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Reclaiming The Commons: Human Lessons in the Era of Corporatism and Perpetual War

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With increasing velocity, since the advent of the post-Second World War national security state, then gaining speed with the incessant search and destroy mission waged on the U.S. Constitution known as the War on Drugs, and kicking into a runaway trajectory in the post Sept. 11, 2001, era -- the increase in totalitarian impulses, among both the general population and corporate and governmental elite of the nation, has proceeded at an alarming rate.

Yet, baffling as the fact remains to those possessing a modicum of political awareness, large numbers of U.S. citizens persist in believing they dwell in a representative republic, governed by the principles of individual rights and civil liberties.


March in Madison, Wisconsin, commemorating the first anniversary of the public uprising against Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union legislation. (Photo from

While Republicans desire to set clocks back to the Bronze Age -- Democrats now run on Republican Standard Time, as collectively, the nation's citizenry continues to roll over and hit the snooze button.

On an individual basis, if a sizable number of the nation's citizenry's concept of freedom of expression translates into little more than the act of casting a vote by iPhone involving a choice between a gaggle of cloying, longing-to-be-commodified crooners on American Idol -- it follows that the egregious assault on civil liberties posed by H.R. 347 (the so-call Anti Occupy Wall Street Bill " that has now made many acts of free speech and freedom of assembly a federal crime) will mean little within such a dim cosmology of diminished perception and even more dismal musical sensibility.

Reflecting how dire the assault on civil liberties has become: The aforementioned bill passed the House of Representatives by a 388 to 3 margin (and was signed, shortly thereafter, by President Obama, on Friday March 9, 2012).

Just what portion of the following admonitions contained within The Bill of Rights remains ambiguous to these legislators: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Notice: The opening sentence: "Congress shall make no law-- Notice as well: The right to "peaceably assemble" is guaranteed as prominently as any other right on the list.

The intent of H.R. 347 and other modern legislation is clear: Keep despots and their operatives secure in their power by rendering opposition to their rule unpleasant for dissenters. Systems of reward and punishment will be maintained, too. A right-wing radio demagogue will reap vast fortunes for his service, while truth-tellers will be marginalized, or if they start to grow effective " be crushed by police state tactics and legislative caprice (e.g., the manner that enforcers of the current order have attempted to systemically repress the Occupy Wall Street Movement).

Make no mistake regarding the times we have been given. This struggle will be long and difficult. Despotic personality types, as a rule, are not struck by life-altering epiphanies regarding the emptiness of a life attendant to autocratically imposing repressive measures upon the powerless to ensure the continuance of their privileged status.

Do not expect to hear the lamentation of the greedy as they awaken to how their addiction to wealth has isolated them Midas-style in a mode of mind wherein their souls exist in a state of starvation, because the soul is not nourished by hoarded gold (or funneling formations of electronic pixels representing commodity transactions).

On a personal basis, if you insist on standing opposed to despotism, expect trouble. In that case, one loses all certainties " save one: The retention of a viable sense of self.

"So little pains do the shallow take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand."--Thucydides, from The History of the Peloponnesian War

When one attempts to stand against surging social and political tides, feelings of powerlessness can flood one with anxiety. Accordingly, a single individual can become inundated with feelings of unease and uncertainty. As a result, the social pressure to drown angst-creating individual doubt within the mindless certainties of a mob can become overwhelming.

Often, brick by brick, in an attempt to withstand these powerful inner feelings and outward pressures, we build a structure of false consciousness " that we, often, mistake for our convictions, and tragically mistake this dismal dwelling for the whole of existence. How then is it possible to withstand feelings of powerlessness?

Put one foot in front of the other. Write one word after the next on your protest sign. Make your life a flaming arrow aimed at the dry and rotted heart of the system or make your own heart a warm hearth of compassion for its victims, as you negotiate its cold realities.

Thus, hope becomes a process of engagement, not a comforting lie; not the stuff of public relations hustlers and political hacks but a quality of honest conviction and persistent labor; and not a cynical marketing tool.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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