All posts by Gilbert Mercier

Slavery of Fear

Photo by Nathan O’Nions

Flee, Flight or Freeze

In the natural world, there are two kinds of responses to imminent threats: either flee or fight. Most of the time, in order to maximize chances of survival, the decision has to be made by individuals or groups in less than a split second. On one hand, the option to flee is motivated by this immediate assessment. It has, of course, an important fear factor. On the other hand, the option to fight seems brave on the surface, but intense momentary fear perhaps had to be overcome by a massive adrenaline rush. Fear is a primal and powerful emotion that is essential for survival, but it can also be used as a tool to control people through mental, emotional and even physical paralysis.

Photo by The Malt

There is a third behavioral option when fear completely paralyzes the individual or a group: it is the freeze option, similar to the imaginary sense of the impossibility to act or react for someone going through a deep clinical depression. As a collective or a nation, this freeze or depressed state when facing danger is also possible. Eighty years ago, with the exception of General Charles de Gaulle and a few men who decided to flee to carry on the fight, France capitulated to the German enemy. France froze and became trapped in the ignominy of a collective depression that was the collaboration by the Vichy government.

Photo by Torbak Hopper

In human society, during the barbaric lunacy that has been called the art of war, many substances have been used in history to make soldiers less fearful before combat. Drinking alcohol is an obvious one in Europe; chewing coca leaves for South American native tribes; smoking or eating hashish in the Middle-East and Asia — this concentrated form of cannabis is the etymological origin of the word assassin; more recently, during World War II’s spectacular German Blietzkrieg 1940 attack on France, German troops were given the powerful methamphetamine Pervitin. Naturally, the notion of the fearless master-race Nazi soldiers was nothing but a mythology! The intrepid soldiers of the Reich and their beloved Furher, Adolf Hitler, had the fearlessness of crystal-meth addicts. Pervitin kept Nazi troops awake and fighting for days and nights, and increased their aggressive behavior.

Photo by Kyle Pearce

Of course, one cannot reduce the apparent fearless madness of the entire German nation during World War II to the massive consumption of Pervitin. What was probably the most sophisticated propaganda machine of the time had been put together by the Nazis; it had been brainwashing the minds of Germans, young and old, for almost a decade. Hitler and Co. spent about 10 years molding a sophisticated and cultured society into their ideological monstrosity with the mythology of the purity of blood, master race, and crucially the invention of Jews as evil, depraved and subhuman personified. If this was possible in an advanced society like Germany circa 1930, one must consider that such a gruesome turn of events is possible anywhere at any time, as madness can be a contagious disease.

Photo by Mark Rain

Fear of other cultures is a crucial component of racial hatred. Once a group of people like the Jews in Nazi Germany or the Africans during the slave trade to the Americas have been thoroughly dehumanized, it becomes easy, almost trivial, to torture and kill them. All propagandists are psychologists. Therefore they understand that their manipulation of fear gives birth to powerful dark impulses. A fear of abandonment as a child can later bring about morbid jealousy and various sociopathic behaviors. A fear of destitution drives the compulsion to greed. Collectively, fear can be a giant web of invisible chains that enslave a society in a psychological straight jacket. In this regard, September 11, 2001 and its aftermath was a turning point, and to some extent the Western world has been conditioned to live in fear ever since.

Photo by Hartwig HKD

The war of terror

Putting aside the inside-job narrative, what matters is how crises are used. The net benefit of 9/11 for some was to create a constant sense of uncertainty for the population, and cynically a jackpot for the military-industrial complex. It was the notion that the enemy could be lurking anywhere. The war on terror was, and still is, a conceptual war: an absurd Orwellian war without end because it is supposed to fight diffuse groups of people called terrorists whose only common ground is the use of fear as a weapon. Because fear breeds more fear, the 20-year conceptual war made people, almost worldwide, believe security was more important than personal liberty. The war on terror made people slaves of fear, and they were told it was for their own good.

Photo by Duncan C

Do not blame only Donald Trump for the current authoritarian police state in the US. The Department of Homeland Security was a fascist invention of George W. Bush, using 9/11 as a pretext, and it was maintained by Barack Obama, every time with the complicity of Congress. On one hand, the war on terror wrecked several countries: killed or displaced millions at a cost of several trillion dollars. Everyone knew it was not winnable. On the other hand, what worked for the US and its Western allies was the almost 20-year old war of terror that slowly victimized their own populations with the jackboot of a police-military apparatus constantly on their throats. When fear overcomes an entire society it can be beaten to submission. Where fear rules, servitude becomes acceptable.

Photo by Terence Faircloth

Strategy of fear and the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has given an entirely new dimension to the slavery of fear initiated on 9/11. There have been almost two decades, which is one generation, of a war of terror on the collective psyche. There could not have been a better introduction to the global fear of a pandemic. A diffuse Muslim fundamentalist enemy who could be anywhere has morphed to an invisible virus that is everywhere. The quantum leap was easily made, because it is intrinsically the same mechanism. It went a lot further than 9/11, because governments managed to convince their populations to submit themselves to various level of lockdown. Imagine this! Almost all complied worldwide, with little resistance and absolutely no organized rebellion.

Photo by Hartwig HKD

Just like the post 9/11 world infringed on human rights and privacy with various invasive policies, the post COVID-19 world has adopted its own arbitrary rules. They have in common that they fuel a fear of everyone and everything and engender agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, Stockholm syndrome, and depression. The panoply of mandatory social distancing measures and mask wearing decrees have made people hostile, fearful, and paranoid. Authorities worldwide have been on a joy killing mission. Populations have been successfully infantilized and traumatized by forbidding the most essential human behaviors: the joy to see a smile or the surprise of a flaring nostril; the smell of a ripe fruit at a market; the fortitude of what seems to be a time gone when you could dance with a stranger and perhaps steal a kiss.

More than two hundred years ago, Haitian slaves managed to free themselves, and in the process they defeated the world’s three largest empires: respectively, the French, British, and Spanish. Have we all become such pathetic shadows of our former selves? Are we so weak and cowardly today that we cannot free ourselves from the billionaire class and the fear it is imposing on us?

Climate Crisis, Pandemics and Bad Governance: Humanity’s Existential Threats

Since I started News Junkie Post, eleven years ago, I have, as a rule, avoided the first person narrative. In my mind, there is a simple reason for an aversion for the “me, myself, and I” type of storytelling so widespread in our culture. The first person is fine for a journal, an autobiography of course, or if you have the immense literary talent of Marcel Proust. Otherwise, it amounts to a navel gazing narcissism common in our era and society as a spectacle where anyone, with no particular talent to speak of, aspires to achieve his proverbial 15 minutes of fame and to milk for as long as possible. The reader might wonder why I will make an exception to this self-imposed rule of first-person narrative avoidance. The answer is simple: once in a blue moon, events that either already impact humanity or are about to turn upside down all mankind’s existence personally hit you in the face like a thunderbolt.

Like most people on Earth, I have been dealing with COVID-19 while trying not to let the fear and paranoia factors affect me too much. What I didn’t expect was for humanity’s biggest challenge, the climate crisis, to join the pandemic. In my recent life experience, I’ve had to deal, at the same time, with the impacts of the climate crisis, a pandemic, and chronic bad governance, which are, unless we radically change course, humanity’s future. This is a snapshot of our common future. The three factors are compounded threats to the very survival of our species.

A town where “We Stand for Our Flag and Kneel for Our Cross”

I have lived for the past four years in a small rural community deep in the United States Bible Belt, where people are, by a large majority, white evangelicals. I call this part of the US Trumpistan, because of the strong support President Donald Trump has in this neck of the woods. Trumpistan is neither a state nor a country, but a state of mind. As an example, in the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump obtained 93 percent of the votes in the county. Incidentally or not, this part of the US used to be within the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Economically, this community is poor, and it barely survives from cattle ranching and fracking. Most people, except the ranchers, are poor, but nonetheless they follow, as patriotic evangelicals, what has become Trumpistan’s core motto, “We Stand for Our Flag, and Kneel for Our Cross.” Many are climate change deniers and creationists. At first, they viewed the COVID-19 pandemic either as a hoax concocted by the Democrats to make Trump lose his reelection bid, or as a deliberate Chinese attack on the US. In this context, I view myself as an amateur anthropologist and a sociologist.

Elderly COVID-19 lock-down misery in a retirement home

For me, the dramatic events occurred on May 22, 2020. It was a Friday, and the town had scheduled its yearly high school graduation celebration. Naturally, the townspeople, like most people on this planet, were still trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, and to celebrate the end of the strict lockdown affecting its retirement home, the community held an event where about 40 elderly people (see photographs) were allowed to sit outside to be greeted by relatives who drove by. It was overall an extremely sad ceremony, and I could not help myself thinking of the inherent sickness of our so-called modern civilization, where the older generation is institutionalized while, in most cases, they could have been cared for by their children or grandchildren.

In western Europe and the US, retirement homes had an extremely high mortality rate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The residents of this specific facility, just like in the rest of the US and most western European countries, were further victimized by the interdiction of visits from their relatives. They had to deal with the great psychological pain of isolation, on the premise of their own good, all of it by governmental decrees.

One could hope that the pandemic will give an acute sense a guilt to people who consider their elderly parents to be inconvenient and put them in the care of others in an institution. It is morally wrong and cruel to treat your elderly parents this way. In decent societies, either archaic societies or ones of recent past, the entire family took care of their aging relatives when they became weak and frail. The wisdom of age was respected, and older people in need of help were not put away, institutionalized and subcontracted to strangers. Furthermore, the elders were actually revered, as the younger generation would seek their advice.

On a tornado path

At dusk, a thunderstorm came. The sky turned black towards the north-west while it was still clear in the south-east. The temperature dropped abruptly. The thunderous black clouds had company: it was a tornado. The rain didn’t start right away, as the winds were gathering strength. At about 9:00 o’clock, the town sirens went off, and shortly afterwards I got a tornado warning on my phone that said: “Tornado alert seek shelter immediately.” I did so in a closet that seemed to be relatively strong and was not directly under big trees or near to windows. Then the power went off, and I could only hear the extremely loud fury of sheets of rain, thunder, and deadly winds, combined with the glaring sirens. The cacophony was intense. Nature’s wrath had hit the town, and the tornado chewed away like a giant chainsaw. It lasted for about 45 minutes. Later, while the rain continued to pour, I quickly inspected the house I live in, with help from the lightnings. The structure seemed okay, and all windows were intact. Exhausted, I went to bed.

Tornado’s wreckage

When I woke up the next day, two sizable trees were down in my muddy backyard. I did not yet realize quite how lucky I had been. Having no immediate means to clear anything, I decided to take a survey (see photographs) of the worse-hit areas of town. Someone told me where the tornado had done most damage. It was literally on the wrong side of the tracks. Urban development is interesting that way. Pretty much anywhere in the world, parts of cities, big or small, are more desirable than others. There are always dividers, either natural or man made, which sort of segregate a town by the level of income and sometimes by race. It is quite often in relationship with elevation and risk of flooding. This little town is split by a freight train railroad track. Because life is usually unfair, the poorer part of town was the one hardest hit by the tornado.

According to a local news source, over 450 structures were either seriously damaged or destroyed. For a town of slightly more than 5,000 people, already suffering from the COVID-19 recession like the rest of the US, and with the crash of oil prices, whose business sustains many in the community, the recovery will be an uphill battle. This little rural community will be joined by countless more in the very near future, and it will not make headlines in any mainstream news cycle. Many poor people became homeless that night. Many small business owners lost their livelihood. Countless majestic old oaks, sycamores and hackberry trees were snapped like matches or uprooted. Last, but not least, baby birds in the trees were killed by the thousands. The infrastructure suffered a great deal too, with many wooden electrical posts broken like twigs or laid flat on the ground.

What I saw reminded me of Katrina‘s aftermath in New Orleans, which I had covered. Natural disasters are always a reminder of life’s incredible frailty and the brutal yet awesome forces of wind, rain and fire. Some human beings, in all their arrogance, think and act like they can control natural phenomena, but this is a dangerous delusion. When the wrath of nature falls on us, we then realize that, as a species, we have no more survival power and skills than fire ants. Actually, probably less so. When you experience disasters, it usually gives you a great sense of humility as well as an appreciation for life.

The COVID-19 pandemic did that too. Disasters also, in the case of a hurricane, a tornado or a fire, bring people closer. If on Friday, during the day, in this little town, wearing a mask and social distancing was still officially on the behavioral menu, on Saturday morning, after the tornado, the COVID-19 cautions of mask wearing and social distancing were thrown to the wind. People who had lost everything were trying to help and comfort each other. This spontaneous sense of solidarity is what humanity can be at its best.

Unfortunately, just as I witnessed in New Orleans post Katrina almost 15 years ago, the citizens in this small rural town had to rely on themselves and their neighbors to start sifting through the rubble to salvage bits and pieces of their lives; rely on themselves to clear trees that had fallen on their houses, cars, and across their yards. City government authorities were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps this was because the elected town’s major powers have been de-facto stripped and assumed by an unelected and designated City Manager.

Privatization of critical sectors: the rise of banana republics

The day after the tornado hit, the private power company that has the contract from the city to maintain and fix all the electrical grid, power station, electrical posts, transformers and lines showed up, assessed the damage and immediately shut down part of the grid. Fair enough. The repairs had to be done. I asked the crew’s foreman what was a projected time estimate to restore service to the town. He didn’t want to answer and abruptly told me to contact the press representative of the corporation that employs him. The following week we had, in the town, several daily power outages as well as Internet disruption. A few years before the town had made a huge technological jump to fiber optics, all of it run underground. Of course, the Internet/communication company that won the bid to wire the town is different from the power company.

When I called the Internet company about the numerous connection problems, they told me that the underground fiber optic had been disrupted in many places in my areas. One can easily solve this problem here. Power company A is digging deep holes to set up new electrical posts, and carelessly disturbing the fiber optics of company B. This is, in a nutshell, what you get when you privatize and subcontract government functions on a local, state or federal level. There is no more coordination. Private companies only care about profits and their bottom lines. If this town was really run in a democratic manner by an elected mayor, instead of a designated city manager, the citizens could ask him in person why, for example, in a part of the US at the edge of tornado alley, major electrical wires are run above ground. Why not run them underground as is done in a city with no extreme weather hazard like Las Vegas, Nevada?

My partner at News Junkie Post, Dady Chery, and I often joke about the US and other so-called developed nations, like France, becoming banana republics, where all the infrastructure is falling apart, vital services like power and water are marginal, and corruption is rampant at all levels of government. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed governmental failures in most countries. In France, years of budget cuts in what used to be a stellar public health care system did the job. The culprits are government officials and technocrats who decided in an office somewhere, just because they could, that money must be saved. The French technocrats in question, just like the politicians in the US who for years have blocked laws to establish a free universal health care system, have blood on their hands. Indecision, and bad political decisions except the ones to dismantle the public sector to privatize government, kill.

The politician culprits will not be held accountable, as the system has been rigged to keep them, and the corporations that finance their elections and therefore maintain them in power, above the law. Yes the banana republic factor is becoming widespread, as real democracies become an endangered mode of governance. The banana republic model is contagious too, as bad governance has reached a stage of pandemic. Sadly enough, most of the aspiring banana republics do not even have the merit of growing bananas.

This first person story had to be told because I perceive this little community to be a microcosm of not only the dysfunctional aspects of the US but also the rest of the world. As the climate crisis intensifies — and this is not in humanity’s future, it is right now — millions, or perhaps even billions, will join the ranks of the homeless in this little town. Conservative estimates put the likely number of climate change refugees at 600 million by the end of the century.

As the temperature of the oceans keeps rising, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and severe droughts will affect regions of western Europe that have been so far spared. With global warming, diseases that were confined to tropical areas, like dengue fever and malaria, will move away from the equator towards the north and south. Current medical habits to overprescribe antibiotics will cause the appearance of many more antibiotic resistant bacteria. Humanity’s general forecast is grim. Our future is under multiple threats, dark clouds are gathering, and many storms are on their way. Real storms and the growing clamor of popular anger. The global COVID-19 pandemic, and its gross political mismanagement has turned people’s chronically simmering anger into a pressure cooker. Will this blow in the face of the billionaire class and their political enablers? Time will tell. It always does.

• All photos by Gilbert Mercier

COVID-19 Great Depression: Global Ecosocialism Is the Way Out

Sunflower field in Hudson — Photo by Larry Goodwin

Suffering in numbers

The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.

from the archive of Urban Museum

Neoliberal and populist war presidents?

Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.

From the archive of The National Guard

The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.

Photo by David Shankbone

Capitalism’s callous imperatives

Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.

The COVID-19 Great Depression

In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.

The oil war has come home to roost in the US

On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.

During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.

The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.

By Lanpernas

Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?

Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).

by Francisco Anzola

Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.

by Denisbin

Ecosocialism equation: climate crisis + COVID19 = systemic change

So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.

Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.

by Gilbert Mercier

As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.

While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.

by Gilbert Mercier

Can Maduro Emulate Castro and Assad to Keep NATO’s Imperialist Hands Off Venezuela?

(Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Luther L. Boothe Jr., Task Force Currahee Public Affairs Office)

Imperial logic I: External crises distract from internal ones

Empires with internal problems tend to create external crises to distract the public opinion and unite their political and economical ruling class in a fictitious nationalistic fervor. The current United States policy of overt regime change in Venezuela, backed entirely by its NATO vassals, follows an evergreen imperial playbook of creating new crises to obscure failures and divisions.

In addition to the administration’s overall incompetence, the legal investigations through the Mueller inquiry, and the failure to deliver to its MAGA sycophants their big wall, it has passed unnoticed, and it will never be admitted by US officials or media that the US imperial wars in Afghanistan and Syria are, in fact, lost. Assad will remain in power, and the US administration has publicly admitted that it was negotiating with the Taliban. The temptation for the empire’s ideologues is too strong not to follow the precept: when you have lost a war, you declare victory and you leave. And next time around, you try to pick a weaker target.

Archive of Jakob Reimann

Imperial logic II: A state of war must be permanent

A prime example of this in recent history was the way the events of September 11, 2001 were used internally to justify the emergence of a police state, using far-reaching legislation like the Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Externally, 911 was successfully used by the US to trigger, almost immediately, an invasion of Afghanistan with the entire NATO membership under the hospice of the military alliance’s Article 5, which stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all. This was the very first time, since the creation of NATO in 1949, that Article 5 was put into force.

With the US public opinion still largely revengeful, misinformed by media manipulations, and eager to wage war, two years later, in 2003, it was fairly simple for the Bush administration and its neocons to sell the invasion of Iraq as a war of necessity, and not for what it truly was: a war of choice, for oil and greater control of the Middle East. Cynically, the aftermath of 9/11/2001 gave the empire and its powerful military-industrial complex two wars for the price of one.

Archive of Dawei Ding

Imperial logic III: People are collateral damage of realpolitiks

Great moral principles of altruistic universal humanitarian concerns are almost never at stake in these instances. They are mainly smoke screens to hide the board of a cold, Machiavellian, and complex chess game where innocent bystanders often perish by the millions. They are the acceptable collateral damage of realpolitik’s grand strategists. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the true guiding principle of US imperial realpolitik, and all US foreign policy decisions that derived from it, was to stop the so-called communist domino effect.

Communist domino effect: three simple words for a game that killed millions of innocent people worldwide, first in Korea in the early 1950s, then in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, and later, under the tutelage of some of the very same criminal architects, in Central and South American countries like Chile. Now in their golden years, most of these murderous policymakers, like Henry Kissinger, enjoy an active retirement with honors, respect and, unlike their colleague Robert McNamara, not a hint of remorse.

One of these policymakers, a veteran of US imperialism in Central America and also one of the staunchest advocates of Iraq’s invasion in 2003, has made a come back. He is neocon extraordinaire Elliot Abrams. Abrams has been rewarded for his actions in the Iran-Contra affair, El Salvador, and Nicaragua with a nomination as Special Envoy of the Trump administration for Venezuela. In other words, Abrams is in charge of the US-sponsored coup task force against Venezuela’s legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro.

Archive of Lezumbalaberenjena

Defeating imperial logic: The Cuban and Syrian lessons

There are many others examples in history where in a David versus Goliath fight, the little guy who, on paper, did not stand a chance eventually through sheer determination, organization and vast popular support, won on the battlefield. Vietnam is obviously a special case in this regard, as the Vietcong of Ho Chi Minh managed to defeat, almost back to back, the old colonial masters of the French empire in the 1950s, and, of course. soon thereafter, the US empire.

In the early 1960s, during the Cuban missile crisis, Castro’s days seemed to be numbered. More recently, in Syria, all the lips of the NATO coalition, Israel and Gulf State allies were chanting in unison that as a precondition for resolving the Syrian crisis, “Assad must go!” By 2017, however, some coalition members such as Qatar, France and Germany were not so adamant about the “Assad must go” mantra. Not only did Bashar al-Assad not go, but also, as matter of fact, he is regaining control of his entire country, on his own terms.

AFP PHOTO/www.cubadebate.cu/

Castro outsmarted the empire’s CIA hitmen 600 times

Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, had in Fidel Castro a source of inspiration and the guidance of a father figure. Chavez, like other neo-Marxists, looked up to Fidel for leading a successful revolution, through military action, which had toppled the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. This regime was not only a docile servant of the US government but was also directly associated with the Mafia’s criminal activities in Cuba in the era of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. With Batista’s complicity, American gangsters had turned Cuba into a gambling and prostitution paradise where the US’ unscrupulous rich went to play. Castro shut down the bordello that had become Cuba and proudly rebuilt his island, and he consciously set out to transform Cuba slowly and steadily into a socialist country.

Needless to say, the shutdown of their depraved and lucrative tropical paradise was unacceptable for the US empire’s ruling elites. Against all odds, the Cuban communist leader managed to defy one US administration after another, and without compromise remained at the helm of the Cuban revolution. It was not for a lack of trying either to invade Cuba, as in the Bay of Pigs botched invasion episode, or to cook up countless assassination attempts on Castro’s person. Starting almost immediately after he took power in 1959, Castro was the target of CIA assassination attempts. From the Kennedy era all the way to the Clinton administrations, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 plots to kill him. Some of the attempts involved collaborations of the Mafia with the CIA. Castro once said, “if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal!” It has to be added that, at least so far, Fidel Castro has also won a posthumous gold medal for ensuring the legacy of the Cuban revolution.

Damascus, Syria. 15th March 2012 — Loyalties to President Bashar al-Assad attend the rally at the Umayyad Square and hold the Syrian flag and a picture of Bashar al-Assad.

Assad: military might and striking the right alliances

Almost eight years ago, some people in quiet mansions, regal palaces or discrete offices in Washington, Riyadh, Doha, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv or undisclosed locations came up with what appeared to be an excellent plan. They would hijack some of the genuine energy of the Arab Spring then quickly sponsor it with a huge arsenal, while hiring some supposed good Djihadists soldiers-of-fortune as the main muscle to get rid of the uncooperative Bashar al-Assad. In what I called in May 2013, an “unholy alliance to wreck and exploit,” the Western and Gulf States coalition to topple Assad was born. In the US, the late Senator John McCain was one of the cheerleaders of the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Eight years later, with Syria in ruins, 350,000 people dead, around 4.5 million refugees still scattered principally in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, Assad has prevailed in a bittersweet victory, considering that his country has been wrecked as a battleground for proxy wars. Bashar al-Assad did not win on his own. He managed to retain complete loyalty from the Syrian army during the past eight gruesome years. Assad also could count on the military involvement of dependable allies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran and, of course, a critical impact of Russia once Putin’s administration decided to commit military assets and troops.

Maduro can keep Uncle Sam’s hands off Venezuela

One can only hope that Venezuela’s US-sponsored coup attempt using the subterfuge of a phony revolution does not follow the track of Syria in terms of the mayhem. However, the analogies are numerous between Maduro’s situation today and that of Assad in 2011. First, Maduro has at his disposal a reasonably well-equipped military as well as the Chavista militia. To defeat the unfolding coup attempt, the loyalty of the armed forces has to be ironclad. Second, just as Assad has done, Maduro must work to cultivate, in pragmatic ways, both regional and worldwide alliances.

Cuba will do a lot to help and might turn out to be Maduro’s Hezbollah. But will Mexico, Bolivia, and Uruguay go beyond diplomatic posturing in their solidarity with Maduro against NATO’s imperialism? How involved and how far, either economically or, in a worse-case scenario, militarily are Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran willing to go? In geopolitics, unlike diplomacy, only actions talk. Venezuela has a massive bargaining chip in the form of the mostly untapped biggest oil reserve in the world. This is Maduro’s ultimate ace in this game, and it should be used shrewdly. In realpolitiks, friends might be temporary, and they always want something. This is not an altruistic environment.

Gilets Jaunes: Catalyst for a Global Movement?

France is at a crossroad. A fairly benign bread-and-butter protest has turned into a major popular dissent putting in question France’s political system. It is new, unheard of, and because we live in the digital age, with immediate communication, the world is not only watching, but there is a contagious factor to it, which in the Anglo-Saxon world is called “Yellow Vests Movement”. In what could be a healthy contagion of a social yellow fever of dissent, this polymorphic movement has already spread to 25 countries and counting. In the immediate vicinity of France, of course, in countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, but also while not clearly identified as Gilets Jaunes chapters in Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia. It has reached the Middle East with activities in Israel and Iraq, and the Americas with startup movements, still trying to structure themselves, in the United States and Canada. Is this explosion of dissent merely some short lived copycat effects or is a deeper systemic change in process or, in another word, the catalyst of a historical paradigm shift in real time? France is, for now, the main social battle ground, and critical test of the movement.

The Gilets Jaunes protesters have faced brutal police repression from the Macron administration. The “Macronie”, as some Gilets Jaunes say with humor, has not reacted to what the French mainstream media call “les casseurs” violent actions to diffuse the crisis, but instead has decided to used brutal force which was met by the condemnations of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Eleven Gilets Jaunes have died so far, and more than 250 have been seriously injured, often crippled for life from the excessive use of rubber bullets and explosive tear gas grenades. This never seen before level of police brutality, not condemned by France’s mainstream media, is utterly shameful in the country that invented the principle of universal human rights declared in June 1793 regardless of race, religion and gender.

The route of police brutality, specifically ordered by the state, has had a reverse effect, and, in return, has radicalized some Gilets Jaunes elements. An important question must be raised in terms of the fine line that could be further crossed by the French administration: what level of state violence against its own citizens is acceptable before turning a democracy into an authoritarian regime? In other words, at what critical point does a democracy mutate into a dictatorship? Prescient British author Aldous Huxley probably said it better than anyone else in his book Brave New World, published in 1931. “The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, but would be basically a prison without walls……it would essentially be a system of slavery where through consumption and entertainment the slaves would love their servitude”

Nasty “Brave New World”, indeed, with the brutal globalization of governing corporate elites and their respective political servants, media sycophants, other proxies and finally their mercenaries. This cannibalistic global capitalism has failed populations worldwide, and brought a lot of people to the condition of modern day slaves. Slavery or feudalism was always the ideal social structure for capitalists, that is before the so called industrial revolution of the mid 1800s. Exploitative and industrial it was, but certainly not revolutionary in any shape or form. In fact, one can argue that the systematic exploitation of labor, even child labor in coal mines, was one of the worst kind of historical regression in human history, and, in essence, similar to the one of Africans brought to the Americas by Europeans in this despicable crime against humanity.

The perversity of it all is mind boggling. Take the United States, for example, which often describes itself as “leader of the free world” or in the words of Ronald Reagan a “shinning city upon a hill“.  It was, in reality, built on two deadly sins, two horrendous crimes: the genocide of native populations, which is still “celebrated” at Thanksgiving, and, of course, the very peculiar and lucrative institution that was slavery. Nowadays everyone talks about Fake News. What about talking about fake history?

One should be cautiously optimistic, because what has become a stand-off between the power of the French state apparatus, and some of its citizens is very much in flux. But that said, the Gilets Jaunes movement, still in its infancy, has already brought hope worldwide to the poor, the oppressed, the ones that have been forgotten and even discarded by the world ruling elites like insignificant human garbage. Hope for a better tomorrow in a very harsh world, hope for empathy against a system built on selfishness and pure greed. At heart, and let’s hope it stays that way and doesn’t mutate in its spirit, the Gilets Jaunes are the foot soldiers of inclusion, to reclaim for everyone a sense of community and brotherhood, fighting against the perversity of a criminal world order that is taking humanity through immense sufferings towards the final precipice of extinction.

Gilets Jaunes Referendum by Initiative of Citizens (RIC): Push to Revive a Democracy


The illusion of democracy

The Gilets Jaunes movement took most observers and so-called experts in France and worldwide entirely by surprise, but it was actually completely predictable. The crisis simmered below the radars of France’s politicians, media, as well as those who considered themselves the enlightened figures of the intelligentsia for 50 years. By their sometimes raucous revolt, the Gilets Jaunes understand that the current democratic process is a farce, and that democracy itself has become an illusion. France is hardly an exception but more the rule in a system where citizens are not truly represented or even heard: a corrupt and opaque system, where most politicians are in the back pockets of global corporate interests which, despite campaign regulations, have found loopholes to rig elections through large money contributions and pseudo-neutral mainstream media coverage to influence public opinion. In France, the Macron administration should view the Gilets Jaunes and their bright yellow vests as thousands of irate canaries flying off a coal mine before an explosion. France’s new Sans-Culottes will not be satisfied any longer with crumbs, or even loaves of bread: instead they want control of the bakery. The Gilets Jaunes want more than money, food and stuff, they demand respect, dignity, and attention. The Vox Populi shall not be silenced! Not for trinkets or any price.

Lesser-of-two-evil elections in USA and France: dialectic of rejection

Democracy is moribund elsewhere. The United States, which is supposed to be the greatest democracy on earth, offers the unsavory option of two parties, Republican or Democrat, on its electoral menu. This difference, however, has become largely fictional, as the political class all belong to a cozy inbred Republicrat party of hand-picked plutocrats that serve corporate imperialism. This democratic illusion was duly represented in 2016 with two fake options, either Clinton or Trump, both disastrous. Which one was less repulsive to American voters? As we know, it was Trump who “won” the US empire’s election. In France, by the same powerof the negative vote, Macron was elected more as a rejection of Marine Le Pen than an adhesion to his neoliberalism, youth, or vague impulse to modernize France, whatever it meant at the time. So the second round of the French presidential election of 2017 was also a futile exercise of lesser-of-two-evils. Democracy was dead in France, and one could take RIP to mean Rest In Peace instead of Referendum d’Initiative Populaire. Can the Gilets Jaunes’ key proposal of a Referendum d’Initiative Citoyenne save a comatose political system?

Trouble in France’s imperious fifth Republic

France’s fifth Republic is 60 years old. It was established by General Charles de Gaulle on October 4, 1958. This proud military man, without political ambition at first, had already salvaged France from the ignominy of the pro-German Vichy government, and he was called during the war in Algeria to rescue the Republic again from the preliminary stages of a coup plotted by a junta of four French generals. These generals were against Algerian independence and wanted to topple the French government. De Gaulle set his conditions clearly, as he wanted to reestablish the power of the executive. Some critics viewed this constitutional change as establishing some sort of hybrid republic-monarchy, but de Gaulle’s genuine love of France commanded respect, inside and outside the country’s borders, and France’s fifth Republic resembled its imposing father-figure general: short of being imperial, it was imperious.

The Gilets Jaunes movement could mark the end of an era and the beginning of a French sixth Republic, where the excessive power in the executive branch is diminished. The French constitution has currently two types of referendums, both of them essentially top heavy. The first type, which can only be called by the president, has been used nine times during the fifth Republic; the second one, which was established in 2008, in Article 11 of the French Constitution, is a “referendum of shared initiative” and has never been used. It can be organized at the initiative of one fifth of the parliament and must be supported by at least 10 percent of the registered voters, currently 4.5 million citizens. However, this unused referendum cannot challenge the constitution.

What is the RIC requested by the Gilets Jaunes?

The Gilets Jaunes are calling for four types of RIC. Firstly, the ability for any French citizen registered voter to propose a law; secondly, the right to propose the abrogation of any legislation; thirdly, the ability for any citizen to petition for the destitution of any elected official; and finally the right to call for an amendment to the constitution. The Gilets Jaunes demand that the RIC become enshrined in France’s Constitution. Citizens would propose legislation through an independently monitored website. If such a legislative initiative garners at least 700,000 signatures from registered voters, it would have to be discussed, and potentially amended, by the National Assembly, which would be legally obligated, exactly one year after receiving the 700,000 signed petitions, to bring it to a national referendum. This type of direct democracy by referendums exists in the world elsewhere, in countries such as Switzerland or in the US in California. Recent examples are the BREXIT saga that is still unfolding in Great Britain and the fiasco of Catalonia’s independence vote. Referendums are not a universal panacea and can potentially be manipulated either by local political players or even foreign interests.

Vox populi or wrath of angry mobs: cautionary tales about RIC

Switzerland, which has a population of 8 million, has applied direct democracy through referendums of popular initiative since 1848, with a staggering 309 referendums! While this has been overwhelmingly beneficial, as it keeps a constant citizen check and balance on government at all levels, it has on occasion drifted into unsavory Islamophobic and Orwellian measures. For example, in 2009, the country approved, through a popular referendum, a law that forbids the construction of minarets on Mosques. More recently, Switzerland’s citizens approved, by 65 percent of the votes, a state surveillance, including at home, of recipients of social benefits if they are suspected of fraud. In California, citizens’ initiatives put on the ballot made the use of marijuana legal, but on the flip side, such initiatives have also installed extremely repressive legislation such as the infamous “three strikes, you’re out,” which made recidivists of sometimes petty crimes, like shoplifting in a supermarket, rot in jail for 20 years.

Many Gilets Jaunes have been chanting “Macron Demission!” Therefore, one can assume, and they are already gathering signatures to that effect, that forcing Macron to resign is at the top of their RIC shopping list. Another item, a double-edged sword to say the least, would be a FREXIT, or BREXIT made in France. Will Corsicans or Bretons petition for their independence like Scotland did a couple of years ago? Direct democracy in France is a thrilling proposition, providing that it is not motivated by meanness, anger, racism or is secretly financed by various entities. A reasonable system of checks and balances is the key to good laws, because often people are motivated to vote with their guts and not their brains.

Gilets Jaunes Referendum by Initiative of Citizens (RIC): Push to Revive a Democracy


The illusion of democracy

The Gilets Jaunes movement took most observers and so-called experts in France and worldwide entirely by surprise, but it was actually completely predictable. The crisis simmered below the radars of France’s politicians, media, as well as those who considered themselves the enlightened figures of the intelligentsia for 50 years. By their sometimes raucous revolt, the Gilets Jaunes understand that the current democratic process is a farce, and that democracy itself has become an illusion. France is hardly an exception but more the rule in a system where citizens are not truly represented or even heard: a corrupt and opaque system, where most politicians are in the back pockets of global corporate interests which, despite campaign regulations, have found loopholes to rig elections through large money contributions and pseudo-neutral mainstream media coverage to influence public opinion. In France, the Macron administration should view the Gilets Jaunes and their bright yellow vests as thousands of irate canaries flying off a coal mine before an explosion. France’s new Sans-Culottes will not be satisfied any longer with crumbs, or even loaves of bread: instead they want control of the bakery. The Gilets Jaunes want more than money, food and stuff, they demand respect, dignity, and attention. The Vox Populi shall not be silenced! Not for trinkets or any price.

Lesser-of-two-evil elections in USA and France: dialectic of rejection

Democracy is moribund elsewhere. The United States, which is supposed to be the greatest democracy on earth, offers the unsavory option of two parties, Republican or Democrat, on its electoral menu. This difference, however, has become largely fictional, as the political class all belong to a cozy inbred Republicrat party of hand-picked plutocrats that serve corporate imperialism. This democratic illusion was duly represented in 2016 with two fake options, either Clinton or Trump, both disastrous. Which one was less repulsive to American voters? As we know, it was Trump who “won” the US empire’s election. In France, by the same powerof the negative vote, Macron was elected more as a rejection of Marine Le Pen than an adhesion to his neoliberalism, youth, or vague impulse to modernize France, whatever it meant at the time. So the second round of the French presidential election of 2017 was also a futile exercise of lesser-of-two-evils. Democracy was dead in France, and one could take RIP to mean Rest In Peace instead of Referendum d’Initiative Populaire. Can the Gilets Jaunes’ key proposal of a Referendum d’Initiative Citoyenne save a comatose political system?

Trouble in France’s imperious fifth Republic

France’s fifth Republic is 60 years old. It was established by General Charles de Gaulle on October 4, 1958. This proud military man, without political ambition at first, had already salvaged France from the ignominy of the pro-German Vichy government, and he was called during the war in Algeria to rescue the Republic again from the preliminary stages of a coup plotted by a junta of four French generals. These generals were against Algerian independence and wanted to topple the French government. De Gaulle set his conditions clearly, as he wanted to reestablish the power of the executive. Some critics viewed this constitutional change as establishing some sort of hybrid republic-monarchy, but de Gaulle’s genuine love of France commanded respect, inside and outside the country’s borders, and France’s fifth Republic resembled its imposing father-figure general: short of being imperial, it was imperious.

The Gilets Jaunes movement could mark the end of an era and the beginning of a French sixth Republic, where the excessive power in the executive branch is diminished. The French constitution has currently two types of referendums, both of them essentially top heavy. The first type, which can only be called by the president, has been used nine times during the fifth Republic; the second one, which was established in 2008, in Article 11 of the French Constitution, is a “referendum of shared initiative” and has never been used. It can be organized at the initiative of one fifth of the parliament and must be supported by at least 10 percent of the registered voters, currently 4.5 million citizens. However, this unused referendum cannot challenge the constitution.

What is the RIC requested by the Gilets Jaunes?

The Gilets Jaunes are calling for four types of RIC. Firstly, the ability for any French citizen registered voter to propose a law; secondly, the right to propose the abrogation of any legislation; thirdly, the ability for any citizen to petition for the destitution of any elected official; and finally the right to call for an amendment to the constitution. The Gilets Jaunes demand that the RIC become enshrined in France’s Constitution. Citizens would propose legislation through an independently monitored website. If such a legislative initiative garners at least 700,000 signatures from registered voters, it would have to be discussed, and potentially amended, by the National Assembly, which would be legally obligated, exactly one year after receiving the 700,000 signed petitions, to bring it to a national referendum. This type of direct democracy by referendums exists in the world elsewhere, in countries such as Switzerland or in the US in California. Recent examples are the BREXIT saga that is still unfolding in Great Britain and the fiasco of Catalonia’s independence vote. Referendums are not a universal panacea and can potentially be manipulated either by local political players or even foreign interests.

Vox populi or wrath of angry mobs: cautionary tales about RIC

Switzerland, which has a population of 8 million, has applied direct democracy through referendums of popular initiative since 1848, with a staggering 309 referendums! While this has been overwhelmingly beneficial, as it keeps a constant citizen check and balance on government at all levels, it has on occasion drifted into unsavory Islamophobic and Orwellian measures. For example, in 2009, the country approved, through a popular referendum, a law that forbids the construction of minarets on Mosques. More recently, Switzerland’s citizens approved, by 65 percent of the votes, a state surveillance, including at home, of recipients of social benefits if they are suspected of fraud. In California, citizens’ initiatives put on the ballot made the use of marijuana legal, but on the flip side, such initiatives have also installed extremely repressive legislation such as the infamous “three strikes, you’re out,” which made recidivists of sometimes petty crimes, like shoplifting in a supermarket, rot in jail for 20 years.

Many Gilets Jaunes have been chanting “Macron Demission!” Therefore, one can assume, and they are already gathering signatures to that effect, that forcing Macron to resign is at the top of their RIC shopping list. Another item, a double-edged sword to say the least, would be a FREXIT, or BREXIT made in France. Will Corsicans or Bretons petition for their independence like Scotland did a couple of years ago? Direct democracy in France is a thrilling proposition, providing that it is not motivated by meanness, anger, racism or is secretly financed by various entities. A reasonable system of checks and balances is the key to good laws, because often people are motivated to vote with their guts and not their brains.

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

Photo from the archives of Torbak Hopper

It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent proponents and ill-informed supporters call it populism or nationalism. In the Italy, Germany, or Spain of the 1930s, however, this ideology of exclusion and fear, defined by a hatred of the other, together with a tyrannical executive power, was called by its proper name: fascism. Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain were the bloodthirsty tenors of capitalism’s symphony orchestra, singing the deadly opera quietly conducted by the military-industrial complex. When the fascism-induced collective psychosis was put to an end in 1945 by Russia and the Western allies, between 68 and 80 million people had been slaughtered worldwide.

Banksy

MAGA is America Uber Alles

The disease, expressed by the term Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany above all else), was also contagious. It has been repackaged under the thinly concealed Make America — or Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, or Israel — Great Again. The doctrine of one country above all else is, in reality, the best way to justify the tyranny of the State against its own population. Constant threats, external or internal, mostly fabricated and hugely amplified by subservient media, keep societies on edge and make people tolerate or, even worse, embrace an omnipresent security apparatus, either military or police. Fascist regimes always blur the line between military and police. Why not, indeed, be able to deploy your military against your own citizens if you have brainwashed them with the notion of lurking internal enemies? After all, fear and paranoia are the most powerful vectors of the global Orwellian empire we live in.

The nexus of fascism and capitalism

The neofascists have draped themselves in the flag of populism and nationalism and therefore have disingenuously convinced their supporters that they are the champions of a fight against globalism, elitism, and the corruption of the neoliberal political system. They are, however, fierce proponents of dog-eat-dog capitalism and its abject systematic exploitation of labor. Fascists enthusiastically support the global military-industrial complex as well as capitalism’s senseless exploitation of resources through mining and deforestation. For fascists, just as for capitalists, wealth must be concentrated in fewer hands, and money may circulate across borders without constraint while ordinary people may not.

Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose

There is indeed nothing new under the sun. If industrialists today profit from wars on both sides of conflicts, giant US companies such as Ford and General Motors did the same in the build up to and even during World War II. Historian Bradford Snell wrote, more than 20 years ago, that “the Nazis could not have invaded Poland and Russia without GM.” The cozy relationship of Ford and GM with the Nazi regime went back to the early 1930s. Henry Ford himself was a Nazi supporter, and Hitler was a fan of the automaker. The two companies, Ford and GM, credited themselves with being “the arsenal of democracy” by transforming their production lines for US military purposes, but they were also, openly at least until 1942, the arsenal of fascism.

Banksy

The same apparent schizophrenia is at play today. Just like Ford and GM were complicit with the Nazis, global capitalism, driven by the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex, is profiting from war crimes by, for example, selling a massive amount of weapons to the Islamo-fascist regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently committing crimes against humanity by killing thousands of civilians and starving the entire population of Yemen. These war crimes are committed with weapons made in the USA, the UK and France, in the respective order of the volumes sold to the Saudis. France has a liberal and pseudo human-rights champion as its leader in the person of Macron. Nevertheless the booming French military-industrial  complex sells 7 billion Euros worth of weapons per year. India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the top buyers of death made in France: a criminal industry that employs more than 200,000 people.

Banksy

Fascists have built mental walls of hatred

The likes of Trump, Salvini, Kurz, Orban and Bolsonaro were elected largely on the false premise and racist notion of culture wars and clash of civilizations: the mythical threat that, in an already multi-ethnic world, immigrants, the outsiders often with darker skins or another religion, represent an existential peril for host countries. The neofascists have risen by building mental walls of hatred in fortress Europe and fortress America. The worldwide proliferation of neofascism constitutes a new form of ideological globalization, and global capitalism is banking on it. For example, once it became obvious that Bolsonaro would be elected president of Brazil, the country’s stock market rose by 13 percent in two weeks while all the major international markets fell. During World War II the fascist axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now they are the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, and India to some extent. All of it has the curious blessings of the mighty little State of Israel and the large money bags called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Banksy

Geopolitical conundrum

The global rise of fascism will change a landscape already on shaky ground. Trump’s National Security adviser, John Bolton, has already set the agenda and put in the neofascist crosshair Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which he called the “troika of tyranny.” Naturally, Bolton counts on the new fascist regional helpers of US imperialism, Colombia and Brazil, to enforce a revived full-blown Monroe Doctrine.  In Europe, neofascists have risen to power in Hungary and the coalition governments of Italy and Austria. Their ideological comrades in Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands have not risen to power, but their political clout is quickly growing. This rise of the neofascists, combined with the UK’s Brexit, is jeopardizing the European Union. In these developments, Steve Bannon of the US is playing the part of a fascism ideologue and black-clad eminence grise.

Banksy

The Russians, for their part, have developed a dangerously cozy relationship with today’s European fascists, as if the history of World War II has not taught them anything about fascism.  The pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, signed in August 1939, not only allowed Hitler to unleash his killing spree on the West, but also did not prevent the German army from launching an attack two years later on the USSR. Stalin’s strategic mistake resulted eventually in the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens. In the current context, it seems that a potential dismantlement of the EU is one of the only geopolitical goals that Russia and the US can agree on. As an example, the Russians as well as the US’ Bannon like and promote Italy’s powerful Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a rising star of European neofascism and a euro-skeptic whose motto is: “Make Europe Great Again!”

From the archives of Kitchener

Gott Mit Uns (God with us)

“Gott Mit Uns,” in raised letters around an eagle and swastika, was the inscription that adorned the German army’s belt buckles during World War II. If there is a God, his power certainly did not much help the soldiers of the Third Reich! That being said, there is definitely a religious track in the rise of global fascism. In the US and in Brazil, the vote of the evangelical Christians was a primary factor in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. “Born-again” Christian fundamentalists in the US are mainly concentrated in the formerly Confederate Southern states of the Civil War. These evangelical fundamentalist communities largely reject evolution, secularism, and the reality that climate change is man-made. Many in these communities believe that the US should be a Christian state. These Christian fundamentalists are the most reliable voting block for Trump, just as they were for George W. Bush. Well-funded far-Right fundamentalist think tanks like The Heritage Foundation have been pulling the strings in the background since the early 1970s.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Brazil’s Bosonaro was raised a Catholic, but he became, in what could be viewed as a cynical political calculus, a “born-again” evangelical. The evangelical voting block arguably gave him the edge on his opponent during the country’s October 2018 presidential election. Meanwhile, in what they see as fortress Europe, the European fascists have embraced their so-called Christian heritage, and they fuel anti-Islam sentiments, blurring the line between racism and religious intolerance. In Israel, under what can be called PM Netanyahu’s Judeo-fascism, Palestinians are dehumanized and persecuted, as the Jews were in Europe’s pogroms. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamo-fascist Mohamed bin-Salman does the same by painting Iran’s Shiites as heretics and terrorists. In India, PM Modi, who is considered by many Indian Muslims to be a Hindu-fascist, is also using religion to create conflicts and justify massive military spending. In brief, religious fundamentalists of all stripes are today the neofascists’ best assets to manipulate people and turn them, often violently, against each other.

 

Photo by Gilbert Mercier

Fascism’s unbearable ecological footprint

In the mold of Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, neofascists are by-and-large climate change deniers, or “skeptics,” as they prefer. After all, the Lord or Allah knows best and holds the key to their destinies. For the rest of us, who do not expect God to have an extra planet Earth in his back pocket, the rise of global fascism offers a grimmer prospect for  humanity’s survival. Under the jackboots of the global fascism stormtroopers, the little that is left of our shattered ecosystem will meet its final solution. Bolsonaro could engineer a tabula rasa in the Amazon, which is considered the lung of the earth, due to its capacity to absorb CO2. The super-rich who control global capitalism will give carte blanche to their fascist surrogates to grow and use a massive military-police apparatus to repress the billions of climate change refugees and victims of ecological collapse. Despite their assumptions and planning, discretely run by the Pentagon based on climate change becoming a national security issue, climate change will be capitalism’s end game. All the gold and diamonds in the world will not stop the storms or shield the atmosphere from the deadly rays of a blazing sun.

• First published at News Junkie Post

Does Humanity Deserve to Be Extinct?

Composite by Daniel Arrhakis

Time is up! All humans, men and women, are guilty as charged! Guilty of abusing other species and the natural world we depend on; guilty, either by greed or ignorance, of abusing other species that sustain our own and driving them to expedient extinction. Wild life, big and small, is briskly moving towards a vanishing point. From the seas to the land and the skies, the global species disappearing act has reached a catastrophic and probably unstoppable momentum. Mammals are dying, fish are dying, birds and insects are dying. Imagine a world as quiet as Nevada’s Death Valley in the summer. A world without trees, insects, and birds, where the heat can reach an unbearable 45 degree Celsius. Imagine a silent world of death.

“Progress would be wondcrful if only it would stop”, Robert Musil (Asian Development Bank archive)

The Austrian author, Robert Musil, wrote, almost prophetically, in his grand philosophical novel opus, The Man Without Quality, started in 1921, but published incomplete posthumously in 1943, that “mathematics is the source of a wicked intellect that, while making man the Lord of the Earth, also makes him slave of the machine.” Musil was referring to his book’s main character, the rather cynical Ulrich. Musil’s own cynicism and melancholia had originated from the trauma and darkness of World War I. This gave him an acute sense, just like George Orwell a decade later, of the human propensity for barbaric behavior and collective madness. Musil and Orwell were not cynical and pessimist prophets of doom, but, in fact, extreme realists ahead of their times. Circa 2018, only delusional fools can be upbeat and optimistic about humanity’s future. We can blame ourselves for building the ontological capitalist monstrosity of a world that strictly obeys the criterion of quantity, not quality. A construct where “have” always triumphs over “being,” which is by definition the essence of life.

(Asian Development Bank archive)

Anthropocentrism is humanity’s collective narcissism

Life in all its forms and diversity, not in a restrictive anthropocentric or traditional religious sense, should be sacred and celebrated as such. As a cycle, it is also ephemeral, and always a delicate and immensely intricate balancing act. As such a harmony, and one could say almost a communion with the natural world, has always been a primordial element to species survival. Our Homo sapiens ancestors, when they appeared on planet Earth around 200,000 years ago, in current-day Ethiopia during the middle of the Paleolithic era, had an unquestionably minimal impact on their ecosystem and likely a great deal of respect for nature. Considering that Earth itself was formed 4.5 billion years ago, according to radiometric data, our Homo sapiens ancestors were humble newcomers. As such, it is likely that these fragile communities had absolutely no sense of ownership of their host planet like most current humans do.

United Nations Photo archive

“Save the Planet” or “Our Planet,” they say. This is something that is paradoxically in the common narrative of people with ecologist pretension. This language itself is an expression of anthropocentrism, and should be defined as humanity’s collective narcissism. Four and a half billion years versus 200,000 years! Our Planet: what an arrogant claim! Save the Planet: what an incredible delusion. As if, first of all, we could. Merely saving ourselves from extinction, as a species, has become a tall order. Planet Earth will be fine, especially without us, and it will eventually heal itself in due time from human abuse and sprout other life forms. The life cycle will go on with or without us.

The World Bank Photo Collection

Capitalism’s cult of permanent growth is humanity’s death wish

There is a wise saying from the French author and medical doctor Francois Rabelais: “Nature n’endure mutations soudaines sans grande violence” (nature cannot sustain abrupt changes without violence). We have crossed many lines and reached an impasse. Since the start of the industrial revolution in Great Britain in the late 18th century, the Homo economicus was born: a relentless human obsessed with technological progress, with a voracious appetite for resources and limitless consumption. The Homo economicus became quickly, and almost universally, a worshiper of the capitalist cult of permanent growth. Of course, this cult of growth always requires more consumers and laborers to produce and devour goods and services that are usually harmful to humanity as a whole. Ultimately, in what situationist Guy Debord described in his 1967 The Society of the Spectacle, commodities and the logic of profit ended up ruling both consumers and workers instead of being ruled by them.

(Asian Development Bank archive)

Therefore, like a cancer out of control and in complete disregard to the most basic rationality, the Homo economicus has kept multiplying to quench its bloodthirsty capitalist God with human offerings. In May 2018, the human population reached the unbearable level of 7.6 billion. As a reference, in 1850 the world population was 1.2 billion. It is puzzling that anyone in their right mind could argue that such a growth is sustainable considering that space on earth and resources are by essence finite. The people in leadership, either in business or government, who had or still have the means to address some of the cataclysmic problems on mankind’s horizon should be held accountable for what amounts to crimes against humanity by negligence, stupidity, and inaction.

The World Bank Photo Collection

A need for unpopular global measures

The problem, in this global society of the spectacle, where things have become deified as ultimate proofs of success, is that the public servants of the Res Publica, who are supposed to be working for the common good, have been at large replaced by the Karaoke singers of the universal church of capitalism. They are all interchangeable puppets of the same rarefied corporate masters. The few politicians who appear to some extent to be in charge of their own countries, and for this reason are called strongmen or authoritarians by the West, are also devoted to capitalism’s myth of the benefit of permanent growth. Some have the political means and will, but they just lack a vision that encompasses the great systemic risk we face as a species. They are trapped in their own bubble of power for the sake of power and cannot see out of it. They are trapped in paradigm paralysis. Meanwhile, outside of the various bubbles of the rich and powerful, our world is at a breaking point.

Photo by Billy Wilson

If there is a time where a global political will would be useful to impose unpopular measures, it is now. Measures such as large tax increases on couples with several children; tax cuts for people who have decided not to procreate; substantial tax increases on vehicles using gas and diesel, followed shortly by an outright ban on such vehicles and a massive expansion of public transportation; massive reforestation projects; worldwide ban on new oil exploration; prohibitive taxes on oil; a moratorium for all countries to bring, from $1.7 trillion to zero within two years, the sum spent annually worldwide on their military and invest all the resources in climate research, especially the reduction and then elimination of excess CO2 from the atmosphere; and a drastic mandatory taxation of the super-rich of 90 percent of their income. Imagine for a minute what a global group of the best scientists could do, united in solving climate change problems and financed by the kind of funding that could quickly reach $2 trillion a year. Imagine having the resources at our disposal to deal with the upcoming 1 billion climate change refugees either from flooded coastal areas or new desert areas resulting from droughts. To talk about climatic changes so as to seem politically correct is just as criminal as being a climate change denier. Enough talk: the survival of our species requires immediate drastic actions.

UN Women Asia & The Pacific archive