Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home Sweet Home

“Make no judgments where you have no compassion” -Anne McCaffrey

Read story here.

Funny how tunes from the 1970's echo the times we live in.

There but for fortune - Phil Ochs

Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a pris'ner whose face has grown pale

And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me an alley, show me a train
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain

And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me the whiskey stains on the floor
Show me a drunk as he stumbles out the door

And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me a country where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of buildings so tall

And I'll show you a young land
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I
You or I

Listen to song by Cher.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Double, double, toil and trouble...

'Double, double, toil and trouble: Fire, burn, and cauldron, bubble.'
-The Witches, 4.1, Macbeth

Not in eighty years have the conditions for global revolution been so ripe. A glance at the following thirteen headlines, taken together, should be enough to alarm anyone with synaptic activity that revolutionary consciousness is awakening internationally.

Why now? Because never has so much affluence been lost in the Western standard of living than in the period we are currently experiencing. And things will get worse. The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer and the middle class is quickly disappearing.

The more protests and demonstrations, the better; the quicker the Masters of the Universe will get the message that they cannot rule people who are unwilling to be impoverished for the coffers of the Elite. Capitalism is dying an ugly death; but in the end, people will not care about ideology - they will care about the decline in the stardard of living to which they have become accustomed.

People are about to change the Darwinistic political/economic paradigm that has dominated earth for so long. And there will be blood.

Truly wise Masters of the Universe would act now to eliminate the suffering of ordinary people. However, it does seem we are ruled by madmen. Time for a challenge to the status quo; and the cauldron is seething.

Injustice boils in men's hearts as does steel in its cauldron,
ready to pour forth,
white hot,
in the fullness of time. -Mother Jones

European farmers protest to demand help on milk prices

May 26, 2009

Furious farmers have blockaded roads and forced a halt to production at scores of dairies as part of Europe-wide protests designed to reverse a slump in the wholesale price of milk.

As they gathered on Monday, European Union farm ministers met to discuss the crisis, with nations divided over those wanting the quota system, set to be scrapped within six years, maintained in one form or another.

In Brussels, farm tractors blocked major roads in the city's European quarter, where police said about 900 demonstrators had rallied to make their voices heard by the agriculture ministers.

Riot police were seen trying to hold back the protesters, who converged on the Belgian capital from 10 countries, but the farmers broke through their barricade, despite receiving truncheon blows from some officers. Read entire article

FACTBOX-Trade union activity in Western Europe

May 28, 2009

Unions across Europe protesting. Read entire article

Civil Unrest
Michael C. Ruppert

It Seems as if The World is Holding Its Breath for Obama's change...

Already devastated by auto layoffs and other massive corporate failures, Ohio's industrial areas border and are in close proximity to Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Lots of kindling in those states. At the same time as Ohio is devastated by DHL, auto and other layoffs, much of the nation's high-tech wind turbine industry in Ohio is also shutting down at the same time... just when we need it. The snake eats its own tail for nutrition. It is the way money works... for now.

Civil unrest in Ohio could easily infect across state lines here, and cross another fault line that runs east and west, separating north from south; the Mason Dixon. Other earthquakes might be triggered. Eastward from Ohio are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I wonder how much inter-agency advance planning DHS and FEMA have gone through so that they might operate fluidly across many borders, radio frequencies and jurisdictions. Those contingencies were planned for in the Patriot Act which congress didn't or couldn't read before voting on it. Read article

George Soros, the man who broke the Bank,
sees a global meltdown

March 28, 2009

This recession, he explains, is a “once-in-a-lifetime event”, particularly in Britain. “This is a crisis unlike any other. It’s a total collapse of the financial system with tremendous implications for everyday life. On previous occasions when you had a crisis that was threatening the system the authorities intervened and did whatever was necessary to protect the system. This time they failed.” Read entire article

California's new budget proposal
slashes welfare, releases inmates

By Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee

In California's latest doom-and-gloom announcement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Department of Finance on Tuesday proposed closing the state's main welfare program, releasing nonviolent prisoners one year early and shuttering up to 80 percent of state parks to shrink the state's $24.3 billion budget deficit. Read entire article

Amnesty Report Warns World on Verge of Global Unrest

29 May 2009

Amnesty International released its annual report yesterday, warning that that the world is on the verge of global unrest, with existing poverty severely worsened by the international economic crisis. In every major geographic area the report details conditions relating to social and economic insecurity, poverty and deprivation, and more. Read entire article

World Bank warns of social unrest

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has warned of the destabilising effects of unemployment.

The head of the World Bank has warned that the global economic crisis could lead to serious social upheaval.

"If we do no take measures, there is a risk of a serious human and social crisis with very serious political implications," Robert Zoellick said. Read entire article

Cities across the world become platform for hundreds of thousands of protesters against Gaza fighting

11th January 2009

Cities across the world became the platform for protest on Israel's military action in Gaza today.

Organisers said more than 250,000 people marched through Spain's capital of Madrid, with other European cities including Athens, Brussels, Rome, Naples Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin also the focal points of protesters.

The protest in Madrid was the largest of demonstrations across Europe, although there were expressions of both support and opposition for the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Read article; see photos

More EU protests planned over unemployment

May 15, 2009

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Protests are expected to continue in Brussels on Friday after tens of thousands marched on the streets of Spain's capital Thursday to demand better protection for workers hit hard by the economic crisis. Thousands take part in the Madrid demonstration, organized by the European Trade Confederation.

Dressed in funeral black to mourn the estimated 4 million jobless in Spain, demonstrators had a simple message for the government: Enough corporate bailouts; it's time to focus on the workers. Read article

Up to 100,000 demonstrate in Berlin for more job protection


The protests came only two weeks after massive demonstrations on May 1. Up to 100,000 protestors have marched through the heart of Berlin, demanding the government do more to protect jobs during the recession. The rally was part of a series of protests across the European Union.

Trade union officials said 100,000 people took part in Berlin's protest, while police put the total at "several tens of thousands".

The rally was organized by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) as part of a series of four demonstrations across Europe with the motto "Fight the crisis. Europe needs a new social deal".

Amidst Germany's deepest recession since World War Two, unemployment has risen consecutively in the past 6 months and forecasts for the coming year are even bleaker. Demonstrators accused the government of putting big business first, and not doing enough to protect the people. Read entire article

Economic crisis damaging human rights, report says


EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Human rights violations remained widespread across the world in 2008, including Europe, with the global economic crisis not only aggravating the existing problems, but creating new ones as well, human rights group Amnesty International's yearly report released on Thursday (28 May) shows.

"The global economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis. A combination of social, economic and political problems has created a [across the world]," said Irene Khan, the group's secretary general.

"There are growing signs of political unrest and violence, adding to the global insecurity that already exists because of deadly conflicts which the international community seems unable or unwilling to resolve. In other words: we are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and it is about to explode," she wrote in the introduction to Amnesty's report on the situation of human rights in the world. Read article

France NATO protesters, police clash; Michelle Obama hospital visit cancelled over security worries

April 4th 2009

STRASBOURG, France — Black-clad protesters attacked police and set a customs station ablaze Saturday on a bridge linking France and Germany that served hours earlier as the backdrop for a show of unity by NATO leaders.

AP photographers saw other protesters storm a nearby Ibis hotel, setting fires and pilfering alcohol from its bar.

Stacks of old tires were also set ablaze, unleashing thick plumes of black smoke that could be seen from across the river. Near the bonfire was a sign welcoming visitors to Strasbourg.

First lady Michelle Obama and other spouses canceled a visit to a cancer hospital out of concern for security, the French president's office said. Some 1,000 protesters were staked out near the hospital they were to visit.

Some of the protesters say they want an end to war and call NATO a tool of Western imperialism. Others simply appear bent on causing chaos. Read article

Civil Unrest in America?

José Miguel Alonso Trabanco
Global Research
March 9, 2009

The only thing that can be taken for granted and that one can be sure of is that the unthinkable has now become thinkable.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, has warned that civil unrest on American soil is a possibility that should not be dismissed. Brzezinski explains that "[the United States is] going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America…" Brzezinski concludes with this noteworthy remark "…hell, there could be even riots"....

Professor Michel Chossudovsky observed that the US Army 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq some months ago. That information is extremely disturbing because such military unit "may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control", according to official sources. Now, what scenario could possibly require the operational deployment of said units on American soil? Professor Chossudovsky puts forward an intriguing hypothesis that must be borne in mind. He argues that "Civil unrest resulting from from the financial meltdown is a distinct possibility, given the broad impacts of financial collapse on lifelong savings, pension funds, homeownership, etc". Read full article

Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit! -Mother Jones

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Frank W. Olson and Project ARTICHOKE

Looking at what the CIA and US military was doing in 1953 vis a vis torture and biological warfare, one can only feel chilled and truely horrified for our future with all the technology advances over the last 55 years.

The story of Project ARTICHOKE and the 'suicide' death of Frank W. Olson in 1953 leaves one aghast. A well written summary article and a documentary follow which tell the story completely; and I have provided related urls at the end of this post, including the website of Frank Olson's son Eric and the evidence uncovered.

You could hardly write a spy novel more intriguing, fascinating and disturbing than the facts below. I can only guess what DARPA and the CIA have in store for us now.


By Hugh Turley
There are things in our history that most Americans don’t know because they haven’t been told, or what they have been told is not true. Unfortunately, some of the things are so disturbing that many of us would prefer to keep it that way. Such is the case of the death of Frank Olson.

On Monday, November 23, 1953, Olson, a scientist at Fort Detrick, Maryland, told his boss he wanted to quit his job. The following Saturday Olson fell to his death from a tenth floor window of a hotel in New York City.

Government officials told his widow and three young children that Mr. Olson jumped or fell from the window as a result of a nervous breakdown. That story remained “the truth” for 22 years.

In 1975 the Rockefeller Commission’s examination of CIA domestic operations was reported in the Washington Post. The article said that a civilian employee of the Army had unknowingly taken LSD as part of a CIA test. The Post quoted the commission saying that the subject “developed serious side effects and was sent to New York with a CIA escort for psychiatric treatment. Several days later, he jumped from a tenth-floor window of his room and died as a result.”

Although the victim was unnamed and a number of things in the Post article concerning the death were false, the widow, Alice Olson, and her children recognized that the man in the story was their husband and father. It was clear to them from the year, the tenth-floor window in New York, and the victim being a scientist.

The family states that it was also clear the truth was being suppressed because the victim was unnamed and no one bothered to tell the family the story was being released. The family called a press conference and announced that they were filing a lawsuit against the United States government.

The following day, Dick Cheney, then White House deputy staff director, sent a memo to his boss, then Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld, concerning the need to keep classified information secret. The Olson family would later find the memo at the Ford Presidential Library.

President Gerald Ford invited the Olson family to the White House, apologized to the widow and her children, and promised a full accounting. CIA Director William Colby then invited Olson’s widow and her oldest son, Eric, to lunch in his office and gave them a redacted CIA file on Frank Olson.

In return for what finally appeared to be the truth, the family dropped its lawsuit and agreed to a settlement. But they had been deceived again. The facts changed to say that Olson’s death was related to the infamous MK-ULTRA mind control experiments, but the conclusion that he fell or jumped remained the same.

Further investigation convinced the Olsons that Frank had actually been murdered. The full story with links to official documents can be found on Eric Olson’s website

In 1952, Dr. Frank Olson was a CIA officer and acting chief of the Special Operations at Fort Detrick, the government’s most secret biological weapons laboratory. His division researched and experimented with assassination techniques, biological warfare, terminal interrogations, and LSD mind-control.

A family statement in 2002 alleges Olson’s death was related to a CIA operation called ARTICHOKE that “involved the development of special, extreme methods of interrogation.” The file given to the family by Colby contained references to “the Artichoke Committee.”

The family said that Frank Olson had ethical concerns after he “witnessed terminal interrogations in Germany in the summer of 1953” and he wanted to get out of his job.

The Olson family eventually contacted Norman Cournoyer, one of Frank Olson’s oldest friends and closest colleagues at Fort Detrick. Cournoyer told the family that Olson joined the CIA in the late 1940s, and as part of the ARTICHOKE program made numerous trips to Europe where he witnessed torture interrogations of Soviet prisoners, Nazis, and others.

Cournoyer also told them Olson learned biological weapons, including anthrax were used during the Korean War, despite denials by the U.S. government. Cournoyer repeated his story in a 2002 German TV documentary film, “Code Name ARTICHOKE,” which can be seen on

In the past the Communist threat seemed to justify secret immoral activity; today, terrorism is used to justify secret CIA prisons overseas.

If some official has a crisis of conscience will homicide be necessary?

This article appeared originally in the April 2008 Hyattsville Life and Times of Hyattsville, MD.

Here is the video. Each segment is approximately 10 minutes.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

‏Related urls

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the Manchurian Candidate
Certainly, after studying Olson�s case it�s clear: What was once the province of kooky conspiracy buffs has been proven to be grounded in fact. And, in addition to questions regarding the Oct. 2001 anthrax attacks, others surface: Why did George W. Bush and members of the White House staff begin taking the antibiotic Cipro on Sept. 11, weeks before the anthrax attacks? [Washington Post]; How significant were Dr. David Kelly�s concerns that he'd be "found dead in the woods"? [BBC]; Did Dr. Don Wiley�s death have anything to do with other scientists who have died under mysterious circumstances? [Globe and Mail]; And why, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, is there a "deliberate effort to kill scientists," intellectuals and human rights activists in occupied Iraq? [Christian Science Monitor]
Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfelf in the Olsen cover up
The Frank Olsen Legacy Project
Dead Microbiologists
The mysterious deaths of top microbiologists

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Then they came for me....and there was noone...

Police brutality has come to white America. Although it has been happening routinely to blacks and latinos for ages, white America has always taken the side of Law and Order against those criminal races. Now white America gets a taste of what minorities have been suffering through police brutality; perhaps, this will get the attention of the Law and Order crowd now that the victims are white.

In 1991, Rodney King was beaten to a pulp by Los Angeles police officers who were acquitted on all charges except one against Larry Powell, on which the jury was hung.

The reason the jury was hung on this one charge was due to the courage of one juror named Virginia Loya, who refused to be bullied into acquitting officers of all charges. Virginia was a cleaning woman at a hospital in Simi Valley, without formal education, yet with a sense of morality grounded in her beliefs rather than popular opinion. The story of her last night on the jury is excellent reading for those who seek out common heros and heroines.
One of the jurors whose acquittal of four white police officers touched off the Los Angeles riots said today that as the week of deliberations dragged on, she prayed, wept and for a time even fasted in hopes that she could sway the rest of the jury to reach at least one guilty verdict.

"I fasted for a day and a half, and I asked God to help me get out of this," the juror, Virginia Loya, said during a tearful interview at her home here in Ventura County.

The other jurors' "eyes weren't open," she said, "and I said to God, 'If you could give me one more person on my side, I would know.' " Mrs. Loya said that the next morning, on the seventh and last day of deliberations, one juror joined her and two others who had been holding out for a conviction of Officer Laurence M. Powell on a charge of using excessive force under color of authority...

Mrs. Loya said she felt that most of the jurors had already made up their minds by the time they entered the jury room to begin deliberatins. She fought hardest for convictions at the beginning, she said, but the pressure for acquittals was enormous. Read entire article
Those were the days eh? When it was easy to tell the criminals because 1) they were non-white and 2) if the police were beating them, they must have deserved it. Anyone who has watched the TV for the last 30 years should know this: series are chocked full of examples when sometimes it is necessary to violate civil rights to outsmart the 'bad guy'. It's on TV; it must be OK. Except for Virginia Loya - she had courage and swam against the current of injustice she saw.

Now though, the worm has turned and incidences of police assaulting white people are becoming all too common. (Any of you think you have civil rights left?) This first video depicts an incident in 2006 and is only coming to light 3 years later. The second video is from May 2009. Read more. The third is from 2009, also in Seattle.

If I provided more examples, this blog would be terribly long. I wonder what will happen now that whites are subject to the same violations of human rights which they have allowed to happen to non-whites for over hundreds of years. I wonder how the white jurors who acquitted the officers who beat Rodney King, would justify the use of force in these videos? Their decision to allow civil rights to be breached within their society will be a heavy memory with many lessons for the future. AFTER THE RIOTS; After Police-Beating Verdict, Another Trial for the Jurors

I hope Virginia Loya is proud of standing by her convictions. I am still proud of her all these years since. Her courage has always been an inspiration to me. Brava!

Funny how many white Americans seem to think suffering is not real unless it is their own (a generalisation of course.) Where are the Virginia Loyas of today? Where is the voice of sanity and compassion? What happened to the Golden Rule? And did Americans in fact get the government they deserve?

The video which belongs here has been removed from my blog by WKYC-TV for copyright infringment. It graphically depicts a woman who called 911 for help being brutalised by male police officers, stripped naked and held in a cell for over 6 hours. The woman screams 'Why are you doing this to me?' over and over. The mistake was that of the policeman and the humiliation to this woman is SHOCKING!!! Only after 3 years has a lawyer for this woman been able to obtain a copy of the abuse inside the police station.

Read story and view video: Woman Who Called for Help Assaulted By Police; Police Suing TV Station that Exposed Them

or here Fully Nude Strip Search by Cops- Male Police Stripping Woman Completely Naked

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ireland and Child Abuse - from inside

'Orders’ disorders grew out of our dysfunctional society

May 24, 2009
By Tom McGurk

In the closing months of World War II, as the Allied and Soviet armies pushed towards Berlin, driving the defeated German armies before them, they began to discover the Nazi concentration camps. These varied from work camps to extermination camps, and what they found there changed the way we view our civilisation.

Even battle-hardened soldiers who had fought their way across Europe were staggered by what they saw. Almost immediately, the liberators felt a compelling need to tell the story, so that what they had witnessed would not be treated as just more war propaganda.

They filmed the dreadful scenes, and those terrible images, mostly in black and white, remain forever as a testament to what evil fanaticism and intolerance could engender even in a cultured European state. But the liberators did something else too.

They rounded up the German people from villages and towns and brought them into the camps to see what their country had done. It became, perhaps, the defining moment in 20th century German history. Afterwards, the essential truth about the wickedness of Nazism could never seriously be challenged.

What it achieved was to establish the importance of bearing witness, and the supremacy of truth. Forever after, the testimony of the survivors could neither be disputed nor
undermined. The scale of the brutality and inhumanity in concentration camps cannot, of course, be compared to what was uncovered last week in the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which was chaired Mr Justice Sean Ryan.

But there is one important link: just as the death camps’ neighbours saw for themselves in 1945 what had been going on inside the often huge compounds, the report in 2009 has allowed all of us to see for ourselves what our society inflicted on the children of the nation. How can it not have changed our perceptions of this state since independence?

Our social history may require rewriting.

We knew these institutions were grim places and those who, for example, were day pupils in Christian Brothers’ schools were well aware of the rough justice they resorted to daily in plain sight. The reality of child abuse inside the walls of industrial schools and other institutions has been known for many years, but the Ryan Report has revealed organised degradation and misery on a scale hardly imaginable - a gulag of suffering.

The statistics alone are extraordinary. For more than 60 years, some 8,000 religious were involved in the maltreatment of 35,000 children in 261 institutions with - in the end - nearly 1,500 former inmates making the most serious allegations.

The small print of this story is compelling: the ritual humiliations, the beatings, the hunger, the cold and the lice, the forced slave labour and failed educational attempts, the organised bullying, the contempt and the endless psychological brutalising, the persistent beating and sexual abuse.

Ryan catalogues a horror story that feels like it belongs to the dark ages. Is this the Ireland we

But what is also compelling is the total failure of all the institutions of state and society to reach out to end this misery. This includes the doctors, judges, policemen, teachers, priests, solicitors, civil servants and others who, down the years, facilitated and chose meekly to follow the system unquestioningly. And what of the contempt Irish society had for these children whose common connection was essentially their poverty? Magdalene Institute for girls

Ryan has exposed, as never before, the deep class hatred of working people and the rural poor that permeated the state, the government and its agencies, as well as the Catholic Church down the years.

If post-independence Ireland unleashed a social-climbing competition, institutionalised children seem to have functioned for some as the lowest step on the ladder. These little ones were to be hated, apparently, because they had committed the new crime of having nothing. Class prejudice, and the deep dysfunctionality of the post-colonial era when the Catholic Church took over as the dominant establishment, sealed their fate.

These children were the flotsam and jetsam of societal failure in the state’s first half century - the generations of emigration and unemployment, the crisis of alcohol abuse and homelessness. To be poor or illegitimate, as it was called, or an orphan, or abandoned, was somehow seen as a crime by those whose job it was to care for these children. Adopting behaviour that would not have been out of place in the pages of Dickens, they never ceased to remind their victims of it.

If you try to analyse the punishments these regimes inflicted, or to probe the brutality for logic, it all seems underscored with some bizarre interpretation of Catholic social teaching: physical punishment and then prayer, notions of evil and badness and, in the swinging straps and fists, some grotesque concept of original sin.

Underpinning it all, as Ryan shows, was the contempt and hatred these religious had for the children in their care.

What was that about? What was it in the state of these children that so exercised the fury and brutality of their religious minders? Why did they despise them so much? Was it because they were poor, orphaned, unwanted, abandoned?

And who were these young Irish men and women who operated this terrible regime? In some ways, they too were products of the same system as their victims. Many of the brothers and some of the nuns were poor and poorly educated. They came from working or lower middle classes and most were recruited as immature and impressionable boys and girls.

In an age of poverty and unemployment, the religious orders offered a job, food and a bed for life, and it offered status they could never have achieved otherwise.

Once such young people became part of the religious system, they sensed an immunity from the laws that bound others and felt they belonged to a superior sacerdotal caste. It’s time we admitted it - the mindset, with its narrow focus on sin and punishment was that of an Irish Taliban.

In his poem Bye, Child, Seamus Heaney remembers the ‘‘little henhouse boy’’ who was locked away for years in the garden by his ashamed mother. The closing lines are redolent of the commission’s report:
But now you speak at last. With a remote mime of something beyond patience, Your gaping wordless proof of Lunar distances Travelled beyond love.

Read more
Records of abuse - female witnesses
Ryan report - male witnesses

To consume: the definition destroy or expend by use; use up. eat or drink up; devour. destroy, as by decomposition or burning: Fire consumed the forest. spend (money, time, etc.) wastefully. absorb; engross: consumed with curiosity.
–verb (used without object) undergo destruction; waste away. use or use up consumer goods.


This is definition well worth comtemplating in our days of consumer 'affluence', ending though they are. The article below examines the modern day urge to 'consume' and from whence it came. What does it really mean to be a 'consumer' today?

Another excellent history of consumerism, and how we came to measure ourselves by it can be found in the BBC documentary Century of the Self.
"We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." - Edward Bernays To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

To hear a free audio recording of E.F. Schumacher's lecture on the solution, click here.

Consumerism: an Historical Perspective

by Sharon Beder
21 February 2009


Consumption was promoted through advertising as a “democracy of goods” and used to pacify political unrest among workers. With the help of marketers and advertisers exploiting the idea of consumer goods as status symbols, workers were manipulated into being avaricious consumers who could be trusted “to spend more rather than work less.” But if we admired wisdom above wealth, and compassion and cooperation above competition, we could undermine the motivation to consume.

The development of consumer societies meant the erosion of traditional values and attitudes of thrift and prudence. Expanding consumption was necessary to create markets for the fruits of rising production. Ironically this “required the nurture of qualities like wastefulness, self-indulgence, and artificial obsolescence, which directly negated or undermined the values of efficiency” and the Protestant Ethic that had originally nurtured capitalism.1 Advertisers sought to redefine people’s needs, encourage their wants and offer solutions to them via goods produced by corporations rather than allowing people to identify and solve their own problems, or to look to each other for solutions. 2

Consumerism also played a major role in legitimising a social system which rewards businessmen and top corporate executives with incomes many times those of ordinary workers. The consumer society gives ordinary workers some access to the good life. Surrounded by the bounty of their work — the television set, stereo, car, computer, white goods — they are less likely to question conditions of their work, the way it dominates their life, and the lack of power they have as workers. Advertisers constantly tell them these are the fruits of success, that this is what life is all about. To question a system that delivers such plenty would seem perverse.

Over-production and the shorter working week

The growth in production in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries required growing markets. This meant expanding the consuming class beyond the middle and upper classes to include the working classes. Production between 1860 and 1920 increased by 12 to 14 times in the US while the population only increased three times.3 Supply outstripped demand and problems of scarcity were replaced by problems of how to create more demand.

By the early 1920s, when American markets were reaching saturation, “over-production” and lack of consumer demand were blamed for recession. More goods were being produced than a population with “set habits and means” could consume.4 There were two schools of thought about how this problem should be solved. One was that work hours should be decreased and the economy stabilised so production met current needs and work was shared around. This view was held by intellectuals, labour leaders, reformers, educators and religious leaders. In America and in Europe, it was commonly believed consumer desires had limits that could be reached and production beyond those limits would result in increased leisure time for all. 5

The opposing view, mainly held by business people and economists, was over-production could and should be solved by increasing consumption so economic growth could continue. Manufacturers needed to continually expand production so as to increase their profits. Employers were also afraid of such a future because of its potential to undermine the work ethic and encourage degeneracy amongst workers who were unable to make proper use of their time. Increasing production and consumption guaranteed the ongoing centrality of work. 6

Keen to maintain the importance of work in the face of the push for more leisure, businessmen extolled the virtues and pleasures of work and its necessity in building character, providing dignity and inspiring greatness. Economists too argued that the creation of work was the goal of production. John M. Clark, in a review of economic developments, stated: “Consumption is no longer the sole end nor production solely the means to that end. Work is an end in itself…” Creating work, and the right to work, he argued, had a higher moral imperative than meeting basic needs. 7

Manufacturer, H. C. Atkins, along with president of the National Association of Manufacturers, John E. Edgerton, warned a five-day week would undermine the work ethic by giving more time for leisure.8 If work took up less of the day it would be less important in people’s lives. Edgerton, observed: “I am for everything that will make work happier but against everything that will further subordinate its importance…. the emphasis should be put on work – more work and better work, instead of upon leisure.” 9

Most businessmen believed shorter hours meant less production, which would limit the growth of America’s business enterprise. They argued they could not afford shorter work weeks, that they would become uncompetitive and go bankrupt. They also feared that given extra free time, people would spend it in unsociable ways, turning to crime, vice, corruption and degeneracy and perhaps even radicalism. “The common people had to be kept at their desks and machines, lest they rise up against their betters.” 10 And Edgerton, argued “nothing breeds radicalism more quickly than unhappiness unless it is leisure. As long as the people are kept profitably and happily employed there is little danger from radicalism.” 11 In the US consumption rates were increasing in the mid-1920s and the “new economic gospel of consumption” gained many adherents. 12 The idea there were limits on consumer wants began to be eclipsed by the idea such wants could be endlessly created. In 1929 the President’s Committee on Recent Economic Changes stated: “wants are almost insatiable; one want satisfied makes way for another… by advertising and other promotional devices, by scientific fact- finding, and by carefully pre-developed consumption, a measurable pull on production… has been created.” 13

The public was urged by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to “end the buyers’ strike.” 14 However the desire to consume did not come naturally, it had to be learned: “People had to move away from habits of strict thrift toward habits of ready spending.”15 From the 1920s corporations began advertising to the working classes in an effort to break down these old habits of thrift and encourage new consumerist desires. At the same time they sought to counter anti-corporate feelings generated by the conditions of work in their factories. 16

Hooking work and leisure to consumption

Higher wages helped in this shift from the Protestant ethic of asceticism to one of consumerism that fitted with the required markets for mass production.17 In boom times, workers were given increased wages rather than increased leisure. Between 1910 and 1929 the average purchasing power of workers in the US increased by 40%. 18 With these rising wages they bought more and the upward spiral of production and consumption was maintained. In earlier times higher wages might have encouraged workers to work shorter hours, but once workers had been coached into becoming consumers there was little danger of this. With the help of marketers and advertisers, workers could be trusted “to spend more rather than work less.” 19

In this context it was important leisure was not an alternative to work and an opportunity to reflect on life but rather a time for consumption. In this way the forty-hour week, rather than threatening economic growth would foster it. Leisure goods such as radios, phonographs, movies, clothes, books and recreational facilities all benefited from increased leisure time.20 At the same time leisure had to be subordinate to work and importantly, a reason to work.

Business people still wanted to limit the reduction of work hours and believed that by ‘educating’ workers to become consumers, the demand from workers for reduced working hours would also be limited. 21 Manufacturers expanded markets by expanding the range of goods they produced, moving from the basic requirements of living such as food, clothing and building materials to items such as cars and radios that provided entertainment and recreation. 22 US unions fell in with the consumption solution to overproduction in the late 1920s and concentrated on fighting for higher wages. Union leaders promoted increased production and economic growth as a way of increasing wages. It was not till the Great Depression of the 1930s that they again fought for a shorter working week as a solution to unemployment. 23

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After the Second World War the idea of solving unemployment by reducing working hours disappeared from mainstream thinking. During the war a demand for consumer goods built up and following it workers tended to prefer wage rises to shorter hours.24 Unions no longer pressed for shorter working hours and workers themselves became wedded to a consumer lifestyle that required long hours to support. Many unions in fact gave up their fight for control of production in favour of a share of the fruits of production and “ever-increasing levels of material well-being for their workers.”25

The promise of full-employment assuaged fears that long work hours might create unemployment. Leisure became consumer-oriented, revolving round the home with its entertaining and convenience goods and the vacation where workers could enjoy living in luxury for a short time. 26 As Cross noted: “The identification of leisure with consumption won many to hard and steady work in disagreeable jobs.” 27

Juliet Schor noted in her book, The Overworked American that by 1991 productivity in the US had increased steadily from the 1940s: “we could now produce our 1948 standard of living (measured in terms of marketed goods and services) in less than half the time it took in that year. We could actually have chosen the four-hour day, or a working year of six months….” Instead, workers work more hours now than in 1948 and consume more than twice as much. 28 It was the “social decision to direct industrial innovation toward producing unlimited quantities of goods rather than leisure” that created the foundation for our modern consumer culture, “a culture of work and spend.” The movement for more free time for workers and leisure time free of market forces, was defeated by the middle of the 20th century when mass consumer culture took off. 29 The consumer culture, rather than eroding the work ethic, tied people even more closely to working long hours in order to earn the money for their consumer desires.

Consumerism as opiate of the masses

Stuart Ewen in his book Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture showed that advertising for mass consumerism was not only aimed at increasing markets for goods but also at shifting the locus of discontent from people’s work to arenas that advertisers could promise would be satisfied by consumption. Their frustrations and unhappiness could then be directed towards buying rather than political protest against working conditions or other elements of industrial society.30

Ewen claims that consumerism: “the mass participation in the values of the mass-induced market,” was not a natural historical development but an aggressive device of corporate survival.” Discontent in the workplace could lead to a challenge to corporate authority but discontent in the consumer sphere provided an incentive to work harder and reflected an acceptance of the values of the capitalist enterprise. 31 Similarly Robert Lane claims in his book on Political Ideology that: “The more emphasis a society places upon consumption-through advertising, development of new products, and easy installment buying-the more will social dissatisfaction be channeled into intraclass consumption rivalry instead of interclass resentment and conflict… the more will labor unions focus upon the ‘bread and butter’ aspects of unionism, as contrasted to its ideological elements.” 32

If people were dependent on the products of the factories they were less likely to be critical of the appalling working conditions within them. The good life attained through this consumption was also compensation for the unpleasantness of work and distracted attention from it. Advertisements were careful not to depict people working in factories. A leading copywriter in the 1920s, Helen Woodward, advised consumption could help sublimate and redirect urges that might otherwise be expressed politically or aggressively. “To those who cannot change their whole lives or occupations,” she argued, “even a new line in a dress is often a relief.” 33

Department store merchant Edward Filene, a spokesperson for industrialists in the 1920s and 30s, spoke frankly about the need for social planning in order to create a consumer culture where industry could “sell to the masses all that it employs the masses to create” and the need for education to train the masses to be consumers in a world of mass production. He argued that consumer culture could unify the nation and, through education, social change could be limited to changes in the commodities that industry produced.34

Consumption allows people at the bottom of the social hierarchy to feel they have some measure of access to the good life for all their troubles. The escape from real life provided by leisure activities allows people to continue what might otherwise be a dreary and downtrodden existence. Lisa Macdonald and Allen Myers from Green Left Weekly, claim workers attempt to gain ownership of what they produce and overcome their alienation through consumption: “it is only as purchasers, ’shoppers’, that we are treated with the courtesy worthy of a human being.”35 Employers encouraged workers to think of consumerism as the rationale for their work but measures of success were moved from the realm of production and work to the realm of consumption. Advertising messages affected people’s aspirations. They portrayed a bounty of consumer goods as the fruits of the American Dream. Rather than aspiring for their children to become leading businessmen or top executives or political leaders, advertisements offered messages such as “Some Day your Boy will own a Buick.”36

Advertisers also undermined the nineteenth century “culture of character” which was the basis of the myth of the self-made man, someone who succeeded as a result of hard work, morality and discipline. In its place a “culture of personality” evolved which promoted the importance of presentation and appearance, things that advertisers were so helpfully offering to assist with. What mattered in getting ahead and influencing people was the impression a person made on others. Things like their clothes, their home furnishings, their personal cleanliness were all used by others to judge their character.37 Also advertising and consumerism played a major role in the acceptance of the capitalist vision and its associated inequalities. Roland Marchand in his book Advertising the American Dream argued advertisers repeatedly used “the parable of the democracy of goods” to sell their products to the middle classes. In this parable, although there was a social hierarchy with wealth concentrated at the top, ordinary people could enjoy the same products and goods that the people at the top did. Joe Blo could drink the same brand of coffee as the wealthiest capitalist. Mary Jane could buy the same soap as the lady with the maid in waiting. The most humble of citizens (although not the poor who were not the targets of these advertisements) could afford to purchase the same quality products as a millionaire. 38

The social message of the parable of the Democracy of Goods was clear. Antagonistic envy of the rich was unseemly; programs to redistribute wealth were unnecessary. The best things in life were already available to all at reasonable prices. Incessantly and enticingly repeated, advertising visions of fellowship in a Democracy of Goods encouraged Americans to look to similarities in consumption styles rather than to political power or control of wealth for evidence of significant equality. 39

According to Filene, the process of buying goods was a means by which people were supporting industry and thereby electing the manufacturers, who made the goods, to a government which would satisfy their needs. They were voting industry leaders into positions of leadership in society. In this way “the masses have elected Henry Ford. They have elected General Motors. They have elected the General Electric Company, and Woolworth’s and all the other great industrial and business leaders of the day.”40 Not only was the desire for social change displaced by a desire for changes in commodities, but political freedom was equated with consumer choice and political citizenship with participation in the market through consumption. Consumption was promoted as democratising at the very time it was being used to pacify the political unrest of workers.41 According to well-known sociologist Daniel Bell: “If the American worker has been ‘tamed’ it has not been through the discipline of the machine, but by the ‘consumption society,’ by the possibility of a better living which his wage, the second income from his working wife, and easy credit all allow.”42

Production, consumption and status

Vance Packard, in his book The Status Seekers argued the use of consumer goods as status symbols was a deliberate strategy of advertisers, or “merchants of discontent,” who took advantage of the “upgrading urge” people felt. The message that workers could improve their status through consumption was particularly aimed at people who had little chance of raising their status through their work because opportunities for promotion were slim.43 employers sought to divert the dissatisfaction of workers with the nature of their work into a more personal dissatisfaction that could be fed with consumer goods: “offering mass produced visions of individualism by which people could extricate themselves from the mass.”44

The advertiser offered workers the possibility of gaining social status through buying goods that were better than their neighbours. With the help of installment plans and credit, they could purchase the signifiers of success even if they weren’t achieving success in their workplace. This was not something that came naturally to working people who were, for the main part, resigned to their position in life. According to Packard “they need prodding and ‘educating’ to desire many of the traditionally higher-class products the mass merchandisers want to move in such vast numbers, such as the electric rotating spits or gourmet foods.”45

Car manufacturers, particularly, exploited people’s desire for status, spending “small fortunes exploring the status meaning of their product.” They found, for example that people in housing developments where all the houses looked similar, were most likely to leave their large new cars parked on the street in front of the house rather than in the garage where no-one would see them. Plymouth advertisements pictured a family in front of their car saying “We’re not wealthy… we just look it!” Dodge advertisements featured a man saying to a Dodge car owner “Boy, you must be rich to own a car as big as this!” And Ford advertisements showed the back of one of their cars and stated “let the people behind you know you are ahead of them!”46

Such advertising was so successful people began diverting funds from other purchases into the purchase of a car to enhance their status, and by the end of the 1950s Americans “were spending more of their total income on the family chariot than they were in financing their homestead, which housed the family and its car or cars.”47 Not to be outdone home builders and sellers ensured the home became a status symbol that rivalled the motor car.

Chinoy observed consumption provided automobile workers in the 1950s with a way of rationalising their failure to advance in their work: “Advancement has come to mean the progressive accumulation of things as well as the increasing capacity to consume… If one manages to buy a new car, if each year sees a major addition to the household-a washing machine, a refrigerator, a new living-room suite, now probably a television set-then one is also getting ahead.”48 Rather than question the American Dream, workers would either blame themselves for their failure to live up to it, or find other ways to interpret it.

Such trends were not confined to the US. The consumerism that proliferated in the US in the 1920s and 1930s, spread to other industrialised nations after the Second World War, particularly in the 1950s. 49 In his book on the rise of a consumer society in Australia, Greg Whitwell said: “The ownership of certain sorts of consumer goods, each ranked according to brand names, came to be seen as guides to an individual’s income which in turn, so it is believed, said something about his or her inner worth. Consumer goods became external signs, used to give a sense of hierarchy by members of a society characterized by an emphasis on change and on social and geographical mobility.”50

More pay needed to buy “goods”

In a British study of the working class in the 1950s Ferdynand Zweig found: “a steep rise in acquisitive tendencies and pre-occupation with money in work attitudes.” There was far less difference between middle class and working class purchase of consumer durables (cars, white goods, electrical appliances) than previously and class self-identification had come to depend more on factors such as house ownership than type of work. In fact Zweig found workers impatient with questions about class. They were more interested in status as a way of organising the social spectrum.51

Increased consumerism led to an increased emphasis on the importance of pay. Many people work so as to earn the money to buy consumer goods and some measure of status that accompanies them. A European study by the Henley Centre in 1991 found “better pay” was the priority for new jobs for 70 percent of those surveyed, compared with enjoyable work, which was a priority for 58 percent.52

A U.S. study found those who believed “having lots of money” was “extremely important” had gone up to almost two thirds in 1986 from less than half in 1977. It ranked higher than any other of goal in life.53 Americans born since 1963, those referred to as generation X, are more likely to agree that: “The only really meaningful measure of success is money” than any previous generation. They spend more money on stereos, mobile phones, beepers and cars than older people and are more likely to take a less interesting job if it pays well.54

Jimmy Carter, as President of the US noted: “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.”55 Consumption has become a more important source of self-identity and status than work for many people. Compton Advertising undertook a survey of public attitudes to the economic system in 1974 and found two thirds of those surveyed identified their role in the economic system as that of “consumers and spenders of money” rather than workers or producers. This included one half of those in the labour force. 56

More recent opinion surveys show that in countries like the US and Japan, “people increasingly measure success by the amount they consume.”57 In a society where people don’t know each other very well, appearances are important and social status, though more securely attained through occupation, can be attained with strangers through consumption. When people are uprooted and move to the cities they are strangers to each other. Previously everyone knew one another’s business and the status that should be accorded to each person. In an anonymous city a person can adopt a certain lifestyle, clothes, car that is higher up the status ladder than their occupation would indicate, particularly if they are willing to go into debt to do it. Consumption then becomes an indicator of achievement.58

The desire to consume is often portrayed as a natural human characteristic that cannot be changed. However it is clear populations have been manipulated into being avaricious consumers. What people really want, more than the multitude of goods on offer, is status. History has shown the determinants of status can change. If we want to live in an ecologically sustainable society, then we need to award status to those who are happy with a basic level of comfort rather than those who accumulate possessions. If, as a community, we admired wisdom above wealth and compassion and cooperation above competition, we would be well on the way to undermining the motivation to consume.

This article was first adapted for publication in Pacific Ecologist from chapter 12 of the book Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR, by Sharon Beder, Publisher Scribe, Melbourne 2000. Professor Sharon Beder is head of the Science, Technology and Society Programme at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. She writes a regular column for Engineers Australia and has written several books including Power Play Toxic Fish and Sewer Surfing; The Nature of Sustainable Development. Professor Beder was awarded the 2001 World Technology Award in Ethics.

The Pacific Ecologist, whence this article came, provided this editorial note: Sharon Beder explores the history of consumer societies from the 1920s when over-production of goods exceeded demand. Instead of stabilising the economy, reducing working hours, and sharing work around, which would have brought more leisure time for all, industrialists decided to expand markets by promoting consumerism to the working classes. The social decision to produce unlimited quantities of goods rather than leisure, nurtured wastefulness, obsolescence, and inefficiency and created the foundation for our modern consumer culture. People were trained to be both workers and consumers in a culture of work and spend. -Posted by thomaspainescorner on April 26, 2009


[1] Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making way for modernity, 1920-1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p, 158.

[2] Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976), pp. 70, 108.

[3] David J. Cherrington, The Work Ethic: Working Values and Values that Work (New York: AMACON, 1980), p. 37.

[4] Gary Cross, Time and Money (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 38; Rodney Clapp, ‘Why the Devil Takes Visa’, Christianity Today, Vol. 40, No. 11 (1996).

[5] Cross, note 7, pp. 7-8, 28.

[6] Ibid., pp. 7,9,39; Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, Work Without End: Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), pp. 42, 67.

[7] Ibid., pp. 62-3.

[8] Paul Bernstein, American Work Values: Their Origin and Development (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997), p. 157.

[9] Cross, note 7, p. 16.

[10] Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline in Leisure (USA: BasicBooks, 1991), p. 74.

[11] Quoted in Hunnicutt, note 9, p. 41.

[12] Hunnicutt, note 9, p.; 42.

[13] Quoted in Cross, note 7, p. 41.

[14] Quoted in Ibid., p. 38.

[15] Clapp, note 7.

[16] Ewen, note 5, p. 19.

[17] Ibid., p. 29.

[18] Cross, note 7, p. 7.

[19] Hunnicutt, note 9, p. 43.

[20] Ibid., p. 45.

[21] Ibid., pp. 46-7.

[22] Robert Eisenberger, Blue Monday: The Loss of the Work Ethic in America (New York: Paragon House, 1989), p. 11.

[23] Hunnicutt, note 9, p. 79.

[24] Cross, note 7, p. 85.

[25] Schor, note 15, p. 78; Daniel Yankelovich and John Immerwahr, ‘Putting the Work Ethic to Work’, Society, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1984), p. 59.

[26] Cross, note 7, p. 155.

[27] Ibid., p. 153.

[28] Schor, note 15, p. 2.

[29] Cross, note 7, pp. 5, 9.

[30] Ewen, note 5, pp. 43-5.

[31] Ibid., pp. 54, 109.

[32] Robert E. Lane, Political Ideology: Why the American Common Man Believes What he Does (New York: The Free Press, 1962), p. 80.

[33] Ewen, note 5, pp. 77-8, 85-6.

[34] Ibid., p. 54.

[35] L. Macdonald and A. Myers, ‘Malign Design’, New Internationalist (November 1998), p. 21.

[36] Marchand, note 4, pp. 162, 222.

[37] Ibid., pp. 209-10.

[38] Ibid., p. 218.

[39] Ibid., pp. 220, 222.

[40] Quoted in Ewen, note 5, p. 92.

[41] Ibid., pp. 89, 91.

[42] Daniel Bell, ‘Work and Its Discontents (1956)’, in A. R. Gini and T. J. Sullivan (eds), It Comes with the Territory: An Inquiry Concerning Work and the Person (New York: Random House, 1989), pp. 122-123.

[43] Vance Packard, The Status Seekers: An Exploration of Class Behaviour in America (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1961), pp. 269-70.

[44] Andrew Hornery, ‘Family Pack aims for the children’, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 1998, p. 45.

[45] Packard, note 84, p. 271.

[46] Ibid., pp. 273-4.

[47] Ibid., p. 274.

[48] Ely Chinoy, Automobile Workers and the American Dream, 2nd ed (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinios Press, 1992), p. 126.

[49] Stewart Lansley, After the Gold Rush: The Trouble with Affluence: ‘Consumer Capitalism’ and the Way Forward (London: Century Business Books, 1994), p. 85.

[50] Greg Whitwell, Making the Market: The Rise of Consumer Society (Melbourne: McPhee Gribble Publishers, 1989), p. 7.

[51] Ferdynand Zweig, The New Acquisitive Society (Chichester: Barry Rose, 1976), pp. 15, 21-2, 26-7.

[52] Cited in Lansley, note 90, p. 136.

[53] Alan Thein Durning, How Much is Enough: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, ed. Linda Starke, Worldwatch Environmental Alert Series (London: Earthscan, 1992), p. 34.

[54] Dan Zevin and Carolyn Edy, ‘Boom Time for Gen X’, US News and World Report (20 October 1997)

[55] Quoted in Thomas H. Naylor, William H. Willimon and Rolf Osterberg, The Search for Meaning in the Workplace (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), p. 69.

[56] Compton Advertising, ‘National Survey on the American Economic System’, (New York: The Advertising Council, 1974), p. 17

[57] Durning, note 94, p. 22.

[58] Bell, note 71, p. 68.


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