The LJDC Monthly Meeting Sunday, May 19, 2019 2 – 4:30 pm
PROGRAM: WHAT IS HAPPENING? Dr. Petterson will discuss the relationship between our climate crisis, our political crisis, our economic crisis, and the evolving ideological struggles within the Democratic Party.
SPEAKER: Dr. Cody Petterson is an anthropologist and environmental activist. Born and raised in La Jolla, he attended La Jolla Elementary, Muirlands Junior High, and La Jolla High. He received a BA from UC Berkeley, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a PH.D. in Anthropology from UCSD. He is president of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action and serves on the boards of the San Diego River Conservancy and the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego. He lives with his wife and two children in La Jolla, where he enjoys his passion for native habitat conservation and restoration.
Community Room @ AMC La Jolla 12 Theater 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive San Diego, CA 92037 Map
Against Charity, by Julie Wark and Daniel Raventos AK Press (January 9th 2018) Charity is not a gift. Gift-giving implies reciprocity, an ongoing relationship. When requital is impossible, the act of giving remains outside mutual ties and charity becomes yet another manifestation of class structure, a sterile one-way act upholding the status quo. Vacuuming up all the profits thanks to a weak labor movement, lower taxes, and tax havens (thanks, lobbyists and loathsome politicians!), the global elite then turn around and remake the world in their own image with charitable donations that speak more of mean-spiritedness than generosity. Postmodern versions of nineteenth-century charity aim to keep wealth and power in a few hands, mocking our desire for greater income equality. Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark argue for an unconditional universal basic income above the poverty line and paid for by progressive taxation to both eradicate poverty and empower recipients—the result being the human right of material existence. The burning issue is not charity but justice. More
The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank Published by AK Press (January 4th 2019) The world as we know it is undergoing a sudden and violent transformation, unlike anything the planet has experienced since the Cretaceous Extinction. The evidence is all around us: vast droughts that last decades, super-storms and floods that destroy cities, dwindling aquifers, vanishing glaciers, toxic water supplies, raging wildfires, obscure new diseases, vanishing species and indigenous communities. Our planet is changing faster than evolution can keep up. The forces driving this radical transformation are not natural. The earth has been brought to the brink by a greed-based predatory economic system that chews up anything in its path and spits it out to the bitter end. Environmental journalists Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank take you on a sobering field trip through the danger zones; from the strip mines of Appalachia to last refuge of the grizzly, from the dirty fracking fields to the world’s most dangerous place, the Hanford Nuclear Site in the Pacific Northwest. The Big Heat charts the battle lines for the future of the planet, from corporate villains to corrupt politicians and the fearless environmentalists who are standing up against the pillaging. This is an unflinching chronicle of the last fight that really matters. More
The Making Of Donald Trump, by David Cay Johnston Melville House (August 2, 2016) The culmination of nearly 30 years of reporting on Donald Trump, this in-depth report by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston takes a revealingly close look at the mogul’s rise to prominence — and, now, ultimate power Covering the long arc of Trump’s career, Johnston tells the full story of how a boy from a quiet section of Queens, NY would become an entirely new, and complex, breed of public figure. Trump is a man of great media savvy, entrepreneurial spirit, and political clout. Yet his career has been plagued by legal troubles and mounting controversy. More
Biased – Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD Published by Viking (Mar 26, 2019) 352 Pages You don’t have to be racist to be biased. Unconscious bias can be at work without our realizing it, and even when we genuinely wish to treat all people equally, ingrained stereotypes can infect our visual perception, attention, memory, and behavior. This has an impact on education, employment, housing, and criminal justice. In Biased, with a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Jennifer Eberhardt offers us insights into the dilemma and a path forward.More
The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, by David Wallace-Wells Publisher: Allen Lane (May 7, 2019) The signs of climate change are unmistakable even today, but the real transformations have hardly begun. For a generation, we’ve been taught that warming was a problem of arctic melting and sea levels rising, but in fact it promises to be all-enveloping, driving dramatic changes at every level of our lives, from everyday matters like the supply of chocolate and coffee (likely to dry up) to public health (tens of millions likely to die from pollution) to climate migration (hundreds of millions fleeing unlivable, overheated homelands). We’ve been taught that warming would be slow-but, barring very dramatic action, each of these impacts is likely to arrive within the length of a new home mortgage signed this year. More
Oneness VS.. The 1%, by Kartikey Shiva Vandana Shiva Publisher: Women Unlimited (2018) Widespread poverty and malnutrition, an alarming refugee crisis, social unrest, economic polarisation… have become our lived reality as the top 1% of the world’s seven-billion-plus population pushes the planet—and all its people—to the social and ecological brink. In Oneness vs. the 1%, Vandana Shiva takes on the Billionaires Club of Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg and other modern Mughals, whose blindness to the rights of people, and to the destructive impact of their construct of linear progress, have wrought havoc across the world. Their single-minded pursuit of profit has undemocratically enforced uniformity and monocultures, division and separation, monopolies and external control—over finance, food, energy, information, healthcare, and even relationships. More
On page 262 of Capital in the 21st Century there are two of the most important sentences I’ve ever read: “…it is essential to be aware of these things: the historical reduction of inequalities of wealth is less substantial than many people believe. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the limited compression of inequality that we have seen is irreversible.” Does this scare you? It should.
Here are three more books that I loved to pieces and highly recommend:
Black Elk Speaks, “as told through John G. Neihardt“. If you missed this in college you must find the time to read it now. And indulge yourself in the Introduction. Mr. Neihardt describes his first meeting with Black Elk, who was waiting for him, even though no contact had occurred between them. And the Epilogue, which describes their meeting for the last time. I cried. Black Elk tells US history from how he and his people lived it, in his own words, transcribed by Neihardt’s daughter. You will get a clear, first-hand account of our country’s perfidy against the indigenous people. And what life was like before the Europeans’ descendants took over.
Another great book, with flawless writing, is Sonia Sotomayor’s book, My Beloved World. It’s the story of her life, starting from her early childhood and watching Perry Mason, which became the inspiration to become a judge. Yes, Mason got the attention, but the judge had the power! It’s an inspiring, beautiful story, and highlights her as one of our bright lights on the Supreme Court. It’s a delightful book about an amazing person, and well-worth the time in reading it.
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so difficult to admit a mistake, Being Wrong,by Kathryn Schulz, explains the psychology behind it. There are a lot of people who act and think mistakenly. Yelling at them, or giving them facts, isn’t so helpful. Understanding how the mind works might be. She gives examples of people faced with new facts and all the different ways they react. This knowledge is imperative as we waltz into the 2020 election. Hopefully we will be helped and fortified by inspirational people and books, and their accumulated knowledge and wisdom.
What Does It Mean to be White?, by Robin DiAngelo Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers; Revised edition (June 15, 2016) This is an outstanding (and readable) analysis of whiteness, from incisive and wide-ranging critiques of how white folks deflect, deny, and evade the topic of racism, and the implications of our racial identity and position The author worked with a person-of-color partner for the Dept. of Social and Health Services providing training for public and corporate workers. Her book outlines what she learned and what she and her partner taught. It’s a powerful lesson in “consciousness raising” and understanding of our role in institutional racism. More
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500-year History, by Kurt Andersen Random House; 1st Edition edition (September 5, 2017) It’s a NY Times Bestseller. Over 450 pages the author details why this “fake news” moment we are living through is not something entirely new. We were founded by dreamers and have a history of “true believers,” “magical thinkers,” “hucksters” and “suckers. He said that believe-whatever-you-want fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA, from the Salem witch trials to P.T. Barnum, to Hollywood, our fetish for guns, belief in extraterrestrials and “end times,” and more. He explains how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred. Fascinating (and informative) reading. More
I heard him on TED radio, and he has a TED talk, worth listening to if only for his adorable British accent. As you read the book you’ll hear his voice in your head, and it will become that much more enjoyable. He talks about what we used to think and what we now know about depression and anxiety. What peaked my interest at first was the fact that we had both been on Paxil for thirteen years, and then went off. It’s a powerful drug, but doesn’t solve any problems. The problems, he posits, are caused by how our society is organized–the perceived positives of having “things”, the lack of community, the lack of purpose, or a meaningful job. So the book starts off as a sort of self-help book and ends up being thoroughly political. Tiny side note here: When the Mariinsky orchestra played with us, the San Diego Symphony, I found someone fluent in English and asked him to translate so I could chat with another of his colleagues. “What will life be like when we become a colony of Russia’s?” “You won’t have things.” This book is a fun romp through the deceits of the pharmaceutical industry, many countries visited and experts interviewed, and one man’s purposeful and sometimes accidental adventures. Highly recommended.
A friend of mine is from Persia, or, Iran. She gave me a book and told me, “This was my life.” The book is Persepolis, and her pronunciation is accented first syllable, and no second syllable. A movie was made from this graphic novel, but the book continues into Marjane’s young adulthood in Paris. Once you get to know her life and her family, her changing situations, her adventures and thoughts, you no longer think that war against Iran is a good idea. There are lovely people who live there! Just like you and me. With the same desires and emotions, the same kinds of bodies, the same wish for a better life and more compassionate country. My friend’s father-in-law is 106, still voting, still going to work. People sit in traffic, go shopping, visit with friends. This book is a peek into a beautiful woman’s life as a little girl, the politics and how it affected her and her family, the brave souls who went to prison or were murdered. The author did the drawings, and they are honest, and wonderful. This book is not to be missed.
He describes his experience covering the war in Croatia, looking under the blankets covering the dead, the politics, life before, during and after, and our involvement. It gives you an understanding of the attraction and benefits of war as loved ones are dying all around you: War creates a cohesiveness, a tight-knit group of like-minded people, helping each other–against the enemy. Who is the enemy? It doesn’t seem to matter. Anyone who isn’t “us”. And the “us” forgets the internecine differences for a moment because we have better and more important things to do. This book is a powerful warning to all of us to examine our motivations before pulling the trigger.
These three books together make the idea of invading and punishing other countries extremely horrific, if not anathema.
The Long Honduran Night Resistance , Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup by Dana Frank
A story of resistance, repression, and US policy in Honduras in the aftermath of a violent military coup. This powerful narrative recounts the dramatic years in Honduras following the June 2009 military coup that deposed President Manuel Zelaya, told in part through first-person experiences, layered into deeper political analysis. It weaves together two broad pictures: first, the repressive regime that was launched with the coup, and the ways in which U.S. policy has continued to support that regime; and second, the brave and evolving Honduran resistance movement, with aid from a new solidarity movement in the United States. Although it is full of terrible things, this is not a horror story: the book directly counters mainstream media coverage that portrays Honduras as a pit of unrelenting awfulness, in which powerless people sob in the face of unexplained violence. Rather, it’s about sobering challenges with roots in political processes, and the inspiring collective strength with which people face them. More
The most important book I’ve read so far is: War Is A Racket, by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler Yes, his first name is a bit unfortunate, but he is, as far as I know, the most decorated war hero in our history. He started out in the Marines, believing that he was fighting for freedom and democracy. Towards the end of his 33 years in the military he came to understand that he was fighting for the wealthy capitalists. It’s an eye-opener, and makes you want to make illegal all wars fought on other people’s lands. Make sure to read the introduction. There you will find some obscure but important military history, and the plot to assassinate the President and take over the country–by the multinational corporations. It’s fascinating and shocking, and, yes, we should have our eyes uncovered.
There are two other books, not directly political but essential reading. First, an introduction: One of my neighbors died and I offered to play for his memorial gathering at his widow’s home. Before playing I mentioned that I would rather play for people while they are alive, as they would enjoy it more. After playing, his granddaughter asked if I would play for her wedding. After we discussed repertoire she asked what my fee was. “A book that changed your life.”
Bonus! There were two books, and I want to share them with you:
Solar Storms, by Linda Hogan, Hogan herself is a Chickasaw Indian, but she writes a hero’s journey of four Cree Indian women. I have never witnessed nature described so lovingly and beautifully, as if it were another character in their adventures. And the story weaves in their characters with the abuse the Native Americans and their beloved land received by both the US and Canadian governments.
At Home On the Street, by Wasserman and Claire, two sociology professors who camp out with the homeless in Birmingham, Alabama, over the space of one or two years. I’m still reading this book, as the language is pretty academic. (I was a music major in college). But it destroys your preconceived ideas of why people are homeless. When they were first talking of “social structure”, and “economic structure” I had no idea what they were talking about. Reading further I figured it out. Capitalism creates the top, and, necessarily, there is a bottom. I’d skipped to the end and got weepy when the profs were saying their goodbyes and their homeless peeps gave them gifts from their stash of nothing. In this book they cover every conceivable aspect of homelessness, with plenty of footnotes and references after each chapter.
America: The Farewell Tour – by Chris Hedges, Simon & Schuster (August 21, 2018) Chris Hedges’s profound and provocative examination of America in crisis is “an exceedingly…provocative book, certain to arouse controversy, but offering a point of view that needs to be heard” (Booklist), about how bitter hopelessness and malaise have resulted in a culture of sadism and hate. More
Curing Exceptionalism: What’s Wrong with How We Think about the United States? What Can We Do about It? – by David Swanson, David Swanson (March 26, 2018) U.S. exceptionalism, the idea that the United States of America is superior to other nations, is no more fact-based and no less harmful than racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. The purpose of this book is to persuade you of that statement. This book examines how the United States actually compares with other countries, how people think about the comparison, what damage that thinking does, and what changes we might want to consider making. More