There’s a war going on for your wallets, your bodies, your minds and your souls. A war to determine the future of all life on planet Earth. And at its apex is a war on women. Brett Kavanaugh’s approval reveals how the patriarchal oppression and domination of women is a core structural feature of the Empire in its effort to consolidate the dying paradigm of endless extraction.
The incendiary testimony of Professor Christine Ford of Palo Alto University, an esteemed research psychologist at Stanford University, against Judge Brett Kavanaugh — US President Donald Trump’s nominee for Associate Justice at the US Supreme Court — became the focus of a struggle for the future of not just the United States, but the entire planet.
This was a struggle to control the most powerful court, in the most powerful country in the world.
Professor Ford’s testimony alleging how Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during high school threw a grenade into the midst of Donald Trump’s effort to dominate the Supreme Court.
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Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh was part of a concerted effort by a powerful white supremacist faction in the US ‘Deep State’, a term we shall define shortly, to consolidate its domination over the arteries of power in the US.
For what purpose? Trump’s Deep State faction has a very explicit agenda. In response to a perceived crisis of American power, which in reality is a fundamental systemic crisis in the incumbent neoliberal paradigm of endless extraction, the Trump faction aims to rehabilitate this paradigm of extraction, cement its power against all dissent, and crush all potential alternatives.
And it is no accident that this effort has culminated in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in the form of a ‘face off’ between Kavanaugh and Ford over historic accusations of sexual violence. It is no accident that the Republican establishment has moved to neutralize the force and import of Ford’s testimony; nor that the Democrats have stumbled and fumbled feebly in an incompetent, cowardly and incoherent response.
The Kavanaugh-Ford ‘face off’ is at once a symbol, metaphor and concrete manifestation of a war on the planet, one of whose core features is precisely an epidemic of sexual violence against women.
Because sexual violence is a literal embodiment of the paradigm of endless extraction that is destroying not just the lives of women around the world, but potentially the world itself.
The epidemic of sexual violence
The wilful self-deceit at the heart of the Republican establishment’s dismissal of Professor Ford’s core allegation — that an inebriated Judge Kavanaugh attempted to rape her — reveals itself in the elementary contradiction between their recognition of the inescapable authenticity of her story, while denying its most relevant component regarding Kavanaugh’s complicity.
Republican Senator after Senator went out of their way to express sympathies and belief in Ford’s essential story, virtually falling over themselves to demonstrate in front of the cameras that they of course recognized that she went through a horrific ordeal. But despite this, they could not bring themselves to accept that Ford’s unwavering, solid and clearly genuine recollection of this horrific ordeal extended to identification of the perpetrator.
There is nothing particularly unusual about this approach to a female victim of male sexual violence — which cuts across both the Republican and Democrat parties.
Over the last year, the institutionalized protection of perpetrators of sexual violence against women inside both the Republican and Democrat establishments has become unmistakably clear. Like the Republicans, the Democrats have systematically refused to push out sexual violence offenders from the ranks of the party.
This perhaps explains the atrociously pathetic performance of the Democrat Senators who largely dealt with Kavanaugh like frightened rabbits staring at the headlights of Trump’s escort convoy.
The political arteries of Washington, in short, are clogged-up cesspits of misogyny. But as might be expected, the capital does not represent an aberration from wider trends across the United States, the West, and the world, but is a microcosm of those trends.
Ford’s horrific ordeal is one experienced by over a billion women around the world. World Health Organization figures show that around 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced “either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.” That’s a global average — in some nations, up to 70 percent of women have “experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
The US is no exception. According to a Thompson Reuters Foundation survey published in the summer of 2018, the US is among the top ten most unsafe countries for women in the world (holding the number 10 spot) in terms of the risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex.
In the US, one in five women will be raped, and one in three women will experience some form of contact sexual violence, at some point in their lives. Most of these crimes are committed by an intimate partner or someone they know — in eight of 10 rape cases, the victims know the perpetrator. Rape is also the most under-reported crime, with only 23 percent of incidents of rape and sexual assault being reported to the police in 2017.
These sorts of statistics point to an unnerving fact which, despite the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, has still failed to truly enter public consciousness: that we live in a fundamentally patriarchal system which has institutionalized violence, in particular sexual violence, against women.
In such a system, vast numbers of women have become accustomed to living in routine fear of various forms of male violence. And in such a system, it is hardly a surprise that women tend not to report their experiences to the authorities for fear that they will not be believed.
Ford’s treatment by the Republican panel of the Senate Judiciary Committee provides a window into this phenomenon, where an Old Boys club of privileged white men (and behind-the-scenes a cohort of privileged white women who benefit from the patriarchal structure policed by the former) work together to denigrate and dismiss the credible testimony of a female victim of sexual violence by one of their own.
According to David Schwartz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training at USC Dornsife, who has worked with hundreds of survivors of sexual assault and other forms of violence, this repressive climate means that most female victims of sexual violence do not go to the authorities:
“The data has always suggested that most women who survive sexual assault will never pursue justice against their attackers. My own clinical experiences were consistent with these findings. In some cases, transforming events eventually forced clients to come forward. In most of those cases, though, their reports were met with denial and skepticism.
The reasons that many victims choose not to disclose their experiences have to do with the dynamics of trauma and sexual violence. Sex assault victims often experience overwhelming fear, pain, self-doubt and shame. They find themselves embedded in a culture that commonly discounts their experiences and excuses the behavior of their assailants. They may continue to fear for their own safety and face real dangers if they come forward.”
According to Akeela Ahmed, founder of She Speaks We Hear and co-organizer of Women’s March London, it is extremely common for victim survivors to not report such crimes for years or decades. Often, women are “too traumatized from their experiences and are in a process (if they’re fortunate enough to receive help and support) of dealing with the aftermath on a continuous journey of recovery.”
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For women who have been sexually assaulted, that is usually only the beginning of their suffering, as Ford’s testimony demonstrated — they will frequently end up experiencing “PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder], suicidal ideation, severe mental health illnesses such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, weight loss or gain, and in some cases it severely impacts on their life expectancy.” They will also find that their relationships “with those around them such as partners, parents and families” is heavily impacted, with revelations of historic sexual abuse often tearing families apart.
And indeed, Ford has faced threats of violence, death threats, hounding on social media, vilification by politicians, simply for speaking out truthfully about her experience. The treatment of Ford mimics the actions of President Trump, Groper in Chief, who used threats of lawsuits — essentially threats of economic violence — to silence multiple women who had accused him of sexual assault.
“We live in a society in which women are less likely to be believed, rape prosecutions and then convictions are disproportionately low compared to the number of women reporting rape”, writes Akeela. “Myths about the number of fake reports of sexual violence are regularly circulated to perpetuate a culture of rape denial, when in reality statistics show these are very few and far between. Questioning victim survivors narratives, poking holes in their stories, pointing out inconsistencies, and labelling them as women who desire attention or having some ulterior political agenda, is potentially fatal.”
The Ford-Kavanagh ‘face off’ thus manifests the stark reality that we are saturated by a culture of sexual violence, sustained by a system of patriarchy, that is simply ruthless in its operation.
Commander Kavanaugh, pawn of the Deep State
The urgency with which the Republican establishment rallied around Judge Kavanaugh is a function of the role Trump wanted him to provide as a rubber-stamping mechanism for power consolidation in the Supreme Court.
Contrary to the mythology that Trump himself has promoted — that he is a force rising up against the ‘Deep State’ — Trump represents a powerful cross-section of special interests within the Deep State itself.
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A systemic crisis in the global Deep System has driven the violent radicalization of a Deep State faction
The Deep State is not ‘the CIA’, or ‘the intelligence community’. It is more than that.
In May 2017, I interviewed Mike Lofgren, a former senior Republican aide who spent 28 years as a Congressional staff member before retiring in 2011. During the last 16 years of his career, he held a high level national security clearance as a senior analyst for the House and Senate budget committees.
Lofgren refuted the idea that the Deep State should be equated simplistically with the national security apparatus. It also includes Wall Street, think tanks, and other interlocking agents of influence, he explained.
“It’s a public private partnership, among the principal government agencies mainly in national security and finance, with Wall Street, the defense contractors, Silicon Valley is very important because it’s the biggest source of new wealth — as well as the technology that the NSA would be totally lost without,” Lofgren told me.
The Deep State, therefore, cannot be found inside government, or in any particular government agency, but is an oligarchical structure enabled by neoliberal finance capitalism that has emerged from the intersection of multiple sources of power, which in turn determines the framework of how government policy is made.
“It’s a series of coalitions of people and it’s not a conspiracy,” said Lofgren.
“The names of the people we know. We know Lloyd Blankfein is the CEO of Goldman Sachs, who now has dozens of his alumni throughout the government, including in the president’s economic team. I would say that Trump’s cabinet has so many billionaires it makes George W. Bush’s cabinet look like a Bolshevik workers council. It’s just unbelievable. So to conclude it’s just the military is wrong. It’s a series of interlocking interest groups who coalesce the same way people with power, money and influence always gravitate to one another.”
Lofgren’s most powerful insight was that Trump is not at war with the Deep State, but is a part of the Deep State that is attempting to exert control over the rest of it. As a “mutated gene” produced by the Deep State itself, Trump is the puppet of a cross-section of powerful coalitions within the Deep State across Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.
The Deep State is an oligarchy, but it is also a partriarchy. Its patriarchal structure can be understood when we consider how underrepresented women are in positions of influence or power. The Trump faction wants to deepen these trends, rather than reverse them.
Only 1 in 5 members of Congress in the United States are women. Less than a quarter are state legislators. Six out of 50 US governors are women. Of the top Fortune 1,000 companies, women hold only 19.7 percent of board seats.
When women are systematically excluded from positions of authority, it is no surprise when systems of authority produce policies which systematically exclude them.
The US Deep State reflects trends across the wider global ‘deep system’, a transnational oligarchical structure (a concept I have explored here).
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Women are underrepresented in decision-making across the world. Only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians globally are women. According to the Women, Business and the Law 2014 Report, nearly 90 percent of the 143 countries studied restrict women’s economic opportunities. And the US, for all its wealth, is not much better. One in three American women live in poverty or right on the brink of the poverty line. The average woman in the US is paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man.
This is Progress. Progress in the patriarchy.
Trump’s war within the Deep State is about consolidating this patriarchal-oligarchy structure through the expansion of white nationalist-led US state power.
Kavanaugh’s judicial record illustrates that his nomination to the Supreme Court is the logical end-point of this war within the Deep State, an effort by a radicalized Trumpian faction to vanquish and subordinate all other sub-sections of power.
His judicial record patently demonstrates that throughout his career, Judge Kavanaugh has shilled for powerful corporate interests at the expense of workers; unleashed special interest money into elections; protected corporations from liability; helped polluters escalate pollution; struck out common-sense gun laws; promoted a vision of presidential immunity from all legal accountability; and gutted workers’ rights.
Even Forbes candidly describes him as a gift to American corporations.
But he is not just a corporate shill.
Kavanaugh is also an unabashed white supremacist whose judical rulings have condoned discrimination against ethnic minorities in employment and schools, undermined the rights of immigrants and Native Americans, pulled the trigger on Trump’s discriminatory Muslim ban, while chipping away at the secular separation of church and state.
At worst, Kavanaugh’s nomination represents an effort by the Trump faction to effectively shut down the black vote. This would bring to fruition Chief Justice John Roberts’ longstanding agenda to neuter the Voting Rights Act, by reversing President Ronald Reagan’s 1982 amendment which prohibits any voting restriction that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”
Roberts’ agenda is to eliminate this provision on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Kavanaugh’s record indicates he would fall in line with this agenda, which if successful could allow Republican states to shut down polling places in majority black neighbourhoods, forcing them to queue for hours to cast their vote unlike their white counterparts.
The war on planet Earth
Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court approval is not just a threat to women, minorities, workers, migrants, Muslims, poor people, LGBTQ+ people, and the very essence of a functioning democracy; he is a de facto threat to the planet.
“As a D.C. appeals court judge, he argued against the [Environment Protection Agency] EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and wrote the majority opinion striking down the EPA’s attempt to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent climate pollutants used in cooling applications,” observes Basav Sen, director of the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. “He even wrote a majority opinion overturning EPA regulation of air pollution that crosses state lines.”
Kavanaugh’s justification for opposing EPA regulation of fossil fuel emissions is because a literal reading of the Clean Air Act doesn’t allow this. He thus pushed the onus for climate action onto a specific mandate from Congress. Of course, as Sen points out:
“This is very convenient for the fossil fuel industry and other climate polluters, which have the political clout to ensure that such a directive will never happen under the present Congress.”
The result is that US inaction on climate “becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy” which “comes at a huge cost to humanity.”
And the cost to humanity is, potentially, an uninhabitable planet, within our lifetimes, by the end of this century. That, in fact, is the business-as-usual trajectory we are on right now in terms of our rate of fossil fuel exploitation, which continues to intensify, potentially toward a worst-case near 8C warming scenario by 2100.
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That is why a UN report points out that countries are not meeting their proclaimed climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, meaning that at this point in time, it’s “extremely improbable” that we will be able to retain a safe climate within the 1.5C safe upper limit; let alone the fact that the Trump administration itself concedes that global warming will likely hit at least 4C.
The climate crisis, too, is overwhelmingly gendered, and racialized. Women and people of color around the world find themselves on the frontlines of the impact of environmental catastrophe.
Natural disasters resulting from climate change are on the rise. On average, natural disasters consistently kill more women than men, in some cases with 90 percent female fatalities. According to UN figures women face a risk of death from natural disasters that is 14 times higher than for men.
Women also suffer disproportionately more from the aftermath of such disasters, increasing the threat of sexual assault, preventing girls attending school, and so on. There can be many reasons for the greater vulnerability: less economic opportunities, less access to technologies like mobile phones (meaning less likelihood of receiving timely warnings), less freedom of movement due to cultural issues, and so on.
Thus, one of the main reasons that climate change disproportionately affects women is because women, especially in poorer nations, are already marginalized. This means that the impacts of climate change in terms of extreme weather, water scarcity, and crop failures, hits women, and women of color, the most.
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But by end of century, if this course continues, it won’t just be women and foreigners ‘out there’ who are victims.
It will be all of us, and our children, and their children.
The Kavanaugh nomination is a bareknuckled fist in the face of those endeavouring to reverse this course.
Commander Kavanaugh is an instrument for the consolidation of a system premised on accelerating the extraction of planetary resources, for the benefit of a tiny minority of predominantly white men. This is the patriarchy. A system of white supremacism, a paradigm of planetary rape, hell-bent on its own expansion, at any cost.
And that is why Professor Ford’s testimony had to be steamrolled into irrelevance, as part of a process to consolidate the system through the subjugation of the most powerful court in the land, if not the world: thus providing an open playing field for the Deep State special interests that enabled the rise of Trump.
Professor Ford confronted Trump’s Commander, the last force between the Destroyers and rest of the planet… a lone woman, who was sexually assaulted in high school.
The approval of Kavanaugh represents a very real lurch toward the dystopian vision set out in Margaret Attwood’s extraordinary and frightening work of fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale. But in that regard, it also lays bare the stark reality of this moment.
The Destroyers think they are winning, but they have already lost. They just don’t know it yet. The system of endless extraction is dying. If it continues, it might take much of humanity with it, but it is still dying. Scientists warn that the extraction paradigm is rapidly running out of steam.
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We can no longer simply keep growing our economies, accumulating, taking, raping planetary resources with no limit or boundaries; the costs of doing so are rising exponentially; and they are feeding back into the system of extraction, constraining it, disrupting it.
Within the next few decades, the system of extraction as we know it will begin to grind down in slow, protracted fashion. By end of century, as we scrape the bottom of the barrel of planetary resources in our unmitigated hunger for ‘growth’, this system will not be capable of survival.
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And so, in the fear of change and loss, the Deep State’s response to this global systemic crisis is to double-down in complete denial.
This is false power. The illusion, or rather self-delusion, of power. A system that is eating itself. A snake greedily consuming its own tail. Real power belongs to the Earth, and those truly aligned with Her, who will inherit what comes after.
We find ourselves on the brink. At the point of no return.
We see before ourselves a structure and ideology that has become all-encompassing. This is the ideology of extraction.
It is an ideology that manifests the worst excesses of the human ego; a reductionist, hedonistic conceptualization of the human self as little more than a rabid consumer of narrowly-defined material pleasures; sanitized under a framework of authoritarian self-righteous fundamentalist-moralism.
It is an ideology which in many ways has become part of our neurophysiological wiring. It has surely become consciously absorbed by many, but moreso, has become embedded deep into our unconscious minds, reinforced by consumerist media memes that subliminally determine the trendline of our thoughts and emotions, perpetually dragging them in service to the extraction paradigm to maximize more material accumulation.
Rape is the ultimate logical extension of this paradigm: the power and control of completely subjugating the ‘Other’, the compassionless taking of what ‘you want’ at the ‘Other’s’ total expense.
Ultimately, Kavanaugh is a nobody, a figurehead, a convenient face, a facade, behind which a deeper system resides, and festers.
It is easy to focus on the Commander. But behind the Commander is Gilead.
And upholding Gilead are the everyday actions of each and every one of us, like cogs in the Death Machine, participating in and perpetuating often through microbehaviors we are too busy to bother reflecting on, that emerge in our relationships with family, friends, spouses, partners, in our workplaces and leisure spaces, in conversations, and in decisions, and in policies, and in institutions and structures and systems.
We don’t win on the battlefield of the Senate Judiciary Committee — we lose that battle because we’ve already lost the battle where it really counts: everywhere else. Because these institutions, the broken coopted judiciary, the broken Democrat-Republican pale male stalemate, the broken two party patriarchal-oligarchy, are part of the same broken, dying paradigm.
We will win those battles when we start fighting where it counts. Fighting where it counts means taking a stand. Challenge the bastardisation of masculinity; capture the true meaning of manhood as a trust and a responsibility to yourself, your family, your community and your planet; stand alongside women and minorities as true equals; believe victims; stand for victims; hold yourself to account and refuse to conform to a culture that glorifies violence and sexual violence; work to transform systems, structures and institutions here and now; engage relentlessly with the most broken systems that need to change, to help change them, or build new ones in solidarity with others; strive for greater representation of diverse communities, not just through personnel, but through action; find true strength in the power of love and compassion; act on that power through conscious, everyday acts of resistance through a grounded commitment to create a new pattern of behavior in harmony with the planet, based on the entirely opposite logic of the dying paradigm: sharing, coordinating, collaborating, co-creating.
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It’s time to start building what comes after. There is no solace in mourning the impotent demise of the old. It’s time to start building the next system, the new.
So roll up those fucking sleeves brother, sister.
And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to reclaim our souls.
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Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is the founding editor of INSURGE intelligence. Nafeez is a 17-year investigative journalist, formerly of The Guardian where he reported on the geopolitics of social, economic and environmental crises. Nafeez reports on ‘global system change’ for VICE’s Motherboard, and on regional geopolitics for Middle East Eye. He has bylines in The Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, New York Observer, The New Statesman, Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, among other places. He has twice won the Project Censored Award for his investigative reporting; twice been featured in the Evening Standard’s top 1,000 list of most influential Londoners; and won the Naples Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award created by the President of the Republic. Nafeez is also a widely-published and cited interdisciplinary academic applying complex systems analysis to ecological and political violence. He is a Research Fellow at the Schumacher Institute.