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Seeking Happiness Beyond Neo-Liberal Consumerism

Sat, 2017-10-21 02:49

Irrespective of nationality, religion, race, or gender; whether stinking rich, desperately poor, or somewhere in between, happiness is the one thing everyone is seeking – consciously or not.

The architects of the socio-economic system in which we live have devised a system that promises to satisfy this yearning. But instead of building a society at ease with itself, full of peaceful, happy people, collective discontent is fed, resulting in a range of mental health issues, and in some cases, suicide.

Happiness, according to the duplicitous devotees of Neo-Liberalism, is to be found in the homogenous shopping centers of the world, the sterile holiday resorts and brash casinos. In things, in products and services that stimulate and excite: Happiness in this perverse paradigm has been replaced by pleasure, love exchanged for desire, choice substituted for freedom.

Echoes of happiness

Happiness that lasts is what we yearn for, not a transient state in which one feels the tingle of happiness for a moment or so, only to see it evaporate as the source of our happiness loses its appeal, or is exhausted — the holiday comes to an end, a relationship breaks up, the gamble doesn’t pay off, a new I-Phone or handbag hits the high street making the old one redundant etc., etc. We sense that a state of lasting happiness is possible but know not where it is or how to find it. The mistake commonly made, and one we are constantly encouraged to make, is to search for happiness within the sensory world where all experiences, pleasant or unpleasant, are facile and transient. The inevitable consequence of such shallow encounters with happiness is discontent and frustration.

Despite being repeatedly confronted with disappointment, instead of refraining from this never-ending quest, the searcher becomes increasingly desperate; a new relationship may be sought, a change of job or new home, more shopping outings, dinners planned, alcohol and drugs taken and so on into the darker reaches of sensory satisfaction and hedonistic indulgence.

Of course, it is important to enjoy life, and, yes, something resembling happiness is experienced on these excursions, but it is a happiness dependent on something, other people, and on certain elements being in place: take these away and the “happiness” very quickly evaporates. Such happiness is a mere echo of ‘True Happiness’, and one that carries with it conflict, fear and anxiety; this taste of happiness, functioning via the desire principle and the medium of the senses is relentlessly stoked by the exponents of neo-liberal idealism.

The success of their divisive project; i.e., profitability, growth, development, progress, call it what you will, is totally contingent on consumerism and the act of consuming relies on, and is the result of, perpetual desire. To their utter shame, despite having a responsibility to create the conditions in which ‘True Happiness’, can be experienced, most, if not all governments collude with corporate man/woman to promote the unhealthy, materialistic values that are the source of unhappiness.

Desire is constantly agitated through advertising, television, film and print media; fantastical, sentimental, idealized images, of not just where happiness lies, but what love looks like, are pumped around the world every minute of every day. The aim of this extravagant pantomime is to manipulate people into believing they need the stuff that the corporate-state is selling in order to be happy. But happiness cannot be found within the world of sensations, pleasure yes, but not happiness, and pleasure will never fill the internal void that exists and is perpetuated through this movement into materiality. Pleasure is not happiness, nor does it bring lasting happiness, at best it creates a false sense of relief from unhappiness and inner conflict, a momentary escape before dissatisfaction and desire bubble up again.

Cycles of discontent

Nothing but discontent is to be found within this endless cycle of desire, temporary satisfaction, and continued longing. It is an insatiable, inherently painful pattern that moves the ‘Seeker of Happiness’ further and further away from the treasure he or she is searching for, creating disharmony and conflict, for the individual and society. Add to this polluted landscape competition and inequality and a cocktail of division and chaos emerges: Competition between individuals and nations separates and divides, working against humanity’s natural inclination towards cooperation, sharing and tolerance; qualities that were crucial in the survival of early man.

Competition fosters ideas of superiority and inferiority, and together with conformity, an image of ‘success’ and ‘failure’, of beauty, and what it means to be a man or a woman, particularly a young man or young, is projected and thrust into the minds of everyone from birth. One of the effects of this is the tendency towards comparison, leading to personal dissatisfaction (with myriad symptoms from self-harming to addiction and depression), and the desire, or pressure, to conform to the presented ideal.

At the root of these interconnected patterns of discontent and misery, lies desire. Desire not just for pleasure, but desire for things to be other than they are; it is this constant movement of desire that creates unhappiness and deep dissatisfaction. If desire is the obstacle to happiness, then all desire needs to be negated, including the desire for happiness. Perhaps the question to be addressed then is not what will bring lasting happiness, but how to be free of unhappiness and discontent.

In ancient Greece, where life was hard and happiness was widely believed to be reserved for those rare individuals whom the Gods favoured, Socrates (470 BC – 399 BC) proposed that happiness could be attained by everyone by controlling their hedonistic desires, turning their attention towards the soul and by living a moral life. His view finds its root in the teachings of the Buddha, who, almost 100 years earlier had made clear in the Second Noble Truth, that far from bringing happiness, desire is, in fact, the cause of all suffering, and further, that freedom from suffering and unhappiness is brought about when desire is overcome.

True Happiness is an aspect of our natural self. It will not be found within the world of pleasure and material satisfaction, comfort and indulgence. It is an inherent part of who and what we are, and in principle at least, the possibility of unshakable happiness exists for everyone, everywhere, irrespective of circumstances.

The Trans-Tasman Spat Show: New Zealand-Australian Tensions

Sat, 2017-10-21 02:15

It was an awkward moment for Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop. News had arrived that a New Zealand government had been formed after a lengthy period of deliberation.  (The election took place on September 23.)

Veteran maverick and occasional political suicide Winston Peters of the New Zealand First party had played the familiar role of kingmaker, picking the New Zealand Labour party to form government.  The 37 year old leader, Jacinda Ardern, was evidently too good to fob off.

This placed the Australian government in a prize pickle.  Australian ministers had more or less designated the NZ Labour party persona non grata after questions were asked, in the NZ parliament, about matters of that country’s citizenship.

These queries all seemed provincial and inconsequential, but had potential consequences for Australia’s own deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce.  Joyce, it seemed, had been a New Zealand citizen when elected to the Australian parliament, thereby rendering him ineligible to sit.  (The High Court will, in time, rule on that point.)

Ardern had her own description of the events.  “Yes, someone from the ALP put some legal question to [NZ Labour frontbencher Chris Hipkins] around citizenship.  No mention was made of anyone’s name, no rationale for any particular case being pursued was ever raised.”

Bishop proceeded to have a distinctly anti-diplomatic meltdown.  Culprits were needed, scalps sought.  “New Zealand is facing an election.  Should there be a change of government, I would find it very difficult to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia.”  This was particularly so given that “members of a political party […] had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government.”

Ardern was left puzzled, offering to placate the indignant, glacial Bishop. “I will not let false claims stand in the way of that relationship.”  She would have called the irate Australian foreign minister to chat about matters, but did not have her personal number.

Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, offered an analysis that was not much better. The issue was less with Ardern than the conduct of the Australian Labor Party, filled with its fifth columnist apparatchiks.  Its leader, Bill Shorten, had been “willing to interfere in the political system of a foreign country.”  Shorten was no less than a conspiratorial thief hoping to, in Turnbull’s words, “steal government” in collusion with “a foreign power”.  Foreign, conspiracy, stealing – all words fashioned from the modern news desk of insurgent politics and cock-eyed fantasy.

It was difficult, then, to reconcile this language of hyperventilating insurgency, subversion and Putin-like destabilisation with the prospect of an Ardern government. Much egg had to be washed from the face.

Turnbull took to Twitter to congratulate the new plotting leader, claiming to look forward to “building on our two nations’ great partnership.”  At a Friday morning press conference, the questions pushed and prodded: How would Bishop cope with this enemy entity across the Tasman? The minister had crept rather gingerly into a more diplomatic shell.  The relationship between the countries was strong.

Much of this will pass, leaving its characteristic bitter residue.  The relationship between these two countries has tended to be a matter of sibling consternation and rhetorical friendship.  New Zealand tends to have been far more realistic than its enormous neighbour, keeping out of militarist games while focusing on being, at points, a good international citizen.

Both countries have also produced their fair share of misplaced, provincial smugness.  Former New Zealand prime minister, Robert Muldoon, famously claimed that his country’s “emigration to Australia raises the IQ in both countries.”

The same prime minister was livid at the unsportsmanlike approach taken by the Australian cricket team in a 1981 one-day international match that still haunts its participants.  After the Australian bowler, Trevor Chappell, was asked by captain and brother Greg to deliver the last delivery as an underarm, Muldoon deemed it “an act of cowardice appropriate to a team playing in yellow.”

A persistent theme, in fact, emerges: the leaders of New Zealand and Australia have often disliked each other. Muldoon had little time for his counterpart in Canberra, Malcolm Fraser.  Australia’s longest serving Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, could barely stomach David Lange.

Lange, in turn, thought Hawke crude and cloyingly trapped by the language of masculinity. “His language was frequently obscene and he was steeped in the culture of mateship, which for me was never a good starting point.”

Even beyond the point of personalities, Lange’s explicit renunciation of the US nuclear deterrent threatened the ANZUS alliance and drove Hawke, an unabashed fan of the United States, to distraction.

Things become rather touchy with the rejection by the Lange government of a proposed visit by the USS Buchanan in February 1985.  US officials refused to answer queries put to them as to whether the warship had a nuclear capability. “Whatever the truth of its armaments,” asserted Lange, “its arrival in New Zealand would be seen as a surrender by the government.”  US Secretary of State George Schultz retaliated by suspending ANZUS links and security assurances.

An Ardern-Turnbull relationship, to that end, will conform to cosmetics, keep up appearances and utter the necessary platitudes international, and often fictional friendships, thrive on. The rest of the time will be spent diligently ignoring each other.

Mr. Toxicity Zaps America

Sat, 2017-10-21 01:52

America’s all-time-leading heartless anti-science zealot EPA Administrator Scott “Mr. Toxicity” Pruitt, as of March 2017, nixed his own agency’s proposal of 2015 to ban the toxic chemical chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that attacks the nervous system of pesky insects, as well as pesky and non-pesky people (the Nazis invented it for germ warfare). It’s sprayed on crops of foodstuff that ends up in grocery stores.

All of which brings to mind, how in the world does the Trump group, from A-to-Z, remain in power, one of the great enigmas of all time. By all appearances, so far nobody has the backbone, the guts to throw ’em in the gutter, back to their lifeblood.

Chlorpyrifos is no longer patent protected. It is now the active ingredient in dozens of pesticide products made by companies such as Bayer and BASF. More than 80,000 people submitted comments to the EPA urging the agency to ban chlorpyrifos from use on all crops immediately.1

Here are the results of a major study of chlorpyrifos by researchers at Columbia University:

Conclusions: We report evidence of deficits in Working Memory Index and Full-Scale IQ as a function of prenatal CPF exposure at 7 years of age. These findings are important in light of continued widespread use of CPF in agricultural settings and possible longer-term educational implications of early cognitive deficits.2

Further, that’s just for starters, “Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA cannot, consistent with the law, allow it in our food,” said Patti Goldman, a lawyer with Earthjustice, citing a number of studies that have demonstrated the harmful effects of the pesticide in humans.”3

“It’s been banned from household use for more than a decade, but it’s still used by farmers on citrus trees, strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower. The residue may be found on produce in supermarkets.”4

What! Why is it banned from household use but still okay for foods purchased by households? Can Mr. Toxicity answer since he took it upon himself for approval? Doubtful at best.

“Jim Jones, a former assistant administrator of the EPA who was in-charge of pesticide regulation: ‘But, once we cracked that nut, and you had the risk evaluated and in front of you, it became, in my view, a very straightforward decision, with not a lot of ambiguity in terms of what you would do,’ he told National Public Radio. ‘I just don’t know what basis they would have to deny the petition [to ban chlorpyrifos], given the vast scientific record that the EPA’s got right now.

It is no spoof that the vast scientific record is lodged with an EPA that is mandated to protect American citizens from stupid harmful products. And in truth, Mr. Toxicity nixed a proposed ban by his own agency’s scientists utilizing that “vast scientific record” to recommend prohibition. The operative question therefore can only be: Should Mr. Toxicity be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail… just for starters? That’s how history says society dealt with charlatans.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause a range of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, seizures, and paralysis.

Not only that, according to the EPA’s own studies, expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Steadfast, Mr. Toxicity and Dow AgroSciences remain confident in the use of the chemical, assuming quantity is well regulated, then safe, even though used specifically to kill living things. Jeepers Creepers! Let’s spray!

Although, according to Scott Faber Sr. VP at Environmental Working Group, Dow AgroSciences itself makes safer alternatives, confirmed by Dow. Still and remarkably, really-really remarkably, considering Dow’s confirmation of safer alternatives, chlorpyrifos is the most widely used insecticide in the country. Registered uses include apples, lettuce, peaches, and potatoes. Go figure!

“There’s simply no way EPA could reach any conclusion other than it should no longer be used on food crops,’ Faber said. ‘What’s outrageous about Scott Pruitt’s decision is that the science is so strong, so overwhelming, that chlorpyrifos causes neurological problems.”5

Political malevolence is spreading across the land from shore to shore like dreaded plague ever since the Trump confidence game turned lose on the most naïve voting block in the history of the republic, but fading fast on a pathway to a crazy ugly mélange of mass disembowelment at their own hands.

How it feels to be victimized, bamboozled is rapidly becoming America’s new legacy for the world to chew on.

  1. “EPA Urged to Ban Widely-Used Pesticide Chlorpyrrifos”, Environment News-Washington, DC, January 5, 2016.
  2. “Seven-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide,” Environ Health Perspective, 119:1196-1201, April 2011.
  3. Dom Galeon and Abby Norman, “The EPA Approves the Continued Use of a Harmful Chemical in Pesticides”, Futurism, Earth & Energy, March 30, 2017
  4. Ibid.
  5. Susan Scutti, “EPA Won’t Ban Pesticide Chlorpyrifos: Is It Safe?” CNN, March 30, 2017.

Canada’s Love Affair with Monuments to War

Sat, 2017-10-21 01:21

Why do we build monuments to war rather than to its absence?

I wondered about this when reading about a recent tussle in the nation’s capital over the location for yet another celebration of people killing each other.

Last month the Canadian War Museum (CWM) complained to the National Capital Commission about the planned site of the National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan. The government wants to put the Afghan Memorial between Vimy Place Road and the museum to the west of Parliament Hill. But, the CWM believes the Afghan monument will “detract from the architectural vision” of the museum. They are also concerned people might think the memorial is part of their institution, which could undermine CWM’s goal of being seen as a “centre of scholarly excellence” rather than simply a hub of militarist propaganda.

Whoa Nelly, those horses left the barn long ago! The scope of pro-war propaganda in this country is huge and CWM has long been part of it.

Each year tens of millions of dollars in public money is spent on war memorials. The Afghan Memorial is just the latest addition to Ottawa’s long list of war shrines, which includes the Korean War Monument, National War Memorial, National Victoria Cross Memorial, Veterans Memorial Highway, National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, Boer War Memorial, etc.. The federal government spends tens of millions of dollars on these and the more than 7,500 memorials registered with Veterans Affairs’ National Inventory of Military Memorials across the country.

These odes to militarism are generally silent about the Libyans, Afghans, Serbians, Iraqis, Koreans, Germans, South Africans, Sudanese, etc. killed by Canadian Forces. They focus almost exclusively on “our” side, which reinforces a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous. But, Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.

Part war memorial and part veteran commemoration, the War Museum re-opened in 2005. The $136 million institution includes the Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour and is designed for light to shine on the headstone of the Unknown Soldier at 11 am on Remembrance Day. In Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Benedict Anderson writes: “tombs of Unknown Soldiers… saturated with ghostly national imaginings.”

With $65 million a year in mostly public funds, CWM says it “helps tell the story of Canada’s military history to Canadians through its collections, its research, its exhibitions, and its public and education programs.” Its re-launch was highly successful and 500,000 visitors a year have passed through the new museum, which dates to 1880 when the Canadian militia began displaying military artifacts and archival materials. A 55,000 square foot building, CWM houses a large collection of war art and Canadian Forces Artists Program works. The museum also has an arrangement with the Department of National Defence to showcase obsolete military equipment and CWM supports the Legion’s Lest We Forget Project, which introduces students to World War I and II archives. Top weapons makers have also co-sponsored exhibits and speakers series at the museum.

CWM regularly partners with the more than 60 Canadian Forces museums across the country. According to a Canadian Forces Administrative Order, “the role of CF Museums is to preserve and interpret Canadian military heritage in order to increase the sense of identity and esprit de corps within the CF and to support the goals of the Department of National Defence.”

While it presents itself as scholarly, CWM has caved to military extremists. After shaping its development, the Legion objected to a small part of a multifaceted WWII exhibit, which questioned “the efficacy and the morality of the … massive bombing of Germany’s industrial and civilian targets.” The campaign led to a new display that glossed over a bombing campaign explicitly designed to destroy German cities.

The war shrines’ battle over space in Ottawa offers a glimpse into the ever-growing world of militarist memorials. But, these monuments and museums are only a small part of a vast military propaganda system.

With the largest PR machine in the country, the Canadian Forces promotes its worldview through a history department, university, journals, book publishers, think tanks, academic programs and hundreds of public relations officers. Every year hundreds of millions of dollars in public money is spent promoting the Canadian Forces and militarism.

Maybe it is time for a Ministry of Peace with a budget big enough to properly celebrate those glorious times in human history when we lived together in harmony.

The Iran Dilemma: The Tyrant Has Spoken

Fri, 2017-10-20 00:11

The tyrant, of course, is Donald Trump. He launched tirade after tirade, and keeps launching them, insult after insult, lies after lies after miserable lies at the Government of Iran – about Iran not fulfilling the conditions of the Nuclear Deal. The typical mass indoctrination of the western world through the presstitute mainstream media. Goebbels might smile in his grave, how well the neolibs or neo-Nazis have learned from the Nazis of his time – and perfected this science of deceit in the last 50 years. Fortunately, the counter culture, the truth seekers have also become more sophisticated. More people are waking up to the truth every day.

This Nuclear Deal was an agreement reached after 9 years of meticulous, often perilous and at times for Iran demeaning and offending negotiations. But Iran endured, because Iran’s negotiators, notably the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, knew what they were talking about, namely, that Iran had never any plans to develop nuclear weapons, but using the enrichment process for the production of nuclear power. This was, by the way, confirmed by all 16 US security agencies. To no avail. The media all but ignored it. The announcement received little coverage by the MSM and was soon shoved under the carpet by the massive western lie-propaganda.

Iran knew that justice was on her side – the agreement concluded in Vienna, Austria, on 14 July 2015 between the 5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China, France, Russia, UK, the United States plus German), as well as the European Union with the so called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Of course, this was under Obama’s Presidency, and Obama was not as friendly to Netanyahu as is Trump, who is through his family closely interlinked with the Master Zionist of the Zionists, Mr. Bibi Netanyahu.

President Trump wants to cancel the Nuclear Deal. He has said this from the very beginning of his Presidency. And lately he started new outbursts of false accusations against Iran. Now that the entire world is against him, wanting to adhere to the nuclear agreement, including some Republican members of Congress – all of the five signatories, even the otherwise vassal EU, they all say that Iran is fully complying with the agreement, and they will stick to the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has also confirmed that Iran is fully compliant with the rules of the terms of the accord.

Since it is now difficult for Mr. Trump or any of his handlers to pretend that Iran has failed the agreement, Trump has changed his language. He, and some of his most ridiculous stooges say now that Iran is infringing on the “spirit” of the agreement, as if Trump even knew what spirit and spirituality means.

He, the tyrant, keeps insulting and hammering down on the Government of Iran all the same – spreading lies which even Iran’s enemies know are lies: Iran is spreading and funding terrorism in the region, and the world, they are a [military] threat to the region – and they are even a ‘National Security Threat’ – 12,000 km away from Washington. Imagine, one of the most peaceful countries in the world. The only National Security Threat to virtually ALL the nations of the globe, minus Israel, is the only rogue state we know – the United States of America.

So, for now The Donald has retracted from his strong statement of canceling the Nuclear Deal and said simply he will not ‘certify’ it, whatever that means. Because “canceling” by the US alone is simply another outrageous arrogance of Washington’s. The US is a mere signatory among 5+1 and the EU. So, canceling is legally impossible. For now, he has relegated the “Issue” – the Trump problem, that is – to Congress to come up with a solution – i.e. more sanctions on Iran or – else?

Iran is beyond sanctions. Iran is already part of the new economic system – the one emanating from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by China and Russia, and detached from the dollar hegemony. Therefore, slandering Iran, threatening Iran with war and sanctions or both, is one big bluff – and Trump, Netanyahu’s puddle, believe the world will go for it.

More likely, Trump’s handlers want the Donald to create more confusion, spread chaos. Since the Iran ‘issue’ was delegated to Congress to handle, Trump is again verbally firebombing North Korea, threats after threats. And dangerously provoking military games on DPRK’s sea and land borders. More sanctions are not enough, because by now everybody knows they don’t work. How can Washington impose sanctions on China and at the same time hope China will uphold the sanctions the US is imposing on the DPRK? North Korea’s economy is tied at the tune of 90% to China. Not to mention that ‘sanctions’ – by now the hearing or reading of the mere term is laughable – imposed on China and Russia are totally meaningless, useless, toothless.

Both countries are trading with the world since quite a while outside of the fiat dollar system, using instead yuans and rubles convertible into gold. That’s the new currency standard offered to the world. The west can take it or leave it. It’s like jumping on the fast train that has already left the Shanghai station, racing through Eurasia towards Europe, called the OBI – the One Belt Initiative, President Xi’s answer to the western economy of fraud, that will lay the tracks for a new and peaceful economy, possibly for the next few hundred years. I have said it many times before, and will keep repeating it, the future is in the east; the west is passé. It is committing suicide, greed, war and lie-driven auto-destruction. Iran, India, Pakistan are already members of the SCO, others, including NATO Turkey, are vying to join and be no longer vulnerable to US imposed sanctions and sledgehammer policies.

Even far-away Venezuela has decided to trade her hydrocarbon resources with China in gold-convertible yuans. Hence, Venezuela is detaching herself from the dollar economy, freeing herself from the financial and economic shackles of Wall street, the FED and the Bretton Woods Institutions. Venezuela is a beacon illuminating a new economy for South America, as well as an example of a solid democracy, as demonstrated by this past weekend’s regional fully transparent elections to elect governors and state legislators – a new path to follow by other Latin American countries, who are still enslaved and trampled by the dictate of Washington.

So – why is Trump letting off his steam, showing off in such ridiculous brinkmanship? A piece of theatre for a public that is afraid to see the light? – Outbreaks of aggressive rants against Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and lately again Cuba – who is next? It’s like a dance of death – a final ritual that may end up in total nuclear annihilation or implode by its own weight, because those deep dark forces behind The Trump love life too much to let it be destroyed by their overdose of thrill.

Australia’s Citizenship Bill Fails

Thu, 2017-10-19 23:49

This is a government that takes pride in its hard headedness and faux populism.  Knowing it would have to brave a sceptical, even baffled Senate, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, resembling a bit dictator struggling for traction, decided to ignore the signals.

What was required, claimed Dutton, were tougher citizenship laws to govern Australia, an ironic state of affairs given the number of Australian parliamentarians facing the High court over their eligibility to sit in the chambers of Canberra.

The proposed legislation, titled the Australian Citizenship Legislative Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill, would be given a good serving against large swathes of the immigrant community.

It would have required the applicant for Australian citizenship to pass a stand-alone English test involving reading, writing, listening and speaking and show a minimum permanent residency requirement of four years.

Not feeling those measures to be suitably onerous, Dutton insisted on slipping a few other measures into the package: a limit, for instance, to the number of times the language test could be taken (three); and steps demonstrated by the applicant to show forms of integration into the Australian community.  (The fumes of charred meat on an Australian sausage sizzle come to mind.)

The reasons for these changes, outlined in the government’s shoddy paper Strengthening the Test for Australian Citizenship (April 2017), reads like a stream of propaganda consciousness. Platitudes spring up from the pages like fretful children: the idea of Australia being the country of “a ‘fair go’ for all”; “the most successful multicultural society in the world”; “shared values”.

Then comes the cutting and suspicious undertone, the irresistible resort to a security rationale that casts any doubt aside. This is a government that can’t trust prospective citizens.  Nor will it.  The weeds shall be found, the pretenders rooted out.  “The Australian Government places the highest priority on the safety and security of all Australians.”  Global terrorist concerns had “caused concern in the Australian community.”

This point has always had one glaring weakness: terrorist attacks across European capitals tend to take place from European-born citizens rather than applicants.  The point is conveniently missed for matters of rhetorical effect, dividing Australian residents into the anointed and the discarded.

Opponents to the changes, among them the Nick Xenophon Team, Labor, and the Greens, did give Dutton some breathing space: a Wednesday night deadline to reach some accord and soften the hammering blow. Desperate to keep matters harsh, Dutton’s fig leaf was a poorly eviscerated one: delay the citizenship changes to commence on July 2018, as opposed to making it retrospective, and reduce the level of English expected from “competent” to “modest”.

The response from NXT senator Stirling Griff made it clear that these were far from sufficient. “Just amending the English language test and retrospectivity is not sufficient.  We will still be rejecting the bill.” The bill was effectively struck off the notice paper by the time Wednesday’s proceedings had concluded. No vote had taken place.

The champagne corks were duly popped.  Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim called it “a huge victory for multicultural Australia”, whatever that problematic concept entails.  Labor’s Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus filled the chorus with his own propaganda laced glee. “The death of Dutton’s citizenship bill is a victory for Australia and all new arrivals who wish to become part of our great country.”

Media stories were duly run to fluff the victory. Pakistan-born software developer Bushra Zainuddin featured in the ABC wishing “to be part of an Australian family.” (Her husband and child are both Australian citizens.) Her timing in terms of applying for citizenship was immaculately bad: April 20, when the Turnbull government announced its efforts to revise the citizenship rules.  “I’d just delivered a baby. He’s Australian.  We thought we’d become a whole family of Australians.”

The killing off this bill doesn’t entail its vanishing.  The corpse has yet to be cremated and buried.  Dutton is the sort of individual who believes in authoritarian resurrections.  Only he can defend Australia against its aliens, local and foreign.  Most Australians, claimed the irritated minister, “would be shaking their heads” at the stance taken in the Senate.

Nor can Labor necessarily be taken at face value for such remarks as that made by its citizenship spokesman, Tony Burke, who did describe the failure of the bill as “a great victory for every person who wants to pledge allegiance to this country and make a commitment to Australia.”

Burke had suggested that the bill was so extreme as to require a significant historical comparison.  Not since the White Australia policy, the first legislative act of Australia’s infant parliament in 1901, had politicians seen this.  They are bound to see more. 

Venezuela Regional Elections: Chavismo in Triumph, Opposition in Disarray and Media in Denial

Thu, 2017-10-19 10:15

President Maduro lauded the election victory as a message against imperialism (photo by AVN)

As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 231 governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on.

*****

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had a tremendous victory in these elections. Among the three quarters of the governorships secured, some were quite significant. Hector Rodríguez, a young and charismatic chavista leader, won the governorship of Miranda state back from the opposition. Miranda includes part of Caracas and was the main hot spot of opposition violence in recent months. Another example was Chávez’s home state of Barinas which also saw some unrest in recent months. Chávez’s younger brother Argenis was the candidate and the state was successfully held by the PSUV.

The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) and won five others (Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia), with three of them being on the border with Colombia and raising some fears of increased paramilitary activity. Overall participation was 61%, compared to 54% five years ago, and the PSUV had 54% of the vote, some 5.6M votes. This marked a complete reversal from the legislative elections of 2015. It showed that chavismo’s core support remains very strong, and that, due to its less than coherent actions, it was the opposition that failed to mobilise its supporters.

Electoral map after Sunday’s regional elections. Chavismo took 18 (red) governorships, and the opposition took five (blue).

The media reaction was one for the history books. Having not paid much attention to these elections, the run-up had just the same recycled narrative: “if the elections are free and fair, the opposition will win by a landslide”. Once the results came out, rather than look to understand them and figure out what had gone wrong in their predictions, the media simply went down the rabbit hole. According to their biased narrative and historically inaccurate polls, this simply was not possible!

The evidence to back this impossibility was also less than convincing. There were the usual unsubstantiated, or easily disproved, claims of “fraud” (more on that later). The New York Times added the very scientific claim that “turnout appeared to be lower”, while Reuters, with its ever decreasing credibility, went further and talked about voters being forced to vote at gunpoint! Several analysts were paraded to claim that this result was not possible, some even argued it was “inconceivable“. It seems like these journalists and analysts have violated one of the cardinal rules of (information) trafficking: don’t get high on your own supply. Simply put, they have started believing too much in their own propaganda.

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

Let us look at the actions of the US-backed Venezuelan opposition in the recent past. First they kicked off a wave of street violence in April that left more than 100 dead (most of them caused by opposition violence). With the media propaganda in overdrive they claimed they were on the verge of “tumbling the dictatorship”. But barring a few isolated occasions, the violence never spread far beyond the opposition strongholds, mainly in eastern Caracas.

After Maduro proposed the Constituent Assembly, the opposition refused to participate and claimed that they would stop it from taking place. They even staged their own “referendum” to reject the Constituent Assembly and call for intervention of the armed forces. But in what was a massive chavista show of strength, as well as a rejection of opposition violence, more than 8M people voted on July 30th. All the opposition, and the media, could do was claim that the figure was false, based on shoddy exit polls and unsubstantiated claims from Smartmatic.2 These elections and the swearing in of the Constituent Assembly effectively brought peace to the streets.

So after all the talk of tumbling the dictatorship and demanding that Maduro step down tomorrow, the opposition turned to their supporters, and with a straight face asked them to go out and vote in the regional elections. Some of the more hardline factions refused to take part (and are now chiding the leadership for having done so) but most of the opposition parties carried on with the absurd discourse of “voting against the dictatorship”. In the end the absurdity caught up to them and the result was a resounding defeat. And then, like clockwork, the opposition claimed the results were fraudulent. Frankly, what else was left for them to do? They can send the defeated candidates to Washington DC and continue forming their “government in exile”.3

Opposition leader Julio Borges’ contradictions with regard to the regional elections (Translated from Misión Verdad)

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

If the media coverage of Venezuela had any vestige of honesty, articles would explain how the voting works, so that this “fraud” allegations can be put into context. In a nutshell, voters mark their vote in a machine, a paper ballot is printed, and if this matches the electronic vote, they deposit the paper ballot in a box. After the voting is completed, a audit is conducted in 54.4% of the voting centres, randomly selected. This consists of tallying up the paper ballots and seeing if they match, up to a very small margin, against the electronic tally. This ensures that statistically the results are pretty much final, and that is what the CNE President Tibisay Lucena means when she says the results are “irreversible”.

Chavista, opposition and international monitors take part in pre-voting checks, are present at voting centres during the day, and they are also present during this audit. At the end of this process they sign an act (acta). So it is very hard to claim there was actual electoral fraud. In fact, defeated opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, said himself that he had the acts and that was not the problem. Therefore it is ridiculous for France and the US State Dept. to claim there is anything wrong with the tabulation process.

The main “fraud” complaint in the media were that over 200 voting centres (out of 13.500) had been relocated away from areas where the opposition is strongest and into traditionally pro-government areas. What, conveniently, was left unsaid, is that these were centres that could not open for the Constituent Assembly elections because of opposition violence, which makes the CNE’s security concerns more than justified.

There were also protests that opposition candidates that had lost a (contentious) primary vote were left on the ballot, with the CNE arguing that the requests to remove them from the ballot were not filed on time. But looking at the results, all the contests were virtually two-horse races, with hardly any votes for third-placed candidates and with the winner taking over 50% of the vote, so any consequence of this was negligible (with the possible exception of Bolívar).

Another complaint was that some of the voting centres did not open on time. But given that, even after polls close at 6PM, everyone who is standing in line still gets to vote, this complaint does not hold water. All in all, the Venezuelan opposition, their sponsors, and the media, would have the world believe the elections were fraudulent because middle-class voters did not want to wait in line and much less see poor people on their way to vote.

Chavista celebrations after the electoral triumph (photo by AVN)

The road ahead

It is hard to see where the Venezuelan opposition can go from here, with signs of in-fighting already clear. With their “doomsday cult” behaviour they are unlikely to have any success in reactivating the street violence, and thus their fate rests essentially on what the US empire can do. They will be hoping that (more) sanctions can inflict enough pain on the Venezuelan people to give them a chance of winning the presidential election next year. The most fanatical ones might hope that Trump follows through on the threats of military intervention.

One thing they can count on is the unwavering, unconditional support from the mainstream media. While opposition voters and supporters may use their memory and call out the inconsistencies and contradictions, no such thing is to be expected from the media. They will keep echoing claims that there was fraud in these elections, that the turnout on July 30th was inflated, and continue to milk the story of the former prosecutor who goes around saying she has proof of corruption involving high government officials. As with everything that can be used against the Bolivarian government, no evidence is ever needed.

As for chavismo, it is unquestionable that the two most recent electoral showings have been tremendous victories. Western analysts time and again fail to grasp the vitality of the Bolivarian Revolution, and belittle chavistas either as brainwashed zealots or people who simply fear losing their benefits.4 The reality is that, even through a deep economic war/crisis that has hit them hard, and regardless of what the leadership should have done differently, the Venezuelan poor and working-class still see this project as their own, one in which they are actors and not just spectators.

Maduro’s term has arguably seen chavismo playing defence all the time, with an economic war, a steep drop in oil prices, two incarnations of guarimba violence and constant international pressure and sanctions. Fresh off this electoral win and with the Constituent Assembly in place, it is imperative that chavismo seizes the moment to radicalise, to go on the offensive, with a year to go until the presidential elections. The support that it has retained through this storm should not be taken for granted, and there is now a window to fight corruption, increase working-class control in the economy, increase the influence of the communes, etc. This is not just a matter of keeping the grassroots involved. This is how the economic war will be won. This is how socialism will be built.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. The initial results were only final for 22 out of the 23 states. In the southern state of Bolívar the PSUV candidate was later confirmed to be the winner in a tight contest.
  2. Smartmatic, the company responsible for the software in the voting machines, claimed that “without any doubt” the turnout had been inflated by at least 1M votes. The claim was rejected by Venezuelan electoral authorities because the company does not have access to electoral data. Several solidarity organisations delivered a letter to Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica on September 8 demanding that the company either present evidence for its claims or issue an apology. There has been no response to this day.
  3. Right on cue, Maria Corina Machado has urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since mid-2016, to nominate new electoral authorities. One hopes there is enough office space in OAS headquarters in Washington DC.
  4. If only they had a deep and mature political understanding such as the opposition and their “we do not want to be Cuba” slogans…

Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood

Thu, 2017-10-19 00:08

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing. In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.

But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.

In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politically disempowering identity politics can be. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Weinstein, who has admitted that he abused his position with many women, while denying many of the actual reports of sexual misconduct, exploited his power. It should hardly surprise us that a rich man who had the ability to give desperate young women a shot at stardom preyed on them. The Hollywood employment system is capitalism in microcosm, at its rawest and most naked.

The Weinstein revelations tell us much less about relations between men and women than they do about the nature of power and the ability of the strong to exploit the weak.

Under capitalism, the weak – the working class – eventually gained the consciousness and discovered the tools to assert their own form of power. As individuals they were vulnerable and exploitable. As a collective, they gained the power to bargain. That led to the trade union movements, and gradual improvements in wages and conditions.

The capitalist class has been trying to reverse those gains ever since. The new turbo-charged form we call neoliberalism has been atomising western societies since the 1970s to return us to new forms of economic dependency, culminating in zero-hours contracts and an Uber culture.

What does this have to do with Weinstein? This week Reese Witherspoon spoke out about her own sexual assault by a movie director when she was 16. She has joined a list of famous actors like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow who have cited their own experiences. One suspects that most of Hollywood’s A-list could tell similar horror stories from their early years in search of stardom.

So what is the lesson that none of them is drawing? Precisely the one that workers learnt more than a century ago. You must get organised.

One can understand why teenage actresses, as Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organise against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.

Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls. It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers.

And yet in the degraded political culture we live in, they prefer to remain disempowered individuals rather than become part of a much stronger collectivity. They prefer their confessionals in the corporate media that exploited and abused them to independent, organised action to curb the corporate system’s excesses.

As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days.

The Choreography of Human Dignity: Blade Runner 2049 and World War Z

Wed, 2017-10-18 23:40

The acceptance of violence in cinema today has become the norm. In almost every genre of cinema (even in comedies [Kick Ass] and musicals [Sweeney Todd]) today extreme violence can crop up at some point during the movie. Some film genres are based on violence: horror, war, westerns, crime, terror.

This is especially true of science fiction and zombie movies where ‘replicants’ (androids/robots) are executed (‘retired’) and zombies are mowed down with machine guns. And because replicants (Blade Runner 2049) and zombies (World War Z) are not ‘human’ then the representation of any form of violence can be used to ‘take them out’. In both films the replicants and zombies are in revolt globally. If we were to argue that both films were symbolic representations of contemporary global issues then we could explain this depiction of the revolting masses as symbolic of elite anxieties regarding the ever growing masses of slum dwellers and refugees in the world today.

​Blade Runner 2049

It is believed that 863 million people live in slums and around 65 million people live in refugee camps. We live in a global system which has created these problems but is not able to resolve them. Moreover, these numbers are constantly increasing and no state or international organisation has been able to reverse the figures, hence the anxiety.In Blade Runner 2049 the fear is that the replicants could start reproducing themselves and overrun the planet and in World War Z masses of zombies have already started to take over the world. In both films the overriding concern is how to stop them. In Blade Runner 2049 a replicant’s child must be found and destroyed and in World War Z the discovery is made that inoculation with a pathogen causes the zombies to ignore the humans.

​Sweeney Todd

The use of violence to destroy the replicants and zombies is depicted in very graphic scenes. We are being  familiarised with regular violent scenes of ‘people’ being killed with machine guns, shot point blank in the head, knifed in the heart or executed on the spot. We do not question the morality of such actions because they are ‘androids’, ‘robots’,  ‘zombies’, etc. However, when such behaviour is shown in films where humans are depicted, do we question it? Do we think about issues of human dignity, justice before the law, the Geneva Conventions, the abolition of capital punishment? Are we becoming like the mob who shouts ‘take him out’?In film-making the movement of actors before the camera is called ‘blocking’. This comes from theatre where small blocks were used to work out the positions of each actor on stage.

Blocking means working out the the details of each actor’s moves during filming of each scene. Actors must learn the choreography of hand to hand combat (slaps and punches) and how to work with a gun to look authentic and realistic. The huge increase in realistic violent scenes in cinema has had its physical toll on actors accruing injuries in combat scenes, an increase in stunt actors and ever more realistic computer graphics.

​World War Z

On a symbolic level the human body is becoming more objectified as a dehumanised punch bag, while on a philosophical level there is a move away from humanism to an apocalyptic ‘posthuman’ view. We are becoming less and less shocked at the sight of torture, pumping blood, bones sticking out, severed limbs, massive gashes in the body, knife wounds and multiple bleeding bullet holes.It wasn’t always like this. In the 1930s Hollywood adopted the self-imposed Hays Code (officially the Motion Picture Production Code) which set out guidelines on what could be depicted in films. While the code covered many aspects of society especially in relation to crime, nudity and religion, it also recommended that ‘special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated’ such as: ‘Arson’, ‘The use of firearms’, ‘Brutality and possible gruesomeness’, ‘Technique of committing murder by whatever method’, ‘Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime’ and ‘Rape or attempted rape’.

While some may laugh at the prudery and censorship of cinema during those times (which had been rejected by the early 1960s), others see a more human era when violence was implied rather than graphically depicted.

​Kick Ass

The issues at stake here, though, are not the problems of censorship or prudery but the depiction and role of violence in cinema. Cui bono? In society who benefits from the constant portrayal of interhuman and internecine violence in the movies? Cinema has a mass popular base and therefore will influence attitudes in society as people watch and discuss films they see in theatres and on television. Cinema is also extremely costly to make and therefore its content is highly constrained by the type of subject matter elites wish to be viewed. It is often said that the director gets first cut and the producers determine the rest.It is also known that elites foment controversy to keep the people fighting with each other as a form of divide and rule. By recycling controversies in different forms again and again elites create as many divisions as possible that prevent people uniting as one, and, more importantly, uniting against them. In cinema we constantly see people individually and in groups at each others throats arguing and fighting or facing each other off in various types of gun battles.

Fortunately, cinema also has a tradition of film making which revolves around working class unity and solidarity. This comes down to individual writers and directors with a social consciousness who over the years have made films that explored the lives and struggles of ordinary people. Filmmakers themselves are aware of the potential for decline of a film industry without a code of ethics, where anything goes. In recent years the president of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia, film director Nikita Mikhalkov, initiated the creation of an ethics charter for the film industry there. The code would be a voluntary, self-regulation of the industry. It is interesting to note that in the United States the Golden Age of Hollywood coincided with the time of the Hays Code.

In the discussion about violence in the cinema part of the debate revolves around just and unjust violence. However, one may ask if the depiction of extreme violence in the revenge of the oppressed is reason enough for the acceptability of its portrayal? Even here the dignity of the human being implies that the ethical imperative is to move away from the horror of extreme violence for the possibility of the creation of a genuinely civilised future.

American Teaching Hospitals: Where Pelvic Exams Under Anesthesia Happen

Wed, 2017-10-18 23:01

Before undergoing a liver biopsy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, I asked my surgeon’s nurse whether I was to be catheterized for the procedure. In response to this perfectly legitimate question the knave sardonically replied: “I’m really not supposed to say this, but what difference does it make? You’re going to be under general anesthesia.”

It was at that moment that I started to wonder: With an attitude like that, what do they really do to us when we are under anesthesia? And thus a little Internet surfing was most certainly in order.

In my journey into the subterranean depths of cyberspace, I was startled to come across a most terrifying sea monster indeed: a disturbing discussion where medical students debate, often favorably, the ethics of doing practice pelvic exams on anesthetized women undergoing surgery. The thread is here.

Apparently, there is no shortage of medical students, interns, residents, and attending physicians who feel they are entitled to penetrate the vaginas and anuses of anesthetized patients that lie paralyzed and helpless on the operating table, and who feel that they have the right to do this without first obtaining the patient’s consent. This naked display of barbarism and sociopathic behavior speaks volumes about the moral unraveling that is so glaringly on display in the West today.

This scandalous practice is evidently not uncommon in Australia, as this article attests.

The forum is fascinating in that it allows the reader to be a fly on the wall, giving one a glimpse into how many American medical students think – if that is, in fact, the appropriate word. (Some spelling corrections have been made in the following quotations. Hopefully, these Ivy League superstars will take more care in looking after their patients than they do with the written word. Considering the attitudes on display here, I am not optimistic).

The discussion opens with a medical student named Unregistered Abuser, who, like a kind of postmodern Socrates struggling with an existential conundrum, puts forth the following question:

Let me pose a question. I am on gynecological surgery and several different residents and attendings have told me that prior to surgery it is a great idea to perform a pelvic exam on the anesthetized woman in order to get practice. Many have said it is not traumatic to the patient and you get a more technically adequate exam since the patient is not guarding. Sure enough, before every procedure the attending and resident…perform a quick pelvic exam. Is this wrong? The attending does it for one last chance to feel for any previously undiagnosed masses or other abnormalities, but the resident and student do it primarily for educational purposes. The patient has consented to the surgery, but not for the pelvic exam. Does consent to surgery of the uterus, vagina, vulva, ovaries, etc. also imply consent to manual palpation of these structures during the surgery?

A medical student named Starayamoskva comments: “It is standard procedure. How else do you think the residents and students are going to learn?” A student named Gauss replies: “Pelvics on anesthesized women prior to surgery is routine – informed consent was obtained as part of the surgical consent.”

Doc Ivy chimes in, “As a woman I have to say that I really don’t have a problem with this. If I am at a teaching hospital it’s what I would expect.” A medical student named tupac_don flippantly remarks, “Been there done that, it’s A okay.” And not to be outdone, one student who could be the very devil himself says, “Patients…have rights? This phrase is thrown around by every damn idiot…but where does it come from? Hey Mr. lawyer, does the Bill of Rights say ‘Medical students shall not examine a patient’s vagina prior to vaginal surgery?’ This patient’s have rights bull**** came from lawyers…. Healthcare isn’t even a right.”

So how did we arrive at this cesspit of degeneracy and the most abject moral bankruptcy? And where did these despicable monsters come from?

They came from our schools, our press, and our mass media. They came from our consumerism, our materialism, our barbarism abroad, and the totalitarianism of our prison system. They were born out of the ashes of post-New Deal America, where our nation’s once proud middle class now lies in ruins, and we are increasingly trapped in a world of the affluent living in their gated communities on one side, and the miserable wretched masses – the oppressed, the destitute, and the debt-ridden on the other.

The dismantling of the humanities has also played a significant role in fomenting this dehumanization. This is because most colleges and universities presently exist for only two reasons: to maximize the greatest possible profit, while also serving as vocational institutes that mold young people into becoming automatons trained to perform increasingly specialized jobs. (Jobs which, particularly outside of health care, do not even exist).

This absence of a proper humanities education has undoubtedly contributed to the inculcation of many medical students with the pernicious idea that patients are mere objects and teaching tools. And the danger of significant numbers of young people receiving an advanced scientific and technical education that is utterly devoid of any foundation in the humanities, lies in the fact that the soullessness and amorality that follow will inevitably usher in an age of authoritarianism and absolute unchecked barbarism.

Many medical students are also made acutely aware of which patients have money and good health care plans, and which don’t. This two-tier system is well on display in many medical institutions across the country, as patients are separated into the haves and the have nots. (And lest we forget, there are also the “have mores,” as George W Bush was once kind enough to point out). One student writes on this thread: “At my school, the rule is that it’s ok to do [pelvic exams on anesthetized women] on welfare patients but not on private patients.”

The oligarchy’s mass media brainwashing apparatus has been relentless in spreading the virus of neoliberal free market dogma. And this has also exacerbated commodification, dehumanization, desensitization, as well as contributing to a profound loss of compassion, empathy, and a sense of self.

The attitude of the attending physician will unequivocally have a profound impact on the behavior and thinking of the medical students, interns, and residents that they mentor. And their philosophy and approach to patient care will shape and mold the moral character (or lack thereof) of their charges in profound ways, and for many years to come.

The physician Peter Ubel writes on the website kevinmd.com:

Moral attitudes are often a function more of our experience than of our training. When some colleagues and I surveyed medical students and asked them how important it was to ask permission before conducting a pelvic exam on an anesthetized woman, brand new medical students almost universally stated that permission was vital but by the time the students finished their OB/GYN rotations three years later, they didn’t see permission as being important anymore. Despite the lectures they’d received about ‘informed consent’ during the first two years of medical school, six weeks of an OB/GYN rotation was enough to change their moral attitudes.

Men under anesthesia are not immune to this barbarous practice, as the attending physician can order medical students to line up and perform practice prostate exams on anesthetized male patients.

How ironic, that if a student passes out while intoxicated at a party and their body is vaginally or anally penetrated while they are unconscious, the law states unequivocally that this is illegal. However, if a student gets a 4.0 GPA, aces the MCAT, and goes to medical school they can actually do this all day long and to their heart’s content.

Many medical students will feel in their heart that this practice is unethical, yet proceed with the unauthorized exam as they wish to get a good grade and don’t want to anger their attending physician. And like soldiers in the military, the pressure to conform will be overwhelming. It will take great courage to say no.

There is also an inextricable connection between nonconsensual physician shadowing and nonconsensual rectal and pelvic exams performed on anesthetized patients. With the former, once this Rubicon has been crossed it becomes ingrained in the minds of everyone on the medical “team” that the patient is more of a primate than a human being, and is consequently undeserving of any right to privacy whatsoever. Moreover, once these civilized norms of morality and ethics have been breached, it will be easy for a medical student to take things just one step further, and violate a patient’s body on the operating table “for practice.”

It is vitally important that medical students, residents, and fellows be inculcated with an understanding that both observing a patient’s session with their doctor as well as examining a patient’s body, constitute a privilege and not a right. And they must be made to understand that this privilege can only be granted when both the attending physician  and the patient sign off on it.

There may be some medical students who are angrily reading this, and who have concluded that I am somehow attempting to sabotage their efforts at becoming doctors. As one who has taken a lot of photographic portraits on the streets of New York City, never have I taken someone’s portrait without first obtaining their consent. If a photographer makes the case that there is an ethical and an unethical way of taking portraits, does it then somehow follow that they are of the opinion that photographic portraiture should be banned altogether?

Every teaching hospital in this country has a website where they speak ad nauseam of their profound respect for patient privacy. The problem is that their conception of the term applies only to protecting the digitalization of your medical records.

It is noteworthy that not all the medical students who participated in this discussion were in favor of this practice. Souljah1 says: “Lining up 4-6 medical students to do pelvics on anesthetized women is totally ****ed up in my opinion. Not giving clear information regarding students lining up to examine their genitalia and reproductive organs is incredibly unethical in my opinion.”

And one brave medical student going by the name Mumpu argues, “Think about the absolute trust the patient places in your skills and professionalism when they go under anesthesia. They are paralyzed and unconscious and it is grossly unprofessional of you to violate that trust by violating their body. There’s no ‘greater good’ clause here. To do an unconsented exam is assault (any firefighter/EMT who ever worked on the streets knows this), to do an unconsented pelvic is sexual assault.”

And so perhaps we can take heart in knowing that even in this dark age of book burning and the most appalling ignorance, there are still those who live their lives with a powerful sense of morality and ethics, who have retained their humanity in the face of stifling reactionary dogmas, and who have resisted the call of dark forces that lie in wait behind every shadow and every unlocked door.

Why the Columbine and Las Vegas Massacres?

Wed, 2017-10-18 22:28

After the 1999 school massacre in Columbine, Colorado – an exurbia community – by two disaffected teenage boys (who also killed themselves), I came to the conclusion that the killers’ “motive” was not at all a purposeful urge, goal, revenge or obsession, but instead a complete self-abandonment into nihilism – a giving up – and the horrible eruption of that destructive nihilism was a symptom of those boys’ lack of culture – an abysmal lack of culture. I see the same about Stephen Paddock, the shooter in Las Vegas; his fury to kill emerged out of a profound lack of culture.

It seems to me that these rapid-fire suicide-killers had been born into and raised (probably somewhat thoughtlessly) in a cultural void. Their world was a generic beyond-suburbia commuter outpost of sprawl, malls, video games and Internet pablum and porn, instead of real books of literature, real art instead of plastic flamingo-level decorations, and real music instead of throwaway canned between-commercials pop. They had never absorbed real culture, which is the emotional and intellectual glue that binds an individual to the wider human communities both in the present and through the long arc of time.

Those boys (young and old) had lives of material ease, but they had absolutely no spirit because the nurturing and feeding of the spirit – the essential purpose of culture – was absent from their lives. I believe the spiritual-cultural hollowness of their cores was a reflection of the spiritual-cultural desert that was their environment.

By their late teens the two Columbine killers had had enough of it, and could see nothing in their possible 60 to 70 years of future living except more of the same. That “more of the same” is the listless life Stephen Paddock lived until he too had had enough, at age 64. As they looked into their futures the Columbine teens could have thought that maybe they could become insurance agents or realtors, or some other “normal” occupation that would see them harnessed to the spinning wheels of pointless money-making. And they would have their free time to be just as hollow as their comfort-providing work would be: more video games or video poker?, hanging out at the same beer joints with the same kind of empty-headed crowd?, watching another game on TV?, getting married and keeping up the same kind of families they had grown up in?

What would be the point? It was like looking down an arrow-straight empty four-lane freeway across a dry-lake salt-flat that stretched out to their 80th year and led to nothing but a dead end. Why spend the better part of a century bored, waiting to get to nowhere after having spent the whole trip doing nothing because nobody cared anyway, and end up just as useless as they were now, then die unnoticed and thereafter remain forgotten? Why not cut out all the slow stuff, the boring, tiresome waiting and pointless work, and just get one incredible orgasmically exciting machine-gun humping high, and then check out in a blink before the let-down set in?

I think it is the deep, personal absorption of and sensitivity to culture, and even tradition, that fills a psyche with the substance needed for living life joyfully; and the substance which occupies what would otherwise be a spiritual-cultural void that can only produce interminable lassitude or explosions of destructive nihilism erupting out of deeply submerged despair.

I think the appreciative absorption of culture, along with the received gifts of affectionate nurturing, kind friendship and confident love, are the necessary courses in a complete education of the human heart. I see major tragedies like the Columbine and Las Vegas massacres, as well as so many little-noticed murders of the same sort, to be the result of our society’s many failures at providing all our people with that necessary education of the heart.

I was prompted to write these comments after reading the following article by Greg Palast, “I went to School with the Vegas Shooter” pointed out to me by Anthony Tarrant.

“The Agreement of the Century”

Wed, 2017-10-18 22:08

According to a report circulating unofficially in Arabic, the latest in a sixty-nine year history of proposals to resolve the western Zionist invasion of Palestine (AKA the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”) is about to see the light of day. It claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originated the proposal and that secret deliberations have been underway for more than five months.

Netanyahu has now presented the proposal to the US, which made some changes and agreed to promote it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will carry the plan, called “the Agreement of the Century” to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for review and discussion.

The provisions

The proposal has 21 points, but the main provisions are that the West Bank will be federated (or re-federated) with Jordan, and the Gaza Strip with Egypt. Together, they will be known as the Palestinian Confederation, ostensibly converting the Palestinian “Authority” into a national government, although it is already widely recognized as such and although it will not have any of the authority or sovereignty that nation states are deemed to have under international law.

Israel will govern Jewish settlements directly and Jerusalem is excluded from the proposal, for resolution at a later time. The primary function of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, therefore, will be to take over the security functions currently administered by the Israeli armed forces; i.e., to protect Israel and repress Palestinians. As they say in Israel, “When you have a dirty job, give it to an Arab.”

Other provisions concern development of infrastructure, international guarantees, and conversion of Hamas into a purely political party while integrating its military wing into the Palestinian security forces. The borders will be based on the armistice lines as of June 4th, 1967, with some territorial swaps. Refugees will be permitted to “return” to the West Bank and Gaza, even if it is not the home from which they were displaced. This is not going to be accepted by expatriate refugees in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, but they have always been disenfranchised in all proposals, and this one is no exception.

Unanswered questions

The biggest unanswered question is the status of Jerusalem. Will the Arab leaders accept an agreement that has no assurances at all with respect to Jerusalem? This is hard to imagine, and it was, in fact, the major stumbling block to an agreement at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

Another major unknown is what happens to the West Bank areas designated A, B and C in the Oslo agreement. Area A is the only one of the three where Oslo grants full administrative and security control to the Palestinian Authority, and it comprises less than 15% of the total area of the West Bank, itself only 18% of historic Palestine. Israel is unlikely to hand B and C over to Palestinian authority and limit the settlements to their current footprints, without prospect of outward expansion or new settlements. More likely, they will insist upon continuing the current arrangement, allowing Israel to continue expanding the settlements indefinitely. This is also unlikely to be acceptable to the Arabs and to the Palestinian people.

Analysis

What do the parties to the agreement expect to gain from it?

Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinians. It wants the land but not the people. It also wants to stop being considered an occupier of someone else’s land. In 1948 it achieved this by massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. In 1967 it used the same methods but was somewhat less successful except on the Golan Heights, where it expelled 94% of the population. Since then, expulsions have been gradual and slower, except for the 2006 expulsion of a million people in south Lebanon, which was subsequently reversed by the victory of the Hezbollah resistance.

If the above assumptions about areas A, B and C are correct, a signed agreement means that Israel concedes nothing at all and will be able to continue with its territorial ambitions. However, it will rid itself of the Palestinians by farming out the occupation to Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement also removes the teeth (such as they are) of Hamas, and makes Israel appear to be a “peacemaker” with a “generous proposal”.

Mahmoud Abbas’s interest is to become the president of a “real” (though not sovereign) country, recognized universally, even by Israel. He also gets Gaza in the bargain, as well as some handsome development funds that will improve the economy, at least in the short run. The recently announced “unity government” between Hamas and Fatah can be seen as a prelude to such an agreement, and a means of strengthening Abbas’s hand in the negotiations (which is why Israel is not very happy about it).

Hamas gains the least of any of the parties, but Israel’s decade-long siege on Gaza is now so debilitating that they are possibly loathe to dash the hopes of their people for relieving their isolation. They are under tremendous pressure to improve the intolerable living conditions, and may not wish to be seen as spoilers.

The Arab monarchies and Egypt want to be rid of the problem and to get on with other concerns, chiefly their rivalry and potential conflict with Iran. In this case they would like to be able to collaborate and ally themselves more openly with a powerful Israel, which the agreement will legitimate. Iraq and Syria, who are friendly to Iran, are not currently on Abbas’s itinerary, which underscores that their views are not likely to be given consideration.

The US also gets a Middle East peace agreement that has eluded eleven administrations since 1948, and which Trump desperately needs to bolster his flagging image on the domestic front. The agreement would also strengthen the hand of both the US and Israel to undertake aggressive action against Iran and destroy it as a regional power, which is an ambition of both countries and the conservative Arab regimes.

All of this assumes that the agreement will be approved. That is still a very big “if”. But Israel is also prepared for failure, which also works to their advantage. In that case Israel will do what it has always done: blame the Palestinians for refusing to be complicit in their own demise. They will then give their military a free hand to commit another pogrom, known in Israel as “mowing the grass”.

In fact, Israel may pull another plan off the shelf, one using a more direct means of ridding themselves of the Palestinians. They learned in Lebanon that they could create a million refugees in ten days, and thereby clear the land of its inhabitants. Instead of “mowing the grass”, this would be more akin to “scorching the earth”, which is also a definition of the term “holocaust”.

Celebrating 100 Years of Injustice and Oppression

Wed, 2017-10-18 21:15

On 7 November, in London’s famous Royal Albert Hall, there’s to be “a unique event drawing Christians and Jews together in celebration of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and all that it led to.”

Christians will be reaching out to support the Jewish community and the state of Israel, or so the organisers claim.

“Our vision to stage such a big event at the Royal Albert Hall is ambitious and we recognise our reliance on God to enable every aspect of it. The evening’s programme will follow the history of God’s work through the Balfour Declaration that culminated in the independence of the modern state of Israel. We will use dance, film, song and drama sketches to illustrate how God used both Christians and Jews to fulfil (sic) the prophesied return of the Jewish people from exile to their ancient biblical homeland Israel,” says the blurb.

And it adds:

  • Christian leaders will read statements that will reflect Christians’ desire to…
  • Reconnect with the spiritual heritage of godly men who espoused the restoration of Israel to her Land;
  • Remember the Balfour Declaration and the Jewish-Christian partnerships that made it a reality;
  • Recognise the failure of Britain to fulfill the intent of the Balfour Declaration through the mandate for Palestine;
  • Rededicate ourselves as Christians to support Israel and the Jewish community.

And the Royal Albert Hall, we are reminded, is where Lord Balfour celebrated with the Jewish community the granting to Britain of the Mandate for Palestine.

The rest of us, of course, remember Arthur Balfour as the Tory twit whose lamebrain ‘Declaration’ made it possible for Zionists who have no ancestral links to the Holy Land to dispossess, lock up and abuse Palestinians who do.

It was God’s work, we’re told. So that’s all right, then. And while we recover our composure we may well ask what kind of warped Christians dreamed up this Albert Hall caper, how the Balfour Declaration and its sickening legacy could possible have been “God’s work”, and how many “godly men” were among the perpetrators.

Then let’s cut to another declaration — The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a joint statement by the heads of Palestinian Christian churches, which:

  • rejects Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message;
  • rejects the alliance of Christian Zionist leaders with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States; and,
  • rejects the teachings of Christian Zionism that advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war.

Thankfully, a sermon recently delivered in Westminster Abbey by Michael Doe, Preacher of Gray’s Inn, added some important context missing from the Royal Albert Hall’s promo patter:

The Balfour Declaration made way for the creation of Israel. It also said that nothing should be done ‘which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. We British who made the Declaration have an unfinished responsibility to ensure its implementation.

To be precise Balfour’s pledge said “It being clearly understood” that nothing should be done to prejudice the rights of non-Jews. What’s not to understand? But that bit was conveniently forgotten within 30 years and is shrugged off today.

Who is behind this cringe-making celebration? Balfour 100. Who is behind Balfour 100? It’s hard to know. The Jewish Leadership Council’s website says that the Balfour 100 steering committee is comprised of 23 British-Jewish communal and Israel advocacy organisations but doesn’t name them. Among those, however, will be a number of fake Christians who are happy to stooge for the Zionists’ vile ambitions.

These pseuds have apparently ignored the cry for help issued only months ago by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches and the entire ecumenical movement. It was signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and can be read in full here.

They say:

We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration…. A hundred years later and there is still no justice! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule…. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality.

The churches’ message ends with these ominous words:

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse…. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.

The Royal Albert Hall was built by Queen Victoria to commemorate her beloved husband and consort Prince Albert. I’ll wager the idea of the flag of a rogue foreign military power fluttering from this fine building, or displayed inside, would have both of them spinning in their marbled vault at Frogmore.

And if Theresa May accompanies her guest Bibi Netanyahu to the Albert Hall shindig she’ll hand him and his cruel regime a huge propaganda victory.

The Greatest Indonesian Painter and “Praying to the Pig”

Wed, 2017-10-18 19:54

Yogyakarta and Karang Klethak Village — Djokopekik (who uses only one name, as is common in Java) could easily be described as the greatest living Indonesian painter. He is something of an anomaly in his country, where vulgar pop art, pop music and almost absolute submission to Western pro-market dogmas, religious rituals, and feudal family structures, are confining this vast archipelago into a tight straight jacket.

Djokopekik is a Communist, while Communism is banned in Indonesia. He is an atheist in a country where, according to some counts, around 99% of the population claims that ‘religions play an important role in their lives’. He is Cuban or more precisely, a Sukarno-style patriot, and simultaneously an internationalist. His main enemy is Western imperialism, and he makes sure to demonstrate it clearly, using his art.

When several years ago, my good friend George Burchett, an Australian artist who was born and now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam (his father, Wilfred Burchett, was perhaps the greatest English-speaking journalist of the 20th century, who at one point was declared “an enemy of the Australian people” by his government), had visited with Djokopekik’s house and studio with me outside the ancient Javanese city of Jogjakarta, he explained after seeing his work:

This man is simply brilliant! He is a true people’s artist! His style is his own, but he is also like some powerful fusion of Picasso and Diego Rivera!

Djokopekik felt flattered when I told him, but only for a few seconds. Soon he protested, half-jokingly:

I’m not like Picasso or Rivera. I’m Djokopekik!

*****

Djokopekik is always on the side of ‘small people’, but he is not at all sentimental or ‘unrealistic’ about them. He has no illusions about his countrymen, about their pragmatic and often cynical collaboration with the system, about their lack of higher aspiration and servility. “People here are thoroughly brainwashed and only obedient to evil things,” he said once when we were working together on my film about post-1965 Indonesia (“Terlena – Breaking of a Nation”). Then he laughed, cheekily: “They are like buffalos!”

On his tremendous canvases, poor victims are grinning, dancing and celebrating while capitalism, shameless elites and foreign interests are busy robbing them.

Djokopekik in front of his Papuan painting

The world of Djokopekik is often brutal; it is grotesque and hyperbolic, but even when the artist exposes the naked idiocy into which his nation has been submerged, there is always a great dose of compassion and humanism.

The people he paints often lack all human features. Some look like monkeys. Others, particularly the corrupt officials, appear like silkworms. The symbol of ‘Orde Baru’ (Suharto’s pro-Western ‘New Order’) is portrayed as a huge and repulsive swine. And Western imperialism: it is just an enormous crocodile that eats everything that stands in its way.

*****

In his latest work of art, Djokopekik uses two rhinos. The painting is called “Indonesian Circus”. “Why rhinos?” He replies without hesitation:

Because these big mighty animals are actually easy to manipulate. They can be forced to do just about anything.

His new canvas is cynical and brutal, but it is also somehow extremely realistic.

Author with Djokopekik

I walk through his studio and reconnect with his iconic paintings: there is a woman ‘given’ to an old man as a wife, a young girl being indoctrinated by her father; there are corrupt government officials eating everything around them, and there are the horrors of the US-sponsored 1965 military coup.

This time we met on the 52nd anniversary of the massacres. I flew to Yogyakarta directly from Jakarta, after witnessing huge anti-Communist demonstrations by hardcore Islamists, taking place in front of the Parliament.

I ask Djokopekik about his thoughts on what was happening in the capital.

Islamists are constantly spreading fear; fear of Communism, of already totally destroyed and banned Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). They do it, so people forget, don’t think about any other issues. This way the Westerners could continue colonizing Indonesia. So everything could remain as before: capitalism, neo-colonialism… As during the Dutch era, or after the 1965 coup…

And people do not know, they do not understand, or do not want to understand:

Poor people, they just want to eat ‘tempe’ (local food made of soya), which used to be the cheapest dish in this part of Indonesia, at least in the past. Now it is expensive, because basic products are imported from the United States. But instead of protesting, people are told to fear PKI!

After the coup in 1965, Djokopekik was imprisoned. And after being released from prison, he remained on the watch list, and he is being monitored to this day. For decades, he was not allowed to travel abroad, to speak publicly or exhibiting.

His most explosive works of art were already bought by the ‘collectors’, and then disappeared from the eyes of the public.

He is disliked by the elites, by the military and by many religious cadres.

Religions in Indonesia are used to fuel conflicts. There is no religious tolerance in this country. During the Sukarno era, religions were actually not powerful at all; Indonesia was a secular state. In those years, it was absolutely acceptable if people did not believe in God. Now, those who do not believe are labeled as the PKI, and to be PKI is illegal!

Like the greatest Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Djokopekik supported ‘Bung Karno’ (nickname for President Sukarno). Those were the days of true independence, revolutionary optimism, internationalism and ‘nation and character building’.

Bung Karno had several pillars on which he was trying to construct the society. Political sovereignty. Standing on our own feet economically. Culturally, to have our own dignity and identity! And now? Now this country has absolutely nothing!

‘Djo’ is standing in front of his huge painting depicting a disgusting crocodile. The crocodile is literally devouring Papua. And the Papuan people are still somehow resisting, with spears… It is clearly a lost fight, but a fight it is, nevertheless.

The great artist is soon ‘jumping’ to another island. He speaks angrily about Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo):

All over the place, there is illegal mining and devastation of the land… People understand nothing… If they die, they die… If the companies put toxins into the water or earth, they don’t care. There is also coal there. Multi-national companies, but also common people, are logging everything out. Some are now very rich. They only take, and give nothing back to the island. If they become super rich, they just buy private airplanes… That’s all!

Once he painted a powerful canvas, depicting the terrible plight of Borneo. The symbol of destruction was a mighty and damaging tractor, which was ruining everything in sight.

I want to see that work. I want to film it for my documentary on Borneo. I ask. But Djokopekik explains:

I don’t have it anymore. Someone came and bought it… someone from Borneo itself… Now I don’t even know where it is.

Djokopekik is 80 years old, he is diabetic, often tired, but he never gives up. He fights, struggles, and pushes the boundaries with his art. When his sugar shoots over 600, he injects insulin, when it drops to 70, he eats raw sugar. He doesn’t care. He still drinks beer and wine, smokes his clove cigarettes, one after another, and he eats everything that he desires.

He is a Communist in a country where only capitalism and extreme consumerism are respected, and where Communism is out rightly banned. He is an atheist in a nation where almost everybody practices religions. He is a true patriot in Indonesia, which was totally sold out to the West by its generals, ‘intellectuals’ and business people.

His is a lonely but powerful voice of reason and hope. His is as powerful a voice as that of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

*****

On October 1st, 2017, in a deep village of Karang Klethak, north of Yogyakarta, Djokopekik triggered a huge cultural event, a real ‘people’s event’, such that was common in Indonesia many decades ago. There were traditional Javanese actors and musicians performing on several stages.

Although it was not defined as such, the event was commemorating the 1965 coup. And Djokopekik wrote the story.

Village children watching Djokopekik’s play

Crowds consisting of predominantly village people came to watch, excited, dressed in their best.

There was a swine, a huge, repulsive swine, representing the habits of Suharto’s regime. There was a swine-keeper, making animalistic sounds. And there were ‘people’ who came to pray to the Swine.

“The idea is that people in this country always come to pray, to beg – they were taught to admire everything that is stronger than them, and to also admire what the Swine represents,” explained Djokopekik. “In Indonesia, the only way forward is to eradicate the swine’s characteristics from our own selves.”

The great artist of the intellectually devastated Southeast Asia is standing alone, as it often appears. He has faced with scorn and determination all those horrible past years, during which Western imperialism reduced his country to one of the most servile, devastated and indoctrinated parts of the world.

He is facing, defiantly, all those who sold the ideals of Indonesian independence and socialism to the colonizers and multi-national companies. Those who betrayed, committed treason are exposed and attacked by him. A great Czech poet František Halas, once called such treasonous individuals expressively “pigs of the markets” (Prasata kšeftů). Djokopekik calls them simply pigs: Small pigs that are serving one huge Swine, that of Suharto’s dictatorship and of its lackeys who are, to this day, controlling the country.

Djokopekik is now old and frail, but many in Jakarta are scared of him. It is because he is telling the truth, as no one does here, anymore. It is because he still knows how to create, how to love and to hate and how to ridicule the system, as well as those who are stealing from people and murdering hope. Many in Jakarta are scared, simply because he is alive!

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published at NEO

As Trump Threatens, North Korea Still Struggles with America’s Lethal Legacy

Wed, 2017-10-18 16:29

Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’ … More often than not, the United States shares the blame.

— Amnesty International, 1996.

As the US threatens to decimate North Korea again – if not the entire planet, given Donald Trump’s chillingly casual approach to the use of nuclear weapons – an article has revealed the criminal legacy remaining from America’s last attack, ending sixty-four years ago, on a country smaller than Mississippi. (North Korea is a landmass of 120,540 square kilometers, Mississippi is 125,443 square kilometers.)

“Experts say it will take a hundred years to clean up all of the unexploded ordnance”, says Major Jong Il Hyon: “but I think it will take much longer.”

Major Jong has lost five colleagues in the still ongoing ordnance disposal work and “carries a lighter one gave him before he died. He also bears a scar on his left cheek from a bomb disposal mission gone wrong.”

In Hamhung, the country’s second largest city three hundred and seventy mortar rounds were found in an elementary school playground in October last year, with a rusted, lethal round discovered nearby in February this year.

“Bombs, mortars and pieces of live ammunition” are still found in “thousands. Virtually all of it is American”, but “over a dozen” countries “fought on the US side and every now and then their bombs will turn up as well.”

In the region this lethal legacy is mirrored in: “Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and even Japan”, with a “huge amount of unexploded ordnance” needed to be disposed of by those courageous enough to risk their lives, daily, doing it.

The scale of the regional horror is near incomprehensible. For example:

“From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions – equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, twenty four hours a day, for nine years …”

It is thought that possibly a third of the bombs did not explode and over twenty thousand people have been killed by unexploded ordnance since.

Moreover:

“Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (210 million more bombs than were dropped on Iraq in 1991, 1998 and 2003 combined); up to 80 million did not detonate.”

Less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed, with commensurate deaths and maimings ongoing.

The US is undoubtedly the “Leader of the Free World” in one thing: killing. It is also clearly the undisputed king of overkill and the most murderous of legacies, ensuring its actions will never be forgotten or indeed forgiven by the populations affected. Which, of course, is why North Korea is trying to ensure it is powerfully enough armed to deter another attack. Whatever it has or has not achieved in this respect, compared to America’s planet threatening nuclear arsenal, it is utterly insignificant, for all Washington’s undiplomatic, bombastic bluster.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson statement regarding North Korea that: “(Trump) has made it clear to me to continue our diplomatic efforts – which we are. As I’ve told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops”, is hardly likely to encourage anything but frantic efforts at armed deterrence – whilst still clearing the poisoned legacy from over half a century ago.

Major Jong’s “bomb squad is one of nine … one for each province. His unit alone handled 2,900 left over explosives – including bombs, mortars and live artillery shells, last year.” This year: “they have already disposed of about 1,200.”

North Korea has said that 400,000 bombs were dropped on the capitol, Pyongyang: “roughly one bomb for every resident at the time.” 32,500 tons of napalm was also dropped on the country.

Some bombs are not easily recognizable to the untrained eye, Major Jong pointed out, thus an eleven year old lost his fingers investigating an item he had found. There are a “surprising variety.” He described one as a “butterfly bomb” which had “wing like attachments to disperse small ‘bomblets’ over a wider area.” It was “devised by the Nazis in World War 11. The US revised its design and used them in North Korea”, points out Associated Press.

Aging bombs become even more unstable, rust erodes detonators, thus the slightest movement causes them to explode.

“I’m sure that my daughter’s generation will also suffer from this problem”, said Major Jong: “I want the world to know.”

Historian Charles Armstrong of Columbia University points out that the saturation bombing: “marked something of a turning point for the United States and was followed by the use of an even heavier version during the Vietnam war.”

He also makes the point, ignored by the blinkered and apparently supremely ignorant new incumbent in the White House that:

To this day the North Korean Government and media point to the American bombing as a war crime and a major justification for the continued mobilization of the North Korean people – as well as the development of nuclear weapons – in defence against nuclear attacks.

Has anyone on Capitol Hill heard of “cause and effect”?

Organized Chaos and Confusion as Political Control

Mon, 2017-10-16 23:00

There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.

— Buffalo Springfield 1967

It’s not supposed to be clear, now or then.  If you’re confused by the news you’re hearing, you should be.  They want you to be.  They try to make you be.  But you don’t have to be.

Who are “they”?  They are the corporate mainstream media (MSM) that serve as mouthpieces for the power elites, who are connected through an intricate system of institutions and associations, both obvious and shadowy.  They run the show that the media produce for the masses.  To paraphrase the illustrious American propagandist, Edward Bernays: This is the engineering of the consent of the ignorant herd by the intelligent few.

That this has been going on for a long time should be obvious.  That such propaganda is surround-sound today is a fact.  It is total and non-stop.  Even its critics are often seduced as they are horrified.

But I utter the obvious to explore the obscure.  In particular, the ways the elites try to manage the public mind by confusing contradictions, half-truths, multiple and conflicting narratives, and revelations proffered to conceal more fundamental facts.

The basic way people’s thinking is controlled today is by confusing them and creating a perpetual state of mental vertigo.  Muddled and disordered by double-speak, illogical reporting, and a kaleidoscopic merry-go-round of conflicting reports, the average person is reduced to a mental mess.  “To the average man who tries to keep informed,” writes Jacques Ellul in Propaganda, “a world emerges that is astonishingly incoherent, absurd, and irrational, which changes rapidly and constantly for reasons he can’t understand.”

Take Donald Trump.  He is regularly castigated by the media for his endless stream of tweets and contradictory statements.  He is called a moron, mentally imbalanced, and a clown.  But what these critics fail to grasp is that he is beating them at their own game of sowing confusion.  He is our modern mythic Johnny Appleseed, wildly spewing seeds of bedlam to incite and confound.  He is no anomaly.  He has stepped out of our celebrity reality-TV screened world to carry on the media’s task of what Orwell said was a necessary task for the rulers in a totalitarian society: “to dislocate the sense of reality.”

The mainstream media do this daily.  Think of their reporting of some recent news and ask yourself what exactly have they said – Russia-gate, the Iran agreement, the Las Vegas massacre, Catalonia, health insurance, etc. Gibberish piled upon gibberish, that’s what they’ve said.  A salmagundi of contradictory verbiage that leaves a half-way sentient person shaking one’s head in astonishment.  Or leaves one baffled, devoid of any sense of the truth.

While the gross Harvey Weinstein, buddy to Democrat politicians who took large sums from his deep pockets, dominates the MSM’s spotlight, as if his exploits suddenly appeared out of nowhere, the U.S. war against Syria and so many other countries “isn’t happening,” as Harold Pinter put it in his Nobel acceptance speech when he said the systematic crimes of the United States have been disappeared behind “a highly successful act of hypnosis.” The nuclear threats to Russia and China aren’t happening.  It doesn’t matter right now anyway.  We might get back to that next week or next month, if we are finished with Weinstein by then or if Stephen Paddock’s autopsy report isn’t back from Stanford where they are studying his brain tissue to find the cause and manner of his death – you know what deep secrets brain tissue can reveal.  And yes, we will be exploring a question a brilliant reporter asked the Las Vegas authorities: “Do you think Paddock did it because he could?”

In 2003 the Bush administration blatantly lied about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to wage a barbaric and criminal war against Iraq.  Then Obama glided in on the giddy fantasies of liberals, the same people who supported Clinton’s savaging of Serbia in 1999.  He smiled and smiled and spoke articulately about the need for war, drone assassinations, the bailing out of Wall Street and the big banks, the need to confront Russia over his own administration’s engineered Ukrainian coup, and a crackdown on whistleblowers. For decades the media echoed the blatant deceptions of these men.  From slick to obvious to slick went the propaganda.  And then the shock and awe of Mr. Trump’s election.  How to deal with one of their own, one spawned from the entertainment-media-news complex? Trump accused them of creating fake news.  He relentlessly attacked them, as if to say: you hypocrites; you accuse me of what you do.  Then he continued to tweet out his messages meant to confuse and inflame.  He continued to make statements that were then contradicted.  What were the poor media to do except one-up him.  This they have done.

We have now entered a new phase of propaganda where sowing mass confusion on every issue 24/7 is the method of choice.

But therein lies hope if we can grasp the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement: “When both a speaker and an audience are confused, the speech is profound.”

Vengeful in Defeat: Hillary Clinton Fantasises about WikiLeaks

Mon, 2017-10-16 22:42

The Hillary Clinton mope tour, which should have reached a high water mark, has gone global. It entails drumming up her credentials (immaculate, we are told, but unnoticed), and pouring upon the man who beat her to the White house (a danger to the world).  The latter is the fundamental point: Donald Trump would not have won, not because of Clinton’s flaws but because of what others did.

One of those big others remains WikiLeaks.  The other, supposedly, is its Russian ally – no, employer, sponsor, even, there one say it peering into that dark mind of hers, director-in-chief.  Forget Assange, claims Clinton – the Kremlin is running the operation.

On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme, Clinton reiterated a range of views that have become dangerously presumed, mirrors, in fact, of the very man she detests, the world view she supposedly eschews.  In a post-truth world, anything goes, including Clintonian mendacity and delusion.  Blended with US patriotism and sour grapes, she becomes the ultimate embittered narcissist who cannot admit to deficiency.

According to Clinton, Assange had “become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator”.  Even more to the point, and here, the facts start to become puffs and fluffs, “WikiLeaks is unfortunately now practically a fully owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence.”

No evidence is offered. For Clinton, nothing needs to be tested, her defeat obviously the result, not of an appalling election team (remember that slave to the algorithm, Robby Mook?) and her own woes as a candidate, but to the role played by information marshalled against her.

“There was a concerted operation between WikiLeaks and Russia and most likely people in the United States to, as I say, weaponize information, to make up stories, outlandish, often terrible stories that had no basis in fact, no basis even in the emails themselves, but which were used to denigrate me, my campaign people who supported me, and to help (Donald) Trump.”

Furthermore, Clinton, with a sense of supreme self-worth, insisted that she had been a direct target of the Kremlin.  “I think their intention, coming from the very top with Putin, was to hurt me and to help Trump.”

These observations beggar belief.  Bricks cannot be made without straw, and there was ample straw in the Podesta emails, not to mention the general trove of DNC material that revealed the tactics, methods and philosophies of the entitled.

Clinton’s method is one of permanent deflection and, when necessary, denial. What the emails revealed on her approach to security, or her sympathy for Wall Street, was not to be taken seriously.  It all had to do with that nasty business of “weaponized” information.  To assist her, she had the intelligence community, the vast complex of the establishment to boost her points.

Lapsing into electoral mode, and reflecting on her record, she claimed that, “Our intelligence community and other observers of Russia and [Mr] Putin have said he held a grudge against me because, as secretary of state, I stood up against some of his actions.”  Noble warrior, indeed.

If there is one golden thread that runs through conspiracy, linking up with false causality, the grand design must be one of them.  The grand design assumes a puppet master and watch maker. It also presumes standard impact and worth.

“I lost the electoral college by about 77,000, and what we’re finding out is that there had to be some very sophisticated help provided to WikiLeaks… to know how to target both their messages of suppression and their negative messages to affect voters.”  When a political figure is found out, blame the idiot voter.

This tactic ignores the ways and follies of the idiot politician, who can, in effect, lose against a figure such as Trump.  This is the most bruising of all, the most damning. The Clinton campaign’s own efforts at information warfare were paltry, presuming that the self-evident grotesquery of Trump would sway voters.

When the Washington Post published the 2005 Access Hollywood record of Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” remark, the effect of that revelation, argues Clinton, was shrouded by the release of over 2,000 emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

For the Clintons, the Podestas and the Mooks, the White House was in the bag of ambition and worth, and neither Bernie Sanders nor Trump was going to get their paws on it.  This was meant to be an establishment show – till the establishment was shown up.

As for Assange, the return volleys soon came.  Clinton was, in his view, a heartless defective.  “It is not just her constant lying.  It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement.  Something much darker rides along with it.  A cold creepiness rarely seen.”

It was the sort of creepiness that had been spotted before.  Britain’s current foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, took unusually faultless aim at it in 2007 in the Daily Telegraph.  “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”  By all means, he insisted, vote for Clinton, if only to return her husband to the White House.  “If Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.”

While it is entirely true that Trump readily traffics in hypocrisy and seems to be a comic monstrosity on various levels, a Clinton White House would have also made the world safe for hypocrisy.  There would have been usual American brashness, military interventions, toughness poorly dressed in silk and padded by soft power.  There would have also been graft, self-aggrandizement and the lying industrial complex.

To scold and condemn WikiLeaks in this affair is no better than dismissing the person who spots the fire as the arsonist gets away.  Citing the efforts of the Kremlin, information bots, and fake news, can only go so far.  The building still burns.

The Real Reason behind Trump’s Angry Diplomacy in North Korea

Mon, 2017-10-16 21:25

To understand the United States’ stratagem in the Pacific, and against North Korea in particular, one has to understand the fundamental changes that are underway in that region. China’s clout as an Asian superpower and as a global economic powerhouse has been growing at a rapid speed. The US’ belated ‘pivot to Asia’ to counter China’s rise has been, thus far, quite ineffectual.

The angry diplomacy of President Donald Trump is Washington’s way to scare off North Korea’s traditional ally, China, and disrupt what has been, till now, quite a smooth Chinese economic, political and military ascendency in Asia that has pushed against US regional influence, especially in the East and South China Seas.

Despite the fact that China has reevaluated its once strong ties with North Korea, in recent years, it views with great alarm any military build-up by the US and its allies. A stronger US military in that region will be a direct challenge to China’s inevitable trade and political hegemony.

The US understands that its share of the world’s economic pie chart is constantly being reduced, and that China is gaining ground, and fast.

The United States’ economy is the world’s largest, but not for long. Statistics show that China is blazing the trail and will, by 2030 – or even sooner – win the coveted spot. In fact, according to an International Monetary Fund report in 2014, China is already the world’s largest economy when the method of measurement is adjusted by purchasing power.

This is not an anomaly and is not reversible, at least any time soon.

The growth rate of the US economy over the past 30 years has averaged 2.4 percent, while China soared at 9.3 percent.

Citing these numbers, Paul Ormerod, an economist and a visiting professor at University College, London, argued in a recent article that “if we project these rates forward, the Chinese economy will be as big as the American by 2024. By 2037, it will be more than twice the size.”

It is no wonder why Trump obsessively referenced ‘China’ in his many campaigning speeches prior to his election to the White House, and why he continues to blame China for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to this day.

As a business mogul, Trump understands how real power works, and that his country’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, is simply not enough to reverse his country’s economic misfortunes.

In fact, China’s nuclear arsenal is quite miniscule compared to the US. Military power alone is not a sufficient measurement of actual power that can be translated into economic stability, sustainable wealth and financial security of a nation.

It is ironic that, while the US threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea,’ it is the Chinese government that is using sensible language, calling for de-escalation and citing international law. Not only did fortunes change, but roles as well. China, which for many years was depicted as a rogue state, now seems like the cornerstone of stability in Asia.

Prudent US leaders, like former President Jimmy Carter understand well the need to involve China in resolving the US-North Korean standoff.

In an article in the Washington Post, Carter, 93, called for immediate and direct diplomatic engagement with North Korea that involves China as well.

He wrote on October 4, the US should “offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.”

A few days leader, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, quoted Carter’s article, and reasserted her country’s position that only a diplomatic solution could bring the crisis to an end.

In a recent tweet, Trump claimed that “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked.”

He alleged that North Korea has violated these agreements even “before the ink was dry”, finishing with the ominous warning that “only one thing will work!”, alluding to war.

Trump is a bad student of history. The ‘agreements’ he was referring to is the ‘Agreed Framework’ of 1994, signed between President Bill Clinton and Kim Jong-il – the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un. In fact, the crisis was averted, when Pyongyang respected its side of the agreement. The US, however, reneged, argued Fred Kaplan in ‘Slate’.

“North Korea kept its side of the bargain, the United States did not,” Kaplan wrote. “No light-water reactors were provided. (South Korea and Japan were supposed to pay for the reactors; they didn’t, and the U.S. Congress didn’t step in.) Nor was any progress made on diplomatic recognition.”

It took North Korea years to react to the US and its partners’ violation of the terms of the deal.

In 2001, the US invaded and destroyed Afghanistan. In 2003, it invaded Iraq, and actively began threatening a regime change in Iran. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were already blacklisted as the “axis of evil” in George W. Bush’s infamous speech in 2002.

More military interventions followed, especially as the Middle East fell into unprecedented chaos resulting from the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Regime change, as became the case in Libya, remained the defining doctrine of US foreign policy.

This is the actual reality that terrifies North Korea. For 15 years they have been waiting for their turn on the US regime change path, and their nuclear weapons program is their only deterring strategy in the face of US military interventions. The more the North Korean leadership felt isolated regionally and internationally, the more determined it became in obtaining nuclear devices.

This is the context that Trump does not want to understand. US mainstream media, which seems to loathe Trump in every way except when he threatens war or defends Israel, is following blindly.

Current news reports of North Korea’s supposed ability to kill “90% of all Americans” within one year is the kind of ignorance and fear-mongering that has dragged the US into multiple wars, costing the economy trillions of dollars, while continuing to make bad situations far worse.

Indeed, a recent Brown University Study showed that, between 2001 and 2016, the cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan has cost the US $3.6 trillion.

Perhaps, a better way of fending against the rise of China is investing in the US economy instead of wasting money on protracted wars.

But if a Trump war in North Korea takes place, what would it look like?

US Newsweek magazine took on this very disturbing question, only to provide equally worrying answers.

“If combat broke out between the two countries, American commanders in the Pacific would very quickly exhaust their stockpiles of smart bombs and missiles, possibly within a week,” military sources revealed.

It will take a year for the US military to replenish their stockpile, thus leaving them with the option of “dropping crude gravity bombs on their targets, guaranteeing a longer and bloodier conflict for both sides.”

Expectedly, North Korea would strike, at will, all of the US allies in the region, starting with South Korea. Even if the conflict does not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, the death toll from such a war “could reach 1 million.”

Both Trump and Kim Jong-un are unsavory figures, driven by fragile egos and unsound judgment. Yet, they are both in a position that, if not reigned in soon, could threaten global security and the lives of millions.

Calls for diplomatic solutions made by Carter and China must be heeded, before it is too late.

The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting Unesco

Mon, 2017-10-16 20:19

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

The first is that in 2011 Unesco became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at Unesco. Its departure is little more than a formality.

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

Unesco, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, Unesco enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

The third crime is the priority Unesco gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent Unesco reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating Unesco for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Unesco’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit Unesco is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish Unesco for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at Unesco, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.

• First published in The National, Abu Dhabi.

Two or Three Things I Know About Capitalism

Sun, 2017-10-15 23:37

A number of recent, press articles, including an over 8000 word feature piece in the New York Times have asked, to quote the The NYT’s headline, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Although the question was proffered, the reporters and editors responsible for the articles remain resolutely obtuse to the obvious: The bughouse crazy environment of late stage capitalist culture evokes classic flight or flight responses attendant to episodes of severe anxiety and panic attacks.

The word panic has its derivation in reference to the Greek god of wilderness and wildness, of pastural repose, of the animal body encoded within human beings and its attendant animalistic imperatives, Pan. To wit, deracinate an animal from its natural habitat and it will evince, on an instinctual basis, a flight or flight response. If caged, the unfortunate creature will pace the confines of its imprisonment, chew and tear at its fur and flesh, become irritable, enervated, languish and even die from the deprivation of the environment it was born to inhabit. A caged animal, even if the unfortunate creature endures captivity, is not the entity nature conceived; the living being has been reduced to A Thing That Waits For Lunch.

Human beings, animals that we are, respond in a similar fashion. Experiencing anxiety is among the ways our innate animal spirits react to the capitalist cage. Inundate a teenager with the soul-defying criteria of the corporate/consumer state, with its overbearing, pre-careerist pressures, its paucity of communal eros, its demands, overt and implicit, to conform to a shallow, manic, nebulously defined yet oppressive societal order, and insist that those who cannot adapt, much less excel, are losers who are fated to become “basement dwellers” in their parent’s homes or, for those who lack the privilege, be cast into homelessness then the minds of the young or old alike are apt to be inundated with feelings of angst and dread.

Worse, if teenagers are culturally conditioned to believe said feelings and responses are exclusively experienced by weaklings, parasites, and losers then their suffering might fester to the point of emotional paralysis and suicidal inclinations.

What does the capitalist state offer as remedy? Obscenely profitable, corporately manufactured and widely prescribed psychoactive medications. Treatment, which, at best, merely masks symptoms and bestows the illusion of recovery.

As R. D. Laing observed: “What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being.”

In short, it is insanity to be expected to adapt to socially acceptable insanity. Yet we are pressured to adapt to, thus internalise odious, groupthink concepts and tenets. To cite one example, homelessness is natural to the human condition and is a communally acceptable situation.

Closer to fact: The problem of homelessness is the result of a societal-wide perception problem — the phenomenon is the very emblem of the scrambling, twisting, dissociating, and displacing of perception that capitalist propagandists specialize in. Homelessness would be considered a relic of a barbaric past if this very simple principle was applied: Having access to permanent shelter is a human right and not a privilege.

What kind of a vile, vicious people would deny the simple proposition? Those conditioned by a lingering Puritan/Calvinist mindset to believe: Punishment for resisting the usurpation of the fleeting hours of one’s finite life must be severe. If the overclass can no longer get away with, as was once common practice in the Puritan/Calvinist tradition, public floggings to whip the labor force into line, then those who will not or cannot comply will be cast onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of a soulless cityscape.

It comes down to this: societies that are ridden with vast wealth inequity, due to the machinations of a rapacious overclass, create the obscenity known as homelessness. Moreover, the situation is only one of the numerous obscenities inherent to state capitalism. Obscenities that include, events that are dominating the present news cycle; e.g., the predations of a lecherous movie mogul, to the sub-cretinous doings and pronouncements of a Chief of State who is a bloated, bloviating, two legged toxic waste dump.

How is it then, liberals fail to grasp the fact the Trump presidency is not an aberration; rather, his ascension to power should be regarded as being among the high probability variables of late stage capitalism and empire building? The psychopathic, tangerine-tinged clown Trump is the embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a development that is concomitant to over-expanded empires. Thus he will continue to flounce deeper into the quagmire of crash-engendering, economic legerdemain and perpetual war.

Empires are death cults, and death cults, on a subliminal bases, long for their own demise. Paradoxically, the collective mindset of imperium, even as it thrusts across the expanse of the world, renders itself insular, cut off from culturally enhancing novelty, as all the while, the homeland descends into a psychical swamp of churning madness.

A draining of the swamp of the collective mind cannot come to pass, for the swamp and citizenry are one. Withal, the likes of leaders such as Trump rise from and are made manifest by the morass of the culture itself. In a swamp, the gospel of rebirth and redemption is heard in the song of humus. New life rises from its compost.

In the presence of Trump’s debased mind and tumefied carcass, one is privy to arias of rot. While Hillary Clinton’s monotonous tempo was the dirge of a taxidermist — cold, desiccated of heart, and devoid of life’s numinous spark — Trump’s voice carries the depraved cacophony of a Célinean fool’s parade…its trajectory trudging towards the end of empire.

As liberals new BFFL George W. Bush might ask, “Is our liberals learning?”

In a word, no. For example, the collective psyche of US culture as been enflamed by the revelations that actresses were coerced into sexual encounters with a movie mogul whose power in the industry was only matched, even enhanced, by his sadistic nature. The staff of his company assisted, were complicit in, or remained silent about his lechery, as did the whole of the movie industry and the entertainment press. All as NFL athletes are being threatened with expulsion from the League if they kneel during the national anthem.

Yet the great unspoken remains: The enabling of and submission to the degradation, exploitation and tyranny, and the lack of resistance thereof share a common and singular factor: The careerism of all concerned. The cultural milieu concomitant to capitalism is at the rotten root and noxious blossoming of the situation.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967, cinematic barnburner 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her should be required viewing for those unaware or in denial of the acuity of the film’s theme; i.e., becoming enmeshed within the psychical landscape of dominance, degradation, and submission inherent to and inseparable from capitalist/consumer culture will cause one to become party to societal sanctioned prostitution. When life is negotiated within a collective value system that devalues and deadens the individual’s inner life thus warps every human transaction, anomie descends, the worst among a people ascend to positions of power.

Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.

— William S. Burroughs, from Ghost of Chance

When friends visited me in New York, where I lived for decades, I would take them on walking tours through the city. We would cross the Westside Highway and stroll the pedestrian walk along the Hudson River, or cross the East River by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The effect of these excursions on people was often profound…the combined elements of the elemental beauty of the rivers and vastness of the city’s architecture and scope, clamour, and the dense interweaving of traditional ethnic customs and ad hoc social codes of New Yorkers often would heighten the visitors’ senses and open them to larger, more intricate awareness of themselves and extant reality…the freeways of the contemporary mind (conditioned to be constantly engaged in manic motion, with one’s mind either frenzied by an obsession with performing (ultimately futile) manoeuvres directed to saving time — or stalled at a frustration inducing standstill) were replaced by the exigencies of life at street level; i.e., novel situations that had to be apprehended and negotiated.

The possibilities of life seemed greater. The crimped eros of insular suburban thought became loosened before the city’s intricacies and expansiveness. Although: Not all, or even a scant few, New Yorkers can maintain the state of being. Few of us can live by Rilke’s resolve to “make every moment holy.” Life, in the city, becomes grotesquely distorted…High rents, inflicted by hyper-gentrification, in combination with the deification of success and its cult of careerism overwhelm one’s psyche…There is so far to fall.

Angst (the word originally can be traced to the ancient Greek deity Ananke, the immovable by prayer and offering bitch Goddess of Necessity and the root word of anxiety) clamps down one’s sense of awareness. Ananke dominates the lives of the non-privileged citizenry while Narcissus, Trump’s, the Clinton’s et al and their financial and cultural elitists’ patron God rules the day. The pantheon of possibility has been decimated, a cultural cleansing has been perpetrated, by the egoist caprice of the beneficiaries of the late capitalist dictatorship of money.

Hence, we arrive at the primal wisdom tacitly conveyed by anxiety-borne states of fight or flight. Due to the reality that capitalism, on both an individual and collective basis, drives individuals into madness, all as the system destroys forest and field, ocean and sea and the soulscape of all who live under its rapacious dominion, our plight comes down to this: We either struggle and strive, by and any and all means, to end the system — or it will end us.

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