Category Archives: Children’s Rights

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Finding Space Between Despair and Validation

There is nothing very remarkable about being immortal; with the exception of mankind, all creatures are immortal, for they know nothing of death. What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.
— Borges, “The Immortal”, IV, in The Aleph (1949)

All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
— Jorge Luis Borges

I knew it would come at me sooner or later, that feeling of dread that I had steeled myself against . . . staving off that realization that the books are so cooked that every level of societal organization in the USA (elsewhere, too, as in the UK, take, for example, the excellent movie, I, Daniel Blake) is rotting from the inside-out, outside-in. I’ve kept that juggling inside my mental space for a long time, but the blood-brain barrier has been pretty much intact, cloistering away intellectual realization from emotional acceptance; i.e., vulnerability.  It’s this inoculation many of us in the middle of the muck — radical journalism, even more radical social services, and, for this article, beyond radical education —  have to succumb to and for which we have to continue to ramify our emotional ‘scapes with boosters to make it through a day or week or month of travails.

I have to insert a full disclaimer: I know I am not living in Guatemala, San Salvador, Bangladesh, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia or Palestine. Things — basic living conditions — are so-so grotesque in other countries where capitalism and despotic fascism have ensconced those places with the plague of Little Eichmann’s and narcissistic racists who do the bidding of the moneyed classes (sic). Millions of babies are dying of gut diseases a year because of shitty water systems or none at all . . . because of Capitalism; the plague of misogyny is destroying the futures of women and girls in places like Saudi Arabia or a thousand other nations . . .  because of religion; resources are continually being polluted, tainted or collapsing  . . . because of Western Culture’s rapacious appetites, all flowing out of the sewage drain that defines Capitalism. All of that to the 10th power in so-called “third world” societies compared to “our” dragging lives, and, mine, sure (since I maybe enlightened, but too I am pressed into the strata of the death system . . .  USA capitalism), so, sure, how can I complain. Anything the rest of the non-Western world has to go through daily overshadows even the hard times many of “our” people in “our” country face with this old time religion of corporate-government fascism.

Good stuff daily at Dissident Voice, as in:

It is strange to watch the sleepy drama of airports, in which a bourgeoisie and a working class effortlessly intermingle, both seemingly inured to the routines of capitalist life. Something soulless inhabits the pace of capitalist life. One observes it here in the deadened gaze of the wage workers, watching their lives tick away in [airport] terminal jobs; but also in the ceaseless arrivals and departures of businessmen charging off to another sales conference; and in the harried rush of families to make it on their annual holiday junket. One wonders if any of these classes, more the workers than the professional caste, might ever revolt against the system that keeps them ensnared in their drudgery.

— Jason Hirthler, “The Curious Malaise of the Middle Class

We’ll be getting to that soulless rendering of Capitalist lives soon. For now, I’m not talking about a complete blow-out of my emotions here, but I knew that through teaching, yet again, in a PK12 system out here on the Oregon Coast, as a hired gun substitute teacher, I’d open myself up to that sinking feeling not so much of despair, but validation that the entire country has been sold down the river with a super majority of its people colonized by the thinking, or lack thereof, created by the taker class, the destroyer species, so more victims by the thousands in their cribs are created for the elite to chew up every so much and completely every day.

Then millions daily in our public schools, chewed up and spit out. But still marks for a society of Mafiosi-PayPal-PayDay loan sharks that profit in pain, dissolution, human toil, poverty, struggle, economic hell, emotional insanity, and ethical dissuasion.

I knew going into this research project — to discover out how to wrap up my concept for a short book on The Good, Bad and Ugly of American Ed — it would be rough sailing on the edges of this strange continent since I am working in a rural county with high poverty rates, high parental drug use,  homelessness and consistent precarity in the economic realm, with parents working 12-hour gigs or four jobs to a family, and a class of people who have shuttered themselves with beach-combing, Pinot Gris-loving, tourist junkets to Mexico, la Provence in France and ski resorts and mud cleansing camps in Montana. Plus, it’s Oregon, on the coast, a very racist place/history of sundown laws (not to say New York City or Chicago or LA aren’t racist super max militarized black man/woman/Latinix hating police mafia), where the rare sane and giver tribes person is a diamond yet to be found.

Inoculation for me is that I might find personal fortitude from all my many years geriatrically speaking and many more experiences living on the planet dredging up all the detritus deposited in the process of bearing witness to the failure that is America —  the Prison Complex, America — the Warring Complex, America — the Enemy of All Good People Complex, America — the Vapidity Complex, America — the All Polluting Complex. One can still hold out hope for some semblance of solidarity from cohorts and like-minded individuals within my geographical region.

The truth is that while the national media, and the national news and national academics blather on and on about, sure, important issues such as USA Democrats and Republicans parsing out why locking up whistle blowers or jailing journalists like Assange is good/bad, or how the USA ended up bombing thousands of civilians in Raqqa, or, say, the story about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez’s family suing the Border Patrol for $100 million after the Guatemalan was murdered by an agent last year on the Texas border, the work to be done at the local level, even within a fifth grade classroom, is monumental, almost impossible in this murderous carnival of capitalism gone rogue. Wave after wave of spasms after viewing or hearing any number of stories pumped out on the ticker-tape voyeurism that is Bing or Yahoo or Fox or CNN “news” (sic) feeds is interesting in an ironic way — as a student of journalism-media-public opinion trends.

But the toll on communities, on individual children, is so-so deep and grave and beyond the abilities of a Melinda Gates or Michelle Obama or Elon Musk to even begin to comprehend, let alone beyond their capabilities to just sit down and honorably and truthfully engage in healing, or dialogue.

Witnessing the absurdity that is American and Capitalistic exceptionalism, in real time, during work, while trying to accomplish  something worthy, like teaching youth six years to 18 years old, puts a heavy toll on some of us when we many times confront the injustice and insanity of it all, head on. It’s a toll tied to our personal activities of daily living in a colonized world, where, no kidding, someone like me (and I have very few friends or acquaintances who would agree with me on the following spot on quote half a century old, and counting) can’t remove what has become a default fine print disclaimer that should be plastered on anything coming out of America, and American-drenched marketing campaigns of the murderers who run Corporations, large and small:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far…. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

— Susan Sontag, Partisan Review, Vol. 34 No. 1 1967.

This is no flippant thing I’m expressing here, yet so many people have attacked this critique, Sontag’s, that is, and my ascribing it, so deeply, and they rebuff even considering it with so much contrarianism filled with paranoia, or that disease of white guilt, or exceptionalism, or something more, something really nefarious.

The bottom line, a fourth grade thinker like Trump and his coterie of asinine, ignorant, rich, degraded, full-on psychopathic followers, in and out of his administration, hate my students. These students who are 30 to a class. Students who have four or five bullies in each class. Students who have driveling principals who are afraid of their own shadows. Students who are 576 to one counselor on hand. Students who have Chromebooks and giant caterpillar math games in seventh grade. Students who are fed the entrails of fast food and the most dangerous food for lunch that it just makes a grown person cry. Students who are forced in classrooms with bachelor degreed teachers, mostly all with their hearts in the right place, but floundering under the weight of shitty wages and economies that take up more than half our income to just make rent.

Students with local beaches that have Memorial Day warnings of fecal matter in the tides. Students with clear cuts peppered all around them and the follow up aerial spraying of Agent Orange like derivatives to keep the invasives down. Students who have no parks to speak of, no museums, no trolley services to help them get from one beach to the next. Students who are forced to listen to military recruiters, and students bred in the faux patriotism that calls all boys and girls to seriously consider the all-volunteer military (economic draft, that is)  as a gateway to college, when the majority of youth see no end in sight in school.

We hate these kids, if one were to look at our education policies run by an Amway sales person, Betsy DeVos, and if we look at all the other cabinet level people, all those heads of our supposed government agencies for, by and because of the people, and listen to what they want in terms of tearing down every economic, environmental, educational, retirement, housing, health, energy, conservation, community development safety net, how in god’s name (sic) can any thinking adult believe that this administration or any of them really cares about the 80 percent of the country, the majority, our youth, our babies, our teens, our future?

Therein lies the catalyzing moment Friday that spurred me to write this angst-leveling piece — I again, after dozens of gigs, got from the horse’s mouth — the students — that the schools are bullying enterprises, where many in these classes call young girls and boys “fat jelly rolls, fatsos, stupid, sissies, retards, fags,” and alas, nothing is being done to rectify this. Nothing at the administration level, at the classroom level, at the parental level, at the assembly level, nothing.

And so one of these counselors, one in the school, just displayed so many levels of malpractice, stupidity, telling me, a substitute, that unless I heard the boys yelling these things, and even if the girls and boys that are the victims say that happened, are crying, are withdrawn, there is nothing he can do.

Then this ignoramous spewed some platitude about, “I told Mary to not let those boys take her power away . . . to not give them her power.” This is the state of retarded adult thinking, pure reckless operating procedures.

Then, students tell me to not be so worried that the class is going bonkers or is disruptive, or that student x and y are being not only idiots, but disrespectful of me, an elder, in some sense. That this goes on with the regular teacher, and that the students have complained about x and y bully, but to no avail.

I ask them how they even learn with all the disruptions, all the students x and y getting pulled from the classroom, or all the bells and breaks and idiotic things that supposedly have been built into the curriculum because the powers that be believe young minds can’t stick to a problem or a topic for more than 10 minutes, and anything beyond 10 minutes has to be programmed into some Chromebook moving cartoon or video game.

Teachers in middle schools who tell students, “go figure it out yourself,” when confronted with a math problem. Teachers who look like they just spent a day in Yemen under Saudi-USA bombardment after a day’s teaching.

This system for the most part is ruinous of human celebration, ruinous of honoring and stewarding young minds and bodies.

Alas, yes, fixing education is easy, but not under capitalism, not under the weight of the core curriculum or shackled by No Child Left Behind or through all the degrading junk that is shoveled down young people’s throats. Nothing in the classroom is mattering, and fixing the education system again, is what the book I am about to launch is all about.

I guess what triggered me was all the bullying, all the poor ass kids who must have demons for parents, because the amount of disrespect for teachers and peers and visitors is deafening. I am not saying all the youth are like that, or even half like those bullies, but if you get six out of 30 in a class who control the message, control the chemistry of the group dynamics, who are always vying for warped levels of attention and disruptive shenanigans, then the learning experiment begins to wither on the vine.

Add to that significant numbers of youth with behavioral plans and learning plans, youth with reading issues, with intellectual disabilities, or psychological disabilities. Youth with chronic illness. Youth from broken families. Youth with some family member in jail and with an addiction. Youth with no sense of community. Entire elementary schools, middle schools and high schools that hardly ever have anyone from the community come in to facilitate learning, let alone cadres of visiting local and regional experts in biology or other fields, or artists or just plain wise elders from tribes.

This in and of itself shows that Trump and all the suits and skirts backing him HATE America, and the way they are making America great again with untold numbers of more and more victims, beaten down by the forces of oppression and repression and suppression at earlier and earlier ages, that’s his MAGA, Trump’s army of deplorables.

Again, though, “the principal never does anything to these bullies . . . he just tells them that he will give them something if they stop bullying us . . . but they don’t stop . . . there are no consequences . . . and we just have to take it.”

Now, take that to the heart of your soul dear reading and really begin to think how we are going to get out of all the colluding and colliding messes we face in this destructive warring society when we are creating more and more causalities at younger and younger ages who will never ever be able to be part of the solution.

Truly, when the school administration knows/does diddle squat, and when some goofy counselor tells students that “getting upset about a bully is like your kryptonite . . .  letting the bullies bother you is handing them your power,” a grown man not only wants to cry, but he wants to smack that puke of a person from here to kingdom come.

Seriously.

I finish off after talking today to several people about the state of youth, the state of our schools, the state of our young people’s lack of critical thinking skills. So many civilians, or citizens, think they know what’s wrong with education, or what’s up with parents, or why millennials or those in this generation are broken. Yet, adults, so many of them, have zero tolerance for creativity, outside the box thinking, and investing in REAL education, REAL outdoor schools, REAL schools where youth are building solar panels, living in tepees, growing vegetables, planting permaculture gardens, raising chickens, collecting eggs, doing art, making instruments from which to make music, doing community film projects on the old timers, going to old folks homes and reading and performing, or bringing in homeless people to feed and clothe.

Real work, real learning, real systems thinking teaching.

Imagine hundreds or thousands of students working on drive-by photography shoots, telling neighborhood history projects, building wheelchair ramps for the handicapped, getting into real businesses and learning how to be entrepreneurs,  having bio-diesel bus trips to the state capitals weekly.

We know how to lead and follow, teach and learn, share and provide. But the systems of oppression in Capitalism make it virtually impossible to do any good with not only our young but our old, or those with disabilities, or those just out of prison, or those who are traumatized by the most brutal parents and neighborhoods.

Take the following to the bank. Yes, John wrote this decades ago, and, yes, he believed we could do wonders with schooling at home and within the communities. He did not anticipate the powers of Capitalism to generate more and more finely grained sacrifice zones at the census track level, regionally wide, entire states succumbing to an un-United States. He did not anticipate the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism, nor did he really delve into the murderous powers that have harnessed all economic models and all business plans that the USA produces. Trillions spent on war, billions spent on propagandizing this rotten economic system, billions spent on policing and jailing, billions spent on entrapping more and more people into the madness of screens and phones and idle self-aggrandizement and narcissism.

Community schools, and schools inside the companies, and forcing bosses to give time off for workers to tend to the schools. Of course, we need to own our schools, and we need Pearson Publishing and the thousands of other leeches and bottom feeders in educational publishing and curriculum design and management and testing and computerization of learning and on-line madness to be sent to the dung heap.

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.

― John Taylor Gattoo, Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, February 1, 2002

A New Volkisch Mythos

Greta is able to see what other people cannot see.  She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.

— Malena Ernman, Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate (mother of Greta Thunberg),May 3, 2019

If you want to be more ecologically minded, good for you. But don’t be under the bizarre American illusion that your individual action is a substitute for collective action, for systemic change.

— Umair Haque, Medium, May 2019

A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power. How long have we known this?

— Phillip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle, January 24, 2012

There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

Richard Leakey says:

I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected.

So give up on the poor, can’t save them.

And Leakey goes on:

Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.

Okay, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

And finally Leakey writes:

Not all countries have constitutional provision for private ownership of land, and instead occupancy and land use are regulated by lease hold. In respect to conservation, this is certainly a better option than group-owned or community-owned land where in time wildlife could be untenable given governance arrangements on community-owned assets.

As a general trend what I am hearing is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything. The message is ‘we can’t risk it, the danger is so extreme that the practical solution is to allow the elite class to control the planet in order to save it.’ The elites and/or corporate control. All the so-called New Green Dealsolutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.

Now, one of the curious contradictions in the climate discourse is the selective trust in certain institutions. The western based (and funded) NGOs have a pretty long track record now of craven support for U.S. government foreign policy decisions. Take Amnesty International’s (AI) recent comments on Venezuela.

Chuck Kauffman from Alliance for Global Justice observed vis a vis AI’s near fascistic litany of lies: “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” The open naked Imperialist aggression against Venezuela, and the attendant propaganda slandering Maduro, is now a staple of all the candidates for the Democratic Party. And, Amnesty is also co founder of Global Campaign for Climate Action…a group that also receives monies from the Pew trust, the creepy AVAAZ, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. Now, just a quick word on the UCS. On the board sits William K. Reilly, former appointee by George Bush to head the environmental protection agency. There are also members that sit on the Council for Foreign Relations, a nuclear scientist who writes on security issues, a lawyer for the US Dept. of Energy.

And yet, many people rightly concerned about global pollution and over industrialization seem to have no problem accepting the word of these same western backed NGOs when it comes to issues of ecology. They know Amnesty lies, but if the topic is climate change, they leap onboard. Clive Splash (He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values) writes:

The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.

Again, we hear that echo of the ruling class (Lord ….LORD Stern?!) and the anti communist agenda at work here. Leave it to the elite class, the captains of Capital, to decide policy. And the first order of business is to save capitalism and that means to save growth. The poor are there to be slaves, not to decide policy. What one sees in Extinction Rebellion and in the Greta Thunberg brand is described pithily by Clive Splash…”When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change.”

One of the refrains I have heard (and have had directed at me) is, well, we can’t wait for socialism. This is a natural response from a very frightened populace. And it is exactly this response that the ruling class counts on. The infiltration of radical movements has a long sordid history. Ask the Black Panthers. Today the very real threats and dangers of global warming and over-industrialization are being funneled into places that shift the blame from the ruling two or three percent and onto its victims. This is, of course, exactly what the overpopulation alarm does. I see headlines such as *Humans Plunder the Planet* but not *Ruling Class Plundering Humanity AND the Planet*. I see books such as Climategeddon — amusingly penned by a former author of diet self help books and…wait for it….a high ranking Scientologist. But I have had people quote Wollersheim to me. Next stop the Sea Org.
More trenchant was this week’s bit of Imperialist green concern from war friendly candidate Elizabeth Warren, who expressed worry that global warming might effect the readiness of America’s military. (death of irony moment?) On twitter Club de Cordeliers noted…

Under Warren’s proposal, each murdered child will be stamped with the slogan: This Killing Achieved with Net Zero Carbon Emissions.

That the U.S. military is the greatest consumer of petroleum products worldwide seems beside the point. Or, let’s return briefly to Greta Thunberg — who can probably just be referred to as *Greta* these days without risk of confusion. She held up a cute homemade sign for a selfie …tweeting it to jillions of followers. The sign read ‘Let Russia Strike for Climate’. Apparently the *Greta* is getting good advice from Hillary Clinton or Bolton or Elliot Abrams, someone — who knows. She is certainly to be considered *NATO friendly* at this point. The visibility that Elizabeth Warren commands, and that which Greta commands now, too, is an indication that one should be highly credulous. The giant electronic telecom giants and the mainstream electronic media, social media, TV, all of it is in the hands of a relatively few people. These narratives, all of them, are vetted for ideological compliance with corporatism, Imperialism, and a de-facto racism or better put, white supremacy. Visibility is earned, and it’s not arbitrary. And if a *Greta* suddenly appears, rest assured she has handlers. I mean, it’s simply a given, and there are no exceptions.

So there are several problems looming that tangentially connect to overpopulation alarms. One of them is a recolonizing of Africa (and the recolonizing of former communist countries continues apace, as well). But here Africa, in particular, is viewed as a huge resource for raw materials sought after in the West. The re-colonizing takes several forms but here is a typical example.

As Cory Morningstar observed vis a vis this …“Can you imagine @WWF promoting the sterilization of women living around national parks in Europe or the US? The fact they consider it acceptable in India and Africa is racism, pure and simple.”

The white west (and Bill and Melinda Gates leading the charge) are rather unapologetically determined to stop the global south from reproducing. Sterilization and vasectomy suggestions (voluntary, of course) are to be found in countless U.N. sponsored (and USAID sponsored) pamphlets and directives for missions in Africa.

The new alarmist propaganda tends toward sensationalizing what are a few basic truths, sometimes half truths, and building a sort of screenplay to a disaster movie out of these. The influence of Hollywood apocalyptic film and TV cannot be over-emphasized, actually. For those films are both unconscious projections of the ruling class, and the audience embrace of this stuff speaks to unconscious fears as well. The elite producers of this crap fear the marauding masses (zombies) and the bourgeois audience fear black sites and Bloody Gina’s reprisals if they stray too far off message (like voting for a third party). A good deal of the new environmental panic is not based on the actual (and I hasten to emphasize real) problems and crises, but are more the conditioned response from audiences trained for thirty years, at least, to kitsch media entertainments. People see life unfold like an action movie. Sea levels can’t just rise and destroy infrastructure and crops, wash away beach front property, no, they have to completely submerge Baltimore, Oslo, and London. The sum effect of this is actually to have the real and severe problems in retreat.

Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance (in Israel where she was never not going to perform), with lyrics like “not everyone is coming to the future, not everyone is gonna last.”

There is now coming out of Hollywood a near endless stream of dystopian ‘end of times’ films, which (as I have noted before) are reconstruction fables as well. But now the end of times includes the rehabilitation of Big Brother. The state emerges as a sort of necessary mechanism for culling the herd. Madonna was also sporting blond plaited hair and an eye patch. So maybe it’s just me but this new volkish imagery is growing and being used in ways that familiarize the public with fascist motifs.

Thus, when we are talking about “völkisch” or “Überfremdung,” we are automatically producing images that are inevitably linked to a fascist past. “Überfremdung” describes the fear of being flooded with foreigners, a foreign infiltration. The Duden dictionary explained the term in 1934 as “the intrusion of alien races.” ( ) What is concerning about these “poor words” in the first place is the imagery inherent to them, one that conveys fascism without speaking it. Such words are racist in establishing a hierarchy of ethnicity and, in that way, they have the potential to createm or exacerbate, false divisions between and within societies. The word “völkisch” creates a sense of belonging, an imaginal feature to help distinguish between the in-group and the out-group. The word “Überfremdung” works similarly by implying that there is an abundance of strangers invading the ‘German race.’ What seems to have changed, however, is the definition of the out-group or the enemy. Promoted by PEGIDA and the AfD, the new threat are Muslim immigrants and the idea of the “Islamization” of the Western culture. Thus, this becomes a powerful example for the political myth of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

— Alexa Lenz, Public Seminar, July 14, 2017

The ideological road to National Socialism was paved not by Nietzschean self-awareness and self-overcoming, but by völkisch self-congratulation.

Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Volkisch Ideology to National Socialism, March 1, 1981

The first volley in the reclamation of volkish language was Bush’s use of the word “Homeland” when he created a new security service. Quite a few people noticed the connection to the German word Heimat. The far right parties in Europe now appropriate a good deal of Nazi symbology, while the even more virulent racism of a Macron (or Sarkozy) is ignored. PEGIDA and the AfD, in Germany, are really pretty much openly using Nazi rhetoric and symbol (both of which are technically against the law).

Cassirer (1973) analyzed three potential techniques that enabled the myth of Nazism: the magical use of words, the use of rituals and, finally, the recourse to prophecy. Nazi politicians managed to charge words with feelings and violent passions, therefore transforming their semantic meaning to convey magical imagery.

—Alexa Lenz, (Ibid.)

I will only add here, as a sort of thought experiment, that one compare the TIME magazine cover of Greta, with the photos in, what Remco Ensel, in an excellent monograph on the Dutch “Heimat” portrait photography called *Dutch Face-ism”, an expression of Völkisch Nationalism circa WW2 and tell me there is no equivalence. (or the VICE lead photo, or even Greta’s facebook portrait).

Now I know there are many people who will perceive this as an attack on Greta. It’s not. I am certain this young woman has almost zero awareness of any of the implications of her exploitation. And remember, too, that one of the most common rhetorical tactics of fascist apologetics (pretending to be liberal) is to re-state your argument incorrectly and then to respond to their manufactured distortion. It’s a version of straw man arguing. Couple this with the convenient appellation *denier*. If you say, wait, there were no rape camps in Serbia. You are immediately labeled a denier. It matters not at all that you would be correct in saying this. The corporate ruling class take-over of many green movements has a sum effect of reducing rights. For that is the logic of fascism. Remove rights but create space for the self expression of resentments. Property rights will remain untouched.

The opportunistic proprietor class capitalist sees enormous profit in Green endeavours now. Just as Mike Pompeo sees melting arctic ice as an “opportunity”. Never underestimate the capacity for brutish insensitivity in the lower functioning humanoids that serve as representatives of the ruling elite. It is bottomless, in fact. Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Kushner, Biden…this is the Troglodyte political class.

Brian Davey wrote about Thunberg, vis a vis her appearance in Katowice at a climate gathering:

What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.

— Brian Davey, Credo; Economic Beliefs in a World in Crises, January 2015

This is a bit like buying indulgences in the Medieval Catholic Church. So perhaps what is needed is a Martin Luther of environmentalism.

The ruling class and its marketing apparatus recognized early on that Green language would serve as cover while they re-tooled their industries. Green took on those magical connotations. Cut to Greta’s mother explaining that her daughter was *different*; i.e. magical. She could *see* carbon dioxide. Trust me there will be green Angels, soon, helping further carbon neutrality.

But there is another issue cutting across much of this, and that is a strange new war on children (and on motherhood in the global south, and black mothers in the U.S.). Although *new* is the wrong word. Whether by design of just as a natural tendency in the residual Puritans of America, the media message has been of late to normalize cruelty to children. From tearing babies from the arms of immigrant mothers and dropping them into cages, or the arrest of suspension of due process in Israeli arrests of children and youth, to the spike in jail time for minors across the U.S. In the 1990s, incarceration of minors rose 311 %.

Across the United States, thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults { } Some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in America. Children are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities and face increased risk of suicide.

—Equal Justice Initative, Children in Prison 2018

The rates for youth have declined slightly over the last few years but mostly due to teenagers aging out of the statistics. That ANY child was ever tried as an adult is all by itself a horror. In the U.S. infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate of those born to white mothers. Poverty is the obvious first reason, but structural racism…the stress of increased contact with the criminal justice system also undermines the health of the newborn.

67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.”“67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.

— Nicole Hanson, Rattling the Bars, Real News Network

Neglect is often considered to be a failure, on the part of a caretaker, to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturance, appropriate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter for a child. This definition also aligns with a definition of poverty, where poverty is considered to be inadequate food, shelter, and clothing.

— Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014

Child neglect is then, almost by definition, synonymous with poverty. Those damn poor people just can’t take care of their kids. And yet they breed so much, ya know? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a darn bad thing if we clipped the men…know what I’m saying, Earl?

In fact, one of the side bar implications in Melinda Gates programs is to strongly associate pregnancy with disease (not for rich white people, of course). And the overpopulation argument feeds in this directly.

There is not enough space to even scratch the surface here to list the inequalities operative in racial hierarchies in the U.S. What is important here to start to recognize the codes at work. Walter Benjamin famously said that “The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.” But more importantly, at the end of that same essay (Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) he added…

Its (mankind) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Capitalism has abandoned humanity. A shamefully neglected infrastructure has exacerbated the effects of global warming. The loss of jobs, mostly to robots, engenders confusion and anxiety, but also deep resentment. And we are well past the time when anyone thinks robots provide superior service. The need to keep escalating conflict, both at home with a militarized and racist police apparatus, and abroad via a gargantuan military whose size defies all rational comprehension. The suffering inflicted on the world by the U.S. and its proxies (Saudi Arabia, Israel primarily) is so enormous that it is hard to grasp it in its totality. And this confusion breeds reaction. The confusion seems not, however, to breed questioning.

When capitalism reaches its point of diminishing return, it deliberately creates a crisis or an appearance of a crisis in order to stage a ritual of a rebirth. The crisis is designed to corner everyone to rely on the capitalist framework for survival. This functions to divide people into two groups: a group which sees through the mechanism and a group that insists on solving the “crisis” no matter how (meaning solving it according to the acceptable ways). The establishment destroys the anti-capitalist momentum while co-opting dissident voices, giving them credentials, awards, positions in the hierarchy. The process eliminates enemies while augmenting the capitalist hierarchy.

— Hiroyuki Hamada (in conversation with me)

The real problems of ocean acidification, plastic pollution of those same seas, and the endless over production of certain crops that destroy land and poison pollinating insects, these problems are simply the result of needless and pointless industrial growth, a growth that has no rational need driving it. Hunger exists in a world of surplus food. The engine is maximizing profit. And why do so many people seem to just reflexively trust *science*? Trust without even a cursory check on who funds the study, or the institution. And the manufacture of fear is a staple of the ruling class. Fear of germs (from Asia or Africa, of course), or asteroids, or the ignoring of obvious testing failures which goes back to thalidomide. That and the very imperfect world of statistical analysis (see Harvard and Yale sociologists circa 1986 and the spinster’s beware warning) etc. The point is only that while it is clear global warming and pollution present enormous challenges, ones that may change the way nearly everyone on the planet lives, there is also clarity that a crises in Capitalism is forcing an increasing propaganda machine to validate the class hierarchies, and which is rehabilitating the most obscene thinking of the colonial and Victorian era. People are being indoctrinated to experience domination as salutary. Junk science abounds everywhere (facial recognition anyone? blood splatter?) but when it comes to climate and Green issues the bourgeois populace simply does not want to hear it. Which leads me to the idea of a cultic group think going on. And maybe this is tied into the acute narcissism of the boomers. Because just anecdotally my experience is that they WANT disaster. It provides self importance. They demand action and responsibility, but the most dire warnings are received with a barely suppressed pleasure.

The liberal white American today cannot tolerate the world going on around them with people they have been trained to see as inferior. Fear of the dark skinned global south (I mean Melinda Gates actually has a brochure in one of her projects to teach African women how to hold their baby, because I guess, you know, that’s something they clearly don’t know about), they fear the numbers, they fear fecundity (something that has dropped precipitously in the advanced West), they fear being in close proximity to the poor, the ‘other’ (migration), and they fear exposing their children to this ‘threat’, most of all. Consider that there is a huge movement on the right to ban abortion. And yet, largely, these same people are thrilled with Bill and Melinda Gates work to stop African reproduction. So it’s clearly not too many people, it’s just too many black people.

The new Volkish body politic is conflating global warming and the poor.

…the “longing for myth” reflected the pervasive experience of “dislocation and disorientation” precipitated by industrialization, revolution, and the dissolution of community values in the abstract conception of secular society, compounded by the fragmentation of German society “along confessional, social, and territorial lines”; the splintering of traditional social and cultural bonds gave rise to the desire for an “aesthetic-religious imagery” that would “unite modern society just as Greek mythology had supposedly once united the polis.

— Nicholas Huzsvai (honors thesis, unpublished)

Over two million people languish in nightmarish prisons in the U.S. Most for non violent crimes. And today the target is increasingly children and women of colour. But people respond with arguments of distraction, just as they are narcotized by screen distractions. The children not targeted for jail are given anti depressants.

And Gabor Mate has written (following Robert Bly) that fathers and mothers both today work twice as long and with less security and for less money than they did three generations ago.

Quite the opposite is true now. Far from being helped, working women are actively penalized if they wish to extend the time they are at home caring for their children. For men, it is not even considered reasonable to think of “interrupting” their careers in order to share in that process. Society does little to establish expert and compassionate day care for those children during whose early years the parent(s), for one reason or another, cannot avoid the necessity of working outside the home. Poor women, especially in the U.S., are economically terrorized by the welfare system into entrusting their infants to appallingly inadequate care situations, and then must spend hours daily traveling to low-paying jobs that barely allow their families a subsistence income.

— Gabor Maté, Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder,

Leading to what Bly called “the rage of the unparented”. This is America, then, today. Children are targeted by law enforcement — think of the use of gang injunctions, prop 21 in California — which, again, allowed for minors to be sentenced as adults. California has, in fact, been the leading laboratory for terrorizing youth.

The collateral consequences of an adult conviction are severe. An adult criminal conviction stays on a youth’s permanent record, which can prevent him or her from voting, securing housing, getting financial aid or public benefits, and finding a job. Further, the juvenile justice system is intended to be rehabilitative, whereas the adult criminal system is not. Youth tried in adult court lose the opportunity to access many of treatment and rehabilitative options available in the juvenile system.

— National Center for Youth Law

Poor women, and particularly black and latino women, have been zeroed in on by the justice system and now are the fastest growing segment of the carceral state. Their children are warehoused, usually chemically warehoused if they prove in the least disruptive. But this only mirrors in much harsher way the white children of the affluent. For even the petit bourgeois youth is afflicted by a culture of screen addicted distractions and coercive infantile propaganda and entertainments. And they are likely the children of parents who were also distracted and anxious. And the parents of those parents. Three or four generations now who have not been provided with any sense of community.

A quick glance at the statistics: Children 0 to 5 years, over 600,000 are on one of the following: ADHD medication, anti depressants, anti psychotics, and anti anxiety drugs. But if you look at kids 6 to 17, there are SEVEN MILLION being medicated. I was told by a friend that in the run up to the millennium, in a gallup poll, that a majority of people welcomed an apocalypse of some kind — and the reason given was a belief that nothing was going to get better. They were expecting only worse to come. And, of course, they were largely correct.

Hollywood has been normalizing a mix of the sadistic and the sexual for going on fifty years, only now the spectre of Big Brother looms over everything, and this is presented as a virtue. There is in this new mythos forming around end-times thinking, an erotic representation of duty to power, and it elicits a kind of frisson. Fascism is now being updated, and it serves up a menu of catastrophe and individualism. Daily life is a combination of drudgery, tedium, meaningless work, and insecurity. And parents are weary of their neurotic complaining children. In sum I think people in the West no longer dream Utopian.

“The Essence of Being Palestinian”: What the Great March of Return is Really About

The aims of the Great March of Return protests, which began in Gaza on March 30, 2018 are to put an end to the suffocating Israeli siege and implementing the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes and towns in historic Palestine 70 years earlier.

But there is much more to the March of Return than a few demands, especially bearing in mind the high human cost associated with it.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, over 250 people have been killed and 6,500 wounded, including children, medics and journalists.

Aside from the disproportionately covered ‘flaming kites’ and youth symbolically cutting through the metal fences that have besieged them for many years, the March has been largely non-violent. Despite this, Israel has killed and maimed protesters with impunity.

A UN human rights commission of inquiry found last month that Israel may have committed war crimes against protesters, resulting in the killing of 189 Palestinians within the period March 30 and December 31, 2018.

The inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognizable as such,” the investigators concluded as reported by BBC online.

Many in the media, however, still do not understand what the Great March of Return really means for Palestinians.

A cynically titled report in the Washington Post attempted to offer an answer. The article, “Gazans have paid in blood for a year of protests. Now many wonder what it was for,” selectively quoted wounded Palestinians who, supposedly, feel that their sacrifices were in vain.

Aside from providing the Israeli military with a platform to blame the Hamas Movement for the year-long march, the long report ended with these two quotes:

The March of Return “achieved nothing,” according to one injured Palestinian.

“The only thing I can find is that it made people pay attention,” said another.

If the Washington Post paid attention, it would have realized that the mood among Palestinians is neither cynical nor despairing.

The Post should have wondered: if the march ‘achieved nothing’, why were Gazans still protesting, and the popular and inclusive nature of the March has not been compromised?

“The Right of Return is more than a political position,” said Sabreen al-Najjar, the mother of young Palestinian medic, Razan, who, on June 1, 2018, was fatally shot by the Israeli army while trying to help wounded Palestinian protesters. It is “more than a principle: wrapped up in it, and reflected in literature and art and music, is the essence of what it means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood.”

Indeed, what is the ‘Great March of Return’ but a people attempting to reclaim their role, and be recognized and heard in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine?

What is largely missing from the discussion on Gaza is the collective psychology behind this kind of mobilization, and why it is essential for hundreds of thousands of besieged people to rediscover their power and understand their true position, not as hapless victims, but as agents of change in their society.

The narrow reading, or the misrepresentation of the March of Return, speaks volumes about the overall underestimation of the role of the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and national liberation, extending for a century.

The story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they are the victims of oppression and the main channel of resistance, starting with the Nakba – the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948. Had Palestinians not resisted, their story would have concluded then, and they, too, would have disappeared.

Those who admonish Palestinian resistance or, like the Post, fail to understand the underlying value of popular movement and sacrifices, have little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance – the sense of collective empowerment and hope which spreads amongst the people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre describes resistance, as it was passionately vindicated by Fanon, as a process through which “a man is re-creating himself.”

For 70 years, Palestinians have embarked on that journey of the re-creation of the self. They have resisted, and their resistance in all of its forms has molded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous divisions that were erected amongst the people.

The March of Return is the latest manifestation of the ongoing Palestinian resistance.

It is obvious that elitist interpretations of Palestine have failed – Oslo proved a worthless exercise in empty clichés, aimed at sustaining American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the Middle East.

But the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 shattered the relative cohesiveness of the Palestinian discourse, thus weakening and dividing the Palestinian people.

In the Israeli Zionist narrative, Palestinians are depicted as drifting lunatics, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress – a description that regularly defined the relationship between every western colonial power and the colonized, resisting natives.

Within some Israeli political and academic circles, Palestinians merely ‘existed’ to be ‘cleansed’, to make room for a different, more deserving people. From the Zionist perspective, the ‘existence’ of the natives is meant to be temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their place,” wrote Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Assigning the roles of dislocated, disinherited and nomadic to the Palestinian people, without consideration for the ethical and political implications of such a perception, has erroneously presented Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective.

Hence, it is imperative that we develop a clearer understanding of the layered meanings behind the Great March of Return. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza did not risk life and limb over the last year simply because they required urgent medicine and food supplies.

Palestinians did so because they understand their centrality in their struggle. Their protests are a collective statement, a cry for justice, an ultimate reclamation of their narrative as a people – still standing, still powerful and still hopeful after 70 years of Nakba, 50 years of military occupation and 12 years of unrelenting siege.

La Rinconada: The Devil’s Paradise

La Rinconada, 5,000 to 5,400m above sea level, corrugated iron shacks, glued to the hills of the surrounding mountains, home to some 50,000 to 70,000 mining inhabitants and competing mafia mobs that control them.  La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, the world’s highest, chaotic, poisonous and illegal goldmines, some 210 km northeast of Puno, a 4-hour drive by car over partially paved, albeit potholed roads. La Rinconada, near the just barely more civilized mining town of Ananea (about 4,700 m above sea level), is also considered one of the most horrific places on earth: a crime gang-run city, spreading through a valley and up the surrounding hills, no running water, no sewerage, no electricity grid. La Rinconada looks and smells like a wide-open garbage dump, infested by a slowly meandering yellowish-brownish mercury-contaminated brew – tailings from illegal goldmining – what used to be a pristine mountain lake.

The thin, oxygen-poor air is loaded with mercury vapor that slowly penetrates people’s lungs, affecting over time the nervous system, memory, body motor, leading often to paralysis and early death. Average life expectancy of a mine worker is 30-35 years, about half of Peruvian’s average life expectancy.

Life has no value. People are killed for carrying a rock that may contain some tiny veins of gold. Bodies are often just thrown on to garbage heaps to rot. Occasionally a body is found and then buried right on the garbage dump. It’s not unusual to find a grave right in the midst of a field of trash.

Human rights do not exist in Rinconada. Child work is common place. And so is child prostitution, women and drug trafficking. Time off is a life of drunkenness and drug deliria. Life is worthless. See also Andre Vltchek’s essay – “Welcome to Hell: The Peruvian Mining City of La Rinconada”.

Small boys are used to work in underground mining galleries, where adults hardly fit. When the galleries collapse and a child – or several – dies – nobody cares. Many are not even identified. Most likely they are not missed. They are children of non-parents, like in non-humans, those that run this hellish mining industry, and those who send their children there to help them make a living. No love, no ethics, no respect for anything but the legendary gold nugget, for greed and necessity. No mercy. That’s La Rinconada.

Miners come “voluntarily”. Nobody forces them. Most are poor and jobless. They come for necessity. Some are just greedy  -– the never-dying ‘Gold Rausch’ attracts them. The dream of getting rich in the goldmine makes them accept the most horrendous working and living conditions: surviving in an open dump-ground of everything, garbage, toxic heavy metals, wading in mercury-polluted tailings, thin air, contaminated by poisonous vapors, no heating, most of the year sub-freezing temperatures –trash and debris everywhere. But the miners don’t complain. Some bring their wives, few bring also their kids. it’s their choice. Some stay ‘temporarily’ only, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years. For some the dream of hitting the riches never dies; they stay until they die. – They know they will be abused, enslaved. They know they can take it or leave it.

Miners work for usually long hours and are working during 29 days for free. On the 30th day they may keep whatever they take out of the ground, amounting on average to about 800 to 1,000 Soles per month (US$250 – $320). Sometimes day 30 brings nothing. Sometimes some rocks with traces of gold. All are hoping for a gold nugget. This type of mining wage is not unique to Peru. Bolivia and other Andean countries that are open to the most environmentally and socially destructive industry – mining – apply similar systems. The illusion to hit it BIG by finding the legendary ‘gold rock’ is a passion; it is obsessive. And if and when a miner does find a treasure to keep, he is vulnerable of being robbed, even killed, body discarded – another miner gone missing. Or not. Just disappeared. Maybe in a garbage dump. They are endless in Rinconada. They reflect the character of Rinconada. Refuse, waste, stench and death.

Nobody cares – or not enough to investigate the death, the missing. It’s the name of the game. Miners come by their free will. They are not coerced. They enslave themselves, in the vane hope to get rich. Instead, they intoxicate themselves from mercury fumes, from a totally poisonous environment, daily exposure to heavy metals. Their nervous system slowly but surely fails them. Memory loss; brain damage, muscular dystrophy, collapsing lungs, paralysis, early death. For many, it’s a dream gone dead. That’s what poverty does; it kills while dreaming of a better world.

Rinconada – mafia rules. Police work in connivance. Murders and assassinations are of the order. Prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse is rampant. Nobody cares. It’s survival of the fittest and often survival succumbs to hardship, misery and yet hope for a better life.

These criminal organizations are all local, meaning from the vicinity, Puno, Juliaca and thereabouts. No foreign mining companies are allowed. They, huge world (in)famous gold and precious metals corporations, are waiting ‘downstream’ to buy the blood-ware, without identity, without origins. So that nobody can trace them to the crime.

Women generally do not work in the mines. Superstition. They bring bad luck. They make the gold veins disappear. They distract the men. The mines are masculine. Only men are allowed to work them. The mountains may get jealous, and who knows what jealousy is capable of doing. Women have other chores: collecting loose rocks that may contain some remnants of gold; they clean, prepare food, mind the household, children, if a family is unwise enough to bring their offspring to this hellhole – and, they are “taking care of the men”, in more ways than one.

La Rinconada – one of the most horrible places on earth. Hardly known to the rest of the world. Most people in Lima, the capital of Peru, have no idea that Rinconada exists, and if they have heard the name, they associate it with a lush country club in the elite district of “La Molina” of Lima. They don’t know what it also stands for – The Devil’s Paradise.

What Rinconada produces is “blood gold”, akin to blood diamonds, blood emeralds in other parts of the world.

Who buys this gold?

Large corporations. One of them is the Swiss registered Metalor, one of the world’s largest gold foundries. Annually, about 3,000 to 3,500 tons of gold are mined across the globe. Switzerland refines about 70% to 80% of all the gold in the world. An estimated 20% to 30% of it is considered ‘blood gold’ – gold that stems from illicit mining practices, child labor, environmental and social destructions, land theft, corruption – like from Rinconada.

As of now, Switzerland, the host of the globe’s largest mining corporations and gold foundries does not want to know the origin of the gold – possibly the environmentally and socially most destructive precious metal. Switzerland does not impose a code of ethics on the corporations that enjoy the Swiss tax-haven. The Swiss Government pretends that these mining corporations have their own codes of conduct, and the Swiss authorities trust that they adhere to their own standards of ethics. What an easy way out!

When challenged with evidence to the contrary; i.e., Rinconada, or Espinar (also Peru), where Glencore beats up defenseless indigenous women, because they attempt to protect their properties and water from Glencore’s illegal confiscation with the corrupt help of the local Peruvian authorities – the Swiss authorities close their eyes to open crimes of their corporations and if pressed, they simply say, “if we are too harsh with them, they will leave Switzerland” and  “if they are doing something illegal, they are responsible to their host country”, apparently ignoring that corruption buys everything in most of these “host countries”.

That’s the level of ethics one of the richest and reputedly most noble countries of the universe applies to keep her corporations happy. Naturally, Switzerland is also the only OECD member that allows her parliamentarians to sit in as many corporate Boards of Directors as they wish. Imagine!  A totally legalized conflict of interest. And nobody says ‘beep’. The Swiss populace just accepts this blunt aberration. Most of them don’t even know it exists. They live comfortably and well, and don’t care much about Human Rights abusing corporations, and less so that their Parliament is a humongous built-in corporate and banking lobby. In this environment of white-collar illicit behavior, corporations like Metalor and Glencore flourish.

A recently launched people’s referendum propagating ‘Responsible Mining’, was undermined in the Swiss Parliament by the ‘built-in’ mining lobby. It is common practice that Parliament, as well as the Swiss Executive, give their votum before the public vote on a referendum, another unfair practice, as it influences the voters’ final decision.

In the meantime, the Government of Peru accuses the Swiss foundry Metalor of financing and buying tons of gold from suspicious sources in Peru, meaning illicit gold – or ‘blood gold’. Metalor is also investigated for participating in organized crime and money laundering from illicit gold deals (Ojo Público, Peru, 14 March 2019):

“The Metalor Group was the exclusive importer of gold from illegal mining, sold or shipped by Minerales del Sur SRL (Minersur) in the period from 2001 to 2018 in the amount of more than US$ 3.5 billion. Metalor is headquartered in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland.”

Metalor is also being investigated for financing Minersur’s purchasing and sales transactions of gold from illegal sources. One of these illegal sources is La Rinconada. Other illegal sources stem from gold-digging in Peru’s Madre de Dios Amazon Region, where thousands of hectares of rainforest are being raided and devastated by mafia-type organizations, similar to the ones in Rinconada. Metalor denies the accusation, saying they only deal with reputable mining corporations. The case is wide open and the stench of illegality that has been permeating Metalor for many years is as sickening as Rinconada itself.

What is it about gold that makes it destroy the environment, precious fresh water resources, the human spirit, sowing conflict among entire societies, abolishing their social fabric and bringing death to countless millions for centuries in exploited and abused regions of the globe? The real industrial value of gold is only about 15% to 20% of its speculative market value. But the gold fever is such that banks invented ‘paper gold’, meaning that Mr. and Mrs. Anybody can buy gold without ever seeing the gold bar. The bank simply issues a certificate, an IOU for a certain amount of gold which, in theory, could be exchanged for the real thing at any time Madame Anybody would like to keep her gold bar in her personal household vault. Not so easy. There is more than 100 times more paper gold floating around than real gold is available on the market. If everybody would like to exchange their paper gold into real gold, the banking system would collapse, or would just simply fail to deliver.

Case in point was Germany. By tradition Germany had about 1,200 tons of gold, worth about US$ 50 billion, deposited in the FED in New York. In 2013, when the Germans awareness that their gold is being stored outside of German borders resulted in a public outcry, the Bundesbank wanted to withdraw and repatriate all of their foreign stored gold by 2020, but the FED said no, they could not deliver. The gold was simply not available. Was the FED using the German gold and the gold of so many other countries deposited in the FED’s treasuries for speculation – rent seeking with somebody else’s assets?

Blood and crime are intimately linked to gold, it seems. Our western monetary system was for a long time backed by gold. Today, western moneys are fiat money, not even backed by gold, just hot air. But the Russian ruble and the Chinese yuan are backed by gold, as well as by their respective economies.  Who knows? As a last-ditch effort to save the US-dollar and the western fiat money pyramid from collapsing, the west may again revert to some kind of gold standard, a man-made folly, when, in fact, the only real value reflected in a county’s monetary system is its economy.

Back to La Rinconada, Metalor and Switzerland, home of more than two thirds of the world’s gold refining, how much of the reserve gold in the coffers of countries around the world is “blood gold”?  How many people, children and eventually entire generations have to live in misery, their health degenerating from exposure to heavy metals and eventually leading to early and painful death, until human consciousness is able to stop the gold craze? Closing down hellholes like Rinconada and Madre de Dios mafia-run, all-destructive gold mines?  And hundreds more of similarly devastating type mines around the world. Perhaps when the value of gold becomes what it ought to be — its industrial value, and nothing more and nothing less — humanity becomes richer by the values of human decency and respect for each other.

La Rinconada: The Devil’s Paradise

La Rinconada, 5,000 to 5,400m above sea level, corrugated iron shacks, glued to the hills of the surrounding mountains, home to some 50,000 to 70,000 mining inhabitants and competing mafia mobs that control them.  La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, the world’s highest, chaotic, poisonous and illegal goldmines, some 210 km northeast of Puno, a 4-hour drive by car over partially paved, albeit potholed roads. La Rinconada, near the just barely more civilized mining town of Ananea (about 4,700 m above sea level), is also considered one of the most horrific places on earth: a crime gang-run city, spreading through a valley and up the surrounding hills, no running water, no sewerage, no electricity grid. La Rinconada looks and smells like a wide-open garbage dump, infested by a slowly meandering yellowish-brownish mercury-contaminated brew – tailings from illegal goldmining – what used to be a pristine mountain lake.

The thin, oxygen-poor air is loaded with mercury vapor that slowly penetrates people’s lungs, affecting over time the nervous system, memory, body motor, leading often to paralysis and early death. Average life expectancy of a mine worker is 30-35 years, about half of Peruvian’s average life expectancy.

Life has no value. People are killed for carrying a rock that may contain some tiny veins of gold. Bodies are often just thrown on to garbage heaps to rot. Occasionally a body is found and then buried right on the garbage dump. It’s not unusual to find a grave right in the midst of a field of trash.

Human rights do not exist in Rinconada. Child work is common place. And so is child prostitution, women and drug trafficking. Time off is a life of drunkenness and drug deliria. Life is worthless. See also Andre Vltchek’s essay – “Welcome to Hell: The Peruvian Mining City of La Rinconada”.

Small boys are used to work in underground mining galleries, where adults hardly fit. When the galleries collapse and a child – or several – dies – nobody cares. Many are not even identified. Most likely they are not missed. They are children of non-parents, like in non-humans, those that run this hellish mining industry, and those who send their children there to help them make a living. No love, no ethics, no respect for anything but the legendary gold nugget, for greed and necessity. No mercy. That’s La Rinconada.

Miners come “voluntarily”. Nobody forces them. Most are poor and jobless. They come for necessity. Some are just greedy  -– the never-dying ‘Gold Rausch’ attracts them. The dream of getting rich in the goldmine makes them accept the most horrendous working and living conditions: surviving in an open dump-ground of everything, garbage, toxic heavy metals, wading in mercury-polluted tailings, thin air, contaminated by poisonous vapors, no heating, most of the year sub-freezing temperatures –trash and debris everywhere. But the miners don’t complain. Some bring their wives, few bring also their kids. it’s their choice. Some stay ‘temporarily’ only, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years. For some the dream of hitting the riches never dies; they stay until they die. – They know they will be abused, enslaved. They know they can take it or leave it.

Miners work for usually long hours and are working during 29 days for free. On the 30th day they may keep whatever they take out of the ground, amounting on average to about 800 to 1,000 Soles per month (US$250 – $320). Sometimes day 30 brings nothing. Sometimes some rocks with traces of gold. All are hoping for a gold nugget. This type of mining wage is not unique to Peru. Bolivia and other Andean countries that are open to the most environmentally and socially destructive industry – mining – apply similar systems. The illusion to hit it BIG by finding the legendary ‘gold rock’ is a passion; it is obsessive. And if and when a miner does find a treasure to keep, he is vulnerable of being robbed, even killed, body discarded – another miner gone missing. Or not. Just disappeared. Maybe in a garbage dump. They are endless in Rinconada. They reflect the character of Rinconada. Refuse, waste, stench and death.

Nobody cares – or not enough to investigate the death, the missing. It’s the name of the game. Miners come by their free will. They are not coerced. They enslave themselves, in the vane hope to get rich. Instead, they intoxicate themselves from mercury fumes, from a totally poisonous environment, daily exposure to heavy metals. Their nervous system slowly but surely fails them. Memory loss; brain damage, muscular dystrophy, collapsing lungs, paralysis, early death. For many, it’s a dream gone dead. That’s what poverty does; it kills while dreaming of a better world.

Rinconada – mafia rules. Police work in connivance. Murders and assassinations are of the order. Prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse is rampant. Nobody cares. It’s survival of the fittest and often survival succumbs to hardship, misery and yet hope for a better life.

These criminal organizations are all local, meaning from the vicinity, Puno, Juliaca and thereabouts. No foreign mining companies are allowed. They, huge world (in)famous gold and precious metals corporations, are waiting ‘downstream’ to buy the blood-ware, without identity, without origins. So that nobody can trace them to the crime.

Women generally do not work in the mines. Superstition. They bring bad luck. They make the gold veins disappear. They distract the men. The mines are masculine. Only men are allowed to work them. The mountains may get jealous, and who knows what jealousy is capable of doing. Women have other chores: collecting loose rocks that may contain some remnants of gold; they clean, prepare food, mind the household, children, if a family is unwise enough to bring their offspring to this hellhole – and, they are “taking care of the men”, in more ways than one.

La Rinconada – one of the most horrible places on earth. Hardly known to the rest of the world. Most people in Lima, the capital of Peru, have no idea that Rinconada exists, and if they have heard the name, they associate it with a lush country club in the elite district of “La Molina” of Lima. They don’t know what it also stands for – The Devil’s Paradise.

What Rinconada produces is “blood gold”, akin to blood diamonds, blood emeralds in other parts of the world.

Who buys this gold?

Large corporations. One of them is the Swiss registered Metalor, one of the world’s largest gold foundries. Annually, about 3,000 to 3,500 tons of gold are mined across the globe. Switzerland refines about 70% to 80% of all the gold in the world. An estimated 20% to 30% of it is considered ‘blood gold’ – gold that stems from illicit mining practices, child labor, environmental and social destructions, land theft, corruption – like from Rinconada.

As of now, Switzerland, the host of the globe’s largest mining corporations and gold foundries does not want to know the origin of the gold – possibly the environmentally and socially most destructive precious metal. Switzerland does not impose a code of ethics on the corporations that enjoy the Swiss tax-haven. The Swiss Government pretends that these mining corporations have their own codes of conduct, and the Swiss authorities trust that they adhere to their own standards of ethics. What an easy way out!

When challenged with evidence to the contrary; i.e., Rinconada, or Espinar (also Peru), where Glencore beats up defenseless indigenous women, because they attempt to protect their properties and water from Glencore’s illegal confiscation with the corrupt help of the local Peruvian authorities – the Swiss authorities close their eyes to open crimes of their corporations and if pressed, they simply say, “if we are too harsh with them, they will leave Switzerland” and  “if they are doing something illegal, they are responsible to their host country”, apparently ignoring that corruption buys everything in most of these “host countries”.

That’s the level of ethics one of the richest and reputedly most noble countries of the universe applies to keep her corporations happy. Naturally, Switzerland is also the only OECD member that allows her parliamentarians to sit in as many corporate Boards of Directors as they wish. Imagine!  A totally legalized conflict of interest. And nobody says ‘beep’. The Swiss populace just accepts this blunt aberration. Most of them don’t even know it exists. They live comfortably and well, and don’t care much about Human Rights abusing corporations, and less so that their Parliament is a humongous built-in corporate and banking lobby. In this environment of white-collar illicit behavior, corporations like Metalor and Glencore flourish.

A recently launched people’s referendum propagating ‘Responsible Mining’, was undermined in the Swiss Parliament by the ‘built-in’ mining lobby. It is common practice that Parliament, as well as the Swiss Executive, give their votum before the public vote on a referendum, another unfair practice, as it influences the voters’ final decision.

In the meantime, the Government of Peru accuses the Swiss foundry Metalor of financing and buying tons of gold from suspicious sources in Peru, meaning illicit gold – or ‘blood gold’. Metalor is also investigated for participating in organized crime and money laundering from illicit gold deals (Ojo Público, Peru, 14 March 2019):

“The Metalor Group was the exclusive importer of gold from illegal mining, sold or shipped by Minerales del Sur SRL (Minersur) in the period from 2001 to 2018 in the amount of more than US$ 3.5 billion. Metalor is headquartered in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland.”

Metalor is also being investigated for financing Minersur’s purchasing and sales transactions of gold from illegal sources. One of these illegal sources is La Rinconada. Other illegal sources stem from gold-digging in Peru’s Madre de Dios Amazon Region, where thousands of hectares of rainforest are being raided and devastated by mafia-type organizations, similar to the ones in Rinconada. Metalor denies the accusation, saying they only deal with reputable mining corporations. The case is wide open and the stench of illegality that has been permeating Metalor for many years is as sickening as Rinconada itself.

What is it about gold that makes it destroy the environment, precious fresh water resources, the human spirit, sowing conflict among entire societies, abolishing their social fabric and bringing death to countless millions for centuries in exploited and abused regions of the globe? The real industrial value of gold is only about 15% to 20% of its speculative market value. But the gold fever is such that banks invented ‘paper gold’, meaning that Mr. and Mrs. Anybody can buy gold without ever seeing the gold bar. The bank simply issues a certificate, an IOU for a certain amount of gold which, in theory, could be exchanged for the real thing at any time Madame Anybody would like to keep her gold bar in her personal household vault. Not so easy. There is more than 100 times more paper gold floating around than real gold is available on the market. If everybody would like to exchange their paper gold into real gold, the banking system would collapse, or would just simply fail to deliver.

Case in point was Germany. By tradition Germany had about 1,200 tons of gold, worth about US$ 50 billion, deposited in the FED in New York. In 2013, when the Germans awareness that their gold is being stored outside of German borders resulted in a public outcry, the Bundesbank wanted to withdraw and repatriate all of their foreign stored gold by 2020, but the FED said no, they could not deliver. The gold was simply not available. Was the FED using the German gold and the gold of so many other countries deposited in the FED’s treasuries for speculation – rent seeking with somebody else’s assets?

Blood and crime are intimately linked to gold, it seems. Our western monetary system was for a long time backed by gold. Today, western moneys are fiat money, not even backed by gold, just hot air. But the Russian ruble and the Chinese yuan are backed by gold, as well as by their respective economies.  Who knows? As a last-ditch effort to save the US-dollar and the western fiat money pyramid from collapsing, the west may again revert to some kind of gold standard, a man-made folly, when, in fact, the only real value reflected in a county’s monetary system is its economy.

Back to La Rinconada, Metalor and Switzerland, home of more than two thirds of the world’s gold refining, how much of the reserve gold in the coffers of countries around the world is “blood gold”?  How many people, children and eventually entire generations have to live in misery, their health degenerating from exposure to heavy metals and eventually leading to early and painful death, until human consciousness is able to stop the gold craze? Closing down hellholes like Rinconada and Madre de Dios mafia-run, all-destructive gold mines?  And hundreds more of similarly devastating type mines around the world. Perhaps when the value of gold becomes what it ought to be — its industrial value, and nothing more and nothing less — humanity becomes richer by the values of human decency and respect for each other.

Shifting Baselines in a Time of Climate Change, Systems Stagnation, Life and Death in a Time of Amnesia

Both of my parents were assassinated by death squads in our country. My siblings and I fled because we were afraid. We entered the U.S illegally. We crossed the river, and once inside the U.S., we applied for asylum. We were among the very few who were granted asylum. In 1988 I graduated from Bowie and studied at UTEP, receiving a bachelor’s of science.

— Former refugee at a press conference in El Paso, at Annunciation House

I once volunteered at Annunciation House, in El Paso, during the 1980s. I was chipping away at my graduate degree in English, teaching as a TA at UT-El Paso, as well as working freelance writing gigs with both the morning and evening newspapers, teaching one-on-one conversational English to an engineer in Juarez (who was working for Packard Electric getting paid one-tenth the pay as his fellow Yankees), writing a couple of books, and being active in environmental and social justice issues tied to protesting the militarization of the border and the overuse of the Rio Grande as a toxic slough and drawing down of the Hueco Basin aquifer for golf courses. Heck, in El Paso during this time I even worked for Planned Parenthood helping write a media plan against a mean son-of-a-bitch who called himself a Jew for Christ who set upon the clinic (no abortions done there) mean as cuss religious zealots who tried to block women and families from seeking STD services and such.

Ruben Garcia started the House in the late 1970s and by the time I got there, at Casa Anunciación, the dirty wars in Central America were really ramped up against teachers, unionists, activists, politicals on the left, priests, nuns and anyone questioning the right wing policies of US-backed governments and the thug henchmen of those administrations, the death squads in Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador, and the contras in Nicaragua. Part of the fallout created by those US-trained militarists, economists and lawyers who perpetrated that harm against their own people was that many small towns and villages – regular people of the land, la tierra – were being caught in the crossfire.

Entire villages were told in the morning by the fascists to pack up and head out of their pueblitos by sundown. Many girls, women and old ladies were raped and murdered. Beheadings of husbands and grandfathers, fetuses cut out of bellies, and torture of anyone who was suspected of going against Death Squad Capitalism were the order of the day.

As far as media coverage goes: My baseline was different than that of twenty-somethings today. When I was in my mid-twenties, in El Paso and working along the border, there were much more robust forms of journalism and ground-truthing reporting going on than anyone today in their twenties could image.

The baseline was a more open, aggressive Press willing to pull away more of the onion layers to get to the truth. Really, many editors and most of the newspaper journalists had no issue with peering through the looking glass to uncover truth, and their motto was that governments do and will tell lies. Now comparing the number of print newspapers, dailies, and weeklies and monthlies, even magazines and broadsheets, newsletters, and the like that were inking up paper in my time, and then looking at the Press now, going on 38 years of study and my own battles as a writer, anyone young can never really know what has been lost in this impetus of the Press then who were striving for independence, in a good way.

It’s the old saws of not having their own boots on the ground then, not having an authentic real point of view because they never lived and worked then, what is termed liberally by me as the shifting baseline syndrome.

I’m talking about small-town journalism, medium-sized market news, and quirky and unique monthlies. While the so-called liberal media (SCLM) was not liberal at all, what was happening in newsrooms and with editorial boards, for the most part, in the 1970s and Eighties was, compared to today, more nurturing to truth tellers, with a truer sense of why journalism’s ethical code points us to looking at as many sides as possible to weigh in on editorial decision-making. Sort of akin to what a lot of people use as a baseline for liberal (sic) versus conservative, comparing today’s neoliberal democrats, for instance, to someone like Barbara Jordan, or looking at Crypo-AngloZionist Republicans such as Ted Cruz today to so-deemed Rockefeller Republicans of old. When I was born, 1957, the Republican Party’s platform was much more progressive and populist than that of the Pelosi-Schumer Party of the millionaires (or billionaires when looking at proverbial Dem Billionaire Michael Bloomberg). Get a load of this, 62 years ago:

Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and”–and the president says–“their number is negligible and they are stupid.

— Dwight Eisenhower, Republican President

The platform for 1956 under the banner of the Republican Party included fighting for workers, the right to form a union, for health and safety measures at workplaces, for a strengthened eight-hour work, for social welfare programs for individual citizens to be strengthened, and more and more positive programs along the lines of today’s milquetoast progressives. Ike was backed by the Republican Party, and it was Eisenhower who fought to keep the tax rate for the very rich fair, which in today’s baseline would be considered way too high and communist!  For instance, the top income tax bracket in the 1950’s was 91%. And, Eisenhower fought tooth and nail to ensure that it remained at that rate.

Can you imagine Bernie Sanders or Obama or Clinton backing this? Forget the neocons, the professors of the Chicago School of Predatory and Culture-Destroying (brainwashing) Capitalism even wanting any tax rate other than zero percent (0.00 %) for the rich, for the corporations, who are now persons with full rights of person-hood.

How many rich individuals and how many corporations pay no taxes today, and how many have tax shelters (“legit” mafia-style money-laundering outfits) overseas, in Cayman or Panama? We have winks and nods and complete red-faced debates and retorts against the accusation that the rich pay no taxes, or certainly not enough, with bald-faced defenses by tens of millions run-of-the-mill Americans who support their flavor of rich man/rich woman in America.

Imagine, rooting for millionaires and billionaires? By welfare recipients or middle-class soccer moms. What does George Lakoff call it, Narrative Frames? For decades this was considered unAmerican to support the rich over the poor!

That’s one difference I have experienced – when I was a teenager and college puke, most people hated the rich for what they were. Many average working class people looked at rich as sociopaths who were only rich because they exploited the average American citizen. Add to the baseline shift from today versus back then: my bosses at newspapers were not multimillionaires, and many more newspapers by a factor of 5 or 10 in the 1970s and 1980s were independent and competitive, compared to 2019.

Back then, the baseline was that many reporters were vying to get the scoop on real news stories. Truth and facts were a given; anything else rose to the level of pink slip offenses. That robust nature of things back then — even though for the most part, as a socialist and Marxist, I never did fit personally into any paradigm in a newsroom — was things that you’d never see printed today in the few small town newspapers left (there are hardly any left across America, anyway) were vigorously printed in many more newspapers back then. From Salon:

According to University of North Carolina’s research, the country has lost nearly 1,800 local newspapers since 2004, and many more have lost the ability to comprehensively cover their communities.

Rural counties with poorer, older populations are most at risk — 500 rural papers have shuttered since 2004. These communities are also less likely to see a digital start-up help fill the void — as funding for both for- and non-profit models are more available in metro areas, and many rural counties across the U.S. still lack broadband internet access, which is critical for delivering online news.

More than 200 counties in the U.S. have no local paper, but that’s just part of the story, or this new shifted baseline: Local ownership of papers is eroding big time. Get this — nearly one-third of U.S. newspapers and two-thirds of dailies are now owned by 25 companies. GateHouse Media is rapacious, buying up small-town papers. That means the news is controlled by Big Brother Being The Oligarchs, many times edited a thousand miles or more from the towns or counties that are supposedly being covered. Copy-editing and editorial decisions for GateHouse originate in Austin, Texas. It’s the number one small and medium newspaper owner in the USA, and its model of “efficiency” means many fewer reporters and a more insipid and irrelevant TV style content which is also replicated (shared) widely.

Murders, celebrities, food, weather (not global warming) pet tricks, celebrity food, celebrity weather, celebrity pet tricks, celebrity murders idiocy of the umpteenth degree.

I have a case in point: a massive militarized police presence was in Beaverton, Oregon, last April, resulting in closing the main road east-west, locking down schools and the Salvation Army facility I worked at as a social worker. There were civilian-clothed snipers with high powered rifles w/ higher powered scopes all over; dozens of multi-agency personnel out in public with pistols brandished, and two armored vehicles with gun turrets that rammed the offending ex-vet’s big pick-up truck.

He had just been evicted from the Salvation Army’s homeless veterans transition center for suspect reasons. The entire homeless facility was bombarded with SWAT-outfitted police thugs, and no one was allowed to enter or leave the facility, creating high levels of anxiety with already PTSD-addled veterans and their homeless families.

The veteran was shot seven times, after only a few hours of staged hostage negation-like stuff, even though he was alone, pinned in his own pickup truck. The Salvation Army leadership later said it was a coup for them (this bizarre religious organization) – “Thank goodness we controlled the story and very few media outlets picked it up. We want to protect our brand in Oregon . . . as the number one non-profit.”

Now, imagine if there had been one or two beat reporters, like myself in my teens and twenties, vying to find out what really happened and why so much force had been deployed for a suicidal veteran basically isolated in his pick-up who could do no harm to anyone but himself? My baseline would have been news coverage galore, and better yet, follow up coverage.

Today, nothing, not even in the Portland, Oregon media market that serves millions of residents. And this is the Salvation Army, funded by the US taxpayer; i.e., VA paying for beds for those veterans to be housed.

This is the shifting baseline syndrome, which is a sickness tied to outfits like the Salvation Army using PR flaks and using the fact there are no newspapers in Washington County to cover local news and this disturbing show of military force and what the implications of a military operation in their neighborhood might mean in the future. No less, against a veteran who was getting services from a well-known homeless center.

Local news, and then news that has national and international implications, lost. Not covered. In the memory hole!

Shifting baseline syndrome means the public gets shafted and the administrators and gatekeepers of information — PR and marketers and development officers – get to lie through their teeth, or in the case of my police-involved shooting incident (even that term is dripping with propagandist flavor), no one knew the ramifications of the Salvation Army’s unprofessionalism and lack of trauma informed care leading up to the soldier’s eviction and then the suicidal behavior and then the soldier almost killed, and now, recovering in County lock-up jail serving time.  And he’s still suicidal, untreated.

Job well done by the keepers of the information flow. Shifting baseline disease.

Read the three parts of my Salvation Army mess here, II  III.

In the 1980s, I had published pieces in small towns newspapers, and later in the El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post on Central American refugees, on people crossing the border seeking asylum, on groups, both religious and secular, helping undocumented people cross the border and get help once here and to apply for political asylum. Piece published on the front pages of many small town rags I worked for.

My baseline then was we still had morning and evening rags, and weeklies, that debated hard the military’s presence in towns like Tucson or El Paso. Debated hard the debasement of the environment through the unchecked developers razing the desert. Debated hard the values of community health, welfare, safety and well-being over the wants and desires of small and large companies coming into communities and demanding tax abatements, giveaway land schemes, and more-more-more from the public coffers to do their trickster capitalism to make more-more-more for the owners, CEOs and stockholders.

Now Democrats and Republican alike rah-rah cheer trillions in military spending. Job creation and Hollywood America the Greatest masturbation. –

I’m going back to Ike: In his final address to the country, in 1961, while still a five-star general, and still a believer in the American way, in American exceptionalism, in America’s greatness (both sides of the political isle yammer on and on to show their patriotism), he did at least put into check the US military industrial complex:

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.   —source

Now, I have to back up a bit to reset this essay: I continue today — just hitting 62 — to call this myopia and concerted erasure of knowledge and historical context (what Gore Vidal calls the United States of Amnesia) shifting baseline syndrome covering many aspects of my life, the life of America and the implications to the world that the US Empire negatively effects.

I explain this concept daily as I go about living and roaming, learning and teaching, struggling and rejoicing.

Here, illustratively: The baseline for divers like me, in the Sea of Cortes (called the Aquarium of the World by many then), for the 1970s and ’80s:

I was diving daily near San Carlos and Guaymas, out near Tiburon Island from the boat my buddy and I paid $500 from a lake fisherman from Phoenix. So, a typical dive – dozens of turtles of three or four species, dozens of moray eels of a dozen species; pinnipeds like sea lions by the hundreds; long beak and short beak dolphins by the dozens; hammerhead sharks by the dozen; over two hundred species of reef fish, crustaceans, and sponges and soft corals; brown pelicans by the hundreds; pelagic fish and groupers and barracuda and amazing surface fish, nudibranchs; and, well, in one hour dive, more than what any overpaid Avatar CGI technical wonk could create, let alone dream of.

That’s the baseline for an 18-year-old in 1975, me, a wanna be Jacques Cousteau and marine biology college major. Fast forward forty-four years, and the baseline of another Pablo diver, same age, well, now a decimated, overfished, multi-polluted ocean, with hardly a shadow of what I saw on typical dives in the 1970s.

The baseline shifted, and today, the syndrome, in the shifting baseline syndrome/disease analogy, would be the arrogance, historical stupidity, and hubris to believe that a healthy and normal reef dive is what it should be as experienced in 2019. The syndrome and disease of shifting baselines it that it is most likely even smart biologists might be working on staving off further decline in an ecosystem based on the present baseline. What you don’t see now normalizes one to see what they see now as the correct baseline to go by. Wrong.

Now transfer the shifting baseline syndrome/disease to almost every aspect of US society: no, the baseline for police involvement in our lives is not a Gestapo, shoot to kill first force, where we all are in fear, while witnessing pigs murder Latinos and African Americans with impunity. Judge, jury and executioner, no, is not the baseline we should be stuck with or happy with.

Baseline sickness now applied to what it means to be a student – my baseline was a university where faculty had freedom to teach, that more were on the tenure track, where students would be experimenting with ideas and learning, without fear of Goldman Sachs thugs hobbling them for life with $100 K debt or censuring like a Phil Knight of Nike fame or Monsanto do regularly to researchers.

Yes, the baseline in 1975 when I was coming of age was that we COULD protest in the streets without fear of felonies, without being sprayed upon with tear gas and rubber bullets at every event; where cops were in small numbers, and there were no drones and militarized SWAT teams for peace demonstrations.

Baseline was for 1975 one hell of a lot more book readers, more by a power of 10,000 regular thinkers, and more people who had newspapers in their hands and talked about local politics by a power of 1,000,000.

Shifting baseline syndrome is now infecting every sector of our lives, where what is acceptable thinking, behavior, standard operating procedures and collective will NOW are so bastardized, retrograded and devolved that the conversation about anything on any tract – food-medicine-science-arts-law-education-international politics-community standards-health-safety-welfare of the environment-ownership-birth and death-cradle to cradle planning — is an effort in alien talk, as if people today are from a completely new set of gravitaional laws.

Idiots call this the “new normal,” another shifting baseline of not only bastardizing language but Orwellizing it. War is Peace, Lies are Truth, Stupidity is Smarts. New normal!

Now, back to “we all are illegal aliens,” where I helped push that bumper sticker in El Paso as a solidarity protest meme, to illustrate that no American First Nations leaders came together to endorse the free passage of all those whites to use their great Turtle Island as a haul-out like a bunch of molting fur seals.

Here, my writing, 13 years ago, for Dissident Voice, just below. Talk about no shifting baseline for me, or in the case of this hatred of Mexicans and Central Americans, displayed by more than just Trump and his ilk.

Oh, once you hit 50 or 60, the ramifications of this French doozy really sink in:

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose — the more things change the more they stay the same –

It hearkens to the proverb, “Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.”

Related image

What is the Empire’s status quo when it comes to people displaced by American Empire structural and military and economic and environmental violence? April 7, 2006:

See the source image

This Land is Their Land, and We Are the Illegal Aliens

By Paul. K Haeder, April 7, 2006

We are all illegal aliens.” It’s a bumper sticker many of us on the frontlines of the fight against the United States’ government’s assault on Central Americans plastered on our car bumpers down El Paso way.

That was in the 1980s.

Image result for childrens drawings of murders in Central America by death squads

You know, when Reagan was running amok ordering his captains Ollie North, McFarland, Casper Weinberger, the whole lot of them, to send bombs, CIA-torture manuals and US agents in order to aid terrorist contras and other despotic sorts in killing hundreds of thousands of innocents in civil wars in Salvador and Guatemala and El Salvador.

We worked with women and children who had witnessed fathers, uncles and husbands eviscerated by US-backed military monsters.

Victims of torture, in Texas illegally. You know, what those brave Smith and Wesson-brandishing, chaise lounge Minutemen of today would call aliens.

We worked with people in faith-based communities, mainstream churches, and non-profits throughout El Paso, Juarez and the general area known as La Frontera. Everyone I met working with in this refugee assistance stint had humanitarian blood coursing through their veins. We were proud of our law-breaking work — we gave refuge to terrorized and sometimes half-dead civilians.

We were called lawbreakers by the Reaganites and the Minutemen of that time. Communists. Pinko-fags. Those were the good old days of low-tech surveillance and simple FBI lists.

But what we did was human and humane, in the tradition of that very universal (with roots in Quakerism) belief in bearing witness and acting upon that which has been judged as unjust and inhumane.

Of course, we were up against the laws of this land and coarse politically-driven judges who denied victim after victim permanent or temporary status while seeking asylum in the US.

We have so many stories of people sent back who were at best imprisoned, and in the worse cases, mutilated, disappeared, and murdered.

Guatemalan and Salvadorans, that is. My readers may not want to hear the narratives and visualize the descriptions of photos of those victims of torture. Ghastly things happened to teachers, nuns, medical workers and farmers, more heinous than what we’ve heard happened in the cells of Abu Ghraib.

We were there to assist, but more importantly to bear witness to our country’s terror campaign. Some of us got so riled up that later in our lives — me included — we hoofed it to Central America. Kicked around. Wrote articles for the few newspapers in this country that even cared about poor, misbegotten, displaced people of Latin America.

But no matter how hard-nosed we became, or how much we could withstand the photographs of women’s sliced backs and beheaded fetuses, we couldn’t shake the images of the children of torture at this two-story refugee house, Annunciation House. It was full of scruffy-looking East Coast volunteers who had hooked up with Ruben Garcia, the House’s director, through Catholic services organizations. It was their stint with public service, their spiritual duty calling. Part of their degree plans. But most were converted and slammed hard intellectually and spiritually by the violence their charges had suffered under in our name – as US citizens paying taxes.

Those PTSD-induced cartoons those children drew sucked the air out of even the hard-ass border patrol guys who used to “dump” the Central Americans at Ruben’s door at all hours of the night. Who can believe it now, that once upon a time official INS and border patrol officers knowingly let their perps go — knew that Ruben and his volunteers could salve emotional and physical wounds of these tortured crossers.

Their chance at freedom. Except for the piss-ant judges. And the memories of pregnant aunties being raped, their fetuses cut out alive, speared, and the laughing Reagan-loved military punks in the highlands and jungle.

Annunciation House was bulging at 100 people — disheveled lives jammed in. Beans always cooking. Songs. Mattresses and piles of donated clothes. Guitars strumming. Gueros, the white ones, and the Chicanos would help with in-takes — asylum transcripts, translation, dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s. Help with getting jobs. Odd jobs in the community. Help with making sure the refugees didn’t get caught again.

But it was always those by-the-letter-of-the-law jurists helping to confound the torture. More than 70 percent of our brothers and sisters seeking asylum in the US were denied entry by some fat cat, many times cocaine-sniffing immigration judge who usually had a friend in the back pocket of some Bush or buddy of Bush somewhere.

Then it was trying to get the denied victims off to Canada without being caught. You remember, the Canada back then which used to open its borders to refugees, [the Canada of shifting baseline syndrome].

The judges and politicians and Minutemen all professed, “Send them back. Those aliens broke our immigration laws.”

But “we are all illegal aliens” as a rejoinder went much farther than USA’s mayhem in Mesoamerica. We worked in solidarity with the housekeepers, bricklayers, agricultural workers and so many other worthy Mexicans who worked their butts off in the US for little pay and much less respect.

These were workers who crossed the Rio Grande to find low-paying jobs with American families and businesses — working for mayors, bigwigs, even on government contracts. In Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, elsewhere. With a wink and a smile by the American exploiters.

Mojado — wetback. Squatter. Beaner. Illegal alien. These were the more tame epithets.

But let’s not kid ourselves about the genesis of this new round of empowered Latinos fighting against racist laws put forward by the dispassionate conservatives running the ship of fools in DC.

This is not a country of legal immigrants. It’s a country based on colonialists, undocumented white people who helped displace native tribes through broken laws and genocide.

It’s a country based on illegal occupation of native lands and on Mexico’s lands, pure and simple. Colonialists protected by Federal laws that deemed free white people as the only ones who had the right to be fully-fledged citizens.

Manifest Destiny was a violent racist act to seize lands illegally.

Everything this country’s current anti-Mexican and pro-Apartheid border war proponents stand upon — all that doctrine and those so-called laws — is based on illegally seizing lands of Native tribes.

And worse — laws that “removed” natives. Laws that starved natives. Laws that approved of eradicating native families, entire tribes.

The current massive turnout of students and workers alike in this country’s major cities is a testament to these Americans’ backbone to fight this new exclusionary law — HR4377 — a Washington, DC-inspired racist act that has its roots in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Many Americans do express a certain humanity and dignity for the people many deem aliens, but it’s not awe-inspiring that some citizens of Copenhagen, Denmark or Limerick, Ireland, disobey the so-called immigration laws of this country during their initial years as landed immigrants.

Let’s make no bones about the motives of Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of this racist House bill: He sees those brown-skinned south-of-the-border lettuce pickers, linen washers, house framers, and their US-born children as, what? “Alien gang members terrorizing communities.”

Anyone spouting that we are a nation of immigrants and laws has a disease, what George Orwell called the illness of double-think.

And until those many white Americans stop spewing that this is their land, a land of their laws, and a land made for Christians, the racist Minutemen will ramp up their gun brandishing on the southern and northern borders. And racist politicians will continue to play on the fears of uniformed constituents and try to pass the 21st Century’s racist exclusionary laws.

I wonder what these modern-day Nazis would say about those children’s cartoons — images of bodies floating in rivers. Blood-soaked church walls. Military men with their M-16s trained on men while others are sketched in their rape hunch. Beautiful jungle birds flying in the sky next to US-paid-for helicopter gunships spraying the corn and coffee fields below. Dead mommies cradling dead babies.

Yeah, I’m an illegal alien. We all are illegal aliens, under the laws of these creeps in high office. Humanity and caring and simple benedictions for suffering so much, those are alien traits only held by a minority in this country of exclusion, and slavery. Yeah, those creeps on hate-radio and in the newspaper columns and on Capitol Hill, sure, they recognize all of us who see the lies and fight the injustice as aliens.

And the children whose post-traumatic cartoons brought tears to men and women, some who had “fought” in Vietnam. Simple Crayola colorings brought tears to a county sheriff who had survived drug runners shooting up his town and unearthed bodies.

Yeah, we are all illegal aliens. Except them.

Paul Haeder worked in Central America and Mexico writing for newspapers during the 1980s and early 1990s. He’s currently in Spokane, Washington, as an instructor of writing at Spokane Falls Community College and writes sustainability-energy-environmental pieces for the towns weekly, Pacific Northwest Inlander.

 

All Ways of Family Building are NOT Equal and do Not Protect Child’s Rights

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

— Nelson Mandela, Launch of the Nelson Mandela Children Fund, Mahlamba Ndlopfu Pretoria South Africa, May 8, 1995

Is having a baby that results from a loving relationship the same as having a baby being created via a business transaction?

Are a husband and wife with two kids a house and a dog, a single career woman who decides to be inseminated because time is running out for her to be a mother, a family who decides to foster one or more special needs children, and a gay couple who have a child via surrogacy all equal?  Do all of these ways of family building put the needs of the child(ren) before the desires of the adults and are primarily in the child’s best interest? Are all equally accessible to people of all income levels? Is financial means, which allows for multiple options in both controlling reproduction and family building, a good litmus test for parenthood?  Most importantly, do all “family building” options protect the rights of children?

Surrogate

Andy Cohen is the executive producer and host of the Bravo nightly series Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Bravo’s late night, interactive talk show, and hosts a two-hour live show with co-host John Hill twice a week. He is executive producer of the Real Housewives franchise, host of the television dating show, Love Connection, and a New York Times best-selling author.

When Cohen, fifty, single, and worth an estimated $15 million dollars, recently publicly announced that he was about to become the father of a child being born to a surrogate, the announcement was met with cheers of joy and accolades in the Hollywood community and the public.

Why?  Why is his renting of woman’s body, buying the reproductive services, cheered?  Why does anyone celebrate hiring a woman to act as a human incubator?  Utilizing the services of prostitutes, even where legal, is not publicly announced, cheered, or celebrated.  If one can afford it and enjoys it, why do we not share their pleasure in paying to have a brief intimate relationship and be happy for them?  Why does society condemn one and applaud the other? Yes, it is the impending fatherhood that is being celebrated, but does becoming a father make it so very different and justify the means? Where is the concern of those cheering him on for a child brought into the world to be raised by a man old enough to be his or her grandfather? Does his wealth make that OK, too?

Why has having a baby by any means become socially acceptable and a source of pride and joy? Please stop and think about this before having a knee jerk reaction. Andy Cohen is not adopting a child languishing in an orphanage in order to fulfill his desire to be a single dad. He is creating a human being from purchased gametes and having it gestated in a rented womb. The child will be motherless and live out his or her life knowing only half of its genetic medical history.  Why celebrate that? Because it is his choice?

Why celebrate choice when creating a human being who has no choice in the matter? Think about that.  Are children just “accessories” as has been suggested to describe celebrity adoptions?

There was a long time in our social history when having a child while single was a shame. Social workers and religious leaders deemed that children needed a mother and a father.  One experiencing such a socially unacceptable event as being pregnant outside of marriage was scorned, hidden away, and expected to hand the baby over to married strangers rather than subject the child to being raised as an illegitimate bastard.  Those were backward times and it is good that in America we no longer chastise single moms or their offspring.  It’s also good that gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women are, for the most part, no longer subjected to hiding their truth.

But is there such a thing as going too far in our acceptance of differences when it comes to children and family creation?  Is an “everything goes” attitude that allows men, women, single or coupled, of any age to decide from a menu of options which way to create or obtain a child that suits them, good for the children?

Should society prioritize the “rights” of adults longing to be parents over those of children?  Is having a child – by any means – a “right” at all? In fact, despite the pain of infertility and the very real longing to parent, there is no right to have a child. Gay or straight, black, brown, or white, married or single, there is no right to a child via any means. No right to adopt and no right to pay for and use anonymous reproductive technologies. No one “owes” anyone a child and no one is more “deserving” of another’s child by virtue of having more material advantages.

Surrogates

Let me state unequivocally that it matters not one iota to me what Andy Cohen’s sexual preferences are. While I have concerns for the child a single 50-year-old man plans to raise, I would be equally opposed to the use of surrogacy if he were a married man of 50, or a woman of 30. I come at this issue as a human rights activist all of my adult life. I have been part of or supported sit-ins for civil rights, anti-war marches, gay pride parades, Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and immigration reform that recognizes a path to citizenship and provides a safe haven for refuges.

From that position of concern for social justice and equality, I focus first and foremost on the rights of those humans who are THE most vulnerable among us.  More than women, more than people of color, and more than members of the LGBT community – all of whom experience discrimination and special circumstances which make them vulnerable – the most vulnerable humans of all are children. Children of all races and genders from birth until adulthood have zero agency, power, or control of their own. They are helplessly at the behest of adults to care for them and provide for their safety. It is thus that society provides safety nets for children because of their intrinsically vulnerable state. We set age limits on their right to drive and consume alcohol and consent to sexual activity, all to protect them from harm.  Does not society need to likewise cautiously weigh the best interest of children being created to meet the desires of adults eager to “have” one?

Laws do, in fact, limit the ways in which people can obtain children. It’s a crime to steal or kidnap the child of another. Even if a child were found wandering the streets alone, one cannot simply snatch it up and claim ownership or parenthood. Nor is it legal to buy a baby from an expectant mom or mother no matter how overwhelmed or incompetent, neglectful, abusive, or indifferent to her child she may be (though both surrogacy and adoption laws – in many jurisdictions – allow payment of “expenses,” a practice which is far too lax and often only semantically differs from baby buying).

Society also steps in when married couples with children divorce and custody of their children is disputed. When such cases can become contentious to the point where family court judges must rule, every state in America uses the same criterion:  the best interest of the children comes before those of any of the adults who may have selfish or other motivation that is not deemed best for their child(ren).  Indeed, social services, a.k.a. child protective services, can step in and remove children from any parent(s) deemed unfit. (In fact, they are guilty without any trial or ability to prove their innocence.) This is another example of limitations set on an assumed “right” to parent.

Adopters are (theoretically, at least) vetted in an effort to screen out potential abusers who might use that means to acquire victims. But surrogacy by-passes all such home studies allowing only the ability to pay as the sole criterion. There are no gatekeepers to protect the children.  No courts. No social workers involved in a decision like that of Andy Cohen to become a father by paying someone to risk their life being his handmaid.

Handmaids

Adeline A. Allen found that:

Gestational surrogacy, a contractual arrangement between commissioning parents and the woman who carries the baby in pregnancy (the birth mother), is big business. . . Although it is a deep-seated human desire to have a genetic child, the absence of whom can be deeply disappointing and painful, surrogacy contracts inherently dehumanize the birth mother and child.

Klein, R (2017) says that:

Pared down to cold hard facts, surrogacy is the commissioning/buying/renting of a woman into whose womb an embryo is inserted and who thus becomes a ‘breeder’ for a third party.

These concerns are in part why surrogacy – paid or unpaid – is banned or restricted in many countries. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Bulgaria prohibit all forms of surrogacy; while in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Belgium, surrogacy is allowed only when the surrogate mother is unpaid, or only paid for reasonable expenses. Such restrictions are to protect women from being exploited by allowing their bodies to be “rented” and to stop what is akin to ordering and purchasing a baby. Bioethicists and feminists argue that it’s unethical to build businesses that rely on women’s reproductive capacities as breeders. Such bioethicists believe that “selling pregnancy as a service is untenable because it puts a price on human body parts and life. Commercial surrogacy, they note, results in the devaluation of women and children and the eventual degradation of society.”

Stop Surrogacy Now, an organization opposing surrogacy goes further stating:

Surrogacy often depends on the exploitation of poorer women as brood mares. In many cases, it is the poor who have to sell and the rich who can afford to buy. These unequal transactions result in consent that is under informed if not uninformed, low payment, coercion, poor health care, and severe risks to the short- and long-term health of women who carry surrogate pregnancies.

New Beginnings Surrogacy Services LLC , a surrogacy business that matches paying clients with women willing to be paid to provide them with a child, recognizes that:

Pregnancy and child-bearing are emotionally fraught topics. When the process takes place between two individuals privately, much is at stake. Add another individual to the mix as a surrogate carrier, the situation is exponentially complicated. Because of these tangled issues the United States is quickly becoming one of very few countries allowing surrogate pregnancies.

Wombs are not simply interchangeable. Vivette Glover, MA, PhD, DSc, (2011), for instance, discovered that:

The importance of development during the fetal period is well established with regards to the association between the baby’s growth in the womb, and later vulnerability to physical disorders such as cardiovascular disease and other aspects of metabolic syndrome. It is now becoming clear that environmental effects on fetal development are important with respect to emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes too. Animal studies have shown that stress during pregnancy can have long lasting effects on the neurodevelopment of the offspring.

The effects of maternal stress during pregnancy have long been extensively studied and recognized. Commercial surrogates are carefully screened to accept that the child they are carrying is not theirs. Surrogates and expectant mothers matched in private adoption are counselled to not think of the baby they are carrying as theirs, creating a huge stress on the physiology of pregnancy, especially for the neonate who has not signed nor consented to any contract and does not understand but suffers from the withdrawal of emotional attachment.

This dichotomy between the physiological hormonal reaction to the pregnancy for mother and fetus and the mother’s attempt to do what she has been told to do create a major and stressful conflict. Body and mind are in battle creating many stressful hormones.

Infant brain

The one-sided legal contract that binds surrogates to conditions such as having to abort under certain circumstances, does not take into account that both the host mother and newborn suffer separation trauma. The pregnant woman’s body produces hormones that create bonding and milk that will go unused.  The fetus becomes accustomed to the sounds, smells, heartbeat, and rhythm of the womb in which he grows and then experiences separation trauma.

The lifelong harm of newborn separation trauma is well documented.

It takes about 45 minutes for an infant separated from her mother to go into shock. [Primal Wound rage at the separation]. After rage comes despair then shock. This helplessness turns to hopelessness and a belief that the world is not safe. One cannot trust. Defenses against any future reoccurrence of these traumas [possible abandonment] are being put into place, many of which are almost impossible to eradicate from the psychological/neurological system.1

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, notes an awareness of “the profound impact of maternal separation on the infant” and adds that: “We knew that this was stressful, but the current study suggests that this is major physiologic stressor for the infant.”2

Dr. Sunderland (2015) explains that if separated, the infant has no language to ask why, express loss-abandonment, and goes on to explain that adolescents and teens who experience early relational (pre-language) separation are “way overrepresented” in counseling.

Catherine M. Lynch PhD, JD notes:

Minutes after birth, a baby can pick out his or her mother’s face – which he has never seen – from a gallery of photos… Their cries of pain are authentic. Babies react to the voices of their mother immediately after birth in a way they do not to the nurses present. Babies turn their heads and wriggle toward the mother’s breast following the scent of their mother’s milk. The baby has in no way, emotionally nor psychologically, separated from this mother: to the baby the mother is still “part of the Self, that core-being or essence of oneself which makes one feel whole.

Lynch also reports:

We assert that in the short term after birth, the loss of the birthing mother is suffered as a trauma: that babies are not psychologically nor emotionally separate from the mother, nor are they ready to separate physically from their mother. We testify that this premature maternal separation trauma’ is experienced as a profound loss of self as the baby instinctively sees their mother after labour, to see the nipple and suckle but instead experiences the mother, that part of the baby’s sense of itself as vanished, and felt as a kind of death.

We testify that this foundational profound experience of loss has long-term effects: in fact, life-long effects because the loss has occurred before long-term conscious memory has formed to help process the experience.

In addition, surrogacy, such as that employed by Andy Cohen, involves more than “just” purchasing the services of a “carrier” woman’s womb for nine months. It involves purchasing eggs. Both of these transactions pay people to risk their health and their lives in order to produce children with unknown genetic medical history, thus risking the lives of the children who have no say in any of it. Some amount of harm can be reduced by allowing the child to have a relationship with or at least know his or her surrogate mother. Allowing surrogacy ignores this documented damage.

Children born as a result of any anonymous third-party reproductive technology such as purchased egg or sperm are intentionally created orphans without any way to find their biological kin. Even if DNA can help them unravel their health risks, they are at risk for committing unknowing incest, especially when an infertility clinic services thousands of clients in the same geographic area. After all, one might easily feel an attraction to someone with similar traits or features.

Should a humane society put the rights of helpless youngsters first and foremost before those of any adults? Will we look back on this time in our nation’s history with the same disdain we now view the ostracization of single mothers and members of the LGBT community? Where do children’s rights fall in relation to the rights of all these others?

The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides more rights for children than our U.S. Constitution but the US is the only nation not to have ratified the UNCRC and neither document addresses a right not to be contracted for or created via the sale of their genetic material or the rental of the womb they are gestated in nor a right to know their progenitors and their genetic medical history.

Will we continue down this path and invent artificial wombs, further denying neonates’ needs and creating human commodities?  Are we totally obsessed with capitalism, consumerism, and entitlement of those who can afford to buy whatever they want that we are willing to ignore the harm?  Or will we reverse this path and put the rights of children first and truly become a great and humane nation instead of a nation that caters to those who can afford to buy whatever they want –  even a human child?

  1. Nancy Verrier, Coming Home to Self
  2. Infant separation trauma has neurological effects documented by Allan Schore.