Category Archives: History

Eight Things I learned About Palestine While Touring Eight Western Nations

On February 20, 2018, I embarked on a global book tour that has, thus far, taken me to eight nations. The main theme of all my talks in various cultural, academic and media platforms was the pressing need to refocus the discussion on Palestine on the struggle, aspirations and history of the Palestinian people.

But, interacting with hundreds of people and being exposed to multiple media environments in both mainstream and alternative media, I also learned much about the changing political mood on Palestine in the western world.

While the nations I have visited – the US, Canada, the UK (England and Scotland), the Netherlands, Austria, Australia and New Zealand – do not in any way represent all western countries, the diverse platforms that were available to me allowed me to gain a reasonably good perspective on the ideas, perceptions and attitudes of people in government, media, academia and civil society:

First, the civil society support base for Palestine is growing exponentially, not only in the number of people who are concerned with- or interested in – learning about Palestine, but also in the nature of that engagement as well. The detachment or sense of despair of the past, has all but completely vanished, being replaced with a proactive approach – as in people wanted to be agents of change at local and national levels.

Second, the consensus regarding the support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is constantly increasing among unions, churches, university campuses, etc. The old view that BDS was divisive and counter-productive hardly has much traction these days, and most of the remaining debates concerning BDS are not concerned with the ethics of the boycott strategy, but the nature and extent of the boycott.

Third, the degree of decisiveness in supporting Palestinians has also been heightened. The wishy-washy stances that wagered on the Israeli “peace movement’ or Labor Party ‘doves’, while condemning ‘extremists on both sides’, has diminishing appeal.

Indeed, the successive Israeli wars on Gaza and the continued siege on the Strip have all gradually, but irreversibly, pushed the narrative on Palestine towards a whole new direction, one that has little room to wait for an Israeli awakening. The recent lethal Israeli response to Gaza’s peaceful ‘Great March of Return’ protests has further galvanized support for Palestinians, even among relatively apolitical audiences.

Fourth, unable to push back against growing pro-Palestine movements, Israeli and pro-Israel supporters are pushing, like never before, the accusation of anti-Semitism against those who question the Israeli Occupation, use the term ‘Israeli Apartheid’ or support BDS.

While the tactic is no longer silencing the discussion on Palestine, it is creating the necessary distraction to divert attention, energy and resources to less urgent issues. A case in point is the British media’s obsession with the, supposedly, rampant anti-Semitism within the Labor Party at a time when thousands of Gazans were injured and scores killed while peacefully protesting in Gaza.

Fifth, young people are less likely to be intimidated by long-standing Israeli tactics. While the older generation of civil society leaders and activists are unwittingly beholden to the many smearing tactics used by Israel and its supporters, the younger generation is not as easily intimidated. Part of the reason is that digital media – social media, in particular – has helped younger people achieve a degree of global connectivity that has heightened their sense of unity and resolve.

The new generation of Palestinian university students and young intellectuals are also reclaiming their role in this trajectory. Their ability to connect with western societies as insiders and outsiders has helped bridge cultural and political gaps.

Sixth, while ‘One Democratic State Solution’ ideas are yet to achieve the critical mass that could, and will, eventually push for a change in policies amongst various governments, the so-called ‘Two State Solution’ no longer commands a dedicated following. It is almost a complete reversal from the views that permeated during my earlier world tours, nearly 20 years ago.

Seven, some intellectual, and even civil society circles, are still obstructed by the erroneous thinking that the best way to convey the Palestinian viewpoint is through non-Palestinians. This belief is even championed by some Palestinians themselves (especially members of previous generations who suffered political and cultural marginalization and discrimination).

Although many anti-Zionist Jewish and Western intellectuals have been placed at the center stage to articulate a Palestinian message, the alienation of the Palestinians from their own discourse has proven costly. Despite strong and growing support for Palestine, there is still a serious deficiency in an authentic understanding of Palestine and the aspirations of the Palestinian people – their history, culture, everyday realities and viewpoints.

Needless to say, what is needed is an urgent and complete reclamation of the narrative over Palestine and the decolonization of the Palestinian discourse.

Eight, the connection between the Palestinian struggle for freedom and that of other indigenous groups is often highlighted, but much more can be done. Israeli supporters are actively pushing the misleading notion that Israelis are the ‘natives’ of the land and are, thus, reaching out to indigenous communities around the world in search for common ground. While the reality is to the contrary, pro-Palestine groups can do much more to link the struggle of the indigenous native Palestinians with that of other indigenous and other oppressed and historically marginalized groups around the world.

A general, but equally important, realization I have experienced throughout my 3-month journey has been the numerous personal and group initiatives carried out by thousands of people  all over the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people: from 11-year-old Salma, who convinced all of her classmates in Perth, Australia, to write Palestine on the map in her geography class, despite knowing that they would all have been marked down for their action, to the elderly couple in Auckland, New Zealand, who, well into their 80s and walking with much difficulty, continue to hand Palestine flyers to passers-by at a busy street corner, every week, for the last 20 years.

It is these people, and millions like them, who represent the real constituency for Palestine. They are fighters in the trenches of human solidarity that neither Israel, nor anyone else, can possibly defeat.

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

The Russian V-Day Story (or the History of World War II not often Heard in the West), by Michael Jabara Carley

How many of you have not seen some Hollywood film in which the Normandy landings are the great turning point of the war? “What if the landings had failed,” one often hears? “Oh…, nothing much,” is the appropriate reply. The war would have gone on longer, and the Red Army would have planted its flags on the Normandy beaches coming from the east. Every May 9th the Russian Federation celebrates its most important national holiday, Victory Day, den' pobedy. On that day in 1945 Marshal Georgy (...)

Heroes and Villains – The Daily Show in a Homeless Shelter

Now, during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way. Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out. That war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

These ain’t popular topics, for sure, brother/sister American. You see, the entire homeless problem in America is a bigger problem of the almost homeless, the disposed, the enslaved youth heading to State U, the Amazing Theft of Wages (Tax Day, Man), Theft of the Commons by Bureaucrats Working the Soft Shoe Corporate Game — kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war).

There is no skip in the beat with Boss Tweet, fawning over military hardware hustled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the entire Empire Protecting Planet. This fawning this fourth-grade thinker does is a lot like his days at Studio 51 or the Playboy Mansions or the Pageants where his spittle lubricated his huffing and puffing orgasmic dead space between his ears. He is the leader of the pack, sad-sack of a playboy and land baron, thief, who gets the book deals, TV contracts, cameos in movies, his brand plastered all over Madison Avenue – make no bones about it, Trump is America. He is Dollar Store plastic and Neiman Marcus glitter. He is the freewheeling liberal lover of money and play things and parties, and he is the mean-assed inexperienced one, yellow belly, calling for war, a hater of soldiers, a hater of my people I serve daily – military veterans, not retired NCOs and Officers, but mostly those ending up in the Poverty Drafts and some drafted in Vietnam, Korea. A few years in and bam — total physical and mental calamity!

All PTSD-living, poverty people (most are poor). Trump would lambaste my work serving as social worker and finder of funds, and he’d laugh off PTSD as “nothing but an entitlement dream in your white cracker and people of color case loads’ heads.” Trump or his filthy generals, all of them, even cabinet-level creeps running all systems foul in DC, they hate the poor, the misbegotten, the broken, the addicted, the mentally cracked, the physically cleaved.

Make no bones about it, gents and dames, Trump is Obama is Clinton is Reagan. These people would love to see Soylent Green is People scaled up, now, and they openly love the $5 a day prison labor, and they love the stock maximization of everything private – drugs, prisons, health care, education, water-sewer-lights, and every bureaucratic thing that makes this tax time a time of death and loathing in a time of absolute penury cholera.

There is one hell of a lot of Non-Trumpers — those oh-so racist, rotten to the core Democrats or liberals or whatever creepy foodie-hot sauna-farmers’ market going folk that gentrify, who end up as WASP-Jew heads of every-self-loathing non-profit – absolutely holding onto the glory of the dollar, of the endless jujitsu that is standing for the anthem and going on and on about a few Trump loyalists and Alt-Right scoundrels being bad hombres too. Remember, these whites are voting against the people, the 80 percent, no matter how many pet projects they may undertake or scramble for Sundance documentary glory or big-time book glory, and they can go onto Amy Goodman’s show, talk the talk, but in the end, the people who should be talking or yelling or attacking, the very victims of the theft – grand theft of agency-past-future-progeny – they never get on that “liberal media.”

Make no bones about it, Democrats, with or without life coaches, all solar-powered up, bamboo floors and kids doing secular missions in third world depravity before going onto college and those non-profits, they are voting for war, voting for more jobs in the death industries, more and more work holding up the death machine of capitalism that eats at the very soul of their own, yet, for the time being, these 5 and 15-percenters, they sigh and get all Rachel Maddow like when they think they are caring about another black woman in jail, shackled during labor, or when some deranged (mentally challenged) black youth jaywalking gets mowed down by the police. The police – ahh, the variations on a theme when we say police, as in the HR departments, the school boards, the city and country code enforcers, the law firms, the forced arbiters, the endless thuggery of tax-levy-fee-fine-GAT-toll-penalty-surcharge makers and collectors, the endless Little Eichmann lever pullers and auditors, all those regulators and deregulators, all those heads of the departments and sub-agencies of all those alphabet soup Government Agencies – the grim reaper of compliant consumers, the toasty 15 and 20 percenters who make either a killing or a cool million from the depravity of these systems of usury and penury and PayDay loan-sharking.

Okay-okay – heroes and villains, part one:

Hero in Merced, California, way past mid-sixties, Joe, who has worked the land as an agricultural purveyor, and he’s seen water rights go the wrong way, seen the endless corporate theft in his neck of the Northern California woods ramp up yearly. He knows the crimes of school boards, the crimes of the big businesses, big ag, big energy, big everything.

I’ve been in communication with him for several months, and his wisdom and ire, his history, and his perspective over time, and his heart and soul, and his humor, man, well, this is a hero. He just sent me some links to Counterpunch and Global Research and came up with this quick reaction, triggered by Tax Day, and comments on a great writer’s works, stuff that has been published at Counterpunch and Dissident Voice to name just two – John W. Whitehead. Here’s Joe’s take on Whitehead’s most recent:

An electorate as indoctrinated as the American people are by corporate media would have a hard time distinguishing between shit and a poor grade of mush. This country’s citizens have never experienced war except for the fantasy war that Hooligan-wood and the latest X-box crap-app subjects them to 24/7. The public’s minds have been Disney-fied and fried by corporate media. The sad thing is that even Europe has few citizens left that remember the horrors of war. I’m afraid we are going to have to relive that lesson all over again. Maybe after the idiot populace of this country experiences the ravages of war right here in the land of easy credit, fantasy and denial, they won’t be so stupid as to support idiots that lead them into this misery. I don’t hold out much hope though. This country has been electing these corrupt war mongering bastards from both parties as long as I can remember. I don’t think it will change until the American public is walking around with their flesh dripping off their bones. Even then the public is so indoctrinated with this endless military crap brought to them as patriotism they will still be clamoring for revenge and more war. Stupid, ignorant and arrogant rules in this country, whether it be from Democrats or Republicans.

I hope some of the wildlife I hold so dear makes it out alive.

Hero, versus villain – I’d say anyone looking to bullseye Joe for being cantankerous, for being old and critical, for pointing out the futility of a country prostituted by both parties and ravaged by the stupidity of its populace, for having a keen sense of humor (not this one blurb, but he has some hilarity in this series he’s been writing – Letters to Cousin Linda) that person is the villain.

Hero – Three strikes and you are out. Now, out at age 64, African American, in prison for using drugs, and, whoops, when you use drugs, well, the excess is sometimes bartered off, traded and sold. Black man with cocaine equals the villains’ mark – criminal courts, public defenders, bail bondsmen, lawyers, municipal departments, prison systems, PayDay crap, probation officers.

This man is working at my shelter, a veteran, though he doesn’t pull that card much, and he is doing some amazing work making music, electronic stuff, sampled and using his own keyboard. There is no way in hell this fellow isn’t a hero: he is looking to reconnect with his sons and daughters in California. He ran the streets of Portland, and the villains – cops, judges, prosecutors, the entire carnival that is the criminal injustice system and its auxiliaries, including some social service non-profits – are a constant reminder to me that the white class – whatever that is – has ensconced itself into this people-killing, African-American defiling, people-of-color-community-imploding monster.

My hero and I talk about the way of the black man, the way of the white racists, this supremacist shit-hole that is America, and he calls me his advocate, his rare white man on the side of real justice friend.

Hero, 78, calling himself the gravedigger’s son, grew up in Massachusetts, near Boston, and he’s been a vagabond, man, and I am helping him get his studio apartment, getting him some free furniture, helping him think outside the meth-amphetamine box. Fucking 78, and he relapsed, recently, one day bender, and, he’s got COPD and hallucinates – talks about the people around me he sees and I do not.

He’s well-read, not college educated, and grew up in an Irish Catholic family, and he’s been to Ireland and parts of Europe. He hates the military, and talks about being in Korea, and seeing the shit hole America created in both zones. He is Irish and socialist, but he has been wandering the world, cook here and dishwasher there. Imagine, he’s been wandering the country and the world for more than 40 years, and, alas, Portland is his home.

He’s been throughout the Pacific Northwest, to encampments of hard-living people in the  Cascades, living hard and off the grid. Story teller, gift of gab, and he’s the typical detritus of America – whether Trump or Hillary, whether young or old. People do not listen to him.

Villains? Think of the thousands of people who have shut off when he’s been around. Think of the hundreds of people lording over him in the social services and government agencies. Think of the hundreds that look right through him on public transportation or when he’s at the side of the road.

A dignity in drifting, and he’s kipped in more than just a few cemeteries around the country and the world. He attended a poetry workshop I was holding, and his memory is amazing, and his son of the gravedigger narratives are more amazing. Pure poetry!

Villains – not one soul would want his stories published. The American attention span is all hooked into Zombie-Land, faux memoir writing, Marvel Comics thinking, absolute shit-hole narratives and fiction.

Hero – Irish American socialist who questions every step of the military might of this messed up country.

Villains are the takers, the judgers, the ticket givers, the processors, the CPAs, the balance sheet coveters, the liberal social services folk who talk like HR people and who know shit what it’s like being old or imprisoned or full of meth nightmares. It’s the villains who soft-shoe through the DSM-V and saunter through workshop after conference on what it is to be trauma-informed social workers, or what harm reduction principles are, or what it is to be middling people and middling social workers.

Heroes are the ones that live it out in tents, on the road, under overpasses, who crunch down in old cars and pick-up trucks, who cardboard surf in warehouses and in friends’ garages. These people are heroes in the sense that my social services non-profit believes everyone who served their country in the armed forces is a hero.

Heroes know that’s bullshit. Golden ticket for what? So, that family of four, mother with children, mother who works two jobs and has friends watch the kids, whose husband booked – yes, military veteran dude – so she’s not worthy of the golden ticket because she sweated over hamburgers and cleaned up feces of the rich and decaying, or she turned beds and sheets at the multi-billionaire’s chain of hotels?

Heroes and villains. Not difficult to spot the true hero, the survivor, the ones with a sense of dignity or perspective or time on the road, versus the ones who cut homeless programs, who vote against more food stamps, who demand drug testing for the shit pittance one might get in benefits.

Villains who gutted social security and gutted the post office and who closed the libraries and who Dread Scott-ed the world, who attack the good schooling public schools used to give. Villains are the militarists, Lords of War, the heathens and devil worshipers in the military industrial complex.

I am working with veterans who have been shot up with bullets, shrapnel, chemicals, toxins, propaganda, debasement, demands. Soldiers who were put on military bases/forts where the water is so bad, so polluted by solvents from military machinery and laundry (dry cleaning) that the Veterans Administration even has a name for the Parkinson’s — Camp Lejeune  Parkinson’s: various chemicals, including the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) known as PCE (Tetrachloroethylene aka Perchloroethylene), TCE (Trichloroethylene), DCE (Dichloroethylene), Vinyl Chloride and BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene). These chemicals are either known or suspected human carcinogens. Many Marines, Sailors, their families and loyal civilian employees have been affected by the contamination in various ways including, but not limited to: liver cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver disease, miscarriages, birth defects (cleft palate, heart defects, Choanal atresia, neural tube defects, low birth weight, and small for gestational age),etc.

Heroes are the one’s shaking so hard at 65 they can’t even sign their names on forms that will get them subsidized housing. Heroes who are homeless, misbegotten, broken, incapable of navigating systems and job markets and economic hoops with Parkinson’s and the other effects associated with the decay caused by the military pollutants.

Villains? Just imagine the cadre of corporatists, the protectionists, the Little Eichmann’s, anti-whistle blowers, the lock-step ones fighting the science behind the disease and destruction and decay and denuding of humanity and ecologies because of that profit margin, and that grim reaper’s scythe chopping off the heads of us, the 80 percent. How difficult is it to see those lip-less white men and women, hear their ameliorating, their HR bullshit, listen to their shallow and pedestrian articulation?

Facts – the systematic lack of affordable housing and the Draconian limited scale of housing assistance programs all contribute to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Foreclosures? In the hundreds of thousands each year! Result? Homeless.

The 2008 recession forced two million more people into homelessness over the following two years, according to estimates by The National Alliance to End Homelessness.

One or two out of 50—or about 2.5 million—American children are homeless each year, according to a 2009 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness. These are nine year old stats.

Here are some of the causes of homelessness:

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study are:

• Lack of affordable housing
• Poverty
• Unemployment

For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:

• Substance abuse
• Lack of affordable housing
• Mental illness

Veterans are more likely than other populations to be homeless.

We are talking around 40% of homeless men being veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.

Do wages count? The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the 2017 Housing Wage is $21.21 per hour, exceeding the $16.38 hourly wage earned by the average renter by almost $5.00 an hour. This $16.38 an hour exceeds wages earned by low income renter households. In fact, the hourly wage needed for renters hoping to afford a two-bedroom rental home is almost twice ($13.96) higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25.

What about the food insecure. It’s 51 million people in the United States living in food insecure households, 15 million of whom are children. While the magnitude of the problem is clear, national and even state estimates of food insecurity can mask the nuances that exist at the local level.

Here: Feeding America; Foreclosures; Minimum Wage; Wage state-by-state; True Minimum Wage.

What is the real unemployment figure for US of A?

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.

The ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate for March 2018 is 21.7%.

Heroes and Villains? Rage and reckless indignation. Anger and attack, those are the hero’s tools, and the villain’s tools are based on hierarchy of consumption, the power of the people who have and the impotence of those who do not have.

What is it to have anything, that’s what many of my heroes ask, those who are homeless, on $1,200.00 a month for Social Security? Imagine this world with heroes. One hero, oddly, is the lady doing my taxes. She despised what has happened to this country, and she knows the true figures for saving and investing in a social security system – average person would come out at age 65 with $250,000 or $500,000 in his or her retirement account based on social security deductions. If this fact came out, parsed and discussed daily at the water cooler and forklift bay, we’d be pounding constantly how this country is one giant theft-creating/theft-inducing continuing criminal organization . . . then would more people revolt?

Heroes are guys like Whitehead or Nasser!!!

Whitehead: All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

Heroes are students trying to solve this shit-hole’s problems, hitting the books, and attempting to coalesce around strong thinking, critical solutions-generating thinking, and holism. Villains are the ledger counters, the money changers, the actualizers of debt.

Nasser: The burden weighing like a nightmare, to coin a phrase, on 44 million indebted current and former students will haunt these people for a good portion of their lives. The average student debtor graduates owing close to $34,000 and is projected to spend 21 years paying it off. At present, the average monthly payment for those between 30 and 40 years old is $351.00. It is not uncommon for repayment obligations to be borne by underwriters of these loans, typically the primary borrower’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Taking these co-signers into consideration, we have about 100 million people adversely affected, directly or indirectly, by the difficulty very many have repaying these loans.

Because the serving of warrants and jailing of debtors has begun picking up steam in recent years, and the financial situation of these potential prisoners has been gradually deteriorating, we have reason to expect that student-loan debtors could come to make up a significant portion of the growing ranks of those threatened with debt prison. Arrest warrants have been issued in California, Florida, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas. Arrests have been heaviest in California, Texas and Minnesota. In many cases there was no announcement of court orders or that the debtor was being sued. U.S. marshals in Minnesota conducted “Operation Anaconda Squeeze” to arrest student-loan debtors who had failed to appear in court for a “debtor’s examination.” Whether they had received prior notice was often thought by the court to be beside the point. As with the cases described earlier, often defendants are ordered to pay much more than the amount of the original loan. A Texas man, who received no prior notice about the debt or the court case brought by a private collection agency on behalf of Uncle Sam, was arrested by seven armed U.S. marshals for an unpaid $1,500 student loan he had borrowed 29 years earlier. He was ordered to pay, after interest and court fees, more than twice the amount of the original loan. $1,258.60 was added to reimburse the marshals for his arrest.

Bordering On Insanity

In lieu of building his promised wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops to the border. General James Mattis authorized the deployment of up to 4,000 troops to beef up border security, though they will not be permitted to perform law enforcement missions. Where precisely they will be and for how long is not yet clear.

Along with the 16,000 Border Patrol Agents, Texas Rangers, and previously mobilized Texas National Guard troops already on duty – not to mention ICE – it is not certain what the mission of these new forces will be. Trump’s motives are political, not tactical. Fortunately, no troops will be under his direct command. President George W. Bush spent $1.2 billion to send 6,000 Guardsmen to the border to assist with the “War on Drugs” in 2006-2008, while President Obama sent 1,200 in 2010 for the same reason, at a cost of $110 million.

Formed from the original separate state militias, the National Guard has evolved since the Civil War to serve a variety of national and corporate functions. The Guard has often been deployed to break up labor strikes and demonstrations at mines and factories.

On September 23, 1957, defying the desegregation order of the U.S. Supreme Court, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Guard to block the entry of black students into Little Rock High School. The following day President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard, who then escorted nine black students safely into the school. The Guard is a blunt instrument, as easily wielded for nefarious purposes as for good.

Various state Guards further demonstrated their versatility from the 1960s to the present, helping quell race riots or providing disaster relief after floods or hurricanes. Notoriously, on May 4, 1970, when the governor of Ohio summoned troops to help contain an anti-war protest at Kent State University, members of the Ohio Army National Guard opened fire on a crowd of students, killing four and injuring nine. Elements of the Texas National Guard helped the FBI incinerate seventy-six men, women and children in Waco, Texas in 1993, in one of the earliest and least necessary atrocities of the Clinton administration.

Will the National Guard bring stability to the U.S.-Mexico border area? Or add to the volatility of that inherently dangerous, deadly place? “Tragedy hangs over the border like a Mexican piñata,” in the words of Elena Poniatowska. In 1997 a U.S. Marine on patrol at the Texas-Mexico border shot and killed an American teenager herding goats, having mistaken him for a drug smuggler.

The last large-scale mobilizations of Army and National Guard troops along the border with Mexico occurred more than one hundred years ago, during the volatile era of the Mexican Revolution. In 1910, Mexican dictator Porfirío Díaz, who had ruled his country without mercy for 34 years, decided to allow a national election he was certain he would win. But he underestimated the extent of his unpopularity. Anti-Díaz forces – forbidden to assemble within their own country – mobilized along the Texas border.

Concerned about the threat to American lives and property, President William Howard Taft created a “Maneuver Division” of the U.S. Army in the spring of 1911, sending 20,000 men – about one-fourth of all U.S. Army troops – to the U.S. border. American investments in Mexico – in agriculture, mining, railroads and especially oil – were substantial and vulnerable.

When Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States in 1913, U.S. interference in Mexican affairs increased dramatically, taking on a moralistic tone. Unlike Trump’s impulsive, vindictive, ego-driven actions, Wilson’s motives were imbued with self-righteous missionary zeal. Deploring the violence of the Mexican Revolution, Wilson offered to intervene in Mexican affairs “for their own good” and openly advocated for the removal of Mexico’s president.

When Wilson found out a German ship loaded with armaments for the Mexican government was bound for Veracruz, he ordered the U.S. fleet to occupy that port to prevent the ship from docking. Mexican naval cadets and civilians resisted the American blockade. A twelve-hour battle left 125 Mexicans and 19 Americans dead. Wilson, the critic of violence, had launched his own deadly invasion. The U.S. occupation of Veracruz, which lasted seven months, caused anti-American demonstrations throughout Latin America and denunciations from the leader of the Mexican faction Wilson had tried to help.

Pancho Villa, a Mexican bandit turned revolutionary, courted the favor of the Wilson administration. But Wilson could not abide such an unsavory character, opting instead to back one of Villa’s rivals. Shocked and embittered by Wilson’s rebuff, Villa decided to take radical action against the Americans, whose support he had sought for years.

On January 10, 1916, Villa’s men stopped a train in northern Mexico and murdered sixteen American mining engineers. The massacre created a clamor for action in the U.S. Congress, but Wilson managed to avoid a Congressional call for intervention in Mexico. On March 9, about five hundred Villistas attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, looting, burning buildings and killing nineteen Americans. Now the president had no choice. Against his own desire, he ordered a second attack on Mexico.

On March 15, about five thousand U.S. soldiers, commanded by General John J. Pershing, crossed into the Mexican state of Chihuahua on a punitive expedition in pursuit of Pancho Villa. By June Pershing’s forces numbered more than eleven thousand.

As one historian noted, for Pershing, “Going into Chihuahua to lay hands on Villa was like the Sheriff of Nottingham entering Sherwood Forest expecting the peasants to help him hang Robin Hood.” Many Mexicans despised Villa, but they loved the way he outfoxed the gringos. Violence escalated on both sides of the border.

On June 18, Woodrow Wilson federalized the National Guards of all the states, ordering all units – more than 100,000 men – to the Mexican border. They joined the 30,000 regular army troops already stationed there. A U.S. invasion of Mexico appeared imminent. But, despite ongoing violent incidents, Mexico and the United States held off from all-out war.

Pershing’s punitive expedition floundered around northern Mexico for nearly eleven months without finding Pancho Villa. Facing rising tension in Europe, Wilson ordered the U.S. troops withdrawn from Mexico in January 1917. But his punitive expedition and his massive border troop deployment had grave consequences for U.S.-Mexican relations. Under threat from the United States, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza contacted Germany, proposing closer economic and military cooperation between Germany and Mexico. In response, Germany sent Mexico the infamous Zimmerman telegram.

German Secretary of State Arthur Zimmerman wired the German ambassador in Mexico. British intelligence intercepted and decoded the telegram, then presented it to the Americans. Zimmerman proposed an alliance with Mexico to fight the United States, with the promise that “Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.” Zimmerman asked Carranza to invite Japan to join the alliance. President Wilson read Zimmerman’s proposal on February 25 with great indignation.

Wilson had run for re-election to the presidency on his pledge to keep the United States out of the European conflict. But Zimmerman’s proposal was too brazen. The United States declared war on Germany April 2, 1917. After the World War ended in 1919, Wilson remained focused on Europe and his doomed plan for the League of Nations.

By 1920, after ten anguished years of revolution that cost more than a million lives, the agrarian structure of Mexico remained fundamentally unchanged. The large estates and the majority of their owners had survived better than the peasants. Also by 1920 American investments in Mexico were more important than ever, as the Europeans had been driven out. American interference in the Mexican Revolution had eliminated foreign competition and forestalled genuine reform.

“Poor Mexico,” in the words of Porfirío Díaz, “so far from God and so close to the United States.”

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric, his paranoid fictions about an immigrant invasion and his threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement – that he called “Mexico’s cash cow” – are posturing for his followers in lieu of a coherent foreign policy. The President of Mexico, the Mexican Senate and all the candidates in Mexico’s upcoming presidential election unanimously condemned Trump’s statements and his border troop deployment.

But for Trump, as he has shown repeatedly, all the world’s a shithole. Other people exist to be used or abused. He only cares about himself.

A Calamitous Defeat

In a recent article by Patrick Cockburn, a well-respected journalist for The Independent, he wrote about the Iraqi military’s effort to keep control of their borders and resist efforts for “Kurdish independence.” As Cockburn notes, when Iraqi military forces retook control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province, they faced “little resistance so far from the Peshmerga fighters,” with the dream of real independence slipping away as the Kirkuk oil wealth, as he further wrote, came under Iraqi control. Adding to this, “Baghdad’s highly-trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Force… drove unopposed to the quarter of Kirkuk occupied by… administration buildings” while the streets of the city were deserted, the Peshmerga abandoned their positions, and ethnic Turkmen reportedly celebrated takeover by the Iraqis. All in all, the success and speed of this victory against almost no Kurdish resistance is a “blow to President Masoud Barzani who ignited the present crisis” who held the referendum on “Kurdish independence” on September 25 and is seen as a “disastrous miscalculation” for him.

This is because there are fundamentally, as Cockburn points out, “deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties” with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led for decades by Jalal Talabani, recently deceased. Part of the later group “opposed the independence referendum as a manoeuvre by Mr Barzani to present himself as the great Kurdish nationalist leader” while the US, officially, “strongly opposed the independence referendum” seeing it as divisive, along with regional powers like Iran and Turkey. More simply, the Kurdish leadership was clearly more “divided than expected” while Iraqi armed forces were stronger. At the same time, “Mr Barzani had alienated his traditional allies.”

The Kurdish national dream is over. As Reuters put it, the loss of territory such as Kirkuk is a “severe blow,” leading some to say that the referendum was premature as without control of that region, “independence is problematic, since they would be financially worse off than inside Iraq,” while the New York Times declared that “the Kurds themselves were divided…the Kurds may now have to defer their independence dreams.” Already the Kurdish leadership has proposed to engage in unconditional talks with Baghdad as some sources report.

How can we interpret this development? After all, as James M. Dorsey wrote in September, “if Myanmar’s Rohingya are the 21st century’s rallying cry of the Muslim world, the Kurds could be one of its major fault lines.” Taking that into consideration, it is worth using the words of Joseph Stalin on the principle of self-determination, within an appropriately Marxist context, in order to understand the conundrum of “independent Kurdistan,” and this referendum.

One declaration or the other by bourgeois scholars will not help anyone of sense interpret the dilemma of “Kurdistan.” Josef (or Joseph) Stalin wrote on varying topics to promote communism and advocate for a better world. One of those topics was self-determination and nations. Stalin gave a concrete definition of a nation.1 In this section I aim to use the writings (and speeches) of Stalin to give a more radical analysis of “Kurdistan” as it currently stands.

One can examine the Kurds as a prospective “nation.” Bourgeois authorities definite “Kurdistan” as a “geographic region” which is mainly inhabited by the Kurds, with an “extensive plateau and mountain area” across northern Iraq, western Iran, eastern Turkey, parts of northern Syria, and northern Armenia, covering a total of 74,000 square kilometers. Along with that, Jeffrey B. White of the “Defense” Intelligence Agency (DIA) declared that “Kurdistan” was a “political-geographic microclimate,” among others in the world, where there is a “continuous struggle” among the Kurdish population itself “based on tribal and family allegiances” but also an “ethnically based struggle against the Governments of Iraq and Turkey.”

Furthermore, the anti-communist entry in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, written in 1996, adds that “…Kurds staunchly retain a national self-consciousness” and focuses on certain Kurds, the Yezidis, who are “adherents of the syncretistic religion known as Yezidism” but also says that most Kurds are Muslim since Islam “spread among the Kurds in the seventh and eighth centuries.” The entry adds that “the Kurdish nation is justifiably proud of its extremely rich oral literature…many of which have achieved popularity among other peoples.” BBC News, in one of their many online “profiles” to “explain” the world, through their imperialistic lens, to their English-speaking audience, says that 25-25 million Kurds currently live in a “mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia,” consisting the “fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.”2 The description adds that the Kurds are “indigenous people” of the highlands of the region and Mesopotamian basin, forming a “distinctive community, united through race, culture and language” but have no “standard dialect,” adhering to a number of “different religions and creeds” although most are Sunni Muslims. Business Insider further claims the Kurds are currently “the largest stateless national group in the world” and says that while “Iraqi Kurdistan” is currently fully autonomous.3 Additionally, they have expanded territory since Daesh “took over Mosul” with fears fueled in Iraq that “Kurdistan” would declare “itself a fully independent state” even though it currently “runs itself in much the same way an independent nation would.” Finally, one Kurdish site claims that Kurdish history has no “beginnings” because the Kurds are “native inhabitants,” the products of “thousands of years of continuous internal evolution and assimilation” while another claims that some time in the past Kurdistan was a “recognized geographical entity.”

Now, for such a wide region to be a considered a nation, it would need to meet the simple definition proposed by Stalin in his seven-chapter work, Marxism and the National Question, published in 1913. He defined a nation as the following:

… A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture…a nation, like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end… none of the above characteristics taken separately is sufficient to define a nation.

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars say, as noted previously, the Kurdish people would seem to be “historically constituted,” have a language, culture, and territory that was common. However, it is hard to say how “stable” this community was over time, or what its economic life constituted as the years past, using the sources above. Perhaps the Kurds have a “common language,” hold a common territory from people living together in the same place “generation after generation,” but their “internal economic bond,” which ties together the parts of the nation is questionable. Furthermore, continuing to use Stalin’s words, he adds in his book that a nation must be a community of people which is not racial or “tribal” (ethnically comprised) but is rather “historically constituted” and is stable to an extent but not “casual or ephemeral.” It is within question of whether the Kurds are racial or ethnically comprised. While they seem to have a “specific spiritual complexion” or a “common psychological make-up,” which forms a common culture, if the Kurdish people are a community which constitutes a race or ethnicity, then they are not a nation as it currently exists.

However, there is an exception as Stalin outlines. If the bourgeois scholars are right, the Kurds seem to possess a common “national character” but are “economically disunited, inhibit different territories, [and] speak different languages.” Hence, people can have a common territory and common economic life but are not considered a nation because they do not have a common language or “national character.” At the same time, a union of people who think similarly and speak similarly, even if disconnected, can constitute a nation, with a “national character” based on a “common destiny.” The latter seems to apply to the Kurds. As Stalin wrote in 1904, in a piece outlining the view of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party:

We want to demolish national barriers…. Language is an instrument of development and struggle. Different nations have different languages… it is precisely in anticipation of such possible circumstances that the nationalities are accorded a right which will prompt them to strive to arrange their national affairs in accordance with their own wishes.

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars said for the time being, and using Stalin’s characteristics, seems to indicate that the Kurds are a nation. If we accept this as the reality, what action should be taken? Later in Marxism and the National Question, Stalin defines the “right of self-determination,” which is very logical, saying that it means:

… that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language, or curtail its rights… the right of the nation itself to determine its own destiny…. The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights…. Nations have a right to arrange their affairs as they please; they have a right to preserve any of their national institutions, whether beneficial or harmful – nobody can…forcibly interfere in the life of a nation.

Taking this as it may, Stalin adds that regional autonomy, which deals with “a definite population inhabiting a definite territory,” breaks down barriers, unites the population, and makes it possible to utilize a region’s national wealth. Hence, he says that regional autonomy serves as an “essential element” in the solution to the “national question” as is equal rights for all nations, the idea that workers are member of one class, part of a “united army of socialism” and the principle of “international solidarity of the workers.” While the above quote and description by Stalin seems to apply to the Kurds, and ultimately to “Kurdistan,” the reality is a bit more complicated.

Let’s give a little history first before moving into the current referendum. In their description quoted earlier, BBC claims that “after World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.” The treaty does have a section titled “Kurdistan.” This would seem, at one glance, to be the endorsement by Western imperialists of a Kurdish state:

A Commission sitting at Constantinople and composed of three members appointed by the British, French and Italian Governments respectively shall draft within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia…If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples…shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas…If and when such renunciation takes place…an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan [will be created].

However, these provisions, in articles 62, 63, and 64 of the Treaty of Sevres, basically puts Kurdish “independence” at the mercy of the Western imperialists, going against any idea of self-determination. Even if this “independence” had been accepted, they would have been a vassal state of the global capitalist class, with each bourgeoisie working to get a piece in the “Kurdish” pie. For this to be touted as some official recognition of “Kurdistan” is short-sighted to say the least.

BBC then claims that the “hopes” for a “Kurdish state” were dashed when “the Treaty of Lausanne… made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.” The fact is, that this treaty does not mention the Kurds at all, not in Article 29, which talks about certain oppressed peoples in Turkey or within the section on nationality within Turkey, only saying later on that: “the Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion…. All the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before the law.” However, to say that “over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed” as BBC says next is not accurate in the sense that the Kurds did have allies in this effort and were not completely alone. They had allies among the Western capitalists and later among the Zionists, as will be mentioned later in this series.

While Stalin clearly lays out the definition of a nation and the concept of self-determination in Marxism and the National Question, he also says that certain forms of self-determination are not always the right thing for a nation based on certain conditions. This is despite the fact that he does not provide many exceptions to support for self-determination or writes about international solidarity as a way to support self-determination, although he does so in other works. Stalin describes how the urban petty bourgeoisie in oppressed nations battle the big bourgeoisie in dominant nations, seeing the market as a place to learn their nationalism, appealing to the masses to rally behind their cause although workers continue to “combat the policy of national oppression in all its forms.”4 He adds that the fate of a “national movement” in such circumstances is bound up in the fate of such bourgeoisie, saying that as a result national struggle can be reduced and undermined, rendered “as harmless as possible to the proletariat.” Even so, he says that “social democracy,” or what can be broadened to include all of those fighting imperialism and capitalism, do not have to support “every demand of a nation,” especially not the “trampling on the rights of all other nations.” He further adds that autonomy or separation in all circumstances should be “everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation” and the masses who toiling, nations arranged in a way that “will best correspond to the interests of the proletariat.”5

For the Kurds, the question remains if their “nation” would correspond with the interests of the proletariat in the region. This question is hard to answer on one hand because the Kurds are not currently asserting the creation of a state that covers Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, to name a few regions. Instead, the Kurds in Syria are asserting an illegal state in Rojava, the Kurds in Turkey have given up nationalistic aspirations, and the Kurds in northern Iraq voted for their own state of “Kurdistan”. In order to continue this analysis, let us suppose that the “Kurdistan” by itself, not including the Kurds in other parts of the Mideast is a nation and a state.

The biggest clue of the future trajectory of a possible “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq is the KRG’s 66-page-document titled “Kurdistan Region of Iraq 2020: A Vision for the Future.” This document declares there will be more social services, making liberals smile with glee at the “progressivism,” but it also says that companies should have more ability to exploit the resource riches in oil and natural gas (and even mineral resources) in the region. Interestingly, in citing “struggles of the past” for “self-determination against hostile neighbors and… a hostile world” it notes how the UN gave sanction to the KRG in 1992, and that helped them overcome the Iraqis.6 The document then begins to read like what would be said in a corporate boardroom:

To capitalize on these [development] opportunities [in Kurdistan], young residents of Kurdistan will need to learn languages and information technology skills and become work and service oriented… to make part of their lives… a strong work ethic… [while] the government must relieve regulatory and legal barriers to the private sector.

The Western capitalists would definitely be cheering! While the vision says that the infant mortality and other health problems in Kurdistan can be addressed by having a “package of basic health services to be covered by public financing” but making people “pay for all other services” with and expanding “network of private sector hospitals.” This takes away the idea there will be any progressiveness in this plan at all. The following are the case in this plan:

  • a “social insurance system” but pushing for the creation of private insurance companies, developing the “private” health sector, and putting in place a system that benefits those who exploit people’s health for profit;
  • embracing universal education, but supporting public-private partnerships to build schools, coordinate with the “private sector” on education, and limits on “bureaucracy”;
  • supporting the development of NGOs, which only benefit imperialistic liberals in the West;
  • having a “flexible labor market” (benefiting employers), pushing for a more skilled workforce, “reforming” pensions and benefits, having unemployment insurance only for those in the non-public sector, and incorporating women more into the capitalist market;
  • having efficient infrastructure in order to expand the “private sector,” economic development near airports in “free zones” for capitalistic exploitation, and more mass transit after working with big capitalists;
  • having a robust water (and sewage) system, but only supporting alternative energy when it makes sense “financially” and expanding the electricity industry;
  • spurring capitalistic investment in communication;
  • having “concessions to real estate developers” in certain instances;
  • allowing the creation of large farms;
  • supporting access to land for petty bourgeoisie;
  • pushing for openness to the international capitalist economy;
  • creating “special development zones” to attract capitalists;
  • completing privatization in the Kurdish economy;
  • wanting to be open and transparent, but supporting the idea of bureaucratic “efficiency,” making sure “mobile capital” doesn’t leave the region; and,
  • helping civil servants leave government jobs and enter capitalistic enterprises.

Even if there are some positive policies put forward by the KRG which would impress progressives or “benefit” oppressed peoples, they are couched in capitalist logic. There are more aspects of the plan than what is listed here, but from the ideas noted above it is clear that the plan itself has an underlying capitalistic basis. This should worry anyone and makes you think: how progressive would an “independent Kurdistan” really be? This seems to indicate it would be a capitalistic paradise in more ways than one. This means that “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq would certainly not correspond to the “interests of the proletariat”, instead currying the favor of up-and-coming Kurdish bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of Western capitalist states. This does not make “Kurdistan” a socialist nation by any stretch, which Stalin defined as ones which pushed for elimination of capitalistic, nationalistic, and national oppressive elements, with “a united front with all oppressed and unequal nations in the struggle against the policy of annexation and wars of annexation,” led by the working class and an internationalist party. Instead, “Kurdistan” sounds more like a bourgeois nation in the making, not at the level of France, Britain, Italy, and the US, which Stalin put in this category, which fosters “national distrust, national isolation, national enmity and national conflicts,” with the bourgeoisie and nationalistic parties pushing for territorial expansion, hatred of other nations, a “suppression of national minorities [and a clear]….united front with imperialism.”

In 1917, at the Seventh Conference of the Bolsheviks, Stalin expanded on what he wrote in Marxism and the National Question. He defined the term “national oppression” and said that this conception, as manifested in capitalist states, should be opposed by his fellow comrades:

National oppression is the system of exploitation and robbery of oppressed peoples, the measures of forcible restriction of the rights of oppressed nationalities, resorted to by imperialist circles…national oppression is maintained not only by the landed aristocracy…[but by] the imperialist groups.

Now, those in northern Iraq’s “Kurdistan” are arguing that they are being oppressed, basically, by the Iraqi state, and by extension the Iranian state, Syrian state, and Turkish state, all of which strongly oppose an independent “Kurdistan.” This is thrown into question considering that none of these states is imperialistic. Each of them has justified reasons for opposing an independent “Kurdistan,” other than the Turkish state. The latter is inherently anti-Kurd, has their own bourgeoisie, and wants to overthrow the duly elected government of the socially democratic state, the Arab Republic of Syria. As for the Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian states, they rightly see the U.S. and other Western imperialists exploiting the situation to establish a firmer foothold and “balkanize” the region, leading to chaos of the highest order. It does not seem right to say that the states in the region are engaging in “national oppression” against the Kurds, except perhaps the Turks.

As for “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq, it could be said that while the Kurds have the right to self-determination and can secede freely, this does not mean they should “necessarily secede at any given moment,” with the decision on whether or not to secede up to “the party of the proletariat in each particular case.” Furthermore, Stalin is right when he says that imperialism should be the common enemy of all since, after all, imperialists use brutal methods with “enslaved nationalities.” Still, he does say when “particular nations” secede, to decide their “political destiny,” this should be generally supported while recognizing that this right of succession is not an obligation, only done in “accordance with the interests of the proletariat, of the proletarian revolution.”

Hence, he argues that the question of whether to secede or not should be determined on a case-by-case basis, with the “the right of secession…not be confused with the expediency of secession in any given circumstances.” Taking this into account, it means that not every nationalist movement or every declaration of self-determination should be supported, especially if the effort is not the result of a “proletarian revolution” or would not favor the working class at large.7

There is further context worth considering here. In 1924, in his book, The Foundations of Leninism, Stalin talked about self-determination once again. In Chapter 6 of this book, he wrote specifically about “the national question.” After talking about how Leninism expands the conception of self-determination to become the “right of the oppressed peoples of the dependent countries and colonies to complete secession,” he said that annexations is not a form of self-determination, meaning that this principle can become an instrument for “exposing all imperialist aspirations and chauvinist machinations…an instrument for the political education of the masses in the spirit of internationalism.” He further added that this principle leads to “real and continuous” support to oppressed nations with “in their struggle against imperialism for real equality of nations, for their independent existence as states.” This was foreshadowing the support of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements throughout Africa and Asia, against White imperialists, in years to come.8

  1. He also says that every nation has the right of secession or autonomy, with national autonomy’s starting point is the “conception of a nation as a union of individuals without regard to a definite territory,” while self-determination gives a state “complete rights.” Even so, he says that national autonomy is against the “whole course of development of nations,” may be unsuitable in the future, and leads to nationalism.
  2. BBC, “Who are the Kurds?,” BBC News, March 14, 2016.
  3. Jeremy Bender, “Here’s The New Kurdish Country That Could Emerge Out Of The Iraq Crisis,” Business Insider, June 19, 2014.
  4. Stalin specifically describes how nations are a “historical category” within the “epoch of rising capitalism.” Hence, conditions change on what path is right for a nation, with the “solution of the national question” relating to historical, “economic, political and cultural conditions” of the nation at that’s time. For further analysis, a dialectical approach is necessary, as he notes.
  5. He also argues that the “harmful institutions of nations and against the inexpedient demands of nations” should be combated and agitated against. Specifically, he says that “national oppression” needs to be fought as part of liberation of humankind from the oppressive system of capitalism.
  6. They also cite the 1920 treaty of Sevres as a Kurdish “victory” (it really wasn’t), along with the 1958 Constitution of Iraq which stated, in article 3, that “Arabs and Kurds are considered partners” in Iraq, as another “victory,” an agreement on autonomy in 1970, and Iraq government attacks from 1974 to 1991 as a “dark time.”
  7. This connects with a speech Stalin gave to the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies the following year. He said that the Soviet government supported the “right of all nations of self-determination” and that this principle should be interpreted as a right which applies to the “labouring masses of the given nation” and not a bourgeoisie. He adds that this principle should be a “means in the struggle for socialism and should be subordinated to the principles of socialism.” Once again, this is an important point when it comes to supporting (or not) efforts of self-determination around the world.
  8. He also argued that “…the road to victory of the revolution in the West lies through the revolutionary alliance with the liberation movement of the colonies and dependent countries against imperialism…the necessity for the proletariat of the “dominant” nations to support-resolutely and actively to support-the national liberation movement of the oppressed and dependent peoples [is evident]…the revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement…the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised…from the point of view of the actual results…of the struggle against imperialism…Without such a struggle it is inconceivable that the proletariat of the oppressed nations can maintain an independent policy and its class solidarity with the proletariat of the ruling countries in the fight for the overthrow of the common enemy, in the fight for the overthrow of imperialism.”

Humanity: Before and After the Advent of War

In the groundbreaking work, Humanity: The World Before Religion, War, and Inequality, author Barry Brown has provided definitive evidence of humankind’s natural tendency to be peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian. Brown’s work is the first ever to document the history of humankind before and after the advent of warfare. Brown takes the reader on a tour de force through humanity’s prehistory as well as providing detailed evidence about ancient mysteries such as the Venus statues, the original meaning of the swastika, his theory about the location of the Garden of Eden, and the real purpose of the Gobekli Tepe site, an enigmatic archaeological site in southeast Turkey.

Brown’s background as a journalist is his greatest asset, as he makes connections that are seemingly overlooked and/or downplayed by the world’s leading archaeologists, paleontologists, historians, and even evolutionary biologists.

One of Brown’s main supporting arguments can be found in a Scientific American essay which elucidates the nearly completely non-violent behaviors of chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest living ancestors, as well as the early fossil record of hominids, where no group warfare among masses of people is found before the advent of agriculture, cities, and hierarchies. This indicates that our biological nature is peace-loving, and that our tendency towards group violence has become normalized due to propaganda, socialization, and cultural factors. Although small cases of individual killing did occur in hunter-gatherer societies, these are outliers, not the norm. The first ninety-nine percent of human history was peaceful, without organized warfare.

Brown starts off documenting the evolutionary history of our primate ancestors, exploring the possibility that having a better sense of balance with a more complex inner ear, and the consciousness of having a center of gravity, is what differentiated Homo sapiens from other hominids. With the tenacity of an investigative journalist, Brown offers unique insights into the mysteries of the ancient world, including that: Venus statues were the world’s first book, an object for reflection and to stimulate insight regarding anatomy, culture, psychology, and femininity. Also, Gobekli Tepe was the world’s first university, as it shows no permanent signs of settlement or religious use, where people from all over the region could come to learn farming techniques, animal husbandry, and share culture. The swastika was a symbol of peace and friendship, a signpost for travelers of welcome and to encourage newcomers that friendly human settlements were nearby.

Humanity is the first to look at humanity’s history before and after the advent of warfare. His central argument is that warfare started approximately 4000 BCE in India, which is documented in the epic Mahabharata, of which a small part is documented in the Bhagavad Gita. Brown also notices a possible correlation in the Old Testament, where it is his interpretation that the Hebrew people originated in Eastern India, near the Ganges River, which Brown claims was the original “Garden of Eden.”

Social divisions were the precursor to war, as the formation of a proto-caste system in ancient India created alienation, vertical hierarchies, patriarchy, wealth inequality, and where families and clans demanded loyalty and obedience from their members.

Brown’s contends that the war between the rival clans, the Kurus and the Pandavas, was the first war in history. It fractured social relations in India and spread suspicion, fear, and hatred throughout the premodern world. Divisions and hierarchical relations in ancient India were exacerbated to such a point that no person or group dared to challenge or reconcile the two clans. Elaborate musical and gaming events, clan rivalry, and mass religious rituals most likely were the precursors to the actual war, devolving into war games designed to let off steam and social tensions, which further devolved into actual warfare.

After this first great war, much of advanced Indian society shifted west to the Indus Valley civilization, where a democratic, egalitarian society flourished from about 3000-2000 BCE. However, the dark forces of empire, organized violence, and social hierarchies spread to Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, where they eventually gave rise to monotheistic, dogmatic religions, fear, insecurity, and permanent wars.

Brown explains how the wounds of ancient violence, strife and fear, warfare and discord remain with us to this day. When security is traded for liberty, where “freedom from” hunger, tyranny, and poverty is replaced by a selfish creed of “freedom to” do anything one likes with their time, private property, and money humanity as a whole suffers.

The roots of global conflict go back to this change in our shared history, a shift from friendly and cooperative communities to fearful, divided, and traumatized nations which now threaten the entire world with the crises of global warming, habitat destruction, and nuclear war, just to name a few. Importantly, Brown’s Humanity shows us a clear path to return to our natural, peaceful state of being.

They Keep Saying: “Hope is the Only Thing Left”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care. Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

— Derrick Jensen, essay, “Beyond Hope

Life Measured in Gold

What is a life worth in this poisoned pen world of American deception? I have been scouring the depths of this culture for decades, 4.5 to be exact, looking for signs of hope, dredging the bowels of a country that has never been what so many today believe it was/is/will be. Ever.

I also balked for 4.5 decades at the silliness of Americans who hands down (70 percent) give the US Military Killing Machine the highest marks of all humanity coming out of the intestines of this genocidal country. These high school football games now have flyovers from attack jets and commandos from helicopters. Big fat tears for the mercenaries, and oh how this is normalized behavior.

Pretty soon, the camo and drones will be at your favorite daycare center recruiting.

Get this shit about America, ending this 2017, with Trump and friends as the new Kamikazes (all politicians and corporations love what Trump is and how he got there) pushing the national agenda for the more than just simple daft American consumer – offended by kneeling . . . getting a refund:

And if legislation from Indiana State Representative Milo Smith passes, the Colts would be required to offer those fans who feel disrespected refunds if Colts players kneel during the national anthem of home games, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”

You have to wonder if the refund includes all taxes paid since this country is run by economic hit men, buggering the people believing in government of, for, by, with the people, so called representational democracy? How many cents on the dollar go to US Military Inc. and the Little Eichmann’s running the complex that is guns-punishment-armaments-high tech tools of enslavement? Is it fifty-five out of every buck? Sixty cents? Do the extractive thugs with their massive externalities paid for by you and me and the rest of the world, is that tax refundable? Up to what, 70 cents of every dollar paid to Uncle Sam’s Killing Machine?

How many of those dollars will get refunded? All those offshore untaxable accounts? We getting refunds on that big fat kneeling of the millionaires/billionaires? Think I can cash it all in because I am offended by the high crimes insulter that is the Mafia Donald Trump for putting his knee into our proverbial groin and up against our children’s children’s proverbial necks?

I am reminded of other people’s writing looking at the blasphemy of a happy new year, let’s hope 2018 is better:

Those in power love it when we hold on to our fake optimism year after year, instead of revolting against these worn out celebrations. They love it when they see millions of mindless consumers storming stores to buy and consume more shiny and glittering gifts, as if they are genuine signs of loving and caring for each other. They love it when we keep quiet and do business as usual while “hoping for a better new year.”

An Angel in Every Household

This Wish for an Angel bullshit is America, all cuddly with Disneyland pudge, all teary-eyed flatulence when the old millionaire hands out Big Macs to the swollen masses who are homeless and dying.

In any case, there are a few bright spots for me coming into this next stage of the electrical storm, 2018 Surveillance-Punishment-Alternative Reality US/White race (sic): a teller (soon to be extinct professional) at my local bank gets it about Facebook and Zio-Zuckerberg selling us all out; and she cancelled her Page, and she understands the surveillance society she is now in, as a 28-something Latina in White-White Portland. She has plans to circumvent the reality of the controllers to her own reality.

Then there’s my buddy who is 64, Jim, and who’s worldly, playing Texas Hold ‘em in several small towns along the Columbia River and making money under the table while collecting social security checks and talking about the history of Switzerland, he’s really happy that his taxes in Washington (where he has 75 acres and a home next to my 20 raw acres) are doing what they should: providing roads, public services, fire control, all the necessary bureaucracy to keep people going and to deliver vital services.

The bright hope is that many significant people in my life knowing they are not living/working/existing in their own house, as my African-American friends say every time we face the hell of incorrigible bosses who berate and pencil-push us into corners at whichever job we find ourselves in. There are people running staffing agencies in my life who try and try to make the lives of their temps more tolerable, and try to hike up hourly wages and act as go-betweens between the employee (temporary) and the outfit bosses, typically as ugly as a Jeff Bezos fulfillment (sic) center, also known as a dead-end hell hole (for the lack of livable wages and the redneck drill sergeant supervision).

Uber fascist, Jeff, forcing journalists to not be, err, real journalists —

Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, has instituted a new policy with regard to employees’ social media behavior… a new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.”

In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”

His paper’s new social-media policy specifically lists the following among the types of communications which are now prohibited:

Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.

Ahh, this perniciousness will engulf all corporations’ policies. Imagine, a journalist who can’t “disparage” things, people, corporations, ideas, products, services. The Age of Bizarre turn into the Age of Dumb and Dumber. The devil’s in the details, and I predict in 2018 Mr. Bezos will be positioning himself to run for POTUS soon — more devils in the White House:

See the source image

See the source image

Will Anyone Really Care in a Hundred Years if There is No Amazon (forest)?

I am attempting to be cogent here coming into 2018, trying to make the deadline for this DV end-of-the-year piece so its fine editor (here, Dissident Voice, going on 17 years or more as a radical news source) can scramble and get pieces ready for that artificial tick of the clockwork. My lamentation is that as each day in 2018 unfolds, the powers will make it more difficult to even launch anything small and terse and dissident like this blog. Imagine doing all this work for free, and the question is when the lights go out because of Verizon and ATT and Comcast, all these great pieces and ideas, more than a decades’ worth, thousands, whoosh, vanished into the digital thin air.

Which brings me to my hook here, one that I will be returning to in other pieces coming up in the year of the dog. I am taking issue with this laborious and loud lament usually stated by non-working class elites, or quasi-elites –

“Well, in a hundred years, what will our great-great grandchildren think how we left the world? In a hundred years, the people will be asking, ‘What the hell was that generation thinking doing/allowing/creating/destroying/ promoting/justifying . . . THAT?”

The “that,” conveniently, is a fill-in-the-blank answer, but the reality is there is no hundred years from now species of man/woman/child/they/it, or archetype of an American who would even have the context or knowledge to ask anything of the sort. The fact is we are on a pathway to completely damaged people, a neo-species of sick, psychologically dented, ethically demented, drawn and quartered spirits, people, youth and old, tied to the giant 24/7 15-minutes of attention on a million stories cycled into the next and the next 15 minutes. Trivial and shallowness, recycled, meaningless, cult of the famous-infamous, proud to know the football scores and the murderers and NYSE’s predictions for another year of gluttony.

People also held by gut diseases, by vaccine injuries, by persistent organic chemicals eating at their mitochondria, their DNA, or the off-gassing grossness in every corner of their lives, cesspools called ponds, eddies of slurry called rivers, black lagoons and gyrating garbage patches as beaches, clear-cut forests, oh, so inundated cities, half water logged.

Do we think in a hundred years there will be memory, human memory, as the kingpins of punishment and debt collude to turn everyone as obsolete. The horror, the horror, Kurtz might say in the Heart of Darkness, not about the white princes of the British Isle, but pointed at the masters of the economics of this universe, those three men owning the wealth of a 150 million, and those thirty titans of obsolescence and greed and exploitation toppling wealth of nations, more in those 30 men’s wallets than 3.5 billion of us collectively.

There will be no teenager in 2080 asking, “Man, what were you thinking killing the great barrier reef?” No millennial in 2100 admonishing, “How could they have allowed every single waking and sleeping and breathing moment be to surveilled by Big Brother Corporation-Government?”

No activists in 2100 running around the country with their big banner drops off the top of buildings stating, “Our grandparents are responsible for the oceans rising, the end of civilization, and my chronic and genetic illness!”

There Will Be Blood and We Do Need those Stinkin’ Badges

This is the same soft-shoe soft-headed thinking that runs Hollywood and Madison Avenue, that ensconces in the hallways of schools and colleges. There is no future world of dystopia and endless rot where a new generation a century from now, or even a few radicals or dissidents, will be admonishing past generations.

What they will have will be how they think. Acceptance is the gulag, now or in a century. Acceptance now is 11 million babies dying a year of treatable diseases. The accepting masses young and old today are here watching mountains explode and insects going extinct and oceans emptying out and accepting the infinite death ray of flat screens and Netflix-HBO-Amazon-20th Century Fox. Entertaining ourselves now into stupidity, and back to the superficiality that so many Americans have that causes them to think they are smart.

It ain’t gonna happen, generations in the future catching on, lamenting, knowing, and admonishing and understanding what each season brings in this madness of pre-post-retrofitting industrialization into the hyper madness of drones-artificial people/intelligence/ecologies/relationships/thinking.

Jeff Bezos and Musk and Google offspring and Zuckerberg zygotes will be the ruling classes of information flow, the arbiters of history found, kept and scrubbed. This is the time of the carnival, the sideshow, the blaring idiot Trump genuflecting to the waitresses and the go-go dancers while his effete sidekicks like Zio-Christian Pence take it all with the glee of televangelists hiding kiddie porn and their rhinestone g-strings.

The spectacle is our own downfall, the spiraling vortex of more and more aberrations turning into regular, every day, every minute events. The homeless wandering, bused from city to city; floating islands of crap, zfor the jobless to pick through; the obsolete, more and more people coughing up spare kidneys, letting the grand illusionists pull skin off of them for the $500 ready in hand entertainment, fun.

There are bigger and more horrific things than the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades or the Nazi pogroms of experimentation with the mammals in their concentration camps. We are now in full-throttle Mengele mode, where each cell in us, the deplorables, the 90 percent, or 80, is bought and sold by the corporatists, the disrupting economists, the evil twins of racism and inequity. Segregation now is based on zip code, decay, urban rot, and the evils of war and profits so lovingly embraced by the elites here and the majority in a place like Israel are quickly transformed into the divide and conquer the rich are so deftly able to promulgate each week, each 24/7 million rip-off deals a day.

Mad-Mad-Mad World of Ad Men

Here, let me explain: It’s the power of marketing the lies of capitalism, of prompting the psychological warfare of USA exceptionalism, of inciting the us against them-isms of a modern age now, teaching the lesser of evils throughout a person’s lifetime that warps memory and erases not only history but humanity. And, unfortunately, what I call the shifting baseline syndrome allows what is happening now, today, to be normalized, and valorized.

Pissing in a cup during a job interview? Sheriff’s deputies protecting repo men and women? Banks getting away with foreclosing on not only homes, but lives? What baseline do I go by? In my time, the cops had no right to ask what was in my glove compartment or trunk on a traffic stop. In my day, people tried stopping someone jumping off a bridge instead of calling 911, after whipping out Smartphones videotaping it and then saying, ‘Jump . . . jump’ right before the selfie.

In my day and age, there was a modicum of interest in learning about ecosystems and how to protect wetlands, mangroves, grasslands, deltas, riparian areas, mountain tops.

In my day and age a healthy reef in the Sea of Cortes was dozens of moray eels and turtles and a hundred fish species by the thousands in one 50 minute dive (scuba) piloted by dolphins and sharks.

In my day, there were reliable journalists – mostly print, sometimes small-town journalists (I was one) – who could tell you about a topic like zoning for a new stadium on many levels, from many perspectives for hours on end!

I won’t even get into details around how pathetically ruined Homo Sapiens will be coming out of this America’s womb in fifty years – chronic illness is now hitting 50 percent of the population, but put that at 90 percent in 20 years, and half of the population will have several chronic illnesses. What’s it going to look like in 80 years?

Count that as auto-immune issues out the rooftop, attention deficit issues, constant brain fog and arterial clogging, aches and autism, abnormal blood draws and diabetes, General Anxiety Disorders and fear of thy neighbor, and a bloody mix of bacteria loads, gut ailments, paranoia, and fear of one’s own shadow. Day to day, the surveillance state ramps up, and the poverty level increases, the one-credit card voucher away from being homeless pervades, digital and computer fatigue sets in, automation and artificial intelligence overtake human relations, and the list goes on and on, so it is hilarious to think there is some Cormac McCarthy world of people wandering the earth looking for that one spit of land or some mossy forest where goblins and fairies will bring back the good old days, a time of human humanity!

The Truths Are in the Eyes of the Billionaires

You’ve got Trump saying, err, tweeting, “Bring on the Global Warming, man, with all this snow in Erie, Pennsylvania, ha-ha-ha,” and you have Purdue University president Mitch Daniels calling those of us who question glyphosate and Golden Rice as immoral:

The attack on GMO technology is the most blatant anti-science of the age. But it’s far worse than that. Lives are at stake, and while scientists, regulators, and business people are naturally reluctant to fight back, it’s morally irresponsible not to.

Daily, in 2018, the fight will be with those who have been brainwashed into thinking mandatory vaccines are legal and ethical, and that anti-GMO activists are loony, and that our food as produced by the chemical industry is more than safe.  Here, the power of those multi-billionaires and the chemical purveyors on planet earth will be tested:

Report on, the food-health nexus!

The World Bank and United Nations funded 900 scientists over three years in order to create an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its conclusions were diametrically opposed, at both philosophical and practical levels, to those espoused by Bill Gates and clearly state that the use of GM crops is not a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.

Changing Seed and Plant Variety Protection Laws in
Tanzania—Implications for Farmer Managed Seed Systems and Smallholder Farmers

Monsanto Weed-killer Roundup Causes Cancer, California Says

European Union (EU) recently determined that it will renew glyphosate for another five years —a shorter renewal than it could have been, but not ideal when what we really wanted was a rejection of the license renewal altogether.For over two years, this vote was delayed as member states debated whether or not glyphosate is a carcinogen. The World  Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated glyphosate a probable carcinogen in March 2015, a decision that IARC has continued to defend despite attacks from industry interests on multiple fronts (including from members of the U.S. House of Representatives).

The grand illusion is each community, each unique people’s we might imagine in the future will be covered in more than a trail of tears to the tenth power. More than slaves to debt and confusion, and commerce will be exacting punishment for being a being. More pain than what befell the first nations people, all those abused scoundrels, the immigrants – European illegals coming into a land that was once a nation of people and tribes. This recessive gene pool gave birth to the abused and abuser on a very special scale. This grand deception called America Great Again is more than the PT Barnum scam of credit and debt, land theft, gilded syphilitic ones determining the number of bellies bloated and brains blown away.

The very premise of these 50 states and territories, this country shitting on Puerto Rico while oligarchs and kleptomaniacs stuff billions inside the cadavers of their enemies, isn’t even the real shame.

The reality is Americans are bamboozled into believing they are god’s second chosen people, that the entire mess of this hyper-military society is somehow legitimate, a god-send to the other continents.

I have faced down the scourge and scrooge that is capitalism, credentialism, credit scores, and what one has to demonstrates his or her credence in society – status, money, power and say, and voice. I have failed in 60 years, and turning 61 in the Year of the Dog just militates my points of abject failure of my own voice having any weight.

The reality of who is and who isn’t an outlier forever is determined by how much scratch one accumulates, and how much limelight is shined upon him or her and the weight of digital ink expended.

I have listened to people say my position of precarity is all tied to the gravity of the decisions I’ve made throughout my pittance of a life. Every single decision I have made have put me behind the proverbial eight ball – healthy, both of mind and body, but underemployed, under-developed, under-realized, and precarious: one broken leg from poverty, one motorcycle accident away from institutionalization, or one verbal altercation with a cop from being dead on arrival.

Big Sugar Daddy in the Sky

More and more people are looking at the big daddy in the sky excuse, as if the bad one faces, and the deadly unraveling of one’s life are predestined, ordained a billion big bangs ago, controlled by the drone operator in the sky, the boss, head honcho of heaven.

The talk of the world now is mishmash of billionaire and millionaire sputtering illusions and delusions of grandeur. We have the multi-millionaire Obama interviewed by the ultra multi-millionaire Prince Harry and the world goes a shudder:

Barack Obama Expertly Snubbed Trump in Prince Harry Interview: The prince also couldn’t resist asking the former president some rapid-fire questions about cigarettes, celebrities, sports, and Suits.

We can’t talk about social justice anymore, or talk about the social contract, or the deadly poisoned well that is capitalism. We can’t talk about what might be better, a whole set of better ways to be humane and human, or how socialism and anarchy and humanism and communitarianism and collectiveness might hold some key to sanity and salvation for ones worthy of saving in our hurtling 8 billion human inhumane world.

Worth, value, integrity, something deeper inside the soul than transactional thinking, or this comedy of errors we call American politics. The news is not fit to print, and the Hollywood and Madison Avenue worlds are not real, yet dominate the axiom of perception being THE reality, the show that counts.

Ode to Hope

Oceanic dawn
at the center
of my life,
waves like grapes,
the sky’s solitude,
you fill me
and flood
the complete sea,
the undiminished sky,
tempo
and space,
sea foam’s white
battalions,
the orange earth,
the sun’s
fiery waist
in agony,
so many
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
suspended
aroma,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
and meanwhile,
we men,
touch the water,
struggling,
and hoping,
we touch the sea,
hoping.

And the waves tell the firm coast:
‘Everything will be fulfilled.’

— Pablo Neruda

Even Some Rich Know They Are Filthy Rich! 

Celebrity culture, and the cult of money. The destructive nature of capitalism married to Zionism and commerce and automation and digitization is hardly recognized in the very nature of a Jeff Bezos, working hand in hand with CIA, killing the book industry, this purveyor monopoly and headmaster of the watchtower shadowing individualism and uniqueness.

The spoils of the monsters of money will be a handsome extra $1 trillion for 2017. These Storm-troopers of Capital are so filthy and filthy rich that some of their tribe even plead for taxation, plead for the lot of them to give it away. Even in the world of superficiality, sports, the head honcho of one team is lambasting his filthy and illegal gains:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked why he thinks it’s important to give back to the community: “Because we’re rich as hell and we don’t need it all, and other people need it. Then, you’re an asshole- if you don’t give it. Pretty simple.”

It has nothing to do with the democrats losing the election. It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself. And that’s embarrassing, it’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s in a game show, and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people and our country. Every time he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s disingenuous, cynical and fake.

Or, how about:

Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week.

The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

A Kushner Cos. spokeswoman said that the firm is cooperating in the review of what it called a “routine” transaction.

Fourteen $ an Hour and the Trumps Laugh All the Way to Bedlam 

Here’s a job announcement, for Portland, Oregon, one I am qualified to perform beyond simple basic skills and experience. This is for $14 an hour!! This is what I have always pointed out in my articles that all big ideas and concepts can be tied to the microcosm — this job for hip, up and coming, California dreaming Portland, Oregon, with a housing crisis, homeless crisis and drug abuse crisis. Get it? A non-profit seeking someone with a master’s, helping disabled people get on their feet, the entire suite of services, and it’s FOURTEEN dollars an hour! In my day and age . . . .!!!

1) An understanding of workforce development programs, policies, and initiatives
2) An understanding of the process by which individuals:
a) define career goals,
b) prepare for, find and retain employment,
and c) build skills for career advancement
3) An understanding of labor market resources and how to access them
4) An understanding of the special employment needs of diverse groups and the ability to make appropriate adaptations to address these needs
5) An ability to both provide and facilitate good customer service
6) An ability to develop and track program outcomes and task analysis
7) An understanding of basic computer technology used in job development

Some Major Responsibilities Include:

• Work side-by-side with a newly placed customer at a job site
• Analyze the job, and break into manageable components
• Identify and solve problems before they become crises for the customer, employer or co-worker
• Teach effective job retaining skills
• Use the least intrusive methods possible on the job
• Gradually reduce the time spent at the job site as the customer becomes better adjusted and more independent • Work closely with local school district

Qualifications: • 1) EOP Training, and 2) APSE (or ARCE) Certification or DHS approved equivalent (can be completed within 6 months of hire)

• At least 1 year of experience working with individuals who experience disability
• At least 1 year of experience working or educated in a specific field that includes supervisory and/or training duties and/or marketing and/or sales
• First Aid certification
• Pass a criminal history background check
• Approved driving record
• Self-motivated, self-directed
• Proficient communication skills, written and oral (i.e., interpersonal skills)
• Ability to work in collaboration with TCP staff, local and state agencies, and businesses

Oh, so, let’s get back to that 100 years down the line, when most people will be unemployed, in clinics as harvest factories, or at-home care facilities, organs harvested, and each blink of the eye counted as a tax. How those Bezos sort of people love killing us with their disruptive technologies of obsolescence:

McKinsey counted more than 70 entire professions in which at least 90% of activities can be automated, ranging from mail clerks to ophthalmic lab technicians, tire-repairers, butchers, food preparers and bakers.

But many Americans don’t think they need to adapt, with 80% saying their job definitely or probably will exist in its current form in 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We often think about automation as applying to front-line, low-wage, low-skill activities and jobs — and what we’ve discovered is there are some activities that are high-wage, high-skill that are actually very susceptible to automation,” said Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner in San Francisco who studies the issue. “Almost every job in the economy has a significant percentage of activities that can be automated.”

The professional service robot industry expects to sell a third more units from 2016 through 2019 — 333,200 in all — than it sold in the past 17 years, says the International Federation of Robotics. They could be used in place of professionals, whether it’s medicine, agriculture, hospitality or even the supermarket down the street.

Consider: —Restaurant workers. In fast-food, San Francisco-based Momentum Machines already makes a hamburger-flipping robot. Several chains are gradually introducing self-ordering stations.

Shelf stockers. In stores, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics has developed a robot that is checking shelf inventory in a test at Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain.

Journalists. Automated Insights has created a software suite called WordSmith that writes thousands of automated stories every month, including Minor League Baseball game accounts and earnings reports for the Associated Press, basketball game recaps for Yahoo! Sports and financial content for dozens of other clients.

Bookkeepers. Accountants — perceived as a steady 9-to-5 job with an average salary of $67,190 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — are poised for a total makeover. About one in five people in the finance and insurance sector primarily perform data processing — and about 85% of that work can be automated, McKinsey estimates

Love as Antidote?

Enough said about the coming year, the coming decade, this century. Automatons, and disease. Am I supposed to end the year, 2017, with hope, with something?

Try this out for size:

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

— L.R. Knost

Sex, Drugs and Rollickin’ Roles: Christmas and Our Ever-Changing Relationship with Nature

​​Traditions of the Winter Solstice

Christmas is an ancient feast that has many positive associations for people around the world. While the bible places the birth of Christ in Bethlehem it does not say when, but by the 4th century the Churches in the East were celebrating it on January 6 and the Churches of the West on December 25.

One thing is certain about Christmas is that it is rooted in many traditions and superstitions relating to nature that existed long before Christmas and many have continued in one form or another to the present day. The many strands of Christmas can be seen in the variety of different traditions associated with, or originating in, places all over Europe. These strands are, inter alia, the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz).

The association of Christmas with its earlier midwinter nature worship traditions declined as the Church exerted its power and authority over pagan practices and in more recent centuries as the industrial revolution took people away from the land and into the cities and factories. Since then industrialisation has taken over many aspects of people’s lives as they shifted from being producers to consumers.

As direct contact with nature declined and scientific knowledge was applied to production, our lives were made easier by an abundance of relatively cheap goods and food. These benefits have come at another price though as industrialisation and technology the world over pushes nature further and further into ecological crises. There is much discussion and debate about the potential for a tipping point as the destruction of ecosystems and climate change move headlong towards irreversible damage of the Earth’s biosphere.

This has come about, partly due to our alienation from nature, but also due to a system which blinds us to the excesses of production through mass media, and Christmas has become the vehicle for the worst excesses of industrialisation, commercialisation and commodification. However, this is a gross distortion of its roots in respecting nature and nature worship which was ultimately about a heightened awareness of survival in an unpredictable world.

Sex

The predominant figure of Christmas has become Santa Claus (Dutch: Sinter Klaas) and originated in the stories around St Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra (Turkey), giving anonymous gifts to help people in need or trouble.1 In many European regions St Nicholas came door to door with a bishop’s mitre and crosier on his feast day, December 6. He was accompanied by his helper Ruprecht or Krampus as he is known in the Alpine regions. Krampus is depicted as half goat and half demon and punished misbehaving children with a rod.

Krampus

It is believed that Krampus derives from the much earlier pre-Christian Norse mythology and that he was the son of the god of the underworld Hel. While the name Krampus is believed to originate from Krampen meaning ‘claw’, Ruprecht is believed to be from “Hruodperaht” meaning “gloriously shining one” another name of Wotan. Their negative status is likely the result of Christian attempts to assert dominance over the pagan peoples of the time, in the same way that the Celtic goddess Bridget was demoted by the Christian church to St Bridget. Krampus is an evil fertility demon who scares children (reversing his earlier role as fertility god) with his hazel wood rod:

The hazelnut was holy to Donar, the God of marital and animal fertility. The hazel wood rod was considered a great rod of life. With this symbol of the penis, women and animals were beaten “with gusto” in order for them to become fertile.2

This fertility rite has continued to the present day on Easter Mondays in the Czech Republic when young women are whipped with a braided rod of willow called a pomlázka to “assure womankind with good health, fresh look and keep fertility. The girls then give coloured or painted eggs to boys and men as a sign of their thanks and forgiveness.”

Pomlázka

During the 12th century the church tried to end the Krampus celebrations but it seems that, like with many popular traditions, they re-surfaced and were re-integrated back into church traditions. Unlike the ‘demonised’ Krampus, the Christian St Nicholas distributed typical gifts of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, spices and toys.3 These gifts were also symbols of fertility. Hazelnuts helped people survive winter as they could be easily stored and were rich in fats and vitamins. Apples were associated with the Tree of Paradise and dried fruits such as oranges and lemons served as fertility symbols in the Mediterranean countries as they were the first fruit of the year and thus herald a good harvest.4

Drugs

Another major association of Norse mythology with Christmas is the reindeer pulling the Santa’s sleigh. The first mention of St Nicholas in the air in popular mythology is of him “riding jollily among the tree-tops, or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favourites” is by Washington Irving in his satirical work, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). At this point St Nicholas was not associated with Christmas and presents were exchanged on the night before his feast day on December 6.

However, in a poem written in 1822, Clement Moore has St Nicholas arrive with his presents on the night before Christmas and in “a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer” who “would mount to the sky […] with a sleigh full of toys” and then go down the chimneys to deliver his gifts thus shifting celebrations of St Nicholas in the United States from his feast day on December 6 to Christmas Eve on December 24 instead.5

The phenomenon of flying animals has long been associated in Norse mythology with Wotan (Odin) and his flying eight legged horse Sleipnir, and with Thor and his flying goat-drawn chariot.

​”Odin and Sleipnir” (1911) by John Bauer

Wotan is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded in Old Norse texts and is a fierce god associated with wisdom, healing and war. Children would leave straw in their boots for Sleipnir by the hearth and Wotan would exchange it for a gift in return for their kindness.

Thor was also depicted as a fierce god of thunder and lightning, storms, oak trees and fertility. Another god, Morozko, the powerful and cruel Slavic god of frost and ice could freeze people and landscapes at will, became known as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) but was eventually demonised by the Russian Orthodox Church. As our fear of nature declined and Christmas became more of a child-centered celebration, the depictions of these gods became less fierce over time.

Thor and Tyr in their Goat-Drawn Chariot (From “The Book of Myths” by Amy Cruse, 1925)

The flying aspect of Santa’s reindeers is believed to refer to the reindeers’ fondness for Fly Agaric mushrooms associated with Old Nordic Shamanism. The Shamanic ‘flight of the soul’ was part of the culture of people in arctic Europe and Siberia who would communicate with the souls of their ancestors in an altered state of consciousness helped along by the hallucinogenic mushrooms.6 Like the Church attempts to eradicate the earlier fertility traditions and the gods associated with them, shamanism has been considered mere superstition and attacked by both Churches and governments alike.

It seems that what shamanism and fertility rites have in common is the idea of directly engaging with nature to secure desired material or spiritual goals. Both Krampus and Shamanism have been associated with Satan who “uses deception and demonic spirits seeking our destruction” yet their popularity has ebbed and flowed over the centuries without disappearing altogether.

Rollickin’ Roles

Similarly the Bacchanalian aspect of Christmas celebrations is a survival of Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of Saturn the “god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation” which could also be described as an engagement with the cycles of nature. Saturnalia was “a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry” held on December 17 of the Julian calendar and was subsequently extended to 23 December. Saturnalia originated as a farmer’s festival to mark the end of the autumn planting season in honour of Saturn (satus means sowing).

According to Justinus, the 2nd century Roman historian, these celebratory aspects of Saturnalia derived from, and were explained by, its origins with pre-Roman peoples of Italy who:

were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.

Once again the association with nature and the Golden Age (when people lived in peace and harmony) forms the basis of a celebration which was to be co-opted by the Church and eventually attacked for its excesses. According to a Puritan minister in 17th century England, Increase Mather, Christmas occurred on December 25 not because “Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those pagan holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones]. Stephen Nissenbaum, in his book The Battle for Christmas, writes:

Puritans believed Christmas was basically just a pagan custom that the Catholics took over without any biblical basis for it. The holiday had everything to do with the time of year, the solstice and Saturnalia and nothing to do with Christianity.

Presumably the masters could not cope with the concept of equality and saw Saturnalia instead as a role reversal. In pre-industrial England people would elect a Lord of Misrule who would be in charge of Christmas festivities and who even had license to poke fun at the nobility.7 Yet the Lords of Misrule were an important aspect of Christmas as the reversal of traditional social norms was a safety valve for class tensions in England. It was around this time that the personification of Christmas as Father Christmas began to appear.

​Father Christmas 1848

He was associated not with children, presents, chimneys or stockings, but with adult merrymaking and feasting. During Christmas ‘great quantities of brawn, roast beef, ‘plum-pottage’, minced pies and special Christmas ale were consumed’ and people enjoyed singing, dancing and card games resulting in ‘drunkenness, promiscuity and other forms of excess.’ Thus when the Puritans took over government in the 1640s they tried  ‘to abolish the Christian festival of Christmas and to outlaw the customs associated with it’. The satirical Royalist poet, John Taylor, wrote in The Complaint of Christmas:

All the liberty and harmless sports, with the merry gambols, dances and friscals [by] which the toiling plowswain and labourer were wont to be recreated and their spirits and hopes revived for a whole twelve month are now extinct and put out of use in such a fashion as if they never had been. Thus are the merry lords of misrule suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster.

However by the 1650s it was reported that the taverns were full on Christmas day, churches were decorated in rosemary as usual, Christmas Boxes had been given out, presents exchanged and mummers paid despite the bans. Worse still violence broke out in London when:

a large crowd of Londoners gathered to prevent the mayor and his marshalls removing the Christmas decorations which some of the city porters had draped around the conduit in Cornhill. The confrontation ended in uproar, with arrests, injuries, and the bolting of the mayor’s frightened horse.

The Christmas celebrations returned with Charles II in 1660 and showed once again the attempt to impose a narrow religious view on the multifaceted ancient traditions of people had failed.

Trees

Somewhat earlier, in the 14th and 15th centuries in Germany, craftsmen began to decorate their guild halls with trees and adorning them with fruits and nuts. This eventually led to the German, Charlotte, who married King George III in 1761, potting up and decorating a yew tree and initiating the custom in England. Legend has it that in Germany, St Boniface, an historical figure from the 7th century, saw a group of people honouring the sacred tree, Donar’s Oak (sometimes referred to as Thor’s Oak) somewhere around Hesse, became angry and chopped the tree down (and added insult to injury by using the wood to build his church).

St Boniface chopping the oak tree

Sacred trees and sacred groves were very important to the Germanic peoples and were too important to be cut down. Again we can see that the earlier traditions of pre-Christian society revolved around revering nature:

Some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things.

Over time, cutting the evergreen tree and bringing it indoors became an important part of Christmas traditions [see my previous article on Christmas trees] despite church proscription, because of its shamanic-pagan past.

Another early nature-based tradition is the wassail in England. Wassailing is a very ancient custom that is referenced in history as early as the eighth-century poem Beowulf. The word ‘wassail’ is believed to be derived from the Old Norse ‘ves heil’ and the Old English ‘was hál’ and meaning “be in good health” or “be fortunate.” The wassail had an important significance for farmers:

In parts of Medieval Britain, a different sort of wassailing emerged: farmers wassailed their crops and animals to encourage fertility. An observer recorded, “They go into the Ox-house to the oxen with the Wassell-bowle and drink to their health.” The practice continued into the eighteenth century, when farmers in the west of Britain toasted the good health of apple trees to promote an abundant crop the next year. Some placed cider-soaked bread in the branches to ward off evil spirits. In other locales, villagers splashed the trees with cider while firing guns or beating pots and pans.

The Apple Tree Wassail lyrics anticipate the next year and a good crop:

(It’s) Our wassail jolly wassail!
Joy come to our jolly wassail!
How well they may bloom, how well they may bear
So we may have apples and cider next year.

Solstice and the Unconquered Sun

Our awareness of mid winter and the solstice (‘sun stands still’) is shown to go back to the late Neolithic and Bronze Age with Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England. In both cases the monuments have been aligned to the solstice, sunrise at Newgrange and sunset at Stonehenge. It has been the occasion of celebrations, rituals and gatherings as the sun appears to be reborn and the days start getting longer again. After this time food became scarce (January to April) which were known as the ‘famine months’. It was the last feast of the year as cattle were slaughtered and wine and beer were ready for drinking. The ‘rebirth’ of the sun was known as Sol Invictus or the ‘unconquered sun’ god during the Roman Empire in the 3rd century CE and the Emperor Aurelian dedicated a temple to Sol to be celebrated on December 25. Solar deities have been represented as both gods and goddesses in different cultures and are particularly important in mid winter when the sun is low in the sky. In many countries in Europe the tradition of the Yule log burning was an important festival to help strengthen the weakened sun.

Yule log

A large log, big enough to burn for the 12 days of Christmas, was brought into the houses and burned. It was believed to have originated with the Norse and the Celts who had large bonfires to welcome the return of the sun. The log was thought to have magical properties and the ashes were then used as fertiliser and as cures for both people and animals and would protect them for the year to come.

Nature

Throughout the world there have been many forms of nature worship demonstrating that people respected and feared nature in equal amounts over the millennia. We have a complex relationship with nature, indeed we are an important part of nature. We have to negotiate every aspect of that relationship, be it food, water, reproduction, climate (storms avalanches, floods, droughts, fires), the seasons, the geophysical (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes), light (length of day, sleeping during hours of darkness) etc.

In the past people hoped and prayed that in the next year nature would allow them to live well again and consequently treated nature with respect. To do that people were careful not to over-exploit nature in various ways: by leaving land fallow, having food taboos, allowing areas to regenerate by moving on, by not over-using a food resource, thus creating the basis of sustainability into the future. Their respectful attitude to nature was reflected in what we call superstitions and paganism but it allowed them to celebrate Christmas without guilt in the knowledge that they had treated nature well and that nature would reciprocate with a bountiful harvest the next year.

Today, on the other hand, we are alienated from this way of thinking and living to the extent that people have lost direct control of their relationship with nature. The ever increasing industrial overproduction of meat, over-fishing, over-fertilisation, deforestation, air pollution and extractivism is pushing nature to extremes and already we are seeing the catastrophic results of this in climate change. Maybe as climate change brings ever fiercer storms and destruction of food production we will learn to respect and fear nature again.

  1. Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, by Jeremy Seal, p. 28.
  2. Pagan Christmas: the Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origin of Yuletide, by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, p. 33.
  3. Pagan Christmas, p. 36.
  4. Pagan Christmas, p. 52/3.
  5. From Stonehenge to Santa Claus: The Evolution of Christmas, by Paul Frodsham, p. 164.
  6. Pagan Christmas, p. 46/47.
  7. Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony, Richard Heinberg, p. 107.

The “Last Martyr”: Who Killed Kamal Al-Assar?

When I learned of the death of Kamal al-Assar, a few years ago, I was baffled. He was only in his 40s. I remember him in his prime, a young rebel, leading the neighborhood youth, armed with rocks and slingshots, in a hopeless battle against the Israeli army. Understandably, we lost, but we won something far more valuable than a military victory. We reclaimed our identity.

Kamal al-Assar’s mother, Nuseirat Refugee Camp

At every anniversary of the First Palestinian Intifada, a popular uprising that placed the Palestinian people firmly on the map of world consciousness, I think of all the friends and neighbors I have lost, and those I have left behind. The image of Ra’ed Mu’anis, in particular, haunts me. When an Israeli sniper’s bullet plunged into his throat, he ran across the neighborhood to find help before he collapsed at the graffiti-washed walls of my house.

“Freedom. Dignity. Revolution,” was written in large red letters on the wall, a pronouncement signed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Only later I learned that Kamal was the one who carried Ra’ed out of the firing zone. But it was too late. Ra’ed, a skinny and feeble teenager, with a distinct black mark on his forehead had bled alone at the steps of my home. When he was buried, hundreds of refugees descended on the Martyrs Graveyard. They carried Palestinian flags and chanted for the Intifada and the long-coveted freedom. Ra’ed’s mother was too weakened by her grief to join the procession. His father tried to stay strong, but wept uncontrollably instead.

Kamal was revitalized by the Intifada. When the uprising broke out, he emerged from his own solitude. Life made sense once again.

For him, as for me and many of our generation, the Intifada was not a political event. It was an act of personal – as much as collective – liberation: the ability to articulate who we were at a time when all seemed lost. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) languished in Tunisia after being forced to leave Lebanon in 1982. Arab governments seemed to have lost interest in Palestine altogether. Israel emerged triumphant and invincible.

And we – those living under protracted military occupation – felt completely abandoned.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s largest and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier on that day, an Israeli truck had run over a row of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, the refugees in my refugee camp – Nuseirat – marched to the Israeli military barracks, known as the ‘tents’, where hundreds of soldiers had tormented my camp’s residents for years.

In the morning of December 9, thousands of Nuseirat youth took to the streets and vowed to avenge the innocent blood of the Jabaliya victims of the previous day. They swung large flags made of silky fabric that swayed beautifully in Gaza’s salty air and, as the momentum grew and they became intoxicated by their own collective chants, they marched to the ‘tents’ where the soldiers were uneasily perched on the tops of watchtowers, hiding behind their binoculars and automatic machine guns.

Within minutes, a war had started and a third generation of refugee-camp-born fellahin peasants stood fearlessly against a well-equipped army that was visibly gripped by fear and confusion. The soldiers wounded many that day and several children were killed.

Kamal was on the front lines. He waved the largest flag, chanting the loudest, threw rocks the furthest and incessantly urged young men not to retreat.

Kamal hated school as well as his teachers. To him they seemed so docile, adhering to the rules of the occupier which decreed that Palestinians not teach their own history, so that the fellahin were denied even the right to remember who they were or where they came from. The Intifada was the paradigm shift that offered an alternative – however temporary, however chaotic – to the methodical humiliation of life under occupation.

Within hours, Kamal felt liberated. He was no longer tucked away in a dark room reading the works of Marx and Gramsci. He was in the streets of Nuseirat fashioning his own utopia.

The Intifada was that transformational period that saved a generation from being entirely lost, and Palestine from being forgotten. It offered a new world, that of solidarity, camaraderie and wild youth who needed no one to speak on their behalf.

Within weeks of bloody clashes in which hundreds of youth fell dead or wounded, the nature of the Intifada became clearer. On one hand, it was a popular struggle of civil disobedience, mass protests, commercial and labor strikes, refusal to pay taxes and so on. On the other hand, militant cells of refugee youth were beginning to organize and leave their mark, as well.

The militancy of the Intifada did not become apparent until later, when the repression by the Israeli government grew more violent. Under the banner of the ‘Iron Fist’ campaign, a new Israeli stratagem was devised, that of the ‘broken bones’ policy. Once captured, youth had their hands and legs broken by soldiers in a systematic and heartless manner. In my neighborhood, children with casts and crutches seemed to outnumber those without.

Kamal was eventually detained from his home. He attempted to escape but the entire neighborhood was teeming with soldiers, who arrived at night as they always do. They commenced the torturous rite in his living room, as his mother – the resilient, Tamam – shoved her body between him and the ruthless men.

When Kamal regained consciousness, he found himself in a small cell, with thick, unwashed walls that felt cold and foreign. He spent most of his prison time in the torture chamber. His survival was itself nothing less than a miracle.

When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, officially ending the Intifada, Kamal’s generation felt betrayed. Nothing good came out of that ‘peace’, except that a few rich Palestinians grew even richer.

Kamal died a few years ago. I learned that his revolution never ceased. He became a teacher, laboring to reconstruct the history of his people at a local Gaza university. His mother, now an old refugee in Nuseirat, is still heartbroken over her son’s death. She told me that Kamal’s wounds and physical ailments from prison never healed.

Kamal was a martyr, she told me. Perhaps the last martyr in an uprising that was not meant to liberate land, but liberate people from the idea that they were meant to exist as perpetual victims; and it did.