Category Archives: Crime

Can President-elect Lopez Obrador pull Mexico out of slumber?

After decades of stagnation, corruption and deadly dependency on the United States, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is considered by many ordinary people, as well as by intellectuals, to be the last chance for Mexico.

His only hope is Obrador

Two important news developments are circulating all over North America: US President Donald Trump will not attend the inauguration of the Mexican left-wing President elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). And, yes, despite all tensions and disagreements, the new deal to replace NAFTA has been reached. It is called the USMCA – the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Paradoxically, if Obrador is to fulfill at least half of his electoral promises, it would inevitably lead to a clash between Mexico and both the United States and Canada. The US absorbs around 80 percent of Mexican exports. Various Mexican intellectuals believe that their country was, until now, nothing more than a colony of their ‘big brother’ in the north. Canadian mining companies are brutally exploiting Mexico’s natural resources, and united with local politicians and paramilitaries, are tormenting almost defenseless native people.

National Folcloric Ballet of Mexico marching, joining revolution

After decades of inertia and decay, Mexico is ready for dramatic, essential change which, many argue, will this time not arrive directly under red banners and through revolutionary songs, but with the carefully calculated, precise moves of a chess player.

Only a genius can break, without terrible casualties, the deadly embrace of the United States. And many believe that President-elect Obrador is precisely such leader.

‘Not a poker player, but a chess player’

Mexico is in a ‘bad mood’, despite the victory of a left-wing leader. Hope is in the air, but it is fragile hope, some even say ‘angry hope’. Decades of stagnation, corruption and deadly dependency on the US, have had an extremely negative impact on the nation.

John Ackerman, US-born, Mexican naturalized legendary academic at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) explained during our encounter in Coyoacan:

This has been a long time coming. Throughout Latin America there has been great transformation, except in Mexico. Mexico has been the same since 1946 since PRI was created… Education, healthcare, serious commitment to social system, infrastructure; he promises to improve all this… in terms of working-class population, he expresses great interest in the union democracy, which could be a true vehicle of revolution … unions could be used to create democratic participation in the country.

We both agree that Obrador is not Fidel, or Chavez. He is pragmatic and he knows how dangerous the proximity of Mexico to the US is. Governments get overthrown from the north, and entire socialist systems get derailed, or liquidated.

Professor Ackerman points out:

Obrador is not a poker player, like Trump; Obrador is a chess player.

He is extremely well informed; on his own and through his wife, an accomplished Mexican academic from a prominent left-wing family, Irma Sandoval-Ballesteros. She will soon become Minister of Public Administration in the Obrador administration, which means she will fight against endemic Mexican corruption.  This will be, no doubt, one of the toughest jobs in the country.

The author and Irma Sandoval-Ballesteros

Among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries Mexico has the second highest degree of economic disparity between the extremely poor and extremely rich. According to the government, about 53.4 million of Mexico’s 122 million people were poor in 2016.

Crime is out of control, and so is corruption. According to Seguridad Justicia y Paz, a citizen watch dog NGO in Mexico, five out of ten cities with the highest homicide rates in the world are located in Mexico: Los Cabos (1), Acapulco (3), Tijuana (5), La Paz (6), and Ciudad Victoria (8).

Gang land, Tijuana

Some 460,000 children have been recruited by the drug rings in Mexico, according to the incoming Minister of Public Security of the Obrador government. As bodies are piling up and insecurity grows (recently, at least 100 dead bodies have been found in the state of Jalisco), the Mexican police continues to be hopelessly corrupt and inefficient. But it is now everywhere, ‘true reason for astronomic crime rate’, say many.

Misery everywhere

It is all elegance and style at one of an old hacienda, lost in time in the middle of jungle, in the State of Yucatan. Some twenty years ago I used to live very near this place, working on my novel, in self-imposed-exile. Even then, Yucatan was poor, conservative, and traditional. But there was pride and dignity even in the poorest of the villages.

Things changed dramatically, and not for the better. Now naked misery is everywhere. Just two kilometers from the hacienda Temozon, traditional rural houses have holes in the roofs, and many dwellings have already been abandoned. People are not starving; not yet, but that is mainly due to the fact that in Yucatan, there is still a great sense of community and solidarity.

Don Alfredo Lopez Cham and Dona Consuelo

Don Alfredo Lopez Cham lives in a village of Sihunchen. Half of the roof of his house is missing. He is blind in one eye. He is dirt poor. I asked him how things have been here, since I left. He just nodded his head, in despair:

You just saw my house, there… You can imagine how it is…I cannot fix anything. For years I did not have any work. And now I am old.

Senora Consuelo Rodriguez, his neighbor, jumps in. She is an outspoken, tough but good-hearted matron, always surrounded by a flock of chickens:

Look, he has really nothing! Here, we are trying to help those in need, but ourselves we have close to nothing. Few years ago, the government sent some people to help to fix our houses, but they never came back again.

In theory, Mexico has free education and health care, but in practice, it is just for those who hold government or good private jobs. President-elect AMLO  is promising to fix all that, but people all over the country are skeptical, including Senora Consuela.

If we get sick, we have to pay, unless we have insurance from our work. And most of us, here, don’t have any steady job.

Do people here have faith in the new government? She shrugs her shoulders:

We will see.

This is what I hear everywhere, from coast to coast of this enormous and potentially rich country, which is the 15th largest economy in the world. There is very little enthusiasm: the majority of people adopted a ‘wait and see strategy’.

Don Rudy Alvarez who has worked for more than 20 years at one of the luxury hotels in Yucatan, is only cautiously optimistic about the future.

Even we who have permanent jobs at the multi-national establishments, cannot dream very big. I can feed my family well, and I can send one son to study law at the university. But no bigger dreams. My family would never be able to afford a car or any other luxury. We hope that Obrador (AMLO) will change things. Here, many people feel that Yucatan has been sold to tourists as the ‘Mayan Disneyland’, with very little respect for our culture.

Mexico is the second most visited country in the Western hemisphere, right after the United States. But income from tourism very rarely brings a better life for local people.

Crime and drug wars are far from being the only concerns. In the center of the indigenous and historic city of Oaxaca, the armed forces are blocking the entrance to the Governor’s Palace. Why? The graffiti protesting against disappearances and extrajudicial killings of the activists, as well as forced evictions of indigenous people by the multinational companies.

Ms. Lisetta, who lives with many others, as a protest, in a tent right in front of the palace, explained:

For 9 years we have no home. Paramilitaries and the government forces came and threw us out of our dwellings, in San Juan Copala. Some people were killed, women raped, many disappeared. We are here to demand justice.

Recently, police came, broke my cell phone, and then injured my arm…

She showed me her bruises.

At night, live bands are playing old ballads, all over the city center. People are dancing, drinking and promenading. But displaced men, women and children living in the tents are brutal reminder of real Mexico, of true suffering of many poor and almost all native people.

Sra. Lorena Merina Martinez, Spokesperson of the Displaced Persons from the Autonomous Community of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca State.

I found Sra. Lorena Merina Martinez, Spokesperson of the Displaced Persons from the Autonomous Community of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca State. She spoke to me bravely, coherently and with passion:

In 2007, San Juan Copala declared autonomy and became autonomous municipality.  There was much peace and tranquility in our community. Then in 2009 the PRI-led government of Oaxaca started making noise as San Juan Copala is the ‘head’ of 32 communities of Trique District. The PRI-government did not want autonomy of San Juan Copala, thus unilaterally finished it in 2009. From 2010 we resisted for 10 months so that we could bring food to our children. They had blocked our roads. We didn’t have anything to eat anymore. They were killing our colleagues, but also children. Women were raped as they went looking for food and brought it back to their children. They cut off their hair as well. I am talking about the rape of a 65-year-old community member, for instance.  Another woman was gravely injured. The attackers and rapists all escaped.

For ten months we resisted with no water, no food, no electricity as the PRI-government had cut us off from everything. The date of 16 September 2010 was when PRI-backed paramilitaries entered our community, first to the municipality building, and used big microphone to tell us to leave our houses. We were not given any time at all to leave. Because they saw smoke come from houses, which was basically because we were cooking, they were shooting at our houses and us. We just had to escape with nothing and were forced to find a way to survive with our children, with nothing at all, not even our id cards. We needed to make sure to escape with our children because we were warned that if we didn’t, then they would burn alive our children. By 18 September 2010, PRI-backed paramilitaries started entering our houses, burning and destroying them.  We fled as by then they had killed another community member who had been resisting forced displacement. This is when a group of women started demanding the State Government to intervene in our community. The State nor Federal Government ever intervened.  We demanded that something is done, so that we could safely return to our community. Since September 2010, we have been here.  But they have never done anything to let us return, nor to get rid of those who displaced us because they were the accomplice of those paramilitaries who made us forcibly displaced.

I asked her why it happened? Were multi-national companies involved?

Yes, there are mineral resources. The government wants to take charge of this community. We have very futile lands. Lots of water, vegetables, fruits. The government wants to suck everything from our community.

I recalled massacres in Chiapas, that I covered some two decades ago and later described, under different name in my revolutionary political novel Point of No Return  (Point of No Return – ebook).

At the Center of Photography Manuel Alvarez Bravoin Oaxaca, Mr. Leo (who only gave his first name), confirmed:

It is terrible what happened to those people. Imagine that you are at home, and suddenly someone comes, with armed forces, and kicks you out. But in Mexico it’s normal, and not only in this area. Multinational companies, particularly Canadian ones, are controlling around 80 percent of the mining in this country. People, particularly indigenous ones, are treated brutally. Mexico suffered terribly from the Spanish colonialism, but it often feels that things didn’t change much. We are not in full control of our country!

And the new administration of Obrador? Leo and his colleagues are only moderately optimistic.

We are not sure he would dare to touch essential problems: the dependency of this country on the North, and the horrendous disparities between the rich and poor, between the descendants of the Europeans and the majority, which consists of the indigenous people. Until now you can see it everywhere: Westerners and their companies come and do what they want, while the native people are left with nothing.

But many others remain hopeful. AMLO’s left-wing Moreno Party will soon govern in a coalition with PT (Partido del Trabajo) and the conservative Social Encounter Party. Again, it is unlikely that Mexico will follow the path of Cuba or Venezuela, but the Bolivian model is very likely. It could be a silent revolution, a change based on an extremely progressive and truly socialist constitution of the country, remarkably dating back to 1916.

A Mexican academic, Dr. Ignacio Castuera who teaches at Claremont University in California, explains:

I believe Obrador has to bring several factions together to implement some of what he wants to achieve. No individual alone can solve the problems of a nation. I hope many rally around him, if that happens then significant changes can be brought about. The long shadow of the US policies and corporations will continue to exert major influence.

*****

Construction of US-Mexico wall

In Tijuana I witness absolute misery. I visit multinational maquiladoras that pay only an equivalent of $55 USD per week to their workers. I manage to enter gangland, and I see how the US is building a depressing wall between two countries.

Sra. Leticia facing the wall

I spend hours listening to stories of Sra. Leticia, who lives just one meter away from the wall.

They are cutting across our land, and it harms many creatures who live here. It also prevents water from circulating freely.

All this used to be Mexico. North Americans had stolen several states from us. Now they are building this wall. I visited their country on several occasions. And let me tell you: despite all our problems, I like where I am, at this side!

Then, late at night, I listen to a man who knows his country from north to south, from east to west. We are sitting in a small café; sirens are howling nearby, another murder has just taken place. He faces me squarely and speaks slowly:

Mexico has its back against the wall. This situation cannot continue. This is our last chance – Andrés Manuel López Obrador. We will rally behind him, we will help him. If he delivers what he promises, great; then Mexico will change and prosper. If not, I am afraid that our people will have no other choice but to take up arms.

From the revolutionary days

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

• This is extended version. Essay was originally published by RT.

Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under

There is something peculiar doing the rounds in Australian food circles.  The land down under, considered something of a nirvana of fruit and vegetable production despite horrendous droughts and calamitous cyclones, is facing a new challenge: human agency, namely in the form of despoliation of strawberries.

The results have knocked Australia’s highly concentrated supermarket chains, with both Coles and Aldi withdrawing all their fruit with a nervousness that has not been seen in years.  A spate of incidents involving “contamination”, or pins stuck in the fruit, have manifested across a range of outlets.  Strawberry brands including Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis brands, Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Mal’s Black Label have made it onto the list of needled suppliers.  There have been possible copycat initiates doing the rounds.  “This,” exclaimed Strawberries Australia Inc. Queensland spokesman Ray Daniels, “is food terrorism that is bringing an industry to its knees.”

The game of food contamination, infection or, as Daniels deems it, food terrorism, is the sort of thing that multiplies in fear and emotion.  It targets the industry itself (the strawberry market is already frail before the effects of pest and blight), and ensures maximum publicity for the perpetrator.  Then there is the constant fear of a potential victim, the all stifling terror of legal action that might find a target in the form of a provider.  Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has already boosted such feelings, ordering the Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate the matter.  “This is a vicious crime, it’s designed to injure and possible worse, members of the population at large.”

Out of 800,000 punnets of strawberries, notes Daniels, seven needles were found.  “You’ve got more chance of winning lotto than being affected.”  Take your chance, and, as with all food production, hope for the best as you would hope for the arrival of a green goddess.

Others such as Anthony Kachenko of Hort Innovation Australia have also moved into a mode of reassurance, a salutary reminder that Australia remains in the stratosphere of food excellence despite such adventurous despoilers.  Sabotage it might be, but it was surely isolated, a nonsense that could be dealt with surgical accuracy. “Australia prides itself on safe, healthy, nutritious produce and we have the utmost confidence in the produce that we grow both for the domestic and the export markets.”

Such attitudes mask the fundamental bet that has characterised human existence since these unfortunate bipeds decided to experiment with the cooked and uncooked.  History shows that wells have been poisoned and fields salted.  The divorce from hunter gatherer to industrialist consumer oblivious to the origins of food made that matter even more poignant, and, in some cases, tragic.  The consumer is at the mercy of the production line, and everything else that finds its way into it.

The food science fraternity are being drawn out to explain the meddling, pitching for greater funding, and another spike in industry funds.  “The things we’re usually concerned about,” suggests Kim Phan-Thien of the University of Sydney, “are the accidental contaminants; spray drift or microbial contamination [which is] a natural risk in the production system.”  What was needed, claimed the good food science pundit, was an examination, not merely of “unintentional adulteration and contaminants but the intentional adulteration for economic gain or a malicious reason for a form of terrorism.”

Take a punt (or in this case, a punnet), and hope that source, process and final destination are somehow safe.  The cautionary note here is to simply cut the suspect fruit to ensure no errant needles or pins have found their way into them.  (This presumes the needle suspect was probably hygienic.)

But the strawberry nightmare highlights the insecurity within the food industry, the permanent vulnerability that afflicts a multi-process set of transactions, recipients and consumers.  Purchasing anything off the stands, and in any aisle of a supermarket is never a guarantee of safety, a leap of faith based upon a coma inflicted by industrial complacence.  We are left at the mercy of speculative fancy: the item we take home is what it supposedly is, irrespective of labelling, accurate or otherwise.

The scare, as it is now being termed, has had the sort of impact any fearful threat to health and safety does: an increased focus on security, a boost in food surveillance and the gurus versed in the business of providing machinery.  Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia President Neil Handasyde revealed that growers were being pressed for increased scanning in the form of metal detectors.  “As an industry we are sure that [the needles] are not coming from the farm, but we’re about trying to get confidence into customers that when they buy a punnet of strawberries, that there isn’t going to be anything other than strawberries in there and they’re safe to eat.”

Possibly guilty parties have been distancing themselves with feverish necessity.  This, as much as anything else, reeks of the legal advice necessary to avoid paying for any injury that might result.  Mal’s Black Label strawberries, one of the growing number of needle recipients, has taken the line that the farm is above suspicion, with the suspects to be found elsewhere.  Strawberry grower Tony Holl suggested that some figure was floating around, needle and all, intent on fulfilling the wishes of “a real vendetta”.

A reward of $100,000 has been offered by the Queensland government for capturing the villain in question, if, indeed, there is a conscious, all-rounded creature doing the rounds.  He, she, or it, has now assumed various titles from the Queensland authorities.  The “strawberry spiker” or “strawberry saboteur” seem less like life-threatening agents than lifestyle names intent on an encyclopaedic entry.  But biosecurity, and matters of food health, are matters that throb and pulsate in Australia.  Authorities are promising to find the culprit.  The culprit may have other designs.

Important Update on the Zionist Storming of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Al Awda, by Doctor on Board

Events from 29 July when the Israeli Navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla al-Awda hijacked and diverted it from its intended course to Gaza to Israel.

*****

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with US $15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent two days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of an Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals, especially those with medical conditions, were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide a non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of two persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets’ corridor where we looked out at the horizon and informed all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and would have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away.  Joergen, the chef, was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line. They then approached the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face. Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.

They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.

They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck. All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.

As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones, medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.

I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell. At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.

Around this time Charlie, the first mate, received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his being beaten and tasered.

The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain. Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house. Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own. Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop! Stop! They are beating Herman. They are hurting him”.  We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.

I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne, the engineer, refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face go ash colour, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of oromorph or fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.

With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises. However, Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.

I asked the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro…..Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan. As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge.

The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time. A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity. Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownies with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consumed when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey. Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.

As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were 3 oil /gas rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in. Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.

As we approached Israel, Zohar, our boat leader, suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably 2-3 hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our Captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman, our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.

We knew that in Ashdod there would be the Israeli media and film crews. We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen, the union man, had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.

We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realise they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station. The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped that I realised my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera Abdul had all his credit cards and USD 1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID. He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.

We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it.  All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors. At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.

I was cold and hungry, wearing only one tee-shirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away. My bladder was about to explode but I was not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of ruqsacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries. The suitcase was partially broken. My ruqsack was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size tee-shirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla tee-shirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla tee-shirt as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that tee-shirt in Israel. They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well. So what had become of the glorious Israeli Army of the Six Day War which the world so admired?

I was still not allowed to go to the toilet, but was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.

The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to! By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 – 6 am. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.

Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike. The jailors were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.

The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt. On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated. It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.

At 6.30 am 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help. We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate to get their attention. They lied and said their doctor would be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 pm, about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital.

Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest. We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”.

Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given 4 cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried. Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other. She was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault. But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally. His job was to tell us that a Tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear.

Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order. Shortly after that possibly at 6 pm since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben Gurion airport immediately to wait there. It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014. I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.

When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that he his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?

Conclusion

We, the six women on board al-Awda, had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanise us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners. Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.

They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage. We know they would have preferred to kill us but, of course, the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel.

If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.

As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it. They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.

We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality. We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them. We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime. In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead 7 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with live bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years.

The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by machine guns from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 165 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women. The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza. As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.

BUT we will not stop. We must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians. As long as I survive I will exist to resist.  To do less will be a crime.

• A version of this article appeared in 21st Century Wire.com

Embellishing Crime: Melbourne’s “African Gang” Problem

Always trust the handy anecdote to overwhelm reality with force and false persuasiveness.  The taxi driver irate at the latest opportunistic scribble in a Rupert Murdoch rag is bound to regale you with a story as you speed to the airport: “Those bloody gangs.  And the police didn’t even bloody mention they were African!”  A vital canon of reactionary politics is extolling the supposed reality of a phenomenon that does not affect you.  All that matters is its existence, however modest its effect.

Forced difference matters in the politicisation of crime.  Certain offenders command more attention than others.  Saying that a good deal of crime is done by Caucasians in a still dominant Caucasian country or state is a fairly valueless exercise, a commonality that will, at best, induce a yawn.  Let those felons be.  Attention should be paid, rather, to acts that can be underscored as spectacular.  Besides, it sells papers, however poor the copy.

Take such headlines from The Australian, calculated to chill the blood and curdle compassion: “Melbourne is most liveable city for gang members and bully unionists”.  Another: “Streets of menace: gang violence in the suburbs.”  This is entertaining stuff giving the impression that going out on a Melbourne street would be akin to strolling in an unlit part of fifteenth century London.

Over the course of the last Australian summer, the Turnbull government was gifted gold. Its least imaginative minister, an unreformed member of the police, all growl and snarl, pounced on a spate of violent attacks featuring South Sudanese youths.  But Peter Dutton was attempting to outdo his predecessors.

In 2007, the murder of South Sudanese Melburnian Liep Gony became the basis of moves by then immigration minister Kevin Andrews to restrict refugees from settling in Australia, ostensibly on the basis of non-integration.

More recently, Dutton made a good deal of the death of a South Sudanese teenager.  (Deaths supply excellent currency in the market of fear.)  Nineteen-year-old Laa Chol had given the pretext to Dutton to suggest that Victoria had become the badlands of Australia.  “There is a major law and order problem in Victoria and more people are going to be hurt until the rule of law is enforced by the Victorian Government.”  New South Wales and Queensland, by way of contrast, were spick and span on the issue, while the Andrews government in Victoria had “created this problem”, a result of “pathetic bail laws.”

Dutton’s untutored meddling in the Victorian policing scene is spectacular, claiming that he is on to something others in Victoria are not.  “Andrews can’t even admit Sudanese gangs exist so how can he hope to fix the problem.  He is out of touch and more people will get hurt or worse until the problem is fixed.”

For a Home Affairs minister to be using the rule of law as a point of execration for Victoria must be another one of life’s curious ironies, given the utter incapacity on the part of the minister to comprehend the term.  Under Dutton laws suggest weapons rather than shields.  During his troublesome reign, liberties have been clipped, scraped and accordingly eroded in what is becoming an amateurish police state.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has convincingly dispelled any notions of being moderate during his tenure, seconded his minister on July 17 during a visit to Melbourne, claiming that “there is a gang issue here and you are not going to make it go away by pretending it doesn’t exist.”  You can sense the acrid smell of elections around the corner.

The Victorian police have thus far resisted joining in, much to the angst of the crime-seeing fantasists.  “Absolutely there’s some problems we have to tackle,” admitted Victoria Police Commander Stuart Bateson on radio 3AW with eminent sensibility, “but we also have to be aware of what happens as a result of over-exaggerating, and targeting them and tarnishing a whole community.”

Each incident triggers a fear that clouds an otherwise engaged, integrated majority of African residents.  They, in Bateson’s careful words, “feel they are excluded from lots of things because of this feeling that everyone is looking at them thinking they’re a gang and out to assault [people].  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Misha Ketchell, editor of The Conversation AU while fully admitting to the existence of those community fears about gang violence, “based on real experiences of violent criminal behaviour” was adamant.  “What we are seeing is the most shameless opportunism dressed up as leadership.”

Melbourne, typical of other cities with a cosmopolitan core, receives groups with uneven success.  By in large it does fairly well. Over time, individuals find their feet; others will be consumed by the beast, lost in the crunch of urbanisation and its depredations.  South Sudanese Kuon Gido, profiled in a news report for the ABC in February, is one example: angry, impulsive, testosterone in search of a purpose.  “Understanding Kuon’s story is the key to understanding this summer’s heated debate about African-Australian youth crime: the push factors are disadvantage, education, employment and cultural clashes.”

That particular account is of interest on several levels, complex, nuanced.  South Sudanese parents conceded struggling with disciplining their children, hampered by the attractions of social services which provide housing and assistance to them.  Home becomes a place to avoid, while the memory of the refugee camp, ironically enough, features as a curiously mixed blessing: the security of the gate.  “We came here for freedom,” an unnamed community leader notes, “but this is too much freedom.”

This could be seen in medical, therapeutic terms: youth dislocation, the trauma of war, the disturbances of adjustment.  As Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews asserts, “enormous efforts” are underway to engage the youths in question, their families, community leaders, emphasising training, education and moving into the job market. It could also be seen as an Australian youth problem: some of the offenders are actually Australian born, a point easily missed by the law-and-order heavies.

Another reaction, easily undertaken by the politically desperate, is condemnation, isolation and expulsion, applying the heavy, often insentient arm of the law. This might just as well be called the politics of disintegration.

Drawing Straws: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for an American to understand the truth

In a sense, blowback is simply another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows. Although people usually know what they have sown, our national experience of blowback is seldom imagined in such terms because so much of what the managers of the American empire have sown has been kept secret.

It is time to realize, however, that the real dangers to America today come not from the newly rich people of East Asia but from our own ideological rigidity, our deep-seated belief in our own propaganda.

― Chalmers Johnson, Blowback, Second Edition: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

There are no more leaps of faith, or get out of jail cards left anymore.

The first casualty of war is truth.

Lofty heights of defining the first amendment are just overlooks onto the crumbling mythology of a democracy, where the people – citizens — vote for laws directly. We have a republic, a faulty one, the source of which is the power derived from billionaires, financiers, arms merchants, K-Streeters and the attendant moles allowing the government to break every charter of human concern.

So, in that regard, we in this corptocracy have the right to be fooled every minute, suckered to not know a goddamned thing about democracy in big quotes.

The very concept of manufactured consent and a controlled opposition destroys much of the power of agency and so-called freedom of assembly, association and travel.

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.

― Vladimir Lenin

But, alas, we have blokes who see the world not as a black and white dichotomous illusion of the for v. against bifurcation, but a world of flowing back to what words should mean, a world that allows the filters to be smashed like high polished glass and instead deploying a magnifying glass to point toward the very source of the blasphemies and strong arm robberies that have been occurring in the Republic the very first moment the beaver hat was put on and the first treaty scripted by the powdered wigs of Washingtonian Fathers and broken, ripped to shreds, seeded with the dark force that is the white race.

Here comes Tools for Transparency into the mix of triage to uphold the declaration of independence, and the few tenets of the constitution that are supremely directed to we-by-for-because of the people, AND not the corporation, monopoly, Military-Retail-Finance-Ag-Energy-Pharma-Prison-Medical-Toxins-IT-Surveillance-Legal Complex. This project is the brainchild of a former Marine who “came to life late in the world” of pure skepticism about the powers that be and his own questioning of the motivations and machinations of his government and political representatives. Sometimes it’s hard to don and doff the uniform of a trained/manipulated/choregraphed killer and make any sense of the orders belted out and campaigns designed with no benefit to the invaded peoples other than the demented good (bad) for that gluttonous octopus parasite called capitalism as it entangles its tentacles on each invaded country’s birthright, history, natural resources, land and people through the power of the high explosives bomb and the usury bond.

“Heck, before starting this project, I didn’t even know we had 535 representatives in Congress,” states Brian Hanson.

So goes the beginning of this start up, Tools for Transparency, an on-line clearing house for what Hanson hopes will be a light shed onto all the backroom dealings we as consumers of news just aren’t privy to. Or that’s at least what Brian Hanson is shooting for in this atmosphere of “fake” news, “really fake” news, “non” news, “no” news, “distracting” news “manufactured” news, “rabbit hole” news, “lies are truths” news, or newspeak.

The Beaverton, Oregon, resident is the father of this platform which is still in its infancy, as the former Marine throws his all into the project.

The 37-year-old Hanson is a Pacific Northwest product, having dropped out of traditional high school and landing up in an alternative high school where the instructors were outside the box. He recalls reading Shakespeare, doing two weeks of study on the Nez Perce peoples, and a class report on the Battle of Wounded Knee. With gusto, he told me that his class made a video of the trail of tears and presented it to the local Shriners.

For this father of a special needs daughter, he easily lets roll off his tongue, “black sheep,” both an emblematic moniker and symbolic of his travails, having stuck with him throughout his life, from high school, to the Marines (“where I learned to get responsible”) to today: divorced, single dad, precarious income stream. On top of that, he’s living in his elderly parents’ garage/converted small studio apartment.

After the Marines, where he specialized in communications, and field wiring, he worked on a community college degree, eventually ending up with a BA from Portland State University in psychology.

The disciplines of cognitive behavior therapy and behavior analysis “got to me” first in college, initially through the inspiring teaching of a San Bernardino community college instructor who helped the young Hanson stick it out after Hanson smashed up bones in a motorcycle accident: a spill that caused him to miss half the classes. This faculty member went the extra mile, Hanson says, allowing him to do outside work and test make-ups.

I was fresh out of the military and had no idea what I was doing. This professor missed dinners with his family, missed his kids’ recitals, to allow me to make up tests. . . . I’ve been a lifelong feminist because of this man, who instructed me on his own philosophy tied to feminism. I never had a male role model like that before.

Hanson kicked around, came back to Beaverton, worked with developmental disabled youth and then foster youth, where I met him when we were both case managers for 16-to 21-year-old foster youth.

We talk a lot about consumable information, as Hanson explains his gambit with his new information web company. It’s an age-old conundrum, what George Lakoff puts down as narrative framing. That was a big issue in the Bush Junior (W) election cycle, how born-with-a-silver-spoon George W had snookered Joe Six-Pack and NASCAR country with his Yale education, dicey National Air Guard record and Bush’s rich charmed life, getting a professional baseball team (Texas Rangers) as part of the family bargain.

The illustration is dramatic to both Hanson and myself, as we talked about Mad Men, the Edward Bernays and Milton Friedman schools of propaganda, framing stories (lies) and setting out to paint good people as bad, heroic politicians like Salvador Allende of Chile as Commie Baby Killers. Even now, Bush, the instigator of chaos in the Middle East, with all the cooked up lies and distractions of his own stupidity (like Trump), and, bam, W is reclaimed (in the mainstream mush media) as something of a good president, and especially by the likes of the Democratic Party misleadership. Bush, millionaire, entitled, crude, racist, and, bam again, we have dirt poor kids from Appalachia or Akron joining up through the economic draft of standing down the armies of burger flippers to fight illegal wars, and then to come home creaking decrepit shells of their old young selves to fight for oil and geopolitical checkmate brinkmanship of the World Bank and Goldman Sachs order. Here we have an old Connecticut political family, from Prescott Bush, putting the grandson out on tens of thousands of acres of scrub brush near Waco, Texas, with 4×4 hefty pick-up trucks and chainsaws (George is deathly afraid of horses), and we’re all good to call him a man’s man, roughing it West Texas.

Honest George or Rough-rider Teddy or Ahh Shucks Reagan, Yes We Can/Si Se Puede Obama, One Thousand Points of Light Bush Sr., Make America Great Again Trump — the news isn’t the news, and patriotism is the graveyard of scoundrels and their bromides.

A huge turning point for Brian was this last election cycle, with Trump getting guffaws and trounced in the court of public opinion as a wimp, liar, cheat, misogamist, racist, buffoon, narcissist, from people all over the political spectrum, during the beginning of the election cycle. But then once Trump got in, family feuds and friendship breaks occurred: “How was it that this relationship I had with a male buddy, a true friend, going on 27 years, just gets dumped because I was questioning Trump as a viable candidate and questioning his integrity?”

The age-old battle – turning blue in the face trying to explain to a friend, or anyone, that candidate x is this and that, based on the historical record. In Trump’s case, there is a long written, legal, quotable/citable record of this guy’s dirty dealings, bad business decisions, his lechery, racism, sexism, blatant unmitigated arrogance, criminality. For Hanson, it’s a no-brainer that anyone in their right mind might question Trump’s validity and viable character when he threw his toupee into the ring.

A great friend just dropped Brian. Took him off social media, stopped socializing, screen to black, and this broken friendship was racing through Hanson’s mind because of the new normal: the targeted toxicity of social media feeds, and the social and psychological conditioning which this huge chasm between red state/blue state ideology has meted out to an already bifurcated flagging American consumerist society.

Even having a respectable, clean and thorough debate about Trump is almost impossible, Hanson said while we talked over beers at the Yukon Bar in Sellwood. This huge cultural divide exists as far as individuals’ skills sets and critical thinking skills. The more technical the stuff like climate change or the deep state military industrial complex, people’s world views get challenged. They just don’t have the tools to dig deep into a bill passed (and endorsed) by their local representatives.

Again, “consumable” as a tool to enlightenment or at least knowledge comes up in our conversation, and Hanson has done the following thought experiment literally hundreds of times – “I hear an opinion in the news – FOX, MSNBC, the Young Turks – and I can spend four hours digging up truths, and how that opinion got to us.” What he’s found is the consumable stuff the typical news consumer gets is absolutely counter to the reality of that news’ origins, facts and context.

His Tools for Transparency cuts through the opinion, and as he proposes, makes the world news and the even more Byzantine and elaborate proposed legislation and lobbying groups behind “the news” approachable, again, consumable.

He taps into his college days taking courses in industrial organizational psychology, seemingly benign when the American Psychological Association gets to mash the term into a three-fold brochure by defining it for prospective students as business as usual for corporations, and humanity is better because of this sort of manipulative psychology, but . . .

In reality, it’s the science of behavior in the workplace, organizational development, attitudes, career development, decision theory, human performance, human factors, consumer behavior, small group theory and process, criterion theory and development and job and task analysis and individual assessment. It’s a set of tools to keep workers down spiritually and organizationally, disconnected, fearful, confused and ineffectual as thinkers and resisters, and inept at countering the abuse of power companies or bureaucracies wield over a misinformed workforce.

The shape of corporations’ unethical behavior, their sociopathic and the draconian workplace conditions today are largely sculpted and defined by these behavior shapers to include the marketers and the Edward Bernays-inspired manipulators of facts and brain functioning. This begs the question for Hanson, just what are today’s hierarchy of needs for the average American? Physiological; Safety; Love/Belonging; Esteem; Self-Actualization.

Of course, Maslow added human’s innate drive toward curiosity. Ironically, the lower scaffolds of the pyramid are deemed primitive – eating, sleeping, drinking, as are the safety needs and social needs such as friendship and sexual intimacy. In one sense, we see it played out – one cannot philosophize on an empty stomach and for Aristotle, his observation is prescient – ‘all paid work absorbs and degrades the mind.’

Hanson and I talk about the existential threats of climate change, terrorists, war, and our own mortality. We are in that hyper-speed moment in history when technology changes at breakneck speed, and disruptive technologies’ create disruptive economies which in turn give us disruptive communities.

We are avoiding the inevitability of collapse, peak oil, peak everything, so we construct comforting (read: dopamine-triggering and sedating) realities, tied to bourgeois values, consumeristic habits, customs, degraded culture, moral codes that are antithetical to our own agency, and, then, religious fervor.

Hanson states:

How do they get us to take actions against our beliefs? This conditioning now is based on not just ‘buy my product’ to attain unattainable standards. Today, we, as a society, are terrified if we can’t attain that level of status or standard,

Hanson’s singular (one of several) bottom lines is that his Tools for Transparency has to find a way to be consumable, and a second one Hanson repeats posits the solutions to our problems have to be profitable: “How can he create a market for alternative information profitable?”

Tools for Transparency uses the platform Patreon, founded five years ago as a platform that allows patrons to pay a set amount of money every time an artist creates a work of art. Hanson’s web site and service, then depends on loyalty, fee-paying patrons.

The result thus far for Hanson is nascent, but growing. I asked him how his daily routine tied to this dream can be synthesized in a nutshell:

My daily routine is actually starting to wrap up at this point, it has never been very consistent as a single start-up founder anyways. For the most part my site is not sophisticated enough to continue in perpetuity yet. Too many requirements for data and input that cannot be done on a static basis. So I am mostly working on a static prototype I can display, build an audience with.

For the most part I have been diving headfirst into legislative bulk data sets. Making connections between publications, finding creative ways to link (intentionally I think) differently formatted data together. Working to construct cohesive and understandable information. When I get tired of staring at data sheets, I will work to develop relationships with business people, work on marketing techniques, reaching out to colleges and programs, learning about business development, corporate securities, federal regulations pertaining to my business, or some general outreach (mostly family right now, you’re the first real contact outside my main family I am working with). There really isn’t anything routine about what I am doing, because it is mostly just me and a single developer friend working on the site.

We talked about other issues tied the militarization of society, and I posed some long-winded questions cut and pasted below:

1. What makes what you are doing relevant to the click bait/screen addicted generation?

2. You say you were terrified for the lives of the family members, the country. Blacks and Hispanics tell me that finally, the whites get what we have been experiencing for decades, since the beginning of the country. Speak to that reality. This has been and is a white supremacist country, and with that operating procedure/system, poor people, disenfranchised people, people of color especially, are on the chopping block for those white elitists and the militarized mentality of law enforcement and even our daily lives as a renter class.

He and I talk much about Black Lives Matter, and why this new movement is relevant in 2018 as it would have been in 1950 USA or 1850 America.

And I do not for a second believe it has ever not been exactly this way. Every regime has to have a solider class that it uses to enforce the social hierarchy. And the solider class is always expected to use violence to enforce ideology. The threats are always transient, ever shifting, but the response is doggedly the same. Authoritarianism flourishes in this environment, we sacrifice freedoms for security, and our world shrinks a little more.

Brian believes there is an awakening today in this country, and that the examples of movements such as those in Portland where youth are out yelling against the police state, and then how we are seeing individual officers returning firing with violence against those youth:

The viral video of an officer drawing his pistol on a group of school age children is terrifying.

We talk a lot about the devaluing of language and intentional discourse which includes the abilities of a society to engage in lively and cogent debate. For me, I know the forces of propaganda are multi-headed, multi-variant, with so much of American life seeded with lies, half-truths, duplicitous and twisted concepts, as well as inaccurate and spin-doctored history, which has contaminated a large portion of our society, up and down the economic ladder, with mind control.

Unfortunately, our language now is inextricably tied to emotions, as we see leftists (what’s that?) and so-called progressives screaming at the top of their lungs how Trump is the worst president ever. Black so-called activists, journalists, stating how the empire (sky) is falling because Trump talked with Putin. Imagine, imagine, all those millions upon millions of people killed because of all the other presidents’ and their thugs’ policies eviscerating societies, all those elections smeared, all those democracies mauled, all those citizens in the other part of the world hobbled by America’s policies, read “wars, occupations, embargoes, structural violence.” It is a daily reminder for us all that today, as was true yesterday, that we are ruled by masters of self-deception and our collective society having a feel good party every day while we plunder the world. Doublethink. Here:

Orwell’s point:

To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

Herein lies the problem – vaunting past presidents on pedestals while attacking this current deplorable, Donald Trump. The reality is the US has been run by an elite group of militarists, and by no means is Trump the worst of the worst, which is both illogical and unsupported by facts:

Yet, we have to mark the words and wisdom of those of us who have been marking this empire’s crimes, both internal and external, for years. Here, Paul Edwards over at Counterpunch hits a bulls-eye on the heart of the matter:

After decades of proven bald-faced crime, deceit and the dirtiest pool at home and abroad, the CIA, FBI, NSA, the Justice Department and the whole fetid nomenklatura of sociopathic rats, are portrayed as white knights of virtue dispensing verity as holy writ. And “progressives” buy it.

These are the vermin that gave us Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Chile, the Contras, Iraq’s WMD, and along the way managed to miss the falls of the Shah and Communism.

Truly an Orwellian clusterfuck, this. War Party Dems misleading naive liberal souls sickened by Trump into embracing the dirty, vicious lunacy Hillary peddled to her fans, the bankers, brokers, and CEOs of the War Machine.

Trump is a fool who may yet blunder us into war; the Dems and the Deep State cabal would give us war by design.

In an innocent way, Brian Hanson is hoping to dig into that “objective reality,” with his Tools for Transparency. He might be unconsciously adhering to Mark Twain’s admonition: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Maybe Tools for Transparency will get under the onion peels of deceit, a consumeristic and kleptocratic debt-ridden society to expose those culprits’ origins – where or where and how and why did something like the Flint, Michigan, poisoning of people’s water happen? Who signed off? How did it, the deceit (felonies), weave its way through a supposedly checked and triple-checked “democracy”?

As we parted from a free jazz concert in Portland, he has some pointed words for me: “I will keep working on you Paul to get some hope about society, about the world. I’m going to keep on you.”

The Danger Is Real: We Need a New Declaration of Independence for Modern Times

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

— Thomas Paine, December 1776

Imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials.

Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal.

Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.

If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence.

A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.

Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives.

Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated. Even after they had won their independence from Great Britain, these new Americans worked to ensure that the rights they had risked their lives to secure would remain secure for future generations. The result: our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Imagine the shock and outrage these 56 men would feel were they to discover that 242 years later, the government they had risked their lives to create has been transformed into a militaristic police state in which exercising one’s freedoms is often viewed as a flagrant act of defiance.

Indeed, had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.

The danger is real.

We could certainly use some of that revolutionary outrage today.

Certainly, we would do well to reclaim the revolutionary spirit of our ancestors and remember what drove them to such drastic measures in the first place.

Then again, perhaps what we need is a new Declaration of Independence.

Re-read the Declaration of Independence for yourself and ask yourself if the abuses suffered by early Americans at the hands of the British police state don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state.

If you find the purple prose used by the Founders hard to decipher, here’s my translation of what the Declaration of Independence would look and sound like if it were written in the modern vernacular:

There comes a time when a populace must stand united and say “enough is enough” to the government’s abuses, even if it means getting rid of the political parties in power.

Believing that “we the people” have a natural and divine right to direct our own lives, here are truths about the power of the people and how we arrived at the decision to sever our ties to the government:

All men and women are created equal.

All people possess certain innate rights that no government or agency or individual can take away from them. Among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The government’s job is to protect the people’s innate rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s power comes from the will of the people.

Whenever any government abuses its power, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government and replace it with a new government that will respect and protect the rights of the people.

It is not wise to get rid of a government for minor transgressions. In fact, as history has shown, people resist change and are inclined to suffer all manner of abuses to which they have become accustomed.

However, when the people have been subjected to repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the purpose of establishing a tyrannical government, people have a right and duty to do away with that tyrannical Government and to replace it with a new government that will protect and preserve their innate rights for their future well being.

This is exactly the state of affairs we are suffering under right now, which is why it is necessary that we change this imperial system of government.

The history of the present Imperial Government is a history of repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the intention of establishing absolute Tyranny over the country.

To prove this, consider the following:

The government has, through its own negligence and arrogance, refused to adopt urgent and necessary laws for the good of the people.

The government has threatened to hold up critical laws unless the people agree to relinquish their right to be fully represented in the Legislature.

In order to expand its power and bring about compliance with its dictates, the government has made it nearly impossible for the people to make their views and needs heard by their representatives.

The government has repeatedly suppressed protests arising in response to its actions.

The government has obstructed justice by refusing to appoint new judges and has demanded that the Court comply with the government’s dictates.

The government has allowed its agents to harass the people and steal from them.

The government has directed militarized government agents—a.k.a., a standing army—to police domestic affairs in peacetime.

The government has turned the country into a militarized police state.

The government has conspired to undermine the rule of law and the constitution in order to expand its own powers.

The government has allowed its militarized police to invade our homes.

The government has failed to hold its agents accountable for wrongdoing and murder.

The government has jeopardized our international trade agreements.

The government has taxed us without our permission.

The government has denied us due process and the right to a fair trial.

The government has engaged in extraordinary rendition.

The government has continued to expand its military empire and occupy foreign nations.

The government has eroded fundamental legal protections and destabilized the structure of government.

The government has declared its federal powers superior to those of the states.

The government has ceased to protect the people and instead waged war against the people.

The government has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of the people.

The government has employed private contractors and mercenaries to carry out acts of death, desolation and tyranny, totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

The government has pitted its citizens against each other.

The government has stirred up civil unrest and laid the groundwork for martial law.

Repeatedly, we have asked the government to cease its abuses. Each time, the government has responded with more abuse.

An Imperial Ruler who acts like a tyrant is not fit to govern a free people.

We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our fellow citizens about the government’s abuses. We have warned them about the government’s power grabs. We have appealed to their sense of justice. We have reminded them of our common bonds.

They have rejected our plea for justice and brotherhood. They are equally at fault for the injustices being carried out by the government.

Thus, for the reasons mentioned above, we the people of the united States of America declare ourselves free from the chains of an abusive government. Relying on God’s protection, we pledge to stand by this Declaration of Independence with our lives, our fortunes and our honor.

That was 242 years ago.

In the years since early Americans first declared and eventually won their independence from Great Britain, we—the descendants of those revolutionary patriots—have somehow managed to work ourselves right back under the tyrant’s thumb.

Only this time, the tyrant is one of our own making: the U.S. government.

The abuses meted out by an imperial government and endured by the American people have not ended. They have merely evolved.

“We the people” are still being robbed blind by a government of thieves.

We are still being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards.

We are still being locked up by a government of greedy jailers.

We are still being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms.

We are still being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers.

We are still being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates.

And we are still being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army.

Given the fact that we are a relatively young nation, it hasn’t taken very long for an authoritarian regime to creep into power.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan coup that laid siege to our nation did not happen overnight.

It snuck in under our radar, hiding behind the guise of national security, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on immigration, political correctness, hate crimes and a host of other official-sounding programs aimed at expanding the government’s power at the expense of individual freedoms.

The building blocks for the bleak future we’re just now getting a foretaste of—police shootings of unarmed citizens, profit-driven prisons, weapons of compliance, a wall-to-wall surveillance state, pre-crime programs, a suspect society, school-to-prison pipelines, militarized police, over-criminalization, SWAT team raids, endless wars, etc.—were put in place by government officials we trusted to look out for our best interests and by American citizens who failed to heed James Madison’s warning to “take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

In so doing, we compromised our principles, negotiated away our rights, and allowed the rule of law to be rendered irrelevant.

There is no knowing how long it will take to undo the damage wrought by government corruption, corporate greed, militarization, and a nation of apathetic, gullible sheep.

The problems we are facing will not be fixed overnight: that is the grim reality with which we must contend.

Frankly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we may see no relief from the police state in my lifetime or for several generations to come. That does not mean we should give up or give in or tune out.

Remember, there is always a price to be paid for remaining silent in the face of injustice.

That price is tyranny.

Saudi Wahabbism Serves Western Imperialism

When the Saudi Crown Prince gave an interview to the Washington Post, declaring that it was actually the West that encouraged his country to spread Wahhabism to all corners of the world, there was a long silence in almost all the mass media outlets in the West, but also in countries such as Egypt and Indonesia.

Those who read the statement expected a determined rebuke from Riyadh. It did not come. The sky did not fall. Lightning did not strike the Prince or the Post.

Clearly, not all that the Crown Prince declared appeared on the pages of the Washington Post, but what actually did, would be enough to bring down entire regimes in such places like Indonesia, Malaysia or Brunei. Or at least it would be enough under ‘normal circumstances’. That is, if the population there was not already hopelessly and thoroughly indoctrinated and programed, and if the rulers in those countries did not subscribe to, or tolerate, the most aggressive, chauvinistic and ritualistic (as opposed to the intellectual or spiritual) form of the religion.

Reading between the lines, the Saudi Prince suggested that it was actually the West which, while fighting an ‘ideological war’ against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, handpicked Islam and its ultra-orthodox and radical wing – Wahhabism – as an ally in destroying almost all the progressive, anti-imperialist and egalitarian aspirations in the countries with a Muslim majority.

As reported by RT on 28 March 2018:

The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.

Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union…

The interview with the crown prince was initially held ‘off the record’. However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to let the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

Since the beginning of the spread of Wahhabism, one country after another had been falling; ruined by ignorance, fanatical zeal and fear, which have been preventing the people of countries such as post-1965 Indonesia or the post-Western-invasion Iraq, to move back (to the era before Western intervention) and at the same time forward, towards something that used to be so natural to their culture in not such a distant past – towards socialism or at least tolerant secularism.

*****

In reality, Wahhabism does not have much to do with Islam. Or more precisely, it intercepts and derails the natural development of Islam, of its strife for an egalitarian arrangement of the world, and for socialism.

The Brits were behind the birth of the movement; the Brits and one of the most radical, fundamentalist and regressive preachers of all times – Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

The essence of the Wahabi/British alliance and dogma was and still is, extremely simple: “Religious leaders would force the people into terrible, irrational fear and consequent submission. No criticism of the religion is allowed; no questioning of its essence and particularly of the conservative and archaic interpretation of the Book. Once conditioned this way, people stopped questioning and criticizing first the feudalist, and later capitalist oppression; they also accepted without blinking the plunder of their natural resources by local and foreign masters. All attempts to build a socialist and egalitarian society got deterred, brutally, ‘in the name of Islam’ and ‘in the name of God’”.

Of course, as a result, the Western imperialists and the local servile ‘elites’ are laughing all the way to the bank, at the expense of those impoverished and duped millions in the countries that are controlled by the Wahhabi and Western dogmas.

Only a few in the devastated, colonized countries actually realize that Wahhabism does not serve God or the people; it is helping Western interests and greed.

Precisely this is what is right now happening in Indonesia, but also in several other countries that have been conquered by the West, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Were Syria to fall, this historically secular and socially-oriented nation would be forced into the same horrid direction. People there are well aware of this, as they are educated. They also see what has happened to Libya and Iraq and they definitely do not want to end up like them. It is the Wahhabi terrorist fighters that both the West and its lackeys like Saudi Arabia unleashed against the Syrian state and its people.

*****

Despite its hypocritical secular rhetoric, manufactured mainly for local consumption but not for the colonies, the West is glorifying or at least refusing to openly criticize its own brutal and ‘anti-people’ offspring – a concept which has already consumed and ruined both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In fact, it is trying to convince the world that these two countries are ‘normal’, and in the case of Indonesia, both ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’. At the same time, it has consistently been antagonizing almost all the secular or relatively secular nations with substantial Muslim majorities, such as Syria (until now), but also Afghanistan, Iran (prior to the coup of 1953), Iraq and Libya before they were thoroughly and brutally smashed.

Aghanistan-US-air-force-Bagrani-base

It is because the state, in which the KSA, Indonesia and the present-day Afghanistan can be found, is the direct result of both Western interventions and indoctrination. The injected Wahhabi dogma is giving this Western ‘project’ a Muslim flavor, while justifying trillions of dollars on ‘defense spending’ for the so-called ‘War on Terror’ (a concept resembling an Asian fishing pond where fish are brought in and then fished out for a fee).

Obedience, even submissiveness – is where, for many reasons, the West wants its ‘client’ states and neo-colonies to be. The KSA is an important trophy because of its oil, and strategic position in the region. Saudi rulers are often going out of their way to please their masters in London and Washington, implementing the most aggressive pro-Western foreign policy. Afghanistan is ‘valued’ for its geographical location, which could potentially allow the West to intimidate and even eventually invade both Iran and Pakistan, while inserting extremist Muslim movements into China, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Between 1 and 3 million Indonesian people ‘had to be’ massacred in 1965-66, in order to bring to power a corrupt turbo-capitalist clique which could guarantee that the initially bottomless (although now rapidly thinning) natural resources could flow, uninterrupted and often untaxed, into places such as North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Frankly, there is absolutely nothing ‘normal’ about countries such as Indonesia and the KSA. In fact, it would take decades, but most likely entire generations, in order to return them to at least some sort of nominal ‘normalcy’. Even if the process were to begin soon, the West hopes that by the time it ends, almost all of the natural resources of these countries would be gone.

But the process is not yet even beginning. The main reason for the intellectual stagnation and lack of resistance is obvious: people in countries such as Indonesia and KSA are conditioned so they are not able to see the brutal reality that surrounds them. They are indoctrinated and ‘pacified’. They have been told that socialism equals atheism and that atheism is evil, illegal and ‘sinful’.

Hence, Islam was modified by the Western and Saudi demagogues, and has been ‘sent to a battle’, against progress and a just, egalitarian arrangement of the world.

Poster of radical FPI in Jakarta

This version of religion is unapologetically defending Western imperialism, savage capitalism as well as the intellectual and creative collapse of the countries into which it was injected, including Indonesia. There, in turn, the West tolerates the thorough corruption, grotesque lack of social services, and even genocides and holocausts committed first against the Indonesians themselves, then against the people of East Timor, and to this day against the defenseless Papuan men, women and children. And it is not only a ‘tolerance’ – the West participates directly in these massacres and extermination campaigns, as it also takes part in spreading the vilest forms of Wahabi terrorism and dogmas to all corners of the world. All this, while tens of millions of the followers of Wahhabism are filling the mosques daily, performing mechanical rituals without any deeper thought or soul searching.

Wahhabism works – it works for the mining companies and banks with their headquarters in London and New York. It also works extremely well for the rulers and the local ‘elites’ inside the ‘client’ states.

*****

Ziauddin Sardar, a leading Muslim scholar from Pakistan, who is based in London, has no doubts that ‘Muslim fundamentalism’ is, to a great extent, the result of the Western imperialism and colonialism.

Ziauddin Sardar and Andre Vltchek discussing Islam at Mr. Sardar’s club in London

In a conversation which we had several years ago, he explained:

Trust between Islam and the West has indeed been broken… We need to realize that colonialism did much more than simply damage Muslim nations and cultures. It played a major part in the suppression and eventual disappearance of knowledge and learning, thought and creativity, from Muslim cultures. The colonial encounter began by appropriating the knowledge and learning of Islam, which became the basis of the ‘European Renaissance’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ and ended by eradicating this knowledge and learning from both from Muslim societies and from history itself. It did that both by physical elimination – destroying and closing down institutions of learning, banning certain types of indigenous knowledge, killing off local thinkers and scholars – and by rewriting history as the history of western civilization into which all minor histories of other civilization are subsumed.

As a consequence, Muslim cultures were de-linked from their own history with many serious consequences. For example, the colonial suppression of Islamic science led to the displacement of scientific culture from Muslim society. It did this by introducing new systems of administration, law, education and economy all of which were designed to impart dependence, compliance and subservience to the colonial powers. The decline of Islamic science and learning is one aspect of the general economic and political decay and deterioration of Muslim societies. Islam has thus been transformed from a dynamic culture and a holistic way of life to mere rhetoric. Islamic education has become a cul-de-sac, a one-way ticket to marginality. It also led to the conceptual reduction of Muslim civilization. By which I mean concepts that shaped and gave direction to Muslim societies became divorced from the actual daily lives of Muslims – leading to the kind of intellectual impasse that we find in Muslim societies today.  Western neo-colonialism perpetuates that system.

*****

In Indonesia, after the Western-sponsored military coup of 1965, which destroyed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and brought to power an extreme pro-market and pro-Western regime, things are deteriorating with a frightening predictability, consistency and speed.

While the fascist dictator Suharto, a Western implant after 1965, was said to be ‘suspicious of Islam’, he actually used all major religions on his archipelago with great precision and fatal impact. During his pro-market despotism, all left-wing movements and ‘-isms’ were banned, and so were most of the progressive forms of arts and thought. The Chinese language was made illegal. Atheism was also banned. Indonesia rapidly became one of the most religious countries on Earth.

At least one million people, including members of the PKI, were brutally massacred in one of the most monstrous genocides of the 20th century.

The fascist dictatorship of General Suharto often played the Islamic card for its political ends. As described by John Pilger in his book, The New Rulers of The World:

In the pogroms of 1965-66, Suharto’s generals often used Islamicist groups to attack communists and anybody who got in the way. A pattern emerged; whenever the army wanted to assert its political authority, it would use Islamicists in acts of violence and sabotage, so that sectarianism could be blamed and justify the inevitable ‘crackdown’ – by the army…

‘A fine example’ of cooperation between the murderous right-wing dictatorship and radical Islam.

After Suharto stepped down, the trend towards a grotesque and fundamentalist interpretation of the monotheist religions continued. Saudi Arabia and the Western-favored and sponsored Wahhabism has been playing an increasingly significant role. And so has Christianity, often preached by radical right-wing former exiles from Communist China and their offspring; mainly in the city of Surabaya but also elsewhere.

From a secular and progressive nation under the leadership of President Sukarno, Indonesia has gradually descended into an increasingly radically backward-looking and bigoted Wahhabi-style/Christian Pentecostal state.

President_Abdurrahman_Wahid_Gus_Dur

After being forced to resign as the President of Indonesia during what many considered a constitutional coup, a progressive Muslim cleric and undoubtedly a closet socialist, Abdurrahman Wahid (known in Indonesia by his nickname Gus Dur), shared with me his thoughts, on the record:

These days, most of Indonesian people do not care or think about God. They only follow rituals. If God would descend and tell them that their interpretation of Islam is wrong, they’d continue following this form of Islam and ignore the God.

‘Gus Dur’ also clearly saw through all the tricks of the military and pro-Western elites. He told me, among other things, that the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta was organized by the Indonesian security forces, and later blamed on the Islamists, who were actually only executing the orders given to them by their political bosses from the pro-Western military regime, which until now is being disguised as a, ‘multi-party democracy’.

In Indonesia, an extreme and unquestioning obedience to the religions has led to a blind acceptance of a fascist capitalist system, and of Western imperialism and its propaganda. Creativity and intellectual pluralism have been thoroughly liquidated.

The 4th most populous nation on the planet, Indonesia, has presently no scientists, architects, philosophers or artists of any international standing. Its economy is fueled exclusively by the unbridled plunder of the natural resources of the vast, and in the past, pristine parts of the country, such as Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), as well as on the brutally-occupied Western part of Papua. The scale of the environmental destruction is monumental; something that I am presently trying to capture in two documentary films and a book.

Awareness of the state of things, even among the victims, is minimal or out rightly nonexistent.

In a country that has been robbed of its riches; identity, culture and future, religions now play the most important role. There is simply nothing else left for the majority. Nihilism, cynicism, corruption and thuggery are ruling unopposed. In the cities with no theatres, galleries, art cinemas, but also no public transportation or even sidewalks, in the monstrous urban centers abandoned to the ‘markets’ with hardly any greenery or public parks, religions are readily filling the emptiness. Being themselves regressive, pro-market oriented and greedy, the results are easily predictable.

In the city of Surabaya, during the capturing of footage for my documentary film produced for a South American television network TeleSur (Surabaya – Eaten Alive by Capitalism), I stumbled over an enormous Protestant Christian gathering at a mall, where thousands of people were in an absolute trance, yelling and lifting their eyes towards the ceiling. A female preacher was shouting into a microphone:

God loves the rich, and that is why they are rich! God hates the poor, and that’s why they are poor!

Von Hayek, Friedmann, Rockefeller, Wahab and Lloyd George combined could hardly define their ‘ideals’ in more precise way.

*****

What exactly did the Saudi Prince say, during his memorable and ground-breaking interview with The Washington Post? And why is it so relevant to places like Indonesia?

In essence, he said that the West asked the Saudis to make the ‘client’ states more and more religious, by building madrassahs and mosques. He also added:

I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it.

People? The Saudi themselves? Clerics in such places like Indonesia? The Western rulers?

In Teheran, Iran, while discussing the problem with numerous religious leaders, I was told, repeatedly:

The West managed to create a totally new and strange religion, and then it injected it into various countries. It calls it Islam, but we can’t recognize it… It is not Islam, not Islam at all.

*****

In May 2018, in Indonesia, members of outlawed terrorist groups rioted in jail, took hostages, then brutally murdered prison guards. After the rebellion was crushed, several explosions shook East Java. Churches and police stations went up in flames. people died.

Destroyed Aleppo

The killers used their family members, even children, to perpetrate the attacks. The men in charge were actually inspired by the Indonesian fighters who were implanted into Syria – the terrorists and murderers who were apprehended and deported by Damascus back to their large and confused country.

Many Indonesian terrorists who fought in Syria are now on their home turf, igniting and ‘inspiring’ their fellow citizens. The same situation as in the past – the Indonesian jihadi cadres who fought against the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan later returned and killed hundreds and thousands in Poso, Ambon and other parts of Indonesia.

Indonesian extremists are becoming world-famous, fighting the battles of the West as legionnaires, in Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines and elsewhere.

Their influence at home is also growing. It is now impossible to even mention any social or god forbid, socialist reforms in public. Meetings are broken up, participants beaten, and even people’s representatives (MP’s) intimidated, accused of being “communists”, in a country where Communism is still banned by the regime.

The progressive and extremely popular Jakarta governor, Ahok, first lost elections and was then put on trial and thrown into jail for “insulting Islam”, clearly fabricated charges. His main sin – cleaning Jakarta’s polluted rivers, constructing a public transportation network, and improving the lives of ordinary people. That was clearly ‘un-Islamic’, at least from the point of view of Wahhabism and the Western global regime.

Radical Indonesian Islam is now feared. It goes unchallenged. It is gaining ground, as almost no one would dare to openly criticize it. It will soon overwhelm and suppress the entire society.

And in the West ‘political correctness’ is used. It is lately simply ‘impolite’ to criticize Indonesian or even the Saudi form of ‘Islam’, out of ‘respect’ for the people and their ‘culture’. In reality, it is not the Saudi or Indonesian people who get ‘protected’ – it is the West and its imperialist policies; policies and manipulations that are used against both the people and the essence of Muslim religion.

*****

While the Wahhabi/Western dogma is getting stronger and stronger, what is left of the Indonesian forests is burning. The country is literally being plundered by the Western multi-national companies and by its local corrupt elites.

Extremist attacks against Indonesian churches

Religions, the Indonesian fascist regime and Western imperialism are marching forward, hand in hand. But forward – where? Most likely towards the total collapse of the Indonesian state. Towards the misery that will come soon, when everything is logged out and mined out.

It is the same as when Wahhabism used to march hand in hand with the British imperialists and plunderers. Except that the Saudis found their huge oil fields, plenty of oil to sustain themselves (or at least their elites and the middle class, as the poor still live in misery there) and their bizarre, British-inspired and sponsored interpretation of Islam.

Indonesia and other countries that have fallen victims to this dogma are not and will not be so ‘lucky’.

It is lovely that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke publicly and clarified the situation. But who will listen?

For the Indonesian people, his statements came too late. They did not open many eyes, caused no uprising, no revolution. To understand what he said would require at least some basic knowledge of both the local, and world history, and at least some ability to think logically. All this is lacking, desperately, in the countries that have found themselves squashed by the destructive imperialist embrace.

The former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was correct: “If God would come and say… people would not follow God…”

Indonesia will continue following Mr. Wahab, and the capitalist dogma and the Western imperialists who ‘arranged it all’. They will do it for years to come, feeling righteous, blasting old North American tunes in order to fill the silence, in order not to think and not to question what is happening around them. There will be no doubts. There will be no change, no awakening and no revolution.

Until the last tree falls, until the last river and stream gets poisoned, until there is nothing left for the people. Until there is total, absolute submission: until everything is burned down, black and grey. Maybe then, few tiny, humble roots of awakening and resistance would begin to grow.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Germany’s New Right Wing

Since parliamentary democracy was restored in Germany after World War Two, several right-wing parties have sought to get the required 5% of the popular vote to be represented in parliament. They all failed until 2017. In that election a new right-wing party, Alternatives for Deutschland (AfD), won 13% of the vote, making them the third most powerful party, ahead of the Greens, the Lefts, and the Liberals. They also won many seats in the individual state parliaments and one seat in the European Parliament.

Exit polls showed, though, that most people who voted for them weren’t convinced by their overall program but only by one aspect of it: their strong opposition to the government’s permissive refugee policy.

Germany has taken in over two million refugees from the Mideast wars, far more than any other country. The equivalent for the US population would be eight million refugees, double the number of people in Los Angeles.

This has created an enormous financial and cultural strain in a country that historically has had little immigration. It comes at a time when poverty is increasing and social services are being reduced. The once-generous welfare state is being dismantled. This financial squeeze is worsening now because of expenses for the refugees. The two million newcomers receive enough money to live on plus free healthcare, education, and access to special programs. Some cheat on this, registering in several places under different names and getting multiple benefits. Many Germans resent paying for all this with high taxes while their own standard of living is declining.

The clash of cultures has created other problems. Two-thirds of the refugees are young men, some of them convinced God has ordained males to dominate females. In their view, women who aren’t submissive need to be punished. Since being male is the only power many of them have, they feel threatened by women in positions of power, and they sometimes react with hostility. Over a thousand women have been physically attacked — some murdered and raped and many aggressively grabbed on the breasts as a way of showing dominance. Tens of thousands of women have been abused — insulted, harassed, spat on. Some examples here.

German foreign policy is also part of the problem. Many refugees are aware that Germany, as a member of NATO, supports these wars that have forced them to flee their homes. They’re not fooled by the rhetoric of “humanitarian intervention.” They know NATO’s motives are imperialistic: to install governments agreeable to Western control of their resources and markets. Although they are now safe, their relatives and friends are still being killed with weapons made in Germany and oppressed by soldiers and police trained and financed by Germany. Rather than a grateful attitude, some have come with a resentful one. A few ISIS and al-Qaeda members, determined to drive all forms of Western imperialism from their lands, have come to murder and maim.   See here.

Crime has increased, especially violent crimes such as knife attacks. Police and others have been killed and wounded by refugees.

Many Germans are incensed by this behavior.

Because AfD is the only party that demands a sharp reduction in refugees, they’ve benefited from an enormous protest vote. One factor in their success is that they don’t come across as extremists. Although their policies are reactionary, bigoted, and anti-Muslim, they present them with a populist rhetoric that seems moderate, emphasizing the defense of Western cultural values. Rather than eliminate immigration, they want to limit it. They are pro Christian and support the nuclear family structure and traditional gender divisions but aren’t as rabid about it as, for instance, conservative Christians in the USA. Their proposals for social services — healthcare, welfare, unemployment insurance, education — are more liberal than the Democrats’ in the USA. They call for more direct democracy such as voter initiatives and referendums. The AfD are not fascists. They are more like a stodgy, crabby old uncle.

That doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, though. They now have a national platform for propagating their right-wing program. They have the power to block progressive legislation and influence governmental appointments. But they’re not a resurgence of Nazism. That specter is a media myth.

Of the two million refugees, those who cause problems are only a small minority. Most of the newcomers have a positive attitude. They are getting a fresh start in life, recovering from trauma, getting an education, learning new skills. They’ve been introduced to other cultural possibilities.

Women in particular are responding favorably to this new environment. Seeing how women here live, some of the refugees are beginning to free themselves from patriarchal bondage. With help from German feminists they are developing the energy and determination to challenge male rule and change the conditions of their lives. That’s the real Alternative for Deutschland … and for the Mideast.

Soul on Ice Goes to College, and the Murder of Dr. King

Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are enriched beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change, we are going to have to change the system.

— Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

The murder of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, marked a  sea change in black America’s long, tortuous sojourn in this nation-state.  Of course, assassination of black leaders and sympathizers has been a mainstay of American life from even before this country’s inception.  Still, the Civil Rights and Black Power era of the ’50s and ’60s featured an especially gruesome series of murders that included, to name only a few of the most spectacular:

November 22, 1963,  A date seared into everybody’s consciousness.  We watched on live TV half of President John Kennedy’s head get blown off on that mid-morning in Dallas.

Robert F. Kennedy’s gut-wrenching take-down in Los Angeles a mere six weeks after Dr. King’s assassination.

Medgar Evers (top state NAACP executive) collapsed into a pool of his own blood under the relentless rain of rifle and shotgun fire on the steps of his own Mississippi home, also in ’63. Evers’ killing fit seamlessly between the rhythmic drumbeats of black church bombings across the south.

Then, on February 21 of 1965,  Malcolm X’s enormous black heart was  shredded by gunfire as he stood on stage in Harlem’s famed Audubon Ballroom.

Since 1955, I have been troubled by an indefinable pain as the sad, sad saga of the lynching of Emmett Till, in a place ominously called Money, Mississippi, played out on our eight-inch Motorola television set.  As a small child, I listened hard with little understanding while my elders recalled some of our own kinfolk who, unlike them, had opted to stay in the south (or had failed to escape) and therefore suffered fates identical to Emmett Till’s and so many faceless, nameless others.

Each of these murderous moments presented to our black consciousness as earth-rending points in time. But, again, none of these past or ongoing days and nights of terror affected, changed, black America as profoundly as the wholly expected, public, and unspeakably brutal execution of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968:  How to Avoid  the “Paralysis of Analysis”

I was a  junior at Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington in that revolutionary year.  Our mass marches, demonstrations and protests, walk-outs, stand-ups, sit-ins, lay-ins,  strikes, boycotts, and occupation of buildings paralleled and, more often than not, spearheaded the campus Hippies’, Yippies’, etc. assorted protests.  They, understandably, were offended by the Vietnam War, and inspired by a renewed white Women’s Liberation Movement.

We black students protested unjust and racially discriminatory practices and policies of the University itself – especially its abominable admissions policy. There were 500 black students on this, the state of Indiana’s flagship and largest state-supported university, a campus of 29,000 students.  There were just three black professors, not one of whom was tenured. And, naturally, there were no courses, let alone curricula, which even pretended to address the 400-year-old history and contemporary lived experience of black folk in this nation-state.  Thus, another of our non-negotiable demands was establishment of a degree-granting Black Studies Department.

We refused to allow our protests to be dismissed as momentary expressions of youthful exuberance. Through our marches, meetings, poetry slams, and classes, we questioned the fundamental assumptions of the University, especially its historical embrace of white supremacy/white racism. And, in concert with the anti-War movement, we challenged those who provided the financial wherewithal for corporations like Dow Chemical to do its lethal, on-campus research for napalm gas, which engulfed untold millions of Vietnamese in excruciating, fiery injury and death. We were at war, all right…at war with campus honchos who made peace with the war, and who were more committed to keeping peace on campus rather than in exploring the ways in which the University collaborated with the war efforts and its deliberate mis-education of all its students.

“Soul on Ice” Goes to College

In late ’67, Indiana University’s Black Theater Workshop was organized by black students to produce plays, poetry and nonfiction that addressed this nation-state’s real history, our present condition, and hoped-for revolutionary future. We breathed deeply, freely, of the burgeoning Black Arts Movement as it raced through the blackosphere like a fast-moving river. Those black tributaries flowed from, to, and back again through Harlem, Gary, Oakland, Madison, Watts, Ann Arbor, Chicago’s South and West Sides, Ohio’s Central State University, and New Jersey’s newly christened “New Ark.”

Our literary high priests and priestesses included, but were by no means limited to:  Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, Hoyt Fuller, Maya Angelou, Ishmael Reed, Rosa Guy, Sterling A. Brown, LeRoi Jones, Richard Wright, and, of course, the Master of them all, James Baldwin.

In ’68, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Information published a black-busting tome entitled Soul On Ice. Eldridge Cleaver had done lots of California prison time, mainly for rape and robbery; but he was a powerful, even essential essayist.  Soul On Ice provided a first-hand look at the Panthers sans the usual establishment media bias.  Soul on Ice also chronicled Cleaver’s own astounding rise from prison inmate to Ramparts Magazine’s star, revolutionary writer.  

The BTW converted Cleaver’s book into a play.  Because his life and persona were so deeply conflicted, we divided the “Eldridge Cleaver” character into three parts:  The Rapist; The Revolutionary; and The Writer. Guess which part I played.

The Murder of Dr. King

On April 4, 1968, I was hiking – sans umbrella – across IU’s idyllic campus to play rehearsal. A light, steady Spring rain began to fall, so I decided to cut through the blocks-long Student Union building.

I passed through the giant cafeteria and approached an open-area TV lounge.  A large group of students stood gathered around a television. I stopped, but could hear only  muffled voices. Just as I came up directly behind them, Walter Cronkite said, “….and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”

The students before me burst into loud, raucous whistles, hoots, and applause.  They cheered.  I stood directly behind them and watched and listened in open-mouthed shock….dumbfounded – not at the heart-stopping news  – that had not had time to register – but at the utterly appalling scene unfolding right before my eyes.

I never saw the TV screen and could no longer hear it.  I stared at the backs of these my fellow students for what seemed a long moment as some of them began to guffaw and slap each other’s backs.

Slowly….ever so slightly, the laughter began to subside.  And then, en masse, they turned their faces in my direction — as though they shared a single neck.  Their toothy, ear-to-ear grins looked weird, distorted. I could sense – feel –  sharp-edged daggers of hate radiating from them.  I could see their disgust at not just my presence among them but at my very existence. It was clear that I had intruded upon an electronic lynching and had inadvertently disrupted their blood lust.  It was only then, however, that I noticed the thing that has come back to haunt me each and every 4th of April since that night:  Every single one of these faces was “white.”

I dared not turn my back to these people.  I tentatively began walking backwards, furtively eying each one of them as I carefully placed one foot behind the other.  I made it out into the hallway and then sprinted to the nearest exit.

“Burn, Baby, Burn!” versus Learn, Baby, Learn!

I arrived at our director’s off-campus apartment soaking wet.  She was a strikingly beautiful, jet-black East Indian political science PhD. candidate, a devotee of both Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. Although she was East Indian, she “identified” completely with “black” Americans. Indeed, she was so dark-complected (black) that when the sun touched her skin just right, she actually sparkled.

Standing there, just inside her pad, dripping onto the threshold, I watched  the girls gathered around the TV sobbing uncontrollably, hysterically. The guys, enraged, walked around the place pounding their fists into their hands, “We gotta get ’em!  We gotta get ’em,” they alternately mumbled or shouted. “How could they kill him?!” somebody said. “Not this man!”

The TV began showing scenes of riots breaking out across the country:   Chicago was ablaze; New York; L.A.; St. Louis; Detroit, even staid Indianapolis.  Later, we learned that over 110 cities had gone up that night.

“We can’t meet violence with violence,” the director said finally.  “If we even try,” she continued, “we will lose. They’ve got all the guns.”

“Not this one!,” a brother said, pulling out a shiny snub-nosed .38 pistol.

“Put that thing away!”, she ordered.  “The last thing Dr. King would want you young people to do is commit violence in his name,” she declared.  “Let’s use our heads! All of you must stay in school and graduate.  It’s more important now than ever before that we complete and present this play.”

Like so many other black people, that night changed my life.  I was one person before Dr. King’s murder, and a completely different person afterwards.