economy, you wouldn’t do that. In a capitalist system, that would wipe out the investors who made risky investments. But the rich and powerful, they don’t want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run to the “nanny state” as soon as they’re in trouble, and get bailed out by the taxpayer. They’re given a government insurance policy, which means that no matter how often you risk everything, if you get in trouble, the public will bail you out because you’re too big to fail—and it’s just repeating over and over again. Their power is so enormous that any attempt to deal with it is essentially beaten back. There have been mild attempts, like the Dodd-Frank regulatory proposal, but that’s whittled down in the implementation by lobbyists—and it doesn’t go after the main issues anyway. And the reasons for this are pretty well understood. There are Nobel laureates in economics who significantly disagree with the course that we’re following—people like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and others—and none of them were even approached or consulted. The people picked to fix the crisis were those who created it—the Robert Rubin crowd, the Goldman Sachs crowd. They created the crisis and are now more powerful than before. Is that an accident? Well, not when you pick those people to create an economic plan. I mean, what do you expect to happen? The last bailout was unprecedented in scale. These corporations were kept viable in a period where, in a capitalist economy, they would’ve crashed. But we don’t have a capitalist economy—business wouldn’t accept that, and they have enough power to prevent it—so, therefore, the public comes in to pour literally trillions of dollars into the hands of failing corporations and maintain them. And that’s true in all sorts of ways. There’s one major technical study of bailouts over several years that concludes that probably 25 percent—a study of the hundred biggest corporations on the Fortune list by two well-known economists—25 percent of them survived thanks to public subsidy at some point, and most of the rest gained from it. So while this is unprecedented in scale, there’s nothing new about it. The same is true after all financial crises.

In relation to the above paragraph, here’s a quote from “The Logic of International Restructuring: The Management of Dependencies in Rival Industrial Complexes”, Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder, 1995:

We assess that at least twenty companies in the 1993 Fortune 100 would not have survived at all as independent companies, if they had not been saved by their respective governments. Some eighteen core firms have been nationalised, many of them during major restructuring periods, sometimes even facing immediate bankruptcy threats.

On what should really matter in thoughts on the US presidential elections – or, really, in any higher-up election, if you ask me:

In my own view, the electoral extravaganza that takes place every four years should take about ten minutes of our time, literally. One minute should be spent on learning something about arithmetic. There’s a very simple point about arithmetic—if you happen to be in a swing state, a state where the outcome is indefinite, and you don’t vote for, say, Clinton, that’s equivalent to voting for Trump. That’s arithmetic. So we take one minute to settle the question of arithmetic, then we take about two minutes to look at the merits of the two parties. Not just the candidates, but the parties. My own view is that under current circumstances it should take about two minutes. And then we take the rest of the ten minutes to go to the ballot box and push a lever. Meanwhile, after we’ve spent those ten minutes, we’ve turned to what really matters, which is not the election, but the continued effort to develop and organize active dedicated popular movements that will continue to struggle constantly for what has to be done. That’s not only demonstrating, pressuring candidates, and so on—but it’s also building an electoral system that means something. You don’t build a better-functioning democracy, or a party for that matter, by voting once every four years. If you want a third party, an independent party, it’s not enough to vote for it every four years. You have to be out there constantly—developing the system that goes from school boards to city councils, legislatures, all the way up to Congress. And there are people who understand that, namely the Far Right. That’s how the Tea Party got organized—with plenty of capital and plenty of thinking—and it has an effect. Those who are interested in an independent progressive party just haven’t done that. They’ve been trapped by the propaganda that says the only thing that matters is the electoral extravaganza. You can’t ignore it—it’s there—but, like I say, it should take about ten minutes. But the other things—the things that really matter—they need to be done constantly.

As part of the first thing I wrote about Chomsky, take this paragraph:

You’ve all studied the first paragraph of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, about the butcher, the baker, everybody works together and division of labor is wonderful. But not many people have gotten to, say, page 450 where he sharply condemns division of labor, because he says it turns people into creatures as stupid and ignorant as can be, because they’re gonna be driven to performing routine, simple tasks, and not developing and exercising their intelligence and creative capacity. So, therefore, he urges that in every civilized society the government intervene to prevent this from happening.

Not many neoliberals pick that up from Smith. In relation to that, Chomsky’s original way of thinking that follows is remarkable, and commonplace:

We’re human beings, we’re not automatons. You work at your job but you don’t stop being a human being. Being a human being means benefiting from rich cultural traditions—not just our own traditions, but many others—and becoming not just skilled, but also wise. Somebody who can think—think creatively, think independently, explore, inquire—and contribute to society. If you don’t have that, you might as well be replaced by a robot. I think that simply can’t be ignored if we want to have a society that’s worth living in. Another unpronounceable word incidentally is “profits,” so when you hear a politician say, “we’ve got to have jobs,” think about it for a minute. It almost always translates into “we have to have profits.” They don’t care about jobs—the same people who are saying “we have to have jobs” are happily exporting them to Mexico and China, because that increases profits—what they’re really after.

Chomsky ventures into propaganda, public opinion, mass media, Donald Trump and, perhaps most importantly, into matters on the environment.

To end:

I think that we can see quite clearly some very, very serious defects and flaws in our society, our level of culture, our institutions—which are going to have to be corrected by operating outside of the framework that is commonly accepted. I think we’re going to have to find new ways of political action. There is a change going on, mainly among young people, but that is where change usually starts. Where’s it gonna go? That’s really up to you. It goes where people like you will direct it. See You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Howard Zinn, 1994 My close friend for many years, the late Howard Zinn, to put it in his words, said that “what matters is the countless small deeds of unknown people, who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history.” They’re the ones who’ve done things in the past. They’re the ones who’ll have to do it in the future.

Overall, not as succinct and good as a regular Chomsky book, but radiant and crystal clear. Recommended to all.

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Also, here’s a trailer for the documentary:

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