Welcome to the Era of the Great Disillusionment

By Jonathan Cook

April 30, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – This is a column I have been mulling over for a while but, for reasons that should be immediately obvious, I have been hesitant to write. It is about 5G, vaccines, 9/11, aliens and lizard overlords. Or rather, it isn’t.

Let me preface my argument by making clear I do not intend to express any view about the truth or falsity of any of these debates – not even the one about reptile rulers. My refusal to publicly take a position should not be interpreted as my implicit endorsement of any of these viewpoints because, after all, only a crazy tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist sympathiser would refuse to make their views known on such matters.

Equally, my lumping together of all these disparate issues does not necessarily mean I see them as alike. They are presented in mainstream thinking as similarly proof of an unhinged, delusional, conspiracy-oriented mindset. I am working within a category that has been selected for me.

Truth and falsehood are not what this column is about. To consider these topics solely on the basis of whether they are true or false would distract from the critical thinking I wish to engage in here – especially since critical thinking is so widely discouraged in our societies. I want this column to deny a safe space to anyone emotionally invested in either side of these debates. (Doubtless, that will not deter those who would prefer to make mischief and misrepresent my argument. That is a hazard that comes with the territory.)

I am focusing on this set of issues now because some of them have been playing out increasingly loudly on social media as we cope with the isolation of lockdowns. People trapped at home have more time to explore the internet, and that means more opportunities to find often obscure information that may or may not be true. These kinds of debates are shaping our discursive landscape, and have profound political implications. It is these matters, not questions of truth, I want to examine in this column.

Social media and 5G

Let’s take 5G – the new, fifth-generation mobile phone technology – as an example. I am not a scientist, and I have done no research on 5G. Which is a very good reason why no one should be interested in what I have to say about the science or the safety of 5G. But like many people active on social media, I have been made aware – often with little choice on my part – of online debates about 5G and science.

Like TV presenter Eamonn Holmes, I have inevitably gained an impression of that debate. To a casual viewer, the debate looks (and we are discussing here appearances only) something like this:

  1. a) State scientific advisers, as well as scientists whose jobs or research are financed by the mobile phone industry, are very certain that there are no dangers associated with 5G.
  2. b) A few scientists (real ones, notevangelical pastorspretending to be former Vodafone executives) have warned that there has not been independent research on the health effects of 5G, that the technology has been rushed through for commercial reasons, and that the possible dangers posed long term to our health from constant exposure have not been properly assessed.
  3. c) Other scientists in this specialist field, possibly the majority, are keeping their peace.

Business our new god

That impression might not be true. It may be that that is just the way social media has made the debate look. It is possible that on the contrary:

  • the research has been vigorously carried out, even if it does not appear to have been widely reported in the mainstream media,
  • mobile phone and other communication industries have not financed what research there is in an attempt to obtain results helpful to their commercial interests,
  • the aggressively competitive mobile phone industry has been prepared to sit back and wait several years for all safety issues to be resolved, unconcerned about the effects on their profits of such delays,
  • the industry has avoided using its money and lobbyists to buy influence in the corridors of power and advance a political agenda based on its commercial interests rather than on the science,
  • and individual governments, keen not to be left behind on a global battlefield in which they compete for economic, military and intelligence advantage, have collectively waited to see whether 5G is safe rather than try to undercut each other and gain an edge over allies and enemies alike.

All of that is possible. But anyone who has been observing our societies for the past few decades – where business has become our new god, and where corporate money seems to dominate our political systems more than the politicians we elect – would have at least reasonable grounds to worry that corners may have been cut, that political pressure may have been exerted, and that some scientists (who are presumably human like the rest of us) may have been prepared to prioritise their careers and incomes over the most rigorous science.

Looney-tunes conspiracism

Again, I am not a scientist. Even if the research has not been carried out properly and the phone industry has lobbied sympathetic politicians to advance its commercial interests, it is still possible that, despite all that, 5G is entirely safe. But as I said at the start, I am not here to express a view about the science of 5G.

I am discussing instead why it is not unreasonable or entirely irrational for a debate about the safety of 5G to have gone viral on social media while being ignored by corporate media; why a very mainstream TV presenter like Eamonn Holmes might suggest – to huge criticism – a need to address growing public concerns about 5G; why such concerns might quickly morph into fears of a connection between 5G and the current global pandemic; and why frightened people might decide to take things into their own hands by burning down 5G masts.

Explaining this chain of events is not the same as justifiying any of the links in that chain. But equally, dismissing all of it as simply looney-tunes conspiracism is not entirely reasonable or rational either.

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The issue here is not really about 5G, it’s about whether our major institutions still hold public trust. Those who dismiss all concerns about 5G have a very high level of trust in the state and its institutions. Those who worry about 5G – a growing section of western populations , it seems – have very little trust in our institutions and increasingly in our scientists too. And the people responsible for that erosion of trust are our governments – and, if we are brutally honest, the scientists as well.

Information overload

Debates like the 5G one have not emerged in a vacuum. They come at a moment of unprecedented information dissemination that derives from a decade of rapid growth in social media. We are the first societies to have access to data and information that was once the preserve of monarchs, state officials and advisers, and in more recent times a few select journalists.

Now rogue academics, rogue journalists, rogue former officials – anyone, in fact – can go online and discover a myriad of things that until recently no one outside a small establishment circle was ever supposed to understand. If you know where to look, you can even find some of this stuff on Wikipedia (see, for example, Operation Timber Sycamore).

The effect of this information overload has been to disorientate the great majority of us who lack the time, the knowledge and the analytical skills to sift through it all and make sense of the world around us. It is hard to discriminate when there is so much information – good and bad alike – to digest.

Nonetheless, we have got a sense from these online debates, reinforced by events in the non-virtual world, that our politicians do not always tell the truth, that money – rather than the public interest – sometimes wins out in decision-making processes, and that our elites may be little better equipped than us – aside from their expensive educations – to run our societies.

Two decades of lies

There has been a handful of staging posts over the past two decades to our current era of the Great Disillusionment. They include:

  • the lack of transparency in the US government’s investigation into the events surrounding 9/11 (obscured by a parallel online controversy about what took place that day);
  • the documented lies told about the reasons for launching a disastrous and illegal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 that unleashed regional chaos, waves of destabilising migration into Europe and new, exceptionally brutal forms of political Islam;
  • the astronomical bailouts after the 2008 crash of bankers whose criminal activities nearly bankrupted the global economy (but who were never held to account) and instituted more than a decade of austerity measures that had to be paid for by the public;
  • the refusal by western governments and global institutions to take any leadership on tackling climate change, as not only the science but the weather itself has made the urgency of that emergency clear, because it would mean taking on their corporate sponsors;
  • and now the criminal failures of our governments to prepare for, and respond properly to, the Covid-19 pandemic, despite many years of warnings.

Anyone who still takes what our governments say at face value … well, I have several bridges to sell you.

Experts failed us

But it is not just governments to blame. The failings of experts, administrators and the professional class have been all too visible to the public as well. Those officials who have enjoyed easy access to prominent platforms in the state-corporate media have obediently repeated what state and corporate interests wanted us to hear, often only for that information to be exposed later as incomplete, misleading or downright fabricated.

In the run-up to the 2003 attack on Iraq, too many political scientists, journalists and weapons experts kept their heads down, keen to preserve their careers and status, rather than speak up in support of those rare experts like Scott Ritter and the late David Kelly who dared to sound the alarm that we were not being told the whole truth.

In 2008, only a handful of economists was prepared to break with corporate orthodoxy and question whether throwing money at bankers exposed as financial criminals was wise, or to demand that these bankers be prosecuted. The economists did not argue the case that there must be a price for the banks to pay, such as a public stake in the banks that were bailed out, in return for forcing taxpayers to massively invest in these discredited businesses. And the economists did not propose overhauling our financial systems to make sure there was no repetition of the economic crash. Instead, they kept their heads down as well, in the hope that their large salaries continued and that they would not lose their esteemed positions in think-tanks and universities.

We know that climate scientists were quietly warning back in the 1950s of the dangers of runaway global warming, and that in the 1980s scientists working for the fossil-fuel companies predicted very precisely how and when the catastrophe would unfold – right about now. It is wonderful that today the vast majority of these scientists are publicly agreed on the dangers, even if they are still trapped in a dangerous caution by the conservatism of scientific procedure. But they forfeited public trust by leaving it so very, very late to speak up.

And recently we have learnt, for example, that a series of Conservative governments in the UK recklessly ran down the supplies of hospital protective gear, even though they had more than a decade of warnings of a coming pandemic. The question is why did no scientific advisers or health officials blow the whistle earlier. Now it is too late to save the lives of many thousands, including dozens of medical staff, who have fallen victim so far to the virus in the UK.

Lesser of two evils

Worse still, in the Anglosphere of the US and the UK, we have ended up with political systems that offer a choice between one party that supports a brutal, unrestrained version of neoliberalism and another party that supports a marginally less brutal, slightly mitigated version of neoliberalism. (And we have recently discovered in the UK that, after the grassroots membership of one of those twinned parties managed to choose a leader in Jeremy Corbyn who rejected this orthodoxy, his own party machine conspired to throw the election rather than let him near power.) As we are warned at each election, in case we decide that elections are in fact futile, we enjoy a choice – between the lesser of two evils.

Those who ignore or instinctively defend these glaring failings of the modern corporate system are really in no position to sit smugly in judgment on those who wish to question the safety of 5G, or vaccines, or the truth of 9/11, or the reality of a climate catastrophe, or even of the presence of lizard overlords.

Because through their reflexive dismissal of doubt, of all critical thinking on anything that has not been pre-approved by our governments and by the state-corporate media, they have helped to disfigure the only yardsticks we have for measuring truth or falsehood. They have forced on us a terrible choice: to blindly follow those who have repeatedly demonstrated they are not worthy of being followed, or to trust nothing at all, to doubt everything. Neither position is one a healthy, balanced individual would want to adopt. But that is where we are today.

Big Brother regimes

It is therefore hardly surprising that those who have been so discredited by the current explosion of information – the politicians, the corporations and the professional class – are wondering how to fix things in the way most likely to maintain their power and authority.

They face two, possibly complementary options.

One is to allow the information overload to continue, or even escalate. There is an argument to be made that the more possible truths we are presented with, the more powerless we feel and the more willing we are to defer to those most vocal in claiming authority. Confused and hopeless, we will look to father figures, to the strongmen of old, to those who have cultivated an aura of decisiveness and fearlessness, to those who look like down-to-earth mavericks and rebels.

This approach will throw up more Donald Trumps, Boris Johnsons and Jair Bolsonaros. And these men, while charming us with their supposed lack of orthodoxy, will still, of course, be exceptionally accommodating to the most powerful corporate interests – the military-industrial complex – that really run the show.

The other option, which has already been road-tested under the rubric of “fake news”, will be to treat us, the public, like irresponsible children, who need a firm, guiding hand. The technocrats and professionals will try to re-establish their authority as though the last two decades never occurred, as though we never saw through their hypocrisy and lies.

They will cite “conspiracy theories” – even the true ones – as proof that it is time to impose new curbs on internet freedoms, on the right to speak and to think. They will argue that the social media experiment has run its course and proved itself a menace – because we, the public, are a menace. They are already flying trial balloons for this new Big Brother world, under cover of tackling the health threats posed by the Covid-19 epidemic.

We should not be surprised that the “thought-leaders” for shutting down the cacophony of the internet are those whose failures have been most exposed by our new freedoms to explore the dark recesses of the recent past. They have included Tony Blair, the British prime minister who lied western publics into the disastrous and illegal war on Iraq in 2003, and Jack Goldsmith, rewarded as a Harvard law professor for his role – since whitewashed – in helping the Bush administration legalise torture and step up warrantless surveillance programmes.

Need for a new media

The only alternative to a future in which we are ruled by Big Brother technocrats like Tony Blair, or by chummy authoritarians who brook no dissent, or a mix of the two, will require a complete overhaul of our societies’ approach to information. We will need fewer curbs on free speech, not more.

The real test of our societies – and the only hope of surviving the coming emergencies, economic and environmental – will be finding a way to hold our leaders truly to account. Not based on whether they are secretly lizards, but on what they are doing to save our planet from our all-too-human, self-destructive instinct for acquisition and our craving for guarantees of security in an uncertain world.

That, in turn, will require a transformation of our relationship to information and debate. We will need a new model of independent, pluralistic, responsive, questioning media that is accountable to the public, not to billionaires and corporations. Precisely the kind of media we do not have now. We will need media we can trust to represent the full range of credible, intelligent, informed debate, not the narrow Overton window through which we get a highly partisan, distorted view of the world that serves the 1 per cent – an elite so richly rewarded by the current system that they are prepared to ignore the fact that they and we are hurtling towards the abyss.

With that kind of media in place – one that truly holds politicians to account and celebrates scientists for their contributions to collective knowledge, not their usefulness to corporate enrichment – we would not need to worry about the safety of our communications systems or medicines, we would not need to doubt the truth of events in the news or wonder whether we have lizards for rulers, because in that kind of world no one would rule over us. They would serve the public for the common good.

Sounds like a fantastical, improbable system of government? It has a name: democracy. Maybe it is time for us finally to give it a go.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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US a Washed-up Empire

By Finian Cunningham

April 27, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – The harder they come, the harder they fall, as reggae singer Jimmy Cliff once put it. No nation has come harder than the United States with its history of relentless wars and mass destruction, nauseatingly dressed up with virtuous rhetoric about supposedly leading the free world.

There was a time when the slick American propaganda held the world in thrall as if it were true. Many nations once gullibly looked to the US for leadership. Not any more.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed presumed US global power as a hollowed-out caricature. America’s response to the disease is abysmal. It is the world’s leader in the numbers of deaths and infections, unable to cope because of the woeful lack of an organized, functioning public health system. How damning is that?

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Another factor in why the US has been hit so badly by the pandemic is due to the parlous conditions for tens of millions of its workers who live on the brink of poverty with little social safety net. That speaks to the real undemocratic nature of American society as opposed to all the arrogant delusions of “exceptionalism”.

This appalling disaster is against a backdrop of Washington spending trillions of dollars on nuclear weapons and maintaining hundreds of thousands of troops in military bases all around the world backed up by legions of warships and warplanes.

“The global coronavirus crisis… [has] quickly brought the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world to its knees,” according to the US magazine, Politico.

US presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is quoted by Politico as saying: “The United States was once known for its can-do culture. We built the Panama Canal and we put a man on the moon. And now we can’t get a swab or a face mask or a gown and we have no real chain of command.”

Brinkley added: “We are not leading in the pandemic response, we are trailing other countries by a long shot. This is a crippling blow to America’s prestige around the world.”

China, South Korea, Germany, Russia and other nations, even US-sanctioned Iran and Cuba, have been much more effective in managing the COVID-19 crisis than the US. Why? Well, simply because they are not broke like the US is from its monstrous militarism and imperial overstretch. (Merely printing money is no solution.)

The calamity of the disease unfolding in the US is proof that its presumed global empire is all washed-up. Fitting the end of era mood, the country is being “led” by a president who thinks that injecting household bleach into the human body could be a cure for the virus. Trump increasingly sounds like mad Roman emperors Nero or Caligula.

American economist Joseph Stiglitz says the real state of US society is akin to a “third world country”.

In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he commented: “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country… In the advanced world, the US is one of the countries with the poorest health overall and the greatest health inequality.”

The upshot is that the United States is doomed to fail. Its moral corruption – festering over many decades – has finally reached a fatal level whereby profligacy for militarism and corporate bailouts has far outstripped what the rulers are willing to provide for meeting the basic health needs of the vast majority of working people.

This is isn’t just about President Trump. It encompasses the whole two-party charade that is a rubber-stamp for big business and militarism. Democrat contender Joe Biden will offer nothing better than the Republican buffoon. Because US capitalism is rotten to the core from its corporate cronyism and warmongering habits to feed the system.

Like past empires that imploded, the US ruling elite doesn’t see what’s coming because they and their media class are mired in their own echo chamber of vanity-propaganda and petty squabbling.

But the virus pandemic serves as a moment of empirical evidence showing that the US is a colossus with feet of clay.

The country is heading for an economic collapse on par with the Great Depression, according to Stiglitz. With an unemployment rate touching 30 per cent – over 26 million out of work – and federal handouts that are peanuts in the scale of things, the “American nightmare” is only just beginning.

The endemic, systematic corruption of US capitalist power means that it can’t save itself. There will be no reality-check for the rulers because they have long ago lost all sense of reality.

The reality-check may, however, come from the millions of citizens who realise that their nation has been turned into nothing more than a decadent empire.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. – Source

Progressives Help Pass Another Horrible Stimulus Bill #TheJimmyDoreShow

c walker
So far, some of the greatest beneficiaries were billionaire Ivy League Universities. Harvard had to be shamed by Trump himself into giving the money back. This is a school with a $23,000,000,000 endowment which is its own hedge fund.

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Hide 2 replies

Jeff Boxing
This is straight dick in your face plutocracy

4

Cray Fish
Harvard is the breeding ground for the Elites and CIA. Most of them gets brainwashed there and pay big bucks just to get a degree.

Bernie Has Become A Cartoon Of A Leader #TheJimmyDoreShow

 

Brian Bob
He was this way the whole time. He didn’t change. Bernie has always been a tool.

61

Alex McGregor
Bernie is the king of virtue signaling.

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J.T. Steele
Don’t you mean…Bernie is revealing his true self…?!

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CorporalPoon
I don’t see how you could support him as an “anti-establishment” candidate after endorsing Hillary.

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Hide 4 replies

MrTheoryofEverything
Noam Chomsky, supposedly anti-war also endorsed Hillary. This is rich, considering she is involved in the untold death of innocents through her funding of terrorists in Syria and Libya. She is an absolutely wretched human being!

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NasonG
I don’t see how anyone could trust him after saying he’d accept the decision of the DNC.

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Andrew Ervin
How do you see someone who has been a politician for decades as being anti-establishment?
Bodfishblues
Well, CP, I though he had standards.
P Eidem
Bernie is just like the rest of the establishment dems and Rinos, all talk no action, no change.

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Amor Fati
I feel so stupid for sending my paychecks to BS campaign

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CHAIN- MAIL
Bernie executed the ultimate “bait and switch”…..

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Carolinian Farmer
Bernie showed his skin & true colors when DNC, at Hillary’s behest, effed him hard in broad daylight, & endorsing her was his only reaction. Then, this time around, he upped his ante by endorsing his “good decent” friend Biden from the beginning of his campaign. Bernie’s the Establishment’s revolutionary.

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Nick Pappagiorgio
“I need your financial support to destroy the establishment. Oops looks like I lost your donations go to the establishment, vote for the establishment.”

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Ryan D.
We need to TOTALLY clean house and elect REAL every day Americans to actually represent us in Congress.. EVERY last one of them MUST go..

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Dr. Gregg Eddins
Bernie burned the Bernie Bros…. Nobody gets their donations back !!!’ Come on man !! U know the thing !

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Matej Slavicek
If he wasn’t controlled opposition to manage the Left, the Dems would of destroyed him years ago

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Alexander The Snivy
Hey Bernie, now you’re just somebody that we used to know. We can’t believe what you’ve become.

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Wizdomtrek
Cartoon is a apt adjective to describe Amerikan politics!

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Marcus Fenix
Bernie has been a con man his whole life…his record shows the most ineffective senator in U.S history! His supporters have been fooled for decades. Im so glad to see real progressives finally waking up to that fact.

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Jayanga S
Bernie was never a leader in the first place…

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3nineteen
I never understood why anyone supported bernie after what happened in 16.

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Scott Humphreys
‘We gotta make sure Congress does the right thing’. You are Congress, Bernie.

Biden Has Wife Talk Instead Of Him. WTF?!? #TheJimmyDoreShow

Хрюн Моржов
“Presidency is about leadership” says candidate’s wife. LOL.
Fresenius Kabi
Maybe he’ll smell his fingers when Tara Reade’s name comes up
Ronnie Lobello
Joe’s wife has a better chance of defeating Trump than Joe.
skillbopster
God when she was speaking it was cringey as hell. She sounded like the old scripted cliché politician that I don’t think works anymore.
Alejandro Frade
Jill; “we need real leadership and respect” Joe; “that’s why I’m endorsing Barack Obama” Jill; “that was 4 years ago…” Joe; “sorry….That’s why I endore Bill Clinton “
Jay Chris
Jill Biden sounds like she’s trying to sell me a time share.
SteinbrecherBack
And he looks like he shat himself.
Dr Feel good
His mind is like a time share. Only available one week out of the year
Melanie S
Why didn’t Jill run in the Democratic race instead of Joe, I mean she’s going to be giving speeches Joe is unable to talk for a few minutes and seems to forget where he is , sad.
Pass the Gravy
VP Joe: “I regret that I have but one WIFE to give my country.”
Mister Quantum
“That’s right, listen to my sister she knows what she’s talking about.” – Joe Biden
Twisted Titan
The Democratic party has been reduced to a smoldering pile of fecal material The re election of the orange juggernaut is all but certain.
naroh3of4
Biden’s wife: “You’ll just have to swallow, like me.”
TorzJohnson
This would make a sad and disturbing movie. The fact that it’s real is actually surreal.
Robert Richard
See ‘PLANET OF THE HUMANS’ if you want sureal.
Harpy Harp
Biden is easily influenced, just tell him there will be pudding.

Did You Get Money You Don’t Need From the Feds? Here Are Some Ideas of Where to Donate It.

Very good suggestions, thx 4 the timely share! Stay safe & God bless ❤

Blind Injustice

Those of you who have been following the weekly updates on how I’m doing, and how my city (New York City) is doing with the coronavirus, will know that I am in a pretty stable situation professionally. As a result, I didn’t need the federal government to give me $1,200…yet I was given it anyway since many of us are receiving somewhere between $1,200 and $4,700.

If you are a person struggling to make ends meet, you need not feel guilty about using the money to help yourself financially. In fact, you’re the kind of person who was envisioned as benefiting the most from receiving the money.

However, if you are like me in that you don’t need the money, I strongly recommend that you give away the money in ways that help those less fortunate (because there are so many people less fortunate than you, in that case). However…

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