Category Archives: Children/Youth

I’m Still Here, Though My Country’s Gone West

Berlin, Fackelzug zur Gründung der DDR

A mass rally with the Free German Youth that marked the founding of the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet Occupation Zone, October 1949.

A full generation has elapsed since the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed in late 1991. Two years earlier, in 1989, the communist states of Eastern Europe dissolved, with the first salvo fired when Hungary opened its border. On 3 March 1989, Hungary’s last communist prime minister Miklós Németh asked the USSR’s last President Mikhail Gorbachev whether the border to Western Europe could be opened. ‘We have a strict regime on our borders’, Gorbachev told Németh, ‘but we are also becoming more open’. Three months later, on 15 June, Gorbachev told the press in Bonn (West Germany) that the Berlin Wall ‘could disappear when the preconditions, which brought it about, cease to exist’. He did not list the preconditions, but he said, ‘Nothing is permanent under the Moon’. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was knocked down. By October 1990, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) was absorbed into a unified Germany dominated by West Germany.

As part of the unification, the structures of the DDR had to be demolished. Headed by the Social Democratic politician Detlev Rohwedder, the new rulers created the Treuhandanstalt (‘Trust Agency’) to privatise 8,500 public enterprises that employed over 4 million workers. ‘Privatise quickly, restructure resolutely, and shut down carefully’, Rohwedder said. But before he could do this, Rohwedder was assassinated in April 1991. He was succeeded by the economist Birgit Breuel who told the Washington Post, ‘We can try to explain ourselves to people, but they will never love us. Because whatever we do, it’s hard for people. With every one of the 8,500 enterprises, we either privatise or restructure or close them down. In every case, people lose jobs’. Hundreds of firms that had been public property (Volkseigentum) fell into private hands and millions of people lost their jobs; during this time, 70% of women lost their jobs. The stunning scale of the corruption and cronyism only came out decades later in a German parliamentary inquiry in 2009.

LPG Mansfeld, Solidaritätsbekundung mit Vietnam

Cooperative farmers handing over a flag of solidarity with the motto ‘Solidarity Hastens Victory’ written on it to the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1972.

Not only did the public property of the DDR slip into the pockets of private capital, but the entire history of the project vanished in a haze of anti-communist rhetoric. The only word that remained to define the forty years of DDR history was stasi, the colloquial name for the Ministry for State Security. Nothing else mattered. Neither the de-Nazification of that part of Germany – which was not conducted in the West – nor the impressive gains in terms of housing, health, education, and social life occupy space in the public imagination. There is little mention of the DDR’s contribution to the anti-colonial struggle or to the socialist construction experiments from Vietnam to Tanzania. All this vanished, the earthquake of the reunification swallowing up the achievements of the DDR and leaving behind the ash heap of social despair and amnesia. Little wonder that poll after poll – whether in the 1990s or the 2000s – show that large numbers of people living in the former East Germany look back longingly for the DDR past. This Ostalgie (‘nostalgia’) for the East remains intact, reinforced by the greater unemployment and lower incomes in the eastern over the western part of Germany.

In 1998, the German parliament set up the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, which set the terms for the national appraisal of communist history. The organisation’s mandate was to fund research on the DDR that would portray it as a criminal enterprise rather than a historical project. Fury governed the historical undertaking. The attempt to delegitimise Marxism and Communism in Germany mirrored attempts in other countries in Europe and North America that hastened to snuff out the reappearance of these left ideologies. The ferocity of efforts to rewrite history suggested that they feared its return.

This month, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research partnered with the Internationale Forschungsstelle DDR (IF DDR) to produce the first of a new series, Studies on the DDR. The first study, Risen from the Ruins: The Economic History of Socialism in the German Democratic Republic, goes beneath the anti-communist sludge to unearth, in a reasonable way, the historical development of the forty-year project in the DDR. Based in Berlin, the authors of the text sifted through the archives and memories, interviewing those who helped construct socialism in Germany at different levels of society.

Peter Hacks, a poet of the DDR, said in retrospect, ‘The worst socialism is better than the best capitalism. Socialism, that society that was toppled because it was virtuous (a fault on the world market). That society whose economy respects values other than the accumulation of capital: the rights of its citizens to life, happiness, and health; art and science; utility and the reduction of waste’. For when socialism is involved, Hacks said, it is not economic growth, but ‘the growth of its people that is the actual goal of the economy’. Risen from the Ruins lays out the story of the DDR and its people from the ashes of Germany after the defeat of fascism to the economic pillage of the DDR after 1989.

Leipzig, Straßenschild Lumumbastraße

A monument to Patrice Lumumba built by Leipzig’s Free German Youth; the street was later renamed ‘Lumumba Street’ in a ceremony with Congolese students, 1961.

One of the least known parts of the DDR’s history is its internationalism, wonderfully explored in this study. Three brief extracts make the point:

  1. Solidarity Work. Between 1964 and 1988, sixty friendship brigades of the Free German Youth (the DDR youth mass organisation) were deployed to twenty-seven countries in order to share their knowledge, help with construction, and create training opportunities and conditions for economic self-sufficiency. A number of these projects still exist today, though some have taken on different names, such as the Carlos Marx Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua; the German-Vietnamese Friendship Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam; and the Karl Marx Cement Factory in Cienfuegos, Cuba, to name but a few.
  2. Learning and Exchange Opportunities. Overall, more than 50,000 foreign students successfully completed their education at the universities and colleges of the DDR. The studies were financed by the DDR’s state budget. As a rule, there were no tuition fees, a large number of foreign students received scholarships, and accommodation was provided for them in student halls of residence. In addition to the students, many contract workers came to the DDR from allied states such as Mozambique, Vietnam, and Angola as well as from Poland and Hungary seeking job training and work in production. Right until the end, foreign workers remained a priority, with contract workers growing from 24,000 to 94,000 (1981-1989). In 1989, all foreigners in the DDR received full municipal voting rights and began to nominate candidates themselves.
  3. Political Support. While the West was slandering Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) as terrorists and ‘racists’ and conducting business with the apartheid regime in South Africa – even providing arms shipments – the DDR supported the ANC, provided the freedom fighters with military training, printed their publications, and cared for its wounded. After black students in the township of Soweto launched an uprising against the apartheid regime on 16 June 1976, the DDR began to commemorate international Soweto Day as a sign of solidarity with the South African people and their struggle. Solidarity was even extended to those in the belly of the beast: when Angela Davis was tried as a terrorist in the United States, a DDR correspondent presented her with flowers for Women’s Day and students led the One Million Roses for Angela Davis campaign, during which they delivered truckloads of cards with hand-painted roses to her in prison.

The memory of this solidarity no longer remains either in Germany or in South Africa. Without the material support provided by the DDR, the USSR, and Cuba, it is unlikely that national liberation in South Africa would have come when it did. Cuban military support for the national liberation fighters at the 1987 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was crucial for this defeat of the South African apartheid army, leading eventually to the collapse of the apartheid project in 1994.

Berlin, 10. Weltfestspiel, Demonstration, Ehrentribüne

The Free German Youth, a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, hosted the Tenth World Festival of Youth and Students in Berlin, 1973.

Organisations such as the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany (Berlin) and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (Washington, United States) exist not only to denigrate the communist past and to malign communism, but also to make sure that communist projects in the present carry the penalty of their caricatures. To advance a left project in our time – which is imperative – is made much more difficult if it must carry the albatross of anti-communist fabrications on its back. That is the reason why this project, led by IF DDR, is so important. It is not merely an argument about the DDR; it is also, at its core, a broader argument about the possibilities opened by experiments to create a socialist society and the material improvements they create, and have created, in the lives of the people.

Socialism does not emerge fully fledged nor perfectly formed. A socialist project inherits all the limitations of the past. It takes effort and patience to transform a country, with its rigidities and class hierarchies, into a socialist society. The DDR lasted for a mere forty years, half the life expectancy of the average German citizen. In its aftermath, the adversaries of socialism exaggerated all its problems to eclipse its achievements.

Volker Braun, an East German poet, wrote an elegy to his forgotten country in October 1989 called Das Eigentum or Property.

I’m still here: my country has gone West.
PEACE FOR THE PALACES AND WAR ON THE SHACKS.
I myself have given my country the boot.

What little virtue it possessed burns in the fire.
Winter is followed by a summer of desire.

I might as well get lost, who cares what’s next
And no one will ever again decipher my texts.

What I never possessed, from me was taken.
I will eternally long for what I didn’t partake in.

Hope appeared on the path like a trap
You grope and grab at the property I had.

When will I say mine again and mean we and ours.

Our quest here is not to reverse direction and exaggerate all the achievements while hiding the problems. The past is a resource to understand the complexities of social development so that lessons can be learnt about what went wrong and what went right. The IF DDR project, in collaboration with Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, is invested in this kind of archaeology to dig amongst the bones to discover how to improve the way we humans stretch our spines and stand upright with dignity.

The post I’m Still Here, Though My Country’s Gone West first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Hunting in Yemen

Iman Saleh fasting in Washington D.C. to protest the blockade and war against Yemen (Photo Credit: Detriot Free Press)

“It’s not normal for people to live like this,” says Iman Saleh, now on her twelfth day of a hunger strike demanding an end to war in Yemen.

Since March 29th, in Washington, D.C., Iman Saleh, age 26, has been on a hunger strike to demand an end to the war in Yemen. She is joined by five others from her  group, The Yemeni Liberation Movement. The hunger strikers point out that enforcement of the Saudi Coalition led blockade relies substantially on U.S. weaponry.

Saleh decries the prevention of fuel from entering a key port in Yemen’s northern region.

“When people think of famine, they wouldn’t consider fuel as contributing to that, but when you’re blocking fuel from entering the main port of a country, you’re essentially crippling the entire infrastructure,” said Saleh  “You can’t transport food, you can’t power homes, you can’t run hospitals without fuel.”

Saleh worries people have become desensitized to suffering Yemenis face. Through fasting, she herself feels far more sensitive to the fatigue and strain that accompanies hunger. She hopes the fast will help others overcome indifference,  recognize that the conditions Yemenis face are horribly abnormal, and demand governmental policy changes.

According to UNICEF, 2.3 million children under the age of 5 in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021.

“It’s not normal for people to live like this,” says Saleh.

Her words and actions have already touched people taking an online course which began with a focus on Yemen.

As the teacher, I asked students to read about the warring parties in Yemen with a special focus on the complicity of the U.S. and of other countries supplying weapons, training, intelligence, and diplomatic cover to the Saudi-led coalition now convulsing Yemen in devastating war.

Last week, we briefly examined an email exchange between two U.S. generals planning the  January, 2017 night raid by U.S. Navy Seals in the rural Yemeni town of Al Ghayyal. The Special Forces operation sought to capture an alleged AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) leader. General Dunford told General Votel that all the needed approvals were in place. Before signing off, he wrote: “Good hunting.”

The “hunting” went horribly wrong. Hearing the commotion as U.S. forces raided a village home, other villagers ran to assist. They soon disabled the U.S. Navy Seals’ helicopter. One of the Navy Seals, Ryan Owen, was killed during the first minutes of the fighting. In the ensuing battle, the U.S. forces called for air support. U.S. helicopter gunships arrived and U.S. warplanes started indiscriminately firing  missiles into huts. Fahim Mohsen, age 30, huddled in one home along with 12 children and another mother. After a missile tore into their hut, Fahim had to decide whether to remain inside or venture out into the darkness. She chose the latter, holding her infant child and clutching the hand of her five-year old son, Sinan. Sinan says his mother was killed by a bullet shot from the helicopter gunship behind them. Her infant miraculously survived. That night, in Al Ghayyal, ten children under age 10 were killed. Eight-year-old Nawar Al-Awlaki died by bleeding to death after being shot. “She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours,” her grandfather said. “Why kill children?” he asked.

Mwatana, a Yemeni human rights group, found that the raid killed at least 15 civilians and wounded at least five civilians—all children. Interviewees told Mwatana that women and children, the majority of those killed and wounded, had tried to run away and that they had not engaged in fighting.

Mwatana found no credible information suggesting that the 20 civilians killed or wounded were directly participating in hostilities with AQAP or IS-Y. Of the 15 civilians killed, only one was an adult male, and residents said he was too old, at 65, to fight, and in any case had lost his hearing before the raid.

Carolyn Coe, a course participant, read the names of the children killed that night:

Asma al Ameri, 3 months; Aisha al Ameri, 4 years; Halima al Ameri, 5 years; Hussein al Ameri, 5 years; Mursil al Ameri, 6 years; Khadija al Ameri, 7 years; Nawar al Awlaki, 8 years; Ahmed al Dhahab, 11 years; Nasser al Dhahab, 13 years

In response, Coe wrote:

ee cummings writes of Maggie and Milly and Molly and May coming out to play one day. As I read the children’s names, I hear the family connections in their common surnames. I imagine how lively the home must have been with so many young children together. Or maybe instead, the home was surprisingly quiet if the children were very hungry, too weak to even cry. I’m sad that these children cannot realize their unique lives as in the ee cummings poem. Neither Aisha nor Halima, Hussein nor Mursil, none of these children can ever come out again to play.

Dave Maciewski, another course participant, mentioned how history seemed to be repeating itself, remembering his experiences visiting mothers and children in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of tiny children couldn’t survive the lethally punitive US/UN economic sanctions.

While UN agencies struggle to distribute desperately needed supplies of food, medicine and fuel, the UN Security Council continues to enforce a resolution, Resolution 2216, which facilitates the blockade and inhibits negotiation. Jamal Benomar, who was United Nations special envoy for Yemen from 2011-2015,  says that this resolution,  passed in 2015, had been drafted by the Saudis themselves. “Demanding the surrender of the advancing Houthis to a government living in chic hotel-exile in Riyadh was preposterous,” says Benomar, “but irrelevant.”

Waleed Al Hariri heads the New York office of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies and is also a fellow-in-residence at Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute.

“The council demanded the Houthis surrender all territory seized, including Sana’a, fully disarm, and allow President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government to resume its responsibilities,” Al Hariri writes. “In essence, it insisted on surrender. That failed, but the same reasons that allowed the UNSC to make clear, forceful demands in 2015 have kept it from trying anything new in the five years since.”

Does the UNSC realistically expect the Ansarallah (informally called the Houthi) to surrender and disarm after maintaining the upper hand in a prolonged war? The Saudi negotiators say nothing about lifting the crippling blockade. The UN Security Council should scrap Resolution 2216 and work hard to create a resolution relevant to the facts on the ground. The new resolution must insist that survival of Yemeni children who are being starved is the number one priority.

Now, in the seventh year of grotesque war, international diplomatic efforts should heed the young Yemeni-Americans fasting in Washington, D.C. We all have a responsibility to listen for the screams of children gunned down from behind as they flee in the darkness from the rubble of their homes. We all have a responsibility to listen for the gasps of little children breathing their last because starvation causes them to die from asphyxiation. The U.S. is complying with a coalition using starvation and disease to wage war. With 400,000 children’s lives in the balance, with a Yemeni child dying once every 75 seconds, what U.S. interests could possibly justify our further hesitation in insisting the blockade must be lifted? The war must end.

The post Hunting in Yemen first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Human Rights for Children: Saving Children from Covid Measures Abuses  

Background

The Geneva Academy of international Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is a postgraduate joint center located in Geneva, Switzerland. The faculty includes professors from both founding institutions and guest professors from major universities.  The Geneva Academy is affiliated with the University of Geneva.

Dr. Nils Melzer has been the Swiss Human Rights Chair (HR Chair) at the Geneva Academy since March 2016. As HR Chair he develops and promotes the Geneva Academy expertise in HR via policy work, cutting-edge research, expert meetings, the development of partnerships and teaching. Since November 2016, Nils Melzer has also been the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

*****

Dear Dr. Melzer,

As UN special Rapporteur on Torture, your mandate comprises three main activities:

1) transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture;
2) undertaking fact-finding country visits; and,
3) submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

See a full description of mandate here.

Dr. Melzer, your first mandate as Special Rapporteur on Torture is appealing urgently on States and Nations with regard to individuals that are at risk of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This is the case with children, being forced to wearing masks, including in class, physical distancing, home schooling, out of touch with their friends and colleagues, but forced to be repeatedly covid tested in schools with the hurtful RT-PCT test (RT-PCT = reverse transcription of the polymerase chain reaction). A case in point – though not exclusive – is Switzerland, where cantonal authorities are compelling schools to periodically test children from as young as Kindergarten to pre-college level.

Children’s mask wearing (as well as for senior adults) causes chronic headaches and fatigue because blood and brain receive insufficient oxygen which may lead to lasting damage, including memory loss. Children suffer psychological traumas. Depression and suicide rates increase exponentially.

At the same time, children are increasingly being coerced via teachers and community authorities to be vaccinated against Covid-19, even though the mRNA-type “vaccines” almost the only so-called vaccines available in Europe and the US, are not officially considered as “vaccines” by CDC, but “experimental gene therapies”; i.e., primarily the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnsons and Johnson and a number of other GAVI-supported COVAX injections, or so-called vaccines.

These so-called vaccines – or rather gene-therapy experimental inoculations – are known to be dangerous and bear special long-term risks for children.1

Dr. Melzer, this is an Urgent Appeal – to save Human Rights for children around the world from cruel and inhuman covid measures applied to them, including to adolescents and young adults – measures that have nothing but absolutely nothing to do with health protection but everything with oppression towards long-term slavery, and, yes, a systematic and massive-style depopulation.

You recently said correctly and wisely “Sadly, today, torture remains a very real part of situations of conflict and violence”. What many of the 193 UN member governments are forcing their children to go through is a form of torture, especially considering their potential – and likely long-term effects. (See again the report of Doctors for Covid Ethics here.)

You added that you won’t be able to “save the world single-handedly as a Special Rapporteur, …..  that there are hundreds of stakeholders – organizations, NGO’s, UN agencies and individual experts – who have been working on torture issues for decades. [However], a Special Rapporteur’s independence means I can pick up issues that have remained under the radar of the international community, bring them to the table and try to drive cooperation.”

Dr. Melzer, what I described before as cruel and inhuman acts against children, akin to torture, is one of those issues you mentioned. Therefore, my quest today, my Appeal to you as Human Rights Representative, is to please pick up the issue of covid-based Human Rights abuses on the world population, but particularly on children.

What the absurd covid measures do to the world is a crime, but what they are doing to children is beyond a crime; it is totally immoral, destructive for our powerless children, and for the future of these children, as well as for society as a whole as children are our societies’ future. And worse of all, these measures have nothing to do with health protection – but absolutely nothing. They are sheer tyranny to control.

Children behind masks, social distancing, locked down, remote schooling, deprived from meeting, talking and playing with their peers, friends — instead scaring them into losing their personalities, their self-assurance and self-esteem — results not only in a physical health problem, but also a psychological health issue which, over time, has untold, uncountable collateral damage, including total submissiveness for today’s children.

Our children are vulnerable – they are our future.

They need their Human Rights defended.

Dear Dr. Melzer,  please speak up for them at the UN, at UNICEF, in front of the 193 UN member governments, which follow all more or less the same insane covid narrative, the same covid Human Rights abuse, and especially the same Human Rights abuse on children.

Thank you.

  1. See: Doctors for Covid Ethics Rebuttal Letter to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The post Human Rights for Children: Saving Children from Covid Measures Abuses   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Attacks On The Rights Of Transgender People Are Rising; Fight Back

A growing and coordinated attack on the rights of transgender people is taking place through state legislation and sadly it is receiving support from people across the political spectrum. The attack is successful because its proponents are using myths about transgender people to cloak their efforts under a veneer of feminism and concerns about children’s health. In reality, this attack is anti-feminist and threatens the well-being and lives of not only the transgender community, particularly the youth, which is one of the most vulnerable communities in our society, but also of all of us.

It is necessary to understand where this attack is coming from and the facts that dispel these myths so we can all take action to protect the rights of transgender people. The media is largely silent about what is happening. We need to raise awareness and halt these bills. Solidarity is critical to stop the assault and protect us from being divided against each other at a time when we need to struggle together for our People(s)-Centered Human Rights.

This week, I interviewed Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the ACLU who is a national leader in the fight for the rights of transgender people, on Clearing the FOG (available Monday night). We discussed the state bills, the impact they will have if they are made into law and how to stop them.

Anatoliy Cherkasov/SOPA Images/Getty.

A coordinated attack on transgender rights in the states

The number of states that have introduced bills restricting the rights of transgender people has increased from 20 states in 2020 to 26 states so far in 2021. The bills range from those that prevent transgender people from participating in sports, using gender-appropriate facilities or obtaining identification documents to ones that make providing health care to transgender youth a felony and allow religious discrimination. You will find a list of the states, the bills and their current status here.

One bill that is imminent in Alabama would make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine for health professionals who provide hormone therapy, hormone blockers or surgery to transgender youth. The bill also requires school staff to inform parents if a student has the “perception that his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex.” A version of the bill recently passed in both the Alabama House and the Senate. Sixteen other states have introduced similar legislation.

Both of these measures put transgender youth at a serious risk of lifetime harm or suicide if they are not able to receive appropriate medical therapy during puberty or are outed to parents who may not support them. A study from 2018 finds that suicide, the second leading cause of death in teenagers, and self-harm rates are higher in transgender adolescents than cisgender teens. In the Minnesota study of teens aged 11 to 19, nearly a third of transgender girls and more than half of transgender boys had attempted suicide, two-thirds had suicidal thoughts and more than half had injured themselves. The National Center for Transgender Equality finds that of the 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States, 20 to 40% of them are transgender youth while transgender people are less than 1% of the overall population. They face family rejection, denial of access to spaces in homeless shelters that are consistent with their gender and discrimination when they seek to rent or buy a home.

The bills also run counter to standard medical practice. After more than 100 years of work to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender youth and adults, this area of medicine is well-documented and supported by major institutions such as the American Association of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society and the American Psychological Association. At a time when the medical establishment is working to improve care for transgender people in all settings, these state bills would be a huge impediment to that progress.

Another major set of bills currently present in 26 states would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports on the same teams as their cisgender peers. As the ACLU writes, these bills are less about sports and more about “erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life.” The fight to exclude trans people from restrooms that are consistent with their gender failed, so this is the new tool to attack their rights.

Transgender girls and boys and women and men already compete in sports all over the world and their participation is supported by major institutions such as the Women’s Sports Foundation, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education and the National Women’s Law Center. Nearly two dozen organizations signed onto a letter supporting the full inclusion of transgender people in athletics. Depriving transgender youth of the right to participate in sports harms their physical, social and emotional well-being. Transgender youth already face obstacles to being accepted in society and not being allowed into sports worsens that while preventing them from crucial areas of their development such as being part of a team and discovering their physical capabilities.

Creating barriers to participation in sports harms everyone, but especially women who as a group already face discrimination over their gender and attempts to control their bodies. In order to exclude transgender people from sports, all participants will be required to ‘prove’ their gender. As the National Women’s Law Center states, “The law allows anyone, for any reason, to question whether a student athlete is a woman or girl, and then the student has to ‘verify’ her gender by undergoing invasive testing.” They add that by “allowing coaches, administrators, and other athletes to become the arbiters of who ‘looks like’ a girl or a woman,” the  laws “will rely on and perpetuate racist and sexist stereotypes.”

Chase Strangio and Gabriel Arkles dispel four of the common myths about transgender athletes. They point out that the effort to exclude transgender women from sports is being done in a way that “reinforces stereotypes that women are weak and in need of protection. Politicians have used the ‘protection’ trope time and time again, including in 2016 when they tried banning trans people from public restrooms by creating the debunked ‘bathroom predator‘ myth.” These myths are being spread widely, so it is critical that we understand the facts so we can stop them.

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman via Getty Images file.

The groups behind the attacks on the rights of transgender people

There are a host of right-wing and conservative groups behind the attacks on transgender people. The major players involved in the state legislative efforts are the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). The Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative Christian group formed in 1994 that does legal advocacy against women’s right to an abortion and for discrimination against lesbian, gay and transgender people. It is a well-funded ($35 million budget) and powerful group that trains “future legislators, judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other government lawyers.” It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its support for the criminalization of same sex marriage, sterilization of transgender people and bigoted beliefs.

One way that conservative groups have gained credibility with liberals is by portraying their work as in the interest of women’s rights. They project a zero sum view that somehow advocacy for the rights of transgender women takes away from the long struggle for ciswomen’s rights, as if transgender women and men have not struggled for recognition and for their rights for a long time too. They falsely argue that transgender women spent part of their life as ‘privileged’ males and so they either cannot understand what women have experienced or they are bringing patriarchal views into women’s spaces. This view conflicts with the reality that transgender women experience greater discrimination and violence than cisgender women. They are hardly a privileged group. Similarly, they falsely portray transgender men as ‘victims of patriarchy.’

This bigotry has entered some radical feminist spaces that actively exclude transgender woman and portray them as threats to their safety. Left Voice provides a history of the rise of what is called “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” or TERFs,” their violence against transgender women and their alliances with the alt-right. Katelyn Burns explains who some of these groups are and their attempts to dominate political space in the United Kingdom. Fortunately there is not much support for them in the United States, but it does exist.

Trans-exclusionary groups use fear as a weapon against transgender women by portraying them as threats to the physical safety of cisgender girls and women without solid evidence to back this claim. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence finds that around half of transgender and nonbinary people have been sexually assaulted and more than half have experienced domestic partner violence. This is far less than the 18% of cisgender women who are victims of sexual violence. This use of a concocted threat of violence to discriminate against transgender women is similar to that used to justify repression against Muslims, immigrants and Black people.

Penelope Barritt/Rex/Shutterstock.

Building an inclusive society

The increasing attacks on the rights of transgender people in the United States needs to be a concern to all of us. We cannot create an inclusive society that supports the healthy development and rights of all people if we remain silent as the most vulnerable among us are targeted with damaging and deadly discrimination. We cannot teach our children tolerance if they see their friends being prohibited from basic childhood activities such as participation in sports. We cannot deny people the right to determine who they are and to live in ways that support them. Transgender people are our neighbors, our friends and our family members.

Chase Strangio describes five specific ways we can take action to end discrimination against transgender people and to affirm them as members of our communities. There is something for everyone to do no matter where you are. We can all strive to point out and correct bigotry where we see it, work to educate people around us and donate to groups doing this work that are led by transgender people. If you live in a state where these bills are introduced, contact your state lawmaker and let them know of your opposition to them. You can also join local groups to advocate for the rights of transgender people.

Let’s stop the attack on transgender people in the United States before it is allowed to escalate further.

The post Attacks On The Rights Of Transgender People Are Rising; Fight Back first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Our Children are Crying

Children are the world’s most valuable resource, and its best hope for the future.
— John F. Kennedy (“Re: United States Committee for UNICEF, July 25, 1963.”) •

What President Kennedy said over half a century ago, is more valid today than ever. This world needs a generation that can lead us out of the mess of dystopian values that was created predominantly by a western civilization of greed. The covid crisis, man-made, served the destruction of the world economy, as well as the ensuing World Economic Forum (WEF) designed “Great Reset”. If not stopped by our youth and coming generation, Covid cum Great Reset is about to give civilization the final blow.

However, the dark forces of the Global Cabal, the Deep State, has plunged humanity, all 193 UN member states at once, into a global catastrophe of epic proportions. To break that globalist spell and to get out of the disaster still unfolding, the world needs thinking people, courageous people, informed and awakened people; people who are not afraid to swim against the stream, to stem the ever-increasing flow of misinformation and government and media lies. It takes educated people. It takes people who dare to resist.

We are experiencing today just the contrary. The minute global elite that has taken a covid-stranglehold on the world’s 7.8 billion people, is doing everything to keep our children, the generations that are supposed to lead the world and humanity into a bright future, uneducated, scared, socially unfit to communicate, to take initiatives, to lead. Today’s youth is depressed by this constant fear propaganda, by the authorities (sic) rules of confinement, not being able to see their friends, to play with them, communicate with them, to do the healthiest social activities there are – exchanging ideas with peers, acquaintances and friends.

One might think, there is a purpose behind it all. Could it be that this minute diabolical Globalist Cabal, those who are behind “The Great Reset”, co-authored by the WEF’s founder and CEO since the NGO’s creation in 1971, Klaus Schwab, could it be that these people have a plan, namely, to leave the world to a generation of uneducated, fear-indoctrinated people, who are used to and have been trained to follow orders, obey authorities and believe their very leaders’ (sic) lies and fall for their manipulations?

It doesn’t take rocket science to believe that this could, indeed, be part of the Cabal’s demonic plan: breaking our society apart. Leaving behind no natural and new leaders to shape the world according to the real needs of the people, of our children not the imposed “needs” of an egocentric dictatorial cabal.

*****

In a new book (in German), “Generation Mask – Corona: Fear and Challenge” (Generation Maske – Corona: Angst und Herausforderung), the immunologist and toxicologist Professor Stefan W. Hockertz illustrates the plight of our children in this artificially induced age of corona. He asks in particular the question: what does this pandemic – better called plandemic – do with our children and adolescents?

They are being flooded by autocratic measures they do not understand, like being forced to cover their faces by wearing masks in school, it’s like a forced-hiding of their identity from their friends and peers; being obliged to follow strict rules of social distancing – don’t get close to your friend, for the protection of your health, you need a distance to your friend, you can no longer freely communicate, and even if you could, due to the covered face, you could not read your friend’s facial expressions – which is key to any useful conversation, between kids as well as adults.

Our kids in the west are being fear-induced and permanently indoctrinated by radio, TV-broadcasts, by permanently having to listen to “case” figures, infections, hospitalizations and death rates. Never mind, that most of these figures are false or distorted, made even more meaningless by absurdly obsessive testing-testing-testing.

To crown it all off – newspapers and magazines depict pictures of coffins, not one or two, but hundreds, mass graves. They are utterly disturbing for adults, let alone for children. Fear is being weaponized and replaced by more fear, followed by depression, the perspective of no future,  and often and ever more frequently ending in suicide. Children’s, adolescents’ suicides are skyrocketing.

Children who are the least vulnerable to the covid disease are forced into mass-testing, entire communities, by order of the mayor or the governor,  all the way to kindergarten. Testing with hurtful nasal swaps, as often as once or twice a month, and if positive – high percentages of these PCR tests, so far, the only covid test method available in the west – are false positives.

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is a technique used to “amplify” small segments of DNA. If over-amplified, the test results become positive, false positives. Maybe there is a purpose for over-amplifying – increasing the “case figures”, justifying more repression. If one kid tests positive in one of the periodic school tests, the entire class is ordered into quarantine, schooling from home, via computer, Skype, Zoom.

That’s in the wealthy west. What about in the Global South, where not everybody can afford the necessary electronic equipment for “home-schooling”?  There will simply be no schooling, no learning, no interchange with classmates. No education.

Testing is traumatic, especially for young children. It is hurtful and scares a kid on several levels, physically – a swap-stick deep into the upper nose, into the sinus cavities, is hurtful and can be even traumatic for children; and psychologically, what if I’m positive? “All my school mates and teachers have to stay home because of me”; or “I could infect my parents and frail grand-parents”. Guilt is everywhere. Guilt is like fear. It makes people pliable, manipulable – takes all initiative and enthusiasm for life away.

For many kids this continuous repression makes them aggressive, frustrated and eventually so depressed, that many see no way out as they see no future in their lives. They are crying from despair, crying from fear, crying from isolation, crying for not being able to congregate with their friends, classmates and peers, and crying for seeing no way out.

What is being done to our children is inhuman. The unilateral, viciously applied repressive measures of confinement, not being able to physically go to school and mix and exchange with friends is destructive. It may leave a deep dent in the social and psychological fabric and subsequent behavior of this future post-covid generation.

No doubt, with a few exceptions, most of the 193 UN member countries applying the same oppressive rules, are aware of what they are doing. They know what and why they are doing what they are doing. They are complicity and in one way or another corrupted and perhaps coerced to adhere to the dictate from “above” or else, if they don’t follow the ruling narrative. Yet, with a minimum of integrity of our leaders, this would not be happening.

First, they destroy the world’s economy in proportions never seen in recent history, then they destroy our future generations so there are no flag-bearers of a new generation into a bright future, once we, our children’s parents, have disappeared out. Our children are being primed as slaves for a minute diabolical elite to become trans-humans for the “Great Reset”.

*****

In his book, Dr. Stefan Hockhertz articulates these concerns and worries of the children, for parents, teachers and authorities to understand them. With the objective of stemming against this catastrophically oppressive trend, Dr. Hockhertz also uses the book to uncover lies and manipulations of governments and the media. He corrects false information and outright lies, but also invites to a dialogue for bringing about more objectivity and less dictatorial rules. After all, this is not a deadly pandemic, but has developed into a plandemic – where clearly a set of different, societally harmful objectives is being played out and relentlessly pursued.

As an immunologist and toxicologist, Dr. Hockhertz also corrects the highly propagated alleged over-fatality and informs about the dangers of the “vaccines”, especially the RNA-based inoculations. He warns against these vaccines – which, in fact, are no vaccines, but rather gene-therapy injections. They have not been sufficiently researched and tested to be considered safe. To the contrary, primary inoculation results are disastrous in terms of serious side effects and death rates. And this only after less than six months into a worldwide vaccination campaign.

See also Dr. J. Bart Classen’s January 18, 2021 peer-reviewed Research Paper COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease”, written for the SCIVISION Publication “Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ISSN 2639-9458).

The paper points to the potential medium- to long-term disabling neurological effects, especially degenerative diseases, that may be linked to RNA-based inoculations. This would be disastrous for children. Entire generations could be wiped out, so to speak.

We must not allow this to happen. We must listen to our children’s grief. We must clear the path for a bright future for our children, for our successor generation and for the future of humanity.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

• “Re: United States Committee for UNICEF July 25, 1963.” Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. White House Central Files. Chronological File. Series 1. President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, Box 11, Folder: “July 1963: 16-31,” JFKL.

The post Our Children are Crying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Blood for Oil

Amid the ongoing horror, it’s important to find ways to atone for war crimes —including reparations.

Thirty years ago, when the United States launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, I was a member of the Gulf Peace Team. We were 73 people from fifteen different countries, aged 22 to 76, living in a tent camp close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, along the road to Mecca.

We aimed to nonviolently interpose ourselves between the warring parties. Soldiers are called upon to risk their lives for a cause they may not know much about. Why not ask peace activists to take risks on behalf of preventing and opposing wars?

So we witnessed the dismal onset of the air war at 3:00 a.m. on January 17, 1991, huddled under blankets, hearing distant explosions and watching anxiously as war planes flew overhead. With so many fighter jets crossing the skies, we wondered if there would be anything left of Baghdad.

Ten days later, Iraqi authorities told us we must pack up, readying for a morning departure to Baghdad. Not all of us could agree on how to respond. Adhering to basic principles, twelve peace team members resolved to sit in a circle, holding signs saying “We choose to stay.”

Buses arrived the next morning, along with two Iraqi civilians and two soldiers. Tarak, a civilian, was in charge, under orders to follow a timetable for the evacuation. Looking at the circle of twelve, Tarak seemed a bit baffled. He walked over to where I stood. “Excuse me, Ms. Kathy,” he asked, “but what am I to do?”

“No one in that circle means you any harm,” I assured him. “And no one wishes to disrespect you, but they won’t be able board the bus on their own. It’s a matter of conscience.”

Tarak nodded and then motioned to the other Iraqis who followed him as he approached Jeremy Hartigan, the tallest person sitting in the circle. Jeremy, an elderly UK lawyer and also a Buddhist, was chanting a prayer as he sat with his sign.

Tarak bent over Jeremy, kissed him on the forehead, and said, ”Baghdad!” Then he pointed to the bus.

Next, he, the other civilian and two Iraqi soldiers carefully hoisted  Jeremy, still in his cross-legged position, and carried him to the top step of the bus. Gently placing him down, Tarak then asked,  “Mister, you okay?!” And in this manner they proceeded to evacuate the remaining eleven people in the circle.

Another evacuation was happening as Iraqi forces, many of them young conscripts, hungry, disheveled and unarmed, poured out of Kuwait along a major highway, later called “the Highway of Death.”

Boxed in by U.S. forces, many Iraqis abandoned their vehicles and ran away from what had become a huge and very dangerous traffic jam. Iraqis attempting to surrender were stuck in a long line of Iraqi military vehicles. They were systematically slaughtered.

“It was like shooting fish in a barrel,” said one U.S. pilot of the air attack. Another called it “a turkey shoot.”

Days earlier, on February 24th, the United States Army forces buried scores of living Iraqi soldiers in trenches. According to The New York Times, Army officials said “the Iraqi soldiers who died remained in their trenches as plow-equipped tanks dumped tons of earth and sand onto them, filling the trenches to ensure that they could not be used as cover from which to fire on allied units that were poised to pour through the gaps.”

Shortly after viewing photos of gruesome carnage caused by the ground and air attacks, President George H.W. Bush called for a cessation of hostilities on February 27th, 1991. An official cease fire was signed on March 4.

It’s ironic that in October of 1990, Bush had asserted that the U.S. would never stand by and let a larger country swallow a smaller country. His country had just invaded Grenada and Panama, and as President Bush spoke, the U.S. military pre-positioned at three Saudi ports hundreds of ships, thousands of aircraft, and millions of tons of equipment and fuel in preparation to invade Iraq.

Noam Chomsky notes that there were diplomatic alternatives to the bloodletting and destruction visited upon Iraq by Operation Desert Storm. Iraqi diplomats had submitted an alternative plan which was suppressed in the mainstream media and flatly rejected by the U.S.

The U.S. State Department, along with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the United Kingdom, were hell-bent on moving ahead with their war plans. “This was no time to go wobbly,” U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously warned Bush.

The resolve to attack and punish Iraqis never ceased.

After the “success” of Operation Desert Storm, the bombing war turned into an economic war, which lasted through 2003. As early as 1995, United Nations documents clarified that the economic war, waged through continued imposition of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, was far more brutal than even the worst of the 1991 aerial and ground war attacks.

In 1995, two Food and Agriculture Organization scientists estimated that more than half a million Iraqi children under age five had likely died due to economic sanctions.

In February, 1998, while visiting a hospital in Baghdad, I watched two friends from the United Kingdom trying to absorb the horror of seeing children being starved to death because of policy decisions made by governments in the UK and the U.S. Martin Thomas, himself a nurse, looked at mothers sitting cross legged, holding their limp and dying infants, in a ward where helpless doctors and nurses tried to treat many dozens of children.

“I think I understand,” said Thomas. “It’s a death row for infants.” Milan Rai, now editor of Peace News and then the coordinator of a U.K. campaign to defy the economic sanctions, knelt next to one of the mothers. Rai’s own child was close in age to the toddler the mother cradled. “I’m sorry,” Rai murmured. “I’m so very sorry.”

Those six words whispered by Milan Rai, are, I believe, incalculably important.

If only people in the U.S. and the UK could take those words to heart, undertaking to finally pressure their governments to echo these words and themselves say, “We’re sorry. We’re so very sorry.”

We’re sorry for coldly viewing your land as a “target rich environment” and then systematically destroying your electrical facilities, sewage and sanitation plants, roads, bridges, infrastructure, health care, education, and livelihood. We’re sorry for believing we somehow had a right to the oil in your land, and we’re sorry many of us lived so well because we were consuming your precious and irreplaceable resources at cut rate prices.

We’re sorry for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of your children through economic sanctions and then expecting you to thank us for liberating you. We’re sorry for wrongfully accusing you of harboring weapons of mass destruction while we looked the other way as Israel acquired thermonuclear weapons.

We’re sorry for again traumatizing your children through the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing, filling your broken down hospitals with maimed and bereaved survivors of the vicious bombing and then causing enormous wreckage through our inept and criminal occupation of your land.

We’re sorry. We’re so very sorry. And we want to pay reparations.

From March 5 – 8, Pope Francis will visit Iraq. Security concerns are high, and I won’t begin to second guess the itinerary that has been developed. But knowing of his eloquent and authentic plea to end wars and stop the pernicious weapons trade, I wish he could kneel and kiss the ground at the Ameriyah shelter in Baghdad.

There, on February 13, 1991, two 2,000 lb. U.S. laser guided missiles killed 400 civilians, mostly women and children. Another 200 were severely wounded. I wish President Joe Biden could meet the Pope there and ask him to hear his confession.

I wish people around the world could be represented by the Pope as a symbol of unity expressing collective sorrow for making war after hideous war, in Iraq, against people who meant us no harm.

Illustration courtesy of Sallie Latch

• A version of this article first appeared at The Progressive.org 

The post Blood for Oil first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours

French Secular State, Judiciary and Education on Trial

The October 16, 2020, slaying of French civics teacher, Samuel Paty, drew intensely impassioned responses from the French state, members of the society and, specifically, the Muslim immigrant community, the teacher having shown a naked caricature of the Prophet.  Displaying this image from the infamous Charlie Hebdo magazine crossed a “red line” for faithful Muslims. Therefore, the conflict between the Muslim community (3.3% of the population) and the dominant French society invoking the firmly held principle of secularism and separation of church (religion) and state mushroomed.  However, such a heated conflict elicits many questions.

  • Does the principle of secularism, laïcité, an apparent absolute in French society, serve the interests of all people equally whom it purports to benefit? Is laïcité applied with justice and consistency?
  • How did the state handle the murder? How should the state handle the murder?
  • What is the role of the state Ministry of Education and the role of the teacher? Do they create a positive learning environment that will lead to full, productive inclusion of all students equally in French society?
  • For what reasons are minority, ghettoized students being humiliated in schools? Who benefits?

Chronology

On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty, a civics teacher in a middle school in France, fell victim to a brutal murder caught in a conflict between the French practice of secularism and the rage of fundamentalist vengeance. For his having shown Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one being a depiction of the Prophet with genital exposure, religious Muslims were outraged for their children attending that school.  Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen youth from outside that school, exacted the ultimate vengeance with Paty’s beheading.  This act being not an isolated incident, it is important to trace the escalation.

  • In November 2011, the magazine Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for printing satirical material targeting Sharia and the Prophet.
  • On January 7, 2015, following the display of the image later used by Samuel Paty from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, two attackers killed and wounded 23 people in the offices of that magazine, thereby exacting a horrifying revenge for the publication.
  • On May 3, 2015, a Draw Mohammed contest drew gunfire from two shooters, leaving a security guard wounded and the two attackers dead in Garland, Texas.
  • In early October 2020, Samuel Paty showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a mixed class wherein Muslim students are registered.
  • There was a strong community reaction: parents lodge complaints; one mosque produces a video condemning the actions of the teacher, soon to be closed down for six months for criticising Paty.
  • On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty was savagely beheaded in the street with a cleaver by a Chechen immigrant, Abdoullakh Anzarov, 18, not a student in the school.
  • Community citizens were arrested following the murder for alleged complicity in the act after social media postings.
  • French citizens rallied in support of Paty and the government position.
  • Samuel Paty, the “quiet hero” according to Macron, was awarded posthumously the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, for “representing the face of the Republic” within days in patriotic fervour. “We will not give up cartoons,” he said.
  • The Muslim community complains that Islamophobic affronts increase. On October 22, 2020, two Muslim women are stabbed publicly in the tension after the incidents, ascribed to the friction following M. Paty’s murder.
  • The escalation continued: The Muslim organisation Baraka City and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a charity and a community organisation which compiles information on alleged acts of anti-Muslim hatred in the country, both came under attack by the French Interior minister, M Gérald Darmanin, who threatened to shut them down.
  • Macron began implementing policies to acculturate Muslims to a more “French Islam” with cooperation from some clerics.
  • In early February, Macron’s government debated and passed articles on a bill entrenching republican values supported by the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist Unsubmissive France (LFI) to challenge “separatism” in the wake of Muslim “radicalism.” Associations, guaranteed in prior laws of laïcité, can be dissolved and amendments can be made by government decree to uphold these republican principles.
  • National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s most threatening opposition, called for “war legislation,” thereby using the crisis to ramp up the competition.

Secularism

The principle and practice of laïcité, a social model in law for France since 1905, guarantees the rights of religious freedom for religions and individuals thereof, while maintaining the secular state’s distinct separation from religious influence and the power of any clergy.  Not to be defined by atheism, it advocates secularity, a view based on “this-world” terms, entrenching the right of freedom of speech. Thus, the law, dating from 1905, allowed, even encouraged, the naked caricature as a teaching aid in support of the lesson directed at all students, including Muslim. For most, laïcité is to be an absolute principle.

However, Dr. Alain Gabon, professor at Virginian Wesleyan University, has called Macron on his response by itemising the president’s abrogation of the entrenched law which he purports to be protecting. In fact, Gabon accuses him of enhancing separatism by treating Islam as a distinct threat beyond other religions, hence, separately. However, officials of the French Council of Muslim Faith have signed a “Charter of Principles” outlining terms and conditions that would pacify Islam according to the ideals of the Republic.  He writes:

…besides the extreme violations of freedom of religion and the brutalisation of Islam, the charter is also a glaring violation of French laïcité – a principle the Macron government nonetheless claims to uphold. Based on the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, French laïcité includes three sacred principles that are not open to interpretation: freedom of conscience and religion, the separation of church and state, and equal treatment by the state of all religions. Macron is trampling on all three pillars.

Islam will be a special case before the law.

Inclusion is necessary

What is the message to the youth? With this, they may sup at the trough of a statist hegemony as re-educated Muslims, their practice dictated not from the authority of their community leaders but of a government department, as marginalisation becomes official – hardly a prescription for peace and harmony, or laïcité.  Neo-colonialism is not dead. As Khalid Hajji, a recognized professor of humanities, has written:

My long experience of working with Muslim youth in Europe has shown me that violence among them is largely due to the fact that they cannot recognise themselves in the values of the countries where they live, rather than because of religious fervour… Religion is often only a demarcation line in their attempts to negotiate their sense of identity in today’s difficult European context…. A criminal or a terrorist is not only the product of Islamic culture, but also of the French republic – of its schools, its migration policies and its social fabric.

His warning must be heeded. However, the conflict continued after the firebombing, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, after the attack in Garland, Texas, after the execution of Samuel Paty, after the restrictions on Muslim organisations, after the assault on Muslim women, and promises of “war legislation.” Now, after the state’s intervention creating separateness of the Muslim community, the state must give protection as it flaunts its own law that should protect the community.  It’s a conundrum. This unfolding narrative has become a meme, a continuing stand-off between ideological republicanism vs. the principles of a minority community.

Political utility

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Churchill said.  In an outpouring of nationalism inspired by grief, horror and indignation, Macron rose magnificently to the occasion conferring posthumous honours on the victim of the execution. The nation rallied.  The enemy was named: radical Islam, terrorist, separatism.  While Macron never used the term, Islamo-gauchisme became a meme in the press lumping “leftism” with Islam as a threat, timely in the era of Yellow Vests. Contradicting the secularist laws of the first decade of the twentieth century, laws were drafted and passed even to the extent that any association may be punished for an act of one of its members in contradiction to individual human rights.  The government assumed powers of decree in the fight against the common enemy taking a step to the right.  Surprisingly, the Communist Party of France and the socialist LFI of Mélonchon supported Macron in the nationalist frenzy.  Macron was the warrior supreme for all republicans, a strong role with an election coming in 2022.

Of course, his opposition was not silent.  Calling radical Islam a “warlike ideology,” National Rally leader, Marine Le Pen has called for “war legislation” to compete with her rival, for her battle is not only with Islam but with Macron whom she would best.

A common enemy unifies people. While the Yellow Vest protests have underscored the economic and financial crises of capitalism as they rally against austerity and privilege, a gasoline tax and inequities, the traumatised French population gathered en masse in unified nationalism.  They confronted the Muslim enemy, alleged radical separatism which, in some aspersions, is somehow leftist Islamo gauchisme.  What, then, is left of solidarity of the Arab working class with the general population? They have been dismissed with a word in the current rightward trend. The religious rights of Muslims need to be included. This is not limited just to Muslim students but to Arab workers who compose 3.3% of the French population.

One must empathize with the young, for this is the troubled ground on which they are to be nurtured.  While they may not be victims in this fury, these innocents, it all began with a lesson designed for them.  They deserve more respect.

My teaching experience

Having taught many Muslim youths in middle-class Ontario schools, I see them as I see all students – a wonderful mix of characters engaged in school life.  They were not separate, but engaging and respectful, even with an unusual role I played.

Following 1987, upon the Ontario government’s having included sexual orientation in the Bill of Rights, I became program director and implementer of the Anti-Homophobia Action Committee for my board. Because my home school was strongly composed of Muslim students, I was warned by colleagues, “You can’t do that with these kids.”  I did.  Furthermore, as the teacher in charge, I was uncompromisingly “out,” presenting the students with assemblies on human rights and hate crimes.  Happily, as the “out” gay teacher, I had never a sideways glance, rude remark, snigger or any slight from any of those Muslim youths.  They deserved the respect they gave. No, the Charlie Hebdo image would not have been welcome in my classroom.

It’s universal: no student must be humiliated and marginalised.  The consequences may be catastrophic.  As Ontario’s Ministry of Education prescribed as my career began, the teacher must act as a “kind, firm, judicious parent.”

What must teachers do?

A “kind, firm and judicious parent”?  I cannot find one of those qualities in those cartoons, for school must become a locus of learning and growth to prepare the productive citizen. Admittedly, a middle-class Ontario school is some distance from a Parisian banlieue; however, the universal mandate is that all students must be safe, welcome and secure in the educational establishment. Alienation must be avoided, for that will bring disaster for these kids of whose perilous journeys to the West I have only hints.  The singular function of the school must be graduation, a source of dignity and pride in their new country.

The far, far better lesson must be grounded on Martin Luther King’s admonition in his speech in the Riverside Community Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated.  “Be neighbourly.”

Compare the two, Charlie vs. Martin. Who benefits?  Cui Bono?

Laïcité has value

While this short work may be thought to be an attack on the original principles of French secularism, it is not.  Of course, ideas must be discussed openly on freedom of speech in class – with sensitivity to create civil dialogue, mandated from ministries of education.  I maintain that the cartoons did not have to be shown, perhaps mentioned. Who in France would not have known about them? Such images are the red line for that already marginalised community which must not be used as a political tool. Reasonable accommodation with respect for the young must be for any teacher the fundamental moral principle.

Need a lesson on freedom of speech? How about Julian Assange to whom France will not give asylum?

Furthermore, I applaud the separation of religion and state when it is done fairly and equitably, in the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité when applied with respect, especially to youth who are so easily alienated from authority. They are our future, and we can’t afford not to.  I recommend the policy in more countries and jurisdictions, East and West, even my own Province of Ontario where the Roman Catholic Schools, and only that religious group’s schools, are funded publicly.  I say remove it.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Our Indifference To Ourselves”: Beyond The “Virtue” Of Self-Sacrifice (Part 2)

As we saw in Part 1, in 1914 and again in 1939, millions of men and women welcomed war. Arnold Ridley and his pals did make this choice, but in reality the choice had been made for them by decades and centuries of the relentless ‘patriotic’ propaganda described by Tolstoy, which most people were powerless to resist.

The enthusiasm for war seems immensely significant. It tells us that, facing the ultimate test of self-interestedness – whether they were willing to risk being shot, burned, blasted and horribly mutilated in the ‘national interest’ – many millions of people put that self-interest aside and marched off to kill and be killed.

This fact alone should encourage us to question the extent to which our capacity to be self-interested – to work for our own benefit over the imposed demands of others – is undermined more generally. Erich Fromm described the reality:

Our moral problem is man’s indifference to himself. It lies in the fact that we have lost the sense of the significance and uniqueness of the individual, that we have made ourselves into instruments for purposes outside ourselves, that we experience and treat ourselves as commodities.1

In her remarkable book, ‘For Your Own Good – Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence’, psychologist Alice Miller traced the roots of Nazi militarism in wildly popular pedagogical theories that flourished in 18th, 19th and early 20th century Germany.

Did Nazi stormtroopers arise out of an orgy of self-centred self-indulgence? In fact, they were nurtured by what Miller called a ‘poisonous pedagogy’ that crushed the will of the child, destroying the child’s ability to follow his or her own feelings and self-interest.2

Miller quoted J. Sulzer from his highly popular book published in Germany in 1748, An Essay on the Education and Instruction of Children. Sulzer commented on infant behaviour:

They see something they want but cannot have; they become angry, cry, and flail about. Or they are given something that does not please them; they fling it aside and begin to cry. These are dangerous faults that hinder their entire education and encourage undesirable qualities in children… The moment these flaws appear in a child, it is high time to resist this evil so that it does not become ingrained through habit and the children do not become thoroughly depraved.

Therefore, I advise all those whose concern is the education of children to make it their main occupation to drive out willfulness and wickedness and to persist until they have reached their goal.

The chief target for attack, wrote J.G. Kruger in Some Thoughts on the Education of Children (1752) was defiance:

Such disobedience amounts to a declaration of war against you. Your son is trying to usurp your authority, and you are justified in answering force with force in order to insure his respect, without which you will be unable to train him. The blows you administer should not be merely playful ones but should convince him that you are his master. Therefore, you must not desist until he does what he previously refused out of wickedness to do.

In Handbook for Fathers and Mothers of Families and Nations (1773), J. B. Basedow recommended additional beatings in response to the inevitable, ‘annoying’ tears:

If after the chastisement the pain lasts for a time, it is unnatural to forbid weeping and groaning at once. But if the chastised use these annoying sounds as a means of revenge, then the first step is to distract them by assigning little tasks or activities. If this does not help, it is permissible to forbid the weeping and to punish them if it persists, until it finally ceases after the new chastisement.

The conscious aim was to destroy the will of the child and replace it with the will of parents and teachers. Sulzer wrote:

…willfulness must be the main target of all our toils until it is completely abolished… The first and foremost matter to be attended to is implanting in children a love of order; this is the first step we require in the way of virtue.

Sulzer noted that it was vital to break children at an age when they would be unable to remember what had been done to them:

One of the advantages of these early years is that then force and compulsion can be used. Over the years, children forget everything that happened to them in early childhood. If their wills can be broken at this time, they will never remember afterwards that they had a will, and for this very reason the severity that is required will not have any serious consequences.’ (Miller, my emphasis.)

Miller commented:

If primary emphasis is placed upon raising children so that they are not aware of what is being done to them or what is being taken from them, of what they are losing in the process, of who they otherwise would have been and who they actually are, and if this is begun early enough, then as adults, regardless of their intelligence, they will later look upon the will of another person as if it were their own. How can they know that their own will was broken since they were never allowed to express it?  (Miller, my emphasis.)

In 1858, D.G.M. Schreber explained how this cultivated in the child ‘the art of self-denial’: ‘the salutary and indispensable process of learning to subordinate and control his will’.

Do we imagine these efforts to break the will of children, to teach them ‘the art of self-denial’, were limited to pre-Nazi Germany? In a comment that will be familiar to many of us in our time, Miller quoted a German schoolteacher (1796) explaining how he promoted obedience:

I reward the one who is the most amenable, the most obedient, the most diligent in his lessons by preferring him over the other; I call on him the most, I permit him to read his composition before the class, I let him do the necessary writing on the blackboard. This way I awaken the children’s zeal so that each wishes to excel, to be preferred. When one of them then upon occasion does something that deserves punishment, I reduce his status in the class, I don’t call on him, I don’t let him read aloud, I act as though he were not there. This distresses the children so much that those who are punished weep copious tears.

Miller commented:

I have selected the foregoing passages in order to characterize an attitude that reveals itself more or less openly, not only in Fascism but in other ideologies as well. The scorn and abuse directed at the helpless child as well as the suppression of vitality, creativity, and feeling in the child and in oneself permeate so many areas of our life that we hardly notice it anymore.’ (Miller, my emphasis.)

Yes, in many areas of our life! The evidence is all around us and deeply rooted in our cultural traditions. For example, German pedagogues loved to quote the Bible:

He who loves his son chastises him often with the rod, that he may be his joy when he grows up’, and, ‘Pamper your child and he will be a terror for you, indulge him and he will bring you grief.

The Prime Coercive Instrument For Cultural Modification

Are we pursuing freely-chosen self-interest when forced to wear uniforms and trained for conformity and ambition at school? Is it our choice to be manipulated to feel exalted when we do better at exams than our friends and humiliated when we do worse? Is it self-indulgence that has us spending our precious youth memorising dead facts and figures for regurgitation, supposedly establishing our level of ‘brightness’? Is there any essential difference between the way we are manipulated to become cogs in the educational machine, the corporate machine and the war machine?

Sobering perspective is supplied by cultural anthropologist John Bodley’s description of the methods employed by Western colonisers to undermine traditional cultures:

In many countries schooling has been the prime coercive instrument of cultural modification and has proven to be a highly effective means of destroying self-esteem, fostering new needs, creating dissatisfactions, and generally disrupting traditional cultures. As representatives of the prestige and power of the dominant culture, teachers deliberately assume positions of authority over students, overshadowing parents and traditional tribal leaders…3

Training us for ambition is about far more than just boredom and stress. Every moment in the classroom, the child’s natural prioritisation of the present moment is, in effect, outlawed. No choice is allowed – the childish love of play must be sacrificed to the educational Higher Cause. We quickly learn that we will suffer serious, escalating consequences if we follow our instincts. This powerfully undermines our ability to be sensitive to, and to follow, our feelings, our true self-interest. Time and again, we are taught to reject our natural inclinations – to reject what we find most fascinating and enjoyable for the sake of what we find utterly boring. We learn that we cannot safely be in the moment, that the price of respecting our feelings is too high – we must prioritise the future and the opinions of authority.

Our capacity to feel and respect our feelings is subject to relentless attack. If we don’t know what we feel, we don’t know what we want. And if we don’t know what we want, state-corporate interests are free to decide for us.

As the leftist poster says, ‘If you liked school, you’ll LOVE work.’ Education dovetails perfectly as we replace black or grey school uniforms with black or grey work suits, pack ourselves into trains, buses and cars to perform as cogs in corporate machines, allowed an hour off for lunch and four or five weeks ‘annual leave’ (extra ‘leave’, possibly paid, or not, if we suffer a ‘blighty one’). All of this we hate, but we have already been trained to do what we hate, to perform relentlessly boring tasks at school, to override our internal opposition, which we cannot properly feel.

We are also not following our self-interest when we sit in front of the TV to watch corporate entertainment filtered of all but the most banal, advertiser-friendly content. As media analysts Michael Jacobson and Laurie Ann Mazur noted, our freedom extends to watching ‘TV programmes that flow seamlessly into commercials, avoiding controversy, lulling us into submission, like an electronic tranquillizer.’ 4  The last thing advertisers want is for us to be so interested in the programme we’re watching that we’re lost in thought during the ad break.

It is not you or I who decides that happiness lies in high status work facilitating high status consumption, any more than we decide it is ‘glorious’ to die in battle. Again, Bodley reflects our own contemporary experience:

One of the most significant obstacles blocking native economic “progress” was the ability of the natives to find satisfactions at relatively low and stable consumption levels… Outsiders quickly realised that if tribal peoples could somehow be made to reject the material satisfactions provided by their own cultures and if they could be successfully urged to desire more and more industrial goods, they would become far more willing participants in the cash economy.5

As late as 1963, applied anthropologist Ward Goodenough described Western strategies to undermine the contentment found in traditional cultures:

The problem that faces development agents is to find ways of stimulating in others a desire for change in such a way that the desire is theirs independent of further prompting from outside. Restated, the problem is one of creating in another a sufficient dissatisfaction with his present condition of self so that he wants to change it. This calls for some kind of experience that leads him to reappraise his self-image and re-evaluate his self-esteem.6

This is the same process of manufacturing discontent by which you and I are targeted. US psychologist Tim Kasser commented:

Existing scientific research on the value of materialism yields clear and consistent findings. People who are highly focused on materialistic values have lower personal well-being and psychological health than those who believe that materialistic pursuits are relatively unimportant. These relationships have been documented in samples of people ranging from the wealthy to the poor, from teenagers to the elderly, and from Australians to South Koreans.7

Where, then, is the freedom that allows us to be considered self-interested, self-centred, self-indulgent? It doesn’t exist. The call for us to sacrifice ourselves thrusts a red-hot poker into a wound of imposed self-neglect that has made us such well-schooled, career-climbing, war-fighting, self-destructive pawns of state policy, corporate profit and, yes, revolutionary fervour.

Our problem is not that we are too indulgent, too selfish. Our problem is that we are not self-centred enough; that we are manipulated, seduced, punished, conformed away from exploring, feeling and respecting our actual self-interest. We are made to seek happiness in very specific ways by systems of power that need us to be unhappy, discontented, and even to die in wars, in ways that benefit them.

This has been disastrous, not simply because our real self-interest has been hijacked, but because our whole society has become oblivious to a buried treasure of human experience found at the end of an authentic exploration of self-interest. It is a truth that has been understood by cultures around the word for millennia, but is almost completely unknown to our primitive Western corporate monoculture.

The Man With No Skin

What happens when we are genuinely self-interested, self-centred? What happens when we don’t subordinate self-awareness to external pressures?

Consider the case of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, unique among 18th century Enlightenment philosophes in that he retained extreme sensitivity and respect for his feelings. Rousseau radically bucked the trend promoting ‘man’s indifference to himself’.

The Scottish philosopher, David Hume, who knew Rousseau well, described him as ‘one of the most singular of all human beings… his extreme sensibility of temper is his torment’; ‘he is like a man who were stripped not only of his clothes but of his skin’.8

Rousseau felt every pleasure, every pain, every delight and despair, deeply. It was this acuity of awareness that helped him uncover a hidden secret of the human condition.

Remarkably, Rousseau’s final work, Reveries of The Solitary Walker, written in the two years before his death in 1778, contains a basic guide to what amounts to ‘zazen’ meditation (‘zazen’ sounds esoteric but literally means ‘just sitting, doing nothing’). As clearly as any Eastern mystic, Rousseau began by describing the inevitable failure of ordinary happiness:

Thus our earthly joys are almost without exception the creatures of a moment; I doubt whether any of us knows the meaning of lasting happiness. Even in our keenest pleasures there is scarcely a single moment of which the heart could truthfully say: “Would that this moment could last for ever!” And how can we give the name of happiness to a fleeting state which leaves our hearts still empty and anxious, either regretting something that is past or desiring something that is yet to come?9

Readers might like to conduct this thought experiment for themselves! Looking back, it is clear that even our happiest moments are tainted by fear of change, failure and loss.

Attainment of some object of desire gives momentary pleasure, then, but our minds remain ‘empty and anxious’ – we quickly latch onto some other person, experience or object ‘yet to come’, and desire reaches out into this new, alluring distance. The distance is alluring because it provides us with a blank or half-empty canvas on which we can project our idealised fantasies. Desire is endless, insatiable, because the mind quickly tires of reality, but not of fantasy, our inexhaustible dream fuel.

Two and a half centuries before ‘mindfulness’ became the rage, Rousseau wrote:

Foresight! Foresight which is ever bidding us look forward into the future, a future which in many cases we shall never reach. Here is the real source of all our troubles! How mad it is for so short-lived a creature as man to look forward into a future which he rarely attains, while he neglects the present which is his!… We no longer live where we are, but where we are not!10

If we reject self-abnegation, self-sacrifice, and investigate how we actually feel, we arrive at the key understanding that it is impossible to satisfy a mind that ‘neglects the present’, that values only what it does not have. Corporate culture being, of course, the ultimate manifestation and exploitation of this phenomenon.

Ironically, we are so readily seduced by calls to sacrifice ourselves precisely because the mind is ever ready to sacrifice the devalued present – all the ‘uninteresting’ stuff that we have here and now – for some fantasy-hyped future. We spend our lives aspiring to the next moment, sure to be a ‘glorious adventure’, even if that means fighting and dying on some distant battlefield.

Along with mystics like Buddha, Bodhidharma, Chuang Tzu, Ikkyu, Jesus, Kabir, Krishna, Lao-tse, Mansoor, Meera, Nanak, Patanjali, Tolle and Yoka, the ultra-sensitive Rousseau came to understand that all attempts to find happiness in external pleasures and ‘success’ fail. The end-point of self-aware self-indulgence, he found, is a great turning point – a turning within. But what on earth might we find there?

As we all know, our standard search for external happiness generates a torrent of mental activity: we must forever plan, scheme, worry and strive to shorten the distance between ourselves and our ever-retreating, ever-changing goals. Having attained one desire, another instantly pops up on the horizon and mental activity surges again.

But when, time after time, this exhausting campaign fails, when the futility of the effort becomes undeniable because we can see that every attainment ‘leaves our hearts still empty and anxious’, mental activity can start to subside. This may happen naturally as the search for external happiness is met with disillusionment and disaster, or it can be consciously encouraged through meditation, by paying careful attention to our thoughts and feelings. We cannot think and feel at the same time – repeatedly focusing on emotions in our chest, for example, interrupts and slows compulsive thinking.

As mental chatter subsides, gaps start to appear between thoughts. In even the briefest moments when this happens, in tiny silences between thought, something completely unexpected occurs – deep delight arises from nowhere for no apparent reason. This is not just happiness; it is ecstasy, a bliss saturated with love for everyone and everything. Even a sliver of this ‘light’ is devastating, but the potential exists to experience an inner supernova. Kabir said:

As if thousands of suns have arisen in me… I cannot count them, the light is so dazzling.

Rousseau discovered this phenomenon simply by paying close attention to his suffering and happiness:

But if there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul. Such is the state which I often experienced in my solitary reveries on the Island of Saint-Pierre…11

As Osho commented, this experience is the revolutionary moment in the life of a human being:

Now you are nothing but misery. Those who are cunning, they go on deceiving themselves that they are not miserable, or they go on hoping that something will change, something will happen, and they will achieve at the end of life – but you are miserable.

You can create faces, deceptions, false faces; you can go on smiling continuously, but deep down you know you are in misery. That is natural. Confined in thoughts you will be in misery. Unconfined, beyond thoughts – alert, conscious, aware, but unclouded by thoughts – you will be joy, you will be bliss.12

This is why Jesus made the extraordinary comment that has mystified non-meditators for millennia: ‘Resist not evil’. It is not that turning the other cheek, or giving someone your cloak as well as your shirt, is best practice for managing bullies and petty criminals.

The point, as Jesus also said, is that ‘The kingdom of heaven lies within’ – the experience described above. If a choice is possible, it is better to go the extra mile to avoid conflict so that we can remain centred in this inner love and bliss. When we resist external ‘evil’, we inevitably generate great storms of thought in ourselves and others, which obstruct love and bliss in them and us. The remarkable truth is that, for all its practical usefulness, thought is subtly dehumanising, and torrential thought is deeply dehumanising.

The best measure of the extent to which our society is truly civilised is the number of loving feelings in our hearts, not the number of loving, just, egalitarian thoughts in our heads. Thought is hot air. Disconnected from feeling, it means almost nothing.

‘Ehi-Passiko’ – ‘Come And See!’

The central claim is not a fantasy, not an invention; it is a simple but almost completely hidden truth: confined in thoughts we will be in misery; unconfined, beyond thoughts, we will be in ‘complete and perfect happiness’.

This, not collapsing on the sofa with junk food, is the end-point of self-aware self-centredness: a limitless source of loving kindness that naturally overflows to others in what we say and do.

It is a truth that can be known only through feeling, through the heart, when we are free to experience and respect our emotions, unhindered by calls to sacrifice ‘trivial’, ‘indulgent’ personal concerns to ‘duty’, ‘service’, the ‘national interest’, the ‘Fatherland’, the ‘Revolution’.

Of course, thinking is needed; of course, working for the benefit of others, and even subordinating our welfare for others, can be a beautiful thing; but the most beautiful thing of all is when we subordinate everything to a profound investigation into what does and does not make us miserable and blissful.

Without this investigation, we may end up doing more harm than good. As Norman Mailer said:

I think that the only way socialism can work is if there is a religious core. A belief that there is some larger sense of things.

Otherwise, Mailer argued, ‘you just get the play of egos’. 13

Alas, trying ‘to make the world a better place’ is a prime way of winning attention, applause, respect, even fame outside the corporate ‘mainstream’. If the rich and famous feel ‘special’, what to say of ‘altruists’, so heroic that they subordinate their personal concerns, risk their very lives, for the welfare of others?

If our motivation is attention, applause, we may look like a counter-force to ego-driven, state-corporate capitalism, but, in fact, we may be a version of the same madness, almost a kind of niche marketing. Like corporate executives, we will compete furiously with the rival activists we are supposed to be supporting, tear them down at the first opportunity for utterly trivial reasons (rational disagreement on key issues is another matter entirely). Above all, we will be highly vulnerable to the seductions of a ‘mainstream’ that has the power to bestow far more respectability, fame and fortune.

Rooted in our heads rather than our hearts, we will be miserable and spreading that misery around us. Regardless of what virtue we claim as our motive, our first priority will be, not other people, but the expansion of our egoic empire. We will contribute to the building of a ‘righteous’ but ugly world where barely a drop of genuine love and happiness is found.

To those so keen for us to sacrifice ourselves for a Higher Cause we can answer that there is no Higher Cause than the pursuit of self-aware self-interest because this is the only way to become a genuinely blissful, genuinely loving human being. And only when we become genuinely blissful and loving are we able to resist the calls to sacrifice ourselves on some distant educational, corporate, or actual battlefield.

The insatiable, tragicomic craving of the Trumpian ego – to have more, to be more, to spend more, to consume more, to be applauded more – can never be transcended on the level of the mind. Only when we experience genuine happiness, a loving bliss with no taint of suffering, do the baubles and toys of ego start to lose their appeal.

As Buddha said, there is no need to take his or anyone else’s word for it: ‘Ehi-passiko’, ‘Come and see!’ Try it for yourself – all is not as it seems.

  1. Fromm, Man For Himself, Ark, 1986, p. 248, original emphasis.
  2. Miller, For Your Own Good – Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2002, e-book version.
  3. John Bodley, Victims of Progress, Mayfield Publishing, 1982, p. 113, my emphasis.
  4. Jacobson and Mazur, Marketing Madness, Westview Press, 1995, pp. 43-44.
  5. Bodley, op.cit, p. 131.
  6. Bodley, pp. 111-112, my emphasis.
  7. Kasser, The High Price Of Materialism, MIT Press, 2002, p. 22.
  8. John Hope Mason, The Indispensable Rousseau, Quartet Books, 1979, p. 5.
  9. Rousseau, Reveries of The Solitary Walker, Penguin Classics, 1979, p. 88.
  10. Hope Mason, op.cit, pp. 188-9.
  11. Rousseau, op.cit, p. 88, my emphasis.
  12. Osho, The Book Of Secrets, e-book version.
  13. Norman Mailer, at a talk in Shaftesbury Avenue, the Guardian, 23 September 1997.
The post “Our Indifference To Ourselves”: Beyond The “Virtue” Of Self-Sacrifice (Part 2) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Biden End America’s Global War on Children?

The first day of the 2020 school year in Tiaz, Yemen (Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP)

Most people regard Trump’s treatment of immigrant children as among his most shocking crimes as president. Images of hundreds of children stolen from their families and imprisoned in chain-link cages are an unforgettable disgrace that President Biden must move quickly to remedy with humane immigration policies and a program to quickly find the children’s families and reunite them, wherever they may be.

A less publicized Trump policy that actually killed children was the fulfillment of his campaign promises to “bomb the shit out of” America’s enemies and “take out their families.” Trump escalated Obama’s bombing campaigns against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and loosened U.S. rules of engagement regarding airstrikes that were predictably going to kill civilians.

After devastating U.S. bombardments that killed tens of thousands of civilians and left major cities in ruins, the United States’ Iraqi allies fulfilled the most shocking of Trump’s threats and massacred the survivors – men, women and children – in Mosul.

But the killing of civilians in America’s post-9/11 wars did not begin with Trump. And it will not end, or even diminish, under Biden, unless the public demands that America’s systematic slaughter of children and other civilians must end.

The Stop the War on Children campaign, run by the British charity Save the Children, publishes graphic reports on the harms that the United States and other warring parties inflict on children around the world.

Its 2020 report, Killed and Maimed: a generation of violations against children in conflict, reported 250,000 UN-documented human rights violations against children in war zones since 2005, including over 100,000 incidents in which children were killed or maimed. It found that a staggering 426,000,000 children now live in conflict zones, the second highest number ever, and that, “…the trends over recent years are of increasing violations, increasing numbers of children affected by conflict and increasingly protracted crises.”

Many of the injuries to children come from explosive weapons such as bombs, missiles, grenades, mortars and IEDs. In 2019, another Stop the War on Children study, on explosive blast injuries, found that these weapons that are designed to inflict maximum damage on military targets are especially destructive to the small bodies of children, and inflict more devastating injuries on children than on adults. Among pediatric blast patients, 80% suffer penetrating head injuries, compared with only 31% of adult blast patients, and wounded children are 10 times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than adults.

In the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, US. and allied forces are armed with highly destructive explosive weapons and rely heavily on airstrikes, with the result that blast injuries account for nearly three-quarters of injuries to children, double the proportion found in other wars. The U.S. reliance on airstrikes also leads to widespread destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, leaving children more exposed to all the humanitarian impacts of war, from hunger and starvation to otherwise preventable or curable diseases.

The immediate solution to this international crisis is for the United States to end its current wars and stop selling weapons to allies who wage war on their neighbors or kill civilians. Withdrawing U.S occupation forces and ending U.S. airstrikes will allow the UN and the rest of the world to mobilize legitimate, impartial support programs to help America’s victims rebuild their lives and their societies. President Biden should offer generous U.S. war reparations to finance these programs, including the rebuilding of Mosul, Raqqa and other cities destroyed by American bombardment.

To prevent new U.S. wars, the Biden administration should commit to participate and comply with the rules of international law, which are supposed to be binding on all countries, even the most wealthy and powerful.

While paying lip service to the rule of law and a “rules-based international order”, the United States has in practice been recognizing only the law of the jungle and “might makes right,” as if the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force did not exist and the protected status of civilians under the Geneva Conventions was subject to the discretion of unaccountable U.S. government lawyers. This murderous charade must end.

Despite U.S. non-participation and disdain, the rest of the world has continued to develop effective treaties to strengthen the rules of international law. For instance, treaties to ban land-mines and cluster munitions have successfully ended their use by the countries that have ratified them.

Banning land mines has saved tens of thousands of children’s lives, and no country that is a party to the cluster munitions treaty has used them since its adoption in 2008, reducing the number of unexploded bomblets lying in wait to kill and maim unsuspecting children. The Biden administration should sign, ratify and comply with these treaties, along with more than forty other multilateral treaties the U.S. has failed to ratify.

Americans should also support the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which is calling for a UN declaration to outlaw the use of heavy explosive weapons in urban areas, where 90% of casualties are civilians and many are children. As Save the Children’s Blast Injuries report says:

Explosive weapons, including aircraft bombs, rockets and artillery, were designed for use in open battlefields, and are completely inappropriate for use in towns and cities and among the civilian population.

A global initiative with tremendous grassroots support and potential to save the world from mass extinction is the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which just came into force on January 22 after Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify it. The growing international consensus that these suicide weapons must simply be abolished and prohibited will put pressure on the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states at the August 2021 Review Conference of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).

Since the United States and Russia still possess 90% of the nuclear weapons in the world, the main onus for their elimination lies on Presidents Biden and Putin. The five-year extension to the New START Treaty that Biden and Putin have agreed on is welcome news. The United States and Russia should use the treaty extension and the NPT Review as catalysts for further reductions in their stockpiles and real diplomacy to explicitly move forward on abolition.

The United States does not just wage war on children with bombs, missiles and bullets. It also wages economic war in ways that disproportionately affect children, preventing countries like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea from importing essential food and medicines or obtaining the resources they need to buy them.

These sanctions are a brutal form of economic warfare and collective punishment that leave children dying from hunger and preventable diseases, especially during this pandemic. UN officials have called for the International Criminal Court to investigate unilateral U.S. sanctions as crimes against humanity. The Biden administration should immediately lift all unilateral economic sanctions.

Will President Joe Biden act to protect the children of the world from America’s most tragic and indefensible war crimes? Nothing in his long record in public life suggests that he will, unless the American public and the rest of the world act collectively and effectively to insist that America must end its war on children and finally become a responsible, law-abiding member of the human family.

The post Will Biden End America’s Global War on Children? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen

In 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder createdThe Massacre of the Innocents,” a provocative masterpiece of religious art. The painting reworks a biblical narrative about King Herod’s order to slaughter all newborn boys in Bethlehem for fear that a messiah had been born there. Bruegel’s painting situates the atrocity in a contemporary setting, a 16th Century Flemish village under attack by heavily armed soldiers. Depicting multiple episodes of gruesome brutality, Bruegel conveys the terror and grief inflicted on trapped villagers who cannot protect their children. Uncomfortable with the images of child slaughter, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, after acquiring the painting, ordered another reworking. The slaughtered babies were painted over with images such as bundles of food or small animals, making the scene appear to be one of plunder rather than massacre.

Were Bruegel’s anti-war theme updated to convey images of child slaughter today, a remote Yemeni village could be the focus. Soldiers performing the slaughter wouldn’t arrive on horseback. Today, they often are Saudi pilots trained to fly U.S.-made warplanes over civilian locales and then launch laser-guided missiles (sold by Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin), to disembowel, decapitate, maim, or kill anyone in the path of the blast and exploding shards.

For more than five years, Yemenis have faced near-famine conditions while enduring a naval blockade and routine aerial bombardment. The United Nations estimates the war has already caused 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 deaths from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure.

Systematic destruction of farms, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation plants and health-care facilities has wrought further suffering. Yemen is resource-rich, but famine continues to stalk the country, the UN reports. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and fully half do not know when they will eat next. Twenty-five percent of the population suffers from moderate to severe malnutrition. That includes more than two million children.

Equipped with U.S.-manufactured Littoral Combat Ships, the Saudis have been able to blockade air and sea ports that are vital to feeding the most populated part of Yemen – the northern area where 80 percent of the population lives. This area is controlled by Ansar Allah, (also known as the “Houthi”). The tactics being used to unseat Ansar Allah severely punish vulnerable people — those who are impoverished, displaced, hungry and stricken with diseases. Many are children who must never be held accountable for political deeds.

Yemeni children are not “starving children;” they are being starved by warring parties whose blockades and bomb attacks have decimated the country. The United States is supplying devastating weaponry and diplomatic support to the Saudi-led coalition, while additionally launching its own “selective” aerial attacks against suspected terrorists and all the civilians in those suspects’ vicinity.

Meanwhile the U.S., like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has cut back on its contributions to humanitarian relief. This severely affects the coping capacity of international donors.

For several months at the end of 2020, the U.S. threatened to designate Ansar Allah as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO). Even the threat of doing so began affecting uncertain trade negotiations, causing prices of desperately needed goods to rise.

On November 16, 2020, five CEOs of major international humanitarian groups jointly wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, urging him not to make this designation. Numerous organizations with extensive experience working in Yemen described the catastrophic effects such a designation would have on delivery of desperately needed humanitarian relief.

Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, late in the day on Sunday, January 10th, his intent to go ahead with the designation.

Senator Chris Murphy termed this FTO designation a “death sentence” for thousands of Yemenis. “90% of Yemen’s food is imported,” he noted, “and even humanitarian waivers will not allow commercial imports, essentially cutting off food for the entire country.”

U.S. leaders and much of the mainstream media responded vigorously to the shocking insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and the tragic loss of multiple lives as it occurred; it is difficult to understand why the Trump Administration’s ongoing massacre of the innocents in Yemen has failed to generate outrage and deep sorrow.

On January 13, journalist Iona Craig noted that the process of delisting a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” – removing it from the FTO list – has never been achieved within a time-frame of less than two years. If the designation goes through, it could take two years to reverse the terrifying cascade of ongoing consequences.

The Biden administration should immediately pursue a reversal. This war began the last time Joseph Biden was in office. It must end now: two years is time Yemen doesn’t have.

Sanctions and blockades are devastating warfare, cruelly leveraging hunger and possible famine as a tool of war. Leading up to the 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, U.S. insistence on comprehensive economic sanctions primarily punished Iraq’s most vulnerable people, especially the children. Hundreds of thousands of children died tortuous deaths, bereft of medicines and adequate health care.

Throughout those years, successive U.S. administrations, with a mainly cooperative media, created the impression that they were only trying to punish Saddam Hussein. But the message they sent to governing bodies throughout the world was unmistakable: if you do not subordinate your country to serve our national interest, we will crush your children.

Yemen hadn’t always gotten this message. When the United States sought United Nations’ approval for its earlier 1991 war against Iraq, Yemen was occupying a temporary seat on the UN Security Council. It surprisingly voted then against the wishes of a United States, whose wars of choice around the Middle East were slowly accelerating.

“That will be the most expensive ‘No’ vote you ever cast,” was the U.S. ambassador’s chilling response to Yemen.

Today, children in Yemen are being starved by monarchs and presidents colluding to control land and resources. “The Houthis, who control a large part of their nation, are no threat whatsoever to the United States or to American citizens,” declares James North, writing for Mondoweiss. “Pompeo is making the declaration because the Houthis are backed by Iran, and Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel want this declaration as part of their aggressive campaign against Iran.”

Children are not terrorists. But a massacre of the innocents is terror. As of January 19, 2021, 268 organizations have signed a statement demanding an end to the war on Yemen. On January 25, “The World Says No to War Against Yemen” actions will be held worldwide.

It was of another painting of Bruegel, The Fall of Icarus, that the poet W.H. Auden wrote:

About suffering they were never wrong,
the Old Masters:…
how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window
or just walking dully along…
how everything turns away
quite leisurely from the disaster…

This painting concerned the death of one child. In Yemen, the United States — through its regional allies, — could end up killing many hundreds of thousands more. Yemen’s children cannot protect themselves; in the direst cases of severe acute malnourishment, they are too weak even to cry.

We must not turn away. We must decry the terrible war and blockade. Doing so may help spare the lives of at least some of Yemen’s children. The opportunity to resist this massacre of the innocents rests with us.

• This article first appeared on the website of The Progressive Magazine

The post About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen first appeared on Dissident Voice.