Category Archives: Film Review

My Response to the PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

The Civil War which ended in 1865, demolished slavery and emancipated four million human beings. What happened next in the South remains largely unknown to most Americans.  In a recent poll of high school graduates, only 20 percent had even heard of Reconstruction, in part because history classes about this period invariably end with the South’s surrender.

During the short Reconstruction period from 1865-1877, the Federal state was empowered to act on behalf of freed black men and poor whites.  Unprecedented changes followed, including new public hospitals, schools, aid to the poor and public programs offering a wide range of services that gave preference to the needs of those previously deprived of them.  The beginning of meaningful democracy was exemplified by new Federal courts, replacing state governments and well-attended state constitutional conventions to Black suffrage, ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1875, This mandate’s enforcement could rely on the full force and protection of Federal troops in five military zones.

Political power was prodigiously evident as blacks were elected to state governments (600), the U.S. Congress (14) and Senate (2), and as judges, sheriffs and countless lower offices in the former slave states. Organizations like the Union League and the Southern Farmer’s Alliance appeared across the South to encourage and advise alliances between ordinary blacks and whites that would liberate both from economic bondage.

It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that in 1865, African-Americans experienced exhilaration, pride and virtually limitless enthusiasm after two hundred and fifty years of enslavement. Paramount among these expectations was the prospect of owning one’s own land gained by the political power realized from the right to vote. If achieved, this would be the single most radical structural change in US. history.

This astonishing political revolution is effectively portrayed via commentary by dozens of  experts, interviews, documents and graphic, often heart rending visuals in the first two episodes of “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War,” a four-part series written and narrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It links to Gates’s book, Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow, (New York: Penguin, 2019).  The series makes for compelling even compulsory viewing.  As Eric Foner, the dean of living writers about this period, concluded in a 2015 essay, “freedom, rights, democracy” were at the apex of Reconstruction. All remain vexing issues today.

I would also be remiss not to credit parts of the program (especially episode #3) for their compelling description of the means employed to totally eviscerate Reconstruction: pseudo-scientific racism, eugenics, elaborate mythologies about plantation life,” Sambo art” representation in novels, cartoons, and advertising, rape imagery, Blackface, and the infamous, incalculably detrimental film, J.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation,” the Jim Crow system and, of course, the ubiquitous deployment of terroristic lynchings, massacres and the KKK.  It’s not cited in the series but according to the Smithsonian Magazine, some 53,000 thousand African-Americans were targeted for murder across the 11 former Confederate states.  Viewers will have to come to grips with the massacre of 250 African-American men, women and children in Opelousas, Louisiana in 1868.

Other topics receiving careful attention include: creative disenfranchisement maneuvers, the exploitation of enervating indebtedness attendant to new-slavery in the form of sharecropping (neo-slavery) and still another iteration, namely, convict-leasing. We also learn about the black resistance and its manifestation in literature, photography, music, success in higher education, self-sustaining communities, and the founding of the NAACP. I was especially taken with the courageous, indefatigable activism of Ida Tarbell and role of speaker, organizer and towering public intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois.

Critique:

In a preview to the PBS series, viewers are promised the full truth of about this “misrepresented and misunderstood” chapter of American history. In my opinion, this pledge was not entirely kept. The program’s viewers might be forgiven for gaining the impression that an “indifferent North” was a major factor in Reconstruction’s total overthrow. That Northerners — without specifying their class identity — eventually “grew tired” of the South’s seemingly intractable racial problems, withdrew Federal troops in 1877 and “tragically” allowed the South to restore white supremacy and re-subordinate the black labor force. For me, this serious glossing over what actually happened imposed limits on what lessons might be derived from Reconstruction and applied to our situation today.  If asked to suggest a fifth episode, I would add something like the following, beginning with three quotes:

Without slavery there would be cotton, without cotton there would be no modern industry. It is slavery which has given value to the colonies, which have created world trade, and world trade is the necessary condition for large-scale machine industry

— Karl Marx,1

The consolidation of capitalism in the US during the Reconstruction period required the radical curtailment of substantive popular power and democratic rights for the vast majority of producers… Put another way, the experience of Reconstruction provides yet another example of the incompatibility of substantive democratic power and capitalist class relations.

— Charlie Post,2

The American Civil War was fought over which type of slavery would exist in the United State; chattel slavery, as was practiced in the South, or wage slavery, as practiced in the North. These two economic systems were both subdivisions of Capitalist, or private ownership of the means of production. Theoretically, it is impossible for these two subsystems to coexist peacefully in an economy; so an ultimate conflict to determine the future of capitalist production was inevitable.

— Kent Allen Halliberton,3

I’ve included Marx’s quote because the program failed to devote sufficient attention to the fact that slavery and capitalism were deeply enmeshed and the former was indispensable to the nation’s economic development. Slaves produced the nation’s most valuable export and there wasn’t a close second, as Northern financiers, bankers and textile factory owners amassed fortunes from slavery.

For just one example, as historian Edward Baptist’s pioneering research demonstrated, in Lowell, Massachusetts, massive mills owned by a group called Boston Associates, “consumed 100,000 days of enslaved people’s labor every year” and this  resulted in enormous profits, investments for further expansion and lavish life styles. Further, owners of New England factories were profiting from shipping provisions like shoes, hoes, hats, nails and probably whips to South Carolina, Mississippi and Virginia.4

The North and the South were not discrete economies as commodities and capital flowed between them. As such, narratives about Reconstruction that neglect to portray slavery as a national institution and refer to it as a “Southern problem” are limited in their explanatory power.  Should we be surprised that the word “capitalism” isn’t listed in the index to Gates’s book and if memory serves, it also remained unmentioned in the series? Viewers might ponder the reason for this omission.

The inclusion of the other two quotes is a response to the oft-asked question, “What if Reconstruction had succeeded?” The point here is that the question suggests an outcome that was never an option.  In the early days of Reconstruction, the expectation of northern business interests had been that the post Reconstruction period would see chattel slavery replaced by wage slavery (euphemistically called “free labor”) to serve the rapidly growing needs of an industrializing nation. We see a paradox here in that Northern monied elites could righteously oppose slavery while retaining circumscribed notions of inequality (and racism) in a post-slavery world. Again, the parallels with today’s Democratic Party “We are all capitalists” hierarchy are transparent.

However, as historian Heather Cox Richardson explains, reactionary Southerners and liberal anti-slavery Northern elites eventually persuaded enough people that Reconstruction was in a sense, anathema to the American system. That, in fact, “an active government redistributes wealth from hardworking white people to lazy African-Americans.”5 Again, the resonance of this liberal posture with our last forty years of neoliberalism is impossible to ignore.

The Northern power elite gradually came to view Reconstruction as too ambitious, too dangerous, because it raised expectations, especially regarding land tenure and its implications for wealth redistribution. One episode in the series does mention that Union General William T. Sherman had confiscated some 400,000 acres of land to be allocated in roughly 40 acre plots. Under General Sherman’s famous special Field Order No.15 some few thousand newly emancipated black families were settled on land in coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Others are far more qualified to judge Sherman’s motives  but we can’t rule out the possibility that he only sought to temporarily pacify the recipients.  It’s a moot point because President Andrew Johnson, the southerner who succeeded Abraham Lincoln and hated African-Americans, quickly nullified the order and the land was returned to the wealthy plantation owners. Here we see the inherent constraints on a bourgeois revolution imposed from above rather than one emerging from a mass movement. In short, we see the critical difference between a political revolution and a socio-economic one, a scenario that would become all too familiar during the next century.

Union organizing and strikes in the North cast doubt on the convenient conviction that workers would be satisfied  with their new “free labor” status. What if they wanted to own the means of production? In any event, poor workers in the South could not be trusted with the vote because they were “fledging revolutionaries” and “given the chance, they would insist on wealth redistribution.” Northern elites, not Southerners, were firmly in control of national politics and their priority was to protect capital (property) from an aroused, potentially dangerous working class that was beginning to respond to worsening conditions.

The New York Tribune featured an interview with a prominent former slaveholder who opined “Only those who owned property should govern it, and men who had no property had no right to make laws for property holders.” The New York Times would echo this argument and when workers in Paris established a commune, its editors responded with disingenuous euphemisms not unknown in our day, “The great ‘middle class’ which now governs the world, will everywhere be terrified at these terrible outburst[s] and absurd[ities], they will hold a strong rein on the lower.” Even the liberal Nation magazine warned that changes in the South were making “socialism in America the dangerous deadly poison it is.”6 Note that the race card is held back.

WE.B. Du Bois knew that the “economic foundation” of the northern bourgeoisie would never allow them to follow through on Reconstruction. From that he drew the lesson that blacks and poor whites in the South must unite against the ruling class. He was to expand on this when categorizing the American worker into four sets: “The freed Negro, the Southern poor white, and the Northern skilled and common laborer” and grieved over the fact that “These groups never came to see their common interests and the financiers and capitalists easily kept the upper hand.”7 This begs the question of how far class consciousness has advanced today.

Du Bois compared black resistance to slavery as a “proletarian revolution within a bourgeois republic.” And when poor white men were successfully turned against their black brothers they “surrendered the hope of democracy in America for all men.” Even though only 7 percent of the total Southern population owned three million of the four million enslaved blacks, white workers came to accept their wage labor status because, in historian David Roediger’s felicitous phrase, they might lose everything “but not their whiteness.” These “wages of whiteness” or what Du Bois formulated as a “psychological wage” — differentiated from a material wage — set them apart from and against black workers and according to Frederick Douglas the slaveholders were then able to “divide both to conquer each” This formed part of the ideology perpetrated by the ruling class even as it reverberate in contemporary politics.

My sense is that gaining a deeper understanding of the Reconstruction period can contribute to our analysis of contemporary issues like voting rights, affirmative action, reparations, white supremacy, and the meaning of citizenship. In that vein, Naima Wandile, my friend and fellow FB rabble rouser, recently drew my attention to the fact that although the PBS series makes reference to current events it does so in a highly selective manner. She noted that the series “failed to fully (or forcefully enough) connect past history with current events. For example, policies like black codes, peonage and slave patrols are very much in effect today in the form of stop-question-frisk, bail traps, and extra-judicial executions in cities across the US and still serve the same purpose.” She adds that “These are the main reasons blacks protest, but many Americans do not fully understand these are the most effective tools in a capitalist toolbox.”

Finally, as I mentioned above, we can glean helpful insights from sources like this PBS series but only by conjoining them with an analysis of the class dynamics of the period can we use this knowledge on behalf of our quest for a just society.

  1. Karl Marx, Collected Works, Vol. 32 (New York: Progress Publishing, 1982, Pp. 101-102.
  2. Charlie Post, “Is Democracy Compatible with Capitalism,” The Brooklyn Rail, April 4, 2018.
  3. Kent Allen Halliburton, “The American Civil War, 1964-1876: A Marxist Perspective.
  4. Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014), p.317.
  5. Heather Cox Richardson, “Killing Reconstruction,” Jacobin, August 19, 2015.
  6. Ibid.
  7. W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2013), p. 216.  Originally published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1935; Keenanga-Yamahtta Taylor addresses these matters in his “Review of Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction” in ISR, Issue 57, January-February, 2008. Taylor’s piece is highly instructive and recommended for further exploration of this subject.

The Matrix: 20 Years Later

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is.  You have to see it for yourself.”

Those words were first spoken twenty years ago and sent people flocking to movie theaters to find out just what the Matrix was.  When The Matrix came out, I was going through a phase of spiritual exploration, with a particular focus on Gnosticism, so the premise that reality is a dream controlled by malevolent forces resonated with me at the time.  Although the number of essays and books written about the movie and its implications has waned over the years, the imprint left by The Matrix on pop culture remains to this day.

Despite the adoption of the term “red pill” by conservatives and various elements of conspiracy culture (proving once again that the Right continues to steal imagery from the Left), The Matrix is a very anti-capitalist movie as shown by its literal use of human resources, a theme the Wachowskis would revisit in their later movie Jupiter Ascending.

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

These words spoken by Morpheus could easily be spoken by any anarchist on the street today.  But to paraphrase Slavoj Žižek, The Matrix functions as a Rorschach test that allows everyone to read their own “-ism” into the movie.  This philosophical ground has been covered before by people with more letters after their names than me.

In the succeeding two decades, we may have replaced minidisks with flash drives, and those cool sliding phones with rather boring-looking smartphones, but we have constructed our own Matrix. It is not as all-encompassing or as sophisticated as the one in the movie, but it is there.

This is a world we started building long before The Matrix came out, but with the advances of technology, it seems to have accelerated.  We now have social media which engineers have admitted is designed to be addictive.  Who needs a jack in the head when one has a smartphone and an internet connection?  We have the people “inured to the system and not ready to be unplugged” as shown by studies where people cannot give up their phones for even a few hours without profound anxiety often called nomophobia.  We even have the term FOMO (fear of missing out) which is really just a fancier term for loss aversion, the fear of being disconnected in our over-connected world.  No one wants to face the Desert of the Real.

And this is one of the central themes of The Matrix: alienation.  In the movie, human beings are alienated from the (destroyed) natural world and from each other, contained in their own individual pods.  In our own world we are in a world plagued by climate destabilization and the profound social alienation of modern life.  While people are more connected than ever before, for many, close personal ties are simulated, in that they can add someone to a friends list and like their posts, but never actually meet and talk to them.

“You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

Many people see there is something wrong with the world, but the reactions are different.  In the world of the mainstream, where Republicans and Democrats squabble with each other, but deny there is anything actually wrong at all.  They go on with their lives downloading images and thought-forms from mass media and wake up in their beds to believe whatever they want to believe.

Then there are the authoritarians and would-be fascists who acknowledge that there is something wrong, but like the character of Cypher, are only concerned with using it to leverage their own power and position within the system.

The final faction, the anarchists, dissenters, and outcasts of all types, those who were forced into the Desert of the Real for various reasons (poverty, proscribed identity, and so forth).  They all see there is something wrong with the world.  Some try to fight against it, but many are simply seeking out their own Zion, a place to be free of the controls of the system.  These are the people who cannot be assimilated to this world of perceptions.

In the sequels Reloaded and Revolutions, it is revealed that the Matrix has a failsafe, the Architect’s plan with other iterations of the One and the continued destruction and rebuilding of Zion.  Our own Matrix has its own failsafes, among them a strong emphasis on conformity, and the ability to pass off its systemic flaws as individual failings.  And it has its own Agents, that we often call the police, but is really just the power of the State.  Our surveillance systems are not as omniscient as the Matrix, they are becoming more ubiquitous and allow for the rapid deployment of Agents to quash any form of descent.

And yet the problem does not go away, for the Machines in The Matrix nor in our world.  The Machines have to continually destroy and rebuild Zion, while our world system has yet to figure out what do with all those that do not accept it.  And this is our opportunity.  For all of its dystopianism, The Matrix ends on a note of hope that still resonates to this day.

“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”

We still have a choice of where we want to go, it is not an easy choice and many would rather take the blue pill and check their social media feed.  But if enough of us walk away, and are willing to face the Desert of the Real, we can have that world.  A world without rules and controls, borders and boundaries.  Unlike in the movie, we cannot let the system decide.  This choice is up to us.

No More Bullshit: Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill

Growing up Irish-Catholic in the Bronx in the 1960s, I was an avid reader of the powerful columns of Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the New York newspapers.  These guys were extraordinary wordsmiths. They would grab you by the collar and drag you into the places and faces of those they wrote about. Passion infused their reports.  They were never boring. They made you laugh and cry as they transported you into the lives of real people.  You knew they had actually gone out into the streets of the city and talked to people. All kinds of people: poor, rich, black, white, Puerto Rican, high-rollers, low-lifes, politicians, athletes, mobsters – they ran the gamut.  You could sense they loved their work, that it enlivened them as it enlivened you the reader. Their words sung and crackled and breathed across the page. They left you always wanting more, wondering sometimes how true it all was, so captivating was their storytelling abilities.  They cut through abstractions to connect individuals to major events such as the Vietnam War, the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert, the Central Park jogger case, Aids, among others.  They were spokesmen for the underdogs, the abused, the confused, and the bereft, and relentlessly attacked the abuses and hypocrisies of the powerful.

They became celebrities as a result of their writing.  Breslin ran for New York City Council President along with Norman Mailer for Mayor with the slogan  “No More Bullshit,” did beer and cereal commercials, and Hamill dated Jacqueline Kennedy and Shirley McLaine.  Coming  out of poor and struggling Irish-Catholic families in Queens and Brooklyn respectively, they became acclaimed in NYC and the country as celebrity reporters.  As a result, they were befriended by the rich and powerful with whom they hobnobbed.

HBO has recently released a fascinating documentary about the pair: Breslin and Hamill. It brings them back in all their gritty glory to the days when New York was another city, a city of newspapers and typewriters and young passion still hopeful that despite the problems and national tragedies, there were still fighters who would bang out a message of hope and defiance in the mainstream press.  It was a time before money and propaganda devoured journalism and a deadly pall descended on the country as the economic elites expanded their obscene control over people’s lives and the media.

So it is also fitting that this documentary feels like an Irish wake with two old wheelchair-bound men musing on the past and all that has been lost and what approaching death has in store for them and all they love.  While not a word is spoken about the Catholic faith of their childhoods with its death-defying consolation, it sits between them like a skeleton. We watch and listen to two men, once big in all ways, talk about the old days as they shrink before our eyes. I was reminded of the title of a novel Breslin wrote long ago: World Without End, Amen, a title taken directly from a well-known Catholic prayer. Endings, the past receding, a lost world, aching hearts, and the unspoken yearning for more life.

Hamill, especially, wrote columns that were beautifully elegiac, and his words in this documentary also sound that sense despite his efforts to remain hopeful.   The film is a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  Breslin, who has since died, tries hard to express the bravado that was his hallmark in his halcyon days, but a deep sadness and bewilderment seeps through his face, the mask of indomitability that once served him well gone in the end.

So while young people need to know about these two old-school reporters and their great work in this age of insipidity and pseudo-objectivity, this film is probably not a good introduction.  Their writing would serve this purpose better.

This documentary is appearing at an interesting time when a large group of prominent Americans, including Robert Kennedy, Jr. and his sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, are calling for new investigations into the assassinations of the 1960s, murders that Breslin and Hamill covered and wrote about.  Both men were in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel when  Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.  They were friends of the senator, and it was Hamill who wrote to RFK and helped convince him to run.  Breslin was in the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm X was assassinated.  He wrote an iconic and highly original article about the JFK assassination.  Hamill wrote a hard-hitting  piece about RFK’s murder, describing Sirhan Sirhan quite harshly, while presuming his guilt.  They covered and wrote about all the assassinations of that era.  Breslin also wrote a famous piece about John Lennon’s murder.  They wrote these articles quickly, in the heat of the moment, on deadline.

But they did not question the official versions of these assassinations.  Not then, nor in the fifty plus years since.  Nor in this documentary. In fact, in the film Hamill talks about five shots being fired at RFK from the front by Sirhan Sirhan who was standing there.  Breslin utters not a word. Yet it is well known that RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range and that no bullets hit him from the front. The official autopsy confirmed this. Robert Kennedy, Jr. asserts that his father was not shot by Sirhan but by a second gunmen.  It’s as though Hamill is stuck in time and his personal memories of the event; as though he were too close to things and never stepped back and studied the evidence that has emerged.  Why, only he could say.

Perhaps both men were too close to the events and the people they covered.  Yes, their words always took you to the scene and made you feel the passion of it all, the shock, the drama, the tragedy, the pain, the confusion, and all that was irretrievably lost in murders that changed this country forever, killings that haunt the present in incalculable ways.  Jimmy and Pete made us feel the deep pain and shock of being overwhelmed with grief.  They were masters of this art.

But the view from the street is not that of history.  Deadlines are one thing; analysis and research another.  Breslin and Hamill wrote for the moment, but they have lived a half century after those moments, decades during which the evidence for these crimes has accumulated to indict powerful forces in the U.S. government.  No doubt this evidence came to their attention, but they have chosen to ignore it, whatever their reasons.  Why these champions of the afflicted have disregarded this evidence is perplexing.  As one who greatly admires their work, I am disappointed by this failure.

Street journalism has its limitations.  It needs to be placed in a larger context. Our world is indeed without end and the heat of the moment needs the coolness of time.  The bird that dives to the ground to seize a crumb of bread returns to the treetop to survey the larger scene.  Breslin and Hamill stuck to the ground where the bread lay.

At one point in Breslin and Hamill, the two good friends talk about how well they were taught to write by the nuns in their Catholic grammar schools.  “Subject, verb, object, that was the story of the whole thing,” says Breslin.  Hamill replies, “Concrete nouns, active verbs.”  “It was pretty good teaching,” adds Breslin. And although neither went to college (probably a saving grace), they learned those lessons well and gifted us with so much gritty and beautiful writing and reporting.

Yet like the nuns who taught them, they had their limitations, and what was written once was not revisited and updated.  In a strange, very old-school Catholic sense, it was the eternal truth, rock solid, and not to be questioned.  Unspeakable and anathema: the real killers of the Kennedys and the others.  The attacks of September 11, 2001 as well.

When my mother was very old, she published her only piece of writing.  It was very Breslin and Hamill-like and was published in a Catholic magazine.  She wrote how, when she was a young girl and the streets of New York were filled with horse drawn wagons, the nuns in her grammar school chose her to leave school before lunch and go to a neighboring bakery to buy rolls for their lunch.  It was considered a big honor and she was happy to get out of school for the walk to the bakery she chose a few streets away.  She got the rolls and was walking back with them when some boys jostled her and all the rolls fell into the street, rolling through horse shit.  She panicked, but picked up the rolls and cleaned them off.  Shaking with fear, she then brought them to the convent and handed them to a nun.  After lunch, she was called to the front of the room by her teacher, the nun who had chosen her to buy them.  She felt like she would faint with fear.  The nun sternly looked at her.  “Where did buy those rolls?” she asked.  In a halting voice she told her the name of the bakery.  The sister said, “They were delicious.  We must always shop in that bakery.”

Of course, the magazine wouldn’t publish the words “horse shit.” The editor found a nice way to avoid the truth and eliminate horse shit.  And the nuns were happy.

Yet bullshit seems much harder to erase, despite slogans and careful editors, or perhaps because of them.  Sometimes silence is the real bullshit, and how do you eliminate that?

The Damaging Asian Male Sexuality in Crazy Rich Asians and Why It is Not Asian Black Panther

Crazy Rich Asians has already been compared by reviewers criticizing it for its exaltation of late-stage capitalism to The Great Gatsby. It is a good comparison because it is true. We know enough by now that if you throw a Gatsby-themed Jazz Age wedding, the joke’s on you—you clearly have not read the book, or, having read it, did not understand it. The same applies to the misguided celebration of Crazy Rich Asians as some triumph of representation or diversity if it is to be praised for its satirical quality. If there is any satire of wealth made in the book, all of it is lost in the film version.

Every subplot in the film is wrapped up neatly with an offering made, finally, at the altar of wealth. When the cool, graceful, unflappable Astrid, whom we are meant to sympathize with, finally leaves her unfaithful husband, Michael, we are meant to relish the moment. Finally, Astrid, released (from what?), can take out her hidden Dior shoes, reach for those 1.2 million-dollar earrings, and strut off, off-screen mechanical fan blowing in her hair to reveal the glinting jewels (which required their own security on set).

We are asked finally, not merely to kneel at the shrine of Money, but to suck its cock. For money is plainly the phallus in the world of Crazy Rich Asians.

Michael Teo, played by Pierre Png, we are meant to understand, of course, gets to marry Astrid despite not being rich, because he is hot. (That this is exaggerated and deliberate is evident to the Singaporean viewer because, being a staple on the small screen in Singapore, while a good-looking guy, Pierre Png has never really played “hunk.”) This point is driven home because more than on any other character—more than even Nick Young–, the camera drools over his body. When we are first introduced to the character, we see his body before we see his face and the camera lingers hungrily on the drops of water that roll down his smooth back, the towel he brings over his washboard abs, wrapping it just above … his… The-Thing-We-Do-Not-See—which is, in other words, the thing he does not have. For in Crazy Rich Asians, wealth is the substitute for the phallus. And, hot as Michael is, he still, unfortunately, comes up short. Astrid lays this out for the audience when she says, at the end, that it is not her family’s money that destroyed their marriage—it is his cowardice; she “cannot make him a man because he never was one.” Well let’s be clear—he never was one because he never had the money-phallus.

In the novel, Michael laments being “treated like just a piece of meat,” that “[they] were wrong for each other, but [they] both got so swept up in the moment—in, let’s face it, the sex—that” that before he realized it, they were standing before a pastor. In the novel, Michael did not actually cheat, merely staging the affair in order to get out of a marriage he could no longer bear to live out. (Surprise surprise!—it emasculates him.) The film lets this not unimportant point slide, which, importantly, allows for wealth to triumph in the end. Pointedly, what is so goading about this is that it allows the triumph of wealth to be presented as a moral triumph.

But how ridiculous that we are made by the movie to feel on the side of Astrid, who, in addition to buying a pair of earrings for 1.2 millions dollars without batting an eyelid when we are first introduced to her, also boasts of having 14 other apartment blocks so she can deign to let Michael keep the one apartment he bought. How quickly we forget that in Singapore, where this is set, we have one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world and that property prices are some of the highest in the world. How happily we forgive that Singapore’s Gini coefficient is greater than America’s and that it is a country famous for its low taxes for the rich. (Can we stop talking already about how Eduardo Saverin gave up US citizenship to move to Singapore for this reason? Is this something we are proud of? Is it something we benefit from?) How readily we pretend the noose of mortgages and home loans and rents around our neck is not tight, that most are not shackled, ball and chain, to their real estate …. when given all this display of wealth to ogle at. How… self-defeating.

In an age of ever increasing inequality, of massive tax cuts for the 0.1%, of Jeff Bezos becoming 125 million dollars richer per day while Amazon employees sleep in cars and have timed toilet breaks, do we not know that the wealth accumulated by the super rich comes at the expense of others? The distribution of wealth in so many parts of the world today is a zero sum game.

But, of course, there is no space to critique the Young family in the film especially because in Crazy Rich Asians, they are presented as near national heroes, practically deity-like —not only as having gainfully earned their riches through industry, but even by having done something patriotic because they built their wealth by literally building Singapore, furthering a nationalistic and even moral defense for their wealth. Peik Lin Goh summarizes who the Youngs are for Rachel Chu: the Young family built Singapore up from a sleepy swamp of “pig farmers” to the glittering city that we see today. This is rhetoric that to the Singaporean ear, too closely repeats the refrain the Singapore government has drilled into every Singaporean—that of Lee Kwan Yew and the PAP bringing Singapore from “Mudflats to Metropolis” in 50 years, our veritable Creators. Her storytelling, then, aligns the Young family, in rhetoric in any case, with Lee Kwan Yew. In other words, they are raised to the level of a God. Let’s not forget that Astrid, the “best” of them all, is nicknamed “The Goddess.”

Asian American

Crazy Rich Asians does mark an important moment in film history because it is the first time a big budget Hollywood film is helmed by an all-Asian cast and produced and directed by Asian people. Many of the articles coming out in the major publications arguing alternatingly for the film’s either progressive or regressive politics center around what it does for the Asian American community. But the “win” Asian-Americans claim the film garners for them is goading, particularly so in the context of the argument they are making about representation. The Asian American community is well-equipped with the tools and the vocabulary to critique appropriation–but in this particular case, they have let themselves off the hook. They are eager to use Singapore as a proxy for themselves when it suits them, when they are just as happy to elevate or otherwise differentiate themselves from “FOBs” (fresh-off-the-boat), Asian people who are not from the right class, in the right job, etc. This has played out infuriatingly in the NYT’s viral #its2016 hashtag a couple of years ago. Then, in a video, were retold a never-ending stream of grating anecdotes: “This guy mistook me for the guy cooking his Chinese food at the takeout counter. I’m a LAWYER”; “My uber driver told me my English was so good, he couldn’t hear an accent at all. Of course, I was BORN IN CALIFORNIA!” Again and again the same pattern emerged, one of substituting the shame of race–whatever the markers may be: accent, class, profession, food– with assertions of citizenship, of productivity, of wealth. In other words, assertions of qualities of not just the well-integrated and adjusted, but of the financially, socially, culturally successful. What do these anecdotes suggest about what we should think of Chinese takeout cooks? Or Asians immigrants (or even visitors) with an accent? What do they suggest about what we think of new immigrants? Of refugees? Of minorities for whom structures, present and past, have made the accumulation of wealth/immigration difficult?

They reinscribe the importance of citizenship, country of nativity, language, productivity, that form the basis for prejudice that these aggrieved persons faced in the first place. When the indignation stems from being confused with them (a Chinese takeout cook, a person with accented-English), it continues to traffic in an us/them binary, one that maintains the same irksome hierarchical structures that discriminate against Asian American people.

The Asian American community was quick (and right) to rush to condemn Oscars host Chris Rock for trotting out Asian children (dressed as the accountants who presumably flubbed the votes that resulted in such a goading skew to “white films”) to land a joke in bad taste at the expense of Asian Americans, even as he was making his case for better and more representation of African Americans during the 2016 Academy Awards amidst the scandal of #Oscarssowhite. Yet, in lauding Crazy Rich Asians for being a watershed moment for representation, Asian Americans conveniently do not see the lack of brown bodies on display, or the brown bodies only appearing in positions of servitude, or, most horrifically, dark bodies used for a breathtaking, cheap moment of racist comedy– Rachel Chu and Goh Peik Lin are shocked and scared by the appearance of turbaned Sikh guards at their car windows when they think they are lost in “the middle of a jungle”—faces emerging out of the dark as if they were predatory jungle animals. Can we not hear EM Forster’s famous phrase of Howard’s End ring out?: Only connect! To easily ignore these slippages and failures of the film constitutes a critical laziness and smacks of moral cowardice.

Asian Americans have taken to social media to hail Crazy Rich Asians as the Asian Black Panther. I can understand the need to feel like one’s identity has been reclaimed, the need to feel like one has been represented in roles that seem desirable or cool or something other than buck-toothed caricatures. I have lived as an Asian person in America for the last ten years; in many ways, the Asian American experience has increasingly become mine too. But not only is this Asian American response an appropriative one as I have explained above, it is profoundly insensitive and damaging. The importance of Black Panther is that, in the imaginary Wakanda, it presents the reparative and redemptive fantasy and potentiality of an Africa that has never been colonized. But it is still an imagined world, built on the a fictitious material, Vibranium, that literally fell out of the sky. Singapore, in contrast, is a real place, with real people–it is, to me, home.  What reviewers laud in Crazy Rich Asians in not an imaginary material, but neoliberal, late-stage capitalism on brash display–not to mention, a wealth that is enabled by Singapore’s colonial past, a past that has been traded in for colonial nostalgia. (There is no sense of postcolonial indignation in Singapore–there is no such critique taught in schools.)

But if the film doesn’t do for Asian Americans what they claim it is doing for them, it is also not doing anything for Asians in Asia. In one of the many tiring scenes where “Asian-ness” is being explained, Peik Lin tells Rachel that she is a “banana,” then goes on to explain what that is—  that old, limp (forgive me) pseudo-joke about being yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. What the show expounds, in the end, is that it is a great time to be a banana. Rachel Chu is a banana and the triumph at the end of the film is the triumph of American exceptionalism and individualism over the “Crazy” Rich Asians. And let’s be clear—the title is meant to be derogatory. It’s not just “crazy rich” Asians, but also “crazy” rich Asians. Kwan’s second novel, “China Rich Girlfriend” confirms this, for in that title, “china” is the modifier.

The film is praised for its representation of complex characters, for finally showing that yellow people have complexity. But what complexity are we given to see? Most of the characters are mostly vain, petty, greedy, materialistic, bitchy, conniving. Here and there, badly behaving Asians are used as a convenient excuse for “complex characters” which parades as a subversion of the stereotype of smart, meek, well-behaved, hardworking Asian. Is this the best that can be done to throw off the yoke of the Model Minority Myth? Are we so starved for representation that bad behavior not only passes for complexity, but is also championed for diversity in representation?

Let’s go to one of the more upsetting scenes of bad behavior by way of returning to the money-phallus. The bachelor party scene ends with the uncaptioned chant “ku ku jiao,” started by Bernard, that mirrors that amazing scene in Sorry To Bother You where Cassius Green is made to perform his race for the pleasure and consumption of a white audience, and ends up yelling “N***** shit, n****** shit, n***** n***** n***** shit” to their delight. “Ku ku jiao” is a term few outside of Singapore would understand, meaning “little birdie” or a little boy’s dick (a different term, “lan jiao,” would translate more like the locker-room jargon, “cock,” but that term is not used)— a painfully pathetic, self-hating dig at Asian male sexuality masquerading as narcissism and machismo.

The delight the rich white yuppies in Sorry To Bother You derive lies in having Cassius yell a literalization of what, to them, he is. For Bernard and the rest of the merrymakers at the bachelor party, this is true too. The next thrust of my point lies in the fact that while he is yelling this, Bernard is carrying a giant canon held at his crotch, a comedic substitute, after all, for the tumescence he does not have. Out of this he pumps –-not fireworks (which the budget of the film must have allowed and the aesthetic of the film must have found appropriate)—but impotent crackling duds that shoot forth and plop lamely into the sea, fizzling out. Before the camera cuts to the next scene, at the height of the “ku ku jiao” chant, he shoots out one last firecracker aimed at a skimpily clad dancer on the edge of the pool and blasts her off stage. Is this comedy? Is the best performance of Asian male sexuality and virility one that must culminate in an act of violence against a woman? Is this how the Asian man wins?

Had he the “ku ku jiao” he wanted to show off, when caught by the paparazzi with the gold digging actress in a later scene, he would not be turning embarrassedly away, tail between his legs, as it were (yes, pun intended). The embarrassment here, therefore, is not that he has been caught having sex (Bernard would love that), but that he has been caught with a small and/or limp dick—the joke, of course, rooted in the stereotype of the emasculated Asian male. To this situation, he turns, and to the eye of the camera and the audience both, offers up his naked ass—a brief moment of nudity that is meant to serve as comic relief.

But it is not really a funny moment. For starters, it occurs at a sort of manic and deranged moment in the film—when Rachel has been told the “truth” about her mother and is running confusedly away, getting lost among and accosted by, (for the first time what really feels like) Crazy Asians. Bernard’s literal undressing then occurs alongside Rachel’s metaphorical denuding and both are quite horrific. Recall, too, for a moment, that when punched by Nick Young as a boy, Bernard “wins” not by returning the punch, but by sitting on him. *insert old locker room joke about checking before sitting down in a steam room lest you sit in another man’s lap.* What passes for comedy is then profoundly homophobic, for it lies in the potential for the (Asian male) body for penetration. As Leo Bersani enlightens us in “Is the Rectum a Grave?” the penetration of bodies (male and female alike) is used too often in cultural representation to suggest a posture of being demeaned or humiliated and its use here therefore is loaded.

Of course, none of these cerebral critiques of the film I have offered yet quite get at the heart of the much more visceral reaction I had. I found myself weeping throughout the film, leaking tears inexplicably. It wasn’t because I was so moved by Rachel Chu’s trials and tribulations and ultimate triumph (which was what? So much homage, after all, to the tired old marriage plot) for Constance Wu’s googly eyes irritated me—her moments of cutesy-ness and self-infantilizing and fawning feeling like some subconscious capitulation to the trope of what a lovable Asian girl is. No, I felt crazed. My impulse upon seeing my little country on screen was to rush forward and cover up the screen, like seeing a sister or a good friend stripped on stage, or, to tear it all down. Again and again, not Gatsby, but that harrowing scene from Darren Aronofsky’s horror extravaganza Mother! flashed in my mind— of Jennifer Lawrence rushing pleadingly after her baby while Javier Bardem (God) tells her that the adoring fans out there just want to see him, just want to love him, just want to worship him. My fellow Singaporeans and my country itself seem to say this too—this is a chance for Singapore to be showcased on the world stage, an “INCREDIBLE BRANDING OPPORTUNITY!” to echo a local politician on the Trump/Kim summit. It doesn’t in fact matter that, in a Bacchic frenzy, in their greed or their love (it doesn’t matter which) they tear and grab at the baby, ripping it apart and eating it up. Again and again as Singapore was put on display, I felt like Jennifer Lawrence, whimpering “he’s mine.. he’s mine..,” anxious for the awful house guests masquerading as worshipping fans not to take her baby.

What saddens me is how ready Singapore is to prostitute herself for attention. What infuriates me is how ready the world is to use Singapore to serve as confirmation for their own ends. Singapore is quite stunning—indeed she has a brilliant shining facade which works as the most perfect magic mirror. Ask Singapore anything and she will show you the best answer: What does a suppression of free speech look like? What does a country with no free and independent media look like? What does a country with high income inequality look like? A prism light show; a cantilevered ship on the top of 3 buildings; skyscrapers; a harbor so busy it looks like its own city at night— Singapore twirling and answering: “me, me, me.”

If the film is a celebration of capitalism call it so, but it is not a celebration of diversity. The galling part of the hype around the film and representation is that it allows one to be taken for the other. For example, Goh Peik Lin’s character need not, for the purposes of plot, have been rich. Her character would have provided a prime opportunity to showcase someone of a different socio-economic class, to highlight Singapore’s wonderful public housing, if, indeed, diverse representation was what we were going for. I know by now it is not.

To praise the show for being “a watershed moment for representation” or the “first of its kind” is to facetiously traffic in false opposites, to be like Foucault’s Victorians who everywhere whisper in hush tones that no one talks about sex. To say that this is the first time Asians have been allowed to be seen in a positive light is to trade on a presupposition that we have not—and that is a lie. To be sure, Hollywood hasn’t always been a great source for representation—but do we expect it to be? In the 80s, Japanese pop culture gained popularity in America and the rest of Asia following its economic boom. In the past decade, the growth of the Korean beauty industry and the Kpop music scene has led to vast changes in the perception of beauty around the world. There are more (east) Asian models on the catwalks and fronting campaigns for luxury goods than ever before. If that is the sort of representation we are seeking, it hasn’t not been there. I’m not trying to say more shouldn’t be done, I am asking for people to be clear-eyed.

And this is what that bewildering opening quote from Napoleon about sleeping dragons reveals. “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep for when she wakes she will shake the world.” Asian people are more interesting now quite simply because China is powerful and has money. What’s that pithy racist aphorism again? All Asian people look alike. The present moment is a time when being a minority can be worn like a trendy skin in certain contexts (this doesn’t mean that minorities are not then discriminated against because the two are not mutually exclusive) and that is happily adopted and used to obfuscate that what we are really celebrating in Crazy Rich Asians is money. If it is a good time to be a banana—yellow on the outside—it is a better time to be gold.

Crazy Rich Asians may have its use for various groups, may enable different things, but let the international community not forget that Singapore is a real place, and it is not there for the use-value other groups can foist upon it. To a country of 5 million people, most of them not Crazy Rich, it is home.

The film is not without its redeeming qualities. To my surprise, one of the movie’s bravest and sexiest scenes is one rife with homoeroticism. After the painful bachelor party scene, the camera cuts to Rawa Island, where Colin and Nick lounge lazily, drinking beer. The scene opens with Colin jesting, “Listen, if it weren’t for Araminta, I’d ask you to marry me!” So much romance after all passing for bromance. Rawa Island is known in the region as a getaway vacation spot for couples. (Listen, I went there a year ago with my husband after we had just gotten engaged and we did the only two things available to do there: we had beers like Colin and Nick, and the other I leave to my discerning reader to fill in the blanks.) The two men sit half naked, perfectly at ease with each other, speaking candidly about their relationships, expressing happiness and due concern for each other, opening up and displaying vulnerability—this might yet be the most healthy portrayal of men (Asian and otherwise) that I’ve seen in a rom-com in decades!—and are, for the first time in the film, actually sexy. Their easy banter and open honesty with each other feels somehow sexier than the prescriptive interaction between the main couple. Sex between the main heterosexual couple is connoted twice in the film but both scenes are clunky and awkward—the first suggests, perhaps, the raunchy fantasy of joining the “Mile High Club,” but honestly, when have collared, long-sleeved silk pyjamas suggested anything other than the uniform of philanthropic old rich men in movies, much less sex appeal?

The film has already done much in generating buzz about race and representation, and has already done wonders for the careers of the Asian actors that have been involved in the film (Henry Golding will star in two more Hollywood films before the year is over, Gemma Chan has now been signed on to the Marvel Universe) and may yet do more—I hope it does. But that conversation should be separate from what the film itself is.

Semper Fidelis or Das Kapital Uber Alles: From Eisenhower to Trump!

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

— Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective.

— Rachel Libert, co-producer of filmSemper Fi

I’m thinking harder and harder about the Continuing Criminal Enterprise that is the Corporate State. Thinking hard about the buffoonery, really, “regular” citizens, and members of the armed services, taking hook-line-and-sinker the foundational belief that it’s we the people, by the people, for the people, because of the people.

How wrong my old man was, 32 years combined Air Force and Army, believing he was upholding some decency, some safety nets for all, old folks homes, jobs for college grads and those without any training. Turning in his grave, absolutely, if he could now witness the evisceration of our post office, libraries, public schools, health care, roads and infrastructure. He fought for government oversight, EPA, FDA, and the rights of nature over the thuggery of madmen and Mafiosi and financial philanderers. He witnessed the abuse and fraud of the US Military Lobbying Corporate Ripoff complex, up close and personal. When he was in Korea, he had the utmost respect for Koreans, on both sides of the line. When he was in Vietnam, he had the utmost respect for the Vietnamese. He taught me the words of General Smedley Butler when I was 12. Now how fucked up is that, man. Living half a century on that graveyard of lies, propaganda and insufferable patriotism.

Daily, that American exceptionalist clarion call is pummeled and delegitimized by purveyors of Capitalism – rapacious, arbitrary, steeped in usury, couched in profits over all, cemented by the few elites and their soldiers – Little Eichmann’s – to define all human and non-human life as anything for the taking, consequences be damned. It’s a bought and sold and resell system, United States. Many times, it’s a rip-off after rip-off system of penalties and penury.

Think of Capitalism as, in spite of the people, against the people, forever exploiting the masses. Daily, I have seen this played out as a kid living on military bases around the world; or in just one of a hundred examples, as a student at the University of Arizona watching white purveyors of capital squash the sacred mountain, Mount Graham, in the name of telescopes and tens of thousands of profits per hour for anyone wanting to peer through the scopes. Sticking to the Sonora, I saw the developers in Tucson and then in Kino Bay, Guaymas, all there to push ecosystems toward extinction and to hobble the people – of, for, by, because – with centuries of collective debt and decades of individual fines, levies, taxes, penalties, tolls, externalities. This has been a Greek tragedy of monumental proportions, my 61 years of hard living, shaped by Marxist ideology and informed with communitarian reality.

Name a system or an issue, and then I quickly and easily jump to the cause and effect of the problem, and searching for intended and unintended consequences, and then comprehending shifting baselines, and then inevitably, realizing the tragedy of the commons tied to anything enshrined in consumer capitalism, and then, finally, acceding to the full context of how exponential growth and the limits of growth all come pounding like an aneurysm into my brain.

Call it death by a thousand rules, death by a thousand loopholes, death by a thousand fine print clauses, death by a thousand new chemicals polluting land, soil, air, water, flesh. Death by another thousand PT Barnum adages from dozens of financial-extracting arenas — “a sucker is born every minute,” all tributes to this casino-vulture-predatory capitalism which is insanity as we go to war for, because, despite it all.

Teacher-journalist-social worker-activist-unionist: Who the hell said I had any place in this society of “money takes/speaks/controls/shapes all,” or the Holly-dirt celebrity that is Weinstein or Rosanne Barr, the lot of them, and the unending perversion of big business-big media-big energy-big finance-big pharma-big arms manufacturing-big war as the new coded and DNA-embedded value system, the existential crisis (hog) of culture, civil society, the commons, community, and nature?

The men and women I work with now, after a cavalcade of careers under my belt, are wounded soldiers, sometimes wounded warriors, and many times wounded children – both the inner child and the literal children of soldiers. We’ve had one-day-old babies and 83-year-old veterans in this shelter. Every type of service, every type of discharge, every kind of military history. Some were never deployed overseas, some were but in support capacities, and others saw combat.

That is the microcosm of society reflected in this homeless shelter. I’ve written about it here and here and here. The prevailing winds of one or two strikes, then one or two bad debts, then one or two evictions, or one or two convictions, and, one or two co-occurring maladies, or one or two levels of trauma, and you are almost out; and mix that up with failed relationships, and capitalism and militarism, joined at the hip like a six-legged frog, and we have homelessness. Living in garages, in mini-vans, on couches, in tents, on floors, in wooden boxes, in abandoned buildings, in cemeteries, in cars.

For veterans, there is some level of dysfunctional help through the VA, the medical and dental system, the psych wards, and with housing vouchers and some debt relief. Thank a veteran for his or her service to the country, well, that’s a sloppy invocation of superficial respect.

The crumbs of the octopus that is capitalism wedded to war trickle down to some sectors of society – those who were diagnosed before 18 with some developmental-psychological-intellectual disability and veterans who served. I am talking about vets who didn’t go full-bore and retire after 20-plus years. These vets sometimes ended up in for four or five years, some a few months, and as is the case, here, the hierarchy of character and demographics kicks in, as veterans deployed to war and those who were wounded in war get a higher level of “benefits” than, say, someone who was in a few months or a year with no splashy combat rejoinder to his or her record.

We have vets in continuous, long bureaucratic lines working on their service connected disability claims, and, it’s sometimes a huge Sisyphus game of producing medical record after medical record going up against the hydra of the US government, Arms Service Committee pols, and the western medical system that was bound for failure after the striped barber pole days ended. The military does not help, denying injuries on the job, in combat or otherwise.

Tinnitus or loss of hearing, well, that’s usually a given after even a few months of service in the military. Knees, hips, feet, back problems. Anxiety, depression, skin issues. Kidney, teeth, TBI issues. PTSD and MST (military sexual trauma). The list is a ten-volume encyclopedia.

What I’ve found is most guys and gals are not wired for the obscene confusion, machismo and endless stupidity of repetition and humiliation of barking dehumanizing orders and tasks coming out of service to our country – all branches of the military make the Sanford Prison Experiment look like a walk in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

A Documentary About Cover-up, Collective Guilt, Toxins in the Water, Death

The precipitating factor behind a review of a 2011 documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, directed and produced by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, is I am working with a former Marine client as his social worker. In a homeless shelter for veterans; that moniker – social worker — is a deep one, a cover-all assignment, with wide ranging responsibilities, some anticipated and others surprisingly serendipitous.

His case, age 63, former Marine, in at age 17 with parents’ permission, is complicated – as if the other cases are not. A lot of these cases involve young men and women, virtually boys and girls, getting out of Dodge. Some with a sense of patriotism, for sure, and a few with aspirations of turning the military into a career. But make no bones about it, these people many times got caught up in the rah-rah patriotism of the day, Apple Pie, Mom, Hot Dogs and Football. Some were in it for the macho badge, and others wanted to learn avionics, electronics, logistics and nursing, etc. Many were discharged because of physical injuries or some sort of mental strain, or many were rifted for the unjust downright downsizing.

I’ll call my man Larry, and he grew up on the Oregon Coast, ending up hitching up with the Marine Corps because he wanted out of bubble of the small town and wanted in with a band of brothers.

Today, he is still tall, but a bit hunched over. His face is frozen in a heavy screen of sadness and fear. Both hands he is attempting to calm, but Parkinsonian tremors have taken over; he can’t hold a tray of food and drink, and he has no signature left. He has bruises on his arms and shines from falling over, tripping. He repeats himself, and knows it, telling me his words are coming out slurred.

He spent two years in prison for what amounts to minor (in my mind) medical fraud with his company. Those two years, he tells me, were nirvana. “The prison guards told me they had never anyone say they were glad to be in prison. I told them this was the calmest and most level I had ever been, or for at least years.”

His life was one of overwork, overreach, clients all over the Pacific Northwest, gambling addiction, big money from his business, lot of toys and big home, and children who ended up spoiled and broken as adults. Larry’s juggling a hoarder wife whose mother is dying, a heroin-addicted daughter with a child, another daughter in an abusive relationship, and countless appointments now to the VA, psychologists, counselors, OT and PT professionals, and support groups.

Today, he is quickly slipping into miasma of Parkinson’s, with all the symptoms and negative cycles of someone with Parkinson’s hitting him daily. He barely got a diagnosis, as early on-set, a few months ago; in fact, he’s been living with the Parkinsonian-triggered suite of maladies for up to 12 years, he tells me. “I remember my clients telling me I was repeating myself. I really think the stupid decision to defraud the state for a few hundred dollars was triggered by Parkinson’s.”

He and I have talked to support groups, looked at the literature around Parkinson’s, watched TED Talk’s focusing on the disease, gone to Michael J. Fox’s web site, and just honed in on what his life will be like in a year, two years, and five.

Right now, his Parkinson’s is one of nine major maladies tied to service connected disabilities the VA is now processing. This ties into the movie – Semper Fi – because my client was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as part of the Marine Corps where learning the art of war was also combined with the silent spring of water contamination that eventually resulted in diseases that both affected the veterans but also their families, and civilians who used the water, as well as their offspring.

This is a three decades long exposure, 1957 – 1987, with an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people who may been exposed to the cancer- and neurological disorder-causing chemicals. They consumed and bathed in tap water contaminated with “extremely high concentrations of toxic chemicals.”

The documentary follows three main protagonists fighting for their lives, the legacy of loved ones who were affected, and for the truth.

This is Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and according to the epidemiologists and scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, it is one of largest water contamination incidents in US history. We learn in the film the main carcinogens the people were exposed to — benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE), three known human carcinogens, in addition to perchloroethylene (PCE), a probable carcinogen.

The list of physical damage caused by exposure is long — Birth Defects, Leukemia, Neurological Damage, Bladder Cancer, Liver Damage, Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Lung Cancer, Scleroderma, Kidney Damage, Miscarriage, Skin Disorders.

My guy Larry is afraid of watching the documentary, as he is now in a spiraling malaise and deep anxiety tied to the reality of what life with Parkinson’s is, and that maybe many of his life decisions, from infidelity in a marriage to spontaneous behavior like gambling addiction may have stemmed from the stripping of his neurological web by these solvents and fuels that were leaking into the water supply, a contamination known by the United States’ Marines.

Knowledge is power but it can be a leveling power, one that forces people to look at the totality of their lives as may be based on a stack of lies and false ideologies. The movie reveals to the audience that this is one of 130 military sites in the USA with contamination issues. Alas, as I’ve written about before, the US military is the largest polluter in the world, and other militaries have the same standards or lack thereof for storing fuel, solvents, cleaners and other chemicals utilized in the war machine of the West.

Three Lives Following the Chemical Trail, Lies and Deceit

The documentary looks at three lives intensely – a 24-year veteran of the Marines whose 9-year-old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, a man who was born on the base and raised there and then developed male breast cancer, and a female Marine who served years at the Camp and who throughout the film is going through chemo to fight her rare disease.

We see the gravestones at the military cemetery at Camp Lejeune and remarkable typographic evidence of strange deaths – babies buried after a day living, stillborn babies buried, families with two or three deceased individuals, the offspring of serving Marines buried in plots surrounded by others who prematurely died.

Jerry Ensminger, the former drill sergeant, pushes hard to attempt to understand how the Marines could have lied and covered up the years of contamination. He fights to understand how the chemical producers through their lobbyists could hold sway over the common sense duty of protecting the citizens of the United States who swore an oath to defend the US Constitution. In the end, Jerry Ensminger (Janey’s dad), Michael Partain (male breast cancer survivor), and Danita McCall (former Marine enlisted soldier) make for compelling film making, since the project went on for four years.

Here, Rachel, the co-producer, talks about Danita:

The woman who shook her head is a woman named Danita, who we also followed in the film. When we met Danita, she was actually healthy, but shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer that honestly had metastasized so much in her body that I don’t think they could even say what the organ of – you know, what organ it started in. And we began to – in addition to following Jerry and Tom and the others, we also followed Danita as she fought to stay alive, as well as fought to get this issue out.

She did not make it in the time that we were making the film. And neither my co-director or I had ever experienced that in a project we’d worked on, and it was really hard. But Danita felt very strongly that her story should be in the film, and she – even though there were times where she was not feeling so great when we were trying to film her, because she had chemo treatment and whatnot, she really rallied through.

The ultimate sacrifice fighting for your life because of chemical-toxin induced cancers are eating at your very soul while also going up against the PR and hellish propaganda systems that define America, define the powerful, the political, the lobbies, the Captains of Industry, in this case, the chemical purveyors who have been given carte blanc the right to kill entire neighborhoods and classes of people and non-people species because Capitalism is predicated on unfettered rights of any snake oil salesman or demon shyster to bilk, bust, and bill for all the disease they perpetrate. Is anyone with a sound mind going to believe that Agent Orange and PCBs were not already deemed harmful to human life before they were even sprayed on the innocents of Vietnam? Does anyone believe the polluted, lead-flecked water of Flint doesn’t kill brain cells? Off-gassing, Volitile Organic Compounds, plastics, solvents, flame retardants, pesticides, fungicides, diesel fumes, nitrous oxide, fluoride, well, the list goes on and on, and those demons will hide, obfuscate, and downright lie to keep the pennies from Capitalism’s Heaven falling into their fat, off-shore, tax-free bank accounts.

Here, Jerry, talking to C-SPAN:

When any family ever have a child, especially a child, that’s diagnosed with a long-term catastrophic illness, without exception — because I’ve talked to so many other families, when Janey was sic– the first thing after you have a chance to sit down after the shock of the diagnosis wears off is that nagging question: Why? Well, I was no exception.
And I looked into her mother’s family history, my family history, no other child had ever been diagnosed with cancer.

We are talking about over one thousand Freedom of Information requests to have Navy, Marines and other government agency files open for public viewing. The concept of we the people, by the people, for the people – public health, safety, welfare – has never really been a reality, but a myth. For filmmaker Rachel Libert, she too has been caught with wide open eyes around how rotten the systems in place are for supposedly cross-checking and protecting people’s lives:

It’s been eye-opening for me. I think the thing that was probably the most eye-opening – I don’t consider myself a naive person, but I – I actually believed that our regulatory agencies were doing their job and protecting us, bottom line, that things that were really, really harmful and known to be carcinogens wouldn’t really be in our environment, in our water and things. And in making this film, I realized that that system is very flawed and that we aren’t as protected, and that was a very difficult thing for me to accept.

I mean, I certainly didn’t go into it thinking, oh, the government’s perfect and there are no problems, but that was a big revelation.

Again, the film is a microcosm of the world I live in, the world I work in, and the world of a Marxist struggling to make sense of the psychology of power and the impact of that power on the common people. Yes, schooling has helped with the American mythology of greatness. Yes, the Madison Avenue shills have aided and abetted the stupidity of a collective. Yes, the genocidal roots of this country’s illegal origin continue to splay the DNA of Americans. Yes, the food is bad, the air contaminated, the medicines polluted and the human spirit malformed in the collective American household. Yes, those in power are perversions, open felons, war mongers and money grubbers.

But, when you see over the course of four years – these main “actors” in the documentary are not paid – the Don Quixotes flailing at windmills, just replace Camp Lejeune with Love Canal or Monfort slaughter house, or fence-line communities around Houston or the flaming waters of the Cuyahoga River. Just spend a few years studying the largest Superfund site, Hanford in southern Washington. Just spend time looking at the research on Glyphosate (Monsanto’s DNA-killing Round-up). Just delve into the research on EMFs and cancers, or cell phones and brain lesions. Again, this so-called exceptionalist country is a purveyor of lies, purveyor of mentally deranged uber patriotism, and without exception, eventually, anyone going up against the system will quickly hold to him or her self the belief we all have been snookered by the Titans of Industry and the Wolves of Wall Street.

Here, the good Marine, 24 years in, Semper Fi, now a farmer in North Carolina, wondering just what he was fighting for:

Well . . . one thing that they’ve done over the years is that they have obfuscated the facts so much, they have told so many half-truths and total lies, they’ve omitted a lot of information to the media, and now if they were to sit down with me face-to-face, I could show them with their own documents and counter what they’ve been saying, and they don’t want to do that.

I mean, I have been very, very cautious throughout this entire fight to speak truth. I’ve told Mike Partain, when he got involved in it, and everybody else that gets involved in this situation, don’t ever speculate. If you’re talking to the media, if you’re talking to Congress, never speculate. If you don’t have a document out of their own files to back up what you’re saying, keep your mouth shut.

And going back to Mike Partain, when Mike got involved in this back in 2007, Tom was starting to fall out of the hike. Tom’s in his 80s. And Mike was a godsend. I mean, Mike has a degree in history. And he has also got investigative skills, because he is an insurance adjuster. He couldn’t – he couldn’t pay to raise his family on high school teacher’s pay, history teacher’s pay, so he went and got a job as an investigator.

Admirable, the story telling and truth Sather qualities in this film, for sure. The audience gets up close and personal with Jerry and Mike and Danita, and the directors let the soldiers tell the story. We get the cold hard stare down of the military brass. Indeed, for the uninitiated this story is compelling.

But also on the outer edges of this piece are the obscenities of blind obedience to command. There are some ugly truths to being a Marine, of following orders, of sadomasochistic drill sergeants, the culture of rape, the outright racism, and all the attendant issues tied to military service.

This is the fiftieth year after the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. The two or three soldiers who stood down some of the killers and reported the crime were vilified. That bastion of war, Colin Powell, was a junior officer whose job was to hunt down any incriminating evidence against the soldiers who reported the murders. Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for his reporting on My Lai. Yet, Colin Powell rose to power, ending up in another war criminal’s administration – Bush Junior. To think of all the illegal wars these soldiers have prepped for and gone to, one wonders if any soldier can believe anything around their sometimes teary-eyed salute the flag patriotism.

The USS Liberty, 51 years ago, and Israel murders 34 sailors, and wounds 171, yet deniability, no repercussions, and here we are, US DoD and US Military are the beckon call of Israel firsters running our government, and the blind allegiance to the apartheid and genocidal state 70 years after forced trail of tears for Palestine, and all those deniers now in positions of Fortune 500 power, and who decide the fate of the plebes, the foot soldiers of industry and military services.

Conversing with my veterans, so many are confused about aliens and Area 54 and reverse engineering from that Roswell kid from space; somehow a Trump is more palatable than an Obama than a Bush. How many times have I been spat upon and cursed when I fought against illegal wars, overt or proxy, in South America, Central America, the Middle East? How many times have I been yelled at for fighting against chemical plants or fighting for clean air, water, soil? How many times have I been called a Pinko Fag for fighting for spotted owls or gray wolves?

As an avowed revolutionary, Marxist, one who has been hobbled by the middling mush that is America, from acidified sea to oil slick sea, I can only say that George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, respectively, say it correctly about this thing called “patriotism”:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

— George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

— Mark Twain

I’ve got a more horrific story to tell about Larry, my former Marine. Yes, he might get some more service connected disability money coming in for the toxic water exposure he attained in North Carolina while on the Marine Corps base for a few years.

He is now stagnant, fearful of uncontrollable tremors, fearful of not getting words out, fearful of falls, fearful of a life now full of attendants, and as we all are, fearful of ending up destitute (he is in a homeless shelter, readers), and alas, his one asset — his brain — is now fogged and riddled with the bullet holes of anxiety and paranoia.

Yet, his toxic waters story pales in comparison to what happened to him as a 17-year-old at boot camp in Dan Diego. A story so bizarre and troubling, that it’s one the military has dealt with since time immemorial, when the first militaries came about under those pressed into service rules of the rich needing bodies to fight their unholy skirmishes, battles and world wars.

That story and series of human penalties Larry encompasses will come soon, but for now, imagine, a country run by the likes of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Trump, et al. Imagine those swollen jowls and paunchy millionaire politicians. Imagine their lies, their sociopathic inbreeding. Imagine the tortures they foment at night. Imagine these people sending people to war, and imagine the entire lie that is America, the land of the free.

Hell, in my own neck of the woods, Portland, again, we are a third world country when it comes to we, for, by and because the people:

In one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the fight for clean water is taxing. From Salem, Oregon to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and from Flint, Michigan to the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana, Americans are finding their access to clean water threatened.

Emma Fiala

Inside the Irish Prison System

Michael Inside is a new Irish movie which looks at the prison system in Ireland and the people who serve their time in it. The film is about a young man who is sent to prison for the first time after being caught with drugs he had stashed in his grandfather’s house with whom he shares. In prison he is taken under the wing of an older experienced prisoner who helps him to stand up for himself but also ensnares him in a cycle of violence in the prison itself. We see the emotional and psychological growth and strengthening of Michael with these harrowing experiences. The big question of the film is then: will he become like his father, also in jail, or learn from his grandfather’s advice?

The most important aspect of this new Irish film is its cinematic approach to telling the story. Ireland has a long history of theatre and successful drama which spilled over into its film-making too. Irish films in the past have been worthy and wordy with directors more comfortable with theatrical styles than cinematic imagery. It was also difficult to achieve cinematic lift-off with the gravity of so many winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Ireland won four times in the 20th century: W. B. Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Séamus Heaney (1995), all of whom wrote plays. Not forgetting, of course, Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge, George Moore, Oscar Wilde and Seán O’Casey. The developing language of cinema filtered slowly into Irish film-making either for reasons of fear of audience reaction (more used to theatre) or a lack of an appreciation of the idea that sometimes less is more.

Michael Inside has at times an almost documentary feel to it in the way the prison and the prison officers are portrayed. They come across as empathetic and generally respectful of the prisoners. The director of Michael Inside, Frank Berry, stated the story-line was “researched with former prisoners” and authenticity was desired even to the point of using former prisoners as extras.

The use of the camera has a Tarkovskian feel with long takes, blurring and choreography before the camera. Some scenes like in the grandfather’s house are performed in front of a stationary camera with minimal lighting and wonderful blocking as actors move in and out of shot during the dialogue. Michael’s life outside of prison seems almost as oppressive as inside. Sparse dialogue, sparse rooms and ennui add to this feeling. The tyranny of montage is felt, though, when Michael goes into his cell for the first time and sits down on the bottom bunk. This would have been a perfect moment to let the camera linger and linger to illustrate the timelessness of prison life. Steve McQueen, the British director, does this brilliantly in Hunger (2008) (also a great prison movie) when he has a fixed camera on one end of a long prison corridor pointed at a person washing the floor and stays on him until he finally gets to the other end. A similar very long take is used in the Irish Traveler film, Pavee Lackeen (2005) to illustrate the difficulty of such basic things as making a cup of tea as we see the young girl go outside and walk to a hose behind a metal fence, fill the bucket and walk back to the mobile home. However, in Michael Inside, it cuts all too soon in the prison cell to the next shot.

Cinema fans who liked A Prophet (French: Un prophète), the 2009 French prison drama-crime film directed by Jacques Audiard will also enjoy Michael Inside. Unlike A Prophet, the protagonist of Michael Inside is exposed to alternative paths for his future as a former prisoner who has studied for an MA and is progressing towards a PhD gives the inmates a talk on the importance of education. This is an important moment in the film as it demonstrates one way with which to break the cycle of violence and transgenerational incarceration. Indeed Michael plans to further his education despite the bias against former prisoners.

Michael Inside is a wonderful film about the Irish penal system, the sparseness of some working class lives and the potential for positive change. The irony of this depiction of working class poverty and hopelessness is the fact that the film is conceived, researched, and acted using the imagination, talents and experience of Irish working class people. It points to a new self-awareness and education happening in sections of Irish society that augur well for the future.

Iranian Movie about ISIS in Syria

The “West” is competing against the “East” on the Syrian battle-field, in conflicting news and analysis, and now also in the cultural and film arena. A new full-length action movie, titled Damascus Time, gives an Iranian perspective on the battle against ISIS in Syria.

The movie comes from Iranian screenwriter and film director Ebrahim Hatamikia. Two award winning Iranian actors, Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian, play father and son pilots trying to rescue civilians besieged and attacked by ISIS forces in eastern Syria. The pilots have come to help the townspeople escape in an aging Ilyushin cargo plane.

Syrian and Iraqi actors play Syrian civilians and ISIS terrorists hell bent on blowing up the plane or using it on a suicide mission against Damascus.

The movie portrays sensational scenes from real ISIS atrocities with a backdrop showing the Syrian desert and famous ruins of Palmyra. The city where civilians are surrounded and besieged is similar to the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor which was in real life surrounded and attacked by ISIS for years. During that time, the townspeople and soldiers depended on air dropped food and ammunition to hold off the attackers, as shown in the movie.

Damascus Time starkly portrays the violence and nihilism of ISIS. The ISIS individuals are shown to have human feelings, but they are wrapped in sectarianism and hate-filled violence.

Life’s complexities are portrayed in the Iranian pilots where the younger pilot has left his pregnant wife to be alongside his father. The mother-in-law of the young pilot bitterly criticizes him for leaving his wife. He says this will be his last trip away.

While the story is fictional, the portrayed setting, human drama and conflict between forces of moderation versus extremism and violence is real. Hundreds of thousands of real Syrians and Iraqis have died due to the creation and promotion of the Frankenstein monster represented by ISIS.

One of the ironies of modern history is that Western politicians criticize Iran for being the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.” In reality Iran has a record opposing sectarianism and extremism. Different faiths are respected within Iran, and Iranian Jews are represented within parliament, in contrast with Israeli propaganda.

In reality, it is the US and UK who have sponsored terrorism for decades. As documented in Devil’s Game: How the US Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, the US and UK promoted a violent and sectarian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the nationalist and socialist policies of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Starting in 1979, the US and Saudi Arabia promoted the founders of Al Qaeda to attack the socialist leaning government of Afghanistan.

This policy has continued to the present. In the summer of 2012, the US Defense Intelligence Agency outlined their strategy in a secret document: “THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR).”  The US looked favorably on the creation of the Islamic State: “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

The true “state sponsor of terrorism” is not Iran; it is the West and their allies. Thus it is appropriate that the first feature length movie depicting the battle against terrorism and ISIS in Syria comes from Iran.

Iran has come to the assistance of Syria by supplying militias plus technical and military advisers. Hundreds of Iranians have given their lives alongside their Syrian and Iraqi comrades. Damascus Time is not the product of Hollywood fantasy; it’s the product of actual human drama and conflict occurring in the Middle East today.

The Iranian Foreign Minister and head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were reportedly moved by the movie. Damascus Time is fictional but based on a real conflict with actual blood, atrocities, tragedies and martyrs.

The movie is currently being shown at movie theaters throughout Iran. In recent weeks it was the second highest ranking movie. It should be available for viewing in the West in the near future, unless western sanctions and censorship are extended to culture and film.

Winnie Mandela and Apartheid’s Hidden History

A new documentary on Winne Mandela – called simply Winnie – is fascinating both for what it reveals about the hidden history of South Africa’s transition away from apartheid and for its relevance to other, current struggles. I highly recommend that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn get his hands on a copy as soon as possible.

As someone who grew up vaguely aware of the apartheid story unfolding nightly on the UK news, I was shocked to see how different those events looked decades later, seen through more critical eyes. The new perspective is long overdue: Winnie Mandela died at the beginning of this month.

For those who bewail the “fake news” of the corporate media as if its mendacity was some kind of recent development, Winnie is a useful corrective, reminding us that the modern media’s primary role has always been to maintain a political, social and economic environment conducive to the accumulation of wealth by the rich and powerful.

Although the film briefly recounts the history of apartheid, its strength lies in its emphasis on Winnie Mandela as the embodiment of the liberation struggle after much of the ANC leadership, including her husband, had been locked away on Robben Island. She became the ANC’s centre of gravity and its spokeswoman, both locally and internationally, the flickering light that the apartheid regime dared not snuff out for fear of provoking a popular uprising. She became “the Mother of the Nation”.

The film’s focus is very much on the transition years, and the Mandelas’ increasingly strained relationship. The documentary leaves little doubt that long years of confinement had left Nelson Mandela a largely broken man. Interviews with apartheid’s security officials show that, sensing this, the South African government began a campaign to reshape Mandela’s worldview and prepare him for a release in which he would be repurposed to serve as the figurehead of a new South Africa. It would look more inclusive but change little in terms of the concentration of wealth and property in white hands. A new black elite based on the ANC leadership would legitimise the continuing economic oppression of the black majority.

Winnie was the fly in the ointment. She had helped to keep the revolutionary spirit of the ANC alive and relevant to South Africa’s disenfranchised black population, and she was not prepared to jettison class politics for a western-friendly identity politics.

From that moment on, the apartheid government was determined to create a personal, as well as ideological, rift between her and Nelson Mandela. They used smears to discredit her with the international community and accentuate divisions within South Africa’s black population. The vilification would reach its peak with efforts to tie her to the murder of a 14-year-old boy, Stompie Moeketsi.

Doubtless, if these events were current, rather than some 30 years old, those doubting the official narrative would be accused of spreading “fake news” and of being “conspiracy theorists”. But apartheid officials are clear in the documentary that they were prepared to go to great lengths to damage Winnie Mandela. In fact, while the official story persists that she ordered one of her bodyguards, Jerry Richardson, to kill Stompie because the boy was a police informer, Richardson later confessed that he killed Stompie after the boy found out that he was the informer.

There are two especially revealing moments in the documentary.

Vic McPherson, head of a smears unit in apartheid South Africa’s security services, admits that, as part of Operation Romulus, he had some 40 journalists working for him spreading disinformation in the South African media. He proudly declares that he could get government smears about Winnie Mandela on to the front page of South African papers as news, which was then relayed to international audiences through repetition by the foreign media.

He was also able to vilify Winnie Mandela with the help of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which allowed him to make a documentary about her. Even though it was government propaganda made by South Africa’s version of Josef Goebbels, it was shown on 40 US channels and led to the US declaring her an international terrorist.

The other revealing moment is at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Most of us get moist-eyed about the inquiry, but its agenda was again hijacked by apartheid’s leaders as a way to further damage Winnie Mandela and prevent her from being appointed deputy president of the ANC.

In fact, she was the only ANC official brought before the commission. Criminal suspicions about Stompie’s murder were again raised against her as if proven. Desmond Tutu does not emerge from this episode well, using his platform there to publicly demand an apology from her, when there was no more than unreliable hearsay connecting her to the murder.

It is hard not to conclude, after watching this documentary, that Winnie, not Nelson, was the greater hero, the true conscience of the anti-apartheid struggle, and that the apartheid leadership and the western media conspired to ensure she would become little more than a sour footnote in history books about that era.

Nelson Mandela was preferred over Winnie Mandela because his conciliation with – even appeasement of – apartheid’s racists appealed to western consciences more than her demands for a reordering of society and for tangible, not symbolic, justice for the victims of apartheid.

This fight continues in many places beyond South Africa.

The struggles of our time are to reform western societies to stop the pillage of the Earth’s resources, to reverse climate breakdown, and to expose the self-destructive logic of western economies based on the myth of endless growth. Those leading these struggles will face implacable opposition, just as Winnie Mandela did. The vested interests that control our societies are deeply entrenched after more than a century in power. They have the politicians, the media, the courts on their side. And their fight will be as dirty as the one waged by the apartheid regime.

We must develop the critical intelligence to prevent ourselves being manipulated and set one against the other. Otherwise, those who seek to challenge the current order will either be tamed, like Nelson Mandela, or destroyed, like Winnie Mandela.

Remembering Ireland’s Great Famine

Weary men, what reap ye?—Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye?— human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, hunger–stricken, what see you in the offing?
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger’s scoffing.
There’s a proud array of soldiers — what do they round your door?
They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping— would to God that we were dead;
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.”
— “Speranza” (Jane Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde)

Last Wednesday I attended a preview for a forthcoming Irish film, Black 47 (Director Lance Daly), about the worst year of the catastrophic Irish famine and is set in the west of Ireland in 1847.

The story centers around an Irish soldier, Feeney (James Frecheville), returning from serving the British Army in Afghanistan only to find most of his family have perished in the Famine or An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger) as it is known in Gaelic.

The English and Irish terms for Ireland’s greatest tragedy are infused with different ideological approaches to the disaster. By emphasising the failure of the potato crop only, the impression is given that there was no food to be had on the island when the opposite was true – there were many other crops which did not fail but were not accessible to the vast majority of the people – hence, the Great Hunger.

Feeney (James Frecheville), Black 47 (Director Lance Daly)

In Black 47, the colonised fight back as Feeney puts the skills he has learned abroad with the British army to effective use in Ireland. He kills or executes the various people involved in the British colonial system he blames for the starvation and death of his family: from the bailiff to the judge to the colonial landlord. Moreover, Feeney goes a step further as he refuses to speak English to those in power before he kills them, reflecting back to them an immediate understanding of the powerlessness of those without the linguistic tools to negotiate compromises (as was seen in the film when a monolingual Irish speaker gets tough justice for ‘refusing’ to speak English in court).

Back in the late 1980s a book entitled ‘The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures‘ [1989] showed how the language and literature of the empire, English, was used by colonised peoples in the creation of a radical culture to aid their resistance to the hegemony of imperial power. However, now with many of his family dead, Feeney has ceased to be a Caliban profiting on the language of his masters and becomes a powerfully drawn hero who is uncompromising in his insistence that the Irish language and culture will be a respected equal to the imposed English language and culture of the colonists.

In the film the ruling class and their hierarchy of supporters are flush with food and the army is used to transport harvested crops to the coast and exportation. This fact is displayed symbolically when one of Feeney’s victims is literally ‘drowned’ in food, as he is found head first in a sack of wheat.

The international aspect of the Black 47 narrative hints at the geopolitics of the day with Feeney’s return from Afghanistan and the concurrent mass emigration to the United States from Ireland. Feeney’s indignation at finding out how his masters have treated his own family and compatriots as he risked his life for them abroad is similar to the treatment of the African-American soldiers of the Vietnam war on their return to the United States.

But this is not a black and white, Irish versus the Brits, movie. There is complexity as some of the British show empathy for the desperate Irish and pay the ultimate price or go on the run.

Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more a man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.

— Francis Bacon

Black 47 is a revenge movie which is cathartic for an audience feeling the utter helplessness of the victims living in a brutal system without real justice, where what should have been their protectors (the law, the state, the army, etc.) became their attackers and betrayed them. In previous food crises, according to Christine Kenealy:

The closure of ports was a traditional, short-term response to food shortages. It had been used to great effect during the subsistence crisis of 1782-4 when, despite the opposition of the grain merchants, ports had been closed and bounties offered to merchants who imported food to the country. During the subsistence crisis of 1799-1800, the government had placed a temporary embargo on the export of potatoes from Ireland. In 1816 and 1821, the British government had organised the shipment of grain into areas in the west of Ireland where there were food shortages. The grain was then sold on at low prices. Similar intervention and market regulation occurred in Britain.

Unfortunately for Ireland, Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan (2 April 1807 – 19 June 1886), a British civil servant and colonial administrator, was put in charge of administering famine relief. Trevelyan was a student of the economist Thomas Malthus and a believer in laissez faire economics and the free hand of the market. Trevelyan described the famine as an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population” as well as “the judgement of God”.

Famine Memorial in Dublin by artist Rowan Gillespie

With this change in attitude on the part of the British government towards food shortages, the crisis was doomed from the beginning. Kinealy states:

In 1847 alone, the worst year of the Famine, almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the major ports of Britain, that is, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London. Over half of these ships went to Liverpool, the main port both for emigration and for cargo.

Ultimately, one million people starved to death and one million emigrated reducing the population by about 20% – 25%.

Black 47 is an uncompromising film that depicts the harrowing results of a crop failure combined with an ultra exploitative system that knew no moral or legal boundaries. Sure, attempts were made by well-meaning people to alleviate the crisis but the failure of the state to end the crisis on a macro level resulted in an unprecedented disaster for the Irish people. It will go on general release in September.

Further research:

For those interested in finding out more about the Great Hunger, here is a select list of material covering different aspects.

Art
The preview showing of Black 47 was to complement a concurrent exhibtion of art in Dublin Castle showing at the Coach House Gallery until June 30. The exhibition, titled ‘Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger‘, is an exhibition of the world’s largest collection of Famine-related art.

​Belfast mural

Music:
Sinéad O’Connor – ‘Famine
Damien Dempsey – ‘Colony
Christy Moore – ‘On a Single Day

Books:
The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith
The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy by Tim Pat Coogan
The Graves are Walking by John Kelly
Atlas of the Great Irish Famine edited by J. Crowley, W. J. Smith and M.Murphy.
(Massive hardback volume covering almost all aspects of the famine throughout Ireland, lavishly illustrated.)

National Famine Commemoration Committee
The National Famine Commemoration Committee was first established in 2008 following a Government decision to commemorate the Great Irish Famine with an annual national famine memorial day.

Film
Ireland 1848 – ‘An experimental documentary of the Great Irish Famine. Shot as a film might have been shot in 1848 fifty years before the cinema was invented.’

The Jury Has Been Out on Vaccines: Harm to the Brain, Immune System, Limbic System, Life

H-o-p-e Spells Help Our People Exist

Fact One: Aluminum is present in U.S. childhood vaccines that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanuspertussis (DTaP, Tdap), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcus infection

For someone always skeptical of big money-big business tied to anything in the realm of medicine or science in general, I have lifted myself way beyond hope when it comes to any amount of efficacy in medicine or all the other nodes tied to our modern industrial-postindustrial world.

The vaccination debate is a misnomer in itself, since the debate is really an attack on anyone who dares question the science and chemistry and genetic engineering of the vaccine industry, an industry that plows through so many of our rights as citizens, individuals and patients. We have states and school systems ordering people of all ages to submit to the needle.

A new film airing in May, Injecting Aluminum, looks at a specific aspect of the vaccine “debate” through what easily is the one giant Gordian knot metaphor of the entire vaccine injury and death history – the adjuvant aluminum hydroxide developed in the 1920s as the “best” optimizer of the immune response when injecting the disease.

The subtitle of 90-minute film by director Marie-Ange Poyet, How Toxic are Vaccines?, really takes the air out of the sails of the pro-vaccine-and-never-question-the-vaccinologist zealots. In fact, it’s the Gordian knot we can cut away: disentangling an impossible knot but cutting that damned thing, or finding a loophole through creative and robust outside the box thinking:

Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter
— Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47

The director says things about the power of film, or the limits of documentaries, that I too voice:

“I don’t think movies can change things,” Marie-Ange Poyet says: “They bring new information, they contribute to change, but they don’t carry themselves the ability to deeply shake the system in which we are.”

She states that if the film can educate the public and rally around the “real drama” of those lives affected by aluminum salts in vaccines, then Marie-Ange would be satisfied.

The commitment of citizens is the only way things will change. I hope this citizen-driven film can be a step in that direction.

Storytelling Straight in the Eye

Viewing the interviews in this documentary for 90 minutes, I came to the realization that the story of the wounded and chronically ill — because of their bodies’ reaction to the aluminum — is the taproot of this film’s blossoming.

We have some heavy players in medicine and some compelling victims of the vaccines, as well as intrepid journalists. More than 16 powerful voices from a myriad of perspectives give shape to the film. And this is a film of a special order – the voices are captured in straightforward narrative style. No asides or typical documentary bells and whistles. No graphics, no tours of the drug manufacturers’ research facilities, no laboratory microscopic images, no up close and personal looks at rehabilitation.

Just interviews are captured, as if this is an inquest on the very substance that is at the center of this disease the French medical and research community discovered in the 1990s – Macrophagic Myofascitis, or MMF. It’s a very simple and to the point look at one element that is toxic to the human body, and an element tied to MS and Alzheimer’s and here now, MMF, which has destroyed young people’s ability to lead regular lives.

Anti-Aluminum isn’t Anti-Vaccine – Precaution Over Profits

Some of the heavy-hitters are MDs like Romain Gherardi and Jerome Authier, professor Christopher Exley, member of the European Parlimante Michele Rivasi, Le Monde journalist Stephane Foucart, and President of E3M (Entraide aux Malades of Myofascite to Macrophages) Didier Lambert.

The NGO E3M and victims of MMF support scientific research to buttress their campaign to have aluminum removed from vaccines. Lambert is currently on disability, which is a state of survival 80 percent of the members of the association E3M share.

He’s outspoken and on a mission of protecting his country and others by advocating taking aluminum out of vaccines, “without calling into question the very principle of vaccination.”

The simple aim is to reverse the felonious push to keep aluminums in vaccines by going back to the gold standard of the Precautionary Principle, a simple oath and operating system science and scientists (and all sectors of civilization) ought to abide by, but to also embrace before any chemical, product, service or process is pushed onto us, the prevailing majority of citizens harmed by this current lack of ethical oversight and concern. Where money and profits and vast accumulation of power rides roughshod over our civilization, there rarely is a deep look at the unintended consequences or negative feedback loops!

It’s easy to undergird the documentary with a proviso tied to the ideas of “first do no harm,” or, “better safe than sorry,” or, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the past 100 years, at least, Western Civilization has been moved by demonic ideas of profit tied to these aphorisms: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and, “Let the devil take the hindmost.”

Dr. Chris Exley

Some of the film’s “stars” are folk like Dr. Exley, bioinorganic chemistry professor at University of Stirling, who has been for more than three decades researching “how the third most abundant element of the Earth’s crust, aluminum, is non-essential and largely inimical to life.”

Ironically, he investigates the most abundant element on Earth’s crust, silicon, and how it is almost devoid of biological function: “One possible function of silicon is to keep (aluminium) aluminum out of biota.”

Here, the Precautionary Principle with the help of Peter Montague :

The release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of resources, and physical alterations of the environment have had substantial unintended consequences affecting human health and the environment. Some of these concerns are high rates of learning deficiencies, asthma, cancer, birth defects and species extinctions, along with global climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and worldwide contamination with toxic substances and nuclear materials.

We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions, particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect adequately human health and the environment the larger system of which humans are but a part.

We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.

While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.

Mountains of Studies Indicting Aluminum Adjuvants

Compelling for me about the film is the detail both the citizens patients of MMF and the established biology, chemistry, immunology, medical experts lay out for the viewer. Exely is both trustworthy and compassionate, quirky and interesting. He is interviewed in his office with towers of research papers and journal articles behind him like many Leaning Towers of Pisa.

His scientific bent is on deep research, unclouded by some profit margin derived by selling the aluminum to labs and the manufacturing facilities and pharmaceuticals making billions on these vaccines.

He cites the common known fact that adjuvants in vaccines do not require clinical approve. The vaccine preparation does go through trials, so when the aluminum is put in vaccine, it’s the vaccine that gets approved, not the aluminum or another adjuvant.

The articulate scientist knows the field of aluminum research. For instance, he states that he can’t say the cause of Alzheimer’s is aluminum, but aluminum does make Alzheimer’s worse, and aluminum does make Alzheimer’s occur at an earlier age. He goes on:

You have this fantasy of, I think it’s the World Health Organization, giving a safe limit for aluminum, and they say, as long as it’s low, one milligram per kilogram body weight per day, you’re safe. I asked them, how do you know that, when I don’t know it? I’ve been working on aluminum for 30 odd years, trying to understand it, you know this. I asked them for the details, how did you work this out, and who did it?

They have people that I call the aluminum ambassadors…Usually, good scientists all around the world, who are paid by the aluminum industry to say that aluminum is not a problem, but these are not individuals who work on aluminum. Most of them have absolutely no background in aluminum whatsoever. They are individuals, who for example, work on Alzheimer’s disease, and then they, whenever someone with the Alzheimer’s society, a major charity, asks for advice, they ask this well-known person in Alzheimer’s disease, what’s the role of aluminum? No, there’s nothing to worry about. They don’t ask me.

“It’s the Calcium Phosphate, Stupid, That’s What We Need!”

Fact Two: A small proportion of vaccinated people present with delayed onset of diffuse myalgia, chronic fatigue and cognitive dysfunction, and exhibit very long-term persistence of aluminum-loaded macrophages at site of previous intra-muscular (I.M.) immunization, forming a granulomatous lesion called Macrophagic Myofasciitis (MMF). Clinical symptoms associated with MMF are paradigmatic of the recently delineated “autoimmune/ inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants”. Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndromes Adjuvants (ASIA).

Here we have aluminum hydroxide dating back to 1927. The same compound used in vaccines in 2018. Yet, in 1974, the Insitut Pasteur developed calcium-phosphate adjuvant, and the president of the French vaccination committee admitted that the calcium phosphate adjuvant was no less effective than aluminum salts. That adjuvant could be brought back. It takes a political decision. “Then our vaccines would be safe,” says Didier Lambert.

Aluminum salts are identified as neurotoxic by many health authorities and organizations. Count Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Crown’s, Sarcoidosis, development of allergies, cases of chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism and many more as the unintended side effects of aluminum, according to Professor Exley and many more.

The evidence in the documentary mounts minute by minute, and the interviews are clear but not charged with emotions or with a music track overlay.

Professor Jérôme Authier, a neurologist and coordinator of the Centre of Reference for Neuromuscular Diseases at H. Mondor Hospital, states the aluminum stays at the injection site for months, and migrates to the liver, spleen and brain. He sees unique conditions/factors that slow down or speed up the migration:

• The injection site: faster migration if the injection is administrated by subcutaneously rather than intramuscularly
• Genetics: faster migration on some people more than others
• The dose: a moderate dose of aluminum adjuvant forms small aggregates of particle. It migrates in the brain faster than a significant dose which in turn forms larger aggregates, long stored in the periphery.
• It also accumulates in the lymph nodes and spleen, which are organs related to the immune system.
• Patients with Macrophagic Myofasciitis (MMF)suffer from cognitive disorders such as brain dysfunction, associated with persistence extended aluminum in their body at the injection site.

Even the so-called godfather of autoimmunology, Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, was brought forth by Poyet to discuss aluminum adjuvant; and he lists MMF as one of the Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndromes Adjuvants, also known as ASIA. Shoenfeld founded the Centre for Autoimmune Diseases in Israel and has written 25 books about autoimmunity.

The Israeli doctor is clear about this injecting aluminum question: How Toxic Are Our Vaccines?

Aluminum is foreign to our body. It is one of strongest adjuvants. It can cause toxicity to the brain, ovaries and the immune system. We should avoid it from our lives.

Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld

Studying Cause and Effect in Vaccine Use, Ingredients and Frequency Makes Us Smart, Not Antivax

It’s clear that researchers calling into question the prevailing “norm” or the current baseline, aluminum adjuvants, are called charlatans, and the media (paid for in large measure by Big Pharma) go on the attack. But, again, the godfather, Shoenfeld, submits a counter to that propaganda:

I have to say that, for my experience, both in Israel, as well as in Denmark, for instance, one of the countries where we have a large number of subjects who suffer the severe side effect, especially from the HPV. People see these cases in which, immediately after the vaccine, or very close to the vaccine, healthy girls who were apparently athletic, and suddenly, they find themselves wheel chaired or bed ridden.

The issue of primary ovarian failure, which means young women can’t get pregnant, and the reason is that the aluminum destroyed or affected the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries. Shoenfeld:

It [ovarian failure] has been reported in several cases, it’s still under reported, because many of those girls are on contraceptive pills, and therefore, they delay the diagnosis only after they will stop or discontinue to take these contraceptive pills, but it has been shown that if you inject aluminum into mice, you destroy or you affect the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries.

Exley points out that aluminum is a “silent visitor.” We do not get the sudden sickness from aluminum as we do lead, cyanide, or cadmium. It would take a huge amount of single exposure to cause immediate and profound ailments or even death. “Now, there is a proviso for that, an exception, and I believe the exception to that can be vaccination,” he states.

Oh No, Show Me the Money (again?)

The film exposes many aspects of why this 91-year-old aluminum salt is still in use. In addition, we find out why the French government isn’t doing anything to take aluminum out of vaccines. Think Sanofi, L’Oreal, and Nestle. We know the French multinational, Sanofi, is the world’s largest producer of vaccines. Ironically, the majority shareholder in that Titan of Vaccines is L’Oréal, which is the world’s largest cosmetics company. Now, following the tangled web of multinationals, we see that the principal shareholders of the cosmetics company L’Oreal is the Bettencourt family and Nestlé. Moreover, Nestlé is the world’s largest food-industry corporation.

Didier Lambert is blunt about the entanglement and special interests the corporations have, and the power they wield to control regulators and governments:

These three corporations have a special interest in aluminum. Sanofi uses aluminum in vaccines. L’Oréal uses it in cosmetics, and Nestlé, in food packaging, infant formula, etc. Note that the people who oppose the research by Drs. Gherardi and Authier are mainly financed by either Sanofi or the Bettencourt Foundation. Is that a coincidence?

Bunnies and then the Big Guns of Injecting Aluminum

Ironically, two German scientists in 1891 looked at aluminum, seeing how it breaks down and dissolves in food and therefore deemed it toxic. To settle court cases, manufacturers of products aluminum was used in hired scientists on both sides of the argument. In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt appointed a commission to look into the safety of aluminum. The stakes were high, and those researchers incriminating aluminum had little funding, whereas the special interests backing aluminum eventually got the green light from a book two decades later written by a recognized scientist, Ernest Ellsworth Smith, that was biased and in favor of aluminum and omitted findings from other scientists showing aluminum was harmful.

The key study cited as the main reference on how the body absorbs the aluminum adjuvant in a vaccine was done in 1997. It was carried out by an American researcher named Richard Flarend and his co-author Stanley Hem. Their study involved two New Zealand white rabbits being injected with radioactive aluminum hydroxide. We are talking about 28 days of monitoring the elimination rate of radioactive aluminum through urine samples. Their findings? Elimination, 28 days after injection, was 6%. So 94% of the aluminum stayed in the animals’ bodies. Even with this scrawny one study, scientists still claim that it only takes a few weeks to eliminate aluminum injected into humans.

“Aluminum, Vaccines and the Two Rabbits” was the original title of this documentary in France. The director, Marie-Ange, did not go with that moniker:

In a nutshell, aluminum’s pharmacology is founded on a study based on two rabbits only. And their bones have been lost. That study lasted only 28 days. So, all what you hear about aluminum in vaccines is based on that incomplete work. We hear that the illnesses linked to aluminum are not dramatic, and it’s based on this study. It’s unbelievable. Since the vaccine market represents billions of dollars, we can say that the industry makes all this money thanks to these two rabbits. The original title of the film was a funny and dramatic wink to that story.

Those not winking are the big guns of the documentary, Professor Jérôme Authier, a neurologist and coordinator of the Center of Reference of neuromuscular diseases of the Henri Mondor Hospital, and Doctor Romain Gherardi, the Director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. Gherardi has written more than 100 articles in refereed journals including topics tied to the physiopathology and therapeutics of adult neuromuscular diseases, as well as the cellular and molecular mechanisms of postnatal myogenesis and post-lesion regeneration.

Three sources stand out:

(a) “Macrophagic myofasciitis lesions assess long-term persistence of vaccine-derived aluminum hydroxide in muscle” (Brain – 2001) by both Authier and Gherardi.
(b) “Macrophagic myofasciitis: characterization and pathophysiology” (Authier and Gherardi) .
(c) Gherardi recently wrote a book about his experiences with aluminum and vaccines called, Toxic Story – Two or Three Embarrassing Truths about Vaccines and their Adjuvants.

Here is a compelling example of “throwing caution and verified facts to the wind” by Dr. Romain Gherardi:

The guiltiest act is that once it has been pointed out that the aluminum persists for much longer than a month, that it remains in the immune system for many years, no watchdog agency sat up and said, ‘Stop. Back to the laboratory, guys.’ That should have been done in the early 2000s. And it was not. So we’re fifteen years late, in terms of the natural reaction elicited by the normal application of intellectual discipline.

The entire case for aluminum adjuvants being safe is based on a 28-day rabbit study where the animals’ bones were “lost” by researchers. Hmm, bones are one area of the body that stores aluminum. The muscle that was injected was never examined.

This is not science as I have known it starting in 1975 as a marine biology major. We can’t determine whether the injected aluminum stayed at the muscle site. A 28-day study is for bean plant germination in kindergarten, not for vaccines. The aluminum adjuvant stays in the body for years, as the experts interviewed in the film attest. Amazingly, that the entire world of vaccinology takes this two New Zealand rabbit study from 20 years ago as proof of aluminum’s safety? This begs the question why this study has not been done over and over (maybe using some of the pro-aluminum adjuvant hominids as rabbits)?

“Not one of the experts who has studied the material we have compiled on MMF… and I am speaking of experts in their own capacity,” Gherardi states. “I’m not talking about … experts from public agency staff. I really mean independent experts we’ve asked to assess our research and give an opinion. Not one of them is free of strong connections to the vaccine industry. That’s all I can say.”

While the scientists and public policy people make compelling arguments around the toxicity of aluminum and the genetic variations some people possess, disallowing their bodies to “dissolve” mineralized aluminum, it’s also the individuals and married couples in the film that tell a story of life-changing medical issues that have plagued them, causing debilitating chronic pain and illness, necessitating complete life changes.

In the film: Laurent Lehrer and Marie-Christine Lehrer — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis and wife; Nathalie Etienne and Patrice Nicosia — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis and her partner; and Didier Lambert — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis.

Their stories juxtaposed to the science and policy make this film compelling documentary viewing. We learn about all those genetic and cellular variations on a theme, including:

• autophagic xenophagy
• macrophage fusing with an organic killer, lysosome
• lysosome contains highly destructive enzymes and they only operate at acidic pH, so it has an acidic pH and the enzymes kill living organisms like bacteria
• They can also kill proteins or old mitochondria – any cellular waste material, but the pH, or acidity, is capable of corroding or dissolving mineral substances

In simpler terms, though, we know that some children and adults are more predisposed to vaccine injuries and adverse effects; we all are products of our epigenetics, when it comes to cancer, obesity, depression and thousands of other bio-physiological issues.

Again, the words of wisdom from Dr. Gherardi:

We know there are 34 genes which code for this highly complex machinery. So we looked for 109 variants; that is, genetic variations on each of these genes. They are ‘normal.’ That means the mutations do not cause disease in and of themselves. But they do predispose the system to dysfunctions. Of the 109 variants we checked out, we found 7 variants, located on six different genes, which are significantly found more frequently in patients with MMF, as compared to the general public. There are international consensus guidelines indicating normal ranges. It is interesting to note that these genetic mutations are cumulative. That is, our MMF patients present more than one variation. They have three, four, or five, and their effects probably combine. As a result, in a normal situation, when the macrophage just performs standard duties, it works fine.

If the job makes extra demands on the macrophage, most people overcome the difficulty, with a struggle. But a small minority will be totally unable to secrete the enzyme, and the toxin will remain. If 10, 20, or 25 vaccines are administered, regardless of genes, everyone will be overcome by the toxic burden. The cause of the system breakdown will be the toxicity itself.

The researchers and injured patient groups in France, USA and the other 20 countries looking at MMF and the connection to the adjuvant aluminum hydroxide have a universal battle to wage against the industries that make profit off of their mistakes, and who have utilized billions of dollars in marketing, which is another term for “covering up” or “falsifying data” or “burying the maimed or killed” or “denigrating truth-seekers and truth-tellers.”

Why is it that public and civil society proponents and social justice warriors are the ones crushed by the boulder of Sisyphus when it was the king of Corinth who was punished by the gods for “chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action forever.”

This film explores the truth around that deceit and maleficence and arrogance, and we, the viewer, have to decide who pays the ferryman, who pushes that boulder back up the hill of Capitalism. I sure as hell do not want to be responsible for the deceit and the outright felonies of the harbingers of capitalism at any cost.

We have too many examples in recent history around the failures of US medicine and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries to believe these people with the slick advertising departments and extra sleazy lobbyists and sales people.

• See movie trailer here.